2:52 | Ron Mastin took an ROTC commission out of college and went to flight school where he really took to it. His first assignment was in the back seat of an F-4 Phantom fitted for reconnaissance. He served a tour at an RAF base in England, then he was sent to Thailand to fly reconnaissance missions over Southeast Asia.
Keywords : Ron Mastin Vietnam Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Reese Air Force Base Lubbock TX RF-4C McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom RAF Alconbury England Udorn Thailand Saigon infrared Beloit KS Reconnaissance (RECON)
Flying in a reconnaissance jet over North Vietnam, Ron Mastin was never aware of ground fire until the day he was shot down. Just a small thump thump and the plane was going down. He and Tom Storey ejected and he had a few serene minutes in the air before the ground came up. He had made it but he had no idea where Tom was.
Ron Mastin had been shot down and was somewhere North of Hanoi. He hid through the night but woke up surrounded by men with rifles. A long jeep ride was interrupted several times so villagers could jeer at him and functionaries could lecture. During his interrogation, they would tie his arms and pull them up behind his back, but what could a 1st Lieutenant tell them?
Ron Mastin's first stop at the Hanoi Hilton was an area known as Heartbreak Hotel. One day he heard an American voice, the first he'd heard. "Do you know the tap code?" Once he had this, when he was near others, they could communicate. He still did not see another American until he got his first roommate.
At the Hanoi Hilton, Ron Mastin's first roommate was Robbie Risner, commander of an F-105 unit and an early shootdown in the war. Risner was one of the most mistreated prisoners due to his intransigence and his leadership. When he refused to follow a script for a meeting with Japanese officials, he lost his roommate and Mastin was moved to another cell.
Ron Mastin had been a POW for a year and his captors were constantly moving him around. His family didn't even know he was alive until the release of Doug Hegdahl, who had memorized hundreds of names of prisoners. He never gave up hope, never once thought he might not go home. He even found his crew mate, Tom Storey, with whom he'd been shot down in 1968.
The POW's were moved around the countryside and, eventually, back to the Hanoi Hilton. They knew something was up when they were allowed to mingle and were allowed to try on new clothes. Then the camp commandant read aloud the Paris Peace Accord document, but the reaction was subdued. Finally, one group was suited up and marched out of the prison.
The Vietnam War was a defining event for those involved. Jim Bullington's life was shaped by his experience with the State Department there and it gives him a true perspective mostly lacking today. It also gave him a lifelong partner and they share their unique story and sage advice.
In Da Nang about to fly out to head back, Brian West and his company gets hit by a rocket attack which shakes them up. Once they get in the air on the way home, he remembers the feeling of relief that rushed over him as they knew they were safe. Following his tour in Vietnam, Brian began instructing a new group of pilots in Pensacola where he had an interesting experience on New Year’s Eve.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Jim Bullington's first Foreign Service post was Vietnam. He arrived along with the troops in 1965 and was assigned to the consulate in the old city of Hue. There he met many of the reporters who also followed the soldiers to Southeast Asia and, more importantly, he met Tuy-Cam, a translator at the consulate.
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.