11:11 | Under heavy fire, choppers attempt to evacuate wounded GIs from Kontum. After one fatal crash, a dustoff chopper manages to lift Ernest Banasau to safety. Years later, Banasau meets the pilot who saved him, and learns how close he came to meeting a tragic fate. Part 2 of 2
Keywords : Chopper dustoff Jungle Penetrator Kaman HH-43 Huskie Tet Offensive Ron Johnson North Vietnamese Army (NVA) 1968 Wounded In Action (WIA) Kontum Steve Adams Dust Off forward operation base Bravo reunion
Ernest Banasau shares the connections between his military lineage and Native American roots.
Ernest Banasau's journey from college flunkie to combat-ready soldier takes him from Texas to Tigerland to Pleiku, and is filled with surprises, pranks, and colorful characters.
Bravo Company has been all but wiped out, and Ernest Banasau worries that he and his buddies will be sent in to replace them. Instead, he joins A Company, where he experiences his first enemy contact - in the form of a rice paddy machine gun ambush.
Banasau takes a premature R&R and forgets his malaria pills, extending his absence for longer than he had planned.
A swarm of aggressive bees launches an attack on Ernest Banasau's platoon, causing them to scatter and drop their gear. The furious Sergeant leads a small group of soldiers back to gather their lost gear.
11 frightening days in the Battle of Dak To, and the bloody fight for Hill 875. When a Marine F4 misses its target, a 500 pound bomb takes out an entire encampment of wounded GIs. The South Vietnamese Civilian Army prepares a Thanksgiving feast, but the meal does not sit well with the American palette.
Among the spoils of Hill 875, Banasau discovers the gruesome remains of the enemy. After witnessing the loss of so many GIs, he feels only satisfaction at the sight of NVA corpses. Nonetheless, a shell-shocked prisoner is mercifully evacuated from the smoldering wreckage.
A perpetually frightened soldier develops a unique approach to making it up the hill unscathed. Banasau shares tips on getting sleep as an RTO, including putting the scared GI to work for him.
Banasau returns to the base at Dak To, where he used his masterful scrounging skills to acquire alcohol for his team. An opportunity to attend a USO show is thwarted by enterprising base commandos.
Banasau and his team struggle with questionable orders from an inexperienced, egomaniacal company commander. Later, they come across what sounds like a massive army, and are forced to take cover... only to discover their ears have deceived them.
On patrol, Banasau's platoon steps into a firefight during the Tet Offensive, where he and 2 others are hit. He does his best to keep fighting until help can arrive. Part 1 of 2
Banasau makes the most of his time in recovery, including spending time in Japan with new American friends.
Ernest Banasau returns to Vietnam only to face an obstacle course of paperwork and bureaucracy. Making the best of things, he takes time to reconnect with his Air Force brat roots.
Banasau's team uncovers a clever diversion plotted by the enemy. He and fellow GIs are narrowly spared from friendly fire.
Back at the firebase, Banasau and his buddy receive some very unexpected news - they're going home. True to his nature, he uses his newfound leverage to mess with the higher ranks.
Banasau came home to a different country than the one he left, and figured out to adjust - while others were not so lucky. Years later, he took a journey to meet the family of a fallen brother, and offered words of comfort.
At the onset of Operation Desert Storm, Ernest Banasau is a Logistics Coordinator in Germany. He contacts the command to offer his services in the war effort, and is stationed in Turkey to play a coordinating role in Operation Provide Comfort, protecting Kurdish refugees from Saddam Hussein's army.
When he wasn't busy on a mission or building something at base camp, Tal Centers would volunteer as a door gunner on a Huey. Normally, he was a forward observer and he directed fire in an incident depicted in the movie "We Were Soldiers." He usually worked with a radio operator and he remembers one who didn't make it back.
At the beginning of Pete Tancredi's tour, the Navy was the big power in I Corps, the northernmost part of South Vietnam. When the Navy withdrew, the evacuation hospital administrator had some problems with the Army supply chain. His wife, Susan, was a post-op nurse in the same facility.
Not long after arriving in Vietnam, Tal Centers was attached to the 5th Special Forces Group as a forward observer. They had to venture into Cambodia to retrieve the bodies of some men who had been captured and mutilated, a sight he could not forget.
The old capital city of Hue was the center of the Buddhist struggle against the South Vietnamese government. At the consulate, Jim Bullington found himself face to face with student mobs and acted as a go between with the leader of the monks. The situation began to get out of control and roadblocks were set up throughout the city.
Susan Tancredi hoped that she and Pete Tancredi would be married in time to defer him from going to Vietnam, but they were a little late. The wheels were in motion and, following her plan, they both deployed without knowing where they would be going. They were very fortunate to be assigned to the same facility, the 95th Evacuation Hospital.
As a forward observer, Tal Centers would sometimes go up in a small helicopter for aerial spotting. On one such mission, a high caliber round from an enemy machine gun brought down the aircraft. He saw red, then he went unconscious.
Jim Bullington was an aide to Henry Cabot Lodge, ambassador to Vietnam, and this gave him the perspective to see how the US was struggling with the insurgency while winning the big battles. It also gave him a chance to meet many of the important players in the war.
Jim and Susan Tancredi were doubly fortunate. They were fortunate to be deployed together to the same Army hospital in Vietnam and they were fortunate they hardly ever came under hostile fire there. Somehow they arranged adjacent rooms and, inevitably, there were architectural modifications.
He was hunkered down in the house of a French priest. Outside, in the city of Hue, the North Vietnamese Army was occupying nearly the entire city. Tuy-Cam, his fiance, was in her family compound when she was awakened by the wailing of a woman down the street. The enemy soldiers had taken the men. Part 2 of 4.
Pete and Susan Tancredi share their concern about anti-war protestors who did not distinguish between the decision makers and the soldiers tasked with fighting the Vietnam War. They did not deserve disrespect and indignity for doing their duty.
Tuy-Cam's family had gathered for Tet, but now they debated whether to flee or stay and hide as the North Vietnamese Army raged through the city of Hue. They elected to flee but they took a bad path. Her fiance, Jim Bullington, had narrowly escaped himself, but returned to the city to search for his beloved. Part 4 of 4.
There were definite education benefits to the Army, so, before they met, Pete and Susan Tancredi both had committed to service while pursuing a college degree. Neither of them was very concerned about going to Vietnam. If one had to go, maybe they could both go.
His long courtship had finally paid off and US diplomat Jim Bullington was set to marry translator Tuy-Cam in her home town of Hue. They met there at her family compound a month before the wedding during Tet. It was 1968 and it turned out that it would not be a good Tet holiday in Hue. Part 1 of 4.
It was odd. Pete and Susan Tancredi were returning from Vietnam and they were instructed to wear their dress blues, carry civilian clothes, and change in the restroom as soon as they landed. Unfortunately, after landing, they suffered another indignity. What was going on?
Her brothers were in the attic and Tuy-Cam was in the yard being pushed around by NVA soldiers. They had swarmed into the city of Hue during the Tet Offensive and they were intent on finding American collaborators. She worked in the US consulate, so she was keeping very quiet. All around her in the city, mass executions were under way. Part 3 of 4.
Jim Bullington's first Foreign Service post was Vietnam. He arrived along with the troops in 1965 and was assigned to the consulate in the old city of Hue. There he met many of the reporters who also followed the soldiers to Southeast Asia and, more importantly, he met Tuy-Cam, a translator at the consulate.
Jim Bullington was home from Vietnam but he couldn't forget Tuy-Cam, a translator he'd met in Hue. Plus it was cold in the States so he pulled some strings and got a new post near Da Nang, where she worked at the consulate. During this time, a new program under new leadership was finally paying off, and the counter insurgency effort began to improve.
In Da Nang about to fly out to head back, Brian West and his company gets hit by a rocket attack which shakes them up. Once they get in the air on the way home, he remembers the feeling of relief that rushed over him as they knew they were safe. Following his tour in Vietnam, Brian began instructing a new group of pilots in Pensacola where he had an interesting experience on New Year’s Eve.
The Vietnam War was a defining event for those involved. Jim Bullington's life was shaped by his experience with the State Department there and it gives him a true perspective mostly lacking today. It also gave him a lifelong partner and they share their unique story and sage advice.
The smell hit him as soon as he stepped off the plane in Saigon. A nauseating smell that never went away, the smell of Vietnam. Tal Centers was trained as an artillery surveyor and once he got in country, he was attached to the 1st Cavalry Air Mobile Division. The first job? Set up base camp at An Khe.
He began as an artillery surveyor, but the rotation system in Vietnam meant that Tal Centers moved from job to job, all of them meant for someone with a higher rank. Eventually, he became a forward observer, one of the most dangerous jobs in any war.
During his time in Vietnam, attached to the 1st Cavalry, artillery surveyor and forward observer Tal Centers was engaged all over the length and breadth of the country, always moving by air. His good artillery spotting earned him a Bronze Star, but here he recalls a funny incident that happened back at base camp.
It was regrettable, but villages were leveled by his artillery rounds. Tal Centers knew that civilians were killed, but he also knew that the enemy looked the same as the innocents. That was the way it was in Vietnam. After being attached to the 1st Cavalry Air Mobile Division for a year, he returned to the same desk at Fort Sill he'd been using before the tour.