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.
Living full time with his Vietnamese crew meant that Galen Hoover ate what they ate. His first night on the river, they served him a dish that was so good, he requested it regularly, even after he found out what it was. The crew knew he was really green, so the boat captain thought he would mess with the new advisor a little.
Just as he heard of his promotion, medic Joe McDonald narrowly missed the mortar blast that claimed the life of his friend. Back in combat, rushing to relieve a unit under attack, he stumbled upon a scene of horrible atrocity.
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.
When Galen Hoover woke up in a hospital with a bandaged head and a broken hand, he had no idea what happened or how he got there. The guys from his unit came to see him and he finally heard the tale of that fateful patrol on the canal that day.
As Ron Christmas fought to capture the Capitol building in the battle for Hue, the sight of an enemy flag angered him. Even though it was forbidden, as soon as he secured the site, he raised an American flag to boost the morale of his men.
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.
Dasher Wheatley was out on a search and destroy mission, and he and his men quickly found themselves outmanned and outgunned. Butch Swanton, who was on the mission with Dash, was hit, and Dash ordered everyone else to retreat while he stayed with Swanton to get him evacuated.
In the I Corps area of Vietnam, the first time new platoon leader Al Lipphardt came under fire, he was slow to drop and take cover because he looked around to see the source of the fire as one of his men tugged on his pant leg. He learned that you drop and then look.
When Tommy Clack met Max Cleland, another triple amputee, and saw him get into a car and drive off, he knew he could eventually do it, too. Soon he was taking other veteran amputees on hunting and fishing trips.
The value of the Medivac chopper standing by at high altitude was proven when a pilot on a supporting fire mission had to bail out. Marshall Carter was able to call down the Medivac unit and extract the pilot, who surely would have been a POW. Part 4 of 5.
Rocky Bleier tells his story of determination--from the football fields of the U.S. to the rice-patties of Vietnam, and back again despite a life-changing injury he suffered during the war. (4-time Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steeler.)
George Forrest left home thinking his father had acquiesced to the white power structure in his home town. When he returned, though, he found out that what he'd done was just the opposite. Enjoying the ROTC element of his college experience, Forrest received a commission in the Army and had some interesting assignments before he joined a newly organized air assault division.
Reporter Joe Galloway was with COL Hal Moore and the 1st Cavalry Division, operating in the central highlands of Vietnam, when word came of enemy movement in the Ia Drang Valley. He waited with a group of correspondents, including Peter Arnett, all trying to get to the front. But it was Galloway who finessed a ride into the pages of history at the battle.
He considered it a day at the office, but on that day, helicopter pilot Roger Cox helped save an infantry platoon's bacon, landed in the middle of a fire fight in an attempted rescue, exhausted all his ammo trying to keep the men on the ground safe, and got shot down just for good measure.
Steve Long was on a bus headed to Marine boot camp when he encountered his first DI, barking orders. He thought he was getting a plum job while marching, but road guard turned out to be not so good. He did enjoy meeting recruits from a wide variety of backgrounds, which was new to him.
Carl Scheidegg would watch the MiGs take off at Yen Bai, but he wasn't allowed to attack the base. He had to wait until they came up and challenged him. This was just one of the frustrating things about Vietnam on his mind, including the fact that we had them beat before we walked away.
Vietnamization was underway and, soon, Galen Hoover was sleeping away the long flight home. He landed in San Francisco and was glad to be back in the States, but as he left the plane, here came the peace protestors. What happened next haunts him still.
The secret electronic intelligence operation known as Igloo White kept Al Matheson busy flying over Laos and North Vietnam. He describes the complex and exotic technology used which involved IBM mainframes and thousands of sensors, and he analyzes it's predictable failure.
Grayson Roulston remembers February 26th, 1968, when Bravo Company was in one of the worst firefights they’d ever seen at a hot landing zone. After facing very heavy casualties, they managed to medevac most of the company to safety and regain order.
Barney Barnum recounts his rising through the ranks during his time with the 12th Marines, and then eventually serving in Vietnam with the 9th Marines. In a village in rural Vietnam, one of his most defining moments as a Marine began suddenly, causing him to think on his feet. Part 1/3
Steve Long was on the ground overnight at An Hoa when the base came under mortar fire. He recalls the selfless action of his hosts there, who protected the visiting Huey crew as best they could. He lost a good friend in another incident, made more tragic by the unusual circumstances.
Before he shipped out for Vietnam, Army Air Traffic Controller Arthur Hurst studied the geography and landmarks of the country so he could get oriented more quickly. He was based mostly in the central highlands, and visited many of the restored French air fields. He recalls how some farmers would drop their hoes and rakes and pick up rifles and start firing.
It started 45 minutes out from Da Nang with a sobering announcement from the pilot. Then there was the oven-like climate, the surprise machine gun fire, the ribbing from the old-timers. Steve Long was definitely in Vietnam.
After two combat tours of Vietnam, Kenneth Moorefield returned as an aide to the US Ambassador. He describes the chaos of the final days of the doomed South Vietnamese government, and the desperate evacuation from the rooftop of the embassy at the end of April 1975.
Of all the casualties around Al Lipphardt in his first Vietnam tour, one in particular haunted him for years, the death of Rodney Loatman. It was an article in a magazine that brought it all flooding back into his consciousness decades later.
The river boats were patrolling in narrow canals and rivers, searching for infiltrating NVA troops. Galen Hoover was in the second boat, trailing a boat that was supposed to be mine sweeping. That was the last thing he remembered about that day.
There was little contact up by the DMZ so the 1st Air Cavalry was moved south near the Cambodian border. Plenty of action there. The first day, Jerry Gast's platoon set off on a 500 meter sweep in front of the perimeter and ran into a trail. The ambitious lieutenant decided they would follow it. Bad idea.