On this Veteran's Day Curt and I are surrounded by fathers, brothers, uncles and friends who have served in the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Army. We may not see them in uniforms now, but the military is part of their back-bone and part their soul. They, along with hundreds of thousands of others are the soul and the backbone of the United States.
Every day, today specially, we are humbled by them and everyone else that has served. Their heroic acts, whether in the field or on the ground, are what inspire movie roles for celebrities such as Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger and more.
General Norman Schwarzkopf (Stormin Norman) spoke about the the most heroic act he'd ever seen in his book, It Doesn't Take A Hero. That act was about my father in-law, Retired General Earl “Van” Van Inwegen. Below is a transcript of General Schwarzkopf’s interview in which he describes the heroic act of then Lt. Van Inwegen (no one ever gets the last name correct). It’s selfless acts like this and the heroic act of serving that keep you and me free – and what action hero movies are made of…
Transcript from C-SPAN Booknotes:
LAMB: You write in your book about "the most heroic act I've ever seen," and you'll have to help me with the pronunciations. It was Lt. Earl S. Van Eiwegian. Why did he perform the most heroic act you've ever seen?
SCHWARZKOPF: I don't know, and I have never ever talked to Van Eiwegian about that after it happened.
LAMB: What did he do?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, we were
surrounded at Du Cho. We had gone into Du Cho to supposedly relieve a special
forces camp, right on the Cambodian border, from a couple of local VC
battalions. It turns out there were two regiments of North Vietnamese regulars
that were coming across the Cambodian border right at that point. We ran smack
dab into them, and the next thing we knew we were surrounded. We spent many,
many days surrounded there, but we had a whole bunch of men that had been
wounded in, frankly, our retreat into the special forces camp, who were going
to die if they didn't get out of there. Yet the environment was such that any
helicopter or any airplane that flew out there got such heavy fire from the
ground that they just refused to come out. I mean, they just wouldn't.
There was a high ridge between us and Pleiku. There was an air base there, and as the story was told to me, Van Eiwegian was sitting in a bar, and people were talking about how rough it was out there at Du Cho, and the pilots were saying, "Oh, I wouldn't fly out there," and everything else, and Van Eiwegian said, "I will. I didn't come out here to sit in this bar. I came out here to help." He went out there, got his aircraft -- a C-130 aircraft -- and came flying in. I can remember, we knew he was coming in, and so we had the wounded out there and we were ready to run them out onto the airstrip when the plane came in. He had to fly over a ridge out there in the distance, and as he flew over the ridge these green tracers just came up from the ground from every direction. Everything in the world was shooting at this guy. He just flew right through it, came in and landed on the runway. When he landed on the runway, they started mortaring the runway. Mortar shells were going off all around us. More people were getting wounded. He just sat there, cool as a cucumber, at the controls of the airplane. It was dripping hydraulic fluid. I can still see the red hydraulic fluid just running out of the airplane on all sides, and this fellow sat there, lowered the ramp on his aircraft C-130. We ran the wounded in, the other people were getting wounded at the time, and he just sat there at the controls waiting until we gave him the high sign.
Once we had all the people loaded, he lifted up the ramp and took off. He had to fly across the same ridge on the way out, and the same thing happened -- the sky filled with tracers, he flew right through it. Then he could have taken the shortest possible route and gone to Pleiku, but our base was in Saigon and there were much better hospitals in Saigon, so he takes this plane that's dripping hydraulic fluid and everything else, and turns around and flies south to Saigon and lands. I never met the man, but I've always admired him and this is my chance to hopefully immortalize him a little bit.
LAMB: Was he moving South Vietnamese out?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes, these were South Vietnamese Airborne. There was not a single U.S. wounded on that airplane. This was South Vietnamese troops that were wounded that he came in there to save.