6:00 | 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.
Keywords : Marshall Carter chopper helicopter air strike A-4 pilot 50 cal. machine gun Medivac On Station POW flare radio frequency Marine Corps casualty mortar napalm Snake Eye bomb
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
You got the lesser USO shows down in the Delta. Instead of Bob Hope and show girls, you got Martha Raye. Bob Stewart was a little disappointed with the lineup but the lady surprised him the next day when she helped treat the wounded.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
He was all choked up, thinking of his wife and daughter on the trip to Vietnam. Bob Stewart was fighting the loneliness until he received his assignment and got to the airfield at Soc Trang. He was slotted to fly armed helicopters, but was disappointed when he was told he had to start out in slicks, which are transport ships.
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.
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.
The gunship pilot didn't just provide supporting fire, he had to scout out the landing zones ahead of an assault. Bob Stewart was shot through the foot during one of these assaults. He took a break from missions, but continued his other job, giving check rides to new pilots.
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.
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.
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 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.
Helicopters? Bob Stewart felt they were beneath his dignity because, after all, he was an airplane pilot. What he found out at Fort Wolters is that the helicopter is the most difficult aircraft to fly, and the most versatile. Then it was on to the second phase at Fort Rucker where he was introduced to the Huey.
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.
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/.)
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.
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.
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 first time he killed a man, he felt sick. After a few more, helicopter pilot Bob Stewart just felt glad he was the one who survived. Americans in Vietnam were often accused of just shooting up the place wildly, but that was not true, he says. There was one Buddhist province where he refused to fire, even if fired upon.