Because his mother was dying of cancer back home, Sgt. Doug Nichols spent four months in Vietnam during the war. He was assigned to the Americal Division: Company A, 4th Battalion, 54 Infantry Regiment.
His unit was stationed at I-Corps near the DMZ in the highlands. Their home base was Chu Lai when they were weren’t out in the field chasing the enemy through the brush.
“I flew into Cam Ranh Bay from the states on April 2, 1970,” he recalled recently. “Then they flew me on a C-130 to Chu Lai where the Americal Division was stationed. I remember walking into division headquarters and the radio operator was on the air. The division was under fire in the jungle and people were getting killed. He was in tears.”
Nichols, now an Englewood resident, made it out with his unit in the field they spent their time searching for North Vietnam regulars and Viet Cong guerrillas and finding little in the way of the enemy troops.
“We didn’t know who the enemy was. We spent a lot of time searching villages for the enemy, but finding little,” he said.
Every night, their squad or another would go out on patrol searching for the enemy. On several occasions Nichols’ unit captured enemy troops they sent back to be interrogated by an intelligence unit.
“Our problem was enemy mines,” Nichols said. “They had a mine called the Bouncing Betty that exploded twice. The first time it detonated about 3-feet off the ground then the main charge went off.”
His most interesting time in Vietnam was when his division was sent to My Lai after the massacre of the village by American soldiers in his unit. Several hundred villagers were wiped out by a platoon commanded by Lt. William Calley for no reason.
“After the massacre, the U.S. government had a company guarding the town and protecting the town people,” Nichols said. “Our unit stayed a month guarding the town. Then another unit moved in for a month and took over.”
Four months after arriving in Vietnam his mother’s medical condition worsened and he was called home. A short time later, she died.
“While I was home to see my mom I talked to my congressman. He made a call to someone and then told me I wouldn’t have to return to Vietnam. I spent the rest of my time in the service at Fort Knox, Ky. and took an early out.”
After being discharged from the service, Nichols took the G.I. Bill and spent a year attending Ohio University before dropping out. He worked the next 18 years as a carpet layer and 12 years for a water company in Ohio.
Nichols and his wife, Vicky, retired and moved to the Englewood area five years ago from Ohio. They have a daughter, Koren.