4:09 | Later in his Army career, it was time for a masters degree and Jim Littig chose an unusual major. This led to an assignment which found him in South Africa just as the country was undergoing monumental change.
Keywords : Jim Littig Utah State University master's degree Advance Degree program (ADP) Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) history South Africa Swaziland
The Army was short of officers, so when Jim Littig finished his basic officers course at Ft. Benning, he was sent to Ranger school the same day with jump school to follow. He had applied to Pathfinder school and was waiting for a slot when he got a lesson in how things get done in the Army.
Newly minted lieutenant Jim Littig was given a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol unit just as the 82nd Airborne prepared to deploy to Vietnam. His team was highly experienced and even included what could only be described as soldiers of fortune.
His father told him, you will take ROTC in college because there's going to be another war. Jim Littig was a football player just like the old man and he took his talents to the University of Utah. As his graduation neared in 1967, he and his fellow officers in training naively worried that the war might be over before they could get there.
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.
Airborne units were always light in the vehicle department while on the ground, so as Jim Littig's men made their way toward their eventual destination in Vietnam, they "found" a jeep and their multi-talented medic made it legit with some white paint.
Jim Littig's unit was a long range reconnaissance patrol outfit but in Vietnam, you didn't need long treks to find the enemy. He details one memorable firefight that started when his men ambushed what they thought were a just a few men fleeing from the Battle of Hue.
There were a lot of hairy firefights for Jim Littig in Vietnam. There was one in particular where the enemy had their old Soviet machine guns going in a hail of fire. After regrouping, his unit prepared a defense line at their fire base that included everyone from the rear, cooks and all.
Near the Cambodian border, some of Jim Littig's men getting water from a creek spotted a few of the enemy and opened fire. They quickly discovered they were adjacent to a camp of several hundred men. The ensuing fight stands out in his mind for a couple of reasons. The first occurred when fresh replacements were dropped off in the middle of the battle. The second was when he wrote up one of his men for a Medal of Honor.
It was hot when he left Vietnam in khakis but when Jim Littig got home to Oregon it was freezing cold. He took over a training company at Fort Lewis and then became a general's aide. The war was beginning to wain and he was one of the few that he knew that would return for a second tour.
It's all about the connections. Jim Littig was heading to Vietnam for a second tour and was slated to go to a replacement detachment. Oh no, said a friend way up the chain. He would command his own company, leapfrogging the waiting list. When he got there, he discovered that his outfit had a lot of misfits.
Jim Littig shuffled through several assignments as the war was winding down for US forces. Vietnamization was underway with varying results. When he had to miss a much anticipated Navy lunch aboard ship, he was disappointed, but it turned out that he was lucky.
Jim Littig saw a lot of intense combat on his first tour of Vietnam which created a tight bond with the men in that unit. On his second tour, he did not face a lot of fire and he also moved around from assignment to assignment, so there was not such a tight relationship. He did have a good relationship with Gen. Ngo Quang Truong, a very capable ARVN commander.
To Jim Littig, the way the end of the war unfolded was very irritating, with multiple failures by the government. The place made quite an impression on him. He has been back to Vietnam several times, including one memorable trip that was cut short.
It is important to remember why we were there. To Jim Littig and to President Kennedy, it was a place to take a stand against communism. We were looking for a fight. On a lighter note, he remembers the songs that he heard there and that take him back to that time.
Don Rohde decided to re-enlist. The Navy Corpsman really had his eyes opened in Vietnam and civilian life just wasn't working out for him. He and his pregnant wife headed for Camp Lejeune, where no one knew it yet, but there was something wrong with the water. (Caution: strong language)
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.
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. As difficult as this experience was, it was nothing compared to the Tet Offensive. New wounded were 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/.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
It turns out you can see a lot at night. Fighter pilot Joe Richardson was apprehensive about night missions over Vietnam but the tracers and the missiles were unmistakable. He had to learn how to out maneuver the surface-to-air missiles, which wasn't easy but it was doable.
When it gets close to time to go home, for some reason, the danger increases. Some died during their last few days, but Vic Grahn made it back from Vietnam and didn't even get the rude greeting so many did when they returned. He became a flight instructor and nursed a bitterness towards the powers that be who abandoned the war when we had it won.
Fighter pilot Joe Richardson was laying chaff for a B-52 run over North Vietnam when the SAM's started to fly. That was bad but the worst was yet to come. As his squadron turned and headed for home, the bombers were headed the opposite direction. A head on collision would be disastrous. (Caution: strong language)
What should future generations remember about the war in Vietnam? For Vic Grahn, it's all about those who fought the war being abandoned by their own leadership and the general public. What song takes him back? The answer is surprising though totally logical.
The three companions were flying down to Webb Air Force Base to check it out. Joe Richardson was piloting the Beechcraft and while they were all going to be at flight school there, this was just a little pleasure trip. It nearly ended in disaster.
A-37 pilot Vic Grahn and his buddy Jack Beam were working a target with napalm when a bullet came through his windsceen and exited the cockpit through a side window. There was no other damage to his plane so he returned to the attack. Then Jack's plane took a hit as well but he, too, pressed on. You would think that the brass would like that but they didn't.
Joe Richardson was three years into the Air Force Academy when he decided to quit. He didn't care that he would be exposed to the draft. When he brought recruiters into the Explorer group he was mentoring, he was so impressed with the film the Air Force recruiter showed, he joined up.
It was strange. Vietnam was a bit of a culture shock for Vic Grahn but he got over it. He was flying the A-37, a small jet aircraft designed for close air support to troops in contact (TIC). His base at Bien Hoa was the target of frequent rocket attacks which may or may not have disturbed the poker game.
He was a military man from day one. Vic Grahn's father had served in World War II aboard the USS Hornet and, when he came of age, he decided on the Air Force. A new war beckoned from Southeast Asia and he didn't want to miss out. With a commission out of ROTC in hand, he began his pilot training.
Just as he was finishing flight school, Joe Richardson contracted Valley Fever, a respiratory illness connected to fungus in the soil in that part of Texas. It set him back because it took a while for the doctors to figure out what he had. He recovered and continued in his training as a fighter pilot. Finally, he was headed to Southeast Asia.
When Joe Richardson's squadron was working with some Navy pilots over the A Shau Valley, one of them made a mistake which caused some of their bombs to detonate prematurely. Two of his fellow pilots had to bail out. One of them was located fairly quickly but the fate of the other was unknown for a while.
His father had been wounded on Tulagi, so he never got to be the Marine aviator he intended to be, but he did teach his son to fly. Joe Richardson soloed at fifteen and went on to become a fighter pilot.
The Corpsman in Vietnam really saw the most difficult parts of war. Don Rohde will never forget the first Marine who died in his arms nor will he forget the first life he took, considering who she was and what she was doing. The Marines weren't arbitrary in their actions but if they took fire from a village, that village would burn.
There were no real anti-aircraft guns per se down in IV Corps. Vic Grahn took a lot of small arms fire and the occasional 20mm on his missions, which were often in support of troops in contact (TIC). He flew the A-37, a small highly maneuverable aircraft and that maneuverability came in handy when he was up in III Corps where the trees are bigger.
There was a Green Beret on the ground. He had just escaped from the North Vietnamese and fighter pilot Joe Richardson was tasked with laying down a smokescreen to aid in his escape. Years later, he ran into a man who's story seemed to line up with his. Was this the guy?
Don Rohde went into one tunnel, just to say he did it. They were everywhere and the VC would just disappear into them. He was a Corpsman attached to a Marine company and he took no gruff from a doctor who didn't appreciate his field emergency work.
He had a suitcase in each hand when an anti-war protestor called him a baby killer and spit in his face. By the time Joe Richardson collected himself, the man had run off. Welcome home. He tried to stay in the Air Force but the downsizing eventually caught up with him and he went to work for the industry that had built the aircraft he flew. (Caution: strong language)
It took a long time, but Don Rohde finally attended a reunion of his comrades from Vietnam. Men with common suffering at the hands of the powers that be who messed up that war. It was so bad that they don't teach about it very much in school. (Caution:strong language)
Before he got to Thailand, fighter pilot Joe Richardson went through survival school in the Philippines as well as a little extra-curricular activity. When he did get to the air base at Ubon, he ran into a buddy who was in a squadron known as the Night Owls. Oh, I don't want to fly at night. Too bad.