3:57 | You went unassigned to Vietnam, a roll of the dice. Sgt. Major Henry Rice joined the staff at 1st Brigade, 1st Division headquarters. That didn't sound like he would be in a chopper much, but he was. He was offered a prestigious assignment at MACV, but he was ready to retire after three wars.
Keywords : Henry Rice Vietnam helicopter chopper Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV)
Times were tough when Henry Rice was a kid. He got along, though, and he had a good time hitchhiking around Texas and sneaking into Mexico. He joined the Army on a lark in 1940 with two buddies and, after the war started, they volunteered for the infantry. Wait, we're doing what?
Henry Rice was a soldier in a support role when the war started, but he switched to the infantry and joined the combat just as the Allies were storming into Germany itself. He was surprised when they stopped short of Berlin and then he found out why. His unit went to Bavaria, which was good duty. Just don't get caught with the local girls.
He had the points so he was heading home. Henry Rice took a train to Camp Lucky Strike, where he and his buddy ran the games of chance. Only one problem, how to get that cash back to the States. When he got there, he got out, got married, got a job, got bored and got back in the Army.
Henry Rice was having second thoughts. He had gone back in the Army, but they put him at Fort Polk, which was a miserable place to be. He pulled some strings and got better assignments, jobs with a lot of travel. Then it was a tour in Europe on a general's staff. That plum position eventually took him to Washington DC, which sounded great at first.
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?
He was a supply officer for his first three months in Vietnam, but they decided to send Mike Paque into the field. When he got to Camp Hard Times, the CO made him the supply officer for that unit. Vietnamization was underway, so that outfit was disbanded and he went to a mechanized unit as a platoon leader.
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.
You didn't move at night unless you had to. Mike Paque took patrols out and they always made a secure position at night. He only had two disciplinary problems during his time as a platoon leader. One guy wanted to play his radio on patrol, but the other one had a bigger problem
One night, while Laurie was eating dinner, the USS Sanctuary got a call about a plane crash. She vividly remembers the patients coming aboard, and the aftermath of this incident, including one boy who was MIA. However, as difficult as this experience was, this was nothing compared to the Tet Offensive. They had new wounded coming in constantly, and trying to care for all of them at once was emotionally exhausting. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the Military Heritage Museum- https://freedomisntfree.org/.)
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.
It was hard to find the enemy. Charlie would disappear into his holes and only come out once the Marines of Mike company had left. Richard Jackson's men tried probing the ground with sharp sticks, but they broke too easily. What they needed was steel. Thus was born the "Mike Spike." Part 1 of 2.
You used a lot of artillery support when you moved. Mike Paque was leader of the scout platoon and when they moved in their armored personnel carriers, they would walk artillery fire in front of them to clear the way. At other times, they were air mobile, traveling above the fray in helicopters.
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.
His company command at the Cua Viet River was just the way Richard Jackson liked it. He was given free reign to take care of his area. He describes the tactics he used to fight the enemy and recalls one memorable fight in which his men and an NVA unit charged at each other in darkness.
After the column was devastated by an NVA ambush, wounded Americans were scattered in the darkness. After his captain heard one such group calling for help on the radio, Freddie Owens joined a patrol to find them, guided by a gunshot every few minutes. Once there, medic Daniel Torres volunteered to stay with those who couldn't move and protected them through the night with medicine and a machine gun.
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.
In a letter home, Tommy Clack expressed his worry that something bad was going to happen and it did when his unit engaged the NVA near the Cambodian border. He saw the enemy soldier stand and fire the RPG that changed his life forever.
The RPG that severed Joe McDonald’s foot didn’t kill him. The machine gun fire that hit him as he still tried to help others didn’t kill him. The grenade taped to his hand might have killed him if the VC had found his hiding place.
They were hunkered down after fierce fighting when the call came from "Ghost 4-6." It was a group of wounded men who had pulled themselves together after the ill fated march to LZ Albany and were lost in the dark. George Forrest sent a patrol to find them, and in an incredible act of bravery, medic Daniel Torres stayed through the night with them and saved many men. Captain Forrest still had to write a gut-wrenching letter to the mother of a missing soldier. Part 3 of 4.
As Marine Captain Ron Christmas fought to regain the city of Hue, he found the enemy adept at concealment and surprise. Every soldier in a spider hole was armed with a rifle and a RPG launcher. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
You went unassigned to Vietnam, a roll of the dice. Sgt. Major Henry Rice joined the staff at 1st Brigade, 1st Division headquarters. That didn't sound like he would be in a chopper much, but he was. He was offered a prestigious assignment at MACV, but he was ready to retire after three wars.
He was drafted, but with a college degree, he was eligible for Officer Candidate School. Mike Paque went through basic training and advanced infantry training, then it was off to Fort Benning for OCS. It was tough, maybe tougher than what was coming.
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.
Newly minted Lieutenant Mike Paque was at Fort Polk, moving large numbers of draftees through training and on to Vietnam. It was not a satisfying job, so he volunteered to go ahead and go himself. He knew he would be going, anyway, so he might as well get out of that place.
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.
The airmen didn't like the infantry's dirty boots on their PX floor, but they changed their tune after a Viet Cong attack. Those infantry boys were welcome, after all. Mike Paque recalls that, after that incident, his entire division moved to the Cambodian border in a bid to clear out enemy refuges.
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.
Camp Hard Times was in a valley which led up to the mountains and was there to block Viet Cong movement down from the high ground. Mike Paque remembers the village next to the camp and how pleasant the people were in their rural life which was almost untouched by modern times.
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.
Al Stiles remembers that it seemed to take forever steaming into home port at Charleston. The USS Manley had returned from Vietnam and he was anxious to see his wife. He adapted his letters home to her, along with deck logs and other materials into a book.
Mike Paque had just arrived at division headquarters in Pleiku when he met the supply officer, who was about to rotate home. He wound up with his job by virtue of his business administration degree and began to improve the situation and make friends.
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.