Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Carr served in Vietnam instead of Turner band

From page A1 | November 08, 2013 | 19 Comments

HENRY CARR.  Democrat photo by Pat Dollins


For Placerville resident Henry Carr, going to Vietnam in 1966 was a pivotal choice. “I had a three-week leave before shipping out to Vietnam,” said Carr, 66. His girlfriend at the time had connections to the Ike and Tina Turner band and Carr got to know the band members during his leave. “Ike was related to an uncle of mine by marriage,” said Carr.

The night before he shipped out, he was told that someone on a bus wanted to see him. It was Ike Turner, looking for a replacement for one of his band members. “He asked me if I played any instruments and he already knew I could sing,” said Carr. “I told him I could play some and he told me to forget going to ‘Nam and go on tour with the band. I decided against it.”

On the plane the next day, while his fellow soldiers slept, Carr stayed awake, talking to the flight attendant. “None of us knew where we were going or what we would be doing. We flew past this big mountain as we came into the airport. Later, I found out the mountain was Nui Ba Den. I spent a lot of time at the bottom of that mountain.”

It was a much different environment for the 19-year-old than Omo Ranch where he grew up. “My dad got a job at the Wetzel-Oviatt Lumber Mill in 1952 and he commuted back to Richmond where we lived, every other weekend,” said Carr. ” In 1954, he moved my mother, my older brother and me up to Omo Ranch into  this one-bedroom house with an outhouse.” After a year, the family found a three-bedroom house with a garage and indoor plumbing — a big improvement.

Carr and his brother attended Indian Diggings School, a first grade through eighth grade school. “There were only about 40 kids,” said Carr. He grew up hunting and fishing and playing Model A tag. “There were always a lot of old Model A’s around,” said Carr. ” I started driving out in the woods when I was about 10 and we would try to bump each other.”

Carr loved baseball and wanted to be a professional player. “There were only about five or six black kids out of 1,200 when I went to El Dorado High School, “said Carr who played baseball and basketball at EDHS.

There were “black-top” dances at the Omo Ranch in the parking lot near the store two or three times each summer. “People would come from miles around for those dances,” said Carr. He had a lot of friends in both El Dorado and Amador County, one of which got him into trouble, which resulted in a fine and probation in Amador County.

When his first draft notice arrived, being on probation kept him from being drafted, but the second draft notice, six months later, waived any problems with probation and Carr was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to basic training at Fort Lewis, Wash. His Advanced Individual Training was at Ft. Polk, La. “We ran around in the swamps and got into trouble in Leasville,”said Carr. Then he was in Vietnam.

“We sat on the bus waiting for orders. We were supposed to  be assigned to  the 2nd (Battalion) and 14th (Infantry) straight leg, but just before we were to leave, 15 guys on the 2nd and 14th were killed and our assignment was changed to  the 4th Battalion and 25th Infantry Headquarters Reconnaissance Platoon.” Carr’s unit was small, with only about 10 men.

“During the day, we swept the roads for mines and then we sat up in the rubber trees and secured the area for convoys,” said Carr. “At night, we went back to Tay Ninh City  and got supplies and took them to camp at Nui Ba Den.”

Carr was an Armored Personnel Carrier driver and was soon given five APCs to oversee. “I was always the last track and the last track is the one they shoot at since there isn’t anyone behind them to shoot back,” said Carr. “I would drive slow, like an old lady and watch for the flash of the RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). When I saw a flash, I’d hit the gas and  they missed me.”

We set up a camp in a rubber tree plantation. A little girl named Mai, who was about 8,would come into camp every day. I always sent her home with C rations and we became friends. One day, she didn’t show up,” said Carr. ” A week went by and she still didn’t come. Then a Vietnamese guy approached me and asked if I was Mai’s friend. He told me she had been shot and killed.”

The Vietnamese man was a relative of Mai’s and he invited Carr to dinner at his mother’s house. “He and I went for a 20-minute walk there and I saw at least 400 people all around. At the house, he questioned me, but I told him I just pointed at where the bullets were coming from and shot.”

Carr said he was served a feast of dog, water buffalo, rice and raw fish. “It was all good stuff.”

After dinner, Carr left to walk back to camp by himself. Although it was only midday, not a single person was visible. “I thought I was dead, but I made it back. It was the same place where those 15 guys from the 2nd and 14th had been killed. I always figured that guy had to be high up in the North Viet Army to keep them from killing me.”

Another time, Sacramento television personality, Stan Atkinson, came to Vietnam to report from inside the 25th Infantry. “We were told to do a sweep to clear the road before he came down it. I was on the outside flank and saw an opening in the bushes. There was a meadow on the other side and I saw camouflaged bunkers, which meant there were probably NVA there. I hopped back to the APC and didn’t say anything. They would have sent me in to clear them out in a firefight and I didn’t want to get shot on TV.”

Carr said about a third of the U.S. casualties he observed were from friendly fire. “People didn’t always program their weapons right and we were shooting so much at the enemy that sometimes the men hit our own ambushers.”

With a week and a half before his 10-month tour was over, Carr was worried. “Short-timers always got shot. When you got short, you got killed.”

But camp wasn’t much safer. “We were in the bunker in camp and left our rifles outside. Suddenly we could hear rockets shooting into the camp. We stayed put and after about 15 minutes, we stopped hearing them. I decided to go outside and get the rifles in case the NVA came into camp.” When Carr reached the door and opened it, a soldier behind him put a hand on the door to stop him. “A grenade hit the door, but I was saved by that hand.” For Carr, it was a surreal experience, as though the hand was huge and protected his whole body.

While in the country, Carr said he witnessed the burning of entire villages. “You’d see a whole village with no men, only women and children and you knew it meant the men were in the NVA. We’d have to clear all the people out and then they would light the whole village on fire.”

He served on Colin Powell’s track just before his tour was up. “It was stationary and had radios and communication equipment. My job was to get 5 gallons of gas every day to keep the generators running and to make sure the track was ready to move. Not getting shot at  for two months was a good duty.” A week and a half after he was transferred to Colin Powell’s track, his old track hit a mine and was blown up.

While in Vietnam, Spc. 4 Henry Carr bumped into other troops from El Dorado County — Val Pease, who he’d gone to high school with, was stationed at the Tay Ninh airport. He also met up with another friend, Guy Henningsen.

He was wounded twice and put up for a Purple Heart both times, but he refused the medals. “I asked them if they gave Purple Hearts to the guys that died and they said yes,” said Carr. “That made no sense to me and I told them I didn’t want any part of a medal that was awarded to dead guys.”

Carr was exposed to Agent Orange in the rubber tree plantations. “They told us they were spraying, but I didn’t know what it was. When I came home, I had a tumor on my forehead. The doctors gave me a cream for it, but I came home and had my doctor remove it.”

The tumor returned years later and Carr’s second wife, a nurse, removed it. When it returned a third time, Carr removed it himself and opened it to find little orange things in it. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008, which was attributed to exposure to Agent Orange. He was cured of the prostate cancer, but was diagnosed in 2013 with another form of cancer, also attributed by military doctors as being from exposure to Agent Orange. He is currently fighting with the military for medical benefits.

“The U.S. does things for other countries, but they don’t take care of their own troops,” said Carr. He was wounded twice in Vietnam but refused the Purple Heart because it seemed that everyone around him who got the Purple Heart died immediately afterward.

“In the airport when we came home, people spit on us and called us ‘baby killers,’” said Carr. “I couldn’t believe it. It was ugly.”

Things have changed for U.S. troops now, said Carr. “But I should have gone on tour with Ike and Tina.”

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.


Discussion | 19 comments

  • West End CynicNovember 07, 2013 - 4:35 pm

    Thank you for your service Mr Carr. I was in college during part of this. Interesting story.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • cookie65November 07, 2013 - 5:49 pm

    Henry's family are part of the community that built Omo Ranch. Good to hear you are doing well Henry.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Barbara RogersNovember 07, 2013 - 6:03 pm

    Thank you Mr. Carr for your service sir. God Bless you, I will keep you in my prayers.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • LpNovember 07, 2013 - 6:57 pm

    Henry, God bless you my friend!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Ivory CarrNovember 07, 2013 - 9:21 pm

    Great article. Made me laugh and cry. I don't think I knew Mom had once cut your forehead open...haha. Thanks for serving our country, Dad; I'm sorry that the Government has its priorities really messed up. Love you.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • James E.November 07, 2013 - 9:36 pm

    Henry Carr, a true citizen soldier patriot. He did his duty. Well done, Henry.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • IdaNovember 07, 2013 - 9:46 pm

    Thank you for your service Henry. This is a beautiful article for your son and daughter and two grand boys to keep forever. I'm wishing you well.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Phil VeerkampNovember 07, 2013 - 10:02 pm

    Mr. Carr, did you know a fellow by the name of Sam White?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Kathy JimenezNovember 07, 2013 - 11:40 pm

    Thank you Mr Carr fro your service to our Country. THank you fro sharing your story.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Jenny kirkmanNovember 08, 2013 - 2:35 am

    Big Henry I love you man. Wish I saw you more often. Lots of love! Cousin Jenny!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DennisNovember 08, 2013 - 10:14 pm

    Young Henry is your spittin image! Thanks for sharing this amazing story.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • robertdnollNovember 09, 2013 - 4:34 am

    it's great to have a home town hero

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • cookie65November 09, 2013 - 9:57 am

    robert, there are some plaques in the sidewalk on Main St. Give them a look next time you get a chance.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • R.j. CarterNovember 09, 2013 - 8:08 am

    Very nice write-up on Mr. Carr...I played pool with Henry a couple times many years ago, but he didn't talk much, if at all, so I never knew anything about him...He's truly had an amazing life....Thank you for your service Henry.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • cookie65November 09, 2013 - 10:05 am

    I seem to recall Henry also spent many years walking and keeping the flumes for PG&E flowing and maintained.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Linda Blake CooperNovember 09, 2013 - 6:46 pm

    Thank you Henry! What a great story.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Roger ClineNovember 10, 2013 - 3:44 pm

    I had the good fortune to attend El Dorado HS with Henry,,,I remember him as a man of integrity, and a smile. Enjoyed, much, this article. Vietnam was a horrible experience, particularly for those who put "boots on the ground", and for thousands who paid the ultimate price. Thank you, Henry for your service.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • dougroperNovember 11, 2013 - 6:16 am

    it was good times in high school and henry was always smilling and like all of us from that time went to vetnam

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Cheri (Howard) HawleyNovember 12, 2013 - 8:23 am

    Wow...what a great story Henry. I remember you at ELDHS and wished I had spent more time to know you better.

    Reply | Report abusive comment


More mountain lion sightings reported

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1, 8 Comments

Supervisor Nutting trial begins

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1, 47 Comments | Gallery

Sanford murder case to jury

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Herard over the back fence: Try fishing at Wakamatsu

By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

Downtown group coordinates painting, awnings

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A1

Gearing tax questions to correct office saves time

By Treasurer-Tax Collector | From Page: A3



My turn: More than a buzzword

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: A4, 23 Comments

Building restored

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

Outstanding dog

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4




By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 6 Comments

Altshuler framing

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 6 Comments

National Day of Prayer

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

‘Parents, be afraid’ letter

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 16 Comments

Ukranian situation

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 3 Comments



Outside with Charlie: Transitioning

By Charlie Ferris | From Page: A6

Pitching the ‘Root’ cause of Trojans’ victory

By Mike Bush | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Pedal power at the forefront next month

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Sports Scene: April 22, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7

Roundup: April 22, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7



4-H’ers star at showcase

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: B1 | Gallery

At a glance: Look for fireballs

By Mimi Escabar | From Page: B2, 1 Comment

Authors to share their stories

By Pat Lakey | From Page: B2, 2 Comments

Church to host human trafficking conference

By Pollock Pines | From Page: B3

Grow For It! Flower of Easter

By Barbara Schuchart | From Page: B5



Crime Log: April 1-3

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

Weather stats 4-22-14

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

Building permits 4/7-11/2014

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2



Harry Frank Harper

By Contributor | From Page: A2, 5 Comments

Marion “Wayne” Griswold

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Bobby Lloyd Bridges

By Contributor | From Page: A2


Real Estate




By Contributor | From Page: A8

Horoscope, Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Horoscope, Wednesday, April 23, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Working It Out

By Contributor | From Page: A8

TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A8


By Contributor | From Page: A8


By Contributor | From Page: A8


By Contributor | From Page: A8

New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Flying McCoys

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A8