5:49 | He was used to hot, humid summers, but when the door on the airliner opened in Da Nang, Tim Dunn felt like he was standing in front of a blast furnace. The Marines who came to pick him up were dirty and dusty and haggard looking.
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His relatives were all Navy, so when Tim Dunn got it in his head to join the Marines, he caught a little flak. The Navy recruiters had not seemed interested when he and his high school buddies visited the recruiter, plus he thought that, in the Marines, he would have more reliable guys around him.
It was shock and awe, by design. It was daytime when Tim Dunn arrived at the airport in South Carolina, but the bus to Parris Island didn't take the recruits there until it was night. More disorienting that way. The language and the volume coming from the DI's was shocking and eventually he realized why it was so harsh.
There were three Dunns in boot camp and the senior DI had dubbed Tim Dunn "Admiral Dunn." This became his name through the rest of his time there. Although he had never fired a gun in his life, he managed to score just shy of expert rating.
New Marine Tim Dunn had to get to the west coast on a standby ticket. He ran into Bobby Bridges, another Marine who had already been to Vietnam and who coached him on how to avoid getting bumped from the flight. His last stop before the war was in Okinawa, where you could get a last night on the town.
Hotel Company was the only unit at the outpost south of Da Nang on Highway 4. Marine Tim Dunn later learned that this was area was heavily contested when the French were there. There was a combination of VC and NVA forces active in the area.
There were a lot of booby traps where Tim Dunn was deployed south of Da Nang, both explosive and non-explosive. He was a Marine rifleman and one of his jobs was to mark targets with white smoke using a rifle grenade. They were looking for volunteers to train as snipers and it was decided that he would do it.
When he was "volunteered" to become a Marine sniper, Tim Dunn was sent back to battalion to train. They used a variety of older weapons but settled on a Remington with a walnut stock. That weapon was developed into the modern Marine sniper rifle.
The Marine sniper teams were sent to help rifle companies in the bush. Tim Dunn was one of these snipers and he recalls one mission in which he cleanly dispatched an enemy and caught flak for it from the platoon leader he was sent to help.
Marine sniper Tim Dunn had a variety of other duties while on base, including standing perimeter watch and joining the quick reaction force. There were no sniper operations at night. The night vision technology of the time was too primitive to be of much help.
Marine sniper Tim Dunn tells the story of an enemy sniper who was vexing US forces south of Da Nang. Everybody was looking for her but it was pure chance that did her in.
What's it like to shoot somebody 1000 yards away? Marine sniper Tim Dunn recalls his time in Vietnam, where the shooting conditions had what he calls "heavy air." You had to have the right frame of mind to operate alone in the jungle. It took more than just being a good shot.
As his rotation date approached, Tim Dunn went on one last patrol, which was, thankfully, uneventful. As he waited for transportation home, he began to feel remorse over leaving his buddies.
It was the first time any of them had seen a miniskirt. Tim Dunn was in a group that just returned from Vietnam. What had happened while they were gone? He didn't experience any hostility until he was out on the town with some buddies and they introduced him to a girl who said something totally unexpected.
After his Vietnam tour, Marine sniper Tim Dunn had 18 months left to serve. He was assigned to the 2nd Marines but they had no interest in using his skills in their sniper school. That puzzled him but he finished his service with no complaints and went to try his hand at higher education.
After he had been working as a sniper for awhile, Tim Dunn was getting a little salty. When he was sent to help out a company on an operation, he walked in and said, "Gunny, your troubles are over." When the sergeant looked up and he saw who it was, he snapped to attention.
Tim Dunn saw an ad in Leatherneck magazine about a gathering at a ship dedication. That started him on reconnecting with his Marine comrades at reunions, including one for his Scout Sniper unit. He has been back to Vietnam and reports that the people there are completely over the war and genuinely welcoming to Americans.
The rotation system in Vietnam was terrible, according to Marine platoon leader Hubert Yoshida. It was the first war where individuals rotated in and out, which was a burden to both units and troops. He tells the story of one young Marine from an Honor Guard outfit who petitioned to go to a combat assignment.
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.
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.
He fully intended to stay in the Marine Corps after his tour in Vietnam but he resigned his commission when he realized the toll it takes on the family at home. He went on to a successful career, still haunted by certain memories from the war.
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.
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.
Combat is always chaotic but the recovery of the SS Mayaguez was particularly disjointed. The joint operation suffered from too many parties at the top trying to exert influence, recalls Ray Porter, who led the assault on the ship itself. Part 3 of 3.
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.)
Everyone breathing in a uniform was hurriedly mobilized by the 82nd Airborne as they scrambled to reply to Gen. Westmoreland's demand for more troops. On the flight over, while some of the planes were grounded by weather, Jim Littig saw an amazing test of wills in an Airborne versus Air Force standoff.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/.)
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.
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.
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.
Hailing from California, Hubert Yoshida's family was forced to live in a camp for Japanese-Americans during WWII. He was just a child but he admired the soldiers with their rifles, unaware that they were there to guard the internees. An uncle and a cousin served in segregated Japanese units and they were his heroes and inspired him to join the Marine Corps.