WE SERVED: Blackfox drove armored personnel carrier in Vietnam
WEST SILOAM SPRINGS – Roy Blackfox, 72, grew up in Leach, just down the road from where he now lives in West Siloam Springs.
In 1967, at age 19, the Army drafted him. He went to basic training at Fort Polk in Louisiana and armor school at Fort Knox in Kentucky to learn to drive tanks and armored personnel carriers.
“I trained on APCs, that’s armored personnel carriers. They’re like a little tank. And then when we got to Vietnam they put me on driving one of them. Really, I spent the whole year, (in Vietnam) driving one,” Blackfox said.
He said he served in the central highlands of Vietnam near Dak To and Pleiku with the 1st of the 10th Cavalry, which was part of the 4th Infantry Division. It was April 1968 when he arrived in Vietnam. He was given the option of transferring to another unit, so he moved to the 2nd of the 1st Cavalry or Blackhawk, which was also a part of the 4th Infantry Division.
When he got to his unit, his main job was to guard supply trucks delivering supplies to troops.
“There we had the military going up and down the highway, so we had to sit on the roadside with tanks and APCs to make sure nobody got hit. And every once and a while when the convoys were down for the day, we might be called out to a village where there would be VC (Viet Cong) around the village. Every once in a while, we would find them,” he said.
He added that most of his duty hours were quiet until it was nearly time for him to go home after a year in Vietnam. “They moved us a little farther north, and then we ran into a little more action. My year was about up then, so I didn’t get to see much action. I heard later on they really found action, units I had been with.”
He recalled the worst part about being in the APC was when the vehicle and its 4-man crew drove into a bamboo jungle and hit a nest of red ants.
“Boy, talk about stinging. Those red ants were bad,” he said.
APCs were built to haul troops in its rear, but they were also used as fighting vehicles just like tanks, Blackfox said. He said he took his 7-ton APC down mountainsides, and drove it across creeks because it could float. “You didn’t know what to expect out there. You might be crashing through the boonies or rubber plantations because that’s where the VC liked to hide. They always had foxholes out there. Every now and then we would go out there and look for them, and every now and then we would run into them, and then the fight would be on.”
He returned home in April 1969 without any fanfare. “These days, the troops coming home, they all have this big welcome. We didn’t have nothing like that.
After we got back and changed back into civilian clothes, they sort of said, ‘you’re on your own now. I didn’t really notice anything (negative), but the stories that you hear…maybe some of them did, but I never saw or heard anything. I just made my way home.”
He said his family and friends call him a laid-back person, which may explain why he has not been bothered by memories of Vietnam. “Since I’m getting a little older now, when I hear a crash or something it sort of startles me. Other than that, I’ve been pretty calm. Some of us came back that way.”
He moved to Oklahoma City in 1969 and stayed there until 1977 before moving back to northeastern Oklahoma. During the years, he’s worked as a security guard and a corrections officer.
In the past 10 to 15 years, he said, his health has declined, which has turned him to getting Veterans Affairs assistance, and has caused him to reflect more on his military service.
“I’m glad I did because it made me grow up. I had just been out of high school for about a year. It did me a lot of good,” he said. “As far as doing it again, about the only thing I could do, if they drafted me, would be to drive a truck because I’ve driven a lot of trucks. I never did find a job driving a tank.”