6:13 | 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.
Keywords : Tom Blake Vietnam Kit Carson Scout Chu Hoy My Lai ambush Viet Cong (VC) rice rules of engagement M-60 machine gun M79 grenade launcher
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.
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.
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.
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
It was dangerous enough to patrol South Vietnam, between the ambushes and the risk of malaria, but that was compounded with the chance of being hit by one of your own. Ed Callison recalls one instance of friendly fire that could have ended his life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Peterson learns about the Combined Action Program from an article in Life Magazine, and joins the CAPs after his first tour. His platoon comes to accept the complicated nature of their relationship with the locals, which ultimately leads to betrayal - and the death of a comrade.
Combat in the rice paddies was a miserable and dangerous affair. It was wet and nasty with little cover. The mountain range near Vung Tau was no picnic, either, but as Dale Ney's unit conducted a sweep along it toward the sea, a remarkable sight called for a little unscheduled R&R.
Haunted by the fall of Saigon - and the death of a friend for which he wrongfully shouldered the blame - Peterson unpacks his service pistol and contemplates suicide. He manages to turn his life around; he meets his wife and returns to Vietnam for a chance to heal the scars of war.
Dale Ney was on patrol in Vietnam when, all of a sudden, the entire horizon lit up. Smoke billowed high in the sky and the trees were shaking. It was a B-52 strike. There was another awesome aircraft employed in Vietnam that did not create such mayhem and which was secretly flown at night.
Three or four Viet Cong could tie down an entire company with a well planned ambush and then just disappear. Snipers were a big problem, too, but Dale Ney quieted down a really annoying one with a disposable weapon meant for heavy armor.
Ed Callison remembers growing up with a military background in his family, which he would eventually be a part of when he was drafted for the Vietnam war. His opinion of the war has changed over time as he's gotten more time to look at it.
Though he started as a true believer, Mike Peterson gradually became disenchanted with the Marines, and the Vietnam War. His reflections and research on Vietnam - and how the war was waged - lead him to the sober realization that we have become reckless with American lives.
Ed Callison remembers the role of his unit and all of the duties they enacted while stationed in Vietnam. Working with civilians and enemy prisoners alike to gain intel was often successful in gaining information that allowed a more successful war effort.
Dale Ney never took a bullet in Vietnam but he did have an unfortunate encounter with a punji stick. Another constant fear was enemy Claymore mines. And as if all that wasn't bad enough, every bit of wildlife in the country seemed to be against you.
Ed Callison remembers his last few weeks in Vietnam and then returning home to the hostile climate for people who served in the Vietnam War. He is thankful for some of the good treatment he did receive, and grateful for the increased support today.
Moving into civilian life wasn't always smooth sailing as he returned to college after his tour in Vietnam. He hopes future generations will remember the Vietnam veterans as the hard-fighting, dedicated men they were.