5:15 | 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.
Keywords : Albert Watson Spokane WA Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Fort Benning Ranger Airborne Fort Carson
The airliner was full of young soldiers and Marines, who left the cold of Spokane for the heat and humidity of Vietnam. Albert Watson was assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, a unit specifically designed for the war in Vietnam. Most of his time was spent in the flat delta, where you could see for miles. When they were sent north on an operation, the visibility in the jungle was more like five feet.
There were booby traps galore in the Mekong Delta where platoon leader Albert Watson served most of his tour. His unit managed to avoid any injuries from them until they were sent north into the jungle, where they were tougher to spot. The men had to be cross trained because of the constant rotation of troops. You had to be able to step into another role to cover for someone who was no longer there.
Albert Watson discuses the differences in tactics between operating in the delta and operating in the jungle. Encounters with wildlife were constant, from giant centipedes to elephants. Eventually, Watson was made Executive Officer where he had the headache of issuing constantly changing scrip.
There was a new Brigadier General and Albert Watson was assigned to him as an aide. General William R. Bond was quite a character with a distinguished career, including escaping from German captivity and rolling into Berlin with the Russians. He liked to be in the field with his men and that proved to be his undoing.
Coming home from Vietnam was not pleasant for Albert Watson. His mother was there at the airport to meet him as he was cursed and spit on by protesters. His parents got harassing phone calls at their home. He felt he had done what was right and he made the Army a career, which helped him get over the divided situation in the country.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Growing up in the Midwest in a military family, Rick Bates joined the Air Force with the desire of flying fighter jets. He had to learn quickly to prepare himself for the intensity of navigating these huge machines.
After re-enlisting in the service, Charlie Pocock passed his flight physical and was on active duty in Utah where he lived. When his plane was shot down over Vietnam, he had to think on his feet to run through the jungle and transmit his whereabouts via radio.
After spending so much time in Hanoi, Rick Bates remembers being released and feeling relieved after they flew to a base in the Philippines. Returning home and getting some leave, he decided to stay in the Air Force and finished out his career flying the F-4.
Deciding to re-enlist after Vietnam, Donna Lowery deployed to Germany where she had a nice deployment there and found readjusting to post-war life easy. She ended up spending 26 years in the military and retired a sergeant major. Donna also has some thoughts on the Vietnam Women's Memorial in Washington D.C.
While stationed in Vietnam, Peter Ruplenas had a number of enemy interactions that turned out to be extremely close calls and left him with a few injuries. Being a photographer, capturing these moments was still very important to him despite the difficulties.