Vietnam Center & Archive News and Updates

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Forward Air Controllers Reunion

From 1-5 October 2008, I attended the biennial reunion of the Forward Air Controllers (FACs) of Vietnam. Held in Colorado Springs, CO, this year’s reunion centered around the dedication of a memorial to the FACs at Memorial Park, a place well known to Air Force veterans.
Forward air controllers served as the eyes of the U.S. military in Vietnam, usually piloting slow-moving, propeller-driven airplanes to observe enemy movements in the jungle, and often receiving deadly fire at low altitudes. The FACs are an amazing group of men noted for their bravery in combat, and for their maverick attitude in general. It was a real pleasure to spend several days with them, listening to their stories and getting to know them.

I was especially honored to meet Col. Bud Day, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, who also led the “Misty” FACs (those flying F-100 jets) before being shot down over North Vietnam in 1967. Colonel Day spent the remainder of the war as a POW in various prison camps, and was awarded the Medal of Honor after returning home in 1973. Colonel Day is the most heavily decorated living veteran in the United States.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Medal of Honor Winner Ed Freeman, 1928-2008

Retired Army Helicopter pilot and a winner of the nation’s most prestigious military honor, Captain Ed Freeman, passed away on August 20 in Boise, Idaho, after a long illness. He is survived by his wife Barbara, and sons Michael and Douglas Freeman.

Captain Freeman was a veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on November 14, 1965 at Landing Zone X-Ray, in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam. His citation credits him with helping save 30 seriously wounded soldiers in 14 separate rescue missions in an unarmed helicopter. The heroic actions of Captain Freeman and others at the battles of Ia Drang were chronicled in the book We Were Soldiers Once…And Young and the Mel Gibson film adaptation.

Vietnam Center and Archive staff had the honor of meeting Freeman at the 2005 40th Anniversary Reunion of the Ia Drang Battles held in Washington D.C. At the reunion, Dr. Richard Verrone interviewed Captain Freeman about his experiences in that campaign.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gamewardens of Vietnam Reunion

From 17-19 July, I had the pleasure of attending the reunion of the Gamewardens of Vietnam in Norfolk, Virginia. 2008 marked the 40th anniversary of the Gamewardens, so this was certainly a very special event. The U.S. Navy initiated Project Gamewarden to combat enemy traffic on the inland waterways of the Mekong Delta during the war, and this Brown Water Navy was involved in some of the most harrowing experiences of the Vietnam War. Mainly operating PBRs (patrol boat river) these sailors plied the rivers and canals of South Vietnam, searching for shipments of enemy weapons, food, etc.

As you might imagine, I met a number of very colorful individuals at the reunion, and enjoyed the distinct honor of speaking with members of River Division 593, a group whose gallantry in combat earned them a number of medals, including the Navy Cross which was bestowed upon David Larsen in 1970.

The Gamewardens have offered much support to the Vietnam Center and Archive over the years (see Gamewardens collections donated to the Archive), and I look forward to working with them in the Oral History Project in the future.