8:03 | They were hunkered down after fierce fighting when the call came from "Ghost 4-6." It was a group of wounded men who had pulled themselves together after the ill fated march to LZ Albany and were lost in the dark. George Forrest sent a patrol to find them, and in an incredible act of bravery, medic Daniel Torres stayed through the night with them and saved many men. Captain Forrest still had to write a gut-wrenching letter to the mother of a missing soldier. Part 3 of 4.
Keywords : George Forrest Vietnam Ia Drang Valley LZ Albany ambush Ghost 4-6 Fred Kluge medic Daniel Torres .45 pistol M-60 machine gun Medal Of Honor (MOH) survivor’s guilt Hal Moore Shorty Rogers Joe Galloway
George Forrest left home thinking his father had acquiesced to the white power structure in his home town. When he returned, though, he found out that what he'd done was just the opposite. Enjoying the ROTC element of his college experience, Forrest received a commission in the Army and had some interesting assignments before he joined a newly organized air assault division.
Convinced they were going to storm the beach when they arrived in Vietnam, George Forrest's unit instead found the 1st Cavalry band playing. They set up base camp, where the living conditions were not that bad, and began getting used to being attached to other units, which was bad. They took their first casualty in a particularly disappointing incident.
The Chieu Hoi were Viet Cong defectors who assisted American units in Vietnam, but George Forrest quickly realized that the ones at his base were not all that they seemed. The mortar fire at night was really accurate. He had a great admiration and respect for his own men, and lists the NCO's and officers who were the backbone of his company.
Before they got into any serious combat, George Forrest's unit kept busy building their base camp and looking for some diversions, including wrestling matches between the officers and the men. They were dismissive of both the enemy and the Vietnamese people they were protecting, but when he returned years later, he realized they were human beings like any others. This realization has implications for today's soldiers deployed as nation builders.
He should have been leery of the whole thing. George Forrest's unit was protecting convoys on the highway when the word came, a unit was heavily engaged in the Ia Drang Valley. From that point on, nothing seemed right, starting with Chinooks instead of Hueys coming to transport them. They arrived the second day of the battle and bolstered the exhausted troops led by Hal Moore. Part 1 of 4.
After a couple of days of fierce fighting, George Forrest was told his company was now attached to another unit and was bringing up the rear as they moved out on foot to make way for a B-52 strike. After uttering an expletive, he moved out with the column on the infamous march to LZ Albany, the last big engagement of the epic Battle of the Ia Drang Valley. Part 2 of 4.
It was a classic L-shaped ambush that decimated several companies on the march to LZ Albany. George Forrest's company had fared better, but instead of heading to a Thanksgiving dinner like some, they went straight to another battle at Bong Son. He observes that you can go through hell and come out better for it and his company was stronger for the experience. Decades later, he gained an appreciation for the way the opposition must have felt. Part 4 of 4.
George Forrest remembers the men under his command as both grand and simple, guys who could find humor in anything. Life in war meant that basic needs and desires came to the forefront. For Forrest, that meant ice cream and dry toilet paper. When he left the command, his men made sure he knew that he'd made a difference in their lives.
Returning from his first tour of Vietnam, George Forrest went straight to Fort Benning, so it was a good experience. As for the return from the second tour, it wasn't the worst day of his life, but it was right up there as he changed into civilian clothes to avoid the protesters. He thinks about the conditions for service members today and wonders if the overwhelming social media communications are a good thing for morale and focus.
The war changed him for the better, says George Forrest, though it took a while to realize that family was more important than chasing a military career. A visit to Vietnam decades after the conflict made him wonder if it had been worth it. He does know two things, he would have liked a free ticket to a Packers game and he wishes the war was remembered for more than alleged atrocities and stoned troops.
His Vietnam experienced influenced and guided every job he had throughout his life, says George Forrest. He was disappointed in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at first, but that changed when he visited. And he finally got his parade.
In the field, a deer ran through the camp and was shot, dressed, and eaten by Rody Conway’s unit. Much later, this would become a sore point with his wife. There was also the incident in which a Vietnamese woman had an unusual complaint.
After flying relief missions in Iran, Fred Mills was soon back in the states in medical operations. But Vietnam was heating up and he went for his first tour, flying medical evacuations and even finding himself in command of a Special Forces camp.
As if the horrific battle he experienced during the Tet Offensive wasn’t enough, Rody Conway was nearly flattened by friendly fire in the form of artillery strikes. Back at his base, he relived the battle in his sleep, alarming his roommate.
During Operation Lam Son, Lowe notified Captain Haugen that the slope of the rocks indicated they should take a different path because there was a higher chance of them finding water that way, and so the men continued toward the Quang Tri River. All of a sudden, they came upon a weigh station packed with Viet Cong.
Frank Aiken found his Montagnard allies to be somewhat lawless and wild, though he says they were good fighters and they were lucky to have them. The enemy was everywhere, trying to get through the wire at night and taking potshots at them on the roads. He joined the locals for meals, though he says you couldn't be sure what you were eating.
The decision was made to evacuate the villagers while booby traps and bunkers were destroyed. An old woman walked up to forward observer Frank Cox and started kicking the ground and giving him grief. This led to a surprising friendship.
Rody Conway survived the Tet Offensive, but he was not allowed the transfer to Da Lat that he requested. The belligerent colonel in charge told him he had no choice but to accept an assignment as HQ Commandant or that his career would be ruined.
If you punch a colonel, it's handy to have the chaplain standing there. That was fighter pilot Barry Howard's experience at his base in Thailand, where he also amused himself by baiting the general's twin sons to fight. Not so funny are the memories of smoke in the cockpit.
As the enemy swarmed towards them, the Marines formed a 360 degree defensive position and then they faced a night long assault. It was Frank Cox spotting the artillery support that won the upper hand against, as he calls the Viet Cong, "as difficult an enemy as the Marines have ever faced." Part 2 of 2.
Arriving in Vietnam, Dennis Haines got a quick lesson in weapons safety when a soldier dropped a grenade in practice. He also met Jack Kirchner, who was from the same area at home and the two became great friends.
When Marshall Carter arrived in Vietnam, he was looking forward to commanding a rifle company and learning from the veteran sergeants he would be working with. Right away, he got a lesson in keeping his head down when he stood on top of a vehicle to try and free two others that were stuck.
John E. Walker enlisted during the Vietnam era and got the specialty he wanted, aviation mechanic. The dreary weather on the day he departed should have been a clue. His first test in the war zone, monsoons. Next, the task of cleaning the aircraft after medical evacuations.
If it had not been for a police line, wounded veteran Armand Chapeau would have been showered with blood and worse by protestors when he disembarked in California. Undeterred by them or his injury, he returned to active duty.