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Farewell, Ham Tan Arty: An Artilleryman’s Journal during the Vietnam War Drawdown by Gerald Herter is a Salute Military Event pick #military #memoir #giveaway

Title: Farewell, Ham Tan Arty

An Artilleryman’s Journal during the Vietnam War Drawdown


Author: Gerald Herter


Genre: Military Memoir - Vietnam


Book Blurb:


A college senior graduating today may face the daunting challenges of mountainous student debt and questionable job prospects, but not the horrific predicament a student of the 1960’s confronted with the military draft and imminent deployment to fight a deadly and thankless war in Vietnam. FAREWELL, HAM TAN ARTY, An Artilleryman’s Journal during the Vietnam War Drawdown, takes you back with the author as he contemplated the options: flee to Canada, seek special favors to avoid serving, or answer my country’s call.

Much has been written of battles, heroic actions, and fatal political blunders. But what about the average young person pursuing the daily tasks of life, amidst a campus torn by anti-war protests, through dehumanizing training in the sweltering heat of a Georgia summer, playing at war in the former Nazi camps of Germany, then finally on the ground in Vietnam, hoping to survive while carrying out orders from distant generals, and calming the fears of loved ones back home.

My experiences as an artillery officer, advancing from fire bases to province headquarters, speak out from a dust-stained journal, next to letters home nuanced to soften depictions of the dangers of the war zone that lay hidden between the lines. Modern readers seek to go behind the sensationalism of war to contemplate how relationships were maintained with loved ones so far away, and the importance of those connections for boosting morale and fostering hope for the future. Whether through letters written, “Care” packages received, or a remote MARS radiophone call to a mother on Christmas Eve from deep within the distant hinterlands of Vietnam, the feelings expressed melt away the miles, at least for a moment.




Note to reader – Sections in italics and placed within brackets [ ] are current day commentary.


20 Dec 1970 


Last night we received our second mortar attack in the last couple days. At about 9:30 PM incoming rounds hit inside our perimeter. We immediately called our battery at Apache, which is within our range, and had them start firing at suspected enemy mortar positions. Next, I ran to the hootch and donned my steel helmet, flak jacket, and M-16 rifle. I returned to the radios and kept them going while the other men got their weapons & set up the machine gun, in case the enemy managed to get through the defensive perimeter.


Several more mortars hit, and guard bunkers on North, East, and West sides of the berm reported receiving small arms fire. By 10:30 PM, things started to quiet down. This attack was a little more disturbing than the one a couple days earlier. Five of the mortar rounds landed on the base itself. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but a couple generators and other equipment were destroyed. It looks like the enemy is building up for a Christmas offensive.


[When I was preparing to deploy to Vietnam, a question arose in the back of my mind: If I found myself in a combat situation, would I be courageous or a coward? I don’t think a person can really tell until it happens. Anticipating such occurrences, the army tries to prepare soldiers.


 In the artillery, there are two primary circumstances where artillerymen are subject to attack. The forward observer (FO) is an artillery lieutenant who has been imbedded with an infantry unit out on patrol. When the infantry unit makes contact with the enemy, the FO, in coordination with the commander on the ground, determines the enemy location and calls by radio to the supporting unit to provide artillery fire.


The other circumstance occurs when the firebase comes under attack. In this situation, defensive action needs to be taken. A real concern is that a sapper attack may be underway. A contingency plan is developed and put into place ahead of time. Soldiers are briefed and trained on the specific steps to take. Nothing is left to chance, realizing that an attack can bring severe stress and confusion.


Our Forward TOC (tactical operations center) consisted of only four soldiers and a small sector of the base perimeter to defend. Our radios and operations center were situated in an enclosed container on the back of a five-ton truck. When the attack commenced, everyone was to immediately grab their M-16 rifle, and don helmet and flak jacket. Then two pre-assigned team members were to retrieve the machine gun and set it up on top. The machine gun team scanned the field of fire. The others kept an eye on the interior of the base while communicating on the radio. Once fire support was established from the nearby artillery battery, then headquarters was informed of the situation.


While running to my hootch, I recall the thought going through my head: am I supposed to be afraid now? This was the first instance where I knew that at any moment an enemy combatant could appear directly in front of me. Just as quickly, my mind turned to the task at hand. There was a job to be done. There was no time to be afraid. I don’t know if it was just adrenalin or something else. But I later realized the value of having been trained and prepared with a contingency plan. When the time came, my focus was on the plan and following the steps to carry it out. The plan kept my mind occupied, keeping fear at bay for the time being. 


The only indication I recall of stress was when communicating to headquarters. The major on the radio at headquarters was anxious to learn about what was happening at our location. We were still in the midst of trying to determine the extent of the attack and whether the perimeter had been breached somewhere. Apparently, I was a little abrupt telling the major I needed to be sure the area was secure before getting into the details. He didn’t appreciate being put off.] 


Wed, Dec 23 – Letter Home


Dear Mom & Dad,


I talked to Mom on the phone about 2 hours ago at 1AM, Dec 23, here. I think it was around noon on the 22nd, back home.


Communication was bad. Mom could hardly hear me, and I could hardly hear her. But I could recognize your voice real well & caught at least half of what was said. Was good just to hear your voice. I just wanted to call to wish everyone Merry Christmas, so I guess you got that.


I called right here from Mace. We have a MARS radio & special antenna, even out here. For 10,000 miles away, it was pretty good. I was talking over our field phone. It’s just a portable handset that runs on 2 flashlight batteries. You have to push a button to talk.


[Security is an ever-present concern. I was so excited, being in this remote location with a makeshift phone, to be able to hear my mother’s voice, that I started to tell her the name and general location of the firebase. Before I got more than a couple words out, a voice came over the phone admonishing me not to mention locations. The call was being monitored to prevent classified information getting out over the unsecure airwaves. Duly chastened, I was more careful for the rest of the call].


The army no longer lets people get discharged over here, so I should be right home when my tour of duty is complete in August. We should be able to go ahead with vacation plans.


Not much else to write.


Hope your holiday was pleasant.


          Love, Jerry


[Needless to say, I didn’t let on about the recent attacks, either in the letter or on the phone call].


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What makes your featured book a must-read?


 Farewell, Ham Tan Arty, An Artilleryman’s Journal during the Vietnam War Drawdown, describes firsthand, a young person’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions when faced with the prospect of going to war, and then when given the task of actually fighting in a war. All citizens should seriously consider what involvement in war means for a country and its citizens, before committing the country to a war. This book provides a glimpse of one such experience.


Giveaway –


Enter to win a $20 Amazon gift card:



Open Internationally.


Runs May 22 – May 28, 2024.

Winner will be drawn on May 29, 2024.


Author Biography:


Gerald Herter grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, graduated from the University of Wisconsin with BBA and MBA degrees in accounting, and achieved the status of Certified Public Accountant. He served in the United States Army as a field artillery officer in Germany and Viet Nam, and then worked for several years at Arthur Andersen & Company in Chicago.


Gerald met and married his wife, Lori, in the Chicago area. They moved to Southern California several decades ago, where he became associated with what would become HMWC CPAs & Business Advisors. He served as Managing Partner for many years, as well as President of the Americas, Asia & Australia Region of Integra International, a world-wide association of accounting firms. He also has written and edited Integra’s Audit & Accounting Alert newsletter for more than a decade and was a Contributing Editor for Accounting Technology magazine.


Gerald and Lori still live in Southern California. They are long time members of Tustin Presbyterian Church, where Gerald has served as an elder. He also served on the Boards of Directors of Family Promise of Orange County, a homeless shelter, and New Theological Seminary of the West, where he is Board Chair.


Gerald and Lori have traveled extensively in the U.S., Canada, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Tahiti. Gerald has had travel articles published in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and Celtic Life International magazine.


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May 24

I don’t really have one but I like books with military men in them.


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May 22

Thank you, Gerald, for sharing your book in our salute military event!

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