6:07 | Kenneth Moorefield came out of West Point expecting to go to Vietnam, but instead was posted to the Dominican Republic, where he underwent his first medical evacuation in the wake of a riot. He already had a sense of what he would face once he got to Vietnam from the writing of Bernard Fall.
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He was an ARVN advisor in the Southernmost part of the Mekong Delta. There were no American units in the area, recalls Kenneth Moorefield but he did have air support. They were so far down the supply chain that during the Tet Offensive, his unit was running out of ammunition.
He wanted to be a company commander, but Kenneth Moorefield's experience as an ARVN advisor was an eye opening experience which gave him insight to the Vietnamese people and their precarious position, caught in the middle of a war. He developed great respect for his advisory unit and they became a band of brothers like any others in combat.
Kenneth Moorefield remembers two incidents from his time as an advisor to a South Vietnamese unit that gave him a sense of the complexities of that war and its effect on the people. It was a struggle that divided families and provoked deep animosity.
In Vietnam, the biggest challenge was to get the enemy to concentrate in enough numbers to be boxed in and defeated. It was an asymmetrical approach, says Kenneth Moorefield, who advised an ARVN division in the Mekong Delta. His worst days there all involved the accidental killing of civilians.
After the Tet Offensive, it was expected that the enemy would take some time to recover and launch new attacks. Not so in the Southern delta, where Kenneth Moorefield was advising a South Vietnamese unit. In the middle of a firefight, he found out first hand the effect of a high velocity round on the human body. Recovering at Walter Reed hospital, he found out that he'd left one battlefield for another.
It had always been his wish to command an infantry company and on his second tour of Vietnam, Kenneth Moorefield was put in that position. Unfortunately, the war had changed and from the top down, a new outlook that was reluctant and defensive had taken hold.
Kenneth Moorefield explains a leadership challenge he faced in Vietnam, the lack of experienced non-commissioned officers. The Army was sending men from an accelerated training program who lacked the experience, and sometimes the will, to fight a war.
After recovering from a wound he received in his second tour of Vietnam, Kenneth Moorefield was assigned to the Old Guard, the ceremonial unit at Fort Myer where they spent most of their time burying dead soldiers. He had misgivings about the way the war was fought, and now that he was back in the States, he could see and start to understand the changes in society that were affecting the military.
After two combat tours of Vietnam, Kenneth Moorefield returned as an aide to the US Ambassador. He describes the chaos of the final days of the doomed South Vietnamese government, and the desperate evacuation from the rooftop of the embassy at the end of April 1975.
Kenneth Moorefield, from the perspective of two combat tours followed by service in US embassies in the South and in the postwar North, says that he is still unsure about the value of the American engagement there. He is sure that the actions of the incoming administration in 1968 were deplorable, in light of facts that have emerged since then.
Kenneth Moorefield reflects on the experience of visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the purpose it serves. He says the upcoming fiftieth anniversary is a great time to honor those who didn't receive it when they came home.
His final service in Vietnam was not for the Army but for the State Department. Kenneth Moorefield was in Hanoi to open the US embassy and served there from 1995 to 1998. He says that the government officials who had been in combat were much easier to deal with due to their mutual respect as soldiers.
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.
After months of intense planning and training, Operation Eagle Claw commenced. Pilot Roland Guidry was on the first plane to arrive at Desert One, a remote rendezvous point in the Iranian desert. There, the mission would unravel, done in by mechanical malfunctions and worse.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When he returned from his combat tour in Korea, Ed Fulghum began a long period of being sent all over the place by the Army. A series of short assignments culminated in Germany, where he served until his discharge. He got married and began an unsuccessful job hunt. Should he return to the Army?
From the beginning, Tom Fleming wanted to be a fighter pilot. He settled for a tour as a forward air controller in Vietnam and, after that, his quest for fighters continued as he embarked on a lengthy Air Force career. That career took him to Turkey, Germany, many stateside bases and the Pentagon, but it was Hawaii that was most satisfactory.
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.
The newly formed Joint Special Operations Command was beefing up the capabilities of all branches. One of the keys was the formation of SEAL Team 6. Over at the Air Force, Roland Guidry explains how they struggled to come up with the assets to succeed at their part of the plan. In the middle of all this, Grenada suddenly became a hot spot.
After rejoining the Army as an MP, Ed Fulghum returned to Korea where he guarded inspection teams. His next assignment, back in the States, was in a Military Government company, which was trained to rebuild and reset devastated areas. He decide that the Military Police was a career dead end, so he returned to the infantry.
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.
Roland Guidry's first language was French, down in the Louisiana bayou. Inspired by a cousin who enlisted first, he went in after college, where he began pilot training at a civilian flight school. Tough as nails is how he describes real flight school at Reese Air Force Base. When it came time to pick your aircraft, the C-130 was still available and that suited him just fine.
As Operation Desert Shield gave way to Operation Desert Storm, the Pentagon needed someone like a fighter pilot to brief the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense on biological and chemical warfare in language they could understand. So, Tom Fleming became the "bugs and gas guy."
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.
The recruiter asked if he really wanted to try for special forces. You're not big enough, he said. Changiz Lahidji, having already served in the Iranian special forces, assured him he was. At jump school, he broke an ankle and didn't let on, but his sergeant knew.
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.
The Pentagon set up a commission to investigate Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran. Roland Guidry was the first chief of air operations at the newly formed Joint Special Operations Command, the organization created to deal with unconventional warfare in the future.
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.
On his first operation, Green Beret Changiz Lahidji went to Afghanistan to help the Mujahideen fight the Russian occupiers. The Iranian embassy takeover led to the second, a daring solo mission into Iran, where he surveilled the embassy. He had to make it out on his own after the aborted rescue attempt. (Caution: strong language.)
Roland Guidry didn't just fly any old C-130, he was flying a C-130D, outfitted with skis. The vast network of radar sites in the Distant Early Warning system needed supplies and servicing. Some of the Arctic sites were so distant and isolated, there were no runways for a wheeled landing. It was during this time that he first went to Vietnam on temporary duty supporting the construction of a new base.
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.
The plan was complicated, with a lot of moving parts, but there was high confidence that the team would be able to rescue the hostages in Iran. Pilot Roland Guidry describes how a combination of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters would deliver the Delta Force and the Rangers and then extract them along with the hostages. Part 3 of 4.
Operation Eagle Claw was a pivotal moment in Special Operations history. Unconventional warfare had been ignored after the Vietnam War and three veterans of that conflict, who were also deeply involved with the attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran, reveal the inside story of the planning and tragic outcome. George Ferkes, Roland Guidry and Keith Nightingale each offer a unique perspective on the events.