Bravery and Sacrifice in the Summer of ‘69

Living at The Oaks at Bartlett comes with an array of unique services and amenities. But perhaps the most interesting part of making The Oaks home are the fascinating stories from residents, specifically their exceptional life experiences.

That is certainly true in the case of Bill Sly, who moved to The Oaks in 2023.  Growing up in South Dakota with a perforated eardrum, serving in the military wasn’t in the plans for Sly, author of No Place to Hide: Alpha Company at Nui Ba Den.

However, upon graduating from college while the country was in the middle of the Vietnam War, a physical revealed the eardrum healed, resulting in Sly being drafted that very day.  After training as an infantryman, he was assigned to the 1st Division and sent off to Vietnam at the age of 23.

With a degree in history and excellent writing skills, Sly was given the job of writing awards and decorations – the narratives that would result in the awarding of Medals of Honor. In battle, he would document soldiers’ heroics including what happened, when, and where, preserving facts for historical records and ensuring the brave actions of his fellow soldiers were recognized.  

Then came the battle of Nui Ba Dem.

The U.S. Army’s Alpha Company followed orders to ascend the mountain, where they encountered North Vietnamese snipers who stood on higher ground. “We were sitting ducks,” according to Sly and, after two days of battle, 49 of the 65 men who went up the mountain were wounded, and 11 lost their lives – 9 from Alpha Company and 2 from Charlie Company who came to support the mission.  

“Over those 48 hours, I promised myself not to be killed in battle,” Sly said, and that resiliency became a reality. He survived the battle – then the war – and, despite being haunted by flashbacks and PTSD, Sly had a deep desire to document the experience, honoring the men who fought and remembering the sacrifices of those who died.

Hence, the idea for No Place to Hide: Alpha Company at Nui Ba Den was born.

Sly’s first stop was the McCormick Museum in Wheaton, IL, where he was able to review documentation of every award that was bestowed after the battle, as well as documents that provided a timeline of events from the very first shot fired.  

“I was able to detail what happened to every man there,” Sly said. “Many found out what happened to their loved ones via the book. And in 2019, 50 years to the day after the battle, approximately 25 people showed up at the Vietnam Memorial to remember and pay tribute to all who served there.”

As we approach the 55th anniversary of the battle of Nui Ba Den, Sly will share this story with residents and community members during a presentation on May 24th at 1:30. To RSVP, please call 630-483-4971.

“There are so many engaging and interesting activities here, all residents can find something that interests them,” added Stacey Bihun, Marketing and Move-In Coordinator. “Whether it be exercise classes, arts and crafts, book club, or good old-fashioned card games, there truly is something for everyone. And we are fortunate to have residents like Bill willing to share their experiences and accomplishments with our community.”

No Place to Hide: Alpha Company at Nui Ba Den has sold thousands of copies and can be purchased on Amazon