8:11 | There was little contact up by the DMZ so the 1st Air Cavalry was moved south near the Cambodian border. Plenty of action there. The first day, Jerry Gast's platoon set off on a 500 meter sweep in front of the perimeter and ran into a trail. The ambitious lieutenant decided they would follow it. Bad idea.
Keywords : Jerry Gast Vietnam Camp Evans Cambodia Quan Loi 1st Infantry Division The Big Red One helicopter LZ Billy Saigon Ed Holtz Larry Spalding North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Darell Williams Larry Dudley Donny Carter stretcher Barry McCaffrey Hughes OH-6 Cayuse (Loach) Minigun water Emerson Trainer
The first volunteers at basic training went to a sponsored event at a resort, but the second round of volunteers got KP. That's how Jerry Gast learned not to volunteer. He impressed his superiors enough, though, that he was sent to NCO school.
Vietnam was amazing. The heat and the weather were overwhelming. That, and the lack of plumbing at the forward base, was an extreme culture shock to the American teenagers. Jerry Gast was initially at the beach, where he could go swimming and was ferried to the mess hall, but that would soon change to friendly fire and booby traps.
Jerry Gast became a squad leader soon after he arrived in the field in Vietnam, but he is quick to sing the praises of the other men in his platoon. A lot of good men in that unit.
Jerry Gast says it was the leadership in his company that made all the difference in Vietnam. Captain Barry McCaffrey and 1st Sergeant Emerson Trainer set the tone and it filtered down though the NCO's. That all took a turn when both were wounded at the beginning of a fierce firefight.
Jerry Gast got back to the world on the day of the moon landing. He soon found out that wearing the uniform was a bad idea, then the local VFW refused to allow him to join. It was time to shove Vietnam in a little box and put it away.
Jerry Gast has some observations about the Vietnam War and then recommends some good music and a good book.
George Forrest remembers the men under his command as both grand and simple, guys who could find humor in anything. Life in war meant that basic needs and desires came to the forefront. For Forrest, that meant ice cream and dry toilet paper. When he left the command, his men made sure he knew that he'd made a difference in their lives.
During the early days of the Vietnam War, West Pointer Bill Ray expected to be advisor to an ARVN engineer company, but he wound up advising the topographic company instead. He was comfortably housed at the Five Oceans hotel in Saigon and he remembers the great day when the huge mapmaking camera arrived.
Dasher Wheatley was out on a search and destroy mission, and he and his men quickly found themselves outmanned and outgunned. Butch Swanton, who was on the mission with Dash, was hit, and Dash ordered everyone else to retreat while he stayed with Swanton to get him evacuated.
Captain Rody Conway had the best asset any advisor to a South Vietnamese unit could have, an experienced and knowledgeable sergeant, Harold Cook. At first it was relatively quiet and the most action was in keeping the road open.
Three of Captain Marshall Carter's men who were on a fateful raid with him, went to the battalion commander to tell him what Captain Carter had done during the operation. That conversation worked out well for him, much better than the conversation he had years later with a reporter from WGBH.
The Chieu Hoi were Viet Cong defectors who assisted American units in Vietnam, but George Forrest quickly realized that the ones at his base were not all that they seemed. The mortar fire at night was really accurate. He had a great admiration and respect for his own men, and lists the NCO's and officers who were the backbone of his company.
Two things Bill Acebes remembers vividly from Vietnam: the lack of drinking water in the field and the teak trees he used for cover. Ponchos were used to collect rainwater but there was something wrong with that and he can taste it to this day... The teak trees were good for cover but could also prevent evacuation, as he learned during a particularly bad day.
Fire from an approaching enemy killed Larry Rycroft and wounded Bob Needham and Kenny Pepper. Dennis Haines laments that they could not fire in time because of the Rules of Engagement.
Rody Conway’s first action with the South Vietnamese unit he was advising, was to aid in the rescue of four other advisors who were surrounded after their unit withdrew. He found a wounded friendly with a most interesting note pinned to his chest.
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.
Les Carter knew his district was secure when he recovered a letter from a North Vietnamese commander lamenting defeat. He also knew it came at a cost to civilians, such as the group of young nurses who walked into an ambush.
The worst day in Vietnam for Bill Ray, who was with an engineer unit building roads, was the day three civilians were accidently killed in separate incidents. Other problems during that tour included potheads and a reluctant Sergeant Major. At least the VC left him alone.
Even in the field, Rody Conway enjoyed the South Vietnamese food and the French coffee provided by the troops he was advising. His first operations were uneventful, since any North Vietnamese troops were usually passing through and gone.
Tired of the dying and killing, reporter Joe Galloway went back to Tokyo to cover Asia for UPI, but he would find himself going back to Vietnam three more times to document the dark descent into chaos.
As an advisor in Vietnam, Bill Hanna faced an unusual obstacle, the cultural phenomenon known as "saving face." This led to some perplexing situations as he tried to school the Vietnamese in running a modern Air Force.