Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Archive for the ‘Meet the Men’ Category

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

July 16, 2014

Something of Value

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bravo Company 1/26 came off of Hill 881 South on July 10, 1967, and went into battalion reserve at the combat base, first at the west end and then into the trenches on the north side of the perimeter. Bravo stood line watch, ran patrols, listening posts and ambushes for the next ten days.

On July 21, Mike Company, 3/26, engaged elements of the North Vietnamese Army northeast of the base and suffered five KIA.
If I was aware of Mike Company, 3/26’s casualties, I don’t recall. When units got hit around Khe Sanh I usually went into a funk; scattered, not focused on cleaning my rifle or gathering the rest of my gear in case we charged into the maw of battle. I would flit from task to task, smoke a Camel, clean part of my weapon, grab some grenades, smoke a Camel…I don’t recall doing any of these tasks.

View  looking down on the Quang Tri River Valley where Route 9 ran. Photo by John Corvus

View looking down on the Quang Tri River Valley where Route 9 ran. Photo by John Corvus

On the same date, another Mike Company—Mike 3/3—was also out in the vicinity of Mike 3/26 and they, too, took casualties; 11 KIA. Again, I have no memory of that event or the edgy fear that probably gnawed at the back of my brain as I tried to stay focused and not look like I was afraid.

Also on that same day, Bravo 1/26’s First Platoon was out east of the combat base patrolling down Route 9 when they got ambushed. Three men were killed on that patrol: one 81 MM forward observer with H & S Company, 1/26, and two men from Bravo’s First Platoon. Some of the men in our film BRAVO! were on that patrol.

As soon as Second Platoon, my outfit, got the word about First Platoon being ambushed, Sergeant Michael Dede came down the line and told us to gather our gear.

I shared a bunker with a salty Marine who had come over to Bravo earlier in the year from 3/26. He was a short-timer. I do not recall his name. At that moment, he was teaching me how to play Back Alley Bridge and as we played our cards, he was cleaning out my pockets. We were playing for money—Military Payment Certificates—because, as he told me in his clipped Boston accent, if you weren’t committing something of value, then you wouldn’t be at your best.

Dede told us to get ammo, grenades, poncho liner, and other gear we’d need for a helicopter insertion in support of First Platoon. My bunker mate sat back and grinned, and as I tried to gather my gear, flitting like a mosquito from one item to the next, he cajoled me to keep playing the game since there was no guarantee we’d be going anywhere.

I recall him saying, “You know how it is. Hurry up and wait.”

So as I got my gear together and rumors of death and combat circulated like demons among the men of Second Platoon, he collected more and more of my MPC.

Finally, Sergeant Dede came down the line and told us to assemble on the air strip and await choppers to transport us out to assist First Platoon. My bunker mate was so short he didn’t have to go. I can see him, right now in my mind’s view, leaning back on his rack, smiling, his big red mustache and his disheveled shock of red hair implanted in my memory. He was counting my MPC.

We sat on the air strip in the sun. It was hot and we were nervous. Some of us talked incessantly. Some of us didn’t say anything.

I don’t know that I thought about it then, but I think about it now. Something of value. Some MPC in a game of Back Alley Bridge. Some casualties out on Route 9. My young life available to what…be wounded, killed, captured, honored? Something of value, like the lives of those 19 Marines who died in our TAOR that day, and the wounded men, too, whose names we don’t put up on monuments.

Finally, the helicopters arrived and we loaded up and away we went.

Michael E. O'Hara during his interview for Bravo! Photo by Betty Rodgers

Michael E. O’Hara during his interview for Bravo!
Photo by Betty Rodgers

***

On the screening front, BRAVO! will be screened at the Union League Club of Chicago, 65 West Jackson Blvd, Chicago, Illinois on July 24, 2014. Sponsored by American Legion Post 758, this event begins with registration at 5:00 PM. The film will be screened at 5:30 followed by a Q & A session with Co-producers Betty and Ken Rodgers, BRAVO! Marine Michael E. O’Hara, and Echo Company, 2/26’s Tom Eichler, the president of the Khe Sanh Veterans Association. Complimentary snacks will be provided and there will be a cash bar with beverages of your choice.

The program will end at 8:00 PM. Reservations are required. To reserve your seats please go to the Eventbrite registration page @ https://bravofilm.eventbrite.com/.

Please note, this event is business casual: no jeans, no denim, no shorts; shirts must have collars.

If you would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this fall or winter, please contact us immediately.
DVDs of BRAVO! are available. For more information go to https://bravotheproject.com/buy-the-dvd/.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject/. It’s another way you can help spread the word about the film.

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

May 21, 2014

Anatomy of a Photograph

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One of the seminal images associated with BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR is a photo provided to us by BRAVO! Marine Mike McCauley. When we interviewed nine of the men in San Antonio in July 2010, Mike brought a copy of the image presented below and we knew immediately that it would be an important addition to the film. The men in this photo were in Third Squad, First Platoon of Bravo Company, 1/26.

3rd Squad, 1st Platoon, Bravo, 1/26. Photo by Author Smith Photo Courtesy of Mike McCauley

3rd Squad, 1st Platoon, Bravo, 1/26.
Photo by Author Smith
Photo Courtesy of Mike McCauley

One of the major desires we had as filmmakers was to make sure that as many of the images and sounds as possible were generated during the actual time of the battle. This includes photos, film, video, and oral interviews, so having a photo like this, taken of men who were actually in Bravo Company in that time and place was very important to us. Not only were we interested in the photo being genuine, we were interested in the aesthetic value the picture holds. I say holds because there is something organic to this particular image that captures the sadness, the sorrow, the horror, the stoic courage and the brotherhood experienced by the men who fought at the Siege of Khe Sanh.

The Marines in the photo are listed below. Please note that in the Marine Corps in the 1960s, you rarely called anyone by their first name. You probably didn’t know their first name. In regards to the “unknown” there were so many men who came and went as replacements-in and casualties-or-deaths-out, that you often didn’t have time to know their names. You may not have wanted to know their names, because that meant you would have to get to know them and you did not want to get to know them because if they were killed you had to deal with the personal grief that ensued as a result of their deaths. Please also note that some of the names may not be spelled correctly since we are relying on memories of over forty years.

Back row, left to right:

Black, Paben, Shockley, Unknown

Front row, left to right:

McCauley (Mike, from the film), Britt (Ted), Sinkowietz, Beamon, Roper and Wiese (Steve). Steve Wiese was the squad leader of 3rd Squad and is also one of the men featured in the film.

According to Mike McCauley, this photo was taken by Author Smith who was killed in action in what has come to be called the Payback Patrol which occurred on March 30, 1968. According to Steve Wiese, Author Smith was KIA while overwhelming a NVA machine gun bunker. You can read more about Author Smith here: http://www.virtualwall.org/ds/SmithAC03a.htm.

Mike McCauley

Mike McCauley

Of the other men in this photo, Ted Britt was also KIA on March 30. He was posthumously awarded a Silver Star for his actions on that date. According to Ted Britt’s Silver Star citation:

While reorganizing to continue the attack, his squad was suddenly pinned down by hostile mortar and machine gun fire. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Private First Class Britt alertly pinpointed the primary source of fire and unhesitatingly left his covered position to assault the automatic weapons emplacement. Fearlessly moving across the fire-swept terrain, he reached the fortified bunker and, delivering a heavy volume of accurate fire, killed four enemy soldiers and silenced the hostile fire. Continuing his determined efforts, he launched another attack against an enemy fighting hole, and while boldly advancing, he was fatally wounded.

You can read Ted Britt’s entire Silver Star citation here: http://projects.militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=23309.

Photography is a way for us to record the present so folks can understand what was happening at a given moment. Photography is journalism but it is also art that allows us to acquire the visceral, personal knowledge that can’t always be given us in words. We feel the moment, the subject, the place.

Steve Wiese

Steve Wiese

This photo of the men in Third Squad, First Platoon, Bravo 1/26 gives us a peek at the time and the place and the sadness, again, of the Marines of Khe Sanh. That peek is related to the aesthetic power photography holds. The image is in black and white and captures the mood of the men at the siege. Somehow, that array of grays and blacks and whites reveals messages to us.

The faces in this photo are gaunt and mildly disturbed. The men you see are young, none of them over twenty years old. Fear has aged them. They are not happy yet they seem determined. They are a team, a brotherhood, and they are not creations for a Hollywood film. Some of them are not coming home and they may know that. Some of them were probably wounded soon after this photo was taken. Some of them were killed later at Khe Sanh, as well as after Bravo 1/26 moved south. Some of them are probably trying, right now, to forget what happened to them and their comrades at Khe Sanh.

And some of us remember and feel we have…and I emphasize the “have”…to tell the story of what happened at Khe Sanh, to the men of BRAVO!, to all women and men in all wars, and this photo, with its real men, its real heroes, plays a critical role in helping us create the narrative.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. For more information about purchasing BRAVO! DVDs, go to https://bravotheproject.com/buy-the-dvd/.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject/. It’s another way we can spread the word about the film and the Vietnam War.

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

June 5, 2012

Meet the Men of Bravo!–Ken Rodgers

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ken Rodgers at Khe Sanh just before the siege began

I was working on a core drilling rig in southern Arizona the summer of 1966 and bored with the heat and the prospects of my sophomore year at Arizona State University. My neighbor across the street got his draft notice and decided to try to get into the Coast Guard. His driver’s license was suspended so he asked me to haul him to Phoenix and the Coast Guard recruiter.

The Coast Guard had a long waiting list. We went to see the Army about my friend becoming a chopper pilot. We went to see the Navy after that. Across the hall from the Navy was the Marine Corps recruiter. While my friend discussed opportunities in the Navy, I went and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. That was in August of 1966. So many young men were joining up I had to wait until October to get into boot camp. I was nineteen years old.

Ken Rodgers

I arrived in Vietnam in March of 1967 and went straight to the 26th Marines on Hill 55 southwest of Danang, where after a short time for training I went to 2nd Platoon Bravo Company where I remained until March of 1968 when I became the radio operator for the second platoon’s platoon sergeant. I survived the siege and left Khe Sanh on April 1, 1968.

After the Marine Corps I was: A sheet rock humper, in the sheep and cattle business, a Vietnam Veterans counselor, an accountant, a controller, a quality assurance officer, a real estate broker, a management consultant, a writer, a teacher and now, along with my wife Betty, a filmmaker.

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

May 29, 2012

Meet the Men of Bravo!–Peter Weiss

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

May 3, 2012

Meet the Men of Bravo!–Mike McCauley

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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,Meet the Men,Vietnam War

April 19, 2012

Meet the Men of Bravo!–Tom Quigley

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In this edition of Meet the Men of Bravo!, we get acquainted with Tom Quigley.

Tom Quigley at Khe Sanh

Tom Quigley at Khe Sanh

Tom Quigley hails from Springfield, Illinois, where he was interviewed for Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor.

Eighteen years old when he went to Bravo Company in June 1967, Tom served as the senior company radio operator for Bravo Company’s commanding officer, Ken Pipes, during the Siege. After the Siege he went on to be a squad leader in Bravo Company.

Tom Quigley

After his service in the Marine Corps, Quig (as he is affectionately called by his Marine mates) was an independent automotive wholesaler.

Tom enjoys being a new grandpa and also likes to spend his time watching movies, bowling, target shooting and hunting on the farms in the Springfield area.

You can read more about Tom in an interview he gave to his local newspaper here: http://www.sj-r.com/firstinprint/x863085660/Memories-of-Khe-Sanh.

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

April 12, 2012

Meet the Men of Bravo!–John “Doc” Cicala

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In this installment of Meet the Men, we get acquainted with John “Doc” Cicala.

“Doc” lived in St. Clair Shores, Michigan when he enlisted in the Navy.

John "Doc" Cicala at Khe Sanh

In the Marine Corps, the medical personnel who go onto the battlefield with Marines are United States Navy Hospital Corpsmen. Grateful Marines fondly call Corpsmen “Doc.”

“Doc” Cicala served as a Corpsman with Third Platoon, Bravo Company, during the Siege of Khe Sanh. At the “ripe old age of twenty-one,” he was the second oldest man in Third Platoon.

After a forty-four year career with Chrysler Corporation, “Doc” retired, but he didn’t like retirement, so he went back to work for Chrysler as a contractor, where he now works on specific problems where his experience pays off. He also trains Chrysler employees.

Besides still helping out with his old company, “Doc” is a “classic car nut.” His highlight right now is a restored 1967 Plymouth GTX.

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

April 5, 2012

Meet the Men of Bravo!–Cal Bright

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bravo! Marine Cal Bright introduces himself.

I was born and raised on a farm in Parma, Michigan, until I joined the Marines at the age of 17 and went to boot camp at San Diego. From there, went through BITS and AIT then got to Viet Nam the first part of January, 1968, just turned 18. Went to Khe Sanh directly after getting to Nam and joined 3rd Platoon (Lt. Jaques), Bravo Company, 1/26 Marines.

During the month of February, while I was already at Khe Sanh, my dad sent me my draft notice. Dang ARMY drafted me since I did not report to my local draft board for my 18th birthday.

I did various details such as filling sandbags, burning crappers, LPs, guard duty, etc. I had no idea while on my first sandbag detail, that I would get buried under a ton of debris. We were in the process of rebuilding a 106 MM recoilless rifle pit when we took a direct hit that buried all of us. Fortunately, none of us were injured or killed.

Cal Bright as a young Marine

On one of my LP (listening post) details, I was out and the only contact with our
rear was a strand of wire that was hand-held by a fellow Marine. We would tug the wire for a Sit Rep (situation report). During my watch the wire got tugged and pulled almost out of my hand. Talk about being scared shitless, I didn’t know what to do. I was too scared to pull on the wire so I just lay there until daylight. As I proceeded to crawl back in the daylight, I discovered my wire had been broken or cut (not sure which) and there were several footprints and mounds of dirt shoveled. It had been a night that the NVA had crawled in behind me and were in the process of digging a trench up to our wire. I am glad that I did not tug or pull on the wire, for it would have given my position away.

My first patrol will be one that I’ll NEVER forget. It was February 25, 1968, which became known as the Ghost Patrol. I have no idea how it was possible but I was not hit or wounded on it even though I found out afterwards that I went crawling and running through one of our mine fields from the opposite direction (from the enemy side) without touching off a round. I have lived with guilt to this day since so many of us died in the Ghost Patrol.

My next patrol was on March 30 (pay-back time).

I have turned my experience of combat into a positive, by contributing in other capacities.

I transferred from Bravo Company and went to S2 and worked with Kit Carson Scouts for the rest of my tour. We went on many patrols and ambushes in places I can’t remember and some I’m not willing to report about. On returning to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in 1969, I did a tour in Gitmo Bay (Cuba).

After getting out of the Marines for a couple/three years, I joined the Air Force Reserve for the next twenty years along with being hired by the Federal Government. During this stint, I was activated for Desert Storm and got as far as Ft. Hood, Texas, before being deactivated.

While working for the Federal Government, I was transferred to a section for Emergency Essential Personnel due to my previous military experience. I eventually ended up doing four Southwest Asia tours to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. I worked for the DoD/DLA as a Customer Support Rep. I was tasked to train, supply and equip the local security forces, as well as supply and equip our own military including NATO forces. I was deployed there for just under three years.

Cal Bright at his interview for Bravo!

I feel that God put me on this earth for a purpose and serving our Federal Government in one capacity or another was His way of keeping me on the straight and narrow.

Since I wasn’t allowed to go back overseas because of being diagnosed with skin and prostate cancer, I retired in June of 2010.

For the past few years I have been rebuilding my 1984 Corvette and have it almost completed. It is a 383 Stroker putting out just under 450hp. I enjoy hunting, fishing, cooking on the grill, camping, dates with my wife Debbie and enjoying all of our grandchildren (all sixteen of them).