7:15 | When you set an eighteen year old kid down in a jungle and give him "half the power of the Lord to carry on his hip," it becomes a real concern to restrain him. According to Captain Marshall Carter, once they see their buddies blown away in front of them, they want to shoot anything that moves.
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The value of the Medivac chopper standing by at high altitude was proven when a pilot on a supporting fire mission had to bail out. Marshall Carter was able to call down the Medivac unit and extract the pilot, who surely would have been a POW. Part 4 of 5.
Marshall Carter went for the Marines when he graduated from West Point to escape the family business. His father and grandfather were both West Point graduates who were in the Army. They considered the Marines a small service with limited career opportunities, but to Carter, that was no problem.
New Marine rifle company commander Marshall Carter was anxious to try and improve on the French experience in Vietnam. He thought they never employed proper counter insurgency tactics in their war, and he had just been drilled in them as one of the few Marines to attend Green Beret school.
When Marshall Carter arrived in Vietnam, he was looking forward to commanding a rifle company and learning from the veteran sergeants he would be working with. Right away, he got a lesson in keeping his head down when he stood on top of a vehicle to try and free two others that were stuck.
The Ia Drang battle marked a turning point in the Vietnam War. The enemy was prepared to sacrifice an entire division to find out two things: how to deal with American air mobility and how to deal with overwhelming supporting arms. Marine Captain Marshall Carter explains how they developed two tactics that were used the rest of the war.
There were four levels of enemy in Vietnam, according to Marine Captain Marshall Carter, ranging from the North Vietnamese Army at the top to the VCI, or Viet Cong Infrastructure, at the informal level. Gen. Westmoreland dismissed the worth of the VCI and famously omitted their numbers from official counts. Still, they caused a third of the American casualties.
While in Vietnam, Marshall Carter was lucky enough to step on two mines that were both duds. It didn't faze him at all because he already expected not to return home. "The half life of a company commander in Vietnam was about four months." His aggressive tactics took the battle to the enemy and he survived.
Marshall Carter recalls a Medivac flight that was flown by two wounded pilots, one with leg wounds and one hit in the arm. Together they worked the stick and the pedals. He then explains the struggle over tactics. Westmoreland and the Army were looking for the big battle. The Marine approach was to pacify the area and protect the people.
Commanders in Vietnam were encouraged not to contact the families of soldiers who died under their command. Captain Marshall Carter says this was because the war was very unpopular at home. He tried it...once.
Marshall Carter's unit was moving across a big cemetery. Suddenly, the ground gave way and he knew immediately he was falling into a punji pit. Not only were there punji stakes, there was a grenade with a trip wire. The Viet Cong were masters at adapting to American tactics. After steel shanks were added to American boots, the punji traps were made with a sideways closing motion.
The intel from the captured courier was juicy. A high level meeting of political cadres was to be held in a certain village and Captain Marshall Carter's unit was chosen to conduct a raid. Given the power to completely plan the operation, Carter requested extra choppers and a Medivac unit "on station," hovering high above the action waiting to descend. Part 1 of 5.
The extra choppers that Marshall Carter requested for his raid on a Viet Cong gathering came in handy right away. The command team's chopper was hit by enemy fire and had to be replaced even before the team arrived at the site. Part 2 of 5.
The raid on a Viet Cong conclave had gone well but there was still resistance and Captain Marshall Carter started thinking about extraction from the battlefield. Before he could go, however, he had to personally rescue a wounded Marine and then had to linger after the others had gone to direct supporting fire. Part 3 of 5.
Three of Captain Marshall Carter's men who were on a fateful raid with him, went to the battalion commander to tell him what Captain Carter had done during the operation. That conversation worked out well for him, much better than the conversation he had years later with a reporter from WGBH.
After a break for grad school, Marshall Carter returned for a second Vietnam tour but this time he was an adviser to the South Vietnamese Marines. He speaks highly of them but says that Gen. Westmoreland's neglect of South Vietnamese forces contributed to their eventual defeat.
Marshall Carter's battalion commander, Van D. Bell, taught him two valuable lessons which helped make him a successful rifle company commander: aggressiveness and use of supporting arms. Those lessons helped him a lot but nothing could help higher level decision makers who did not realize that Ho Chi Minh was Vietnam's George Washington.
After her enlistment was over, Edwina Morrison returned to college, where she really wanted to be the whole time. After collecting two degrees, she became a clinical social worker and eventually founded her own firm where she was able to help people; her real purpose in life.
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/.)
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.
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.
When he was company commander at Cua Viet, Richard Jackson had great success in keeping the area clear of enemy. After his combat commands were finished and he was a staff officer, he was asked to visit the replacement unit and advise them. His journey there and back was worthy of a Hollywood movie.
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.
The Colonel told him he was going to take over Mike company. Get over there and straighten it out. Richard Jackson was glad to have a command and he got to Cam Lo by nightfall. He had just settled in when the NVA gave him a welcome.
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. He also encountered a nun with an AK-47. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
Curtis James was the first officer in charge of a Pentagon effort to manage crises during the Cold War. It was a brand new office inside the giant headquarters and, after running that for a while, he served in Vietnam at MACV in Saigon, managing the logistics of the war effort.
It was his last combat operation. Richard Jackson's company of Marines was to be the lead attack company on an assault against the NVA near the DMZ. During the battle, he called in every kind of supporting fire available to penetrate a fortified village.
He was lucky to get a job with an office during his second Vietnam tour, managing a platoon of medics. Then when the war was being turned over to the Vietnamese, Franklin Monroe began medical missions in the streets and started organizing escape for refugees.
Curtis James returned from Vietnam to an assignment as director of personnel at Parris Island. This was the last post for the Marine Corps staff officer. His favorite was the Pentagon, where he initiated a brand new office to coordinate military crisis response.
He'd made a decision to always take training seriously and learn as much as he could about what he would face in the field, and when Richard Jackson got to Vietnam, it saved his life. As he was walking on patrol, he heard a click, something he'd heard in training, but this time, it was for real.
Company commander Richard Jackson tried to be as unpredictable as he could with his Marines, following no set pattern and changing tactics constantly. This worked so well that his unit received praise from up the chain of command.
During his first tour of Vietnam, medic Franklin Monroe was happy to be issued a .45 because it could get pretty dangerous when the compound was attacked. Eventually he sought out some heavier weaponry. He recalls those firefights and also the traumatic time a soldier stepped on a mine.
After basic training, Edwina Morrison was assigned to the 30th Engineer Battalion at Fort Belvoir. The finance and accounting specialist may not have put boots on the ground in Vietnam, but she got the soldiers paid. She remembers the funny looks she got when she showed up and they expected a man.
To beat a guerrilla force, you had to become like them. That was one of Richard Jackson's realizations when he commanded a company of Marines up near the DMZ. He describes a life defining moment during a firefight, when he realized what it would take to be successful in this war.
It cost too much money to go to college, so Edwina Morrison walked into an Army recruiting office and left only when it was time to get on the plane. She arrived in the middle of the night and the drill instructors were a bit of a rude awakening.
Richard Jackson recalls the time when he was stuck in a helicopter with a general observing the battle field while his company of Marines were getting battered down below. When he finally got down to the ground, he repositioned the unit with a mad dash downhill from their exposed position.