5:42 | His father was career Army, sent to Saigon in 1954 as part of the initial effort to aid the South Vietnamese after the French withdrew. Mike Waugh noticed as the war heated up all through his college years and when he took an ROTC commission after graduation, he knew he would be going. He got his first choice of assignments, the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell.
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Mike Waugh came into Vietnam as a replacement, like so many others. Assigned to an artillery battery as a forward observer, he was immediately sent to assist a MIKE Strike Force, which was Special Forces and Montagnard militia. The enemy never materialized and he learned how the elite troops overcame boredom in the field.
On his thirty day foray into the field with the Special Forces, Mike Waugh thought he would be in a hot area, but it was quiet. The Montagnards on the operation supplemented the C-rations with some delicious food and, when they returned to Pleiku, he was invited to dinner with their commander.
Mike Waugh rotated through nearly every job for a Lieutenant in the artillery unit. At one point, his battery was split and he took three guns to a a nearby spot called LZ Pony. Halfway through his tour, he was moved to battalion headquarters, where he was responsible for the firing of many batteries.
He did not experience anything negative on his return from his first tour of Vietnam. In fact, when he went to see his fiance, every home on the street had an American flag out for him. Unfortunately, his next assignment was not to his liking, so he applied for flight school, which had always been a desire.
The hardest part of helicopter flight school is learning how to hover. Mike Waugh finally mastered it when his instructor uttered an expletive. After his training, he had to take a non-flying assignment as he waited for a likely return to Vietnam. It was good duty because he got to participate in the testing of new technology.
His first Vietnam tour was like a romantic adventure, a young man off doing macho stuff. When he left for his second tour, he had a wife and a child, so it was quite different. This time he was a helicopter pilot and a captain, although he deferred to lower ranking pilots who were more experienced. Now he would really learn to fly by picking up on and perfecting the things they can't teach you in flight school.
When he returned to Vietnam, helicopter pilot Mike Waugh was working solely with South Vietnamese troops. On one operation, he flew over an enemy force that was poised to ambush truck traffic and his helicopter was hit. He had to put it down, but it was in a safe area. He realized that everyone was looking at him funny and, once he got his helmet off, he found out why.
Mike Waugh's unit stood down while he was in Vietnam and the personnel were dispersed across the country, although the American presence was shrinking quickly. For his last mission, he had to fly a stripped down aircraft to a transhipment point, a mission that, oddly, he considered his most dangerous.
He surprised his wife after returning from his second Vietnam tour, but then his dog surprised him. Mike Waugh had planned to make the Army a career, but it didn't work out, so he was worried about what he would do. He mailed out resumes and got one reply.
It was the defining moment of his life. Mike Waugh was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and he has some insightful observations on the way the war was fought, the reasons it was fought that way, and the legacy it holds today.
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.
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.
Charlie McMahon leads a convoy into Hue, unaware that the Tet Offensive has begun. Upon discovering a city occupied by stubborn North Vietnamese forces, he and his team tread carefully, battling the entrenched army street-by-street, house-by-house.
Sardo Sanchez always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a WWII marine veteran... but his combat experiences have profound and lasting effects on his relationship with his parents, his siblings and his wife.
On his second tour, Sanchez is assigned to a CAP unit, where he develops a close bond with fellow soldiers, along with some of the villagers he protects. Under the leadership of a distant but dedicated sergeant, his platoon learns to survive day by day.
After returning home, Joe Ponds found a pretty hostile response for his fellow soldiers. They even had to deal with some increased problems because American politicians took actions that harmed their position. The purpose of a war needed to be a devoted commitment to something, which he feels was not in place during the Vietnam War.
Now stateside, Kramer navigates the restrictions his injury has placed on his military career. Thanks to his administrative skills, he lands a government job and works his way up through the ranks, but becomes frustrated with the apathy of the reservists he oversees. He offers sober advice to future war vets.
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.
While heading home from Vietnam, the U.S.S. Manley made its way across the Indian Ocean and up through North Africa. While at port, they had a close encounter maneuvering the ship out into the correct direction but ended up having a smooth trip back to Charleston.
There are certain memories and sensations that bring Bob Averill back to the Vietnam War and, though they were hard times, he has some memories that he won't forget. Thinking back on the war, he would like future generations to remember the sacrifices that were made by everyone involved.