Graduating high school from Lusk in 1967, Paul Hubbard always wanted to become a mechanic. Hubbard had everything on track to fulfill his aspirations. He graduated from trade school as a master mechanic in March 1968, and along the way, he married his high school sweetheart, Rita Rae Moore, in Dec. 1967.
Army comes knocking
Hubbard had worked in his dream job for a whole two weeks, when the notice from the draft board arrived. He voluntarily enlisted for an additional year so that he could be guaranteed to serve as a mechanic. The ink wasn’t even dry on his contract when the Army broke it, sending him to truck driving school instead. Hubbard observed that he had to repair his truck, so the Army must have figured that was close enough.
Still, his initial duty station proved to be excellent, for he was assigned to drive the sedan for a general officer at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Hubbard was able to move his bride down to Texas to be with him. The Army wasn’t so bad after all, until Oct. 30, 1968, when he was ordered to duty in the Republic of Vietnam. He celebrated Thanksgiving 1968 by stepping off the airplane’s ramp into the fetid stench, heat and humidity of South Vietnam.
Hubbard was assigned to the 379th Transportation Company at Long Bihn, the “Reefer Kings” — this company drove five-ton tractors, primarily hauling refrigerator trailers to deliver frozen food to the numerous military installations scattered around Saigon.
His company maintained an exhausting schedule, never-ending during the day until all scheduled deliveries had been made. Twenty-hour days were not the exception, rather they were the norm. The dust was absolutely horrible, “really bad.” The truck’s air filters had to be incessantly hosed out to keep them working. Wearing the M-1 steel helmet while driving a heavy truck pulling a trailer along Vietnamese roads would “exhaust your neck.” But officers flying alongside the convoys in helicopters rigorously enforced wearing helmets. So Hubbard and his friends saved their necks by placing the helmet covers over the fiberglass helmet liners. In late April, Hubbard had proven himself to be a superlative soldier, and in reward, he was given a brand new five-ton tractor.
On the morning of May 2, 1969, as that day’s convoy was being organized, Hubbard noted that a Mechanized Infantry and Tank unit had been assigned to escort them — this was “never a good sign.” Sure enough, near Quan Loi the tank directly in front of Hubbard suddenly rotated its turret and blasted the jungle alongside the road. A formidable Viet Cong ambush erupted immediately.
When the vehicles in front of Hubbard unexpectedly stopped, he had no choice but to go off road around them to the left, a desperate move as “I felt sure the truck would wreck.” Driving across a deep ditch and embankment, he expected his truck to disintegrate at any moment but it held together, wildly bounding across the ground.
Then, when Hubbard tried to stop, his foot went right down to the floorboard. He described it as “the worst feeling in the world.” He had no brakes, for the brake lines on his brand new truck had been shot through. Three VC stood in his way. Hubbard had no choice but to drive straight forward. Finally, he stopped the truck through the simple expedient of “crashing into a tree stump.”
Climbing onto the back of an armored vehicle, he emptied his M-16 rifle, attempting to suppress the enemy fire. Another trooper handed him an M-79 40mm grenade launcher.
“Do you know how to shoot this?” Hubbard was asked. He certainly did, and the next hour was spent raining grenades into the edge of the jungle.
Finally, things settled down, and Hubbard climbed back into the cab of his battered truck, the back of his flak vest ruined by a bullet, with a hole from a rocket propelled grenade still smoldering in his trailer.
His brakes entirely gone, he fired his truck back up and drove down the road to deliver his cargo to the soldiers who would go hungry without it.
Arriving at the base, he down shifted and slowed with the emergency brake.
His company lost 14 trucks that day. Hubbard’s truck was the only one to deliver its cargo.
He was subsequently awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for his efforts that day. His “brand-new” truck was destroyed; it had lasted a whole two weeks in Vietnam.
Home at last
Thanksgiving Day 1969 finally arrived, and Paul Hubbard headed home. Traveling on military orders, he was required to wear his U.S. Army service uniform. He had barely stepped off the airplane in Denver International Airport and was attempting to locate his wife and baby daughter when a war protestor stepped up and began harassing him. When Hubbard stood up for himself, a Denver policeman pulled him aside, threatening him with arrest for causing a disturbance for wearing his uniform in the airport. At that moment, Hubbard spotted his wife and daughter, and all thoughts of the policeman or the protester vanished. He was home.
Return to Wyoming
After leaving Vietnam, Hubbard served in the army for another year and a half in a special ordinance company at Fort Carson, Colorado. He soon attended El Paso Community College to study automatic transmissions.
Hubbard returned with his family to Wyoming, where he worked at the Chevy store in Sheridan and lived in Dayton for 19 years. Hubbard also served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT.
After their two daughters graduated from high school, Hubbard and his wife moved to Casper in 1990, where he continues to work and live today.