Person of the Week: Danny AllenBy BRITTNEY MANGUM,
There were around two million men drafted in the army during the Vietnam War. Although these men did not ask to be in a war, most of them bravely answered the call and went off to fight for their country.
One of the young men who was drafted at the time was Danny Allen. Just out of high school, Danny was only 19-years-old at the time he was drafted. He was set to be in the army for two years and turned 21 while still in Vietnam.
“I wasn’t a military man. I did it for my country. Once I got my notice, I said I have to go,” stated Danny. “I wasn’t going to run. They asked me to help my country, so I decided to do it.”
He boldly set out for Vietnam in the middle of 1970. He was set to be in the transportation unit to help deliver supplies to the different areas.
“When I got over there, I didn’t think it would be too bad. Driving a truck with supplies ought to be alright. We’d been there for a couple of weeks before we went on the road,” recalled Danny. “The sergeant came up to me and said, ‘You know what the lifespan is for you truck drivers?’ I told him no. He said, ‘Probably eight to ten weeks.’ My heart almost stopped, but the good Lord let me make it. He let me make it.”
Although the life expectancy was extremely intimidating for him, Danny did not back down from what he had been called to do. In fact, he made some amazing adjustments to his vehicle. He removed the windows and placed half inch steel in all of the doors. He cut holes just small enough for him to see out the mirrors and had a mounted m-60 machine gun and grenade launcher on the metal. They would run six trucks at a time. Danny was in the lead truck, and there would always be a gun truck with them. When they were under fire, bullets would hit the doors, and the metal would keep the bullets off.
His updates on the truck definitely came in handy. He and the men around him were constantly being shot at, no matter where they went.
“If you tried to go into a village to bring the stuff they needed, even the kids would try to shoot you,” said Danny.
His ingenuity with the truck helped, but it did not prevent him from having to experience loss and tragedy. He was there during the TET offensive.
“It’s bad when you have some of your buddies for six to eight months in the truck ahead of you, and a mortar round hits them. It could’ve been me just as easily,” stated Danny. “Transportation was just as bad as infantry. When riding down the road, you were going to be shot at every time you look up just about it.”
Unfortunately, seeing good friends killed in the line of duty wasn’t the only tragic experience that Danny would see. He had to witness other things that still haunt him to this day.
“To this day, I think about these children I saw lying out—it looked like a slaughter house. We’d go to these villages, and the North Vietnamese had already been there,” remembered Danny. “There were older people too, but when you see a pile of children, it’ll tear your heart out. When we went to those villages, we were trying to help them by bringing them some supplies or whatever we had, and then when we’d get there, they’d been hit, and children were lying everywhere. It’s tough enough for adults, but those little children didn’t deserve it.”
When he first started, he was told that if he could survive for ten months doing transportation, then they would remove him from transportation and give him a job in a safer compound. Although he sustained minor injuries from different things like having to jump out of the truck, he managed to survive the ten months, greatly outlasting the average life expectancy for his position. They pulled him off the road and gave him a new job in nice safe compound: collecting and cleaning the armor.
He was then approached and told that if he would sign up for 90 more days, then he could get out of the army as soon as he got back to the United States, shortening his original time. He agreed and signed the papers and was able to get out of the army six months early.
After seeing unspeakable things in Vietnam, he didn’t receive much of a welcome home when he did return to the United States.
“When I came back home in the middle of 1971, they disrespected us so bad. It was pitiful,” stated Danny. “I thought I was over there doing the right thing, but people just treated us so bad. If they even thought you were in the army, they wouldn’t talk to you.”
In fact, when he had first returned, he was just going to sit in the lounge and was in his uniform. He sat down next to two men who began giving him hateful looks before getting up and moving to the other end of the room to get away from him. People would just run off and leave if they ever found out a person came from Vietnam.
“My heart broke,” recalled Danny when talking about his homecoming.
The treatment caused Danny to feel like he didn’t amount to anything. Like many other Vietnam veterans, Danny stopped talking about his experiences. If he said anything, it would only be to other Vietnam veterans, but they didn’t really talk about all of the bad things that they had to witness. He was back in the country for over a year before he started to feel like he amounted to anything again, and he has just recently broken his silence and spoken up about the tragedies he had to witness and the unjust treatment he was given once he returned to the United States.