Capt Gene Roddenberry
US Army Air Forces
(Veterans – view more military profiles of famous people on www.togetherweserved.com)
Short Bio: TV Producer, scriptwriter, and part-time actor. Most remembered for creating the Star Trek television series, which had significant impact upon a generation of Star Trek fans. During World War II, he piloted a B-17E Flying Fortress in the Army Air Corps, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal for his service.
MAJ William H Lavender II
US Army (Ret)
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PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE ARMY?
I was influenced to join the Army through a couple of factors in my life growing up. The first factor was that my father had been in the Army. He was drafted in 1961 and sent to Hanau, Germany during the Berlin Crisis. Later, I would learn that my dad’s older brother had been in the US Air Force and spent time in Libya in the 1950’s. My mother’s uncles had all served in World War II in the US Army or US Marine Corps. Thus it was a family tradition to serve our country and so I wanted to do my part.
A second factor, was that I had always been awed by aircraft. As a child, I was like the Christian Bale character in the movie, Empire of the Sun. I had visions of becoming a great fighter pilot like Pappy Boyington. As life sometimes goes, things did not work out for me to realize my dream of being a fighter pilot.
In my senior year of high school, I joined the US Army on the delayed entry program and left for basic training later that summer.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?
The path that my military career took was rather unconventional. I enlisted in 1986 for two years and left to attend Bible College in Jacksonville, Florida. Even though I had dreamed of being a fighter pilot and being in the military, my relationship with God became a bigger influence in my life and felt the conviction to go into the ministry. I then joined the U.S. Army Reserve at the end of my two year enlistment under the 2 + 4 program. Thus, I was discharged from Ft. Lewis, Washington and headed to Florida.
After my first semester in college, I was granted a release from the USAR to rejoin the Army. In Florida, I was a twenty year old California kid in an unfamiliar environment, with little support from my family. It was time to regroup. So in January of 1999, I boarded a plane for Ft. Riley, Kansas to start another 4-year active duty enlistment.
This next enlistment saw me being sent to McCall, Idaho in 1988 to participate in fighting multiple forest fires in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming and other areas of Montana and Idaho.
I was then transferred to Germany for two years and deployed to Operation Desert Shield/Storm with 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.
Upon our return to Germany from Saudi Arabia, my unit was deactivated and I was transferred to Fort Ord, California. There my four year enlistment ended and I was discharged. I returned to Florida to finish my Bachelor’s Degree at Bible College in 1993.
In 1999, I returned to active duty in pursuit of becoming a Chaplain. I was sent to Fort Benning to Officer Candidate School. I was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Infantry. Later, I branched transferred to Military Intelligence and that is where I finished my career in 2014.
My time as a commissioned officer was spent largely engaged in the Global War on Terrorism. I did three deployments to Iraq (OIF II, OIF 06-08, and OIF 09-10). My final duty station was Fort Bliss, Texas.
In February 2014, I retired from the US Army with 20 years of cumulative active federal service.
IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN COMBAT, PEACEKEEPING OR HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.
I participated in several deployments over my career. My first deployment was to be sent to McCall, Idaho in 1989 to support the fire fighting effort in the forests of the Grand Tetons. My next deployment was to Operation Desert Shield/Storm with 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. My next three deployment were in support of the Global War on Terrorism. I was sent to Iraq for OIF II, OIF 06-08, and OIF 09-10.
The most significant of my deployments was Operation Desert Shield/Storm.
The most fulfilling for me was deploying to fight forest fires in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Starting as many smaller individual fires, the flames quickly spread out of control with increasing winds and drought and combined into one large conflagration, which burned for several months.
Thousands of firefighters fought the fires, assisted by dozens of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft which were used for water and fire retardant drops. At the peak of the effort, over 9,000 firefighters were assigned to the park. With fires raging throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the staffing levels of the National Park Service and other land management agencies were inadequate for the situation; over 4,000 U.S. military personnel were brought in to assist in fire suppression efforts. Four Army battalions (two from Fort Lewis, one from Fort Carson, and one from Fort Riley) assisted on fires in Idaho and Oregon. MAFFS and 19 helicopters from Fort Campbell were also deployed to Idaho and Oregon.
Only the arrival of cool and moist weather in the late autumn brought the fires to an end. A total of 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park was affected by the wildfires.
Operation Desert Storm (ODS) was the most life changing in that it taught me the value of our US Army field training. Until that time, my attitude towards training was that it was a big inconvenience on me enjoying my weekends and time off. After ODS, my outlook on training in combat skills and field craft were more sober and diligent. This carried over into my approach to training as an Officer.
Another significant impact that ODS had on me was just how easy one’s life could be lost. The reality of death at any moment has a way of waking up your senses and causing to you see the rest of your life in a different way. It caused me to get out of my day dream state and begin to understand that life has an eventual end to it. So the big question for me since then has been, “what have I done with my life?” In other words, asking myself daily if my actions, attitudes, or decisions had a positive impact on others.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
The duty assignment that I enjoyed the most was being at Ft. Bliss, Texas in 2005. First, I am grateful to my Brigade Commander at the time, COL Stephen Twitty, for giving me a renewed vision and passion for being an Officer in the US Army. It was at Ft.Bliss that I met my wife and got married. Later, we returned to Ft. Bliss to finish my career.
I returned to Ft. Bliss in 2010. I was assigned to the Brigade Modernization Command and given the unique task of developing a training scenario that could also be used by the Army Test and Evaluation Command. This assignment gave me the opportunity to fully use my creative abilities in order provide something that would help soldiers of the future survive the battlefield.
My least favorite assignment was being at Fort Ord. I was not there very long before leaving the Army in 1993. I found that it was very interesting environment. As a single soldier in the barracks, I was seeing the effects of the new barracks initiatives and the loosening standards and was not very happy. Thankfully, I did not have to move with 7th Infantry Division when they went to Fort Lewis.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?
The personal memories that have impacted me the most from my experience were from Operation Desert Shield.
The first memory that I have from ODS was the night we were first told that SCUD missiles were heading our way in the early evening while we were in the port in Saudi Arabia. Our Platoon Sergeant’s driver burst into our tent and yelled, “Mask, mask, mask, SCUDS in the air, SCUDS in the air!!” I never saw an entire group of people move so quickly from a dead sleep to don their chemical suits and masks as that night.
WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER?IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR OTHER SIGNIFICANT AWARDS, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.
I received the Bronze Star for Service in my last deployment to Iraq. I had earned it for a couple of reasons.
The first was for the work that I had done as a targeting officer in the division headquarters. The second was for taking over the operations shop (S3) of our Division Headquarters Battalion. I can not go into more details as most of the details would violate OPSEC at this point.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The Humanitarian Service Medal is the most meaningful to me. It was given for participating in fighting the Yellowstone fires of 1989. Starting as many smaller individual fires, the flames quickly spread out of control with increasing winds and drought and combined into one large conflagration, which burned for several months.
The McCall fires in the Greater Yellowstone Area were a once-in-a-fire-career-experience for everyone involved. Thirteen major fires burned a total of 1,500,000 perimeter acres and were fought by approximately 9,600 persons at peak mobilization. Thousands of firefighters fought the fires, assisted by dozens of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft which were used for water and fire retardant drops.
We received the award for helping others in a time of need. It also reminds me of my late mother. She had always wanted my brother and me to visit Idaho because she had lived there for several years before meeting my father. She was over joyed to learn that I was being sent to Idaho. She wanted me to take lots of pictures. My mother passed away 4 years later in 1993.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
The person who had the most positive impact on my military career was Colonel Stephen Twitty. I volunteered to be sent to Ft. Bliss, Texas to help stand up the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in 2005.
COL. Twitty pulled me out of the S2 shop to help draft the Brigade’s first Standard Operating Procedure upon the recommendation of the Brigade Executive Officer. I would later learn that this was done because of the way that I briefed and my work ethic. Later, he picked me to be his Liaison Officer at the Division Headquarters because he was unhappy with the support he was getting from the Captain that he had sent to do that job at Fort Hood.
Later, COL Twitty sent me down to the field artillery battalion to be their S2 with instructions not give them “artillerized intel”. He wanted them to function as a maneuver unit and get out of the habits they were accustomed to.
It was COL Twitty’s confidence and trust in me that gave me a renewed vision for being an Officer in the US Army and to continue to stay in and finish my career.
COL. Twitty is now Major General Stephen Twitty and is the current Commanding General of 1st Armored Division, Ft. Bliss, Texas.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
While in Operation Desert Storm a slight mishap turned out to be quite humorous. It was my time to go and conduct guard duty out on the perimeter. Myself and the soldier I was with began walking in the black of night. He had our only pair of Night Vision Goggles so I could barely see anything. After about ten minutes of walking, I stumbled on what I thought was an ant hill or small dirt mound. In attempting to regain my balance, I stumbled more and then fell down. I was disoriented and was not sure what had happened. I then heard my partner start laughing, whispering and trying to maintain noise discipline. He reached down his hand to help me get up. Turns out I had just fallen into the trash pit that was behind our mess trailer
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
I have retired from active duty. I am currently pursuing finishing my Master of Divinity (M.Div) at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia. I will be pursuing ministry full time and work with veterans groups once we are settled after Seminary.
Photo was taken during a trip to Jordan.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I have life memberships in the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), 7th Infantry Regiment (Cottonbalers), 1st Cavalry Division Association, and the Disabled American Veterans.
I am also a member of the American Legion and Association of the United States Army (AUSA)
The benefits that I receive are fellowship and advocacy. The VFW, AUSA, and DAV all provide advocacy and lobbying for veterans concerns and benefits at the Federal level. It was largely the collective voice of these groups that successfully kept our current compensation and retirement benefits largely intact after there was considerable discussion on Capitol Hill on severely reducing or even eliminating them.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
Serving in the military has influenced my approach to life and post military career largely by helping me to understand the bigger picture of any situation. Not everything is as it seems and usually there is more to the story than any of us realize. The military is taught me to bloom where I am planted and to do all that I can to make things better,influence and encourage others to do their best.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE ARMY?
Nothing is permanent.
Do not let others determine your career. Take charge of your career. In the absence of guidance, you can write your on epitaph by seeking to understand what needs to be done on a daily basis and getting it done.
Become an expert in your job skill. Become the one who knows more about your particular MOS than anyone else.
Keep yourself in the best possible physical shape. The Army is a performance based organization. Stay physically fit and you will stay in the Army.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
This is a great venue for connecting with those with whom you have served. It is great to be prompted to write your memories and recollections. They help set the next generation of soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen up for success in their careers.
Master Sgt. Nick Hodge/DoD
There have been thousands upon thousands of battles and scrimmages fought by Americans since coming to the New World. Combat veterans will tell you each are important but there are those battles that have greater impact, often changing the nature of the conflict or even the defining moment in who wins and who loses the war. In this issue we begin with the four-day Battle of the Ia Drang Valley.
On the morning of November 14, 1965, Moore’s battalion landed in LZ X-Ray without a hitch. That changes around noon when the North Vietnamese 33rd Regiment attacked. The bitter fighting continued all day and into the night with the enemy relentlessly making assault after assault. Only through carefully placed massive fire support from nearby artillery and tactical air strikes outside the perimeter were they stopped but casualties mounted on both sides.
No question, the North Vietnamese forces had succeeded in engaging the U.S. forces in very tight quarters, knowing supporting U.S. firepower could only be used well outside the perimeter so as not to endanger American lives. The cavalrymen returned fire, but the Communists were fighting from prepared fighting positions and many of the American leaders had been felled in the initial stages of the ambush. As night fell, the cavalrymen waited for the North Vietnamese to attack but illumination flares provided by Air Force aircraft made the enemy cautious. At daybreak, the North Vietnamese 66th Regiment joined the 33rd Regiment in the attack against the Americans. Again, tactical air strikes and well-placed artillery took a toll on the enemy allowing the U.S. troops to hold out against repeated assaults.
The battle lasted for three days and two nights before the North Vietnamese vanished into the tangle of brush and elephant grass, leaving a large circle of their dead scattered around the American position.The smell of rotting corpses hung heavy over X-Ray, and with the arrival on foot of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry commanded by Lt. Col. Robert McDade, on the morning of November 16, there were now three Cavalry battalions crammed into that clearing, including Lt. Col. Walter Tully’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry. By the third day of the battle, the Americans had gained the upper hand. The three-day battle resulted in 834 North Vietnamese soldiers confirmed killed, and another 1,000 communist casualties were assumed.
As the battle on X-Ray subsided, McDade’s 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, was ordered to move cross-country to LZ Albany, where it was to be picked up by helicopter and moved to a new location. The U.S. unit was moving through the jungle in a long column when the 8th Battalion of the North Vietnamese 66th Regiment sprang a massive ambush along the length of the column from all sides. Of the 500 men in the original column, 150 were killed and only 84 were able to return to immediate duty. Companies C and D took the brunt of the Communist attack – within minutes, most of the men from the two companies were hit. It was the most successful ambush against U.S. forces during the course of the entire war. Photo by war journalist Joseph L. Galloway.
All total in the battle of X-Ray and the ambush near LZ Albany, 234 Americans were killed and more than 250 wounded in just four days and nights, November 14-17, 1965. Another 71 Americans had been killed in earlier, smaller skirmishes that led up to the Ia Drang battles.
1st Lt John Huston
Shadow Box: http://army.togetherweserved.com/profile/344696
Short Bio: An eccentric rebel of epic proportions, this Hollywood titan reigned supreme as director, screenwriter and character actor in a career that endured over five decades.
(Veterans – view more military profiles of famous people on www.togetherweserved.com)
Personal Service Reflections of US Coast Guardsman:
U.S. Coast Guard
Shadow Box: http://coastguard.togetherweserved.com/profile/13399
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?
In 1964 at Yellowstone Lake was the first time I had met any Coast guardsmen. They gave a workshop and we became certified boat handlers. That did it I wanted coast Guard. The folks had a small 14 foot outboard boat which we used all the time in the lakes in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Many a fishing trip and later scuba diving help me decide if I had a choice I wanted either the Navy or Coast Guard. My senior year of high school saw many friend joining one of the four branches of the military but those were the only four they knew about but I was interested in the fifth- Coast Guard. I had obtained an application which I keep until my senior year in college and now was the time to pull it out and send it in. My dad, like all the other men in my family had served. Dad served in WWII in the Pacific on an aircraft carrier. My first Christmas found me in Cape Code, Massachusetts. With my little sailor suit. Just like dad! This was my direction, duty, and honor to serve. I would have to travel 100 mile on a Thursday to Tulsa, Oklahoma. There were no recruiter in Oklahoma, but one would be in a Federal building once a month on Thursday. So off I went to see If I could get in. The First Class Boatswain’s Mate told me that there was a waiting list of 7 months and they only took two men per month and was I still interested. Yes. I filled out the application and I turned it in. For the next 6 months I drove 100 miles to visit and see how things were going. I would have to travel to Kansas City to take test and then a civilian medical exam. It would take three days in KC before I could enlist. Then while in boot camp I would take another set of test to see which school I could chose after that. I did hear that the First Class boatswain’s Mate had been assigned to a ship in Alaska. On June 7, I was on my way to Cape May, New Jersey and a new adventure, one which would have a profound effect on the rest of my life.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?
June, July and Aug. came boot camp. There I was introduced to my TI and many others that shaped my training. I was put in HOTEL Company. I served as the Chaplin representative and assistant Yeoman. Boot camp was just what I expected. Having been in Boy Scouting with all the skills earning my Eagle Badge helped with training . As the Chaplin representative, I met Mr. Ford. Yes Henry Ford’s son. He gave a sermon one time telling us that his dad at dinner one night wished that one of his sons would go into another field besides cars so they would have something different to talk about at dinner. Mr. Ford was a Navy Chaplin on loan to the Coast Guard. After taking the tests I was given the choice of ‘A ‘ schools after boot camp and I chose electronics in Groton, Connecticut. The day after graduation two of us headed to Conn. Starting in Sept. 1966 electronic school was a 5 day 8 hour per day 6 month course. This course set skills and training I would use throughout the rest of my life and career. Little did I know that the education was equal to another degree in electronic leading to understanding of computer. Again this was the best move I have ever made. After graduation in May 1967, I was shipped out to the Bahamas !!!! The station I was shipped to was on San Salvador Bahamas. Yes sounds great but was semi-isolated duty with one Palm tree! This was a LORAN (long range aid to navigation) station. The equipment was invented during WWII in 1943 so was about 20 years old. The signal is much like a lighthouse but electronic. My duty was from June 1967 to June 1968. While serving there I became a third Class Petty Officer. Many experiences living on an island with only native BWIs. Great fishing and plenty of sun. The Loran signal was used by all military and the public for navigation. No GPS at this time. Loran A still used tubes. Loran C was just being introduced which used transistors. I understand that Loran D was put into 18 wheel trucks in Viet Nam and Loran E was used in space which began GPS. These are photos of San Sal USCG.
After one year I was shipped out back to the states. Cape San Blas, Fla.! Yes closer to towns but still 13 miles away. Again a Loran A station but with Radio Beacon and a working Lighthouse. I served there until I got out. In May 1970. The addition of Radio Beacon for navigation was really interesting. The Loran signal could go out 1,000 miles where as the Radio Beacon signal would tavel 250 miles and the lighthouse would travel 20 to 30 miles. Every 4 hours we would use a TTY to report ship movement and weather reports. By 1972 most of the station had been replaced by off site switches and the station began to shut down. Loran A was out. But up to that time we were still used by the Coast Guard and other military units plus the fishing boats for location and fishing fields. So we were still part of the SAR team. A lot of these photos are from Cape San Blas. Lighthouse that was moved to a park in Port St. Joe, Florida. During my tour of duty, I was looking around for a direction and a career. Yes the Coast Guard would be a super career but for me I wanted to try teaching which would mean leaving the Coast Guard and attend school for a teaching certificate. I had a degree in Fine Art and during my stay in Cape San Blas I was able to do some art work and teaching. So I used my GI Bill to go back to school and start a teaching career. Little did I know that most of my career would be teaching electronics and computer! Thanks to the Coast Guard training and 3 years of hands on made a great foundation for teaching electronics and computers.
Deep caves meander through the interior in a vast, connecting network of tunnels. At the entrance of some caves are statues of Buddha. Occasionally North Vietnamese and Vietcong soldiers hide in the caves to rest or reorganize following a battle. Yet in spite of the inherent danger of sharing the mountain with the enemy, Army and Marine recon and observation teams routinely maintain a watchful eye over American units dotting the coastline below. Two of these units, MACV SOG’s CCN’s Forward Operational Base (FOB) 4 and C Company of the 5th Special Forces Group, share a strip of beach just north of the mountain
On August 21, 1968, a team from CCN, Spike Team Rattler, begin a long arduous trek up the rugged face of Nui Thuy Son in search of a worthy place to setup a listening and observation post overlooking the basin. The team, seven Chinese ethnic Nung mercenaries led by team leader Special Forces Sgt.1st Class Ames and squad leader Staff Sgt. Larry Trimble, move methodically, expertly up the mountain until they reach an overhang among the rocks. Without a word spoken, a hasty defensive perimeter is established. Ames and Trimble look down the cliff at a small clearing hidden by foliage and rocks. This is a perfect place for an observation and listening post with a panoramic view of two Marine outposts, their CCN compound, C-Team Headquarters, and other units below.
Satisfied no enemy are in the area, ropes are thrown down and one-by-one team members carefully ease down the craggy, weather-beaten face of the cliff, quietly setting into what will be their lair for the next few days. As dusk turns to night, no enemy has yet been seen or heard. The same is true the following day. What the team doesn’t know is elite NVA Sappers and VC units are quietly hiding in caves below preparing for a major assault on American units on the coast.
Sometime after midnight on August 23, 1968, the team isalerted by the sounds and sights of explosions and green and red tracers lighting up the darkness – the NVA and VC are attacking the two Marine outposts. Trimble grabs the radio, desperately trying to contact the Marines but fails. Quickly changing the radio frequency, he calls his CCN compound just as they too are attacked. Spike Team Rattler has no choice but to helplessly watch in horror at the certain death and destruction unfolding before their eyes. But within minutes they too are under heavy attack by enemy soldiers.
In one section of the perimeter, the enemy mounts a ground attack, threating to overrun the team’s position. Trimble hands the radio to Ames and rushes forward to organize a defense from the assaulting enemy. In the midst of throwing grenades and laying down continuous fire on the advancing enemy, a Nung points out a nearby enemy mortar dropping rounds on the CCN compound. Raising and firing a M79 rocket launcher, Trimble destroys the mortar position. Enemy fire becomes more sporadic as flares coming from the basin, light up the darkness, casting eerie shadows on the mountain and the fierce fighting below.
Fifteen minutes after the initial attack on FOB 4 and the C-Team, a Spectre AC-130 gunship arrives over the battle area, hosing down the attacking NVA and VC with a steady stream of deadly fire from its 25mm Gatling-type rotary cannon. The fight continues inside the CCN compound, small arms fire and satchel-charges explode everywhere as the enemy and Special Forces soldiers fight hand-to-hand in deadly combat.
After what seems like forever, the rising sun from the South China Sea pushes back the shadows on the beach as surviving NVA and VC escape along the South China Sea beach.
In the growing daylight, the terrible bloodbath is overwhelming for both battle harden warriors and those with little or no experience in war.
But the fighting is not over for Spike Team Rattler.
Wanting to check how vulnerable the team might be, Trimble and several of the Nungs leave their perimeter only to run into an enemy patrol. Following a short firefight, with Ames and the other Nungs from inside the perimeter providing covering fire, a second enemy 82mm mortar is captured along with other enemy equipment and documents. A helicopter flies out and takes the enemy equipment and documents. Ames accompanies the documents back. Some shots are fired at the hovering helicopter just before it climbs away. Trimble, the only American on the ground, is now the team leader. Among the captured papers was a detailed plan for a second attack on the Marine amphibious unit, which was thwarted.
Still surrounded on the mountain, Trimble learns from his interpreter the Nungs intend to sneak through the enemy lines and return to the compound. Refusing to abandon his post, the Nungs leave him behind. But moments after leaving, a firefight erupts bringing them running back to Trimble. With no hope of escaping and too much enemy fire for a helicopter extraction, the team stays put.
That night the enemy tries twice to overrun the perimeter only to be turned back by the team’s ground fire and gunships firing danger-close to the team’s perimeter. So close, the team is peppered by shrapnel, flying rocks and debris. One Nung is so severely wounded in this fight, he surely would have died if not for Trimble, a trained medic, stopping the bleeding.
On the morning of August 24, a relief helicopter drops in supplies to the beleaguered team as it reorganizes for a breakout. A Special Forces Hatchet platoon is dispatched to assist in the breakout but has to retreat after taking heavy casualties from an enemy determined to prevent Spike Team Rattler’s escape. Miraculously, that night is quiet. (Photo is Trimble carefully surveying the area)
In the morning when a helicopter flies in to evacuate the wounded, it receives no enemy fire nor were any enemy spotted. Trimble and the remnants of Spike Team Rattler hold out for another day to ensure the enemy is gone. But none were seen. It seems the NVA and VC have left the mountain.
On August 26, 1968, Spike Team Rattler manages to make their way off the mountain on foot, leaving behind six days of hell none will ever forget. (Photo shows Trimble at base camp)
Eighteen American Special Forces warriors and over 80 indigenous mercenaries were dead, with scores more wounded. It was the deadliest attack on U.S. Special Forces in history. According to CCN members, had it not been for Trimble knocking out the enemy mortar, many more would have died. And so grateful for capturing documents that thwarted the attack on the USMC amphibious unit, the Marines threw a spur-of-the moment celebration for Spike Team Rattler on their return.
Neil Thorne, a MACV SOG historian and researchers, served 11 years with the Virginia and West Virginia Army National Guard as a Light Infantry Scout. His particular interest is working with the recovery of lost and missing recognition for members of Special Operations from recently declassified Vietnam War operations.
1stLt Gerald S. O’Loughlin
US Marine Corps
Short Bio: One of the the twentieth century’s great faces, Gerald S. O’Loughlin traversed the usual postwar character actor’s path. If you don’t know him from his regular roles in The Rookies or Our House, then you’ll remember him from guest-leads in a few hundred television episodes.
TSgt Francis L. McMillian
U.S. Air Force (Ret)
(Veterans – record and share your own service story with friends and family by joining www.togetherweserved.com. This is a free service)
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE AIR FORCE?
The decision was mine. Although my father and my oldest step-brother had joined the Army, they did not influence my decision. Originally there were five of us boys and two older sisters and a female cousin. The oldest boy was twelve years older than I and had joined the Army. The four boys that were left made our decisions at a young age. We lived way out in the country and we played cowboys and Indians and war. My older brother, by two years, joined the Marines. My younger brother, by two years, decided to join the Navy but he had a bad heart so he couldn’t join. My youngest brother by three years joined the Army.
I joined the Air Force since I had a fascination with airplanes.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.
During BMT I heard of a career called “The Combat Control Team.” Checking it out, I discovered that I had to pass a physical Stamina Performance Test (SPT) to qualify. Having been in wrestling for four years in high school, I figured that it was a no brainer. I knew I was in top physical shape. While in high school PE I did 20 chin ups–the SPTA series called for only six. In PE and wrestling training I did 100 deep knee bends in less than two minutes–SPTA calls for only 80. I could also do 100 pushups. SPTA required only 20. SPTA called for a one mile endurance run in 8 1/2 minutes yet I did better than that in PE and wrestling running around the gym and up and down the bleachers. While all PTSA events were scheduled in rapid succession with 2 to 3 minutes intervening breathing periods, I did not need the breathing periods.
There was an aptitude test for mental qualifications: I scored 75% for Mechanical, 75% for Administrative, 80% for General, and 85% for Electronics. I qualified to enter the CCT program.
I graduated the airborne class at Fort Benning and went on to the electronics class at Keesler AFB, Biloxi, Mississippi for Electronics Ground Communications Repairman. At that time we only had colored coded resistors and not computer chips. Unfortunately, I did not qualify for this segment of the CCT training. I was then given the choice of becoming a cook or a Security Policeman. I was not about to learn how to cook for several thousand military. So I became a Security Policeman.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
I was assigned to the 37th S.P.S. at Phu Cat AB, RVN from March 15th to July 15th 1968. During my stay there my duties were 3 swing shifts: 1500 to 2300 Hrs. with a 24 hour turn around; 3 midnight shifts, 2300 to 0700 Hrs with a 24 hour turn around; then 3 day shifts, 0700 to 1500 Hrs. Then I would get 3 days off.
Occasionally one of the days off was a training day. This was the same schedule that my last stateside base had, so it was almost with the exception of the occasional incoming mortar fire, like being stateside. I got used to the mortar fire and would sleep through some of them instead of going to the assigned bunker. The days off were used as I saw fit, and the majority of time was laying in the yard tanning or going to the club. At one time, we were allowed to load a bus, everyone armed, then be taken to Qui Nhon to the Red China Sea for a swim. At night we could see Pleiku being rocketed up in the Central mountains and thanking God that we were not there.
On July 15th 1968 I was totally introduced to the Vietnam War. I got assigned to the 633rd S.P.S. at Pleiku AB, RVN until March 1969. My first night there, even before officially signing in, and be indoctrinated to the area, I was sound asleep when I heard a very loud explosion from somewhere on the base.
Fortunately we were briefed on what to do in the event of an attack of any kind. I jumped out of bed, went to the weapons storage connex box, was issued an M-16 and ammo then hid behind the sandbag bunker that was 3/4 the height of the first floor of the barracks. I stood behind the bunker waiting for anything to move so I could shoot it. I am not to proud to admit that I was scared stiff of actually hearing the rockets going off. All of a sudden I saw movement coming from around the corner of an adjoining barracks and held my breath, placed my finger on the trigger, and began to aim at the movement. Then a figure of a man, too big to be Vietnamese, came out into the open, but in a shadow, and began to speak. He identified himself as the First Sergeant and told us to relax that the base is not being overran. I breathed a big sigh of relief and removed my finger from the trigger.
During my stay there these major events took place on the base:
1. The fuel storage area consisted of an area fenced off with an ECP and two tall towers in the back. The fuel bladders were below ground level with dirt berms all around them. During one of the rocket attacks, one hit a fuel bladder sending flames high into the night sky. The attacks were always between midnight and 0300 Hrs. The ECP was burned, both towers were scorched but no one was injured. My wife and her sister were driving from West Virginia to Florida when they heard on the car radio that Pleiku AB had been blown up. My wife naturally went into hysteria. They stopped at the nearest military installation to discover what really happened.
2. An Officer running from his hooch to his assigned bunker ran into a 122mm rocket.
3. Part of the Airman’s/NCO Club across the street from my barracks was blown up.
4. Part of the barracks next to mine was blown up.
5. The outdoor theater stage was blown up.
6. A plane that I was guarding was blown up.
7. The South Vietnamese munitions storage area, just off the end of our runway, outside our perimeter, had three storage bunkers blown up and all assigned personnel killed.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg…
Senior Airman Peter Reft/Air Force