Friday, October 31, 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

.

Solano News

 
Real estate agent pens, produces movie

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1, 2 Comments

 
Neighborhood candy hunts of the past

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

 
Candy from sky highlights North Texas Street event

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Vintage Fair on tap at McBride Senior Center

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Fairfield police log: Oct. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Oct. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

 
.

US / World

Judge approves Stockton’s bankruptcy plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
California eyes $500 billion in water spending

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

Marine wants new charges in Iraq war crime tossed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 3 Comments

 
Roseville officer accused of criminal threats

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

Poll: Democrats leading in all statewide races

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

 
Man charged with murder in SWAT officer shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Teen arrested in threat at Sacramento school

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Police make arrest in slaying of Oakland mom

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Retrial in assault case over stray cat feeding

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 4 Comments

 
Missing California hunter roasted bugs, lizards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

Pilot identified in California jet crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Lawsuit: Surgical gowns let diseases pass through

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Fearing Ebola? Doctors say get a flu shot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Questions, answers about California’s Ebola policy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Maine in standoff with nurse over Ebola safeguards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Relatives suspected poisoning in family’s deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Pair convicted in secret $1.6 M Navy silencer deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Guard troops sent to site of Hawaii lava flow

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Terminally ill woman may postpone taking her life

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

 
Man’s own dog helps police bust him on drug charge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Vatican admits Sistine Chapel frescoes ‘whitened’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Israel closes Jerusalem holy site after shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Fearing uprising, Iraq militants hunt ex-police

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Death penalty sought for trooper ambush suspect

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

Man’s prosecution unwarranted

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 9 Comments

 
Are we safe now?

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 20 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoons: Oct. 31, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Oct. 31, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Oct. 31, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

My husband sends texts filled with ‘dirty talk’ to an old flame

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes: Oct. 31, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Oct. 31-Nov. 6, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Jorge Garcia makes the most of ‘Hawaii Five-O’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1, 1 Comment

Monica Potter wants to save her show ‘Parenthood’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Review: Jake Gyllenhaal, tightly coiled and creepy

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Exhibit on Paul Simon’s life to debut at Rock Hall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
PBS touts 2013-14 ratings growth

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Reality TV show ‘Big Brother’ to debut in China

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
‘The View’ now under ABC News as further revamping

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Review: ‘Sleep’ a decidedly average psych thriller

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Entertainment calendar Oct. 31, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B4

Winter’s wife has blues listening to his new album

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Galway Kinnell dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
.

Sports

 
 
Benicia fends off Vanden, 35-21

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B7 | Gallery

New dynasty: Giants capture 3rd title in 5 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Bye week helps 49ers Vernon Davis’ recovery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Sonoma Raceway to host IndyCar Series finale in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Warriors exercise options on Barnes, Ezeli

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Mack making impact for Raiders even without sacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
This date in sports history for Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
Prep football capsules: Week 9

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

.

Business

Not so sweet: Chocolate prices are set to rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Apple CEO publicly acknowledges that he’s gay

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11, 1 Comment | Gallery

FTC accuses Gerber of false claim on baby formula

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
.

Obituaries

Oscar Lee Vezeau

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Robert Louis Wright

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9