5:49 | He was used to hot, humid summers, but when the door on the airliner opened in Da Nang, Tim Dunn felt like he was standing in front of a blast furnace. The Marines who came to pick him up were dirty and dusty and haggard looking.
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His relatives were all Navy, so when Tim Dunn got it in his head to join the Marines, he caught a little flak. The Navy recruiters had not seemed interested when he and his high school buddies visited the recruiter, plus he thought that, in the Marines, he would have more reliable guys around him.
It was shock and awe, by design. It was daytime when Tim Dunn arrived at the airport in South Carolina, but the bus to Parris Island didn't take the recruits there until it was night. More disorienting that way. The language and the volume coming from the DI's was shocking and eventually he realized why it was so harsh.
There were three Dunns in boot camp and the senior DI had dubbed Tim Dunn "Admiral Dunn." This became his name through the rest of his time there. Although he had never fired a gun in his life, he managed to score just shy of expert rating.
New Marine Tim Dunn had to get to the west coast on a standby ticket. He ran into Bobby Bridges, another Marine who had already been to Vietnam and who coached him on how to avoid getting bumped from the flight. His last stop before the war was in Okinawa, where you could get a last night on the town.
Hotel Company was the only unit at the outpost south of Da Nang on Highway 4. Marine Tim Dunn later learned that this was area was heavily contested when the French were there. There was a combination of VC and NVA forces active in the area.
There were a lot of booby traps where Tim Dunn was deployed south of Da Nang, both explosive and non-explosive. He was a Marine rifleman and one of his jobs was to mark targets with white smoke using a rifle grenade. They were looking for volunteers to train as snipers and it was decided that he would do it.
When he was "volunteered" to become a Marine sniper, Tim Dunn was sent back to battalion to train. They used a variety of older weapons but settled on a Remington with a walnut stock. That weapon was developed into the modern Marine sniper rifle.
The Marine sniper teams were sent to help rifle companies in the bush. Tim Dunn was one of these snipers and he recalls one mission in which he cleanly dispatched an enemy and caught flak for it from the platoon leader he was sent to help.
Marine sniper Tim Dunn had a variety of other duties while on base, including standing perimeter watch and joining the quick reaction force. There were no sniper operations at night. The night vision technology of the time was too primitive to be of much help.
Marine sniper Tim Dunn tells the story of an enemy sniper who was vexing US forces south of Da Nang. Everybody was looking for her but it was pure chance that did her in.
What's it like to shoot somebody 1000 yards away? Marine sniper Tim Dunn recalls his time in Vietnam, where the shooting conditions had what he calls "heavy air." You had to have the right frame of mind to operate alone in the jungle. It took more than just being a good shot.
As his rotation date approached, Tim Dunn went on one last patrol, which was, thankfully, uneventful. As he waited for transportation home, he began to feel remorse over leaving his buddies.
It was the first time any of them had seen a miniskirt. Tim Dunn was in a group that just returned from Vietnam. What had happened while they were gone? He didn't experience any hostility until he was out on the town with some buddies and they introduced him to a girl who said something totally unexpected.
After his Vietnam tour, Marine sniper Tim Dunn had 18 months left to serve. He was assigned to the 2nd Marines but they had no interest in using his skills in their sniper school. That puzzled him but he finished his service with no complaints and went to try his hand at higher education.
After he had been working as a sniper for awhile, Tim Dunn was getting a little salty. When he was sent to help out a company on an operation, he walked in and said, "Gunny, your troubles are over." When the sergeant looked up and he saw who it was, he snapped to attention.
Tim Dunn saw an ad in Leatherneck magazine about a gathering at a ship dedication. That started him on reconnecting with his Marine comrades at reunions, including one for his Scout Sniper unit. He has been back to Vietnam and reports that the people there are completely over the war and genuinely welcoming to Americans.
During one mission, they were ambushed by enemy forces, leaving himself and others wounded. After they began to engage the enemy, they had retreated and the Medevacs were called in to gather the injured.
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.
Back home in the States, reporter Joe Galloway was disturbed by the treatment of returning Vietnam vets and eager to tell his story about the Ia Drang battle. A new job with U.S. News & World Report allowed him to do that and it resulted in a best selling book authored by him and Hal Moore, the American commander at the battle.
The Tunnel Rats went right down into the Viet Cong's holes in the ground and eliminated them. When new Lieutenant Jerry Sinn got a taste of it, he knew he could do it. The teams were experienced, disciplined and deliberate, and since it was the 1st infantry Division, no less was expected.
Mike Law remembers finishing school with plenty of flying time where he felt like he began to get proficient at flying. Operating his aircraft in Vietnam was always difficult with the NVA constantly shifting and having to learn their changing routes.
He was apprehensive, of course, especially after somebody told him he wasn't going to last because of his height. Al Copeland entered Vietnam as a replacement and began to learn the art of the ambush. After dealing with the mosquitos, he had to deal with the booby traps.
The restrictions on artillery fire in Vietnam were so strict that by the time permission to fire was obtained, the combat conditions had changed. Artillery liaison officer Frank Cox tells how he beat the system once he became a forward observer by using prepared coordinates and then firing his pistol in the air as he requested the fire mission over the radio.
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.
A Chinese soldier managed to return an Air Force Class Ring back to the family of the fallen soldier, Pat Wynne, who Mac Armstrong knew from his time in Vietnam. This gave them closure on how he passed while flying over North Vietnam.
Bud Alley had one more big operation during his tour and that was Bong San. It started badly, with a plane full of men crashing into a mountain before the maneuver even began. Then, to his astonishment, he was made liaison to the South Vietnamese force. Having survived that, just before his time was up, another bad chain of events began with a new commander asserting his power.
Marine helicopter pilot Bill Cunningham had a hooch next to the short runway where his aircraft were based. One night he was startled to hear the roar of a large jet aircraft very close. He awoke to a strange sight.
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.
Nineteen and invincible, newly minted helicopter pilot Ed Zielinski was singing on the 26 hour flight to Vietnam. Assigned to work with a Korean unit, he began to familiarize himself with the area he was based in, determined to be the best pilot there.
Jerry Gast says it was the leadership in his company that made all the difference in Vietnam. Captain Barry McCaffrey and 1st Sergeant Emerson Trainer set the tone and it filtered down though the NCO's. That all took a turn when both were wounded at the beginning of a fierce firefight.
To promote espirit de corps, Marine company commander Paul Van Riper required the men to fix bayonets as they crossed the wire. They were very dedicated to their unit, as demonstrated by one young corporal who was repeatedly wounded, yet kept returning. Then there was the Sergeant Major who gave him the highest compliment a young Captain can receive.
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.
"Don't shoot! They're our people!" That was the order but Henry Dunn resumed fire at the targets he had who were wearing pith helmets. The ambush at Landing Zone Albany had raged for hours when someone finally got some air support called in. The A-1E's dropped napalm to the cheers of the surviving soldiers. Part 3 of 4.
Bill Cunningham was in command of a Marine helicopter squadron in Vietnam, and he was lucky to have a competent and respected sergeant major on his team. He recalls the time the man defused a tense situation involving an intoxicated Marine and an M-16.
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.
At the Kilo One fire base, a relief platoon came in late and Bob Atkinson's platoon was told not to leave, but to stay the night. That was fortunate for them all because there were an extra thirty Marines in camp. Bob woke to explosions and shot a man running at him. Though he had never fired the mortar himself, he began laying down fire on the human waves of enemy. Part 1 of 3.