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.
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.
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
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.
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.