8:15 | On Christmas Eve of 1965, Collins and all of the other POWs in his area, were moved around to their respective cells of one or two people each. He remembers trying to communicate with men in other cells, which proved to be harder than it sounds. Eventually, they were regrouped again in Hanoi, Vietnam into groups of five men per cell.
Keywords : Quincy Collins Christmas Prisoner Of War (POW) communications guards North Vietnamese Vietnam Hanoi Vietnam prison cell Navy Ned Shuman Concord NC Bob LLewellyn Atlantic City NJ Naval Reserve
Colonel Quincy Collins was born in Winnsboro, South Carolina. His father was in the furniture business and had three separate locations across the country before becoming a member of the Civil Air Patrol during WWII. Collins wound up going to The Citadel for school since he had some connections there through music departments.
Collins went to military school at The Citadel. Upon being admitted, he immediately sought out the school's band and auditioned for that. He talks about the types of tests he had to take to get into the Air Force, and how he was instructed to report to Sampson Air Force Base in New York afterwards.
Collin's first assignment was to attend pilot school in Bainbridge, Georgia. In addition, he had another assignment to go to Laredo Air Force Base in Texas. There he underwent a lot of difficult training exercises.
After his first round of training, Collins reported to Nellis Air Force Base for advanced jet gunnery school. Unfortunately, he injured his back in the middle of his training. Despite that hiccup, he was tasked with training the first three classes and working base operations. While trying to apply for a regular position in the Air Force, there was one stubborn man who wouldn't let him finish the process.
Collins talks about his all important assignment to the Air Force Academy, training the first three classes, and what that was like for him as an instructor. He recounts one particular student who preferred not to be there, and Collins had a back and forth with the student's mother about it.
While he was training the first three classes, Quincy Collins remembers a few very unfortunate accidents that happened in the Air Force Academy. He also remembers the details about how some of the uniforms for the Air Force were created by costume designers all the way from Hollywood.
After he was done with his time at the Air Force Academy, Collins flew over to Europe. He talks about his first few days there, as well as becoming camp commander. Later on, he would go to be interviewed to be an aid for General Frank Everest.
Collins talks about his crazy interview with General Frank Everest, and how he got the job almost instantly because of how well they connected. Around this time, his first son was born. After the General retired, he went to chief of staff school at Maxwell Air Force Base.
Collins took an assignment from the Thunderbirds, but figured that the job was better suited for his friend, Andy Nile. Unfortunately, as Andy was up in the air with the leader of the Thunderbirds at the time, they performed a loop maneuver that did them both in before they could eject themselves. Collins in part blames himself for Andy's death, but has learned to live with the fact that it wasn't his fault.
Collins went to command staff school, where he got to fly the F-104 Starfighter airplanes. He also remembers that it was around this time that the Cuban missile crisis was going on. Soon after, he became so good at flying the F-104s that he became the instructor pilot for incoming trainees.
When his return date from Europe was coming up, Collins decided to fly the giant F-105 planes as his next military chapter. He flew over Japan and was sent to Southeast Asia after. He spent some time in Takhli, Thailand, where he constantly had to check his boots for snakes before putting them on.
Collins' job was to take his division commander to Saigon, Vietnam and then to Takhli, Thailand. Upon getting to Takhli, he was assigned to a squadron. He tells the incredible story of how he was shot down, his not-so-comfortable landing and how he had NVA soldiers pointing guns at him.
After he was shot down over enemy territory, Quincy Collins noticed his leg was broken in three different places upon his parachuted landing. The North Vietnamese soldiers that discovered him dragged him along, and all the while Collins thought he was a goner. They wound up hiking back up the Ho Chi Minh Trail to Hanoi. Fortunately, one generous Vietnamese man was helping him recover in secret little by little.
Collins tells stories of how that one nice North Vietnamese gentleman continued to help him by bringing him small things like snacks, water, and eventually even beer. The guards demanded to know who was the most 'senior' out of the American prisoners captured. Even though Collins wasn't the most senior, he selflessly took the fall for it every day.
Upon the request of the NVA running the prisoner of war camp, Collins was asked to form a choir along with other musically inclined prisoners. While they were practicing, they set it up so that there was a hidden message for the American audience watching; spilling information about the POWs.
After the North Vietnamese found out about the secret message hidden in the choir's performance, Quincy Collins was not killed because of it, but he was sent away on an isolated tour afterwards. After five whole years, he got his first letter from back home. It was his mother explaining that his dad had died. Turns out his loved ones had thought he was dead for years.
For the final year and a half that Collins was kept as a prisoner of war, he was actually in the same cell as John McCain. As the war was finally coming to a close, the men were told not to show any emotion during the release process. On the way back home, each man was assigned a job. Collins' job was to be in charge of the wounded.
Collins describes in detail what it was like to finally be allowed to return home, from the final sign out of the prisoner of war camp to the ride back and touching back down on American soil. Sadly, his wife was fairly cold to him when he got back. He gives his final reflections and words of advice to generations forthcoming.
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.
Landing at Tan Son Nhut air base to begin his second tour, Tom Pemberton could see flashes on the ground. It was VC fire aimed at his plane. The transportation officer had a staff job monitoring motorpools and cargo operations. Then he had a highway traffic control job in which he tried to keep convoys from running into each other.
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.
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.
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.
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. He also encountered a nun with an AK-47. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
During the second deployment of the USS Manley to Vietnam, the destroyer was called on to use its guns to breach the wall in the old city of Hue without harming the palace within. Two other ships had failed, but Al Stiles directed the fire that accomplished the mission. The Manley was getting a reputation as the go-to destroyer for precise fire.