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.
Photos provided by Jim Littig from his time in Vietnam in 1968.
He should have been leery of the whole thing. George Forrest's unit was protecting convoys on the highway when the word came, a unit was heavily engaged in the Ia Drang Valley. From that point on, nothing seemed right, starting with Chinooks instead of Hueys coming to transport them. They arrived the second day of the battle and bolstered the exhausted troops led by Hal Moore. Part 1 of 4.
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.
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.
Charlie McMahon leads a convoy into Hue, unaware that the Tet Offensive has begun. Upon discovering a city occupied by stubborn North Vietnamese forces, he and his team tread carefully, battling the entrenched army street-by-street, house-by-house.
Stuart Jamison recounts the destruction of his battalion on February 26, 1968. They thought they were landing in a fairly safe area, after seeing farmers working in the fields, but ended up landing right on top of the Viet Cong. As the troops marched toward the tree line, the enemy opened up.
Under the rules of the Marine Corps at the time, Ron Christmas should have been discharged after he was wounded in Vietnam. As he recovered his strength, he was able to avoid a medical exam until he got in line with some inductees.
When Ron Christmas was assigned to Vietnam, he was so excited to be going that he studied the Vietnamese language at his own expense. When he arrived in country, he reluctantly took the command of a service company.
In Vietnam, Joe McDonald helped Montagnard villagers engineer their water supply and increase their crop yields. But back home, speaking at schools, the parents didn’t believe him, saying in Vietnam we were only bombing and killing people.
Newly minted Marine Lieutenant Beirne Lovely was making contact with the enemy every day as soon as he arrived at Khe Sanh. Assigned to establish a forward outpost, his unit was annoyed by the lack of rations when a grazing deer was spotted. The results of the deer hunt were a little concerning.
Freddie Owens reflects on the heroic actions of CPT George Forrest during the battle of the Ia Drang Valley. He saved the day, but still, men were lost. One was the baby of the unit, eighteen year old Vincent Locatelli. Owens felt that if he could keep young Vincent alive, he could do it for the others.
After his first combat experience, medic Joe McDonald was told he was not required to pull wounded soldiers from live fire, but he felt differently. His chief task was to stop the bleeding and get the wounded stabilized for evacuation.
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.
The POW's were moved around the countryside and, eventually, back to the Hanoi Hilton. They knew something was up when they were allowed to mingle and were allowed to try on new clothes. Then the camp commander read aloud the Paris Peace Accords, but the reaction was subdued. Finally, one group was suited up and marched out of the prison.
Marines were trained for jungle warfare in Vietnam, but Captain Ron Christmas found himself in a house-to-house urban battle in Hue. He prevailed using lance corporal ingenuity and PFC power, along a handy 106mm recoilless rifle.
Tommy Clack was taught by John Racine, one of his NCO's, how to find out who was shooting in a firefight and who was just staying out of it. After the battle, you felt the gun barrels of the soldiers on the line.
Marine helicopter pilot John Jones recalls a fateful day when he switched aircraft with his friend, Bruce Eaton. Not long after the switch, it suffered a mechanical failure and crashed, killing all aboard. He had to pack up his friend's belongings to send home and he remembers a poignant moment when he saw a drawing that hung over the man's bunk.
Al Lipphardt’s last duty in his first Vietnam tour was with a new unit that had just arrived. He taught them the ropes, as in "don’t take the path" and "don’t pick things up." Back home, he moved into Military Intelligence, specializing in Aerial Surveillance.
No one got any sleep that first night in Vietnam. Freddie Owens recalls the tension among the men, most of whom he had trained. This bond would make it tough for him later on when the dying started. His unit went straight into the field and stayed there. Not a chance they would get to see Bob Hope but they did claim to run into some Chinese troops.
When he arrived in Vietnam at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Tom Reilly was assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade at Long Binh, and began a routine of sweeps, patrols and ambushes. Long periods of monotony were the rule, but he soon got a taste of action.
Reporter Joe Galloway wanted to get to the action but the airspace around the battle was closed. After he got a fellow crazy Texan named Ray Burns to fly him in, he was told to go see camp commander Charlie Beckwith. The Major needed everything but a reporter, but he immediately put Joe to work on a machine gun.