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War Stories

“You Bet Your Life” -1966

By Eugene G. Tucker

I was not a member of Project Delta but was trained by Delta in 1966 as a 25th Infantry Division LRRP. The guys training us were in between missions so they were busy. My training at Delta I know saved my life a few times and my team all got out without anyone being killed.

In April or May 1966 the following soldiers were enroute to Nha Trang South Viet Nam for training with the 5th Special Forces group (A), Project Delta. We were bound for LRRP training as a LRRP unit for the 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi RVN.

Tucker2 Ponzillo, Mark     - CPT Commander
Traxler, Gerald    - 1LT Executive Officer

Team Members

Howerton, Hugh M.         SGT
Spicer, Jerry D.               SGT
Tucker, Eugene G.          SGT
White, Charles                SGT
Perry, Nathaniel              SP/4
Herrmann, Irvin K.           SGT
Williams, Clyde D.           SSG
Dunlap, James A.            SSG
Freeman, Larry A.           SSG
Call, James E.                 SGT
Dunn, Ronald D.
Arp, James
Elliot John
Montgomery, Harold III
Newton, Bobby G.

Brantley, William had injured his ankle as I recall and had to remain at Cu Chi until the next class.

Tucker3The training lasted about four weeks and members of Project Delta a long range reconnisenance Unit for Special Forces, trained us in techniques of long range recon, surveillance, prisoner snatch, ambush, and communication skills. We were trained in many other military skills such as map reading, demolitions, medical, repelling, stealth, coordinating with US, Korean, and Vietnamese units, and call for supporting fires. We had training in all these skill prior to our arrival and these were advanced skills and refresher skills. These soldiers trained us during their down time, no rest for the weary.

We in addition were given physical training daily. We learned and practiced immediate action drills until we could do them without thinking. After training for nearly three weeks in the class room and close in areas we were given a break. We were taken to a small island just off the coast of South Viet Nam in the Nha Trang area. We had to clear the island and then we had a full day of rest and relaxation there.

While there I was swimming just off shore. I stepped on a sea urchin, which is a spiny (Thorny) creature. This animal uses these spines for protection and they have a mild poison that wards off its enemies. It is also used to stun prey so that they may eat it.

When I stepped on it the pain began immediately. The thorns entered from the bottom of the foot of course. They are as thorns on a thorn bush, small and pointy at the top and grow more round as they go toward the bottom. That meant that they had to work their way through my foot from bottom to top. As the thorn began to come out the top of my foot I would attempt to remove it by pulling but they were brittle and would only break off. Therefore they took many days, nearly a week to come out, causing pain the entire time.

The executive officer Gerald Traxler was on shore near by. He immediately came to investigate when I sounded the alarm (Cried out in pain). He examined my foot and administered what first aid that he could.

The mess sergeant at the Delta Project mess hall gave me a bucket and a case of lemons. He said to squeeze the lemons in the bucket and soak my foot. The acid did assist in dissolving the spines. It was however as mentioned previously a slow painful process.

The last week of out training was an actual mission (Long range) in the Nha Tran area of operations. We had our five-man team and one 5th Special Forces Delta Project NCO as an advisor. CPT Ponzillo and MAJ “Bo” Baker the S3 of the project had asked me if I felt that I could go on the mission. Well, I was not going to have to go through all that tortuous training again so I naturally said that I could.

Tucker4My teammates were concerned about my health and as to whether I would jeopardize the mission after all the mission before graduation is called “YOU BET YOUR LIFE”. I must say it was not easy to move on that foot but, I was determined to make it and I was glad that I did. We conducted our mission successfully and graduated the course.

To this day when I go swimming in the ocean I ask about sea urchins. I don’t want that pain again ever.



CPT Mark Ponzillo Commander 25th Infantry Division LRRP on the left facing camera. Irvin K. Hermann number one Recondo graduate on the right facing camera. 1LT Gerald Traxler XO of the 25th Infantry Division LRRP with back to camera.