Ed Pippin knew he was next.
A mortar shell had hit approximately 120 yards away. Then another was even closer to him.
During his Army training, Pippin had learned the North Vietnamese Army would place soldiers in trees to signal back to the mortar team to adjust their position and aim.
Pippin was lying in a crater that formed from bombing the previous night. He had taken cover from enemy fire some four or five hours earlier. He was in the jungle on Hill 724 outside Dak To, Vietnam. It was November of 1967.
“I knew the next one was going to be mine,” said Pippin, of Cohutta.
“I had about here up hanging out of the crater,” he said, putting his hand about chest level.
“If I hadn’t started crawling out, it would have hit me right here,” he said, pointing to his head. “If I hadn’t moved, I wouldn’t be here today.”
The blast went up Pippin’s left side, leaving his leg in pieces, a hole in his right leg and shrapnel in his chest cavity.
“I thought I was dying,” he said. “I really did. I said, ‘Lord, it’s up to you.’”
Pippin’s body was numb.
“My leg was in such chunks,” he said. “I looked around to see what the deal was. I wasn’t in pain, just numb. My foot was pointing straight up backwards. I see my knee was chunks of white, chunks of meat and chunks of blood.”
Soldiers in the 3rd Battalion of the 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division — of which Pippin was a member — had a film crew attached, but for many years the footage was thought to have been lost. And since most of the officers had either been killed or injured, no one had really documented their story.
Recently, that footage was found and made into a documentary called “Raw War: The Lost Film of Dak To.” It aired on the American Heroes Channel (formerly the Military Channel) on Monday. Encore presentations will air tonight at 8 and 11 and on March 28 at 5 p.m.
Pippin’s story about being blasted while in the crater is in the documentary. Though he survived, many others in the crater did not.
“The carnage in the crater was so great, how anyone in the crater could have survived that, I still don’t understand,” said Bob Walkowiak, a soldier on Hill 724, in the documentary. Walkowiak temporarily lost his sight in what’s called hysterical blindness because the explosion in the crater was so devastating to look at.
“He was just screaming,” Walkowiak said of Pippin. “Lt. (Levie) Isaacks and Jim Bury came in and told him to shut up and just take it; they were going to get him out of there.”
Pippin was one of the first soldiers flown out of the area for medical attention, the narrator on the documentary said.
“When Pippin reaches the hospital 50 miles away, he is pronounced dead on arrival,” the narrator said. “But in fact, Pippin miraculously survives his injuries.”
Cohutta man featured in documentary about found footage of Vietnam battle
Ed Pippin knew he was next.
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