They Wear Their Award For All

5
898

by Ed Mattson

 

With a production budget of $75 million and a box office worldwide revenue of $114,660,784, We Were Soldier Once, starring Mel Gibson, Madeline Stowe, Sam Elliott, and Barry Pepper, told the story of the Battle of Ia Drang in the central highlands of Vietnam in November 1965.

The movie was based on the book, We were Soldiers Once…and Young, written by Lt. Gen. Harold G. “Hal” Moore and Joseph Lee “Joe” Calloway, and documented the effort of then Col. Moore, and his men to meet the enemy on their own turf in what would become the first major battle in Vietnam to use helicopters to ferry men in and out of battle. The analogy of Gen Custer’s massacre of the 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn and the fate that may await his own un-tested, helicopter-lift 7th Cavalry, weighed heavily on Col. Moore’s mind leading up to the battle against the battle hardened North Vietnamese soldiers.

Because the actual fighting which took place in the Ia Drang Valley those three days in November and covered an area of approximately 19.5 square miles, the movie only focused in on the battle at LZ X-ray (Landing Zone), which was just about in the center between LZ Albany and LZ Victor. The significance of the helicopter lift on the outcome of the battle cannot be understated, as without that tactical edge, surely Moore’s men would have met with the same fate that awaited Custer’s 7th Cavalry.

The War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which teaches tactical strategies to our military leaders and provides training to the leaders of our closest allies from the lessons learned on the battlefield, covers the finite details of this important battle, which has earned a place in the permanent curriculum. The Ia Drang Valley battle, at a cost of almost 800 US casualties (wounded and killed in action), was not without error, as the troops of Col. Moore were not seasoned veterans, yet with the excellent training they received, they were able to adapt and hold their own against a battle-hardened enemy of far superior numbers.

Ed "Too Tall" Freeman...The hero immortalized in the movie, We Were Soldiers Once

Following the recent passing of Medal of Honor Recipient, Ed Freeman, who earned his Medal in this landmark battle, the Internet was deluged with criticism of the media for covering instead, the Lindsey Lohans, Charley Sheens, and Sean Penns of the world, and other worthless, over paid bums and events that don’t amount to a “hill—a-beans”, with nary a word on a true living legend in military lore. We should be accustom

ed to this by now as the media (and most Americans) seems to focus on the rift-raft of Hollywood and local stories that will sell to the general public, often forgetting the real heroes who have paid dearly so that such freedoms can be taken for granted.

Having received a stack of emails from those who follow my columns, I felt the story of Ed Freeman needed to be re-visited, and in research, I found a few hidden tidbits, that I didn’t know and thought perhaps my readers would appreciate.





If you have followed me long enough, you know my thoughts on heroism, and that everyone who goes into harm’s way is a hero. There would never be enough medals to go around if those witnessing acts of bravery and sacrifice lived long enough to tell the story. Maybe that’s what makes recognition so special as that for every medal earned there’s probably a hundred that went missing. Col. Moore reflected much the same thought when he wrote…

“We had problems on the awards… Too many men had died bravely and heroically, while the men who had witnessed their deeds had also been killed… Acts of valor that, on other fields, on other days, would have been rewarded with the Medal of Honor or Distinguished Service Cross or a Silver Star were recognized only with a telegram saying, ‘The Secretary of the Army regrets…’ The same was true of our sister battalion, the 2nd of the 7th.” (Harold G. Moore; Joseph L. Galloway (1992) in their book, We Were Soldiers Once … and Young — Ia Drang: the battle that changed the war in Vietnam. Random House.

While the movie has been critically acclaimed and is just about the best war movie ever done on Vietnam, like all movies that have received such stature for realism, it is impossible to tell a complete story of this magnitude in the time frame of about 90 minutes. It is easy for critics to find fault with every Hollywood production, unless every piece of footage used is taken directly from footage of cameras recording an event, but even such accurate depictions then fail prey to what was left on the cutting room floor by the film editors.

Such has been the tale for those who have found fault with We Were Soldiers Once, which focused on the overall combat that took place, the strategy and use of helicopters, sequences which depicted the horrors of battle, and the end result of the campaign which was a seemingly futile effort on behalf of some of the bravest men to ever wear the uniform of this country. Lost to the viewer were “missed opportunities” to fully develop the many heroes who emerged those three days in November, and little is known about what happened when Col. Moore’s troops left the field of battle.

The battle in Ia Drang was probably insignificant strategically, but the Army was interested in testing their theory on using the helicopter-lift program for rapid deployment, for resupplying troops who would then be able to travel fast and light without having to carry cumbersome backpacks with enough ammunition and provisions for a sustained battle, as well as applying the air-lift capabilities for evacuating the wounded. Ia Drang proved that such strategies would pay big dividends and changed warfare the way it is viewed today, particularly in the number of lives that could be saved by early evacuation for medical treatment. In retrospect, however, almost as soon as Col. Moore’s troops left the battlefield, the North Vietnamese were quick to return.

As to heroes, it would take a multi-volume dissertation to document what went on in The Valley those terrifying three days. We Were Soldiers Once only covers one area of the 19 square mile battle and to those who have seen the movie or read the book, can see why it would take so long to document all those deserving of medals.

In my research I found great stories which I hope to share in future articles, but just in the LZ X-Ray area, the heroism was exemplified by Walter Marm who was then a First Lieutenant. He didn’t even earn an “honorable mention” and his character was actually a compilation of characters in the movie, yet he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

His citation reads:

Walter Marm...The first hero recognized at the Ia Drang Battle

Lt. Col. MARM, WALTER JOSEPH, JR… “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty as a platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), 1st Lt. Marm demonstrated indomitable courage during a combat operation. His company was moving through the valley to relieve a friendly unit surrounded by an enemy force of estimated regimental size. 1st Lt. Marm led his platoon through withering fire until they were finally forced to take cover. Realizing that his platoon could not hold very long, and seeing four enemy soldiers moving into his position, he moved quickly under heavy fire and annihilated all 4. Then, seeing that his platoon was receiving intense fire from a concealed machinegun, he deliberately exposed himself to draw its fire. Thus locating its position, he attempted to destroy it with an antitank weapon.

Although he inflicted casualties, the weapon did not silence the enemy fire. Quickly, disregarding the intense fire directed on him and his platoon, he charged 30 meters across open ground, and hurled grenades into the enemy position, killing some of the 8 insurgents manning it. Although severely wounded, when his grenades were expended, armed with only a rifle, he continued the momentum of his assault on the position and killed the remainder of the enemy. 1st Lt. Marm’s selfless actions reduced the fire on his platoon, broke the enemy assault, and rallied his unit to continue toward the accomplishment of this mission. 1st Lt. Marm’s gallantry on the battlefield and his extraordinary intrepidity at the risk of his life are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.

Ed “Too Tall” Freeman was portrayed by actor Mark McCracken, and was one of the focal heroes in the movie, yet he was not awarded The Medal of Honor until  after the movie was well into production and Col. Moore’s book had been published. Freeman’s commanding officer nominated him for the Medal of Honor for his actions at Ia Drang, but not in time to meet a two-year deadline then in place. He was instead awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The Medal of Honor nomination was disregarded until 1995, when the two-year deadline was removed. He was formally presented with the medal on July 16, 2001, in the East Room of the White House by President George W. Bush. His citation reads as follows:

Captain ED W. FREEMAN, United States Army…”Distinguished himself by numerous acts of conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary intrepidity on 14 November 1965 while serving with Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). As a flight leader and second in command of a 16-helicopter lift unit, he supported a heavily engaged American infantry battalion at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam. The unit was almost out of ammunition after taking some of the heaviest casualties of the war, fighting off a relentless attack from a highly motivated, heavily armed enemy force. When the infantry commander closed the helicopter landing zone due to intense direct enemy fire, Captain Freeman risked his own life by flying his unarmed helicopter through a gauntlet of enemy fire time after time, delivering critically needed ammunition, water and medical supplies to the besieged battalion.

His flights had a direct impact on the battle’s outcome by providing the engaged units with timely supplies of ammunition critical to their survival, without which they would almost surely have gone down, with much greater loss of life. After medical evacuation helicopters refused to fly into the area due to intense enemy fire, Captain Freeman flew 14 separate rescue missions, providing life-saving evacuation of an estimated 30 seriously wounded soldiers — some of whom would not have survived had he not acted. All flights were made into a small emergency landing zone within 100 to 200 meters of the defensive perimeter where heavily committed units were perilously holding off the attacking elements. Captain Freeman’s selfless acts of great valor, extraordinary perseverance and intrepidity were far above and beyond the call of duty or mission and set a super example of leadership and courage for all of his peers. Captain Freeman’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army”.

Wednesday I will continue with other heroes of Ia Drang to provide a broader picture about the bravery and sacrifice of those whose names are inscribed on section 03E of the Vietnam Wall.

Cocktail tour drinks in the legends and lore of New Orleans.(Knight Ridder Newspapers) go to web site court of two sisters

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service September 21, 2004 | Kingsbury, Amanda Byline: Amanda Kingsbury NEW ORLEANS _ Not long ago, some vegetarian teetotaler wrote about his trip here to discover if the city could support a vacation devoid of sin.

Nice idea, but really, such sober sanctimony doesn’t belong in a city of to-go cups, a city with a higher number of bars per capita than any other city in the country, a city where the collective blood-alcohol level on Bourbon Street on a Saturday night measures on the Richter scale.

Word has it that during Prohibition, federal agent Isadore Einstein was dispatched around the country to see how the laws were being upheld, and cities were ranked according to how fast he was able to score a drink. New Orleans was No. 1 _ Einstein got off the train and had a cocktail in hand within 37 seconds, according to Kerry McCaffety, author of “Obituary Cocktail: The Great Saloons of New Orleans” (Vissi d’Arte Books. $39.95).

No, the best way to tour New Orleans is not to skip over the bars but to hop them _ those legendary places where O. Henry, Tennessee Williams and Oscar Wilde took intoxicating inspiration and where generals and pirates hatched world history. Bars where you can find old-school bartenders who know how to make old-school cocktails and where you can hear stories like the one about a group of old college buddies who make an annual pilgrimage to the city, toting the ashes of their dead, beloved friend in a Crown Royal bottle.

It was in New Orleans that Southern Comfort was created, back in 1874. The first Sazerac was mixed here, too, along with the Ramos Gin Fizz, the Hurricane and the Hand Grenade.

They say the word “cocktail” itself was first uttered here, though that’s disputed. But New Orleans doesn’t always care about the truth _ sometimes it just wants a good story, passed around in those places where people drink in legends and lore, where exaggeration is always on the house.

___ BOTTOMS UP: A TIPPLER’S TOUR OF NEW ORLEANS _The Court of Two Sisters: Brandy Milk Punch 613 Royal St.

(504) 522-7261 or www.courtoftwosisters.com I’m not accustomed to drinking before a certain civilized hour (say, noon), yet here it is only 9:30 a.m., and there’s a Brandy Milk Punch sitting on my table that’s not going to drink itself. In New Orleans, such eye-openers precede the morning coffee, putting the brightness back into bleary eyes.

The cold, sweet, velvety Brandy Milk Punch is a traditional a.m. favorite, and the Court of Two Sisters makes one of the best in town, mixing brandy with milk, half-and-half, simple syrup and vanilla and dusting it with nutmeg.

The historic restaurant is world-famous for its jazz brunch buffet that seems to go on for miles. But the Court of Two Sisters’ real star is a 66-year-old bartender named Flo, who has invented or perfected many a cocktail in her 40 years of mixing drinks. Her Hurricane even beat out Pat O’Brien’s in an early 1990s bartending contest.

Flo likes to make the French 75 but says humbly, “I don’t have no specialty. My specialty is doing it the way they want it _ whatever drinks the people order.” _Tujague’s Restaurant: Grasshopper 823 Decatur St.

(504) 525-8676 It’s easy to justify a second eye-opener: one for each eye. Besides, it’s barely 11 a.m., and the woman next to me just lit a cigarette and ordered a double margarita to go. She appears to be making one of those cursed transactions with the venerable piper, and I think she’s still wearing her pajama bottoms.

The last time I ordered a Grasshopper, I was underage, attempting to get served in an off-the-highway dive bar in the Midwest (a bar whose specialty, I’m sure, was dessert drinks for novices). But, standing here at the bar _ the original stand-up bar in New Orleans _ it seems the right thing to order, given that the drink was invented by one of the former owners in the 1930s.

Paul the bartender makes it the old-fashioned way, with brandy, creme de menthe, creme de cacao and milk. Meanwhile, Eddie, a scruffy regular, is offering some historical perspective on the bar. Eddie says there used to be a trough in front of Tujague’s bar, so men could unzip and conveniently relieve themselves.

Paul says that’s dubious, though there’s no doubt that the restaurant has a colorful history. It opened in 1856, feeding the dock workers, seamen and market laborers who crowded the riverfront. Tujugue’s has since pleased many a famous palate _ from world leaders (Charles de Gaulle) to women who have romanced world leaders (Monica Lewinsky).

None of them get any special treatment from Paul. “The only thing that matters to me is if you’re an (expletive),” he says. “That’s the only criteria in how you get treated.” _Brennan’s Restaurant: Bananas Foster Martini 417 Royal St.

(504) 525-9711 Can I make the case for a third eye-opener? The menu at Brennan’s lists 14 liquid kick-starts _ among them, a Red Rooster and a Mr. Funk of New Orleans. Obviously, I don’t have three eyes _ but there’s always the possibility of seeing double, which would then technically give me four eyes, which would then qualify me for that third eye-opener, and hey, if I felt like it, a fourth, even.

But I drunkenly digress. Brennan’s may be renowned for its aristocratic breakfast tradition, but what diners really go bananas over is the dessert. In 1951, Chef Paul Blange of Brennan’s invented Bananas Foster _ back when New Orleans was the major port of entry for bananas shipped from Central and South America.

The dessert was named after Richard Foster, a friend of Owen Edward Brennan, the restaurant’s founder.

This summer, the restaurant concocted a drink just as scrumptious as the dessert: the Bananas Foster Martini, served in a martini glass rimmed with brown sugar and cinnamon. It tastes best sipped in the shade of a big old magnolia tree on the patio.

_Napoleon House: Pimm’s Cup 500 Chartres St.

(504) 524-9752 or www.napoleonhouse.com Three drinks and two slurred words later, it’s time to join the official Southern Comfort Cocktail Tour, led by Joe Gendusa, a New Orleans native with a sense of history and a sense of humor. Southern Comfort’s sponsorship is likely the only reason we’re being handed plastic cups full of a Southern Comfort concoction _ because the Napoleon House is famous for the Pimm’s Cup, made with Pimm’s (a gin mix developed in the 1840s), lemonade and 7UP. here court of two sisters

The charming, crumbling Napoleon House was intended to be a New World residence and refuge for Napoleon. Nicholas Girod, then the mayor of New Orleans, conspired with one of Jean Lafitte’s pirates to rescue the exiled emperor from St. Helena, where he was under guard by the British fleet.

Napoleon died three days before the ships that would rescue him were to leave New Orleans. But his presence still resides here, in portraits on the peeled-paint walls, in the oft-played Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica), composed for the famed general, and in the form of out-of-towners at the bar who apparently suffer from an alcohol-induced Napoleon complex when it comes to conquering women.

_Ritz-Carlton’s Library Lounge: Mint Julep 921 Canal St.

(504) 524-1331 By this time, I think I’ve drunk as much as I did last New Year’s Eve. In my muddled mind, that calls for some resolutions.

I will never drink another appletini.

I will never again order a drink from a blithely authoritative bartender dressed in all black at a bar that looks like it was designed by someone on Ecstasy.

Sometimes, you just want a bar _ and a bartender _ with a soul. At the Library Lounge, Chris McMillian concocts drinks with the precision of a chemist and the lyricism of a poet. His bartending colleagues say he’s so good, he can make a drink to match your mood.

McMillian, a fourth-generation barkeep, considers himself a classicist. “There are only four seats at my bar, so I have the liberty to be able to take the time to create the cocktails, to handcraft them in the ways that made them classics in the first place,” he says.

In this dimly lit bar _ lightly perfumed with cigar smoke and peppered with jazz _ his favorite cocktail to make is the noble Mint Julep. More so than making the drink, he performs it _ taking five to 10 minutes to wed the ingredients and presenting it in a silver cup. Properly enjoyed, a Mint Julep should take an hour to finish, he says.

“If you sip it slowly, it melts together and takes on a quality it didn’t have at the beginning,” McMillian says. “And by the time you’re done, you’ll wish it had never ended.” _Fairmont New Orleans’ Sazerac Bar: Sazerac 123 Baronne St.

(504) 529-7111 or www.fairmont.com/neworleans I have stormed the Sazerac.

There’s a challenge on the table, too _ in 1949, when women were first allowed into the Sazerac Bar, a lady named Jenny Martin drank 13 Sazerac cocktails in one night. “She was out of this world!” a bartender told Dixie magazine. “The next day, she called up and said she’d lost her glasses.” Every Sept. 26, the bar celebrates equal-opportunity drinking with a “Stormin’ the Sazerac” party.

Tonight, it’s a party of one _ because I’m the only person here drinking the bar’s namesake drink, said to be “the” original cocktail, created by a New Orleans apothecary named Antoine Peychaud in the 1830s. He served his brandy-and-bitters concoction to ailing customers in a ceramic double-ended cup called a cocquetier (kah-kuh-tay) in French. But people kept mispronouncing it, and it devolved to “cock-tay” and then “cocktail,” or so the story (unlikely story, some say) goes.

The original Sazerac _ named after a popular bar that served it in the 1850s _ was made with bitters, cognac and absinthe. The modern version is made with bitters, rye whiskey and absinthe substitute. The sweet, spicy drink seems to warm up as you sip it, leaving you positively glowing _ or is that flushed?

Cheers to Jenny Martin for drinking 13 Sazeracs and losing only her glasses. I’ve had one, and I’ve already lost my room key.

_Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar: The Goodie or Vieux Carre 214 Royal St.

(504) 523-3341 or www.hotelmonteleone.com Is my head spinning? Or is it the bar?

`Round and `round we go at the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar, a merry-go-round for merrymakers. The revolving 25-seat bar finishes a rotation every 15 minutes, though sauced patrons often accuse the bartenders of turning up the motor speed.

The Hotel Monteleone is famous for two drinks: the fruity Goodie and the dry, complex Vieux Carre. It’s also famous for its imbibers. Tennessee Williams drank Sazeracs and Brandy Alexanders here. Oscar Wilde drank anything here. Former Louisiana Gov. Earl Long courted famed stripper Blaze Starr at the Hotel Monteleone _ the notorious affair inspired the movie “Blaze,” starring Paul Newman and Lolita Davidovich.

Across the bar, one of the men from the earlier cocktail tour is courting a woman whom will most likely not meet his standards after sunrise.

I decide to call my sister, for no reason except to make the point that I’m in New Orleans and she’s not. Cell phones really should come with Breathalyzers that prohibit irresponsible dialing after a certain blood alcohol content is reached.

_Pirate’s Alley Cafe: Absinthe 622 Pirate’s Alley (504) 524-9332 “The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere, you will enter upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful, curious things.”_ Oscar Wilde, describing the stages of absinthe intoxication Yes, that’s what I need: a 110-proof nightcap.

But no self-respecting reveler would miss a visit to Pirate’s Alley Cafe, a spooky little bar across from St. Anthony’s garden, where Creole gentlemen used to settle their differences with swords and where Lafitte sold his pirated loot and gave part of the profits back to the church.

The house specialty here, Gendusa warned earlier during the tour, would “separate the men from the boys.” Absinthe.

No, you can’t get the real stuff here _ the potent elixir, blamed for murders and madness, along with Van Gogh’s missing chunk of ear _ has been banned in the United States since 1912.

But you can still see the seductive ritual of absinthe performed at Pirate’s Alley Cafe. The bar substitutes Absente, a licoricelike liquor that contains Southern or “petit” wormwood _ a less-toxic, FDA-approved version of the wormwood said to cause delirium and contribute to permanent mental deterioration.

Bartenders rest a slotted spoon atop a tall glass and place a sugar cube in the spoon. Then they pour an ounce of Absente over the sugar and light the cube on fire from underneath. Cold water, poured over the cube, dissolves the sugar and completes the drink, which is stirred with the slotted spoon.

Halfway through the drink, I realize I’m making eye contact with a guy sitting at the bar who’s dressed like a pirate. “Who arrrrgh you?” I want to ask. And that’s when I realize it’s time to go home.

___ IF YOU GO:

Drink in the legends, lore _ and yes, libations _ of New Orleans’ famous bars and restaurants as part of the Southern Comfort Cocktail Tour. The 2 {-hour tour leaves at 4 p.m. daily from the Gray Line Lighthouse at Toulouse Street and the Mississippi River. Stops include Jax Brewery, O’Flaherty’s Irish Channel Pub, Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s, Cafe Lafitte in Exile, Tujague’s and others. Cost is $24 per person; you must be at least 21. Reservations: (800) 535-7786 or www.graylinetours.com.

___ Amanda Kingsbury: [email protected] ___ Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

_____ PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):

TRAVEL NEWORLEANSDRINKS ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):

ARCHIVE ILLUSTRATION on KRT Direct (from KRT Illustration Bank, 202-383-6064):

Kingsbury, Amanda

Author Details
Following his service in the Marine Corps Ed Mattson built a diverse career in business in both sales/marketing and management. He is a medical research specialist and published author. His latest book is Down on Main Street: Searching for American Exceptionalism Ed is currently Development Director of the National Guard Bureau of International Affairs-State Partnership Program, Fundraising Coordinator for the Warrior2Citizen Project, and Managing Partner of Center-Point Consultants in North Carolina. Mr. Mattson is a noted speaker and has addressed more than 3000 audiences in 42 states and 5 foreign countries. He has been awarded the Order of the Sword by American Cancer Society, is a Rotarian Paul Harris Fellow and appeared on more than 15 radio and television talk-shows.
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