Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Jocko Podcast 149 with Jim and James Webb: Fields Of Fire. US Marine Corps

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this is Jocko podcast number 149 with Echo Charles and me Jacques are willing

good evening echo good evening all my life I've waited for this now

I've joined you and your losses are a strength to me I eke and yet I know that

Alec retched with pain on the dust road that went to Corinth I breathed the dust

and yet I know that grandpa breathed the gas that made a hero out of Pershing I

flinch when bullets tear the air in angry rents and yet I know that father

and three farmer boys at Pickett's Charge felt a cutting edge that dropped

them dead how can I be bitter you are my strength you ghosts and I have learned

those things those esoteric skills and knowledge --is that mark me as one of

you that loose bowel piles of shit too much shit from overeating plopped

randomly around the outer dikes of a vill mean trouble catching the aroma

seeing the groupings watching flies dance lazily rejoicing in their latest

fetid morsel that bends the low grass and a muddy glob like a bomb of cow dung

trouble I can tell from the crack of a rifle shot

the type of weapon fired and what direction the bullet is traveling I can

listen to a mortar pop and know its size how far away it is

I know instinctively when I should prep a tree line with artillery before I move

into it I know which draws and fields should be crossed on line which should

be assaulted and which are safe to cross and column I know where to

place my men when we stop and form a perimeter I can shoot a rifle and throw

a grenade and direct air and artillery onto any target under any circumstances

I can dress any type of wound I have dressed all types of wounds watered

protruding intestines with my canteen to keep them from cracking under sun-baked

patched sucking chest with plastic tied off stumps with field expedient

tourniquets I can call in medevac helicopters talk them cajole them dare

them into any zone I do these things experience these things repeatedly daily

their terrors and miseries are so compelling and yet so regular that I

have ascended to a high emotion that is nonetheless a crusted numbness I am an

automaton bent on survival agent and prisoner of my misery how terribly

exciting and how to what purpose will these skills serve me when this madness

ends what lies on the other side of all this it frightens me I haven't thought

about it I haven't prepared for it I am so good so ready for these things that

were my birthright I do not enjoy them I know they have warped me but it will be

so hard to deal or the life empty of them and there are the daily sufferings

you ghosts have known them but who else I can sleep in the rain wrapped inside

my poncho listening to the drops beat on the rubber like small explosions then

feel the water pour into rivulets inside my poncho soaking me as I lie in the mud

I can live in the dirt sit and lie and sleep in the dirt

it is my chair and my bed my floor and my walls this clay and like all of you I

have endured diarrhea as only an animal should endure it squatting a yard off

the trail and relieving myself unceremoniously naturally animal II

deprivation zuv food festering open sores worms heat aching crotch that nags

for fulfillment any emptying hole that will relieve it who appreciates my

sufferings who do I suffer for and that right there is a excerpt from a book

that is called fields of fire and it was written after the Vietnam War by a

Marine who served there in this book paints a picture of of combat and in

fact it actually does more than that because a picture and no pictures

supposed to paint a thousand words or say a thousand words but pictures don't

always properly convey thoughts and emotions you need words to make that

happen and and this book really captures all of it horror fear disgust love hate

indifference the chaos of combat the sorrow of loss heroism and of course in

all that human nature and as I always say about this podcast while yes it is

about war it's about leadership and it's about atrocities and it's about to

struggle it is most importantly it's about human nature and on top of that

the credible power of the human will and

this book fields of fire gives us a very close examination of human nature in all

of its glory and of course in all of its horror

as well and the book was written by a man by the name of James Webb who was a

Marine officer in Vietnam recipient of the Navy Cross former secretary the Navy

former senator from the great state of Virginia he's written a bunch of other

books ten I believe he's written and produced movies all kinds of stuff on

top of that he's has five children if I'm correct one of those children Jim

also served in the Marine Corps and it was actually whose time in Ramadi

overlapped with my time in Ramadi where he served as a as a 311 rifleman as a

member of the one six Marines and also as a radio men in stay platoon so it's

awesome to read these books and know their history and it's even more awesome

and an absolute honor to have with us here today the author of the book fields

of fire and also his son so sir thank you for coming Jim thank you for coming

thank you thank you for having us I was kind of wondering because you've

you know James and Jim and I decided when I was trying to figure out what to

call you guys I figured I'd call you young Jim Jim and I just keep calling

you sir

easier so yeah I can't thank you guys enough for coming all for coming all the

way out here from the east coast and to come on this and for me to revisit fuel

to fire which is just a a book and we'll get into that a little bit later it's an

iconic book about not just the Vietnam War but really about war and

the wave laid it out and again we'll get into that a little bit but I also wanted

to talk to you and really get some of your back story as well and your

upbringing you know we always try and start with the guest kind of talking

about where they came from and what their background was and you have a lot

of that actually laid out in your memoir so I was gonna ask if it's cool to call

this a memoir but there it says it on the cover a memoir I heard my country

calling and I guess what one little section of this that stuck out at me and

I think you know obviously will let you expand on it but I'm going to the book

so again this book is called I heard my country calling and here we go back to

the book when it hurts just grit your teeth and take it don't don't you ever

back down never start a fight but if somebody else does never run away if you

run from a bully you'll never stop running but if you fight you won't risk

coming back at you again stand up fight back mark him give him

something to remember every morning when he looks in the mirror then even if you

lose you win and by the way if you ever run from a fight I will personally beat

your ass and you go on my father was not exactly a mellow guy he did not spare

the rod but he taught me early that there is no substitute for moral courage

whatever the cost and that the ultimate duty of every leader is to take care of

the people who rely on him when otherwise they would be forgotten or

abandoned courage in the face of those above you and loyalty to put to those

below you were my father's in alterable standards the only true way to measure

the worth of another human being so there you go those are some those are

some standards your dad laid out for you he was a tough guy he was a tough guy

you know I listening do you read the the excerpt from fields of fire I was just

thinking about how long it has been in the journey that

had since I wrote those words in learning I think we were talking about

this last night learning how to write by writing this novel writing a novel was

an act of will for a lot of different reasons and one of the things when when

I think about growing up and our family was my dad was a leader more than

anything he was a leader and you know bit different families have different

conversations when when you're sitting around the dinner table but his was

always you know he would talk about different issues but it was always how

do you lead how do you motivate people one of his slogans was you can make

people do something or you can make people want to do something and so in a

nutshell you know learning from him you know he was a career military person he

enlisted in World War two became a bomber pilot b-17 b-29s and was in

Berlin Airlift and when I was very young and was transitioning into jets for the

Korean War and the air pressure and the cockpit blew out the jetblue's eardrums

out he got grounded I'll never forget that day when he came home when he he

couldn't fly anymore we were getting worried for him to walk

into the door and my mom says it took your dad's wings away don't ever mention

it he walked in and he was still wearing his wings you know once you qualified

that hey hey don't take off and so first thing I said to him was hey Dad you they

let you keep your wings he's upstairs Saturday but then he was a pioneer in

the muscle program still didn't have a college degree put the first atlas in

for the Air Force and one of the one of the great things to observe as a

teenager was when they gave him a command of an atlas Thor Scout junior

and missile squadron the D success rate on the Atlas at this time out of

Vandenberg we had opened up Vandenberg it was a 85,000 acre wilderness when I

first went out there in eighth grade but the success rate and that squadron was

11% and he made it 100% 12 out of 12 successful launches and I'd go with him

out to the the pads don't you know when I'm 1617 and watch how he dealt with his

people wait you just trumped cuz iris talk about how I bring my I used to

bring my son out to the training grounds and let him shoot machine guns and stuff

but you your dad brought you out let you shoot missiles let me watch YouTube you

just trumped me ya know you could back then you know I could go sit at senator

block house like a thousand yards away from where one of these Atlas was born

but watch and how he treated his people and on a you know he'd been deployed a

lot when he went back into the mill he got ripped at the end of World War two

because he didn't have a college degree that when they brought him back in they

was either deployed or stationed at bases that did not have military housing

for three and a half years and we were up in Saint Joe massara where I was born

my father's family had come in from the Appalachian Mountains and ended up in

st. Joe my mother was from East Arkansas very she had a very tough life

early life three of our seven siblings had died of childhood disease the kinds

of things you don't even see anymore like her her sister that was nearest to

her died of typhoid fever when's the last time we seen American with typhoid

fever so we were up in st. Joan Nazira my mother had four kids by the time she

was 24 years old and my dad was gone and she didn't know hardly anybody in st.

Joe Missouri and we didn't have these Family Assistance Programs like they do

now and it's been one of the great privileges of my life to try to put

those into into our military so my grandmother moved in she was living out

in Arkansas I mean from Arkansas to take California and came up and lived with us

for several years and there was an iron hand in the house but you know my dad

would come back he'd leave Friday night get off work at at one point the Scott

Air Force Base Illinois Drive 380 miles one way every weekend no interstates you

know Drive all night Friday night show up we never knew what time Saturday

morning but he'd be in there was with my mom said he born raised hell

Friday afternoon you get in the car and drive back but his example taught me

more about the axioms of leadership than anything I

learned anywhere else and being able to apply it in the Marine Corps which you

know was one of the great prides of my life was really an extension of what

he'd put on the table day in a day out and you know I like Jim got the new son

Jim got to know you know his grandfather my dad very well we spend a lot of time

fishing hunting we're an outdoor family and we've had same kind of a few

thousand hours of discussions I think I mean yeah you can very easily say that

the passage you read would qualify as the eleventh commandment in our

household growing up I was passed down to him in the past down to me very very

very simply never walk away from a fight I've never start a fight but never walk

away from one never quit and you'll be judged how you treat those around you

and it's uh it's it's it's it's been one of those things I've kept with me my

entire life and it's I was lucky to have that kind of formative influence at a

very young age and I love the Marine Corps myself but everything I've learned

about leadership is from him and being around his platoon growing up and it's

absolute blessing yeah that's that's awesome I know and we talked about this

a little bit last night I would have guys that are concerned that hey I'm not

around I got you know two kids and I'm doing another deployment and and you

know I always would tell guys look guys have been I don't know what you call it

in you know Viking years or whatever but I

don't if they called it a deployment back then but guys have been going on

deployment and leaving their families for thousands and thousands of years and

and that to me is an example it's it's that you might not be there to directly

influence your kid on a day-to-day basis but the when a young man looks up or a

kid looks up and sees hey this is what hard work is this is what commitment is

this is this is what sacrifice is and they can emulate that you don't have to

be there every day to instruct them in every single little thing that they do

and I mean clearly both of you are examples of that you can turn out just

fine even if dad isn't around every night

you know when I was really when I was really young and he was deployed the

Berlin Airlift age I used to go to bed every night with a picture of him on the

runway and the flight line that Air Force Public Affairs had taken with him

and his first sergeant and some visiting general I still had a picture over my

desk today but that was you know that was a good night dad

you know and you look at that and you you gain an understanding of what it

means to serve and what what your country is all about and you know

serving your country and those sorts of things the one thing I would say was my

dad really didn't want me to go in the Marine Corps he from the job that we

were just talking about you know when he had the missile squadron he had gone to

night school for 26 years he graduated from college my senior in high school he

made it was deep selected for colonel and then they sent him to the Pentagon

to do legislative affairs and it was the McNamara era and he would just he would

just you'd go crazy about the whiz kids who were running the Vietnam War and and

we would have these long discussions about you know you're you're just gonna

be meat you know you're gonna be meat you do them the Marine Corps is a

political football don't do it his line was go in the Navy stay on the ship eat

ice cream and you know when I went in the Marine Corps it was like oh man and

then when my brother went in the Marine Corps my brother was at Huey pilot in

the Marine Corps it was like my boys are Marines you know going back to your

childhood a little bit you talk about how you moved around a ton

growing up I mean you sound like your dad was a little bit of a habitual house

mover even when you get somewhere he would move you know you're talking about

you you were in England you live in three hats three different houses and it

seemed like everywhere you you went you would move around a lot and one of the

things you say about that in the book is I'm going back to the book here I not

only learned how to read a room but by necessity became an acute observer of

subtle body language of each new tribal circle in each place I learned valuable

distinctions that helped me to develop skills and insights that carried over

into leadership challenges during during my later life in order to lead

people you must first motivate them in order to motivate them

you must understand them in order to understand them you must be able to

grasp not simply their words but the emotion behind their words the same

words and gestures can have vastly different intentions in Alabama and

Southern California and Nebraska and sometimes even within the same town I be

a receiver of information as well as a careful broadcaster so absolutely you

know and first of all with with my dad moving you know we I think the longest

way we lived in a house was like 17 months while I was growing up you know

if part of it was that you know the Scotch Irish tradition uh the Ulster

Scots that settled the Appalachian Mountains and then spread further west

and you know they're there they like to say you know you you haven't you don't

stop moving - you've lived in at least two or three houses there's something

over the mountain that you haven't seen yet and yeah that literally yeah we got

we got you know the does post-world War two military was you know it was still

solid sort of reseating itself in terms of having large standing military and

where the missions were going to be with the space program on stuff missile

program going on so yeah we buy a necessity moved a lot but then you know

we'd get in the house Amarillo Texas women Amarillo Texas one year would have

been three different houses that's a you know I saw one now there's someone got

their own Sun set on what sets in Street we're gonna move in that house so my

brother and I we lived on the back porch do you know there with the the windows

rattling you know etcetera but as we were destiny either become Marines or

start a moving company really so then there was an upside of the downside of

that and that is you know academically I went to any nine different public

schools in five years at one point three different schools in eighth grade no you

know continuum in academic and curriculum when I started in the eighth

grade that was in Santa Maria California when they started first opened up

Vandenberg they tested the whole class they took four of us they put us in

different really is it like the beginning of GT you know

or whatever you know you're gonna you're going to be like an experiment you're

gonna grow it academically at your own rate by the time I got one two three

like the fifth school in Nebraska I was on non college prep work release get

this guy out of here you know let us go an hour early and I went to work now I

can always take a standardized test and that's really how I was able to get into

the scholarship program that later led me to go to to the Naval Academy but the

most important lesson from all of that was I was able to see such a

cross-section of America first in the military you know the military was the

first institution in the country that was racially integrated and we had a

totally different environment than if I had grown up in East Arkansas or

somewhere else but also so many different communities and you walk in

and you're the new guy and you read the room and you figure out where the

problem is but you also as you know from from from the quote that you read you

learn that a big part of leadership is knowing what motivates people and

understanding that different things motivate different people not only

culturally but individually and so sort of figuring out what you know what a

person is thinking when they are saying certain things do what body language

means etc and you translate that into the combat environment particularly in

in Vietnam during the Vietnam War when when I was there and we had an

incredible cross-section particularly of the the working side of American society

and and I by that time I'd been a boxer for eight years I've been around a you

know a lot of African Americans my hero uh and when I was in high school as an

African American incredible fighter once the Olympics in 1964 but the Hispanic

communities California the farming communities the southern you know the

southern mentality of which my culture derived and so when you look at a

problem you look at a problem you know I got cat ones I got

cat fours in terms of you know the testing scores of people out there you

learn how to how to listen and then how to make decisions and how to preclude a

lot of problems that were going on we had racial problems and in the military

writ large during that period we our society had these problems I never had a

racial problem and any unit I commanded did you know what one of the things that

while you were jumping from school to school that was problematic although you

would learn in this stuff about human nature and the way people are you know

one part of the book here you say from from the time I was 10 my dad had

challenged me to read a book a week and if and if that did not remedy my

restlessness to try and read two books a week read read read he urged me and I

had including poetry fiction history and anything I get my hands on that was

about sports or the military the you read that much as a young kid constantly

and I thought really saved me in terms of the you know the differing standards

and whatever in the in the schools that I was going to and the other thing that

my dad and I would do from the time I was very young was have poetry contests

you know he was a big big reader too and so you know all the way through his his

lifetime we would do that even you know up until you know very soon before he

passed away we would go every summer we'd get the the males in the family of

the different generations get a fishing camp in Minnesota for two weeks and hang

out build fire goof around catch fish clean fish talk talk talk and my dad and

I would always we do Kipling or we do the British in the Irish poets and you

know one of us had give a line and another would give another line to see

who really remembered you know and I always knew when I was I in high school

when he when he was wanting to go go up to Minnesota even at that point because

he would go and he'd start talking to my mother

this one is one poem called to you through the wind do you fear the force

of the wind the slash of the rain go face it and fight it be savage again I'm

going go cold and hungry like a wolf I'm okay I think we're going

to Minnesota enough yeah and and you also say in a book I knew and as I had

always known that I was born to be a Salter growing up you know we were and

then still are an outdoors family hunt fish shoo

you know I taught Jim from the time he was sick Gemstar to 26 years old I got

my first rifle when I was eight years old it was a part of a long going

tradition from the Pioneer a pioneer days you know here's your here's your

rifle I loved being an outdoors and I love all of the mechanics of that part

of the world and of course at that time post-world War two you turn on a TV in a

weekend and you've got victory at sea and you know air power and all these

shows and I loved military history I've watched this stuff and I said I I knew

I'm going to be a soldier and I didn't know at that time really it was a it was

a close call in high school what I go in army or would I be a Marine I wanted to

do that and when I got to I didn't know what college was we do it was not part

of our family heritage at that time you know directly going to college and

figuring out what school you should go to and those sorts of thing so I went at

remember when I was fourteen years old with my dad and I said dad I want to I

want to be a soldier said go to college I said what are you doing College he

says you're going to be an engineer us of what our engineers do he said they

invent things I said I don't want to invent anything that's right I want to

go in the woods I don't want to leave people I know and so I found out that

the Navy had this ROTC scholarship this first scholarship full scholarship

program because I could not have gotten the Naval Academy out of out of high

school my grades weren't that great you know the other things I had in place I

think but the army did not have an ROTC scholarship at that time they had a

program where after two years you could utiful scholarship that you only had a

partial at the beginning so I I applied to the Navy scholarship

program at that time you took a standardized test and anybody who passed

a standardized test got into the interview process and you could go make

your case so I went it was the school that was heavily military kids in us in

a school we had 12 people from our school who passed the tests and got into

the the interviews our valedictorian salutatorian Allstate basketball player

all district football player and me it's like hey pump your gas yeah come see me

fight and I really lucked out because the two interviewers the first one was a

Mustang commander who had seen me fight and just totally by coincidence the name

was commander Lassiter he says you know where have I seen you before and uh

wouldn't me and he talked about what do you want to do as I want to do this this

is what I want to do he says what are you gonna do if you don't get it I said

I'm gonna be here next year you know if you you know if I don't get it this year

I'll be here next year and we you know we talked about working through high

schools I worked all through high school and he would come after this he'd come

over I was packing groceries at the Base commissary he'd come by and say hello

and the second interviewer was a Naval Academy graduate who had graduated in

the bottom 2/3 of his class and from from South Dakota and he was saying we

don't we got enough brains in this world we need leaders and he threw examples

out you know like things are not supposed to be able to solve you

probably know this from different interviews you went through and in your

time in the Navy so he goes we got all this mud in the Mississippi River what

are we gonna do about the mud and Mississippi River and I said commander

I've been thinking about this I said look you know here's what you do you

shut that river down for eight hours a day and you run a big like a screen

through there like a filter big filter on on a rotator and on each end you put

like a car wash you know with a the sprays and so you run you run the

filters through and you spray the the mud out and you put it in a

culvert and get a truck under there I said captain that's top soil send it

back up and sell it back to the farmers yes I know okay and so I got the

scholarship and when you you mentioned fighting and you mentioned boxing and

you know that you mentioned it a couple times and well obviously I like fighting

and one of the things I mean I always I'm more of a jiu-jitsu player but the

things that jiu-jitsu teaches you about life and about everything really and I

know a lot of those similar lessons come from boxing you had a nice little lob

nice little thing about boxing in here and I just wanted to throw it out there

before we jump too much further cuz you know boxing stays with you through your

through you through your Naval Academy a career and whatnot

but um here we go back to the book boxing and the rough-hewn world in which

the sport resided taught me valuable lessons about human struggle and the

thin line between success and failure in the ring you quickly learned that life

was not always fair and that it's not always offer you a face-saving time out

when things were going badly once the bell rang you're out there by yourself

exposed for all the world to see until it rang again

no excuses no sitting out for a couple of players just because somebody hit you

so hard you couldn't see straight and your toes felt numb when you know my

kids were competing jiu-jitsu a lot when they were little and and I would see

these kids and we'd go to these tournaments and jiu-jitsu tournaments

are very popular especially out here in California at that time and they're

popular everywhere now but I would notice that when a kid loses you know

because my kids played all kinds of sports whatever soccer and basketball

and this and that the kid if the team loses the soccer game the kids you know

they walk off the field when a kid loses the jiu-jitsu match and this is just not

just my kids but like 90% of kids when they lose that jiu-jitsu match when

they're 6 years old when they're 7 years old they're gonna start crying and it

you know it made sense to me instantly there's two parts of it that make sense

to me number one they're by themselves there's no one to blame it's not anyone

else's fault on the team it's just them number two when you get beat in a come

in a combat sport it's there's there's a a primal thing that you just realize you

got beat by another human being in this game and and it's not a game and so it's

it's like you said it's like there's no there's no way out of it and for me

those lessons that people take away from combat sports are extremely important

and it's the things that you just talked about right here the absolutely and on a

number of different levels you know and and one thing about well first of all on

one thing about judo and jujitsu is you know when I was a kid I used to read a

lot and read a lot about Asian history and you know you learn the the Japanese

philosophy behind it which is to take your opponent's strength and use it

against him you know and it was just a kind of a different thing than boxing

but I've always thought about that you know and in other areas of my life I've

thought about that and in terms of boxing you know you never know who the

judges are you know and one you know you you're absolutely right I mean nothing

nothing is worse than losing when it's just you out there if it was a team out

there you know you've got you got people you can pat on the back and whatever but

it's just you or as one of the great fighters in Omaha when I was fight and

used to say it's just you and other guy and all that smoke but so you you learn

to deal with in the other one when I say that you know maybe you may perceive

unfairness you know you you alright you know I think I won that fight but you

can't talk about it for the rest of your life you just say alright you got it you

got to swallow it and you got to say that was that and the other thing is you

have to prepare you know when you when you say I'm gonna you know like 1516

years I could I could be fighting in front of 3,000 people you know omaha's

and then I have a lot going on and a winner and if we you know was cold and

they come into the Coliseum and watch butts and they're good fighters you know

really go mad Omaha good fighters impact including a

professional stable as well but yeah I'm gonna be in

front of 3,000 people and I don't want to look like an ass you know and so you

put it on yourself you put Preparation on yourself which

actually is a great learning tool for being a writer you know you you may

think you're working hard or you may think you're just passing the time but

when the book comes out you're gonna be exposed to all these reviews and that

sort of stuff you know so and also it's kind of interesting cuz I was just

talking to a friend of mine who is in in government right now who was a very fine

football player and we were comparing he was talk about how hard it was to deal

with a certain individual because he'd been a wrestler and he didn't understand

how you know you get the team around you to solve these problems well you know

you learn to step forward and take responsibility for solutions you know if

you're in an individual sport I mean they probably more than any other kind

of a sport you know it's like alright this is what I believe and this is what

I've got to fight for and if we lose we lose but this is what we're going to do

and in my life combining that with with the Marine Corps you know where you are

responsible for the lives of other people and you have to make decisions

that affect other people there couldn't have been better training for any other

leadership situation I've been in when when going back to where you got

selected amongst for this for this scholarship program you you one thing

you said is here nobody's gonna outwork me

absolutely as I remember the day I got that because I said okay I'm gonna wrap

myself a little tighter here you know somebody up there likes me I remember

that when I you know when you got the the letter from the Navy in the mailbox

if it was a thin little letter you know as a know and on I got the packet uh-huh

it was cold I got that packet and I went I did this and I am gonna bust my tail

you know and then it came alright ooh back then it was like there were 51

schools that had these programs and you you listed the top six

in order and then yes-no yes-no will I go to these others and I'm sitting in

Omaha Nebraska phrasing I put down the six warmest schools I did not know the

University of California from the man in the moon but I said University

California sounds warm and I and I put it on the top and I got into university

California I mean didn't have their nebraska quota that or something I don't

know and had a great time there did very well in the military program and my my

marine corps the Marine Corps officer in the program said you really should go to

the Academy you know and so did my dad my dad so huh so how much fun I was

having down there I didn't like this boy off so say you applied then for the

Naval Academy while you're at USC does and it was that what are you surprised

to get in there well um I think first of all I had I had ranked first in the

leadership programs at Southern Cal and I got strong recommendations major unter

Koffler was the the marine and and my lieutenant Coburn was the naval

instructor and they both wrote strong letters for me and I had to get letters

of recommendation from high school and you know when I was in high school I did

really well in the literature programs even though I've got put in dummy

English my senior year you know and you know we were like what did you do last

summer what they were studying the great artists but the woman who was was my

teacher she saw how much I loved to write and read and the sort of thing I'd

say and so she wrote me a wonderful letter and and then you know I was on

the presidential appointment side which was active duty military and I think

they took I can't remember know where they took 50 or 75 but they took a

certain number from the from the country and I got in stone so I the you know the

Naval Academy is a is a is a story unto itself you have one section and I

obviously didn't go to the Naval Academy of course I worked with a ton of

over the years that that did but I thought that this little story well I

just thought it might capture some stuff about the Naval Academy and I'm gonna

read this going again this is still from the book I heard my country calling

after dinner I reported to the room across the hall where the four who had

joined evening come around towards its end took turns beating me with a cricket

bat touch your toes aye-aye sir I would lean over and touch

my toes they would hit me swinging the bat as if taking batting practice for

slowpitch softball game I would then come to attention and

resume my brace which is standing at the position of attention

beitar me sir did that hurt web no sir touch your toes aye-aye sir the bat

would connect again Beitar me sir did it hurt no sir

okay touch your toes aye-aye sir the blow would come I would straighten up

again Beitar me sir did it hurt no sir after they had each

hit a couple of slow pitch home runs it had apparently stopped being fun and

their exuberance diminished one of them finally told me that if I would simply

admit that it hurt they would stop beating me but for all I knew even this

guarantee could have been double think if I told him it hurt would I really be

allowed to leave or want to just bring yet another lecture in another round or

worse yet did they really want to send me back across the hallway I had already

dealt with doctor no pain before dinner I did not want to survive the cricket

bat only you go back to the toothpick which was another torture they were

sorting through the pain actually left my body or maybe it was merely my brains

reaction as I would later find out with Marines who were wounded so severely

that their nervous systems became overloaded and shut down so that they

could not feel any pain I had I had detached myself from the moment It was

as if I was watching myself from another room did it hurt web no sir just tell us

that it hurt idiot did it hurt I could hear worry in his voice somehow the very

abuse that they were now weary of perpetrating had inspired me by refusing

to lose I felt that I was somehow winning

no sir touch your toes another blow Beitar me sir

behind me I heard them discussing that the bat had split lengthwise on my ass

all right get out of here Webb aye aye sir so yeah what year was this

1964 yeah Naval Academy was a different place

needless to say than it is now

yeah when Bob Tim Berg was writing his book nightingale song we discussed that

that incident in one of the comments he made was he

meaning me was not particularly bitter about it but he could still give me the

individuals names and I so could I'm not going to but you know that the Naval

Academy at that time you know the pendulum swings in terms of

indoctrination and the where education fits in and what type of education etc

etc but that arc this class a class in 1968 depending them in terms of plebe

indoctrination had swung very far and it was by company really they were like

tribal systems were 36 different companies and some of them were

relatively loose and some of them were really you know actually we had two two

companies in in my class that ran out physically ran out more than half of

their plebs and these are people who were highly

screened I give some details in the book about the number of class valedictorians

varsity athletes Eagle Scouts etc which actually when people have asked me you

know what what's the great benefit you got out of the Naval Academy and one

thing I said as well I knew that I could achieve among these people who had

achieved in different ways in high school I had I learned you know that I

could compete in and you know why was on the right track attitudinal and

everything but this class I think we started with 1350 and the first week or

two of a plebe year when some people resign they allowed new increments to

come in just for very short time so let's just stick with 1350 I

think we graduated 841 we had the highest attrition rate of any post-war

Naval Academy war - naval academy class and there were some really people who

would have been fine officers who were run out for one reason or left and that

time period - coincided with the very beginning of the Vietnam War the civil

rights movement a lot of different you know things that were tearing at the

country aside I can remember coming back from boxing practice in the summer of

1964 and we had to know the one of the rates when he went down on the tables

was to know the three top news stories of the day and they're on the front page

with the Gulf of Tonkin incident in off of the coast of Hanoi the picture of the

CEO and we were like saying okay I think this is this is really going to happen

and we the year that I graduated in 1968 was was the the worst year for American

casualties and it also was the year where in April Martin Luther King was

killed and in June and that night before we graduated Robert Kennedy was

assassinated it was just an end to back it up into the Tet 68 offensive happened

beef right before Martin Luther King was killed so that was just boom boom boom

the last year and different people reacted in different ways but I think

the majority of the people that I was with there during that period it it gave

us a real seriousness of purpose we knew where we were going it wasn't going to

go away particularly for the Marine Corps we all knew that we were going and

so by the time I graduated there was no doubt in my mind where I was going to go

was one of the reasons why on first-class cruise you know at the Naval

Academy you it used to be after your first year you cruised with the enlisted

folks you know we lived with the snipes on a CBS after my first yet was a great

learning experience to by the way to see how hard those guys work down

I hardly ever saw the light of day they were a trip to in a living spaces I

remember when they you know that we had like six or seven midship and in this

big living space and you know they're giving us everything dirty estaba they

could give us you know get down into villages and scrubbed weather we've

saved this for you etcetera and I said whatever they want me to do man I'll do

and so I remember the day they accepted me we had this first-class petty officer

who was kind of like the the guy there and they had one wall lockers four by

four wall Locker where they kept all of their different types of books and other

supplies and area okay web come on over here and they gave me the combination to

that locker and then they broke out a bottle of booze and they said a boot up

to the to the mess hall and scored a can of apple juice and came back and we said

okay you know you're alright web you know and after my third year because I

knew I was going to Vietnam I said it was like like maybe to see the mid so I

signed up for a med crews got on the Saratoga USS Saratoga and as I go as I

wrote about in this book we graduated the the morning after the arab-israeli

war of 1967 began and so we went we flew to Rota Spain then out to Souda Bay

Crete where the Saratoga came in to pick us up and they had just medevac the USS

Liberty the hangar deck was littered with casualties from the USS Liberty and

when we you know we took the small boats out and started bringing our gear in and

got to the hangar deck and and there were marine guards around they said do

not talk any of these people and you know we went up to our 48 of us that

we're on the Saratoga we went up to our living spaces and that was an incredible

cruise because the Soviet Navy had just broken down into the Med and we were

playing games with them the whole time they cross deck to the Liberty

casualties into the America which took them into

Athens but it was you know constant air ops on that carrier while we were there

incredible learning experience yeah that's way if you have it seeing air ops

on it aircraft carrier the first time that I saw it I was it's it's it's it's

insane is what it is it didn't say that and that's just normal life on a carrier

and you know the difference is the same thing talking about my dad and the

missile squad the difference back then and now was I had a little 8-millimeter

movie camera and you know after EPM you know I could go sit on the flight deck

and take pictures of flight ops you know now you know for safety reasons and

whatever other reasons you can't do that but I've got some great shots of some of

the only ra5 taken off of those things and we had spats on there and that whole

cruise we had a an a4 they said with a nuke on it and the front-right catapult

because of the situation that was going on in the Middle East so yeah that's a

this is a I thought pretty pertinent here is you're at the Academy and this

is what you're talking about right now but going back to the book as the

Vietnam War gathered intensity the leadership of the brigade began posting

pictures and biographies of alumni who had been killed or missing in action on

a large board in the middle of the Rotunda just inside the main entrance to

Bancroft Hall the pictures and short biographies were taken from the lucky

bag the class yearbook from the year that each alumnus had graduated the

board on which the notices were placed was large perhaps eight feet high and

four or five feet wide at its top was a boldly lettered inscription to those who

went before of us before us as the class of 1968 neared graduation the to those

who went before us aboard had become two boards and then three a high percentage

of the Alumni listed were either Marines or naval aviators many of their names

and faces were familiar to all of us more than a few included friends and

some of these were especially close so that's a that's a reality for

everyone there especially because in 1964 and that wasn't happening and then

you go to 1968 and you're filling up this board you walk by it every day and

look at the you know you look to see what the new faces are and the classes

of 66 and 67 in the Marine Corps were hit very hard at at 68 you know and I

think I ruined about this but I didn't one of the on the toughest moments you

know of that period of my life was when I was the brigade administrative officer

and so you know my job which wasn't much of a job was to go to one of the things

was to go to the main office clear out all the correspondents in there sorted

out pass it to the rest of the brigade staff etc and one of them was bringing

the casualty reps to the brigade first lieutenant who kept the board on and

without even knowing it while I picked them up I picked up the casually

reported of one of my good friends and

you you graduate from the Academy and it's time to go - time to go - time to

go to the basic school and learn you know I've talked about a bit about the

basical that Marines on here that that went through it Brian Stann and he gave

us pretty good details on the basic school and but obviously at this time

for you you know I'm just gonna go to the book for the Marines combat and

overseas deployments were unending the greatest burden fell on the privates and

lance corporals fresh from boot camp who populated the lower ranks of the rifle

platoons and the lieutenant's just out of the basic school who commanded them

the basic school which we called TBS was now starting a new class of 250

lieutenants every three weeks in pre-vietnam war is reduced to 26 weeks

and then to 21 but true to the traditions of long-held

disciplines of the Corps this reduction took place not by cutting

the quality or the content of the curriculum but by rather by lengthening

the number of hours spent in class and in the field every workweek almost every

week TBS companies worked late into Saturday evening

they spent a high percentage of their time in the field and a large percentage

of that time was dedicated to night maneuvers and bivouacs our company was

given the day off on Christmas working late into the evening of December 24th

and assembling on the tarmac for a field activity at 0 6:30 in the morning of

December 26th within a month of within a month after finishing TBS the infantry

lieutenants among us would be boarding military flights to Travis Air Force

Base California to report immediately for 13 month tours in Vietnam as

individual replacements in infantry battalions that were already engaged in

sustained heavy combat well first let me say something about about basic school

at that time that's probably the best school I've ever been to day as I wrote

the the course got condensed in its time but not in the quality of what they were

preparing us to do on the one hand the Marine Corps had dropped a 60 millimeter

mortar out of its arsenal after the Korean War they decided that they didn't

need it with more artillery closer etc they learned early in the Vietnam War

that it was a valuable weapon they put the 60 mike-mike package back into basic

school so it actually added a tactical package into the basic school curriculum

they cut out some of the dress and ceremonies stuff you know they did they

did take that stuff out not not all of it but but some of it but we worked six

days a week and we worked yeah we worked on the 24th and the 26th of December we

worked on the 31st and the 2nd of July I mean of January

and you know it was I think the intensity actually helped prepare us and

some of the great friends of my life for people that I that I met in basic school

we were constantly together and by doing this every day

you know intensely every day you got a better feel for what you actually were

going to be required to do the interesting thing about basically school

one of the reasons I say it was the best school I've ever been to it was it was

like educational it was practical and it was looking toward the future fronts any

weapon system when we learned every weapon in the infantry battalion in

basic school they would teach it to you in class then you would walk out a

symbol disassemble familiarize it and then you would go shoot it every single

weapon my first day my first night is a rifle platoon commander

I took the platoon that I just picked up into a night move night ambush and hit a

North Vietnamese unit with a 51 Cal machine gun used every supporting arm in

the Marine Corps except for close air a very first patrol did all the on calls

etc and you know that was basic school so they did they go out how did they run

problems with you in the field during the basic school would they take you out

on patrol do they have up for that one they would attack you planes we ran

close air there weren't any planes attacking us and it's the same Vietnam

no I said I said role players so you would when you're doing a patrol in the

basics oh I see how did you simulate and how well did they simulate it some of it

was was walkthrough you know you would start with the walkthroughs first of all

we had we had really talented combat experienced instructors and all of our

we're platoons were a company that's broken down to five legends

alphabetically you No you know how that works when you're

sort of at the end of the alphabet you know we got the worst gear yeah the last

in line for everything and I can remember one night where we were getting

dismissed or in a company formation then one of the was a former enlisted marine

and in our platoon we were Roberts through his L something you know and he

just started yelling this fucking Zoo and from that point forward a lot of

times we'd marched we go zoo zoo but we had you know our Ark stat platoon

commander had been seriously wounded as a rifle platoon commander and fifth

Marines you know all of all of our platoon commanders had had been in in

combat there were a lot of talks you know those sorts of things but then on

the tactics side you go out you learn it and you know you learn it in class you

go out and walk through it and then you have aggressors you know knobblies were

SDT called SDT aggressors which were enlisted Marines just back from Vietnam

who just love to mess with the with the the basically school lieutenants the big

problem and the greatest surprise I have to say in moving into combat the big

problem was if if you were saved for this exercise if you're the platoon

commander on this platoon in the attack exercise you got 49 other lieutenants

sitting there saying no I'm not gonna do it that way no look come on man you know

that's not which you don't need to be on line we need to be in a wedge you know

or you know you need to know whatever whatever whatever you know and I'll

never forget the feeling of actually

commanding a rifle platoon in combat and being on the move and I just said hold

it up and everything just stopped you know that we're just right now my god I

mean one that everybody stopped you know and I went wow this is this is pretty

good yeah but you know the there were there were things that could have been

taught better the one thing is a one of the things that I am very proud

of in terms of the way that we did operate in Vietnam had had a lot of

leeway to innovate and it's that's kind of been lost I think in the history of

it and there were I'm innocent letters I wrote back to officers that I knew

talking about we don't really didn't you have a patrolling package over here you

got a platoon and attack package over here but really what we do all the time

is we patrol then we assemble then we attack you know or if we're going to go

into a built-up areas from the the section you read the excerpt you read

from from fields of fire you know I know when to go online I know when to put my

troops on I know where to put my guns that didn't come from from basically

school the separate the separate entities did we connected it in in the

reality of what we were doing and I'll tell you there's a long line we're

getting a little ahead of things but there's a long line of things that the

young leaders in fifth Marines had done before I got there and and also in what

I was able personally to do as a rifle platoon and particularly as a company

commander one of the things we saw and I wrote an article about this concept when

I got back from Vietnam was that the Marine Corps fireteam this is this is

simple and small but it really is you know institutionally important the Ricoh

fire teams for for Marines it was built around the be a our browning automatic

rifle it had it had it had been put into place in World War two because at the

beginning of World War two the marine Marines only operated with squats like

eleven eleven marine squads and they found that a squadron couldn't control

directly control eleven people so they went into the triangular concept with

the you know the the four marine fire teams but the problem with that was if

you took two casualties you don't have a maneuver element and it is built around

an artificial notion because the m16 could be fully automatic you know like I

had I can some m-14s in my platoon as well so what

what the the young leaders in the fifth Marines just sort of over time to

started doing was cannibalizing the third rifle squad and so in in our rifle

platoon instead of having three rifle squads and in a gun team attached from

this notional weapons platoon we put the rifleman into two squads and then

brought the gun team in as the third squad for the triangular concept and

that just kind of happened you know and no one told us to do it we just said you

you know you can't with the casualties casualty flow that we were taking he

just couldn't do it any other way and be effective but with fire teams as

maneuver elements we moved at night constantly fifth Marines we moved at

night we were known from moving at night we walked when we moved for the

helicopter assets in in Vietnam for the Marine Corps were scarce the H forty six

was was built to standards from amphibious carriers amphibious assault

ships so they were built to deck space and you know for amphibious assaults but

then when you get in his continuous ground operations they just weren't

enough of them and it we're very vulnerable to ground fire so in in areas

where the army would have been you know picking up with a you know a Huey you

know getting breakfast and getting on the Huey's and I'm not running him down

this was a great concept to airmobile concept and moving in on on areas we

walk we have we had for a long time we had 2h 46 for our entire sector during

the day you know resupply or medevacs whatever so we'd a lot of walking it it

taught it taught you how to fight at night but also when something happened

the casualties were high because you're you know ass hold a belly button when

you're walking along you know if you hit a you know we it was not not an uncommon

practice they get a booby trap IAD go off and you get an ambush on

at night you know your people are packed in etc but and sixty mike-mike mortar I

decided I would there were people who taught us as a company tactics and basic

school the sixty millimeter mortar is the company commanders personal weapon

so I decided when I was a company commander I would get sent and I liked

this I would get sent you know way away at the edge of our battalions sector

kind of operating independently but I I'd fire sometimes 600 rounds a day and

I'd send the a a rifle platoon in to secure an area when we're on the move

you know aim a combat patrol to get a new spot send a rifle platoon insecurely

or take a resupply haven't drop a pallet like Mike's in six hundred rounds

no no no it seen us that was you know that was the tradition beforehand yeah

you can you can hump maybe forty rounds you know but I'd haven't drop a pallet

in and have them build to sandbag parapet areas for the sixteen we kept to

the deal was three we kept to and I use them for prep fires I use them for H and

eyes you know we and and I my guys got really really good the the the mortar

teams I've been on the field with with the Marine Corps when they you watch

those guys set up on fire mortars you know just in training and it's

ridiculous how good they are it's an awesome thing to watch it's a beautiful

thing to watch yeah the reason I kind of dug in a

little bit about the training cuz when I came back from my my left from my last

deployment to Ramadi has took over the training and so it was it was all that

that's all I was trying to do was getting guys ready for what they were

about to face and we had we had this incredible opportunity you know we had

this you've heard a Myles gear yeah so we had

something that wasn't Myles gear it was like Myles gear but it was infinitely

better it was super high-speed multi-million

dollar system had little speakers on your shoulder so when you were getting

shot at you hear snaps mmm from these little speakers or you'd

get mortared and there'd be explosions going off in your ears it was it was

awesome there was no one in seven you know that they actually had the very

beginning of that concept when we went live fire early on where they had

targets when top-up energy to the target that was the most sophisticated we get

in what I found with live fire was my fire cuz when I came in it was all we

did everything live fire and that was the big deal and we still we never got

away from laughs live fire but we added to it

this whole force-on-force training where you're going against guys with either

with lasers or with paintballs and that was infinitely more realistic because

the paper targets never maneuvered on you and same thing when you had the the

guys returning from Vietnam who were maneuvering on you and you're at the

basic school I had all my seals that had just come back from combat deployments

and they were the guys that were going against the platoons that were getting

ready to deploy so it's a it was awesome and I would get the feedback I would get

was always hey it was it was actually easier in combat you know - the the

actual death but the the threat of actual death the maneuvering that would

happen you know they were used to maneuvering against seals who were

badass and now they're maneuvering in someone else it's not quite as you know

in the game and also the enemy doesn't know our tactics as well as we know it

so my guys would know the tactics that was gonna be used against him so it was

uh it was awesome but it's just when you talk about showing up in Vietnam and and

your first Patrol you're going out and you're in that and you handle it that's

that's a complete testament to the quality of that training cuz it's

freaking crazy you know I think when we were talking about this last night I had

a to development is the key to everything you know and getting your

mind right is - in terms of what you're going to do and knowing the assets that

are available and you know I spend a lot of time thinking about this - you know

in terms of what what I was going to face I I had a I had one really terrific

mentor who what when I graduated from the Naval Academy I spent like two

months as a drill officer at the Neth and with the new class coming in before

reported to basic school and I was a battalion drill officer there were six

of us there were six battalions I got the marine battalion officer

who had just got another hospital from him been wounded and Con Thien was a

company commander alpha one one and he was terrific bill

Stensland was his name and you know he'd been shot he'd been blown up and and he

was like so easy I mean no bullshit easy and easy as a leader and so the other

the other five drill officers in my class they they got their own office you

know with their battalion officer and stenciling goes why do you need an

office he said you don't you know so you're a lieutenant now you get an

office why do you need an OP want you to sit in my office

so I'd sat in his office and every day it was like you know talking back and

forth you know and I'd go out and I'd do you know let's I go do my for miles and

do all my stuff and he come back and say what are you doing I'm getting ready to

go to Vietnam he says you want to know what it's like in Vietnam yes I'm gonna

take you out tonight and we're gonna get really really drunk and I'm gonna keep

you up all night and then tomorrow you're gonna work and that's what it

feels like oh please dad sir and then uh before I before I'd love one of the

things I you know I talked to him about for Allah for basic school is it what

did it feel like to get shot at he goes look don't even think about that stuff I

mean it's just you don't forget about that stuff just do your job you know and

I was a very first thing I thought about when I took that that patrol out I could

hear spend something going just don't even think about that stuff you know I

want to take it to the book here for a minute because well this is the chapter

called hell in this very small place and it talks about exactly what you're

saying here so back to the book from the day of my arrival as platoon commander

with dying Delta we have been engaged in continuous combat operations intensified

in recent weeks by a series of unpredictable vicious firefights despite

a steady flow of individual replacements the numerical field strength of our

rifle company have been reduced by about half

for the past three months this was an equal-opportunity battlefield

we lost Marines through every possibility that infantry combat offered

including gunshot wounds from several different caliber weapons and all kinds

of shrapnel large caliber rockets rocket-propelled

grenades RPGs different sorts of hand grenades 61 and 82 millimeter mortar

fire recoilless rifles plus landmines of every size from a grenade to

large-caliber artillery shells the rifle platoons were largely made up of young

both officers and enlisted by 1969 the vaunted ranks of the career and staff

NCOs who historically been the backbone of the Marine Corps were showing the

effects of four years of heavy combat in the infantry battalions that impact was

both visible and profound within a few days of my within a few days my platoon

sergeant the fourth Marine to hold this key position in the past three months

would leave us a severe case of ringworm covering his torso including his entire

crotch area front and back my first platoon sergeant had been hit by a booby

trap while maneuvering one segment of our platoon onto a Ridgeline during an

extensive firefight suffering suffering shrapnel wounds in his hands and arms

and stomach area blowing off pieces of his fingers and slicing his bladder the

second platoon sergeant had served with us for a couple of weeks and then was

sent by the company commander to another unit the third had picked up his third

Purple Heart after being hit by an RPG and thus had been rotated out of Vietnam

the fifth on his second Vietnam tour became sick of the constant combat and

suddenly decided to leave the Marine Corps and our rifle company when his

enlistment expired toward the end of this very operation in practical terms

this turbulence intensified the relationships between the platoon

commanders and the squad leaders as daily life and death tactical decisions

would need needed to be made in these relationships I often ended up being the

oldest and most wizened voice at the age of 23 I was now on my fourth platoon

radio operator who within weeks would be shot through his elbow ending his days

in the Marine Corps two months before in April I'd lost two radio operators in

one day the first shot through that the hand by the enemy by an enemy sniper as

he held the receiver of our PRC 25 radio in the middle of a firefight luckily for

our platoon if not for him his hand had partially shielded the radios handset

which survived the bullet otherwise we would have been isolated surrounded by

hundreds of mobile and highly adept enemy soldiers on combat patrols that

ranged far away from our company headquarters the tactical radio was our

sole means of communicating our position and to call in artillery support and

medevacs this of course was why the enemy loved to shoot at it an hour later

the second radio operator have been blown off his feet hit below the knees

in both legs by a booby trap as we assaulted a ridge radio operators did

not have much luck in my platoon by the time I left the platoon I had gone

through six two of my original three squad leaders had been killed one by an

enemy rocket and the other from a gunshot wound to the chest the third had

been shot through the lung and in the liver during the onset of an enemy

ambush although grievously wounded he had

survived the firefight and was later medevac to a navy hospital ship and so

it had been for the officers who had initially staffed our rifle company the

first platoon commander had been killed three weeks before the second platoon

commander had been lightly wounded less than two weeks before and within the

next few weeks would suffer a serious gunshot wound in his upper thigh a

bullet narrowly missing it in artery I had been lightly wounded and would be

seriously wounded a month later

well let's set the stage let's start the final couple days in in basic school

because one of the most important what's in a speech but one of the most

important speeches that I had listened to during my preparation time was given

that there was a marine lieutenant colonel who was assigned to the basic

school who asked to talk to the infantry lieutenant's we had I think somewhere in

the 70s of our 243 who finished basics who were assigned to the infantry and

this guy was highly respected he had been an enlisted marine a rifleman on

Iwo Jima he had been a platoon commander in Korea recipient of the Navy Cross and

had just finished commanding battalion in Vietnam and he said I I want you to

understand something Vietnam is the hardest war the Marine

Corps has ever fought not simply because of the casualties which by the way ended

up being higher even than World War two if you combined killed and wounded more

killed in in World War two but because of the living conditions

that these Marines are facing were you at this excerpt you were reading was

sort of in the middle of an of an operation in addition to those types of

experiences people rarely understand in in America the America of then and

particularly the America of today what it was like to be in the marine infantry

in Vietnam particularly with all of them particularly out in Quang Nam Province

were where we fought the Marines fought in five provinces in in Vietnam in Quang

tree which is where Khe Sanh and up next to the DMZ to attend which is worth why

was Quang Nam I would the west of Da Nang or

we fought in Quan Chi when in Kuantan was also a province then it's not a

province now but a plurality and almost a majority of the Marines killed in

Vietnam were killed in Quang Ninh Province and I can't give you a really

major battle I mean there are some operations that there are notable in

sort of Marine Corps lore but you know one on the country would even recognize

them these were squad platoon company size

engagements and we're the constant constant combat activity and we're the

Marines operated were usually outside of anything we didn't have tents barbed

wire we didn't have cots we didn't have electricity didn't have hot food didn't

have clean water it was an extraordinarily rough environment in

terms of Hygiene potential disease and just the wear and tear put put on human

bodies so you put that on top of the combat side and then on top of what

you'd mentioned earlier which is the constant flow of people through the

apparatus that was the combat unit and the political tensions in in the country

you put all that together you have a very very tough environment where where

the Marines lived and also where the young leaders operated so you know what

I'm taking over a rifle platoon in in that area called an Wang base and I'm

just off the plane you know with graduate from basic school at ten days

travel ten days procede a little bit of leave get on the plane go through

Okinawa for you know to kind of get your your timezone straight and then I didn't

even know what regiment or what division I was going to when I hit Vietnam they

we got to actually an on Okinawa they decided whether which division you were

going to go to okay we're looking at the casualty flow you

going to third more day of you guys you going first part it and then when you

got to unanchored or the first Marine Division David kind of sort us out which

which regiment we were going to you know a regiment they say okay you're going to

1st battalion or the 1st battalion I said Delta Delta needs a platoon

commander and get on a convoy take off the the company had been through some

you know some serious combat and the previous days I think they had had five

platoon commanders in the previous five or six months so dying Delta was the

where was the nickname yeah is that like a derogatory was that just gallows humor

we kind of liked you just got a deadly dying Delta you know or dog-tired Delta

order but you're constantly on the move and you know I'm new and they're

justifiably they're gone oh man here we got a new guy here now what and there's

always in the realm of leadership the the relationship that you have to put

into place and you don't you know some some people like to say like to say okay

when a new lieutenant comes in you can be like the observer for a while and go

along in a patrol and what rarely did those people ever fully take over their

platoon you're the ready or you're not ready and so I own I picked up my

platoon I got them on a side of the hill and I explained you know did you insert

into the field to take home over did you go right into the foyer yeah they were

on the move that were on the moon from Liberty Bridge to Henderson Hill on a

company moved the convoy passed by I jumped off the convoy I'd talked on a

radio to our company commander you know before and I didn't even get three days

in an awesome you know usually three days an animal for familiar racing he

said this this guy's class on a manner and basic school get him out here now

and so I took these guys overhead I'm on the side of the hill and I said you know

this is it Bob Tim Bergen is booked in Nightingale someone called this an

audition for a fragging I said all right I'm lieutenant Webb you call me

lieutenant or you call me sir and this is what I expect and I laid it all out

you know and and one of the things I said which i think is very important

when you're when you're leading anything I said I want you to know something

anything you tell me I will believe anything you tell me the sky's brown

I'll believe you and if you lie to me you're dead meat and so there was like

the hell does this guy think he's doing you know and then we went out that night

you know and I sat down I planned it we moved to the new perimeter I went and I

called my squad leaders divided company size perimeter company size perimeter I

got my squad leaders in I said hey and we got a night act we're gonna go you're

in a it was a fool ox you know got their input listen listen listen you always

listen you know being a commander doesn't mean you know all the answers it

means you know how to make a decision you know and on how to how to follow

through and so I figured out I listened to them I figured out a place where we

would go I had a really terrific squad leader who was actually acting platoon

commander that afternoon and said a series of on calls whatever you know

thing basic school taught you went out that night walked in you know walked

into a situation used all the you know the the supporting arms did our did our

thing and that was put to rest which was actually a good thing and then the other

thing which I think is so important you know when you say know your people know

you know what's the leaders that leadership is knowledge know your people

know your job know their job and know the next job because you never know when

something's going to happen and you're gonna have that next job and it's

character and part of part of character is consistency and humility before your

people you know and as you mentioned from what the excerpt about my dad moral

courage there's different kinds of courage moral courage is sometimes you

got to take the hits you got to lay out what you believe is right and you got to

stay with it and you know vision in other words what even taking over a

rifle platoon you know and I they they knew fairly quickly I knew what I was

expecting even though I hadn't done it yet but knowledge of people and

listening to people I would go in the first you know month or so and I was

- commander I would take three hours to set my lines and every night sit down

and every fighting hole talked to every one of my Marines and you find out as

you know you find out really interesting things about maybe simple things like

somebody hadn't gotten paid or somebody got married and had a cue allotments not

going to his wife and nobody's taking care just simple things you know and

then you know then the bonds move from there you you just just to reiterate the

conditions because I pulled out this this section here where you talk about

the conditions and just to reiterate what you're talking about going back to

the book here and in the rifle companies we spend endless months patrolling ridge

lines and villages and mountains far away from tents barbed wire hot food or

electricity luxuries were limited to what we could fit inside ones pack which

after a few humps usually boiled down to letter-writing material towel soap

toothbrush poncho liner and a small transistor radio

due to casualties and disease during this period in the war relatively few

Marines would actually survive a full 13 month tour as members of rifle companies

in the bush of the basin we moved through the boiling heat carrying 60

pounds of weapons and gear causing a typical Marine to drop 20% of his body

weight while in the bush when we stopped we dug chest deep fighting holes and

slit trenches for toilets we slept on the ground under makeshift poncho

hooches and when it rained we usually took down our hooches because wet

ponchos shown under illumination flares making great targets sleep itself was

fitful never more than an hour or two at a stretch for months at a time as we

mixed daytime patrolling with nighttime ambushes listening-posts foxhole duty

and radio watches ringworm hookworm malaria dysentery were common as was

trench foot which in Vietnam was called immersion foot when the monsoons came

respite for was rotating back to the mud filled regimental combat base at an hoi

for four or five days where rocket and

mortar attacks were frequent and our troops manned defensive bunkers at night

that was your break time and wha yeah they called it little Dien Bien Phu

they're you know because yeah they had a sign that said welcome little diem and

food and you know they kept their sense of humor to virt the other further you

know how you know people gallows humor here's what gets you through that kind

of stuff and and to sort of set the tone of the on the on the on the tactical

side you need to remember in terms of what was happening to the country at

this time this was a war that had been going on and it had its controversies

but hundreds of people were dying every week still every week I brought this and

I know we're not on TV but I thought this is there's a circle on show do you

know you're welcome to keep this and make copies that if you would send it

back to me but this was the cover of Life magazine June twenty seventh

nineteen twenty seventh nineteen sixty-nine

average week in this during this period this was a period of hamburger hill etc

the two hundred forty two Americans died that week two of Marines are in in that

but in post post Tet 69 period which was April May we were losing more than 400

Americans dead a week you know even though the the war had for the Americans

encapsulate had peaked in 1968 the the three worst years for combat from

Americans Vietnam were 67 68 and 69 they're like the top of the bell curve

we had in 69 I think we lost twice as many Americans killed as have been

killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the entire war and you know the American

people supported this and I've always believed in what we were attempting to

do however however screwed up it got but if you're out here in the in the end

dayson the one thing that a good rifle platoon or company commander or

battalion commander learned was how to adapt how to adapt you couldn't rarely

you could rarely plan operations you know sort of like like Mike Tyson said

about being in a fight everything's great until the first time you get hit

you know on any given patrol or day in the end while base and particularly

Arizona Valley you could hit you know some idiot with not an idiot so maybe

some smart smart individual or small group of people with a couple of

grenades or you could hit a main force Vietcong unit which was heavily North

Vietnamese or you could hit a large four large force North Vietnam which we

fought in in May of 1969 we fought with the the 90th Regiment in the Arizona

Valley I went on for like eight days and eight nights we had a North Vietnamese

division in base area 112 right off from where we were the the mountain started

and up into Laos but the Ho Chi Minh Trail that sort of thing

we had a very fine of Viet Cong Regiment which was you know rather rare that an

independent regiment the first VC Regiment we had the qat third main force

battalion that were operating out of the Arizona Valley and you had a lot of cats

and dogs and the other thing was this area had basically been written off by

by American war planners in terms of the the politicization you know the bringing

them into the South Vietnamese government at that time they categorized

villages Intel categorized villages a through E in terms of loyalty to the

South Vietnamese government a was totally loyal he was totally they on the

other way and then they had category five which was politically hopeless just

forget it and by 1958 you know the

the country was divided in 1954 a million people came South including my

wife's entire family not very many went north basically cadre went north and

they trained and starting in 1958 they started moving back into central Vietnam

the Ho Chi Minh's idea was over ever was doing his planning was was to cut off

central Vietnam first UNAM and so you had these assassination squads move into

into this area and by 1961 they were killing 11 government officials a day

and that was by John Kennedy's a a count when he decided to start increasing our

troops there so the villages had had their fights beginning 58 heavily 58 to

62 that time period and those who were staying with with the Communists

basically had kicked out the people who weren't a lot of move to Da Nang and

some of them later to Saigon so out where we were you know I say this

because operationally the populated villages that we that we operated in you

know they had big family bunkers they were very you know there's stoic when we

went through there people were up in the mountains we had we had no illusions

that they were going to be moving to our our side at least during the you know I

never thought the war was going to end the way that it did but at least during

the period that we were there I we were chatting about this a little bit before

but I wanted to call it this one point from the book almost every Marine who

has ever fought in close combat can relay his stories of short round stray

rounds misdirected shots accidental discharges and other chaos resulting

from friendly fire mortars artillery and air strikes can easily wander from their

intended targets sometimes due to map error and other at other times because

of human error historically friendly fire incidents during mobile close

combat operations make up about 10 of casualties intramural firefights can

break out among friendly units that misidentified their fellow infantrymen

particularly while moving through enemy terrain at night and you got one

incident that you call up a ch-46 helicopter approach to the perimeter

ready to drop our days load to Huey gunship circle overhead flying for cover

behind highly vulnerable resupply helicopter which would soon be hovering

above the battlefield and slowly descending into the small dirt clearing

we had scraped out to make a landing zone at the center of our perimeter the

strobe light flashed showing the pilot where to land but circling in the weed

beds one of the gunships mistook the strobe light for the tracer bullets of

an enemy machine gun the Huey immediately powered toward us in a low

attack line that came in just above our heads strafing our weary

beleaguered preliminary perimeter it's machine guns spitting out hundreds of

760 millimeter bullets I had just climbed a small sand dune to

urinate at an empty spot away from the perimeter Pancho hooches and radios of

my platoon command post the Huey's machine guns sprayed back and forth

inside our lines kicking up a trail of dust spots just below my feet as I stood

in the open after one pass the Huey was finally waved away back into its

circling defensive laps around our perimeter exposed as we were it seemed a

miracle that only one marine a radio operator near the strobe light in our

company command post was hit taking a bullet in the stomach well I I it's one

among among many and when you're when you're fighting so so close you know and

actually that that incident occurred not too long after an arc light strike we

were doing the BDA and an arc light it's one of the great ironies if I might may

digress just a little bit because I think it's important to point out that

in in our operational concepts we never used b-52s north of Vinh we never until

1972 the Christmas bombing of Hanoi and when I go back I've been

back to Vietnam 28 out of the last 29 years I speak Vietnamese I you know I we

still have our disagreements but you know I go back there and when I first

started going back to Vietnam in the early 90s everybody wanted to talk about

that eight days everybody you know when they did this and they were living under

the illusion that they were withstanding American airpower when we had these

lighter aircraft like John McCain's aircraft coming in and you know making

the runs when if somebody had made a different decision I mean it Wars of war

somebody made a different decision things might have might have happened

differently but we did use arc lights on the area that we supposedly were we're

trying to salvage you know go Noi Island you know we lit that place up we were

our our company was I think three clicks away when one that when that arc light

landed and I was holding on to the ground moving to the right and to the

left you know how many how many pounds of bombs would get dropped there's I've

got some statistics in there but just thousands and thousands of pounds of you

know three 350 b-52s would go over and actually I think in there I put the

number I but you know so but to the the friendly fire incidents and how close it

was you know we the way that we would mark our areas when we're when you're on

close air in that environment you you know this isn't about the helicopter

hitting or our guy that was you know mistaking the strobe for a machine gun

around but in general you always run your strikes parallel to your lines

because you don't want them to drop short you know and drop on you so they

have to make a run you know then we put air panels out usually sometimes we pop

a smoke but it was better with their air panels during the day and so they'd make

a run before they drop and so they you know they okay yeah no you're too close

no you're not or whatever and we had one in during this period where we were

fighting the ninetieth regiment out there in Arizona Valley in May we were

running an air strike against an NVA unit at a tree line about 400 meters

away and we had that force coming in you know an Air Force a fighter it's not a

bomber I mean we use them for bombers but so the f4 pilots there coming in at

I don't know 450 knots whatever it is near they're looking out the side of

their window to see to see what's on the ground so we were running the the F

Force I have my platoon actually was we had a rear security in the perimeter

while they were doing this and they made their run and then they came on the

second run and the the f4 dropped on us and actually it bounced right outside

our perimeter and then you know I mean what the hell here I hear it going

around over the top of us so I turn around I start you know I want to go on

the company CP and ask him what the hell is going on so I'm walking through this

kragle of bushes and I got all these Marines running running the other way

and this thing had bounced and we called a snake and nape you know that the snake

was the the way a like a kind of a propeller would break out of the tail to

arm it okay when you're dropping and luckily the the tail had broken off of

this bomb when I hit and so but you know I turned around and these guys were you

know I see this thing flying through there I thought was a body you know is

this green thing flying through the air and going down the word that or the CP

and I'm going in and all these guys are running the other way and and that bomb

had had landed on the pack of our 81 zepho artillery radio operator I'm a

pack of those pack board you know dead center if that thing had gone off

curtains you know and the other thing is night moves you know where one of the

things you learn is in in when you we operate like the fifth Marines did is

always be responsible for the person behind you not the person in front of

you if you lose the person in front of you stop don't try to catch

with them as their there were a number of friendly fire incidents where someone

would get get lost try to catch up end up to the on the flank of the the main

unit and you'd have an intermural firefight luckily we didn't have that

happen in my company but it happened in the fifth Marines so you stop if you

can't find see the guy in front you stop and then if then if you can't see the

person behind you then you retrace the exact route that you've been on to go

pick them up so you know there were lessons that were learned and put into

place yeah we always talked about the fact that and Lafe was my buddy's

platoon commander with me he wrote books with me but um he was saying you know if

you had asked him before we went to Ramadi if we would have blue on blue you

know fratricide situations he'd been like oh there's no possible

way and and me same thing you know like it seemed like especially in the SEAL

Teams it was like oh that's never that will that'll never happen it'll never

happen and sure enough I mean there in that

book in our in our first book we happen to write about three different I mean

there's twelve chapters and three of them concern friendly fire

because you had to be more concerned about well not more concerned about you

had to be at least as concerned about deconfliction and you know we would hang

we would hang you know giant aircraft panels once once my guys would take a

building for a sniper overwatch position oftentimes if there was any question

about where they were they'd hang giant air panels right out the whit like as

soon as they started shooting in the enemy newer we wanted to make sure that

they're friendlies knew where we were just as bad so yeah the the the the

friendly fire problems that happened but when I came back and I started running

training I would induce those and and and they happened to a hundred percent

of the platoons that I put through training a hundred percent of them had

had blue on blues you know with paintball or with the laser tag system

that we used because it's it's one of those things no one thinks it can happen

to them you know the other the other part of that to be really frank here in

the the areas where we were operating you know you you done we'd send night

acts out every night you know you you can move we moved every three four days

new perimeter you send out listening poses and listening posts and ambushes

after dark and you know