A 2-hour documentary featuring a Santa Clarita man who served in one of the last combat infantry companies drafted and trained to fight in Vietnam will debut on NatGeo, the National Geographic channel, tonight (Wednesday) at 8.
“’The Boys of ’67’ tells the story of how Charlie Company originated at Fort Riley, Kan., when the 9th Infantry Division was reactivated in mid-1966,” said Bill Reynolds, a longtime Valencia resident who, as a company trooper, was wounded in action in June 1967 and earned a Purple Heart.
The story shares personal narratives from members of the unit, several of whom gathered at Reynolds’ home for the filming.
The film is based on a book, “The Boys of ‘67,” which tells the story of Reynolds’ unit, part of “the only division to be raised, drafted and trained for service in the Vietnam War,” according to author Andrew Wiest, a historian and professor at the University of Southern Mississippi (Other divisions that fought in Vietnam were already active, vestiges of Korea and World War II; the 9th had been deactivated after WWII.)
Bill Reynolds (left) with fellow Charlie Company veteran Jack Benedick at Veterans Historical Plaza in Newhall. Photo: Lou Reda Productions.
“It’s the story of various troopers within the company who became good friends as we trained together for six months before traveling to Vietnam aboard a World War II troop ship,” Reynolds said, “and how we were bogged down in the Mekong Delta fighting the Viet Cong and enduring a number of battles and firefights, and the losses that we sustained in that year. And the book closes with the impact the war had on a number of those troopers.”
“‘Brothers in War’ sheds light on the many aspects of war that Vietnam soldiers faced. Aside from the casualties of battle and heroic acts of bravery in the field, the veterans featured in the film also recall some of the lighter moments that helped forge lifelong friendships,” according to a National Geographic news release. “To this day, they still remember who got the best care packages, funny nicknames, the swimming pool back at base and even an instance where they used marijuana leaves as camouflage.”
The survivors from Reynolds’ unit remained friends and still gather together for reunions.
“We were in some pretty harsh terrain and fighting a determined enemy,” Reynolds said, of his service. “And we always remember our fallen — and we do that at all of our reunions. We’re all brothers, brothers in arms.”
National Geographic press release
Bill Reynolds (right) with producer Scott Reda
[Washinton, D.C.] – In 1967 the boys of Charlie Company went to war in the Mekong Delta, the homeland of the Viet Cong, and entered a foreign land of murderous heat, unforgiving jungle and a new age of guerrilla warfare. This “band of brothers” journeyed from boot camp to combat and, for the lucky ones, back home — experiencing their horror, their pain, their misery, their happiness and, above all, their camaraderie together. Now, nearly 50 years later, they’re uniting once again to share their stories of courage under fire with the world.
Through gripping first-person accounts and digitally remastered archival footage, including the soldiers’ own home movies and personal audio tapes, Brothers in War recounts the harrowing combat experiences of the men of Charlie Company — one of the last American combat infantry companies to be drafted, trained and sent to fight together in Vietnam. Fittingly narrated by Charlie Sheen, who rose to stardom after his 1986 performance as a Vietnam soldier in “Platoon,” the two-hour special premieres Wednesday, March 26, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel (NGC).
Plucked from their homes, the young men of Charlie Company left their sheltered, innocent lives to become part of the first American unit to be permanently stationed in the Mekong Delta. Their mission: to patrol the Delta’s massive maze of waterways, dense jungles and rice paddies in order to seek out and destroy the 82,000 enemy soldiers who pervaded the region. Rifleman, 3rd Platoon, John Bradfield recalls, “The Red Cross gave us some pamphlets and things that dealt with our conscience, because we were actually going to have to kill to keep from being killed. That was just the reality of it.”
During their one-year deployment, these brave soldiers were confronted with both sides of death. They grieved for fallen comrades and the guilt of killing their enemy. Team leader in the 1st Platoon, John Sclimenti, explains, “When you’re in battle, your training takes over, your emotions are on auto-pilot. What’s tough for you is when the battle stops. When the battle stops, all of a sudden you start thinking.”
These men’s stories are raw, heartfelt and gut-wrenching. They talk about the horrors they experienced both in the heat of battle and in its bloody aftermath. Sclimenti remembers retrieving bodies after their largest and deadliest battle: “One of the things that struck me the most is that I would find a body and their helmet would be off their head and it would be lying beside them and there would be a picture of their girlfriend or their wife or their family inside their helmets. And that struck me because in my mind I was picking up a soldier, but then when I saw the helmet with the pictures inside, I was picking up a family member, a father, or a brother, or a son.”
Brothers in War sheds light on the many aspects of war that Vietnam soldiers faced. Aside from the casualties of battle and heroic acts of bravery in the field, the veterans featured in the film also recall some of the lighter moments that helped forge lifelong friendships. To this day, they still remember who got the best care packages, funny nicknames, the swimming pool back at base and even an instance where they used marijuana leaves as camouflage.
War in Vietnam for the men of Charlie Company was unlike anything they could have imagined. By the end of their yearlong combat tour, Charlie Company suffered 26 killed and 105 wounded — a total casualty rate of just over 80 percent. They were among the first U.S. servicemen to return home not to open arms, but to jeering, cursing protestors.
Today, the survivors of Charlie Company still get together regularly.
Brothers in War is produced by Lou Reda Productions for National Geographic Channel. For Lou Reda Productions, executive producers are Lou Reda and Scott L. Reda, producer is Liz Reph and chief historical consultant is Dr. Andrew Wiest. For National Geographic Channel, executive producer is Madeleine Carter, vice president of production and development is Kevin Mohs and executive vice president of programming is Heather Moran.
National Geographic Channel
Based at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channels US are a joint venture between National Geographic and Fox Networks. The Channels contribute to the National Geographic Society’s commitment to exploration, conservation and education with smart, innovative programming and profits that directly support its mission. Launched in January 2001, National Geographic Channel (NGC) celebrated its fifth anniversary with the debut of NGC HD. In 2010, the wildlife and natural history cable channel Nat Geo WILD was launched, and in 2011, the Spanish-language network Nat Geo Mundo was unveiled. The Channels have carriage with all of the nation’s major cable, telco and satellite television providers, with NGC currently available in over 85 million U.S. homes. Globally, National Geographic Channel is available in more than 440 million homes in 171 countries and 45 languages. For more information, visit www.natgeotv.com.
Lou Reda Productions
Lou Reda Productions is an internationally recognized producer of top-quality historic non-fiction programs. Over the past 30 years LRP has produced more than 500 hours of programming for US and international television networks while garnering immense praise in the form of a People’s Choice Award, a Peabody, eight Emmy nominations (including one win), five Cine Golden Eagles and nine Tellys. For more information, visit www.redafilms.com.
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