8:08 | While he was beginning his shift as the night duty officer, Lawson Magruder would marvel at the wrecked helicopters brought back to base. The brigade had moved and tactics had not been adjusted for the fact that there were anti-aircraft batteries up near the DMZ. He relates the story of LT Dick Anshus and a downed pilot who were captured.
Keywords : Lawson W. Magruder III Vietnam duty officer Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Dong Ha Lam Son 719 Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) helicopter Dick Anshus Hughes OH-6 Cayuse (Loach) Prisoner Of War (POW) Hanoi Hilton Fort Benning
Family and faith helped LTG Lawson Magruder cope with the harder parts of a long career. That and a resilient state of mind. The new digital world may be making this kind of balance more difficult.
Lawson Magruder's father was a career Army officer who had his family with him at posts around the world. The younger Magruder's eyes were opened when they drove from Paris to Normandy and found the spot where his father was wounded in the battle. At a later post in the Philippines, he found inspiration at Corregidor.
The timing didn't work out for Lawson Magruder to attend West Point, so he settled for his father's alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. When the school recruited the elder Magruder to be Professor of Military Science, the entire ROTC got some seriously good instruction.
It was a tip that paid off. Learn from your platoon sergeant all you can. Lawson Magruder was a green lieutenant when his first platoon sergeant handed him a little green book.
Lawson Magruder was excited to be heading to Vietnam to an airborne unit, but he had a rude awakening when he was told he was going to the Americal Division. Well, he belonged to the Army and he went where they needed him. The young platoon leader had no more than a quick introduction to his men when he was off on his first air assault.
When the resupply convoy was scheduled at the firebase, the road had to be swept for mines and booby traps. LT Lawson Magruder sent a squad to protect the engineers who were performing the sweep. The men were then told by the convoy commander to ride the refuel truck back to the firebase. Lawson wished they had walked.
He was on the way to brigade headquarters. Lawson Magruder had been designated Lieutenant of the Week, something the brigade commander liked to do to give young officers a taste of high level operations. At the end of the day, he had a great surprise.
When Lawson Magruder returned from Vietnam, he took the lessons learned in that war and helped to shape the training programs of the new volunteer Army. He went to Fort Benning for the career course and that's when the dreaded Reduction in Force began to hit the officer corps.
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.
It's important to have a confidant or someone's ear to listen, even if it's just a journal. Lawson Magruder had his father, who had also been a career Army officer. This was important after a great loss in his platoon.
The army had to plan for operations that were short of total war, stability and security operations. Lawson Magruder worked with a team writing new light infantry doctrine, which was the type of force that would be tasked with these missions. Ironically, he was soon at the 10th Mountain Division, which was destined for Somalia.
The 10th Mountain Division deployed to Somalia, where LTG Lawson Magruder worked with his Marine counterpart to secure distribution of humanitarian aid and stop the fighting between rival factions. It was not yet the Information Age, so he and his staff would huddle around a lone satellite phone every evening.
There were two rival militia leaders in Somalia, both of whom had been in the Somali army. Both had also met with BG Lawson Magruder, who warned them to cease hostilities. They didn't listen.
Lawson Magruder, who commanded troops in the Somali deployment, was disturbed by what he discovered after the conflict was over. Partisan distrust following a change of administrations had sidelined the most experienced diplomat in the area. This contributed to an already bad situation.
Bruce D'Agostino did well in business following his service in Vietnam. One thing he didn't do was have much contact with fellow veterans, but that changed in 1987 when he met a POW/MIA activist at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He began loosening red tape, and eventually made back channel contact with the Vietnamese government.
The call came in. Delta Company was in a Broken Arrow situation and could be completely destroyed, so a relief effort was assembled and they started climbing through rough terrain. Gordon Roberts was the point man when, all of a sudden, an unseen bunker erupted with fire. Finding himself alone, he moved forward toward the bunker, laying down suppressive fire of his own. When it was over, four bunkers were taken out by one man. Part 1 of 2.
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.
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.
Vietnam veteran Al Lipphardt has an instant connection with other veterans of any conflict. He says to truly understand a combat veteran, one must have been through combat because the experience is overwhelming.
After nearly getting wiped out at Hill 996, Owen Ditchfield's company spent some time clearing hilltops for landing zones near the Laotian border, where high tech surveillance equipment could trigger remote ambushes on the enemy's supply trails. He relates how life back at the base camp was nearly as dangerous as being on patrol in the jungle.
Initial contact had been made with the enemy at a site known as Hamburger Hill. Two days after Gordon Roberts arrived in the A Shau Valley, the battle began to grow, and lasted ten days as a vast bunker complex was discovered and taken. The main lesson he took from this fight was to press hard after initial contact so the opposition can't set up and execute their plan.
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.
Dasher Wheatley was one of many Australian soldiers that fought with Lowe in Vietnam. Each had his own nickname, and each was strange in his own way. Dash sat with his fellow Aussies every day in the cafeteria while Lowe sat with the Air Force Bird Dogs. One day, Dash invited Lowe to sit with him and his “mates”, and what happened as a result left Dash and the other Aussies laughing.
Ron Mastin's first stop at the Hanoi Hilton was an area known as Heartbreak Hotel. One day he heard an American voice, the first he'd heard. "Do you know the tap code?" Once he had this, when he was near others, they could communicate. He still did not see another American until he got his first roommate.
Freddie Owens 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.
Dasher Wheatley taught Lowe many important lessons and he was always prepared for whatever situation befell the men. One day Dash filled up his canteens with water, added the purification tablets, put them away, and then drank water straight from the stream. Confused, Jim asked what he was doing, to which Dash responded in a way that proved just how valuable a soldier and great a friend Dash was to Lowe.
Paul Jacobs took command of the USS Kirk late in 1974. Its deployment was rushed in order to provide humanitarian relief as the war effort crumbled in Vietnam in April of 1975 and people began to flee. Enlisting a tanker to clear the way into Saigon, they began to take on helicopters, pushing them over the side after offloading the people.
What Marine Captain Ron Christmas knew, as he assembled a relief convoy, was that action was reported in Hue. What he and others didn’t know was that the North Vietnamese Army had infiltrated the entire city.
The Ia Drang veterans were visiting North Vietnamese veterans of the same battle. When Bill Beck drew a diagram of his machine gun position in the battle, the North Vietnamese officer at the table turned white.
Ron Christmas tells the story of a Marine who kept getting wounded, and kept returning to battle because he couldn't desert the men that he considered to be his brothers. That, he says, is the true meaning of Semper Fidelis.
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.
It was extreme in effort and cost. Lt. Beirne Lovely reflects on the difficulty of a ground frontal assault, the bravery of his men and the lack of overwhelming force that was needed. One particular Sergeant decide to supply his own overwhelming force with a .60 caliber machine gun on his hip. Though in constant fear and danger, his men never hesitated.
Believing there would be an uprising among the populace, Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Giap planned a general offensive for the Tet New Year in 1968. There was no uprising, but Ron Christmas would see some of the nastiest fighting of the war as a result.
It was Friday the Thirteenth when a North Vietnamese soldier fired an RPG at Ron Christmas. Dodging a direct hit, his legs were wounded badly enough to cause his evacuation. Unfortunately, he became lost in the medical system.
After a couple of days of fierce fighting, George Forrest was told his company was now attached to another unit and was bringing up the rear as they moved out on foot to make way for a B-52 strike. After uttering an expletive, he moved out with the column on the infamous march to LZ Albany, the last big engagement of the epic Battle of the Ia Drang Valley. Part 2 of 4.
Marine Ron Christmas reflects on the basic principles of urban warfare, which he learned on the fly in the battle for Hue. He felt blessed in his later career as he received many rewarding assignments.