BILLY GENE RODGERS
PFC - E3 - Army -
11th Armored Cavalry
20 year old Single, Caucasian, Male
Born on Dec 25, 1946
From ALEX, OKLAHOMA
Length of service 1 year.
His tour of duty began on Jan 10, 1967
Casualty was on Jul 21, 1967
in LONG KHANH, SOUTH VIETNAM
HOSTILE, GROUND CASUALTY
MULTIPLE FRAGMENTATION WOUNDS
Body was recovered
CHURCH OF CHRIST
Panel 23E - - Line 104
Explanation Of Terms
*Editors Note: Some sources have
PFC Rodger's first name as Billie. The official record has it as Billy.
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Rodger McConnell remembers Billy Gene Rodgers
September 14, 2006
"Haunted By The Boots"
Posted By: Rodger McConnell
Relationship: Rode in the ACAV behind into the ambush.
"Some paid with their lives
some paid for the rest of their lives."
They must have belonged to you, Billy Gene. The boots, that is. They have haunted me
for nearly forty years. During that time, I've forgotten the names of most of those who
died that day. But you were the only white enlisted kid from K Troop who was killed. The
patent leather jungle boots must have belonged to you.
Everything about those boots fit your personality and your quirky sense of humor. The
rest of us wore the standard issue jungle boots, and after a very brief period of time
humping the bush, they'd all look the same-like size 10 D Hershey Bars! I dont
remember where you said you had gotten them, but your patent leather boots were different.
You'd simply wash away the mud with a little water and theyd glisten like diamonds!
Billy Gene, I saw you minutes before you died-right before we were sent in to try to
rescue the men of L Troop. They were getting mauled in a VC ambush a klick or two ahead of
us on the highway, and were fighting for their lives. We of K Troop sat in our ACAVs in
the hot sun, listening to battle reports on the radios while nervously waiting for the
order to "go." You jumped from your track to hand-deliver a message from the
captain of K Troop and, to help cut the tension, you busted us up with one of your famous
off-the-wall one-liners Then, boots agleam, you flashed that crooked little smile and
trotted back to your ACAV. Moments later, we got the word from the colonel flying above
and mounted up for our rendezvous with destiny.
Thundering down the road at top speed, my FO
track was 50 yards or so behind you when your command track rolled into the kill zone of
the ambush. As I watched over the front of my ACAV, your track began taking heavy
automatic weapon and RPG fire from the trees along the right side of the road. Seemingly
now in slow motion, my track crawled into the kill zone and was likewise swallowed up by
the same river of green tracers. Later, I would see that the volume of fire had been so
intense that enemy bullets had shot away or grazed each of our three track-mounted radio
antennas in at least two places. The fight lasted nearly four hours and miraculously, we
on the FO track took only two light casualties. The men in the ACAV behind us, the third
track in the column, were not as fortunate. They were hit by at least one RPG round and
had several seriously wounded troopers who had to be Dusted-off. Billie Gene, your track
was the hardest hit, and suffered four fatalities.
I didn't see you again until after the battle, and then all I saw were the boots. But,
I didn't see them, either
not at first. We survivors were in a state of shock after
the long fight, and my walk over the ambush area was eerily like that of a dream. Though I
had no idea who, or how many of us had died, I remember feeling so painfully guilty, and
at the same time so incredibly happy about the fact that on this day in the crapshoot of
war some boys got to live while other boys had to die.
Someone snapped me out of my trance by hollering for me to help him carry our dead to a
helicopter waiting in a hastily prepared landing zone. Before I arrived on the scene, each
of the unidentified bodies had been totally encased in an army blanket and placed on a
canvas stretcher. Billie Gene, yours was the last anonymous body that I carried. I grabbed
the handles at the foot-end of your stretcher and, while hurrying to the chopper over the
uneven terrain, I stumbled and collapsed under the weight of your body, dropping your feet
onto my right knee. The blanket fell away and, when I looked down between my hands, I was
in no way prepared for the stark image of your two blood-splattered, patent leather jungle
boots, gleaming brightly under the hot Vietnamese sun.
In the years since 7/21/67, Ive seen those boots a countless number of times in
my thoughts and dreams. You were too young and too nice a kid to die on that dusty little
road so very far from home. But each of us died at least a little that day. And a large
part of me died with the patent leather jungle boots that would sparkle in the sun no
Rest in peace, my brother,