2:55 | 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?
Keywords : Bill Greinke Vietnam North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) politicians Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) John F. Kennedy (JFK) Vietnamese
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.
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.
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.
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.
Can I cut the mustard? Tom Agnew was apprehensive on the way to Vietnam and wondering if he was up to the task. He was assigned as a medic in a helicopter evacuation unit, known as Dustoff. On one of his first missions, he learned not to triage the wounded too quickly. (Caution: coarse language.)
When a new pilot checked in, David Farthing asked where he was before. The answer caused him to bite his tongue. They were always short of pilots in the assault helicopter company, but he didn't think this guy was going to work out. Overall, though, things were getting better and it was his opinion that it had a lot to do with the new top commander, Creighton Abrams. (Caution: coarse language.)
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.