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Thread: Happy Birthday, Screaming Eagles!

  1. #1

    Default Happy Birthday, Screaming Eagles!

    August 16 will be the 70th Anniversary of the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles. From Normandy to now, they have been in the thick of action. I had the rare privilege of serving with, although not of, the division at Hamburger Hill. To this day I stand in awe of the troopers of the 101st, and am proud of the fact that I had the opportunity to play some small role in their history. Airborne, All the Way!

    He was just a rookie trooper and he surely shook with fright,
    He checked off his equipment and made sure his pack was tight;
    He had to sit and listen to those awful engines roar,
    "You ain't gonna jump no more!"
    Glory, glory, what a hell of a way to die,
    With your rifle in your right hand as you're falling through the sky.
    Glory, glory, what a hell of a way to die,
    And he ain't gonna jump no more!

    "Is everybody happy?" cried the Sergeant looking up,
    Our Hero feebly answered "Yes," and then they stood him up;
    He jumped into the icy blast, his static line unhooked,
    And he ain't gonna jump no more.
    He counted long, he counted loud, he waited for the shock,
    He felt the wind, he felt the cold, he felt the awful drop,
    The silk from his reserve spilled out and wrapped around his legs,
    And he ain't gonna jump no more.
    The risers wrapped around his neck, connectors cracked his dome,
    Suspension lines were tied in knots around his skinny bones;
    The canopy became his shroud; he hurtled to the ground.
    And he ain't gonna jump no more.
    The days he'd lived and loved and laughed kept running through his mind,
    He thought about the girl back home, the one he'd left behind;
    He thought about the medics, and wondered what they'd find,
    And he ain't gonna jump no more.
    The ambulance was on the spot, the jeeps were running wild,
    The medics jumped and screamed with glee, rolled up their sleeves and smiled,
    For it had been a week or more since last a 'chute had failed,
    And he ain't gonna jump no more.
    He hit the ground, the sound was "SPLAT", his blood went spurting high;
    His comrades, they were heard to say "A hell of a way to die!"
    He lay there, rolling 'round in the welter of his gore,
    And he ain't gonna jump no more.
    (slowly, solemnly; about half the speed of the other verses)
    There was blood upon the risers, there were brains upon the chute,
    Intestines were a-dangling from his paratrooper suit,
    He was a mess, they picked him up and poured him from his boots,
    And he ain't gonna jump no more.
    And at the gates of heaven, to Saint Peter he shall tell,
    One more soldier reporting sir! I've served my time in hell,
    Saint Peter will just smile and say you have served you country well,
    And you aint gotta jump no more.,
    Glory, glory, what a hell of a way to die,
    Glory, glory, what a hell of a way to die,
    Glory, glory, what a hell of a way to die,
    And he ain't gotta jump no more!

    R.I.P. Cyrano and Roxanne.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Happy Birthday, Screaming Eagles!

    That is a gruesome song lol. I can picture drunken soldiers singing it while raising their glasses in the pub.

    I assume you logged a number of jumps. Any cool stories?

  3. #3

    Default Re: Happy Birthday, Screaming Eagles!

    No, Sir! I was strongly encouraged to go Airborne but firmly held to the rule that only two things fall out of the sky: bird sh1t and fools. I was attached to the 3rd Brigade of the 101 in May of 1969 for about 2 weeks during Apache Snow in the A Shau Valley. It was my introduction to the concept of being scared sh1tless.
    As for "Blood on the Risers" it got its start as an unofficial anthem of the Airborne sometime in WWII. And, yes, most of the time that I ever heard it, alcohol was involved!

    R.I.P. Cyrano and Roxanne.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Happy Birthday, Screaming Eagles!

    Pardon my ignorance on what "Apache Snow in the A Shau Valley" means. I'm sure it's a Vietnam reference but I have nothing to refer to. Care to tell?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Happy Birthday, Screaming Eagles!

    Oh, Boy. Well, you asked for it! Some of what follows has a certain amount of scholarship to support it, some of it is my totally biased opinion. I'll let you try to figure out which. (Hint, any time I talk about US military command, it is more than likely opinion. The more profane my comments, he more likely it is.)
    First a little geography. The A Shau Valley runs for about 200 miles, north/south, roughly parallel to the Laotian border. It has several pretty good size rivers and several relatively good roads. At the north end is a steep hill, Ap Bia Mountain. At 937 meters, it pretty well dominates the surrounding landscape.
    The NVA used the valley as a staging area, particularly for Tet of 68, where they had troops, matériel, and equipment for the attacks on Hue. The Tet attack on Hue was, by far, the most successful of the NVA/VC operations. As a result, US forces established a number of small positions up and down the valley to attempt to interdict travel and operations. They were not very successful, in large part because the military leadership was not willing to expend the necessary assets to really take control. Mostly, we were a pain in the NVA's a$$.
    In early spring of 1969 the NVA were once again staging large quantities of matériel and equipment, and a large number of troops. The A Shau was a natural terminus for the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and there was a lot of very rugged terrain that allowed for stuff to be hidden. Contrary to popular belief, much of this matériel was not hand carried by individual soldiers down trails in the jungle. (That is the type of operation I later became mostly involved with stopping.) Instead, there were actually large truck parks, to include maintenance facilities, and some really impressive supply depots. Because of this, American high command decided that it was time to really clean out the valley. The 3rd Brigade of the 101st, the 9th Marine Regiment, and a Regiment of ARVNs (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) - I think the 3rd Regiment, were detailed to assault Ap Bia. This attack was named "Apache Snow".
    For about three months or so prior to this major attempt, there were a series of spoiler attacks on various areas in the valley. I am not sure what they were suppose to accomplish. What they did do was stir up the hornet's nest, give the NVA the idea that something was up so they would reinforce the troops they already had there, and give them plenty of time to improve their defensive positions.
    The inclusion of the ARVNs in the planning made sure that the NVA would have complete understanding of our intentions. There were three regiments of NVA troops in the valley, the 6th, 9th, and 29th. All three were seasoned, experienced troops, freshly restocked and reinforced after actions earlier in the year. They were in the valley to rest up and recuperate.
    Prior to this, most action against either the NVA or VC tended to be small unit tactics. They would not stand and fight, but would ambush or hit and run. They were absolute masters of waiting for you to walk into a kill zone, pin you down with automatic fire - killing or wounding one or two - and then pulling back. They would then set up again, and if you followed too aggressively, you walked right into the same situation. This time, the NVA decided to see what they could do from fixed defensive positions in a large-scale action. It was kind of a first for them, and for us.
    U.S. Command sent U.S. troops on a classic assault-on-line against a fortified position. We got our a$$es kicked. We tried again - and again - and again. For 10 days they sent small numbers of troops, piecemeal, against a well fortified, heavily armed, effectively defended position. At the end of the battle, the NVA just pulled out, leaving the hill for us to "win". We "took" the hill and held it for a short while, then pulled everybody out.
    The butcher's bill. Actual body count of NVA (not the inflated numbers that were so often "estimates") was 633. That would not include those that were sealed up in tunnels, blown into pieces too small to catalog, or ended up in unmarked and forgotten graves along the trails leading away from the mountain. From my experience, I would guess the number would be around double the count. There were 70 US dead, and 372 wounded. I don't know about ARVN casualties, but would have to believe some of them would have sprained an ankle on terrain that rough.
    Among those who died was SP4 Randy Mee. I had met him only a few days before. I am proud to call him a friend. He died because an absolute total A$$hole of a fool named LT LeClair had a bad John Wayne complex and a total lack of leadership. I will never forget Randy, nor forgive LeClair.
    The battle for Dong Ap Bia became known as Hamburger Hill. It was a total failure of command and a waste of valiant young men. Had it not been for the unbelievable courage of the men around me, the failure of command, the strategical failure, would have resulted in a tactical failure as well.

    R.I.P. Cyrano and Roxanne.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Happy Birthday, Screaming Eagles!

    Holy smokes! You were right in the thick of things. If you don't mind answering a few more questions, there are a few more I'd like to ask. You don't have to answer if you don't want. I just love reading/hearing about history from those who actually lived it.

    Did you volunteer or were you drafted? How old were you? How long was the boot camp before you were sent over? How long were you there? Did you see anyone fall for the booby traps like they show in the movies (little kid asking for help kinda thing)? I'll stop there. Sorry if I'm prying. I am naturally curious.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Happy Birthday, Screaming Eagles!

    Not a problem - but it is after 8 PM and I have to be up at 4, so I will answer more fully tomorrow.
    I enlisted in the Army. My basic training was 8 weeks, followed by 6 months of training in Intelligence at Ft. Hollibird, MD. I was 20 when I went in. I was in country for 16 months. The basic tour was 12 months - I extended for an additional six, but was discharged early because of a wound that turned out to be not nearly as bad as it was supposed to be (more on that in booby traps). More tomorrow.

    R.I.P. Cyrano and Roxanne.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Happy Birthday, Screaming Eagles!

    It is too bad they did not sing that rendition of it in Band of Brothers.
    "I like my antiques new " - Steve Martin

  9. #9

    Default Re: Happy Birthday, Screaming Eagles!

    Quote Originally Posted by M Richardson View Post
    only two things fall out of the sky: bird sh1t and fools.
    At the risk of turning this thread into pages of really bad, tedious jokes, this reminds me of an old joke, told in the days when ethnic jokes (this one was directed at Polish people) were acceptable, but proudly made "politically correct" by yours truly.

    Two guys of "differing ethnicities" were skydiving. The first guy, who was "not so bright," jumped out, pulled his cord, the chute opens up and he slowly floats down.
    The second guy jumps, pulls his cord, chute doesn't open. Pulls his second cord, chute doesn't open. Finally, pulls his last emergency cord, chute doesn't open.
    As he goes racing by the first guy casually floating down to the ground, the first guy throws off his chute and says, "Wanna race, huh?!"
    UNI Panthers...Because it's just right.

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