Vietnam veteran alerted others via radio

Special to the Tribune Chronicle Jerry Platt of Niles stands by the statue on Parris Island, South Carolina, of the Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima, which depicts six U.S. Marines atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Platt completed basic training at Parris Island in 1968 and served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.

NILES — Carrying radio equipment on his back in the jungles of Vietnam was a big challenge, but Jerry Platt of Niles said he rose to the challenge when it was his job to alert military officials about where his unit was and to report casualties and injuries.

Platt, 70, served as a radio man in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“I enlisted in the Marines a year out of high school in 1968 when I was 19, and then two weeks later, I received a draft notice,” he said.

Platt went to basic training at Parris Island in South Carolina before heading to San Diego for Marine Corps boot camp and radio telegraph training. Platt then went to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, before receiving more extensive training.

“We went to Jamaica to practice amphibious landings and Panama for jungle warfare training,” Platt said.

During the battles, Platt had to warn other soldiers and his superiors via radio about air strikes, artillery and needed supplies.

“When you are out in the field, you get attacked and see people who have been attacked. It was horrible at times. Stuff you do not want to talk about,” he said.

Platt said it was hard at times to know who was from North Vietnam and who was from the south. He said usually the North were in military uniforms, but not always.

“We had these young guys, 18 and 19, fighting,” Platt said.

As a radio man, he learned to read maps to give directions and coordinates.

“It was important I let them know where the men should be and also the casualties,” he said.

While he was in the Marines, Platt said he served mostly on land.

“We started off on the ship, but I was only on the ship for a few months,” he said

After being in Vietnam for 13 months, he returned to Camp Lejeune and continued working as a radio man until he was discharged.

“I know the Vietnam War was not a popular war, but I was proud to have served my country,” Platt said. He noted that the troops were not treated well when they came back, and he often did not mention he served.

“Things have changed over the years. People are starting to treat the Vietnam veterans better for serving their country. It means a lot,” he said.


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