10:16 | This isn't going to work. That's what Tony Nadal told his boss, Hal Moore, as they launched a helicopter assault to search for the enemy. He was right. The forces scattered and hid, so new tactics were called for. The next assault was in the Ia Drang Valley and they were perhaps too successful. Part 1 of 5.
Keywords : Tony Nadal Vietnam helicopter (chopper) An Lao Valley Fort Benning Hal Moore Ho Chi Minh Trail Hanoi Pleiku Cambodia Chu Pong Plei Mei Boeing CH-47 Chinook artillery ambush LZ X-Ray Battle of Ia Drang
He didn't have an appointment, but Tony Nadal was the son of an Army officer, so he was able to compete for a spot at West Point. He won that because of his superior academics, although he was unenthusiastic about math. Once there, he discovered one thing, he detested the plebe system.
After West Point, the basic infantry course, jump school and Ranger school, Tony Nadal was getting close to his goal of leading men in combat. The only action in the early sixties that he knew about was Army Special Forces beginning to operate in Laos and Vietnam. After a pleasant first assignment in Germany, he volunteered for the elite group.
The plane that took Tony Nadal to Vietnam was old and slow but the men on it were not. He was part of a Special Forces team that aimed to organize tribal people in the border area into civilian defense groups. It was in rough terrain in the central highlands where he made his way to the camp at Nam Dong.
Along with his Vietnamese counterpart and his ARVN force, Tony Nadal also had a group of Chinese Nung at the Nam Dong Special Forces camp, Nationalists who had fled China after the victory of the Communists. They patrolled the border looking for infiltrators but it was the camp's next American commander who would become part of history.
Tony Nadal wanted to go back to Vietnam but the Army had him on assignment to Korea. He had already shipped his footlocker when he got a 4 AM call. Report to Fort Benning. He didn't know it but LBJ was sending the air mobile cavalry to Vietnam.
Before his second deployment to Vietnam, Tony Nadal did quite a bit of reading on the French experience in Indochina. Shortly after his arrival, he and battalion commander Hal Moore went off to find a monument left by them.
When the 1-7 Cav got to the base camp at An Khe, Tony Nadal was one of only two officers who had been to Vietnam before. The unit had come by ship and the slow journey gave him a chance to loan out his books and teach classes on what to expect. At first he was assigned as intelligence officer but he soon got his wish to command a rifle company.
The men of the 1-7 Cav had unknowingly choppered in to an LZ that was right next to a huge NVA force. The shooting began almost as soon as the first companies landed. Company commander Tony Nadal was in the thick of it as he and his men fought a fierce battle in a creek bed. Part 2 of 5.
There was a platoon that was separated during the fighting on the first day of the Ia Drang battle and Tony Nadal was ordered go find them and bring them back. After a quick pep talk he led his men toward the action. Almost immediately a machine gun opened up and brought down nearly everyone around him. He was miraculously spared but he was making no headway and asked to be withdrawn. Part 3 of 5.
Tony Nadal's company had gone after the "lost" platoon at the Battle of Ia Drang, but they had been driven back by the enemy. The platoon had to spend a long, lonely night hunkered down inside a small ring of artillery fire. The next day brought a major assault before dawn, which was only broken when daylight brought gunships and other air support. It was the end of the fight at LZ X-ray but the Battle of Ia Drang was not over. Part 4 of 5.
They had fought hard for three days and now what was left of Tony Nadal's company was airlifted out of the Ia Drang valley. Other units, however were just beginning another fierce firefight at LZ Albany, where the men were strung out in a long column. They had been hiking to get clear of an impending B-52 strike, which was not usually the preferred form of air support by the men on the ground. Part 5 of 5.
Tony Nadal is most proud of his time commanding A Company of the 1-7 Cav. The battalion was full of first rate officers because, back when the Army and the Air Force were dueling over who would control the helicopters, the Army wanted to make sure they bested the other branch. They wanted full control of the emerging air mobile concept.
Tony Nadal was on a recon flight when it suddenly got real quiet. The helicopter's engine had stopped. The pilot was autorotating down when he spotted what looked like a clearing in the jungle. As the crippled ship came down, it became clear that it wasn't grass down there. It was forty foot tall bamboo.
After his second Vietnam tour, Tony Nadal was sent to graduate school. This led to an interesting exchange with some anti-war students. He would go on to teach at West Point, where he tried to implement lessons he had learned about combat leadership, lessons that the Army had overlooked.
There is nothing in the civilian world as intense as combat. Tony Nadal speaks about the bonds it leads to, and the pain of loss. He still feels it every day.
Most people today just think of riots in the streets when the Vietnam War is mentioned. Tony Nadal fought in two tours and he has been back there twice. The first time he sat and talked with an officer who had opposed him on the battlefield at Ia Drang.
Air Force pilot and FAC Mike Leonard offers his thoughts on the debate over the justification of the Vietnam war. His experiences in his combat tours, especially one incident in which he helped rescue some downed airmen, led him to write his book, An American Combat Bird Dog Pilot: From the Battlefield of Vietnam and Beyond.
Why were the Montagnard units getting no contact? It was determined that they weren't going out far enough and on the second patrol that ventured further, Jim Bolan and the combined unit ran into the back of a VC ambush. A furious firefight followed, and he summoned his ace in the hole, the Air Force.
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.
The Lockheed Constellation would fly at about 50 feet above the water just out of Haiphong harbor. In the back, weapons controller Mike Leonard noticed that enemy radar was attempting to lock on. It turned out there was an anti-aircraft battery on a small island.
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.)
This isn't going to work. That's what Tony Nadal told his boss, Hal Moore, as they launched a helicopter assault to search for the enemy. He was right. The forces scattered and hid, so new tactics were called for. The next assault was in the Ia Drang Valley and they were perhaps too successful. Part 1 of 5.
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.
On his first tour of Vietnam, pilot Mike Leonard lived in relative luxury in Saigon, enjoying barbecues and water skiing. His second tour was shaping up to be very different. This time he was flying a Cessna Bird Dog as a forward air controller at a forward operating base.
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 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.
Long periods of boredom interspersed with moments of stark terror. That was the life of a forward air controller flying in a small Cessna over Vietnam. FAC Mike Leonard describes these missions and the array of communications gear he used for different purposes. He also describes what it was like to coordinate a defoliation mission.
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.
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.
Forward air controller Mike Leonard went up to Ban Me Thuot to help out for a few days. The first night, as he settled in with a cold beer, the radio crackled with pleas for help from a nearby special forces camp. They were under siege. Part 1 of 3.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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/.)
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.
Bird Dog Pilot Mike Leonard wound up in a small village near the Cambodian border. It was a tight knit group of pilots and the head of the unit would take new guys up for an orientation flight. On one of these, they got a little too close to the border and the North Vietnamese anti-aircraft batteries.