The Introduction is at the bottom of this page, below the Amazon links.
“I am sick and tired of War. It’s glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded, who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is Hell.”
General William Tecumseh Sherman
It is with great respect and reverence for those that fought on the battlefields of Vietnam, that I write these lines of "life in a war zone." The Infantry soldiers of the 1st Brigade entered Vietnam in 1965. They found, fixed, fought and killed the enemy . . . actions that would forever be burned into their memory. This is a story of the daily struggles they endured to fight for what they believed to be a true fight for the good of humanity. They fought and won battles, lost some to a draw. The enemy fought a guerrilla-style of warfare. When winning, stick and stay. When losing, quickly withdraw and live to fight another day. They never gave quarter or asked for it. In the history of the 1st Brigade in Vietnam there was never a surrender. Surrender, in great numbers, is found in the annals of the history of World War I and II, but not in the accounts of Vietnam. The American soldier of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division never surrendered in Vietnam.
There were soldiers serving through no choice of their own. There were soldiers that had volunteered to be there, and professional soldiers whose job it was to fight America's wars. All soldiers, in the end and in the heat of battle, fought for nothing more than each other. These are the stories of those men, that in the heat of battle, made the best of every day. I can write of those battles because I was one of those men.
This book is written to tell the true story of those young paratroopers that did the actual day to day humping, fighting and killing. It was the “Point Man and the Slack Man” that put the “steel and the pride” in the words “Leaders Lead,” so often used in the military and so often attributed to officers. Officers who, in Vietnam, moved with their Platoons at the rear or the middle, in the line of march.
Without the Platoon Leader, directing traffic in all battles and whose job it was to read the maps and keep us from getting lost, the “Joe Tentpegs” would have been in big trouble. Officers were necessary, but only there for six months or less, and then moved to the rear to ensure their continued service in the military. Then came the “M60 Machine Gunner and his Assistant”, along with the “M79 Gunner” and then the eyes and ears and nuts and bolts of every squad, the “Riflemen.”
Not to forget the “RTOs and the Medics” who always humped 25 pounds more than any other squad member. Then that all important Medic that was as close to us as our own family member. The healer, the Shaman and the man with the Quinine pill on Sunday, that would “choke a horse. The man who would and did, many times, give his life for his fellow Platoon member. The man whose name you always called first when you were dying. These were the real men. The “movers and shakers” of the squads and platoons that chased the elusive foe in the rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam. Men that required “no medals” that were heroes on any given day.
The true “fighting man” and not the men who looked down from above at 1500 feet in the infamous “C & C Ships, or the Cobras, the Air Force or Marine jets, or the Medevac Hueys. All so very important, but none who put feet on the ground and rucks sacks on their backs with a killing weapon in their hands and lived beside the fighting men of the O’Deuce. They were there for a few minutes and then gone back to a nice, safe place in the rear. The fighting man stayed to fight.
Medals were another subject not mentioned at length to lift one soldier over another. In this book, all men are on an equal footing throughout every battle. All men performed as heroes, depending on whose definition of “hero” is used. As each and every man that served his time with the 2/502nd Infantry will tell you; “Heroism was seen on an ongoing, continuous, daily basis in every major battle fought by the O’Deuce of the 1st Brigade. Officers and professional NCOs needed medals to further their career in the military. Wars are great for the military. They provide the professional soldiers with the necessary steps to promotion. In Vietnam, medals fell like snowflakes.
In Captain Otstott’s memoirs of 19 September, 1967 (on the O’Deuce Website), he writes; “I returned to the field on 19 September and joined up with LTC Puckett for the trip to “A” Company. We landed in a nearby dry rice paddy and the change of command ceremony was conducted in another rice paddy in front of the company in formation. LTC Puckett passed the guidon of “A” Company from CPT Arnold to me and decorated Steve Arnold with two Silver Stars and two Bronze Stars for bravery. Steve and I shook hands and he flew off to staff duty for the remainder of his tour of duty.” LTC Ralph “Ranger” Puckett writes in his own book “RANGER;” Lt. Col. Howard “Dan” Danford would assume my command. I would take over Danford’s job as brigade executive officer. The command shift occurred on 28 September”. These men were great leaders of the O’Deuce Battalion during my time in country and I was extremely proud to have served under their command. This book is not about medals or medaled heroes. It’s about “Joe Tentpeg, or the “Footsloggers,” as Ernie Pyle called them in World War II..
Additionally, Colonel Ralph Puckett wrote in his book of Vietnam, about a typical operation BENTON, in which 18 troopers were killed. He goes on to say; "They drove themselves day and night for sometimes as many as two months in the field without respite. The physical environment---jungle, heat, monsoon rain, insects, deadly poisonous snakes, and mountainous terrain---was enough to whip most men. They spent days scouring the jungle, never knowing exactly the location or strength of the enemy. They might spend several futile days "ghost chasing"---trying to bring the enemy to battle---in what they called a "dry hole"---making no contact---when suddenly all hell would break out and an intense firefight would erupt. The blinding flash of light from a deafening explosion, pain shooting through the body like an electric charge, the numbness as you watch your life blood oozing from your body, and the resulting fear and confusion as you try to regain mental control were all too real.”
In the great historical book "BAND of BROTHERS" by Stephen E. Ambrose, there is a "letter home" from a soldier by the name of "Webster." He writes to his Mother: Dear Mother, please stop worrying about me. I joined the parachutist to fight. I intend to fight. If necessary, I shall die fighting, but don't worry about this because no war can be won without young men dying. Those things which are precious are saved only by sacrifice. (10) From the Greatest Generation to the Sons of the Greatest Generation, nothing had changed. These men were willing to die for their country.
Men from varied backgrounds of race and religion quickly learned that in the killing fields of Vietnam, "there is no color" but that of blood. They fought for each other and banded together to insure that every man had a fighting chance of survival. They loved, lived, and died and were not forgotten. These men will always be remembered. These sons and daughters of the "Greatest Generation" answered the "call to arms" for their country. Although spit on and blamed for the deaths of their comrades by the ignorant, they went on to fight and many survived to return home and continue their lives in silence. Many did not return and are remembered as heroes and legends by those that served with them.
Vietnam veterans are no less than the men of the "Greatest Generation" who fought the jungle wars of the Philippines and South Sea Islands, such as Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Bougainville and Guadalcanal. Unlike World Wars I and II, in Vietnam there was never a surrender to the enemy, never to back up, but always to fight to the death. Then after each and every battle, to read the list of "dead" who fell beside them in the fury of the fight.
In our war in Vietnam, we find that our politicians abandoned us. In 1968 and 1969, we read that the very politicians that gave the order for troops into battle, were busy scrambling like rats in a sinking ship, to abandon them and seek political cover.
The stories of the troops who fought in Vietnam will never be told in detail, as it was in the "Big One," as the WWII vets called it. In Vietnam, there were no movie cameras to record the never ending battles fought in the rice paddies and in the jungles. Personal cameras were rarely carried by the grunts. I personally bought two and tried carrying them, but they broke or quit working because of the extreme humidity. Most cameras carried by a grunt in the 1st Brigade never survived the rough treatment of being carried in a ruck sack. The grunts were too busy dealing with staying alive to take pictures. Few pictures by the field grunts survived in the years 1965, 66 and 67 of the 1st Brigade. Officers had the best luck with pictures.
The war correspondents of 1965, 66 and 67 shied away from the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne, simply because their missions were too long and complicated to accommodate the whims of the press. Also, the extreme jungle conditions prohibited getting them in and out to meet their deadlines. Marine and major Infantry Divisions in the lowland rice paddies had the press living with them on a daily basis. The Marines at Da Nang had a company-sized unit of their own journalists and photographers. The book “HUE” is a written account of the Marines in Combat in Vietnam.
According to the internet site www.netfind.com there were 63 photographers killed in Vietnam between 1965 and 1975. They were simply trying to get great photos and stories for their magazines or papers. Many photos and stories were inaccurate, but time was of the essence in the world of journalism. Major battles were covered "after the fact" by the press. Then like flies on a three-day old carcass, they swarmed in for their stories. Few outsiders seldom ever saw what the fighting men saw. What the reporters didn't see or know, they simply "guessed at." Typical example is the famous photo in Life Magazine (March 8, 1968) by John Olson of a wounded Marine being evacuated during the Battle of Hue. Reported to be PFC Alvin Bert Grantham in the book "HUE 1968, by Mark Bowden an American Journalist." (
In the 50 year anniversary of "TET 68" this iconic photo was displayed, together with Bowden's book. In an article by Michael Shaw, Ph.D for the New York Times "At War", he writes: (20) "The confusion raises questions of accuracy and identity. It weighs the duties of journalism against the lure of uplifting war narratives. And it brings into question how much the instinct to memorialize truly respects the dead.--- That of PFC James Blaine, a young rifleman who died in the battle, leaving no tale of resilience to tell. As Anthony Lloyd put it; "IT's like his soul got carelessly mislaid".
"Perhaps the saddest part of all is that the mistake, and the pain it caused the Blaine family, could have been avoided. If someone was absolutely dedicated to finding out what happened that day in Hue, the visual record and the living veterans who had participated in the events were there to be discovered. As Erskine says: If somebody really wanted to know the story, we've been easy to find. The battalion has been having an annual reunion for the past 20 years".
General Melvin Zais, Commanding Officer of the 101st Airborne Division in 1969 during the battle of Hamburger Hill or "Hill 937", believed the media were ruining the war for the United States and commented that; "reporters covering the war in Vietnam were at a "D" grade level compared to the "A" grade level of reporters during World War II.
He later reflected in his retirement ceremony; "The media could bolster the military, as occurred in World War II, or undermine it as I believe they did in
The press was a major factor in the events of the Vietnam War. General Vo Nguyen Giap, the NVA Military General, counted on it.
A quote by Mark Twain says it all: “Do not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the media, for they will steal your Honor. That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoemaking and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse.”
The "grunts," in most cases, gave Westmoreland his "body count" to continue the war through funding from the American politicians. While in the "bush," through operation after operation, we were like the guinea pigs in a medical research program. They kept us supplied with C-rations and ammo and we were too busy trying to stay alive to care about anything else. So, we continued to believe in our leaders and continued on, caring much less about the story, than the belief we could and would survive the next battle. The end game was to "fight another day" and live to see Mom and Dad before we died. Our Platoon Leaders and Platoon Sergeants were the "best of the best." In my opinion the officers from the Platoon Leaders to the Commanding General of the Brigade were "second to none" and the best in the business of war. We put our lives in their hands and trusted them with "Mom's most sacred son.
History tells us that in war there is little to achieve but to kill the enemy. With each generation there comes the threat of war, and the threat of dying on the "killing fields" created by the politicians. This is the story of those that were sent from the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.
“The Eagle screams, the Devil sings and death will wait no more,” so began each day of the Infantry paratrooper of the 1st Brigade (Separate) of the101st Airborne Division in Vietnam during the years 1965, 1966 and 1967.
"Only the dead know the end to war"…….Plato