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.
Dellinger participates in the Medical Civilian Aid Program, which has him providing medical aid to local villagers. He documents civilian interaction in photos, where we see children clamoring for candy and polaroids.
His feeling was that we needed to be involved in Vietnam to stop the spread of Communism. Citadel cadet Joe Bruckner knew he would be going to the war. He recalls his training experience, especially the sobering night ambush exercise.
Before they deployed to Vietnam, the transportation unit got brand new 5 ton trucks, which were loaded on a ship while the men flew over on a cargo plane. Bill Patterson will always remember the heat and the smell that greeted them on the tarmac at Bien Hoa.
Joe Bruckner describes his daily life as an advisor to a Vietnamese unit, his relationships with his counterparts, and the environs he worked in. There were Montagnard villages in his area and he had a high regard for those people, who were mistreated by both the French and the Vietnamese.
Army brat Ed Zielinski had always been fascinated with flight. As a child he just knew he would lift off on a windy day with a long coat for wings. So when the draft loomed he decided he would try to fly over the rice paddies rather than slog through them.
As he flew into Vietnam and looked over the expanse of green forest, Joe Bruckner saw a puff of smoke rising from the vegetation. Another thing that gave him pause was the look on the faces of departing soldiers when he landed. He was assigned to an advisory team as the assistant intelligence officer, where he spent a lot of time in the air looking for enemy activity.
When getting the orders to join his Combined Action Platoon, Doc Groulx thought through the idea of helping his wounded soldiers make it home alive and decided it was worth it. Making relationships with the Vietnamese people was essential to their success as a group.
As the war went on, Ron Rutowski felt the culture and morale of Vietnam change for the Vietnamese and for the Americans. In an effort to create an outlet of peace for Viet Cong defectors, they began a pamphlet program to let them know how to effectively surrender should they want to.
The area around Da Lat was beautiful, reminding Joe Bruckner of home in North Georgia. He saw it mostly from the air in small aircraft on intelligence missions. On "sniffer missions," they would try to draw fire in a Huey and then he would fire a grenade launcher as the gunships dropped from above to attack. This nearly got him in trouble as a rookie.
The radio operator said that a Bravo Report had come in. What's a Bravo report? Company commander Paul Van Riper was wondering but the main thing was that an NVA regiment was on the move. Before it was over, the Marines had a good haul of enemy arms and intelligence.
As a member of a small advisory team in Vietnam, Joe Bruckner had a lot more freedom than an officer in the field. He visited his wife in Thailand, and then, in a most unusual arrangement, she came to join him where he was stationed.
Joe Bruckner was fortunate. When he returned from Vietnam, it was to Georgia, which had a high level of support for the military, and to a loving family. He knew there were many who were not so fortunate. His war experience had made him more patriotic and less likely to complain.
There were booby traps galore in the Mekong Delta where platoon leader Albert Watson served most of his tour. His unit managed to avoid any injuries from them until they were sent north into the jungle, where they were tougher to spot. The men had to be cross trained because of the constant rotation of troops. You had to be able to step into another role to cover for someone who was no longer there.
After his first Vietnam tour, helicopter pilot Mo Erkins served as an instructor at Fort Rucker. He went back for a second tour, this time moving from Hueys to Chinooks. Assigned as the Executive Officer, he established communication with the parents of avery man under his command and used his university training in counseling to keep professional relationships good.
Daily life at camp and during warfare always came with complications for Hauner and his division. Though his division wasn't explicitly an infantry division, they did a lot of the same tasks that infantry did, making them learn quickly.
Lt. Tom Blake had a Kit Carson scout in his platoon and the former Viet Cong was good at getting information from the locals, but, after the My Lai incident, cooperation was hard to come by. The tragedy occurred in the same area and Blake felt the fallout in his civilian encounters.
He surprised his wife after returning from his second Vietnam tour, but then his dog surprised him. Mike Waugh had planned to make the Army a career, but it didn't work out, so he was worried about what he would do. He mailed out resumes and got one reply.
What was Operation Lam Son 719 like? To helicopter pilot Dick Dyer, it was a "gaggle." There were so many aircraft flying at once, it seemed to him like hundreds. A recurring problem on these big troop movements was overloading caused by eager soldiers. On occasion, the pilots were tasked with transporting reporters.
Pat Richardson had served three years and was at at college when he went back for more. His first service was as a nuclear weapons technician, which instilled a good sense of procedure and precision. This helped him tremendously in his later duty as an aviator.
It was the defining moment of his life. Mike Waugh was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and he has some insightful observations on the way the war was fought, the reasons it was fought that way, and the legacy it holds today.