4:12 | Recruit Dennis Haines wanted to go to airborne school but the Army gave him a choice. He could either go to airborne school or home for Christmas. He took the leave because he was worried he might not ever return.
Keywords : Dennis Haines Hershey PA airborne The Green Beret movie John Wayne Ft. Benning Georgia Ft. McCllelan Alabama
During Advanced Infantry Training, Dennis Haines remembers a problem with the bolt on the M-16 rifle. It would swell and stick. Fortunately, the problem was fixed before the rifles were deployed in the field.
Arriving in Vietnam, Dennis Haines got a quick lesson in weapons safety when a soldier dropped a grenade in practice. He also met Jack Kirchner, who was from the same area at home and the two became great friends.
In his first taste of action in Vietnam, Dennis Haines participated in the clearing of a large bunker complex. Inside, he spotted a Russian pistol just sitting there, begging to be a souvenir.
Dennis Haines was assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam. The only brigade not attached to a division, the light infantry was so-named because they could move out on a mission at a moment’s notice. He describes the execution and fear of a frontal assault.
Dennis Haines and his friend Jack Kirchner came across a Viet Cong bunker that they thought was empty. After Kirchner fired a shotgun round through a port, he turned to leave and was nearly cut in two by enemy rounds.
After the Air Force came in and blew up the VC bunkers, Dennis Haines knew the job was coming that no one wanted to do: the body count.
Dennis Haines had seen dead soldiers on stretchers but it was totally different with his friend Jack Kirchner. Dennis had been right there with him in the line of fire. He learned it was best not to be too close to your wartime comrades.
Fire from an approaching enemy killed Larry Rycroft and wounded Bob Needham and Kenny Pepper. Dennis Haines laments that they could not fire in time because of the Rules of Engagement.
The M-16 made every Army rifleman an automatic rifleman, explains Dennis Haines, who gave his up to become the M-60 gunner in his squad. The M-60 machine gun was the primary heavy weapon on patrols and ambushes.
Dennis Haines handed his Instamatic to his friend Tom Reilly so he could get some pictures from the field. This was great until Reilly had to take cover by jumping in a pond.
Dennis Haines had done the reconnaissance on a village at the Mekong River, so he manned the listening post overnight as his unit prepared a cordon operation. He thought he saw movement in a doorway, then a muzzle flash as he took two rounds to the head.
“I was out of it for days,” recalls Dennis Haines, He had a head wound and would only regain full consciousness after he was evacuated to a hospital in Japan, where he learned the left side of his body was paralyzed.
Years after his head wound, Dennis Haines found the surgeon, John Baldwin, who operated on him in the field hospital. Only then did he learn how close to death he had been, so close that he was put in the group of patients who were deemed not likely to survive.
Despite the fact that they could receive no confirmation of his arrival, the family and fiancé of Dennis Haines were there on Christmas Day when he arrived at Walter Reed Hospital. A friendly pilot had made the flight from Alaska fun for the injured warrior.
As if getting shot in the head wasn’t enough, Dennis Haines had many complications on his road to recovery, including a serious infection. He was amused, however, by the process of molding the plastic plate to cover the missing part of his skull.
Getting shot at was bad enough but not being able to take a shower really got to Jesse Groves when he had to stay in the field for weeks at a time. He had a new family, the men in his platoon, and they all smelled just as bad as he did. (Caution: strong language.)
There was little contact up by the DMZ so the 1st Air Cavalry was moved south near the Cambodian border. Plenty of action there. The first day, Jerry Gast's platoon set off on a 500 meter sweep in front of the perimeter and ran into a trail. The ambitious lieutenant decided they would follow it. Bad idea.
Living full time with his Vietnamese crew meant that Galen Hoover ate what they ate. His first night on the river, they served him a dish that was so good, he requested it regularly, even after he found out what it was. The crew knew he was really green, so the boat captain thought he would mess with the new advisor a little.
As his sister drove him to the airport to leave for Vietnam, a morbid thought came over Jesse Groves. He forgot about it when he got there and stepped off the plane into what seemed like hell itself. (Caution: strong language.)
The bullet barely missed wrecking his knee. Jack Jeter was in for some hospital time before he could go home. Once he did, he was amazed at the blase attitude of his friends about Vietnam. Part 3 of 3. (Caution: strong language.)
Vietnamization was underway and, soon, Galen Hoover was sleeping away the long flight home. He landed in San Francisco and was glad to be back in the States, but as he left the plane, here came the peace protestors. What happened next haunts him still.
Jesse Groves knew he might get shot by the same guy who shot the man lying out there by the VC bunker. He considered it, then headed out. This occurred during a long series of firefights which would decimate the company.
Tony Coalson's helicopter unit flew all of II Corps, a fourth of the entire country, unlike dedicated combat units, which only flew in their little slice of Vietnam. He recalls his first combat related mission, in which he delivered an assessment team right in the middle of one of the biggest battles of the war. Part 1 of 2.
The day Jack Jeter was wounded was the third day of serious firefights. His commanding officer, Captain Barry McCaffrey, was wounded on the first day and the temporary replacement had his own ideas about how to proceed. That led the unit right into big trouble. Part 1 of 3. (Caution: strong language.)
Mail call was a really big deal to Jesse Groves. There was very little contact with the outside world in the jungles of Vietnam. He was vaguely aware of the anti-war movement, but a man getting shot at has no time to ponder such things.
When helicopter pilot Tony Coalson was on the ground during the Battle of Dak To, he was astounded at the numbers of American dead. Some of the casualties were from a terrible friendly fire incident. He remembers watching a C-130 full of wounded men just barely survive takeoff. When he returned to his base, he had a solemn observation for his roommate. Part 2 of 2.
The river boats were patrolling in narrow canals and rivers, searching for infiltrating NVA troops. Galen Hoover was in the second boat, trailing a boat that was supposed to be mine sweeping. That was the last thing he remembered about that day.
When his unit moved to the A Shau Valley and got new leadership, Jesse Groves noticed a marked improvement. The action there was hot but the company was functioning at a high level. He especially appreciated the gutsy new 1st Sergeant.
Willard Womack was nervously awaiting the news of what happened to the helicopter carrying some of his friends who had just participated in the Battle of Ap Bac, a crucial turning point early in the war. They had come though that unscathed but were now missing. Decades later, he received an email that brought the memories flooding back. Part 3 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
When Galen Hoover woke up in a hospital with a bandaged head and a broken hand, he had no idea what happened or how he got there. The guys from his unit came to see him and he finally heard the tale of that fateful patrol on the canal that day.
Coming home from Vietnam was a difficult experience. Jesse Groves was perplexed by the apathy and outright abuse. He suppressed his memories and moved on. Once later wars made service respectable again, and once he began to reconnect with his comrades, he could feel proud of his service.
Upon leading the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, Myron Harrington had to help conduct an attack on the citadel in Hue City, Vietnam. This is the story of how he and his men charged the tower, which took longer to accomplish than expected.
Willard Womack gives his account of the Battle of Ap Bac, a significant turning point in the Vietnam War. It begins with him hitching a flight to Saigon to pick up the pay for his outfit. Detoured on his way back to his base, he saw a group of men listening intently to a firefight on a radio. Part 1 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
As the American advisor argued with his Vietnamese counterpart over the radio, Willard Womack, an Army pilot stuck in transit, could hear the frustration mounting. The battle of Ap Bac could not be won with these tactics. Eventually, the evacuation was made and, weeks later, several of the aviators involved hitched a ride to Saigon for a night of carousing. Pt 2 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of RALPH J. TINGLE.)
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.
There were 87 men on some high ground surrounded by Viet Cong and Marine helicopter pilot Bill Cunningham had a problem. There was only room for one ship at a time to land in the tiny landing zone they had hacked out of the bush. It would be one at a time so he spiraled down for the first load. Then he felt like a sledgehammer hit his leg.
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.
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. He also encountered a nun with an AK-47. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
Jesse Groves had a tough upbringing until he went to live on a dairy farm, where he thrived. Drafted into the Army, he was about to find out about that war in Vietnam, of which he was only vaguely aware.
Jerry Gast says it was the leadership in his company that made all the difference in Vietnam. Captain Barry McCaffrey and 1st Sergeant Emerson Trainer set the tone and it filtered down though the NCO's. That all took a turn when both were wounded at the beginning of a fierce firefight.