5:05 | 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.
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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?
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.
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.
Clowns in action. That's how Keith Nightingale describes the confusion and snafus during the initial Grenada operation. Most objectives were quickly achieved but there were some difficult battles, including one with a Cuban unit. When the Rangers got to the medical school where American students were waiting, they found out about a second campus with more students. Part 2 of 3.
In the aftermath of the debacle at Desert One, an effort to plan and execute another mission to rescue the hostages in Iran got under way. Air Force special ops pilot George Ferkes recalls that new tactics and equipment were developed that served as the blueprint for the revitalization of special operations units throughout the military.
In the aftermath of the Grenada invasion, peacekeeping forces from all around the Caribbean were assembled to help keep order. Keith Nightingale's battalion was spread all around the island involved in various missions and the locals in all these enclaves helped their liberators celebrate Thanksgiving. Part 3 of 4.
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.
Operation Eagle Claw was the name of the attempt by US Special Forces to rescue the hostages from the embassy in Iran. The mission was aborted because of mechanical failures in helicopters and then turned tragic when eight men died in a fiery crash. Pilot George Ferkes was part of that team and he describes the events from his perspective.
After the tragic events at Desert One, planning began for another rescue mission. Parallel with this was the decision to create a permanent and robust special operations structure. Keith Nightingale was right in the middle of this difficult effort which involved all the services.
Keith Nightingale was heading up post-invasion operations in Grenada when he got a packet of good intelligence on the leaders of the coup there. This aided him in locating and capturing Hudson Austin, who had been behind the Communist takeover. Part 4 of 4.
When he returned from Vietnam, George Ferkes is fairly sure he saw his old hooch burning on the television when Quang Tri fell. After a couple of years he leapt at the chance to join a special ops outfit, even though, at the time, there was little interest in those units.
No one could get Charles Beckwith to admit that Delta Force didn't have enough personnel to secure all the locations that would be needed for the rescue of the hostages in Iran. Keith Nightingale had to present three times the briefing that proved this. Finally, the Rangers were brought in to enhance the operation and training began in earnest. Part 3 of 4.
There was some good intelligence available during the planning of the Iran hostage rescue attempt. For instance, pilot George Ferkes knew that an aircraft could easily avoid the radar at the border. That was not the problem, though, once the effort got underway.
After a long stint with Joint Task Force Eagle Claw, Keith Nightingale left to command a battalion in the 82nd Airborne. This unit was called to be part of Operation Urgent Fury, the liberation of Grenada from a Communist takeover. Part 1 of 3.
With so many joint operations with other countries, Keith Nightingale believes it is more important than ever to be cognizant of their culture and mindset. This was not done in Vietnam and it contributed to the failure of that venture. As he looks back on his career, he salutes some of the leaders who helped him along the way.
Special forces went through a bit of a renaissance after the failed rescue of the hostages in Iran. Never again would US special operations be caught flat footed and unprepared. Pilot George Ferkes was a part of that mission and it provided him with a purpose that guided him through the rest of his career.
It was a lousy assignment. Jim Bolan was one of the first Special Forces officers and, after Vietnam, he wound up in a training unit with no jump slot. Prodded by his wife, he went to Washington to dust off his most valuable inside contact, who was now the Army's Chief of Staff.
Keith Nightingale remembers that, during the buildup of the new Ranger Battalion, the team researched units from the past including British commandos and Vikings to extract any useful training techniques. Live fire exercises and road marches became very important. In December of 1974, the new Rangers were ready.
When the Iran hostage crisis happened, President Carter asked the joint chiefs if there was any way they could be rescued. This set off a mad scramble to put together a multi-branch operation and Air Force special ops pilot George Ferkes was right in the middle of it.
The decimation of the Army was complete. The leadership had punted in Vietnam and there was no support among most of the public. Army Chief of Staff Creighton Abrams decided to rebuild the Army around a reborn Ranger Battalion, which would be built from the ground up as the finest light infantry in the world. Keith Nightingale found out about this and made sure he was in on it.
When the Iranian Revolutionary Guard seized the American embassy, the joint chiefs began looking for the means to rescue the hostages. It was decided to build a team around Delta Force, the elite special ops unit led by Charles Beckwith. General James Vaught was selected as the overall commander of the operation and on his staff was Keith Nightingale, who was then immersed in the urgent planning process. Part 1 of 4.
Keith Nightingale recalls the sometimes uncomfortable fallout from the aborted Iran hostage rescue attempt. There were congressional briefings to give, an investigation to face and a special operations structure to build up. This wasn't made any more pleasant by the conflicting personalities involved.
After his Vietnam tours, Jake Jacobson served in Thailand and the Philippines, among other places, with different Special Forces teams. After almost thirty years of service, he retired, but was soon in Saudi Arabia training Bedouins. He didn't care for that job. (Caution: coarse language.)
Unfortunately, human intelligence had been allowed to wither in favor of satellite technology. This meant that the CIA was little help to the joint task force planning the rescue of the American hostages in Tehran. Every means to extract the hostages was examined and a combination of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters was chosen. Keith Nightingale describes the deliberations that went into this. Pt 2 of 4.
The rebuild of the 75th Ranger Regiment was underway at Fort Benning. Keith Nightingale was the headquarters company commander among other odd jobs. They were developing a new training regimen that was to be the finest anywhere. One important task was the creation of a Ranger Creed.
It had been a long and tortuous process for Keith Nightingale and the rest of the joint task force but Operation Eagle Claw was ready. All the moving parts were primed and all that needed was for President Carter to give the word to go. Pt 4 of 4.
Delta Force and the Rangers had arrived at Desert One but the helicopters were delayed by a dust storm. Only five of them were deemed flyable when they got there and the mission requirements were for six. The mission was scrubbed until the next day and mission planner Keith Nightingale describes the tragic circumstances of the departure from the Iranian desert.