4:54 | He taught school for a year after college, but Tom Blake felt a calling to serve his country. He trained in the frigid cold of New Jersey, then the sweltering heat of Georgia, and made some good friends along the way.
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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.
His men loved the care packages that Lt. Tom Blake's parents sent to him, full of Kool-Aid and cinnamon rolls. The area they were in was flat, hot and wet and the job was interdiction of the Viet Cong, who were confiscating the rice harvest. To Blake, the constant stalking and ambushes resembled a game of cops and robbers.
Tom Blake was the RECON Platoon leader and he depended heavily on his point man, Tex Quinn. You could bet a six pack on your location on the map and you'd lose. They used characters from Robin Hood for radio code names, but there was no fun and games if you were caught falling asleep on watch.
The first fire Tom Blake received in Vietnam was 50 caliber rounds from his own side. He was mixing it up with the Viet Cong soon enough. In fact, they knew his name. The first man he lost in his platoon failed to heed a very basic rule, rules that Lieutenant Blake tried to remind them of every day.
Lt. Tom Blake had a Kit Carson scout in his platoon and the former Viet Cong was good at getting information from the locals, but, after the My Lai incident, cooperation was hard to come by. The tragedy occurred in the same area and Blake felt the fallout in his civilian encounters.
How did the M-16 rifle function in a jungle environment? Just fine, according to Tom Blake, RECON Platoon leader in Vietnam. As long you kept it clean and dry in the hot, wet mess of the rice paddies. There were less booby traps there than up North, but no less Viet Cong.
He came out of the field his last few weeks in Vietnam, but Lt. Tom Blake hated leaving his men. He would give them the Mother Hen treatment when he saw them leaving the firebase while he was waiting to go home. On the last leg of that trip, an airline pilot gave him a solid welcome home.
Tom Blake recommends two excellent books on the Vietnam War that he thinks give a good feel for what it was like there. He nearly returned to visit the former battlefield, but doesn't regret his decision to stay home. He has a healthy respect for his former enemies in that difficult war.
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.
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.
As an operations officer, Grayson Roulston and his company were providing support for the Vietnamese army and had to think tactically with their rounds as they defended the perimeter. One time, while flying through enemy territory, Roulston was hit and feared he might be taken down. Luckily, his aircraft stabilized.
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.
After leaving Vietnam, Grayson Roulston stayed in the military on multiple different tours of duty before retiring in Germany. He stayed on staff with the military working at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to be closer to home.
While stationed in Vietnam, Grayson Roulston and his company worked on the mobile riverine force to try to secure the area from VC. After his injury, he took some time off the front lines to do some administrative work before being sent back to the field.
Before getting settled in his company, Stan Marcieski was hastily brought on a mission over the jungle to try to help out a company that had been ambushed by NVA forces. After they had some issues with the plane, they had to think quickly to be able to save some casualties.
Moving to a small village called Rach Kien, Grayson Roulston and his company sought to suppress enemy forces. While there, they found out how good at hiding the VC really were and the challenges they would have to face in trying to eliminate them.
While patrolling, Grayson Roulston hit a booby trap that knocked him unconscious and in very rough shape. Fortunately, he was able to be evacuated to Dong Tam where he was able to be treated, but even that hospital was not totally safe from danger.
Grayson Roulston remembers February 26th, 1968, when Bravo Company was in one of the worst firefights they’d ever seen at a hot landing zone. After facing very heavy casualties, they managed to medevac most of the company to safety and regain order.