“When I Shot, Something Died”: A Machine Gunner With The Rakkasans

David Rodrigues


David Rodrigues grew up in Haywood, California, with his mother and his two siblings. His mother worked in the fields and in a plant nursery. David dropped out of school during his junior year in high school. He joined the Army because he was given the choice of serving in the military or going to jail. During basic training, he was the trainee of the cycle. After airborne school, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division before joining the 101st and being assigned to B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Airborne Regiment. In Vietnam he was initially based out of Phuoc Vinh and carried the M-60. He remembers another Soldier remarking that he “was scared until I heard your machine gun open up.” When B Company was operating in the area around Cu Chi and found a tunnel, David volunteered to be a “tunnel rat.” He explored several tunnels until he hit a dead end, and realized that he may have narrowly missed a booby trap; that was the last tunnel he volunteered to explore. During his deployment, he returned home to get married. After returning from Vietnam, he transitioned to the Army Reserve in 1969, where he served in a Special Forces unit. In this interview, he talks about his childhood and his service in Vietnam, and briefly describes his post-Vietnam career. He highlights several engagements he was in, including sinking a sampan south of Saigon, conducting ambushes, and the Tet Offensive. He recalls Martin Luther King’s assassination and how it affected him. He explains why his company began wearing black scarves as part of their uniform. He describes dealing with post-traumatic stress, including only being able to sleep with a light on in the room and air blowing on him (following his experience in a tunnel). He reflects on how reunions help him “feel alive again,” and considers what his service means to him in the context of lessons he learned from his grandpa.


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


name David Rodrigues
service Infantry
unit B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
specialty Machine Gunnner
service dates 1966 1977