Van Shipe Honored by Hometown Paper, the Standard Journal

Van Shipe, a member of C-Company in 1965-66, recently had an article posted in his local paper, the Standard Journal, in an article published February 13, 2016 about his service:

— by Chris Brady, Standard Journal

A member of the 70th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, which earned the Presidential Unit Citation, Van Ship was a key cog in the unit that laid much of the groundwork for operations in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam in 1965 and 1966.

Photo by Chris Brady / Standard Journal
Van Ship with some of the honors he received for his service in Vietnam in the mind- to late-1960s
While he rode atop a bulldozer for much of his time, he was shot and and under threat much of the time, he worked to clear land for runways and operational areas for the 1st Cavalry Division.

On August 23, 1965, via landing craft, Shipe and the men of the 70th Engineer Battalion pulled up to the bcach at Qui Nohn. The area had been secured by elements of the 173rd and 10lst airborne divisions.

Just days earlier, he had no idea he’d be headed to Vietnam. Shipe enlisted in October 1963, an 18-year-old from Sunbury, fresh out of high school. Basic training was at Fort Jackson, S.C. and in January he trained at Fort Belvoir, Va. , as a heavy equipment mechanic and operator.

He spent a year in Korea as a diesel mechanic, returned stateside, took leave and returned to
Fort Campbell, Ky., where he was assigned to Charlie. Company, 70th Engineer Battalion.

By August he was headed to the Philippines, where he’d learn it was then on to Vietnam. “No one talked about Vietnam,” he said. “There were a lot or things unbeknownst to the public.”

The engineers arrived and got to work immediately, pulling 12-hour days,then pulling additional security detail.

“There were 900 to 1,000 men there,” he said of his first couple of days on Vietnamese soil. “The 1st Cavalry was sending in 12,000 troops and 500 helicopters. Our job was to build an airstrip and eight miles of road around the perimeter. I was running a bulldozer in a quarry.”

Soon the men headed up Highway 19 to An Khe. The convoy was supported by helicopters overhead.
There the men could pick up Radio Hanoi through their transistor radios.

“They said we were surrounded by three battalions of Viet Cong and that the same thing that happened to the French would happen to us,” remembered Shipe. “We wondered how they knew we were there and what we were doing there.”

They were set up at the end of an old French airstrip and Shipe worked 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Snipers routinely took aim at the men working in the area.

Thousands of local South Vietnamese were hired to assist with the clearing of brush. More than a few proved curious to the men and their curiosity proved to be warranted. Shipe remembered the mammoth anthills and the occasional anteater that would emerge as a bulldozer would plow through them.

“If the bulldozer didn’t kill them the locals would,” he said. “They considered (the anteaters) a delicacy.”

He saw some of the locals look as if they were stepping off distances. Later mortar rounds would hit those areas.

“You never could trust anyone,” said Shipe. ”They later found out the leader of the group was a Viet Cong. He was turned over to the South Vietnamese.”

Finding time to sleep was tough. If you were able to lay down, you had to ensure your net was up to fend off the mosquitos as malaria was a problem. Soldiers had to check their cots and blankets for snakes as well. A cobra was killed in one of the mess halls while Shipe was there.

By Sept. 30, the unit was moved for the fourth time, to Camp Radcliff, at the base of Hong Kong Mountain, notorous for its tunnel systems constructed by the Viet Cong.

In November, the 1st Cavalry was air assaulted into the Ia Drang Valley, which would be the site of the first combat action pitting a U.S. unit against North Vietnamese Army regulars. More than 300 Americans were killed over the four-day battle in one of the bloodiest battles of the 10-year war.

Shipe remembers seeing the choppers leaving to support activity in Central Highlands.

“To see them take off, it was like geese flying south,” he said. “They flew. close together. We saw the helicopters going out and coming in. I was near one of the landing areas and saw the helicopters coming back. They were so f’ull of blood, they were washing them. out with buckets of water.”

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, Shipe recalled a fierce firefight with the Viet Cong atop the mountain, sparked in part by some 84 incidents on Christmas, when the Viet Cong were supposed to take part in a 30-hour truce.

‘The 1st Cavalry decided to let them have it on New Year’s Eve,” he remembered.

As the new year arrived, Shipe noticed he was developing blisters on his feet, though he couldn’t understand why. Others complained as well. Agent orange was used extensively in the area to defoliate the dense jungle prior to the 1st Cav’s arrival.

His tour was extended in April. Work continued on a roadway over and around Hong Kong Mountain. Guard towers were constructed at the base of the mountain to keep Viet Cong out of the area. A rubber-based airstrip, designed to allow planes to land in nearly any weather, was constructed in three days and involved the entire 70th Engineer Battalion.

Sleep was tough to come by and hot showers were few and far between. Months went by before Shipe enjoyed one in country.

On June 21, he enjoyed his 21st birthday while working on Highway 19, where the VC had blown up a bridge.

The daily grind of working in the sun took its toll on Shipe’s arms and hands as they became bruised and sore. Docs there told him he’d be fine when he returned stateside.

He finally left Saigon on Sept. 10, having served more than the year normally assigned to soldiers.

When he returned, he became the first Vietnam veteran to serve with the American Legion in Sunbury. He soon felt he wasn’t welcome by all the members and faced criticism from some of the older members

Shipe was there in 1982 when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. He remembered seeing the demonstrators, and the feelings that stirred.

Agent orange claimed the lives of both the men that trained him on the bulldozer as well as the man Shipe trained prior to his departure from Vietnam. Shipe today suffers from the effects of agent orange in his legs and feet.

Shipe remains a staunch supporter of veterans to this day as his son, Andrew, graduated from West Point and served with the 82nd Airbome Division before retiring. His grandson, Kevin, also graduated from West Point and served with an artillery unit in Afghanistan. His daughter. Cathy, went through ROTC at Syracuse and was a nurse, earning the rank of captain. as did both his son and grandson. He also had another daughter, Wendy, and three additional grandchildren.

His father, Sinary, was a medic in the 190th Field Artillery Unit that served in Europe during World War II.

Chris Brady is managing editor at the Standard Journal.  He can be reached at

VA Agent Orange Registry

As a member of the 70th Engineers, you were most likely exposed to Agent Orange during military service in Vietnam? As such, you may be at risk for certain cancers and other diseases that may be related to Agent Orange exposure. If you haven’t already, please consider scheduling an Agent Orange registry exam at your local VA medical facility.  It will help determine if any health problems you’re experiencing are related to exposure during military service.

For more information about the Agent Orange Registry health exam, visit

Reunion Registration Deadline 17 May 2013

To assure we can accurately forecast and pay in advance for the number of banquet meals on Saturday night, and the amount of  h’orderves that will be needed for Friday evening’s Meet ‘n’ Greet, we’ll need to receive your reunion reservations by May 17th.

If you haven’t registered already, To register to attend, you need to do TWO things.  You need to register for a room with the hotel, and you need to send your reunion registration fee(s) to Roger Rock.

  1. CLICK HERE to register online for your room(s) at the Radisson. Or — call the Radisson directly (800) 395-7046, but don’t forget to use our GROUP CODE: 70ENG when making your reservations
  2. Print and complete the reunion registration form, write your check to cover the registration fees for each participant ($75 each), and mail both the registration form and your check to Roger Rock (address on the registration form)

Any and all 70th Engineers from ANY era are welcome to attend.

Register to Attend the 2013 Reunion

Reunion registration forms for the June 7-9-2013 reunion will go out in email this weekend. And, for those who do not have an email address, they’ll also be going out in USPS. The Registration fee for EACH attendee will be $75.  That fee will cover the meet ‘n’ greet on Friday evening, and the banquet meal on Saturday evening.  To get the price down, we’ve opted not to hire a professional photographer and will be taking our own digital photos throughout the event.  We’ll post all the photos out to the website after the reunion for folks to download. Folks who do not have internet connections will be able to order/purchase a CD or DVD of the photos (that will be mailed subsequent to the reunion).

Roger Rock will need to receive your reunion registration form and registration fees by no later than May 17th to be able to confirm meal counts and pre-pay the hotel for those meals per our contract.  That means folks who’ll be attending will need to get their registration fees in the mail by no later than May 10th to ensure Roger receives them in time to reserve the correct number of meals and pay that bill.

The Reunion Registration and Hotel Room Registration are two separate processes.  Please note that you’ll need to make your room reservations directly with the hotel.  You can do that by calling the Radisson Hotel-Branson:  (800) 395-7046.  Don’t forget to use your Group Code: 70ENGR to get our preferred room rates:

  • King/Double – $89 … ~$99.33 after taxes
  • Leisure Suite – $129 … ~$143.97 after taxes
  • Presidential Suite – $169 … ~$188.61 after taxes

Please note that the above room rates apply not just for June 7-9, 2013, but also apply both immediately before and after the event, from June 4th through June 12th.  So … if you’d like to extend your stay and enjoy the surrounding area or a show or two, you’ll be able to do that at more affordable rates than you’d be able to get on your own.

Branson, MO is known as a music haven, and the Radisson Hotel–Branson offers a prime location in the theater district – ideal for guests who want to take in toe-tapping shows. The city also offers a variety of shopping, golf, historic and natural attractions, and is just minutes from Branson Landing and Silver Dollar City Theme Park. Our concierge can help procure tickets to many of the local shows and attractions, and we offer great hotel packages as well.

Guest rooms and suites feature complimentary high-speed, wireless Internet access, 37″ TVs and more. They also offer rooms featuring Sleep Number Beds, allowing you to adjust the firmness of your mattress to your exact level of comfort.

Hotel services/ facilities include a heated indoor/outdoor pool (so bring your swimsuits), wireless Internet access (not just in your room but in public areas as well), whirlpool, sauna, full-service concierge desk, Fitness Center and a Business Center. Plus, the hotel is “pet-friendly.” There is, however, a $30 pet fee assessed for your stay.

Clifford Hull

In November, as a remembrance for Veteran’s Day, The Augusta Chronicle honored three veterans from Vietnam. One of those Veterans was Clifford Hull who served with the 70th Engineers in 1967-68. Clifford earned a Bronze Star for his service while in Vietnam.

Here’s an excerpt from that article about Clifford:

Clifford Hull:  Sergeant’s experience helped him lead

Clifford Hull had earned his sergeant stripes by the time he deployed into combat for the first time. But he very nearly served in war as a private.

Three of his brothers were fighting in Korea by the time Hull was old enough to enlist in 1952, so he wasn’t deployed there. Instead, Hull was sent to Cold War-era Europe, where he joined a garrison of American troops intent on stopping the Soviets. He finally got his shot at combat in 1967, when he deployed to Vietnam with the 70th Engineer Battalion. His promise to his wife and five kids to return home was not made idly. One of his brothers remains missing in action from Korea.

“Being that long in the military, I knew there was a possibility of not coming back,” Hull said. “But I knew if I paid attention to my training and did my duty I would come back.”

“Doing his duty” brought him home and earned him three Bronze Stars – including one for valor – and three Army Commendation Medals. But it wasn’t without risks.

The enemy knew Hull by name.

“Sgt. Hull,” they called over a public address system somewhere in the dense jungle. Then they addressed his troops, harassing them as they labored over the construction of a long steel runway.
“B Company: You may build it, but we will blow it up.”

It was a hallmark scene of Vietnam. The unseen enemy had spies in every village who knew everything about the U.S. troops, including their leaders’ names. Hull wasn’t fazed by the harassment. He leaned in and told his men in a stage whisper: “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get those” guys.

That was Hull’s first tour, from 1967 to 1968, when he was building combat outposts and sweeping 30 miles of road every day for mines. It was also on his first tour that he earned his first Bronze Star, this one with a “V” device for valor. On Oct. 9, 1967, a radio message was broadcast from a work party under attack about two miles from his position. Hull jumped into a jeep and drove straight to their position, stopping only to alert an armor unit to follow him. He found nine soldiers hugging the ground and out of ammunition in a densely vegetated gully. Hull immediately opened fire with the gun mounted on his jeep, and the enemy responded with a hail of gunfire so fierce that the antenna was stripped off the vehicle.

He matched their attack for a spell, but by the time the armor division arrived, Hull was down to one bullet, his bayonet and a hand grenade.
Nevertheless, “due to the quick reaction, courage and outstanding leadership of Staff Sergeant Hull, no … friendly casualties were sustained,” his commendation reads. For Hull, this was not heroism but duty.

“If I did not go back, it would be on my conscience for the rest of my life,” Hull said. “You had no choice but to go back and help somebody.”
Hull returned home from that tour without a scratch, but the Army wasn’t through with him. After a short stint as a drill sergeant at Fort Gordon, he was to go back to Vietnam, this time as an adviser. “

As We Celebrate Memorial Day

This weekend many of us will join with friends and love ones to honor our brave men and women in uniform.

Since our nation’s founding, many have given their lives in service to our flag and our country.  On Memorial Day we pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Having served our nation in a time of war, we join with all Americans in thanking our troops and all other veterans and military families for their service and commitment to our great country.

We wish all a very Happy Memorial Day to you and to your family.  Remember that we wouldn’t be the land of the free if we weren’t the home of the brave.

Happy Birthday Corps of Engineers

Continental Congress authority for a “Chief Engineer for the Army” dates from June 16, 1775. A corps of Engineers for the United States was authorized by the Congress on March 11, 1779.

The Corps of Engineers, as it is known today, came into being on March 16, 1802, when President Jefferson was authorized by Congress to “organize and establish a Corps of Engineers. President Thomas Jefferson played a key role in getting passage of the 1802 legislation. The new Academy was part of his plan to reform the Army and educate a new class of officers who supported his own democratic principles. It also reflected his desire for an Academy not merely military in nature, but designed to produce soldiers also schooled in mathematics and science to serve the Nation in peacetime. Accordingly, he selected Colonel Jonathan Williams – more scientist than professional soldier – as Chief Engineer and the Academy’s first superintendent.

A Corps of Topographical Engineers, authorized on July 4, 1838, was merged with the Corps of Engineers on March 1863.

Fallen Engineers Memorial Unveiled

One of the highest priorities of the Army Engineer Association (AEA) is to recognize all Army engineers who have given their lives in the defense of the United States of America.  Equally important is to recognize those engineers who received wounds in combat resulting in the award of the Purple Heart.  AEA is accepting donations for the maintenance of the Memorial Wall for Fallen Engineers unveiled at the Sapper Grove at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri — home of the Army Engineer Regiment — during the ENFORCE 2011 conference.  Click here to learn more about the Memorial Wall.

If you’ll be driving to our next reunion in Branson, MO, the memorial isn’t all that far away.  You might want to take some time to stop by and pay your respects.

Incoming — by Jack Manick

by Jack Manick
Published by (date): AuthorHouse (November 15, 2010)
ISBN: 1452071322/ 978-1452071329
Price: $15.69
Tags: Military Army


Synopsis:  1969 was a momentous year for the world and especially America. It was a year when man first set foot on the moon and in an equally amazing feat, the New York Mets won baseballs coveted World Series.While earth shaking events were happening two hundred thousand miles from home or deep within the confines of Shea Stadium, men of every race, education and age group were fighting and dying 12,000 miles from home in Americas most unpopular war, Vietnam. Today, 40 years later, writer, husband and Veteran Jack Manick reaches into his soul and resurrects the fear, tension, foreboding, laughter and terror that he and his fellow “Band of Brothers” felt as they walked the jungles and forests of the Central Highlands of Vietnam in 1969.While in the “Bush”, he carried a pack, a medical aid bag, two knives, three grenades, a rifle, pistol and an unbreakable commitment to save the lives of his fellow soldiers, even at the cost of his own. The story of Jack “Doc” Manick and his fellow soldiers is one of survival…survival in a country laden with malaria, crawling with venomous snakes, scorpions, rats, giant centipedes and tigers and dominated by an enemy determined “Not to lose the War!” The language is as tough as the enemy who fought against him, as unrelenting as the blistering heat of the Dry Season and as depressing as the endless mud and mold of the Monsoon Season. Incoming invites you to lace up your jungle boots and take a walk with Jack through the jungles and the fields of dry grass in the Central Highlands of Vietnam in 1969.

Review by MWSA