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The First Battle of Vietnam | The Battle of la Drang | Veteran Stories

The First Battle of Vietnam | The Battle of la Drang  | Veteran Stories

All Vietnam vets remember the sound of
the rotor blades of a Huey Helicopter. They made a very distinct “wop-wop-wop-wop”
sound, it went through the air: “wop-wop-wop-wop”. Every morning, every evening, a chopper
would fly in and bring in breakfast or bring in dinner, you got people wounded
and you had to have a medevac. That sound of the chopper
blades is unforgettable. I can forget a lot of things about life
but I wont forget the feel, the sense, the smell, the look of LZ-XRAY. (Col. Tony Nadal)
I was born in Fort Benning, Georgia. My dad was an army officer, a West Point
graduate, but both he and my mom were born and raised in Puerto Rico.
He was one of the first Puerto Ricans ever to attend West Point.
The only thing I can ever remember wanting to do, was go to West Point
and be an army officer. I mean, I had no second thoughts.
My first duty station when I was commissioned and after I finished Airborne Ranger,
the basic course, I was assigned to Germany where I spent three and a half years in Munich.
As my tour of duty was about to finish I started hearing little rumblings.
We had special forces units in Laos. I always felt my duty was to move to the sound
of the guns, so I immediately volunteered for special forces. (Lyndon Johnson)
I have today ordered to Vietnam the Airmobile Division, and certain other
forces which will raise our fighting strength from 75,000 to 125,000 men,
almost immediately. Our Commander gets called by the Brigade
Commander and says: the Division has intelligence that says there
may be something up in this big ridge called Chu Pong Mountain
and it’s covered with heavy jungle. He said: we don’t know what’s there
but we think that there may be some activity, so we want you to take your battalion
and go check that out. We get on the helicopter and we fly
over the area, looking for a place big enough to land, that’s how we found
LZ-XRAY. We only have 8 helicopters, Hueys in those days
could only lift about 6 troops at a time, so, 8 x 6 is 48.
So every lift could only bring in 48 guys, so to get the battalion in there took
a couple of hours. Well we’re flying in the helicopters.
It was all done fairly low level. The chopper paws got really down low.
And you’re going fast, it’s like being in a roller coaster.
It’s a fun ride. When we landed, recon had just captured
a prisoner. And I remember, scared little skinny kid. They interrogated him and asked him:
What are you doing here? “Well, we’re here to kill Americans.”
Where’s your unit? He points to the mountain, which is
200 yards away. So that changed the plan. The most essential thing we had to do was
secure the landing zone, not lose the landing zone. Colonel Moore quickly realized that
for us it was gonna be a battle of survival. I immediately sent my first platoon
to take up the corner where the creek bed ran up into the mountain.
I started hearing rifle fire from that platoon and the enemy
starts coming in from that mountain. As soon as the last platoon landed I run down
and I start hearing machine gun fire and I run into the platoon Sargent, who is
lying on the grass, and I said: Where is Lieutenant Taft,
who was a platoon leader. And he says:
Lieutenant Taft is dead, sir. I had told my soldiers, as Hal Moore had,
that we’re not gonna leave anyone behind. So, myself and my Communications Sargent,
went forward as the fight is going on and I find Taft, but I also find another soldier
and he’s shot in the gut. Because of the heat of the moment
or whatever my mind said, we have to go get Lieutenant Taft.
So I grab Lieutenant Taft and I bring him back, but knowing
that I have to go back a second time, cause I have to bring back the other soldier.
And again, under fire, we go forward, and this time they’re throwing hand grenades
at us. We get the soldier back and the crescendo of the fight starts building up
and at that point we’re defending the creek bed, and a corner.
The enemy is coming down of Chu Pong mountain
in large numbers and running right in front of my rifle,
and we’re killing a lot of them. But during that period, B company
has a platoon that gets cut off. Hal Moore calls me on the radio and says:
we have to go out and get that platoon. I didn’t have good vibes about that.
My troops had been fighting now, pretty hard and they were tired.
For the first time ever they had the experience of seeing their
friends killed and wounded, and I thought they needed a boost.
I gave them a little pep talk about, you know, we have a platoon on B company,
they’re your friends, your buddies, we have to go out and get them.
And they responded wonderfully: Yeah, let’s go!
So, I got up on the edge of the creek bed, said “follow me” and I led the assault.
I was the first guy out. I was ready to give my life for my soldiers.
I had gone 50 meters or something, talking to my artillery forward observer,
Lieutenant Tim Blake, and he had a compass on a strap across his chest,
and I saw that compass explode, and Tim Blake drops dead.
On his side, he had a radio operator, he drops dead, on my side I had
Sargent Jack Gell, who’s a friend, he drops dead, and myself and
John Clarke, who’s standing behind me as my other radio operator, unscathed.
I always said that the machine gun hiccuped, because the “boom-boom… boom.”
We couldn’t see the enemy, if the enemy could see us.
I needed some way of hiding our movement. On my radio I called for them
to fire smoke. Unbeknownst to me, only thing we had was white phosphorous.
If phosphorous gets on you, it’ll burn right through your skin, and when I saw
that stuff go off in front of me, I thought: I’ve killed my rifle company.
I can tell you, that was the first time in the battle that I felt fear.
Fortunately, it landed and it went it made this huge, thick, dense cloud
of smoke, and we stayed out there until all my guys were back. On day number 3, word comes out,
we have to evacuate because Air Force, they’re gonna come in and they’re gonna
drop bombs all along the side of that mountain. I really hadn’t slept for two days.
The reason I’m sitting there looking at the AK is because I didn’t have enough energy
to do much anything else. We flew out and then we went to Pleiku,
just kinda the start of the recovery period. I feel the loss of all my soldiers.
When you get through all the bravado and whatever and so forth,
what you’re left with is anguish. But I have found help, and the help is:
the soldiers who fought at LZ-XRAY have been gathering together for the last
22 years and we have annual reunions where we have gotten very close.
We know each other’s families and that is a major healing event,
for not only me but for the other guys. It’s important to remember the quality of
service of these people. We took soldiers with us that had 14 days
left in the country. And several of them died there.
They sacrificed their life, not for a cause, because the fact of the matter is that
most of them didn’t give a rat’s ass whether South Vietnam was
liberated or not liberated. They were there because they were told
to go there and it was an expectation, that when your country calls, you go.

Reader Comments

  1. AARP salutes all veterans who have served our great country, thank you for all you have sacrificed:

  2. When your country calls, you go… I pray we elect leaders of our country who will choose our nations battles wisely. May the blood of our Patriots not be in vain and may the God of our fathers hold this nations leaders extremely accountable for each and every mans blood sacrifice.

  3. It has always irritated me greatly to hear WWII vets described as the “ greatest generation”. Bullshit. They went and did their duty and many ( as in all wars) went far beyond their “duty” and I have the utmost respect for them. But not an ounce more respect than I have for the men and women of my generation (No, I never served. Just a little to young. Graduated high school the month Saigon fell.) who not only did their duty and beyond but did it many of them knowing their own fellow Americans would spit on them and revile them for doing what our country sent them to do. God bless everyone of you and your families. To me, you will always be my “ greatest generation”.

  4. His last message was bullcrap 😂 when your country calls you go. The Vietnamese wasn't a threat to USA. And USA killed 4 million Vietnamese and used chemical weapons.

  5. We as regular men have lots to learn about leadership from men such as COL. TONY NADAL.. He is of a different breed of men.. In my own opinion.. God bless COL. TONY NADAL. GOD BLESS THE USA 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  6. Great story. At 4:47 it shows a soldier wearing the patch of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which means that the video is using video of the 173rd, which doesn't take anything away from the veracity of the story but having served two tours with the 173rd, I just thought it was important to point it out. Obviously I have the utmost respect for Col Moore and the 1st Cav.

  7. My own personal Vietnam'was not catching an STD from a Veitnam Veterans widow Donald drafhdodger Trump on Howard Sterns radio show giving a lesson in patriotism

  8. They should be ashamed of the Viet-Nam war and shut up . American soldiers are not heroes but genocide.

  9. "…Now.I know what Custer felt like… With all due respect sir, Custer was a pussy. .. you ain't."

    Respect. Salute.

  10. What has happened to America? I am saddened by the loss of patriotism. These brave men and all those who came before and after are the real hero's among us. Please wake up America and give these hero's the love and respect they deserve. Without these selfless warriors you would not enjoy the freedoms you take for granted.


  12. War. Soldiers killing an enemy they don't know over a bunch of people who do know each other sending a bunch of kids to fight their battles. Respect

  13. All veterans ultimately are descents of immigrants, except for African Americans and native Americans… When all is said and done we are all Americans who served OUR country

  14. My cousin died in vietnam. Respect from england for every man and woman who served and died in vietnam. God bless you all

  15. He asks the prisoner (3.22 ) what are you doing here ? I would have replied ..I live here what are you doing in my country ?

  16. In terms of political philosophy/ideology the AARP has far more in common with the Viet Cong than the First Calvary Division..

  17. I am curious about AARP, from all that I have heard you are really pro left, and if that is so……………………

  18. Let's not forget the sacrifice of the French Foreign Legion who were slaughtered here 10 years previous…

  19. I wish my dad's family knew what he sacrificed but when it came down to his death in 2005 to them and what they say and feel – "all that matters is our careers at AFLAC!" They are on the fast track to being at the top of the corporation. Soldiers, please do not support AFLAC.

  20. Ia Drang was notable as the first "major" battle of the Vietnam conflict. The ironic thing was, both sides examined the losses and tactics in the event, and came to the same conclusion – "we will win in the end".

  21. Once again an AARP "hope it sticks to the wall" La Drang was not the first battle of Vietnam. It was not the first battle. was not the second battle, not 3 or 4 .

  22. I was a young lad at the time. But I still remember the evil PROTESTERS… You know who you are.. See you in hell..

  23. 9:53++++?(you already did give your life to your soldiers answer your country say no more you don't have to do no more live a long healthy life thank you for your service my people fought make store Laos my dad HMONG WARRIORS FOUGHT TO THE ALMOST VERY END WITH KIDS FIGHTING THE WAR.

  24. Sam Worthington narrates a story of a battle between 108 Aussie soldiers and 2500 Viet soldiers. that took place in 1966 that is similar to we were soldiers

  25. To all ya'll young louts born after, say, 1995, that weird thing at 2:00 with the monochrome moving picture is called a "television set." (((o(*゚▽゚*)o)))

  26. The honor here would be reserved for the draft dodgers who refused to fight. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were killed for no reason at all.

  27. The movie also doesn't describe the ass whipping the Army got in the second battle as the book depicts! It was a total defeat for U.S. forces following the first one!

  28. To the military and political leaders of this time, they were sadly mistaken that they could win this war. If there's a lesson to be learned maybe it's this: to fight communism, don't use your young men but use aggressive economic sanctions against it. Isolate the country, let it fail on its own merits.

  29. "When your country calls, you go"
    I'm assuming his country is Vietnam then. I respect his valor and willingness to serve , but I will no longer go to foreign lands to fight people would never have shot at me had I not been there.

  30. We trained on the M-14, a very reliable and accurate rifle. Then just as we were due to go across the pond we were issued the M 16s. Anybody recall the name we gave those POS? Matty Mattel ring a bell?

  31. My deepest respect, Colonel Nadal…you and your men were truly brave soldiers ! Your country won't forget your sacrifice.

  32. Starting from 4:09 you can see a couple soldiers in frame struggling to get their jammed m16s to be operational. Its sad knowing soldiers loss their lives due to the new and inherently faulty weapon system they were issued 🙁

  33. Much respect and love for you and all your men. A fellow Gary Owen Scout. I salute all off you who went before me and all who will follow.

  34. See these clips of American man who fought and died for this Country . That's what you're suppose to do . They were and American hero 's. But there were some other s ,who I would like say something about ,it would be a disgrace to say his name with heros.All I can say is in the White House.

  35. My Father was one who made it back after Being Sent over the Border of Cambodia, off limits so it was beyond Top Secret. He was the only one to make it back alive more than a few times. I have Family that was there way before The First Battle of Nam. We don't talk about it, don't contact us.🇺🇸

  36. There was more that didn't want to go that's why they had a draft. Go to war or go to jail! My father was drafted 6 months after marrying my mother. They'll be married 50 yrs this November. Thank you for your service🙏🇺🇸

  37. "We Were Soldiers" starring Mel Gibson is my favourite Vietnam movie ever and this proves that it is probably the most accurate version version of events ever to make the big screen.

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