Alabama Remembers Vietnam – Bennie Adkins

Alabama Remembers Vietnam – Bennie Adkins

(orchestral music) – First of all, I was
drafted in the military in 1956, and in that time period, economics was kinda bad
and I was fortunate enough to be promoted to Sergeant real quick. I elected to then re-enlist, and decided to make the military a career. But first, my first assignment
was a US Army garrison in Eastern Germany. I was an administrative clerk typist. I decided after a period of time that that was not for me. I was asked to be sent
to Fort Benning, Georgia, to the infantry, and spent
some time with the infantry. It was really fine, but it still did not
take care of my needs. I heard of an organization
called Special Forces, and this Special Forces is what some people call a Green Beret. I was a triple volunteer. I had to volunteer for the Army. I had to volunteer to be a Paratrooper. And I had to volunteer
to be in Special Forces. If I had really known
what I was getting into, I would’ve probably gone
in another direction. My first trip into the country of Vietnam was in early 1963, and
in this time period, I went in civilian clothes and was working as an advisor to the
South Vietnamese forces. Being advisor to the organization required operational patrols and
everything else with it. It was also fighting consistently. But then I was sent back to
the country again in 1965, spent ’65 and ’66 there. This is the year that when I was involved in heavy combat where our team was sunned right in the
middle of the A Shau Valley and this was a major infiltration route from the North to the South. In the team, I was the
Intelligence Sergeant. We had two of the North
Vietnamese enemy soldiers give up and come in. And interrogating them, they told us that were were going to be attacked by a large force at a certain time period when the weather was bad. Well, this happened exactly as they said. We knew that we’re going to be hit, and we didn’t know with so many. We had about 400 indigenous there, and we were probably outnumbered
10 to one in the battle. They had the full elements
of a full division hit us, and we were hit from all sides. They had the anti-aircraft ware. They had the artillery, and so forth. It was a tremendous battle, and we were eventually
ordered by our headquarters to evacuate the camp, and that they were going to attempt
a helicopter rescue for us. They put 18 helicopters in the air, and only eight of them made it. 10 of them were shot down. When I come out myself,
the executive officer went back in to the camp to get a wounded American on the stretcher. When he come out, we didn’t have a ride, so we had to hit the jungle, then. Being in the jungle,
I was fortunate enough at that time period that I had a weapon: an old sawed off shotgun
that I used in the jungle. I took this weapon, placed
it on my little radio, stood in water, (mumbles),
talked with an aircraft. The aircraft sent a
helicopter in to pick us up. Helicopter come in, we got a little plain landing strip for the chopper. The helicopter come in to pick us up, they shot the helicopter down. So we had to go again, and this is the night, then, that the North Vietnamese run us all night. This was four Americans, and we had four Chinese Hmong mercenaries with us. They run us, and this is the night they had us surrounded in
this triple canopy jungle. We started hearing a
noise, and then some eyes, and it was about a 400 pound
Indonesian tiger stalked us. This tiger had been seen before. The tiger was living well; it was feeding off the bodies of the killed
soldiers in that area. The North Vietnamese soldiers
that had us surrounded was more afraid of the
tiger than they were of us. They backed off and give us room to go. The bottom line: we were
trained so well and so forth that we just made up our mind. The Americans made up our mind that we were not going
to be taken prisoner. We were going to just fight, like I said. Not only with mortars and machine gun. I utilized mortar machine guns, hand grenades, and I even got into some hand grenade fights
with the North Vietnamese. This is the way the battle went, yes. Well, I had a large number, had a couple of gunshot
wounds, and most of it was artillery shrapnel,
hand grenade shrapnel, and this type of thing, yes. The recovery was only two
or three weeks from this. After that battle, I was sent right back to another location, doing the same thing. And in ’71, I worked with an organization called the Studies and Observation Group. This was a top secret
unit that did not exist at that time frame. This was one of the major
delays on the award. 1966, I was recommended
for the Medal of Honor. I received the second highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross, and did not receive the
Medal of Honor until 2014. That was 48 years later. The reason behind that
was the classification of everything that I was doing. Part of it was declassified to the point that they could be written about. Since that period of time,
or after that period of time, I did special operations
throughout the world. When I retired out of the
military after 22 years, the record shown that I had traveled in 177 different countries, most of those countries
as an uninvited guest. I received a call from
someone in the Pentagon, and they told me at a certain day and a certain time, there
would be an official call. I anticipated that it was someone that was involved in the POW
MIA type of recovery system, but when the telephone rang at that day, it was the President of the United States, and the President said he had approved the Medal of Honor for
me, and I would receive some information from his staff. His staff come right on, and they put a gag order on me. About two and a half months later, then, I was in the White House. The President did award the medal. The following day, I
was over in the Pentagon with the Secretary of Defense, and they put my picture and so forth in the Hall of Heroes there. Then the next day, I was
over in the Capitol building with our congressman and senators from the state of Alabama. From that time period,
I become one of the few living Medal of Honor recipients. We’re treated with highly respect, highly dignity, everywhere we go. When we’re wearing the medal, it is saluted by any
military person at any rank.

One thought on “Alabama Remembers Vietnam – Bennie Adkins

  1. I have the utmost respect for this man! Thank-you soo much for your service to our country and the sacrifices you made! SOG veterans are a special breed of warrior. I have read many books about the secret war and it's sad it took so long for these men to receive the credit they deserve.

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