4:26 | 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.
Keywords : Joe Bruckner Vietnam advisor veteran politician Viet Cong (VC) protest anti-war Vietnam Veterans Memorial The Wall
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.
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.
Daily life included a shower from a hanging 55 gallon drum and maybe some C-rations. Larry Jennings was stationed at Pleiku where he engaged in search and destroy missions in addition to his job as supply sergeant. He reveals why the enemy had a better rifle and which was more dangerous, the line or the rear.
They were hunkered down after fierce fighting when the call came from "Ghost 4-6." It was a group of wounded men who had pulled themselves together after the ill fated march to LZ Albany and were lost in the dark. George Forrest sent a patrol to find them, and in an incredible act of bravery, medic Daniel Torres stayed through the night with them and saved many men. Captain Forrest still had to write a gut-wrenching letter to the mother of a missing soldier. Part 3 of 4.
After the column was devastated by an NVA ambush, wounded Americans were scattered in the darkness. After his captain heard one such group calling for help on the radio, Freddie Owens joined a patrol to find them, guided by a gunshot every few minutes. Once there, medic Daniel Torres volunteered to stay with those who couldn't move and protected them through the night with medicine and a machine gun.
Vietnam veteran Larry Jennings describes the use of Agent Orange to deprive the enemy of its hiding places. It really worked well, but in 2001, he joined the long list of personnel who had lingering effects. He also had a small shrapnel wound, for which he received no Purple Heart.
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.
Larry Jennings was a little older than most of the guys he served with in Vietnam and he tried to steer them away from the bad choices that they could easily make. Many of them looked up to him and took his advice, including one who didn't make it.
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.
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.
Drafted in 1968, Larry Jennings spent almost a year at Fort Hood before drawing overseas duty. He asked if he was going to Germany. No such luck, it was Southeast Asia. The air base was under rocket fire when he landed and he had to crawl to a bunker, weaponless. Soon, he was up to speed and assigned to the 82nd Airborne as a supply sergeant.
Upon his arrival in Vietnam, Roger Hamann is assigned to serve as a "Rustic", communicating with French-speaking Cambodian troops from the back seat of an OV-10. Though he flies dozens of combat missions out of his Thailand air base, one in particular still haunts him.
The patrols at the forward fire base were the scariest thing Larry Jennings did while in Vietnam. He was the supply sergeant but he also supported the line companies on their missions. Trip wires, rockets from bamboo tubes and mined bridges were a few of the dangers he faced. Then there was the sacred water buffalo.
Larry Jennings saw some of the younger soldiers in Vietnam going astray with the local women, which he attributed to the very young age of the men. Out in the field, friendly fire was sometimes a problem, affecting our Australian and Korean allies as well.
A veteran of World War II and Korea, Frank Noonan served long enough to make it to Saigon on the first American warship to venture up the Mekong River. There, he observed a German civilian use an unusual defensive technique when attacked at a sidewalk cafe. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
He was used to discipline, so Marine boot camp wasn't so bad for Michael Marshall. When the drill instructor asked if anyone was unhappy and wanted to go to the Army, he thought surely no one would step forward.
The NVA was a trained army, but the Viet Cong were ordinary people, and that included women, children and old people. Larry Jennings was constantly on edge as he rode by the rice paddies, wondering which one of the workers out there would suddenly fire on him. He spent some time off in Saigon, which had it's own problems.
Larry Jennings returned from Vietnam knowing full well what the reputation of returning veterans was. He points out that women and children die in every war and in this particular war, many of them were in the ranks of the enemy. He does have fond memories of one child, a little girl at an orphanage near his base in Pleiku.
Larry Jennings was in transit to a new outfit when the Viet Cong launched a furious attack on the holding company's base. Once that was over and he got to Pleiku, he was struck by the different environment that resembled his home. He was supply sergeant for an engineer company with a lot of heavy equipment, a tempting target for Charlie.
The Marines did what they could to help villagers with sanitation and health needs, but Michael Marshall could feel the chilly distance between them. His company commander was Captain Jerome Cooper, who held an important distinction.
Larry Jennings' engineer unit was ordered out of Pleiku and back to the Saigon area. After a long trip that included passage on LST's, they settled in and waited. He had a short time left and he was trying to keep his head down when his buddy organized a trip to Saigon.