“Local Soldier finds weapons Cache on Easter.”


John Hacker


In 1968, I was 21 years old and an Infantry Squad Leader in the Americal Division in Vietnam. I had 92 days and a wakeup before I returned to “the world.” We never knew what day it was when you were in the field, only how many days until you rotated home.


My squad had been together since we landed on 22 October 1967aboard the U.S.S. Upshur. We had been through the TET offensive and suffered heavy casualties as a company. Still, my squad was whole, and by Easter 1968, we knew how each of us thought, and we worked well together.

We were on patrol on day 92, my squad was on point, and I was point man. The squad liked that because I would shoot anything that moved; I did not believe in stealth. The boys liked that too; the brass didn’t. Hard to catch your enemy when you are firing at the trees ahead of you. Well, they were hard to surprise us too.

It was very hot as I made my way through the grass and trees. I found myself being very quiet for a change I stopped, and the whole squad stopped and knelt in position. The rest of the company also knelt in place, waiting to hear from me.

I saw the figure of a man through the bushes with an N.V.A. pith helmet, no farmer soldier but a professional North Vietnamese soldier. His back was to me, and he was kneeling. It looked like he might even be dozing off; the heat does that if you are not moving.

Reinhart, my backup, saw him too, I motioned for him to circle to the right, and I came up straight behind the enemy soldier.

As I approached him, I could not see a weapon, and then I spotted the Ak-47 lying on the ground a few feet in front of him. I knew now that I would surprise him and not shoot him.


Rhinehart and I were within 5 feet when I yelled, “Dau Hang” startling the young man, and he turned and tried to reach for his weapon. Rhinehart stepped forward and yelled, “NO! Dau Hang.” He was alone. I approached with caution. As Rinehart kept his weapon aimed at the soldier, the rest of the squad moved up, fanned out, and began searching for other soldiers.

I approached him, “Binh Linb?’ To my knowledge, that was “Soldiers?”

He shook his head. Rhinehart approached him and secured his hands together. “I got him, Hack.” Other squad members started to come forward slowly, knowing the area was not yet secured.

“Hack .”One of my men called me, who searched beyond our site, “Come take a look.” I signaled for the rest of the platoon to move ahead to secure the area. There it was, a hole covered by bamboo where we later found ten rifles. We had stumbled upon a small weapons cache, where the enemy stored weapons until they were needed.

Then another member from the squad yelled out to me, “Hack, I got something” it was another cache. Then another and then another.

The company commander came up to see what we had found. He radioed for the rest of the company to fan and watch for troop movement. He also called for gunship support if we were attacked.

We found 8 Weapons caches-53 S.K.S. rifles, over 60 Ak -47’s, over 70sks rifles and 2.50-caliber machine guns, and hundreds of rounds of different calibers within the hour. It took my squad 5 hours to haul them away by helicopter. Headquarters described it as a Company size weapons cache.

Three days later, my first Sargent introduced me to a reporter from my hometown in San Mateo, just about 40 miles south of San Francisco.

After the interview, the reporter said, “you know that was Easter Sunday.”

“It was like you were on an Easter egg hunt.” “Yeah, Easter Eggs,” I said.

A month later, at 51 days and a wakeup, my wife sent me the “Easter Egg” story that appeared in the San Mateo news. It was the first time she had seen my name in the article.

I traded some of the S.K.’s for favors, like steak and eggs for my squad and many bottles of whiskey in the camp when we stood down.

It didn’t last long.

After all, it was Easter.

“Belmont Soldier in ‘Easter Egg Hunt’”, the San Mateo Times, August 5, 1968