Scroll down to watch “Surviving the Siege at Khe Sanh” video


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Surviving the Siege at Khe Sanh

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TRANSCRIPT – Transcript and Subtitles are generated automatically by YouTube and may contain errors.

okay good evening vietnam
this is veteran live show live from lz
i’m sergeant ronnie embrace
served in vietnam with 101st airborne
division from december 1967 to december
on tonight’s show we’ll be speaking with
the united states marine sergeant barry
fixler from rocklin county new york
barry survived the siege of caisson but
maybe you have seen him on television
when he
mortally wounded a would-be armed robber
and we’ve got the video to prove it
we’ll get to that show in a few minutes
but first i’d like to let you all know
that this program is brought to you by
fallen never forgotten
uh the vietnam
veterans memorial book
you can visit vietnam
the fall never forgotten book sorry i
got something here on the computer
screen let me try to close this off
what’s that
okay thank you
well we’ll get to the show in a few
but first i’d like to let you all know
the program is brought to you by fall
never forgotten the vietnam veterans
memorial book
visit fallen forgotten dot com for more
or to purchase your copy
and here we go bringing barry into the
studio how you doing barry
very good thank you
okay thank you very much for
for uh joining us there you go that’s a
good position to be in right there
uh let’s uh tell us a little bit about
who you serve with and where and when
okay uh
26 marine second battalion 26th marines
echo company i was with weapons
i came in the marine corps uh january 67
went through paris island paris island
camp lejeune
trained for a good
eight months uh before we got to okinawa
believe it or not okay we were training
with our m14s got to okinawa we got
introduced the m16s trained a few more
weeks with the
m16 and uh we
we’re ready to uh
we’re a whole company is ready to fly
into vietnam
and uh the captain is just getting off a
plane we’re on the runway in formation
captain gets in front of us and says to
us new marines none of us who in the
marine corps over over a year we’re all
under a year
that the odds of of survival is
one-third of you guys of you marines the
next 13 months will be killed
excuse me
one third is going to be a basket case
you need legs blown off and only one
of you marines new marines are going to
able to be standing tall in front of me
that was a reality right there
that was two hours before we got to
well i recall that too we had uh you
know i believe it was a for mid february
to mid march up in uh crankthree
province cranktri dongha
that area uh we had 97 percent
casualties you know in our battalion it
didn’t mean that 97 of the guys got
wounded because one guy could get
wounded twice or three times
and that would
count as part of that so that’s crazy
number but that’s a heck of a warning
you know what i mean i know you were in
for something when you joined the marine
corps but like when they tell you only
three percent of you are going to come
walking home whole that’s
that’s not too good
no it’s 30 yeah oh 30. okay so where did
you arrive
um that’s why i feel the rest of my life
um i’m blessed that i was one third of
the guys that were able to make it back
from vietnam
right so uh tell us about caisson man
big time
well kson was in the beginning i got to
in country july of 67
and actually um we
as a battalion we went up to a queso in
january of 68 so i was in the country of
good five or six months
uh which was really great from uh
ambushes to uh patrols
fire fights uh i felt the time we got to
uh case on that i was pretty much a
seasoned marine just about half six
under my belt and i was i had confidence
when you first get to vietnam you’re
everything is new but uh finally in
january of 1668
i was
uh confident myself
we um from um full buy just let me just
take a drink real quick
from fuba we took a um
c130 uh uh the whole company got into a
c-130 flew up to a case on a case on
combat base
and um we’re in a combat base maybe an
hour or two and then a company operation
we left the combat base
and took us about two or three days to
find hill 861 alpha we had no idea that
um the nba was totally surrounded at
that time i was just a lance corporal
i just i just had exactly a year in the
marine corps
and uh
when we got to the foot of the hill um
it was probably a good
a a full five six seven hours to humb up
the hill got to the top and um it was
just uh elephant grass it was totally
wild nothing was dug in
uh next to us uh
was a hill that was operating already
861 you had 861
that was operating
in 881 so you had a few hill fights
before we got there
uh 861 alpha uh where a company saw
130-150 guys we had to
start digging in we did a trench it
totally um
on top of the hill
surrounding the hill we did a trench
that each each uh hole each uh foxhole
connected with each other
we still had no idea
what we were about to about to face just
a few days up there we started taking
incoming when we started taking incoming
mostly you know mortars
of course artillery
we started really digging digging deep
digging deep and digging deep and i
would say probably three or four days
into the being on top of the hill 861
alpha is when a really heavy heavy siege
came um
it was
every day uh was incoming we got a small
arms rockets
uh and of course uh
artillery and then uh big time with the
mortars we hit a
pot because we surrounded our hill we
pop and
we would just yell out uh incoming
incoming and sure enough they would uh
place those mortars right right in our
trench line they were really uh pretty
pretty expert about that
wow okay
enough so that was january late january
obviously and then into february and how
long did you stay up there
i was in a full 77 days we got there in
january and we lost we left sometimes
not we left sometime in
april that
something like april 17 17 or 18 where
did it go
um actually it’s a story where we went
uh we we
they chop it in another company
first battalion uh first marines to
replace us because uh the siege was
officially over with we had totally for
a day or two no one coming and we were
very proud of ourselves that we won this
uh we humped off the hill took a few
uh to get down and uh we were kind of um
we were we really felt like heroes
and we were in a staging area waiting to
get uh chop it out and
sure enough within a few hours the nba
uh had us in their sights and they
into out into my company area
where uh they uh killed the three
corpsmen that would which
was really sad courtney’s off guard that
he was still watching us and actually
the fight was still on
wow that’s crazy
and uh did you uh
and how long did you when did you
finally stay at it when did you get back
out of that air totally out of the area
totally out of the area we went to um
probably cam carroll on an army and only
yeah camp carroll i remember cam carol
one of those bases uh for about a day or
two just a day or two sort of to regroup
we were told
uh that we’re gonna go to okinawa of
course we didn’t go to okinawa and then
from that point we uh
we re
regrouped and we went to uh we were just
dmz we just put it for the rest of my
tour from april
right until august
we toured the um we patrolled the dmz i
had uh there was no rear
uh nothing there was no there was a
battalion rear but i had no idea where
that was i was just
controlling with a
pretty much of a platoon size operation
what side of highway one were you on on
the water side or the inland side i
couldn’t even tell you okay no problem
uh yeah we were up in donghae dongha
bridge up there and uh
uh what the crank tree
or the crane tree province
totally um for those five four or five
months we
patrolled uh downhill and crime tree
right yeah
uh when were you there
67-68 yes yeah i rotated uh august of
68. maybe we uh passed each other
well i’m sure we did
i was in too many at the end of january
february march april and may and june
uh in that whole area donghae and equine
tree that was crazy i didn’t know that
of you
so uh
have you been in touch with any guys
since uh you got back then
pretty much my squad leader his name is
tom michler my squad leader
uh and then a few a few other guys um
that’s nice
you know
i went to a 26 uh reunion and i try to
go with the case case on uh organization
that i i haven’t been to i get the
magazines twice a year uh caisson
veterans magazine
i the last time i went to reunion was
probably about 10 years the reason why
i just i see the fellas i know them as
teenagers or early 20s and now they’re
all old and gray and
all right here we go we’re going to go
to a video that happened recently
it went and todd you could tell us when
it happened where it happened
uh about a robbery
and the the results of what happened to
somebody okay go give it a go
okay you could explain your the whole
situation with the jewelry robbery okay
i don’t think it understands go ahead
you can start now
where are we going tell us what we’re
going to see
we’re going to do the video
and then you could talk about it okay
while the video is going on yeah after
the video
oh while it’s going on yeah what’s going
on good idea
so i can talk
please do
go ahead
this is a
monday morning valentine’s day my wife
and i the night before went out drinking
uh celebrating valentine’s two guys nine
o’clock in the morning uh i’m just
opening up the store
this is
february 14th a little bit of a hangover
two fellas come in and i’m used to
fellas coming in early in the morning on
valentine’s day to get an engagement
ring bella who’s wearing the dog trench
coat says to me you know what i want to
get engaged i’m looking for a special
and um
so i thought nothing my
god was down
and it was just very easy to um
it’s very common for felons to come in
first thing in the morning to get
engaged on valentine’s day so he’s just
picking out rings
and i get on my knees because i still
have a headache from the night before i
had two martinis
and uh he
picked out a certain
uh marquee diamond marquis diamond was
kind of expensive as like a two carat
marquee shaped diamond and it was
something in price range of eleven to
twelve thousand dollars and i’m saying
to myself
i don’t know if he can afford it i’m
just uh
i have to explain to him that the one he
picked out is really up up there
uh he hesitated for a minute i’m looking
at the price tag right now and sure
enough boom uh he he actually cursed at
me move or i’ll kill you move or i’ll
kill you
and believe it or not um i know what
you’re watching goes real fast but in my
god stop
stop that
that moment where i can
concentrate not concentrate to realize
that this is the real thing and now i
gotta kill these two guys i bolted for
my weapon i have a uh right right behind
where you where he’s pointing now i have
a uh a 38 i can’t i can’t
i got down
shot both of them right now where you
see the fella in the white in the white
hoodie you can actually see the
sheriff’s department showed that the
bullet entering his chest the fella with
the black trench coat had a had a
bulletproof vest under that coat so i
shot him with my 38 he went down
anybody popped right up this guy with
the white hoodie he’s
the bullets in him uh shot him in the
side and right now his spine is separate
totally severed and um they actually
shot at me four times i shot my revolver
five times and i’m cursing at them right
now how do you think that’s the minivan
that just went by uh actually there was
there was two guys that entered my store
there were four guys uh two guys in
another vehicle two guys in my store and
two guys out of my store so there’s two
vehicles out there they had no idea that
i was i am a marine and there’s no idea
no way they’re gonna get over on me now
i’m out there
trying to flag down the police trying to
flag down somebody
um i have no rounds in my revolver but i
i thought i only shot three times i had
the shot five five times
uh and i’m kind of young kind of yelling
you know like for somebody out there
please call the police quote please call
the police meanwhile this guy is um when
the sheriff’s department that you see
him laying down there when he went down
he actually took his his gun out of his
holes out of his hoodie and actually
tried to get his shot at me so when the
sheriff’s department viewed this by um
by frame by frame by frame that he this
guy is a nasty guy and deserves to get
shot looks like got shot in the back but
he did not both guys got shot in the
chest he’s laying there and i’m trying
to um flag somebody down and i’m cursing
at him
where the hell i’m using a bunch of f
words where the hell did you get the
nerf do you think you’re gonna get over
on me do you think you’re gonna get over
me no way well this guy lays there until
he um
well of course the police come and the
paramedics come
and he goes into niagara hospital with
the bullet hole that shaman’s on the
side of the chest severed his spine and
the surgeon that worked on him says to
me that uh
actually barry um
guy’s uh 19 years old
he he may see one more year um one more
year of life and he he died
uh from that result of that bullet um
a year and a half later so but he was
paralyzed and actually put him for a
year and a half in the old age home that
he was paralyzed from from from the
chest out so he was a waste the other
the police got him got got his revolver
showed that he shot at me four times so
that was proof
and uh he’s still in all the way upstate
in new york uh he’s doing 15
plus years he’s just a he’s a bad thug
these guys were all these guys all four
were two time felonies the other two
fellas that you don’t see were
sentenced to eight years uh when they
got their vehicles inside their vehicles
they had a body bed to put me in they
had ducted uh and one of the fellas uh
wearing surgical gloves and he says that
when the police uh
got him
you still had the gloves on them and go
what do you do it sort of goes off nah i
gotta i gotta dump the jewels body uh i
gotta put them in in the uh body bag and
i don’t wanna get it blown on me so i i
i could have when i went to court i
could have gone for um
for uh attempted murder but uh it went
to um
all martial was it was heavier meanwhile
one is dead one is serving 15 years and
the other two is serving eight years
that’s crazy
good for you
well god was on my side
when when he had that
it’s a semi-automatic that he had
i felt that god just stopped my life
right there that i could actually think
that this is the real deal there’s a
real automatic in my face and now i’ve
got to kill these guys and that’s
exactly what happened
so uh
how i mean
does it does it
bother your day-to-day when people walk
do you still have the store of course i
have the store
right now you know
you got to do this go for counseling are
you kidding me go for counseling
we have the greatest country in the
world how could these guys dirt bands
who are two and three times felons
that’s all they do is hurt good people
no i i’m very proud of myself and
believe it or not when it when the
detectives were interviewing me which
are all on my side i have a legal pistol
uh every uh
i was defending myself um i had it um
looked like i was kind of sad of the
shooting i didn’t want to grin and then
they would think what are you a big shot
or something yeah i got you yeah you did
another did what you had to do
of course if i didn’t that’s it yeah
leave it there leave it there don’t
gloat you know what i mean
okay um that’s actually crazy all right
so tell us about the guy
with two hand grenades and something
about sleeping
yep um
well i actually have the hand grenades
here so these are the these are the
two hand grenades
they’re not live right okay no they’re
not live but
this is um
i got to vietnam with 150 uh other green
marines and within one hour
uh in the staging area in da nang they
separated us totally separated so i’m
used to
training with
these guys for the last seven or eight
months now i’m by myself
totally by myself put it into a unit
when i got my orders i was going going
up to fulbright with the 26 marines the
saudi my orders looked at me and goes
you’re dead you’re dead
and turn it off
a buddy of mine that says wow
i’m here one hour and and i’m told i’m
getting ready well when i got to the to
my unit which they were up by fool by
doing patrols every day patrols and
ambushes uh being on the new guy i’m
green right from the states uh we went
on ambush i have this is my maybe second
or third night in vietnam
we went on an ambush and ambush goes
from six o’clock
from six to six is a 12-hour ambush you
set in you have a two-man hole you’re
you’re up uh for two hours you sleep for
two hours you’re up for two hours you
sleep for two hours for 12 to 12 hours
yeah so being that i’m the greenest guy
in the squad i get hooked up with the my
squad leader the name is tom uh we call
him i
for sure because his name is angela so
tom is my squad leader
and um
i go up
he goes on watch i go and watch he goes
on watch and it’s about 12 to 2 in the
morning i go off watch he goes back on
and i i watch him i’m only a football
and of course we can’t talk during an
everything’s quiet
and i see him
holding two grenades
and i can watch him pulling out the pin
he’s holding the spoon he’s hoping
he puts the spoon in there he’s holding
the spoon in there and he wiggles out
the pin
and he puts one grenade under his armpit
so don’t explode now he has to work on
the other one wiggles out the um pit the
pin and he holds down the spoon now he’s
actually holding up two grenades in his
two grenades lime grenades he’s holding
the spoon
just the spoons
just like that holding spoons in and i’m
saying to myself like
what the heck is going on here so i i
sort of crawled over to myself i
what what are you doing don’t forget i’m
a new guy i had no clout i have no
nothing because
this is the call me fix
this is the only way i’m going to stay
if i nod out and he was nodding out
we all die it’s going to explode and
kill everybody in the squad yeah
oh boy this is
all 13 months and i’m only there three
that’s the beginning of my tour
okay uh i hear it i got something here
says that you fell out of a chinook
i did was it flying or was it grounded
no no it was flying of course
during the cg caisson
we took in of course rockets
uh a lot of artillery and probably the
the most we took in
were mortars and the mortars just come
right down they’d walk the mortars down
right on our trenches they had us
sighted in don’t forget we’re in a fixed
position and they’re not they’re on the
bottom of the hill of course we shot
them we shot at them a lot they shot
back but they they had our trench line
sighted in
two guys in my squad we took a direct
and it was probably directed this time
by a rocket
a few of the fellas
super wounded real bad
life and death so the only time the
helicopter would come down on our
landing zone we had a landing zone on
861 alpha
they’d come down a chinook would come
down and they’d only touch down for just
anywhere from five to ten seconds the
ramp would go down
us marines would still stay in the
trench put a um a marine that’s
seriously wounded in a poncho two
marines would uh grab the poncho one by
the foot one by the head run on the ramp
and and coordinate as soon as that
helicopter touched down
we ran up the ramp and boom five seconds
if not less he was out of there because
we took there was never a time when the
helicopter would land on a landing zone
that we didn’t take incoming incoming
rockets mortars rockets mortars rockets
so as i’m
i have to have the marines head um and i
have my punch i’m holding on to the
poncho which we twisted so
the marine wouldn’t fall
out of the um like a
hamlet uh wouldn’t fall out of the
poncho and i’m the last marine
to get on the uh helicopter the
helicopter’s taking off taking off
taking off and the back ramp was going
up up up up
and i’m trying to grab something and i’m
trying to get the attention of the other
marines but they’re too far in the
helicopter and at the same time we’ve
taken rockets the helicopter was taking
hits the helicopter was taking hits and
sure enough
the helicopter was up it tilted and i
went flying i just of course i dropped
the marine the wounded marine and went
flying i open my eyes for one second
and sure enough that one second i see
the tops of trees the tops of trees i
have no idea where where i was at
and uh i just prepared myself to land on
my butt like a cannonball when i was a
little kid 12 years old 14 years old you
jump in a pool with a cannonball and
make a bigger splash
and sure enough when i went down i uh
landed on mailbags that was there for a
few few months they were mail bags
stuffed with sea bags
for uh five thousand millions five
thousand millions couldn’t get mail so
they designated a spot in the field uh
for these mailbags and i probably the
mailbags were
10 to 20 feet or 30 feet high and uh
thank god god pushed me on the mailbags
and i uh
i just landed on the mailbox
not that i only landed on the mailbags i
bounced off 10 feet and i’m getting shot
at when i bounced up so i was trying to
spread my body up where i could not um
could not get shot uh my helmet of
course i’m flying i have no m16 and the
next door
my i had no no was not hurt whatsoever
the next daughter now i gotta run run up
that hill i have another uh
problem i don’t want my own guys to
shoot at me but i just ran around ran
ran ran and how they didn’t shoot at me
we were taking so much income so much
income coming in we were fighting out of
trenches i just ran up ran up right up i
didn’t say i’m a marine i’m a marine i’m
just running up running and running up
in between all the uh all in the income
which is pretty much mortars and i just
drove in the trench line
i lost my helmet
you made it oh my god that’s a heck of a
story man that’s good that’s
unbelievable just so happens i got a
letter when a book came out a letter
from one of the marines that witnessed
it that was on the helicopter and he
told me when they landed in a safe area
probably in donghae kwang tree uh with
the severely wounded uh marines they
went to the first sergeant so uh lance
corporal barry uh got
shot blown out of the helicopter and um
when they it took a few days from to get
back uh to our squad
and they were shocked to see me alive
they were shocked to see me there they
just seen me
i actually fell out they thought i got
blown out right
well i’ll tell you what that’s really
crazy well that’s in your book right
yep it’s in my book
this is barry’s book semper cool
tell us about your book
who are those three guys on the uh
those are uh um
as i said in the beginning our order our
odds of survival 1 30 would be killed
would be uh seriously wounded and
one-third to make it back just so
happened that’s a little polaroid
um that i sent my mother
and i didn’t see it for many many years
and in that picture there you fella i’m
in the middle the fella to my right his
name is stan pettit and stan pettit just
uh just
a matter of a few weeks after that
picture which was just a fluke
uh he was shot right in the face
changing his magazine and he took a
direct hit in his face he was killed at
18 and a half years old
i thought to my left um actually um
lost both legs so both legs were just
blown right off off of him and uh
i am in the middle i’m the one third
that’s just
made it back to america well that’s nuts
i know what you mean though i’ve seen it
and i heard it and i felt it myself so
that’s uh
so tell us a little bit about the book
the book is a great book the book came
out of my heart
iraqi war came in the afghani afghan war
back in 2002
2003 2004 all of a sudden you hear
wounded warriors wounded veterans
wounded warriors men and women were
severely wounded coming back to the
and they were getting really no
recognition you heard you heard the term
wounded warrior i’m not talking about
the organization i’m talking about
women warriors
and um i just felt frustrated
to do something
and uh my wife works in
my wife’s nurse in helena’s hospital’s
rehabilitation hospital she comes home
one night and says barry um
we have a marine layer
that was wounded in uh iraq
that’s impossible well sure enough
a ryan got shot twice in iraq i went to
visit him
um and i
realized that um talked to his mom now
he got shot twice
he’s severely wounded uh head trauma
pretty much paralyzed
and the government wasn’t helping out
the government
kept him in the hospital and after the
hospital stay they put him in a in a
and he actually wanted to go home not in
a old age home
but he they needed money at least fifty
two hundred thousand dollars to uh to
make his house accessible for eddie’s
um i went out and i said you know what
this country is too great maybe the
government dropped the ball but the
american people will not drop the ball i
went out
within weeks uh it was a anniversary
from my shooting
so i had an anniversary um
fundraiser for sergey ryan we did raise
up the community raised up
50 000 another 100 000 and we got eddie
home uh eddie to this day is uh doing
much better
he lives in in
lake george
i was so inspired by how great americans
are that i i wrote the book sort of
around eddie ryan he inspired me to
write this book all the money all the
money from this book
uh goes to the wounded veterans right
now i have probably spent at night today
but probably earned for the veterans we
were over 400 thousand dollars
my goal was a million and um i’m not
there yet so i have maybe another five
ten years to go
that’s unbelievable really i mean not
unbelievable it’s crazy
you did it it’s believable but it’s rare
and outstanding
really uh
really touching
now you stay in touch with these two
guys on the cover of the book
no but one guy died you’re right i’m
sorry yeah the other fellow was a great
he um
lost both legs he had
no legs whatsoever
and um
after three years in a va hospital and
he wound up um
uh being a architect from the state of
texas and uh
yeah he became a a great great person
good for that
a little more to the story a moment
oh yeah okay
all righty so we’re gonna go to a q a
now let’s get some questions see what we
first question or comment
third of the fourth ada in the house
thank you dominic maturelli hopefully i
pronounce your name good thank you for
watching thank you for putting that
comment in
schiff that
thank you so much for being there for us
vietnam veterans
1099 river rats vietnam 6970
glad to be back home
still going amen man
thank you for your river rats that brown
water navy stuff man appreciate it
john sabia great respect and honor to
hear from all the vietnam veterans
thank you john appreciate that
and marie is back again
kennemur thank you for your service
united states marine
sergeant barry fixler
yes thank you marie
mark harris i was with the 10
109 7 for the first half of 69 then
transferred to the 1099. when they went
home i was sent to the 544th
to august 70. mark what kind of outfits
were you in
uh maybe you could give us a little
comment about that
again john sabia 1979 d company imagine
158 aviation battalion had a lot of
campaign streamers on our guide on from
vietnam when i was there in 79
to 83 oh you served from 79-83
very good john thank you very much
paying homage to all vietnam veterans
amen brother welcome home
dominic macharelli again he keeps
putting his name up because i pronounce
it right
thanks dominic god bless you too
and that’s the last one
thank you for all those comments so you
can send some pictures and comments in
next time as well
all right mr barry what uh thank you
very much
appreciate it semper fi
and god bless you and welcome home