MEDIA, Pa.- --
MEDIA, Pa. – In the early 1950’s, a small group of American advisers began arriving to support South Vietnam forces. Their mission was to assist the South Vietnamese senior leadership in tactical and logistical decision making while providing U.S. commanders and intelligence agencies with valuable information that could help prepare American forces for war.
One of those advisers was Bob McMahon. Currently serving as the Mayor of Media, Pennsylvania, he can still remember his first day in country as a young Second Lieutenant.
“I left for Vietnam in January 1968 and arrived in February at Bien Hoa airport,” said McMahon, a Philadelphia native. “From there we were bused over to Long Bien. That first night we arrived was the first night Long Bien got hit.”
McMahon had arrived during the height of the Vietnam War. At that time there were more than 500,000 U.S. troops in country. The war was in full swing and it was common for the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong to engage in firefights and skirmishes with the South Vietnamese Army and U.S. forces in contested areas.
“The next day, a major approached me and gave me my assignment –I was to be a platoon leader with the 1st Infantry Division, 2nd of the 18th, Charlie Company,” said McMahon. “I took over a platoon of nine men who had been part of a February 7 battle where a lot of people had been lost – most of the officers had been killed, or wounded or were inept and so all the officers were being replaced.”
As a platoon leader McMahon participated in search and destroy, ambush, patrol and reconnaissance missions. It was typical for an infantry officer to go on some missions, but because of the casualty losses he went on most of the missions with his men.
“Our primary mission was to go out and make contact with the enemy,” said McMahon. “We didn’t engage unless we had to, and our primary objective was to radio back enemy positions.”
After serving as a platoon leader he became a senior adviser for Mobile Advisory Team 44 which was part of a new pilot program. He was inserted into villages that were at risk from enemy forces. He and his team lived with the locals and assisted them in engaging the enemy.
“In total I lived in three separate villages. It was myself, two sergeants, a medic and an interpreter. We lived with the [local forces] there and we trained them, went out on missions with them and acted as the liaison between them and the U.S.,” said McMahon. “Once the threat to the village was lessened our team was moved to another threatened village and we would start all over again.”
For his actions during his time as a senior advisor he was awarded the Bronze Star, the nation’s fourth-highest individual military award.
“My Bronze Star relates to the relationships I built and describes how I formed them and built an infrastructure of public safety in the villages I was in,” said McMahon.
When McMahon came home he was elected to city council and eventually elected to Mayor, which has helped him organize and coordinate events that recognize returning veterans of foreign wars.
“April 1991 was the first welcome home parade that I organized and I’ve been doing it ever since,” said McMahon. “Being a veteran, I can put myself in the shoes of veterans that are returning home and I can make sure that they are recognized.”
As the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War approaches this November, McMahon salutes his fellow Vietnam veterans and commends the sacrifices that were made.
“I can say that we are proud of our service in Vietnam and that we served honorably,” said McMahon.