Bio – Sgt ERLE MUTZ USMC (2023)
Erle was born and raised in NJ an only child, to a dad who was a hard worker that adored his wife, and a mom that took care of her family with the precision of a contemporary CEO. He grew up in Keansburg, went to school K – 8 there, then went to High School in Middletown, NJ.
While growing up as a youngster, Erle delivered newspapers, collected 45’s (a large collection of awesome music) cut lawns, shoveled snow, cleaned up yards (for neighbors), made Yule Logs (to sell at Christmastime) for cash to buy presents with. Erle turned 17, and he obtained a job in a large department store where he met the boyfriend of a girl who worked there. Glen Douglas Bates came to the store (religiously) every night to wait for his (would be girlfriend) and chatted with Erle about all kinds of subjects – including the war in Vietnam. They had both made the decision to enlist in the USMC on the buddy system, rather than be drafted into the Army. Glen passed his “physical” and in late 1966, was sent to Basic Training on Parris Island, SC. Erle needed to have a hernia repaired before he could qualify. Erle convinced his mom to get the hernia repaired and was sent to Parris Island, in April of 1967. They both “Swore their Oath of Enlistment” knowing that it would be a lifelong commitment to our country!
Erle went through 8 weeks of “basic training” (Platoon 160, Co. “B”) then went on to ITR (Infantry Training Regiment) for 8 more weeks, graduating with an “0311” MOS (Military Occupational Specialty – otherwise known as a “Grunt”). Private Mutz was given a short “leave” before being ordered to Camp Pendleton for jungle training similar to Vietnam. On weekends in California, he and his fellow recruits enjoyed the California coast as much as time was allowed.
After a brief stop in Okinawa to store our “American gear” in seabags, we were given orders to Vietnam.
From the very second the door of our plane opened on the landing strip of the Danang Air Base, I became aware of the offensive humid stench of Vietnam. It was to become the most minor inconvenience for the next 13 months. We were ushered to the Third Marine Division quonset hut.
In the midst of “Operation Kingfisher”, we were all given further orders to the individual assignments to the line companies where we would begin (and for some their last) 13 months, in country. I was assigned to “Golf” company, 2nd battalion 4th Marine Regiment, known as the “Magnificent Bastards”. Graveyard Golf was currently assigned to defend the mountain called Con Thien, next to the DMZ. It was incurring a constant barrage of 120 artillery rounds a day, from the NVA (North Vietnamese Army). I was choppered up there and had to jump out while hovering over the red mountain and told find the closest foxhole and get my ass down! I did as instructed, and in the next split second a piece of shrapnel the size of a wedge of an apple missed my head (and helmet) by an inch.
He was assigned to a squad and “Casey” Jones was my squad leader. The next day Cpl Wayne Evans gave me an M-79 Grenade Launcher (called a “BLOOPER”), and a bag with 80 grenades inside. They also had bandoleers of more blooper rounds given to other members of my platoon to carry for me. On one patrol that we were ordered to carry out, our CO directed us to a place outside the Con Thien perimeter where we were to set up for the night. We left the perimeter and as soon as we were out of sight, Cpl Casey Jones pulled us into a huddle and explained that we were to be “sacrificed” by following the CO’s orders. He wanted Jones (and by extension) the entire squad to be KIA. Instead of the location from the CO, we went to another (safer) position and carried out all the normal “sitreps”. When the CO he asked about “seeing any enemy activity, Jones said no – “nothing Sir”.
After more weeks of enduring the NVA artillery, our company was ordered back to “Dong Ha”. We hiked back and had to stop to provide “security” for a strategic bridge called “C-2”. The second day we were there, we got hit hard and overrun!
The actual account of my first major firefight (where I was WIA) is as follows: The night I was wounded while killing 7 of the enemy with direct hits from my blooper.
The four holes in front of us were already overrun and an M-60 was taken out into the bush and the gooks used it on our position. Every time they fired it at us I would fire a few rounds from my blooper into the direction of the red tracers origin. The bullets would stop (momentarily) then start up again. We kept this up a few times until I destroyed the M-60 and that’s when they tried to kill us with the hand grenades. Because of the poor design and manufacture of their grenades (a slight “popping” sound a couple of seconds before detonation), we got down below the height of the sandbags before they exploded. The Chicoms (grenades) kept hitting the sandbags around our hole (but not into it) and then he must have been ordered to throw 2 – one right after the other. The second one got us (with shrapnel and the blast) but we were able to continue to protect that section of perimeter. At my direction, my foxhole buddy killed the gook that was throwing the hand grenades at us, after the 8th one (when I spotted his position and told my buddy exactly when to shoot).
In late December (’67), Erle was ordered down to the combined action company surrounding the Danang Air Strip. A Combined Action Platoon is made up of a squad of Marines and a squad of PFs (Vietnamese Popular Forces) who live in a Vietnamese village. They help protect the villagers as well as provide some medical treatments for them, by protecting their interests.
His first “CAP” (Combined Action Platoon) was Echo Hdqtrs near the eastern end of the air strip. The next CAP was Echo 1, which was located about a quarter mile north of the air strip perimeter, in the village of Cam Le. His last CAP unit was Echo 4 and was located in the village of Lo Giang. During his tour of duty in CAP, his units were surrounded numerous times including during the “TET Offensive”, in 1968! Erle received a fractured foot during an attack a short time before the TET Offensive, and was sent to the Naval Hospital at China Beach, to recover. He returned to duty after 3 weeks.
When Erle joined the CAPs he met and befriended a Marine from Brooklyn NY, named Sidney (“Ziggy”) Burgos. They became extremely close, would “pair up” for patrols, talk about music, and life back in the world. The two Marines would patrol many surrounding villages as part of their responsibility. One such village was in the “Red Beach” area near the coast of Vietnam, north of the air strip. It was a known VC (Viet Cong) strong point but Ziggy and Mutzie carried all the necessary equipment and armament for their protection.
Erle was sent home in September of 1968, to a country that hated our military and what they had done to Vietnam. Upon returning home from a tour of duty, almost every Veteran of the War was met with unspeakable, hateful rants from the American people not limited to words. They were spit on, called baby killers, war mongers and so on. Vietnam Veterans hid their “military identities” to avoid being ridiculed further by the general public.
In order to assimilate to the civilian world, most Vets would not talk about the war.
They would ignore the subject matter and look for or invent ways to cope with the trauma they witnessed in country. Alcohol and drugs became the more common mediums of relief. Erle used alcohol to treat his own PTSD even before he knew what PTSD was. It was the only thing that gave Erle a chance for minimum relief, for very short periods of time. It became the obsession that would eventually bring Erle to his knees and a (seemingly) insurmountable collection of legal problems spanning years (over 38) of self-imposed torture. After his first (and only) DWI, Erle reversed the downward spiral to oblivion by using the successful process of “AA” after detoxing at the VA hospital.
Erle began a rigorous program of repair and enlightenment in the world of “alcohol free” living. He learned about life from a new perspective which centered on honesty, commitment, and following a plan of action that could (would) yield positive and joyful results. He never looked back!
During the early years, Erle’s mom gave him a very logical and respectful life of growth based on her intelligent values that were the focal point of life as a grown-up man, in the new world he was about to begin. While in high school, her values were altered by other values heard, discussed, and practiced during daily interactions with other students and new acquaintances.
I am currently serving in a few Military Veteran organizations to give back from what I have received since I survived my time in Vietnam.