Sgt. 1st Class Carver Williams bought a home for his wife and their two sons when he received orders for the first of his two Vietnam tours.
He left Germany and purchased a house in Columbus, Georgia, in early 1968 and that would be their home while he was away at war in 1968-69 and 1970-71.
“I was going to Vietnam. I didn’t know whether I was going to come back or not,” he said.
Williams arrived in Phu Loi during the latter part of the Tet Offensive. “They were fighting strong when I was there,” he said. He was assigned to join his unit in Lai Khe. He became the platoon sergeant for the Light Horse Battery in 8th Battalion, 6th Artillery Brigade, 1st Division. The battery had five 4.2-inch mortars, an indirect fire weapon.
“We fired all the time. We fired 24 hours a day,” he said.
After about a month in Lai Khe, his unit moved to a field position on Thunder Road. “We stayed there a long, long time. It was quite a while and then we moved from there back to Phu Loi,” he said. “And we were still active there firing all the time. And we moved from there back to Thunder Road to another position. And then we moved from there to Quan Tri.”
Williams was in the field for nine of the 12 months. When the base camp’s infantry company would go on patrols, his unit would provide support with their mortar fire.
“You got incoming (enemy fire) all the time. And what I would do during the night to give my guys some rest, I’d have two of my guns firing and then the other three I’d tell those guys to get as much rest as they could,” he said. “Then when we had a hot mission come up, I’d have to get those guys up and then all of my guns would fire.”
Part 375 in series
After that yearlong tour, his airline flight to the West Coast presented another scare when the plane’s landing gear failed. The passengers were told to remove sharp instruments from their pockets and put their head in their lap. A chaplain onboard prayed for everyone’s safety. The tower advised the aircraft to circle the airport. “They had to go down to the wheel well, I guess, and then they had to crank those things down by hand,” Williams said.
With emergency vehicles waiting on the runway, the plane finally landed safely, and the passengers got out and walked to the gate.
“Yeah, I was nervous,” the combat veteran said. “Some of the guys got off and kissed the ground. These were Soldiers. I was so glad to get off that aircraft in one piece so I could come home and see my family.”
After nine months at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Williams was ordered to return to Vietnam. In January 1970, he arrived in Chu Lai and was assigned to the 1st Aviation Brigade, 116th Assault Helicopter Company. He became a platoon sergeant for one of the two Huey platoons, the “slicks.”
“We had aircraft that would fly every day and we had to have aircraft on standby at nighttime,” he said. “I flew sometime with some of those ships in support of the guys.
“And they flew 24/7. And a lot of our aircraft would get shot up. And we’d repair them and they’d be ready for the next day’s mission. One time when I went out with the crew, they engaged targets on the ground.”
In the middle of his tour, Williams served as first sergeant for the company for 3-4 months until the new first sergeant arrived. After that, Williams became platoon sergeant for the gunship platoon which had modified Hueys equipped with rocket pods.
He flew on missions with the gunship platoon. In one harrowing mission into a hot area late in his tour, they engaged in a heavy firefight until they had to return to the base camp to refuel. They noticed that enemy groundfire had hit the rocket pod which was on Williams’ side of the helicopter. “I’m glad those rocket pods were empty because it probably would’ve blown us out of the air,” Williams said.
He left Chu Lai around November 1970 to go to Da Nang as the U.S. began phasing down from Vietnam.
“I stayed in Da Nang until I left Vietnam. I was so glad to get out of there, I’ll tell you,” he said.
Williams said he most remembers “being shot at. Incoming. Coming into the position that we were in, even when we were in our base camp because you had to find a bunker. Being afraid all the time because at nighttime you can’t see. You don’t know what’s out there. You’re concerned. You don’t know if you’re going to make it back to your family.”
He received the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Air Medal, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Republic of Vietnam Honor Medal First Class, and the Air Crewman’s Badge.
The Tuskegee native graduated from Tuskegee Institute High School in May 1954 and received his draft notice that October. He retired in May 1981 at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, as a sergeant major after 26 and a half years in the Army. He received as associate degree in social science in December 1978 from Anchorage Community College, an associate degree in sociology in May 1980 from there, and a bachelor’s in social work from the University of Alaska in December 1981. Williams worked as a social worker for Alabama’s Department of Human Resources from 1994-99. He moved to Madison County in December 1992.
He and his wife of 60 years, Mattie, have two sons and four grandchildren. Their oldest, Stanley, is a minister in Lumberton, New Jersey. Their other son, Montroville, resides in Columbia, Tennessee.
At 85 Williams likes to fish and do church work. He is chairman of the board of trustees and a deacon at New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Harvest. He belongs to the Sergeants Major Association.
Williams shared his thoughts on this nation’s commemoration of 50 years since the Vietnam War.
“We’ve come a long ways but we’ve still got a long ways to go,” he said. “In regards to our veterans, veterans don’t get the care that they should be getting. It takes so long to get the care and the benefits that they so deserve. Like filing claims, it takes forever to finalize a claim.
“We served our country. Some of our veterans gave their lives for our country. It just seems like we’re a forgotten part of the country.”
Editor’s note: This is the 375th in a series of articles about Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.