by Allen B. Clark

To our comrades-in-arms, who did not return with us from Vietnam, and to those who did, but carry scars in body, soul and spirit"

Heroes are forged on anvils hot with pain,
And splendid courage comes but with the test.
Some natures ripen and some natures bloom.
Only on blood-wet soil, some souls prove great.
Only in moments dark with death or doom
God finds His best soldiers on the mountain of affliction.

Source: Streams in the Desert. pg. 437-438

Chapter 1: Early Special Forces “A” Teams in South Vietnam

Two of his team members, one VNSF, and three Nungs remained with him on the outskirts of the camp where he planted some Claymores. While they waited, it began to rain with monsoon intensity. He reasoned that, at some point, someone had to come back to this camp to see what had been done. All night in the rain they observed the burnt camp site. They had no knowledge of what size force originally might have been based there. They were leech bait during the night. The following morning a group of four or five enemy entered the camp. The Claymores were triggered, killing several of the enemy and the small ambush group ran to escape before a larger force could react to confront them.

Chapter 2: “How's It Feel to be the Men that Started World War III?”

SOG went back into action the night of August 3 when SOG "Nasty" boats hit the radar station at Vinhsan. …

Summary of these events: "SOG, conceived as a means of showing American resolve short of war, had helped precipitate one." (Conboy and Andrade: 123). COL. Sayre believes personally that the SOG raids irritated the North Vietnam enough to precipitate their attacks on the Maddox. As will be recalled he was a close friend of Colonel Russell and he believes there was no question in Colonel Russell's mind that his mission was to get the United States into a war with North Vietnam.

Chapter 3: Vietnamization to Americanization

Coe's team became aware that something might happen at Plei Me around mid-october when it was noted by Vietnamese agents and confirmed by patrols conducted by Duc Co that Viet Cong elements were leaving the Duc Co area and moving east towards Plei Me, another Special Forces camp 40km south of Pleiku. Patrols from Plei Me also reported increasing contact with VC elements.

Chapter 4: Garry Owen (LZs X-Ray and Albany)

He remembers Nadal gathering his men together and saying, "Men, we've got an American platoon cut off out there and we're going after them. Garry Owen (the 7th Cavalry motto)." SSG Southern  Hewitt, one of the squad leaders remembers Nadal ordering,"Fix bayonets."

/ / / / /

In the initial phase of the battle, the enemy attacks were individual, but soon moved to large groups of attacking enemy. The enemy wouid stand up, charge across open areas, but were always repulsed. Eventually Captain Sugdinis and battalion XO Major Henry made a calculated decision that they had to place bombs and artillery on the flank where they assumed there were no more living members of  Groves' second platoon. Napalm was dropped.

Chapter 5: The Unlonesome End Story

As he cradled Deisher's body feeling his blood run down his arms, he had to go beyond his personal human strength and revert to his spiritual (religious) strength to ask God to provide strength to him. He assembled his men around Deisher's body and used his death to inspire and build up emotions against the enemy who had killed him. He knew his men were going to need every inspiration available to survive their surrounded situation in the coming days, and he had to use every means possible to provide it to them.

Chapter 6: Take the High Risk, High Reward Route

Company Commander Marshall Carter personally retrieved that dead Marine and one other casualty. As Carter was moving from the platoon stopped by the water barrier to the attacking platoon, he came upon Corporal Jack Sutton, who was firing a machine gun to provide cover for the attack, but had been badly wounded and could not move his legs. Carter carried him to a safe area where he died a few minutes later.

Chapter 7: The Air War and Incredible Resources

By this time he could see the stars quite well and was aware of the extraordinary quietness.  Bobbing up and down in the water, he began to think about whether and when he would be  rescued. He began to think about his fiancee and his family and whether he would ever see them again.

/ / / / /

One minute out from target, Corder's plane was hit! A chunk of the left wing was shot off, the right engine stopped, the left engine reduced airspeed from 600 to 180 knots in only six seconds. Both fire lights came on. They spotted one "Beagle,” but their air speed was too slow for their cluster bombs to be effective. His wingmen raced past at 600 knots and inadverlently pulled up into the clouds.

Chapter 8: Surrounded on Three Sides!

By now the fires were out. People from tire perimeter were at the CP helping out, trying to get back in communication with higher headquarters. Everyone alive at the CP had to scream at each other to be heard. Fleming found SGT Tenney who was wounded badly and got him into a hole. Tenney made Bob get into it also and told him not to let him fall asleep. Yeah right. That's all Fleming wanted to do. Fleming's bell was rung and good. Every part of his body screamed, “Help me." But, there was no help, and he knew it. That brutal and vicious night of November 19,1967, was the longest one of his life.

Chapter 9: “Mom, I am Joining the Marines Again”

All the Phoenix operatives such as Captain Pickett were concerned mainly with obtaining intelligence on the Viet Cong plans to attack in their areas of responsibility. Since the VC always worked only at night, the Phoenix operatives played the game on the enemy's terms and also worked their operations in the dark to find, capture, convert, to become loyal to the government side and become what were termed Chieu Hois (Open Arms program), or as a last resort, kill the enemy, if they were so bold as to run when confronted with exposure during a Phoenix operation.

Chapter 10: A Ranger's Ranger

As noted earlier, Tad looked like a VC/NVA and carried the enemy weapon of choice, an AK-47. He usually led his team at the front, but in this case he wanted someone else to head first into the American position so some trigger happy American would not take one look at him and figure he was an enemy soldier trying to trick them. Tad was all serious business in the field on his missions and left nothing to chance.

Chapter 11: The Real Horrors of War

Upon her return to the “real" world in the United States, she stored all these sights, sounds and stories away in her head, outwardly attempting to remain detached and organized, but always there was the constant never-ending screaming and chaos in her head, so she kept very busy to avoid thinking and processing those past horrible experiences as a young and innocent combat zone Army nurse.

Chapter 12: Mission of Mercy at Son Tay

Back to the final briefing where LT Petrie described legendary Green Beret Colonel Arthur D. "Bull" Simons' explanation of the ground plans, “He had stood before us smoking his ever-present cheroot, and with his gruff and to-the-point manner, announced, 'We are going to rescue seventy American Prisoners of War, maybe more, from a camp called Son Tay. This is something American prisoners have a right to expect from their fellow soldiers. The target camp is 23 kilometers northwest of downtown Hanoi!' When he made that announcement, as only he could do, all of us in the room
spontaneously stood up, cheered and applauded. I don't know for sure, but I think the Colonel's eyes  got a little teary when that happened. I know mine did.”

/ / / / /

At first I didn't see the camp, then we were there. “Recheck guns and wait till I'm steady, then get those guard towers.” I brought the helicopter in on the planned heading and the gunners opened fire with 2000 rounds per minute. They took out the towers with one totally collapsing and not a single round went into the compound. We continued on and fired on the guard barracks. From the rear came the word that the other helicopters were coming in, which meant the first part of our job was done.” (Donohue: 7)

Chapter 13: Winning Hearts and Minds

Kim began to teach Ron about Vietnam and its culture. One of the major differences in their two cultures related to how life in Vietnam was believed to repeat itself in cycles whereas in the western culture it was a "straight line" chronology wherein once a day was lived, it would not be repeated.She explained their cultural belief in attempting to have both sides "save face" so there would be no loss or embarassment to either. Many of their military officers studied astrological charts to determine propitious times to attack or delay an attack.

Chapter 14: The Reluctant Warrior

All of his smug complacency about the war changed however one night in June 1968 when he opened a letter from the U.S. Government and read how his 2S draft classification had been inexplicably upgraded to 1A.  There was also a notice in the envelope stating that he had been drafted and another one giving him a time and place to report for his induction physical! He thought surely there had to be some sort of a mistake as none of his friends had ever heard of anyone receivinga ll of these notices in one and the same envelope! Little did he realize who was really behind all of this change in his draft classification. His mind always goes back to that letter that his father had written home to his parents from somewhere in Italy in 1943 saying that if he ever had any kids that he'd make sure that they did som etime in the military serving their country. Apparently his father had actually contacted Chris' draft board to force him to enter military service as he head not been impressed with Chris' academic performance.

Chapter 15: Coming Home

At the end of the school year 1971, the NROTC celebrated the graduation of the seniors with a celebratory Mass to which the students and their parents were invited. He will never forget that Mass. As they entered the chapel, throughout the church were North Vietnamese and Viet Cong flags. Over the altar hung a banner proclaiming "Long Live the Democratic Revolution of Workers and Farmers of Vietnam," in the national colors of North Vietnam. The sermon consisted of a rant by a Jesuit priest who told us we were each like Romans, driving nails into Jesus (whom he compared to Daniel  Berrigan, who was at the time a celebrated anti-war Catholic priest). It was a strange service witnessed by the parents much less the young students, at least two of which later died in Vietnam as they served their country. The reaction was stunned silence and in hindsight O'Neill wishes that he he or someone had protested.

Chapter 16: Ghosts in the A Shau Valley

At age 14, Jess Johnson had a dream. In his dream, he remembered rows and rows of bright white grave markers all identically the same, in geometrically perfect lines on a bed of green manicured grass against a cloudless powder blue sky. As he walked through these graves, he stopped to look at one, how strange it had his name on it. There it was: Sp/4 James W. Johnson, KIA 101st Airborne Phu Bai, Vietnam. He couldn't relate to the dream, so he put it away.

In l971, near Phu Bai, Vietnam, six years later when he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, he would recall that dream on a day and night he did come close to having his name on a monument at a veterans cemetary.

Chapter 17: A Will to Survive

I asked one of the Marines, the man captured longest and the leader, if escape was possible. He told me that he and a Special Forces CPT had tried to escape the year before, and the CPT had been beaten to death, while he had been put in stocks for 90 days, having to defecate in his hands and throw it away from him or lie in it. The next day I was called before the camp commander and  chastised and yelled at for suggesting escape. My fellow POW then toid me never to say anything to him that I didn't want revealed, because the Vietnamese controlled his mind. I threatened to kill him for informing on me. He just smiled and said I would learn.

Chapter 18: Evacuation of Saigon 1975

After the late night meeting Petrie leturned to his room and decided, "We may as well not go to bed because it is 3 o'clock already; we may as well go sit on the veranda and have a cigarette and a beer." They lived on beer anyway because in the heat they had to keep hydrating themselves all the time. They put on their flak jackets and equipment and went to sit on the veranda. Sure enough at 5am the first enemy rounds hit … rockets, howitzer and mortar fire, and quickly intensified. Two of the Marines from the Danang squad were killed with a direct hit from a 120 millimeter rocket on their position.

/ / / / /

The final exit from the embassy became very tense at the end.  The Marines there used as much force as possible to restrain Vietnamese who had climbed over the Embassy walls to escape. The final group of fifty Marines entered the Embassy building itself, closed the doors, and climbed to the roof where they were compelled to use tear gas to hold off the last desperate Vietnamese, who recognized their final chance for freedom was quickly disappearing. Up to that time, a hundred Marines had been flown out and the last Americans left by CH-46s from the embassy rooftop. The absolutely final American group included eleven Marines who had remained to control the chopper landings.

Chapter 19: Left Behind

Six weeks after her return to Vinh Long, she was arrested when a NVA officer knocked on her door and said he was aware of her relationship with the ClA agent (obviously meaning Ron Humphrey). She was arrested June 9, 1975, Ron's birthday. She and her brother were taken to jail together where she found about one hundred others who had worked for the government or the Americans. Since her brother had been only a low-level policeman, his incarceration lasted only until 1977, in a re-education camp. Kim was slated for much more harsh treatment. Since Kim surely could have escaped, the
Communists suspected that she must have remained in Vietnam to establish a spy cell and must be connected with the CIA because they kept accusing Ron of being a CIA spy.


All of us left behind some part of our bodies, souls or spirit in Vietnam. However, most of us retumed with a sense of pride that we were courageous and fit enough to join the military. We will always remember those whose names are on the Wall in Washington, D.C., and those fellow patriots and warriors who stood, fought, bled, and sacrificed beside us. However, it is my prayer as then Colonel Dave Palmer wrote in his book, "There must be no more Vietnams.” (Palmer: 268).

Copyright © 2012 Allen B. Clark.