“Hurt So Bad I Wish Somebody Would Kill Me”: A Rakkasan Remembers His Service In Vietnam

Louis Satterfield


Louis Satterfield was born in 1948 and raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with his three sisters. His father, a farmer, had a 3rd grade education and his mother, a nurse, taught her husband how to read and write. Louis remembers school integration in 1957, when protestors threw eggs at the bus carrying black children to the white school. He also remembers the sheriff firing his pistol and making the protestors disperse, stating that he would not stand for trouble concerning school integration. Louis remembers riding mules to town and purchasing a VW Karmann Ghia when he was 16. He joined the Army because he did not want to work in the fields like his father, and his mother wanted him to be the best person he could be. During basic training at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, he enjoyed running, but hand grenade training scared him. Once he arrived at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, his battalion conducted intensive training at Land Between The Lakes, Kentucky, to prepare for their mission in Vietnam. In December 1967, he deployed with the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry, to Vietnam on a C-141 and flew into Bien Hoa. The battalion then moved by trucks to Phuoc Vinh, where they were based for operations in the Iron Triangle in support of the 25th Infantry Division. During this period, 3-187 Infantry was employed as a quick reaction force around the country. On one mission, Louis was splattered with white phosphorous and was evacuated to Japan before returning to the United States. He left the Army in 1969, but reenlisted in 1971, remaining in uniform until 1990. In this interview, Louis describes his childhood and his Army experiences. He remembers the lessons SSG Donald E. Bear, who was on his second tour to Vietnam, taught them before he was killed on July 8, 1968. He recalls typical patrols, including an ambush along a river where the Viet Cong walked right past them. He talks about one night when they slept in a graveyard, noting that he hated that mission because “the haints come out at night.” He discusses his relationship with SSG Yepez, remembering the time they followed a chicken to a North Vietnamese base camp, and how SSG Yepez tied a string to Louis’s thumb to jerk when he started snoring on ambush. He explains in detail getting burned by white phosphorous and his long road to recovery, including how, for a bit, he was listed as missing and presumed dead. He relates how post-traumatic stress causes him to “visit Vietnam every day,” and he recalls a fallen comrade’s blind father rubbing his head and saying, “You feel like my son.” Finally, he talks about the importance of attending reunions and the trust he feels for his brothers he served with in Vietnam.


name Louis Satterfield
unit B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
service dates 1966 1990