101st Airborne Division Soldiers in famous Vietnam photo interviewed for first time
By 1st Lt. Daniel JohnsonAugust 15, 2017
In April 1968, Related Press photographer Artwork Greenspon took a photograph extensively thought-about to be one of probably the most telling photographs of the Vietnam Warfare that’s now titled “Help From Above.” Embedded with the Soldiers of Firm A, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Greenspon caught the second after an ambush the place Soldiers from the corporate have been shifting casualties to a touchdown zone to be evacuated. Amongst different honors, the picture impressed the poster for the Vietnam Warfare Film ‘Platoon’ and graces the covers books and entrance pages of newspapers. For 49 years, few have recognized the tales of the Soldiers that Greenspon photographed that day, or their fates.
“Early that morning, Company A moved forward on a search and destroy operation,” stated retired Col. Tom Sewell, who was a first lieutenant and platoon chief in Firm A on the time. “As we were moving forward, the platoon behind us made contact with the enemy; we held our position in order to care for the wounded Soldiers from the other platoon. In the process, we set up an LZ and began withdrawing the injured.”
The topic of the photograph, Sgt. Maj. Watson Baldwin, who was a employees sergeant on the time and Sewell’s platoon sergeant,, stands together with his arms outstretched in the air signaling the incoming plane. On the bottom lays Spc. four Dallas Brown, writhing in ache. Within the far proper, a helmetless Soldier, Sgt. Tim Witenburg, glances again towards the digital camera as he carries a wounded comrade. Their firm commander on the time, Cpt. Jay Cope was additionally recognized because the determine standing wanting up with maps on his fatigues. Baldwin handed away in 2005, however in interviews carried out lately, Winteburg, Brown, and Sewell spoke about their experiences earlier than, throughout, and after the warfare. This was the first time that each one three of the lads had been interviewed.
“I graduated from high school in 1964 and went to work with my father,” stated Sewell. “During the Christmas holidays, 1965, I received a letter from Uncle Sam stating ‘you have been selected to serve your Country’ and entered the Army in January 1966. As I was in-processing for basic training, I attended a briefing for Officer Candidate School [and] decided to apply during basic training. I arrived in Vietnam late January 1968, the beginning of the Tet Offensive.”
Dallas Brown, a Mount Juliet, Tennessee native, was impressed by the famous ballad of the Inexperienced Beret to enlist. He determined he needed to be a paratrooper.
“About six of us from my high school decided we were going to go into the Army.” stated Brown. “Two of us got to go airborne. I attended Fort Benning for basic training, Fort Gordon for airborne training. After a short time at Fort Bragg, I was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. At the end of Expert Infantrymen Badge testing there, they called us together and told us they had a list of guys who would be going to get their Combat Infantryman Badge in an undisclosed location in Southeast Asia. I was the first name on the list.”
Tim Witenburg was a Los Angeles, California native who joined the Military partly to remain out of hassle. An athlete, the bodily elements of the army drew him in.
“My brother convinced me to go down to the recruiter’s office,” stated Witenburg. “A lot of the jobs didn’t interest me, but I saw a picture of a paratrooper behind the recruiter’s desk and he noticed I was big into football and weight training back then and he said I’d make good airborne material.”
“My first duty station was Fort Bragg before Fort Campbell,” stated Wintenburg. “It was a real eye opener because there were a bunch of us what were called ‘cherries’ — those who had not been to combat. I went to the first sergeant and told him I wanted to go to Vietnam. He chuckled and told me we were all going anyway, so don’t worry about it.”
All three Soldiers ended up assigned to Firm A, 2-327, a battalion in the first Brigade [Separate] of the 101st Airborne Division. The first Brigade, which consisted of 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment; 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment and 2-327, had arrived in Vietnam in 1965 earlier than all the opposite parts of the division, who arrived in 1967.
In April of 1968 1st Brigade was in the A Shau Valley close to the border of Laos, blocking enemy exercise from getting into South Vietnam alongside the Ho Chi Minh path. The conflict was at its peak with the fixed contact between U.S., NVA, and VC forces. Referred to as the “valley of death” by troops preventing there, the preventing was some of hardest of the conflict on the time.
Artwork Greenspon embedded with the unit in late April. On the day “Help From Above” was taken, Firm A was tasked to help Firm C of the 2-327. As they moved out to strengthen their fellow Screaming Eagles, they made contact with the enemy.
“There was a major trail and we had to set up a perimeter for security as the company moved through,” stated Brown. “I was sitting on my rucksack eating while we waited and I noticed a tree moving. I readied my M16 and NVA regulars began to emerge.”
A firefight quickly ensued between A Firm and the NVA and a number of Soldiers have been hit. Brown himself narrowly escaped being shot in the battle, however suffered an damage to his again which brought about him to be grimacing in ache when “Help From Above” was taken..
“As I was reloading,” stated Brown. “One of them started to shoot at me. I could see clouds of dirt jumping as the bullets hit and I barely dove out of the way. I got up and started moving up the hill towards the command post.”
Because the battle raged, the lads of Firm A moved to a hasty LZ they arrange in the jungle after the Soldiers hacked the foliage down so that a basket might be dropped from the air for the casualties. It was throughout this time that Greenspon snapped “Help From Above.”
“I was in the point platoon and in the ambush a couple of guys behind me got wounded,” stated Witenburg. “That’s who we were carrying when the photo was taken, and I had lost my helmet on the way to the landing zone due to all the action going on. I remember Art Greenspon was on one knee crouching and I had a strange feeling that something was behind us looking. As I turned to glance back, he took the photo.”
Sgt. Maj. Baldwin was signaling to the plane the place to drop a basket for the wounded the second the photo was taken. His hanging pose, together with these of the Soldiers round him, was quickly internationally famous.
“Watson Baldwin was the finest platoon sergeant I had when I was in the Army,” stated Wintenburg. “He was a lead-by-example type of guy, always up front leading the way and making sure we were doing the right thing. Baldwin was also very compassionate. He did two tours in Vietnam and retired as a sergeant major. After the war he went into trucking before he passed away.”
The picture was quickly on the entrance web page of papers worldwide — an unfiltered picture of the battle. The Soldiers in A Co. didn’t find out about it till some time after it made the information.
“Several weeks later I received a letter from my parents in Maryland with a newspaper article and picture enclosed with the caption A Co, 101st Airborne Division,” stated Sewell. “My mother wrote, ‘this is why we worry about you.’ My written response to her was ‘don’t you even recognize your son?’”
He acquired extra copies of the photo and handed it out to Soldiers in his platoon the place most of them stashed it away for their return to america. The battle continued, however by 1969 Sewell, Brown, and Witenburg had accomplished their excursions and returned residence.
Sewell would return to Vietnam as soon as extra in 1971 as half of the 101st Airborne Division, serving till the division’s position in the battle ended a yr. The officer would proceed to serve for 24 extra years after the battle retiring in 1996 on the rank of Colonel. The retired Soldier is now head of the Screaming Eagle basis, which assists Soldiers and their households from the 101st Airborne Division.
“Considering that I came from a very small town in Maryland, I feel my career was very successful and I am proud to have served our country.” stated Sewell. “The most memorable moments in my Army career came from leading and serving with the greatest division in the world — the Screaming Eagles. The Army gave me the opportunity to explore and serve with the greatest Soldiers in the world, and that’s why I wanted to continue serving and helping them after I retired.”
Brown and Witenburg processed out of the Military quickly after their return and shortly joined the civilian workforce. Each males have loved profitable careers and at the moment are retired.
Every of the previous Soldiers is proud of their service and proceed to be lively with the 101st and the veterans’ group. In 2014, the three Soldiers and different veterans of the unit visited Fort Campbell and spoke to present members of the 327th.
“Being in the Army helped give me an excellent work ethic,” stated Wintenburg. “I’m extremely proud of Soldiers today and how professional they are. I remember seeing footage on the Military Channel of Soldiers reenlisting in Iraq and Afghanistan; that’s real patriotism. It brought a tear to my eye when I saw that. When we spoke to the Soldiers at Fort Campbell, they basically rolled out the red carpet for us and told us how honored they were to continue the tradition.”
“What people didn’t understand back then but understand more now is that we were Soldiers doing our jobs,” stated Wintenburg. “A lot of things back in the ‘world’ as we called it didn’t matter out there. What mattered was that it was life and death, and what mattered was keeping each other alive. The loyalty we had to each other was profound.”
When requested concerning the photo and why it turned internationally famous, every Soldier cites the very fact of the way it confirmed the day-to-day lives of Soldiers in battle. Brown, who has the photo hanging in his home, together with the Screaming Eagle flag, defined why it was so memorable in his eyes.
“The photo signifies what warfare is all about.” stated Brown. “A Soldier’s life in the field is rough. It’s either kill or be killed. The photo speaks of the volume of the 101st Airborne Division’s and U.S. Army’s commitment to anywhere in the world to defend our liberties and those of others.”
Dallas Brown, a Vietnam Struggle veteran who served with Firm A, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade [Separate], 101st Airborne Division poses subsequent to a Screaming Eagle Flag, Aug eight, 2017, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Brown, together with Tim Winterburg , Watson Baldwin, and Jay Cope, is one of the Soldiers pictured in the famous Vietnam Conflict photograph “Help from Above” by Artwork Greenspon. When the photo was taken, Brown was laying on the bottom grimacing in ache from an damage sustained throughout a firefight with the NVA. (U.S Military Photo by Sgt. William White) (Photo Credit score: Sgt. William White)“The 101st will always be the only unit in my mind.” stated Brown. “When boots are needed to be put on the ground, the 101 is always called. I love the division and am extremely proud of my service during the war.”
Specialist four Erick Miller (left) and Employees Sgt. Steve Baldwin sit in a camp south of Hearth Base Jack in Vietnam in spring 1970. Miller wrote a ebook, entitled “Toll of War/Vietnam: Inside a Veteran’s Mind,” about his 1969-1970 tour of Vietnam, the place he served with the 327th Infantry Regiment. (Photo Credit score: Courtesy Photo)
By Megan Locke Smith, Fort Campbell Courier
Preventing is a horrible failure of diplomacy. Conflict is madness en masse. The existence of evil continually drives individuals to at least one or the opposite.” — excerpt from “Toll of War/Vietnam: Inside a Veteran’s Mind,” by Erick W. Miller
Drafted at 20 years previous, Erick W. Miller had his entire life forward of him when the U.S. Military despatched him deep into the jungles of Vietnam in 1969.
Assigned to B Firm, 1st Platoon, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Miller served as level man — or as he likes to confer with it — “the first idiot down the trail.”
The 327th was the first Screaming Eagles unit to enter the struggle in 1965, and the unit participated in greater than 40 fight operations, together with the Tet Counteroffensive earlier than coming residence for good in 1972.
The yr Miller served with the Screaming Eagles hundreds of miles from house altered the course of his life. As a approach to relate his experiences and people of different veterans like him, Miller launched a non-fiction, semi-autobiographical e-book of brief tales based mostly round his tour, which he self-published in 2004.
The e-book was extra than simply therapeutic for him, as he began gathering the tales in the mid-90s after VA docs recognized him with Submit-Traumatic Stress Dysfunction for the first time. He additionally needed individuals to know the reality about what occurred in Vietnam, particularly in the ultimate years of the struggle.
“If you weren’t there in ’68, [people thought] you must have had it pretty easy,” Miller stated. “All the casualties in ’68 were because the entire country was going up in smoke. By the time 1970 rolled around, other than the Cambodian Incursion, the war had moved up north. The 101st was bearing the brunt of that.”
By the time Miller entered Vietnam, the warfare was extremely unpopular and for probably the most half not highlighted by the mainstream media. There have been fewer troops, however the battles the Soldiers confronted have been nonetheless all too actual.
Whereas battles like Hamburger Hill and Ripcord are well-documented now, Miller stated there are extra tales to be informed.
“There’s just so much to that war after Hamburger Hill in ’69, that people had no clue,” Miller stated, who was promoted to a Specialist four whereas in Vietnam.
“I make two valid points; one is that the war was not over in 1968 like the press wanted,” Miller stated in a telephone interview from his Apache Junction, Ariz. residence.
“… There was an important book to write. Just to let people know that war was not over when the newspapers got bored with it.”
Whereas arduous to put in writing at first, Miller stated the modifying course of acquired extra “satisfying” over time because it helped make sense of his reminiscences. Since publication, Miller now receives numerous emails from fellow veterans saying the guide is “a must read for everybody.”
The ebook chronicles his perspective as an infantryman and what it was wish to be trudging by way of a overseas land, by no means understanding what may be across the bend. This expertise — the dust and dirt of struggle, coupled with the nagging uncertainty — helped create a bond that may solely be shared by these Soldiers.
“I just wish sometimes I had clean food or dry socks,” he stated. “But you know what, like I say, when you’re a grunt and you look around with all these other grunts, everybody’s all dirty and hot and sweaty and scared, you know. That seems normal. Your new life is like this — and you look around and everybody else is just as miserable as you, so that seems normal to you.”
This situational camaraderie didn’t translate upon his return residence, the place Miller stated even World Struggle II veterans didn’t perceive the complete scope of what he skilled.
“It was so hard to come back to America,” he defined. “Everything’s moving fast and everything’s noisy, and there are bright lights and people are laughing. You just want to go in a closet and close the door and cover your ears. You shrink away from all that. Like guys who are in prison for a long time — they become institutionalized. Everything is a certain way, and they get used to that.”
Although after Vietnam Miller got here house to a unfavorable viewpoint from most of America, together with fellow veterans, he believes U.S. presence in the nation was really essential.
“By ’73, we made them [North Vietnam] sign a peace treaty and they didn’t win that war until American troops were pulled out,” he stated. “And they wouldn’t have beat the South if the politicians would have honored our commitment to send them spare parts and ammunition … How could that little tiny [place] survive the fight?”
“It was worthwhile,” Miller stated of U.S. involvement. “It kept communism from expanding for the longest time.”
After the warfare and a tough reception on the house entrance, Miller pursued careers in carpentry and roofing. Nevertheless, he fell into drug and alcohol too, a sample he didn’t break till 1992 when he discovered freedom in Jesus Christ. With out the crutch of intoxicants, he started to lose focus and produce other points. By means of writing the guide, remarrying and embracing the lasting results of the conflict, Miller stated his life is “darn good now.”
He nonetheless remembers the names on the Vietnam Memorial, many of who served as pointmen like himself or slackmen like his battle buddy Travis Shattle.
“We were lucky — where I was, we were lucky compared to those guys in Ripcord,” Miller recollects. “… One platoon had 90 percent casualties. They were in hand-to-hand combat, grossly outnumbered.”
Whereas his PTSD is much less intense now, Miller nonetheless typically wakes from nightmares. He remembers nights in the jungle the place it was “pitch-black … like taping your eyes shut” that left many males jittery as they took the night time watch. It’s emotions like these that give Miller such respect for the 101st Airborne Division Soldiers of at the moment, the bulk of whom have a string of deployments to each Afghanistan and Iraq.
“In today’s war, I give these guys credit,” he stated. “These guys are going back over and over. A year was enough for me. It was rare to hear of someone that had three tours in Vietnam. It was rare for two tours; three tours would be extremely rare. Some of [today’s Soldiers] have been there five times. In the book I put in words, today’s generation of warriors is truly the greatest generation.”
To buy a replica of Miller’s guide, go to bookstore.authorhouse.com and search “Toll of War/Vietnam.”
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