2:25 | Bill Crossley was more mature than most soldiers arriving in Vietnam, having already been an artillery officer for seven years. In charge of three batteries, he interacted with many other troops and never saw any evidence of the widespread notion that they were lacking in some way. The popular image of the indifferent Vietnam soldier is a total myth, he says.
Keywords : Bill Crossley ROTC Ft. Campbell 101st Airborne paratrooper Vietnam artillery 8
It was all peace and quiet during the Tet armistice, but Bill Crossley's artillery battery was getting a request for fire from a remote unit. They didn't know it but that was the first rumbling of the Tet Offensive. The wave of attacks across Vietnam actually relieved some frustration on the part of American forces. They had been searching in vain for enemy to engage.
Once the Tet Offensive began, it was the "Wild, Wild West" for Bill Crossley's artillery. He had to move an entire battery forty miles in the dark, secure an unguarded bridge in Saigon, and then begin the counter attack. While it was a disaster to Walter Cronkite, the troops who had long been searching for the VC knew that they finally had them.
The Viet Cong had already done their reconnaissance on the Special Forces base. But when they attacked at midnight, they didn't know about the artillery battery that had just been deployed and dug in. Bill Crossley relates how the attackers stumbled right into heavy fire and were repelled, even though the battery ran out of ammunition and shot illumination rounds in desperation.
It was a close call. Just as Bill Crossley was getting ready for steak and beer on a much needed rest, a rocket hit the camp. As he headed for the TOC (Tactical Operations Center,) the rockets were landing right behind him. Noting the progression of hits, he knew the next one would be right on him. Then there was his friend who showered at the wrong time.
His job was to inspect artillery fire bases for security and, right away, Bill Crossley could see the problems. After unclogging supply lines for concertina wire and teaching the gun crews at the first base how to patrol, he decided he needed a better way to get their attention. That led him to a former VC sapper named Nguyen. Part 1 of 2.
Using a captured VC to infiltrate fire bases while the crews watched was a great teaching method for Bill Crossley. The man would get inside every time, starting a flurry of activity as security measures were toughened. The next step was showing the artillerymen how to patrol, something that was lacking in their training. Part 2 of 2.
Bill Crossley was always scrambling to improve security at his artillery fire bases. He sent a meteorological platoon to one battery just to get some more gun barrels in case of attack. He had also scrounged a 75mm recoilless rifle, which by pure chance wound up insuring the base against mortar attacks.
Bill Crossley explains how he prepared for counter battery fire in Vietnam. Counter battery is the response to incoming fire and the secret is to plot potential locations for the enemy to set mortars and have that data ready when an attack occurs. You can find the direction of an enemy mortar hit by examining the crater.
Artillery officer Bill Crossley had a rattling .45 and an M-16 in Vietnam and he is thankful he never fired them. He is also thankful that among all three of his gun batteries, there was only one casualty. He has something to say about the food, including the story of an irate baker and the reason he won't eat stewed tomatoes.
The 107mm rocket was a new weapon for the VC and Bill Crossley's artillery unit was the first to get hit with them. They got pretty good at finding the firing positions because, unlike mortars which fired nearly vertically, the rockets required an open space. On the Fourth of July, he realized what he should do with hundreds of captured rockets he had on hand.
There was high tech warfare in Vietnam. Sensors revealed that there were trucks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and there was even an advanced airborne radar that found ground traffic. Bill Crossley reveals the low tech tactic they had to use to pick up slow moving ox carts.
To Bill Crossley, there was no finer example of good leadership than LTC Gene O'Grady, who was his battalion commander in Vietnam. He quietly took care of details that no one else thought of, all for the benefit of the men.
One example of LTC Gene O'Grady's leadership was his response to an incident of errant artillery fire. Bill Crossley remembers that O'Grady made him use a briefcase to look more professional as he arrived to assess the situation. Then he agreed to use the trashcan as a file for some awful paperwork.
Bill Crossley has some harsh words about the personnel policy that was in effect in Vietnam. The lack of unit cohesion was caused by the constant churn of replacements. Soldiers had to fight without training together. When his generation moved into military leadership, they made sure that would never happen again.
After explaining that his awards were no big deal, Bill Crossley relates a funny incident from one of the engagements that brought him one of them. Although it probably wasn't too funny to the brigade commander.
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.