6:57 | 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.
Keywords : Galen Hoover Vietnam river boat Saigon Vietnamization Annapolis Hotel protestor
One day, aboard ship, Galen Hoover got a notice he was being transferred to river boat duty in Vietnam. Soon after, the movie about the Green Berets was screened on movie night, so he had a lot to think about while he waited to go. First, he had to undergo four months of intensive training for the dangerous duty.
After a quick leave, Galen Hoover and a buddy from a nearby town, started the long trip to Vietnam. He stopped in a frigid Alaska on the way, but when the airliner doors opened in Vietnam, it was a different environment. It was hot and it smelled really bad. And why was that chicken wire on the bus windows?
The river boats operated near the Cambodian border. Galen Hoover was advisor to the Vietnamese crew of one craft, which was an old troop carrier. Every night, interdiction points were set along the river to catch infiltration from Cambodia. When he arrived at the unit, he couldn't believe the layout of the base.
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.
He was supposed to teach the crew all about the boat, but Galen Hoover had just arrived in Vietnam and some of the Vietnamese crew had been doing it for years. So his job was to man the radios and call for air and artillery support and for medical evacuation. Besides the enemy, there was rain...so much rain, and poisonous vipers.
Galen Hoover's river interdiction unit was moved from up near the Cambodian birder to the U Minh forest in the southernmost part of Vietnam. The waterways were very narrow, canals so small the boat couldn't turn around. The enemy were plentiful and devious. They even tried to trick him with bogus radio calls.
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.
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.
After his boat was blown up, Galen Hoover had to go back to Saigon and get a new assignment. He was offered a safe, quiet post after he was nearly killed but he pushed back, insisting that he was there to be in the action. He went to a unit in the Mekong Delta, interdicting fishing boats coming in from the ocean.
On their daily trips to the market to get the day's food, advisor Galen Hoover paid for most of it because he made more than his entire Vietnamese crew combined. He spoke Vietnamese, so he always listened to the conversation of the locals to pick up hints on enemy movements.
Galen Hoover's river boat was sometimes used for jungle insertions of Vietnamese troops, but you had to watch them closely while they were on board. Things would disappear. The area was heavily sprayed with Agent Orange, so it's a concern for him to this day.
Galen Hoover listened to Adrian Cronauer's radio show while he was serving in Vietnam and fondly recalls meeting him years later. He has visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial many times and discovered a cousin on the wall.
Galen Hoover and all but one of his brothers joined the Navy as they came of age in the Sixties. He was assigned to the USS Escape, a rescue and salvage ship. He saw 17 countries, including the entire Mediterranean, where the ship's divers assisted the local sponge divers with safety training.
The first thing that he noticed was the heat. Larry Taylor was assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry, and while he was getting used to the steamy climate, he made his way to Camp Evans in northern South Vietnam. There wasn't a lot of contact, but there were a lot of booby traps.
How did that interview with Air America go? Aviator Larry Taylor got the job, but he found out when he got to Thailand that he'd been lied to about his interest in flying T-28's. He was satisfied flying helicopters, though, and since he was a civilian, he actually got some time off every month.
Air America pilot Larry Taylor went with a pal from the Army to Vung Tau for a little R&R. There was just one problem. It was the end of January 1968 and the Tet New Year celebrations were about to begin. As soon as they arrived in Vung Tau, they immediately began hearing rumors of attacks. It was about to get real stressful.
One type of mission for Air America pilots was support for CIA operatives embedded with local tribes, particularly the Hmong. A lot of the action was near the Ho Chi Minh trail and the lesser known Sihanouk Trail, which was where pilot Larry Taylor had his helicopter shot up by ground fire.
The unit moved south after a relatively quiet time guarding an engineer unit. Larry Taylor noticed that the terrain around Quan Loi was different from where he'd been, with a lot of rubber plantations. His platoon was on on a short recon patrol when the young lieutenant decided to freelance a little, with nearly disastrous consequences. Part 1 of 2.
Air America pilot Larry Taylor speaks of his encounters with the legendary Anthony Poshepny, a.k.a. Tony Poe. Poe was a CIA operative living with the Hmnog tribe in a remote area of Laos. He had married a local woman and was considered indispensable to the clandestine campaign to aid the indigenous people.
In his 20 months with Air America, pilot Larry Taylor never heard the initials "CIA" spoken. He and his colleagues were never under any misconception, though, about who they were working for. He dismisses the accusation that Air America was involved in smuggling heroin on the side.
They were lost when the point man got shot. Rich Dorsey and the rest of the men in the platoon had never really been in a firefight, but necessity and the lack of a good leader made them focus and respond. They got the machine guns into a position where they could fire back and then he saw it. A grenade coming right towards them. Part 2 of 3.
He was happy to be home, but it was tough. Larry Taylor knew he had a problem when he was unable to keep score at the bowling alley. Even if you were lucky enough to have no physical wounds, everyone who returned from Vietnam was profoundly affected. Reunions with the men from his unit were a big help to getting over the war.
Advanced infantry training was tough, but Rich Dorsey had adapted well to Army life so he got through it fine. He was well versed in following orders so, after a brief leave at home, it was no problem for him to be at the right place in the right state to leave for Vietnam.
Air America pilot Larry Taylor flew the Sikorsky H-34, the same aircraft he'd flown in the Marines. It could take a lot of punishment and keep on flying, which was something he really loved. Official policy was that the civilian pilots could not carry weapons, but in a war zone, that policy was fairly flexible.
It was like slow motion in his mind. He watched machine gun bullets dancing down the trail, and as he scrambled to get out of the way, Rich Dorsey took a round off his helmet. Then, Captain Barry McCaffrey, who had taken over and made the company into a crack outfit, received a serious wound from the same enemy gunner. Part 2 of 2.
Air America aviator Larry Taylor was operating near a secret communications site when he heard on the radio that an A-1 Skyraider pilot was bailing out. He flew his helicopter to the area and was waiting when the parachute came down. It would be years before he learned the name of the rescued pilot.
There was little activity up by the DMZ, so Rich Dorsey's unit was moved further south, near the Cambodian border. This area was hot, as he found out on his first patrol which also turned out to be his first big firefight. Part 1 of 3.
The platoon heard on the radio that they were on their own, relief couldn't break through. Larry Taylor and the others had walked into an area swarming with NVA. He didn't think his chances were good but an officer from another outfit named Barry McCaffrey came to their aid. Part 2 of 2.
Rich Dorsey was wounded three times in Vietnam. The first two were minor injuries from friendly fire but the third involved a brave assault on a bunker. A small group led by Captain Barry McCaffrey were tying to relieve a platoon which was under heavy fire. Part 1 of 2.
After his time with Air America, Larry Taylor returned home and did two things, joined the Marine Corps Reserve and tried to find that sweet airline job. He finally got the job and concurrently rose through the ranks of the Marines. He would even have some active duty left in him in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Marine aviator Larry Taylor valued his stint with a ground unit as a liaison officer, but he was intrigued by this civilian outfit, Air America. It was an open secret that it was an intelligence operation supporting friendly locals in Southeast Asia. It could be mundane supply and refugee flights or it could be dangerous insertions on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
As his sister drove him to the airport to leave for Vietnam, a morbid thought came over Jesse Groves. He forgot about it when he got there and stepped off the plane into what seemed like hell itself. (Caution: strong language.)
He had a comfortable trip home on a big C-130, even though he had a wounded leg. John Johnson was released back into civilian life and it took a while to readjust. One night, he got a phone call which would lead to great peace of mind.
Rich Dorsey's platoon was written off back at battalion. A relief force had been stalled and there wasn't much chance of reaching the pinned down unit. In a helicopter overhead was Captain Barry McCaffrey, who was on his way to take command of another company. Hearing their plight on the radio, he instructed his pilot to land. He was going to get them out of this. Part 3 of 3.