“I Counted 100… They’re Still Coming”: Danger Close At Firebase Pope With The Rakkasans

Mike Ballard


Mike Ballard was born in 1945 and grew up in California and Washington State. He came from a theater family; his dad was an actor and his mom earned a degree in Theater Arts from the University of Washington before teaching accordion. Mike was attending college at Western Washington State College when he was drafted. Because he had attended Mount Lowe Military Academy in Altadena, California, as a boy, he was made the Acting Jack (acting sergeant) for his basic training platoon, and the platoon did very well. After basic training, he completed Officer Candidate School and Ranger School. He was then assigned as an instructor at the Florida Ranger Camp, serving under Charlie Beckwith. Later, he completed Jungle Warfare School in Panama before deploying to Vietnam. He arrived in Vietnam shortly after the March 18th battle near Phuoc Vinh, and was assigned to D Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment. Arriving at the company, he was reunited with a friend from the Florida Ranger Camp, Harv Watson, another OCS Officer, and the two served together in D Company. After a battle on October 8th or 9th, he was pulled from the field and reassigned to MAC-V as an advisor until he had to return to the States on emergency leave because his mom was having surgery. He was reassigned to the Florida Ranger Camp until he left the military. After the service, he became a Seattle Police Officer and instructor at the Police Academy. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his military service, and his life after the military. He explains how his platoon conducted a typical patrol and what a normal day was like. He highlights several of the Soldiers he served with, including Platoon Sergeant Bill Pray, and his best friend Harv Watson. He describes in detail the battles of September 17, 1968 at Firebase Pope, and the battle of October 8 or 9, 1968. He shares the story of his wedding in Hawaii on August 31, 1968, and attending a Don Ho concert with his wife Nancy, along with Harv and Dixie Watson. Finally, he reflects on his service and dealing with post-traumatic stress.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Teamwork Leadership Camaraderie Military Techniques Injuries PTSD
interviewer David Siry
date 24 June 2021


name Mike Ballard
service Infantry
unit 1st Platoon, D Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
specialty Officer Candidate School
service dates 1966 1969