9:25 | Why were the Montagnard units getting no contact? It was determined that they weren't going out far enough and on the second patrol that ventured further, Jim Bolan and the combined unit ran into the back of a VC ambush. A furious firefight followed, and he summoned his ace in the hole, the Air Force.
Keywords : James R Jim Bolan Special Forces (SF) Vietnam Bien Hoa John Hayes Montagnards Viet Cong (VC) ambush Forward Air Controller (FAC) Douglas A-1 Skyraider McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom napalm Blackjack message
Jim Bolan's father was a tool and die man who was so good, he quit several jobs during the Depression. The younger Bolan was allowed a great deal of independence and enjoyed a summer job on a farm and living with a rich aunt on the Jersey shore.
He was a good football player, having played semi-pro while still in high school. JIm Bolan didn't stop there, he played once he was in the Army and went to the 82nd Airborne to do just that. Someone else got that slot, though, so he went to Korea, where it was bunker battles on static lines.
Two interesting things happened to Jim Bolan in Korea. One night, after his shift in the command post ended, he was walking on a slippery steep hill when he lost his footing and down he went. What happened then was memorable. The other thing involved the failure to capture a Chinese soldier after two weeks of trying. He and his buddy decided to give it a try on their own. (Caution: rough language.)
Jim Bolan was attached to the Marines for a while as a sniper. He used an M-1 for the closer stuff but for anything really distant, he used his own rifle that his father had sent to him. Then a general got a look at it. Son, that's an illegal weapon.
Chesty Puller was already a legend when Jim Bolan met him in Korea. It wasn't long after that that he stood on the bank of the Yalu River and it wasn't long after that there was a long retreat back down the peninsula. He had some good friends there, including one who earned the Medal of Honor and one who maybe should have.
Jim Bolan returned to Korea as an officer where he witnessed a huge display of celebratory firepower on the last day of the war. While there, a reporter for a Dallas newspaper interviewed a home town boy and wound up causing a scandal.
At the beginning, there were less than 100 members of the 1st Special Forces Group, which was being assembled on Okinawa. The CIA was already in Vietnam, organizing civilian defense groups. Jim Bolan was one of the early officers but he had a couple of detours, including coaching a football team and creating a new department at the Special Warfare School.
The Special Forces were getting involved in Vietnam but early member Jim Bolan was assigned to Pakistan as an advisor for a year. Americans were still welcomed then and his wife could drive around the countryside to go to the commissary. They lived in a large house with servants led by a butler who was up to no good.
When Special Forces officer Jim Bolan got to Vietnam, he was waiting for a slot so he went to the field to help out there for a couple of days. He stayed for 2 months. When the higher ups found out there was a major out there, they pulled him out and put him in charge of a B-team at Xuan Loc. His Vietnamese counterpart was not helpful.
Special Forces officer Jim Bolan was in command of a B-Team but he was also the senior MACV advisor in his area. That meant he had monthly meetings in Saigon and at one of these, he met Gen. William Westmoreland, who became a very valuable contact when he had a problem.
Looking back over a long career with Special Forces, Jim Bolan remembers how little they started with, both personnel and equipment. They were under supplied and overused. He spent almost seven years in Vietnam with the first SF units which were comprised of soldiers who would never win Soldier of the Year.
After his last tour in Korea, Jim Bolan was assigned to Special Forces. No volunteering needed. Everything was highly classified and they began training with no real system in place. Different units were then combined to form the 1st Special Forces Group, based on Okinawa.
It was a lousy assignment. Jim Bolan was one of the first Special Forces officers and, after Vietnam, he wound up in a training unit with no jump slot. Prodded by his wife, he went to Washington to dust off his most valuable inside contact, who was now the Army's Chief of Staff.
He felt he had done his job well in Vietnam, but Marine Frank Cox wounded himself when his sidearm accidentally discharged. This bothered him for years, but the passage of time gave him the perspective to come to grips with it.
Returning from his first tour of Vietnam, George Forrest went straight to Fort Benning, so it was a good experience. As for the return from the second tour, it wasn't the worst day of his life, but it was right up there as he changed into civilian clothes to avoid the protesters. He thinks about the conditions for service members today and wonders if the overwhelming social media communications are a good thing for morale and focus.
New Marine officer Frank Cox and his friend Jack Swallows admired the beauty of the mountains and landscape of Vietnam as they approached it on the troop ship. They didn't know where they were going, but soon they knew what knowledge they were lacking, and that was how to avoid booby traps, how to avoid friendly crossfires and how to relate to people who weren't really on your side.
The new concept of mobile troops using helicopters was used extensively in Vietnam. COL Walt Russell was aboard one when he felt an odd sensation. Reaching up, he felt where a sniper round had blown a hole in his head “the size of a cigarette pack.”
In his first taste of action in Vietnam, Dennis Haines participated in the clearing of a large bunker complex. Inside, he spotted a Russian pistol just sitting there, begging to be a souvenir.
On his thirty day foray into the field with the Special Forces, Mike Waugh thought he would be in a hot area, but it was quiet. The Montagnards on the operation supplemented the C-rations with some delicious food and, when they returned to Pleiku, he was invited to dinner with their commander.
Frank Cox is a Marine who was inspired by that great American recruiter, John Wayne. There was no ROTC at his small college, so he signed up for a platoon leaders class. If you made it through two intense summer sessions, you had the chance to be a Marine officer after graduation.
After some R&R in Hawaii, Jim Benson had duty with the battalion operations staff. This soon grew tiresome and he longed to get back into the field and command a platoon again. He was able to do that and more before he left Vietnam.
Kenneth Moorefield explains a leadership challenge he faced in Vietnam, the lack of experienced non-commissioned officers. The Army was sending men from an accelerated training program who lacked the experience, and sometimes the will, to fight a war.
The Chieu Hoi were Viet Cong defectors who assisted American units in Vietnam, but George Forrest quickly realized that the ones at his base were not all that they seemed. The mortar fire at night was really accurate. He had a great admiration and respect for his own men, and lists the NCO's and officers who were the backbone of his company.
He already had a pretty significant career, but Ralph Puckett went to Vietnam as a battalion commander and didn't waste any time getting into the field. His first matter of business was to assure his unit commanders that he had their backs.
Dennis Haines was assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam. The only brigade not attached to a division, the light infantry was so-named because they could move out on a mission at a moment’s notice. He describes the execution and fear of a frontal assault.
When Frank Cox first got to Vietnam, his unit suffered from many rookie mistakes that put them at risk without even facing the enemy. A Naval gunfire officer attached to the unit chronicled these mishaps in a little black book.
After a variety of Army medical jobs, Fred Mills had a final task. Planning operations for the Gulf War. After retiring, he recalls the harassment when he returned from his 2nd tour in Vietnam. Some sore bar patrons and scared Hare Krishnas also remember.
Dennis Haines had seen dead soldiers on stretchers but it was totally different with his friend Jack Kirchner. Dennis had been right there with him in the line of fire. He learned it was best not to be too close to your wartime comrades.
Al Matheson had been a pilot on interesting intelligence missions and challenging Forward Air Control missions, but when he had to pick his next assignment, he chose the big birds of the Airlift Wing. He remembers one fateful mission flying orphans out of Vietnam.
The intel from the captured courier was juicy. A high level meeting of political cadres was to be held in a certain village and Captain Marshall Carter's unit was chosen to conduct a raid. Given the power to completely plan the operation, Carter requested extra choppers and a Medivac unit "on station," hovering high above the action waiting to descend. Part 1 of 5.
It was the most horrific, yet the most important day in his life. Jim Lawrence says the Battle of Landing Zone Albany made him the man he is today. As he sat in the hospital recovering from his wound, he read the casualty list from the battle and checked off over sixty names of men he knew personally.
He had already been in the Army for four years, serving in Germany and seeing the construction of the Berlin Wall. Freddie Owens then went to Fort Benning where he trained many of the men who would ship out to Vietnam with him. They went the old fashioned way, by troop ship.
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.
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 reveals his most vivid memory of Vietnam, the desperate run of Capt. George Forrest right through the middle of an ambush. He also talks about the best and worst days of his tour.