As recently reported on local residents Robert Good and Stan Cockerell getting drafted into the U.S. Army on May 17, 1966 … well, we have another case with Harold Michaud of Newhall.
Harold was also inducted into the 9th Infantry Division that very day, only Harold ended up in Alpha Company of our 4th/47th Battalion.
Harold is another product of a father who served in WWII … his dad, Harold Joseph Michaud, served with the 3rd Army Artillery and fought at Bastogne in the famous Battle of the Bulge.
Harold’s family moved to Newhall from Simi Valley in 1952, but before settling in Newhall his family had moved periodically as his dad worked in the oil industry.
Harold was raised in Newhall, graduating from Hart High School in the class of 1965.
Harold worked in highway construction and spent much time helping create Interstate 5. He was making big bucks and was able to purchase a 1964 Chevrolet Impala. Harold was living the high life.
However, in the spring of 1966, everything changed when Uncle Sam sent his “Greeting Letter,” turning Harold’s world upside down as it did all of us who received our own induction letters.
While at L.A.’s induction station, everyone spent the entire day receiving a barrage of tests and physical examinations. Already, “hurry up and wait” was at play.
That afternoon, Harold and a busload of other draftees were sent to Fort Ord, California, arriving late at night tired and disoriented. When the doors opened, one of Harold’s first memorable experiences occurred.
A grizzled ole drill sergeant abruptly hollered as loudly as any human could: “Are there any pregnant women on this bus? Pregnant women can’t run! You will run.”
That was the beginning of a fun-filled 10 day stay at Fort Ord, where green OD (olive drab) gear was issued, hair was buzz cut and a whole lot of marching and picking up cigarette butts was a daily occurrence.
Harold experienced his first jet plane ride when he and his group flew to Kansas and were bused to Fort Riley, once again arriving exhausted and disoriented — the Army does that on purpose, you know.
Soon began basic training, Advanced Infantry Training and so on; Harold knew not one other soul there. However, he was delighted when he bumped into Newhall resident and friend Fred Trueblood from another unit. (The Trueblood family formerly owned and operated The Signal newspaper).
In January ’67, the 4th/47th Battalion was sent by train to Oakland, and immediately boarded a WWII troop ship arriving in South Vietnam three weeks later. Soon, daily patrols began as the Viet Cong were sought out.
Harold’s first significant event occurred on Feb. 21, 1967, when Spec 4 James E. Adams of Sun Valley, California, tripped a booby trap, mortally wounding him and injuring four others.
Harold found Adams turning blue from lack of oxygen and he desperately tried to save his life, giving him mouth to mouth. For a moment, James opened his eyes, but he slowly slipped away. … James Adams became our unit’s very first casualty.
Numerous small-unit firefights, dodging snipers and booby traps were the norm, but on May 15, 1967, our battalion made its first contact with a large Viet Cong force. In the middle of it was Charlie Company with Alpha & Bravo Company troopers flanking on each side.
When that battle erupted, Alpha troopers rushed to Charlie Company’s assistance. Our senior officers wanted to eliminate as many VC as possible.
Harold and two others crossed a rice paddy as his platoon leader maneuvered his troops carefully in three-man groups. Bullets flew everywhere as they bolted to a tree line; a sniper in a spider hole kept popping up to fire at Harold and his buddies.
Hand grenades took out the sniper but not before he shot two soldiers in the helmet. Amazingly, the bullets circled their helmet liners, leaving a hot white line around their heads … didn’t even break skin.
Harold and other soldiers miraculously ended up with shot-up canteens and bullet holes in their fatigues. Alpha troopers took out 15 Viet Cong; that was one lucky day!
All that good luck was used up during our June 19 battle as Alpha Company took the brunt losing 31 soldiers killed in action and almost everyone else wounded. The Los Angeles Times was quick to sensationalize our battle without reporting our unit killed over 250 VC.
In the end, the VC had either fled or was lying dead everywhere.
Harold has wrestled with that battle his whole adult life; you see, he had injured his foot and could not participate that day.
He remained on our barracks ship but was there giving assistance as his shot-up, bloodied buddies arrived via helicopters from the field. Harold remarked, “Why me? I still regret not being with my buddies that day.”
Harold completed his tour of duty, enduring more firefights and earning two Army Commendation Medals and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Once out of the Army, Harold went back into construction and helped build the Castaic Dam. He got married in 1969 and has one son.
For a while after retirement, Harold assisted veterans at the VA, but a recent heart attack has slowed him down. However he always enjoys attending local veteran events.