6:30 | It was the most intense action he saw during the war. Mike Morris describes the hour long battle with an NVA unit that made an unusual frontal assault. When daylight came, it was a grim scene, with hundreds of enemy dead.
Keywords : Mike Morris Vietnam North Vietnamese Army (NVA) frontal assault gunship tank flechette bodies
He was in the Marine Reserves, but in training, a doctor told him he needed hernia surgery and he was out. Mike Morris still had a military obligation, though, and the draft put him in the Army as soon as he was able. He did well because of his previous experience and was sent to NCO school.
It was a culture shock, arriving in Vietnam. Mike Morris remembers the wire mesh on the bus windows to keep out hand grenades. He was an NCO, but totally green, and the old hands began to groom the newbie. The first night, artillery shook him awake. Was it theirs or ours?
When Mike Morris got to Vietnam, he was issued an M-16 rifle, which was new to him. His first mission ended with him covered in mud, but he still had access to a shower at this point. That wouldn't last. In his backpack you could find socks and candy, supplied by his mom, which was a big help.
Before the Tet offensive began, there were reports of enemy movements and infiltration, but no one expected the size or scope of the attacks. For Mike Morris, it was the beginning of three months of chasing the Communist forces away from Saigon and back to the north and west.
The base camp at Cu Chi was a huge sprawling complex that was home to many American units and to someone else as well. Underneath it was a Viet Cong tunnel system almost as large as the base itself. The men who went in after them were known as tunnel rats and it only took one turn at that to convince Mike Morris that this wasn't the job for him.
Before Mike Morris got to Vietnam, he heard a lot about the booby traps. It was a terrible fear in the back of your mind. What if I fall into one of those pits? It was a very dangerous place where the people wanted you gone.
The medics were respected and protected by the rest of the unit and given the title of "Doc" once they were in combat. The medic who treated Mike Morris the day he was wounded later died himself in the same battle.
The noise was deafening when you came into a hot LZ. Mike Morris remembers the chaos and confusion that went along with the racket. He was in a mechanized infantry unit and he describes the workings of that and also he reveals the contents of his backpack, which owed a lot to his mom.
Mike Morris recalls the time his unit was almost overrun by the NVA. The enemy were good fighters and smart. Despite the imbalance in firepower, they called the shots.
People were rotating in and out of Vietnam all the time. When you got close to the end of your twelve months, you started to duck for cover a little faster. While recovering from a wound, Mike Morris lucked into a clerk typist job, and with only a couple of months to go, it looked like he was going to make it through his tour.
Mike Morris thought the Vietnam War would go on forever. After serving there, he just didn't see any way you could prevail. He resumed working for the Chicago White Sox, but eventually, he returned to the Army as a chaplain's assistant and then as a recruiter for chaplains.
Ellis talks about POWs who were in Son Tay, Vietnam for far longer than he was, which really put things into perspective for him. After the North Vietnamese demanded he make them a radio program and he refused to cooperate many times, Ellis' co-pilot Ken was subject to being forcefully kept awake for 21 whole days.
Andy Boyko came home from Vietnam twice, but the second time, the entire culture had shifted. He still had some time left owed to the Marines, and he describes the following weeks of breaking down and packing up. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.- https://theveteransmuseum.org/)
Curtis James returned from Vietnam to an assignment as director of personnel at Parris Island. This was the last post for the Marine Corps staff officer. His favorite was the Pentagon, where he initiated a brand new office to coordinate military crisis response.
Lee Ellis concludes his vast amount of stories from Vietnam to share all the things he learned from being held captive in a prisoner of war camp for so long. He describes what leadership is to him, and how you can still have influence on the people around you even if you aren't the one in charge.
As he waited to step foot in Vietnam for the first time, Charles Vicari was obsessed with the thought of stepping in a punji pit. Then he jumped off the helicopter and...no punji pit. Once he was over that, he settled into his role as mortar platoon sergeant.
At the POW camp in Son Tay, Vietnam, Ellis had to do plenty of different jobs to essentially clean up after himself and the other prisoners, and would rotate jobs frequently. After two whole years of being there, he got to write a letter back home to let them know he was okay. He remembers a few unfortunate death stories from the POW camp, and a few where some men attempted to escape. He himself never attempted escape, though.
It was at Camp Lejeune that William Moncus, now a gunnery sergeant, finished his career, training young Marines. He taught them to love their weapon and care for it, among other things. There was an airlift unit at the base, and he recalls the fiery aftermath of a training accident.
Although prisoners were kept on high lockdown and weren't allowed to communicate with any other prisoners outside their own cell, Ellis and his fellow POWs still found ways to do it occasionally. The North Vietnamese wanted to fool the world into thinking they were treating their prisoners kindly, so they created propaganda to hide how they were actually being treated.
He did his best to help along the new guys. Henry Templin remembered what it was like when he first arrived in Vietnam. He dodged booby traps, wrote letters home and tried to stay alive. Later in his tour, he was relieved when a skill he'd acquired before being drafted took him out of combat.
During his second tour in Vietnam, Mike DiRocco would be performing many of the same duties, but this time they would be focusing on preparing the people to defend themselves as the Americans prepared to withdraw from Southeast Asia. He wouldn’t leave the country unscathed, though. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.- https://theveteransmuseum.org/)
Ellis talks about carrying rocket pods on his planes, and the fact that accidents did happen while flying like minor engine trouble but he rarely saw any. While over there he did lose some friends he was close with during their pilot training, and he explains a bit of what it's like coping with the grief while still fighting in the war zone.
After he was shot down over enemy territory, Quincy Collins noticed his leg was broken in three different places upon his parachuted landing. The North Vietnamese soldiers that discovered him dragged him along, and all the while Collins thought he was a goner. They wound up hiking back up the Ho Chi Minh Trail to Hanoi. Fortunately, one generous Vietnamese man was helping him recover in secret little by little.
It wasn't long before Ellis was shipped up farther north, and along the way he caught up with his co-pilot Ken Fischer. They received a lot of negative interactions from the North Vietnamese civilians as one could imagine. As the truck Ellis was in drove through the town, he heard names being called and had things constantly thrown at him.
Collins describes in detail what it was like to finally be allowed to return home, from the final sign out of the prisoner of war camp to the ride back and touching back down on American soil. Sadly, his wife was fairly cold to him when he got back. He gives his final reflections and words of advice to generations forthcoming.
The destroyer had been off the coast of Vietnam for about a month when tragedy hit. One of the five inch gun mounts exploded in a freak accident. Al Stiles describes the chaotic aftermath as the sailors rushed to contain the fire and prevent further explosions.
After he moved back to the Hanoi Hilton, Ellis was actually elected by his fellow prisoners to be one of their French professors following one prisoner's demand to have a custom education program put in place. He mentions how he moved around a lot before his eventual release on March 14, 1973.
Bill Knowlton tells some stories about the men he served with during his time with 5th Special Forces and the sort of conditions they had to work through at their camp. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.- https://theveteransmuseum.org/)
While fighting in Vietnam, Lee Ellis had to deal with the loss of his best friend Tom. There were some soldiers whose loved ones had been notified that they had been killed in action, only for them to come home months later. He discusses the events leading up to the day he was shot down (Part 1 of 3).
When his tour was ending, the Special Forces camp was being transitioned to be operated by the RFPFs. While they were doing training in the field, a MAC-V group came to be pinned down and Bill Knowlton recalls taking a group of men to pull them out, for which he was awarded the Silver Star. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.- https://theveteransmuseum.org/)
The next day after the big release and the dining buffet, one of the men actually had a panic attack. Everyone including Ellis had a very drained mindset, meaning it was hard for them to feel emotions normally. He talks about how that affected him after he came home, his R&R experience and how, despite the massive protesting against the Vietnam War, he was never ridiculed because he was a prisoner of war.
Mike DiRocco joined the Army specifically to join Special Forces, and if they weren’t going to take him, he didn’t want to stick around. As expected, they were looking for only the most serious individuals to fill their ranks, and the standards were set high. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.- https://theveteransmuseum.org/)
Coming out of Officer Candidate School, Bill Knowlton would be assigned to the Special Forces which had already done a lot of work in Vietnam. In fact, some members had already done multiple tours there, and he recalls the tragic story of one who was trying to go back to support his comrades. After another long stint of training, he’d get his orders to Vietnam. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.- https://theveteransmuseum.org/)
During his first tour of Vietnam, medic Franklin Monroe was happy to be issued a .45 because it could get pretty dangerous when the compound was attacked. Eventually he sought out some heavier weaponry. He recalls those firefights and also the traumatic time a soldier stepped on a mine.
Andy Boyko was one of the first troops in Vietnam, but by the time he'd go on his second tour, the entire war had changed. The fighting was fiercer, and the enemy more intense. He describes the tenacity by which the VC and NVA fought against the Americans. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.- https://theveteransmuseum.org/)
Ellis shares more miscellaneous stories of his days as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. He covers what he and the other prisoners did from day to day, as well as the first laugh they all shared together. Since everyone was on edge all the time, it had been three whole months in captivity before they felt comfortable enough to laugh with each other.