7:29 | During his time in Vietnam, Sam Pyle had the occasion to laugh, like the time the tyrannical sergeant forgot to clear his gun. He also had the occasion to feel queasy when the ARVN interrogator started breaking fingers.
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Air Force recruit Sam Pyle was assigned to Air Security and guarded the smallest Air Force Base in Vietnam. Among the rice paddies and elephant grass, the prized aircraft were under his watchful eye.
The different culture of Vietnam was puzzling to Sam Pyle when he arrived fresh from home. Men holding hands? Next to the Air Force base was a Navy base, where Sam was sorry he went on a ride-along out on patrol.
Sam Pyle recalls a humorous event involving a jeep, a machine gun and a C-47 aircraft. Less humorous to him were the rules of engagement, which meant his Air Security unit had to get permission to fire on VC approaching the base.
It went pretty well for Sam Pyle for a while, guarding an Air Force base in Vietnam. Then came the Tet Offensive and "the most helpless feeling" of his life as the mortar barrages exploded around him.
Under Viet Cong mortar fire, Sam Pyle will "never forget the sound of all that shrapnel." He could hear a buddy screaming nearby, and assumed he was dying, but was relieved when he found out what happened.
Sam Pyle saw the two kinds of horror in war, the personal, as Viet Cong killed nuns and orphans, and the impersonal, as the incessant mortar attacks killed seemingly at random. A very close round gave him a concussion and hearing loss.
Sam Pyle knew wasted effort when he saw it. As the C-47 Psy War planes dropped leaflets urging the Viet Cong to surrender, he knew exactly how they were going to use the paper.