‘We were not prepared for that’: Siouxlander recalls memories from his service in Vietnam

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OKOBOJI, Iowa (KCAU) – He was drafted into the military to fight in the Vietnam War, and served the largest division in the Army. George Engebretson was in the military for nearly 19 months and experienced it all during his time in combat.

“We landed there and the heat and the odors that rushed in were just phenomenal. We were not prepared for that.”

Engebretson was 20 years old when he began his service in Vietnam.

“I was in the infantry and out of that half a million, maybe ten percent, I think that’s the ratio, say 50 thousand out of 500 thousand were actually infantry out in the field.”

He was assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry, the biggest Army division in Vietnam. 

“So if there was a company two miles away from us that was into heavy contact, which is an all fire fight going on, they could send helicopters to pick us up and transport us to the fight.”

And danger was around every corner. 

“You might just be having the finest day in the world and all of a sudden there’s a huge explosion right next to you.”

Engebretson recalls the first time he got injured during combat.

“We spotted some enemy troops moving our way and we were able to throw a hasty ambush together and when we opened up on them, I don’t know, something blew up in front of me and hit me in the chest here with a piece of shrapnel. It felt like someone hit me in the chest with a hammer.”

But it was a second injury that put an end to his service in vietnam.

“We got into a kind of got into a bad firefight. I think we had killed a couple of NVA and shortly after that, a couple more kind of came out of the hiding, or whatever. And we kind of walked into an ambush and during the ambush, I got a piece of shrapnel hit me in the back of the neck here.”

Engebretson says he wasn’t met with protesters when he returned home. He says his only regret was having to leave his unit.

“For me, it wasn’t bad at all, there were no protesters or any. Of course come through in the hospitalization part, we never went into regular airports. I was flown home on an air force jet. The only bad part was leaving my buddies behind because the brotherhood that you develop in a combat situation is like no other.”

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