Vietnam: Bill’s story

Oregon Veterans Association Vice President Bill Adams shares his Vietnam experience to help encourage people to support the Vietnam War Memorial in Oregon’s State Capitol.

Like two-thirds of the men who served in Vietnam, William “Bill” Adams volunteered. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on 30 August 1966 and started boot camp 18 October 1966 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego, California. Bill was selected for Marine Corp Officer training out of Boot Camp along with one other Marine recruit, but declined due to the time it would have taken to complete OCS as his enlistment was for two years. He completed ITR infantry training in March 1967, and received orders to Vietnam, where he served as an 0311 Rifleman and later 0331 Machine Gunner.

Bill’s first memory of Vietnam was how hot it was, and how bright the sun was upon landing at Da Nang Air Base.

“I was immediately assigned to Third Battalion, First Marines and traveled by 6×6 trucks to the battalion base just east of Marble Mountain. On the trip I was not issued a weapon and we came under ambush right between Marble Mountain and the Battalion perimeter. F4 jets dropped bombs and napalm on a tree line maybe a half mile from our convoy. It was my first experience with close air support and it was a very surreal experience as I realized I was now in the War.”

On arriving at the Battalion, Bill was assigned to Lima Company, along with 10 other newly-arrived Marines. Of the 11, only Bill and one other man came home.

Bill was assigned to 2nd Platoon as a Rifleman 0311 carrying the Stoner 63, an integrated weapons system being tested by the Marine Corp.

The next morning, Bill rode out to where 2nd Platoon had its perimeter; a cemetery complete with head stones. He arrived just as it was turning dark and started taking sniper fire before he even got off the WWII AmTrac that carried him there. He spent the night in the cemetery, under sniper fire all night long.

“The Vietcong had Soviet weapons so their tracers were green and ours were red. Every seventh round was a tracer out of the machine gun and so it was a little like Christmas.”

“The next month was the same routine of going out to the bush for a week or so and constantly moving and setting ambushes. We had many casualties from booby traps, usually one a day someone would step on one and be blown up. It was nerve-racking as you were afraid to move.”

“One of the first sad days was when a Marine we called Pappy as he was 25 years old—real name O’Brien—stepped on a box mine. He was directly in front of me as we walked down a trail, almost a road. It was a moonless dark night, as there are no city lights in the jungle. He was vaporized and his body parts splattered all over me.”

Bill recalls that the officers would often get killed or wounded right away as they were very much leading from the front and sometime forgot to take off their butter bars. “Their tour was six months, and they were eager to show the enlisted Marines their skills in leadership.” The enlisted men’s tour was 13 months, and every one of them had a calendar counting the days until they could go back to ‘The World.’ Marines would get real careful when they became ‘short timers’, but they still were Marines and fought hard, some dying days before they were to rotate home. This was the first war fought with piece meal replacements and so often the ‘new guys’ would only last a couple of days.

“The saddest day of my life occurred on 06 July 1967 when we were on one of those extended patrols. We had been out patrolling for about four or five days. We had taken some shots, and the ever-present booby traps had killed or maimed three or four of us. We had stopped to have some C-rat chow and set up a defensive perimeter on a knoll overlooking some rice paddies. Of course, this is a place where you would set up a defensive perimeter, and so the enemy had booby-trapped it. Miles E. White—my best friend in our platoon—and I had shared a can of C-rat peaches and he stepped out away from the perimeter to bury the can like he was supposed to do and stepped on a booby-trapped 60mm mortar round. Miles did not make it and I was so sad, it really hurt.”

Bill would later name his son Miles in honor of him.

In spite of the trauma, Bill says “I have some great memories and was privileged to meet some great Americans of all races and from all places. I would never trade my Marine Corps service for anything, it made me who I am today.”

The Portland Trailblazers honored Bill Adams and Miles White on the jumbo-tron during a Blazer game for the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

Dozens of Oregonians signed a memorial stone remembering Miles E. White as it traveled from Oregon to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC (June 2018).

Support the Vietnam War Memorial at the State Capitol

By Bill Adams,
Oregon Veterans Association,

Oregonians are organizing a Vietnam War Memorial on the Oregon State Capitol Grounds

“Let us honor our warriors and remember the fallen”

Located at the southwest corner of Wilson Park on Oregon State Capital Grounds in Salem, the proposed memorial will feature …

– Vietnam memorial: A set of black granite columns to commemorate the 710 Oregonians killed in the Vietnam War. Their names will listed by their home of record
– Four benches – Brothers Benches — to honor the two Oregon families that lost two sons in Vietnam.
– Persian Gulf Memorial: A Persian Gulf War Memorial will pay tribute the six Oregonians who died in Operation Desert Storm.
– Purple Heart Memorial: A plaque remembering all recipients of the Purple Heart Medal from Oregon
Gold Star memorial: A memorial monument designed by the Hershel “Woody” Williams Foundation will honor the more than 6,000 Gold Star Families from Oregon.

You can take a virtual tour here:

I was very moved by the this quote from Ted Roberts on his Vietnam-return-to-America experience.

“I had expected a thank you when I got home, but what I got was war protesters. Suddenly, I was faced with the view that because I had served in Vietnam there was something wrong with me. I learned that Vietnam was a taboo subject, so it became a secret time in my life. It wasn’t until 20 years later that someone finally said ‘thank you’ to me for serving my country.”
Ted Roberts
Gresham, Oregon

This is just one reason why we should build the Oregon Vietnam War Memorial at the State Capitol grounds which is one of the most visited sites in Oregon.


Make a donation to support building the Vietnam War Memorial in the State Capitol

Oregon Veteran’s Association
PO Box 2385
Beaverton, OR, 97075

OVA is a 501 c(4) in application.
Donations not exempt.

All donations the Veterans Association receives will go towards the main Vietnam War memorial Fund

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