7:34 | The river boats were patrolling in narrow canals and rivers, searching for infiltrating NVA troops. Galen Hoover was in the second boat, trailing a boat that was supposed to be mine sweeping. That was the last thing he remembered about that day.
Keywords : Galen Hoover Vietnam river boat canal mine sweeper hospital Neil Demsky rocket Bob Hope
One day, aboard ship, Galen Hoover got a notice he was being transferred to river boat duty in Vietnam. Soon after, the movie about the Green Berets was screened on movie night, so he had a lot to think about while he waited to go. First, he had to undergo four months of intensive training for the dangerous duty.
After a quick leave, Galen Hoover and a buddy from a nearby town, started the long trip to Vietnam. He stopped in a frigid Alaska on the way, but when the airliner doors opened in Vietnam, it was a different environment. It was hot and it smelled really bad. And why was that chicken wire on the bus windows?
The river boats operated near the Cambodian border. Galen Hoover was advisor to the Vietnamese crew of one craft, which was an old troop carrier. Every night, interdiction points were set along the river to catch infiltration from Cambodia. When he arrived at the unit, he couldn't believe the layout of the base.
Living full time with his Vietnamese crew meant that Galen Hoover ate what they ate. His first night on the river, they served him a dish that was so good, he requested it regularly, even after he found out what it was. The crew knew he was really green, so the boat captain thought he would mess with the new advisor a little.
He was supposed to teach the crew all about the boat, but Galen Hoover had just arrived in Vietnam and some of the Vietnamese crew had been doing it for years. So his job was to man the radios and call for air and artillery support and for medical evacuation. Besides the enemy, there was rain...so much rain, and poisonous vipers.
Galen Hoover's river interdiction unit was moved from up near the Cambodian birder to the U Minh forest in the southernmost part of Vietnam. The waterways were very narrow, canals so small the boat couldn't turn around. The enemy were plentiful and devious. They even tried to trick him with bogus radio calls.
When Galen Hoover woke up in a hospital with a bandaged head and a broken hand, he had no idea what happened or how he got there. The guys from his unit came to see him and he finally heard the tale of that fateful patrol on the canal that day.
After his boat was blown up, Galen Hoover had to go back to Saigon and get a new assignment. He was offered a safe, quiet post after he was nearly killed but he pushed back, insisting that he was there to be in the action. He went to a unit in the Mekong Delta, interdicting fishing boats coming in from the ocean.
On their daily trips to the market to get the day's food, advisor Galen Hoover paid for most of it because he made more than his entire Vietnamese crew combined. He spoke Vietnamese, so he always listened to the conversation of the locals to pick up hints on enemy movements.
Galen Hoover's river boat was sometimes used for jungle insertions of Vietnamese troops, but you had to watch them closely while they were on board. Things would disappear. The area was heavily sprayed with Agent Orange, so it's a concern for him to this day.
Vietnamization was underway and, soon, Galen Hoover was sleeping away the long flight home. He landed in San Francisco and was glad to be back in the States, but as he left the plane, here came the peace protestors. What happened next haunts him still.
Galen Hoover listened to Adrian Cronauer's radio show while he was serving in Vietnam and fondly recalls meeting him years later. He has visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial many times and discovered a cousin on the wall.
Galen Hoover and all but one of his brothers joined the Navy as they came of age in the Sixties. He was assigned to the USS Escape, a rescue and salvage ship. He saw 17 countries, including the entire Mediterranean, where the ship's divers assisted the local sponge divers with safety training.
Frank Aiken found his Montagnard allies to be somewhat lawless and wild, though he says they were good fighters and they were lucky to have them. The enemy was everywhere, trying to get through the wire at night and taking potshots at them on the roads. He joined the locals for meals, though he says you couldn't be sure what you were eating.
Operation Kings started out badly when two young Marines suffered heat stroke and had to be evacuated. Then the three platoons were caught in an ambush by a larger enemy force. In the chaos, Lt. Frank Cox went to aid of his favorite corporal, whose life was saved by an unusual haversack load. Part 1 of 2.
Freddie Jones has maintained contact with his fellow veterans from Vietnam, sometimes talking them out from under the bed in the middle of the night. His own healing was incomplete when he saw the Twin Towers fall on 9-11 and that became a turning point for him.
Joe Galloway was right in the middle of the Ia Drang battle and witnessed the withering artillery and air power that felled so many thousands. Later, Galloway asked North Vietnam's General Giap what he thought about losing so many men. The answer surprised him.
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.
Freddie Owens shares his experiences during the ill-fated march to Landing Zone Albany during the battle of the Ia Drang Valley. His company was attached to another unit and was bringing up the rear. He credits his company commander, George Forrest, with saving them after the column walked into an ambush.
Dennis Haines was assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam. The only brigade not attached to a division, the light infantry was so-named because they could move out on a mission at a moment’s notice. He describes the execution and fear of a frontal assault.
New Marine officer Frank Cox and his friend Jack Swallows admired the beauty of the mountains and landscape of Vietnam as they approached it on the troop ship. They didn't know where they were going, but soon they knew what knowledge they were lacking, and that was how to avoid booby traps, how to avoid friendly crossfires and how to relate to people who weren't really on your side.
Freddie Owens says they paid no attention to news from home while in the field in Vietnam. They were trying to survive a war and didn't need the distraction. He certainly paid attention when he got home and there was a mob outside the airport.
Helicopter pilot Fred Mills was "really busy" flying medical evacuations in Vietnam. When trees prevented a landing, he dropped a chainsaw to troops, and he used a map with no borders to evacuate from Cambodia. It was "the dirty part of the war."
George Forrest left home thinking his father had acquiesced to the white power structure in his home town. When he returned, though, he found out that what he'd done was just the opposite. Enjoying the ROTC element of his college experience, Forrest received a commission in the Army and had some interesting assignments before he joined a newly organized air assault division.
Before he shipped out for Vietnam, Army Air Traffic Controller Arthur Hurst studied the geography and landmarks of the country so he could get oriented more quickly. He was based mostly in the central highlands, and visited many of the restored French air fields. He recalls how some farmers would drop their hoes and rakes and pick up rifles and start firing.
The Battle of Ia Drang Valley had raged for hours when Henry Dunn's unit was moved in for support. They listened all night to the sound of the fight and then advanced the next morning. They immediately manned the perimeter and Dunn began his work as Forward Observer, calling in areas of concentration for artillery fire. Part 1 of 4.
The value of the Medivac chopper standing by at high altitude was proven when a pilot on a supporting fire mission had to bail out. Marshall Carter was able to call down the Medivac unit and extract the pilot, who surely would have been a POW. Part 4 of 5.
His experience in Vietnam taught him something about what it means to be an American, says Jim Lawrence. He reflects on the death of his friend, Don Cornett, and the effect it had on all the lives connected to him. Multiply those numbers by the 58,000 names on The Wall and you get an idea of the true scale of the tragedy of war.
After a variety of Army medical jobs, Fred Mills had a final task. Planning operations for the Gulf War. After retiring, he recalls the harassment when he returned from his 2nd tour in Vietnam. Some sore bar patrons and scared Hare Krishnas also remember.