James R. Pointer

As Interviewed by Jack Wilkerson, March 20, 2019

James R. Pointer: In His Own Words

I interviewed my grandfather James Raymond Pointer on some of his experiences in the Vietnam War.

But did you ever see combat?

No, I didn’t. I came close when the Tet Offensive happened, and they were right across the street. In fact the area right across the street from our compound was an ammunition dump. And during the Tet Offensive, sappers had gotten into this compound and set pallets of ammunition off.

First thing we knew -- it was about 2:00 AM in the morning when all of a sudden Boom the whole earth shook. There could be up to 200 tons of ammunition, well there was also a fuel dump that was further off that they also set on fire, so yeah that was quite an experience. The earth shook and all the dust flew off the rafters and of course it looked like a fog inside the barracks, but just in a split second everybody was up gettin’ their clothes on and grabbing their rifles and ammunition and headed down toward the bunker for further instructions, so quick.

Yeah, we had the -- I believe it was 199th Infantry was stationed right across the street near this ammo dump, and they saw the brunt of the action because on the highway, the ammunition dump was on one side and the city of Biên Hòa was on the other, and the Viet Cong had infiltrated Biên Hòa, and they were fighting across this highway. ’Course we had to go out on the perimeter and stand guard duty all night, just in case.

Nothing happened, I assume?

No, except multiple explosions during the night -- other pads of ammunition going off, which was really spectacular cause’ it was a huge fireworks show, all kinds of small arms and large ammunition, it was quite impressive. They actually found some of the unexploded ammunition had blown that far, and wow! Live shells over there in our compound! Or an artillery shell.

Yeah, the city was across the main highway, which went from - all the way from Saigon and it went all the way north, continued across the DMZ. Biên Hòa was a city located on one side, and the Army base was located right across the highway.