Friday, December 19, 2003


Marine with prosthetic limb jumps into history books
Submitted by: Headquarters Marine Corps
Story Identification Number: 2003121810733
Story by Cpl. Isaac Pacheco

See a similar story, ONE TOUGH MARINE!, S/Sgt Donald Hamblen USMC, in the notes, book Reviews below this article.

FORT BENNING ARMY BASE, Ga.(Dec. 18, 2003) -- High above the eastern Alabama countryside, the deafening roar of a C-130's engines drowns out the instructor's urgent commands. The shadowy figures sitting behind him respond instinctively. In the dim light, the instructor can see only a few of their taut, weathered faces.

Focused on the task at hand, with fearless and eager expressions on their faces, the shadowy figures emerge from the darkness. They've blocked out all distractions and the only thing they respond to is the angry man in front of them whose insistence on perfection they've grudgingly come to admire.

Upon rising to their feet, more than 20 of them sardine back-to-back against the bright red bench that runs the length of the aircraft. They feel ready. After all, this is why they've trained for the past three weeks.

The plane makes a steep left turn and lights flash on above the open doors on each side of the fuselage. One minute to go. A wave of glove-covered hands reaches upward for the yellow static lines. The front man in the line turns and shouts commands over his shoulder through the rushing air, "Chalk 5, all clear!"

"Chalk 5, all clear!" the instructor echoes.

The lights above the doors flash green. The instructor, who has remained fairly passive up to this point, explodes.

"Get out! Go, go, go!" he bellows as he pushes each body out of the plane.

As each jumper touched the sky, his pack springs to life releasing a life-saving parachute.

Behind the plane, a trail of giant green blossoms can be seen floating gracefully to the ground.

In addition to being yet another successful day on the job for the U.S. Army Basic Airborne Course students, this jump turned out to be history in the making. This was the first class to graduate a Marine who had been retained on active duty with a prosthetic limb.

Sgt. Christopher Chandler, an Aurora, Colo., native, lost his left leg from below the knee Dec. 16, 2001, when he stepped on a land mine while providing security for an explosives ordnance disposal unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was one of the first service members injured in the Global War on Terrorism, but unlike some of his wounded counterparts, he refused to let the accident diminish his resolve.

"I didn't have time to feel sorry for myself," Chandler, a maintenance technician for Headquarters Company, Marine Forces Atlantic, explained. "While I was in the hospital, other injured veterans visited me. I saw that compared to them I had nothing to complain about."

It's been said that the truest test of one's character is not what he does with success but what he makes of defeat. For generations, the Marine Corps has bred recruits with this type of bravado and instilled the courage in its warriors to move forward when those around them have faltered. In keeping with this ethos, Chandler stepped up to the challenge of jump school in the face of seemingly impossible odds. He jumped into the history books Dec. 10, becoming the only service member retained on active duty to graduate the course with a prosthetic leg.

"I think any obstacle in life can be overcome if you believe in yourself," Chandler exclaimed. "I hope this will make it easier for other people with prosthetics who want to go through (jump school) next time. As long as they won't be extra baggage, and they can pull their own weight and accomplish the mission. Hopefully, they won't have to put up with as much as I had to."

Chandler not only rose to the challenge but also exceeded even his own expectations when he was selected as the class' noncommissioned officer honor graduate.

"He captures the heart and soul of what it means to be a U.S. Marine," said Lt. Col. Kirk Rice, commander, Marine Corps Detachment, Fort Benning. "I mean he exemplifies all of our core values--honor, courage, and commitment. This is a courageous young man. He fought to be retained on active duty and asked for a chance to come to airborne school as a reenlistment bonus."

Chandler faced many challenges and trials during the course of his airborne training revolution, but none so rigorous as the medical boards he faced to stay on active duty.

"After his injury and the loss of his leg, Chandler had to go before a Naval review. They had to make a decision as to whether he should be retained on active duty," Rice explained. "He was able to demonstrate to the Physical Evaluation Review Board that he was fit for return to full duty with no limitations. I think his success will open the door for the retention of service members who have lost a limb. It clearly demonstrates that given certain conditions, they can and should be left on active duty."

Chandler had to undergo another battery of physicals, paperwork and interviews before the airborne school would accept him. Yet, he was able to keep his sense of humor throughout the ordeal.

"Obviously, the school was going to ask questions because they were concerned about my safety and the safety of the other students," Chandler explained. "They wanted to know if I was even capable of completing the tasks they had for me. I figured I had an advantage. After all, I have one less ankle to break. Running everywhere was the hardest part for me. I don't really like to run. The other guys in my class really motivated me to keep going."

One classmate said Chandler's motivation came from within and spread to the people around him.

"I was in Kandahar with him when he had his accident, and this is the first time I've seen him since then," said Sgt. Ryan Scheucher, platoon sergeant, 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force. "If you'd known him before the accident, what he's doing right now would come as no surprise. Both in uniform and out, he's always just been one of those guys who just shuts up and gets the job done. If anything, since his accident I see a little more fire in his eyes. He gets up and he goes. He doesn't do anything to skyline himself or to showboat. If it's in the scope of his duty he just does it."

Chandler's enthusiasm and tireless commitment inspired many of his classmates and set the standard for them to follow.

"The first time I even realized he had a prosthetic leg was during one of our PT (physical training) sessions, and he was just smoking these little 18 year olds out there," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Mayer, Special Operations Command Fort Bragg, N.C. "He's an inspiration because you have all these perfectly healthy people who wash out and quit while he stays in and makes it. That's a real testament to his character."

Other jump school students credited Chandler with helping them make it through the course when they were struggling.

He motivated me because at first I felt kind of down and I didn't like the course because it was so hard, but then I saw that he was doing it with only one leg and that inspired me and let me know that I could do this," said Army Sgt. Fatima Hickman, Company B, 203rd Infantry, 4th Support Bn., here. "He could have done anything else but he chose to continue in the military and to go forth with what he wants to do. He's not letting his prosthetic leg stop him from being the Marine he wants to be."

And what did Chandler have to say to his detractors; to the people who said an amputee would never make it through the school.

"I don't have to say anything to people who said I couldn't make it," he retorted. "I just graduated."

Photos included with story:
Mentally preparing for his final jump, Sgt. Christopher Chandler grabs hold of his static line and awaits the go signal from his instructor .
Photo by: Cpl. Isaac Pacheco

Lt. Col. Kirk Rice, commanding officerof Marine Detachment Fort Benning, pins on Sgt. Christopher Chandler's hard-earned jump wings during the drop zone graduation ceremony. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Kevin J. Ridlon

Text version of story is attached below:


And... it has been done before--guess what?
By another Marine!

Re Donald Hamblen USMC

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
During a parachute-training jump at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in 1962, Marine Sergeant Hamblen became entangled in high-tension wires; though he survived electrocution, Hamblen's left leg had to be amputated. Facing a medical discharge and the end of a career he loved, he resolved to overcome his handicap and rehabilitate himself back to active duty. The story of how he managed to pass the demanding Physical Readiness Test, which finishes with a punishing three-mile run, is searing. Returning to full-duty status in 1963, Hamblen became the first Marine to be sent into combat wearing a prosthesis. He served 30 consecutive months in Vietnam as a reconnaissance specialist and adviser, taking part in more than 80 missions, half of them inside North Vietnam. Hamblen retired in 1970 after 20 years of service, and is now a professional hunting guide. His involving autobiography, written with Norton ( Force Recon Diary , 1970), also includes a fine account of his experiences as a rifleman and sniper during the Korean War. An inspiring story of general interest. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal
In 1962, during a routine reconnaissance jump, Staff Sergeant Hamblen's parachute was blown off course and into high tension lines at Camp Pendleton. He never lost consciousness, and doctors were amazed that he survived. Five days later his leg was amputated below the knee. Hamblen immediately set out to prove to everyone that he could stay in the Marines. In 1965, he volunteered for service in Vietnam, training teams of Vietnamese for clandestine missions. He served for 30 months and was shot twice in North Vietnam. As far as is known, he is the only Marine to have gone into combat with a prosthesis; by his extraordinary example, he served as an inspiration to other badly wounded soldiers in hospitals. He demonstrated his courage, spirit, and self-determination to overcome all obstacles. Recommended for Vietnam War collections.
- Michael Coleman, Regional Lib. for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Montgomery, Ala.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist
This is the plainly told but powerful story of an exceptionally determined human being. Sergeant Hamblen, who had joined the Marines in 1950, fought and was wounded in Korea before joining the elite reconnaissance units and qualifying as both scuba diver and parachutist. In 1962, he lost the lower part of his left leg to injuries sustained when his parachute became tangled in high-tension power lines. In spite of this, he requested and was allowed to return to full active duty with reconnaissance units, served more than two years in Vietnam, and has been a professional hunting guide since his retirement in 1970. Told with the assistance of the author of Force Recon Diary, 1969 and Force Recon Diary, 1970, Hamblen's story eloquently bespeaks the understated courage as well as the esprit de corps of the U.S. Marines. Roland Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews
Stand-up, anecdotal, typical reminiscences of one of the Corps' all-time tough guys. Putting his career in historical perspective, and writing with fellow retired Marine Norton, Hamblen--a career Marine enlisted man--relates his adventures during and after the Korean War and in Vietnam. As a Maine farm boy, the author knew rough living, so it wasn't surprising that he was more prepared for the hellish experience of boot camp than were many of his peers. As a PFC, Hamblen was sent to Korea as a replacement. The conflict had stagnated into trench warfare, but the author made his mark as a sniper and in other ways. His memoirs of Korea are detailed, and, here, he gives what's arguably the most underpublicized war in American history some varnish. Several years later, looking for new challenges, Hamblen joined the elite force recon--the Marine Corps equivalent of the SEALs and the Green Berets--but, in 1962, he parachuted on to some high-tension power lines and lost his left leg. How Hamblen responded to this accident makes his book's title crystal clear: Recovering, he not only remained in the service but was among four Marines who were accepted into SOG (the supersecret Vietnam War Studies and Observation Group). SOG teams typically operated behind enemy lines all over Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, even China), kidnapping NVA officers, conducting sabotage raids, and gathering intelligence. Unfortunately, this portion of the author's memoir cries out for far greater detail: Hamblen glosses over Vietnam in 60 pages. A mere hint of a fascinating life. But Hamblen refuses to name the names of guys who back-stabbed him, and his recounting lacks the smell of cordite, the sound of guns, the cries of the dying and wounded. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

A retired Marine tells of being the only American soldier who ever went into combat wearing an artificial limb and his experiences on the battlefields of Vietnam. Reprint. PW

Inside Flap Copy
"Searing . . . An inspiring story." Publishers Weekly.
On September 21, 1962, U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Donald N. Hamblen's life changed forever. During a routine parachute jump, Hamblen suffered injuries that cost him his leg. With most people, this would be the end of the story. But for this tough marine, it was only the beginning. An amazing story of courage, spirit, and self-determination . . . of a marine who fought the toughest battle of all -- and won.

Book Description
"Searing . . . An inspiring story." Publishers Weekly.

On September 21, 1962, U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Donald N. Hamblen's life changed forever. During a routine parachute jump, Hamblen suffered injuries that cost him his leg. With most people, this would be the end of the story. But for this tough marine, it was only the beginning. An amazing story of courage, spirit, and self-determination . . . of a marine who fought the toughest battle of all -- and won.


1-6 of 6
Spotlight Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:

More Spies, September 21, 2000
Reviewer: ra doyle (see more about me) from South Carolina
Once again we have the real heroes, all deep behind the enemy lines. I guess myself and my Sergeant Major buddy here in Beaufort were the only mud Marines in Vietnam as everyone else was in recon or sog. Hamblen states that all the 62 "missions" ( behind the lines- whereever that was)are no longer classified and that is why he is talking about them. Well Major Norton, just produce the evidence and you can prove your case and stop slamming your questioners. I find it rather strange that all the Vietnamese we sent undercover into North Vietnam were captured and executed yet a one legged caucasian came and went 62 times without a hitch. How about a book about that? RA Doyle USMC retired.

Was this review helpful to you?
Customer Reviews

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:, July 3, 2000
Reviewer: roadrunner6 (see more about me) from De Queen, Ar. United States
A great book about a courageous man. I had to force myself to put the book down in order to get some sleep at night. As with all his other books Bruce did a very good job of getting the true picture of this man's life and courage. Roadrunner 6 out

Was this review helpful to you?

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:, July 3, 2000
Reviewer: roadrunner6 (see more about me) from De Queen, Ar. United States
To me this book is an outstanding, reader's book. It kept me glued to 1st Sgt Hamblen's exploits all through the book. I had to force myself to put it down so I could get some sleep at night. But then I expected no less since Bruce Norton was involved in writting this book.

Was this review helpful to you?

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

Let The Truth Be known!, February 12, 2000
Reviewer: Victor Karkos from North Carolina
I was in Vietnam with Don Hamblen, from 1966 - 1967. His story, One Tougfh Marine, is totally accurate and factual. B. G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley never spoke to Hamblen when they were writing their book, and LtGen. B. Trainor was never Don Hamblen's CO. In fact, Trainor has never met Don Hamblen, ever. Pat Carothers was there, but he was considered by many of us to be a poor excuse for an officer. He wrote himself up for several personal awards (a Silver Star and a Purple Heart) and the troops despised him for being a one-way phony. When people write books they should have credibility and KNOW what they are writing about. None of these four bums could carry Don Hamblen's pack across the street. Hamblen is genuine, they are not. Burkett and Whitley have no credibility after "ghost writing" their work. Veteran's should know the truth about these four bums. In my opinion, Hamblen has more class than to lower himself to their level.

Was this review helpful to you?

Donald Hamblen certainly appears to be the ideal Marine!, March 5, 1999
Reviewer: A reader from Columbia, South Carolina
Starting out in his rural home in Maine, in the thirties, Sgt Hamblen tells his extraordinary story in a matter of fact way. I do not think Sgt. Hamben's purpose was to boast when he wrote this book, but rather to tell the truth about what the Marine Corps is all about- Honor, Courage, Commitment- just like the poster says. Sgt. Hamblen is a man that was lucky enough to fall in love with his career and he had the courage enough to fight for it when it apeared to be in danger. I think this individual would be a fine role model for any of today's youth and for the youth of many generations too come.

Was this review helpful to you?

This is the best military Bio that I have read ever, December 3, 1998
Reviewer: An Customer
About a very Modivated Marine who lost his leg in a parachuting accident when he hit two electrical. It would have killed any normal person but he was in such good shape that it only burned him really bad to the point that doctors had to amputate his left leg under the knee. He was determaned to return to activ duty and it took more strong will to do this than most people would do to survive. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title

Was this review helpful to you?
1-6 of 6

The above from

The Best Revenge

December 23, 2003
by Tom Kovach

On 16 December 2001, while on a dangerous assignment in Kandahar, Afghanistan, a young Marine named Christopher Chandler stepped on a land mine and lost the lower portion of his left leg. He was on a detail with an explosives ordinance disposal (EOD) unit. In civilian lingo, EOD guys are the “bomb squad”.

Almost exactly two years later, on the 10th of this month, now-Sergeant Chandler got his revenge — by “living well”, as the saying goes.

Chandler’s version of living well, however, also happened to make history. You see, Chris got his revenge by becoming the first military member in American history to be awarded Airborne wings while wearing a prosthetic limb.

Jumping out of the C-130 at Fort Benning was the end of a lengthy battle — against his injury, and against the Physical Evaluation Review Board. He was rated by the PERB as fit to return to full duty, “with no limitations”. Although that is quite a feat for anyone that has lost a limb — even if one’s duty is a sit-down job in a civilian office — it is a daunting task for a Marine. It means that, among other things, Chandler has demonstrated his ability to run at least three miles within strict time limits, and perform other strenuous physical challenges. Airborne School is full of physical challenges.

Lt. Col. Kirk Rice, commanding officer of Marine Detachment Fort Benning, pins on Sgt. Christopher Chandler's jump wings during the drop zone graduation ceremony.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kevin J. Ridlon)

The popular television show JAG has a character, Lt. Bud Roberts, who also lost a lower leg in a land mine explosion in Afghanistan and returned to active duty. But, Roberts is fictional, he is a lawyer, and the show has mentioned that he has duty restrictions. Chandler is real, he is a Marine, his duty in the Corps is hazardous, and he has no restrictions. The TV show does give a small glimpse, however, into the challenges of a life such as Chandler’s. Those challenges are faced with gusto, as described by fellow graduates at Fort Benning. They described his attitude as an inspiration. In a Marine Corps public affairs interview, Chandler explained the examination given to him by the staff before being allowed to enter Airborne training. "They wanted to know if I was even capable of completing the tasks they had for me. I figured I had an advantage. After all, I have one less ankle to break.”

Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Mayer, from US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) at Fort Bragg, NC, said, “He's an inspiration because you have all these perfectly healthy people who wash out and quit while he stays in and makes it. That's a real testament to his character.”

“I was in Kandahar with him when he had his accident, and this is the first time I've seen him since then,” said Sgt. Ryan Scheucher, platoon sergeant, 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force. “If you'd known him before the accident, what he's doing right now would come as no surprise. Both in uniform and out, he's always just been one of those guys who just shuts up and gets the job done. If anything, since his accident I see a little more fire in his eyes.”

Many people have been retained on active duty with prosthetics (I met one when I was in the orthopedic ward at Walter Reed). Some people even continue to jump with prosthetics. But, Chandler is the first person to go into the school with an artificial leg and complete the rigorous training. “I think any obstacle in life can be overcome if you believe in yourself," Chandler explained. "I hope this will make it easier for other people with prosthetics who want to go through [jump school] next time. As long as they won't be extra baggage, and they can pull their own weight and accomplish the mission. Hopefully, they won't have to put up with as much as I had to.”

This quote from Chandler gave rise to the title of this article. “I don't have to say anything to people who said I couldn't make it. I just graduated.” There is a parallel Chinese proverb that says, “The man who says that a task is impossible should get out of the way of the man doing it.”

And now, the Marines have one more EOD technician ready to jump in anywhere and dismantle terrorists ... and their bombs. That would be a continuation of Chandler’s version of “the best revenge”.

Tom Kovach
DISCUSS THIS ARTICLE IN THE FORUM! Tom Kovach is a free-lance writer, proud father of a teenage daughter, certified paralegal, former talk-radio host, and a former USAF Blue Beret. Tom led a counter-terrorist team overseas, and was on a protection detail for President Reagan. He lives in Nashville, and has written a “9-11” memorial song.


This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis

Friday, November 21, 2003





May/June 1977

PEACE? DEFEAT? What Did the Vietnam War Protesters Want?

By: James Webb

It is difficult to explain to my children that in my teens and early twenties the most frequently heard voices of my peers were trying to destroy the foundations of American society, so that it might be rebuilt according to their own narcissistic notions. In retrospect it’s hard even for some of us who went through those times to understand how highly educated people—most of them spawned from the comforts of the upper-middle class—could have seriously advanced the destructive ideas that were in the air during the late ’60s and early ’70s. Even Congress was influenced by the virus.

After President Nixon resigned in August of 1974, that fall’s congressional elections brought 76 new Democrats to the House, and eight to the Senate. A preponderance of these freshmen had run on McGovernesque platforms. Many had been viewed as weak candidates before Nixon’s resignation, and some were glaringly unqualified, such as then-26-year-old Tom Downey of New York, who had never really held a job in his life and was still living at home with his mother.

This so-called Watergate Congress rode into town with an overriding mission that had become the rallying point of the American Left: to end all American assistance in any form to the besieged government of South Vietnam. Make no mistake—this was not the cry of a few years earlier to stop young Americans from dying. It had been two years since the last American soldiers left Vietnam, and fully four years since the last serious American casualty calls there.

For reasons that escape historical justification, even after America’s military withdrawal the Left continued to try to bring down the incipient South Vietnamese democracy. Future White House aide Harold Ickes and others at "Project Pursestrings"—assisted at one point by an ambitious young Bill Clinton—worked to cut off all congressional funding intended to help the South Vietnamese defend themselves. The Indochina Peace Coalition, run by David Dellinger and headlined by Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, coordinated closely with Hanoi throughout 1973 and 1974, and barnstormed across America’s campuses, rallying students to the supposed evils of the South Vietnamese government. Congressional allies repeatedly added amendments to spending bills to end U.S. support of Vietnamese anti-Communists, precluding even air strikes to help South Vietnamese soldiers under attack by North Vietnamese units that were assisted by Soviet-bloc forces.


"The range of debate was, if you were in favor of getting out of Vietnam tomorrow and kicking ROTC off all the campuses, and believed that the U.S. should hang its head in shame over the Vietnam War, then you were a fascist. If you wanted to bomb all the U.S. military installations and actively exult at a victory of the Viet Cong, then you were a progressive."

— from a March 5, 1997 Washington Post interview in which James Fallows describes opinion at Harvard during his student days there in the late-1960s

Then in early 1975 the Watergate Congress dealt non-Communist Indochina the final blow. The new Congress icily resisted President Gerald Ford’s January request for additional military aid to South Vietnam and Cambodia. This appropriation would have provided the beleaguered Cambodian and South Vietnamese militaries with ammunition, spare parts, and tactical weapons needed to continue their own defense. Despite the fact that the 1973 Paris Peace Accords called specifically for "unlimited military replacement aid" for South Vietnam, by March the House Democratic Caucus voted overwhelmingly, 189-49, against any additional military assistance to Vietnam or Cambodia.

The rhetoric of the antiwar Left during these debates was filled with condemnation of America’s war-torn allies, and promises of a better life for them under the Communism that was sure to follow. Then-Congressman Christopher Dodd typified the hopeless naiveté of his peers when he intoned that "calling the Lon Nol regime an ally is to debase the word.... The greatest gift our country can give to the Cambodian people is peace, not guns. And the best way to accomplish that goal is by ending military aid now." Tom Downey, having become a foreign policy expert in the two months since being freed from his mother’s apron strings, pooh-poohed the coming Cambodian holocaust that would kill more than one-third of the country’s population, saying, "The administration has warned that if we leave there will be a bloodbath. But to warn of a new bloodbath is no justification for extending the current bloodbath."

On the battlefields of Vietnam the elimination of all U.S. logistical support was stunning and unanticipated news. South Vietnamese commanders had been assured of material support as the American military withdrew—the same sort of aid the U.S. routinely provided allies from South Korea to West Germany—and of renewed U.S. air strikes if the North attacked the South in violation of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords. Now they were staring at a terrifyingly uncertain future, even as the Soviets continued to assist the Communist North.

As the shocked and demoralized South Vietnamese military sought to readjust its forces to cope with serious shortages, the newly refurbished North Vietnamese immediately launched a major offensive. Catching many units out of position, the North rolled down the countryside over a 55-day period. In the ensuing years I have interviewed South Vietnamese survivors of these battles, many of whom spent ten years and more in Communist concentration camps after the war. The litany is continuous: "I had no ammunition." "I was down to three artillery rounds per tube per day." "I had nothing to give my soldiers." "I had to turn off my radio because I could no longer bear to hear their calls for help."

The reaction in the United States to this debacle defines two distinct camps that continue to be identifiable in many of the issues we face today. For most of those who fought in Vietnam, and for their families, friends, and political compatriots, this was a dark and deeply depressing month. The faces we saw running in terror from the North Vietnamese assault were real and familiar, not simply video images. The bodies that fell like spinning snowflakes toward cruel deaths after having clung hopelessly to the outer parts of departing helicopters and aircraft may have been people we knew or tried to help. Even for those who had lost their faith in America’s ability to defeat the Communists, this was not the way it was supposed to end.

For those who had evaded the war and come of age believing our country was somehow evil, even as they romanticized the intentions of the Communists, these few weeks brought denials of their own responsibility in the debacle, armchair criticisms of the South Vietnamese military, or open celebrations. At the Georgetown University Law Center where I was a student, the North’s blatant discarding of the promises of peace and elections contained in the 1973 Paris Accords, followed by the rumbling of North Vietnamese tanks through the streets of Saigon, was treated by many as a cause for actual rejoicing.

Denial is rampant in 1997, but the truth is this end result was the very goal of the antiwar movement’s continuing efforts in the years after American withdrawal. George McGovern, more forthcoming than most, bluntly stated as much to this writer during a break in taping a 1995 edition of cnn’s "Crossfire." After I had argued that the war was clearly winnable even toward the end if we had changed our strategy, the 1972 presidential candidate who had offered to go to Hanoi on his knees commented, "What you don’t understand is that I didn’t want us to win that war." Mr. McGovern was not alone. He was part of a small but extremely influential minority who eventually had their way.


One way the students at Harvard showed their guilt about their privilege and safety was to scorn those who went to Vietnam, and when the war was over, to shun them. Al Gore, who volunteered for Vietnam after his graduation in 1969, recalled the time in the following September when he returned to Cambridge on leave. "My hair was cut short," he said, "and I wore my uniform. I walked through the streets of Cambridge, and I became so angry at the presumption of those who instantly shouted epithets and sneered."

—from Coming Apart: America and the Harvard Riots of 1969, by Roger Rosenblatt, 1997

There is perhaps no greater testimony to the celebratory atmosphere that surrounded the Communist victory in Vietnam than the 1975 Academy Awards, which took place on April 8, just three weeks before the South’s final surrender. The award for Best Feature Documentary went to the film Hearts and Minds, a vicious piece of propaganda that assailed American cultural values as well as our effort to assist South Vietnam’s struggle for democracy. The producers, Peter Davis and Bert Schneider [who plays a role in David Horowitz’s story—see page 31], jointly accepted the Oscar. Schneider was frank in his support of the Communists. As he stepped to the mike he commented that "It is ironic that we are here at a time just before Vietnam is about to be liberated." Then came one of the most stunning—if intentionally fforgotten—moments in Hollywood history. As a struggling country many Americans had paid blood and tears to try to preserve was disappearing beneath a tank onslaught, Schneider pulled out a telegram from our enemy, the Vietnamese Communist delegation in Paris, and read aloud its congratulations to his film. Without hesitating, Hollywood’s most powerful people rewarded Schneider’s reading of the telegram with a standing ovation.

Those of us who either fought in Vietnam or supported our efforts there look at this 1975 "movie moment" with unforgetting and unmitigated amazement. Who were these people who so energetically poisoned the rest of the world’s view of us? How had they turned so virulently against their own countrymen? How could they stand and applaud the victory of a Communist enemy who had taken 58,000 American lives and crushed a struggling, pro-democratic ally? Could they and the rest of us be said to be living in the same country anymore?

Not a peep was heard then, or since, from Hollywood regarding the people who disappeared behind Vietnam’s bamboo curtain. No one has ever mentioned the concentration camps into which a million South Vietnamese soldiers were sent; 56,000 to die, 250,000 to stay for more than six years, and some for as long as 18. No one criticized the forced relocations, the corruption, or the continuing police state. More to the point, with the exception of the well-intentioned but artistically weak Hamburger Hill, one searches in vain for a single major film since that time that has portrayed American soldiers in Vietnam with dignity and in a true context.

Why? Because the film community, as with other elites, never liked, respected, or even understood those who answered the call and served. And at a time when a quiet but relentless battle is taking place over how history will remember our country’s involvement in Vietnam, those who ridiculed government policy, avoided military service, and actively supported an enemy who turned out to be vicious and corrupt do not want to be remembered as having been so naive and so wrong.


In 1972, the radical magazine Ramparts published classified information revealing that a secret U.S. security agency had cracked the Soviet intelligence code and was reading Russian electronic communications at will. "Agents were killed when such secrets were at stake," writes Ramparts editor David Horowitz in his recently published memoir Radical Son. Also, "by revealing to the Soviets that their security had been breached, we alerted them that they needed to repair it.… For me, the overriding justification for publishing the article was one that weighed heavily on all the political decisions I made: It was important that America should lose the war.… I was convinced that America’s loss would be Vietnam’s gain. An American defeat would weaken oppression everywhere."

Prior to publication, Ramparts editors panicked that they could go to jail for publishing the information, so they sought assistance from Harvard professor Charles Nesson. Then, armed with "advice from a famous constitutional law professor on how to commit treason and get away with it," they printed the revelations.

Many other radicals also worked actively for U.S. defeat, Horowitz notes. "Saul Landau volunteered himself as an agent of the Castro regime. Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda went to North Vietnam and urged American troops to defect." Even many everyday liberals got swept up in the era’s anti-American feeling, says Horowitz, illustrating this with a personal story:

"In 1973, while the Communists were pressing their advantage in South Vietnam, I spoke at a convocation at Robert Hutchins’ Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. It was held in a Washington, D.C. ballroom, with a thousand people in attendance. I stepped up to the microphone and began a peroration:

We are not yet disengaged from the most criminal war in our history, a war against a technologically defenseless people which—let us not mince words—ranks with the worst atrocities ever committed by one portion of the human race against another.… This [war has] its roots…in the very character of the American enterprise and ambition...Vietnam is not so much a betrayal of the American tradition as its fulfillment.

When I finished, the audience of comfortable, middle-class professionals rose to its feet and gave me a standing ovation.…

My speech illustrated the real importance of Vietnam to the radical cause, which was not ultimately about Vietnam but about our own antagonism to America, our desire for revolution. Vietnam served to justify the desire; we needed the war and its violent images to vindicate our destructive intentions. That was why the victory of our ‘anti-war’ movement seemed so hollow when it came. The peace killed the very energies that gave our movement life."

Among everyday Americans, attitudes during this troubled time were much healthier. Behind the media filtering and distortion on Vietnam, the fact is that our citizenry agreed far more consistently with those of us who fought than with those who undermined our fight. This was especially true, interestingly, among the young Americans now portrayed as having rebelled against the war.

As reported in Public Opinion, Gallup surveys from 1966 to the end of U.S. involvement show that younger Americans actually supported the Vietnam war longer than any other age group. Even by January of 1973, when 68 percent of Americans over the age of 50 believed it had been a mistake to send troops to Vietnam, only 49 percent of those between 25 and 29 agreed. These findings that the youth cohort as a whole was distinctly unradical were buttressed by 1972 election results—where 18- to 29-year-olds preferred Richard Nixon to George McGovern by 52 to 46 percent.

Similarly, despite persistent allegations to the contrary by former protesters who now dominate media and academia, the 1970 invasion of Cambodia—which caused widespread campus demonstrations, including a riot that led to four deaths at Kent State University—was strongly supported by the public. According to Harris surveys, nearly 6 in 10 Americans believed the Cambodian invasion was justified. A majority in that same May 1970 survey supported an immediate resumption of bombings in North Vietnam, a complete repudiation of the antiwar movement.

Vietnam veterans, though persistently maligned in film, news reports, and classrooms as unwilling, unsuccessful soldiers, have been well thought of by average Americans. In the most comprehensive study ever done on Vietnam vets (Harris Survey, 1980, commissioned by the Veterans Administration), 73 percent of the general public and 89 percent of Vietnam veterans agreed with the statement that "The trouble in Vietnam was that our troops were asked to fight in a war which our political leaders in Washington would not let them win." Seventy percent of those who fought in Vietnam disagreed with the statement "It is shameful what my country did to the Vietnamese people." Fully 91 percent of those who served in Vietnam combat stated that they were glad they had served their country, and 74 percent said they had enjoyed their time in the military. Moreover, 71 percent of those who expressed an opinion indicated that they would go to Vietnam again, even knowing the end result and the ridicule that would be heaped on them when they returned.

This same survey contained what was called a "feelings thermometer," measuring the public’s attitudes toward various groups on a scale of 1 to 10. Veterans who served in Vietnam rated a 9.8 on this scale. Doctors scored a 7.9, TV reporters a 6.1, politicians a 5.2, antiwar demonstrators a 5.0, and draft evaders who went to Canada came in at 3.3.


Cambridge professors and Manhattan lawyers and their guitar-strumming children...privileged members of a privileged nation, believed that their pleasant position could be maintained without anything visibly ugly happening in the world. They were full of aesthetic disdain for their own defenders.... The protesters were spitting on the cops who were trying to keep their property—the USA and its many amenities—intact. A common report in this riotous era was of slum-dwellers throwing rocks and bottles at the firemen come to put out fires; the peace marchers, the upper-middle-class housewives pushing baby carriages along in candlelit processions, seemed to me to be behaving identically, without the excuse of being slum-dwellers.

— from "On Not Being a Dove," by John Updike, Commentary, March 1989

Contrary to persistent mythology, two-thirds of those who served during Vietnam were volunteers rather than draftees, and 77 percent of those who died were volunteers. Of those who died, 86 percent were Caucasian, 12.5 percent were African-American, and 1.2 percent were from other races. The common claim that it was minorities and the poor who were left to do the dirty work of military service in Vietnam is false. The main imbalance in the war was simply that the privileged avoided their obligations, and have persisted since that time in demeaning the experience in order to protect themselves from the judgment of history.

And what of these elites who misread not only a war but also their own countrymen? Where are they now, other than in the White House? On this vital historical issue that defined our generation, they now keep a low profile, and well they should.

What an eerie feeling it must have been for those who staked the journey of their youth on the idea that their own country was an evil force, to have watched their naiveté unravel in the years following 1975. How sobering it must have been for those who allowed themselves to move beyond their natural denial, to observe the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese fleeing the "pure flame of the revolution" on rickety boats that gave them a 50 percent chance of death at sea, or to see television pictures of thousands of Cambodian skulls lying in open fields, part of the millions killed by Communist "liberators." How hollow the memories of drug-drenched and sex-enshrined antiwar rallies must be; how false the music that beatified their supposedly noble dissent.

Indeed, let’s be frank. How secretly humiliating to stare into the face of a disabled veteran, or to watch the valedictory speech of the latest Vietnamese-American kid whose late father fought alongside the Americans in a cause they openly mocked, derided, and despised. And what a shame that the system of government that allowed that student to be so quickly successful here is not in place in the country of her origin.

James Webb, a Marine rifle platoon and company commander in Vietnam, has served as Secretary of the Navy and is the author of several novels.

©1998 - 2004 James Webb Enterprises, All Rights Reserved
This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis

Thursday, November 20, 2003

The Court-martial At Parris Island

Ribbon Creek Incident, Plt #71, S/Sgt Matt McKeon, PISC 1956, etc.
Authors return to Parris Island for book signing

Published "Tuesday
Gazette staff writer

Eugene Alvarez and John C. Stevens III try to make it back to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island at least once a year.

The former Devil Dogs come to see how the legendary base where they became Marines -- and in Alvarez's case made Marines -- has changed.

They come to see old friends and recount stories of the good ol' days aboard the depot.

Last week, however, they came to mix a little business with the pleasure of visiting a place that helped form the men they are now.

Thursday afternoon, Alvarez and Stevens set up shop at the depot's Marine Corps Exchange for a dual book signing of Alvarez's latest work "Images of America: Parris Island," and Stevens' first book, "Court-Martial at Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident."

"I always love to come back and visit Parris Island," said Alvarez, who went through boot camp aboard the depot in 1950 and served as a drill instructor there from 1953 to 1954 and again from 1956 to 1959. "It just changes all the time."

Sitting behind a desk adorned with a flower vase, American flag and stacks of their books, Alvarez and Stevens signed copies of their latest works for anyone who wanted one.

Some of the folks getting signatures were already fans. Others had never heard of the books before they wandered into the store Thursday afternoon.

"I was just always interested in (Parris Island)," said Alvarez, who received a research grant from the Marine Corps to get started with his first book.

"Images of America: Parris Island," his fifth book, is now in its third printing and is going strong, he said.

"It's going over very well," said Alvarez, who lives in Georgia.

The book, filled with photographs chronicling the history and legacy of Parris Island, is a visual trip through time as the depot, and the Corps, expanded and changed.

While Alvarez is a veteran in military nonfiction, Stevens is a newcomer.

"Court-Martial at Parris Island" is his first book and consumed three years of his life, two to research the Ribbon Creek incident and one to write the manuscript.

"When I went through Parris Island, Ribbon Creek had just occurred," said Stevens, now a judge in Massachusetts. "The drill instructors were very sensitive about it. They thought one of their (drill instructors) was railroaded at the time."

Years after he had left the Corps and become a lawyer, Stevens decided to give a doctoral dissertation on the April 8, 1956, incident in which drill instructor Staff Sgt. Matthew McKeon led his platoon on a forced night march through Ribbon Creek to restore sagging discipline.

A strong tidal current in the creek swept through and six men drowned, sparking a national news story and a court-martial for McKeon.

Stevens never gave the dissertation, but the story -- which affected his and every recruit's training from then on and changed Parris Island forever -- stayed with him, eventually becoming a critically acclaimed debut book.

"Marines from all over the country have found me and have written me," Stevens said. "It's gotten an outstanding reception."

The most rewarding aspect of the undertaking was the opportunity to meet and discuss the incident with McKeon himself, Stevens said.

"He has lived with that burden and he always will," Stevens said, adding that he hopes the interview helped McKeon in some small way.

"It enabled him to purge himself of some of the shame," he said. "I found it very rewarding."

Gunnery Sergeants Robert Bergmann and John Spencer both stumbled upon the book signing Thursday afternoon and picked up copies of "Court-Martial at Parris Island."

Bergmann said he had no idea anyone had written a book about Ribbon Creek, but was looking forward to delving into it.

Spencer knew the book was out there, but hadn't had the chance to read it yet.

"I knew about the incident," he said. "I just want to find out more about it."

For Alvarez and Stevens, the trip to Parris Island was both a vacation and a chance to meet some young Marines and see how things are done today.

Like many former Marines who return to the depot, Alvarez said there is a litany of physical changes aboard Parris Island, but that the men and women in uniform are the same as they always have been.

"They're still quality people," Alvarez said. "Older guys like us like to talk about back then, but they do a good job today."

Stevens said he couldn't agree more.

"I'm so impressed with these young Marines," he said. "The greatest thing about this book for me is that it reconnected me with the Marine Corps. That's a priceless heritage."
Copyright 2003 The Beaufort Gazette • May not be republished in any form without the express written permission of the publisher.

This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis

Wednesday, November 19, 2003


Ribbon Creek Incident 1956
Plt #71 Parris Island, SC
S/Sgt Matthew C. McKeon USMC

Tribute to a fallen Marine
by John Stevens
(Sent to me by the author of, "The Court-martial At Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident")


I thought you and the other Marines who knew or knew of Matt McKeon might be interested in the obituary I wrote after attending his funeral last Saturday:
November 15, 2003

On a hardscrabble hill overlooking the rural neighborhood where he was born, Matthew McKeon was buried today. More than a hundred of his friends and family huddled together in the face of the late autumn winds as an admixture of Catholic blessings and Marine Corps salutes paid final tribute to the flawed but noble spirit whose lifeless embodiment was laid to its final rest.

Forty-seven years ago, this same man was reviled by all too many people as a heartless butcher, a sadist whose momentous error of judgment caused six Marine recruits to drown in the black waters of Ribbon Creek. His life thereafter was in many ways an effort to seek redemption for the act that he could never undo. At his court-martial he testified that had he been asked to walk to the gallows he would have done so. A devout man, he prayed every day of his life thereafter for the souls of his lost recruits and for forgiveness.

But there was so much more to this man than was revealed by the publicity surrounding the events from which he derived such notoriety. Until that time he had an unblemished military record, serving in World War II aboard the carrier “Essex� and as a machine gunner on the frigid battlefields at the Chosin Reservoir. He was a battle-tested Marine who had faithfully and honorably served his country in the face of peril.

Matt McKeon was a gregarious man without hint of guile or pretense. Tears flowed down his cheeks as he recounted to me the events of Ribbon Creek forty years earlier. He was faithful to his wife, Betty, loyal to his friends, and loving to his extended family. He never sought to escape responsibility or to cast the burden on others for the deaths at Parris Island. Say what one will, he was a man of character.

Matt McKeon died at his home, quite appropriately on Veterans Day, his family at his side. May he rest in peace enjoying now the redemption never attainable in his lifetime. If there is a place beyond, may he forever be joined in serenity with the six young men who preceded him there.

For further details/reference Click Here!!!!!

Information: Plt #71, PISC, Ribbon Creek Incident, S/Sgt McKeon, etc.

This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis

Tuesday, November 18, 2003


The USS Liberty

OCTOBER 22, 2003





Chief Attorney of the 1967 Court of Inquiry
Captain Boston's Affidavit
Commonly Asked Questions about USS Liberty
Who are the Commissioners of this Independent Investigation?

We, the undersigned, having undertaken an independent investigation of Israel’s attack on USS Liberty, including eyewitness testimony from surviving crewmembers, a review of naval and other official records, an examination of official statements by the Israeli and American governments, a study of the conclusions of all previous official inquiries, and a consideration of important new evidence and recent statements from individuals having direct knowledge of the attack or the cover up, hereby find the following:

1. That on June 8, 1967, after eight hours of aerial surveillance, Israel launched a two-hour air and naval attack against USS Liberty, the world’s most sophisticated intelligence ship, inflicting 34 dead and 172 wounded American servicemen (a casualty rate of seventy percent, in a crew of 294);

2. That the Israeli air attack lasted approximately 25 minutes, during which time unmarked Israeli aircraft dropped napalm canisters on USS Liberty's bridge, and fired 30mm cannons and rockets into our ship, causing 821 holes, more than 100 of which were rocket-size; survivors estimate 30 or more sorties were flown over the ship by a minimum of 12 attacking Israeli planes which were jamming all five American emergency radio channels;

3. That the torpedo boat attack involved not only the firing of torpedoes, but the machine-gunning of Liberty’s firefighters and stretcher-bearers as they struggled to save their ship and crew; the Israeli torpedo boats later returned to machine-gun at close range three of the Liberty’s life rafts that had been lowered into the water by survivors to rescue the most seriously wounded;

4. That there is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew; evidence of such intent is supported by statements from Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Undersecretary of State George Ball, former CIA director Richard Helms, former NSA directors Lieutenant General William Odom, USA (Ret.), Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, USN (Ret.), and Marshal Carter; former NSA deputy directors Oliver Kirby and Major General John Morrison, USAF (Ret.); and former Ambassador Dwight Porter, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon in 1967;

5. That in attacking USS Liberty, Israel committed acts of murder against American servicemen and an act of war against the United States;

6. That fearing conflict with Israel, the White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of USS Liberty by recalling Sixth Fleet military rescue support while the ship was under attack; evidence of the recall of rescue aircraft is supported by statements of Captain Joe Tully, Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, and Rear Admiral Lawrence Geis, the Sixth Fleet carrier division commander, at the time of the attack; never before in American naval history has a rescue mission been cancelled when an American ship was under attack;

7. That although Liberty was saved from almost certain destruction through the heroic efforts of the ship’s Captain, William L. McGonagle (MOH), and his brave crew, surviving crewmembers were later threatened with “court-martial, imprisonment or worse” if they exposed the truth; and were abandoned by their own government;

8. That due to the influence of Israel’s powerful supporters in the United States, the White House deliberately covered up the facts of this attack from the American people;

9. That due to continuing pressure by the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, this attack remains the only serious naval incident that has never been thoroughly investigated by Congress; to this day, no surviving crewmember has been permitted to officially and publicly testify about the attack;

10. That there has been an official cover-up without precedent in American naval history; the existence of such a cover-up is now supported by statements of Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, USN (Ret.), former Judge Advocate General of the Navy; and Captain Ward Boston, USN, (Ret.), the chief counsel to the Navy’s 1967 Court of Inquiry of Liberty attack;

11. That the truth about Israel’s attack and subsequent White House cover-up continues to be officially concealed from the American people to the present day and is a national disgrace;

12. That a danger to our national security exists whenever our elected officials are willing to subordinate American interests to those of any foreign nation, and specifically are unwilling to challenge Israel’s interests when they conflict with American interests; this policy, evidenced by the failure to defend USS Liberty and the subsequent official cover-up of the Israeli attack, endangers the safety of Americans and the security of the United States.

WHEREUPON, we, the undersigned, in order to fulfill our duty to the brave crew of USS Liberty and to all Americans who are asked to serve in our Armed Forces, hereby call upon the Department of the Navy, the Congress of the United States and the American people to immediately take the following actions:

FIRST: That a new Court of Inquiry be convened by the Department of the Navy, operating with Congressional oversight, to take public testimony from surviving crewmembers; and to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the attack on the USS Liberty, with full cooperation from the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the military intelligence services, and to determine Israel’s possible motive in launching said attack on a U.S. naval vessel;

SECOND: That every appropriate committee of the Congress of the United States investigate the actions of the White House and Defense Department that prevented the rescue of the USS Liberty, thereafter threatened her surviving officers and men if they exposed the truth, and covered up the true circumstances of the attack from the American people; and

THIRD: That the eighth day of June of every year be proclaimed to be hereafter known as

USS LIBERTY REMEMBRANCE DAY, in order to commemorate USS Liberty’s heroic crew; and to educate the American people of the danger to our national security inherent in any passionate attachment of our elected officials for any foreign nation.

We, the undersigned, hereby affix our hands and seals, this 22nd day of October, 2003.

Thomas H. Moorer
Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

General of Marines Raymond G. Davis, USMC, MOH*

Merlin Staring
Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, USN, Ret.,
Former Judge Advocate General of the Navy,

James Akins
Ambassador James Akins, Ret.,
Former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia,

*IN MEMORIAM: General of Marines Raymond G. Davis, one of America’s most decorated military heroes (including the Congressional Medal of Honor), Vice Chairman of this panel and one of the principal members of this Independent Commission of Inquiry, passed away in Conyers, Georgia, on September 3, 2003.

[1] Captain Ward Boston, USN, JAGC, Ret, the chief Navy attorney for the 1967 U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry into the Israeli attack, has recently come forward to repudiate the Court’s conclusion that the attack was “a case of mistaken identity”. Captain Boston has revealed that all available evidence, in fact, pointed in exactly the opposite direction – that it was a deliberate attack on a clearly identified American ship. In his affidavit dated October 9, 2003, Captain Boston states, “Admiral Kidd and I believed with certainty that this attack, which killed 34 American sailors and injured 172 others, was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew. I am certain that the Israeli pilots that undertook the attack, as well as their superiors who had ordered the attack, were aware that the ship was American.” [See Exhibit attached]. Captain Boston stated that he has personal knowledge that Admiral Kidd found the attack to be “a case of mistaken identity” in 1967 only because he was under direct orders to do so by Defense Secretary McNamara and President Johnson.

[2] Lieutenant Commander David E. Lewis, USS Liberty’s chief intelligence officer (who was severely wounded in the attack) has reported a conversation with Admiral Lawrence R. Geis, the Sixth Fleet carrier division commander, who visited Lewis after he had been medically evacuated by helicopter to the aircraft carrier USS America. According to Lewis, “He (Admiral Geis) said that he wanted somebody to know that we weren’t forgotten…attempts HAD been made to come to our assistance. He said that he had launched a flight of aircraft to come to our assistance, and he had then called Washington. Secretary McNamara came on the line and ordered the recall of the aircraft, which he did. Concurrently he said that since he suspected that they were afraid that there might have been nuclear weapons on board, he reconfigured another flight of aircraft - strictly conventional weaponry - and re-launched it. After the second launch, he again called Washington to let them know what was going on. Again, Secretary McNamara ordered the aircraft recalled. Not understanding why, he requested confirmation of the order; and the next higher in command came on to confirm that…President Johnson...with the instructions that the aircraft were to be returned, that he would not have his allies embarrassed, he didn’t care who was killed or what was done to the ship…words to that effect. With that, Admiral Geis swore me to secrecy for his lifetime. I had been silent up until I found out from Admiral Moorer that Admiral Geis had passed away” [transcript from NBC’s Liberty Story, aired on national television 1/27/92]. This statement by Commander Lewis has recently been corroborated by Tony Hart, a Navy communications technician stationed at the U.S. Navy Base in Morocco in June, 1967. Mr. Hart connected the telephone conversation between Secretary McNamara and Admiral Geis and stayed on the line to keep them connected. Hart has been recorded as saying that he overheard Admiral Geis refusing McNamara’s order to recall the Sixth Fleet rescue aircraft while the ship was under attack. Mr.Hart reported that McNamara responded,“we are not going to war over a bunch of dead sailors.”

[3] New evidence of intercepted radio communications between attacking Israeli pilots and the Israeli War Room, recorded by a U.S. Navy EC-121 spy plane, in which the Israeli pilots report seeing Liberty’s American flag flying, has been collected by investigative author James Bamford - for 9 years the Washington Investigative Producer for ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings (and author of Body of Secrets, which includes a chapter entitled Blood about the attack on USS Liberty). A similar radio message was intercepted by the EC-121 from the Israeli motor torpedo boats. This corroborates statements by surviving crewmembers, by Ambassador Dwight Porter, and by senior National Security Agency officials concerning NSA intercepts of Israeli pilot communications identifying the ship as American.
USS Liberty Memorial Site!
This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis

Friday, November 14, 2003


Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Soldier – and that’s with a capital ‘S’

By Charlie Coon, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Monday, December 22, 2003

It’s Soldier, not soldier.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker has decreed that all command information products, including base newspapers, capitalize the word “soldier” from now on.

“The change gives Soldiers the respect and importance they’ve always deserved, especially now in their fight against global terrorism,” stated an October directive from Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, Department of the Army.

Schoomaker also has ordered his wordsmiths to ask the editors of Webster’s dictionary and the Associated Press Stylebook to make the change as well. Webster’s and the AP Stylebook are the reference books used by most newspapers, including Stars and Stripes.

“We’ve contacted the AP folks and they said they will consider it,” said Master Sgt. Jon Connor, chief of Army newspapers. “But if the change comes out it won’t be in the next book.”

Phone calls last week to Schoomaker’s public affairs office were not returned.

While military officials may be able to order public affairs personnel to change their releases, they do not have any command over the English language, according to those who would allow the change of “soldier” to “Soldier” in the dictionary.

“I don’t see how he could do that,” said Jim Lowe, an editor at Merriam-Webster in Springfield, Mass. “The word (soldier) is already established in the language. It’s a generic word.

“He can capitalize it if he wants to give it emphasis and make it stand out in text. As far as the dictionary is concerned, it’s still a generic word. I don’t think one person’s use of it will change anything in the dictionary.”

However, the word “Marine” is capitalized by both the AP and Webster’s when referring to a member of the United States Marine Corps.

Merriam’s Lowe didn’t seem to know why.

The Chicago Manual of Style by the University of Chicago Press does not capitalize Marine. A receptionist there said no editors or professors were available to answer why the Chicago manual did not capitalize Marine.

The University of Minnesota style manual also does not capitalize Marine. The person there who could answer the question was not at work on Friday, according to her answering machine.

Webster’s and AP capitalize neither “sailor” when referring to a member of the U.S. Navy nor “airman” when referring to a member of the U.S. Air Force.

However, the Air Force is getting into the style act, too.

Effective Jan. 1, all Air Force public affairs products will require courtesy titles when referring to someone for the second time, different from AP style.

For example, U.S. Air Forces in Europe Commander Gen. Robert H. Foglesong will no longer be “Foglesong” on second reference. He will be “Gen. Foglesong.”

“As a [public affairs] professional, you hold enormous power and affect people’s attitudes with the way you communicate to people inside and outside the Air Force,” wrote Brig. Gen. Fred Roggero, the Air Force’s public affairs boss, in a letter explaining the change.

Dr. Mario Garcia, president of Tampa-based Garcia Media and an authority on newspaper design, noted that Webster’s and AP both capitalize Web and Internet.

Garcia said some of his colleagues believe that capitalizing words other than proper nouns and the first words of sentences makes the English language more confusing.

As for Garcia’s own opinion: “Right now, I’d say that out of respect for the important work these people do, I’d have nothing against capitalizing the word to attach more importance to them,” he wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

Added Lowe: “Maybe if the Army came up with another word — Armyist — maybe that would be capitalized.”

© 2003 Stars and Stripes. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer / Web Notice
Site Design by LaserNet, LLC.

This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis

Thursday, November 13, 2003


Letter reunites former Marines

published Nov. 11, 2003

Gus Rowe located 61 years later by a man he saved during attack on Pearl Harbor


Keno resident Gus Rowe recently received a letter from someone he hadn't seen in more than 60 years.

Inside the envelope was an old photograph of George Gauthier, a Marine who had been stationed at Pearl Harbor at the time of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by Imperial Japan.

Gauthier, who lives in upstate New York, knew the photo was taken by a photographer named Gus Rowe, and that the photographer had saved his life during the attack on Pearl Harbor. But he had no idea where to find Rowe after all these years.

Gauthier checked the archives at his local leatherneck club, and found three former Marines named Gus Rowe.

He wrote to the one in Keno, and found his man.

Rowe had long since forgotten that he took the photo and given a copy to Gauthier. But when he saw it, he knew it was one of his.

Rowe also forgot he had saved Gauthier's life.

When the attack on Pearl Harbor began, Rowe, a combat photographer, could not get to his post for about nine hours.

Along the way, Rowe came upon Gauthier, who had broken his foot. Rowe carried Gauthier across a parade ground within the Pearl Harbor Base to sick bay.

At some point, he also took a photo of Gauthier.

Gauthier recently sent Rowe a copy of the photo, and thanked Rowe for saving his life.

"He just wanted to know if I was the one who took that picture and helped him," Rowe said. "He wanted to thank me."

Rowe, 84, has lived in Keno for the past 11 years. Before that he lived in San Jose where he worked in the cannery industry. He also worked as a wedding photographer.

"It was remarkable that he found me," Rowe said.

Rowe joined the Marines in July 1940, and served through February 1946. He never took a leave during that period, he said.

Rowe arrived at Pearl Harbor in December 1940, and was still stationed there at the time of the attack by Japan.

On Feb. 19, 1945, Rowe was one of the photographers to land on the beaches of Iwo Jima, a tiny but strategically important island 660 miles south of Tokyo.

By February 1945, U.S. troops had recaptured most of the territory taken by the Japanese in 1941 and 1942. Still uncaptured was Iwo Jima, which became a primary objective in American plans to bring the Pacific campaign to a successful conclusion, according to a National Park Service Web site.

Rowe said he had photographed Admirals Halsey and Nimitz, but it was San Francisco staff photographer Joe Rosenthal who captured the image of the afternoon flag raising on top of Mount Suribachi.

The photo of the American flag being hoisted into place by five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman won a Pulitzer prize for Rosenthal.

Rowe, meanwhile, knows his own photos are treasured by countless veterans of World War II.

This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis

Wednesday, November 12, 2003


Among the last Marines

104-year-old Kansan one of few surviving World War I vets

SMITH CENTER (AP) - Albert Fred "Jud" Wagner was still a teenager when he enlisted in the U.S. Marines on Aug. 6, 1918.

By early October of that year, the farm boy from the Smith County town of Harlan was on his way to Europe, battling seasickness as the troop transport ship avoided German submarines while crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

He was heading for the Great War, where he sometimes marched 15 miles a day into battle, carrying an 85-pound pack.

Fast forward 85 years to Tuesday's Veterans Day. Precious few World War I veterans are alive.

Jud Wagner, 104, is among the last Marines.

He's also a charter member of the American Legion.

Wagner's nine months in Europe and World War I are firmly embedded in his family's history. They played a role in shaping his two sons and daughter and captivated grandchildren years later.

"He told of his experience of going to boot camp, going overseas, marching to the Rhine (River)," said his son, Junior Simeon "JS" Wagner, 81, of Kensington, a retired Marine officer who served in World War II and the Korean War.

JS Wagner's brother, Robert, 66, of Surprise, Ariz., was a Marine in the late 1950s. JS Wagner's oldest son, Jim, of Topeka, served in the Army during the Vietnam War and always has admired his grandfather.

"I don't know about the war stories so much," said Jim Wagner, 55. "I was more impressed with the fact that he was a tough old bird."

Marines Jud Wagner and Eugene Lee, of upstate New York, who is four months older than Wagner, are the oldest living Marines from World War I.

Their photos and stories were in a recent issue of the Marine Corps Times, published in Springfield, Va.

On Oct. 16, three Marines gathered at Smith County Hospital's long-term care facility, where Jud Wagner resides, to pay homage.

The Marines wanted to honor the old veteran, said 1st Sgt. Earl McIntosh, who is a member of the reserves in Topeka.

"We owe our freedom to their family," he said. "In World War I, World War II, whole families, whole generations fought for our country. We honestly forget the family sacrifice."

The years have crept up on Jud Wagner, who was born September 5, 1899, on a farm in southern Mitchell County. Wagner has "good days and bad days," McIntosh said.

But the aged Marine's contribution to his country is timeless.

As Jud Wagner told a Kansas City reporter for a March 2002 story in 50 & Better Magazine, he first fought in the Meuse-Argonne Forest in France.

"Those were the days of trench warfare," he told the reporter. "We advanced yards at a time, not miles." And he said it was "scary. There were Germans firing at us from the top of the ridges. Lots of times, we fired toward the enemy, but we didn't look. We didn't know if we hit anyone or not. Still, we put them on the run."

The war ended on Nov. 11, 1918. Then came the occupation of Germany, before Wagner got his orders to go home in the summer of 1919.

He cherished the memories of the ship dropping anchor in New York Harbor and the festive homecomings in New York City and in Smith Center.

"War is hell, but I've always been proud of being a Marine," Jud Wagner told the magazine.

He returned home to Smith Center, serving as a custodian at the Smith County Court House for five years and marrying Lillie Routh in 1921.

They reared four children.

Jud Wagner spent 26 years as superintendent of the Smith County Farm, an institution that served the poor and homeless.

JS Wagner was 19, a student majoring in education at then-Fort Hays State College. It was 1942, the year after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 that he decided to become a Marine.

"My father didn't object. We just didn't talk about it," JS Wagner recalled. "I just went to Kansas City and enlisted."

After a year of officer training school in Bowling Green, Ohio, he went through boot camp at Paris Island, S.C., in 1943, the same camp where his father trained in 1918.

JS graduated from Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Va., where his father received discharge papers.

JS Wagner was commissioned a second lieutenant in March 1945, and five months later was sent to Guam, arriving the day after the U.S. dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan, spelling the end of the war.

"We unloaded, and it was the biggest party that I had ever seen. Everybody was happy," he said. "The officer's club was open all night."

He stayed on Guam until December 1945. After a stint in Tientsen, China, in a military police battalion, he returned to the United States.

By then a first lieutenant, he reported to Camp Pendleton, Calif., and shipped out to Korea, arriving in March 1952. JS Wagner was given command of the headquarters battery with the 11th Marine regiment of the 1st Marine Division, staying there until November 1952, earning two battle stars.

"I had a lot of men on the front lines, and I made monthly trips there, sometimes by helicopter, to conduct inspections and deliver pay (in cash)."

JS also had the duty of writing the families of Marines in his command who were killed in action.

"I lost two young second lieutenants in one day," he recalled. "It was difficult."

What bothered JS most was the deplorable living conditions of South Koreans, "how the kids rummaged through garbage pails for something to eat."

He returned home to his young family with three children to teach another year and a half in Lebanon before completing a master's degree in school administration at the University of Colorado in 1955.

JS Wagner moved to Kensington, where he served as superintendent of schools until retiring in 1987.

But war was never far away from the Wagners. As the Vietnam conflict developed through the 1960s, the possibility loomed of JS' sons Jim and Joel someday donning a uniform.

"As the boys grew up, we kind of knew it was going to happen," JS Wagner said. "Both Dad and I told Jim he'd better be drafted and go in for two years. We didn't encourage him to enlist in the Marines."

Jim spent most of his hitch - 1969 to 1971 - at Fort Benning, Ga., as a company clerk for the Army, handling paperwork on deserters from the military.

The draft was over when Joel came of age.

Family tradition played no role in Jim Wagner's military decisions.

"I really never thought that much about it," Jim said. "I just went with the flow. I guess I got lucky."

He lost a good friend, Lanny Bauman, of Smith Center, in Vietnam, and was "glad my brother didn't get drafted." Jim Wagner is proud of his grandpa, as much for his being a Marine as for what he stands for as a person.

"I've been really close to him. He's really a lovable guy," Jim said. "He's a really nice guy, too."

©Copyright 2003 The Morning Sun

This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis

Tuesday, November 11, 2003


'He was one of our heroes'

Sunday, November 09, 2003
By David J. Kolb

Don Glover heard God speak to him for the first and only time in his life at the bottom of a deep shell crater on the beach of Iwo Jima.

The deadly air above was whizzing with flying shrapnel. Exploding ordnance deafened all sounds except the screams of wounded men.

In that terrifying moment, Glover says, God told him he would be OK -- that he would have a lot of close calls, but would never die in combat.

God was right.

It was Feb. 19, 1945, just a few days after the Kent City farm boy's 20th birthday. Young he was, but Glover was no raw kid. He was a combat veteran, one of the most skilled and competent killers in F Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Regiment, 4th Marine Division.

Prior to landing on Iwo, Glover was promoted to corporal after winning the coveted Silver Star for action earlier on Saipan, another Pacific island hell. Glover had taken out three Japanese machine gun positions with hand grenades. He had been shot in the leg during that action.

They handed the medals out to the men months later on the ship heading to Iwo Jima. "That was a hell of a plan," Glover said, recalling with scorn the ineptness of giving a man his new medal just in time for him to carry it into another fight on yet another enemy-held island. He gave his Silver Star and Purple Heart to the ship's captain, who mailed them back to his mother in Kent City.

When Glover and Kelley were first dumped onto Yellow Beach 2, their landing zone, out of their armored amphibious tractor, resistance was very light. "This is going to be a picnic," Glover thought.

That changed shortly.

To their left was a 50-foot long, 3-foot-deep anti-tank trench dug by the Japanese. Kelley and Glover investigated. Glover crawled in at one end, but was pulled out by his heels by Kelley, who said, "Let me go first." Glover, right behind Kelley, thinks his sergeant might have been worried about a booby-trap.

Kelley didn't get more than a foot along when he was shot in the head by a Japanese machine-gunner who had been sealed up in a compartment at the other end. Glover backed out as fast as he could move.

He could fire out along the length of the trench. It was perfectly camouflaged, but a suicide mission. "They put him in there and then closed him up. He killed one Marine, so he did his job. But he got the best one of all, Sgt. Kelley," Glover remembered.

"Kelley was lucky," he added. "He didn't know what hit him. The rest of us suffered."

Moose Kelley served with Glover and most of the men of Fox Company through all three of the 4th Division's previous island campaigns: Roi-Namur, Saipan and Tinian. The worst of the battles was to be Iwo Jima, but now Kelley was gone in the fight's second hour. Many more Marines, thousands of them, would follow him into the grave that day and in the coming ones.

But things got hotter, as very accurate Japanese artillery and mortars opened up from atop Mount Suribachi, which had a clear view of the landing beach, and from high ground at the other end of the island, creating a crossfire. That's when Glover dived into his shell hole, followed by another Marine, LeRoy Surface of St. Louis, a bazooka man. "Old LeRoy," Glover chuckled. "He had funny eyes. They called him 'Old Banjo Eyes.' "

Each Marine had his own specialized weapon assignment. Glover carried a light .30-caliber carbine because he had been an ammo carrier for a partner who lugged the heavy Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). The majority of the riflemen used the semiautomatic M-1 Garand rifle. Glover liked the smaller carbine.

"You could bring it up quick," he said.

Two Marines following Glover and Surface almost made it to the shell hole, but were cut down just short by the razor-sharp shrapnel in the steel storm above. They bled to death on the rim of Glover's hole, their lives leaking out in red rivulets that stopped just short of his helmet. "I guess they just ran out of blood, every drop," Glover recalls.

As the roar of the din increased in intensity, Glover slid down to the very bottom of the hole, reached behind his pack to shove it higher behind his neck and closed his eyes. Darkness enveloped him and all noise faded into nothingness.

Next, he said, he heard a chorus of angels singing.

Then God spoke.

At a reunion a few decades later, Glover said he met fellow Marine Earl Otworth, who told him he saw Jesus on a different part of the beach that day. They figured out they had their encounters at roughly the same time.

One fellow veteran overheard them talking. "Hey," he asked in a derogatory manner. "Did Jesus have a beard?" Then he went away laughing.

Glover said another Marine who had been in the fight got hot under the collar hearing them talk about God. "If there's such a thing as God, he's going to have to show me a lot more than he has!"

By the time World War II ended, Glover had amassed a lot of medals and ribbons, but it was the one he never got -- the Navy Cross for heroism -- that clouds his days late in life.

Glover prizes the extraordinary letter, but feels it was a substitute so that someone else could get his medal. The Navy Cross for Marines is second in official significance only to the Congressional Medal of Honor, which some who know Glover believe he also should have gotten for what he accomplished later on Iwo Jima.

One of them, an Iwo Jima veteran badly wounded in action, believed so strongly that Glover deserved his higher award that he bought a Navy Cross from a medals dealer and sent it to his friend. The card reads in part: "God bless you always. Semper Fidelis."

Glover believes he earned his Navy Cross, but that's not what's foremost on his mind. The message he most wants people to know is that God talked to him that day on Iwo Jima.

That's what he told the students of Kent City Community Schools when he was their special guest of honor during a salute to veterans on Nov. 11, 2002. He was invited by Kent City High School Principal Fred Geronke to speak before the veterans ceremony that is now a Kent City tradition.

It was the only time Glover has really told even a portion of his story publicly because he knows that many think he "cracked up in a foxhole" when he talks about God.

"The problem was," said Harold Davis of Lubbock, Texas, a former gunnery sergeant who served with Glover on Iwo, "compared to other services, the Navy and the Marine Corps were so stingy with medals. You had to be exceptionally outstanding in some situation, with an officer in authority (aware of it). So on the front lines, as hectic as it is, you don't have many people to recommend you for your actions, because they weren't there. So very few got decorated."

He added, "Don was one of our heroes, all right."

By contrast, says U.S. Army veteran Dean Chapman of Norton Shores, author of "Growl of the Tiger" about the exploits of the U.S. 10th Armored Division, the Army was more generous. "We gave out a lot of medals. It was good for morale and the men earned them."

But Glover wasn't in the Army.

These days, Glover spends most of his time in his modest home at 2236 Travelo in Arlington Park South Mobile Village in Muskegon Township, thinking about days gone by.

His second wife passed away years ago. Many of his old friends have died. An outspoken man who always says what's on his mind, come what may, he is estranged from many family members. Even some of his old war buddies have had fallings-out with him.

At least once a week, he is visited by his close friend, Charles "Chuck" Carlson of 4511 Arbutus in Egelston Township, an Army veteran during the Korean War and a Kent City native who befriended Glover and Glover's late brother, Paul, after the war. Carlson has heard all of Glover's tales of the South Pacific and stands in awe of the man: "Don Glover should have received every medal there was, including the Congressional Medal of Honor."

Those who were there that night with Glover agree.

"Don was the major factor in stopping the Japanese attack in F Co.'s area," said Ed Davis of Springfield, Ohio, a corporal who served with Glover. "Basically, he alone was responsible."

That attack resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Japanese at or near Glover's position. He won't say how many he himself killed that night.

Glover is not a religious or churchgoing man. So he really can't explain why God spoke to him at the bottom of a shell hole that day on Iwo Jima. His late father told him it was part of a plan that isn't yet clear.

He grew up in a broken, brawling, dysfunctional family in the small town of Ferry, between Hesperia and Hart. He later moved to Kent City with his mother, stepfather and brothers and sisters.

Life was hard and Glover remembers being constantly hungry. He worked long hours in the onion fields around the area. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Glover decided the Marine Corps was his ticket to three square meals and a new life: "Hauling onions ain't for me."

"Boot camp? I loved it. I was always the first one through the obstacle course." Although he had fired a lightweight squirrel rifle back home, he liked the heft of the Marine Corps heavy weapons.

Glover always listened intently to the Marine Corps veterans who returned from Guadalcanal, the brutal and heroic campaign of August 1942 to February 1943 that stopped the Japanese tide of victory in the early part of the war: "Stay down. Never walk along a skyline or on the top of a hill. Don't look up over a rock, look off to the side. Never piss outside your foxhole at night."

He still has his old "dress greens," his uniform with all his decorations on the chest. On the campaign ribbons below his Silver Star and Purple Heart decorations are four tiny battle stars that attest to his participation in the 4th Division's four ferocious Pacific campaigns: Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima.

Glover knows why he is still here. In that hole on the beach, after hearing God's voice, the shelling died down. His companion, LeRoy Surface, kicked his foot, and laughed at Glover for "taking a nap" during the battle. Glover insists he wasn't napping, but admits "hours passed" while they were in the shell hole.

A few days later, he decided to take God up on his promise, so he climbed, for the hell of it, onto an unexploded shell sticking out of the sand. The men with him, horrified, shrank away, expecting the worst. Glover mocked their fear, then took out a carton of K rations and calmly ate his lunch while straddling the shell.

Nothing happened, but Glover says he always has felt ashamed that he challenged God that one time. He swore never to do so again.

Instead, perhaps it was God who challenged Don Glover.


Monday, November 10, 2003
Second of a three-part series
By David J. Kolb

Don Glover leans forward and peers into the black-and-white, framed photograph taken by a Marine Corps combat photographer during the bloody battle for Iwo Jima.

It's a picture of four bone-weary Marines, one of them Glover, carrying a stretcher into relative safety behind the massive bulk of an uprooted tree.

Though it was taken during World War II more than 58 years ago, "I can remember it like it was yesterday," he says, reminiscing in his home in Muskegon Township's Arlington Estates South Park Mobile Home

Dombrowski was one of two Marines caught in an open field just beyond where the photo was taken. The other Marine, whose name Glover can't remember, also was lying wounded out on the field.

That man was badly hurt. He had been hit with a bullet that pierced his heavy steel helmet but didn't exit, cutting a complete circle around his skull

so neatly that Glover recalled it looked like a surgeon had removed the top of his head. It was not an uncommon wound on Iwo Jima.

The top of the man's brain was completely exposed, but he remained calm and talking as Glover and three others made a decision as to who to take out first to safety. The man with the head injury was coherent, but he also was paralyzed.

The four stretcher-bearers were hurrying back to safety when one of the grenades rolled under the stretcher holding Dombrowski and exploded.

"All that power went up under the guy's back," recalled Glover. "Whoomp! That shrapnel probably finished him off. It hit me in the goddamn legs."

By the time they got to safety with Dombrowski, they were so exhausted they could hardly walk. But, tired as they were, there was another Marine out there. Glover went back, but got confused. "I went through the wrong hole."

An enemy soldier fired at him right next to his right ear, but missed. "Point blank," Glover said. "I thought my damn eardrum was gone."

The Japanese were firing, but it wasn't an enemy shell that got Glover -- it was Marine artillery on Mount Suribachi that landed short. As Glover ran, the shell exploded, picking him up and tossing him through the air, knocking him out for a few seconds.

When he came to, he had to figure out where his fellow Marines were. He jumped up, startling a few Japanese who thought he had been killed by the blast. His men thought he was dead, too. "Here comes Glover's ghost!" one yelled as he ran past them to safety.

Under a smokescreen laid down by their artillery, they went back for the second wounded Marine, but he already was dead. Still, they brought him out under fire. "Never leave a man behind" is a Marine Corps tradition.

When Corpsman Owen "Doc" Bahnken started to prep Crowley for evacuation, Glover said he argued against it because he believed Crowley to be in such terrible shape that letting him die would be a mercy.

Bahnken, a beloved Fox Company hero who had been with the men through all four of their campaigns, wouldn't hear of it. He told Glover he took an oath to save men no matter what the odds.

So "Doc" pumped morphine into Crowley and ordered him taken to the beach to wait for evacuation to a hospital ship. Crowley made it to the beach, but due to the crush of casualties he lay there in agony, all but forgotten, for several days.

"Bill, is that really you?" Glover said, holding back tears. He had long thought "Little Bill" dead.

As for Bahnken, his many friends in the company mounted a campaign to get their brave corpsman a Congressional Medal of Honor for his uncounted acts of heroism. The Navy turned them down, as it did a similar request to get Glover his Navy Cross for his actions of the night of March 8-9, 1945.

Every day on Iwo Jima was much like the day before for Fox Company in the period after the invasion landing and the fight on the beaches. Move out, engage the enemy, dig in for the night. One horror blended into another.

The Second Battalion of the 4th Marines was assigned to the extreme right flank of the advance across the length of Iwo Jima. Up and down the line in front of them, the Japanese held on grimly, popping up from holes and caves, then disappearing.

Late in the afternoon of March 8, Lt. Sam Haddad ordered Glover and new replacement Pvt. Charlie Swanson, who today lives in Marseilles, Ill., to dig in and prepare for an expected big Japanese counterattack that night.

As they dug, Japanese spotters on top of a nearby cliff wall watched. Off to their left, but beyond where they could see, other Marines were presumably digging in. But Glover and Swanson couldn't see them. The only weapons they had were grenades, Swanson's M-1 rifle and Glover's trusty .30-caliber carbine.

The night's spread-out defense line was of some concern. "You want to have a guy close enough to where you can shake his hand," Glover said.

As darkness deepened, they could hear the Japanese moving up in force.

Then, out of the night behind them, he heard the voice of a machine-gunner -- "a real skinny guy with knobs on his shoulders," Glover recalls.

"Hey, Glover! I got something for you," Glover remembers the man saying. "I think you'll need this before the night's over."

"Ernie" Pyle and three ammunition carriers dropped off a light .30-caliber, air-cooled Browning machine gun and six boxes of ammo about 30 feet to the left of the foxhole. Then they left.

The Japanese, of course, had observed how lightly defended the Marine line was at Glover's end. But they had no idea there was a machine gun there because it had arrived after dark.

Swanson, who remained in the foxhole about 30 feet away from Glover's machine gun, remembers the awful "Banzai!" screams from the charging Japanese.

"It was ... the worst night of all. All them guys coming at you," Swanson said. "Damn right I was scared! They called us all kinds of names and screamed at us, 'We're going to kill you!' "

"I was happy," said Glover. "I knew what the machine gun could do. I couldn't have been nervous. If I was, I couldn't have done what I did."

The attack came a few weeks after the invasion on the Iwo Jima beaches. During that horrific experience, Glover said, God spoke to him while he cowered in a shell hole. He said God told him he wouldn't die in the battle.

But as hundreds of enemy soldiers charged his position, Glover said of the revelation, "I never gave it a thought."

There were so many Japanese coming at him in the dark that Glover said he could feel the ground shaking. He pressed the trigger and opened up "as soon as I had targets." Marine artillery fired flares that lit up the battlefield bright enough to read a newspaper by, he said.

Glover said he just automatically worked the trigger. "I thought of it a little like a game," he said, except at one point, when another flare revealed how many Japanese were still out in front, he realized this was no sporting event.

"I thought, 'Donald, there might be too many to stop.' Then that thought left my head. You put the gun right on those groups (of Japanese and you) just mowed 'em right down."

The Japanese during the attack fired continuously straight at Glover. Shrapnel and sand rained down on him, but he never got a scratch.

The intensity of the Japanese counterattack weakened as the night wore on and ultimately petered out as the brunt of the attack moved off to the left.

Marine Corps accounts of the action that night do not specifically mention Glover nor anyone else on the line. But official records do note -- specifically the "C-2 situation map" and the report of Col. T. R. Yancey -- that at Glover's position there were "strong infiltration attempts; sporadic mortar fire during the night (and) killed 784 en. (enemy)."

A declassified intelligence report obtained by The Chronicle also names no names. But "C-2 Periodic Report No. 19" stated in no uncertain terms that the attack was a big one: "To quote the Division: 'The enemy used everything he had.' "

Glover said Cates asked him how many enemy lay out there. Glover says he told him, "Only God knows."

To this day, he won't cite a figure. All he will say is that he started out with 1,500 rounds, and finished with a handful.

After Cates left, Glover said some Marines came over and shook his hand in appreciation.

Cpl. Ed Davis, who was behind Glover's position at battalion headquarters -- which was hit hard by the Japanese, resulting in the loss of many officers and records -- remembers hearing Glover's machine gun firing throughout the night. He could see the streaks of mortar fire raining down on Glover's position to his front. "Poor Glover," he recalled thinking.

Years later, Davis wrote a detailed letter strongly supporting Glover's claim for a Navy Cross to the Marine Corps Medals Division. It was to no avail.

But Davis was not a direct witness -- the medals rules require at least two -- nor did any officer personally witness Glover's actions to write up a formal account. Also, Swanson, the closest living Marine to that night's action, today maintains he can only remember some of what happened that night, little of it pertaining to Glover specifically.

Moreover, a blunt and direct Glover did not endear himself to some of his comrades after the war -- personal disputes that in some instances had little, if anything, to do with the war. So in some corners the praise, if there was any, is faint.

Perhaps the biggest big part of the problem, surviving company officers say, was that so few in battalion and lower command posts survived Iwo Jima, and that the battalion headquarters and its records were hit hard during the counterattack. By all accounts, the scene there during the attack and in the aftermath was pure havoc.

Don Glover had luck to spare during his ordeal in all four of his Pacific battles, and especially on Iwo Jima. His luck ran out, however, when the shooting stopped, in his battle to win a Navy Cross.


Tuesday, November 11, 2003
By David J. Kolb

The gunfire stopped in Fox Company's sector of Iwo Jima not long after Marine Cpl. Don Glover repulsed a big Japanese counterattack.

Even so, Glover's war did not have a happy ending. The combat veteran who had performed some heroic deeds of World War II left the war zone embittered and frustrated, his actions largely unrecognized.

But he lived through the carnage in part, he says, because God spoke to him as he took cover in a shell hole and told him he would survive.

For days after the big counterattack, the push went on, although there was no combat of significance that Glover, who now lives in Muskegon Township, could remember. Ultimately, Fox Company and its affiliated units were told to head to the beach for evacuation.

However, wallowing in self-pity, even after a big battle, was not allowed in the Marine Corps. The first few hours off the hated beaches of Iwo Jima, thousands of exhausted, hurting, wounded, filthy, hungry and battle-shocked warriors were just beginning to unwind aboard the ships that would take them back to the 4th Marine Division's base in Hawaii for refitting and retraining.

Then reality set in.

"We were on that ship for maybe two hours when they came and started up with their horse----," Glover remembered. "Inspection, gun watch to relieve the sailors. Gun watch! That was the only time I really lost it."

Every day, the Marines trooped down to the lower deck one by one to present their rifles for inspection. "Where's your rifle?" asked the major in charge. "This is my rifle," Glover said he told him. "He thought I was being a smart ass."

The Navy ship captain was there and Glover said he stood there shaking his head. "Are you trying to tell us that rifle got blown up and you never got a scratch? Amazing! Amazing!"

At every inspection, Glover presented the same blown-up carbine and it was duly reported in. This went on until they got back to Camp Maui. The first time he presented it there, a sergeant took it from him, threw it into a trash barrel and issued him another carbine.

Glover was angry they wouldn't let him keep it. "I killed a lot of human beings with that rifle."

They began to add replacements and retrain. The scuttlebutt was they were to be one of the spearheads for the expected invasion of Japan.

After the casualties at Iwo Jima, the company was filled with new recruits who had never seen action. One of the briefings explained how Japanese civilians might come at them with pitchforks and reminded the men they were to shoot to kill if attacked.

Sgt. Glover, now with his own platoon, was approached by a recruit who told him he couldn't kill a woman. "I said, 'Why not? You gonna let her run a pitchfork into you? You don't belong in the Marine Corps, you belong in the Boy Scouts!' "

On July 4, 1945, the entire division was to assemble for an awards parade.

But that rumor was quickly scuttled, with the new rumor being that the Navy Cross was going to the battalion commander Lt. Col. Edward J. Dillon. Dillon, the 23rd Regiment's executive officer, had been assigned to lead Second Battalion after its officer corps was decimated.

Glover next heard he was to get the Navy Cross at some "later" date. Then, he was officially notified that he was to get a personal Letter of Commendation for bravery from the commanding general at the same parade.

Glover said he was upset at the time, but the news a month later about the end of the war with Japan and the expectation of returning home to see his girlfriend and family pushed the episode from his mind.

But there was, he said, one occasion on which he and the late Lt. Col. Dillon met face to face.

A few weeks after the parade, he and his squad were taking a break from policing an area near headquarters when suddenly out stormed Dillon, a notorious stickler for "by the book" Marine Corps discipline. Interviews with Glover's fellow Marines reveal story after story about Dillon's excessive strictness.

"Who are you and what the hell are you men doing?" Glover said Dillon demanded.

"Sgt. Donald Glover. These are my men and we're taking a break," was the reply.

With a lot of "points" earned on the battlefield, Glover was mustered out of the service that November. He had his medals, but he also had "jungle rot," a kind of weepy fungus, dripping out of the ear on the side where a Japanese gun went off next to his head on Iwo Jima.

His leg wound from Saipan, which he said "you could put a finger into," still pained him. He didn't have a high school diploma, and the promise of a police job in Chicago fell apart when his engagement to his girlfriend there was broken off through a heart-breaking misunderstanding.

Glover had a shot at joining the Michigan State Police. But when the choice came down to giving up his disability claim in order to join, he declined, a decision he said he always regretted.

For years, Glover was troubled with nightmares about being chased down by Japanese soldiers. So he started going to sleep holding a gun under his pillow. "That quieted things down," he said.

Glover ultimately settled into fairly steady work at Teledyne Continental Motors in Muskegon, retiring in 1985 with his pension. He married two women; his first wife divorced him, his second wife died. Inter-family disputes led to estrangement from many of his closest family members.

While he regularly keeps in touch with his fellow Fox Company companions, Glover has had only limited contact with area vets. He did serve as past commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Don Rea Post 8846 in North Muskegon in the late 1960s.

It made him laugh.

Glover's friends and his nephew, Bill Glover of Vacaville, Calif., went to bat for him over the issue of his Navy Cross. Glover painstakingly collected accounts of his uncle's exploits and written statements from his friends in the Corps to back up the claims.

They ultimately ran into a brick wall.

The chief stumbling blocks were the length of time that had elapsed between the counterattack and the filing of Glover's claim in 1994, and the lack of two direct eyewitness accounts.

Ironically, the written citation for bravery that Glover received from Gen. Cates also helped block his bid. The then-head of the Navy's Military Awards Branch cited Cates' Letter of Commendation to Glover as direct evidence that the certificate was the only honor Cates had meant Glover to receive.

"While one may disagree with his decision some 50 years after the fact, there are no procedures to now reconsider the approved award without substantive new supporting documentation, which has not been provided," Anthony wrote.

To some of the men and officers who served with Glover, it was a familiar story.

Lawrence Snowden, a retired general who now lives in Tallahassee, Fla., who briefly commanded Fox Company on Iwo before being wounded, said the loss of key officers in the company and battalion hurt Glover's case.

"There isn't any doubt in my mind that what he said he did, he probably did it ... (but) at one point in the regiment, there were 32 captains and majors out of action on Iwo (who were) not there to participate in writing up the awards."

Ahern, at age 83, retains the same sharp sense of humor and irony that endeared him, unlike many other officers, to the men. He remembers Glover as "one of our good guys." Ahern says he understands Glover's feelings, but "I feel everyone who was on Iwo should have gotten a medal.

"Is it right? Is it justice? No. They should all have gotten a medal, but that was not the Marine Corps style."

Dale Cook, who served with Glover and was wounded on Iwo Jima, knows well the carnage that decimated Fox Company on the island. "The company went ashore with 232 men. We got 105 replacements. Only 79 really returned to the company (after Iwo)."

Cook, too, tried his hand at helping Glover get his medal -- "he was the guy up there" -- but said that was how the system worked.

Cook for years was the editor of the Danville, Calif., VFW Post 75's newsletter. In an issue devoted to Iwo Jima in April 2000, he wrote this caustic paragraph about the counterattack:

"On the night of March 8-9, Corporal Don Glover's machine gun chattered almost continuously in the dark. He was positioned anchoring one end of the Second Battalion, 23rd Marines defensive line which during the night stopped cold an organized 1,000-man Banzai charge. The next morning found 784 Japanese bodies before the line, a major percentage in front of Glover's gun. A fill-in Lt. Colonel from Regiment for the wounded unit's Battalion Commander received the Navy Cross for the night's action: Glover, a Certificate of Commendation."

Lt. Col. Dillon's Navy Cross citation, a copy of which was obtained by The Chronicle, lauds his "extraordinary heroism as Executive Officer" that night in "reorganizing the Command Post despite a depleted staff" and, during the counterattack itself, for his work in directing the repulse of the Japanese, "resulting in the annihilation of five hundred of the enemy."

No one interviewed in the course of this series disputed the late Dillon's personal courage, but none among the dozen or so interviewees who served with him or under him thought that if there was only one award to be given out, an officer should have been given the Navy Cross instead of the Marine directly involved in the fight.

But most say the matter is so old now, it's best to just accept things as they are.

Still, the Navy Cross issue aside, he doesn't want anyone to misunderstand his reasons for telling his story after all these years. "I don't want anyone to think I won the war all by myself."

He said his chief concern, far beyond that of getting justice from the Navy Medals Division, is letting people know that God spoke to him on Iwo Jima.

The old Marine, who remains in good health, says he still doesn't fear death. In fact, Glover is kind of looking forward to a heavenly meeting with all his old friends from the Corps, killed in battle so long ago, or passed away as time has taken them one by one.

He says he has finally figured out life.

"It's a big picture puzzle. There are hard pieces and there are easy pieces, and as you go along, they are put in one by one. It's not over with until the last piece is put in the last spot."

Every morning when he can, he dutifully raises the American flag in front of his trailer.

Not long after the Department of the Navy turned down his appeal, a small package arrived at Glover's trailer.

Inside was a familiar-looking medal in the shape of a thick, squared-off cross which pictured in its center a three-masted ship at full sail. Accompanying it was a note from William "Little Bill" Crowley, Glover's good friend in the service and the man whose life he once begged a corpsman to let end on Iwo Jima because of Crowley's shocking wounds. Crowley has since passed away.

The handwriting was neat, but the signature was a scrawl, as if it had been signed by a blind man.

Which it was.

Dear Don,

Enclosed is the Navy Cross that our Company Commander of 2-F-23rd couldn't admit that you earned. Even though you had all the written award, that should have ensured your receiving the medal.

I will send you the case, ribbon and lapel pin in the very near future. It will take about 6 to 8 weeks for you to receive them. I do hope you enjoy this medal.

Don, YOU earned IT!

God bless you always.

Semper Fidelis.


Don Glover got his Navy Cross, after all.
© 2003 Muskegon Chronicle. Used with permission
This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis