tv Second Look FOX May 29, 2011 11:00pm-11:30pm PDT
next on a second look, remembering those who have sacrificed for our country. from a vietnam veteran, to the psyche damaged by war to the women who served in southeast asian and waited years for their own memorial. from a world war ii hero recognized more than a century later, to the marines who fought the battle of mid-way in the pacific.
it's all next on a second look. i'm frank somerville. good evening, today we're in the eve of the day we recognize those who gave their lives and in other cases gave their youth and innocence to a war for their country. their country sent them to war, and styles war sent them back broken. john fowler first brought us billy's story back in 1999. >> reporter: he was 19, joined the army right out of high school. assigned to the 101st. call sign ghost writer 679. it was may of 1969. his unit hit a dug in force of the north vietnamese army in the asha valley. soldiers who were there say
scenes from this movie were dramatically accurate. a slaughter on both sides. >> psychologically, sometimes things are so horrific you don't remember it. i remember flying in to a fire base once and there was a call that had been overrun. and when we got there, it was only two or three guys. this is left. >> reporter: americans there also died from friendly fire. >> we really got angry. we got real pissed off. because when we heard that our own ship came in and wiped out a lot of our guys, that was pretty tough. we lost some ships in our company. and some of our fellow crew members and stuff. you know and -- you know we went to substance abuse to deal with it. >> reporter: in 10 days, 56
americans died, 420 seriously wounded. about 600 vietnamese were killed. for a hill the size of two city blocks that u.s. commanders abandoned six days later. back in the states, this battle drew intense criticism. it was the last major offensive of its kind. returning to a culture where many their age had gone hippy and anti war. aldridge and his comrades faced another battle. >> i didn't know about the news coverage. it was on the muse at 6:00 every day when you had dinner. it was like a bad dream. kids who were basically our age, we were in uniform yelling at us, baby killer, you know. >> reporter: after 18 years of alcoholism, drug abuse and dead end jobs, aldridge said he began cutting hair. >> i needed some calm, some
healing. getting back into society is very important to me because i felt so alienated. >> reporter: he sought help from veterans groups, searched the plow shares and the vet center. >> it's hard sometimes when i think about my -- you know your -- yeah. see and i tell you, today i can grieve, i can cry. for years i didn't. i got angry and went and got high. i think through the vet center, i learned it was okay. >> reporter: he finally touched the bronze star, three air medals and the other combat ribbons he earned more than 30 years ago. therefor valor in vietnam's bloody east fight, soldiers called it hamburger hill. lost paper work and bureaucracy
delayed his commendation. >> i please billy to help parentheses medals for you, for your sense of responsibility, and for your humility in all that you have -- that you will have achieved. >> it's a mixed bag because you know at the same time, reflecting back the meloncholy. just thinking of the waste. the horrific waste, you know. >> reporter: today sober and successful, billy aldridge still fights back flash backs. even today's rain brought memories of vietnam monsoons. he says he accepted the medal today for his comrades. >> it's hard for me to accept the term hero, because my heros
are in a wall. >> reporter: the women who served in vietnam remember the healing they sought for in their return. remembering the world war ii battle that turned the tide in the south pacific. ♪ let's go out to the dmv ♪ it's ok that we're number four hundred and three ♪ ♪ we'll find ourselves a comfy seat ♪ ♪ and watch some shows and stuff ♪
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for americans of a certain age, just the word vietnam still stirs the soul like no other. everyone all these years after the war and that is particularly true for a lot of women who served there. nearly two decades ago america established a memorial to those women who served in vietnam and george watson filed this report in 1993 at the time that memorial was unveiled. >> more than 10,000 women served in vietnam. the vast majority of them were nurses. now two decades later they will finally and formally receive the recognition they are due. on memorial day this thursday, the vietnam's women memorial
will be unveiled. there are 110 monuments to washington. this will be the first memorial to women. three of the 17 bay area women who are going back to washington for their week long ceremonies talk to us about vietnam. the death, the stress, the residual strength of their ordeal. judy did two tours in vietnam. >> i was a nurse and i knew what to do so i did. i didn't feel, i did. and i didn't know then but you can't selectively put aside just one emotion, just sad. they all kind of went. and i worked very, very hard and i prayed very hard and never in my life have i felt so alive. i've heard that said to other people that have gone to war that never, never before that i was faced with dying did i
cherish living so much. i was so helpless, i wanted to hold them so they wouldn't die alone. so that their mothers, their wives, they -- they couldn't be there and i could. and i loved them. and i used to pat their heads and stroked them while he died. >> reporter: barbara healy has been in the active army and reserves for 23 years. she spent two years in vietnam and ever since she has remained in critical care nursing. working with those patients who's condition is the most precarious. it is almost as if vietnam never really ended. >> i feel as i've been searching for something to make it better. oftentimes during these mass casualty situations i would think, if there was just something more i could have done. it is always that thought in the back of your mind, maybe there's just something more that you could have done.
>> reporter: it's estimated half a million people came home from vietnam with emotional problems. probably the most common is diagnosed as war related post- traumatic stress disorder. men have been able to get treatment through veterans facilities. but until less than a year ago there was no such help for women with ptsb. judy is in a program for such women. she says she never realized the stress she was suffering until the program gave her the chance to talk to other vietnam nurses. >> we started to compare notes. do you feel this way? yeah i feel that way. do you feel scared times, yeah, i do and i don't know why. after talking and meeting to more nurses that had been there, i thought that's an unfinished. it's the no closure part. that's the stress. >> judy says the trip to washington will provide the
closure she is seeking. she feels it will come at the wall. barbara sentry treated wounded in guam. she is doing what she can to walk away from that time in her life seven years ago. >> i like many others came home and tried to forget that i had ever been there. and i changed professions and i have not been a nurse since 1973. so it was easier for me to forget because i wasn't doing things that were related. and i think that it's for me like the young person i was was, sort of frozen in time with the people who didn't make it and i'm not sort of connected to that and it feels to me like it will be a sort of a healing experience. why is it that after 20 or more years, the vietnam experience still so profoundly affects so many people? for judy elbrain it is a lasting, simple but agonizing pain. >> what occurs to me to say is that nobody ever said thank
you. isn't that strange. nobody ever said thank you, thank you i'm glad you went. thank you i'm glad you volunteered. thank you i'm glad you were there to take care of my boy. when we came back to a second look. a bay area veteran remembers the battle of mid-way and the life saving role he played pulling others from the sea. a bit later, when the marines went ashore, they had little inkling of the torturous battle that awaited them.
didn't come until decades later. >> reporter: for more than 50 years, nobody knew that art lewis was a hero. that he had risked his own life to save other people's lives in world war ii. that's because lewis never talked about what he had done and because the men who hand out medals and right military history had overlooked him. it's time we told his story. on june four, 1942 a battle began near the pacific battle in mid-way. and ungunned u.s. task force faced a military armada. the japanese had the numbers but the american forces had the advantage of surprise. they had cracked the japanese secret code. the war in the pacific would turn on this battle. art lewis was an 18-year-old sailor on the destroyer balcha. touch young man with a re -- a tough young man with a repew
teugs reputation of a hell raiser. >> you hear the bombing coming at you. you talk about fear, i was definitely afraid. i never was angry with them either. i had no anger at all toward them. they were fighting for their lives just like we were. >> reporter: bell has parkinson's disease. the disease has taken its toll on his body. and he remembers one situation. >> he hit the water, hit the water diving. he was scared. and he jumped out of that cockpit and pulled out his 45 and started shooting at the destroyer. i had no way, that man was a
brave -- no way. >> so you -- >> i let him go and he died. i sure remember that kind of courage. >> reporter: if anyone still questioned, within five minutes, several tankers were sunk. hundreds of men died in each of them. a mighty steel vessel could turn into a blazing coffin in second. try to invision what it would be like to stand on one of these ships as it was mangled metal. >> when you're going perpendicular to them they can't hit you. yeah, you have to turn
sideways. you have to get within 1,000 yards at least. and they're throwing 2,200 shells at you. they sound like freight trains. >> reporter: then the great u.s. carrier yorktown was hit. first by enemy surface shells then by bombs then by submarine. >> there were bodies flying through the air. a lot of guys had gotten off. but some of them didn't. and that was a bad thing. >> reporter: art lewis destroyer went to help. lewis was one of two men who volunteered to jump into the sea full of debris and fires and leaking fuel and swim to the survivors with buoys so they could stay afloat until they were rescued. >> well, we were like 200 or 300 yards, there's debris everywhere. and catching guys that we
thought were half way alive. we didn't help anybody that was dead because we couldn't use them. i thought, god has one hell of a job, i'll tell you. >> reporter: how many lives did art save that day? he says he doesn't have any idea. >> we stayed out there for about three hours i would guess. they couldn't stand to lose another ship. >> reporter: there were other heros at mid-way and most of them were recognized by their government. but it wasn't until 53 years later, 1995 that art lewis at last was awarded the bronze star with valor for what he did. >> what about those guys that you helped pull in. did you ever see any of them again. >> no i did not. but i received a letter 55 years after the fact. this woman in carolina i think, some place. i want to thank you for saving
my father's life at the battle of midway. that was the most -- touching thing i've ever seen. >> reporter: most of those sailors probably didn't even know who saved their lives. but art lewis knows. maybe that's enough. >> when we come back on a second look, it may be the battle that led to the end of the war in the pacific. we recount the fight at guaracanal. dad, i was wondering if you've -- what's up? oh, what's wrong with your hair? oh. i was cruising the world-wide-web. found this do. what are you wearing?
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on the guara canal. >> reporter: this was the farthest expansion, from here they plan to invade australia. but on august 7, 1942 10,000 marines landed on this island. they were going to answer a question of an anonymous marine pirate. the question was, where the hell is guara canal. the japanese were taken completely by surprise. by the eighth of august, the marines had taken what they came for, the airfield. named after a pilot who was
killed, henderson field was 2000 feet long but only partly completed. they fled inland. they left behind an enormous amount of supply. weapon, food and saki. and it was a good thing too because fletcher deemed the situation too dangerous and withdrew his aircraft carriers. that left the still unloading transport and they pulled out. operation watchtower was now better known as operation shoe string. the japanese were landing reinforcement. telling point was, america had
the industrial where with all to replace her ships. the japanese did not. as the tide began to turn, the americans ruled the air by now and japanese beached the transport in order to unload troops before american airline could sink. this same japanese transport still has guara canal beach as a transport. this fleet was 11 transports carrying 10,000-tons of desperately needed supplies. trying to frankicly unload, they were discovered by american fliers and the slaughter began. 8,000 japanese troops were killed. 10,000-tons of supplies were lost. the loss of men and supplies was practically a death sentence for the japanese on the island. this ship one of thousands of silent memorials on guar canal. after a desperately heroic miles through miles of jungle.
the japanese did a last ditch effort to retake the canal. the last barrier between the japanese and the airstrip. the enemy could see what they had come to recapture. as usual will attack came at night. >>usually they were right at the river's slope. they were not necessarily on the flat ground. they would be on the reverse slope. so we were normally about 70 yards apart. you just walked a few meters and you started aiming grenades at each other. it was easiest because it was too dangerous to get up on the eve because you would get shot for sure. >> the japanese lost 1,300 men. on a second attack, they were basically annihilated. a memorial parks the futility of their heroic action. it stood at the site where they
first withdrew. an american memorial stands the defense on this spiney ridge that few knew about. one sole man is responsible for caring for them. so why did this man create this eerie yet calmly fascinating place? >> my people died, first point. second point my uncle was killed with your people. my mother said, i never forget
england, australia and america. because why? because they sacrificed themselves and we have peace in our country. >> and i'm glad that i got to come back 45 years later. i feel that i owe some respect and honor these fellows, men that we left behind and that we left a lot of good people here. >> and that's it for this week's second look. i'm frank some somerville. we'll see you again next week.