Returning to Vietnam (03:34)
Christopher Upham discusses the lack of birds during the war. He reconnects with his unit, the 299th Engineers. Meet five veterans who decide to return to Vietnam, forty years later.
World War II Romanticism (02:33)
Upham's parents met serving in the military; he grew up believing in heroism. He felt responsible for a childhood friend's accidental death. Feeling lost, he dropped out of college and joined the army.
Wartime Memories (02:46)
Upham reflects on his naiveté as a soldier and hopes to experience Vietnam as a country during his visit. He compares Saigon in war and in peace.
Cu Chi Tunnels (05:00)
Upham's group travels to the central highlands where units patrolled the hills around the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Vietnamese government now runs a labyrinth of Viet Cong tunnels as a tourist attraction; Upham's group recognizes U.S. weapons on display. Upham experiences a flashback to the war.
Post Traumatic Stress (04:04)
Members of Upham's group shoot at a target in Cu Chi; most experienced nightmares or depression after the war. John Marcoulier discusses how spirituality has helped him heal. They felt alienated when returning from Vietnam; Bill Christie hid his veteran status.
Highway 14 (03:56)
Vietnamese women try to sell maps to Upham's group; they recall communicating with vendors during the war. The engineering battalion only fought defensively. They built bridges, fixed culverts and roads, ran mine sweeps; they feared death by convoy ambush.
Taking a Human Life (05:32)
Christie promised his mother and grandmother he would not kill anyone in Vietnam. He broke his promise during an enemy attack and the soldier's death haunts him. Veterans share feelings about killing.
Stuck in Dak To (03:36)
When Nixon announced troop withdrawals, many believed the war was over. Infantrymen left; the 299th Engineering Battalion held the base. Veterans recall enemy troops amassing across the nearby border in Cambodia and Laos.
North Vietnamese Attack (05:21)
The 299th Engineers held Dak To for two months. Upham recalls the moment he realized the war was out of control. The base was under artillery fire for 45 days.
Brutality of War (03:29)
Upham became an ambulance driver at Dak To, copied medical instructions onto tags for casualties, and prepared bodies for transport. Newman Howard reflects on dehumanization.
Live or Die (02:35)
After a two month siege, nearly half the 299th Engineering Battalion had been killed or wounded; reinforcements never arrived at Dak To. Memories of a brain damaged helicopter pilot and his childhood friend's death haunt Upham.
Returning from Vietnam (02:12)
Veterans recall friends and family not understanding what they experienced at Dak To. Several contemplated suicide.
Visiting Dak To (03:22)
Upham's group pays their respects to those who died at the base camp. Only the airstrip remains; they struggle to recognize the area. Upham realizes that birds have returned to Vietnam.
Credits: Return to Dak To (01:22)
Credits: Return to Dak To
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