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From Vietnam to the World Trade Center
A bugle, a soldier, and a real hero of September 11th

by Jari Villanueva

Above is a  photo of US Army PFC Ira Rolston sounding a captured Viet Cong bugle in the Ia Drang Valley Battle.

I found this picture some time ago while researching at the National Archives.  The picture floored me as here appeared to be a photograph of a bugler during Vietnam sounding a bugle in the field!  Looking for more information on this photograph, I contacted Pvt. Rolston in July 2002.

Mr. Rolston was a member of 1st Platoon, B Co., 2nd Battalion, 7th US Air Cavalry, and was a radio operator during the Vietnam War.  The bugle is a clairon d'ordonnance, no doubt left by French troops when they departed in the late 1950s.  It was captured during the Ia Drang Valley Battle in 1965.  According to Mr. Rolston, with whom I spoke with on July 4th, 2002, the picture was one posed for the Stars and Stripes newspaper.  The bugle was loaned to him by his company commander, Lt. Richard Rescorla.  Since Rolston had played trumpet in high school Lt. Rescorla loaned him the bugle to use while in Vietnam.  Mr. Rolston laughed at the idea of sounding actual calls during battle. "We all would have been hitting the ground," he said.  He did "toot it a bit," though.

There is more to the story.....

Ia Drang was the Army's first major battle in Vietnam, and one of its bloodiest.  The battle claimed 305 American lives, soldiers who died in fierce combat with a North Vietnamese regiment that also took heavy losses.  Lt. Rick "Hard Core" Rescorla was one of the heroes of that 1965 battle.  Rescorla commanded 1st Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, and was almost worshipped by his soldiers, who called themselves the "Hard Corps" after his nickname.  But his courage and infectious optimism resonated beyond those under his immediate command.  
"Rick was the best combat leader I ever saw in Vietnam," said Pat Payne, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment's reconnaissance platoon leader in Ia Drang.

Rescorla's role in that battle is recounted in detail in the book We Were Soldiers Once And Young, a searing account of the action by retired Lt. Gen. Harold Hal Moore and Joe Galloway.  In 1965, Moore was a battalion commander in the center of the battle, and Galloway was a UPI reporter who covered the entire engagement.  Even those only vaguely familiar with the book have seen Lt. Rescorla's image - he is the gaunt soldier on the cover with the 2-day old beard and the bayonet fixed to his M16.

Rescorla left Ia Drang with a battered French bugle, seized as a trophy from the Vietnamese.  His division came to see that bugle as a talisman.

In 2001, Richard Rescorla was a retired Army Reserve colonel and the head of security for Morgan Stanley's Individual Investor Group at the World Trade Center.  On Sept. 11, Rescorla found himself leading a massive evacuation of Morgan Stanley's 2,700-person workforce which occupied floors 44 through 74 of the South tower.  As soon as the first plane hit the North tower, Rescorla sprang into action.  He ignored the admonition of Port Authority security officials to stay put.  A co-worker shot the now-famous photograph (below) of Rescorla commanding his troops with a bullhorn.  

Employees marched two-by-two down the stairwells.  Rescorla sang patriotic songs to keep them calm.  "Today is a proud day to be an American," he is said to have told co-workers.

Most of Morgan Stanley's employees were safely out of the building by the time the second plane hit the South tower.  And incredibly all but six of Morgan Stanley's workers survived.  Richard Rescorla was one of the lost six.  He was last seen walking back up the stairs, in search of stragglers.

So here is a little bit of history.  A bugle and a soldier and a real hero of September 11th.  I'd sure love to see and hold that bugle one day.

 


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