4:55 | When a new pilot checked in, David Farthing asked where he was before. The answer caused him to bite his tongue. They were always short of pilots in the assault helicopter company, but he didn't think this guy was going to work out. Overall, though, things were getting better and it was his opinion that it had a lot to do with the new top commander, Creighton Abrams. (Caution: coarse language.)
Keywords : David Farthing pilot Australian William Westmoreland Walter D. Aexander Creighton Abrams rocket attack helicopter (chopper) Vietnam
David Farthing was born in Brisbane but, in 1942, civilians were moved south because of the war. After growing up near Melbourne, he entered the Naval College at fifteen years old. After he became an established officer, he jumped at the chance to go to flight school, where he learned to fly both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.
A career officer and pilot in the Australian Navy, David Farthing was an instructor for a time, then it was his turn for a Vietnam tour. He would command the Australian component of a combined US/Australian helicopter company. A team of good young pilots was assembled and his wife commented years later, they were like the guys in Top Gun.
It was an assault helicopter company composed of US and Australian personnel. David Farthing was the leader of the Australian contingent and he had to go over the head of the American commander when an unqualified pilot arrived as an instructor. The outcome of that incident tragically confirmed his opinion of the man.
Helicopter pilot David Farthing had forgotten the incident for years, like so much of the Vietnam War forgotten by so many of its veterans. It was years later that it came to him how close he was to dying on his very first combat mission.
There was a cocky young pilot in David Farthing's company who came back from a mission with greenery on his skids. His explanation was surprising. Another pilot wanted to marry a Vietnamese woman who worked at the base but there were some obstacles to overcome.
It was difficult to return home to Australia from Vietnam. The war was unpopular and the veterans were shunned. David Farthing was a career Navy officer and continued a very good career, but he was not immune to this sentiment.
He was a mariner and a pilot but David Farthing felt that he needed a more academic skill, so he went to law school while still serving as an Australian Navy officer. That allowed him to have a very nice second career when he left the service.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
His uncle was a veteran, so Bruce D'Agostino corresponded with him while in Vietnam, feeling he would understand what he was going through. The disgust began to build as he witnessed the nonchalant treatment of the remains of dead soldiers and read the ridiculous undercounts of casualties by the top brass. His top secret clearance gave him access to material which convinced him that they had no intention of winning the war.
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.
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.
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.
For Larry Jordan, the most poignant memory of Vietnam was Christmas Eve 1969. In the field on an ambush, he wondered what he was doing hunting his fellow man on this holy day. In the dark quiet of night, an explosion rocked the jungle. Someone had triggered one of the trip wires.
When the battle of Ia Drang started, reporter Joe Galloway flattened until he heard Sergeant Major Basil Plumley bellow, "Can't take no pictures laying there on the ground, Sonny." Galloway not only got up, he was a player in the biggest battle of the war, with Custer's old outfit in a river valley surrounded by a vastly larger number of hostiles.
Veteran Marine Jay DeGraw, like so many old hands, wound up with a Vietnam tour late in a long career. He says he was a paper pusher, but he spent his time behind sandbags with everyone else when the incoming was hot. The salty Sergeant describes that tour as only he can.