Skip to comments.Honor Among Soldiers
Posted on 03/30/2002 4:29:16 AM PST by where's_the_Outrage?
If you have fed from a steady diet of Hollywood movies about Vietnam you probably believe that everyone who wore a uniform in America's long, sad involvement in war in Vietnam is some sort of a clone of Lt. William Calley---that all three million of them were drug-crazed killers and rapists who rampaged across the pastoral landscape. Those movies got it wrong, until now. There is one more Hollywood film now playing called "We Were Soldiers" and it gets it right. Ask any Vietnam veteran who has gone to see the movie. In fact, ask any American who has gone to see it.
It is based on a book I wrote with my lifelong friend Lt. Gen. (ret) Hal Moore; a book written precisely because we believed that a false impression of those soldiers had taken root in the country which sent them to war and, in the end, turned its back on both the war and the warriors. I did four tours in Vietnam as a war correspondent for United Press International---1965-66, 1971, 1973 and 1975. In the first three of those tours at war I spent most of my time in the field with the troops and I came to know and respect them and even love them, though most folks might find the words "war" and "love" in the same sentence unsettling if not odd. In fact, I am far more comfortable in the company of those once-young soldiers today than with any other group except my own family. They are my comrades-in-arms, the best friends of my life and if ever I were to shout "help!" they would stampede to my aid in a heartbeat. They come from all walks of life; they are black, white, Hispanic, native American, Asian; they are fiercely loyal, dead honest, entirely generous of their time and money. They are my brothers and they did none of the things Oliver Stone or Francis Ford Coppola would have you believe all of them did.
On the worst day of my life, in the middle of the worst battle of the Vietnam War, in a place called Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam, I was walking around snapping some photographs when I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a tall, lanky GI who jumped out of a mortar pit and ran, zig-zagging under fire, toward me. He dove under the little bush I was crouched behind. "Joe! Joe Galloway! Don't you know me, man? "It's Vince Cantu from Refugio, Texas!" Vince Cantu and I had graduated together from Refugio High School, Class of 59, 55 boys and girls. We embraced warmly. Then he shouted over the din of gunfire: "Joe, you got to get down and stay down. It's dangerous out here. Men are dying all around." Vince told me that he had only ten days left on his tour of duty as a draftee soldier in the 1st Battalion 7th U.S. Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). "If I live through this I will be home in Refugio for Christmas." I asked Vince to please visit my mom and dad, but not tell them too much about where we had met and under what circumstances. I still have an old photograph from that Christmas visit---Vince wearing one of those black satin Vietnam jackets, with his daughter on his knee, sitting with my mom and dad in their living room. Vince Cantu and I are still best friends.
When I walked out and got on a Huey helicopter leaving Landing Zone X-Ray I left knowing that 80 young Americans had laid down their lives so that I and others might survive. Another 124 had been terribly wounded and were on their way to hospitals in Japan or the United States. I left with both a sense of my place, among them, and an obligation to tell their stories to any who would listen. I knew that I had been among men of honor and decency and courage, and anyone who believes otherwise needs to look in his own heart and weigh himself.
Hal Moore and I began our research for the book-to-be, We Were Soldiers Once and Young, in 1982. It was a ten-year journey to find and ultimately to bring back together as many of those who fought in LZ Xray and LZ Albany, a separate battle one day after ours only three miles away in which another 155 young Americans died and another 130 were wounded. We had good addresses for perhaps no more than a dozen veterans, but we mailed out a questionnaire to them to begin the process. Late one night a week later my phone rang at home in Los Angeles. On the other end was Sgt. George Nye, retired and living very quietly by choice in his home state of Maine. George began talking and it was almost stream of consciousness. He had held it inside him for so long and now someone wanted to know about it. He described taking his small team of engineer demolitions men into X-Ray to blow down some trees and clear a safer landing zone for the helicopters. Then he was talking about PFC Jimmy D. Nakayama, one of those engineer soldiers, and how a misplaced napalm strike engulfed Nakayama in the roaring flames. How he ran out into the fire and screamed at another man to grab Jimmy's feet and help carry him to the aid station. My blood ran cold and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I had been that man on the other end of Nakayama. I had grabbed his ankles and felt the boots crumble, the skin peel, and those slick bones in my hands. Again I heard Nakayama's screams. By then we were both weeping. I knew Nakayama had died a day or two later in an Army hospital. Nye told me that Jimmy's wife had given birth to a baby girl the day he died--- and that when Nye returned to base camp at An Khe he found a letter on his desk. He had encouraged Nakayama to apply for a slot at Officer Candidate School. The letter approved that application and contained orders for Nakayama to return immediately to Ft. Benning, Ga., to enter that course.
George Nye is gone now. But I want you to know what he did with the last months of his life. He lived in Bangor, Maine, The year was 1991 and in the fall plane after plane loaded with American soldiers headed home from the Persian Gulf War stopped there to refuel. It was their first sight of home. George and some other local volunteers organized a welcome at that desolate airport. They provided coffee, snacks and the warm "Welcome home, soldier" that no one ever offered George and the millions of other Vietnam veterans. George had gone out to the airport to decorate a Christmas tree for those soldiers on the day he died. When we think of ourselves we think Shakespeare, Henry IV, Act IV, Scene 3: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother."
Honor and decency and uncommon courage were common among these soldiers and all the soldiers who served in Vietnam. I think of how they were, on patrol, moving through jungle or rice paddies. Nervous, on edge, trying to watch right, left, ahead, behind, all at once. A friend once described it as something like looking at a tree full of owls. They were alert for sign, sound or smell of the enemy. But they also watched each other closely. At the first sign of the oppressive heat and exhaustion getting to someone the two or three guys around would relieve him of some or all of the heavy burden that the Infantryman bears: 60 or 70 pounds of stuff. Rifle and magazines. A claymore mine or two. A couple of radio batteries. Cans of C-Rations. Spare socks. Maybe a book. All that rides in the soldier's pack. They would make it easier for him to keep going. They took care of each other, because in this situation each other was all they had.
When I would pitch up to spend a day or two or three with such an outfit I was, at first, an object of some curiosity. Sooner or later a break would be called and everyone would flop down in the shade, drink some water, break out a C-Ration or a cigarette. The GI next to me would ask: What you doing out here? I would explain that I was a reporter. "You mean you are a civilian? You don't HAVE to be here?" Yes. "Man, they must pay you loads of money to do this." And I would explain that, no, unfortunately I worked for UPI, the cheapest news agency in the world. "Then you are just plain crazy, man." Once I was pigeonholed, all was all right. The grunts understood "crazy" like no one else I ever met. The welcome was warm, friendly and open. I was probably the only civilian they would ever see in the field; I was a sign that someone, anyone, outside the Big Green Machine cared how they lived and how they died. It didn't take very long before I truly did come to care.
They were, in my view, the best of their entire generation. When their number came up in the draft they didn't run and hide in Canada. They didn't turn up for their physical wearing pantyhose or full of this chemical or that drug which they hoped would fail them. Like their fathers before them they raised their right hand and took the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. It is not their fault that the war they were sent to fight was not one that the political leadership in Washington had any intention of winning. It is not their fault that 58,200 of them died, their lives squandered because Lyndon Johnson and, later, Richard Nixon could not figure out some decent way to cut our losses and leave the Vietnamese to sort the matter out among themselves.
As I have grown older, and so have they, and first the book and now the movie have come to pass I am often asked: Doesn't this close the loop for you? Doesn't this mean you can rest easier? The answer is no, I can't. To my dying day I WILL remember and honor those who died, some in my arms. I WILL remember and honor those who lived and came home carrying memories and scars that only their brothers can share and understand. They were the best you had, America, and you turned your back on them.
And one thing I see in the soldiers, sailors, airman, and marines here, they look out for their buddy, and will/have die for them.
With soldiers like these, watch out terrorists. We're here,
For more on .."WE WERE SOLDIERS"../ Battle of IA DRANG-1965 see:
1) ..'Ronnie Guyer Photo Collection'.. IA DRANG-1965 Photos on our 7th Cavalry website.. www.LzXray.com ...thru the Home Page's ..'Ia Drang - Interest'.. Section.
2) ..'ALOHA RONNIE'.. Bookmarked F/R .."WE WERE SOLDIERS"../ IA DRANG-1965 / RICK RESCORLA ..Articles by accessing the ..'ALOHA RONNIE'.. on this Post.
3) ..'ALOHA RONNIE'.. Forum Threads/Posts on.. www.WeWereSoldiersFILM.com .. ('The Movie' -&- 'General Discussion' Sections)
GARRY OWEN, Sir
ALOHA RONNIE Guyer / Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965/ Landing Zone Falcon / Lt. Col. HAL G. MOORE's Radioman/Driver/Orderly till IA DRANG-1965 / IA DRANG S-1 Personnel Clerk - MOORE wrote his personal Letters of Condolances to the families of our fallen, I typed them up, ie. to Mrs. JACK GEOGHEGAN (Actress Keri Russell)
I saw the movie the day it opened. Liked it. However, just as anyone is critical of things they know about, I am critical of how helicopter operations were portrayed in "Soldiers." First of all, Hueys didn't sneak up on anyone. Second, gunships didn't hover around a hot landing zone firing their weaponry. They made gun runs with one aircraft covering the other on the break. However, they had to put a 3-day battle into a 2-hour movie and all are forgiven. Joe Galloway and LTG Hal Moore are still two of my heroes.
..'I LOVED THIS MOVIE'..
I will never forget the professionalism and the honor exhibited by most of the people I knew during that time. I also remember the sickness I would feel when reading about the so-called Paris peace talks, knowing all along that we were being played by the communists and the press for fools. For me, the really ugly part of the Veitnam war was played by the unprincipled apologists for marxism who as much as spat in the face of the honorable people from our armed services.
Mr. Gorbachev's recent description of the Soviet Union as all propoganda and no substance made me cheer. It is too bad that our former president who "loathed the military" and had visited Moscow in the late 60's, had the power to appoint people to run our military. In my mind there is a direct connection between his willful hatred of the military and what is protrayed in "Black Hawk Down"..... Honorable men being betrayed by weanies who trust themselves too much.
...No Tanks to protect our Troops in Somolia...
...No Intelligence Op's in Afgh starting in 1993..
...No Hiring of Spies to stop Sept 11th since 1995..
...No RICK RESCORLA who died inside Tower 2 on Sept 11th after saving 1,000's of lives, like he did in the World Trade Center Bombing-1993 -&- the Battle of IA DRANG-1965 ("WE WERE SOLDIERS")*
...Don't you DARE let them get away with THIS ONE...!!!*
Signed:..ALOHA RONNIE/Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965 www.LzXray.com
my Dad made all three of these, and that's why I'm serving. And it's the sevicemen now that have to carry the ball, so do us proud.
And you're welcome:
US Army 1977-1982
US Army 2001 - Now.
Proud to serve, and Proud of our military.
We civilians are very proud of you. Thanks.
The most profound passage in the book for me was where one of the Helo pilots said:
"The unit was not going to fail its mission cause of support he didn't provide."
I've made that my philosopy. And hope a REMF like me can help.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your service to our country.
Thank you for your noble pursuit of honor and righteousness.
Civilization, now and always, survives because of the bravery of men like you.
...It was the constant Artillery -WALL OF FIRE- encircling Landing Zone X-Ray fired from our Landing Zone Falcon that protected our SkyTroopers during the massive NVA Assaults on them ..especially during the last NVA Assault ..coupled with Huey and Tactical AirStrikes throughout that helped Save the Day (days) for us.
...Greg Kinnear's Helicopter Commander BRUCE CRANDALL kept flying in under heavy NVA fire to keep our 7th Cavalry SkyTroopers resupplied with crucial Ammo/Water/Food and taking out our wounded and dead when Medi-Vac Hueys wouldn't come near. CRANDALL's Wingman BILL "Too Tall" FREEMAN received his Congressional Medal of Honor from President BUSH last year.
...BRUCE CRANDALL's own MOH Papers have been "Misplaced" since between Washington State's former Senator (R) who lost in Year 2000 and new Sen. CANTWELL (D) and we are pushing folks to find them.
...Another Helicopter Commander PAUL P. WINKEL,Jr deserves his own Congressional Medal of Honor as well ...since our guys survived the initial Day/Night of Battle against impossible odds because of constant re-supply by air under heavy enemy fire just yards away.
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother."
I had to quit here and attempt to regain some compusure. My eyes are still having a hard time adjusting to the page for the tears just won't quit.
where's_the_Outrage? do you have a link or at least the name and address of the person who wrote this?
Anyone? I really would like to contact this writer.
JOSEPH P. GALLOWAY
C/O Secretary of State COLIN POWELL
as he is now the Secretary's Speech Writer/Advisor
"God bless all you guys who tried to do a job which the politicians hung you out to dry ... "
Don't forget that before "politicians" hang anyone "out to dry" they have to first be elected by the "people" of this Republic, and by nature of that election represent the "will" of those same people.
I am not pointing a finger at anyone here, but for too long America has been willing to lay blame at the feet of the "soldiers", the "politicians", the "news media", etc.
America as comprised of a free people "hung us out to dry" and that my friend seems to get lost time and time again.
Nothing can be done today to undo what was done, but as Sgt. George Nye died doing, we can do plenty today to make sure the "young centurians" of today never get "hung out to dry".
For me, the really ugly part of the Veitnam war was played by the unprincipled apologists for marxism who as much as spat in the face of the honorable people from our armed services.
I've been out of Nam for 33 years now and probably my most vivid memories are of the humiliation I received when I got back to the states and found that I was considered a "baby killer". Even more gut wrenching is that in the early 90's when my son was in college I realized that the the universities had been taken over by the Marxists. I think they were teaching him that I was a baby killer. My son is probably incapable of understanding the real story of Vietnam from an objective point of view. Most teaching of our kids about Vietnam is from the radical left's point of view.
Joe Galloway was the guest speaker at the 2000 Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA) dinner in Washington, DC. The day before that dinner, there were 2-3000 members and guests gathered in the vicinity of the Wall as a planned flyover of about a half dozen Vietnam-vintage choppers made their way from east to west in formation at about 800 feet above the ground. As the noise subsided, Joe Galloway made a few remarks for all in the area of The Wall to hear.
The following is taken from a VHPA newsletter published later in the summer:
Remarks prepared for delivery Sunday July 2, 2000, at VHPA Memorial at The Wall:
Is there anyone here today who does not thrill to the sound of those Huey blades?? That familiar whop-whop-whop is the soundtrack of our war...the lullaby of our younger days. To someone who spent his time in Nam with the grunts I have got to tell you that that noise was always a great comfort. It meant someone was coming to help...someone was coming to get our wounded...someone was coming to bring us water and ammo...someone was coming to take our dead brothers home...someone was coming to give us a ride out of hell. Even today when I hear it I stop...catch my breath...and think back to those days.
I love you guys as only an Infantryman can love you. No matter how bad things were...if we called you came. Down through the green tracers and other visible signs of a real bad day off to a bad start. I would like to quote to you from a letter Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman wrote his friend Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the end of the Civil War: "I knew wherever I was that you thought of me, and if I got in a tight place you would come---if alive." That was always in our minds and that is how we thought of you. To us you seemed beyond brave and fearless...that you would come to us in the middle of battle in those flimsy thin-skinned crates...and in the storm of fire you would sit up there behind that plexiglass seeming so patient and so calm and so vulnerable...waiting for the off-loading and the on-loading. We thought you were God's own lunatics... and we loved you. Still do.
We are gathered here this morning to appreciate the lives and honor the memory of 2,209 helicopter pilots and 2.704 helicopter crewmen who were killed while doing their duty in the Republic of Vietnam between May 30, 1961, and May 15, 1975. Theirs are some of the names among the 58,220 on this precious Wall. So many good men...so many good friends.
Before I come here I always remind myself of what another good friend, Captain B.T. Collins..who is now gone..liked to say at gatherings like this:
No whining and no crying! We are the fortunate ones! We survived...when so many better men gave up their precious lives for us. We owe them a sacred debt...to live each day to its fullest...trying to make this world a better place for our having lived and their having died.
So we come here today to remember them...and to celebrate their lives and their deeds. I like to come here at dawn...or around midnight...when things are so quiet you can hear their voices. What they are saying...when you listen hard enough...is this: We are at peace; so should you be...so should you be.
I would like to close by reading you from something written by a World War I poet named Lawrence Binyon:
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them...nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them!
God Bless all our absent friends...and God bless you.
I treasure that speech and will pass it on to my grandchildren.
BTW, I saw Joe on C-SPAN earlier in the week with a group of war correspondents. Jamie McIntyre of CNN, etc. It is very obvious that whether Joe Galloway is writing, giving a speech or speaking extemporaneously - people listen.
Hopefully we can begin to regain what was lost at that time in our country's history, and begin to honor again what is noble, true, and good.
We are gathered here this morning to appreciate the lives and honor the memory of 2,209 helicopter pilots and 2,704 helicopter crewmen who were killed
I was a crew chief on a UH-1B and so I also was moved by the speech so thanks for posting it. I've lived most of the last 33 years not mentioning my service. I was there in a war no one cared about and I still feel bad because let's face it nobody really understands.(Mostly, in the beginning in the 70's we Vets were expected to become crazed-killers like Hollywood portrayed us in hundreds of TV programs -- I always thought my family thought I would some day crack.) Latter, I think people just wanted to forget and put closure on the wounds so apathy set in.
...CLINTON & CLINTON = LIAR CRONKITE...
...The Enemy is now Within...
...and always has been.
Hopefully we can begin to regain what was lost at that time in our country's history, and begin to honor again what is noble, true, and good.
To show that hollywood is not quite done bashing Viet Vets I point as an example the Agency episode this week.
The plot was that the head of the CIA was going to be accused of a massacre in Vietnam in 69 by one of his fellow platoon members. This would be a major media fiasco and make the CIA look bad. This kind of plot line used to happen all the time but it is still open season on Vets.
What is noble and true -- yes, that would be wonderful!!
I've always talked about my experiences in Nam (67 and 69/70).
Strange that many times that I've wanted to communicate the "truth" about Nam I've been shut down and labeled as a goof-ball. When you tell a story very different then what people hear in the media they just don't believe you.
Case in point we were both in Army Avaiation and drug use was extremely rare and we were all volunteers had a higher sense of duty then the average GI. When I tell people that morale was high and we were good and dedicated soldiers -- I just lose a lot of people.
Perhaps people don't know what a crew chief was you as a pilot may get more respect. In the last 33 years I've only known 2-3 people who have the slightest idea of what I did and they think I'm bull**iting. But, I was a soldier once and I'm sorry no one listens -- so I don't say much.
A buddy retired a few years ago, one of his remarks was "All my true Friends were soldiers, that's why I hung around as long as I did."
This guy was a gunship pilot in Nam, I didn't tire of his stories. So:
TELL A SOLDIER, we'll listen.
And trust me, we're relearning lessons again. So tell a Soldier, hopefully he won't have to relearn your lessons.
where's_the_Outrage? thank you for the thread !!!!
I have tried upon occasion to speak with my dear bride of 34 years about my bitterness since returning "home", but she thinks I am a bit "off balance" ... LOL ... so I don't discuss them much with her either. As in most other things in our relationship, she is more than likely correct about my being "off balanced".
Anyway, nice to exchange with you and thanks for the further example of Joe Galloway's magnificent ability to put raw emotion into words.
I am looking forward to seeing the flick when it gets on the tube. I really do live about 45 miles from the nearest town with "one" theater. /;-)