4:20 | It was ROTC that made Mike Devine think that the military would be a good career. At Western Kentucky University he also joined the Pershing Rifles and Scabbard and Blade. After receiving his commission, he was off to Fort Benning to begin the training of an infantry officer.
Keywords : Mike Devine Owensboro KY Western Kentucky University Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Pershing Rifles Scabbard and Blade Vietnam Fort Benning
Mike Devine was in the second week of jump school when his girlfriend suggested they get married, another leap into the unknown. So, when he made his final jump, he was a married man. The only problem was, his chute got tangled and he was approaching the ground pretty fast.
He was looking forward to a couple of years stationed in Hawaii but, when Mike Devine got there, it was only a matter of weeks before his unit was deployed to Vietnam. After some intense mountain and jungle training, they boarded cargo planes and flew into Pleiku in the central highlands.
The first order of business was to carve a base camp out of the jungle. Mike Devine was a platoon leader, newly arrived in Vietnam, and he goes over the various weapons used in his infantry outfit. Only a month after they arrived, the M16 rifle replaced the M14 that the men carried and they began jamming in the heat and humidity.
It was a dangerous business being an infantry platoon leader in the Vietnam highlands. Mike Devine knew that the enemy would target him because he was always next to the radio operator's tall antenna. He was very close to his RTO and this led to the toughest moment he had to live through during the war.
When they first got to Vietnam and were building a base camp, Mike Devine's unit was visited by Gen. William Westmoreland. That was good, but what was really great was when Robert Mitchum visited the base.
Mike Devine was a new infantry platoon leader in Vietnam and he moved into an area of operation that was already notorious, the Ia Drang valley. It had been the site of a large battle which would one day be memorialized in the book, "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young" and subsequent movie, "We Were Soldiers."
The NVA was not the only enemy in Vietnam. The elements and the wildlife were daily issues for Mike Devine, who developed an intense hatred of leeches. Then there was monsoon season and bad drinking water.
The heavy weapons squad was a close knit group of guys that platoon leader Mike Devine could depend on. It was with a sergeant from that squad that he was detailed to go on missions with some 1st Cavalry units. His outfit was new in country and it was felt that they could learn from the guys who had been around a while.
There was nearly constant contact with the enemy in the Ia Drang valley. Mike Devine remembers the close air support, which could kill you if the coordinates were just a little off. The napalm, especially, was a scary sight. For his last couple of months, he became the support platoon leader, which was only slightly less dangerous.
Mike Devine had a second tour of Vietnam, this time as a logistical advisor to the Army of South Vietnam. He was based down in the delta, which was completely different from his first tour in the central highlands.
It was an unpopular war, but the mood of the country following his return from Vietnam did not prevent Mike Devine from pursuing a career in the Army. For thirty years, he served in a variety of commands all over the world and never regretted one bit of it.
Ron Dillard recalls several interesting events from his days as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, including his first formation flight with a cocky young pilot. Once, he was alone in a small aircraft when two Marine Corps jet pilots tried to scare him. Another hairy experience was landing in triple canopy jungle.
Roye Wilson took two trips back to Vietnam, years after the war. In 1997, he went with a group of educators for a seminar in Ho Chi Minh City and was surprised to find an official from the old regime working at a university. In 2011, he visited Hue and Phu Bai, where he marveled at the amount of commerce and enterprise.
Following a harrowing first day of combat, Tom Buchan was surprised to find hot food flown in and cots to sleep on. He managed to finally get himself on a tank crew through sheer will and intelligence. It was the day he helped out one of the APC crews, though, that earned him recognition.
Platoon leader Bill Pearson sent out a squad to set up a night ambush and when they made contact, it was with a much larger VC force. With the rest of the platoon, he set out to find them and bring them back. When he located the besieged squad, the battle became intense and they were in danger of being wiped out. In a desperation move, he called in artillery on his own position.
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.
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.
When someone at work made a comment that America had lost the Vietnam War, Roye Wilson was shocked. Our soldiers never lost a battle there. The politicians decided they would leave and they did. To him, it was an honorable enterprise and the only right course at the time and it is his belief that it contributed to the fall of Soviet communism.
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.
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/.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Helicopter pilot Ron Dillard never encountered any serious anti-aircraft batteries in Vietnam, but he did take a single round to his Huey, which caused him to return to base. He had more trouble with leeches while he was on the ground.
When his National Guard unit was activated, Roye Wilson went with them to Fort Hood for training with the 1st Armored Division. They received all new gear and weapons, including brand new howitzers. It wasn't long before he was in Vietnam, marveling at the sights and sounds of the first firefight.
After he finally graduated and got his commission, Ron Dillard headed for Fort Benning for his basic course and then received flight training in helicopters. He received additional training in aviation safety and left for Vietnam. Assigned to the 1st Cavalry Air Mobile, he was put on the battalion staff as safety officer.
Members of Roye Wilson's artillery unit had been scattered around South Vietnam, but they all converged on Phu Bai when it was time to go home. They were spared the ill treatment by anti-war protestors and were greeted warmly by friends and family back in Kentucky. He stayed on for a thirty year career in the Guard and Reserve.
Mike McCormick always wanted to be a soldier and an officer, but after two years of college, he became restless and left school for a job with the FBI. The lure of the military was strong, though, and he returned to the ROTC program at Western Kentucky University.
His father was a pilot and flight instructor, so flying was a lifelong dream for Ron Dillard. He wanted to get Uncle Sam to pay for his training, so he entered Western Kentucky University and the ROTC program and joined the Pershing Rifles.
Roye Wilson had been on a small artillery fire base and when his battery moved to Phu Bai, it was a much larger base housing many units. Forward observer teams were sent out with both American and Vietnamese units and it was one of these operations that became known as the Battle of Hamburger Hill.
Flying was his lifelong dream but new helicopter pilot Ron Dillard got stuck in a desk job when he got to Vietnam. Not only that, he was the safety officer, which meant that the other pilots thought he was monitoring them. He was over five months in before he managed to get out of headquarters and fly actual missions.
When he hears Aquarius by the 5th Dimension, Roye Wilson's mind is taken back to the year he spent in Vietnam. Despite being in a war, he did keep up with news from home and remembers where he was when he heard about the Apollo moon landing. He thinks about the war every day, but it does not haunt him, though he is saddened by the needless death.
Ron Dillard describes some of the details of life in the air mobile cavalry in Vietnam. He was isolated from the civilian population and during his only visit to Saigon, he raised some eyebrows at the officers club. Correspondece with his wife provided some distraction, as did building a basketball court.
While he was in Vietnam, Roye Wilson was struck by just how different life was from modern America. There was no mechanization and the Vietnamese would go to great lengths to reuse any scrap of material and repurpose it for their own use. Very industrious culture.