Voices of Veterans: Paul Schultz

Paul Schultz from Edgartown was drafted into the Vietnam War in 1968 and selected for the B Battery third battalion, sixth artillery unit. —Sam Houghton

Paul Schultz, from Edgartown, went into the Army at the age of 21 in 1968. He served in Vietnam in the B Battery, Third Battalion, Sixth Artillery Unit. 

I graduated high school on the Vineyard in ’65, went to enlist in the Army, and got turned down because I had a bad knee. I got turned down again in ’66. In ’68, I was drafted, and they took me.

I left here on the 9th of September, ’68. I did basic until the middle of November at Fort Gordon, and then got shipped to Oklahoma to train in artillery, to train on howitzers.

When we came home for Christmas, no one knew where they were getting shipped to. My father asked me, “Where are you going?” I said, “I have no idea.”

I left here January first, 1969, and never saw the Island again until the 17th of April, 1970.

The two things I’ll always remember about Vietnam: the heat and the smell. It was 105°. And then the smell. With all the different things at the airport: the jets, the helicopters, the little forklifts and machinery, all the garbage — it knocked you off your feet.

I was on a howitzer. I started out low man on the totem pole. As guys left after their year of service was up, I moved up, and pretty soon I was the head of the gun.

We did what are called LRPs [long-range reconnaissance patrol]. What a LRPs is — outside of crazy — they usually do six- or seven-man units. Five Americans and someone who defected from North Vietnam. They go out and find buried weapons and tunnels. And when they found them, they would call an artillery strike, and we would blow it up. Or when they got in trouble and they were in a firefight, they would say, Fire, and we would fire at the enemy.

We could fire a 40-pound projectile five miles, and if we had the right coordinates, we could take a building out and not bother any of the other buildings nearby.

The night I will always remember, August 16–17, 1969: The infantry had intercepted a courier from Hanoi. He had orders for the people in Phan Thiet to overtake the Americans. They put two artillery guns right in the village.

We had a human wave attack. We fired what was called a beehive round. It was buckshot out of a howitzer. You hear “boom,” and 2,500 pieces of shrapnel go that way. And whatever is in front of you, believe me, it wasn’t there.

I’ll tell you what happened to me coming home from Vietnam. Two things: We flew into Fort Lewis in Washington. It was a Sunday. I got together with two other guys going to Boston, because we knew they weren’t going to like us. On the way to the airport, the cabbie says, “Just so you know, they’re protesting the war at the airport today.” That didn’t bother us. We got there. We see them protesting. We tried to go past, and all of a sudden we heard these voices: “Where do you think you’re going?” I looked around and I said, “I’m going home.”

There’s three of us and five of them. The first guy threw a punch and hit me in the shoulder. Another guy threw another punch and hit another guy in the shoulder. But the third guy made a mistake. He spit. He got me and my two friends. The two of them looked at me. We dropped our bags, and had a three-on-five fight. It was no contest. The police came and looked at them, and said to us, “Why don’t you get on that airplane?” So we did.

And the second time, I got invited to a cookout with a guy that I fished with. He says, “My friends are coming down, why don’t you meet them?” These two ladies have been drinking. One of them says, “My grandson wants to go into the service, and I don’t know if it’s any good.” She asked me where I served. I said, “Vietnam.” She turned to me and said, “How many babies did you kill?”

Twelve times I’ve been turned away from Veterans Affairs. Agent Orange killed the nerve in my arm down to my hand. They sprayed Agent Orange to kill the foliage, and it got into the water that we drank, the food that we had. It would get on top of us when we went out on our firebase.

I still have no feeling here [pointing to hand]. I got out of the Army in 1970. This showed up in about 1989. I had a job, and I couldn’t do it. I worked with the water company. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t do anything because I couldn’t feel my hand. I have diabetes caused by Agent Orange.

In Vietnam, I found a lot of brave guys. If you got hurt, they would come to drag you out. They would help you fight off the enemy. I met a lot of great guys, and still like to talk with them. Ones in Arkansas, ones in Minnesota, Tennessee. So we stay in touch. Guys I served with.

Interview by Sam Houghton.


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