Sounder SIGN UP FOR FREE
Unapologetically Canadian
Unapologetically Canadian

Episode 5 · 4 years ago

Friends across borders: Richard Davidson remembers Leo Brent Gunning

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Friends across borders: Richard Davidson talks about the death of Leo Brent Gunning in Vietnam fifty years ago after organizing a commemoration in Potsdam, New York with Gunning's sister, Colleen Taylor. For more info, refer to https://traceyarial.com/blog/friends-across-borders/.

My name is Tracy Ariel and I am an apologetically Canadian. Earlier today I attended a commemoration for Leo Brant gunning in Bustam, New York. Leo brant gunning served with the eighty two airborne in Vietnam and he died on April fourth, one thousand nine hundred and sixty eight well, trying to Richard Davidson, a Canadian Vietnam Vett, out of danger. So today Richard Davidson and Mr Gunning's sister, calling Taylor, organized a commemoration event at the cemetery and at the American Legion in Postdam, New York, and sixty of US attended, including including several people from Quebec, and it was just a great day. And so on the way home I asked Richard Davidson what he thought about the day, why he organized it, what happened in Vietnam, and here's our conversation. Richard, you describe what was happening that day? Well, first of all, every day we were in the same, similar situation in a danger area where we could have been blown up by a mind where some of the people have been blown up previously, or being shot at by the enemy or but then the day's previously that we got into a such a tight situation where the end of the North Vietnamese army regulars, which are the elite soldier North Vietnam. These were the hardcore, the better soldier of soldiers. All these other Vietnamese who fought, they were forced to fight because the government of North Vietnam had use these people as the cannonball can fire, whatever they want to call it, like sold just soldiers. But today, every day we went out, we never knew what was going to happen, how it's going to happen. And this particular day, a unit, and then the company from my military unit, was sent into a village and they got wiped out by an ambush, which are part of the thirteen who got killed in that day April. April four, one thousand nine hundred and sixty eight. Yeah, at them, food in a Republic of Thatt Them Foo, Republic of is not, which is about three or four miles south of Wai city. You were part of eighty tewond ere. Well, we came in by a helicopter and we landed in an open field not too far away from the village, maybe a thousand feet. So when we got off off the helicopter, we proceeded forward to help a unit that been ambushed by the NVA. So...

...they people who had got ahead of us were killed. So we had to go in there and they help him out. Then my lieutenant, Ragsdale, got shot in the head, the radio man got shot in the head, a bunch of then and then I went forward and the medic was taking care of the lieutenant and the radio man and I went by the mennic and they asked them about how they were and he was taking care of them and he was in the line of fire also. So what happened is I can hear this fellow calling for help and my whole body rattle like a skeleton if you took it on an end of a stick and rattled you know. So I went forward, I got to a soldier, black soldier, and I tried to check his pulse and I couldn't get his pulse because I guess I was too nervous. So I look ahead and I saw the enemy who was like underground and a little square area, maybe ten inches by ten inches, and he was firing through. So so what happened is that I can see the enemy. So I took a grenade and I threw it at the location where I saw this guy and he was underground and he was a sharpshooter. He's the one who was shooting. Most of the people who got hit got shot. These people are specially that's just specialty to do that and it calls snipers, you know. So then I started pulling the soldier back and as I was pulling them back, I don't know how they feet, maybe a hundred feet. I got shot pulling him away and it came from behind me on my buttox and it'd be through the organs and my penis and all kinds of bloody area. But I was lucky because ninety percent of the people when they get shot the bone hit the the bullet hits the the bone or an artery and goes up your leg into your spine and you become paralyzed for many, many cases, or you lose your leg if your damage is more through the bone. So me it was a million dollar one because they didn't hit an artery, it didn't hit the bone, he just hit the flesh and I had an opening and maybe a six or eight inch opening of where the bull came out in the thought between the thigh, right in my thigh. So there's a big hole there. And then it hit blue the testicle out and they hit the penis and it hit the graze on the other side of the leg and then it hit and between the bladder and you, whatever it is. You know, there was some more damage there. So then I fell down. I was wounded. Oh No, yeah, I fell down, I was wounded. Then nearly all came over to me and he says don't worry, they've all take care of you, and I said get and before I could stay down, he got shot right through the brain and it fell on my chest and he died right there and then. So when I had...

I was shot, I took his body and they moved it on the side that I got fired upon to protect me from more shooting, because a snipper was still visible. I could see us and fired. So when that happened, two soldiers came up and they started pulling me back. Like my arms are extended. I was lying on my back and I wasn't like a little gully, a little crevice, you know. So they were pulling me back. The enemy came forward and through a grenade and the grenade landed on one side of the rice dyke, thanks for maybe two feet wide, maybe fourteen inches off the ground where the water was, but there was no water there and this time of year. So the grenade blew up and it blew up through the rice stike. But because my arms were higher than my body, most of the strapping lug out where in my arms and my hand. So because my arms were higher off the ground, when they were pulling me back and Bost the sergeants, sergeant on the right hand side, they were not as low as I was and they got shrapnel all over their face and the one who's on the right side was all over his right side of the body and the other guy who was on the other side, pulling me from the other side like one he charm, he got shrappled all over his face. It was as if it was as if you took a pitch for with fifty pitches on them and you just stabbed made holes in the skin, you know, and they had all shrapnel interface and in the side of the body. And then somebody else came forward, g Carlton Walls, pulled me out. They brought me to the eighth station and at the eighth station I was laying on the stretcher and I could fill the blood on my stretcher and they had to give me some serum and because there was no artery and there was no bone and there was no danger for my life, they were operating maybe ten tweet away on some more serious cases of people who probably have been shot the head and the arm or leg or loss the leg or or whatever. So they had now usually a scissistic which is pretty well true, is every time you have someone killed, you have an average of ten wounded because the people usually survived, because the medication transportation is so close to the combat area that they get the helicopters in the air and they put you on a helicopter, they take you out to a location short as medic or a medics are. So I remember as an after that they transported me by helicopter to I think it was Queen Queeny on but I'm not sure. I was taking to emergency hospital. I apparently was on the operating temper about ten and a half hours because of all the damage I had. So they had to restore a lot...

...of parts sound there and then that was in a hospital and when I was in a hospital there was a pow Cam with the Americans. Do is they put the prisoners, to get the mess prisoners in the middle of the camp so the enemy don't bomb the hospital, so that because there's soldiers, are in the center. And I remember when I got out and on a wheelchair maybe a week later, where the guards were changing, the guards at the gate. They would hang the right there. There are forty fives on the you know, where they change, like change that duty or whatever, and I felt so much hatred that I wanted to grab the forty five and just shoot at the prisoners. And you know, the fourth one thousand nine hundred and sixty eight, about thirty at night. All right, literally talk about a little bit about the planning for today. What made you well today? Well, I've been thinking about us through the years. That the appropriate time to honor the family and the veteran, and I'd have to get prepared talk about who Leo Julio was a shy guy, quiet, not a trouble maker, very pensive person that care of you because they I happen to be there when like a shot and he was part of my squad. He was an m seventy nine guy and them seventy nine guy. It's a guy who's holding like a like a rifle, with the rifle is like a big two, maybe two and a half inch, like a tube which fires a grenade. It's a grenade launcher and he use these people to throw a grenade at a position so they can blow up the enemy. Now that was his job. Like we have people in machine gun, we have people of sharpshooters. We had people are appointment with a Roel Gate Shotgun. Your I was a sistant machine gun and I was eighty one millimeter or eighty one millimeter artillery shell, which is a shell that's fired from a tube. It's like these. It's like a rocket launcher. Okay, so as a job, it's a job that there's so, so many different jobs. That's one of the different jobs that there are. Huh, we're ready to back border. All right. So, so a few times you've gone to New York. You've gone to see his great site. Yes, and we've every time went by, we...

...either rock, we brought flowers and it can eatian flag to remember my buddy. And this was was some o the people who are friends of mine. Well, they were. Yeah, we went down for the day and they helped to get there and play a tribute to what happens to decidely, two months ago, when you call them, I had to find a way to get in contact with family. I knew the family name was that back. So my intention was to join the family and ask them about what I was planning. So what I did, as I was thinking of calling the funeral parlor, because he had to be registered with one funeral parlor and they all know each other. So I was going to call the funeral parlor and ask them burial of one thousand nine hundred and sixty eight Leo brand gunning and they would have told me about the family family, you know. So what I did as I found out and the American Legion post in the area and I asked I asked them, do you know of Americanly, I mean they were American Legion. Do they know about leobrand gunning? And they said yes, we do, and the person I spoke to was a relative of Leo. He was a post commander. So then I got the phone number from the brother and the cousins and that, and they gave me the number and from one number I call a lie calling. I called her up and I said, are you will o gunning, member of family? Yes, so that's when I started getting in touch with everybody. So then I asked her what was what was the name of the cemetery, because they didn't remember the name. Once I got the name of the cemetery, will then I said I'd like to to honor him and his memory and would would you, with the family late to come to the cemetery and partake with the honoring a situation. So she says yes, she had contact with members of the family and I then from there on it proceeded forward. Then I call a commander of the American Legion and I said would you be able to to have people come to the Legion and I have a moral commemoration, and they said yes, and I said we'd like to pay for the drinks, and then I asked her about having a cake made. So she made the K I had the cake made and I pay for it. And then then she we ordered the flowers from the funeral of from the florist and had that done also, and then...

I said you how about some food, and said we can have the food at the regional K so the family didn't make some beans and things like that. The other stuff was purchased from the grocery store and was displayed there today for for everybody's purpose, and I offered the buy two drinks for everybody. So I gave the okay to serve people whatever they want, and you were very reasonable in a price today, very very reasonable comments today. Well, I'm very proud to have done what I've done because it's what I had to do for myself and for the family in honor of my buddy. You were supported by a bunch of guys. Yeah, well, there are a group of civilian people who at the time, and one of the fellows of founders, just so be his father was an American and he was very proud of that. And, with other people who were not around today, was Jo John. That all was also a founder. Jill sobey was a founder and as another fellow who's a founder but he passed away many years ago. So they built Dominique. Was a worker. He did divine work. You know, he was not a founder, but he did a lot of he did a lot of good things for the Quebectedt no better association. We have no problem with recognizing him for all the work he's done. So what happened is that Jill Sovey was was always there to promote the association and to promote veterans and some people who are not vetters were supporting the groups. At that time we maybe had fifteen Quebec vietlom veterans who were people who served in the US arm forces. Now we have about a hundred fifteen Canadians who died in Vietnam in the US forces. Well, the next few months we're having about ten years ago I started going to the my military unit reunions for the Charlie Company first five, will five, which is my brigade. This is the unit that lost two hundred and twenty four or a two hundred and twenty four. Don't remember to twenty four. One hundred and twenty four hundred men killed in Vietnam from my brigade. Now I think it's two twenty four. So I've been going to these runs maybe for the last ten years. I've been going...

...to the eight second or born military in for breag North Carolina, and I've been going to conventions which we've had in Texas which we've had in Orlando, which we've had in Reno, which we had in Dallas, which we've had also gone gone to Arlington Cemetery Memorial Day Weeknd, Memorial Day weekend. We've been in Washington many, many times. Okay, yeah, so we've gone to many different organizations Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Connecticut. Through all the years we've been going certain rates. These are Canadian Vietnam veterans. We served in the US forces to honor the veteran organizations. Now the coming up event, which is the it's going to be held to remember fifty years ago our unit was was my president Johnson, was made ready to go to combat. You're in the ten offensive and nine sixty eight and up in their way city to help the Marines and the US forces or being attacked by the North Vietnamese suppressive army, if you want to call it that. So we were sent over to by President Johnson when they he gave us farewell. I was a squad leader and that was the first guy in. President Johnson walked right by me when our rifles loaded, we were ready to move on to get onto the plane and he shoulder probably could have touched my shoulder if he had been four inches closer to where I was standing. We were standing in the brigade and company size groups and he gave us farewell that day. And then we flew up to Alaska, Fairbanks Alaska, through Japan, from Japan to the Philippines, Philippines to yet and we landed in then. And a lot of things about combat experiences in that most of the stuff I learned when I got back here, because we just did our job over there. We didn't care with the anyway. This village was out of that village. We just did what we had to do. Surround a village early in the morning, search, search missins. At nighttime we go steap up on the top of a mountain. The next day we next the next day we come back, go to another area. We are arriving at West Point on the eleventh of June, the main convention. We as an airborne you. We usually get...

...their week ahead of time. They have a hospitality room where when you buy your convention supper tickets, which are a hundred dollars for the supper, we can go to this room and we can have drinks, whatever we want. It's all been supplied with the money that we buy or it just take a spot and we can go to every day and eat or drink and then we meet all the buddies. So we're part of our unit. And then we go on a Friday night there's a banquet and on this is time. It's going to be held in the Academy, West Point Academy on the military base or the academy, and then we go there for the suppers military ceremony. And on a Saturday night there's another ceremony which is a similar type ceremony would color guard, honor guard and they and that's going to it's going to be remembering fifty years of our unit. And all right, and then the last question, which is the question I asked. All I'm very proud to be a Canadian. I've learned to be a proud Canadian by knowing veterans who were Canadian during the Second World War. I had an uncle who was a second war veteran and I've always made a lot of Canadian people who served any Canadian Forces and a lot of people who served American forces through the American Legion of Montreal Canada. I've been to many conventions through Canada from peer Prince that Ward Island to Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, to have American Legion conventions in Canada, because we would fly out there have a military conventions when the American Legion had a lot more members in Canada. But today all the veterans are from the Second World War Korea and they have all passed on and the only few left her a couple of Vietnam veterans, which and the other day we honored a Filipino fellow who's a hundred years old who belongs to the American Legion and he was in the Philippines to fighting against the Japanese during the Second World War. We just honored them last week where I gave in a beautiful American flag, I would yellow ribbons around flag and special material for the American Legion. So why the honor? I have this through the experience of beaten a lot American and Canadian soldiers and I learned to honor and respect them and...

...that's how I was also very proud of our accomplishments and I served in the American legions commander by Vice Commander, Sergean Arms Service Officer, finance officer, is through a period of over forty seven years. Thank you for listening to an apologetically Canadian. This episode was brought to you by notable non fiction. Notable nonfiction teaches people to grow through their own ingenuity. Find out more at notable nonfictioncom.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (58)