4:52 | American advisor John Le Moyne didn't give the South Vietnamese Airborne unit much advice. He was there to call in air strikes, artillery, Medevacs and resupply. He marveled at the toughness and courage of the fighters who traced the unit's lineage back to the French Colonial Airborne.
Keywords : John Le Moyne Vietnam advisor Airborne Vietnamese air strike artillery Medical Evacuation (Medevac) French
College was expensive, so John Le Moyne took a year off to enlist in the Special Forces Reserve. It changed his life. When he returned to the University of Florida, he did half the studying and got twice the grades.
After just a small taste of military training, John Le Moyne wanted more. He joined ROTC and then took a regular Army commission. Next stop: Ranger School.
His first assignment was in a Davy Crockett platoon, but that field nuclear weapon system was short lived and John Le Moyne began training to be an advisor in Vietnam. When he got there, he walked out of in-processing and went looking for the unit he wanted.
The enemy was mainly NVA regulars where American advisor John Le Moyne was working with a South Vietnamese Airborne battalion. They would pour out of Cambodia every couple of weeks and attack. Some of the men with the Airborne had been fighting the Communists for twenty years.
His first day in the jungle was memorable. American advisor John Le Moyne saw his South Vietnamese paratroopers stage a daring frontal assault, called in his first air strikes and Medevacs and, after it was over, he wondered if every day was going to be like this.
It was about the closest he came to a bad end in Vietnam. John Le Moyne had to low crawl up to a dug in machine gun position for the better part of an afternoon. Fortunately, there was a flaw in their building design.
Six months after John Le Moyne had battled entire regiments of the NVA in the Tay Ninh area, there were only isolated small groups operating. The war had changed. As a new company commander, he had a lot of questions and he was fortunate to have superiors who were patient.
Advisor training gave John Le Moyne a good grounding in Vietnamese language and culture. Reading books like Street Without Joy and The Ugly American gave him an idea of what to expect as an outsider in a nation at war. Once he was there, he found out that he had been taught the language with a North Vietnamese accent.
The VC were scarce. After the Tet Offensive severely reduced their numbers, the battle for John Le Moyne was with the NVA. He had access to a range of supporting fire, and when he called in air power, he preferred the A-1E Skyraider, a powerful prop plane that was more suited to close support than jet aircraft.
John Le Moyne never asked questions. The American advisor just ate the dinner his Vietnamese partners served him every night. There was no real down time for the South Vietnamese Airborne. They were always on the move. One night, the battalion XO made contact on the radio with an enemy soldier across the border in Cambodia. This led to an interesting discovery.
Vietnam was full of important lessons for John Le Moyne, who tried to pass the knowledge on throughout his career. Should we have been there? Maybe not, when you consider who was in charge at the time. At least he missed the ill treatment that many experienced when he returned.
It was lessons learned in Vietnam that John Le Moyne tried to pass on as an instructor in Ranger school. The candidates would soon have the awesome burden of being responsible for the lives of others.
John Le Moyne had come in to Saudi Arabia leading an advance team. Starting from scratch in the desert, in the summer, huge operating bases were established. The locals were amazed at the way the Americans adapted to the environment. It was during this conflict that many innovations in troop care and comfort were devised.
John Le Moyne never had a bad assignment. That's the way he looked at it, anyway, and it had a lot to do with the excellent leaders he encountered throughout his career. They helped him crack the code on how to win the trust of soldiers.
During Operation Just Cause, John Le Moyne was assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) as a liaison officer to other agencies. In this capacity, he was able to observe some high level command operations that were very impressive. It was only a short while after this brief conflict that Saddam Hussein began to make noise in the Middle East.
At the end of his Vietnam tour, door gunner Kevin Hathaway was in gunships. No more ferrying troops, just shoot 'em up. On Halloween night of 1967, he was in an epic battle which included human wave assaults. (Caution: coarse language.)
Green Beret John Overcash went through a lot of tough training but the toughest was the underwater demolition course run by the Navy. The grueling pace was similar to SEAL training and men were dropping out every day until there were only three left.
You can run into old friends at unit reunions. You can also embarrass them, as Kevin Hathaway found out when that happened to him. Near the end of his tour, he and two buddies took a trip to Vung Tau, a beautiful beach resort. One of them he ran into at the reunion. The other never made it to any reunions. (Caution: coarse language.)
After his second Vietnam tour, John Overcash spent a year in Okinawa and then went to Fort Benning to develop and run a small unit tactics course for the Ranger School. This is where he got the nickname Phantom Ranger. He then tendered his resignation to devote time to his family, but the Army wasn't through with him yet. "Needs of the service," meant that he was going on a third tour.
Door gunner Kevin Hathaway had a great pilot on his ship who had started out poorly, but grew quickly into his job as an aircraft commander. One day, he saw a Cessna spotter plane crash near an ARVN encampment. He came down to a low hover and had his gunner jump out and retrieve the injured pilot. (Caution: coarse language.)
Squad leader Lucio Lopez would take the point a lot. He did not want another Marine in danger and he, frankly, did not trust all of them to do it right. He was also the demolition man and tunnel rat for his unit. Some of the underground facilities he found were truly amazing.
When he came home from Vietnam in his uniform, Kevin Hathaway's attitude was that he didn't care what you said to him, but you better not get in his space. There was no work to be found, at first, but he finally landed a job at Pratt and Whitney refurbishing jet engines. (Caution: coarse language.)
The Special Forces recon team was looking for an ammo and supply dump in Laos. John Overcash was the team leader and, after they found a huge rice cache, he split off to look for the ammo dump. Almost immediately, he heard gunfire back with the main group. The mission was now compromised. Part 2 of 2.
Carol Rosenberg couldn't find boots that fit when she arrived in Vietnam. All the clothing was for male personnel. The young nurse was soon serving in a hospital ward full of extreme malaria cases and drug addicts. Stanley Rosenberg was fortunate to have more experienced doctors show him how to provide care in the extreme trauma cases that are an inescapable part of war.
Raised in the projects of South Boston, Kevin Hathaway was so impressed with John F. Kennedy's speech about what you can do for your country that he quit high school and joined the Army. At basic training, he met a man who changed his life, his drill sergeant.
We could have won any of the recent wars outright if the troops had been turned loose to do the job. That's the position of Vietnam veteran Clebe McClary, who wondered when he was there why they were taking the same hill over and over.
During his last Vietnam tour, John Overcash was advising an ARVN division and coordinating air support. He managed to reduce the response time significantly. This was his last rodeo and he headed home to North Carolina.
Sammy Davis received a harmonica from his mom, which meant he had to learn how to play it. Since his guard duty was on an artillery battery, he could play it while keeping watch. This became an indispensable part of life in the unit.
Carol Rosenberg was the only female in her group in transit to Vietnam. She was very young, too, and the strange and exotic place was overwhelming. Stanley Rosenberg experienced the same disorientation until a nearby B-52 strike focused his attention.
It was during his second Vietnam tour that Green Beret John Overcash had to practically throw his team of Chinese mercenaries up to a hovering chopper that couldn't land because of the slope. Problem was, once he was the only one left, how was he going to get aboard?
He wasn't the best at drilling and he struggled with the academics at OCS, but Clebe McClary made it through to become a newly minted Marine Lieutenant. Then he was promptly sent to Vietnam, where he volunteered for Recon Battalion.
It was very spartan at the hospital in Phu Bai. The hooches were small and hot and the food was dicey except for midnight breakfast. Carol was a nurse and Stanley was a doctor when they first caught sight of each other in the officers club. She was unimpressed at first but life with the tight knit medical staff meant that they would get to know each other well.
Kevin Hathaway was only seventeen but he was serving with the mechanized infantry in Germany. He knew he would be going to Vietnam once he turned eighteen, but he figured out a way to get reclassified as a door gunner on a helicopter. He would fly over rice paddies instead of slogging through them.
The Montagnards were the original inhabitants of Vietnam. They were pushed into the highlands as other ethnic groups came into the region. For Green Beret John Overcash, they were stalwart allies. They could live off the land in the jungle, unlike the Vietnamese, who were dependent on their rice bowl.
Kevin Hathaway talks about the enemy weapons he encountered in Vietnam. They had a lot of old .50 caliber machine guns from the French that they rolled around on carts. One day, he found an arrow from a crossbow in the tail boom of his chopper.
He didn't see a lot of snakes, but the wildlife was plentiful when Clebe McClary was in the field in Vietnam. The birds were beautiful, the monkeys were annoying and the water buffalo did not like Marines. As for the enemy, he could not be trusted at all and the truces were a joke.
It was at a way station for VC and NVA on the Ho Chi Minh Trail that A-Team member John Overcash narrowly dodged a sniper's bullet. Undeterred, his team surprised the enemy while they were eating lunch. After the firefight, they found two survivors. They were crying for their mother.
John Overcash had three tours in Vietnam, but it was during Ranger training that he first flirted with death. The final exercise took place in the Georgia mountains. A three man team was to escape and evade their way out of the back country, but as night approached, the weather took a turn for the worse.