While earth shaking events were happening two hundred thousand miles from home or deep within the confines of Shea Stadium, men of every race, education and age group were fighting and dying 12,000 miles from home in Americas most unpopular war, Vietnam.
Today, 40 years later, writer, husband and Veteran Jack Manick reaches into his soul for one last time and completes his account of a young medic as he walked the jungles and forests of the Central Highlands of Vietnam in 1969.
While in the "Bush", he carried a pack, a medical aid bag, two knives, three grenades, a rifle, pistol and an unbreakable commitment to save the lives of his fellow soldiers, even at the cost of his own.
The story of Jack "Doc" Manick and his fellow soldiers is one of survival...survival in a country laden with malaria, crawling with venomous snakes, scorpions, rats, giant centipedes and tigers and dominated by an enemy determined "Not to lose the War!"
"Incoming...The Men of the 70th", invites you to lace up your jungle boots and take a walk with Jack through the jungles and the fields of dry grass in the Central Highlands of Vietnam in 1969.
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Read an Excerpt
Incoming the Men of the 70th
By JACK "DOC" MANICK
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Jack "Doc" Manick
All rights reserved.
The Enemy Below
"During the Vietnam War 7,013 UH-1 Helicopters served in country ... of these 3,305, were destroyed ... with a loss of life of 1,074 Huey pilots and 1,103 crew members."
Bright green tracers penetrated the "Triple Canopy" and followed us like a cat drawn to a fleeing mouse. Slowly at first, then in an ever-increasing staccato, the deadly steel-jacketed rounds zeroed in on us and began punching holes in the body of our Huey ... tearing off golf ball sized chunks of cast aluminum from the superstructure and sending them shooting in all directions.
I wondered how much punishment our chopper could absorb before a vital component was hit, sending us plunging to our deaths in the jungle below. The time for negative thoughts however, had long since passed ... "my only concern was to pick up the wounded and keep them alive until we reached the safety of a medical facility."
Scanning the dense foliage below, I looked for signs of an unseen enemy ... a glimmer of light from a fixed bayonet or possibly a gun barrel that's bluing had long since worn off ... but what I saw was nothing!
Our altitude was somewhat over 100 meters, well above the tops of the highest trees, yet somehow the bullets zeroed in on us with deadly accuracy. I felt like the unwilling target in a Fourth of July Shooting Gallery.
Below us, combat engineers worked feverously, clearing away jungle and trees in an effort to build an emergency Landing Zone (LZ) for us. In the span of a few minutes, they had set out C-4 Plastic Explosives and "Det Cord" against all trees and brush within the proposed new LZ. It was a frantic battle, a battle against time and an enemy determined to destroy us.
"Fire in the hole ... Fire in the hole" rang out over the radio of our chopper just as the explosives below detonated in a massive, ear shattering, heart-pounding explosion. The result was an area, 50 meters in diameter and free of any objects that could cause a potential problem for a helicopter landing.
Somewhere below us, the 311 NVA Battalion was engaged in a desperate battle with Delta Company of the First Infantry Division and B Company of the 70th Combat Engineer Battalion. The engagement was a pointless and wasteful struggle of men and material for a plot of land that had zero value to either side save the price in lives that men were willing to pay for it.
Within seconds, the radio in our chopper sprang to life again ... "bring in the Medivac ... I say again bring in the Medivac! The LZ is hot ... I say again the LZ is hot." The hot referred not to the steamy 100 plus degree ambient temperature in the Landing Zone below us but rather the intensity of the direct incoming fire from the enemy. We had come into hot LZ's before, but never one taking such intense fire.
"Mike Echo Six Niner, be aware, we have control over less than 50 % of the area surrounding the LZ," the RTO (Radio Telephone Operator) on the ground barked out into his PRIC 25 Radio. His voice was clear and concise yet embedded within it was a sense of urgency and yes ... even fear.
"Shit," I quietly mumbled to myself, as a cold shiver ran down the length of my body. I never believed much in organized religion, but maybe this was a message to me from a higher power telling me that something bad was about to happen.
Our Huey suddenly started taking a terrible pounding from enemy fire. Red and Orange lights on the pilot's console suddenly came to life, blinking on and off in rapid succession ... warning us of impending disaster.
In an effort to minimize exposure to enemy fire, our pilot decided to approach the newly created LZ at a higher rate of speed than normal, then dive down into it at a steep angle and pull up just before hitting the ground. It was a risky move, but given the damage that we continued to sustain, a worthwhile one.
I could feel us pick up air speed then suddenly the pilot pushed the nose over into a steep dive. I felt like I was on an E-Ticket Ride at Palisades Park. I could feel the G forces on my body pushing me back into the aluminum-framed seat. As we approached the ground below, we leveled out and went into a hover. "Holy Shit," I thought, "we made it"!
Nearing the ground, I could see scores of men, wrapped in blood soaked bandages sitting, standing and laying around the outer edges of the LZ ... but there were too many of them ... far more than our chopper could hold.
Behind the wounded were the dead, covered in ponchos. The hurricane like force of our helicopter blades blew the ponchos off them, revealing a macabre like setting of mangled bodies, lost lives and unfulfilled hopes. Other choppers would later take out the dead, but for now, the living came first.
As the landing skids on our Huey hit the ground, the wounded were quickly brought to us ... some on litters, some carried by comrades and others helped by soldiers on either side of them.
On the ground, chaos reigned! Men were running in every direction. The sound of gunfire was everywhere, along with explosions from enemy B-40 rockets, hand thrown grenades, LAW (light Antitank Weapon) Rockets and rounds from our M-79 grenade launchers. Within seconds, our Medivac was loaded with wounded and dying but as fate would have it, we were overloaded beyond our maximum lift capacity.
In other words, we could not take off!
I knew, as did the pilot and copilot that with such a staggering weight on board, we would never lift off the ground but first we had to try. Pulling slowly upwards on the Collective stick with his right hand, the pilot tried to coax the UH1-D upwards. The engines moaned and groaned and strained as they tried to overcome the laws of physics that controlled the situation, but it was not to be. We were pinned to the ground as surely as if we had been welded to fixed metal structures whose roots were buried deep within the Vietnamese earth.
The co-pilot turned to me and started yelling something into the intercom built into his helmet. I saw him mouth the words but heard nothing but static and the background noise of the engines through mine. Designed to drown out 90% of all external noise (specifically the engine noise) and allow us to communicate freely, the intercom system had suffered a catastrophic failure ... probably a machine gun round from below.
In our down time at Camp Coryell, we practiced and practiced and practiced for catastrophic failure scenarios including loss of the intercom. Reading lips was one of them and it proved to be a basic skill that was difficult to master. We believed that the odds of ever having to use it were near zero. We were wrong!
Armed combat has a way of turning the unexpected into the expected and of separating the fool and coward from the everyday hero!
I pointed at my helmet and shook my head from side to side, indicating that I could not hear him.
Watching his lips, I could make out the words "too much weight", then he held up four fingers indicating four men. We had to lighten our load by removing some of the wounded, but which ones.
The wounded were stuffed into our chopper like sardines in a can ... many were critically wounded. The decision on who would stay and who would have to get off fell clearly on my shoulders ... a responsibility I did not take lightly.
Seeing the co-pilots gesture, three of the wounded quickly slid off the skids of the chopper onto the ground and hobbled off into the battle that surrounded us. It was a selfless act of bravery ... sacrificing themselves for their buddies. It was but one of many that I would witness this day.
We were, however, still one man heavy and since there was no time to re-evaluate the medical conditions of those onboard, I made a drastic decision ... I would stay behind.
I yelled into the microphone in my helmet to the pilot and copilot that I would give up my spot, forgetting that the intercom was dead. The pilot pointed to his helmet and shook his head. I then pointed at myself and pointed at the ground indicating that I would stay.
Reluctantly, the pilot agreed and shook his head to indicate so. "Good luck" he mouthed. I would certainly need it!
I grabbed my aid bag, ammo, rifle and pack, jumped off and gave the pilot the thumbs up signal. I wondered if I had made the right decision. Only time and God could answer that question.
The engines revved up and this time Huey # NP667 started to lift off. Within seconds, my ride home cleared the treetops and disappeared. A big lump formed in my throat. I was now part of a major battle for yet another piece of worthless ground.
I quickly put on my gear and moved into the thick undergrowth just outside the LZ. Suddenly, from behind me, I felt a tap on my shoulder. "Shit!" I thought it was an NVA. I turned quickly in that direction with my finger now on the trigger of my M-2 Carbine and started applying pressure to it. What I saw was the smiling face of a sergeant from the 1st Infantry who immediately pushed the barrel of my rifle away from his chest.
"No more choppers coming in here Doc," he said. "It's too hot. We're pulling in both units to a tighter perimeter, then we're gonna call in air strikes."
"We've got wounded out here," he said, "our medic is dead and we need your help."
"OK," I yelled out, trying to make my voice heard over the deafening noise of gunfire, death and pain. We made a mad dash to an area about fifty yards away, where the wounded had been moved.
They were scattered everywhere ... wrapped and covered with blood soaked bandages. Some grimaced and screamed in pain while others lay quiet and motionless as the forces of life slowly ebbed from their bodies and souls.
Amidst all of the horror, screaming and dying, my mind flipped from kill and survive mode, to "Back Home Mode." It wasn't a conscious choice on my part but suddenly I flashed back to the woods behind my grandparent's house in Iselin New Jersey in 1964. There, I spent many wonderful hours playing with friends or just by myself. It was there that I caught my first fish in the creek that flowed from Colonia thru to Iselin. It was a beautiful and natural setting. Hardwood trees with large green leaves were everywhere. It would have made an ideal setting for a picnic with the family or a girlfriend.
Seconds later, I flashed back to the reality of warfare and realized that the trees that surrounded me might help save my life by slowing down any bullets with my name on them, transforming a kill shot into a wound shot ... at least that's what I hoped.
Six months earlier, I had volunteered to extend my Tour of Duty for an additional seven months. I wanted to fly Medivacs and I wanted to get out of the army early but most of all, I wanted a British Sports Car!
It was a decision made by a twenty two year old, obsessed with owning a Red or British Racing Green sports car. I calculated that even after sending most of my paycheck home during my first tour that I would be short on money to buy my Triumph.
I was determined to make enough extra money in Vietnam, possibly save a few more lives and return to civilian life with a brand new sports car ... you know that low slung, five-speed sex machine that was a chick magnet.
As a medic onboard a chopper, I would earn flight pay in addition to combat and base pay. "What a deal, I thought ... after only 18 months in Nam I would have enough money for my hot new car. Wow ... Holy shit!
What could possibly go wrong, after all, I had conquered my fear of death during my first tour so this should be a cakewalk. In my haste to "sign my extension papers," I neglected to factor in the NVA and VC into my "Sports Car Acquisition Equation"!
The enemy was everywhere; there was "nowhere to go and no place to hide." The fighting was all around me. There was no front and no rear to this engagement. If I was a negative thinking guy, I might have classified this as being a "Custer's Last Stand" Scenario.
The wounded were scattered everywhere. I went from man to man, looking at their wounds and how they were bandaged. At Fort Sam during medical training, we were required to make out a medical tag for each wounded man such that when that wounded soldier reached the next level of medical support, usually a field hospital, the nature of the wounds, the treatment and any drugs(morphine) given would be written out.
It was a brilliant idea, but in this combat situation, it was a waste of time. In the time it takes to make out a med card, a medic can be treating multiple patients. The decision to tag or not tag a man was the medic's decision. I was never forced to make the distinction between seriously wounded and walking wounded; the wounded made that decision for me.
The walking wounded asked for nothing more than a bandage and a return to the fighting. We all recognized that in this engagement, every man played a critical role in determining how many of us would survive.
Based on the number of casualties that I saw and the ferocity of the firing around me, I knew that this might well be the last day on earth for many of us, including me.
The word passed quickly from man to man ... we were completely surrounded!
I grouped the most seriously wounded together in one small opening in the undergrowth. Surrounding them were six guards, six guards to protect those who could no longer defend themselves.
The medical supplies that I carried with me as I left the chopper barely scratched the surface of what I needed to treat so many wounded.
A hand on my shoulder and a concerned look on the first sergeants face told me the situation was worsening. "Doc, they're breaking through ... defend yourself!!!!
I turned my attention from the wounded and reached down for my M-2 carbine. It was loaded with two 30 round magazines taped back to back and I had already chambered a round but had purposely left the safety on.
Crouching down into an almost kneeling position, I changed my concentration to the jungle that surrounded me. Small arms fire around me intensified and I knew that the enemy was close ... probably only a few yards away, but I could see nothing beyond a few pitiful feet to my front. I could feel the adrenalin pumping thru my body and setting off heightened levels of sight and sound awareness in me. It did one other thing to me also; it pissed me off!
I raised my rifle in the direction of the heaviest small arms firing, switched off the safety and pushed the selective fire switch forward into the "Auto" position changing my semi-auto rifle into a machine gun. It was my intention to loose as much firepower at the enemy as soon as I could. It had to be a confirmed sighting, however, and not just sounds or the movement of bushes for it was my guess that the enemy troops and ours were now intermixed ... a no win situation for either side.
Suddenly on my left, only a few yards away, a small group of NVA burst out of the undergrowth and headed straight for us.
I fired an extended burst of about ten rounds, dropping all but three of them. Ak47 rounds tore up the ground around me as the NVA came ever closer. More enemy to the right ... I then fired a longer burst, maybe 15 rounds or so.
Suddenly, an explosion knocked me off my feet. I felt a burning sensation in my left leg and knew at once that I was hit. Looking down I saw that the color on my left pant leg had changed from green to a dull red as blood was oozing from my leg. There were a couple of small punctures in my ripstop nylon pants just above the knee. I saw no other evidence of a wound, so I removed my survival knife and ripped open the pant leg just above the wound just to be sure that there wasn't a more severe wound that I had missed. There wasn't!
I reached up to the first aid pack that was attached to my web harness, ripped it open and placed the bandage over the oozing blood. Then I tied it tightly to my leg. I was good to go.
Excerpted from Incoming the Men of the 70th by JACK "DOC" MANICK. Copyright © 2013 Jack "Doc" Manick. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter Zero: The Enemy Below.................... 1
Chapter One: Fort Dix.................... 12
Chapter Two: I'd rather die than take that pill.................... 38
Chapter Three: Pee and Poop.................... 43
Chapter Four: Operation Foamie.................... 47
Chapter Five: I shoulda died.................... 52
Chapter Six: Nickel Bags.................... 79
Chapter Seven: Things to Look For.................... 82
Chapter Eight: Shake Me Wake Me.................... 85
Chapter Nine: Donut Dollies.................... 88
Chapter Ten: Physician Heal Thyself.................... 91
Chapter Eleven: Chow.................... 94
Chapter Twelve: Ambush in the Valley of Death.................... 100
Chapter Thirteen: Ratus Ratus.................... 110
Chapter Fourteen: Woof Woof.................... 112
Chapter Fifteen: Stupid Kills.................... 114
Chapter Sixteen: Mama San.................... 118
Chapter Seventeen: The Ride Home.................... 120
Chapter Eighteen: Fort Riley.................... 129
Chapter Nineteen: Operation Reforger 2.................... 136
Chapter Twenty: Of Times Lost and deeds Forgotten.................... 144
Chapter Twenty-One: We Made It.................... 146
Chapter Twenty-Two: The Letter.................... 147
Chapter Twenty-Three: Best Friends.................... 152
Chapter Twenty-Four: Walk a Mile in Our Boots.................... 158
Chapter Twenty-Five: Harold and David Kelley.................... 159
Chapter Twenty-Six: Kenneth Feador.................... 181
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Ralph E Alverson.................... 195
Chapter Twenty-Eight: John A Moede.................... 209
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Larry Ray Harris.................... 218
Chapter Thirty: Van S Shipe.................... 221
Chapter Thirty-One: Ted Day.................... 230
Chapter Thirty-Two: Robert D Stubblefield (Stubby).................... 237
Chapter Thirty-Three: James Denison.................... 245
Chapter Thirty-Four: Henry Mobley.................... 273
Chapter Thirty-Five: Denny Killday.................... 288
Chapter Thirty-Six: Vincent Acosta.................... 296
Chapter Thirty-Seven: Joe King.................... 297
Chapter Thirty-Eight: Mike Gaskins.................... 300
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Wayne Henry.................... 303
Chapter Fourty: Harold Guy.................... 305
Final Thoughts.................... 307
To my fellow Vietnam Vets.................... 309
About the author.................... 313
About this Book.................... 315