7:48 | Bill Greinke was a new lieutenant being groomed for captain, a needed commodity in Vietnam. He was serving in Berlin, surrounded by Russians and East Germans and he had no problem driving his Camaro right through them.
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Bill Greinke graduated college and was commissioned an Army officer on the same day. He went for a regular Army enlistment with a four year obligation. It was winter when he went to Ranger school, which meant no snakes during the jungle phase but freezing cold during the mountain phase.
Most of the men in his Ranger class knew they were going to Vietnam, so they were paying close attention to the tasks they were made to perform. Bill Greinke remembers a lighter story from the training that involved a candidate who did not want to kill a chicken when it became necessary. He also remembers having to get over his fear of heights.
His tour in Germany was over and he was bound for language school and then Vietnam. Bill Greinke got a surprise when the plane departing Germany was held on the runway and he was informed that there was a change in the plan. Part 1 of 5.
The South Vietnamese, or ARVN, troops had good officers but the enlisted men were often criminals paroled to fight. Bill Greinke was an assistant advisor to an ARVN battalion where he and his captain coordinated the air and artillery support and intelligence gathering. Part 2 of 5.
His first night in the field was spent on the outskirts of a battle that had been going on for days. Bill Greinke was a new advisor to an ARVN unit that was trying to push the NVA out of a valley where they had got a foothold. The second night, he was in it. Part 3 of 5.
Bill Greinke witnessed an incredible rescue when a South Vietnamese helicopter pilot plucked a downed airman from a tree during a battle. That Vietnamese pilot was luckier than one American advisor in the area who was captured by the NVA just weeks before he was to rotate home. Part 4 of 5.
The battle had lasted for days. The ARVN troops were pushing the NVA out after air strikes failed to do the job. American advisor Bill Greinke moved with them through defoliated areas where exposure to Agent Orange came back to haunt him. Then came the grim task of taking care of the dead. Part 5 of 5.
After American advisor Bill Greinke was promoted to captain, he became a rotating advisor to different ARVN units. It was about this time that the NVA started firing off 122mm rocket attacks. They got lucky one night and hit an ammo dump.
Bill Greinke had expected a combat infantry assignment in Vietnam but he was used as an advisor to the South Vietnamese Army. That was not a career booster and he had a negative feeling about the whole affair. He had no training for the position but he learned a lot from his interpreter about the language and culture.
The ARVN unit had casualties and needed a Medevac. American advisor Bill Greinke directed them to a hilltop where the ships could hover low enough to pick up the wounded. There was one wrinkle, the Vietnamese troops had captured a python and they wanted to send it back for a feast.
American advisor Bill Greinke was now out of the field and working in a command bunker. It was so boring that he would hitch rides on sniffer birds and spotter planes just for something to do. On one of these flights, the spotter got into a duel with a lone VC on a hilltop who defied and survived every attempt to get him.
American advisor Bill Greinke describes a large incursion into Cambodia, a part of the secret war that included his ARVN battalion.
When it came time to rotate home, Bill Greinke felt apprehensive about his friends left in the field. It was near the end for the South Vietnamese Army that he'd been advising. He had decided that his Army career was at an end, too, a decision he reached after a run in with one of his superiors.
Why should I change to civvies? Bill Greinke was on his way home from Vietnam and he didn't like it but he complied. Afterward, he reflected back on the much worse treatment he'd received in college as an ROTC cadet. He was determined to get out of the Army, but he still had time to serve.
What should be remembered about the Vietnam War? Bill Greinke has a definite opinion on that. What was it that turned turned that war from a sure victory into a political fiasco and an embarrassment for the Army?
Once Bill Greinke was made the intelligence officer of a battalion in Berlin, he began to have a lot of fun playing cat and mouse with the Russians and East Germans. They would pelt the cars driving around to gather intelligence with snowballs and the occasional bottle.
The Berlin Wall was not the same everywhere. Bill Greinke had to keep tabs on the condition of the wall and any changes made. He describes different sections, from the fancy to the sloppy.
His time with the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood was the best time of his Army career. Bill Greinke bested a well known commander in a war game and he went on splendid maneuvers in Europe at the Fulda Gap. Then he moved on to specialized training in media and information.
Bill Pearson had been to Vietnam twice and returned unscathed, but the Army wasn't done putting him in danger. He was assigned as an aviation consultant to Iran, advising the Shah's air force on it's supply of American aircraft. The day he arrived, martial law was declared and it wasn't long before there were mobs outside trying to burn down the building. The embassy was no help. Escape seemed impossible.
Bob Stewart was more nervous going to Vietnam than he was going into space the first time. You could get maimed in combat but in space you were either A-OK or completely gone. He made two flights on the space shuttle and, along with Bruce McCandless, made the first EVA with the new MMU, the Manned Maneuvering Unit.
He repaired radios in the Marines, but Norman Kling was now an electrical engineer working at McDonnell Douglas. When he tried to get his Marine Reserve commander to recommend him for a commission, the answer caused him to leave the Reserve.
After the Challenger tragedy, NASA mission specialist Bob Stewart returned to the Army where they made him a general. He worked at the Strategic Defense Command, a legacy of Ronald Reagan's SDI program. At some point the Army wanted him in Washington DC, at which point he promoted himself to ski bum.
Returning Marine Norman Kling had his eye on college when he got home from the Pacific. He entered the electrical engineering program at Washington University in his home town of St. Louis. He had a soft spot for the Corps in his heart or maybe it was his head. Either way, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve.
Some of his pilot friends were recruited by the airlines but Bob Stewart had other ideas. He became a test pilot. They got the money but he had the fun. He was instrumental in bringing the Apache and Blackhawk helicopters into the Army's fleet of airships.
When the cease fire was declared, American units had not yet reached Baghdad. In his command track, Geoff Farrell had the graphics on his screen to guide him right in, but it was decided we would not go. Looking back to that critical moment, he reflects on the decision.
Bob Stewart arrived in Houston as the first active Army officer to become a space shuttle mission specialist. After a year of classes, he was given a technical task, develop the shuttle's entry flight control system. The first flight was scheduled for two years out but he had to give management some bad news.
He considered it the finest education available. Geoff Farrell went to West Point, where he soaked up all the history and knowledge available there. He was assigned to Europe, where he patrolled the German border as Soviet Communism was dying. There was a brief period of jubilation when the wall came down, then they heard about Saddam Hussein.
Bob Stewart was walking on air. He just got a call from NASA that he was accepted as a mission specialist on the space shuttle program. He was going to be an astronaut, but first he had one more flight in his capacity as an Army test pilot.
They had prepared for the wrong war. Geoff Farrell's armored cavalry unit was going to the desert to confront Saddam Hussein, but their vehicles and uniforms were green and all their training was for fighting in European forests. Once they got to the staging area in Saudi Arabia, they adapted well.
Lt. Geoff Farrell was sleeping in the command track when he heard it on the radio. We were at war with Iraq. His armored cavalry unit crossed from Saudi Arabia into Iraq where they were greeted by friendly children in the middle of nowhere.
During Operation Just Cause, John Le Moyne was assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) as a liaison officer to other agencies. In this capacity, he was able to observe some high level command operations that were very impressive. It was only a short while after this brief conflict that Saddam Hussein began to make noise in the Middle East.
After the battle, the men of the 2nd Armored Cavalry did humanitarian work for the Iraqi civilians, then it was time to return to Germany. For Geoff Farrell, a feeling of unreality set in on the flight home. How do you decompress from combat? At least those who fought in this war were not going to experience the humiliation that Vietnam veterans had faced.
John Le Moyne never had a bad assignment. That's the way he looked at it, anyway, and it had a lot to do with the excellent leaders he encountered throughout his career. They helped him crack the code on how to win the trust of soldiers.
Thermal imaging had been around for a while and Geoff Farrell was very familiar with it. GPS, however, was new and expensive, and no one was familiar with it. Both were integral to the swift victory in Desert Storm. Before his deployment he declined a dose of an experimental drug that was supposed to protect against chemical weapons and he wonders if that drug contributed to Gulf War Syndrome.
It was near anarchy in Budapest following the fall of the Nazis. Many were starving surrounded by rubble. Bob Ratonyi was overjoyed when his mother returned from a labor camp but then he watched as communists turned Hungary into a Stalinist dictatorship.
John Le Moyne had come in to Saudi Arabia leading an advance team. Starting from scratch in the desert, in the summer, huge operating bases were established. The locals were amazed at the way the Americans adapted to the environment. It was during this conflict that many innovations in troop care and comfort were devised.
The student led march to the parliament building had been exhilarating for Bob Ratonyi and he got up the next morning to go to his classes but there were no streetcars running. Then he saw two dead Russian soldiers in their vehicle. The peaceful march had turned into the bloody Hungarian Uprising. Part 2 of 4.
For Geoff Farrell, who fought in Desert Storm with the armored cavalry, it was obvious. It was technology and training that ensured victory. We had a lot of it and the Iraqis had very little. Our weapons had a longer range and, when a sandstorm came up in the middle of a battle, we had GPS and thermal imaging.
It was all propaganda, everything on the radio and in the newspapers. That was life in communist Hungary as Bob Ratonyi was coming of age. He urged his mother to take an offered post as the party representative at her factory so she could take advantage of it.
The rumor was that the Iraqi's Soviet made tanks were superior to ours. Geoff Farrell had this on his mind while rolling across the desert to engage them. Just as they got near, a sandstorm came up. Then the Iraqi artillery began to fall. Then the first Iraqi tank was destroyed, shattering the myth.