4:12 | “I was out of it for days,” recalls Dennis Haines, He had a head wound and would only regain full consciousness after he was evacuated to a hospital in Japan, where he learned the left side of his body was paralyzed.
Keywords : Dennis Haines 24th Evacuation Hospital Vietnam John Miller 249th General Hospital Japan winter Walter Reed Army Medical Center Philadelphia Washington DC head injury paralysis peripheral vision physical therapy amputee leg brace Hepatitis
Recruit Dennis Haines wanted to go to airborne school but the Army gave him a choice. He could either go to airborne school or home for Christmas. He took the leave because he was worried he might not ever return.
During Advanced Infantry Training, Dennis Haines remembers a problem with the bolt on the M-16 rifle. It would swell and stick. Fortunately, the problem was fixed before the rifles were deployed in the field.
Arriving in Vietnam, Dennis Haines got a quick lesson in weapons safety when a soldier dropped a grenade in practice. He also met Jack Kirchner, who was from the same area at home and the two became great friends.
In his first taste of action in Vietnam, Dennis Haines participated in the clearing of a large bunker complex. Inside, he spotted a Russian pistol just sitting there, begging to be a souvenir.
Dennis Haines was assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam. The only brigade not attached to a division, the light infantry was so-named because they could move out on a mission at a moment’s notice. He describes the execution and fear of a frontal assault.
Dennis Haines and his friend Jack Kirchner came across a Viet Cong bunker that they thought was empty. After Kirchner fired a shotgun round through a port, he turned to leave and was nearly cut in two by enemy rounds.
After the Air Force came in and blew up the VC bunkers, Dennis Haines knew the job was coming that no one wanted to do: the body count.
Dennis Haines had seen dead soldiers on stretchers but it was totally different with his friend Jack Kirchner. Dennis had been right there with him in the line of fire. He learned it was best not to be too close to your wartime comrades.
Fire from an approaching enemy killed Larry Rycroft and wounded Bob Needham and Kenny Pepper. Dennis Haines laments that they could not fire in time because of the Rules of Engagement.
The M-16 made every Army rifleman an automatic rifleman, explains Dennis Haines, who gave his up to become the M-60 gunner in his squad. The M-60 machine gun was the primary heavy weapon on patrols and ambushes.
Dennis Haines handed his Instamatic to his friend Tom Reilly so he could get some pictures from the field. This was great until Reilly had to take cover by jumping in a pond.
Dennis Haines had done the reconnaissance on a village at the Mekong River, so he manned the listening post overnight as his unit prepared a cordon operation. He thought he saw movement in a doorway, then a muzzle flash as he took two rounds to the head.
Years after his head wound, Dennis Haines found the surgeon, John Baldwin, who operated on him in the field hospital. Only then did he learn how close to death he had been, so close that he was put in the group of patients who were deemed not likely to survive.
Despite the fact that they could receive no confirmation of his arrival, the family and fiancé of Dennis Haines were there on Christmas Day when he arrived at Walter Reed Hospital. A friendly pilot had made the flight from Alaska fun for the injured warrior.
As if getting shot in the head wasn’t enough, Dennis Haines had many complications on his road to recovery, including a serious infection. He was amused, however, by the process of molding the plastic plate to cover the missing part of his skull.
While in Tan Son Nhut, Gonzalez had a myriad of memorable experiences which he talks about, as well as volunteering to go to Bien Hoa. While there, he had his first close call in the form of an enemy rocket attack. He was so close to the blast radius that he kept a shrapnel souvenir to always remind him of how close he came to losing his life.
Debby Moore will never forget the mortar attacks she heard off in the distance. It eventually became so common that she began to easily tell the difference between incoming and outgoing mortars. When they got a new doctor, she had to help him calm down when he thought outgoing mortars were incoming. She also talks about the dangers facing women in country, which people often don't know about.
While in Vietnam, Debby Moore worked with plenty of orphans, some of whom she got fairly attached to. She remembers one tragic moment when she encountered a young girl who had her hands cut off. She was told that the Viet Cong did that to her after her family said they had no rice to give them.
Edward Ayson's family is originally from the Philippines, but he was born and grew up in Hawaii. His family was deeply affected by the Pearl Harbor attack and World War II as a whole. At the time, they happened to be visiting their homeland, which was occupied by the Japanese. By the time Ayson was 18, he was drafted and began training at Schofield Barracks, spent four years in Germany, more time in Hawaii, and eventually began his first tour in Vietnam. Shortly after, he got a gunshot wound and was taken out of combat.
Gonzalez got his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and his aircraft mechanic training was at Sheppard Air Force Base. It was around this time he married his high school sweetheart, and was at the time stationed in Tucson, Arizona. When he flew to Vietnam, he was stationed at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. While in Vietnam, he remembers that there was always a lingering problem with drug use. He tells about the first times he saw other kids smoking cigarettes laced with heroin.
Maier graduated from his aviation cadet program in 1957 and was sent to gunnery school. He was assigned to a missile wing in Germany and eventually went on to become a T-37 instructor. After that he was sent to Vietnam, and despite most of his missions being focused on dropping bombs from the air, his favorite missions were the ones where he got to help the soldiers out of the firefights down on the ground.
Flying out of Thailand, forward air controller and navigator Bob Wolfe's job was to find and kill trucks. He flew the night missions, which were the scariest. He hung out the window with a Starlight scope to find the targets and then he'd call in the air strikes. It reminded him of something he used to do back on the farm.
Sadly, at one point Maier lost his flight lead from another mission, named Ron Bond. He talks about how this happened even though he wasn't there to witness it, as well as another mission he flew with Ron when he was still on active duty that was also during the heat of the Tet Offensive.
Sar Phouthasack was a busy man. He not only ran the commando school, the communications, and the repair shop, he had to shuttle back and forth to the front lines almost daily. In the secret war in Laos, his unit was well known as the best and they were frequently called on to go to the aid of others as they did at Khe Sanh.
It was like a big Boy Scout camp. That's how Bob Wolfe remembers the Thai air base where he spent his combat tour. Once he and a buddy flew over the border into North Vietnam and took potshots at road crews with a rifle. He definitely got involved with his share of dumb things.
Originally from Minnesota, Ollie Maier grew up on a farm and quickly learned how to drive a tractor at the age of 9. His uncle was right in the middle of Pearl Harbor when it was attacked, and his cousin was a pilot long before him. Seeing the planes soar over his head while he was in the fields inspired him to become a pilot as well. While in college, he took flying lessons, and was the only one of his group of five friends to pass his flying test for the US Air Force.
When Rollie Sterrett got to Vietnam, he initially had to squeeze with seven others into a Saigon hotel room while they waited for assignment. He was assigned to the Directorate of Targets at 7th Air Force HQ, where he learned the intricate inter-service politics at play in the air war. He also soon shared the frustration with the micro-management of the war coming from the White House.
Moore talks about a specific mission where he and his team had to go in and help pull as many imprisoned people out of the Prisoner of War camps as possible. This was almost immediately after he got out of the hospital for his injury, but Moore wasn't phased by it at all.
Debby Moore had a few tough assignments, but the hardest one for her by far was her first one with the medevac unit. While over there, the mascot dog turned out to be female and had puppies, and one of the guys she was working with really wanted one of the puppies. She saved the dog for him, only to find out later that he'd been killed.
The rules of engagement in Vietnam were frustrating, and the fact that it took 36 hours to get a target approved by the White House and precious few of them were approved, meant that we were fighting the war with our arms tied. That is the observation of Rollie Sterrett, who was there trying to get targets approved.
After getting wounded in his first Vietnam tour, Ayson got out of the hospital and went to flight school. After that he was sent to medevac school to learn how to become part of an aircraft rescue medical team. He explains exactly what a medevac team is and does for those who may not know. From there he had his second tour in Vietnam, helping rescue as many injured infantry men as he could.
After a month of painful travel, Doug Moore and his medevac team finally made it over to Vietnam. There he had a lot of interactions with the Vietnamese officers and people, and quickly caught on to the behavior of the North Vietnamese Army. The north invaded a lot of small towns and convoys and stole all their resources. It was Moore's job to evacuate wounded soldiers from the battlefield by flying them away by helicopter.
While up in the air, most of Maier's missions included dropping bombs on the enemy. While on one mission, he distinctly remembers his plane getting shot up and how he got away from the area to preserve the aircraft. After receiving word from the forward air controller that there were no other planes he could use, he chose to continue flying the damaged plane for the rest of the mission and received a Distinguished Flying Cross for it.
Gonzalez talks about his specific job constructing, repairing and using aircraft and how he would get them in the best shape possible before the pilots would use them to fly. While over there, he found it increasingly difficult to help his peers cope with ongoing problems with drug use and alcoholism.
After coming home from Germany, Ayson was assigned back to Fort Rucker and then Fort Lewis. He had to have open heart surgery, which disqualified him from flying anymore. As a result of this, he retired from his military duties and instead got a job in the postal service. He gives his reflections about the Vietnam War as a whole and how nice it is to engage in military reunions every now and then.
Doug Moore talks about meeting his future wife, Debby, in Vietnam all those years ago. Although they met when they were still young, they would not pursue a romantic relationship until later in life when they reconnected forty five years later at the Vietnam Women's Memorial on Veterans Day.
During the Tet Offensive, Maier remembers the deadly rocket attacks that were used against him and his fellow men. When he got airborne, he could see where the NVA was shooting the rockets from but he hadn't been cleared to hit it. At the time, one base had called for backup but all other divisions were busy, so Maier took it upon himself to drop the flares that he had on the wings of his plane, even without permission from radar.
If an air unit failed to take out the target in a strike over North Vietnam, the same unit was obligated to return and finish the job. Rollie Sterrett was only a Lieutenant as he elbowed his way through pilots, who were colonels, to get to a table full of photographs. He was a photo interpreter and Gen. Wesmoreland's briefing officer. They gave way. (Warning: strong language.)
Debby Moore grew up in Stockton, California. Although her father was the commander of a B-29 in World War II, she originally had no intention of following in his footsteps. She entered college at the age of 17 and eventually found her way into the Special Services for the US Army.
After he got back from the mission where his plane was damaged, Maier was promised a Silver Star in addition to his Distinguished Flying Cross for the act of bravery he had up in the air. Unfortunately, the forward air controller who was supposed to follow through with awarding him the Silver Star, codenamed David 26, had gotten shot down and evacuated back to the US shortly after. He did, however, receive yet another Distinguished Flying Cross despite technically disobeying direct orders from his flight lead.
One time Ayson and his crew had to rescue ARVNs, or members of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. He remembers there were multiple deserters trying to climb aboard his aircraft during the rescue, and as he was taking off one of them fell off the wing. He also talks about a particular hoist mission to rescue an injured non-commissioned officer. After his second tour in Vietnam was up in 1970, he chose to come home because he had gotten married and wanted to be reunited with his wife.
It was too good to pass up. Bob Wolfe and another forward air controller had a long convoy of trucks spotted, just begging for an air strike. So they went at it and the burning trucks lit up the night. There was just one problem. The convoy was across the border in North Vietnam and the rules of engagement did not allow the border to be crossed. It was either going to be a court martial or a decoration.