4:09 | His feeling was that we needed to be involved in Vietnam to stop the spread of Communism. Citadel cadet Joe Bruckner knew he would be going to the war. He recalls his training experience, especially the sobering night ambush exercise.
Keywords : Joe Bruckner Atlanta GA The Citadel University of Georgia (UGA) law school Vietnam Communism Charleston SC Fort Bragg Fort Knox military intelligence Fort Holabird Baltimore MD
As he flew into Vietnam and looked over the expanse of green forest, Joe Bruckner saw a puff of smoke rising from the vegetation. Another thing that gave him pause was the look on the faces of departing soldiers when he landed. He was assigned to an advisory team as the assistant intelligence officer, where he spent a lot of time in the air looking for enemy activity.
Joe Bruckner describes his daily life as an advisor to a Vietnamese unit, his relationships with his counterparts, and the environs he worked in. There were Montagnard villages in his area and he had a high regard for those people, who were mistreated by both the French and the Vietnamese.
Joe Bruckner was the assistant intelligence officer, but he got the lead's job and his jeep after a self inflicted wound got the man evacuated. There was constant turnover as people rotated in and out, including one young soldier whose behavior raised suspicion.
The area around Da Lat was beautiful, reminding Joe Bruckner of home in North Georgia. He saw it mostly from the air in small aircraft on intelligence missions. On "sniffer missions," they would try to draw fire in a Huey and then he would fire a grenade launcher as the gunships dropped from above to attack. This nearly got him in trouble as a rookie.
As a member of a small advisory team in Vietnam, Joe Bruckner had a lot more freedom than an officer in the field. He visited his wife in Thailand, and then, in a most unusual arrangement, she came to join him where he was stationed.
There were a lot of negative things written about the Phoenix Program after the war, but to military advisor Joe Bruckner, who worked with operatives from the program, it was effective in rooting out Communist infiltrators.
Joe Bruckner was fortunate. When he returned from Vietnam, it was to Georgia, which had a high level of support for the military, and to a loving family. He knew there were many who were not so fortunate. His war experience had made him more patriotic and less likely to complain.
Military advisor Joe Bruckner kept in touch with his Vietnamese interpreter for a while, but after the war, it became dangerous for him to receive mail from America. Joe and his wife visited the country years later, just as it was opening up to tourism.
Vietnam veteran Joe Bruckner is grateful that attitudes toward the service have changed and that most people are no longer blaming the warrior for the war. He is adamant that the war was not lost, that our departure was solely a political decision.
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.
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.
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.
Bravo Company has been all but wiped out, and Ernest Banasau worries that he and his buddies will be sent in to replace them. Instead, he joins A Company, where he experiences his first enemy contact - in the form of a rice paddy machine gun ambush.
Tom Blake's first assignment was at Fort Hood, where he kept an old Volkswagen in which he shuttled returning veterans around to help them solve medical and administrative problems. He got an earful from them about Vietnam, which he was about to experience for himself. Once he got there, he kept falling into the most difficult assignments and he learned that surprises waited for him everywhere.
Newly commissioned out of ROTC, Albert Watson got to know Fort Benning really well. After his basic course, he went through Ranger school and Airborne school. At his first assignment, a very capable sergeant taught him how to be a platoon leader.
One day at his Army Reserve weekend drill, an NCO walked up and handed Bill Patterson a truck driver's license. Then he pointed to the truck he would be driving. The entire unit was being switched to a transportation role and they prepared to deploy to Vietnam.
After recovering from a wound suffered on his first tour of Vietnam, Paul Van Riper tried to return to the same assignment. The Marine Corps had other ideas, however, and after a stint as an instructor at Quantico, he got his own company to command.
There was some serious weaponry in Vietnam, recalls Bill Patterson. The truck driver felt his 5 ton truck bounce into the air when a huge cannon was fired. On another occasion, as he was delivering ammunition to a base, the ground began to shake so violently he thought it was an earthquake. The men unloading the trucks went calmly about their business as if nothing was going on.
The Vietnamese had a unit called the National Police Field Force and when a platoon of these men was sent to his battalion, Paul Van Riper insisted they be assigned to his company. He integrated them with his Marines and they functioned well together. He recalls a bunker clearing operation that had a surprise ending.
After Khe Sanh, Bob Averill and his division shipped down to Cam Lo, where they faced ample NVA fire. Here, he had to take the lead on throwing a grenade into the enemy bunker, leading to a close call as he quickly retreated away from the blast.
As he returned from Vietnam and the plane was descending, the landing was aborted and the plane diverted to a different base. Bill Patterson and the rest of the men were thinking that they had survived a year of war and were now going to die back home in Georgia.
Growing up in Ohio, Bill Brezina was drafted and got a switch from infantry to be able to work as a unit clerk. After that, he got assigned to Brooks Army Medical Center to work as a patient data coder where he thought he would stay, until he got the call to Vietnam.