"GREETINGS, you are hereby inducted..."

Those were the harrowing first words Jeremy Emett read in a letter from the United States Draft Board, eight days after he moved to New Orleans back in 1968.

One of only a handful of Englishmen who served with the US military in Vietnam, Jeremy sat in the living room of his home in Northfield Avenue, Ealing and recounted his experiences fighting the Vietcong.

Jeremy J Emett emigrated to Florida in 1965 with his parents and brother. His father, Squadron Leader Roger Emett, had completed an illustrious 27 year service with the RAF and was working for Martin Baker Aircraft providing ejector seats for US Air Force Phantom 4 jets.

Classed '1A' by the Draft Board, the 20-year-old college student could have refused to fight - but when the letter came he answered the call.

He arrived at the training camp at Fort Polk, Louisiana, known as "the creation of hell", for nine weeks of basic training during the uncomfortable summer of June 1968. A good recruit, he received accelerated promotion to private first class.

"Dad was my hero," said Jeremy. "I needed to impress him."

He was sent on to train as a weapons specialist at Fort McClellan, Alabama, and finally arrived at Tansonnhut airport in Saigon on November 11, 1968, where he was assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airborne) at Phuoc Vinh.

"I had never been in a helicopter before in my life", he said.

After acclimatisation he was moved to the 11th General Support Group under Commander General George I Forsythe, who promoted him to a specialist.

"I had the right attitude," said Jeremy. "If I wanted to survive I had to keep him alive and I never looked back."

Jeremy was a door gunner and survived six crashes - one reason he now suffers from spinal problems - including being shot down.

He said: "There was an almighty bang, the rotary blades took us leftwards, and we circled down and hit a rice paddy field. Luckily we were at only 80 feet - any higher and we would not have survived."

The helicopters would fly in 'gaggle' formation to landing zones daily to bring in new troops, remove bodies and boost morale.

Although not authorised to fly, on one occasion Jeremy had to do so after a bullet came through the helicopter's windshield, forcing him to climb round the outside, take the controls and bring it to a safe landing.

He recruited a pet monkey which he named It. It stayed with him for three weeks until one day, bizarrely, it dived out of the helicopter during a flight.

Jeremy also had experience of being a tunnel rat in the infamous Cu Chi tunnels, which were dug to suit the smaller physical frames of the Vietcong.

"One had to defend, but killing became a pastime," said Jeremy. "Am I proud of it? Yes, it kept me alive."

Jeremy has never returned to Vietnam, or spoken before to anyone other than friends and family about his experiences there.

He left the country on January 11, 1970, flying into Fort Ord, California on a Boeing 747 known as the Freedom Bird, which he said was "quite emotional for everyone".

Military personnel could travel free when in uniform on public transport, but were abused and spat on by civilians.

Jeremy's proud mother kept local press cuttings about him, which he still has along with memorabilia of his time in the US military.

"They will remember me as being the Englishman," Jeremy said of his comrades. "Because I was English I took quite a bit of banter."

But he never formed close bonds with his fellow servicemen because "too many times you would form a friendship and they would get shot", he said.

Decades after the end of the war in Vietnam the dead are still being identified and repatriated.

"We always account for our war dead; we don't leave them behind," said Jeremy.

He ended his service as a sergeant and was awarded the National Defence Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Air Medal (42 clusters), three Army Commendations, two Good Conduct Medals and two Bronze Star Medals.

Of the war he says: "It was exhilarating. They were a clever enemy."