Johnny T. Flack
Tech Sergeant
U. S. Army
Dates of Service: 12/28/1965 - 12/27/1971
Infantryman/Radio Operator, Company C, 1st BN, 8th Cavalry
Audio Samples

Johnny was born on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River near Ripley, Tennessee to John Nelson Flack and Zimpthey Lovelace Flack. His father, whom he describes as "very, very poor", farmed cotton and corn as a sharecropper. It was a "rough life; very, very rough life," he recalls of his youth in a family of seven children. The island, called "Island 26", was about four miles long and two and a half miles wide with "very, very good, fertile soil" from the river inundating it every year. When he was four, the family received electricity, consisting of one naked light bulb hanging from the middle of the ceiling of their four-room home. An Aladdin lamp also added light. Entertainment came from a battery-operated radio. On a woodstove, his mother made biscuits and cooked vegetables she had canned from the produce of their kitchen garden. The Flack home had no indoor plumbing. In the morning the family filled a No. 3 washtub from well water, and left it in the sun all day until taking baths in it that night. Each fall the family slaughtered "two or three hogs" and preserved the meat in a smokehouse over a low fire, then covered the pork in salt. Johnny attended a one-room schoolhouse for five years, always taught by one teacher Nell Covington. To visit the nearest town, Blytheville, Arkansas, the Flacks took a car ferry across the river. Meanwhile, Johnny was learning how to farm. He began plowing with a turning plow and a mule. His father would handle the larger middle buster until he was able to purchase a tractor. The family moved off the island in 1956 and sharecropped "for different men that owned the land," Johnny recalls. One was Jim Fullin, who owned "lots and lots of land" near Ashport, Tennessee. "We had to get out and chop cotton ten hours a day and then pick cotton ten hours a day. That was hard work," he says. Often his fingers were "chapped, bleeding, cut and scratched up" from picking the cotton Most days in the fields stretched from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with two hours off for lunch. When he finished his father's cotton he would "hire out" to other farmers and work ten hours a day for three dollars. Johnny attended Ripley High School in Ripley, Tennessee for three years, working at Thompson's Super Market after school. He spent his senior year in Heflin, Louisiana, a small town near Minden, where his older brother, James, lived. After graduating from high school in June of 1965 a brother-in-law helped him get hired at Cummings & Company Outside Advertising, where he worked until he received his draft notice in December. Johnny completed basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, then advanced individual training in infantry at Fort Gordon, Georgia. There he learned to fire the M79 grenade launcher, .45 caliber pistol, and M60 and .50-caliber machine guns. Johnny knew he would be sent to Vietnam, where three other brothers had served. One of them, Jerry, stepped on a booby trap and was seriously injured in both legs. In June of 1966 Johnny arrived in Vietnam at Pleiku, and was sent to 1st Cavalry Division near An Khe. There he was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment. On his rucksack he carried a PRC-25 field radio. As a radio-telephone operator (RTO) he had to stay near the company commander, Captain Ogg. Along with the 25-pound radio, he carried "close to a hundred pounds," in his rucksack. That included five or six clips of ammunition, with twenty rounds each. In the field he ate C-rations and filled his canteens from streams, each time purifying the water with a chlorine tablet. "Ugh, man, you had to really be thirsty to drink water with one of them in it," he recalls. For cooking, he broke off pieces of C-4 explosives, each about the size of a silver dollar. Striking a match to the explosive, he set a can of C-rations above it. "I could make a cup of coffee in about 30 seconds and it would be so hot you couldn't drink it," he remarks. Johnny says his company never fought North Vietnamese Army regulars, but skirmished with civilian Viet Cong. After eight months in Vietnam he was promoted to E-5 and became company communications sergeant. Near the end of his tour he was in charge of company radio maintenance and served as supply sergeant. Johnny left Vietnam in June of 1967, completing the rest of his tour of duty at Fort Carson, Colorado, and was discharged in December of 1967. In January of 1968 his father moved the family to Bellwood, Louisiana, near Natchitoches. "All the boys had gotten together and bought fifty-eight acres, a farm, and let Mama and Daddy have it to live on," he relates. Most of his siblings lived in the Natchitoches area. On June 14, 1968 he married Carolyn Spencer. (They would have two daughters, Tanya and Karen, and three grandchildren, Michael, Zachary and Crystal.) Johnny served as a manager trainee for United Dollar Store, and then operated his own store in Texarkana, Texas for one year. He moved to Shreveport to manage another store, and then joined Kansas City Southern Railroad, where he worked for 34 years, retiring in 2007. He enjoys riding his motorcycle, and has taken trips as far as Colorado to visit his daughter, Karen.