Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Archive for May, 2012

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Meet the Men,Vietnam War

May 29, 2012

Meet the Men of Bravo!–Peter Weiss

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Peter Weiss in Vietnam

Initially Peter Weiss says he wished to follow in his father’s footsteps, so in 1966 he made a visit to the Navy recruiter with enlistment in mind. At that time, the Navy had too many men trying to get in as officers and according to Peter, “At the time I was wearing glasses.” The Naval recruitment officer told Peter, “Sorry, we have so much demand we are cutting off people that wear glasses. You can’t get in, but if you go next door to the Marines, they use bayonets and you just have to have vision to get you in close.”

In his interview for the film, Peter goes on to say, “I guess I always wanted to be in the Marines.”

Peter Weiss was twenty-three years old and lived in Plainview, New York, when he enlisted in the Marine Corps where he became an officer and was assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines when he arrived in Vietnam in 1967.

Peter Weiss

In his tenure with Bravo Company, Peter Weiss was the platoon commander for weapons platoon and then for First Platoon. His final three months in Vietnam were spent as an intelligence officer.

Prior to his retirement in May 2012, Peter worked as a senior vice president at Toys R Us.

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Meet the Men,Vietnam War

May 22, 2012

Meet the Men of Bravo!–Ben Long

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I was at Illinois State University in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois, when I enlisted in the Marine Corps, and arrived in Vietnam sometime in the first part of May, 1967. Within a few days, I was sent to Khe Sanh. At that time I was 24 with my birthday being July 23.

Ben Long at Khe Sanh

When I arrived, I became Executive Officer of H&S Company and I think I worked in that position for about a month. On June 8, 1967, I became 1st Platoon Commander of Bravo Company the day before 1st & 2nd Platoons were in a firefight, and there were quite a few wounded. Both lieutenants were wounded in the firefight so the two platoons were combined for a while till more men joined us. I continued as 1st Platoon Commander till late January or early February when I became Executive Officer of Bravo Company under then Captain Ken Pipes. I remained XO of Bravo for a while after leaving Khe Sanh.

As a Platoon Leader we did a lot of patrolling and night ambushes. In July of 1967, 1st Platoon was reinforced with weapons, 60 mm mortar and artillery FOs. We were to check out 9 grid squares along Route 9. They told us that they were going to bring 155s up to Khe Sanh by Route 9. On July 21 we ran into what we thought was a battalion-size unit setting up to ambush along Route 9. I have read later that they say it was only a company. By the grace of God our squad in column up off the road in the thick elephant grass triggered them before we reached their ambush sight. We did lose some men but only a few compared to what could have happened.

Ben Long

I presently work with an international interdenominational Christian ministry called The Navigators. Navigators are people who love Jesus Christ and desire to help others know and grow in Him as they “navigate” through life. While ministering in Singapore for 16 years, my wife and I became accustomed to the Chinese culture. So today we work a lot with Chinese students at the University of Iowa.

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Meet the Men,Vietnam War

May 15, 2012

Meet the Men of Bravo!–Dan Horton

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In early 1966, at the tender age of seventeen, Dan Horton enlisted in the Marine Corps at Wayne, Michigan. Dan said that at the time he was “lost and had nowhere to go.” His Marine Corps recruiters took him to his high school and tried, along with school officials, to talk Dan into staying enrolled, but Dan was on a mission.

Dan Horton at Khe Sanh

He arrived at Khe Sanh in June of 1967 while Bravo Company was on Hill 861 South. Dan was a rifleman in Second Platoon and was wounded while on patrol outside the Grey Sector on March 21, 1968, during the Siege of Khe Sanh.

After Vietnam, Dan was stationed at Camp Pendleton in southern California and then in Washington, D.C.

After his stint in the Corps, Dan returned to Michigan where he had a long career as an animal control officer.

Dan Horton at his Bravo interview at Ann Arbor, MI

When asked about his time at Khe Sanh, Dan said, with a twinkle in his eye, “It is what it is, and that’s what it is.”

Dan Horton, a Marine every day of his life since entering boot camp, passed away on November 10, 2010, the Marine Corps’ 235th birthday.

We miss Dan Horton. Semper Fidelis, Dan.

Documentary Film,Guest Blogs,Marines,Vietnam War

May 7, 2012


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In today’s guest blog, photographer and artist Mike Shipman muses on his memories of the 1960s and the Vietnam War era. Mike is the graphic designer for Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor.

I’ve never been involved in a war. I’ve never been in an extremely violent situation. My life has never hung in the balance for extended periods of time. I’ve never been directly responsible for the lives of others – saving or extinguishing. My life is not that much different from the majority of Americans nowadays.

I do know war. My father and uncles were involved in Vietnam and Korea in various ways. My dad’s brother, a member of Mike Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, was at Khe Sanh in 1966 for about a week and says in an email “Went out to the Rock Pile for a couple of days. Nothing much going on when we were there. Some sniper fire, but not enough to be interesting.” All survived. They came back alive, at least. Perhaps they would prefer not to have had that experience but even then are satisfied with their individual contribution. Some of them came back perhaps stronger, with more purpose than when they shipped out. All came back forever changed.

Mike Shipman

I was five years old in 1968. I had a vague concept of war then. Mostly, it was a time when my dad was away. When I was a little older, I understood that some dads didn’t come back. My dad was in Vietnam in 1966 and 1969 in a non-combat role as a photo interpreter. That’s all I know and about all he can tell me. I’m fine with that. I don’t need to know everything that goes on in war. I’m sure even my wildest imaginings can’t compare with the reality.

One of my earliest memories is from his first tour. My dad was stationed at Beale AFB in northern California. Uncles and friends would come by our house on base for dinner before leaving and come by again when they got back. I was exposed to some exotic meals like wat, an Ethiopian stew made with beef and onions and hotly spiced with berbere, which I knew as “berry-berry”. Wat (What? That was the big joke) was ‘berry-berry” good and the man who introduced it to me and our family was a friend named Rambo. I remember him being a husky guy, kind of Marlboro Man-like, but shorter. I don’t know if that’s an accurate description, but it’s how I remember him. The main thing about him eating wat at our house was the amount of spice he put on his plate and the amount of sweat that poured off his face as he ate. My brother and I would marvel at the sweat and laugh at the sometimes apparent distress he went through as he ate. He came for dinner one time and after that I didn’t see him again. I don’t know whatever happened to him and, although I’ve thought about it many times, haven’t eaten wat since.

I remember at Beale the “morning roar” of B-52’s (and maybe an SR-71 or two), a thunderous noise as the bombers fired up their engines, just warming up and/or taking off. I don’t remember seeing B-52’s in the air, maybe because we were far enough from the flight line that we couldn’t see them. But the noise, every morning (seemed like, anyway), I will never forget.

I captured a giant bullfrog at the corner of our house and took it to school for show-and-tell. Yes, of course it escaped. I remember riding on my dad’s shoulders trying to grip his gel-coated crew cut in my hands and getting a stern warning from my parents after drinking water from a stream during a camping trip. Something about things in the water that could make me sick or kill me. I remember not being too worried. The water tasted fine. I picked out a puppy, a cocker-dachshund mix, and named her Coco after a cartoon clown on a TV show (Koko the Clown, created by Max Fleisher and produced by Hal Seeger).

I was born in Kansas and we moved back there in 1968 for my father’s second tour in Vietnam. I remember the house was a little square white box on a street lined with big trees. There were blue shutters on the windows. My Uncle Marvin (my mom’s brother) was visiting while my dad was away. During a typical heavy and loud Kansas thunderstorm, I must have been scared or nervous though I don’t remember feeling that way. My parents tell me it was my brother who was terrified. He’s three years younger than me and it was the first time he’d experienced such a storm. They can be quite intimidating. My brother and I were standing in the doorway, looking out onto the street. Uncle Marvin knelt next to me and told us that God had a big table with a sack of potatoes on it. Thunder was that sack tipping over and those potatoes rolling off onto the floor.

Another dish that became more of a regular meal at our house was ponset (I remember pronouncing it “ponsoot”), which I associated with Vietnam even though I think its origin is from the Philippines. It’s a simple rice noodle dish made with chicken and garlic. I don’t remember if it’s a dish my dad brought back with him or if my mom learned it from someone else in our military community. We ate this dish often as I was growing up, even after my dad returned home. I haven’t had ponset since those days, either. At least as we made it. Many Pad Thai dishes resemble ponset, so I suppose I’ve been eating variations of it for a while.

The Vietnam War went on for a few years after 1968, but I don’t remember much about that. We had moved to southern California and March AFB and I was busy trying to figure out if I was a Hippy or not and trying to convince my Dad to let our friend, who was an excellent airbrush artist (and a kind of Hippy), paint flames on our Datsun pickup. He eventually did. In 1969, I sat alone in front of the television one night and watched a man walk on the moon, as it happened, while my parents and some friends grilled hamburgers in the backyard. I took up playing the cello at school because I was apparently not old enough to play violin. My brother and I caught lizards in our backyard, when their tails didn’t break off and allow them to get away, threw pomegranates and snails against our back fence, and jumped our “custom” single-speed bikes, with ten-speed bike saddles, no fenders, and fat, nobby tires, over dirt mounds in an empty lot at the end of our street. We were excited to get our Time Life series of books on the world, science, nature, cowboys and Indians as well as the World Book Encyclopedia. Many hours were spent leafing through the pages of those books.

Our family watched Gilligan’s Isle, the Brady Bunch, Sonny & Cher, Laugh-In, the Carol Burnett Show, I Dream of Jeannie, the Carpenters, The Smothers Brothers, and Bob Hope on television. We went to Ontario Motor Speedway to watch Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, and others race around the track, and to see Evel Knievel jump 19 cars with his motorcycle. We went to Disneyland and I cried most of the time because I didn’t want to be shrunk on the World of Tomorrow’s People Mover ride where as you waited in the lobby to get on the ride, people got on the ride at one end in Tilt-A-Whirl type cars (only they didn’t spin around). Openings in the wall showed the full-size cars going by, then smaller model cars and people on another level, then a clear tube with cars about a foot tall leading into a box which emptied into a large, clear sphere where little specks flew around randomly, hinting at what was to come. Such were the concerns of at least one little boy in the 1960s.

I led a pretty regular, “normal” life for a kid, even though my dad was in the Air Force during a time of war. We moved around a lot, mostly in the west and Midwest. We didn’t go overseas. Getting to know the “new kids” usually started with a rock fight, though there really was probably only one. I don’t remember seeing much about the Vietnam War on television or encountering any anti-war protests. I wonder if that’s just me forgetting or if my parents made an effort to keep that kind of stuff away from me. My memories of that time are hit and miss, really. I was young, and I think most memories from that age period tend to fade easier than those made later in life.

Though I wasn’t interested in a military life (I thought I had enough of that in our own family), I respect those who do choose it. It’s easy to distance ourselves from the events that take place during war because it’s an experience incomprehensible by those who haven’t been there – the hardships, pain, stress, instantaneous decisions that alter the course of a person’s life, the things you wish you could take back as well as the things you’re extremely proud of being a part of, the lifelong friendships forged. The only way we can get a sense of what it means to go to war, to be on the ground fighting for your life and the lives of others, is to hear it from the individuals who were there. I don’t think it’s a fascination with war that drives people to want to hear “war stories” because, while we might initially be entertained by a Hollywood notion of heroes and noble battles and a glorious storytelling, we’re quickly sobered by the reality of it as told by someone we know, who we can see and touch. Someone who was there. I think the desire to know these stories is the desire and need to try and comprehend the enormity of war, the power and breadth of it, the utility and futility of it, and to understand – even a little bit – how war comes to infuse itself on a person’s soul.

When I watched the film Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, I heard in the voices and saw on the faces of the soldiers in their retelling, so many years later, a complex range of emotion: sadness for the necessity to participate in conflict, anger because they did not want to be there to do what they needed to do, resoluteness because they did do what needed to be done, disbelief and amazement in what they saw and experienced, a sense of duty to make a difference, and profound grief and respect for those who didn’t make it back.

I deeply respect those who choose to serve in the armed forces. My involvement in this project, though on the periphery, is in some small way honoring all soldiers for their courage then, and specifically now to the members of Bravo Company for their retelling of their stories which is helping America and the world understand more fully the ramifications of war and the truth of it, good or bad.

Mike Shipman is an Air Force brat who grew up mostly in the west and Midwest, shuffled from school to school, rock fight to rock fight, until high school when his father, too, had had enough. He started out with a career as a wildlife biologist and now is a freelance photographer and photography instructor living in Idaho. Mike met Betty several years ago when she was a student in one of his photography classes.

Documentary Film,Film Screenings,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

May 6, 2012

News on BRAVO!

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As a lot of folks who have been following the progress of Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor know, we have been submitting to film festivals in hopes of creating some interest with distributors in order to gain worldwide distribution. To date, eight film festivals have not accepted the film, but we still have entries out for nine more and anticipate even more submissions upcoming.

For the good news, the Vietnam Veterans of America have watched and invited us to screen Bravo! at their annual leadership conference In Dallas, Texas, on August 9, 2012. As of this date, we do not have a lot of details on the conference or the showing, but as they come to us, we will report them.

While we are in Texas, we are contemplating screenings at other venues. If you live in Texas and are interested in seeing Bravo! in your town, we would love to talk to you about the possibility.

Furthermore, after our trip to Texas, we anticipate motoring east to the annual Khe Sanh Veterans Reunion in Washington, DC. We plan to go through Arkansas, on to Shiloh, Chickamauga, Look Out Mountain, Knoxville and into DC. If you live in one of those vicinities and would like us to screen Bravo! at the VFW, the American Legion Hall, a VVA meeting or the local Marine Corps League, give us a shout today. You can either email us or call (208) 340-8889.

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Meet the Men,Vietnam War

May 3, 2012

Meet the Men of Bravo!–Mike McCauley

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As a youngster, Mike McCauley was hanging around the Boston Common when Boston Police Sergeant Haynes advised him to join the military. Mike took his advice and enlisted in the Marine Corps when he was nineteen.

Mike McCauley

Mike arrived at the Khe Sanh area in November 1967 when Bravo Company was into its second deployment on Hill 881 South, west of the Khe Sanh combat base. He served with First Platoon, Bravo Company, during his time in Vietnam.

He turned twenty the day the Siege of Khe Sanh ended on April 7, 1968. After his tour he returned to the States and over the years spent time in Massachusetts, Washington, DC, Maryland, Nevada and California before settling with his wife Ruth in the Seattle, Washington, region.

Mike McCauley

Mike spends his time doing woodworking and taking care of the family’s horses. When asked if he rides the horses, he says, “I’ve never ridden anything but a subway; I’m from Boston.”

Among other things, Mike is known among the men of Bravo for giving out sharp looking red (Marine Corps red) ball caps that say “Bravo Co. 1/26, Khe Sanh,” in snappy gold thread.

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

May 1, 2012

Memories of the Sixties and Bravo, 1/26

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Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor is a documentary film about the Siege of Khe Sanh, a seventy-seven day period in a war that went on in excess of eight years. Thinking about those eight years, I often ponder what my old unit was doing in Vietnam while I as home in the United States.

Today is May First, 2012. What was Bravo Company doing on various May Firsts while the battalion, my battalion…First Battalion, 26th Marines…was in Vietnam?

On May 1, 1966, neither the battalion nor Bravo had yet been in the Vietnam area of operations. They were on their way and soon would function as a battalion landing team up and down the coast of Vietnam.

I was in my second semester of college at Arizona State University studying Business Administration and as far as I can recollect, had no intention of joining the United States Marine Corps, or the service, or of ever venturing to Vietnam.

After a chain of events that saw me enlist and ship out for Vietnam, by May 1, 1967 I was already in the field with Bravo Company. First and Second Platoons were dug in at an old ville south of Hill 55, which was southwest of Danang in I Corps in the northern part of Vietnam. Third Platoon was dug in on a river crossing further south. Alpha Company of the battalion had already left the Hill 55 area for Phu Bai on the battalion’s journey that eventually led us to Khe Sanh where elements of the Third and Ninth Marine Regiments had been and were then locked in vicious fights for Hills 861, 881 South and 881 North.

On May 1, 1967, on patrol south of Hill 55, elements of Bravo Company found a 60MM mortar employed as an antipersonnel mine which they destroyed with a pound of TNT. They also found a Punji stake which was taken back to the company CP for examination.

On May 1, 1968, I had been home from Khe Sanh, the siege and Vietnam for over two weeks, and had been drinking, partying and pondering a trip with friends to Nogales, Mexico, for margaritas, street tacos and bullfights to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Bravo Company, gone from Khe Sanh, was defending Wonder Beach on May 1, 1968. First Platoon ran an ambush the night of April 30 and returned into the perimeter early on the morning of May 1. During the day, 9 rounds of incoming mortar fire were received and one Marine was wounded. The company also took incoming machine gun fire.

On May 1, 1969, I was deployed at Marine Barracks, 36th Street Naval Station in San Diego, California, where I worked in the Navy Brig Base Parolee dorms, harassing prisoners, holding snap inspections and throwing improperly arranged footlockers out the windows three stories down into the yard.

Bravo Company was part of a battalion landing team and took part in a heliborne and seaborne assault rehearsal north of the NamO Bridge near Danang in anticipation of more rambunctious action in the days to come.

On May 1, 1970, I was out of the Marine Corps attending a local junior college in Central Arizona and working as a sheetrock humper on the construction of some high schools in the Phoenix area.

Bravo Company and the 26th Marines no longer existed in terms of a combat unit in Vietnam on May 1, 1970. Their last activities in-country were in March of that year and Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment now exists in the history of the Corps and the hearts and memories of the Marines and Corpsmen who served.