The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

April 5, 2013

Vietnam War buddies find each other 45 years later

WINFIELD — It’s just a small notebook, 2½ inches wide, maybe 6 inches long. Behind its brown-leather, flip-top cover, the names of nearly 20 soldiers with whom Fred Yoder fought while serving in Vietnam.

Some names printed, others in cursive, all penned in Yoder’s pad between September 1967 and September 1968 while Yoder was stationed at Pleiku.

There is Steve K. Shope’s name on the lined paper, its margins stained from time. And Robert J. Weis. And Stan Zemaites, Larry D. Reese, Vince P. Murphy, Leonard Niecgorski, Larry F. Miller, Larry M. Contreras, Michael Miel, Richard S. Hargraves, Bob Cole, James L. Stanbury, Joe W. Shook, Larry Miller, Danny Johnson, Max Weise, Clifton McMurray, Pete Maness and Thomas Baxter.

Soldiers from Providence, R.I., to Anaheim, Calif., and everywhere in between.

“That book,” said Yoder, of Winfield, “went everywhere I went. Names of guys we wanted to get together with when we got back.”

But in the 45 years since, Yoder met with only one of the men whose names he did not want to forget: Shope, in Atlanta in 1969, the year after Yoder’s 12-month tour ended and he left Vietnam at age 21. Yoder was drafted at age 20 and became a scout in the Vietnam War, attached to a mechanized tank division.

His most harrowing experience, he said, was in April 1968, when he was on guard duty at Cavalry Hill, halfway between Pleiku, in the central highlands, and Laos.

It was about 10 p.m., and Yoder was sitting behind a 50-caliber machine gun, talking to a friend.

“It was dark,” he said, probably a cloudy and moonless night. “I heard a noise which I had not heard before. Thoop! Thoop! Thoop!” He looked at his friend. “Sam, what was that?” he asked Sam Tallman, of Oklahoma.

Tallman told Yoder he had not heard anything.

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