Stevenson Ranch resident Bob Good and I served in the same combat infantry regiment during training at Fort Riley, Kan., and in South Vietnam’s treacherous Mekong Delta. We did not know each other until many years later when our ole unit started conducting reunions; it turns out that Bob lives 2.4 miles from my home and we’ve become very good friends.
After Bob graduated from Sun Valley’s John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in 1964, he moved on to Arizona State to play football. But after two years, he took a different direction and left college. He planned to return to Arizona State the next semester, but alas, Uncle Sam had different ideas and Bob was immediately drafted into the United States Army on May 17, 1966.
The Mekong Delta, South East Asia’s rice bowl, was controlled by communist Viet Cong, and President Johnson meant to correct that, hence, the 9th Infantry Division was immediately reactivated for combat. Young men across America were instantly inducted into the Army; Southern California communities were hit especially hard.
After six months of training at Fort Riley, 9th Division troops embarked to Vietnam first by train to Oakland, Calif. and then by WWII troop ship arriving January 28, 1967 in Vung Tau, South Vietnam. Soon, they were embroiled in combat from small firefights to several large battles. Many men were shot up and killed in action – Viet Cong fighters began receiving a heavy toll.
During our Battle of June 19 near Ap Bac Village, our unit took many casualities; Alpha Company was virtually wiped out while Bravo & Charlie Companies were pinned down and taking casualties. Bob’s Bravo Company was located near Alpha Company as their radio operators screamed for support. Bravo Company crossed several streams attempting to reach them but the VC’s heavy automatic fire power kept them down.
At one point a VC mortar shell hit Bravo’s 1st Platoon. Bob, Jerry Matheis, David Cox, and Jim Miller raced across an open rice paddy to render aid and evacuate the wounded. Sgt. Jones (AKA Tornado) was seriously wounded – they didn’t know if he would survive. They used ponchos to drag their wounded buddies to safety and a Medivac chopper.
Bob’s Platoon Sergeant and Platoon Leader were seriously wounded during the melee leaving Bob to take leadership of his Platoon. Bob had his men hunker down for the fight of their lives and they tried to move towards Alpha’s troopers who were spread all over the next rice paddy dying and screaming for help. The VC’s fire power was just too heavy – 5 Huey Helicopters were shot down that day. They soon realized they couldn’t reach Alpha but in darkness, Bob, Jim Miller, Ernie Slavik, and Jerry Matheis volunteered to crawl out into that muddy rice paddy to retrieve as many soldiers as possible. They armed themselves with hand grenades and out they went knowing full well that the VC was close by. Back and forth they went pulling one wounded soldier after the next to safety including several dead bodies. At one point, a flare lit up the area fully exposing them and scaring the bejesus out of them, but they pressed on.
At the battle’s end, 47 US soldiers had paid the ultimate sacrifice, many more were wounded and 250-plus VC fighters lay dead all over the place. We won the battle but at a very heavy price. Bob Good earned a Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal for valor that day. At a Bravo reunion many years later, they found out Sgt. Jones survived when he showed up.
Bob completed his stint in the Army but his yearning for adventure and that familiar adrenalin rush brought him to join the Los Angeles Police Department. Bob started out as a patrol officer, then in traffic, vice, and then the SWAT team where he was promoted to sergeant. Soon he taught at the Police Academy and then became Assistant Watch Commander at the Air Support Division where he also became a helicopter pilot. Bob loved the LAPD and after 32 years of service he retired, but along the way, he married local SCV girl, Susi Niccum; they have two sons, one daughter and seven wonderful grandchildren.
It’s safe to say that my friend Bob Good achieved the American Dream. Bob said: “I’m grateful and proud for serving my Country my whole life and every day is a true blessing. God bless America.”