The song you hear playing is titled Garry Owen and it is an old Irish drinkng song brought over to America duing the Civil War. General George Armstrong Custer heard it and adopted it as his batttle song during the Civil War and carried it with him to subsequent assignments, namely as the firld commander of the Seventh Cavalry at Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory. The band accompanied him most of the way to the Little Big Horm, they were left behind when the soldiers moved into the prarie of Wyoming and Montana to their bloody fate. Today, the words "Garry Owen" are still used by men of the Seventh Cavalry on active duty as a form of greeting when they exchange salutes...the words in gaelic refer back to the olden days of Ireland when the men would fight all day and drink all night...they drank in John's Tavern and eventually they were tossed out into John's Garden where they continued their merriment and song until the dawm...hence Garry Owen!
Fifty one years ago today,14 November the men of the First Battalin of the Seventh Cavalry, led by Lt Col. Hal Moore set foot on the ground called Landing Zone X-ray. Shortly after landing they were attacked by North Vietnamese Regular Soldiers of the 66th Regiment and the ferocious battle was joined. The Second of the Seventh was sent in piecemeal as the fight raged culminating on the 16th when the entire battalion was finally on the field. The next morning, the men of the Second, were orderd to walk out to a spot on the map called Landing Zone Albany. Shortly after one oclock on the 17th, the men of the Second were attacked by over 1100 NVA. By dawn of the 18th, when the battle of the Ia Drang finally ended, over 300 Americans had laid down their lives . REMEMBER
The full stories can be read in We Were Soldiers Once...and Young, by Joe Galloway and Lt Gen Harold Moore and The Ghosts of the Green Grass, by J.L. Bud Alley
Just some thoughts of the past as we head into the new year...Last year we lost a few more to the Ghosts and undoubtedly will lose more this year. To those who lost, our thoughts and prayers are with you forever and to those who are struggling with the ills of Agent Orange-know also they are from the Ghosts...but keep on fighting you are not alone nor forgotten... we are not done with them yet when we all reach the Fiddlers' Green, we will reform a permanent perimeter and beat them for good. In the meantime, Happy New Year this 2017...Garry Owen !
Thanksgiving Day 1965 AnKhe Vietnam
It is now daylight and we are stirring. I have new duties now and need to really be on the ball. It is Thanksgiving Day, 1965! Today I am the CO of Headquarters Company, the Battalion Mess Officer and Battalion Commo Officer: A big plate for a 23 year old Second Lieutenant especially today. It is raining and misting outside our tent as I pull on my boots and wipe the sleep from my eyes. In a few hours General Westmoreland himself is coming to have dinner with us and watch a Commo review of some suggested improvements to our radios in combat…Grabbing my hat I head up toward the Mess Hall to check on them. Do you have all you need?
“Where is the General going to sit? Will he have other with him?”
“No idea,” I replied to the Mess Sergeant but keep a table open for him.
“What time will he be here?”
“No idea but since the word is for dinner, I assume it will be 1200 hours.”…
“When do we open the chow line?”
“As soon as he gets here Sergeant.”
Satisfied that things were under control there I slogged my way down to the Commo Tent where Sergeant George had some coffee waiting.
“Sir, we are all set. Do you want to watch us do a live demo now?”
“I think we better…I know it is wet so use poncho’s now and if need, the guys can change before the real demo.” So we wondered off with five men carrying sandbag wrapped radios with some light foliage attached. Every one got into their places and began transmitting standing and moving alternately. From our viewpoint in the makeshift viewing area, they looked damn good…so I went back to the Commo tent and went over some last minutes stuff to be sure it was ready for inspection just in case the General or someone with him wanted to look in..and then I went over to the TOC where the other Company Commanders and staff were beginning to assemble. It was 1100 hours.
Colonel McDade walked in. He was cool and showing no sign of nerves. He came up to Major Henry about the same time I got there and was cordial in his greeting to both of us.
“It looks like all is ready and under control. Did you get all the letters done yesterday Lieutenant?”
“Yessir!” I replied. Major Henry smiled at me as he said, “You are a busy man today Alley, aren’t you?”
“Yessir. My father was a camp counsellor in Spartanburg SC where the General is from, and believe it or not, the General was in his cabin. I hope he remembers.” I replied.
And with that I took a seat in the dimly lit GP tent with all the other Captains. I was the only lieutenant. We smoked and waited and waited. I sat pretty silent listening to the small chatter of the senior officers as they nervously waited too. It was a week and a day since the disaster at LZ Albany and none of us knew what this day would bring. The minutes ticked off and before I realized it, it was a few minutes after noon.
A runner came into the tent looking for me. “Sir, the mess hall wants to know when to open the line. The men are already lining up.” I looked at Major Henry, and he said, “Just have them wait, the General will be here pretty soon.” So we did. And the time began to crawl by…tension was building among all of us especially me…I had guys waiting next to do the demo and they had to get in place…nearly 400 men were lining up waiting to ear their big Thanksgiving turkey meal…for those of us who had been in country for almost three months it was to be the first real meal…and the minutes kept moving slower. It was like every minute now had 75 seconds in it…finally at 1300 hours, (1:00 o’clock), Major Henry said, “Alley, let the men start to eat while you and I go next door and find out what is going on.”
The call to Brigade brought us the news that the General had decided to eat with the 1st of the 7th and would be with us shortly…the Major and I went back in the TOC and told everyone to stand by, they should be here in five minutes. And sure enough we soon heard the slushing sounds of jeeps moving along the perimeter our way.
We fell out into the Staff formation. Me lining up behind the Colonel and Major Henry on the front row with the other Company Commanders. The staff was directly behind us lined up. We were supposed to salute and say our name and shake the hand of the Generals as they met us.
And quickly, the jeeps pulled up…there was a gaggle of press folks, cameras, and microphones piling out rapidly. The rain began to fall gently as Westmoreland and General Kinnard, dismounted and approached Colonel McDade as he stood at attention. Hurriedly, he saluted said a few words to McDade and moved to the waiting line of officers. The press hurrying behind him. Almost breathlessly, I shouted out my name,” Lt Jesse L Alley, Headquarters Company, Greenville South Carolina Sir!” As I saluted him. He took my hand perfunctorily, never really looked me in the eye and quickly moved on. By now some of the men were hurrying down from the mess hall trays filling with the rain to see the General. He jumped up on a stump as the men crowded round him and in a few words told us we had won a great victory last week and should be proud of ourselves…and then the “show” moved on. Leaving us to ponder in pain, but what about all the ghosts…?
Feb 16, 2018
University of Wyoming ROTC