The Vietnam War

By Kacey Milliken

"No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now." -Richard M. Nixon



This picture is of the 101st Airborne, 1st Brigade, and 1/327th Infantry Tiger Force of 1967. Mr. Richard Murphy served in this platoon.  The platoon was rather small, but possessed an abundant amount of honor and bravery.  The platoon was awarded two Medals of Honor, and lots of Silver Stars. Mr. Murphy's comrades, John Gertsch and James A. Gardner received the two Medals of Honor. The photo came from a site dedicated to the Tiger Force by a veteran of the Tiger Force.

This is a 101st Airborne, 1st Brigade 1/327th Infantry Tiger Force Reconnaissance Patrol Patch.  Mr. Murphy received a patch similar to this for his time served in the Tiger Force.  The Tiger Force was a reconnaissance patrol, which tried to obtain strategic information without the knowledge of the enemy.  Despite the small size, the Tiger Force was well respected and brave.  The 101st Airborne, 1st Brigade 1/327th Infantry Tiger Force Reconnaissance Patrol is still on active duty today, serving their country in Iraq.



My family friend, Richard Murphy, was a soldier in the Vietnam War.  The Vietnam War lasted from 1962 to 1972 and cost the United States fifty billion dollars.  Mr. Murphy served from 1966-1967 and again in 1968-1969. He was a member of the 101st Airborne, 1st Brigade, and 2nd Corp.  Mr. Murphy was in the strike force, meaning he moved around frequently. He was a radiotelephone operator (RTO) for his reconnaissance patrol. A reconnaissance patrol is a patrol used to gather strategic information without the knowledge of the enemy.  He traveled throughout Vietnam, including the areas Song Mau and Kontum, where some intense fighting took place. During his second tour, he worked in intelligence in Futu, which is outside of Wai.

This is an article written in the “Screaming Eagle”, which was the division newspaper.  The article refers to a time when the Vietcong set off grenades where the Tiger Force was sleeping. Mr. Murphy was present when the Vietcong attacked.  He vividly remembers what was going on.   He said he awoke suddenly after the first grenade went off.  Unaware of what was happening, he instinctually grabbed his gun.  Mr. Murphy recalls, “I remember the intense shaking from the explosions.  But it was like it was never there because we all knew there was a job to be done.” The Tiger Force managed to drive away the Viet Cong.

The Vietnam War: A Summary

The war began after the Geneva conferences held in Geneva, Switzerland in 1954.  Many nations attended the conference and called for a reunification of Vietnam.  At the time, Vietnam split into North Vietnam and South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh, a communist, ran the North.  In the South, Ngo Dinh Diem took power.  The US favored Ngo Dinh Diem because he met many US leaders during the 1950’s.  In order to unify Vietnam, the government scheduled elections in 1955 to be held in South Vietnam.  Diem canceled the elections, which upset Minh because he would have benefited from them.  Consequently, Diem faced major opposition from the Viet Cong.  The United States sent aid, but otherwise did very little.

On August 7, 1964 the US passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which authorized military action in Southeast Asia. The US began a series of air raids targeting North Vietnam and Communist controlled areas in South Vietnam.  North Vietnam received aid from China and the Soviet Union.   The two countries shipped supplies to North Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  The US could not seal off the trail to stop flow of arms and supplies to communists fighting in South Vietnam. Regardless of the large number of US troops, the US and South Vietnam could not defeat North Vietnam and the Viet Cong.  The Tet Invasion, where the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese tried to seize South Vietnam and major cities like Saigon, proved to the Americans at home that the war could not be won.

After Nixon became President in 1969, the Invasion of Cambodia began.  The US used B-52 bombers against North Vietnam sanctuaries and supply routes. Ultimately, the invasion led to civil war in Cambodia.  After this event, peace negotiations were attempted.  On January 27, 1973 the United States, North Vietnam, South Vietnam and the Vietcong all sighed a peace agreement. By March 27, the US troops withdrew from Vietnam along with the prisoners of war.  Despite the agreement reached, North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam and South Vietnam collapsed.

The Role of a RTO:

Radiotelephone operators played a key part in the Vietnam War.  The RTO allowed communication with other troops and the world.  A RTO carried a twenty-five pound radio on their back. "It was heavy at first, but after you had walked a good 3 miles, it felt like nothing," says Mr. Murphy. The job entailed sending and recieving messages on the radio. The most common radio used was the PRC-25.  The PRC-25 ran on battery power, and the battery only lasted for one day of continuous use, so the RTO always carried spares.  The PRC-25 had two large knobs, which changed the frequency.  The frequency had to be changed often to insure that enemies could not pick up transmissions.  The RTO also carried signaling devices like the smoke grenade.  The smoke grenade released clouds of colored smoke to help mark location for gun ships and Huey Pilots.  The RTO used aluminum flares when signaling at night.  The radio allowed communication with the world.  Soldiers could stay informed on what was happening back in the United States. Mr. Murphy recalls that, “I remember one day when a call came in saying there was a man on the moon.  It made us feel like if the U.S. can put on a man on the moon, we can sure beat the Viet Cong.”

This is a picture of both a portable and vehicular model of the PRC-25 radio.  The PRC-25 was the most common radio used during the Vietnam War.  It was Mr. Murphy's job to operate the radio for his platoon.  He used the portable model and carried it on his back.  The radio has two large knobs that are used to change the frequency.  The PRC-25 was vital to troops because they could stay in contact with other troops and the rest of the world.

Second Time Around:

During Mr. Murphy's second tour, he worked in intelligence in Futu outside of Wai.  He was not out in Vietnam fighting, but did more behind the scenes work.  Mr. Murphy tells, “I did miss not being on the front line a little, but it was just as exciting to be the brain behind it all, (laughs).”  He was an intelligence analyst.  His role was to supervise and coordinate strategic and tactical intelligence.  This ranged from reviewing maps to preparing intelligence briefings.

This is a map of the Indochina area during the Vietnam War.  Most of the war was fought in South Vietnam.  Mr. Murphy fought mainly in South Vietnam. On the map, the blue arrows indicate the US and South Vietnam invasion of Cambodia.  The red arrows represent the Ho Chi Minh trail, which was used to give North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops fighting in South Vietnam supplies.

The Price of War:

United States:
47,253 died in Vietnam
313,616 wounded
10,000 lost at least one limb due to booby traps, mines, ambushes and other guerilla tactics
1340 remain MIA
South Vietnam:
185,528 killed
499,026 wounded
North Vietnam/Viet Cong:
924,048 dead
415,000 civilians killed
935,000 civilians wounded

"I was proud to serve my country despite everything that went on.  And I would do it again in a heartbeat."-Richard Murphy