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.
Believing there would be an uprising among the populace, Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Giap planned a general offensive for the Tet New Year in 1968. There was no uprising, but Ron Christmas would see some of the nastiest fighting of the war as a result.
Vietnam veteran Al Lipphardt has an instant connection with other veterans of any conflict. He says to truly understand a combat veteran, one must have been through combat because the experience is overwhelming.
Tommy Clack was taught by John Racine, one of his NCO's, how to find out who was shooting in a firefight and who was just staying out of it. After the battle, you felt the gun barrels of the soldiers on the line.
What Marine Captain Ron Christmas knew, as he assembled a relief convoy, was that action was reported in Hue. What he and others didn’t know was that the North Vietnamese Army had infiltrated the entire city.
Just as he heard of his promotion, medic Joe McDonald narrowly missed the mortar blast that claimed the life of his friend. Back in combat, rushing to relieve a unit under attack, he stumbled upon a scene of horrible atrocity.
It was extreme in effort and cost. Lt. Beirne Lovely reflects on the difficulty of a ground frontal assault, the bravery of his men and the lack of overwhelming force that was needed. One particular Sergeant decide to supply his own overwhelming force with a .60 caliber machine gun on his hip. Though in constant fear and danger, his men never hesitated.
When Tommy Clack met Max Cleland, another triple amputee, and saw him get into a car and drive off, he knew he could eventually do it, too. Soon he was taking other veteran amputees on hunting and fishing trips.
Ordered to take ground across a bridge in Hue, Captain Ron Christmas used a barrage of smoke rounds to cover a dash across the span. After holding long enough to move across vital units, he found that his men were disappointed they had to withdraw.
After his first combat experience, medic Joe McDonald was told he was not required to pull wounded soldiers from live fire, but he felt differently. His chief task was to stop the bleeding and get the wounded stabilized for evacuation.
Military duty was a family tradition for Tommy Clack. While many of his generation were going to great lengths to stay out of the war, he withdrew from college and volunteered for the Arm, where he went through OCS and became an artillery forward observer.
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.
Of all the casualties around Al Lipphardt in his first Vietnam tour, one in particular haunted him for years, the death of Rodney Loatman. It was an article in a magazine that brought it all flooding back into his consciousness decades later.
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.
Marines were trained for jungle warfare in Vietnam, but Captain Ron Christmas found himself in a house-to-house urban battle in Hue. He prevailed using lance corporal ingenuity and PFC power, along a handy 106mm recoilless rifle.
After his first Vietnam tour, artillery officer Tommy Clack tried to modify stateside training to better prepare soldiers for actual conditions. Returning for a second tour, he insisted on forward duty with a combat unit.
Joe Galloway's best seller about the Ia Drang battle hit close to home for many veterans, and it inspired many to open up about their experiences. Then it became a big Hollywood film with a pretty good reality/fantasy ratio.