Last March, KUED aired the first episode of Utah Vietnam War Stories, a powerful documentary tribute to the men and women of Utah who served during the Vietnam conflict. Turning Point, the second gripping segment, built upon dozens of interviews with soldiers, sailors, airmen and medical personnel, is a compelling oral history of the pivotal months in Vietnam during and immediately after the Tet Offensive of 1968. Turning Point will debut Monday, September 10 at 7:00 p.m. on KUED, featuring interviews with Magna’s Daniel Maynard and West Valley’s Jim Scott.
After serving his four-year commitment to the Marines safely inside the U.S., Daniel Maynard extended his contract one year, so that he could fight in Vietnam. Because he had more experience, he was a Sergeant E-5 and Security Chief, frequently in charge of troops at firebases.
“The firebases were bait and trying to draw the enemy out,” explains Maynard, who recalls shooting constantly into the surrounding jungle in an effort to draw fire. On a firebase, soldiers had very limited supplies – only essentials – for the one to three months they were stationed there. Marines were rationed water and beer on a per-day basis, but only the water made it out to the firebases.
“If you were on a firebase for two months, you got 60 cans of beer when you got back,” he laughs. Soldiers on firebases were given canned rations, which, while often unpleasant, were a feast compared to long-range rations, which were “a pack that had long bouillon cubes in it – one was turkey, one was beef, one was chicken. You just chewed on them and then drank water. That was your rations.”
Maynard did manage to spend some of his time in-country in civilization. His company was in Hue before the 30-day battle for the city, and Maynard recalls the ancient and beautiful buildings, as well as the modern sky scrapers. Of course, like any young men, they had an eye for certain things. “While we were over there in '67, '68…the miniskirt came out, and the first time we ever saw a miniskirt was seeing the students at the University of Hue was wearing 'em."
When they returned after the battle, not only were miniskirts far less common on the streets, “there wasn't a recognizable building in Hue when we got there. That's how much firepower we used.”
Jim Scott was drafted into the Marine Corps out of high school, and became a radio operator in Vietnam. A driver and a radio operator, Scott saw some combat, but what he recalls more is the mischief he and his friends got into while there. One buddy, nicknamed Peanut Butter, “got it in his head he wanted a baby monkey for his pet… we didn't have a net to throw over the monkey so our next best thing was to knock down the tree.”
A gang of about seven marines went out on this unofficial mission, in which they succeeded in knocking over a tree and briefly capturing a baby monkey. The baby was relinquished, however, after a combined attack from the baby and the mother. “He had to go for like 40 days down to the Delta Med to get his tetanus shot and rabies shots and monkey fever shots. And he soon lost interest in that.”
When they weren’t in combat or messing around in the jungle, Scott and his fellow marines had some interactions with the local people. He and some other marines used to volunteer at orphanages, but Scott’s greatest connection to the Vietnamese people was through getting to know the mama-san who did laundry in his unit. While distrust of locals was not uncommon, many American soldiers had good relationships with their mama-sans, the older local women who the military hired to do the GIs’ laundry and cleaning.
“I thought she was very strong and knew exactly what she was doing at all times and would use anything to protect her family,” he attests, recalling her resourcefulness and hard work.
The second episode of a projected three-part documentary series, Utah Vietnam War Stories: Turning Point provides a sense of the wide scope of human experience that took place during the Vietnam War. A third episode of Utah Vietnam War Stories will debut in early 2013.
Utah Vietnam War Stories is made possible by The Katherine W. Dumke and Ezekiel R. Dumke, Jr. Foundation, The George S. and Delores Doré Eccles Foundation and the contributing members of KUED.
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