7:28 | The battle had lasted for days. The ARVN troops were pushing the NVA out after air strikes failed to do the job. American advisor Bill Greinke moved with them through defoliated areas where exposure to Agent Orange came back to haunt him. Then came the grim task of taking care of the dead. Part 5 of 5.
Keywords : Bill Greinke advisor Vietnam Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Arc Light B-52 Strikes Laos napalm Agent Orange cancer defoliated North Vietnamese Army (NVA) dead bodies Special Forces Rangers Tan Canh Kon Tum Dak To Ben Youmans
Bill Greinke graduated college and was commissioned an Army officer on the same day. He went for a regular Army enlistment with a four year obligation. It was winter when he went to Ranger school, which meant no snakes during the jungle phase but freezing cold during the mountain phase.
Most of the men in his Ranger class knew they were going to Vietnam, so they were paying close attention to the tasks they were made to perform. Bill Greinke remembers a lighter story from the training that involved a candidate who did not want to kill a chicken when it became necessary. He also remembers having to get over his fear of heights.
His tour in Germany was over and he was bound for language school and then Vietnam. Bill Greinke got a surprise when the plane departing Germany was held on the runway and he was informed that there was a change in the plan. Part 1 of 5.
The South Vietnamese, or ARVN, troops had good officers but the enlisted men were often criminals paroled to fight. Bill Greinke was an assistant advisor to an ARVN battalion where he and his captain coordinated the air and artillery support and intelligence gathering. Part 2 of 5.
His first night in the field was spent on the outskirts of a battle that had been going on for days. Bill Greinke was a new advisor to an ARVN unit that was trying to push the NVA out of a valley where they had got a foothold. The second night, he was in it. Part 3 of 5.
Bill Greinke witnessed an incredible rescue when a South Vietnamese helicopter pilot plucked a downed airman from a tree during a battle. That Vietnamese pilot was luckier than one American advisor in the area who was captured by the NVA just weeks before he was to rotate home. Part 4 of 5.
After American advisor Bill Greinke was promoted to captain, he became a rotating advisor to different ARVN units. It was about this time that the NVA started firing off 122mm rocket attacks. They got lucky one night and hit an ammo dump.
Bill Greinke had expected a combat infantry assignment in Vietnam but he was used as an advisor to the South Vietnamese Army. That was not a career booster and he had a negative feeling about the whole affair. He had no training for the position but he learned a lot from his interpreter about the language and culture.
The ARVN unit had casualties and needed a Medevac. American advisor Bill Greinke directed them to a hilltop where the ships could hover low enough to pick up the wounded. There was one wrinkle, the Vietnamese troops had captured a python and they wanted to send it back for a feast.
American advisor Bill Greinke was now out of the field and working in a command bunker. It was so boring that he would hitch rides on sniffer birds and spotter planes just for something to do. On one of these flights, the spotter got into a duel with a lone VC on a hilltop who defied and survived every attempt to get him.
American advisor Bill Greinke describes a large incursion into Cambodia, a part of the secret war that included his ARVN battalion.
When it came time to rotate home, Bill Greinke felt apprehensive about his friends left in the field. It was near the end for the South Vietnamese Army that he'd been advising. He had decided that his Army career was at an end, too, a decision he reached after a run in with one of his superiors.
Why should I change to civvies? Bill Greinke was on his way home from Vietnam and he didn't like it but he complied. Afterward, he reflected back on the much worse treatment he'd received in college as an ROTC cadet. He was determined to get out of the Army, but he still had time to serve.
What should be remembered about the Vietnam War? Bill Greinke has a definite opinion on that. What was it that turned turned that war from a sure victory into a political fiasco and an embarrassment for the Army?
Bill Greinke was a new lieutenant being groomed for captain, a needed commodity in Vietnam. He was serving in Berlin, surrounded by Russians and East Germans and he had no problem driving his Camaro right through them.
Once Bill Greinke was made the intelligence officer of a battalion in Berlin, he began to have a lot of fun playing cat and mouse with the Russians and East Germans. They would pelt the cars driving around to gather intelligence with snowballs and the occasional bottle.
The Berlin Wall was not the same everywhere. Bill Greinke had to keep tabs on the condition of the wall and any changes made. He describes different sections, from the fancy to the sloppy.
His time with the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood was the best time of his Army career. Bill Greinke bested a well known commander in a war game and he went on splendid maneuvers in Europe at the Fulda Gap. Then he moved on to specialized training in media and information.
It was at LZ Pepper that a Chinook crashed right on top of medic Roger Lutz. He was fine but there were others who were seriously injured. Shortly after this, he had a hard time dealing with the death of a soldier who fell prey to a Bouncing Betty.
It wasn't any ragtag Viet Cong, it was a battalion of NVA that was assaulting the artillery battery where Sammy Davis was stationed in the Mekong Delta. After an RPG hit his gun, he regained consciousness and found his position nearly overrun. After firing every round he had, he saw a wounded American on the other side of the river. He knew what he had to do and his actions brought him consideration for the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor.
Roger Lutz was having a good life in northern California when he was drafted. Cars and girls gave way to training, which turned out to be OK, thanks to lasting friendships he made there. The young medic then shipped out from San Francisco, headed to Vietnam.
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.
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.
When medic Rogr Lutz arrived in Vietnam, he was assigned to the 7th Cavalry, which he found out later was George Armstrong Custer's old unit. He was first based at Phan Thiet, where the action was light, then the unit moved to the Ia Drang Valley.
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.
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.
The 7th Cavalry was constantly in the field. You slept on the ground and kept on the move. Medic Roger Lutz recalls treating the wounded as the unit moved to support operations in Hue during the Tet Offensive.
While he was beginning his shift as the night duty officer, Lawson Magruder would marvel at the wrecked helicopters brought back to base. The brigade had moved and tactics had not been adjusted for the fact that there were anti-aircraft batteries up near the DMZ. He relates the story of LT Dick Anshus and a downed pilot who were captured.
The Air Force rescue crews flying the big helicopters known as the Jolly Green Giants began to get respect among the pilots of other services because they excelled at retrieving downed airmen. Pilot Dave Oliver was on one such mission, which was going badly, when the commander asked if was he willing to go in without waiting for backup. The situation was dire for the men on the ground so the answer was affirmative. He would be awarded the Silver Star for this action.
Medic Roger Lutz was young and idealistic. He enthusiastically participated in many Medical Civilian Action Programs, or MEDCAPS, while he was in Vietnam. He really enjoyed treating the villagers, more than he did treating the scammers trying to get sent to the rear with a self-inflicted injury.
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.
It could be tough getting resupplied in the field in Vietnam. Medic Marvin Cole nearly had a Chinook land on top of him in the fog. He and his medical platoon performed missions treating civilians in their villages and he relates a chilling story of a child used by the enemy to attack one of these operations.
When you're under fire, you drop to the ground. When you're the medic and someone is shot, you have to crawl on the ground to the wounded man, hence the term Lizard. Roger Lutz describes the job of a Lizard in Vietnam, when he was doing exactly that.
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.
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/.)
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.
Just as his company was getting involved in some heavy action in the Iron Triangle, medic Roger Lutz was transferred to the battalion aid station. He had been in the field for eleven months, the promised six month rotation never happened for him. After he left, his company was nearly wiped out when they inadvertently landed right in the middle of an NVA stronghold.
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.
At the end of his Vietnam tour, medic Roger Lutz extended it because he just couldn't leave his guys. When he did get home, he found that no one wanted to talk about the war or recognize and honor those who fought it. It was different when he volunteered for Desert Storm.
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.
There was incoming fire all the time, recalls medic Roger Lutz, whose unit was fighting it's way toward Khe Sanh where Marines were besieged. He was way too close to a B-52 strike and then he was cut off from all resupply for days during this hard fought battle. Part 2 of 3.
When your time until rotation is short, you get a lot more cautious. Lucio Lopez remembers when his time in Vietnam was almost up and he went to visit a wounded friend in the hospital. That Marine was bitter about getting hit so close to leaving. (Caution: coarse language.)
Finally, they were in Khe Sanh. As his unit arrived to relieve the besieged Marine base, Roger Lutz remembers getting apples from the ARVN troops after having no resupply for days. After clearing the area of enemy, the next destination for the air mobile was the A Shau Valley. Part 3 of 3.