ORAL HISTORY 7
Formany years, Army has accumulated many oral history interviews, whichhave helped to preserve records of its activities in war and peace.Without these records, it would be hard to reconstruct several eventsin Army’s history. Certain monographs and books prepared by Armyhistorians largely have oral histories. Vietnam War is commonly usedname for Second Indochina War fought from 1954-1973. Mostly, itrefers to a period when United States, as well as other members ofSoutheast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), joined forces of NorthVietnam, to fight against communist forces. United States had largestforeign military and controlled the war from the year 1965 to 1968.Due to this reason, the Vietnam War came to be known as American War.It was the direct result of First Indochina War fought from 1946-1954France claimed Vietnam as it colony, and communist known as VietMinh. In year 1973, the “third” Vietnam War started acontinuation of the war between North Vietnam and South Vietnamwithout great involvement of the United States. The war ended with acommunist victory in 1975. Vietnam War was longest in history ofUnited States before Afghanistan War that started in year 2002 until2013 (Terry, 1985).
JohnA. Adams conducted the following interview at the center for MilitaryHistory & Strategic Analysis as a section of requirements forHistory of Army. The interviewer was Cadet Raymond Matta, while theinterviewee was Alan Farrell. It was conducted on February 27 2007 atFarrell’ office
Mattia-Please tell me short background of yourself
Farrell-I come from Hanover New Hampshire where I was born and raised, asmall valley along Connecticut River. My family has lived there for along period, trying to farm corn on sandstone. My grandfather, whowas World War one veteran, raised me. My father was involved in WorldWar II, while my great-grandfather was involved in Civil War togetherwith some relatives who fought in Indian and French war as well asAmerican Uprising. The pictures you can see on the wall I got themfrom our house where I grew up and they indicate where I was heading(Terry, 1985).
Mattia-That is why you got into military service?
Farrell-I believe there is a momentum to that. As far as am concern, thosefarm boys never understood political issues that made people fightmore than I understood at age of 20 years, but I am sure they werehappy to do chopping corn. Indeed, the momentum came from familytradition, which was completely independent from politicalmotivation. In my experience on war, I have witness young soldiers inArmy over 25 years, but only few soldiers have great politicalconvictions. In fact, if some of them had any political sentiment itwas just a vague America-Cheerleader, or pro-America patriotism,which was scraped off easily. However, for my case I was motivated byadventure, momentum, curiosity, and tradition (Terry, 1985).
Myparents sent to Europe for education, therefore, I had little broaderviewpoint than most of the young soldiers in my generation, in fact,I knew the location of Vietnam. Well, think that might sound funny toyou, but I believe you would be surprised know that only few soldiersduring initial Desert War knew where Iraq or Kuwait was. In 1965,Vietnam was called Indochina and some individuals though that the twonames referred to different places. During that time, I had a vagueconcept of what struggle was all about just like anyone else inAmerica, and I had a vague idea of what communism stood for. I hadread about Karl Marx, but those ideas were just mush to a young manof 20 years (Terry, 1985).
Mattia-After you join the school, is that when Vietnam War broke out?
Farrell-Yes, it was that time in 1964 and 1965 when I was schooling inFrance. If I can remember, 1964 was the year when first ugly episodeshappened, and in 1965 Vietnam sent its first Marines. During thattime, almost everybody had a picture of what symbolized the War. Ithink the picture of Ike communicating with paratroopers on the D-Dayis the famous one that most people can remember. The picture thathave stacked in my mind for a long period is that of a woman beingremoved out of the wreckage of American Embassy that was bombed inSaigon. That woman was a secretary, with blonde hair, and around 20years old, and was soaked in her blood. I believe she managed tosurvive the attack eventually. There were two renowned battles inVietnam War the Ap Bia and Ap Bac. The Ap Bia was also later renamedHamburger Hill and the battle was virtually end of War. Ap Bac wasfirst actual battle that Americans performed than they were expected(Terry, 1985).
Farrell-No, the battle, was before that in year 1963. At that time, Americanswere advisors although they had established a huge scheme to cornerthe Viet Cong and they manage to get their butt kicked. Americanslost choppers, Gringos, as well as several Vietnamese soldiers. Ithink it was first real dawning of the idea that “the whoops had abunch and they could fight.” The two battles Ap Bia and Ap Bac weremost intense during the five years of war from 1963 to 1968. In year1964, Americans discovered that the battle will continue to 1965, andUnited States decided to put Marines ashore in the Da Nang and 1966,I joined American Army (Terry, 1985).
Mattia-You joined American Army in 1966 and you were put straight to SpecialForces?
Farrell-Yes, I joined the Special Forces right way. I went through basic aswell as advanced personal training, jumped parachute school, andfinally joined Special Forces. During those days, the training coursewas one-month period, and involved walking until you drop, no sleep,no food, and heavy loads. There was no harassment in Special Forcesand the shouting stuff was done in the basic training or the bootcamp. There was neither encouragement nor discouragement for a personto operate and remain in Special Forces he was required to set hisown standards. Other soldiers were there too you perform your duty.If you drink when you are supposed to be humping, in case you restwhen you are supposed to walk, or if you allow your friend carry aload that is heavy for you then you are fired without contesting it.The first phase of training was done within one month, after thatintroductory block that was endurance, military skills, and teamworka person was take to Military Occupational Specialty. In the SpecialForces, one was allowed to select one field among the followingdemolition ma, medic, weapons man, engineer, or radio operator. SinceI had college education they imaged that I must have knowledge onwiring so they sent me to radio operator school for six weeks. Duringthose days, tactical or combat radio was poor that it was not able tosend voice signal long distance. The basic infantry radio was usedfor a long period as line of sight, the FM set, Fox Mike, and a rangethat it could cast the voice was eight kilometers or five miles.Beyond that distance, one could not use it therefore people did notdepend on it. Eight kilometers are not a good range for strategiccommunication during combat (Terry, 1985).
Therefore,Special Forces divisions were normally deployed within 80,100kilometers from the base camp. Soldiers could only use radios thatwere able to transmit the voice that far, and the radio hadcontinuous wave Charlie Whiskey a Morse code. Through Morse code, aperson had to learn concerning crystals, and one had to learn Morsecode for eight hours daily for eight weeks. Besides that, soldierswere required to learn the antenna theory. We used the radio setsthat were used in World War II known as OSS radios. My training onthe use of radio sets took about nine months. After that, there wasthe closure phase where individuals who were screened for thepersonal qualities and later trained for personal skills, wereintegrated to a 12 men detachment Alpha. This was done within onemonth and it gave us time to perform our duties in the first missiontogether (Terry, 1985).
Terry,W. (1985). Bloodsan Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans. New York: Random House Publishing Group