10:16 | This isn't going to work. That's what Tony Nadal told his boss, Hal Moore, as they launched a helicopter assault to search for the enemy. He was right. The forces scattered and hid, so new tactics were called for. The next assault was in the Ia Drang Valley and they were perhaps too successful. Part 1 of 5.
Keywords : Tony Nadal Vietnam helicopter (chopper) An Lao Valley Fort Benning Hal Moore Ho Chi Minh Trail Hanoi Pleiku Cambodia Chu Pong Plei Mei Boeing CH-47 Chinook artillery ambush LZ X-Ray Battle of Ia Drang
He didn't have an appointment, but Tony Nadal was the son of an Army officer, so he was able to compete for a spot at West Point. He won that because of his superior academics, although he was unenthusiastic about math. Once there, he discovered one thing, he detested the plebe system.
After West Point, the basic infantry course, jump school and Ranger school, Tony Nadal was getting close to his goal of leading men in combat. The only action in the early sixties that he knew about was Army Special Forces beginning to operate in Laos and Vietnam. After a pleasant first assignment in Germany, he volunteered for the elite group.
The plane that took Tony Nadal to Vietnam was old and slow but the men on it were not. He was part of a Special Forces team that aimed to organize tribal people in the border area into civilian defense groups. It was in rough terrain in the central highlands where he made his way to the camp at Nam Dong.
Along with his Vietnamese counterpart and his ARVN force, Tony Nadal also had a group of Chinese Nung at the Nam Dong Special Forces camp, Nationalists who had fled China after the victory of the Communists. They patrolled the border looking for infiltrators but it was the camp's next American commander who would become part of history.
Tony Nadal wanted to go back to Vietnam but the Army had him on assignment to Korea. He had already shipped his footlocker when he got a 4 AM call. Report to Fort Benning. He didn't know it but LBJ was sending the air mobile cavalry to Vietnam.
Before his second deployment to Vietnam, Tony Nadal did quite a bit of reading on the French experience in Indochina. Shortly after his arrival, he and battalion commander Hal Moore went off to find a monument left by them.
When the 1-7 Cav got to the base camp at An Khe, Tony Nadal was one of only two officers who had been to Vietnam before. The unit had come by ship and the slow journey gave him a chance to loan out his books and teach classes on what to expect. At first he was assigned as intelligence officer but he soon got his wish to command a rifle company.
The men of the 1-7 Cav had unknowingly choppered in to an LZ that was right next to a huge NVA force. The shooting began almost as soon as the first companies landed. Company commander Tony Nadal was in the thick of it as he and his men fought a fierce battle in a creek bed. Part 2 of 5.
There was a platoon that was separated during the fighting on the first day of the Ia Drang battle and Tony Nadal was ordered go find them and bring them back. After a quick pep talk he led his men toward the action. Almost immediately a machine gun opened up and brought down nearly everyone around him. He was miraculously spared but he was making no headway and asked to be withdrawn. Part 3 of 5.
Tony Nadal's company had gone after the "lost" platoon at the Battle of Ia Drang, but they had been driven back by the enemy. The platoon had to spend a long, lonely night hunkered down inside a small ring of artillery fire. The next day brought a major assault before dawn, which was only broken when daylight brought gunships and other air support. It was the end of the fight at LZ X-ray but the Battle of Ia Drang was not over. Part 4 of 5.
They had fought hard for three days and now what was left of Tony Nadal's company was airlifted out of the Ia Drang valley. Other units, however were just beginning another fierce firefight at LZ Albany, where the men were strung out in a long column. They had been hiking to get clear of an impending B-52 strike, which was not usually the preferred form of air support by the men on the ground. Part 5 of 5.
Tony Nadal is most proud of his time commanding A Company of the 1-7 Cav. The battalion was full of first rate officers because, back when the Army and the Air Force were dueling over who would control the helicopters, the Army wanted to make sure they bested the other branch. They wanted full control of the emerging air mobile concept.
Tony Nadal was on a recon flight when it suddenly got real quiet. The helicopter's engine had stopped. The pilot was autorotating down when he spotted what looked like a clearing in the jungle. As the crippled ship came down, it became clear that it wasn't grass down there. It was forty foot tall bamboo.
After his second Vietnam tour, Tony Nadal was sent to graduate school. This led to an interesting exchange with some anti-war students. He would go on to teach at West Point, where he tried to implement lessons he had learned about combat leadership, lessons that the Army had overlooked.
There is nothing in the civilian world as intense as combat. Tony Nadal speaks about the bonds it leads to, and the pain of loss. He still feels it every day.
Most people today just think of riots in the streets when the Vietnam War is mentioned. Tony Nadal fought in two tours and he has been back there twice. The first time he sat and talked with an officer who had opposed him on the battlefield at Ia Drang.
With hundreds of missions over two tours in Vietnam, fighter pilot Rick Hilton was awarded a nice collection of medals and commendations. It may have been even shinier except the new smart bomb technology he was deploying on his second tour caused some to think it was now too easy.
While recovering from the effects of an air crash, Ron Richtsmeier was lucky to be released to the care of his unit's flight surgeon. This kept him from being reassigned after he was healed. Another reason he was lucky was that he could borrow a jeep and go back to visit that sweet blonde nurse who had cared for him.
The smart bombs were a great new technology and Rick Hilton commanded the first fighter squadron to have them. After a series of missions to test the accuracy so collateral damage could be avoided, he went after an important power plant in the middle of a reservoir.
Sammy Davis was recovering from serious wounds when a visiting General Westmoreland told him he had been put in for the Medal of Honor. He had rescued three wounded comrades during a furious NVA assault, but to him, he was just doing his job.
Marvin Cole is still wondering why a man in his unit could not get boots, but they were available on the black market in Saigon. Mismanagement of the war aside, he has warm feelings for the Vietnamese people and the country itself.
Artilleryman Sammy Davis was assigned down in the Mekong Delta, where it was just a lot of rain and water. This had spurred the innovation of a battery on pontoons that could be deployed on water. The locals were friendly and he considered them his friends. After all, they were the reason he was there.
It was long hours and long days for Thomas Gipson in Vietnam. He gives an overview of his tour, describing the different types of missions and some of the misadventures. The amount of flying time was closely monitored to make sure the pilots didn't crack, but it was still exhausting.
Bob Clark's first contact with the enemy in Vietnam was memorable. His platoon found a bunker complex they'd been looking for and soon a firefight began. When it was over, a search for intel in the pockets of the dead revealed a photograph of the family of an NVA soldier. That provoked a little soul searching.
One great thing about flying helicopters in the Army. The guy who maintained the aircraft flew with you. That made all the difference in the world to Thomas Gipson. His crew chief took good care of the him, as well as the Huey, and he had to set him straight on what the nose art really meant.
While Ron Richtsmeier was on call as a helicopter gunship pilot, the lady of his dreams was nearby at an Army hospital, on call on an even more demanding schedule. The sound of helicopters meant you went to work, no matter the time or day.
Jack Swickard recalls a couple of incidents from his days as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. One involved a Viet Cong hand grenade brought into the cockpit as a trophy. In the other, his aircraft was mysteriously propelled straight up with no control.
Doc Edwards was the unit's medic and whenever there was a spare moment, he was training the men in the artillery battery on life saving techniques. This paid off when the position was nearly overrun and everyone in the unit was injured. Sammy Davis woke up in a hospital in Japan after saving three wounded comrades despite being seriously wounded himself.
Carol Rosenberg barely talked about her service in Vietnam outside of her family. The societal baggage was just too much. Stanley Rosenberg had one positive effect from his tour. It gave him the confidence he needed as a doctor, something he was lacking out of medical school and basic training.
In Vietnam, unexpected action was the order of the day. On a routine flight, helicopter pilot Jack Swickard and his crew chief Skip Lyons saw another chopper going down and their mission immediately changed to rescue. As they landed, the enemy approached.
Flying was his lifelong dream but new helicopter pilot Ron Dillard got stuck in a desk job when he got to Vietnam. Not only that, he was the safety officer, which meant that the other pilots thought he was monitoring them. He was over five months in before he managed to get out of headquarters and fly actual missions.
It was a memorable mission. Rick Hilton spotted two trucks, sitting ducks on the road. As he rolled in to strike, guns on either side of him opened up. It was a trap. The pilots had to fly a hundred missions to make up a tour, which led to one of them making a memorable comment during a lecture from the flight surgeon about smoking.
Carl describes some of the heavy foliage Marines often fought through in Vietnam and the one occasion he was extremely grateful for the additional map training he received just before his tour. (Caution: May contain strong language)
After a particularly brutal firefight, Army doctor Stanley Rosenberg treated a ghastly burn casualty and the memory of that patient haunts him until this day. Carol Rosenberg was a nurse at that same hospital and she was troubled when she saw how a mortally wounded GI was treated when a VIP showed up.
Mike Devine was in the second week of jump school when his girlfriend suggested they get married, another leap into the unknown. So, when he made his final jump, he was a married man. The only problem was, his chute got tangled and he was approaching the ground pretty fast.
Freddy McFarren was fortunate when he returned from Vietnam. He experienced none of the disrespect suffered by so many returning veterans. There was no system yet in place to help with the readjustment from the battlefield, so he and his peers made do with the buddy system.
Lawson Magruder tells the story of Nguyen Cong Luan, an ARVN officer he befriended at Fort Benning. He was here for training when it became apparent that South Vietnam would fall. He was offered asylum, but returned home to fight for his country and reunite with his family.
They went to Vietnam separately, served together, and returned separately, but Carol and Stanley Rosenberg were destined to spend more time together. They both ditched their uniforms, first thing, and returned to their homes. It wasn't long before he was driving hundreds of miles for a date.
Mike McCormick always wanted to be a soldier and an officer, but after two years of college, he became restless and left school for a job with the FBI. The lure of the military was strong, though, and he returned to the ROTC program at Western Kentucky University.
Finding a little humor kept you sane. Mike Kenney recalls a joke he played on his grandfather, who sent him grass seed and received pictures of tall elephant grass. When somebody figured out all the helicopter pilots would rotate out at the same time, they were split up and he was sent south to the Mekong Delta, a whole different situation.
Carl was coming up on the end of his tour in Vietnam, but he’d end up taking another shot to the same leg that was wounded when he had first arrived. There would be no moment of respite when he made it to the hospital in Da Nang. (Caution: May contain strong language)
Ron Dillard recalls several interesting events from his days as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, including his first formation flight with a cocky young pilot. Once, he was alone in a small aircraft when two Marine Corps jet pilots tried to scare him. Another hairy experience was landing in triple canopy jungle.
Mike Devine was a new infantry platoon leader in Vietnam and he moved into an area of operation that was already notorious, the Ia Drang valley. It had been the site of a large battle which would one day be memorialized in the book, "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young" and subsequent movie, "We Were Soldiers."
Carl King hadn’t been in Vietnam long when he was sent out on a blocking force. His platoon quickly found themselves in the middle of a firefight that would leave him wounded and medevaced out of the field. (Caution: May contain strong language)