Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘Bravo! Common Men Uncommon Valor’

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

January 21, 2022

January 21, 2022

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In Their Own Words

Fifty-four years ago today, the Siege of Khe Sanh commenced and for roughly 77 days, the battle roared and the scenes of carnage and death and courage were featured on television screens across America.

While the participants’ families and friends sat in their easy chairs in their living rooms, watching with horror, going to work and church and school with the thoughts of death and fear in their minds, the men who fought the battle dug in.

What was it like?

Let some of the Marines and Navy Corpsmen who made it home tell you. These comments are from the original interviews done for the film. Some of them made it into the final cut, some of them you have never read before. Even though the interviews were conducted on an individual basis, the men often recollected the same events without anyone prompting. That was one of the amazing things about interviewing the men of BRAVO!

Khe Sanh TAOR 1968 Photo Courtesy of Mack McNeeley

On the night before the boom lowered and the siege began some of the men had a sense of foreboding.

Ken Rodgers:

I went out in the trench and I think I had first watch and as I was getting off watch it was misty. You could see through the mist and there was Puff the Magic Dragon flying around and all you saw was the blur of the tracers and hear the thing and it was moaning. I understood then that something was going to happen.

Cal Bright:

Everything was all nice and quiet. As a matter of fact it was, more or less, too quiet.

The initial eruptions of incoming found most of the men of Bravo 1/26 in their racks. The chaos ripped them out of their sleep and into the trenches and fighting holes.

Dan Horton:

There’s an explosion in the doorway of the hooch. Slammed me against the bulkhead. Then I knew the shit was hitting the fan here. Scared the crap out of me, of course, I was all discombubulated.

Cal Bright:

All Hell broke loose.

Michael E. O’Hara:

I was there digging holes in the trench. I wanted to go down as far as I could go. I was scared.

Lloyd Scudder:

I went outside and tried to curl up in a ball as much as I could. I looked like a turtle underneath my helmet.

Then the ammo dump took a direct hit.

Mike McCauley:

When the ammo dump exploded, man, we thought it was atomic.

Cal Bright:

It was obvious that they, the NVA, had been reconning the area for quite some time because you can’t hit an ammo dump with artillery and rockets and score direct hits without practicing. And it took them no time at all.

Ken Rodgers:

Our own artillery rounds that were stored in the ammo dump were cooking off and shooting straight up into the air and coming down on us.

Tom Quigley:

The NVA rounds had hit our ammo dump, and in the ammo dump was a lot of CS canisters and those went off and the gas started coming in through our hooch.

Mike McCauley:

Nobody had their gas masks with them so everybody’s trying to find a gas mask.

Ken Pipes:

The CS gas that was blown out of the dump was burning and settling into the trenches because it goes to the low ground and into the bunkers.

Debris at Khe Sanh. Photo courtesy of David Douglas Duncan.

Guys were getting hurt. Guys were dying.

Ken Korkow:

We got a lot of incoming and I’ll tell you, three separate times, incoming was so close to me I didn’t jump down, the concussion of the shell actually knocked me to the ground.

John “Doc” Cicala:

I heard ‘em yelling for a Corpsman and I started running down the trench line and the next thing I know I was looking up at the sky and I heard a Marine calling for a Corpsman and “where the hell is that son-of-a-bitch?” I was kind of lying there dazed and I got up and I picked up my helmet and I had the tail fin of a mortar in the top of my helmet. It must have hit me and knocked me out.

Peter Weiss:

I didn’t know it at the time: the radioman who had been killed. Must have been killed right at the door of the bunker. Touching a body…first time I touched a dead body. It was like, “Oh, my God.”

After hours and hours of explosions, the ammo dump going up, the CS gas in the trenches, things calmed down.

John “Doc” Cicala :

The rest of the morning was just taking care of every guy that had shrapnel wounds.

Mike McCauley:

It was pretty chaotic.

Steve Wiese:

I thought, my God, you’re not going to survive this. Little did I know that it was going to go on for 77 days.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available @https://bravotheproject.com/store/.

A digital version of BRAVO! is available in the US on Amazon Prime Video @ https://amzn.to/2Hzf6In.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject?ref=hl.

The new documentary film from Betty and Ken Rodgers, I MARRIED THE WAR, is now available to watch. Check it out at https://imarriedthewar.com/.

Documentary Film,Film Screenings,Khe Sanh,Marines,Other Musings,Veterans,Vietnam War,World War II

November 10, 2021

News on Screenings of BRAVO!

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We will be screening BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR in West Jefferson, North Carolina at 3:00 PM on Thursday, November 18. Come join us at the Parkway Theater. Filmmakers Betty and Ken Rodgers will be there in person to talk about the film along with Bruce and Francine Jones. Bruce served with the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines at Khe Sanh as did filmmaker Ken Rodgers.

On November 20th at 10:00 AM at the Library in West Jefferson, we will be screening our second film, I MARRIED THE WAR, about the wives of combat veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. Francine Jones, one of the strong and courageous women in the film, will be on hand to discuss the project along with the filmmakers, Betty and Ken.

Please join us.

In separate but associated news, DVDs of I MARRIED THE WAR are now available to purchase. Details can be found at https://imarriedthewar.com/buy-the-dvd/.

As Veterans Day approaches, our thoughts turn to the wars fought in our lives and our friends and loved ones who served, some living, some now gone. We think of them, see their faces, hear their voices.

Our films speak to some of the issues surrounding war and combat. We wouldn’t have been able to create these stories without the help of all our friends and supporters, who are many. Thank you!

Documentary Film,Eulogies,Khe Sanh,Listening Posts,Marines,Other Musings,Veterans,Vietnam War

April 21, 2021

No Better Friend

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The phone jangled—1992 or 1993—and when I answered it, a voice out of my past said, “Is this Kenny Rodgers?”

I wondered who it was and then kind of remembered and then he said, “You may not remember me but…”

It all hit, the way he liked to stand, cocky, even though he was just a kid.

He told me about a reunion in Washington, DC, for survivors of Khe Sanh, and that he wanted me to come, and he told me about who he’d contacted, who he’d met up with. I think he’d made it his duty to find all the men who’d served in Third Squad, Second Platoon, Bravo Company, 1/26 during the siege of Khe Sanh.

If he hadn’t called me, our lives—Betty and mine—might have been very different. But we went to the reunion and for 28 years, Michael E. O’Hara has been a big part of my life—our lives.

We were lucky in that.

Michael E. O’Hara at Khe Sanh

He was in our film, BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR, and his powerful, emotional words were, and still are, a testament to the long-lasting effects of combat and to the reverence he, and most of us who served at Khe Sanh, felt for our comrades.

Michael passed on last week after a battle with cancer.

I feel his absence already, a voice over my shoulder encouraging, scolding, scoffing, laughing at me. I find myself thinking, “Okay, O’Hara, what do you think about…,” and then I realize we won’t share any of those moments again. Only in my imagination.

We didn’t always see eye-to-eye. We argued more than we should have, but none of that matters now. And never really did.

An image comes to mind when I think about him. Maybe the first time I really recognized him as one of our Bravo Company Marines. I’d been on R & R in Bangkok, and right after I came back, we moved out of the lines at the combat base and up to 881-S. It was October of 1967.

We had gotten a lot of new guys in the squad while I’d been on R & R. Including him.

We humped it from the base up to the hill. I see Michael now, in my mind’s eye, on that trek. His clean helmet cover, his clean jungle boots, his clean jungle dungarees, his sleeves rolled up, a pack of Marlboros stored in the rolled left sleeve, his young biceps bulging, his M16 held in his right hand, butt against the right thigh, the business end into the sky. He was easy like that, and confident.

For three months we were in the same fire team. Long, wet patrols, humping up and down, once into Laos when we weren’t supposed to be there. Ambushes off the south end of 881-S. Soggy, miserable listening posts. Leaking hooches, everything wet: your socks, your boots, your mummy bag. Leeches, leeches, leeches.

We charged up hills into the enemy’s trench more than once, and we watched men die, watched them get maimed. We carried the dead and wounded off the battlefield.

During the siege, we endured the fury and the fear and while there, O’Hara earned three Purple Hearts.

Michael was an outstanding Marine.

One night in March of 1968, the artillery battery that was right behind our lines in the Gray Sector suffered a direct hit on their ammo dump. All night, ordnance exploded. Some of the rounds threw out smaller bits of explosives that detonated here and there, until after sunup, like they were randomly intent on killing whoever chanced to wander along our trench.

I was on radio watch most of that night in the platoon command post. Off and on, through those dark and dangerous hours, Michael came down that trench line delivering messages to us in the command post.

He was like that. Undaunted. Carrying out orders in the face of extreme danger.

Michael E. O’Hara.

My definition of a hero is someone who does what needs to be done against long odds, even though fear gets on his back like a big cat. Even though he or she doesn’t want to do it.

That was Michael E. O’Hara.

There’s a saying about Marines: No better friend, no worse enemy.

If you crossed Michael, he might chase you down and tackle you in the middle of the street and straighten you out. No worse enemy.

Years later, when the men he served with needed help or when their families needed help, he was there. He’d fund your dreams, he’d bury you. He’d show up to speak your name and remember you.

That, too, was Michael.

No better friend.

We will miss him. I will miss him. Man, will I.

Semper Fidelis, Michael E. O’Hara.

Khe Sanh,Marines,Veterans,Vietnam War

March 30, 2020

The Need to See Them Dead

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Fifty-two years ago this morning on the battlefield of Khe Sanh, Vietnam, Bravo Company, 1/26 burst out of the confines of siege and siege mentality and went on the attack.

The details of what is now known as Payback are documented in a number of places. But what’s difficult to document is the fury and desperation that occurred when men from separate sides met face-to-face in a morning’s worth of savagery. For two and one-half months they’d blasted and murdered and maimed us and scared the living hell out of us. And we hungered for revenge.

Khe Sanh, 1968. Photo courtesy of Mac McNeely.

We caught them sleeping and we jumped in their trenches and we caught them in their bunkers and we dropped grenades on top of them and shot them when they crawled out and we dropped satchel charges on them and we shot them while looking in their eyes and we burned them alive with flame throwers and lobbed 60 millimeter mortars on top of them and we killed and killed.

The faces of the dead turned sallow and as I ran through the NVA’s trenches, I talked to myself about how the sallow nature of death made them all look the same, whether our side or theirs. They all looked the same and maybe that was appropriate given that the hands of death had choked all life out of them no matter their rank or race.

Blogger Ken Rodgers before the Siege of Khe Sanh began. Photo courtesy of Michael E. O’Hara.

Most of us were young. Our skipper called us kids. We were kids with lethal weapons and a bitter taste in our mouths and a load of hate in our hearts. Not a hate you reserve for the man you know who stabbed you in the back, but the hate you know against an idea, against an enemy—not individuals—that killed people that you love, and even though . . . even at the time you know . . . even though you’ve been taught thou shall not kill, and love your brother, and turn the other cheek, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you, you’re filled with hate and you are going to kill. You need to kill.

Fifty-two years ago this morning.

Enraged, we coveted revenge. Enraged, we needed to salve our pride. Indifference to them as human beings was the hallmark of the morning of 30Mar1968. We felt nothing towards those people over there except the need to see them dead. Payback.

***

DVDs of BRAVO! are available @https://bravotheproject.com/store/

A digital version of BRAVO! is available in the US on Amazon Prime Video @ https://amzn.to/2Hzf6In.

In the United Kingdom, BRAVO! is available on Amazon Prime Video UK @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BZKJXBM.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject?ref=hl.

Khe Sanh,Marines,Veterans,Vietnam War

January 21, 2020

The Beginning

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Fifty-two years ago this morning, the Siege of Khe Sanh began with a bang when the NVA hit one of the base’s ammo dumps and the world seemed, for that morning at least, to erupt into a volcano of death and fear.

As I write this, I can close my eyes and the visions of that morning and what followed flood me, a wide river of molten hot lava-thoughts that sizzle the inside of my memory.

The night before the siege began, the tension felt so thick we could have ladled it with a spoon. Puff the Magic Dragon, or Spooky as some folks called the plane, circled the combat base that squatted alone, enveloped in fog. The red tracer arcs from Puff’s guns cut great waving sweeps through the damp mist and the moans and groans of the guns led me to ponder ghosts.

The following morning, the world came apart at the seams and I wondered if I would survive the onslaught. But I did, we did, some of us, anyway.

Images of men lying in the trench with smashed leg-bones still haunt me, and the sergeant in the machine gun bunker with a gouge ripped down the shin of his right leg, and our CS gas, released when the dump blew up, sneaking across the red mud to make our lives more difficult, and in the case of some of our Marines, forcing them to operate in deadly situations.

The men I served with at Khe Sanh were stalwarts. I don’t think there is a better word to describe them. Even though we were just a bunch of kids. Kids.

A lot of us didn’t make it out of that hellhole. I think of men I knew well, in that significantly special way warriors know and love each other, who paid the ultimate price for the right to say they were United States Marines.

Moments dart out of the mist of memory. A big, gap-toothed smile, a Marine helping me negotiate an angry, rain-swollen river, a Marine who just loved to dance.

Blogger Ken Rodgers. While at Khe Sanh. Photo courtesy of the estate of Dan Horton.

One of them I see sitting in a hooch with a bunch of other Marines, his new utilities a stark contrast to the tattered and faded ones I wore. Mine stained with the red mud of Khe Sanh, his looking snappy.

In 2010, Betty and I went to The Wall to take some photos of names and I ran into a fellow looking for the name of that Marine I now envision in my mind. When he found out I knew the man whose name he sought, he broke down in a highly motional moment that keeps creeping into my consciousness, and every time the moment comes, I am reminded of the tentacles of life severed by death.

Right now, their faces, the dead of Khe Sanh, roll through me like a filmstrip. A wink, a frown, a flippant reaction to the guns of the North Vietnamese, a row of freckles on high cheekbones, that particular look you see in the eyes of a Marine who knows he may soon die. Those Marines are here, with me in the moments of my recall even though they’ve been gone fifty-plus years.

They are part of me. Part of the person I have become.

***

DVDs of BRAVO! are available @https://bravotheproject.com/store/

A digital version of BRAVO! is available in the US on Amazon Prime Video @ https://amzn.to/2Hzf6In.

In the United Kingdom, BRAVO! is available on Amazon Prime Video UK @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BZKJXBM.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject?ref=hl.

Documentary Film,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Khe Sanh Veteran's Reunion,Marines,Veterans,Vietnam War

November 11, 2019

Vieil Ami

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Guest Blogger and BRAVO! Marine Michael E. O’Hara muses on the passage of time, war, the film and comrades in this blog for Veterans Day, 2019.

Fall 2019

Vieil Ami

When I first arrived in a place that would change my life and the lives of many others forever, it was October 1967. I made many friends, each unique in their own way.

We were Marines, charged with guarding a lonely outpost high in the Annamite Mountains in northwest South Vietnam. It is known as the backbone of Vietnam.

One of my new acquaintances, among many, was a young man from Casa Grande, Arizona. It was a while before we became close. Many nights we would test each other’s knowledge, mostly about history. But time and events would bring us all together. Brothers-in-arms is much more than a simple cliché.

Michael E. O’Hara at Khe Sanh, 1968. Photo courtesy of Michael E. O’Hara

Time would pass and eventually we all went our separate ways. Some forgot and most did not. For many years we all would relive, at least in the memories of our minds, the friends and events that had shaped each and every one of us. Everyone processed that experience differently.

It would be 25 years before I would see my good friend from Casa Grande once again. I would also be introduced to his beautiful wife. We would find ourselves gathering with all those friends from long ago in Washington, DC. It was the 4th of July, 1993, and Bravo Company 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment had assembled once again. We would all descend on “The Wall” to touch the names and remember old comrades who never made it home to “The World.”

Although we stayed in touch over the next few years, it wasn’t until 2009 that he attended his next reunion. It was in Denver. I wasn’t planning on going that year until he called. I could tell he had something on his mind. He came to DC when I asked; I would go to Denver.

Denver was great. Lots of friends from Bravo were there. It would be the last time I saw Danny Horton before he passed. When I arrived, my friend from Casa Grande was there waiting for me to arrive. It was very emotional. Ken Rodgers has been a good friend my entire adult life and his beautiful wife Betty was just awe struck at the emotion we both shared that day over ten long years ago. Much has happened in that time. They have since visited our home twice. Betty and Maxine hit it off well and interestingly, Betty still keeps in touch with my daughters via FB. They all got along very well in DC in ‘93 and remain friends to this day.

But I was curious as to what Ken had on his mind when he called me. He never did really say. However, we were all sitting around a table sharing stories and Betty made the statement what a shame it would be if this was all lost, and someone should be writing it all down. I casually asked her what she was waiting on, not fully understanding what the two of them were thinking.

Within weeks after getting home, they had developed a plan. They were going to make a movie about Bravo Co at Khe Sanh in 1968. Most, not all, showed up in San Antonio next summer and Ken and Betty started filming interviews. For those, like Danny Horton, who couldn’t be there due to health concerns, they went on the road. One year later they debuted what would become one of the most profound war documentaries ever produced.

Bravo!
Common Men
Uncommon Valor

It has earned numerous accolades across the spectrum. It has also brought Ken and Betty great validation for their work. One of the great moments in my life was when Ken and Betty asked me to attend their awards ceremony at the Marine Corps Museum in the spring of 2016. They had received a prestigious award for their work by our peers in the USMC. It was a black tie formal event with more Marine Generals than I had ever seen in one place in my life. Ken and Betty were, as we say colloquially, “standing in tall cotton” and I could not have been happier for them. But he wasn’t going to forget his old friend, either.

Left to Right: Filmmakers Betty Rodgers, Ken Rodgers, and BRAVO! Marine Michael E. Ohara at the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Awards Ceremony. Photo courtesy of Daniel Folz

He made sure the Lt. Gen. who was the emcee that evening asked for another Marine to stand for special recognition as a 3 Purple Heart survivor of the Siege of Khe Sanh. I have to tell you, it was the proudest day in my Marine life. Even my old friend and CMH recipient Harvey Barnum came over to congratulate me. It was a moment I will cherish forever.

As I stated previously, we all have processed our feelings about those emotionally charged days differently. It would seem “Bravo!” would become my good friend’s catharsis. He and Betty travelled all over the country screening their film at Legion halls, VFW posts, theaters, prisons, universities and more. Sometimes they found sponsorship, other times they just went. As the awards mounted, other folks began to seek them out.

The Commanding Generals of Marine bases found it a useful tool. One such event drew a very large crowd at Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton. Whenever possible, the men from Bravo themselves would show up and participate in after-action discussions. I made 2 such screenings myself in Springfield and Chicago, IL, and went with them to the Marine Basic School in Quantico, VA, where they trained young Marine Officers using Bravo! as a training tool.

They have been pursuing this for ten long years, and are now producing another documentary.

I will always be in touch with my dear friends who now call Boise their home. However, speaking for myself, I believe we are both getting past our need to process our experiences. As another old friend and fellow Vietnam vet likes to say “I’ve put that book back on the shelf.”

I cannot express how good it makes me feel to know that my good friend seems to finally be at peace with the life-changing events that brought us together so many years ago.

Guest blogger Michael E’ O’Hara. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

Their film has also helped bring closure to our fellow Marines from Bravo and many other vets who have experienced the healing power of this magnificent piece of American history during the Vietnam War.

Although there are a few Marines from Bravo still living, Ken and I are the last of the 2nd platoon 3rd squad who have maintained contact throughout the years.

Toujours Fidele, Vieil Ami,
Michael E. O’Hara

Michael E. O’Hara served with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment before and during the Siege of Khe Sanh. Michael, the recipient of three Purple Heart Medals for his wounds while serving at Khe Sanh, is also one of the warriors interviewed for the film BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR.


DVDs of BRAVO! are available @ https://bravotheproject.com/store/

A digital version of BRAVO! is available in the US on Amazon Prime Video @ https://amzn.to/2Hzf6In.

In the United Kingdom, BRAVO! is available on Amazon Prime Video UK @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BZKJXBM.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject?ref=hl.

Documentary Film,Guest Blogs,Other Musings,Veterans,Vietnam War

May 31, 2019

HAMBURGER HILL (MEMORIAL DAY 2019)

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Guest blogger Cobb Hammond’s article on the savage battle fought in May, 1969, originally published in the MEMPHIS COMMERCIAL APPEAL on May 24, 2019.

As Americans this weekend memorialize the casualties of our war dead, a small band of US soldiers of the 101st Airborne division will recall in their collective memories, comrades in-arms of a battle during the Vietnam War. The Battle of Hamburger Hill fought 50-years ago this month, is seared into the memories of its participants; a struggle in the heavily contested A Shau Valley. Fought over a specific mountain, known as Hill 937, denoted for its height in meters (approx. 3 thousand feet), it was also called Dong Ap Bia by the North Vietnamese, which translates into ‘Mountain of the crouching beast’.

Part of a chain of mountain ridges and numerous valleys, it sat one mile from the Laotian border and contained multiple ridges and fingers that came off the summit. The slopes of Dong Ap Bia were covered in extreme overgrowth of sharp elephant grass up to 7 feet, thick bamboo groves and triple-canopy jungle, making daylight appear as dusk. The entire area was a support system for the North Vietnamese infiltrating supplies and men into the South, and the general vicinity contained roads for trucks, major supply depots and the like.  After increased enemy activity had been noted by army recon teams in the valley, Operation Apache Snow commenced on May 10, utilizing a Marine Corps regiment, multiple airborne battalions and allied S. Vietnamese forces as well.  The 3rd battalion, 187th Regiment of the 101st – also known as the “Rakkasans” would be tasked with finding the enemy, on or around 937 and eliminating him. This understrength infantry unit was at 65% strength at the outset of the campaign due to recent engagements contributing to the attrition of the units.   The commanding officer of the battalion was Lt. Colonel Weldon Honeycutt, a no-nonsense career soldier and North Carolinian who had joined the army as a teenager at the end of WWII.

Hamburger Hill
Photo by Shunsake Akatsuka

On the morning of May 10, a one and one-half hour prep of the battlefield commenced, with multiple batteries of artillery opening, followed by dozens of sorties by attack aircraft and helicopters firing their ordinance.  At 7 am transport helicopters inserted the initial element of forces into landing zones in the valley, with one mission: find the enemy and make contact.  The first day drew only light contact for Alpha and Charlie companies. Due to the rugged terrain, extreme heat and thick underbrush progress was slow. Bravo and Delta, which were kept in reserve choppered in on the second day and incorporated into the general scheme of the attack.  The 1st battalion of the 506th regiment was working working its way north toward the area as well, but due to the hazards of the terrain and constant ambushes by the enemy would not arrive until the latter part of the battle, leaving the ‘tactical’ burden to the four rifle-companies of the 3/187. 

As day 2 absorbed into 3, the fighting intensified, clearly indicating to the commander that they were facing more of the enemy to their front than originally thought. In fact, as the battle progressed, the enemy, North Vietnamese, were able to fortify their forces on the hill. Little did US troops know at the time that they were facing the 29th NVA Regiment, which had distinguished itself in other battles previously. On May 14, the fourth day, Col. Honeycutt decided to attack more aggressively and could not wait for reinforcements, so orders were given to B, C and D companies to attack from different vantage points. Unfortunately, the attacks were unable to be well coordinated due to the terrain and because enemy resistance had become extremely heavy.  C Company which was counterattacked several times took the highest casualties on the day, losing its First Sgt, two of three platoon leaders, the company exec. officer and six-squad leaders; all either killed or wounded.  To compound matters, a helicopter gunship flew in and shot-up friendly troops, killing two and wounding at least twelve, mistaking them for the enemy. This was the first of three cases of fratricide during the battle.  As day fell to night after a day of fighting, the American soldiers could see enemy cooking fires above, which was usually unheard of in an engagement like this and could hear enemy troops hollering down at the men of the 3st battalion as well.

The topography of the landscape favored defense, and conversely the enemy did well in fortifying positions. They had built earthen-log bunkers- some 6-8 feet deep, with crisscross firing angles to take advantage of the slopes. The slopes also harbored dozens of spider-holes, allowing for a quick burst of gunfire or grenade throw with the enemy then stealthfully melting back into the earth. The NVA also had dozens of light and heavy machine-gun emplacements strategically placed and manned.

Hamburger Hill
Photo from M. Taringa

May 18th and 19th again witnessed the depleted airborne companies making progress, then gradually having to dig in, move forward or back down the steep slopes as the fighting devolved into a slugfest on the squad level; with each company making its own progress on sheer will.

On the morning of May 20, ten US artillery batteries opened fire on the hill and fired for almost an hour, before dozens of air sorties by tactical aircraft came in with napalm and 250 lb. bombs on the now denuded mountaintop. As fire stopped, up went the riflemen, working their way up the slopes and ravines encountering lighter resistance than previously encountered, and making it to the summit within two hours.

After enemy stragglers were cleaned out, the bloody mess of Hamburger Hill ceased.  623 enemy dead were counted, with a much higher casualty rate no doubt noted, as many were crushed in their earthen graves from bombs or taken by their comrades into Laos.  Of the airborne troopers of the 3/187, 39 were killed and another 292 wounded, more than 70% of the battalion. Total US losses were 71 dead and 372 wounded.  The battle although tragic, did accomplish its strategic task, albeit a costly one.

Guest Blogger Cobb Hammond

On this most reverent of days, remember these men, many which spent their last breath in that hellish place.  And one which was the most seminal event of their lives.

Cobb Hammond of Memphis, TN is a ‘Financial Advisor’ who writes on military history, military affairs and composes poetry. Cobb can be contacted @ chammond40@yahoo.com.

If you or someone you know are interested in sponsoring a screening of BRAVO!, please contact us!

DVDs of BRAVO! are available @ https://bravotheproject.com/store/

A digital version of BRAVO! is available in the US on Amazon Prime Video @ https://amzn.to/2Hzf6In.

In the United Kingdom, BRAVO! is available on Amazon Prime Video UK @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BZKJXBM.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject?ref=hl.

Amazon Prime,Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Other,Veterans,Vietnam War

May 6, 2019

Greetings From BRAVO!

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Greetings from BRAVO!. We have some really great news to share.

Last year we sold out of DVDs and it took a while to choose the best source for manufacturing a new lot. But we got it done, and are happy to say there are plenty of brand new DVDs in stock. If you’d like one for yourself, or have been planning to gift DVDs to a veteran, friend, relative, or library, they are again available for purchase here.

If you prefer to watch your movies through digital download, BRAVO! is still available on Amazon Prime Video here.

For your friends or family in the UK, BRAVO! is also available here.

And because you’ve had such a positive impact on our passion for exploring large issues through intimate stories, and educating the world about the cost of war to humanity, we invite you to learn more about our current film project, I MARRIED THE WAR. This new documentary, now in post-production, is the story of wives of combat veterans from World War II to the present. As with BRAVO!, it, too, can educate the wider public and has the potential to reach thousands—if not millions—of citizens who can be helped by this story.

We invite you to join the effort with your financial support, and to learn more about this new endeavor here.

Thank you for your continued interest, encouragement, and support of our efforts to foster a dialogue about the lasting costs of war.

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

April 20, 2019

Rats

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The scrabbling of the rats’ feet woke me. I listened to the rain. I wondered if daylight might be near or if the time ran closer to midnight. For a moment, I didn’t know where I was but then figured out that the sound of the rats’ feet was simply the rain in the gutters.

I rose and walked into the kitchen and checked the time. Dawn would show up in about an hour. I sat at the table and thought about the eighteen thousand six hundred and fifteen mornings I’d risen since my return from war and then pondered the memories that run at you like a man you never want to see again.

When I get up in the morning, I never know what segment of my experience in Vietnam will show up. It might be rats, or a sense that I’m not sure where I am. It might be incoming artillery rounds thumping my surroundings, or sitting in the trench sharing coffee out of a cup made from a C-ration can while sniper rounds snap over our heads. It could be all four, or more, in a rapid-fire sequence that leaves my heart hammering.

Blogger Ken Rodgers at Khe Sanh just before the siege began in January 1968. Photo courtesy of Michael E. O’Hara.

Or maybe something a little more benign.

Like going home and my swift transition from hell on earth to sleeping in the bed in the room where I had studied algebra and managed to sneak out the windows after my parents went to sleep.

One of BRAVO!’s oldest friends asked me, last week, if I might revisit one of those memories: the night I got home to Arizona.

I flew into Tucson on the evening of 4/11/68 and my best friend, his fiancé, and my mom and dad showed up and ran into me as I went downstairs to get my gear. We went to a great Mexican food restaurant and had dinner. We sat at a long table with me sitting with a wall to my back so I could see who came in and who went out and where and when anyone moved.

Idle chit chat bantered back and forth, about mutual friends and acquaintances, the weather, the political chaos. My best friend’s fiancé shot me a serious look and asked me about my war experience.

I began to talk about Khe Sanh: rain, mist, no sleep, humping high hills with lots of gear, filling sandbags and finally when I got to the serious stuff . . . the death, the fear . . . I noticed all of them eating, their faces down towards their plates. The reflection of light from my father’s balding pate hit me in the eyes and like a revelation, I understood that no one cared, or at least savvied, what happened to me.

Hippy wedding in Tucson, 1968. Photo by Bruce Hopkins/Tucson Citizen

To this day, I am baffled by the lack of respect, admiration, honor that I think almost all of us warriors thought we had coming when we stepped off those glorious flights home from Nam, back into The World.

With my father, my war created a tension that never resolved in the remaining twenty-one years he lived. More than once, we stood nose-to-nose, ready to tear each other’s hearts out.

Now, after all this time, I think part of the problem, especially with my good friends and family, is that they couldn’t understand, on a visceral level, what had happened at Khe Sanh and as such, there was nothing of merit, or meat, that we could discuss.

My father was a top sergeant in the Army but never saw combat. He once told me the most frightening experience he had was flying over The Hump (the Himalayas) from New Delhi, India to Chongqing, China, to pick up a Japanese prisoner of war. He had little with which to relate to my turmoil and my chaos had little room for him.

Yet I suspect that was only part of our problem, my problem. I think that when I came home, I wanted, I craved, I needed The World to be what it had been in 1966 when I joined the Corps, the kids cruising the town, the girls the same, my life as it had been.

But time is like a river that won’t stop running and what had been in 1966 . . . my life, my friends, my World . . . was not there in April of 1968. And I don’t think I understood that, and as such, the conflict between what I wanted The World to be and what was in reality The Way, were not resolved for 30 years, when I began to realize that I needed to dig into my experiences through getting sober, writing, and accepting that what happened at Khe Sanh was not who I was as a person.

What I thought I had come back to had moved on, leaving me in the detritus of memory.

***

BRAVO! is now available in digital form on Amazon Prime.

This link will take you directly to BRAVO!’s Amazon Prime site where you can take a look at the options for streaming: In the US you can stream at https://amzn.to/2Hzf6In.

In the United Kingdom, you can stream at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BZKJXBM.

***

If you or your organization would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town, please contact us immediately.

***

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject?ref=hl.

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Okinawa,Veterans,Vietnam War

April 12, 2019

On Okinawa

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About this time fifty-one years ago, I arrived in Okinawa on my way home from the war and the Siege of Khe Sanh. On the flight between Da Nang and Oki’s Kadena Air Force Base, I gazed around at the men on board. We looked battered, most of us donning dungarees so dirty and worn it seemed like we were prisoners bound for a life of confinement.

A Marine with whom I had an acquaintance, Corporal S, sat next to me. A cannon-cocker, I’d met up with him I don’t know where or when.


When we landed at Kadena, we deplaned and were ordered to fall in and stand at attention, which we didn’t do, and listen to a spiel given by a bunch of Marine Corps NCOs about what we could do on Okinawa and what we couldn’t while at Camp Schwab waiting transfer to the states.

Photo taken at Camp Schwab, 1971. Photo by Scott Parton – http://www.jonmitchellinjapan.com/agent-orange-on-okinawa.html, Public Domain, Link


Several of the two-hundred or so Marines who’d been on that plane barked out comments about POGs in Okinawa lecturing real warriors about what and what not to do.

Several of the NCOS jumped right in and instructed us that they were not any different from us; they’d just been wounded three times in Nam, so they had to finish out their twelve-month-and-twenty-day tour on Okinawa.

But collectively, we dirty band of ragged Marines, didn’t buy their explanations. The men facing us were decked out in snappy new dungarees and covers starched and formed as if they were all still in Boot Camp. We hooted . . . and this struck me . . . we hooted as if we could care less about how many times they’d been shot or wounded. And our derisiveness felt good to me, way down, and maybe it wasn’t fair of me or the rest of us, to put their service down, but at the time, it felt damned good.

The next morning we fell in and received orders for all of us to report here and there around Camp Schwab for mess and maintenance duty.

Right up front, Corporal S told the duty NCO, “Go to hell.”

Unlike him, I reported to the BOQ and spent the morning policing the barracks for transient officers. When I left for chow, I asked the duty NCO why they made us clean up while there were barracks full of new Marines headed to Nam who needed something to do.

Blogger Ken Rodgers at Khe Sanh prior to the beginning of the siege. Photo courtesy of Michael E. O’Hara.

He didn’t answer, just scowled at me.

I have never figured out why they did that—made us clean up, unless it was punishment for our salty attitudes out on the tarmac at Kadena—and that morning stint was my last. I spent the next two days shooting hoops at the base gym with Corporal S.

My mother used to tell me, when I complained about vacuuming the house or mowing the lawn when I should have been playing with my buddies, that an idle mind was the tool of the devil, and maybe the Marine Corps had similar sentiments.

Nevertheless, if the Marines in charge of keeping things running at Camp Schwab depended on me and Corporal S, and I suspect, the rest of us who arrived on that flight out of hell a few nights before, they were sorely disappointed.

***

BRAVO! is now available in digital form on Amazon Prime.

This link will take you directly to BRAVO!’s Amazon Prime site where you can take a look at the options for streaming: In the US you can stream at https://amzn.to/2Hzf6In.

In the United Kingdom, you can stream at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BZKJXBM.

***

If you or your organization would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town, please contact us immediately.

***

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject?ref=hl.