8:10 | Gilbert Howland had already served with Merrill's Marauders and was there at Pork Chop Hill in the next war. He shipped out for his third war in 1966 as an ARVN advisor in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. He felt lucky that his Vietnamese counterpart spoke English, which made the job much easier. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Keywords : Gilbert Howland Vietnam Fort Dix 24th Special Tactical Zone Kon Tum Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Vietnamese central highlands Viet Cong (VC) Michelin Plantation Tunnel Rat Loc Ninh 81mm mortar
Gilbert Howland was already in the Army when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was down in Panama taking jungle training and his unit was guarding the canal. They moved to Trinidad to guard against German submarine activity and then the call went out. Volunteers were wanted for a dangerous jungle mission. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Once he volunteered to join the unit that became known as Merrill's Marauders, Gilbert Howland was whisked across the country and shipped off to India. Several months of training and planning and then it was on into Burma, where they joined the British commander Orde Wingate, who was already engaged in deep jungle penetration missions behind enemy lines. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
When the volunteer unit known as Merrill's Marauders got to Burma, they made a long march up the Ledo Road and began operating in the steep terrain. They gained valuable intelligence by tapping the telephone lines of the enemy. Gilbert Howland led a section of machine gunners as the battles began for the remote land near the Himalayas. Part 1 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
They were in a bad defensive position when the Japanese attacked at daybreak. The Americans were a unit of Merrill's Marauders and, after a full day fending off the enemy, they moved to a higher position in a bamboo grove. Gilbert Howland remembers the distinctive sound that bullets made as they tore through the bamboo. Part 2 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Gilbert Howland describes the difficulty of fighting the Japanese in the mountains of Burma. The enemy had something that the men of Merrill's Marauders lacked; artillery. Then there was the terrain, which was mostly vertical, and the ammunition, which was mostly used up. Part 3 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
They had been holding off the Japanese for a long time when another combat team finally broke through to Gilbert Howland's group. High in the Burma hills, the men of Merrill's Marauders had been at a disadvantage because the enemy had artillery. Once someone figured out how to air drop a couple of howitzers, the situation improved. It was good news, bad news for Howland, though, when an enemy bullet found him. Part 4 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
The men of Merrill's Marauders finally had a day off from battling the Japanese in the foothills of the Himalayas. Gilbert Howland's turn to bathe in the river came and he headed down the path. Coming the other way was a soldier who made a strange comment and at that point, Howland realized who it was. Part 5 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
There were celebrities in Gilbert Howland's training unit at Fort Dix, including Eddie Fisher. They were preparing to go to Korea and it wasn't long before Howland found himself there in the frigid winter; dodging artillery and trying to capture prisoners for interrogation. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
From the rear at the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, Sgt. Gilbert Howland sent in the worst casualty report of his life. The tenacious enemy would not let go, even though the territory being fought over had no real tactical value. His unit was relieved and then, to the relief of everyone, came the armistice. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Gilbert Howland moved from an ARVN advisor position to become operations sergeant at a1st Infantry Division unit with large artillery pieces. He was the in the command post, but he dodged the Viet Cong rockets along with everyone else. During the Tet Offensive, a few infiltrators made it into the base, but the damage was limited. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
One of Sgt. Gilbert Howland's duties was to make a circuit of the perimeter of the base and make sure the guards were awake. It was at this time in Vietnam that drugs began to flow from there back home, transported by soldiers. Knowing that disturbed him, but he, too, brought home something illicit, souvenirs. Before he left, the B-52 strike that had been requested finally came, to everyone's surprise. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
There were no disturbing interactions with anti-war civilians when Gilbert Howland returned from Vietnam. The veteran of three wars was retired at Fort Dix after almost thirty years of service. He finally got his parade decades later at Fort Benning and the Ranger Hall of Fame. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
After the Japanese surrendered, Gilbert Howland was transferred to an MP unit for a while, then discharged. He reenlisted after a year and left for a tour in Italy, guarding Trieste against Yugoslav incursion. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
While on Cold War duty in Italy, Gilbert Howland found the time for golf, a little cognac and entertainment in a Trieste nightclub. One of the entertainers became very special to him. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
He had served in the mountains of Burma and the mountains of Italy. Now, Gilbert Howland was serving at Fort Dix and trying to find enough whitewash for his part of the base. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
When peace came to Korea, Gilbert Howland's first job was to disburse a giant supply of lumber for the construction of new fortifications. Then it was back to Fort Dix and the training regiment, but it was his next post that he describes as a Christmas present; Hawaii. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
With one five inch gun mount out of commission, the USS Manley returned to duty off the coast of Vietnam. Al Stiles recalls the tragic death of a crewman from a sudden heart attack and, as the crew was getting over that, another bizarre accident caused the explosion of a second gun mount. Lightning had struck twice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Al Stiles remembers that it seemed to take forever steaming into home port at Charleston. The USS Manley had returned from Vietnam and he was anxious to see his wife. He adapted his letters home to her, along with deck logs and other materials into a book.
As he waited to step foot in Vietnam for the first time, Charles Vicari was obsessed with the thought of stepping in a punji pit. Then he jumped off the helicopter and...no punji pit. Once he was over that, he settled into his role as mortar platoon sergeant.
In 1951, Charles Vicari returned to duty after recovering from the wound he received in Korea. His enlistment was up in a matter of months, but he didn't find civilian life to his liking so he re-enlisted. When 1965 rolled around, he had a plum post, but President Johnson decided he was needed in Vietnam.
After a nice cruise to Saint Thomas, the men of the destroyer USS Cone got orders to Vietnam. The mission was offshore bombardment and interdiction fire. Jack LeCroy was a gunner's mate on one of the five inch guns and he describes the workings of the weapon.
When he got near the end of his Vietnam tour, Charles Vicari could not sleep, so the medical officer gave him some medication. This became a problem one night, when a mortar barrage came in. When his time was up, he finished up a career in the Marines in a much less dangerous North Carolina.
He needed a new MOS because of his wounds, so Marine William Moncus became a communications specialist. He went to Vietnam with a secretive new unit called the Marine Support Battalion. That innocuous name shielded a secret intelligence gathering operation.
It was different from any other war in Vietnam. There were no front lines and the enemy could be anywhere. That's what Charles Vicari had to deal with as a Marine gunnery sergeant. He was also perplexed by the people he was there to help, like the Vietnamese militia member who wanted compensation for something that the Viet Cong did.
Gunner's mate Jack LeCroy returned from his Vietnam tour without encountering any protests. The only one he'd ever seen was during a port visit in Japan. He finds some parallels between the jungle warfare of the ground troops in Vietnam and the suburban warfare today's combatants must face.
Charles Vicari already had experience in a Headquarters and Service company, so when he was offered the job as H&S gunnery sergeant while he was in Vietnam, he jumped at the chance. If they wanted him to not get shot at, it was fine with him.
The USS Manley was heading to Singapore for repairs when the route was adjusted slightly to make sure the ceremonies associated with crossing the equator could take place. Al Stiles provides a colorful description of the initiation of the Polliwogs.
It was over a hundred degrees and there was a garbage strike when Tom Grissom arrived in Saigon. After he got used to the aroma, he had to get used to a new kind of war, a war in which there were no battle lines and anyone could be an enemy. He had a desk job, but even in the compound where high ranking officers lived, there were booby traps.
It was at Camp Lejeune that William Moncus, now a gunnery sergeant, finished his career, training young Marines. He taught them to love their weapon and care for it, among other things. There was an airlift unit at the base, and he recalls the fiery aftermath of a training accident.
When a ship pulled into Hong Kong for liberty, a call went out to a lady named Mary Sue, who had a big operation painting the sides of warships. The USS Manley had a lot of port visits there and elsewhere for repairs and refitting after she lost two gun mounts.
He was a mathematics major, but John Waller was also an ROTC cadet, and this led to a commission as a new 2nd Lieutenant. The Air Defense Artillery School at Fort Bliss was a lucky assignment for him, though he would have gladly gone to Vietnam if that was his fate. His real goal was to be a math teacher.
While transiting the Mediterranean, the USS Manley stopped in Crete, where the crew got some liberty and a taste of the local beverage, ouzo. Al Stiles recalls the potentially embarrassing departure from the port which became an apparently graceful bit of ship handling.
Following personal leave to attend his father's funeral, Tom Pemberton returned to Vietnam with a new assignment, auditing stevedore contracts at the Saigon port. When his time was up, he returned to the Army Reserve Advisory Group in Jacksonville. It was a good post, but there was one difficulty. It fell on this unit to notify families in Florida of a soldiers death.