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.
Marine mortarman Bob Atkinson got to relax back at battalion only every now and then, and it wasn't that safe there because it was hit frequently. Nor was he immune to heartbreak there, as he found out when a swarm of children went after food scraps in the dump.
The decision was made to evacuate the villagers while booby traps and bunkers were destroyed. An old woman walked up to forward observer Frank Cox and started kicking the ground and giving him grief. This led to a surprising friendship.
Ron Mastin took an ROTC commission out of college and went to flight school where he really took to it. His first assignment was in the back seat of an F-4 Phantom fitted for reconnaissance. He served a tour at an RAF base in England, then he was sent to Thailand to fly reconnaissance missions over Southeast Asia.
Vietnam was alive with animal life according to chaplain Bo Blasingame. Aside from the pythons, the tarantulas and the pet mongoose, there was a bird in a banyan tree that had a habit of making a noise that sounded like an obscenity during services.
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.
John Weinig enlisted in the Air Force ahead of the draft so he could choose his branch. After a year of training he was assigned to fly the A-1 Skyraider, a prop plane that was perfect for close ground support and that could carry a lot of varied ordnance. Then it was three different survival schools to prepare for Vietnam.
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.
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.
As an aeronautical engineer, Al Muller had done a lot of interesting work in the Air Force, but as a Forward Air Controller flying out of Thailand, he added the experience of war to his resume. After targeting a vast ammo dump that burned for two weeks, he got a surprise when he returned from R & R.
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.
Vietnam veteran Larry Jennings describes the use of Agent Orange to deprive the enemy of its hiding places. It really worked well, but in 2001, he joined the long list of personnel who had lingering effects. He also had a small shrapnel wound, for which he received no Purple Heart.
It was already late and Jim Benson had a river crossing to deal with. Once there, he called for the rope, a vital piece of gear for the crossing. Private Dewey had forgotten the rope. Private Dewey was a train wreck, but when the shooting started, he was the man you wanted by your side. The next day, after a sleepless night with the listening post reporting movement, they made a startling discovery.
Marine Corps helicopter pilot Bill Cunningham served a ground tour in California, where he set up a second training location for pilots. The Marines needed many more because Vietnam was heating up and helicopters had become vital to their mission. During this time, he had an interesting excursion to Thailand, where he trained Thai pilots.
While on his 2nd Vietnam tour, Fred Mills was picked to be the Aviation Officer for the Surgeon General. From there, he moved to the Pentagon and a civilian outreach program that resulted in widespread use of civilian air ambulance operations.
During his first tour of Vietnam, Bill Acebes experienced the distaste of searching for a missing soldier who turned out to be a coward but he also enjoyed the awesome sight of a new Huey Delta gunship. As he was leaving, he made Sergeant, then could barely get out of the country due to incoming fire. After a short run at college, he returned for a second tour as an advisor.
Recruit Dennis Haines wanted to go to airborne school but the Army gave him a choice. He could either go to airborne school or home for Christmas. He took the leave because he was worried he might not ever return.
As the enemy swarmed towards them, the Marines formed a 360 degree defensive position and then they faced a night long assault. It was Frank Cox spotting the artillery support that won the upper hand against, as he calls the Viet Cong, "as difficult an enemy as the Marines have ever faced." Part 2 of 2.
While the doctors tried to find out whether he'd had a heart attack or not, alarming telegrams began to go out to Mac McCahan's family, despite the fact that he'd signed a document directing the Army to send such messages only in the event of death. Part 2 of 3.
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.
Tom Reilly was nearly killed in Vietnam seven times. Once, an RPG landed in a pond next to him and sizzled like a giant Alka Seltzer in the water. His friend, Dennis Haines, was not so lucky when three snipers opened up.
On the road to Hue, McMahon encounters legendary war correspondent Catherine Leroy, who surrenders herself to North Vietnamese occupiers for her now famous article "The Enemy Lets Me Take His Picture". Years later, the two reconnect.
Mac McCahan never cared for the rule that he had to store his weapon in the safe in his office. When the Tet Offensive happened, he had to hunker down, unarmed, in his quarters. When he returned to the States, he was armed only with his dignity as he faced rabid protestors.