“Everything Out There Was Against You”: Serving With The Rakkasans In Vietnam

Bill Pray


Bill Pray was born in 1948 and grew up in northwest Louisiana with his older brother and younger sister. Bill dropped out of high school as a junior and later enlisted in the Army, noting that “I needed a job, and the Army was the right place for me.” He completed basic training, advanced infantry training, and jump school at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. His best memory of basic training was the availability of food; he grew up poor and meals were sparse in his family. His 6’2” frame weighed 142 when he entered basic training, and when he graduated, he weighed 160. In December 1967, he deployed with the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry to Vietnam, landing in Bien Hoa before convoying to Phuoc Vinh, and remembers that they “were all scared.” Operating in the jungle, Bill remembers always being short on water, ammo, and food. He recalls operating in areas around the country and conducting patrols in the II Corps and III Corps areas. He discusses patrols and setting up ambushes, as well as being ambushed. He describes in detail the battle on March 18, 1968, for which his Company Commander Paul Bucha received the Medal of Honor. During that engagement, Bill was walking point for the 3rd Platoon. For a period during that fight, he was knocked unconscious and cut off from the main body, but managed to return to the perimeter after being surrounded by the enemy. After that battle, he helped integrate all the replacements D Company received. Later in April, he was again wounded at the battle of Ap Trang Dau. After he returned home, he discovered that he had malaria and was assigned as an ROTC instructor at Clemson, a job he took very seriously. Near the end of the interview, he discusses dealing with post-traumatic stress and the importance of attending reunions, and concludes by describing what his service means to him.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie Military Techniques Injuries
interviewer David Siry
date 22 June 2021


name Bill Pray
service Infantry
unit C/1-502; B/1-509; D/3-187
service dates 1966 1970