Not a member? Become one today!
         iBerkshires     Berkshire Chamber     MCLA     City Statistics    
Veteran Spotlight: Army Staff Sgt. Arthur Wiknik Jr.
By Wayne Soares, Special to iBerkshires
12:24PM / Sunday, December 24, 2023
Print | Email  

HIGGANUM, Conn. — Arthur Wiknik Jr. served his country in the Army's 101st Airborne as a staff sergeant from 1968 to 1970.
Born in Higganum, he was drafted at the age of 19 and did his basic training at Fort Dix, NJ. 
"Didn't want to go in. I just got a big job at Pratt-Whitney, bought a '68 Camaro and had a girlfriend that I was crazy about," he said. "But I went in."
His first assignment was to Fort Polk, La., for Advanced Infantry Training.
"Much like basic but a lot more intense," he recalled. "I had lots of aptitude tests. I scored well on the app tests and weapons training." He was then sent to NCO School (Non-Commissioned Officer) at Fort Benning, Ga., and graduated as a sergeant with some additional training at Fort Gordon.
Wiknik would be sent to Vietnam in April 1969 after spending almost a full year stateside. 
"I was head of a unit with 12 guys that had major experience. I was new guy on the block and no way they wanted to listen to me," he said. 
Just a month later he would be involved in one of the bloodiest and most difficult battles of the Vietnam War —Hamburger Hill in the Ashau Valley. 
Wiknik said there were lots of bombing in the area and there were almost 700 soldiers ready to assault Hill 937 on Ap Bia Mountain. 
"We couldn't bring food and were told to take no prisoners," he said. "One thing I did bring was a can of peaches. I was sitting down and ate almost the whole can. A couple of guys asked me for some but I had little left. We then got into battle and I fired off a full magazine, three times. A shot hit the ground in front of me, covering my face with dirt and third shot was tracer fire and landed on the equipment on my chest, catching it on fire.
"I yelled to my guys to follow me and charged up the hill. I worked my way up to the top, turned around and nobody was there —nobody had followed me! I was scared to death. The battle started to die down, then my guys started to come up. I said, 'Why didn't you guys follow me?' They joked that I didn't share my peaches. The guys thought I was a real nut or really brave, whatever the case, after that I had no problem with leadership."
How were the holidays? "The holidays meant absolutely nothing," Wiknik said. "I spent most of the time in the jungle. Christmas was just another day with little meaning." 
When asked about a positive aspect on when he was there, he offered this: "Definitely the guys I was with. Everyone always looked out for each other, didn't matter if you were black, white, purple, polka dot. We had a strong camaraderie."
I inquired as to his experience on Hamburger Hill and Wiknik became very emotional. 
"I just stood there, looking down, just like the [1987] movie. It hit me that I could have been killed," he said with extreme emotion, stopping between sentences. His thoughts on the protestors?
"Was actually hoping they could end the war so I could come home," he said. "I didn't want to be in Vietnam but I went. I was ignored at the airport, people wouldn't sit next to me. But I'm proud of the fact that I didn't do anything to embarrass my unit or family."
He continued, "When I was initially drafted and getting ready to go at the airport, my mom pulled me aside from everyone and showed me her wallet. It was loaded with $50 and $100 bills. She said, 'I'll send you to Canada with this and send you money every month to get by until the war is over.'
"I couldn't do it. When we landed back in the states, the pilot was taxiing and said over the intercom, 'this is my seventh return trip from Vietnam fellas. Welcome home."
Wiknik is the author of "Nam Sense: Surviving Vietnam with the 101st Airborne" and provided commentary for the 20th anniversary DVD of the 1987 film "Hamburger Hill." He has written for other publications, speaks about his experiences and was featured on a History Channel special about Vietnam. He and his wife of more than 40 years, Betty, have three daughters and four grandchildren.
Staff Sgt. Arthur Wiknik, thank you for your service and welcome home.
Wayne Soares is the host of the popular new veterans cooking show, "The Mess Hall" that airs Saturdays on NBC's NECN at 9:30 a.m. He also entertains our troops around the globe and is the host and producer of the Vietnam veterans documentary "Silent Dignity – The Chapter That Never Ends." He can be reached at
More Featured Stories is owned and operated by: Boxcar Media 102 Main Sreet, North Adams, MA 01247 -- T. 413-663-3384
© 2011 Boxcar Media LLC - All rights reserved