3:58 | During his time in Vietnam, attached to the 1st Cavalry, artillery surveyor and forward observer Tal Centers was engaged all over the length and breadth of the country, always moving by air. His good artillery spotting earned him a Bronze Star, but here he recalls a funny incident that happened back at base camp.
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After being drafted in 1962, Tal Centers became an artillery surveyor, responsible for siting batteries and establishing ground coordinates. A three year posting to Cold War Europe gave way to the inevitable when he received orders for Vietnam.
The smell hit him as soon as he stepped off the plane in Saigon. A nauseating smell that never went away, the smell of Vietnam. Tal Centers was trained as an artillery surveyor and once he got in country, he was attached to the 1st Cavalry Air Mobile Division. The first job? Set up base camp at An Khe.
He began as an artillery surveyor, but the rotation system in Vietnam meant that Tal Centers moved from job to job, all of them meant for someone with a higher rank. Eventually, he became a forward observer, one of the most dangerous jobs in any war.
Not long after arriving in Vietnam, Tal Centers was attached to the 5th Special Forces Group as a forward observer. They had to venture into Cambodia to retrieve the bodies of some men who had been captured and mutilated, a sight he could not forget.
As a forward observer, Tal Centers would sometimes go up in a small helicopter for aerial spotting. On one such mission, a high caliber round from an enemy machine gun brought down the aircraft. He saw red, then he went unconscious.
When he wasn't busy on a mission or building something at base camp, Tal Centers would volunteer as a door gunner on a Huey. Normally, he was a forward observer and he directed fire in an incident depicted in the movie "We Were Soldiers." He usually worked with a radio operator and he remembers one who didn't make it back.
It was regrettable, but villages were leveled by his artillery rounds. Tal Centers knew that civilians were killed, but he also knew that the enemy looked the same as the innocents. That was the way it was in Vietnam. After being attached to the 1st Cavalry Air Mobile Division for a year, he returned to the same desk at Fort Sill he'd been using before the tour.
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.