The year was 1928. Herbert Hoover was elected president, Mickey Mouse made his first appearance, in "Steamboat Willie", and Scotch tape was first marketed by 3-M Company. That same year, in a small Midwestern town, a baby was born to a family of first-generation Americans, and baptized under his family's Americanized name. A simple name, but strong - John Smith. One year later, and half a country away, another child was born who would have a major impact on John's life - the only son of Richard Bancroft, nicknamed "A.J.".
The year is now 1945. A strange year. The "Lost Squadron" disappeared east of Florida in what would be known as the Bermuda Triangle. The first "bug" in a computer was discovered - a moth removed from a relay. And Elvis Presley made his first public appearance at age ten. On the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, Adele Baracus gives birth to a beautiful baby boy. Adele, at the suggestion of her best friend, named him Bosco, after the patron saint of boys.
That same year, the first American death in what was to be called the Vietnam War occurred in Saigon.
1946 was a busy year. "The Adventures of Sam Spade" debuted on CBS Radio, the first helicopter was licensed for use in New York City, and Rear Admiral Sidney W Souers, USNR, became the first CIA director. John graduated from high school, and prepared to enter West Point Military Academy, his father's dream fulfilled. The Winecoff Hotel, where both Mr and Mrs Baracus worked, burned to the ground, with 119 lives lost. Devastated, the Baracus family moved to Chicago for a fresh start, temporarily moving in with Mr Baracus' brother. A.J. Bancroft married his college sweetheart, Samantha, in California. And the third member of our team was born - H.M. Murdock. His birth certificate only states "Baby Boy" for a name; no one knows if his parents didn't have a name picked out or if the hospital just didn't get it written down.
Thankfully, 1947 was somewhat calmer. "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" premiered, as well as the movies "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Great Expectations" , and, in a somewhat more ambiguous incident, the folks of Roswell, New Mexico, discovered a UFO in their back yard. This was also the year the final piece of our puzzle entered the world, in Los Angeles, California. Mr and Mrs A.J. Bancroft welcomed their only child, Richard, named after A.J.'s father. A.J. was slightly less exuberant about the blessed event than his wife, but took on the responsibility like a man - as his own father expected.
Three years passed, unhappy ones for the young Bancroft family. A.J. had deserted his wife and son, heading for the greener pastures of New York. There, he became acquainted with the world of investments and politics, and eventually would become known to a young Congressional representative from Massachusetts. Samantha's divorce was finalized in 1950. She was 21 years old, alone with a three-year-old son.
John graduated from West Point, commissioned as a second lieutenant. He was posted to the First Air Cavalry Division, stationed as a member of the occupation forces in Japan. He was there less than a month when the North Koreans invaded South Korea, and in July of that year, he found himself on the way to P'ohang-dong, South Korea.
The Korean War was bloody and hard, to say the least. But by October, 1950, it looked as though it would be coming to a close, and John was thankful for that. He had met some of the bravest men he could ever hope to meet, but he'd also seen stupidity and outright cowardice. This was not war as he had imagined it.
On November 1, his unit, the Eighth Cavalry, among others, were ordered to move through the South Korean Army's line of defense at Unsan and head toward the Yalu River to attack the North Koreans. On arriving at Unsan, the Eighth Cavalry found themselves facing literally thousands of Red Chinese; the United Nations, and the United States itself, had chosen to ignore and disregard numerous warnings, and now the piper demanded to be paid.
It was a blood bath.
Despite the gallantry shown, the huge losses incurred, and the awards received, rumors circulated that the First Air Cavalry had behaved in a less than honorable manner. The first time John heard "The Bug-Out Ballad", they were on mandatory R&R in Seoul; he spent the last three of their four days' leave in custody.
For the next year, the First moved back and forth across Korea, first taking ground, then losing it, then regaining it. Finally, in December of 1951, the First was re-deployed to Hokkaido, Japan, with various units moving back and forth to Korea as security forces. John knew, as did everyone in the military, that the US had been ill-equipped for this, so soon after WWII. He also saw how officers in battle made the most of what they had, regardless of what was available or the experience of the men serving under them, making hard choices and having to live with the results. Slowly, he was learning the kind of officer he wanted to be, and with his promotion to first lieutenant in May, 1952, he felt more and more the importance, and seeming impossibility, of taking care of both his country and his men.
But John was also feeling restless, and hearing rumors of a new conflict brewing in some country called Vietnam.