4:45 | Stuart Jamison recalls observing the reality and immediacy of death as his unit assaults a Viet Cong company during the Second Phase Tet Offensive.
Keywords : radio shot casualties
Stuart Jamison recalls meeting Lt. Hetherington, Staff Sgt. Pinkham, Maj. Huynhl, Sgt. Maj. Tau and 200 hostile Viet Cong on his first day on the job as an advisor to Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) soldiers at Xa Xiem.
Stuart Jamison describes the effects of napalm on the enemy and the landscape during the Vietnam War.
Stuart Jamison talks about a time his unit cornered a Viet Cong Main Force Battalion during the Tet Offensive.
Stuart Jamison discusses the toll that casualties take on infantry units during combat.
Stuart Jamison talks about going into a particulary dangerous area of Vietnam and finding trouble.
Stuart Jamison remembers being caught behind a palm tree trunk while being fired upon by a Viet Cong.
Stuart Jamison describes treating a wounded fellow advisor in the open during heavy fire from Viet Cong forces on February, 18 during the Tet Offensive.
Stuart Jamison recounts the destruction of his battalion on February 26, 1968.
Stuart Jamison recalls the sights and sounds from patrolling the Korean Demilitarized Zone during the Cold War.
Incredible pictures from Stuart Jamison's experience in Xa Xiem and Rach Gia.
The opening pages of Stuart Jamison's gripping account of the life and death of his ARVN unit in Vietnam.
Stuart Jamison recounts his days in Xa Xiem during New Year's Eve and meeting his fellow officers, as well as coming face to face with death for the first time.
Stuart Jamison's dynamic account of the first day of the Tet Offensive, as well as the asssault on Rach Gia.
Stuart Jamison and his unit battle Viet Cong troops around Rach Gia and find themselves with a scared VC prisoner.
Stuart Jamison's personal account of a raid on a Vietnamese village to drive out the Viet Cong.
"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."
For his last duty in Vietnam, Galen Foster moved to Chu Lai. The base camp was on a hill with a view of the South China Sea on one side and a village on the other side. One night, they heard a ruckus in the village. Women and children were screaming and crying. The soldiers were forbidden to go and help.
David Brown developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder late in life once he retired and had more time to think about the war. When he first returned, he was nearly sent right back, but his Congressman helped him avoid that injustice. His last assignment was marching trainees around at Jump School, where he encountered some Navy SEALs who made quite an impression on him.
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.
He was going to war for the first time. It was the first foray outside the fire base for Galen Foster and, right away, he was in combat. As the men crossed a clearing in pairs, the man next to him stepped on a mine and Charlie opened up. The blast knocked him back into the tree line and, finding himself unhurt he returned fire. That answered a question he had been wondering about himself.
There was a Buddhist hooch on the other side of the river near their base camp. John Wilhite had seen people coming and going there for a long time, but they were respectful of religious locations so it was left alone. One day, while they were playing cards on the boat, the man across from him was hit by a large caliber round. Soon it was apparent where it had come from.
David Brown met a man in a pool hall who had Jump Wings on his chest and he knew he had to get some of those. Volunteering ahead of the draft, he went to jump school after basic and got his own wings despite the trepidation he felt when he saw the raggedy plane they would use. After a year of spit shine and Brasso with the 82nd Airborne, it was time for Vietnam.
Nobody liked night ambush patrol. You were out in pitch black in the enemy's own backyard. Galen Foster was on one of these patrols when they spotted a light in the distance where no light should be. They crept closer and he fired a dozen rounds from his grenade launcher at the area.
John Wilhite traveled the rivers of the Mekong Delta with the River Rats, a transportation company using long, shallow draft boats called Mike Boats. The first time he saw the enemy, he was off the boat in a defensive position. When the firefight began, the .50 caliber machine guns on the boat cleaned up the situation.
When he recovered from his wound, David Brown was moved to another platoon and made Platoon Sergeant. He didn't have the actual rank necessary, but he had the heart and his performance earned him a Bronze Star. His last real action was during the Tet Offensive and after that, he headed home, declining the chance to stay and get another stripe.
The closer the plane got to Vietnam, the more somber was the mood on board. That's what Galen Foster remembers about the flight. What he remembers about arriving is the heat and the smell, both overwhelming. He went where he was most needed, a unit that had just been hit hard, and was issued an M79 grenade launcher.
Pilot John Weinig had tremendous respect for the Special Forces and relished the opportunity to provide air support to them. On one mission, a team was surrounded in rough mountainous terrain. He followed a Forward Air Controller down to the site and used up all his ammunition keeping the stranded team safe. When it came time to leave, the FAC was nowhere to be found and he didn't know the way out. He said a prayer and pulled on the stick.
A frequent mission for John Wilhite was the fuel run to Cambodia. They would take the boat downriver to the South China Sea and fill up a huge fuel bladder. Then it was back up the Mekong River to Cambodia. You could always tell when you got to the border because the place was crawling with North Vietnamese troops, allies of the murderous Pol Pot regime.
A hot landing zone meant that you could expect contact as soon as you set down. They might tell you that a landing zone is cold, but Galen Foster says you never could tell. He saw the lead helicopter get shot down as they went into a so-called cold LZ. When moving on foot, the point man used a compass the guide the unit. Once, an improper reading led the men straight into a Viet Cong base camp.
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.
Galen Foster's first night after joining his unit in was memorable. They were mortared and, since the fire base was new and had no bunkers yet, a half dozen new guys huddled on the floor of their tent with their duffel bags around them. Welcome to Vietnam. After the barrage, they emerged and readied for a fight which did not come.
The engine in the A-1 Skyraider was a beast, a huge piston engine with gallons of oil and a one ton propeller. Absent enemy fire, it was the most likely source of problems for pilot John Weinig. He praises his ground crews, dedicated men who kept the plane armed and flying. On search and rescue missions, he supported helicopters which did the actual rescue. One model could outrun his prop plane. Now that's embarrassing.
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.
Charlie was smart. You seldom saw him. An air strike would drive him into his tunnels but he would be back. Galen Foster describes just such an encounter, with friendly shrapnel flying all around. After that firefight, his unit was given an uncomfortable task, hosting an American news crew.
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.
Galen Foster's father was a Marine and he gave his son this advice, join the Army. It's safer. He did just that and when he got to basic training, the Drill Instructor made a big impression on him. He went to Fort Polk where they had a training camp called Tigerland, designed to prepare troops for fighting in Vietnam.
John Weinig enlisted in the Air Force ahead of the draft so he could choose his branch. After a year of training he was assigned to fly the A-1 Skyraider, a prop plane that was perfect for close ground support and that could carry a lot of varied ordnance. Then it was three different survival schools to prepare for Vietnam.
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 arrived at basic training and got a good night's sleep but when the Drill Instructor started beating on a garbage can and throwing it around the barracks, John Wilhite knew he was in for something different than he was used to. After basic, in Advanced Infantry Training, they were practicing air deployment when he noticed that the equipment was really being loaded.
The heat and the smell, that's what you first noticed about Vietnam, says David Brown. He got a little relief from the heat when he was sent to the countryside and spent most of his time under the canopy in the jungle. He was out there so long that he was momentarily baffled when he sat down at a table in a mess hall after a long trek. Tablecloths? Silverware? This was nice after the malaria and the leeches.
It began with a call on a field telephone and an alarm horn. Pilots and ground crews would scramble to get the planes armed and into the air. Pilot Joihn Weinig had three radios in his A-1 Skyraider and he could communicate directly with ground forces on one of them. If the mission was search and rescue, he would supply protection to the helicopters which performed the rescue.
Assigned to the 1099th Transportation Company when he arrived in Vietnam, John Wilhite didn't even see an officer for four days. Fortunately, there were old hands around to get him up to speed. The job was simple, carry people and resources up and down the rivers in the Mekong Delta on Mike Boats, which resembled landing craft. These missions took them into Cambodia, he notes, despite what the President was saying.
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.