Thursday, December 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Former sheriff’s deputy had intense tour in Vietnam

By
From page VET11 | November 11, 2012 |

FAIRFIELD — Six months into his first tour in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Lanny French got his draft notice.

“It really cracked the guys up,” French said.

It makes the retired Solano County sheriff’s deputy smile, since he joined the Army in 1967 “because I didn’t want to be drafted.”

Born in Torrance and a 1967 Chico State University graduate, French signed up to be an airborne ranger and got hooked up with the 173rd “because I knew a little bit about it and I knew it was an elite unit.”

French arrived in Vietnam through Ben Hoa on Oct. 10, 1967, a little over two years after the 173rd became the first major Army combat unit to deploy to the Southeast Asian country.

“Gen. (William) Westmoreland called us his fire brigade. We fought in every area but the (Mekong) delta,” French said.

He started out as a replacement, serving as an ammunition bearer for a M-60 machine-gun team. It was also the time when the 173rd got involved in a series of fierce battles against the North Vietnamese army and the Viet Cong in the Central Highlands around Dak To.

French’s unit, C Company, 2nd Batt., 503rd Infantry, was sent into the fight for Hill 875 in November 1967, which the NVA had spent considerable time fortifying.

It was French’s first fight and he spent four days assaulting NVA trench lines in the battle that cost the 173rd one-fourth of its strength. On the fourth day, French’s luck ran out and he took an AK-47 round through the left leg.

He also still carries a small piece of shrapnel in his cheek from the bomb dropped by the Marine aircraft that wounded him and killed several other 173rd soldiers.

“I was scared, but I did my job. It was bad times, very bad times,” French said.

After a stint recovering in a hospital in Qui Nhon, French checked himself out and hitchhiked back to the 173rd in time for the January 1968 Tet Offensive, which had French in Kontum defending a district headquarters from being overrun by the Viet Cong.

He extended his tour twice. He first got reassigned to the 74th Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol detachment and then to the 173rd’s Ranger company.

When French wrote home asking his family to send clothing to help cloth Vietnamese refugees, the request got in the newspaper and French got a call from his sergeant demanding he get rid of the 800 pounds of clothing that showed up at the unit.

French and a couple of his friends drove all the clothing to a nearby bridge, where they spent the day handing it out to any Vietnamese that crossed the bridge.

He wryly notes that the bridge had been a favorite target for VC mortar teams, but after the big clothing giveaway, the bridge ceased getting mortared.

Later, French’s outfit was equipped first with armed jeeps and then with heavier vehicles in the form of M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers. French said riding on them sure beat “humping it around.” They also received Sheridan tanks, which French called “a piece of junk.”

French said the unit used its considerable firepower conducting sweeps, convoy duty and search-and-destroy missions wherever they were needed.

Most of the time, the VC and NVA didn’t engage the soldiers, but when they did, “we did a pretty good number on them.”

One of the roadside ambushes was sprung on French when they were on their way to a Bob Hope show. An AK-47 round shattered the camera that French had strapped across his chest before the 173rd soldiers fought the VC ambushers off.

“I really liked that camera,” French said.

One of French’s more unusual mementoes from that time is a British Webley revolver he took off a 40-year-old NVA officer named Vo Sach, who French and the 173rd soldiers captured.

On taking the grip off the revolver later, French found a rolled up Chieu Hoi pamphlet, which were dropped in great numbers all over Vietnam to convince VC and NVA to surrender.

“It seemed he (the NVA officer) was covering his bets,” French said.

French wrapped up his time in Vietnam in March 1970 as a sergeant, coming back through McChord Air Force Base, Wash., and switching to the Ready Reserve for three years before completely hanging up his uniform.

He spent the next year working for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection fighting fire in a helitack crew all over Northern California.

French then was hired by former Solano County Sheriff Al Cardoza as a deputy sheriff, where he served for 25 years before retiring.

“I was a very lucky man to be assigned to the 173rd,” said French.

He also recently revisited where he served in Vietnam, which he described as “a very beautiful country without the wars and I liked the people.”

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or ithompson@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com.ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    Solano News

    Solano College trustees move back ‘home’

    By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Needs of small dog give Solano man life’s mission

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1, 3 Comments | Gallery

     
    Christmas comes early for prenatal program participants

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Police chief: Suisun crime up 3 percent in 2014

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

     
    Council OKs $65,730 pact to advocate for Travis base

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

    Fairfield pays $42,500 to settle soil suit

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

     
    Jury convicts teen for role in 2012 DeBartolo’s heist

    By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

     
     
    Fairfield police log: Dec. 15, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

    Suisun City police log: Dec. 16, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    Suisun City police log: Dec. 15, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

    Fairfield police log: Dec. 16, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    .

    US / World

     
    Fears fanned by hackers bring down Sony film

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Like Iran, secret diplomacy leads to US-Cuba thaw

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Pope played crucial role in US-Cuba rapprochement

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    US travel industry carefully eyeing Cuba tourism

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    US-Cuba thaw could benefit farmers, energy and travel firms

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Cubans cheer historic renewal of US relations

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

     
    Freed American endured years of declining health

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    US, Cuba patch torn relations in historic accord

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Bay Bridge light sculpture to keep on shining

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    Study: Huge wildfire supports need for controlled burns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    A fresh setback for efforts to cure HIV infection

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    14 charged in deadly 2012 meningitis outbreak

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Study: Alcatraz inmates could have survived escape

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Nigerian court sentences 54 soldiers to death

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

     
    Colombian rebels announce unilateral cease-fire

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

    Russians flock to stores to pre-empt price rises

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

     
    Pakistan buries victims of school massacre

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    .

    Opinion

    Asia needs to prepare for a possible China crash

    By William Pesek | From Page: A7

     
    Tortured roots of enhanced interrogations

    By Walter Pincus | From Page: A7

    Editorial Cartoons: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

     
    Crime Witness Protocol 101

    By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Living

    Today in History: Dec. 18, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Community Calendar: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

    Horoscopes: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

     
    My siblings don’t want to replace abusive mother’s pacemaker

    By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

    .

    Entertainment

    25 movies chosen for the National Film Registry

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

     
    Saving Private Ryan’ among films being preserved

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

    TVGrid

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    .

    Sports

    Falcons cruise by crushers in girls basketball

    By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    49ers release McDonald amid further legal trouble

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

    Carr faces another tough test in rookie season

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    For MLB, changes in Cuba will take time to sort out

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

    Garcia resigns as FIFA prosecutor

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Chattanooga women stun No. 7 Stanford 54-46

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Track coach Drummond gets 8-year doping suspension

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Warriors’ Bogut out with knee injury vs. Thunder

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    AP source: Romo close to $15M, 2-year deal with Giants

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Baseball monitoring White House Cuba decision

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    APNewsBreak: Judge rejects NCAA concussions deal

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Painkillers lawsuit against NFL dismissed; may be appealed

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    This date in sports history for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    .

    Business

    McDonald’s in Japan limits orders of fries

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

     
    Amid scrutiny, Uber says it will focus more on safety

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

    Health care exchange sign-ups exceeding last year

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

     
    Fed to be ‘patient’ about a rate hike; stocks soar

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

    .

    Obituaries

    Jennie Ponce Reyes

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Patricia “Pat” Anne Stringfield-Pierre

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    Marian L. “Chicki” Downs

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Ernest “Ernie” Moretti

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Frank and Ernest

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Zits

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Sally Forth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Garfield

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Peanuts

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Dilbert

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Get Fuzzy

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    For Better or Worse

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    B.C.

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Rose is Rose

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Blondie

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Pickles

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Baldo

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Baby Blues

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Wizard of Id

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Beetle Bailey

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Crossword

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Cryptoquote

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Sudoku

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Bridge

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Word Sleuth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9