6:13 | Everyone breathing in a uniform was hurriedly mobilized by the 82nd Airborne as they scrambled to reply to Gen. Westmoreland's demand for more troops. On the flight over, while some of the planes were grounded by weather, Jim Littig saw an amazing test of wills in an Airborne versus Air Force standoff.
Keywords : Jim Littig William Westmoreland Airborne Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) stockade Pueblo Incident
The Army was short of officers, so when Jim Littig finished his basic officers course at Ft. Benning, he was sent to Ranger school the same day with jump school to follow. He had applied to Pathfinder school and was waiting for a slot when he got a lesson in how things get done in the Army.
Newly minted lieutenant Jim Littig was given a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol unit just as the 82nd Airborne prepared to deploy to Vietnam. His team was highly experienced and even included what could only be described as soldiers of fortune.
His father told him, you will take ROTC in college because there's going to be another war. Jim Littig was a football player just like the old man and he took his talents to the University of Utah. As his graduation neared in 1967, he and his fellow officers in training naively worried that the war might be over before they could get there.
Airborne units were always light in the vehicle department while on the ground, so as Jim Littig's men made their way toward their eventual destination in Vietnam, they "found" a jeep and their multi-talented medic made it legit with some white paint.
Jim Littig's unit was a long range reconnaissance patrol outfit but in Vietnam, you didn't need long treks to find the enemy. He details one memorable firefight that started when his men ambushed what they thought were a just a few men fleeing from the Battle of Hue.
There were a lot of hairy firefights for Jim Littig in Vietnam. There was one in particular where the enemy had their old Soviet machine guns going in a hail of fire. After regrouping, his unit prepared a defense line at their fire base that included everyone from the rear, cooks and all.
Near the Cambodian border, some of Jim Littig's men getting water from a creek spotted a few of the enemy and opened fire. They quickly discovered they were adjacent to a camp of several hundred men. The ensuing fight stands out in his mind for a couple of reasons. The first occurred when fresh replacements were dropped off in the middle of the battle. The second was when he wrote up one of his men for a Medal of Honor.
It was hot when he left Vietnam in khakis but when Jim Littig got home to Oregon it was freezing cold. He took over a training company at Fort Lewis and then became a general's aide. The war was beginning to wain and he was one of the few that he knew that would return for a second tour.
It's all about the connections. Jim Littig was heading to Vietnam for a second tour and was slated to go to a replacement detachment. Oh no, said a friend way up the chain. He would command his own company, leapfrogging the waiting list. When he got there, he discovered that his outfit had a lot of misfits.
Jim Littig shuffled through several assignments as the war was winding down for US forces. Vietnamization was underway with varying results. When he had to miss a much anticipated Navy lunch aboard ship, he was disappointed, but it turned out that he was lucky.
Jim Littig saw a lot of intense combat on his first tour of Vietnam which created a tight bond with the men in that unit. On his second tour, he did not face a lot of fire and he also moved around from assignment to assignment, so there was not such a tight relationship. He did have a good relationship with Gen. Ngo Quang Truong, a very capable ARVN commander.
Later in his Army career, it was time for a masters degree and Jim Littig chose an unusual major. This led to an assignment which found him in South Africa just as the country was undergoing monumental change.
To Jim Littig, the way the end of the war unfolded was very irritating, with multiple failures by the government. The place made quite an impression on him. He has been back to Vietnam several times, including one memorable trip that was cut short.
It is important to remember why we were there. To Jim Littig and to President Kennedy, it was a place to take a stand against communism. We were looking for a fight. On a lighter note, he remembers the songs that he heard there and that take him back to that time.
The first two days of the Battle of Ia Drang valley behind them, the American units remaining at the battlefield began the ill-fated march to Landing Zone Albany. Already exhausted, Henry Dunn moved out with the others and as they neared their destination, the ambush began. Sporadic gunfire at first, then mortar rounds. Part 2 of 4.
The sailors of the USS Kirk knew that one of the Vietnamese women they had saved during the chaotic exodus of refugees had named a baby after the ship. Captain Paul Jacobs tracked her down and she came to the ship's crew reunion, along with Richard Armitage, a civilian official at the time who took charge of the largest rescue operation.
After his first Vietnam tour, Owen Ditchfield got command of a company at Fort Benning that played the aggressor in Ranger training exercises. His men were short timers, waiting for discharge, but he rallied them to do well by telling them why their job was so important. Then he was assigned a new executive officer, Buddy Allgood, who had a surprising physical characteristic.
If you send the military into a war, at least let them fight the war themselves, without micro-management from politicians. That's the lesson of Vietnam according to Paul Jacobs, who was an enthusiastic combatant but who also worked on a database of unexploded ordnance that was presented to the current government of his former foes.
Chuck Officer remembers his early plan to go to college in addition to becoming a Marine, a goal that he never gave up on. After he faced some difficulties with his eyesight, he had to go through a few hurdles that led him to his final path as an officer.
He was wary of the Vietnamese civilians who were workers at the unit's base camp, but Jim Lawrence was fully confident in the tightly knit group of officers and men who had bonded on the month long voyage to the country. His best friend, Don Cornett and his sergeant, Ron Benton, were two of them.
A veteran of World War II and Korea, Frank Noonan served long enough to make it to Saigon on the first American warship to venture up the Mekong River. There, he observed a German civilian use an unusual defensive technique when attacked at a sidewalk cafe. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
The squad was eating lunch and Al Copeland was off a bit, keeping watch on them while the other squad began a sweep. As soon as the second squad set out, they were in a firefight and Charlie started running. The only problem was that Charlie was running right toward him.
Bill McCowen participated in his third war when SAC was levied for pilots to send to Vietnam, and that's not counting the Cold War. Going from mammoth B-52's to the C-123 assault transport, and from high altitude cruising to treetop level and dirt strips, was no problem for him. He loved flying and was ready for any mission.
Chinook pilot Aaron Watkins recalls some of the nerve wracking action on his missions in Vietnam, including getting shot at on the ground. That was a bad feeling because you're just there. You can't maneuver. He also reveals a very effective tactic, screaming in right above the trees.
When Lowe was finally scheduled to return home, he landed at Travis Air Force Base, went to San Francisco, and then finally his home in Chicago. Lowe’s very first civilian encounter was surprising and confusing. Lowe had some difficulty readjusting to civilian life, but his wife and family were patient and he was able to assimilate back into the civilian culture.
How did he spend his down time? "There was no down time," says Bob Atkinson, who was a Marine mortarman protecting Da Nang. He could relax enough at battalion, though, to play pranks involving a radio and a tape recorder.
The artillery fire was so intense at Camp Carroll that Bill Camper could not get a fix for counter battery fire. The rounds were coming from four directions. After four days of intense North Vietnamese attacks and with his ARVN counterpart ready to surrender, Camper escaped with a few others, but they were cut off and had to fight their way back into the camp. Then came a fateful radio call.
Fred Mills had a rookie pilot on a evacuation mission who nearly hit the only tree in a rice paddy. Other stories include a refused Purple Heart, tracers through the cabin, and landing a replacement craft next to the still smoldering craft it replaced.
As if the horrific battle he experienced during the Tet Offensive wasn’t enough, Rody Conway was nearly flattened by friendly fire in the form of artillery strikes. Back at his base, he relived the battle in his sleep, alarming his roommate.
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.
During firefights in Vietnam, there are always challenges that Rutowski and his unit always had to overcome. During one particular encounter, they had to worry about their position being compromised as they crouched in the woods hoping to stay hidden.
To Ernest Washington, Marine Corps basic training was "12 weeks of football practice." But it became much more serious when the civil rights upheaval of the time spilled over into the military. The beauty of it was the understanding which came from striving together as Marines.