NEW RUSSIA — Not only did Harry Denton receive two Purple Hearts, but one was bestowed on him by the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, General William Westmoreland.
Like many young men in the mid 1960s, Denton was drafted into the Army. He received his basic and advanced basic training at Fort Dix in New Jersey and then spent a short time in California before being shipped to Vietnam.
“I qualified for machine gunning. We didn’t sit around in the States long before we went to ‘Nam,” Denton said.
He became part of the 1st Air Cavalry stationed at An Khe in the rugged Central Highlands.
“When we got there, I just wanted to survive and think positive,” he said. “We were there to help the people (Vietnamese).
“In the beginning, I flew in choppers. I spent lots of hours in choppers.”
Denton obtained the rank of Specialist 4th Class.
“The first time, I was just grazed by a bullet when I was on patrol,” he described the injuries he suffered as he fulfilled his military obligation. “They pretty much just patched me up, and after a being in the hospital for about a week, they said I could go right back.”
The second time he was wounded was much more serious. In September 1966, Denton was on the third day of a jungle search-and -destroy mission with his company, comprised of approximately 125 soldiers. After spotting several fleeing enemy soldiers, they were given orders to spread out in hopes of encountering what they believed were a few others.
However, Denton’s Charlie Company soon found itself face-to-face — and outnumbered three to one — by an entrenched North Vietnamese brigade.
“We got caught in an ambush,” he said. “They (the Vietcong) were hidden in the trees. We couldn’t see them, but knew where the firing was coming from. There was fighting all around us. I just wanted to survive.”