4:53 | With great difficulty, Sardo Sanchez recounts critical events that prove both devastating and fortunate. After taking the life of a VC soldier, he is hit by a sniper and told he may never walk again. In a state of shock, he narrowly avoids a fatal miscalculation.
Keywords : Frank Hall Combined Action Program (CAP) friendly fire sniper paralyzed hospital Firefight medivac Killed In Action (KIA) Wounded In Action (WIA) Camp Zama Medevac(Medical Evacuation)
Sardo Sanchez always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a WWII marine veteran... but his combat experiences have profound and lasting effects on his relationship with his parents, his siblings and his wife.
Sanchez trains as a reservist until the age of 18, when he is shipped off to Vietnam. His first tour as an orderly aboard the USS Ticonderoga does not offer the combat experience he was trained for.
On his second tour, Sanchez is assigned to a CAP unit, where he develops a close bond with fellow soldiers, along with some of the villagers he protects. Under the leadership of a distant but dedicated sergeant, his platoon learns to survive day by day.
On his Third Tour, Sanchez is posted to a sweet position at 2nd CAG HQ, but longs to be back on patrol. He finds his place in a roving CAP unit, and is soon back in the bush with his brothers.
Sanchez shares a story that takes him from his final days in Vietnam, through his career as a criminal investigator and into retirement, where he makes time to reunite with fellow CAP vets.
Dennis Haines had seen dead soldiers on stretchers but it was totally different with his friend Jack Kirchner. Dennis had been right there with him in the line of fire. He learned it was best not to be too close to your wartime comrades.
Dasher Wheatley was one of many Australian soldiers that fought with Lowe in Vietnam. Each had his own nickname, and each was strange in his own way. Dash sat with his fellow Aussies every day in the cafeteria while Lowe sat with the Air Force Bird Dogs. One day, Dash invited Lowe to sit with him and his “mates”, and what happened as a result left Dash and the other Aussies laughing.
Marshall Carter's unit was moving across a big cemetery. Suddenly, the ground gave way and he knew immediately he was falling into a punji pit. Not only were there punji stakes, there was a grenade with a trip wire. The Viet Cong were masters at adapting to American tactics. After steel shanks were added to American boots, the punji traps were made with a sideways closing motion.
One example of LTC Gene O'Grady's leadership was his response to an incident of errant artillery fire. Bill Crossley remembers that O'Grady made him use a briefcase to look more professional as he arrived to assess the situation. Then he agreed to use the trashcan as a file for some awful paperwork.
Bill Person gives a behind-the-scenes look at the sensor program in Vietnam. Using technology adapted from the Navy's anti submarine program, audio and seismic sensors were placed along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and inside North Vietnam. In one case, a recording of two amorous VC led to the destruction of an ammo dump. Curiously, Person was told not to share any more targets with the FACS.
Pilot Charles White, Jr. finally got his chance in a fighter when he transferred to an A-1 Skyraider unit. After a thrilling, nearly disastrous checkout flight, he began flying missions in the massive beast of a fighter plane, and was on hand when a film crew documented the 1st Special Operations Squadron.
It was New Year's Eve, ours not theirs. Before the night was over, Frank Cox had tackled a belligerent Marine who was hacked off at the infantry camped nearby, and placed his own battalion commander under a watch after confiscating his sidearm.
He'd been in Korea and Cold War Germany, but Bob Bruffey had one more conflict to attend. After confronting a python at yet another survival school, he flew technical missions to flight check the gear at airfields in Vietnam and Thailand. Still in the Air Force when he returned stateside, he had a moment of enlightenment while serving coffee to a General.
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.
Bruce D'Agostino took a temporary duty assignment in Saigon repairing teletype machines. The Air Force technician and his crew worked long days so they could have some free time. He used his to become a photographer, inserting himself into both government functions and battlefields. At the latter he learned firsthand the vagaries of the rules of engagement.
Marshall Carter's battalion commander, Van D. Bell, taught him two valuable lessons which helped make him a successful rifle company commander: aggressiveness and use of supporting arms. Those lessons helped him a lot but nothing could help higher level decision makers who did not realize that Ho Chi Minh was Vietnam's George Washington.
The job of forward observer is a vital one in combat and Frank Cox describes how he did his job in Vietnam. The forward observer feeds data to the artillery battery for targeting the enemy. On one memorable mission, he called in over 1700 rounds, a record at the time.
During Advanced Infantry Training, Dennis Haines remembers a problem with the bolt on the M-16 rifle. It would swell and stick. Fortunately, the problem was fixed before the rifles were deployed in the field.
There were four levels of enemy in Vietnam, according to Marine Captain Marshall Carter, ranging from the North Vietnamese Army at the top to the VCI, or Viet Cong Infrastructure, at the informal level. Gen. Westmoreland dismissed the worth of the VCI and famously omitted their numbers from official counts. Still, they caused a third of the American casualties.
It was better to put men in the field and leave them there. That was the philosophy of Battalion commander Ralph Puckett in Vietnam, where some commanders inserted and then quickly withdrew their troops. When the operation was over, the reward was beer and steak and ice cream. Being prepared was very important to him and he illustrates that principle with a story about some soldiers who were not.
Tom Reilly felt the call to serve and dropped his deferments to let the draft take him. After basic, he was offered a slot at Officer Candidate School, but, to him, that was “the sorriest thing I ever saw in the service,” and he declined.
The worst day in Vietnam for Bill Ray, who was with an engineer unit building roads, was the day three civilians were accidently killed in separate incidents. Other problems during that tour included potheads and a reluctant Sergeant Major. At least the VC left him alone.
The Viet Cong were tough and smart, recollects Tom Reilly. He describes the twin tactics of hit and run, in which they presented no target, and the rigging of booby traps, which made targets of the GI’s, long after the guerillas were gone. He clearly remembers the incident at the Sea of Reeds when Edward Powers was killed.
It was a novel method of lighting his position for the helicopter pilots that involved heat tabs and ration cans. Beirne Lovely explains this and then discusses the relative accuracy of two popular Vietnam War movies and his luck in avoiding the psychological effects of the war suffered by so many.
David Andrews stayed at Camp Eagle most of his time in Vietnam, but about 5 months in, he did get an unexpected opportunity for some R & R in Hong Kong. He explains the odd situation he was in when he departed and upon his return.
The patrols were brutal during Operation Double Eagle, recalls Frank Cox. Thick jungle meant no visibility and a lot of hacking at foliage just to move. They also ran out of water, which caused a risky decision involving a rice paddy.