Freedom Fighters: Bill Brown

By Joan Hallmark - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Bill Brown arrived in Vietnam April 15th, 1967, and was immediately thrown into one of the biggest battles of the war.

"We came into Kamron Bay right here," said Brown. "[I] was right up in here...almost in Laos."

The battle for hill 875 raged for five days with Americans finally taking the hill on Thanksgiving day, but it wasn't turkey that was on Brown's mind.

"The stench from decaying human bodies and there was a lot of death up there on that hill," he said. "It took a lot of great lives, a lot of men."

"These were the boots of the young men who were killed," I asked.

"Yes, that's a representation of 875."

"It was not the last time Brown would see death. As a member of the 173rd Airborne, he would rush from one fire fight to another throughout the country.

"I never stayed in a fire support base. We humped the hills every night, every night I was in Vietnam 365 days or 70 I was there I humped every night."

Humping the hills in seek and destroy missions, meant spending nights in the menacing jungles.

"You had a wet zone and a dry zone and we'd operate a lot of times in the wet zones and water up to your knees and they'd take you out of the monsoon season and put you into the dry season," he said. "So you deal with ticks in the dry season and you deal with leaches in the wet season.

"Did you lose a lot of close friends there," I asked him.

"Yes, I did. I lost some close, close friends."

And for those not taken, there were close calls constantly.

"When you go down the trail and you get ambushed, they kill a guy in front of you and wound a guy in back of you and you're left standing there. It's just not your time. The Lord has everybody numbered and that's the way I looked at life."

"You tell me you really had three big battles to fight," I said to Brown. "You had to fight the Vietcong, you had to fight the elements, and you had to fight racism."

Even though many things have changed since then, when Brown left the states for Vietnam, as an African American, he couldn't sit downstairs in a theatre or eat in many restaurants, but none of these have made him bitter.

"Your blessings don't come from mankind, your blessings come from upstairs and that's what I believe and that's what I'll leave this world believing."

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