5:14 | McMahon becomes part of the Combined Action Program (CAP), working with Vietnamese militia to protect villages from Viet Cong thugs. On one occasion, the village is spared from enemy attack by an army artillery unit acting without orders. He and the villagers develop a bond that would last for decades.
Keywords : Combined Action Program (CAP) Viet Cong (VC) villagers mortar fire Tax collectors Rice collectors Nghia Quan citizen soldiers twin 40mm anti aircraft gun army dusters Nuoc Mam Vietnamese food LtCol William R. Corson
17-year-old Charlie McMahon is sent to the Mediterranean to train as a US Marine. Under the tutelage of hard-as-nails Vietnam vets, he learns the lessons that will save his life.
Charlie McMahon leads a convoy into Hue, unaware that the Tet Offensive has begun. Upon discovering a city occupied by stubborn North Vietnamese forces, he and his team tread carefully, battling the entrenched army street-by-street, house-by-house.
On the road to Hue, McMahon encounters legendary war correspondent Catherine Leroy, who surrenders herself to North Vietnamese occupiers for her now famous article "The Enemy Lets Me Take His Picture". Years later, the two reconnect.
While chasing down the enemy following the Battle of Hue, McMahon is wounded by a surprise grenade attack. He remains in combat, and sees out the war with a hunk of shrapnel in his leg that remains to this day.
After being knocked unconscious by mortar fire, McMahon finds himself stateside with nothing but his hospital pajamas. His postwar life includes schooling and a career with Amtrak.
Charlie McMahon reflects on the struggles of Vietnam vets returning to hostile war sentiment in the US. He volunteers with the VA, helping younger vets returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
The new concept of mobile troops using helicopters was used extensively in Vietnam. Col. Walt Russell was aboard one when he felt an odd sensation. Reaching up, he felt where a sniper round had blown a hole in his head “the size of a cigarette pack.”
Marine mortarman Bob Atkinson got to relax back at battalion only every now and then, and it wasn't that safe there because it was hit frequently. Nor was he immune to heartbreak there, as he found out when a swarm of children went after food scraps in the dump.
Tom Reilly was nearly killed in Vietnam seven times. Once, an RPG landed in a pond next to him and sizzled like a giant Alka Seltzer in the water. His friend, Dennis Haines, was not so lucky when three snipers opened up.
Despite the overwhelming attitude of other college students, Beirne Lovely wanted to go fight in Vietnam. The Dartmouth student switched from Army ROTC to the Marines, but a missing credit in his transcript nearly derailed his career before it began.
Doug Garner details how his Army company was assigned to support a Navy Mobile Riverine Force aboard the USS Benewah, and the types of missions they would undertake patrolling rivers in the Mekong Delta.
Rody Conway’s first action with the South Vietnamese unit he was advising, was to aid in the rescue of four other advisors who were surrounded after their unit withdrew. He found a wounded friendly with a most interesting note pinned to his chest.
Al Matheson had been a pilot on interesting intelligence missions and challenging Forward Air Control missions, but when he had to pick his next assignment, he chose the big birds of the Airlift Wing. He remembers one fateful mission flying orphans out of Vietnam.
After a massive relief operation at Khe Sanh, Bob Ballagh was put in command of an artillery battery and right away began dealing with fallout from poor leadership. Two batteries were airlifted to the same spot and the battalion commander failed to deal with it.
Al Matheson describes how a Beechcraft Bonanza became a drone crammed with electronics that replaced a manned aircraft with a crew of 31. Naturally, the Air Force came looking for that newly idled manpower.
Forward Air Controller Al Muller had some tense moments when he was confronted by a MIG during a flight. There was also some tension when he encountered a Special Forces soldier who offered him a drink from a skull, but not for long.
New Marine rifle company commander Marshall Carter was anxious to try and improve on the French experience in Vietnam. He thought they never employed proper counter insurgency tactics in their war, and he had just been drilled in them as one of the few Marines to attend Green Beret school.
“I was out of it for days,” recalls Dennis Haines, He had a head wound and would only regain full consciousness after he was evacuated to a hospital in Japan, where he learned the left side of his body was paralyzed.
Three of Captain Marshall Carter's men who were on a fateful raid with him, went to the battalion commander to tell him what Captain Carter had done during the operation. That conversation worked out well for him, much better than the conversation he had years later with a reporter from WGBH.
Dasher Wheatley was out on a search and destroy mission, and he and his men quickly found themselves outmanned and outgunned. Butch Swanton, who was on the mission with Dash, was hit, and Dash ordered everyone else to retreat while he stayed with Swanton to get him evacuated.
Tom Reilly’s Vietnam service took a new direction when he took an assignment as a war correspondent. He carried a camera along with his rifle, and documented the action for Stars and Stripes and the Army Times.
Bill McCowen participated in his third war when SAC was levied for pilots to send to Vietnam, and that's not counting the Cold War. Going from mammoth B-52's to the C-123 assault transport, and from high altitude cruising to treetop level and dirt strips, was no problem for him. He loved flying and was ready for any mission.
Joe Galloway was discouraged with college and was on his way to enlist when he drove by the daily newspaper's building, decided to stop, and asked for a job. Thus began a long career which would take him far from home.