Clearing Vietnam: Anatomy of a U.S. Army Land Clearing Team

Picture2Former SP-5 Terence “Terry” T. Brown, had served in South Vietnam from February of 1968 to September of 1969 as a Rome Plow operator, first with the U.S. Army’s 86th Engineer Battalion Land Clearing Team, which was based at Bearcat Basecamp, southeast of Saigon, while he also had served during 1969 with the 501st Land Clearing Company of the 62nd Engineer Battalion, based at Long Binh Post within the III Corps Tactical zone of military operations. While with the 501st, he had also served as a Squad Leader, whose job it was to communicate via a PRC-25 field radio from atop a M113 armored personnel carrier, to effectively monitor the ‘cut’ for his string of Rome Plow tractors, while sometimes alerting the maintenance track to the scene of machines that were in need of repair, or in alerting the mechanized security of any unusual conditions or incidents.  In 2021, Terry was sworn in to become the President and Boss of a distinguished national reunion organization, the Vietnam Land Clearers Association.

In his book, Clearing Vietnam, Anatomy of a U.S. Army Land Clearing Team, Terry describes his experiences throughout his 18-month tour in great detail, while also allowing the reader to understand what it was like to operate the Rome Plows on a daily basis, with various hazards and harsh climate conditions to deal with and to overcome; not to mention the occasional encounters with Viet Cong guerrillas or their land mines placed strategically in and around the jungle.

This unusual memoir captures the sights, sounds and experiences of a young combat engineer from within the jungles of South Vietnam, where hard work, grueling conditions and enemy encounters forced this 19-year-old to grow up fast. The detailed account also highlights the achievements and dedicated spirit of a unique Engineer outfit, which evolved from a rag-tag platoon of Land Clearing pioneers, to eventually achieve full Company status within an unprecedented new battalion, comprised entirely of Land Clearing units. Essentially, this is a nuts-and-bolts and sweat-and-blood window view of a very different sort of wartime experience.



Dad, What Did You Do in Vietnam?

Picture1Former SP-5 Thomas L. “Tom” Randle Jr had served in South Vietnam from February of 1969 to February of 1970 as a Wrecker Operator with the U.S. Army’s 60th Land Clearing Company of the 62nd Engineer Battalion (Land Clearing), operating out of Long Binh Post in the Central Lowlands region or the III Corps Tactical Zone of operations.  Some 42 years afterward, he became President of his national reunion organization, the Vietnam Land Clearers Association, serving six years as their Boss while helping to promote their historic legacy.

His statement here, in presenting his Book, ‘Dad, What Did You Do in Vietnam?’, provides some synopsis on his unusual service in Vietnam during 1970.

I was inspired to write this book by the men that I served alongside. There is no hyperbole in this book. Land clearing and the men who were part of it in Vietnam are unknown to most of America. The history of Land Clearing in Vietnam is obscure. These men were the most unwashed, unruly, unshaven, and undisciplined of probably any unit in the Army in Vietnam. Nobody worked harder, longer hours, or endured more hardships than the men of land clearing. The Officers and NCOs knew that and gave us respect. I am confident we gave countless reasons to bring many, if not all, up on Article 15 charges. I don't think that happened to anyone I knew. The work was so difficult and critical to the mission of the US Army that leadership looked the other way. I would not want to repeat my time in Vietnam, which is why I did not re-enlist. However, I would not take a million bucks for all of the experiences and friendships.