With “two broken ribs and a hole” in his chest, Mobilian Alvin “A.B.” Grantham didn’t have time for pleasantries while he rode on a medevac tank during the Battle of Hue. That’s why when he met a former Marine whom he appeared with in one of the most iconic photos of the Vietnam War, it was technically for the first time.
Both Grantham and Richard Hill are featured in a photo published in several periodicals — including Life magazine in 1969 — that helps capture the carnage of one of the war’s longest and bloodiest battles. The men recounted the story behind the photo during a meeting at Wintzell’s Oyster House on Airport Boulevard Wednesday afternoon.
“It was a bad day,” Grantham said.
For him it started at 5 a.m. when a rocket round exploded through the window of a room he and four others occupied.
“All hell broke loose,” Grantham said. “We did the best we could.”
When Grantham stepped to the window to fire his machine gun, he took an AK-47 round to the chest.
“That was about it for me,” Grantham said. “I just tried to stay alive the rest of the time.”
Hill, from California, was injured after a six-hour fight in which troops got “overwhelmed” by the enemy. He was shot in one leg, he said, and was hit with shrapnel in another. This was in addition to suffering from malaria and trichinosis.
“I had just about given up,” Hill said. “But you don’t give up, you just keep going.”
Both men recall the tank taking enemy fire and the troops on board returning shots.
“I had the thousand-hour look,” Hill said looking at the photo. “That’s when you’re just done.”
The men met initially on Facebook, as both commented on a Together We Served post featuring the classic photo.
“I read his comment where he said he was the one with the bleeding leg and I told him I was the one without a shirt,” Grantham said.
The two started chatting on Facebook before sharing phone numbers and email addresses.
“As soon as we started talking I knew we’d be friends for the rest of our lives,” Hill said.
The men decided to meet face to face when Hill and his wife traveled to Florida this week for a cruise. Grantham is a regular at Wintzell’s and owner Bob Omainsky said he’d be happy to host the reunion.
“It’s like another homecoming,” Grantham said of the meeting. “It’s like seeing a long lost brother after all this time.”
Hill said he felt the same way and called Grantham a hero.
“He gave as much as he possibly could give,” Hill said. “It’s an honor to be here and to be in his presence.”
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