“The Map Was My Weapon”: A Tiger Force Platoon Leader In Vietnam

John Carey


John Carey was born in 1945 in Toledo, Ohio. His father managed a bakery, but he died when John was 11, leaving his mother to raise John and his older sister. He learned discipline from a history teacher, participated in Junior ROTC (JROTC), and attended Howe Military Academy for his junior and senior years. In 1963, he enlisted in the Army. In basic training, he enjoyed marksmanship and felt that he learned a lot from Platoon Sergeant Gibson. He completed basic training at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, AIT (Advanced Infantry Training) at Ft. Gordon, Georgia, and OCS (Officer Candidate School) and Airborne School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He learned lessons his NCOs shared about their experiences during WWII and the Korean War. When he deployed to Vietnam, he remembers sitting next to Dave Ramanereck (2/502 IN). Interestingly, they sat next to each other on the return trip as well. Upon landing in Saigon, he remembers grabbing new boots from a pile that came from Graves Registration. He inprocessed and volunteered to join Tiger Force, soon learning from Louis Higginbotham that they had just had a big fight with the NVA on June 8th. As John began to learn the ways of Tiger Force, he was instructed to “listen to SSG Bryant,” who glided through the jungle. He then describes the night that SSG Bryant, SSG Walker, and PFC Wanamaker were killed. He discusses the techniques Tiger Force used when conducting their missions and explores, in depth, a stay-behind mission, one he called “the best mission I ever had.” He shares experiences he had with two prisoners and what those interactions illustrated to him about the war. Later, he served as the Executive Officer of Tiger Force before becoming the Executive Officer of C Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry. He describes a battle at Duc Pho, where C Company “lost a lot of men,” pointing out that he acted in an overly aggressive manner during that fight. For his mid-tour R&R, he visited Hong Kong, where he ran into Lou Higginbotham. After returning from Vietnam, he taught at the Infantry School, focusing on the night attack. He left the Army early to enroll in Mercer University, where he earned a law degree in 1973. He has been practicing law for the past 5 decades as a trial lawyer and federal prosecutor. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his military service, and his post-Army career. He highlights his time in Tiger Force, providing great insight into what their typical missions were and how they conducted patrols. He describes suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and visiting the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.. At the end of the interview, he reflects on what his service means to him.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie Military Techniques Returning from War
interviewer David Siry
date 24 August 2023


name John Carey
service Infantry
unit 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, Tiger Force, 101st Airborne Division
specialty Officer Candidate School
service dates 1963 1968