US ARMY, VIETNAM, 1967-68
Frederick David Adams was born April 20th, 1947 in Findlay, Ohio. Born two months early he weighed only 2.5 pounds. After months in the hospital, when Frederick was healthy enough to go home the only clothes that fit him were doll clothes. His parents were Frederick Orville, who owned a shoe repair shop and his mother Sarah, whose friends called her “Sally”.
Fred, (who also goes by Dave), was born into a family with a long legacy of serving in the military. His grandfather served in France during WWI. His father served in the Army during WWII, in a segregated re-supply unit on Tinian Island This was an island captured from the Japanese and used as key base for the balance of the war. His father would earn the rank of 1st Sergeant.
Fred graduated in the second class of the new Findlay High School in 1965 at the age of eighteen. He worked for the Ohio State department of Highways for one year before enlisting in the army. He knew his parents could not afford college and he wasn’t sure of what he wanted to do for a career. He picked the MOS 62B, heavy equipment mechanic, a skill he knew he could use after his enlistment was up.
He completed basic training at Ft. Benning and for unknown reasons ended up at Ft. Dix, reassigned to 63B, wheeled vehicle mechanic, where he was trained to repair jeeps, ¼ tons and the deuce and a half. That course was completed in September of 1966 and Fred received orders to Korea. Having a guaranteed training document, he was able to get those orders rescinded and assigned to the heavy equipment school at Ft. Belvore, Virginia. There he trained on maintenance and repair on bulldozers, scoop loaders, graders, air compressors, welding and how to service five different diesel engines.
In 1967 Fred was sent to Ft. Knox and assigned to the US Army Armor and Engineer board where the Army tested prototype weapons and equipment before being used on the front line. Fred worked with the Sheridan 551 tank, the Raider and the new 715 Jeep/truck. He would stay there until October of 1967, when orders were cut for him to go to Vietnam.
After a month-long visit home, Fred arrived in Pleiku in December of 1967, where he was assigned for a time to 510th Engineer company, 62nd Maintenance Battalion providing direct support to various units stationed at the Pleiku complex. He was tasked to be the liaison mechanic to the 937th Group, 70th Combat Engineer Battalion located on “Engineer Hill”. He would arrive there in February of 1968, right after Tet. The soldiers lived in tents, worked 12-20-hour days, doing maintenance and repair and often got little sleep as alert sirens were constantly going off at night. The men, armed with M-4 rifles, would run from tents to a sandbagged trench, either engaging the enemy, or staying until the alert was cancelled.
Fred kept the bulldozers and scoop loaders running for the stone quarry. Then when the trucks were loaded up with gravel to repair roads and bridges constantly destroyed by the VC, he would help provide convoy security riding on one of the gun trucks. Fred turned 21 in April, was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in June of 1968, and assigned to be Sergeant of the guard on a rotating basis, checking on perimeter towers, bunkers and guards.
(In his little free time Fred used a Fujica and then a Pennee camera to capture amazing pictures of daily military life in Vietnam.)
In December of 1968, Sgt. Adams left country arriving at Ft. Lewis in San Francisco. He vividly remembers the demonstrators, how they waved signs and spit on the returning soldiers. Fred flew into the Toledo airport where his parents were waiting to welcome him home. Fred had purchased a 1964, metallic blue Plymouth Fury, with a 383 under the hood which was waiting for him. He finished out his enlistment at Ft. Leonard Wood and mustered out in July of 1969.
Returning home to civilian life was a mixed adjustment for Fred. For years loud noises, like car backfires, caused him to jump. He lost track of days and he never sat in a restaurant unless his back was to a wall with all entrances in sight, where he could always watch people. (Like a majority of Vietnam veterans, Agent Orange exposure has led to Fred having lung and breathing issues and prostate cancer.)
The military life was still in his blood however and Fred enlisted in the Ohio National Guard where he served with the 837th Engineers from 1973 to 1983. He transferred to the Army Reserves in Toledo and served until 1990. He left the Army with the rank of Sergeant 1St Class.
Returning to the civilian work force Fred joined with “Project Transition” where he worked the same equipment as in the military but used on civilian projects. He joined Chrysler Casting running a forklift for several years. Fred was then hired as a tanker mechanic by Marathon Oil, where he worked for many years before transitioning to driving the tankers. He retired after 28 years in 2004.
Fred met Rita Warner at the Elks Club and they were married on July 4th, 1970. They set up home in Findlay. They were married for twenty years and had three children Tisha, Rick and Scott. Fred also has another son Barry and between the four children, he has 16 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Fred and his long-time companion Jan have been together nearly twenty years.
(Keeping the family military legacy going, his son Rick was active Army, serving in the 82nd Airborne as a Linguistic Interpreter and later served in the Ohio National Guard. One of Fred’s granddaughters, Mahilia, currently serves as an MP in the Ohio National Guard.)
Fred stayed active in his community, working closely with the Junior Achievement program at Marathon and being a Cubmaster for Pack 322 for ten years. He has spoken for fifteen years at local schools about his war experiences. Though not as active as he once was, he is a member of Am Vets, DAV and the VFW. He also is a steward trustee at Mason Chapel church.