7:44 | 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.
Keywords : Galen Hoover Vietnam river boat U Minh Forest bomb mine sweeper North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Viet Cong (VC) Medical Evacuation (Medevac) Saigon machine gun Purple Heart
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.
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.
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.
When he got to Vietnam, John Craven's buddies were sent south to different units and he was sent north to the 101st Airborne. "I ain't jumping out of no airplane," was his response, but in Vietnam, airborne meant air mobile, deploying by helicopter. After a while, he got the urge to ask to be assigned as a radio operator.
When you set an eighteen year old kid down in a jungle and give him "half the power of the Lord to carry on his hip," it becomes a real concern to restrain him. According to Captain Marshall Carter, once they see their buddies blown away in front of them, they want to shoot anything that moves.
The war changed him for the better, says George Forrest, though it took a while to realize that family was more important than chasing a military career. A visit to Vietnam decades after the conflict made him wonder if it had been worth it. He does know two things, he would have liked a free ticket to a Packers game and he wishes the war was remembered for more than alleged atrocities and stoned troops.
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.
As if getting shot in the head wasn’t enough, Dennis Haines had many complications on his road to recovery, including a serious infection. He was amused, however, by the process of molding the plastic plate to cover the missing part of his skull.
As he flew into Vietnam for the first time, reporter Joe Galloway watched a Buddhist monk dragged off the plane and arrested. That caught his attention, as did the rubber stamp customs process, but what really woke him up was what happened when he was immediately put onto a helicopter and taken into the field.
The new concept of mobile troops using helicopters was used extensively in Vietnam. Col. Walt Russell was aboard one when he felt an odd sensation. Reaching up, he felt where a sniper round had blown a hole in his head “the size of a cigarette pack.”
First he had to jump off the Amtrac in a frenzy with extra ammo and full gear on his back. That busted up his knee. The vehicle was repaired and under way again, when he was hit with incoming and knocked off the vehicle in flames. Still, Bob Atkinson wasn't sure he was really hurt.
Joe Galloway was discouraged with college and was on his way to enlist when he drove by the daily newspaper's building, decided to stop, and asked for a job. Thus began a long career which would take him far from home.
He felt he owed it to the country, so Al Copeland volunteered early for the draft. He was infantry all the way, and after basic training and jungle training in the cold rain, he was ready for Vietnam.
Having learned the Thai language and mastered radio school, Allen Robinson deployed to Vietnam where he was stationed on an intelligence ship, monitoring and transcribing broadcasts. When he was ashore, the Thai people were delighted to find a Westerner who could speak their language.
After a break for grad school, Marshall Carter returned for a second Vietnam tour but this time he was an adviser to the South Vietnamese Marines. He speaks highly of them but says that Gen. Westmoreland's neglect of South Vietnamese forces contributed to their eventual defeat.
Ron Mastin had been a POW for a year and his captors were constantly moving him around. His family didn't even know he was alive until the release of Doug Hegdahl, who had memorized hundreds of names of prisoners. He never gave up hope, never once thought he might not go home. He even found his crew mate, Tom Storey, with whom he'd been shot down in 1968.
There was no radio contact with the 2nd battalion on Hill 875 and losing contact with an American unit could only mean really bad news. To get there and find out what was happening, David Brown's unit had to walk in, a long trek through more dead bodies than he had ever seen. The answer to what had happened was very unsettling, and he was even more unsettled when he heard something huge crashing through the trees.
Al Matheson had been a pilot on interesting intelligence missions and challenging Forward Air Control missions, but when he had to pick his next assignment, he chose the big birds of the Airlift Wing. He remembers one fateful mission flying orphans out of Vietnam.
"We don't want your equipment!" Communications engineer Mac McCahan was trying to improve military telephone service in Vietnam and he had to repeatedly reassure units that he wasn't tying to take over, just trying to make the system work better.
Already a capable engineer and a pilot, Al Matheson moved into classified work when he joined the Air Force and was soon flying huge circles in planes full of electronics. This sophisticated operation led to a grand scheme known in the Kennedy administration as the McNamara Wall.
As a child, Bill Acebes picked fruit alongside his parents. As a man, he entered the service along with his brothers. Going for airborne meant extra money and, he thought, the chance to study electronics. First he had to face the rigors of basic training.