Skip to main content

tv   Battle of Ia Drang  CSPAN  May 30, 2016 8:01pm-8:58pm EDT

8:01 pm
dramatic increase in the number of american ground troops in vietnam. the battle of the ia drang valley was the first major battle between the u.s. army and the peoples army of north vietnam. the two-part battle in the central highlands took place from november 14th to 18th, 1965. it was thanksgiving day back at home that most americans first red the headlines about the battle which was a turning point of sorts with single week casualty numbers exceeding those of the worse weeks of the korean war. americans had to face the fact that we really were engaged in a war. today we have veterans of the battle of the ia drang valley recalling what it was like on the front lines. mr. vince cantu was drafted into the vietnam war in 1963 and became a u.s. army private in the first battalion of the 7th calvary. his battalion was charged with
8:02 pm
pioneering a new kind of air warfare that the arm termed air mobile. colonel bruce crandall is a veteran master army aviator in fixed wing aircraft and helicopters and has led more than 900 combat missions during two tours in vietnam. he was drafted into the army in 1953 and in early 1965 he joined the dominican republic expeditionary force as a liason to the airborne corp and later that year commanded the first calvaries division company a., 229th assault helicopter battalion in vietnam. he received many awards including the bronze star medal, the distinguished flying cross with one oak leaf cluster and the medal of honor. dr. tone johnson jr. went to vietnam in 1963 as part of the seventh calvary regiment of the first calvary division.
8:03 pm
in november 1965, his unit was ambushed by the vietcong and all but destroyed. he received the bronze star for his achievement and in the recognition of his bravery during the campaign. later, recovering from the hospital, he was inspired by the care he received to pursue a career in medicine. he later became a family practitioner and started a combat medical training program for infantry soldiers to learn first aid. colonel joe marm enlisted in the army in 1964 and graduates from officer candidate school as a second lieutenant. he was then reassigned to the first calvary division and by september 1965 was in vietnam. in november of 1965 his battalion came under fire in the ia drang valley. the colonel received the medal of honor in recognition of his bravery in the campaign. he later successfully petitioned to go back to vietnam for a
8:04 pm
second tour only after signing a waiver stipulating that going back into harm's way was his own choice. and finally, your moderator for this panel, mr. joe galloway. he is one of the premier war and foreign correspondents. he is the recipient of numerous journalism awards and also the recipient of the bronze star for valor. the only civilian to receive the honor in the vietnam war and as the recipient of the doubtery award, the highest honor the u.s. infantry can present to an individual. mr. galloway has co-authored several critically acclaimed books including -- we were soldiers, once and young. and its sequel, we are soldiers still, a journey back to the battlefields of vietnam. the first back was made into the major motion picture, we were soldiers in 2002. ladies and gentlemen, your panel for the afternoon. [ applause ] .
8:05 pm
. it is awful quiet out there. >> yeah, it is. >> i don't know about this being a much of a panel discussion. but it sure is a great gathering of my brother soldiers. [ applause ] >> it has been 50 years and five months since we met on a battlefield in the central highlands of vietnam on the 14th
8:06 pm
of november, 1965. it was the first major battle for american infantry to run head-on into north vietnamese regulars. two very fine light infantry and they went at it tooth and nail. the north vietnamese were there to kill us all. and we were damn well determined they wouldn't. and i met -- it is interesting, on the battlefield, on the second day, i was shooting some pictures. and i was behind a little bush on one knee, and a fellow jumped out of a mortar pit and zig zagged across the edge of the clearing. and dove under that bush, and
8:07 pm
all i could see were two eyeballs about the size of saucers under the rim of the helmet. and he said, joe galloway, this is even cantu from missouri, don't you know me, man. we graduated in the class of 1959 from high school, 55 of us. and the next time i saw him was in the middle of the worst battle -- the first battle, the worst battle, the bloodiest battle of the entire vietnam war. he sure looked good. [ laughter ] >> thank you. >> and he said, hey, joe, if i live through this, i'm going home to refereo by christmas. i said, vince, go by and see my mom and dad, but don't tell them where we met. [ laughter ]
8:08 pm
>> i came to be on that battlefield at the engraved invitation of lieutenant colonel hal moore, who was the battalion commander. i marched with his battalion, three days before the battle began, a long hot walk in the sun to the special forces camp and i spent the night with them. coldest night i ever spent anywhere in vietnam, in the central highlands at 4,000 feet and we were all soaking wet from ford --fording a river. i was trying desperately to get into this battle. and there were five other reporters and photographers, including my nemesis is, peter arnette of the a.p., also trying
8:09 pm
to get n. bin. but i had the edge on this because i recognized colonel moore's matt and i said i need to get in there. and i said well i'm going in as soon as it is dark with two helicopters full of ammo and i can't take you unless the colonel says so. i said, get him on the horn. and he got on the radio, made a report to the colonel, could hear the battle raging in the background over the radio. and he said, oh, and by the way, i've got that reporter galloway, he wants to come in with me. and i'm listening real close, and the colonel said, if he's crazy enough to want to come in here and you got room, bring him. how -- hal believed that the american people had a right to know what their sons were doing and what the army was doing with their sons. and that was -- that was how he
8:10 pm
conducted his operations. the press was always welcome. so i got my -- all i had to do then was hide from the other guys until it got near dark and they all flew back to got a hot meal and a cold bunk and a got a ride into the pages of history. so here we are. bruce crandall, tell your story. >> well, i made the mistake of taking him back out of there. [ laughter ] >> he took me in. >> i took him in and i took him back out. that was the first experience we had with helicopters being influential on the battlefield. the infantry had a lot of experience, but the helicopters were just -- were just learning our role. and it -- i don't know why we
8:11 pm
waited until after dark to take them in. i prefer to go in when it is daylight and i can see who is shooting at me. but evidently the infantry had some kind of disagreement with that and we went in after dark. my wing man and i flew 14 1/2 hours that day. and we were -- we brought out 71 people that survived. and we -- we got ammo and water and medical supplies into the people on the ground so they survived. it was -- it was a very exciting time to say the least. when we would get shot up, we would shift aircraft and start flying another one. and i would call in to the base where the helicopters were, and tell them crank one, i'm coming and i'm shot up. and we would do that and we would change aircraft, i think
8:12 pm
we got five different aircraft during the day. but we flew the same aircraft a number of times. duct tape works. [ laughter ] >> but we were -- we know what we were doing. i don't want it to sound like we didn't have a real good idea of what we were doing. but we knew. but we also knew that we had to do what we were doing, otherwise the infantry would not survive on the battlefield. and they were ours. they were ours to make sure they survived. and my wingman ed freeman too tall in the movie, he was played by sam elliott. and -- no, so many played sergeant major. anyh anyhow, ed was one hell of a good helicopter pilot. and we had been together for ten years before we went to vietnam.
8:13 pm
we had five company commanders that were engineer officers that had worked in the toppo units and we had been together. so we knew each other and trusted each other and trusted the infantry. we had eight battalions of infantry and so we -- we had a marriage -- a normal relationship with the infantry and how more in the -- hal in the seventh was my heaviest load. they were able to find the most trouble. i think they knew custer personally. [ laughter ] >> but big ed freeman received the medal of honor first. and that was right. because he's the only one that volunteered to go when i asked for volunteers.
8:14 pm
and he stayed with me all day and into the night. until we brought joe and them in and that was the last flight. go ahead. >> you want to take over? this is one of my particular personal heroes. a private of the infantry was shot to all ribbons on the battlefield, lost an eye, and spending a year in an army hospital decided that the doctors were his heroes and the army helped him become a doctor and he became a reservist, a reserve officer, and then he became a national guard officer. his last tour of duty was as the surgeon general of the texas 36th national guard division. and he still practices medicine
8:15 pm
today in corpus christi. it is amazing the stories that come off a battlefield. >> some of it it true. and if you could believe the craziest person that i know is here and one is sitting over here on the other side, is -- part of it is true. but i made the mistake myself, and i said, when i was 17 coming month the end of my 17th birthday, i went down to sign up for -- the board and sign up to go in for the army. and i went there anded lady said to me, son, what is your name. and i looked at her and i said, tom johnson. and she looked at me and -- that is not any relationship to the tom that was here before.
8:16 pm
but so she said, no, that is not your name. and i said, yes, it is, that is my name. and she said no, that is not your name. and i'll give you one more chance. what is your name. and said junior johnson. and he said that is not your name. and i said, and i told her, well, i said to her, she said your name is tone. and for that, i'm going to send you in today. so she told me to go outside and sit down and i went outside and i sit down in the waiting room for a little bit and i got up and i walked out and i said, well, i can beat her at this. i'm going to go sign up myself. so i went and signed up as a volunteer to go into the army. and so we went in and on that day that we were asked to support the -- to support in the
8:17 pm
field, i looked at it as, gosh, we're going to go out and take our mortars, because i was an 11-c-10, which is heavy infantry and i'm going to go out and we're going to support them. we're going to lay been set up our watters and lay down fire for them and that is what we're going to do. and so we get out there and some -- i always call those helicopter pilots crazy because we were going out and he's ducking around the tree tops and then we get to the place where we were going to go in and he -- he just came in real low and he says, now, boys, get your tails off the plane, off the chopper. and he is up higher than the -- than this podium here. he is flying higher than that.
8:18 pm
and he's saying, well go ahead and jump out, just get out. get out now, because i'm taking fire and i need to you just get out so i can take off. and so we jumped out and nevertheless we were in a rice patty and in the rice patty in vietnam, it is a lot of water, plus some other things that we -- i don't want -- we don't probably want to talk about. >> you jumped your pants, is what happened. >> but we did. and we were taking heavy fire. and then so i told the guys at the time, i said, guys, i said, i think we are -- we were sent here to take the fire off of the others. and he said, everybody was saying, well, what are we going to do? so we actually headed for the woodline and then we started -- we started to lay down fire. and that was -- that was a tough
8:19 pm
day when i stood and i was looking through the elephant grass and i pulled the elephant grass back and right before me there was a guy who looked about my age, or younger, and he was looking right at me and i was looking right at him. and neither one of us was firing at either -- we were just staring at each other. and then all of a sudden, a large noise out of nowhere and when i woke up, four hours, five hours later, i thought i was -- i thought i was dead. i said -- because i couldn't see anything and i was just lying there. and then all i could think of was, boy, heaven certainly is dark because i can't see a thing, because -- so i laid there for a while and something told me to reach up and check yourself.
8:20 pm
and so i started checking and feeling mymyself. and i said i'm all right. and i felt my face and it felt like somebody had caked mud on my face and it was own blood and it was covering up my eyes and i couldn't see. so when i finally opened up and got the blood off, i could see and then i noticed that, gosh, you know, i'm here and i'm here alone and i could hear firing from the distance. and so we decided, well -- well, i decided i would go and try to find some others and we'll get together and we'll try to develop a circle of fire. and we did that. and we fought throughout the evening and through the night and into the next day. we were playing down as much fire as we could. and then at night time, i said,
8:21 pm
we were there and the vietnamese was coming and we saw them coming and one of the guys said, well, what are we going to do? and i said, you know, sorry -- but i said, hell if i know. i'm just a private. and everybody looked around and they said, are you the rankingest private so -- [ laughter ] >> so i said, well, okay. well, let's try to find something to eat because this is in the middle of the night and we haven't had anything to eat and so we've been at this since about 9:00 a.m. in the morning and i said, well, so we did that and we were sitting down and waiting for things to kind of clear down, settle down a little
8:22 pm
bit. and we noticed that the vietnamese started coming again and i said nobody fights at night. this is -- this is silly. [ laughter ] >> and all i could say was the trace of ammo and we had tracer ammo but i didn't think the vietnamese had tracer ammo or the vietcong had case ammo. and so i was looking at that and laying on my back and watching this tracer ammo come across my face. and said -- finally i said, i think it is somebody from our side is shooting our way. and so we started hollering a little bit and then finally they said who is there and we said it is dog company. actually that is delta company for all of you people that know that. and they said, we're here, but we have no ammo. and they said, well you better stay down because the vietcong is right up on you.
8:23 pm
so we stayed down for a little bit. and then we decided, well, we got to get back into the fight. and so we decided to move out and started doing what we can. it was a tough night. and we went through that and through the part of the day of the next day. and when i first knew joe, i said, well, he came to corpus and said -- and i didn't know he lived in referio. and actually he lived out on the bay and he told me one day, we're going to have a meeting and up in referio and you come up and we're going to discuss some things. and so we went up there and then he told me he had written a book and i had -- i had already seen the movie. so he asked me to come and look at it and everything.
8:24 pm
and then he showed me, gosh, your name is in the book. and he said, because i couldn't get to you to get anything else. your name is in the book. and i looked at it and i said, wow, my name is in the book. [ laughter ] >> something for the rankingest private. >> yeah. but actually -- i did live through everything. i lived through the war and i came out. and as joe said, i went back to school and the army -- was nice enough to let me join the army health professional program and go to school. and i went to school and i decided i would pay them back by going back into the army. i went back into the army to serve. and then i got out and i said, well -- and i went into public health service and i served as a commander in the public health service for several years.
8:25 pm
and then i got out and i said, gosh, what am i going to do? so i decided, well i'll go into the guard. and i went into the guard. and i served in texas guard for about 30 -- 30 years in the texas guard. and when i got out, i asked the governor rick perry, who was the governor, and said, tone, you are such a good fellow, we won't make you a brigadier, but i guess we'll make you an admiral in a texas way. and in a texas state navy. and i said, what is this. i'm an army officer. >> no, thank you. let's move along to my -- >> this is vince cantu. tell us your story. >> well, joe and i shouldn't have been there in the first
8:26 pm
place. >> me, too. >> no, president kennedy had passed a proclamation, no married men. and at the time i was married and had a little girl, mary lou. and then uncle sam came knocking and he said, hey, army needs you. so i gathered all of my papers and took them to victoria, because that is where the recruiting station was, and i said, hey, you can't take me in, put all of the information in front of him and i said, i'm sorry, but need -- well you're it. and i said, okay. so i was sure i wasn't going to pass. but three guys went. one didn't make it because -- because of intelligence. the other one, he was too fat. and so -- and so i lucked out. >> who was -- [ laughter ] >> who was the one that had no intelligence? [ laughter ] >> i should have made like i had no intelligence.
8:27 pm
i should have done that. but any way, they took me in. now the way i met joe, sergeant montgomery was my platoon sergeant and sergeant mueller was german decent was my squad leader. and he was sitting there and fire all around us and a big old tree behind him. apd said what are you doing sitting here. and he said i can't do that. and i said i just had a daughter coming back and went over to there and i haven't seen her. and i kept on crying. and i said get behind and i went over to sergeant montgomery and i said sergeant, mueller can't function. and i said, well, cantu, sent him back to the back area. so i took him and i went to sergeant montgomery and he said, cantu, it is yours. and now the next shift coming,
8:28 pm
send some of your men to pick up the dead and put them in the chopper. so i went and i was waiting and i said, these are guys that i've been -- about two years together. because when they took us in there, i needed ten days left in the army. so how can i get the company -- send them out and get them back in where it feels safe. so i made up my mind to tell them to follow me. so when the chopper came in, they all followed me over to put the dead bodies in the chopper. and then i see joe -- of course i didn't know it was him, he come from behind a bush and kneel down and take a picture buzz i thought he was going -- picture because i thought he was going to shoot me and i dove down into the elephant grass and the elephant grass was real tall. at that time it was real tall because nobody had stepped on it. so i kept looking and i was wondering why he didn't have a
8:29 pm
rifle. and i kept looking and in my mind i said, i know that guy. and then it was real hot, at the time, had a lot of freckles, so i looked at him and i said, yeah, that is joe galloway. so i crawled over toward him and i said, joe galloway. and he looked up. and i said vince cantu. do you remember me? and big old grin. so we crawl toward each other. and said what are you doing? he said i work for upi. and said well, you better get your rifle because they're trading live bullets. and that is how i met joe on the field. and it took a -- he took a picture ofmen me that had been over -- of me that had been all ore the pla over the place and that has
8:30 pm
opened up my world. i play with a group called the saints and sinners. ten members, and the wife, i took them to referio and played there and it had been 40 years since i played and we had a big crowd. so after the dance and the music, we went to the cafe. it was a popular cafe, it is mentioned in a lot of books and everybody goes there. so here we are, about 35 of us, we all eat after the deal. of course, i don't have that kind of money to pay for all of those guys. so i said, well, whatever we eat, we divide it into ten and go pay it. so i went to dale moya, the owner of the restaurant and i said, dale, i need the bill. she said, vince, it has already been taken care of. and i said, who?
8:31 pm
she said, they want to stay anonymous. so that is the way my life has been going. thank you. >> anonymous. >> i'm playing with my hearing aids. >> vince, you earned more than a free meal at moya's. [ applause ] >> did you hear that? because i couldn't. >> there was too many chopper days. >> joe marm, colonel marm, tell us your story. >> it is an honor for me to be here. there is in vietnam veterans out there so i can't tell any lies. >> never stopped us. [ laughter ] >> i would have been drafted. they had a draft back in the '60s.
8:32 pm
so i enlisted under the college option and went through basic training, advanced video training and ocs. and we can k-p and guard duty which they don't do now but it made me appreciate being a soldier. and i graduated from ocs and went into the rangers school and that was my best preparation for vietnam. nine straight weeks of intensive training up in the mountains of north georgia and down in the everglades of florida. and we had a big formation before we graduated and they called out about 50 names of our classmates and said your order is now changed. you could make one phone call home. you are going to ft. benning. i was supposed to go to ft. jackson in south carolina and that was for basic trainees. but i went in and signed in and we were there just a month and we headed to vietnam.
8:33 pm
my first sea voyage, went over on the uss marie rose. we took a bus from ft. benning to charleston and boarded the rose and headed west, up the panama canal up california and through the pacific and went through a typhoon. the only division had to get over there. 400,000 soldiers and helicopters had to get over there. and the helicopters were on aircraft carriers. they took a mule. colonel stockton, they gave him a mule during the testing phase of the 11th air assault when they were testing the helicopters to see if this would work and it proved to be a very successful division and a good division but it was very expensive. they were able to outmaneuver the 82nd and the 101st during the war games they were participating in. but the colonel wasn't supposed to do it but he took his mule. they gave him -- they gave it to him as a gag gift.
8:34 pm
and he called his mule after his wife's name, maggie. [ laughter ] >> he got to vietnam and maggie -- the generals told stockton, i don't want maggie on my chinook helicopter. and so he had to sling load maggie under his command helicopter to our base camp up in the central highlands. >> maggie came to a bad end. >> yeah. >> she was killed one night by a century from the 7th calvary and sergeant major plumlee reported this fact to colonel moore who held his hands over his head and said, what did you do? and he said, well, sar, i loaded maggie aboard the chow truck and they delivered her back to the ninth. and he said why did we kill her.
8:35 pm
and he said she was challenged and didn't know the countersign. >> you and i, we were on the same -- we went out on the same time. the uss marie rose. >> yes, sir. >> rose th-- rode that same mul. go ahead. sorry to interrupt. >> but we were in the seventh calvary whose lineage goes back to custer. but we had assets custer didn't have. we had the entire division ready to give us support so that was very, very -- very, very fortunate that we had that. that was my first job right out of my army training. and as a rifle platoon leader in a. company, we were the second company in. bravo company came in first and started looking for the enemy and our company, a. company, came in 10:30 on sunday morning,
8:36 pm
the 14th of november. and one of the platoons of bravo company got separated and surrounded by the enemy and the rest of the company had to pull back. my company commander said, marm, take your platoon and link up with bravo, they are going to make an attempt to get back up to that platoon that was trapped. so we started -- we started doing it but we were taking casualties from the enemy and to our front and we were unable to do it on the first attempt. so we pulled back and we are going to make a second attempt with two companies, minus the platoon that was trapped. b. company and a. company. and so we started out and put our artillery and mortar fire in front of us, trying to soften up the front as we move forward. but everybody has their own little fire fight. in front of me was a -- it was
8:37 pm
elegant grass and shrubs and trees and not heavy jungle like you think of in vietnam. but this one solidified rock hill was 7 feet tall and it looked like a big ant hill with shrubs and trees around it in front of my platoons' sector. and in the heat of battle i told one of my men to run up there and grow aen gad over the top and tried to use sign language and he thought i meant throw it where it is at and he threw it in front of the bunker and it went off and didn't do much damage. so we kept moving forward. and i told another one of my men to shoot a bazooka, it is a one-shot disposable tank-killing weapon, a new weapon for vietnam. and my soldier tried to shoot it but it was a misfire. so what you do with misfire, i took the weapon from him and closed it up and opened it up
8:38 pm
again and shot it and, boy, it went right into that big rock, solidified rock and made a big boom and a big cloud of dust. and it really picked up or moral. we started moving forward again. but we were taking too much fire from the enemy. we had to stop. and it was about 30 meters away and i said rather than waste any more time because it was starting to get dark and we wanted to get to the platoon before it got too dark so i told my men to hold fire and not to shoot me up. that worried me a little bit. so i ran forward about 30 meters and got to the solidified rock ant hill and threw a graenade over the top and it went around through the left side tv and silenced more north vietnamese that were still trying to shoot me. when the bunker was silenced is when i turned to -- i turned to my men to tell them, let's go, we have to get to the platoon and i got shot somewhere from one of the north vietnamese
8:39 pm
further in the background there. and it kind of ruined my day. the bullet shattered my left jaw. it went in the left jaw and deflected down and came out under my right jaw. and i didn't have -- you are supposed to have a -- a medic with you. but it -- it is a sign attached to you. one of my sergeant leaders, a squad in the korean war and was an infantry guy now and doing double duty, carrying the aid bag and taking care of his squad. and so he came up to me and patched me up in a couple -- and a couple of my soldiers carried me back to the rear. and so i was a walking wounded. they didn't have to -- they had to help me back a little bit. but -- but this guy took me out later that night. before last light. >> he still owes me a pig. >> i have a hog farm in north carolina. [ laughter ] >> he bled all over my
8:40 pm
helicopter. >> we had tremendous soldiers. and they had been training together, and some of them had ten days left and many of them have a week left or -- or two or three months left and we're in that battle fighting right alongside of us. and we are a cross section of america in terms of all races and religions. and i had e-5 with buck sergeants with ten years of service that were working with me. and so i just had a tremendous platoon of about 35 guys. in our company we lost 11 in those three days of battle. 11 killed in action. and we went in with 450, the whole battalion went in with 450 and we had 79 soldiers killed in action after three days of in tense fighting and 121 wounded in action. but we were blessed with just good soldiers and ncos.
8:41 pm
>> it should be noted here that the overall picture was that the -- until this point, until this battle, the war had pretty much bin confined to american advisers with vietnamese troops an the casualties had been accordingly fairly small. a couple a week, something like that. although all casualties are painful. at this point, with this battle and the succeeding battle at landing zonal banny -- zone albany, 205 americans were killed in four days and approximately 300 wounded out of two battalions. the entire campaign from
8:42 pm
mid-october to mid-november, 305 american dead. when these figures hit washington, there was a considerable concern in the white house, considerable concern by president johnson. secretary of defense mcnamara was robert strange macnam aircn apply named and president johnson said get your butt to vietnam and find out what the hell is going on over there. more or less in those words. and mcnamara came over and took briefings at the embassy and picked up west moreland and they flew up to the area and took briefings from colonel moore and brigadier -- major general harry kenard who was the division
8:43 pm
commander. and on the plane home, dated 30, november, 1965, mcnamara wrote a top secret eyes-only memorandum to the president. and on 15 december 1965 president johnson called a meeting of his wise men at the white house. they had a two-day session. when johnson walked into the cabinet room for the beginning of this meeting, he had a copy of mcnamara's memo in his hand and he shook it at him, and said, bob, you mean to tell me that no matter what i do in vietnam, i can't win that war? and mcnamara looked at him and shook his head yes. the memo said, roughly speaking,
8:44 pm
that the north vietnamese had not only met our escalation of the war, they have exceeded it. and we are at a decision point. we can decide to find whatever diplomatic cover is available and get out of this war, out of this place. or we give general westmoreland the 200,000 more troops he's asking for, in which case, by early 1967, we will reach a military stalemate at a much higher level of violence and approximately a thousand a month americans dead. he was wrong for bean counter. it was actually turning out to be 3000 a month at its height.
8:45 pm
but knowing this, and having the memo and they sat there and talked about it for two days, they then voted unanimously for option two, give westmoreland the 200,000 more troops and go for a military stalemate at a much higher level of violence. it is one of the more curious moments in american history. at that time, we had 1100 americans who had lost their lives in vietnam. and the war would drag on for the better part of ten more years and 58,290 names would be engraved on the black granite wall in washington, d.c. so i wanted you to see that larger picture. and there is one more part of it. it seems to me, and others who have studied it, that this
8:46 pm
battle in the aftermath, general kenard wanted permission to pursue the fleeing north vietnamese enemy across this line on a map into cambodia where they had their sanctuaries and where we knew they were and where we could see their arms dumps and their men. and this was kicked all the way back to washington, to the pentagon and then to the white house. and the answer came back, you dare not pursue those people into cambodia, period. it will not be allowed. at that moment, i believe we telegraphed a message to general jop and the bosses in hanoi that they now had and would have for the rest of the war strategy
8:47 pm
initiatives -- strategic initiatives. they would decide when and where we would fight and how long the battle would last and all they had to do at the end of it was cross a line and they were -- time-out, we're going to have time to rest, refit, reinforce, and we'll come back when we're ready to fight you again. so it's in many ways very depressing to look at the blood that was lost -- the sacrifices that were made and see that it was all going nowhere. we were not going to win. i don't even think we could define what victory would look like in vietnam. so, that is my opinion. it is my story and i'm sticking with it. you guys are welcome to check
8:48 pm
in. >> as we expanded from 100,000 to 500,000, i went back in '69 and i didn't have the seasoned ncos like in '65 because the army had expanded so rapidly and so fast. and which was a shame. we had great -- we had great soldiers and many of them were promoted right out of basic training and had a -- an nco course and they would come out -- they were called, many of the vietnam vets were called shake abake. >> they were 90-day wonders. >> they were great soldiers but just not a lot of experience. >> a lot of experience. >> joe got drafted and so did i. and is he thept me 12 mile -- they sent me 12 miles from home after they drafted me and expected me to behave. which was expectations they didn't have back home. [ laughter ] >> anyhow, my first sergeant called me and my buddy in and he said you two guys are too f-ed
8:49 pm
up to be in the army and you might make corporal and i don't want that on my conscious, but you could make good lieutenants, so now sign this document. sign this document and get the hell out of my unit. [ laughter ] >> and that gave me a career in the army. i screw up and move up. >> he made colonel. >> colonel. >> yeah. >> i generally made colonel. >> well, i remember joe was talking about in relationship to cambodia because one day we were sent out to do a firing mission and they said, well you have a firing mission and the mission is the vietnamese or -- they are coming across the border and your firing mission is to go out and fire at them and make sure. so we go out and we're sitting there waiting and we see the vietnamese sitting on the other side in cambodia. we could see them. and they -- and we were sitting
8:50 pm
up our mortars and getting ready and putting down base plates and we would notice that the vietnamese, all they were doing was putting the mortar base on a -- the mortar tube on a tube rock. and they were firing with the mortar tube on a rock. and we were sitting there firing with -- going to fire ours. and someone said, you can't fire across the border. and we were waiting and wanted to fire, and the vietnamese was just firing at us. and then we looked -- we looked back in the rear and we noticed that, well, there was -- b-52 bombers were unloading. if you have ever been in a place where you could hear them they were unloading. you hear a rumbling when they are coming across right at you. and you could hear that rumbling. we didn't know what to do with it, we're going to go across the
8:51 pm
border anding with the vietcong. it got us caught. but it was something else to watch. i remember having -- telling the guys one night when we were -- we were laying on our backside there wondering what we were going to do next. and so -- and i always carried a lot of grenades with me. and i said, well, guys, only one thing we can do. i said here is one grenade, pull the pin and we will a just lay down on the ground because we didn't have any more ammo or anything else and i said we'll just lay down on the ground and then when they come up and they reach and get you, you just hand them the grenade. so we did that. and the next -- at noon -- i said afternoon or the next day we heard the choppers, and we said gosh, you know, okay, the choppers are coming. you know. and they were coming under fire.
8:52 pm
but they still were coming in. and we said, well, guys, we are just lying there. everybody -- i said take off your grenades and then throw it out in the woods. and we started to do that, and i had mine in my hand, and my hand was so tight -- i tell my wife sometimes that's why i can't move my hand very much now, because i had that grenade so tight. i was holding it and i couldn't open my hand. and i was what's i going to do. the first sergeant was the one to come up. sergeant major bows. we had 35 guys. and only five of us survived that day. and so we were there waiting. when i heard his name, and when he called. and i said johnson, and he said -- he started coming across. when he started coming across, i looked and i saw some little held mitts.
8:53 pm
and i know the only people who were tall enough to stand in the elephant grass with helmets in their grass were vietnamese or vietcong and i thought oh, my god we are being overran. i held up my grenade to throw. and sergeant major said oh, no, no, no, no. because i was getting ready to throw the grenade, and i went like that, and it wouldn't come out of my hand. it just stuck in my hand. so he had to come over and take of the out. at that time he said, well, we're going to take you back. you've been wounded. and to my surprise, i said, well, i know i've been wounded once. he says, yeah, you know, you've got a fragmentation wound under your eye, it went right through your face. and i said really? >> we did get that platoon the next day. a young e 5, ernie savage, took over and put a ring of steel all around that platoon that night.
8:54 pm
his whole chachb command was killed or wounded and he survived with the help of the medic. they survived and we were able to get up to them the next day and get them out of there. >> one thing that i wanted to get across to this audience is we never should have a draft again. the draft did nothing except change the place where some of our guys went to jail. the local chair for the judge could tell a young man you either go in the army or go to jail and we had the largest stock aids we've ever had. and you don't gain anything by having a draft. you don't get equity. and when you talk about it -- we've got some of the finest young men in your military today, and they are doing a great job when they are allowed to do it. but a draft is a terrible way to try to solve a problem that can't be solved in any manner,
8:55 pm
shape, or form like that. i was drafted -- i didn't have to go. but if i had to go again, i'll do it. and most of your regular army types were good men. >> yeah. >> very good. >> were very good. >> yeah. >> and those i served with in the guard when we went to the first gulf war, they were the very good bunch. they did very well. >> i think we have run to the end of our string here, gentlemen. >> i got my point in. >> you got your point across. so thank you all for your attention. >> yes, thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you. [ applause ]
8:56 pm
>> announcer: next on american history tv, january scruggs, founder of the vietnam veterans memorial fun. and grace liam galloway, a catholic rereef services volunteer. they discuss their post war, fis southern cal psychological trauma, including personal experiences of mental health issues and adjusting to civilian life this. 50 minute conversation is mod rated by journalist joe klein and is part of the lbj presidential library's vietnam war summit, a three day conference exploring the war's lessons and legacy. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the honorable steve addler, mayor of austin. [ applause ] >> thank you, and welcome. good afternoon. you know, this morning i had the honor of participating in the
8:57 pm
vietnam veteran recognition ceremony. and i have been hung up on that word, recognition. because to recognize someone, you have to know them first. and 50 years after the vietnam war, we still have work to do in that regard. a consequence of a volunteer army is a military/civilian divide that remains one of the more significant and material in our society. this panel that we're about to hear from will attempt to bring us closer, to know what it is that these veterans have faced. the title of this panel is the afterwar. it is an exploration of

57 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on