Samuel Dixon: ‘You had to fight everything’
When Samuel Dixon of Darlington landed in Vietnam in 1967 when he was 19 year old, it was the sheer scale of the jungle that hit him hardest.
“It was a jungle!” recalls Dixon, 72. “And everything in there was against you. Even the animals. You had to fight everything.”
“For a young man who just left home … it was something I never experienced in my life before,” said Dixon, who had nine siblings back home. “To survive, you had to go along with the program.”
Dixon was in the Army Infantry in “The Big Red One,” 1st and 2nd divisions. He’d been drafted, and except for basic training at Fort Jackson, had no military experience. On July 17, 1967, he was wounded when a Claymore mine exploded.
“They had it buried in the sand, buried in an anthill” – one of the giant, several-foot-high anthills that peppered the jungle. “I got shrapnel all over my (left) hand.”
A firefight followed – a “U-shaped ambush” – and about eight men in Dixon’s platoon were killed. Dixon wound up having to walk 15 miles out of the combat zone. Dixon said he still wears his Purple Heart on a chain around his neck. “Only two (kinds of) people get a Purple Heart – a dead one and a survivor.”
Recalling the war, Dixon said: “What got me is that we fought, then I came back home, and nothing had changed. Couldn’t find jobs. They called us baby-killers. I couldn’t wear my uniform home. I had to buy civilian clothes.”