SOURCES & REFERENCES
Personal Notes and Experiences: My notes were mostly handwritten notes that I kept during the months of April - June 1972. I called them my "Vietnam Notes" and they were used by me to prepare and present numerous briefings to visitors after the battle. I became the briefing officer and would typically present an overview briefing of the battle with maps in a conference room at Camp Holloway. After the briefing, I often took the visitor(s) with me in an OH-58 helicopter and we would fly the battle area. I did this often enough and flew the terrain enough that I practically memorized much of the battle sequence. Many times, I landed my aircraft near destroyed tanks so that the visitors could get a chance to "walk the ground" and see the tanks. All the pictures I have used in this presentation came from my personal collection.
This was my second tour at Camp Holloway in Pleiku. On my first tour - Oct '67 thru Oct '68 - I had been an assault helicopter platoon commander and operations officer for the 119th AHC. I spent much of my time flying the Kontum area during the Battle of Dak To, TET of '68 and supporting the SOG mission out of FOB 2 that was located a few kilometers south of Kontum City on QL 14. I found that my familiarity with the terrain, the firebases and the environment were all very helpful to me during the Battle of Kontum. I had flown in and around all the FSBs, Polei Kleng, Ben Het, Dak To, Tan Canh and Kontum City many times. In the game of golf, we would say that I had "local knowledge."
In the summer of 1975, as a family, we became very involved with the Vietnamese refugees. We had two Vietnamese men live with us for a period of almost two years and we became friends with many of the Vietnamese living in our area. Some of them were prior Vietnamese military and one was a helicopter pilot, Nguyen Binh, who became a good friend over the years. This association provided interesting insights and has certainly influenced my view of the events of 1972. As a note, one of the refugees living with us, Giao Dau, married my sister-in-law and assisted me in digitizing some of the pictures used here.
Audio Taped Interviews: During the months of June, July and August 1972, Lt. Gary Swingle conducted interviews with many of the advisors who participated in the battle. He also interviewed the survivors of the 57th UH-1H helicopter shot down near Dak To. I have a copy of some of those taped interviews. The tapes I have include: MAJ Wade Lovings, LTC John Grant (he was my ROTC instructor when I was a student at Providence College), LTC Norbert Gannon, LTC William Bricker, CPT Charles Carden, LTC McClain, CPT Raymond Dobbins, and COL John Truby. From the 57th "Gladiator 715" survivors I have, SPC 4 Lea, SPC 4 Vogel, SGT Ward, CPT Kelley and MAJ Warmath.
Pacific Stars and Stripes Newspapers: There were numerous articles printed during this period on various aspects of the battle. I was able to keep most of the newspapers from that period and have reprinted many of those articles as a resource for this web site. I am very appreciative to Mr. Max D. Lederer, Jr., General Manager of "Stars and Stripes", who granted me permission to reprint these articles.
Marshall L. Michel III, "THE 11 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: America's Last Vietnam Battle", ENCOUNTER BOOKS, San Francisco, California, 2002, an outstanding book which provides unique insights on President Nixon's decision to "use the big stick" which effectively ended the Vietnam War in 1973. This well researched and balanced presentation puts the Christmas bombing in perspective and gives details from the cockpit of a B-52 bomber over Hanoi.
Lewis Sorley, "A BETTER WAR: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam," A HARVEST BOOK HARCOURT, INC., San Diego, New York, London, 1999. Lewis Sorley's highly acclaimed book is excellent and it tells the story more accurately than most especially in the later years of the war. Dr. Lewis Sorley, Pulitzer-prize nominated historian, is also a featured contributor to the outstanding Vietnam documentary film series "The Long Way Home Project."
Dale Andrade's book, "TRIAL BY FIRE: The 1972 Easter Offensive, America's Last Vietnam Battle", HIPPOCRENE BOOKS, New York, 1995, is the most detailed description I have read of the battle of Kontum. His research is thorough and complete. If someone were interested in the detailed story of this battle I would recommend Mr. Andrade's book as the best source.
Neil Sheehan's book, "A BRIGHT SHINING LIE: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam", RANDOM HOUSE, New York, 1988, is a Pulitzer Prize winning book. On page 785 Mr. Sheehan provides a detailed description of June 9th, 1972, when Mr. Vann was killed in the crash of his OH-58 helicopter in the Kontum Pass. In the late summer of 1972 Mr. Sheehan came to Pleiku doing research on Mr. Vann. I spent several hours with him one evening recounting some of the recent history and told him what I knew about Mr. Vann's death. He was kind enough to list me as a footnote in his book.
Sir Robert Thompson's book, "NO EXIT FROM VIETNAM", DAVID McKAY COMPANY, INC., New York, 1969. This book provides an excellent presentation, on a misconceived American strategy in Vietnam and the misapplied American power that led to America's failure in that unpopular and costly war.
Dr. W. Scott Thompson's article, "LESSONS FROM THE FRENCH IN VIETNAM", NAVAL WAR COLLEGE REVIEW, March - April 1975, pp. 43 - 52. Dr. Thompson points out that the if we had studied the French experience of ten years earlier, we could have profited from the French experience articulated in "La Guerre Revolutionnaire".
F. P. Serong's monograph, "The 1972 Easter Offensive", Southeast Asia Perspective, Summer, 1974, pp iii - 63. One of the earliest accounts of the Easter Offensive published. The large-scale Vietnam battles of spring, 1972, did not get the attention of American historians or, that of our political leaders.
Rufus Philips published a book in 2008 which is "an eyewitness account of lessons not learned." The title of the book is "WHY VIETNAM MATTERS", Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 2008. The book is excellent and full of insights of the early days of America's involvement in Vietnam. Lessons learned from the Vietnam War are not readily available but Rufus Philips provides some worthwhile thoughts that are applicable today as we escalate our involvement in Afghanistan.
During May and June, I worked with Col. John Todd. Each night, we put together a message that he sent back to the 1st Aviation Brigade Headquarters that described the days' activities. It was essentially a daily operations report and I was his "scribe." I learned a great deal of details about the battle and what was being said by the command group from the many hours of putting together those daily action reports. I also flew the "AirBoss" mission, along with others, so I had an opportunity to stay current with the battle. Much of the information from that period, I put into the 17th Aviation Group Combat, Operations Report Lessons Learned (ORLL) - 1 MAY72 - 31 OCT 72. Lt. Gary Swingle was preparing a history of that period and we exchanged notes. He was very helpful and provided much of the detail from the MACV advisors' perspective. MACV Command History 1972-1973 Annex K Kontum - The NVA Buildup
A good friend of mine, Ret. Col. James W. "Walt" Shugart III, recommended Philip Jennings book "The Politically Incorrect Guide to The Vietnam War", REGNERY PUBLISHING, INC. An Eagle Publishing Company, Washington, D.C.2010. Phillip Jennings did a wonderful job of pulling together in one place and integrating the true story of the Vietnam War. It is a short book that tells a long story better than any other single book I have read. Mr. Jennings acknowledges that he stood on the shoulders of many other authors who have told bits and pieces of this story . it is not new . but he put it all in one .bag.. If you read only one book on the Vietnam War, with the intent to understand the history of our involvement, this is the book to read.
"Kontum: The Battle to Save South Vietnam", University Press of Kentucky, 2011. Tom McKenna's book is an extremely well researched and written history of one of the largest battles of the Vietnam War. He told the story as it was and captured, with true grit, the events as he lived them. I flew the Air Boss mission, along with others, over the battle area. Tom's description of the action as a participant observer captures not only the detail of the minute to minute intense fighting but also how this battle fit into the larger picture of America's more than 10 year effort to help South Vietnam remain a free and independent country. I was pleased that Tom recognized, in his book, the extraordinary leadership of the 23rd Div Commander, Gen Ly Tong Ba, and the bravery of the ARVN soldiers without whom, this battle would have been lost. So long ago, but for many of us, it is just yesterday. Congratulations Tom.
I have an extensive bibliography of books and articles that I have read about the Vietnam War over the years. There are a plethora of web sites, which can be very helpful, and fill-in many gaps for the interested reader. I have listed some of the links I value.