Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

April 1969 -- 101st Airborne Division, 1/501st infantry units are resupplied by helicopter, usually daily, with food, clean clothes, ammunition and mail. Personnel are transported by the same aircraft. This Huey helicopter lands in the middle of colored smoke, used to guide the pilot to his resupply destination.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Don Kelsen

March 1969 -- Members of Charlie Company relax after returning from a night ambush in an area east of Hue. From left, James Glemser, Gail Abney, William Ingle, Ken Buesing, and John MacFarland of the 2nd Platoon.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Don Kelsen / Don Kelsen

February 1969 -- For 22 days in February 1968, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army held the city of Hue, often called the heart city of Vietnam, during the Tet offensive. A year later, on one of my many trips through this city, many battle-scarred buildings remain.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Don Kelsen

May 1969 -- Search of tunnels discovered near Tam Ky, Vietnam, by Spc. Larry Waite of the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Lamar Plain.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Don Kelsen

January 1969 -- I was trained infantry for my Vietnam tour of duty but managed to find a job as a photographer, in my battalion: 1st Battalion 501st infantry of the 101st Airborne Division at LZ Sally. I worked with a writer, Spc. Jack Bynum. As two journalists, we would visit each company of the battalion in the field. Photos (here an unidentified member of E Company) would accompany a form, filled out by the photo subject and shipped to the subject's hometown newspaper.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Don Kelsen

April 1969 -- Members of 101st Airborne Division's, 1/501st Infantry patrol the countryside northwest of LZ Sally, which was north of the city of Hue. IDs of civilians would be scrutinized routinely.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Don Kelsen

March of 1969 -- Munitions, including this rocket-propelled grenade, are removed from a Vietnamese spider hole by members of Charlie Company of 1/501st Infantry, 101 Airborne Division, in countryside near the South China Sea, north of the city of Hue.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Don Kelsen

December 1968 - Don Kelsen, right, and Bruce H. Rawlings rest in the countryside after a night ambush, north of Hue, Vietnam. Rawlings, who was from Wisconsin, was killed in action a month later while setting up a night defensive position.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Adrian Zarr

January 1969 - Spc. Jack Bynum, a writer I worked with, gives a helping hand to Pfc. Mario Joseph Sernali, (from San Jose, Calif.) while on patrol north of Hue.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Don Kelsen

Don Kelsen, 20, at LZ Sally.

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By Don Kelsen

It was 1968 and I was drafted into the U.S. Army. I was petrified. Basic training started in June and I was airborne for Vietnam by mid-November, trained as an Army infantryman. My head was spinning.

Upon arriving in Vietnam, I was assigned to Company C, 1st/501st Infantry Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division and was placed in a squad that included Jesse Erevia,  who Tuesday is being awarded the Medal of Honor.

We were based at Landing Zone (LZ) Sally, headquarters of Second Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. After several months in the field, I was assigned to the battalion headquarters to serve as a photographer and travel by helicopter from company to company to gather stories from soldiers in the field.

After my 21st birthday in May, 1969, the 101st Second Brigade of the 101st moved to Tam Ky because the North Vietnamese Army was kicking up a storm. It in Tam Ky where Spc. Santiago Jesse Erevia, under heavy fire, took out four bunkers manned by the North Vietnamese Army.

After the battle, another grunt in my company, Pfc. John MacFarland, who was also in the battle, spent weeks working on a nomination for Erevia and sent the recommendation up the chain of command.

In a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday, the United States will officially acknowledge the combat heroics of 24 soldiers, including Erevia, by presenting them with the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor has been awarded to more than 3,400 recipients since it was established during the Civil War.

After our tour of duty, we all went our separate ways, but I remained friends with John MacFarland, who wrote Erevia’s citation.

Read story: A Medal of Honor, long delayed

2 Comments

  1. March 19, 2014, 6:55 am

    Congratulations to Jesse and to all who served in the military. I was the 1/501 infantry battalion mail clerk at the time of Tam Ky and as I recall we suffered 60 men killed and 200 wounded while we were at Tam Ky helping the Americal Division. I was busy trying to handle all of the situations to make sure no mail would go undelivered. Mail was extremely important as a contact to the outside world. I remember one individual would get mail every day from his girlfriend and he got wounded and I didn't know where he was going to end up so I forwarded all of his mail back to his home address because I knew he would eventually end up getting it. His name and address was Calvin Bailey, 740 Cooper St , Atlanta, Ga 30315. I still remember it from 1969.
    THE SUN CAME OUT TODAY

    The Sun came out today
    To shed it's radiant beams on the soil
    What a curious sight to behold
    Amid all this trouble and toil

    The Sun came out today
    But it may as well not have come out at all
    It brought along blue skies and great white clouds
    What nerve, what gall

    Yes, the Sun came out today
    But it may as well not have come out at all
    It came not for warmth, it came not for hope
    It came to watch men fall!!

    Pvt Gerald L. Wolf
    HHC 1st Bn, 501st Infantry
    101st Airborne Division
    APO 96383
    April 1969

    By: jerrywolf54@hotmail
  2. March 19, 2014, 7:54 am

    Don Kelsen: Thanks for the personal background on this citation and connection to these men.

    By: yakyak1

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