Alfred (Fredo) Merritt
US Army 1968-70


I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a twin, on July 13th 1948.  Sadly my twin brother died at birth. I grew up in east Ann Arbor a country boy where the houses were few and far in between. My first school was Old Town Hall on Morgan Rd. at Thomas Road. It was a one room school with grades K - 9th with one teacher, Mrs. Bone.

We consolidated to city schools in the third grade and started the 4th grade at Pattengail.  I went to Stone School for the 5th & 6th grades and Slouson for Junior High (the Golden Bears).

I moved on to Ann Arbor High which is now called Pioneer High School. I was a member of the class of 1966 which at that tine was the largest graduation class from Pioneer.  I was married in December of 1966 and started work at Ford Motor Co.  I spent the next two years playing house until January of 1968 when I received that greeting from Uncle Sam, “I want You”.  I left the cushy married life to become an Army soldier in March of 1968.

I was sent to Ft. Knox Kentucky C-9-3.  I was pretty much out of shape and it wasn’t long before I realized I was in deep trouble. I worked hard and made Pvt. E-2 after basic training.  It sure felt good because only a few made that rank straight of basic training.

From FT Knox I was sent to Ft Bliss Texas where I was given an MOS (military occupation specialty) of 64B40. In simple terms I was a heavy truck driver and would be trained to drive everything from a 1/4 ton jeep to a 15 ton tractor trailer.  Most of the time in Ft Bliss I drove a refrigerated tractor trailer for the commissary.  

A short time later my wife joined me and we lived in off base housing.  It was almost a normal life working 9-5 delivering meats and frozen products to the commissary.

My wife became pregnant and was getting bigger and bigger.  Around February chatter began about Vietnam. My First Sgt. and CO kept telling me that I would not go to Vietnam because my wife is pregnant.  They sure didn’t know what they were talking about. In May I received orders for Vietnam and my wife was 5 months pregnant.  I just couldn’t believe it.  

We was able to go home for a two week leave before heading to Ft. Lewis Washington.  Being scared on a scale of one to a hundred I was about a hundred thousand.  We flew on a wide bodied jet out of Washington and I couldn’t believe they could put that many people on a plane. The pilots and stewardess took turns shaking our hands and thanking all of us.  

We had stops at Hawaii and Guam where we de boarded a military aircraft with all military personnel including flight attendants. It seemed like a short flight to Vietnam from Guam with everybody nervous not knowing what to expect.  Never saw so many boys with prayer beads and others saying prayers.  

When we landed and when the attendants opened the door of the plane it was almost like sticking your head in a oven, and the smell was like nothing I ever experienced.  We noticed these black bags on the tarmac and didn’t know what they were at first but didn’t take us long to realize they were body bags.   All those emotions and I thought what am in for now.

When I arrived at the relocation center I met two fellows who were also in transportation and we all were Sp4s.  A Major came in to the center and told us there was a C-130 waiting for us to take us to Nha Trang.  When we arrived in Nha Trang the officer in charge said we were not needed there and a chopper was waiting for us on the tarmac.  So began our journey thru the country of Vietnam.

It was dark when we were air born and our flight thru the darkness was scary especially when  when I could see tracers arching towards us.  The crew chief calmed us and told us no worries we’d be okay.  

The chopper pilot knew that we were new in country (Cherry Boys) so he headed ou to the South China Sea and fly low so the skids were almost touching the water, scaring the you know what out of us.  We stopped at many locations only to be told the same thing, we weren’t needed there.  We finally ending in Qui Nhon.  The Major there accepted us and told us one of his units just got hit in Tuy Hoa and he needed replacements.  We jumped on a convoy and rode as shotguns from Qui Nhon to Tuy Hoa.  

At Tuy Hoa the CO Capt. Sakash assigned us M16s and our flak jackets.  After the morning reveille we were assigned our own personal trucks.  Mine was #222 (triple deuce).  Our job was to drive to Vung Ro Bay, a deep water port, pick up and transport C-rations, 750 pound bombs, Napalm and what ever else the Navy brought.  

We traveled highway 1, from Tuy Hoa, highway 14 to Qui Nhon and then to Ane Khe or Pleiku on highway 19.  Highway 1, 14 traveled North and South while highway 19 traveled East and West.  

While we were transporting the cargo it was referred to as humping the road.  Our day would start at 0500 and end at 1700hrs (5pm).  We'd leave the motor pool at Phu Hep and travel south about 15 clicks on highway 14 to Vung Ro Bay to pick up our loads, do a turnaround and head up highway 14 North to several different locations but our main supply was to the Tuy Hoa Air Base.  These were not convoys but individual runs.

The security vehicles would have pull off locations and also become rover vehicles that traveled up and down the highway.  When we would convoy once every other week the security vehicles would be staggered.  The lead vehicle was a gun jeep then 5-10 cargo trucks, then a gun truck, another 5-10 cargo trucks, another gun jeep, 5-10 cargo trucks with a gun truck bringing up the rear.  We usually left the deuce and a half home on convoys.

Boss The1
The Boss


We would get support from the air force fly overs and the army air assault helicopters when needed.  Our company, the 545th Transportation had 3 gun trucks an 2 gun jeeps. The ll transportation units had their own gun trucks and most of them had names. Our gun trucks were the Boss, a 5ton, the Playboys, a 5ton and Little Joe which was 2 1/2ton. The gun trucks weapons were 50 cal, 60 cal, automatic grenade launchers, and law rockets.

The inside compartment where the weapons were mounted was called the pill box.  The gun jeeps the Boss’s Baby and The Playboy’s Baby weapons were 60 cal, law rockets, M79 grenade launchers. When guys started getting orders to rotate home the security force which were the gun truck crews had to be filled so my two friends Wade and Larry, the three of us arrived in- country together, were asked to fill the positions of commanders (NCOIC) of the gun trucks.  Wade on the “Boss” and Larry on “Playboys” and I became Sgt. of the Guard, I held that position for a month, and Wade came to me and said he needed a driver  This began my journey as a gun trucker.  


The gun truck crews were on a 24 hr call.  Many times we were awakened in the middle of the night for different security reasons.  The word we never wanted to hear was “contact” which meant someone was hit by an ambush.  All the security gun trucks would rush to that grid location with guns-a-blazing.  Arriving at the kill zone was a huge adrenaline rush.  

The worst ambush was not on a convoy but on a day we were doing turnarounds.  Our gun jeep, Playboys Baby, broke down in an area know as the rocking chair.  It was called that because of the uneven road was an abandoned railroad track that went thru to an abandoned railroad station called Husaine.  About two clicks up the road was a curve and on the North side was a straight up 25 feet to a plato.  Charlie (enemy) had it planned well.  When the 15 ton wrecker got there it hooked up to the jeep and started pulling it back to the motor pool.  It made it through the Rocking Chair but when it got to the S curve Charlie had placed a satchel charge hanging over the plato on a rope.  We learned later that it was a 5 pound coffee can full of explosives.  When the charge went off it threw the 15 ton wrecker and a 1/4 jeep 20 yards into the  rice paddy on the South side of the road.  On that fateful day, 8 Aug 69, Sp/4 Quinn and Sp/5 Greene became fatalities.  The ambush firefight lasted about an hour and we had to call in air support. This was without doubt my worst day in country and a realization of what combat is all about.

Over the months we had other ambushes but none ever reached this level. We also lost two soldiers who died from accidents.  Sp4 Bennett’s truck slid and turned upside down in a rice paddy during the monsoon season.  He drowned before we could rescue him.  Sp4 Prochino was run down on the side of the road by a civilian contractor driving a dump truck.

After a few months we received a new 5ton truck which we had to redo the armor plating. The floor, both sides, front and back was all re-built the same.  A layer of steel, layer of sandbags, and a top layer of steel. The gun mounts was welded to the floor for secure support. The floor was lined with ammo boxes of 50 cal 60 cal.  The doors had the windows removed and steel inserted with a small corner (8 inch x 8 inch) opening so one could see the side mirrors.  Across the hood was steel mounted on hinges the width of the truck that that could be pulled up cover the windows.  That steel plate had a 3  inch 8 inch slot to see in front. A large braided rope that ran across the top of the cab and was attached to a pulley.  If we were ambushed the commander would pull it up to protect the driver.  From all the steel and sand bags you can imagine the weight of the truck and what it took to get going it going and what it took to stop while at full emergency speed.   

When the word “contact” came across the radio we would rush to the grid location as fast as we could. The first gun truck on scene would pull between the ambush and the downed vehicle which was known as the “kill zone”.  When the other armored vehicles arrived they would make back and forth passes while lighting up the kill zone firing their M-50s and M-60s.   

I was notified by the Red Cross in Sept that my son was born so each day I prayed a little more as months went by.  In February the CO took me off the road and made me NCOIC of the base.  On March 10th,  1970 I received my travel orders to rotate home.

The CO called me to his office to give me the news and presented me with a certificate of 5000 accident free miles while in country.  And yes, when I got to the tarmac I bent down and kissed the ground and then boarded United Airlines my freedom bird for the land of the big PX.  

We took same route home. Cameron Bay to Guam to Hawaii where we had a 6 hour layover to repair a engine.  An officer came in with Military Police and instructed us not to leave the airport.  You can guess how that went over.  Anyway, we finally left for Ft Lewis Washington.  When we arrived we processed as fast as we could so we could make our way home.

I left from Washington and had a plane change in Chicago.  When I boarded the plane I realized I was the only passenger.  There were two stewards and 2 stewardess.  I was flying military stand-by and they seated me in First Class.  I thought wow that was nice.  We talked about Vietnam without going in great detail.  

I finally arrived in Detroit Metro for which I had been waiting for what seemed like an eternity.  My wife was pushing our six months old son Anthony in a stroller.  I was soon going to see him for the first time!  I could see them from the window seat when we pulled up to the gate.  I couldn't get off that plane fast enough!

I was so excited to see my wife and son, whom I was soon going to hold for the first time!  I felt so many emotions that I would never be able to explain.

We were on our way out of the airport when a security guard came and told us there were protesters outside and to be careful.  When we exited the building there were about 20-25 protesters and they started forming a circle around us.  I was carrying Anthony, holding him tightly against me protecting him from the protesters.  They shouted at us calling us names.  The typical name calling including F****ng baby killer.  They were spiting as us and throwing cups of water and pop at us.  

By this time I was furious.  Airport security finally came out and my wife was able to calm me down while they escorted us to our vehicle and finally we were able to leave.

Its unbelievable how cruel some of the returning military were treated by people who didn't understand or care how demoralizing and demeaning their behavior was.  Personally its something I will never forget or get over.

I continued my employment with Ford Motor Company  Rawsonville plant and in 1985 went on apprentice program and became a journeyman plumber/pipe-fitter.  In 1985 I also became a member of VVA chapter #9 in Detroit.  A short time later I learned that Washtenaw County was forming a chapter and I transferred to VVA 310 in 1986 and helped them continue to form and became a life member.  

It was also shortly after that I joined the VFW as a Life Member.  Through the years at VVA #310 I’ve been Membership Chair, Merchandising Chair, Nominating Chair, Co-Chair of VVA Moving Wall,  Grounds Chairperson of the Memorial and Vice President.

I continued working at Ford and being involved with the growth of VVA Chapter #310, Christmas parties, fund raisers and other venues.  In 2007 I retired from Fords with 39.7 yrs of service and continued my dedication with service organizations.  

In 2009 I joined DAV (Disabled American Veteran) as a Life Member.

In 2010 I joined Red, White & Blue, an organization that accepts everyone while there is no requirements to be a Veteran, their primary focus is to help Veterans thru community service, and physical development programs.  

I became a member of The Patriot Guard Riders in 2010.  Their Ethos is “It’s Our Turn.”   We provide escorts for funerals and home comings as requested.  
In 2012 I became a member of 40 & 8 an organization that symbolizes itself from WW1 where one could get 40 soldiers or 8 horses in a rail car.