"American soldiers in battle don't fight for what some president says on T.V., they don't fight for mom, apple pie, the American flag...they fight for one another." - LTC Hal Moore, CMDR 1/7 Cav. la Drang Valley, Vietnam
Michael Doolittle is front and center in this newspaper photograph attached to the article about one of the worst battles in Vietnam, the battle of Soui Tre. It was his first taste of combat, although he had enlisted in the U.S. Army 4 1/2 years prior to being sent to Vietnam. Michael was a Platoon Sergeant of the 81 MM Mortar Platoon in A Company of the 3rd Battalion 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division which a few months later became the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division.
Not anticipating the desvastation that would follow, he landed at Landing Zone Gold at Fire Support Base Gold on March 19, 1967 when two of our many incoming helicopters were blown up by enemy fire and 22 of our soldiers died instantly. That was only the beginning. Michael was in the midst of snipers firing all around them and although the next day seemed quiet, the enemy was building and planning while our troops were bringing in artillery. When Michael woke at dawn on the 21st of March, he awoke to chaos. There were 700-800 rounds of mortar falling all around them; hoards of enemy were attacking the perimeter and inside the perimeter. Michael attributes the fact that there were any survivors at all to a man whom he didn't know, whom he only fought in battle with for those few moments when this man saved the rest of them by calling for Michael to help him, in the midst of chaos, to repair some artillery and to shoot what was called beehive rounds into the enemy which stopped them and forced the enemy to retreat. That man was Lt. Col. John Vessey Jr, who later became a General and also Chairman Joint Chief of Staff under President Reagan. On that morning of March 21, 1967, 33 of our soldiers were killed and almost 200 were wounded. General Vessey attended a reunion of survivors of the Soui Tre battle in 2015 where all 33 names of fallen soldiers were read; you can listen to his speech at the following link:
There have been more than just one reunion of the survivors of Soui Tre; a news report covering one reunion that Michael Doolittle attended (and is seen in some of the footage) explains a little about the battle and can be seen at this YouTube site:
Michael addressed a group at a 2017 Memorial Day celebration in Hawaii; a video of his address can be seen at the 24:38 minute mark at: http://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2017/05/29/videomemorial-day-ceremony-in-hilo/
For 30 years after Vietnam, Michael tried to forget Vietnam. Like many others, he learned that Vietnam memories might be pushed down, but they don't go away and they fester unless you do something about it, unless you talk about it, connect with others, or give back in the way that Michael is giving back by helping to establish a vocational training center for veterans and by being involved in other veteran affairs. He is Chairman of Hawaii County Veterans Advisory committee and Chairman of Hawaii Island Veterans Memorial Inc. He was instrumental in providing a peaceful memorial in Hawaii for the fallen soldiers of Soui Tre, a place called Mystic Palms and is pictured in two photos below. But the ultimate in healing took place for Michael in March of 2019.
On the eve of the 52nd anniversary of the Battle of Soui Tre, Michael stood on that very battlefield in Vietnam, but even more importantly, he stood there with an officer of the NVA unit that attacked them. He stood with the enemy, he made peace with the enemy. Also standing with them was Charlie Brewer, the younger brother of a soldier, James Brewer, who, at age 20, was killed in that battle on an early morning in 1967.
In the words of Michael Doolittle, "Kindness has returned to Vietnam, and I found myself again where I had lost myself that day 52 years ago..."