1:58 | Frank Cox describes the booby traps fashioned by the Viet Cong, which some say killed and wounded more Marines than anything else in Vietnam.
As three Marine companies advanced on a decidedly non-friendly village, the forward observer called for artillery support. Frank Cox was the artillery liaison officer and, finding the commander asleep, he gave the fire order himself, a move which had repercussions. A CBS news crew was embedded in the operation and they captured a famous image which had major repercussions back home.
After operations south of Da Nang, the Marine battalion rotated to the air base there to provide security. On a security patrol, the platoon leader led his unit through exactly the wrong place. That officer had been in basic school with Frank Cox, who had noticed the man dozing off during a class on patrolling, and who listened in on the radio as his platoon was decimated.
The restrictions on artillery fire in Vietnam were so strict that by the time permission to fire was obtained, the combat conditions had changed. Artillery liaison officer Frank Cox tells how he beat the system once he became a forward observer by using prepared coordinates and then firing his pistol in the air as he requested the fire mission over the radio.
New Marine officer Frank Cox and his friend Jack Swallows admired the beauty of the mountains and landscape of Vietnam as they approached it on the troop ship. They didn't know where they were going, but soon they knew what knowledge they were lacking, and that was how to avoid booby traps, how to avoid friendly crossfires and how to relate to people who weren't really on your side.
New Marine officer Frank Cox was assigned to an artillery battery and was soon in Okinawa training for Vietnam. He and his buddies were dismissive of the enemy there when they saw television coverage. The cocky new Marines weren't very kind to the Naval officers, either, on the voyage to the war.
In the officer's basic school at Quantico, every Marine officer is trained to command a rifle platoon, so that, no matter the officer's specialty, there is an ability to fight and win in combat. Frank Cox tells the story of his friend, Barney Barnum, who upon arriving in Vietnam, was immediately thrust into leadership and received the Medal of Honor for his response.
Frank Cox is a Marine who was inspired by that great American recruiter, John Wayne. There was no ROTC at his small college, so he signed up for a platoon leaders class. If you made it through two intense summer sessions, you had the chance to be a Marine officer after graduation.
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.
They were chasing a famous North Vietnamese Army division which had bested the French and were now formally entering the new war to support their Viet Cong allies. Artillery forward observer Frank Cox describes the tense moments of what proved to be a futile pursuit.
Operation Kings started out badly when two young Marines suffered heat stroke and had to be evacuated. Then the three platoons were caught in an ambush by a larger enemy force. In the chaos, Lt. Frank Cox went to aid of his favorite corporal, whose life was saved by an unusual haversack load. Part 1 of 2.
As the enemy swarmed towards them, the Marines formed a 360 degree defensive position and then they faced a night long assault. It was Frank Cox spotting the artillery support that won the upper hand against, as he calls the Viet Cong, "as difficult an enemy as the Marines have ever faced." Part 2 of 2.
Unlike some outfits, Foxtrot Company based it's number of kills on actual body counts, but a touring colonel made them take down their sign, saying no outfit had killed that many. As Frank Cox tells it, one sergeant took exception to that and did something totally inappropriate.
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.
Frank Cox had a friend from Marine officer's basic school named James Egan. Egan, a talented and popular officer from Notre Dame, disappeared when his reconnaissance patrol was attacked and has never been found to this day. Fortunately, the talent was deep in that unit.
When forward observer Frank Cox was out on a mission, the artillery fire base was attacked by Viet Cong sappers, who managed to knock out one of the howitzers, along with an unpopular sergeant.
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.
The large mortars attached to his artillery battalion were always down and needing spare parts, recalls Frank Cox. Other equipment problems plagued the Marines in Vietnam including inadequate boots and balky radios.
When Frank Cox first got to Vietnam, his unit suffered from many rookie mistakes that put them at risk without even facing the enemy. A Naval gunfire officer attached to the unit chronicled these mishaps in a little black book.
The packages from home were priceless. The simple items made the war more bearable, says Frank Cox, and were as exciting to him as when he was a boy getting his mail order toys.
Frank Cox recalls the frustration and anger felt by many in Vietnam due to the ineptness of the war effort and the difficulty in the field. Channeling this anger fueled a successful career for him later, but there was an incident on patrol when he let the anger get the best of him.
To complete the process of registering his artillery pieces on the target areas, Frank Cox went to the highest ground around. There he found an exotic anti-aircraft battery with a delusional commander who had an exaggerated sense of his mission and of the worth of his weapon system, the HAWK.
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.
He felt he had done his job well in Vietnam, but Marine Frank Cox wounded himself when his sidearm accidentally discharged. This bothered him for years, but the passage of time gave him the perspective to come to grips with it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At the beginning of his tour, the Navy was the big power in I Corps, the northernmost part of South Vietnam. When the Navy withdrew, evacuation hospital administrator Pete Tancredi had some problems with the Army supply chain. His wife, Susan, was a post-op nurse in the same facility.
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.
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.
After heading to Phu Bai, Bennie Koon and his company went to Camp Evans to be stationed. Facing mortar fire, he remembers feeling terrified and not knowing when it would pass. Bennie explains the defenses they had set up to defend them from the Viet Cong.
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.
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.
When one of the Marine units supporting them left, Bennie Koon and his platoon had to think quickly to fill in the gaps to stay secure. In their down-time, they played games and drank beer, which became pretty habitual for him.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.