6:09 | He made Buck Sergeant about the time he figured out that he and his buddies were basically fighting for each other and for no other reason. They were taking a large bunker complex and when two others were under fire, he went out to get them. After the fight was over, he was disturbed to learn what his superiors intended to do about the enemy base.
Keywords : Al Copeland Vietnam Camp Mace Signal Mountain bunker search and destroy sweep and clear Viet Cong (VC) George Sheehan Robert Perkins Million Dollar Wound Dust Off B-52
He felt he owed it to the country, so Al Copeland volunteered early for the draft. He was infantry all the way, and after basic training and jungle training in the cold rain, he was ready for Vietnam.
He was apprehensive, of course, especially after somebody told him he wasn't going to last because of his height. Al Copeland entered Vietnam as a replacement and began to learn the art of the ambush. After dealing with the mosquitos, he had to deal with the booby traps.
His nickname was "Moose." He was big, and because he was the new guy, he had to carry a lot of extra gear. Al Copeland talks about the constant routine of night ambushes they would set up to catch the Viet Cong. On one of these, they took fire from a village and the result was not good for the villagers.
On Saturdays, Al Copeland's unit had to go on Air Mobile Assaults. Choppers would pick up the men and ferry them from one landing zone to another, wherever there was intelligence that the Viet Cong were present. This was tough in the Mekong Delta, where you stepped in mud up to your knees.
The squad was eating lunch and Al Copeland was off a bit, keeping watch on them while the other squad began a sweep. As soon as the second squad set out, they were in a firefight and Charlie started running. The only problem was that Charlie was running right toward him.
Captain Rody Conway had the best asset any advisor to a South Vietnamese unit could have, an experienced and knowledgeable sergeant, Harold Cook. At first it was relatively quiet and the most action was in keeping the road open.
Marine mortarman Bob Atkinson got to relax back at battalion only every now and then, and it wasn't that safe there because it was hit frequently. Nor was he immune to heartbreak there, as he found out when a swarm of children went after food scraps in the dump.
When Les Carter arrived in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, his battalion’s District was very unstable. By the time he left, nearly all enemies had been killed or driven off. That was the assessment of a North Vietnamese commander.
Al Lipphardt spent time as a platoon leader and as an intelligence liaison during his first tour of duty in Vietnam. While a platoon leader, he tried to not get too close to his men, to avoid emotional reactions in battle.
The new concept of mobile troops using helicopters was used extensively in Vietnam. Col. Walt Russell was aboard one when he felt an odd sensation. Reaching up, he felt where a sniper round had blown a hole in his head “the size of a cigarette pack.”
He wasn't involved in combat, but ARVN advisor Bill Ray saw many casualties evacuated by helicopter to the field next to his hotel in Saigon. He needed the perspective because he was on one of the best tours ever in a war zone, with handball at the air base, tennis at the club and even water skiing. He praise the Vietnamese professionals he worked with but was puzzled by the wide gap between the elite and the general population.
Tom Reilly’s Vietnam service took a new direction when he took an assignment as a war correspondent. He carried a camera along with his rifle, and documented the action for Stars and Stripes and the Army Times.
Despite the overwhelming attitude of other college students, Beirne Lovely wanted to go fight in Vietnam. The Dartmouth student switched from Army ROTC to the Marines, but a missing credit in his transcript nearly derailed his career before it began.
Al Matheson had been a pilot on interesting intelligence missions and challenging Forward Air Control missions, but when he had to pick his next assignment, he chose the big birds of the Airlift Wing. He remembers one fateful mission flying orphans out of Vietnam.
“I was out of it for days,” recalls Dennis Haines, He had a head wound and would only regain full consciousness after he was evacuated to a hospital in Japan, where he learned the left side of his body was paralyzed.
New Marine rifle company commander Marshall Carter was anxious to try and improve on the French experience in Vietnam. He thought they never employed proper counter insurgency tactics in their war, and he had just been drilled in them as one of the few Marines to attend Green Beret school.
Tom Reilly was nearly killed in Vietnam seven times. Once, an RPG landed in a pond next to him and sizzled like a giant Alka Seltzer in the water. His friend, Dennis Haines, was not so lucky when three snipers opened up.
After a massive relief operation at Khe Sanh, Bob Ballagh was put in command of an artillery battery and right away began dealing with fallout from poor leadership. Two batteries were airlifted to the same spot and the battalion commander failed to deal with it.
Forward Air Controller Al Muller had some tense moments when he was confronted by a MIG during a flight. There was also some tension when he encountered a Special Forces soldier who offered him a drink from a skull, but not for long.
Sam Pyle recalls a humorous event involving a jeep, a machine gun and a C-47 aircraft. Less humorous to him were the rules of engagement, which meant his Air Security unit had to get permission to fire on VC approaching the base.