Name: Robert Charles Cameron
Rank: Corporal / Specialist Four
Pay Grade: E4
Home of Record: Elyria, OH
Birth Date: September 7, 1948
Religion: Roman Catholic
Death Date: June 26, 1969
Cause of Death: ground casualty by an explosive device hostile;
Died in Dinh Tuong at age 20
The body was recovered.
|Comment||[Ray Abe ( Alpha Company 6th of the 31st Infantry)]|
July 8, 2002
Dear Mrs. Cameron and Mrs. Humphery:
I'm writing to both of you to fulfill a desire that I've held for the past 33 years. I wanted to let you know that I was a friend and comrade of Robert's during the Vietnam War, and that I was beside him when he passed on. We both served in Company A, 6th Bn, 31st Infantry, 9th Infantry Division.
I've frequently thought about Robert over the years. For the short time that we've known each other, I got to be quite close to him. We frequently got assigned to the same perimeter bunker in our fire support base when we were in for a rest from the field.
He often talked about Ohio State football, telling me how great they always were. I was originally from Hawaii, and I couldn't very well brag about Hawaii football. But sometimes I'd say Michigan could kick their butts. He was always jovial about it and would reply with something like..."on a very lucky day".
He sometimes "criticized" my eating habits out in the field. Being from Hawaii, I liked to spice up my C-ration meals with Tabasco and soy sauce, which were great on boned chicken and turkey loaf. He said more than a few times that I was "ruining" a good meal. I tried to get him to try some of the "finer" things in life, but he didn't take well to the soy sauce. I laughed when he looked like he was about to gag.
I even tried to get him to sample some of the "local delicacies" like stir-fried locusts, "escargots" (water snails from the paddies), or roasted "water rats" (a possum or rabbit-like creature) and dog (yes, dog!). On patrols through villages, we'd come across the local populace preparing these foods over open fires, so we'd be curious as to what was cooking.
He absolutely and vehemently always refused to try these "dishes" and stuck to C-rations instead. Of course, I wasn't very adventurous either, but I tried the "escargots". It wasn't very good without the garlic butter sauce and Melba toast or French bread. We always laughed and made jokes about our "penchant" for exotic fare.
It was a rainy day in June 1969, when he was killed. I still remember almost every little detail of what happened. I won't go into all the details, but I'll tell you most of it. I know this may evoke some unpleasant memories, but for a very long time, I felt the need to tell someone in his family what happened.
I was assigned "point" duty for the day, which meant leading the platoon by being out front 150-200 yards in the open rice paddies, and up to 75 yards in jungle areas. I was walking up a muddy jungle trail, with Robert and another guy, named Howser, trailing about 50-75 yards behind me. Robert was our squad's radio operator.
I came upon an abandoned dug-in bunker used by the VC, which was positioned at a turn and faced down the trail. I stopped to setup C-4 explosives to destroy it. Meanwhile, Robert and Howser caught up to me. I was ready to blow it, so I signaled to Robert and Howser to get clear. They continued up the trail, and the rest of the platoon went back down the trail.
Just as I was about to fire the fuse, I heard a loud explosion up the trail. I heard screams and with safety off my rifle and heart thumping, I ran up to see what happened. One of them had tripped a wire and set off a mine. I think it was Howser who had snagged it.
The force of the explosion had thrown Robert onto a muddy flat of a stream running parallel to the trail. Howser was thrown forward on the trail. From the top of the trail embankment, I could see that Robert was badly hurt and was slumped against a muddy mound of stream debris.
I jumped down to see what aid I could give him. He was hit in the chest and head. A medic ran up a few minutes later and leaped down on the flat to assist me, but we couldn't do anything to help him. I remember that I kept repeating, " Cameron, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I can't help you. Forgive me." Robert died within two minutes. I don't think he was ever conscious or suffered at all. I did ask the Lord to take care of him.
I have a son, now about the same age as we were back then. Whenever I look at my son and think about what happened back then, my eyes would well up with tears and I'd feel a lump in my throat.
It was a long time ago, but it'll forever seem like yesterday for me. I would like for you to know that he was a fine gentleman who did his duty for his country. Please be proud of him. He exhibited courage and never any fear in the battles that we engaged in. I feel very honored to have known him, and to have had the privilege of being his friend.
Raymond T. Abe
Mr. Abe -- I am the Athletic Director at Elyria Catholic HS and a classmate of Bo's from grade school to graduation -- Your letter is so heart-rending. What a tribute to a great guy! The EC class of '66 has donated a new scoreboard for our coliseum in memory of Bo. I'd love to talk with you about him and even to have you present at our dedication.
Please e-mail or call me at 440-365-6390 x 26.
Thanks -- Barb Salata