6:09 | He made Buck Sergeant about the time he figured out that he and his buddies were basically fighting for each other and for no other reason. They were taking a large bunker complex and when two others were under fire, he went out to get them. After the fight was over, he was disturbed to learn what his superiors intended to do about the enemy base.
Keywords : Al Copeland Vietnam Camp Mace Signal Mountain bunker search and destroy sweep and clear Viet Cong (VC) George Sheehan Robert Perkins Million Dollar Wound Dust Off B-52
He felt he owed it to the country, so Al Copeland volunteered early for the draft. He was infantry all the way, and after basic training and jungle training in the cold rain, he was ready for Vietnam.
He was apprehensive, of course, especially after somebody told him he wasn't going to last because of his height. Al Copeland entered Vietnam as a replacement and began to learn the art of the ambush. After dealing with the mosquitos, he had to deal with the booby traps.
His nickname was "Moose." He was big, and because he was the new guy, he had to carry a lot of extra gear. Al Copeland talks about the constant routine of night ambushes they would set up to catch the Viet Cong. On one of these, they took fire from a village and the result was not good for the villagers.
On Saturdays, Al Copeland's unit had to go on Air Mobile Assaults. Choppers would pick up the men and ferry them from one landing zone to another, wherever there was intelligence that the Viet Cong were present. This was tough in the Mekong Delta, where you stepped in mud up to your knees.
The squad was eating lunch and Al Copeland was off a bit, keeping watch on them while the other squad began a sweep. As soon as the second squad set out, they were in a firefight and Charlie started running. The only problem was that Charlie was running right toward him.
Newly minted Marine Lieutenant Beirne Lovely was making contact with the enemy everyday as soon as he arrived at Khe Sanh. Assigned to establish a forward outpost, his unit was annoyed by the lack of a rations when a grazing deer was spotted. The results of the deer hunt were a little concerning.
Barry Howard just missed an appointment to West Point, "Thank the Lord!" Instead he went to the Naval Academy where he got in trouble more than once with pal John McCain. Then it was on to pilot training in yet another branch, the Air Force.
First, Walt Russell’s neurologist told him to get used to watching TV because he could not hold a job. Then the loan examiner told him he could not handle law school. After years of public service in elected office, he had proven them both wrong.
On his second Vietnam tour, Bill Ray commanded a combat engineer battalion. The large unit was still housed in tents, which raised some eyebrows, and was tasked with building a national road including many bridges. They also built some airstrips way down in the delta where he encountered entertainer Martha Ray, to his great surprise.
After his first trip to the front in Chinos and loafers, reporter Joe Galloway acquired a proper field kit and began observing and reporting on the strange war that was Vietnam. In Pleiku, he jumped off the plane because he saw bodies being stacked and was soon meeting up with a South Vietnamese unit. Their advisor, a new Major named Norman Schwarzkopf, would prove to be a valuable contact.
When the battle of Ia Drang started, reporter Joe Galloway flattened until he heard Sergeant Major Basil Plumley bellow, "Can't take no pictures laying there on the ground, Sonny." Galloway not only got up, he was a player in the biggest battle of the war, with Custer's old outfit in a river valley surrounded by a vastly larger number of hostiles.
To Ernest Washington, Marine Corps basic training was "12 weeks of football practice." But it became much more serious when the civil rights upheaval of the time spilled over into the military. The beauty of it was the understanding which came from striving together as Marines.
After a variety of Army medical jobs, Fred Mills had a final task. Planning operations for the Gulf War. After retiring, he recalls the harassment when he returned from his 2nd tour in Vietnam. Some sore bar patrons and scared Hare Krishnas also remember.
The sign on the windowless building of the National Photographic Interpretation Center in Washington D.C. suggested academic research, but the drunks across the street in the liquor store knew what it really was. Inside, Al Lipphardt, was busy predicting the October War of 1973.
While going down a ridge line during a rainy night, Lowe and his men started getting mortared. Lowe was frantically trying to figure out their next move, but Dasher Wheatley instead chose to play in the dirt with a night crawler. Lowe was baffled at Dash’s behavior, but Dash responded with some words of wisdom that Lowe would never forget.
Outmanned by at least five to one, but with good air support, Al Lipphardt’s unit fought the NVA for four days in the fight known only as the Battle for Hill 63 in Operation Dorland. He had never had a greater feeling than realizing he was still alive after it was all over.
Having learned the Thai language and mastered radio school, Allen Robinson deployed to Vietnam where he was stationed on an intelligence ship, monitoring and transcribing broadcasts. When he was ashore, the Thai people were delighted to find a Westerner who could speak their language.
After washing off the grime of battle from Ia Drang, Joe Galloway could not believe what he was hearing as General Westmoreland stood on the hood of a jeep and tried to give a rousing speech. Then, in a press conference, when another General would not call a disastrous ambush an ambush, he stood and spoke his mind.
His experience in Vietnam taught him something about what it means to be an American, says Jim Lawrence. He reflects on the death of his friend, Don Cornett, and the effect it had on all the lives connected to him. Multiply those numbers by the 58,000 names on The Wall and you get an idea of the true scale of the tragedy of war.
No one got any sleep that first night in Vietnam. Freddie Owens recalls the tension among the men, most of whom he had trained. This bond would make it tough for him later on when the dying started. His unit went straight into the field and stayed there. Not a chance they would get to see Bob Hope but they did claim to run into some Chinese troops.
Tet came to Rody Conway’s area in a big way. Word of a large uniformed force nearby brought in heavy airstrikes and his unit went in to do damage assessment. When they got there, they found out that the wrong spot had been bombed and they were in hot water.
Forward Air Controller Bill Smith was part of the covert air war based in Thailand covering Laos and Cambodia. When not being shot at by angry insurgents with AK-47's, he found time to teach classes in a Thai middle school. The toughest job he had was search and rescue missions.
Marine Ron Christmas reflects on the basic principles of urban warfare, which he learned on the fly in the battle for Hue. He felt blessed in his later career as he received many rewarding assignments.
Helicopter pilot Fred Mills was "really busy" flying medical evacuations in Vietnam. When trees prevented a landing, he dropped a chainsaw to troops, and he used a map with no borders to evacuate from Cambodia. It was "the dirty part of the war."
Joe Galloway was right in the middle of the Ia Drang battle and witnessed the withering artillery and air power that felled so many thousands. Later, Galloway asked North Vietnam's General Giap what he thought about losing so many men. The answer surprised him.