(This chapter was cut down severely in the second draft of Yasutsune “Tony” Hirashiki’s “On the Frontlines of the Television War.” Here is the first draft.)
In early November of 1967, the US military command became aware of an enemy plan to launch a major assault in the Dak To region and sent over 16,000 troops from the Fourth Division, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the 1st Cavalry along with several South Vietnamese battalions. More Americans would die taking Hill 875 than any other specific piece of land in the entire war.
The bloodiest battle occurred from November 19th to the 23rd. Several hundred soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry moved up the slopes of Hill 875. Just as the lead elements were hit with rockets, recoilless rifles, grenades, and small arms from the North Vietnamese who were hidden in well-built bunkers and trenches at the top of the hill, the company at the rear of the column was attacked by a battalion of the enemy—the American soldiers were caught in a trap. They retreated up the mountain with the enemy in close pursuit and, according to reports, only managed to avoid being overrun by soldiers who stayed behind and died holding off the North Vietnamese. They managed to link up but were still trapped on the mountain slopes with no water and no hope of resupply: six helicopters were shot down on the first afternoon as they tried to reach the beleaguered soldiers.
Air support was called in to bombard the top of Hill 875 but two bombs went astray and landed in the middle of the American position, right on the commanders, the wounded and the medics. The scene commander was killed along with 42 other soldiers. The next day, November 20th, three companies of the 4th Battalion of the 503rd were sent in to reinforce their comrades but it took most of the day for them to fight their way through heavy sniper and mortar fire from the North Vietnamese.
On the 21st, both battalions assaulted the crest of the hill but were forced to retreat with serious losses. At midnight, the 1st Battalion of the 4th Division redeployed to Dak To and on the 23rd of November, all three forces assaulted the mountain and took the crest, only to find that the enemy had abandoned the position. It was five days of horrific hand-to-hand combat, artillery, and air strikes. and in the end, the Vietnamese withdrew into Cambodia, leaving the Americans with almost 400 dead and over 1400 wounded. General William Westmoreland in Saigon declared the battle a victory but, if it was a victory, it was a certainly a bitter one for the soldiers on the front lines.
ABC News had gotten news of the battle late and so I flew with Dick Harris and correspondent Ed Needham into Dak To on the evening of the 24th. My competitive spirit made me hate arriving at a story late but sometimes it was simply beyond our control. On the day we arrived to cover the battle, there was already a large group of press standing not far from the runway of Dak To airfield near the special forces camp that was now a Press Center.
Once again, my soundman was Dick Harris but my correspondent was a new guy named Edward Needham, a veteran print reporter who had worked for several magazines but had only recently joined ABC. He was older and appeared to be a calm, gentle, and experienced reporter but it was the first time we had worked together. What we were told was that only Peter Arnett of Associated Press and two others had made it to the top of the hill and they had made it by winning seats in a chopper through a lottery. The military authorities thought it was still too dangerous to bring in the media. I could only comfort myself with the thought that the other two networks were stuck down in Dak To with me.
We were waiting for a helicopter which could take us to the top of Hill 875 when the soldiers began to come down from the battle. The Press Officer put up a rope along the edge of the path and told us not to badger the troops with questions. Some people think that the press is just a ruthless mob but that’s really not true, especially when the story is as tragic and serious as Hill 875. The network crews, reporters, and photographers all agreed to go along and we stood in a line along the rope. My camera was loaded with a full roll of film and I’d checked the microphone with Dick Harris.
When the first wave of helicopters landed about a hundred yards away, there was silence in the press corps as dozens of black plastic body bags were unloaded along with others who were only wrapped in their own green ponchos. As the choppers continued to shuttle between the hilltop and the base, we saw the wounded come in and then the first Airborne survivors. They were walking past only fifty feet away and no one in the press said a word. We all filmed and took pictures but after a look at their faces, the reporters were silent.
Their faces were filthy and unshaven, their uniforms stiff with a mixture of mud and blood and, in their eyes, you could see their anger and frustration. The walking wounded were covered with blood-soaked bandages that had turned a dark red that was almost brown. Their feet were dragging, and they walk past in complete silence. It was anything but a victory march by these brave, elite American soldiers.
When the second group came past, a reporter finally called out, “What happened at the front?” and another asked, “Tell us what happened on Hill 875.”
The soldiers just kept walking past without the slightest reaction and didn’t say a word. We were surprised when a few turned around and walked back to where we were standing. They faced the cameras and the massed microphones and began to tell us what had happened.
It was an eruption of anger, frustration, and sorrow at the hell they had gone through for the past days. In the beginning, the soldiers spoke one by one but soon they began to talk over each other, shouting and even weeping as the terrible memories poured out. I had covered these units before and I knew that they were some of the toughest troops the Americans had. It was a scene of raw emotion.
The military press officials tried to stop the men from speaking by pulling them away from the press but the soldiers ignored them and continued to tell us their stories of hell. We all stayed behind the rope but the soldiers came closer and their stories became more intimate. Everything they said was a testimony to the shocking, brutal, bitter and cruel nature of the fighting on that hill. They were so angry that curse words and slang came pouring out; i knew we couldn’t broadcast that sort of language back in those days but they were speaking from the heart and they were probably the only words that could begin to express their feeling. It was the reality of war being told in a truer way than I had seen in all the time I’d been in Vietnam.
It was not victory. Yes, they had taken the hill on Thanksgiving Day but, even with my imperfect English, I could understand how rough it had been up there. The tunnels and trenches that the North Vietnamese had built all across the battlefield had made a single, almost unbreakable fortress. The soldiers said that when they got close, the enemy set off smoke grenades that confused the Marine and Air Force bombers and led to the catastrophic bombing. If anything, they were angriest about the “friendly fire,” which had slammed high explosives and even napalm into the medics as they frantically worked to save the wounded.
This was going to be our first report and we had to ship it to Saigon as soon as possible. We knew that the next vital scenes would be from the wreckage on top of Hill 875. The other networks had two crews but ABC, as usual, only could send one so we decided to split up. Dick took one sound camera and went with Ed to finish the story at the bottom of the hill while I took my faithful Bell & Howell silent camera and followed the reinforcements from the 4th Infantry as they moved up to replace the battered remnants of the 503rd Airborne.
All three of us would then meet at the top of the hill when the press was allowed to be taken there. Although it would be a pretty serious march, I figured I could reach the top of the hill faster by following these replacements than by waiting what I was told would be hours for helicopters to be available.
While Ed was busy somewhere else, Dick told me to wait with the other crews—it was still too dangerous to climb through that hellish battlefield.
“I’ll be OK.” I answered, “Now, after you record the narration and ship the film, just make sure you guys get to the top to pick me up. I’ll wait there until you come. If you arrive before me, please wait for me.”
Of course, I actually was a little scared to go alone, but ABC was behind our competitors so we absolutely needed these pictures of the hill where all the action had taken place. As I’ve said before, I had a very competitive spirit.
We split up and I followed the reinforcements. These soldiers were fresh and strong so they moved at a fast pace. I was lucky I was carrying the small camera and not the heavy Auricon because it made it possible to keep up with them. The troops moved in a single column as we went up the mountain trails, but split up when we reached the edge of the fortifications at the top. Then they very slowly and carefully climbed towards the top of the hill. Just days ago, North Vietnamese soldiers had charged down on the struggling Airborne troops in a human wave attack and completely wiped out a whole platoon.
I filmed the soldiers but since they were trying to maintain silence, I worried that the sound of my camera was too loud. The soundproof case is what adds all the weight to the Auricon camera and the Bell & Howell didn’t have it so I tried to keep my filming to the minimum. As we got closer to the top, I could see the fierceness of the battle in the blasted and uprooted trees and the smoke that was still rising from those that had burned.
Once in a while, US Air Force jets passed overhead and each time, the men on the ground looked up nervously and swore at the pilot who had killed so many of the Airborne troops. In the end, the last yards to the top of the hill was bare earth from the constant bombardment: enormous pits in the red earth and all the trees and bushes torn away and burned.
When we finally reached the top, I could see the deep bunkers and sandbagged trenches that the enemy had built. Some of them were ten feet deep and had tunnels so soldiers could fire from one spot and reappear at another. While I was filming, an Airborne soldier who was standing next to me said emotionally, “When we took those bunkers, the US. Air Force jet dropped bombs. It was Napalm! Look how the bodies of American and Vietnamese soldiers are all together. They died in the same bunkers when the bombs hit.”
The view from the top of the hill was stunning. I could see for miles in all directions and picked out the low ground where Dak To stood. Militarily, I guess this view was the goal that to many soldiers fought and died to hole. For a hilltop base, 875 was quite spacious, about as big as two tennis courts. Helicopters were coming in and out with dead and wounded. In one corner of the base, there was a pile of canteens, knapsacks, helmets, boots and all the other personal items that had been collected from the slopes where so many had died. From the sheer size of the pile, you could guess how many had fallen.
It was about 3 pm when I reached the base after three hours of marching. I filmed all around the battered fortifications and was finished in about an hour. I was a bit concerned that a press helicopter hadn’t arrived because I really wasn’t all that interested in spending a night where so many night assaults had happened. Now, I know that the North Vietnamese, who had been badly hurt as well, were already across the border in Cambodia, but at the time, I had no idea if we’d simply be attacked again.
Just after 4, helicopters landed with a general and other command-level officers and, to my relief, Ed Needham and Dick Harris. There was going to be a memorial service for the soldiers who given their lives for this scrap of land. I was told that it would be a tradition.
The rifles of the dead soldiers had their bayonets attached and rammed point first into the ground and the men’s helmets placed on top. In front of each rifle, a pair of newly-shined boots were carefully placed. It struck me that the long line of rifles, helmets, and boots looked as lot as if the soldiers themselves were lined up at attention. w
Behind this sad formation, the surviving Airborne soldiers lined up to honor the fallen. There were no flowers, no candles, no photos, and no eulogies—it was a simple and short ceremony, but a very emotional one all the same. A chaplain gave a short prayer and a soldier played Taps on his trumpet. The sad tune of the trumpet echoed across the mountain and down to the valley below. The Airborne soldiers stood motionless but I could see tears flowing down their cheeks. I had trouble focusing because I was crying as well.
I didn’t know why I was crying, it wasn’t my war. These weren’t my people.
Perhaps Taps, which is played at the end of every day in an Army camp, was simply too sad.
Perhaps. But even I don’t believe that.
In A Companion to the Vietnam War (2008), Chester Pach described Ed’s report:
“ABC Correspondent Ed Needham’s wrap-up report after the North Vietnamese had abandoned Hill 875 was filled with “unhappy scenes,” since Dak To had claimed more US lives than any previous battle in the war. “It was a hard fight,” Needham concluded as the film showed a helmet on the ground with a hole ripped through it. “It hardly seems worth it.”
I was looking forward to experience the grandeur of Ha Long Bay. In fact, Ha Long Bay was the only reason I came to Hanoi. The journey started around 5 in the morning. The public bus brought me into the beautiful scenery of Vietnam’s rice fields, and high-rise Vietnamese tiny homes covered by mists.
The 6-hour trip taught me three things – first, Vietnamese buried their corpse in the rice fields, which serves as a fertilizer, thus making the rice taste differently delicious. Second, taking the public bus saved us a lot of money, thrice the normal range compared from taking a travel agent, because FYI, Hanoi is expensive. Third, I learned how Vietnamese reaction to a fat person, I was not sure if they were born without seeing a fat person, or it was part of their culture not to be fat, and being one is being different. My friend was harassed many times while we were in the bus. The men would touch her and asked her gender, which was a bit off. The passengers especially the women would look at her from head to foot with their eyes investigating every inch of her body and laughed at her. So sad, but my friend was used to it, she’s been living in Hanoi for a year.
When we reached Ha Long City bus terminal, we took a cab to the Ferry Station. Ha Long City was beautiful. It’s a small city surrounded by small-scale hotels, and beautiful villas mirrored in a small lake. It also has hilly streets where from the top, one can see ranges of the Ha Long Bay. Amidst thousands of people flocking each day to the city, the streets remained peaceful and definitely not crowded. I haven’t seen a town comparable to it.
Passengers in our ferryboat were lovely local tourists. Vietnamese ladies in their best dresses like senoritas traveling on a yacht. They were all looking gorgeous, and very friendly towards us, especially to my friend. Meanwhile, Ha Long Bay was gorgeous. From afar, it’s like giant water drops turned into limestone isles. The feeling was just heavenly different, I was in a vast blue ocean surrounded by giant limestone isles – it was unbelievably beautiful!
Along the bay were ancient fishing boats and a few floating houses of fishermen, and a giant dragon sleeping under the sea.
for more click below
- Ha Long bay 2 days 1 night romantic tour (vietnamfoottravel.wordpress.com)
- Ha Long – Cat Ba explore 3 days 2 nights tour (vietnamfoottravel.wordpress.com)
- THE MAGNIFICENCE OF HA LONG BAY – HA LONG BAY, Vietnam (travelpod.com)
- Hanoi and Ha Long Bay … (littleappledoll.wordpress.com)
- Join affordable tours to Ha Long with Smile Travel Vietnam Company (prweb.com)
- Ha Long Bay (laurensvanderheijden.wordpress.com)
- Vietnam-Saigon, Ha Long Bay (mycarmensandiegotravels.wordpress.com)
I wrote a novel and had the editor resist the way I portrayed my character’s reaction to killing. (He hated it–a negative personality trait in a conventional thriller).
However, I have a problem with novels that are really dressed-up comic books. I don’t think that anyone knows how hard to hit someone on the head to be SURE that his victim won’t have a subdural hematoma and either die or be permanently disabled. From what I read, a “bullet graze” carries a strong danger of violent infection and hitting someone in the face with a bare fist is a great way to break your hand. Cops who fire a weapon face months of evaluation, they don’t hit the streets the next day.
I don’t think that normal people kill others without carrying that fact with them forever.
In the process of developing a character, I’ve been reading “On Killing” by Lt. Col Dave Grossman, which in turn is based on the ground-breaking studies of Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall (“Men Against Killing”) who found that only 15 t0 20% of infantryman in World War Two would actually fire a weapon at an enemy. They were brave, they would perform other duties under fire, they would load for others, they just wouldn’t fire or they would deliberately fire over the heads of the enemy.
Silhouette targets are one of the key training tools that a modern military uses to break down the instinctive human desire NOT to kill another human and it has been monumentally successful. A modern military will alway defeat one trained in “classic” methods. The British defeat of the Argentine military in the Falklands is a great example.
However, as Grossman points out, soldiers who are put in positions where they either kill or have to confront killing another human have far more cases of PTSD than soldiers in equally dangerous situations but where they do not have to actually SEE the target that they are shooting (i.e. Artillery). As I read articles about PTSD and the 20% of the military returning from our current wars with some combination of concussive brain injury and/or PTSD, the more I realize that the casual use of killing in the novels we write is grotesquely incorrect.
Yes, good people can kill and go on with their lives but only real psychopaths can kill and not have some psychological injury without significant training to break down the instincts and-usually-replace it with the desire to protect and be respected by their “buddies.” Most people who are trained and placed into the sort of close quarters, house-to-house fighting that we’ve had in the past 20 years are going to suffer some degree of long-term, possibly permanent damage.
Once, this is stuck in your head, it starts to appear everywhere–especially in the comments of troops who have returned from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. They don’t have nightmares of the times they were in danger, they see the people they killed, the civilians they almost killed, the monsters they feel they became. THIS is what they can’t tell their wives, this is what you’d drink to forget, this is what never leaves you.
If anything, the bravery of someone who fires to kill an enemy or to save another from danger is MORE honorable and heroic than currently portrayed. They face a lifetime of life with this event and, by choosing to do it from patriotism, love, or duty; they deserve real praise.
Someone who kills and walks away is a sociopath at best.
Any comments are more than welcome.
- What is PTSD? Military Minds (calilynn42.wordpress.com)
- What is PTSD? (ptsdfcs.wordpress.com)
- Ptsd (drymartini62.wordpress.com)
- Dogs Become New Treatment for a War that Never Ends (Op-Ed) (livescience.com)
- How is PTSD different from normal response to trauma? (ptsdfcs.wordpress.com)
- VIDEO: An American hero battles PTSD (bbc.co.uk)
- An Interesting Thought (amanandadog.wordpress.com)
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society
On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace
Throwing Lead: A Writer’s Guide to Firearms (and the People Who Use Them)
Outlook in Life… and it is ever changing
This is a snap shot of what I see, think or feel of things happening around me and also the food which I explore. There is another blog of mine which is dedicated only just on food; My Food and Me and my goal is to have a daily blog for both these blogs (unless I am traveling and limited by internet access. =P )
I like to capture the moments and put it down on paper (electronically) and share with everyone in the briefest sense of form, enough to give you an idea pictorially. =)
Anyway, dun expect juicy stuff or raunchy photos as my life is a simple one and hopefully a fulfilling one too. LOL!!
Please feel free me to follow me here or on my twitter or my Facebook so that you are up to date with my blogs and pictures.
If you have any comments or feedback, or would like to get more details on a particular, pls do drop me a reply and I will be happy to get back to you.
P.S I have created another blog site for my spontaneous photography which cant fit into either of my blogs; Out of Blues Photography. Feel free to drop by this blog and have a look. If you like it, click and follow me there too. =)
Welcome back and following me on my walk up to Batu Caves.
Below is the the statue of Lord Murugan, found at the entrance of the steps; stands at 40m tall which is considered as the tallest statue of Lord Murugan in the world. This massive statue is a master piece of Indian sculptors.
A shot right under the statue.
This posting is of my trip to Hanoi, Vietnam back in October 2006. I have heard a lot of about Vietnam but just that I never been there until then when the low cost carrier Air Asia started their flight there, that people starting going there.
Our trip started when we landed in Noi Bai International Airport which is the only international airport and only airport in the north of Vietnam then. Hanoi is the capital and also the second largest city in Vietnam.
By the time we landed, it was already late and we were greeted by our local tour leader there. We went there in a group which consist of a few families. So it was practically a whole bus filled with a family affair. Lol!!
Our first stop was of course dinner at one of the restaurant in the city which I am not sure where but one thing for sure, the French colonial architecture style was very dominant as seen below and also the from photos from my later posting.
In the morning, the noises motorbikes can be heard with hons blaring here and there.
One of the lanes which I can across. (By now you would have guessed that I am a morning person who gets up early and go wandering around before breakfast 😊)
Welcome back to my final part. Still in the Yosemite National Park and driving around the valley. In the valley itself, there are a couple of beautiful waterfalls.
This is the Bridalveil Fall. Standing at the base.. and you can feel the very fine shower which is so nice on a hot day. =)
.. and this is the Horsetail Fall.
Further in, we stopped at one the famous hotel there; Ahwahnee Hotel.
[Terry: I passed through Yosemite in 1973 with a backpack and an outstretched thumb. The story is in “On the Road” somewhere.]
Terry Irving’s Autobiography (Parts 1 & 2)
Check it out – Support Hey Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite
Covert The Not Known is the story of men at war; it is about the things men do in war and the things war does to them. Restless, filled with dreams of adventure, seeking more of life than a suburban existence, Jerry Nedwick set out to prove himself as countless generations have done: by going to war. His war lay in the jungles of Vietnam.
I want to present this interview to you. It is an interview that will tell you more about the man who wrote “Covert.” This is an interview with Jerry’s lovely widow, Connie.
After you read the interview, go and read the book “Covert The Not Known.” It will really tell you what happened in Vietnam. Between Connie’s answers you will find the words of Jerry…
Q) Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Connie. Let me start by asking you this—how did you meet Jerry?
A) Hi, Nick. A mutual friend introduced Jerry and I at a party, and we were together from that point on. It was love at first sight, we married six weeks later, and that marriage lasted for forty-two years when he passed.
I made this writing in defiance of a Secret Clearance as a Covert Recon Marine after maintaining that pledge for over 40 years. I do so to inform the public of the realities we face to combat the Evil that knows no rules or no deeds too grotesque.
Q) So, how did you feel when you found out Jerry was writing a book?
A) I was very surprised that Jerry was writing a book. He hardly ever read books, so I could not wait to read what he was going to write. The only things I ever saw him read were gun magazines, health books and the entire set of the encyclopaedia. He had started writing another book after “Covert” but only completed a few pages before he passed away. What a story teller to have never read novels himself.
After several years and much deliberation about my participation in the Vietnam War, I decided to write down my experiences and memories that happened over 43 years ago. The events, places and names are as accurate as 43 years of lapsed time allows. What you read is based on a great deal offact, but it is upon the reader to determine fact from fiction.
Much More via The Truth About Vietnam | Novel Ideas.
Along with the adventures, “On the Road” is about a young man who must create his own personality, sense of morality, and an ability to love.
The wait is over! The second volume of Mike Trahan’s highly acclaimed biographical series is now available on Kindle!
Have you been waiting for this moment?
I know I have! E-readers around the world can now travel with a copy of one of the most interesting books written about the Vietnam War…
You can get your copy right NOW right HERE!
A Note From Mike Trahan:
“This book covers my Air Force years from October 1966 to April 1970. It begins where my first book “The Gift” left off. I have just graduated U.S. Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training and am on my way to my assignment in C-141 Jet Transport Aircraft. I will take you along as I fly the C-141 all over the world for two years. Then we will go to Vietnam and fly combat missions in the AC-47 “Spooky” Gunship and the EC-47 “Electric Goon” during my last year on active duty.
Come along with me. I think you will enjoy the ride!”
- A Dictionary Definition of Mike Trahan… | Novel Ideas (getmerewrite.me)
- Mike Trahan Goes Wild With The Gift… | Novel Ideas (getmerewrite.me)
Mike Trahan announced yesterday that there may be a third book in store for his readers. The book will focus on his experiences as a Delta pilot after the Vietnam war. Mike said recently that the story would be the most fascinating of the trilogy and he can’t wait to get things written down and out there.
Recently, Mike released his second book The Gift Part Two: The Air Force Years to rave results. His fans have already said that this volume surpassed the first in content and style of writing. Mike has already got a hit on his hands and the fans’ approval of a second and third volume just shows that he is beginning to gel with his readers. Sales have now started to mount up from around the world.
giftpart2The Gift Part Two is scheduled for release as a Kindle book in the near future. The story tells of Mike’s experiences in war torn Vietnam. He undertook many hair-raising flights and writes frankly about the day-to-day struggles military and Air Force personnel faced. The story is a tell-all, honest and frightening account of a subject many have forgotten about. In the process of battling with the returning warriors, many have forgotten the horrors the warriors faced.
Mike makes no political statement about the war. As a true patriot, he talks only of the duty he was expected to fulfill. He talks about what he faced, what he dealt with and what he went through. There is no doubting the honesty of this Texan who has no tall tales to tell.
- A Dictionary Definition of Mike Trahan… | Novel Ideas (getmerewrite.me)
- A Writing Session With Mike Trahan (nickwale.org)
Mike Trahan: A man who doesn’t give up and keeps on pushing until his objective is achieved. His first book “The Gift” was a startling success. From Amazon buyers to signing sessions, Mike is a winner. His second book is called The Gift Part Two- The Airforce Years. It is available now.
This interview was a labour (or ‘labor’ for American readers) of love. I always wanted to get these two veterans in a double interview. An interview that would allow me to put their respective Q and A sessions under the microscope. What makes a good interview? Well, questions! Before we get into it, let me tell you about the two writers I am interviewing.
Mike Trahan is quite possibly the epitome of Texas. He is a bold go-getter, and I loved his book. “The Gift” has been selling quickly and you really should pick it up if you haven’t already. Mike is a Vietnam vet who writes it exactly as it was. He left the farm he grew up on over in Texas and managed to become an ace pilot.
Mike Walsh and I have been friends for a long time now. His books have included Key of Wands, Eddie’s Method, Just Some Old Man and many others. His latest book has just been released to rave reviews and now he is doing the interview rounds. Mike served in Korea during the late 60s and early 70s. Like Mike Trahan, he was in a far away land, doing far away things and trying to stay alive.
Now, the premise of this interview was to talk about the way a biography is written. I wanted to find out the nitty, gritty details of how these two exciting writers put together their work.
Excited yet? You should be! This is a pretty good interview…. Even if I say so myself!
Over to you guys!