April 6, 2015 |
Paul D. Hanson was an Army sergeant in his early 20s during the first of two tours of duty in Vietnam when his late-night poker game was interrupted by an attack on the firebase he was guarding. Hanson, now 70 and living in Aston, said more than 1,000 enemy soldiers poured out of the jungle surrounding the firebase as mortar and rocket fire whizzed over the concertina wire. He radioed for help, expecting artillery fire. What he got was something powerfully different. The USS New Jersey, to the east in the South China Sea, trained its 16-inch guns toward the source of Hanson's troubles.
March 11, 2015 |
The war was closing in. Hour by hour, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers tightened their grip on Saigon. Their artillery shells fell, like heavy footsteps, across the restive city. In the chaos, a C-5A Galaxy cargo plane took off from Saigon-Tan Son Nhut Airport as part of "Operation Babylift" - a mass evacuation of children from South Vietnam. Jim Zimmerly was one of scores of babies on the aircraft climbing over the South China Sea on April 4, 1975 when locks on a rear loading ramp failed and cargo doors blew open explosively.
February 14, 2015 |
When she first walked through the maze of cubicles at the National Veterans Crisis Line in the winter of 2012, Ellen Goosenberg Kent thought she knew what to expect. Goosenberg Kent grew up in Philadelphia during the Vietnam era, the daughter of a Marine who had served in World War II. An Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker, she had already made two films about soldiers coping with broken bodies and spirits after returning home from war. This latest project, however, exploring the inner workings of the nation's suicide help line for veterans, surprised her and the film's producer, Dana Perry.
January 13, 2015 |
He was almost home free. On his 23d birthday in 1967, Marine Lt. Ron Castille was leading a platoon on a search-and-destroy mission in Duc Pho, South Vietnam, when he was hit in the leg by a Viet Cong machine-gun round and evacuated from the fight. For a moment, it seemed he was on his way to the safety of the rear. But just as the Marine helicopter bearing Castille was clearing the battle zone, a burst of enemy fire raked the thin metal skin of its fuselage, tearing another and much more serious wound in his leg. Military surgeons said they had no choice but to amputate.
December 10, 2014 |
On a bunk aboard the troop ship that took him to Vietnam, a soldier called "Little Ty" scrawled a message of hope and home. "See ya at the Blue Sal!" he wrote in August 1967, promising to return to North Philadelphia after a year at war. Ty's canvas rack is now at the Smithsonian, part of the institution's military collection, and a photograph of it is on display at the Independence Seaport Museum in an exhibition of Vietnam-era graffiti. But despite a decade of periodic searches by historians, journalists, and even a Philadelphia detective, Little Ty's identity has remained a mystery.
November 1, 2014 |
On the steep slopes of Nui Chom, North Vietnamese soldiers were waiting in a stronghold of jungle-obscured bunkers, all of them bristling with machine guns. They trained their barrels on an approaching squad of Americans in 1968, then unleashed a storm of automatic gunfire that quickly killed two soldiers and pinned down the rest. That's when Michael J. Crescenz, 19, of Philadelphia, picked up an M60 machine gun and single-handedly rushed the bunkers, taking out three of them and killing six enemy soldiers.
October 20, 2014 |
Nearly 50 years ago, on the bunk of the troopship that carried him to the Vietnam War, Pvt. R.T. DiFerdinando scribbled an enigmatic message. He drew a Valentine's heart that bore the name of a woman - the meaning of that obvious enough. Nearby, he wrote his name and an odd phrase, "The Fabulous Furie's. " Was it a commentary on their relationship? A nickname? The title of a favorite book? None of those, it turns out. Today that inked missive is part of the new Independence Seaport Museum exhibit that tells troops' stories through the graffiti they left on canvas racks aboard the USNS General Nelson M. Walker.
October 1, 2014 |
Despite a decade of periodic searches, including inquiries by a Philadelphia detective, no one has located Little Ty. He was a soldier sent from Philadelphia to Vietnam in 1967, with the war in full fight and casualties mounting. All that remains - all that can be found - is the message he scrawled on the bunk of the troop ship that carried him to war. And the voices of men who shared the dread and boredom of similar voyages. "You're semi-relaxed because you're not in the war yet," said Army veteran George Stankovich, 67, of Matawan, N.J., "but you're nervous because you know you're going to be there.
September 23, 2014 |
Just 17, with a slight frame, baby face, and the nickname "Buzzy," David Fine seemed like a misplaced high schooler when he arrived at the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 1969. But the Wilmington native was hardly an innocent. By the time he reached turbulent Madison, Fine already had attracted considerable attention from the FBI. At Wilmington Friends School, he had been a student organizer, participated in civil rights and antiwar protests, and worked with the radical Students for a Democratic Society.
September 19, 2014 |
On the signal bridge of the USS Frank E. Evans, Steve Kraus was scanning the ocean about 3 a.m. as the destroyer made a long, sweeping starboard turn through the darkness. The watch was uneventful until - seemingly out of nowhere - the Australian aircraft carrier Melbourne came barreling toward the Evans at 22 knots. Kraus hurried into the ship's signal shack and got on the intercom to warn the pilot house below: "We're going to get hit!" Then came a mighty crash, and the screeching and shrieking of metal.