4:58 | After a short stint in the Navy, Bill Camper decided that it wasn't for him. He was going to serve, but in the Navy, the gulf between officers and enlisted men was too wide, so he got out and enlisted in the Army, where he knew the officers would be in the mud with him. Once in the Army, he was sent to Officer Candidate School and went to Korea with an engineer battalion.
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When Bill Camper arrived in Korea in command of an engineer company, the peace talks were going on so they were able to do their work on roads and bridges without getting shot. Mines were a threat, though, left by the retreating Communists. After tours in Japan and Germany, he was training paratroopers at Fort Benning when the Vietnam War began to heat up.
Bill Camper felt like the people of Hue supported the South Vietnamese soldiers he was advising. He made some headway encouraging those men to fight and he relates the story of how he taught them to advance through their own artillery barrage and surprise the enemy from the rear.
It was a hurry-up assignment. Bill Camper was sent to Quang Ngai to advise the civilian administration and he was so rushed, he had no radio or vehicle when he got there, but he went right to work. He had to put together a reaction force of locals armed with whatever they could find and he had to deliver medical and infrastructure assistance.
Civilian Advisor Bill Camper only had a small force to deal with snipers and ambushes, but he could call the ARVN unit stationed nearby to deal with larger enemy forces. The first time he went to answer a distress call from a village, the unit was ambushed, so there was some adjustment to procedures. During this time, he developed respect for the Vietnamese people, regardless of their allegiances.
"No one in Vietnam needs these." That's what Bill Camper thought when his district was sent boxes of laxatives by mistake. The civilian advisor told the doctor to hang on to them and that led to victory over a North Vietnamese unit that had moved into the area. "It was kind of like biological warfare."
He had been a civilian advisor, but Bill Camper was reassigned to Hue to advise an ARVN regiment. This made life simpler, just find the enemy and engage him. In his first large operation, the relief of an overrun forward base, victory was achieved, but with a high cost in lives. For three days, they had to wait in the jungle with the bodies of their fallen comrades.
It had to be a mistake. Bill Camper was not a headquarters man but when he arrived in Vietnam for his second tour, he was assigned to Military Assistance Command (MACV) Headquarters. He managed to get a field assignment and was sent up near the DMZ to advise an ARVN regiment. Unfortunately, the Vietnamese commander was hard to get along with.
The North Vietnamese attacked across the DMZ with everything they had. Bill Camper was an advisor to the ARVN unit stationed there in the wake of the American drawdown and barely got back inside the perimeter as two battalions on a maneuver were lost. The enemy artillery barrage was relentless, and after four days of fighting, the South Vietnamese commander decided to surrender. Camper was having none of that.
The artillery fire was so intense at Camp Carroll that Bill Camper could not get a fix for counter battery fire. The rounds were coming from four directions. After four days of intense North Vietnamese attacks and with his ARVN counterpart ready to surrender, Camper escaped with a few others, but they were cut off and had to fight their way back into the camp. Then came a fateful radio call.
ARVN advisor Bill Camper received an unusual experimental weapon to possibly counter the Russian tanks that were tearing up the Southern forces. It was the XM72, a four barreled handheld rocket launcher. While he was training some men to operate it, the North Vietnamese attacked.
In the tense concluding days of the Vietnam War, ARVN advisor Bill Camper was with a unit holding bridges at Quang Tri when he went out to check on suspected enemy activity. He was unconcerned about the artillery rounds passing overhead because the enemy's Russian rounds had no air burst capability. Then a round hit a tree above him.
They aren't all heroes, they were just doing their jobs, says Bill Camper, veteran of Korea and Vietnam. He remembers laying in bed in basic training and trying to breakdown his $55 a month into what his hourly rate was. You don't do it for the money.
After his first tour in Vietnam, Bill Camper was assigned to Fort Carson and the 5th Mechanized Division, training soldiers destined for that conflict. Then he had a six month assignment with a Special Forces team in the Dominican Republic during that country's civil war.
When it was time to act, Bill Minnich came through. On a night watch, as he caught sight of a Chinese patrol, the only question was, rifle or grenade? When the unit was pinned down and no one responded to the order to move out, he cussed them all out and charged forward. And when he fell wounded, it was a sure thing that he would get up and scramble through the bullets landing at his feet.
Ben Malcom recalls a mission to infiltrate and destroy a 76mm gun hidden inside a North Korean mountain. During the cover of night on July 14, 1952, Malcom managed to sneak 120 guerilla fighters onto the mountain and into the bunker, and describes the combat that ensued.
It was called Hill 205. The small Ranger company was told to take and hold the hill. They did that as long as they could but Ralph Puckett and his men had to go through hell to do it. Waves of Chinese attackers had him calling in very close artillery strikes. He lay there, unable to move after three wounds, watching the Chinese bayonet wounded Rangers. Then two figures charged up the hill.
Ron Clark remembers when the Chinese would attack and how the strategies between American and Chinese differed. He also explains one detailed account of an American casualty during battle and his own major injury that permanently disabled his eyesight.
After contracting a deadly illness, Gene Owen is saved by an observant medic and sent to a military hospital in Yeongdeungpo, where he is diagnosed with hemorrhagic fever. Soon after, he is rotated back home, reunites with his family, and returns to school. For Gene's actions in Korea, he was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts.
After liberating Seoul, Martin Overholt and his regiment departed for Koto-ri in North Korea to try and push back enemy troops. Moving through that region, they faced heavy casualties from the Chinese troops. (Part 1)
Gene Owen wakes up alone in his foxhole to discover the Chinese Army marching into a hot zone where they faced an awesome display of US firepower. The scene is reminiscent of a Basic Training exercise known as The Mad Minute.
After arriving in Koto-ri, Martin Overholt and his regiment were forced to bury a large group of their fellow soldiers after they become too difficult transport. After a long stint out in combat, they left there to their evacuation point of Hungnam. After getting new replacements, the 1st Marine Division was sent back out into the fighting. (Part 2)
A ferocious firefight in the Iron Triangle, as the 3rd Infantry holds the line in a broad front-line offensive. The battle becomes a textbook example of the effectiveness of intense firepower against overwhelming forces.
Jim Walsh had the term "Killer From a Distance" applied to him by his squad leader, Ron Smith. Walsh had used his heavy machine gun to suppress Chinese fire and allow the squad to move forward. Later, Walsh would write a book with that title, referring to artillerymen on whom the infantry depended. Of all the weapons used in Korea, napalm was the most horrendous.
Growing up splitting time between China and the United States, Martin Overholt decided to join the Marine Corps in the hoped of being able to travel more. While fighting in Korea, he sometimes had to fight against the Chinese, which felt strange since he had grown up with them.
The stuttering truce talks in Korea were incredibly demoralizing for the troops, says Jim Walsh. Repeatedly, it seemed as if they would be going home and then, invariably, their hopes would be dashed. When he finally did return to America, everyone expected to see a festive hero's welcome. It was not quite that.
He shipped out to Korea and, right away, he was disturbed by something he saw in the streets of Pusan. Ralph McKay knew then he was somewhere very different from his home in Canada. It was 1953, late in the war, but the shelling was nearly constant on the front line.
While fighting in the Chosin Reservoir, Martin Overholt and his regiment faced steady fire from the Chinese. Facing combat brings out the toughest instincts in a soldier, which Overholt experienced firsthand.
The Armistice was scheduled to take effect that evening, but George Bruzgis received orders for a fire mission at dawn. The high explosive rounds were fired from the tank and, years later, he found out the significance of those rounds. He was able to revisit Korea twice due to the generosity and gratitude of the Korean people.
It was on Hill 440 that Jim Walsh nearly got hit by an incoming round. It killed the two men next to him and completely deafened him for a while. Sent back to the MASH unit, he felt guilty for being there as he walked among the bloody wounded.
Martin Overholt shares some humorous memories from his time in the Marine Corps after returning home from Korea. His service in the Marine Corps gave him many opportunities and memories he can look back on.
President Truman had long ago given the order, but it was in 1951 that integration finally came to 35th Regiment in Korea. Two black GI's were assigned to Jim Walsh's squad and they proved to be tremendous assets. They were both miners and they taught the men how to better perform one of their primary tasks.
They got the word that the Armistice had been signed and to cease all firing. That gave Joe Nemastil a chance to find out what was actually in the no man's land below his position. Checking his weapons, he made his way down the hill and very soon, spotted a Chinese soldier walking right toward him.
His father was a coal miner in Nova Scotia and it shortened his life, so Ralph McKay did not go into the mines, he joined the army as soon as he was eligible at seventeen. He was assigned to the Royal Canadian Regiment, the oldest unit in Canada, and then to jump school. His first jump was memorable.