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tv   [untitled]    May 26, 2012 11:00pm-11:30pm EDT

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he used the telegraph constantly, communicating with generals and with other politicians throughout the confederacy. perhaps, perhaps it came from his military background. generals should be left alone. possibly a service in mexico with general zachary taylor, whom he admired and influenced him. general taylor constantly growled about influence from above, especially from civilian secretaries of war and presidents. but whatever the reasons, davis gave his generals enormous leeway. not only did he fail to direct them, he also too often left them in command long after they should have been removed. excuse me. unlike lincoln, davis did not fire generals. of course, one of the most famous incidents involving davis and his commanders during the war was his firing of joseph johnston in 1864 before atlanta. yet, that action did not occur because johnston failed to obey
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orders from richmond. davis fired johnston because johnston wouldn't tell davis what johnston was going to do. even so, in my judgment, this instance was the exception that proves the rule. a much more common situation prevailed after the failed confederate advance into kentucky in 1862. davis had high hopes for this confederate offensive into his home native state. but as you all know, it failed. and confederate failure in kentucky came from several directions. at the same time the inability of confederate commanders to cooperate was certainly a central reason for that disaster. i said davis was terribly supportive and in the confederate withdrawal into tennessee he called these three men to come to washington, to come to richmond. braxton bragg, polk, who was bragg's senior subordinate and edmond kirby smith.
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who commanded another confederate army in kentucky. he called them all to richmond. and what did they say in richmond? each man defended himself, deflected responsibility, and blamed the other two. after hearing these recriminatio recriminations, davis incredibly left all three in place. he even promoted kirby smith and polk. he said for the good of the cause they must get along. in davis's view, like the opinion of kirby smith, he had given to braxton bragg before the invasion of kentucky, davis wrote about smith. "he has taken every position without the least tendency to question his advantage to himself, without complaint when his prospects for distinction were remote and with alacrity when dangers and hardships were to be met." davis said you must be like this. you must all be like this.
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when change, when change, when overhaul, fundamental overhaul was desperately needed, davis stood still. i could discuss other examples of this kind of response or non-response for the possibility of ultimate confederate success they happened far too frequently. in the incidents i've just described as well as others for all the right reasons a ruthless, even pragmatic commander in chief would have instituted dramatic changes including dismissals, transfers and the promotion of junior officers. in the army of tennessee the cancer that davis did not even attempt to excise in the post-kentucky weeks was left to grow even more virulent. in conclusion, the general assessment of davis as commander of chief and war leader. considering the political
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dimensions broadly construed of this position, i think davis merits high marks. i do. with he military side much more mixed, he did comprehend the strategic situation facing his country and i find his basic strategic decisions reasonable and understandable. but as a purely military commander in chief he exhibited serious flaws. too often he did not exercise appropriate command authority over generals or intervene effectively in crippling disagreements among senior commanders. elsewhere, i tried to delineate the practical and emotional reasons behind his inaction. there is no time here for such a discussion. i'm sure you're glad to hear me say that. simply put, he did not have the steel or ruthlessness to make essential command decisions. in some i would say that davis performed far more ably as a political commander in chief than as a military commander in
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chief. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> next week we'll be back at the virginia military institute for another session from this conference organized by the virginia civil war sesquicentennial commission. historians will discuss general robert e. lee and the army of northern virginia. the civil war airs here every saturday at 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. and sundays at 11:00 p.m. eastern time. you're watching american history tv, all weekend every weekend on c-span3. 40 years after the first full-scale engagement between u.s. troops and the people's army of vietnam the vietnam archive interviewed veterans of the idrang valley. it was after these battles waged in november 1965 that north
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vietnamese forces began engaging in guerrilla warfare. up next excerpts from one of those oral histories. we'll hear from lieutenantforre the commanding officer in the 1st battalion 35th cavalry which came to support the 7th cavalry after the fifth day of the battle. this is 50 minutes. >> i'm conducting a video oral history with lieutenant colonel george forrest. today is november 12th, 2005, and it's approximately 12:05 p.m. and we are in crystal city hilton, washington, d.c. at the 40th anniversary reunion of the battles of the idrang valley. falcon, x rarks albany, and others. colonel forrest, tell me a little bit about your recollection of arriving at x-ray on the 17th -- 16th and on that tuesday. what did x-ray look like you to?
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>> probably a sight like we had never seen. my unit unlike the other units, we walked into x-ray. we had spent the night, the previous night at l.c. columbus and then the next morning went overland into x-ray. so on the way into x-ray, we could see some of the casualties at least of the north vietnamese casualties as we got into the landing zone. but we saw guys who were absolutely physically exhausted. i think jack smith characterized it once. he said they had that blind combat stare. >> did you all know what had happened there? >> we did not, because communications was poor. we were not on hal moore's frequency until we actually got into x-ray. >> do you remember the then lieutenant colonel when he
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was -- >> absolutely. absolutely. he was probably this monumental figure standing in the middle of all of this chaos with total control of who he was, what he was, and what he wanted us to do without hesitation told me this is where i want your unit in the perimeter, and move out. so we basically did and deployed immediately. and then at some point later we came back for a more thorough briefing by him on what had gone on and what he had expected -- what he had anticipated would happen the rest of the day and the next night. >> he came and addressed the company commanders? or -- >> he had company commanders that came in. i guess it was part of his normal either morning briefing or afternoon -- because we got there fairly early in the morning. >> right. what did he tell you? what did he say he thought would be happening? >> he knew that the north
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vietnamese forces were still there. that we needed to first of all do some policing of the battlefield to try to recover as many american soldiers' bodies as we could, try to get them back inside the perimeter, and then go through your normal routine as a company once you go in line. establish your positions, put out listening posts, do all the kinds of military tactical things that a unit should do. and then establish good communications with the unit on the right and left and to the battalion headquarters. >> so you stay there the day and the night. >> uh-huh. >> before you walk off. what was that night like? >> there were a number of probing attacks at least along the sector that we were on. as i recall, we were on the -- probably the western side of the perimeter.
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no real heavy probes and the because they were looking for weaknesses in the line. and again, my company being fresh we had ample supply of ammunition. so we were a pretty solid company. so they didn't find too many weaknesses. so they obviously probed someplace else. >> tell me a little bit about your general feelings and your remembrance of colonel mcdade. before the war. just what kind of commander was he? i know he'd only been there -- >> before? >> before. yes. >> didn't know him. >> he was there, what, three weeks? four weeks? >> even if he'd been there the whole time, i didn't know him. he was a battalion commander of another battalion. remember, my unit was attached. >> you were attached. right. so i'm asking because did he make contact with you all? >> didn't make contact with us because we didn't fall under his command until we were ordered to move out. i mean, i could say the same about hal moore. i had not laid eyes on hal moore
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until the morning that we walked into the l.z. now, his reputation as being a tough battalion commander, but i was in a separate brigade, separate battalion, and we just happened to be attached. and as i tell folks all the time, being attached to a unit is like being a stepchild. you're the last to do everything. but in my case it worked well. >> yes, it did. so you get through that night and then the decision is made to walk to albany. >> mm-hmm. >> what do you know about that decision to walk? instead of being lifted or -- there's also a question of you why wanted -- why people were even going to go to albany. >> right. in hindsight or do you want my -- >> yeah, in hindsight. >> well, yeah. on that particular morning when the colonel calls you to the command post and the orders of day are we're going to move out.
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we know a portion of this unit is going to be airlifted out, and some of you guys are going to walk. now, again, i overlay my attachment mentality. they're obviously not going to fly out the stepchildren. so we assume that we would probably be one of the units that walked out. because again, i think the concept was at that time we had also established communications with my parent battalion. and there was some discussion of marrying up with that battalion at albany, and that was an assumption on my part, that we were going to go -- once we got to albany, we would be airlifted back to my battalion so we would marry up with my battalion. now after 40 years i understand one of the reasons that we walked out is because there was not enough air lift, helicopter lift support to fly everybody
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out. the months leading up to albany, there was lots of flying, and most of the helicopters were at their 100-hour maintenance -- mandatory maintenance. a number of them were probably down. again, that's after i read the book. >> so you all move out, and you're in the rear? >> uh-huh. >> were you tasked with the rear guard or were you just the stepchild? >> no. again, understanding the military tactics, when you are the last unit, there are in military missions implied tasks and specified tasks. and implied task of being the last unit is you are rear security. so that was a given. that was ft. bening 101. so we, being the last unit, we're security but more importantly security of my particular unit was paramount in my mind. >> tell me about your lieutenants.
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>> good lieutenants. young. had one ocs, larry hess, and he was the one that was killed. terry martell, and terry martell was a -- i believe an rotc lieutenant from berea, ohio. my other lieutenant was jim patswa, and he's from baltimore. i had one platoon that was commanded by a non-commissioned offic officer. his name for whatever reason -- last night when we were talking, i kept trying to get these guys to refresh my memory so that when i did this interview today i would be up to speed on who was there. and then i had my -- which was an unusual scenario. my x.o. was also on the ground with us. and his name is don adams, and don's from atlanta.
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>> and your radio operator? >> radio operators, again, hirsch from allentown, pennsylvania and jimmy smith from albomars, north carolina. >> so you all move out that day. and a lot of people said you were weighted down, the whole group was weighted down with a lot of -- moving a lot of materials. >> a lot of -- i wouldn't say "a lot," but we had equipment that normally -- anticipating being flown out, soldiers carry a lot more stuff than they would if they had the -- to pack it. we normally had the canteen -- the two canteens of water and extra ammunition and others.
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again, a lot of -- we had got resupplied, and so a lot of the resupplies that we had we still had, because we didn't do -- we didn't expend an awful lot of ammunition that night. again, even the ammunition that we expended we replenished in the morning. so i wouldn't say we were burdened down, but it was an unusual load for an air mobile company to be carrying. and it was unusual for an air mobile company to be walking around in the woods. normally what happened is airplanes came and picked us up, and we got a free ride. so i wouldn't say we were unusually burdened down. it was probably more than we were used to carrying. >> what was the terrain like? >> for the first part of it, it was fairly clear because of the initial walkout was, again, part of lz x-ray.
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as we moved further -- let me get my directions. as we moved further north, the elephant grass became more prevalent, so that became an issue in terms of visibility. but other than that relatively flat. i think when we went back in '93 and looked at it, it looked more like north georgia woods than we imagined with the elephant grass added. so the visibility was really limited, and at least a portion of it. of course, the closer we got to albany, there were these -- the terrain that sticks out in everybody's minds are these enormous ant hills, which still don't know how, why, where, whatever. but they became part of the terrain. but again, i would imagine that visibility probably no more than
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100 meters either to the right or left or even to the front. so i think eyes were pretty closed. >> did that worry you? do you remember being concerned about that? >> every day that i was in vietnam, i was concerned. and not so much concerned about me, but concerned about the welfare of those guys that depended on me to do some stuff. so concern? absolutely. after all, we had just witnessed horror, and some people probably talk about a letdown because we weren't a more relaxed -- i've got to tell you, the commanders of the leaders were not relaxed. i know none of my ncos were relaxed. these guys were always cautious about what we did because we didn't have the normal intel. we didn't have the kind of navigational aids, i.e. good maps to basically point out what the terrain was. so we were kind of stumbling in
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the dark. >> didn't you have one map? >> right. >> you got someone to make another kind of rudimentary map? >> we did some -- the reason was because, again, going back to how we got there in the first place, we were doing highway security on a pass just south of anh-khe. our mission was to provide outpost highway security. we got a call that you're going to be air lifted into lz columbus for an operation. no maps. not even the kind of communications, the exchange of communications that you would normally get when you exchange units like that. so flying in, the chinook pilots -- again, we landed on
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lz, a non-secure lz in ch-47. >> we can go into detail on that at another time. >> yeah. that's a whole other story. >> absolutely. so the two enemies were captured by delta company up front. >> right. >> they run into them, they get them, and they call all the company commanders to the front. >> mm-hmm. >> how did you feel about leaving your company and going that far up the column? >> again, reality and what i know now. my thought process has changed over 40 years, but at that point, you know, you have to remember i was a good infantry captain. >> you went and you said, yes, sir? >> if they said we want you to come up front, i didn't go through this checklist of how do i evaluate the commander? why is this guy not using the radio?
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why is he -- no. it was okay, guys, off and on. off your feet, off your ass, on your feet, we're going forward. and that's basically what we did. >> tell me about mcdade and the conversation you all had up there when you got there. >> didn't really have a conversation. when i got to the position where we were actually starting to assemble to do the briefing, we started to get incoming mortar fire. my immediate reaction was, i don't know -- i don't know anyone in front of me. i don't know any of those guys on the side of me. the only comfort zone for me in this whole scenario is back down that trail where a company first to the 5th is. so my response to the incoming fire was a reaction of i need to get out of here so that i can get back to a position. again, in hindsight now i think
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about it and was it a conscious thought of i need to go back and save my guys, or was it a conscious thought i'm scared as hell and i need to get out of this particular environment so i can get my thought processes together and do the things that i was trained to do? and i haven't quite figured out what the answer was. but i think it was more training. i think it was more instinct. i think it was more a response to a dangerous situation. and this may sound melodramatic. but i've got to tell you, the safest place i believe for me on that battlefield on that particular day was back at "a" company 1st to 5th. i knew these guys. >> did you ask mcdade permission? >> no. didn't do the traditional click your heels salute three times and turn around and go.
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it was turn around and go. >> the trap has been sprung in the middle, and there you go. you're off. how fast are you going? it's chronicled in the book, but i want to know. >> miles per hour? i'm being facetious. >> were you sprinting full speed or were you trying to drag these guys behind you? >> no. because these were -- i mean, i was young. but these guys were younger than i was. they had more equipment than i did. >> yes. >> but again, because they were so good, i never had to look for them. whenever i -- wherever i went, they appeared. so my assumption was that these guys are right there with me. and i'm thinking that probably for a portion of -- i would like
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to think that probably for a portion of that trip they were. and i would hope that i'd probably never get the answer to that. but i would hope that i didn't leave them. i would hope that they were able to stay as close as they possibly could. but obviously, it was not enough because i got there and they didn't. >> how long did it take you? i mean, was this a five-minute ride? was this 30 seconds? you're traveling about 560 yards. >> right, right. in my mind -- in my mind it seemed like forever.
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but i think in actual time it probably didn't take very long at all. 600 yards is a couple of football fields, three or four football fields. so the actual -- to qualify it in minutes or whatever may be, five minutes, six minutes. >> what do you remember seeing? were you -- was it a trail? more a trail? >> it was more -- yeah. it was more tracing the steps that i had come up, because, again, this was not a conscious effort of if i don't stay on this trial or get off the trail i'm going to get lost. i laugh all the time about
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paying attention to where you go so you can always know how to get back. again, that's another one of those learned infantry officer things that they put in the back of this little computer and it's there. so i kind of retrace where i was going to actually -- to see actions to the right and left. to see guys fighting and firing those kinds of things. that's a blur. these guys were looking at me like now that you're here, you got to do something. tell us what to do. >> what did you tell them? what did you do? >> guys, number one -- i didn't have to tell them. they already knew. we have been ambushed. we need to execute the processes that we know that go about. the first thing we needed to do is establish a position where we could be fairly secure. one of the first airplanes that landed in the makeshift perimeter we had were medevac
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choppers. when they came in, i basically went over to the first bird that landed and talked to the pilot. basically said, this is what's happened. on the way back in if you can bring ammunition, water, medical supplies, whatever we need, because we've been hit pretty bad. we're in pretty good shape, but i would imagine that the units in front of us are having more problems than we are. the combat effectiveness of my unit was probably 75%. after having read the book, you kind of know what the guys up in front of me were like. >> yes. >> so it was the -- once we started to, again, get the wounded out and get some supplies in and whatever, then we concentrated on, again, accountability, where everybody is.
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>> can you describe kind of the physical layout of your perimeter? how large did you set up? >> it was wide enough that we could accommodate at least three platoons, and i had my weapons platoon which was inside, and a headquarters. so pretty good-sized. and large enough that helicopters could come fairly close. i don't think they landed inside the perimeter, but fairly close. because i don't remember -- probably two sorties, maybe three sorties of medevacs came in. because it was getting pretty late. the battle, about 1:00, 1:30. by the time everything kind of calmed down, it was getting dark because i remember tully and his guys came just at dark. so i'm -- if my recollection serves me, the perimeter was big enough that his company could
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fold in and we didn't have to push out any further. >> tell me about the battle during the day before the night. how intense does it get for you all? >> pretty intense because we've got some pretty serious -- i'll call them more than probes. they were assaults. at least in my mind. assaults on our position. but again, we were -- once you can re-establish combat integrity or unit integrity, whatever, an infantry company is a pretty formidable force. if you don't have to worry about rear security, because we are where we are, most of our efforts are outward. so we're in pretty good shape. and again, so as i recall the

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