8:33 | As Marine Captain Ron Christmas fought to regain the city of Hue, he found the enemy adept at concealment and surprise. Every soldier in a spider hole was armed with a rifle and a RPG launcher. He also encountered a nun with an AK-47. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
Keywords : Ron Christmas Hue Tet Offensive Navy Cross spider hole AK-47 B-40 rocket launcher RPG Willie Peter round mortar flag hospital human intelligence VC Viet Cong nun tank armor
Naval ROTC graduate Ron Christmas took a Marine commission and headed to Camp LeJeune where he learned basic facts of leadership. One is that you share all hardships with your men. Another, unique to the Marines, is that everyone is trained as a rifleman.
Platoon leader Ron Christmas was a stickler for training, even on his first deployment, and all his men who were up for promotion passed their test. From the Mediterranean, he went to the Caribbean, where a beautiful sunset changed his life.
When Ron Christmas was assigned to the Marine Barracks in Washington, he was surrounded by tradition at the Marines' oldest post. It was there that he met Blackie, a most unusual member of the garrison.
When Ron Christmas was assigned to Vietnam, he was so excited to be going that he studied the Vietnamese language at his own expense. When he arrived in country, he reluctantly took the command of a service company.
New Company commander Ron Christmas found lax discipline when he arrived at An Hoa base. This was something he could fix because he loved training, that and his 106mm recoilless rifle.
When Gen. Westmoreland decided to move around and reinforce certain units in Operation Checkers, Captain Ron Christmas found himself just outside of the city of Hue in a camp where hostiles owned the high ground.
Believing there would be an uprising among the populace, Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Giap planned a general offensive for the Tet New Year in 1968. There was no uprising, but Ron Christmas would see some of the nastiest fighting of the war as a result.
What Marine Captain Ron Christmas knew, as he assembled a relief convoy, was that action was reported in Hue. What he and others didn’t know was that the North Vietnamese Army had infiltrated the entire city.
Marines were trained for jungle warfare in Vietnam, but Captain Ron Christmas found himself in a house-to-house urban battle in Hue. He prevailed using lance corporal ingenuity and PFC power, along a handy 106mm recoilless rifle.
As Ron Christmas fought to capture the Capitol building in the battle for Hue, the sight of an enemy flag angered him. Even though it was forbidden, as soon as he secured the site, he raised an American flag to boost the morale of his men.
Always looking for a bit of humor for relief, Captain Ron Christmas and his men had some fun in a posh toy room in a captured mansion. What they found in another well appointed house was an eye-opening stash of brandy. Both were great morale boosters.
Ordered to take ground across a bridge in Hue, Captain Ron Christmas used a barrage of smoke rounds to cover a dash across the span. After holding long enough to move across vital units, he found that his men were disappointed they had to withdraw.
It was Friday the Thirteenth when a North Vietnamese soldier fired an RPG at Ron Christmas. Dodging a direct hit, his legs were wounded badly enough to cause his evacuation. Unfortunately, he became lost in the medical system.
Ron Christmas tells the story of a Marine who kept getting wounded, and kept returning to battle because he couldn't desert the men that he considered to be his brothers. That, he says, is the true meaning of Semper Fidelis.
Under the rules of the Marine Corps at the time, Ron Christmas should have been discharged after he was wounded in Vietnam. As he recovered his strength, he was able to avoid a medical exam until he got in line with some inductees.
Marine Ron Christmas reflects on the basic principles of urban warfare, which he learned on the fly in the battle for Hue. He felt blessed in his later career as he received many rewarding assignments.
McMahon becomes part of the Combined Action Program (CAP), working with Vietnamese militia to protect villages from Viet Cong thugs. On one occasion, the village is spared from enemy attack by an army artillery unit acting without orders. He and the villagers develop a bond that would last for decades.
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.
It was dangerous enough to patrol South Vietnam, between the ambushes and the risk of malaria, but that was compounded with the chance of being hit by one of your own. Ed Callison recalls one instance of friendly fire that could have ended his life.
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
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.
The RPG that severed Joe McDonald’s foot didn’t kill him. The machine gun fire that hit him as he still tried to help others didn’t kill him. The grenade taped to his hand might have killed him if the VC had found his hiding place.
In a letter home, Tommy Clack expressed his worry that something bad was going to happen and it did when his unit engaged the NVA near the Cambodian border. He saw the enemy soldier stand and fire the RPG that changed his life forever.
As Marine Captain Ron Christmas fought to regain the city of Hue, he found the enemy adept at concealment and surprise. Every soldier in a spider hole was armed with a rifle and a RPG launcher. He also encountered a nun with an AK-47. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
Peterson learns about the Combined Action Program from an article in Life Magazine, and joins the CAPs after his first tour. His platoon comes to accept the complicated nature of their relationship with the locals, which ultimately leads to betrayal - and the death of a comrade.
Combat in the rice paddies was a miserable and dangerous affair. It was wet and nasty with little cover. The mountain range near Vung Tau was no picnic, either, but as Dale Ney's unit conducted a sweep along it toward the sea, a remarkable sight called for a little unscheduled R&R.
Haunted by the fall of Saigon - and the death of a friend for which he wrongfully shouldered the blame - Peterson unpacks his service pistol and contemplates suicide. He manages to turn his life around; he meets his wife and returns to Vietnam for a chance to heal the scars of war.
Dale Ney was on patrol in Vietnam when, all of a sudden, the entire horizon lit up. Smoke billowed high in the sky and the trees were shaking. It was a B-52 strike. There was another awesome aircraft employed in Vietnam that did not create such mayhem and which was secretly flown at night.
Three or four Viet Cong could tie down an entire company with a well planned ambush and then just disappear. Snipers were a big problem, too, but Dale Ney quieted down a really annoying one with a disposable weapon meant for heavy armor.
Ed Callison remembers growing up with a military background in his family, which he would eventually be a part of when he was drafted for the Vietnam war. His opinion of the war has changed over time as he's gotten more time to look at it.
Though he started as a true believer, Mike Peterson gradually became disenchanted with the Marines, and the Vietnam War. His reflections and research on Vietnam - and how the war was waged - lead him to the sober realization that we have become reckless with American lives.
Ed Callison remembers the role of his unit and all of the duties they enacted while stationed in Vietnam. Working with civilians and enemy prisoners alike to gain intel was often successful in gaining information that allowed a more successful war effort.
Dale Ney never took a bullet in Vietnam but he did have an unfortunate encounter with a punji stick. Another constant fear was enemy Claymore mines. And as if all that wasn't bad enough, every bit of wildlife in the country seemed to be against you.
Ed Callison remembers his last few weeks in Vietnam and then returning home to the hostile climate for people who served in the Vietnam War. He is thankful for some of the good treatment he did receive, and grateful for the increased support today.
Moving into civilian life wasn't always smooth sailing as he returned to college after his tour in Vietnam. He hopes future generations will remember the Vietnam veterans as the hard-fighting, dedicated men they were.