Friday, October 31, 2003


Memories of hard-fought Korean War battles still vivid for the men who served

Sunday, July 27, 2003

The Express-Times

The Korean War is often called "The Forgotten War."

But Gildo DePaolis cannot forget.

The four-inch scar down his neck is a constant reminder of the battles he fought, the friends he lost.

The pain he endures every day brings him back to the hills where he changed from a boy to a man.

He wasn't alone.

Almost 1,790,000 troops served in the war that ended 50 years ago today with an armistice that remains a subject of debate and regret. More than 36,500 of those who served also died.

California, with 2,611, was number one in deaths suffered; Pennsylvania was second with 2,401 deaths. New Jersey lost 800.

As is the case in all wars, death comes in large numbers, but is felt individually.

Gildo DePaolis' entrance into the U.S. Marines was a present to himself on his 18th birthday, but what he saw and what he experienced was no cause for celebration.

Fifty years later, it's still hard for the Warren County man to bear.

Staring down at his kitchen table, the 72-year-old veteran from Phillipsburg takes a long pause before speaking.

"Only once in a while do I talk about this, not even to my family. It gives me too much pain."

DePaolis left his senior year of high school to serve his country.

He knew he'd miss his senior prom, graduation and his last baseball season. But his commitment to his country was strong -- even stronger than his love of the game.

DePaolis didn't go into combat right away. After boot camp, he spent about two years on Guam playing for the Marine baseball team. He was selected All Marine Pacific and played in the All Service World Series in Hawaii.

While in Hawaii, the war began. Because of his sports background, DePaolis wasn't supposed to go to Korea, but he volunteered.

His patriotism again outweighed his offers to join the major leagues or coach the Marine baseball team back in the United States.

Friendship also played a part.

His best friend, Joe Spurrier, was ordered to ship off to Korea, and DePaolis wanted to be by his side.

"Had Joe not gone, I wouldn't have gone, but we were together. We wanted to stay together. I was always a person never to sit back. I wanted to go and fight."

For a year, DePaolis and Spurrier fought together on the front lines, from the recapture of Seoul to the frozen Chosin Reservoir. They endured inhumane conditions. The nights were horribly cold and many Marines suffered frostbite.

As they moved across the terrain, the troops faced resistance. Their Marine unit crossed the same hill four times and each time, hundreds of young men perished.

"You think they'd learn after the first time," DePaolis said.

The worst the platoon sergeant saw was when his unit was called in to rescue an Army artillery unit that was surrounded. The soldiers were taking a bath in a lake when the enemy ambushed them, picking off the Americans one by one.

There was no way to escape.

When DePaolis' unit arrived, it was too late. The lake was red with the blood of their brethren.

In times like this, DePaolis took comfort in friendship. Through it all, he and Spurrier had each other.

Every night, before they fell asleep, the men would call out to each other from their foxholes so they'd know each was safe.

"We tried to make our voices carry so our positions wouldn't be revealed," DePaolis said, cupping his hands over his mouth to demonstrate. "You had to be alert like that all the time."

One night, Spurrier did not receive a reply from DePaolis.

It was June 2, 1951, the night when waves of Red Chinese tried to take the Marine unit's hilltop position.

The battle was the fiercest their unit had seen yet, DePaolis said.

The Chinese attacked in massive numbers. When one soldier went down, another one picked up his weapon and charged on.

"They just kept coming. They were like ants, like a herd of cattle coming at us," DePaolis said. "They had more people than weapons."

DePaolis knew he was in trouble. He just didn't know how badly until the bullet tore through the right side of his mouth, knocking out teeth and severing his tongue.

He had to ignore the blood that ran down his face. He still had to fight. It was fight, or die.

The last thing he remembers is a group of Chinese soldiers pointing at him. He was wearing binoculars, which was a sign of leadership.

The soldiers threw a grenade and it exploded right in front of him.

Shrapnel tore his neck wide open, severing his jugular vein.

"It pumped out blood like a garden hose, DePaolis said.

He made peace with God, quietly said goodbye to his family and waited to die.

It wasn't his time.

DePaolis woke up three weeks later in a hospital bed. Doctors said it was a miracle he survived.

When his family saw him for the first time in three years, his father said, "That's not my boy."

DePaolis weighed just 80 pounds and couldn't speak. For the first six months, he couldn't even get out of bed. He had to be fed baby food through a hole in his mouth.

For more than a year, he was in the hospital and underwent dozens of reconstructive surgeries. Doctors had to make special plates for his mouth so he could eat normally.

To this day, DePaolis still has to undergo regular treatments. His mouth is in constant agony and the pain runs through his whole body.

The most basic human functions, sleeping and talking, are taxing.

He can't lie on either side of his face because it will cut off blood flow. Most nights, he either lies awake on his back or takes naps sitting upright in a chair in his Wilbur Avenue living room.

On days when he talks a lot, DePaolis' face goes numb.

"I hurt all the time," he says.

But DePaolis works through the pain by lifting weights, working out and keeping busy with housework and gardening.

"I try to be strong. I tell myself there's nothing wrong with me."

His wife, Loretta, knows better.

In five decades together, she has never heard her husband complain -- not even when he was recovering from his many surgeries.

"He just refuses to let it get him down. He tells himself it doesn't hurt, but I know that's not true."

Loretta says he is tough, not only in the way he deals with the pain, but also how he handles the Korean War as a whole.

"He's never talked about it much and I don't ask," she says.

She understands those memories are open wounds.

In the 50 years since the war has ended, not a day has gone by that DePaolis doesn't thank God.

He has a lot to be thankful for.

All he has to do is look into his wife's eyes and relish in his grandkids' hugs and kisses to know what he could have missed.

"I am lucky to be alive," he says. "The good Lord saved me."

DePaolis' daily prayers are not only filled with thanks, but also hope.

Hope that his family will never have to see the bloodshed he did.

Hope that there will come a day when there will be no more wars.

And hope that freedom, liberty and justice will reign.

Rubbing elbows with heroes as young men

Don Muller's Korean War story begins at the end of World War II.

As American servicemen returned to the United States in droves after Japan's surrender, Muller weighed his prospects for employment at home and elected to stay in the Marine Corps. That decision would take him to South Korea in the closing days of the Korean War.

Muller, 84, of Hunterdon County, spent most of World War II as a crew chief aboard Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Roy S. Geiger's personal plane, darting around the South Pacific under cover of darkness.

Compared to other planes of its type, Muller's PB4Y -- the Navy version of the B-24 Liberator -- was a hot rod. Stripped down and souped-up to outrun Japanese fighters, the four engine transport was unique in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

Life was good with the general, Muller said. The crew ate steak and eggs from the PB4Y's on-board kitchen with the general whenever he was hungry and spent their days relaxing at island airstrips as the general did his business.

By comparison, Korea was a shock, Muller said.

"It was the most Godforsaken place I've ever been to," he said. "I'll take World War II any day."

From January 1953 to September 1954, Muller was stationed at a Marine Corps air base simply called K-3 by the Americans near P'ohang on the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. There Master Sgt. Muller served as crew chief for the Marine general's air detachment.

In charge of a fleet of Marine Corps transports, he endured waist-deep snow, knee-deep mud and harrowing supply missions to the Chinese border.

He also rubbed shoulders with Marine aviation legends like Boston Red Sox left fielder turned fighter ace Ted Williams and his ace wingman Maj. John Glenn, who would later become the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. Both jet fighter pilots were based at the same field as Muller.

Life on the airbase was primitive, and the task of keeping planes in the air left little time for leisure.

"You filled in wherever you could," he said.

Muller was charged with keeping the R4Ds -- the Navy version of the DC-3 airliner -- in the air. He also had to fuel and repair whatever American aircraft were visiting the base.

Working on aircraft engines in temperatures that dipped to 30 below zero was a challenge, he said.

"You couldn't wear gloves and your hands would freeze, so you tried to stuff them in your armpits," Muller said.

Showering in the winter was another frigid experience. Muller said he typically stripped to his skivvies, donned a heavy overcoat and waded through the snow to a shack. Inside, a fellow Marine released cold water from a tank and then Muller dashed back to his tent to get into bed before he froze.

"I haven't gotten warm since I got back," he said.

Although Muller's duties didn't include flying, he would occasionally volunteer to accompany aircrews on missions north of the 38th parallel.

One flight took Muller north to an island in the Yalu River, which forms the border between China and North Korea. Their mission was to land on the island and drop supplies for a Marine reconnaissance unit that tracked the activities of Russian MiG fighters flying from a Chinese airfield.

Muller and his pilot landed on a beach and unloaded ammunition and food from the bomb bay of their single-engine TBF bomber. With the supplies delivered, they started the engine, turned around and took off.

Shortly after liftoff, acrid black smoke poured from the engine. The pilot asked Muller if he wanted to bail out. Despite the risk the plane might explode, Muller replied that as long as it was still flying, he wasn't jumping out over North Korea.

When they landed in friendly territory, mechanics discovered the aircraft's electric starter motor had failed to shut off when the engine started. Driven far beyond its intended speed by the engine, the starter became white hot and started a fire in the engine compartment.

Muller retired from the Marines after 20 years of active duty. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he now lives in Raritan Township with his wife.

Muller said he does feel that Korea is "The Forgotten War," but he works to change that.

Muller visits Hunterdon County elementary schools to tell children about his experiences. Instead of lecturing the children, he uses models of the aircraft he worked on and flew in to make it visual.

One wall of the basement in his Saddle Court home is lined with plastic aircraft models, from the Wright Flyer to the space shuttle. In the classroom he passes around models of the TBF bomber that took him on his harrowing ride, the F9F Panther Ted Williams flew and the F-86 Sabre John Glenn flew.

"You can talk to them all day and it doesn't mean anything, but you bring out the pictures and the models and it clicks," Muller said.

The Chinese soldiers came out of the night

The North Korean winters were brutal.

It snowed constantly and the winds blowing south out of Manchuria sounded like a freight train, Marine Corps veteran Joseph Finn Sr. said.

Finn landed in the port city of Hungnam on Nov. 10, 1950, with the 1st Marine Division. He said he was luckier than most.

He arrived with his winter gear while other soldiers were clothed only in their light cotton uniforms. Scores of casualties came in the form of frostbite on the feet, face and hands.

Soldiers wore ill-designed boots of leather and rubber that caused their feet to sweat terribly after hours of hiking. Once they stopped moving, the sweat began to freeze, Finn said.

Each man carried three pairs of socks, he said. Along with the pair he wore, Finn -- originally from Hillside, N.J., and now of Plainfield Township -- said soldiers kept two pair securely tucked under their belts, around their bellies to keep them warm. He also hoped the wet pair he took off managed to dry strapped to his midsection.

After landing in Hungnam, the 1st Marines began their march toward the Chosin Reservoir along a 78-mile dirt road that served as the main supply route into North Korea, Finn said. They arrived in the tiny village of Yudamni in late November. At the time, it was the deepest penetration by Marines into North Korea, he said.

On Nov. 27, in a mountain pass just above the village, the Marines dug in for the night.

Midnight, and the stars were out. Temperatures tumbled to 40 degrees below zero.

And the hills erupted.

"The Chinese just came out of the night," Finn said. "They were all over the place."

Finn said three divisions of Chinese soldiers surrounded them. Later he heard they were outnumbered 10-to-1.

Finn was injured that night when a concussion grenade detonated near his foxhole, sending shrapnel into his back. Although bleeding badly, Finn said he wasn't seriously injured. He spent the night in sick bay about a half mile down the hill watching the Chinese soldiers' red tracers and Marines' turquoise tracers criss-crossing the mountain pass.

Finn, now 77, returned to his unit the next day where he and his comrades dealt with sniper fire for days. Although outnumbered, U.S. and British commandos held their own with superior firepower, he said, explaining that the Chinese were still using slow-loading bolt-action rifles.

The heaviest fighting took place when they pulled back to Hungnam.

"We killed more Chinese on the way out than we did on the way in," Finn said.

Finn was drafted in 1944 and served for a short time in World War II. He married in 1947, joined the Reserves and was called to active duty on Sept. 7, 1950.

In Korea, Finn and some of his WWII comrades were the "old men," climbing hills next to "17-, 18- and 19-year-old boys," he said. They were expected to "nurse along" the younger soldiers until they learned the ropes, he said.

"Once you hear that first shot fired at you, you learn," Finn said.

Finn spent the first eight months of 1951 constantly moving across the country, including a 30-day "guerilla hunt" where he and his squad tracked down and captured or killed North Koreans caught far south of the 38th parallel.

Finn arrived in Korea a corporal and left a sergeant. The military promoted soldiers quickly because the attrition rate for non-commissioned officers was so bad, he said.

They died quickly.

Once he became a squad leader, Finn said he avoided becoming too friendly with his men. That made it only slightly easier when you lost a comrade, he said.

"You often wonder why him and not me," Finn said.

Finn's only fond memories of Korea come from the month spent off the front line before leaving the country in September 1951, sharing a few beers and some camaraderie with fellow soldiers.

When asked what he remembers about that time, Finn said, "I hate like hell to say it, but hey, I'm still alive."

Aug. 11, 1951, and Finn returned to his wife and his job as a produce manager for A& P where he had worked since he was 14.

Finn retired from A& P in 1989, but was discharged from the Marine Corps in January 1952. Finn's devotion to the Corps is evident in the photos and memorabilia adorning his living room.

Even his answering machine is patriotic.

"You've reached the Finn barracks. Leave your name, rank and phone number and we will return your call when we're back from patrol. Semper Fi."

It's Finn's "sergeant voice" over strains of the Marine Hymn.

The Corps offered Finn a promotion to staff sergeant had he stayed. Certain he would have gone to Vietnam had he remained in the military, Finn said his eight years was enough.

He recalled the day his division had dug in only to be ordered to leave. The division sent in to replace his was shelled a half hour later, Finn said.

"You just realize how fortunate you were," he said.

It's hard to say whether U.S. troops should have continued a push across the 38th parallel, Finn said. When U.S. troops evacuated North Korea following the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, "100,000 North Koreans voted with their feet" by leaving with them, he said.

And although disappointed at the establishment of North Korea, Finn is proud to see a strong, independent, democratic South Korea.

"We did a good thing," he said. "Lord knows we saved a hell of a lot of people."

Reporter Edward Sieger can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at Reporter Linda Lisanti can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at Reporter Peter Hall can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at

Copyright 2003 All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 30, 2003


Jessica Lynch's Hero
NEW YORK, Nov. 6, 2003

Hardly a person in America has not heard of Private Jessica Lynch. But if it weren't for the heroic efforts of a much less known soldier, Lynch would have been a statistic -- killed in action -- instead of the subject of headlines, a movie and a book. Mike Wallace has the story of this unsung hero.

On the fourth day of the war in Iraq, a huge American convoy headed from Kuwait to Baghdad. A dozen heavy trucks and other maintenance vehicles fell behind the rest and got lost.

At sunrise, Iraqi troops ambushed the lost soldiers, firing from both sides of the highway. The Americans sped up to escape the attack, but the Humvee that Pfc. Jessica Lynch was riding in smashed into the back of a jack-knifed American tractor-trailer. Less than a mile behind Lynch, Pfc. Patrick Miller was driving the last truck in the convoy. During the attack, he floored the accelerator, trying to steer and duck bullets at the same time.

Miller says he had not used his weapon at that point. "I used my truck on one of 'em," he says. "An Iraqi jumped out in the middle of the street, and I ran him over."

Iraqi bullets pounded Miller's truck, which also carried Sgt. James Riley and Pfc. Brandon Sloan.

"I knew that we were taking a lot of incoming just from the sounds that were coming around us," Miller says. "It was bouncing off the trucks, bouncin' off the hood. I went to stick my hand out the window to adjust the mirror so I could see 'em comin' from behind. And as I got my hand right to to the window, the mirror just shattered."

At that moment a bullet hit Sloan in his forehead, killing him instantly. "He just tensed up and slumped over. Didn't make a sound or nothing," Miller recalls. He kept driving. "You had to. You couldn't stop and try to take care of him."

He says, "It just felt like a real bad war movie. You were actually seeing people die in front of you."

Bullets then ripped into his truck's transmission, and it lost power. Miller and Riley jumped out and ran forward to where Lynch's Humvee had slammed into the tractor-trailer. Lynch was unconscious and appeared to be dead. All four others inside were killed.

"And it was just like a mangled mess of equipment and everything," MIller says. "I figured there was no way that anybody could survive something like that."

Army specialists Shoshana Johnson and Edgar Hernandez also believed everyone in the Humvee had been killed. They were in the tractor-trailer that Lynch's Humvee had smashed into. All the American vehicles had broken down, but Miller thought they might still escape the ambush in an Iraqi dump truck parked 50 yards up the road.

If there were no keys in the ignition, he says, he would have hot-wired it. Is that something he knows how to do? "I'd have learned really fast," he says.

Johnson and Hernandez were taking cover in their tractor-trailer. Their weapons had jammed and they were pinned down. But Miller ran on toward the dump truck.

"She [Johnson] yells 'Miller! Get down here. You're gonna get hit,'" Miller says. "And I said 'I gotta go.' And I just kept going."

Johnson recalls, "I thought it was going to be the end for all of us."

Johnson was shot in the ankles; Miller took a bullet in his arm. He says there were "a whole bunch" of Iraqis firing on them. "All I could see was the bullets that were hitting the dirt around my feet."

Just when it seemed the situation couldn't get any worse, it did. Miller saw a group of Iraqis setting up a mortar position in front of the dump truck. He says it could have wiped them all out.

To prevent them from firing, Miller dove behind a horseshoe-shaped mount of dirt called a berm, across the highway from the Iraqis. But it was seven Iraqis against one American -- seven Iraqis who were in that mortar pit just 25 yards away.

Miller hadn't fired a weapon for seven months, and he admits he wasn't the best marksman. He was an Army mechanic, and when he'd taken his first marksmanship test, he'd failed it.

So what did he do? "One guy, like, jumped up to where I could see him, and he had a mortar round in his hand, getting ready to drop it in the tube," he says. "And as he jumped up, I just raised my rifle up and shot, and he fell over."

It was the first shot he fired in the incident. The lousy marksman hit home.

But after that first shot, his rifle jammed. He had to pound on it with the palm of his hand, after every shot, to get the next bullet loaded into the chamber. He kept on re-loading and shooting. "I was kind of getting a rhythm down, count like seconds and then look up," he explains. "And you could see somebody else trying to load it. So, I was starting to count, and when I'd get to the number, I'd look up. And somebody else would be trying to load it, and I'd shoot. I did that probably seven times total. I counted the last time, and when I looked up, there wasn't nobody there."

Everybody knows about Jessica Lynch, but nobody knows about Patrick.

"And he did an amazing thing," Johnson says. "He saved our lives. If that mortar had hit that vehicle we were underneath, we'd be gone. And so would Jessica, because it would have been a chain reaction. It had all that fuel, we'd be dead."

Iraqi gunmen surrounded the group and took them prisoner. They went into captivity still believing that Lynch had been killed back in the Humvee. When U.S. Marines came to their rescue 21 days later, they were astonished to learn that their friend had also survived -- but surprised that she'd become a national hero.

Lynch apparently agrees with Johnson and Hernandez that Miller was the hero of the whole operation. Does her $1 million book deal and television movie bother Miller? "Mmm, somewhat," he answers. "But I don't want to get all into that." Would he turn down a $1 million book deal? "Oh no, I'd have to think about it," he laughs.

For now, Miller has been working anonymously in the motor-pool at Fort Carson in Colorado. Three months after the crash, The Washington Post referred to him thusly in an article about Jessica Lynch: "One soldier whose name could not be learned, took cover behind a berm. Iraqi soldiers were on the other side in a mortar pit. He killed a half dozen of them, a defense official said. Soon though, he was surrounded by a couple of dozen armed Iraqis and is believed to have been killed on the spot. 'He didn't have a chance,' said the official."

Miller says he saw the article. "I went to work the next day and said that I wasn't doing nothing at work because the paper said I was dead," he laughs.

Only a month ago, Baltimore Sun reporter Tom Bowman revealed the name of the unsung hero. Bowman had learned that out of the 150,000 U.S. soldiers sent to Iraq, Miller was one of only 90 to receive the Silver Star for valor.

Col. Heidi Brown explains why, out of 2,000 soldiers under her command, Miller was the only one she recommended for one of the Army's highest awards. She says, "Private First Class Miller did things during war that no other soldier underneath my command did. And he risked his life to save his comrades and he absolutely did."

Brown also has an idea why the Pentagon had first mistakenly described Lynch as a fierce warrior who'd been shot and stabbed fighting off Iraqis. The Americans there had heard an Iraqi radio transmission describing a blond American fighting to her last breath before she was shot and stabbed to death.

Now Brown believes they may have confused Lynch with another blond soldier in her unit, Sgt. Donald Walters, whose body was later found shot and stabbed to death. "The Iraqi reports had, whether it was the actual Iraqi, the language, or the translation, used, 'she' instead of 'he' and that is my understanding of why there was confusion in this," she says.

Miller may be the only person who doesn't think he's a hero.

"It's good to know that you actually did something to save other people's lives," he says. "But for me, as far as people saying that I'm a hero, I don't feel that I'm a hero. Because I feel that I was doing my job as a soldier."

© MMIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


Two Marines reunited after 51 years
AP Photo



Associated Press Writer

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Bogie Bogdanovich always felt bad about waving Brad Cate toward the front line during a furious firefight in Korea.

Cate stepped on a land mine and suffered horrific wounds.

So when the two old Marines finally met face-to-face for the first time in 51 years on Tuesday, it was understandable that Bogdanovich was overcome with emotion.

''This is one of the happiest moments in my life,'' Bogdanovich, 74, of Montesano, Wash., said as he embraced his 72-year-old comrade.

''I recognize you immediately,'' said Cate, of Colorado Springs, Colo.

The two Korean War veterans hugged as everyone in the packed lobby of a downtown hotel erupted into applause.

The two had so much of catch up on they scarcely knew where to begin. But the first order of business was sharing what each remembered about Oct. 25, 1951, when their small combat patrol went behind enemy lines up Hill 1052 in North Korea. Bogdanovich, a corporal, was section leader.

Cate, who volunteered for the Marines after high school in Scottsbluff, Neb., remembered it was about 10 a.m. when the patrol met enemy troops.

Pinned down and with men falling around him, Bogdanovich looked back and spotted Cate, who had been with the unit about three weeks. Thinking Cate had a bazooka, Bogdanovich motioned for him to move forward.

Cate did, and stepped almost immediately on a land mine.

''He took two steps and he went up in the air, butt over tea kettle,'' Bogdanovich said.

When Bogdanovich reached Cate, one foot was nearly blown off and his intestines were hanging outside his body.

''I felt that I had just ordered him to his death,'' Bogdanovich recalled.

A corpsman patched Cate up. Then Bogdanovich slung Cate onto his back and ran 1,800 yards back to an evacuation area. Along the way Bogdanovich was struck by shrapnel in the legs, stumbled to the ground, and got back to his feet.

Here the two men's memories diverge. Bogdanovich recalled putting Cate into a helicopter. Cate thought he was put into a ground ambulance.

''Things are pretty hazy,'' Cate said with a smile.

In any event, ''that was the last time I saw him,'' Bogdanovich said.

After dropping Cate off, Bogdanovich went into a bunker and said a rosary for the wounded man. Then he was treated at a field hospital for a few days for his shrapnel wounds and returned to combat as soon as he could. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his efforts.

Cate was hospitalized for two months with leg and internal injuries, and then had a long recovery. But he says now he was lucky.

''Ninety-five percent of the people who step on a land mine lost an arm or a leg or an eye or a hand, or were killed,'' Cate said. ''I was one of those 5 percent.''

Bogdanovich finished his tour of duty and returned home to Washington on Christmas Eve 1951.

He tracked down Cate and the two men corresponded for several years. But when some letters were returned as undelivered, Bogdanovich assumed Cate had died.

Meanwhile, Bogdanovich, whose real first name is Marion, played football at Western Washington University and embarked on a teaching career. He eventually retired as an elementary school principal.

Earlier this year, a friend of Bogdanovich decided to learn if Cate was still alive. She was able to locate him through the Marine Corps League.

The two first talked on the telephone a month and a half ago, and arranged the reunion during the Marine Corps League convention in Spokane this week.

Cate returned to the Marine Corps after graduating from college, and eventually retired with the rank of major. He won the Silver Star for an earlier battle while in Korea.

Both men married, and have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Each celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary this year.

But neither knows if there were any other survivors of their combat patrol.

Bogdanovich is looking forward to one development from the reunion. He said he cried for the first time in his life when he talked to Cate earlier this year, and has found himself crying since.

''I hope it dries up soon,'' he said.

AP-WS-08-05-03 2003EDT

Tuesday, October 28, 2003



The Collapse Of The Armed Forces -- Col R.D. Heinl USMC


By Col. Robert D. Heinl, Jr.
North American Newspaper Alliance
Armed Forces Journal, 7 June, 1971

Table of Contents


Back To The Campus

Bounties And Evasions

Society Notes

The Action Groups

Tough Laws, Weak Courts

Tactics of Harassment

Racial Incidents

Drugs and the Military

No Street Is Safe

Desertions and Disasters

Non-Volunteer Force?

Soulbone Connected to the Backbone

No Office for the Ombudsman

The Vocalists

Word to the Whys

A Hard Lot at Best

THE MORALE, DISCIPLINE and battleworthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at anytime in this century and possibly in the history of the United States.

By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non commissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near mutinous.

Elsewhere than Vietnam, the situation is nearly as serious.

Intolerably clobbered and buffeted from without and within by social turbulence, pandemic drug addiction, race war, sedition, civilian scapegoatise, draftee recalcitrance and malevolence, barracks theft and common crime, unsupported in their travail by the general government, in Congress as well as the executive branch, distrusted, disliked, and often reviled by the public, the uniformed services today are places of agony for the loyal, silent professions who doggedly hang on and try to keep the ship afloat.

The responses of the services to these unheard-of conditions, forces and new public attitudes, are confused, resentful, occasional pollyanna-ish, and in some cases even calculated to worsen the malaise that is wracking. While no senior officer (especially one on active duty) can openly voice any such assessment, the foregoing conclusions find virtually unanimous support in numerous non-attributable interviews with responsible senior and mid-level officer, as well as career noncommissioned officers and petty officers in all services.

Historical precedents do not exist for some of the services' problems, such as desertion, mutiny, unpopularity, seditious attacks, and racial troubles. Others, such as drugs, pose difficulties that are wholly NEW. Nowhere, however, in the history of the Armed Forces have comparable past troubles presented themselves in such general magnitude, acuteness, or concentrated focus as today.

By several orders of magnitude, the Army seems to be in worse trouble. But the Navy has serious and unprecedented problems, while the Air Force, on the surface at least still clear of the quicksands in which the Army is sinking, is itself facing disquieting difficulties.

Only the Marines - who have made news this year by their hard line against indiscipline and general permissiveness - seem with their expected staunchness and tough tradition, to be weathering the storm.

Back To The Campus

To understand the military consequences of what is happening to the U.S. Armed Forces, Vietnam is a good place to start. It is in Vietnam that the rearguard of a 500,000 man army, in its day and in the observation of the writer the best army the United States ever put into the field, is numbly extricating itself from a nightmare war the Armed Forces feel they had foisted on them by bright civilians who are now back on campus writing books about the folly of it all.

"They have set up separate companies," writes an American soldier from Cu Chi, quoted in the New York Times, "for men who refuse to go into the field. Is no big thing to refuse to go. If a man is ordered to go to such and such a place he no longer goes through the hassle of refusing; he just packs his shirt and goes to visit some buddies at another base camp. Operations have become incredibly ragtag. Many guys don't even put on their uniforms any more... The American garrison on the larger bases are virtually disarmed. The lifers have taken our weapons from us and put them under lock and key...There have also been quite a few frag incidents in the battalion."

Can all this really be typical or even truthful?

Unfortunately the answer is yes.

"Frag incidents" or just "fragging" is current soldier slang in Vietnam for the murder or attempted murder of strict, unpopular, or just aggressive officers and NCOs. With extreme reluctance (after a young West Pointer from Senator Mike Mansfield's Montana was fragged in his sleep) the Pentagon has now disclosed that fraggings in 1970(109) have more than doubled those of the previous year (96).

Word of the deaths of officers will bring cheers at troop movies or in bivouacs of certain units.

In one such division -- the morale plagued Americal -- fraggings during 1971 have been authoritatively estimated to be running about one a week.

Yet fraggings, though hard to document, form part of the ugly lore of every war. The first such verified incident known to have taken place occurred 190 years ago when Pennsylvania soldiers in the Continental Army killed one of their captains during the night of 1 January 1781.

Bounties And Evasions

Bounties, raised by common subscription in amounts running anywhere from $50 to $1,000, have been widely reported put on the heads of leaders whom the privates and Sp4s want to rub out.

Shortly after the costly assault on Hamburger Hill in mid-1969,the GI underground newspaper in Vietnam, "G.I. Says", publicly offered a $10,000 bounty on Lt. Col. Weldon Honeycutt, the officer who ordered(and led) the attack. Despite several attempts, however, Honeycutt managed to live out his tour and return Stateside.

"Another Hamburger Hill," (i.e., toughly contested assault), conceded a veteran major, is definitely out."

The issue of "combat refusal", and official euphemism for disobedience of orders to fight -- the soldier's gravest crime � has only recently been again precipitated on the frontier of Laos by Troop B, 1st Cavalry's mass refusal to recapture their captain's command vehicle containing communication gear, codes and other secret operation orders.

As early as mid-1969, however, an entire company of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade publicly sat down on the battlefield. Later that year, another rifle company, from the famed 1st Air Cavalry Division, flatly refused -- on CBS-TV -- to advance down a dangerous trail.

(Yet combat refusals have been heard of before: as early as 1813,a corps of 4,000 Kentucky soldiers declined to engage British Indians who just sacked and massacred Ft Dearborn (later Chicago).)

While denying further unit refusals the Air Cav has admitted some 35 individual refusals in 1970 alone. By comparison, only two years earlier in 1968, the entire number of officially recorded refusals for our whole army in Vietnam -- from over seven divisions - was 68.

"Search and evade" (meaning tacit avoidance of combat by units in the field) is now virtually a principle of war, vividly expressed by the GI phrase, "CYA (cover your ass) and get home!"

That "search-and-evade" has not gone unnoticed by the enemy is underscored by the Viet Cong delegation's recent statement at the Paris Peace Talks that communist units in Indochina have been ordered not to engage American units which do not molest them. The same statement boasted - not without foundation in fact - that American defectors are in the VC ranks.

Symbolic anti-war fasts (such as the one at Pleiku where an entire medical unit, led by its officers, refused Thanksgiving turkey), peace symbols, "V"-signs not for victory but for peace, booing and cursing of officers and even of hapless entertainers such as Bob Hope, are unhappily commonplace.

As for drugs and race, Vietnam�s problems today not only reflect but reinforce those of t he Armed Forces as a whole. In April, for example, members of a Congressional investigating subcommittee reported that 120 to 15% of our troops in Vietnam are now using high-grade heroin, and that drug addiction there is "of epidemic proportions."

Only last year an Air Force major and command pilot for Ambassador Bunker was apprehended at Ton Son Nhut air base outside Saigon with $8 million worth of heroin in his aircraft. The major is now in Leavenworth.

Early this year, and Air force regular colonel was court-martialed and cashiered for leading his squadron in pot parties, while, at Cam Ranh Air Force Base, 43 members of the base security police squadron were recently swept up in dragnet narcotics raids.

All the foregoing facts � and mean more dire indicators of the worse kind of military trouble � point to widespread conditions among American forces in Vietnam that have only been exceeded in this century by the French Army�s Nivelle mutinies of 1917 and the collapse of the Tsarist armies in 1916 and 1917.

Society Notes

It is a truism that national armies closely reflect societies from which they have been raised. It would be strange indeed if the Armed Forces did not today mirror the agonizing divisions and social traumas of American society, and of course they do.

For this very reason, our Armed Forces outside Vietnam not only reflect these conditions but disclose the depths of their troubles in an awful litany of sedition, disaffection, desertion, race, drugs, breakdowns of authority, abandonment of discipline, and, as a cumulative result, the lowest state of military morale in the history of the country.

Sedition � coupled with disaffection within the ranks, and externally fomented with an audacity and intensity previously inconceivable � infests the Armed Services:

At best count, there appear to be some 144 underground newspapers published on or aimed at U.S. military bases in this country and overseas. Since 1970 the number of such sheets has increased 40% (up from 103 last fall). These journals are not mere gripe-sheets that poke soldier fun in the "Beetle Bailey" tradition, at the brass and the sergeants. "In Vietnam," writes the Ft Lewis-McChord Free Press, "the Lifers, the Brass, are the true Enemy, not the enemy." Another West Coast sheet advises readers: "Don�t desert. Go to Vietnam and kill your commanding officer."

At least 14 GI dissent organizations (including two made up exclusively of officers) now operate more or less /31/ openly. Ancillary to these are at least six antiwar veterans� groups which strive to influence GIs.

Three well-established lawyer groups specialize in support of GI dissent. Two (GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee and new York Draft and Military Law Panel) operate in the open. A third is a semi-underground network of lawyers who can only be contacted through the GI Alliance, a Washing, D.C., group which tries to coordinate seditious antimilitary activities throughout the country.

One antimilitary legal effort operates right in the theater of war. A three-man law office, backed by the Lawyers� Military Defense Committee, of Cambridge, Mass., was set up last fall in Saigon to provide free civilian legal services for dissident soldiers being court-martialed in Vietnam.

Besides these lawyers� fronts, the Pacific Counseling Service (an umbrella organization with Unitarian backing for a prolifery of antimilitary activities) provides legal help and incitement to dissident GIs through not one but seven branches (Tacoma, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Monterey, Tokyo, and Okinawa).

Another of Pacific Counseling�s activities is to air-drop planeloads of sedition literature into Oakland�s sprawling Army Base, our major West Coast staging point for Vietnam

On the religious front, a community of turbulent priests and clergymen, some unfrocked, calls itself the Order of Maximilian. Maximilian is a saint said to have been martyred by the Romans for refusing military service as un-Christian. Maximilian�s present-day followers visit military posts, infiltrate brigs and stockades in the guise of spiritual counseling, work to recruit military chaplains, and hold services of "consecrations" of post chapels in the name of their saintly draft-dodger.

By present count at least 11 (some go as high as 26) off-base antiwar "coffee houses" ply GIs with rock music, lukewarm coffee, antiwar literature, how-t-do-it tips on desertion, and similar disruptive counsels. Among the best-known coffee houses are: The Shelter Half (Ft Lewis, Wash.); The Home Front (Ft Carson, Colo.); and The Oleo Strut (Ft Hood, Tex.).

Virtually all the coffee houses are or have been supported by the U.S. Serviceman�s Fund, whose offices are in new York City�s Bronx. Until may 1970 the Fund was recognized as a tax-exempt "charitable corporations," a determination which changed when IRS agents found that its main function was sowing dissention among GIs and that it was a satellite of "The new Mobilization Committee", a communist-front organization aimed at disruption of the Armed Forces.

Another "new Mobe" satellite is the G.I. Press Service, based in Washington, which calls itself the Associate Press of military underground newspapers. Robert Wilkinson, G.I. Press�s editor, is well known to military intelligence and has been barred from South Vietnam.

While refusing to divulge names, IRS sources say that the serviceman�s Fund has been largely bankrolled by well-to-do liberals. One example of this kind of liberal support for sedition which did surface identifiably last year was the $8,500 nut channeled from the Philip Stern Family Foundation to underwrite Seaman Roger Priest�s underground paper OM, which, among other writings, ran do-it-yourself advice for desertion to Canada and advocated assassination of President Nixon.

The nation-wide campus-radical offensive against ROTC and college officer-training is well known. Events last year at Stanford University, however, demonstrate the extremes to which this campaign (which peaked after Cambodia) has gone. After the Stanford faculty voted to accept a modified, specially restructured ROTC program, the university was subjected to a cyclone of continuing violence which included at least $200,000 in ultimate damage to buildings (highlighted by systematic destruction of 40 twenty-foot stained glass windows in the library). In the end, led by university president Richard W. Lyman, the faculty reversed itself. Lyman was quoted at the time that "ROTC is costing Stanford too much."

"Entertainment Industry for Peace and Justice," the antiwar show-biz front organized by Jane Fonda, Dick Gregory, and Dalton Trumbo, now claims over 800 film, TV, and music names. This organization is backing Miss Fonda�s antimilitary road-show that opened outside the gates of Ft. Bragg, N.C., in mid-March.

Describing her performances (scripted by Jules Pfeiffer) as the soldiers� alternative to Bob Hope, Miss Fonda says her case will repeat the Ft Bragg show at or outside 19 more major bases. Although her project reportedly received financial backing from the ubiquitous Serviceman�s Fund, Miss Fonda insisted on $1.50 admission from each of her GI audience at Bragg, a factor which, according to soldiers, somewhat limited attendance.

Freshman Representative Ronald V. Deludes (D-Calif.) runs a somewhat different kind of antimilitary production. As a Congressman, Dellums cannot be barred from military posts and has been taking full advantage of the fact. At Ft Meade, Md., last month, Dellums led a soldier audience as they booed and cursed their commanding officer who was present on-stage in the post theater which the Army had to make available.

Dellums has also used Capitol Hill facilities for his "Ad Hoc hearings" on alleged war crimes in Vietnam, much of which involves repetition of unfounded and often unprovable charges first surfaced in the Detroit "Winter Soldiers" hearings earlier this year. As in the case of the latter, ex-soldier witnesses appearing before Dellums have not always been willing to cooperate with Army war-crimes investigators or even to disclose sufficient evidence to permit independent verification of their charges. Yet the fact that five West Point graduates willingly testified for Dellums suggests the extent to which officer solidarity and traditions against politics have been shattered in today�s Armed Forces.

The Action Groups

Not unsurprisingly, the end-product of the atmosphere of incitement of unpunished sedition, and of recalcitrant antimilitary malevolence which pervades the world of the draftee (and to an extent the low-ranking men in "volunteer" services, too) is overt action.

One militant West Coast Group, Movement for a Democratic Military (MDM), has specialized in weapons theft from military bases in California. During 1970, large armory thefts were successfully perpetrated against Oakland Army Base, Vets Cronkhite and Ord, and even the marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton, where a team wearing Marine uniforms got away with nine M-16 rifles and an M-79 grenade launcher.

Operating in the middle West, three soldiers from Ft Carson, Colo., home of the Army�s permissive experimental unite, the 4th Mechanized Division, were recently indicted by a federal grand jury for dynamiting the telephone exchange, power plant and water works of another Army installation, Camp McCoy, Wis., on 26 July 1970.

The Navy, particularly on the West Coast, has also experienced disturbing cases of sabotage in the past two years, mainly directed at ships� engineering and electrical machinery.

It will be surprising, according to informed officers, if further such tangible evidence of disaffection within the ranks does not continue to come to light. Their view is that the situation could become considerably worse before it gets better.

Tough Laws, Weak Courts

A frequent reaction when people learn the extent and intensity of the subversion which has been beamed at the Armed forces for the past three or more years is to ask whether such activities aren�t banned by law. The answer is that indeed they are.

Federal law (18lUSC 2387) prohibits all manner of activities (including incitements, counseling, distribution or preparation of literature, and related conspiracies) intended to subvert the loyalty, morale or discipline of the Armed services. The penalty for violating this statute is up to ten years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.

Despite this tough law, on the books for many years, neither the Johnson, nor so far, the Nixon administration has brought a single prosecution against any of the wide range of individuals and groups, some mentioned here, whose avowed aims are to nullify the discipline and seduce the allegiance of the Armed forces.

Government lawyers (who asked not to be named) suggested two reasons for failure to prosecute. Under President Johnson, two liberal Attorneys General, Messers. Ramsey Clark and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, were reportedly unsympathetic to military pleas for help and in general to prosecutions for sedition of any kind. Besides, the lawyers said, the courts have now gone so far in extending First Amendment shelter to any form of utterance, that there is doubt whether cases brought under this law would hold.

Whatever the reason � and it appears mainly to be disinclination to prosecute or even test existing law � the services are today being denied legal protection they previously enjoyed without question and at a time when they need it worse than ever before. Continuing failure to invoke these sanctions prompted one senior commander to comment bitterly, "We simply can�t turn this thing around until we get some support from our elected and appointed civilian officials."

One area of the U.S. government in which the Armed forces are encountering noticeable lack of support is the federal judiciary.

Until a very few years ago, the processes of military justice were regarded as a nearly untouchable preserve which the civil courts entered with reluctance and diffidence.

Plagued by a new breed of litigious soldier (and some litigious officers, too), the courts have responded by unprecedented rulings, mostly libertarian in thrust, which both specifically and generally have hampered and impeded the traditional operations of military justice and dealt body blows to discipline.

Andrew Stapp, the seditious soldier who founded the American Serviceman�s Union, and organization aimed at undermining the disciplinary structure of the Armed forces, last year had his well earned undesirable discharge reversed by a U.S. judge who said Stapp�s right to unionize and try to overthrow the Army was an "off-duty" activity which the Army had no right to penalize in discharging him.

Libertarian Supreme Court Justice W.O. Douglas has impeded the Army in mobilizing and moving reservists, while his O�Callaghan decision not only released a convicted rapist but threw a wrench into military jurisdiction and court-martial precedents going back in some cases nearly two centuries.

In Oakland, Cal., last year, a federal court yanked some 37 soldiers from the gangplank of a transport for Vietnam (where all 37 had suddenly discovered conscientious objections to war) and still has them stalled on the West Coast some 18 months later.

The long-standing federal law against wearing of Armed forces uniforms by persons intending to discredit the services was struck down in 1969 by the Supreme court, which reversed the conviction of a uniformed actor who put on an antimilitary �guerrilla theater" skit on the street in Houston, Tex. As a result the Armed Forces are now no longer able to control subversive exploitation of the uniform for seditious purposes.

Tactics of Harassment

Part of the defense establishment�s problem with the judiciary is the now widely pursued practice of taking commanding officers into civil courts by dissident soldiers either to harass or annul normal discipline or administrative procedures or the services.

Only a short time ago, for example, a dissident group of active-duty officers, members of the concerned Officers� Movement (COM), filed a sweeping lawsuit against Defense Secretary Laird himself, a well as all three service secretaries, demanding official recognition of their "right" to oppose the Vietnam war, accusing the secretaries of "harassing" them, and calling for court injunction to ban disciplinary "retaliation" against COM members.

Such nuisance suits from the inside (usually, like the Laird suit, on constitutional grounds) by people still in uniform, let alone by officers, were unheard-of until two or three years ago. Now, according to one Army general, the practice has become so command that, in his words, "I can�t even give a /34/ directive without getting permission from my staff judge advocate."

Racial Incidents

Sedition and subversion and legal harassment, rank near the top of what might be called the unprecedented external problems that elements in American society are inflicting on the Armed Forces.

Internally speaking, racial conflicts and drugs � also previously insignificant � are tearing the services apart today.

Racial trouble is no new thing for the Army. In 1906, after considerable provocation, three companies of the 25th Infantry (a colored regular regiment) attacked white troops and townspeople of Brownsville, Texas, and had to be disbanded. Among the few pre-World War II War Department records still heavily classified and thus unavailable to scholars are Army documents on racial troubles.

Racial conflicts (most but not all sparked by young black enlisted men) are erupting murderously in all services.

At a recent high commanders� conference, General Westmoreland and other senior generals heard the report from Germany that in many units white soldiers are now afraid to enter barracks alone at night for fear of "head-hunting" ambushes by blacks.

In the quoted words of one soldier on duty in West German, "I�m much more afraid of getting mugged on the post than I am of getting attacked by the Russians."

Other reports tell of jail-delivery attacks on Army stockades and military police to release black prisoners, and of officers being struck in public by black soldiers. Augsburg, Krailsheim, and Hohenfels are said to be rife with racial trouble. Hohenfels was the scene of a racial fragging last year � one of the few so recorded outside Vietnam.

In Ulm, last fall, a white noncommissioned officer killed a black soldier who was holding a loaded .45 on two unarmed white officers.

Elsewhere, according to Fortune magazine, junior officers are now being attacked at night when inspecting barracks containing numbers of black soldiers.

Kelley Hill, a Ft. Benning, Ga., barracks area, has been the scene of repeated nighttime assaults on white soldiers. One such soldier bitterly remarked, "Kelley Hill may belong to the commander in the daytime but it belongs to the blacks after dark."

Even the cloistered quarters of WACs have been hit by racial hair-pulling. In one West Coast WAC detachment this year, black women on duty as charge-o-quarters took advantage of their trust to vandalize unlocked rooms occupied by white WACS. On this rampage, they destroyed clothing, emptied drawers, and overturned furniture of their white sisters.

But the Army has no monopoly on racial troubles.

As early as July 1969 the Marines (who had previously enjoyed a highly praised record on race) made headlines at Camp Lejeune, N.C., when a mass affray launched by 30-50 black Marines ended fatally with a white corporal�s skull smashed in and 145 other white Marines in the sick bay.

That same year, at Newport, R.I., naval station, blacks killed a white petty officer, while in march 1971 the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., outside Washington, was beset by racial fighting so severe that the base enlisted men�s club had to be closed.

All services are today striving energetically to cool and control this ugly violence which in the words of one noncommissioned officer, has made his once tough unit divide up "like two street gangs."

MGen Orwin C. Talbott, at Ft. Benning, has instituted what he calls "race relations, coordinating groups" which work to defuse the resentments of young black troopers at a Georgia base.

MGen John C. Bennett, commanding the 4th Mechanized Division at Ft. Carson, Colo., has a highly successful "racial relations committee" which has kept Carson cool for over a year.

At once-troubled Camp Lejeune, MGen Michael P. Ryan, the Tarawa hero who commands the 2nd Marine Division, appears to have turned off the race war that two years ago was clawing at the vitals of his division.

Yet event he encouraging results attained by these commanders do not bespeak general containment of the service-wide race problem any more than the near-desperate attack being mounted on drug abuse has brought the narcotics epidemic under control within the military.

Drugs and the Military

The drug problem � like the civilian situation from which it directly derives � is running away with In March, Navy Secretary John H. the services. Chafee, speaking for the two sea services, said bluntly that drug abuse in both Navy and Marines is out of control.

In 1966, the Navy discharged 170 drug offenders. Three years later (1969), 3,800 were discharged. Last year in 1970, the total jumped to over 5,000.

Drug abuse in the Pacific Fleet � with Asia on one side, and kinky California on the other � gives the Navy its worst headaches. To cite one example, a destroyer due to sail from the West Coast last year for the Far East nearly had to postpone deployment when, five days before departure, a ring of some 30 drug users (over 10 percent of the crew) was uncovered.

Only last week, eight midshipmen were dismissed from the Naval Academy following disclosure of an alleged drug ring. While the Navy emphatically denies allegations in a copyrighted articles by the Annapolis Capitol that up to 12,000 midshipmen now use marijuana, midshipman sources confirm that pot is anything but unknown at Annapolis.

Yet the Navy is somewhat ahead in the drug game because of the difficulty in concealing addiction at close quarters abroad ship, and because fixes are unobtainable during long deployments at sea.

The Air force, despite 2,715 drug investigations in 1970, is in even better shape: its rate of 3 cases per thousand airmen is the lowest in the services.

By contrast, the Army had 17,742 drug investigations the same year. According to Col. Thomas B. Hauschild, of the medical Command of our Army forces in Europe, some 46 percent of the roughly 200,000 soldiers there had used illegal drugs at least once. In one /35/ battalion surveyed in West Germany, over 50 percent of the men smoked marijuana regularly (some on duty), while roughly half of those were using hard drugs of some type.

What these statistics say is that the Armed Forces (like their parent society) are in the grip of a drug pandemic � a conclusions underscored by the one fact that, just since 19168, the total number of verified drug addiction cases throughout the Armed Forces has nearly doubled. One other yardstick: according to military medical sources, needle hepatitis now poses as great a problem among young soldiers as VD.

At Ft. Bragg, the Army�s third largest post, adjacent to Fayetteville, N.C. (a garrison town whose conditions one official likened to New York�s "East Village" and San Francisco�s "Haight-Ashbury") a recent survey disclosed that 4% (or over 1,400) of the 36,000 soldiers there are hard-drug (mainly heroin and LSD) addicts. In the 82nd Airborne Division, the strategic-reserve unit that boasts its title of "America�s Honor Guard", approximately 450 soldier drug abusers were being treated when this reported visited the post in April. About a hundred were under intensive treatment in special drug wards.

Yet Bragg is the scene of one of the most imaginative and hopeful drug programs in the Armed forces. The post commander, LGen John J. Tolson, and the 82nd Airborne�s commander, MGen George S. Blanchard, are pushing "Operation Awareness," a broad post-wide program focused on hard drugs, prevention, and enforcement.

Spearheading Operation Awareness is a tough yet deeply humane Army chaplain and onetime Brooklyn longshoreman, LCol John P. McCullagh. Father McCullagh has made himself one of the Army�s top experts on drugs, and was last year called as an expert witness by Harold Hughes�s Senate Subcommittee on Alcohol and Narcotics.

No Street Is Safe

One side-effect of the narcotics flood throughout the services is a concurrent epidemic of barracks theft and common criminality inside military or naval bases which once had the safest streets in America.

According to the personnel chief of one of the Army�s major units, unauthorized absence, historically the services� top disciplinary problem, is now being crowded by the thefts. Barracks theft destroys trust and mutual loyalty among men who ought to be comrades and who must rely absolutely on each other in combat. It corrodes morale and is itself an indicator of impossible conditions in a fighting unit.

At Ft. Bragg, primarily because of addict thieves, soldiers in many units cannot even keep bedding on their bunks in barracks. After what used to be reveille, they strip their bunks of bedding and cram it away under lock and key with whatever valuables they dare keep on hand.

Radios, sports gear, tape decks, and cameras � let alone individual equipment � are stolen on sight. Unlocked cars, on the manicured streets of this fine old post, are more likely to be stolen than not. Fayetteville, according to soldiers, abounds with off-post fences who will pay pennies for Army blankets and higher amounts for just about anything else.

Unhappily, conditions at Ft. Bragg are not unusual.

Soldier muggings and holdups are on the rise everywhere. Ft. Dix, N.J., has a higher rate of on-post crime than any base on the East Coast. Soldier muggings are reported to average one a night, with a big upsurge every pay-day. Despite 450 MP�s (one for every 55 soldiers stationed there � one of the highest such rations in the country) no solution appears in sight.

Crimes are so intense and violent in the vicinity of an open-gate "honor system" detention facility at Ft. Dix that, according to press reports, units on the base are unwilling to detail armed sentinels to man posts nearby, for fear of assault and robbery.

Desertions and Disasters

With conditions what they are in the Armed Forces, and with intense efforts on the part of elements in our society to disrupt discipline and destroy morale the consequences can be clearly measured in two ultimate indicators: man-power retention (reenlistments and their antithesis, desertions); and the state of discipline.

In both respects the picture is anything but encouraging.

Desertion, to be sure, has often been a serious problem in the past. In 1826, for example, desertions exceeded 50% of the total enlistments in the Army. During the Civil War, in 1864, Jefferson Davis reported to the Confederate Congress: "Two thirds of our men are absent, most absent without leave."

Desertion rates are going straight up in Army, Marines, and Air Force. Curiously, however, during the period since 1968 when desertion has nearly doubled for all three other services, the Navy�s rate has risen by less than 20 percent.

In 1970, the Army had 65,643 deserters, or roughly the equivalent of four infantry divisions. This desertion rate (52.3 soldiers per thousand) is well over twice the peak rate for Korea (22.5 per thousand). It is more than quadruple the 1966 desertion-rate (14.7 per thousand) of the ten well-trained, high-spirited professional Army.

If desertions continue to rise(as they are still doing this year), they will attain or surpass the WWII peak of 63 per thousand, which, incidentally, occurred in the same year (1945) when more soldiers were actually being discharged from the Army for psychoneurosis than were drafted.

The Air Force, -- relatively uninvolved in the Vietnam war, all-volunteer, management-oriented rather than disciplinary and hierarchic � enjoys a numerical rate of less that one deserter per thousand men, but even this is double what it was three years ago.

The marines in 1970 had the highest desertion index in the modern history of the Corps and, for that year at least, slightly higher than the Army�s. As the Marines now phase out of Vietnam (and haven�t taken a draftee in nearly two years), their desertions are expected to decrease sharply. Meanwhile, grimly remarked one officer, "let the bastards go. We�re all the better without them."

Letting the bastards go is something the Marines can probably afford. "The Marine Corps Isn�t Looking for a Lot of Recruits," reads a current recruiting /36/ poster, "We Just Need a Few Good Men." This is the happy situation of a Corps slimming down to an elite force again composed of true volunteers who want to be professionals.

But letting the bastards go doesn�t work at all for the Army and the Navy, who do need a lot of recruits and whose reenlistment problems are dire.

Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., chief of naval Operations, minces no words. "We have a personnel crisis," he recently said, "that borders on disaster."

The Navy�s crisis, as Zumwalt accurately describes it, is that of a highly technical, material oriented service that finds itself unable to retain the expensively-trained technicians needed to operate warships, which are the largest, most complex items of machinery that man makes and uses.

Non-Volunteer Force?

If 45% of his sailors shipped over after their first enlistment, Admiral Zumwalt would be all smiles. With only 13% doing so, he is growing sideburns to enhance the Navy�s appeal to youth.

Among the Army�s volunteer (non-draftee) soldiers on their first hitch, the figures are much the same: less than 14% re-up.

The Air Force is slightly, but not much, better off: 16% of its first-termers stay on.

Moreover � and this is the heart of the Army�s dilemma � only 4 % of the voluntary enlistees now choose service in combat arms (infantry, armor, artillery) and of those only 2.5% opt for infantry. Today�s soldiers, it seems, volunteer readily enough for the tail of the Army, but not for its teeth.

For all services, the combined retention rate this past year is about half what it was in 1966, and the lowest since the bad times of similar low morale and national disenchantment after Korea.

Both Army and navy are responding to their manpower problems in measures intended to seduce recruits and reenlistees: disciplinary permissiveness, abolition of reveille and KP, fewer inspections, longer haircuts � essentially cosmetic changes aimed at softening (and blurring) traditional military and naval images.

Amid such changes (not unlike the Army�s 1946 Doolittle Board coincidences intended in their similar postwar day to sweeten life for the privates), those which are not cosmetic at all may well exert profound and deleterious effects on the leadership, command authority and discipline of the services.

Soulbone Connected to the Backbone

"Discipline," George Washington once remarked, "is the soul of an army."

Washington should know. In January 1781, all the Pennsylvania and New Jersey troops in the Continental Army mutinied. Washington only quelled the outbreaks by disarming the Jersey mutineers and having their leaders shot in hollow square � by a firing squad made up of fellow mutineers.

(the navy�s only mutiny, aboard USS Somers in 1842, was quelled when the captain hanged the mutineers from the yardarm while still at sea.)

If Washington was correct (and almost any professional soldier, whether officer or NCO, will agree), then the Armed Forces today are in deep trouble.

What enhances this trouble, by exponential dimensions, is the kind of manpower with which the Armed Forces now have to work. As early as three years ago, U.S. News and World Report reported that the services were already plagued with "� a new breed of man, who thinks he is his own Secretary of ?State, Secretary of Defense, and Attorney General. He considers himself superior to any officer alive. And he is smart enough to go by the book. He walks a tightrope between the regulations and sedition."

Yet the problem is not just one of trouble-makers and how to cope with them.

The trouble of the services � produced by and also in turn producing the dismaying conditions described in this article � is above all a crisis of soul and backbone. It entails � the word is not too strong � something very near a collapse of the command authority and leadership George Washington saw as the soul of military forces. This collapse results, at least in part, from a concurrent collapse of public confidence in the military establishment.

General Matthew B. Ridgway, one of the Army�s finest leaders in this century (who revitalized the shaken Eighth Army in Korea after its headlong rout by the Chinese in 1950) recently said, "Not before in my lifetime � has the Army�s public image fallen to such low esteem �"

But the fall in public esteem of all three major services � not just the Army � is exceeded by the fall or at least the enfeeblement of the hierarchic and disciplinary system by which they exist and, when ordered to do so, fight and sometimes die.

Take the case of the noncommissioned and petty officers.

In Rudyard Kipling�s lines, "the backbone o� the Army is the noncommissioned man!"

Today, the NCOs � the lifters � have been made strangers in their own home, the regular service, by the collective malevolence, recalcitrance, and cleverness of college �educated draftees who have outflanked the traditional NCO hierarchy and created a privates� power structure with more influence on the Army of today than its sergeants major.

No Office for the Ombudsman

In the 4th Mechanized Division at Ft. Carson, Sp 4 David Gyongyos, on his second year in the Army, enjoys an office across the hall from the division commander, a full-time secretary, and staff car and driver also assigned full time. He has the home phone numbers of the general and chief of staff and doesn�t hesitate to use them out of working hours when he feels like it.

Gyongyos (with a bachelor�s degree in theology and two years� law school) is chairman of the division�s Enlisted Men�s Councils, a system of elected soviets made up of privates and Sp 4s (NCOs aren�t allowed) which sits at the elbow of every unit commander down to the companies. "I represent, electively, " Gyongyos expansively told this reporter, "the 17,000 men on this post."

The division sergeant major, with a quarter-century in the Army, who is supposed to be the division�s first soldiers and � non-electively � father and ombudsman of every soldier, has an office with is on even on the same floor with the general (or Sp 4 Gyongyos either). He gets his transportation, as needed, from the motor pool. He does not "rap" freely over the phone to the general�s quarters.

The very most that Gyongyos will concede to the sergeant major, the first sergeants, the platoon sergeants � the historic enlisted leadership of armies � is that they are "combat technicians." They are not, he coldly adds, "highly skilled in the social sciences."

The soldiers� soviets of the 4th Division represent an experiment in what the Army calls "better communications". Conditions throughout the rest of the Army do not quite duplicate those at Carson, but the same spirit is abroad. And experienced NCOs everywhere feel threatened or at least puzzled.

Most major units of the Army, Navy, and Air force have some form of enlisted men�s councils, as well as junior officer councils. Even the trainee companies at Ft. Ord, Calif. Have councils, made up of recruits, who take questions and complaints past their DIs to company commanders and hold weekly meetings and post minutes on bulletin-boards. General Pershing, who once said, "All a soldier needs to know is how to shoot and salute", would be surprised.

The Vocalists

As for the officers, said a four-star admiral, "We have lost our voice."

The foregoing may be true as far as admirals are concerned, but hasn�t hampered short-term junior officers (including several West Pointers) from banding /37/ together into highly vocal antiwar and antimilitary organizations, such as the Concerned Officers� Movement (COM). At Norfolk, the local COM chapter has a peace billboard outside gate 2, Norfolk Naval Station, where every sailor can profit by the example of his officers.

Inspection � one of the most important and traditionally visible tools of command � is being widely soft-pedaled because it is looked on as "chicken" by young soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

In a move "to eliminate irritants to Air Force life" all major Air force commands got orders last year to cut back on inspection of people and facilities.

"You just damn near don�t inspect barracks any more," said one Air Force colonel, "this is considered an irritant." Besides, he added, (partly to prevent barracks theft and partly for privacy), airmen keep the keys to their own rooms, anyway.

Aboard ships of the Navy, where every inch of metal and flake of paint partakes in the seaworthiness and battle readiness of the vessel, inspection is still a vital and nearly constant process, but even here, Admiral Zumwalt has discouraged "unnecessary" inspections.

If officers have lost their voices, their ears have in many commands been opened if not burnt in an unprecedented fashion via direct "hot lines" or "action lines" whereby any enlisted man can ring up his CO and voice a gripe or an obscenity, or just tell him what he thinks about something or, for that matter, someone.

Starting last year at naval Air Station, Miramar, Cal., sailors have been able to dial "C-A-P-T" and get their captain on the line. The system so impressed Admiral Zumwalt that he ordered all other shore stations to follow suit, even permitting anonymous calls.

At Ft. Lewis, Wash., soldiers dial "B-O-S-S-" for the privilege of giving the general an earful.

At the Air Force Academy, cadets receive early indoctrination in the new order of things: here, too, a cadet (anonymously, if he wishes) can phone the Superintendent, record his message and, also by recording receive the general�s personal thanks for having called.

Word to the Whys

"Discipline," wrote Sir John Jervis, one of England�s greatest admirals, "is summed up in the one word, obedience."

Robert E. Lee later said, "Men must be habituated to obey or they cannot be controlled in battle."

In the Armed forces today, obedience appears to be a sometime thing.

"You can�t give them an order and expect them to obey immediately," says an infantry officer in Vietnam. "they ask why, and you have to tell them."

Command authority, i.e., the unquestioned ability of an officer or NCO to give an order and expect it to be complied with, is at an all-time low. It is so low that, in many units, officers give the impression of having lost their nerve in issuing, let alone enforcing orders.

In the words of an Air Force officer to this reporter, "If a captain went down on the line and gave an order and expected it to be obeyed because �I said so!� � there�d be a rebellion."

Other officers unhesitatingly confirmed the foregoing.

What all this amounts to � conspicuously in Vietnam and only less so elsewhere � is that today�s junior enlisted man, not the lifer, but the educated draftee or draft-motivated "volunteer" � now demands that orders be simplistically justified on his own terms before he feels any obligation to obey.

Yet the young soldiers, sailors and airmen might obey more willingly if they had more confidence in their leaders. And there are ample indications that Armed Forces junior (and NCO) leadership has been soft, inexperienced, and sometimes plain incompetent.

In the 82nd Airborne Division today, the average length of service of the company commanders is only 3 � years.

In the Navy, a man makes petty officer 2d class in about 2 � years after he first enlists. By contrast, in the taut and professional pre-WWII fleet, a man required 2 � years just to make himself a really first-class seaman.

The grade of corporal has practically been superseded in the Army: Sp 4s hold most of the corporals� billets. Where the corporal once commanded a squad, today�s Army gives the job to a staff sergeant, two ranks higher. Within the squad, it now takes a sergeant to command three other soldiers in the lowly fire-team.

"This never would have happened," somberly said a veteran artillery sergeant major, "if the NCOs had done their jobs � The NCOs are our weak point." Sp 4 Gyongyos at Ft. Carson agrees: "It is the shared perception of the privates that the NCOs have not looked out for the soldiers."

When B Troop, 1st Cavalry, mutinied during the Laos operation, and refused to fight, not an officer or NCO raised his hand (or his pistol) or stepped forward. Fifty-three privates and Sp 4s cowed all the lifers of their units.

"Officers," says a recently retired senior admiral, "do not stand up for what they believe. The older enlisted men are really horrified."

Lieutenant William L. Calley, Jr., an ex-company clerk, was a platoon leader who never even learned to read a map. His credentials for a commission were derisory; he was no more officer-material than any Pfc. in his platoon. Yet the Army had to take him because no one else was available. Commenting on the Calley conviction, a colonel at Ft. /38/ Benning said, "We have at least two or three thousand more Calleys in the Army just waiting for the next calamity."

Albert Johnson, the tough Master Chief Petty Officer of the Atlantic Fleet, shakes his head and says: "You used to hear it all the time � people would say, �The Chiefs run the Navy.� But you don�t hear it much any more, especially from the Chiefs."

A Hard Lot at Best

But the lot of even the best, most forceful leader is a hard one in today�s military.

In the words of a West Point lieutenant colonel commanding an airborne battalion, "There are so many ways nowadays for a soldier that is smart and bad to get back at you." The colonel should know: recently he reduced a sergeant for gross public insubordination and now he is having to prepare a lengthy apologia, though channels to the Secretary of The Army, in order to satisfy the offending sergeant�s congressman.

"How do we enforce discipline?" asks a senior general. Then he answers himself: "Sweep it under the rug. Keep them happy. Keep it out of the press. Do things the easy way: no court-martials, but strong discipline."

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, after years of costly, frustrating and considerably less than successful war, Britain�s armed forces sere swept by disaffection culminating in the widespread mutinies in most of the ships and fleets that constituted England�s "wooden walls" against France.

Writing to a friend in 1979, Britain�s First Lord of the Admiralty said, "The Channel Fleet is now lost to the country as much as if it was at the bottom of the sea."

Have things gone that far in the United States today?

The most optimistic answer is � probably not. Or at least not yet.

But many a thoughtful officer would be quick to echo the words of BGen Donn A. Starry, who recently wrote, "The Army can defend the nation against anything but the nation itself."

Or � in the wry words of Pogo � we have met the enemy, and they are us.

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R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)


Monday, October 27, 2003


For: All Hands and the Ship's Cook.

We've added a short story regarding another old friend of mine, 1stLt Frank Mitchell, MOH. You'll find this by going to my web site at, clicking on, "Menu," "Writers and Stories," "Sully," and finally "Frank Mitchell." Frank's MOH Citation is included in the story, as well as one of the most unusual pictures that I've ever seen emerge from a combat situation. I've included a story about how the latter picture was preserved for all these years which may be worth your time to read.

I know you'll recall when about a week ago I provided an email address for Mike Tank that was erroneous. I've decided that this was all Mike's fault because his email address says "michaeltank@..." rather than "miketank@..." Obviously, it should have been "mike" all along. That's what happens when you suffer from delusions of grandeur. (VBSEG). Further, that will teach Mike that he can't just willy-nilly refer to "Old Guys" and escape scot free. But enough of Mike....until he writes his next poem. At that time I'll do my best not to mess up his email address.

Many of you wrote that you thought that flogging and keel-hauling might be too good for me, given the circumstances of my foul-up of Mike's address. And I do want to thank those of you who wrote offering to lend your slightly used cat-of-nine-tails. That was thoughtful of you. But the best of the bunch of totally ribald suggestions were these submissions:

From Buddha Doc:

LOL Sully I have a keel but no mast, so it be keel haul for you.

(Now, the foregoing is obviously deeply Freudian. Wonder what it means?)

From Ted Gittinger:

....I raised six children, and as a consequence have most implements of torture/punishment ready to hand.

grinning fiendishly

Anyone who thinks Ted is kidding doesn't know Ted.

And last, but far from being least, from Ron Cashman, my good friend from the "other side of the world," where 'roos and koalas thrive:

avast ye swab!!! mine bounced too!!!

Do ya think Ron was referring to his email to Mike, or his 'Roos? Him being a secretive type, we'll probably never know.

Enough for now.

"Keep Warm," " Maintain A Ten Pace Interval," and for cryin-out-loud, "Stay Off the !@#$%^&* Skyline," Semper Fidelis, Sully
This is...
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GLOBE and ANCHOR Sites & Forums

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


Sunday, October 26, 2003


Pre-emptive wars - Deterrence is no longer a solution

By Frederick Forsyth

Until the mid-1990s, terrorists always wanted something. The IRA wanted a
united Ireland, the ETA wanted a separate Basque state, the PFLP wanted a
Palestinian state and the extirpation of Israel, the Tamil Tigers wanted a
Tamil state in part of Sri Lanka...and so on.

Some wanted separation, some unification, some (like the Kurds) a state of
their own, others (like the Red Brigades) a fully communist state. Precisely
because of that, they wanted to stay alive and see their vision come true,
and therefore the Establishment could, if it wished, negotiate.

Then a small group arose who said this: "We do not want anything of you but
your deaths. In thousands, in hundreds of thousands and eventually in

"We say this because we hate you. We hate you with an all-consuming
passion, not just for what you have done (though that is bad enough) but for
what you are.

"There is no point in negotiating, for there is nothing to negotiate. We
are going to kill you whenever, wherever and in as great a number as we can.

"We do this because the Almighty has commanded it. We have His texts to
prove it. We do not fear death, we welcome it, for we are guaranteed eternal
bliss if we die while killing you."

It was a weird message. It did not come in the mail, nor was it enunciated
on Al-Jazeera television. It came from a thousand imams in a thousand
mosques. It was directed at the United States in particular and the West in
general. Its source can best be described as Islamist fundamentalism, a tiny
but virulent incubus within the body of that great, billion-devotee
religion, Islam. Not unnaturally, no one took it particularly seriously - at

In 1993 a group of Islamists in New York tried to demolish the World Trade
Center by driving two vans packed with explosives into the underground
parking garages. The towers were too strong. A few were killed, many more
injured. The United States began, slowly, to wake up to a new and bizarre

For eight years, under Bill Clinton, a fairly lethargic hunt was mounted
for a shadowy body of religious "ultras" behind the new message. Two
embassies in Africa were blown up, then a destroyer in Aden Harbor. Then
came Sept. 11, 2001.

The rest of the world has, despite the ritual condolences at that time, not
even begun to understand the transformational trauma that has gripped the
United States since 9/11. That is why so much of what has been written is
exasperated anti-Americanism.

Sept. 11 happened to coincide with a new, tough, no-nonsense and hugely
underestimated (by Europe's intellectual snobs) president. Under Bush the
United States thought things over and came back with a reply.

Broadly, it is this: "What the devil are we supposed to do? We have no
choice. You leave us no choice. For 50 years of Cold War we practiced
deterrence and kept the Soviet threat at bay. Even in their most paranoid
moments, the Politburo did not want to die. But you do not fear death; you
welcome it. So be it.

"We Americans can either sit and wait for the next bomb, the next carnage,
the next wipeout of our citizens and then try to track down the
perpetrators. Or we can identify you and use our considerable resources to
hunt you down and take you 'out of the frame' before you strike, not after.

"That is called pre-emption, and that is what we choose to do." Ever since
9/11 that is what has been happening. But the so-called war on terror goes
further than the occasional eruption of secret agents into an apartment in
Pakistan to arrest or kill another fanatic. The American message is more
ample than that.

It continues: "Terrorists cannot eat and drink fresh air. They need a place
to live, camps in which to train, money to spend, equipment to turn into
bombs, officers to recruit. These have to be situated on someone's land, in
someone's country.

"So to all those who think it might be fun to arm, train, shelter, feed,
finance, hide, furnish diplomatic facilities or false papers prepared in
government laboratories - or even to touch with a 10-foot pole - those sworn
to kill our fellow Americans, we say this: The party is over. Desist now, or
be lumped with the terrorists and die with them. That includes the tyrant
states and the failed states. Expel them or be classed with them."

Far enough? The American message to the tyrant states includes one extra
proviso. It is: "There are some weapons so foul yet so simple that they may
be developed in basic government programs and yet can wipe out cities. There
are agents based on the filthiest and fastest-moving diseases known to man.
Medieval plagues, incurable scourges. There are gases and nerve agents so
strong that a vacuum flask released in a crowded place can destroy

"None of you need research, develop, produce and store these weapons for
self-defense. They simply cannot be used for self-defense. But they can, if
suicidal fanatics are used as the delivery system, be brought to our cities
and detonated. This we will not permit. Therefore, stop manufacturing these
hideous weapons, destroy what you have, and do it now."

Saddam Hussein fit both categories. He manufactured some of the grisliest
killer toxins known to man: He sponsored, paid for and sheltered terror. He
was warned repeatedly. From 1991 he ducked and weaved, defying a flaccid,
timid U.N. Security Council through 16 resolutions. But after 9/11 he was
just a fool. He should have known. The United States was not joking. Not

The real outrage of the European left and the Third World is that they are
horrified; apparently when the White House says "Enough is enough," it means
it. Clinton was never like that.

So the horrified may shout, like the Scottish congregation, "We didna
ken"("We didn't understand").

But the message from Washington is "Well, ye ken the noo" ("Well, you
understand now").

Forsyth's new novel "Avenger," a best seller in Italy, goes on sale in
English in September. This essay is reprinted from Foreign Affairs Magazine.
September 7, 2003

Copyright 2003 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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


Saturday, October 25, 2003

Then And Now....Lessons Unlearned!

By Craig Roberts

It appears to be a rule in "military history and lessons learned" that
we don't remember the lessons.

Below is an article by Vince Morris of the New York Post, who is
probably too young to remember a little "conflict" called Vietnam. But I
won't forget it, or the lessons we learned, since I was a young US
Marine infantryman who did my share of rice paddy wading in I Corps in

One of the lessons American fighting men learn in the first few days of
war is that our rules don't count. We learn about the enemy, his
methods, madness and motivations. We also learn that they do not, ever,
think or act like Americans. It seems we never learn that we are
different, and they don't play by our rules.

Americans are a kind and compassionate people. We try to "liberate" and
not "conquer" when we go to war. Liberating Iraq and fighting terrorism
now is identical to defending South Vietnam and fighting Vietcong
terrorism in the '60s. I landed with H Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th
Marine Regiment at DaNang in July of 1965. Within three days of our
landing we were entrenched around a village called Duong Son and began
receiving fire from guerrillas of the Doc Lap battalion of Vietcong
(based in a tunnel complex under the village of Cam Ne, one kilometer
across the paddies to the west).

We established an outpost of one platoon on a small island in the
paddies between us and Cam NE, and sent two wiremen to string commo wire
to the "little ville" (which was one building used as a schoolhouse).
They left just before dark and never arrived at the "schoolhouse." They
never came back either.

The next morning we sent out patrols and found them at the edge of Cam
NE, hung up by their heals in a tree, tortured and killed as a signal to
us of what would happen in the future. There were other atrocities that
had been done to the bodies that I won't describe.

But it backfired. It had just the opposite effect on us that it may have
had on other nationalities. It did not scare us. It did not terrify us.
It did not make us want to quit and go home. Instead, it galvanized
us--and changed the rules.

Americans begin by being kind and understanding and compassionate. But
don't anger us. Don't try to shock us. Don't hurt any of our people.
Because if you do, you will bring down more fire and brimstone than you
ever reckoned existed.

Seeing the two bodies caused us (the entire Regiment) to change our
attitude about the enemy and the Vietnamese in general. This would last
for the rest of the war. THEY are the ones who caused more grief and
death and destruction on their personnel than would have happened if the
two young Marines had not been captured, tortured and executed. For the
next 11 months I never took a prisoner on purpose. I killed every VC and
NVA I could get in my sights (and later my scope as a sniper). I hated
them and when I took up the trigger slack on every target, I thought of
those two wireman who went home in body bags after only three days in

Now we have young soldiers and Marines faced with the latest version of
the "wiremen incident of Duong Son." American National Guard reservists
from Texas, serving in a support role, made a wrong turn in Iraq and
evidently drove up to Iraqis wearing civilian clothes. No one knows what
happened next, but whatever happened it is evident that our guys were
not prepared for combat. If they had been, there would have been Iraqi
bodies on the road instead of American. Our guys expected Iraqi
"civilians" would be glad to see them, and they probably assumed these
"civilians" would be helpful if they stopped to ask directions. The
Iraqis were either soldiers in civvies, or militia. So, it appears no
defensive shots were fired. But the Al Jazeera TV footage shows dead GIs
with head wounds that appear to be from very close range. This was an
execution of POWs by war criminals. This is the Iraqi War version of the
Wiremen Incident. And now our guys are relearning the lessons we learned
in Vietnam: There Is No Compassionate War.

In my opinion, there are two missions for the man in the field: Win the
war quickly, and go home alive.

To do this, a warrior has to be careful, cautious and ruthless. We must
know we cannot fight a "careful war" in which we try not to hurt anyone.
The mission of the military is not that of policeman. The mission is to
go places, destroy real estate, break things, and kill people. We have
to relearn this in every war. But it is a lesson we quickly learn,
albeit often a bit late, and with far too much of our own blood.

When one sees the liberal socialist media whining about civilian
casualties, just put these images in your mind: Pan Am 103 at Lockerbie,
the Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut, the attack on the USS Cole, the
9-11 WTC and Pentagon attacks, and the crash in Pennsylvania. Also
remember that we have over 100 Iraqi terrorist cells, not to mention al
Qaeda in this country just watching and waiting for a chance to "avenge

Here's to our troops: God Bless, God Speed, and now that you know the
"rules," Good Hunting!

Semper Fidelis,

Craig Roberts
L/Cpl, USMC, Vietnam, '65-66

Now, read on, my comments are in brackets...


****Marines Out To Avenge Blood Of 'Executed' GI's****

The Marines at this chopper base near the Iraqi border are seething with
rage and talking revenge over the treatment of American POWs - paraded
on TV and some possibly executed.

"OK, they want to play that way. We can play that way," vowed one
enraged pilot. Marine after Marine had the same message - many of them
warning that there would be "no second chances for those Iraqis now."
Virtually every conversation here touched on the POW's treatment and
possible executions yesterday. It was discussed on chow lines, in the
bomb shelters, outside the latrines.

(This is the latest version of The Wiremen Incident that changed the
rules of engagement in the field for the average grunt)

Robert "Doc" Davenport, a Marine medic trained to both save people and
kill them, was among those struggling to digest the appalling news. "It
makes it harder to do my job," he said, explaining he'll now think twice
about dressing the wounds of injured Iraqis. "If we run across one of
them and he needs my help, it will be harder for me to do it," he added.

(Our Doc Lindstrom felt the same way. As a Navy Corpsman, he wanted to
help people and save lives, but after the wireman incident he added four
grenades to his aid bag).

Many Marines on this desert base - affectionately known as "Snakepit" -
said they believe they were sent to Iraq not to hurt people, but to free
them from Saddam Hussein's ruthless grip. "We want to help these people
and look what they're doing to us," said more than one shocked Marine.

(Exactly what we thought and said at Duong Son in '65)

"What we should do is go in there and kill every last soul," growled
Sgt. Mike Brady. "If they realize that we are going to kill them like
that, they'll be like 'OK, OK, we surrender,' " said the 28-year-old
Texas native. Brady, who mans the twin 50-caliber machine-guns aboard a
Sea Stallion chopper, said he'll be much more wary now when he's flying
over Iraqi positions. He'll no longer give enemy soldiers the benefit of
the doubt when they start waving white flags. "I'm going to be a lot
quicker to pull that trigger if I think they're up to something," he

(Our Sgt. Shireman said almost the same thing, but his version was "no
prisoners, any questions?")

During an air raid yesterday - when everyone rushed into the bomb
shelters with their gas masks and chemical and biological gear - one
Marine's muffled swearing was heard above the din. Repeating the
sneering nickname used for Saddam Hussein, he kept saying, " 'So damn'
insane, 'so damn' insane. I'm going to come up there myself and kill

(Ho Ho, Ho Chi Minh, We're gonna hit you on the chin. Then we'll fire
shot and shell and send you sorry ass to hell!)

Of course, not everyone on the base is calling for blood - yet. Cpl.
Joseph Michinki said he's not convinced the executions actually took
place. "They can fake all kinds of things with video," noted Michinki,
21, of Georgia. "But if that really was Americans being killed, I'd be
pretty pissed," he added.

(This young Marine will learn, eventually. We all do)

Article by Vince Morris, (italic comments by Craig Roberts,
Consolidated Press Int'l)
March 25, 2003
(Reporting from a Marine helicopter base in the Kuwaiti desert)

****Kill'em And Let God Sort'em Out****

The (3rd Infantry) division commander, Maj. Gen. Buford Bloat, is candid
about the threat. "The Bah Party is very well organized and very active
with a lot of forces in Najaf and Samawah," he said in an interview
Monday night. "And they are capable of responding fluidly to us."It has
always been the hope of the American war planners to avoid Iraq's
cities, so as to minimize both American and Iraqi casualties. But there
are doubts. "I think these guys are going to keep coming out and
harassing us," Bloat said. "I think eventually we're going to have to go
in there and kill them. I think we will have to kill them unless we can
get rid of the top guy in Baghdad."

---Michael Kelly, Syndicated Columnist
March 26, 2003

Copyright 2003 The Sierra Times
Permission to reprint/republish granted, as long as you include the name
of our site, the author, and our URL. All Sierra
Times news reports, and all editorials are � 2003
(unless otherwise noted)� A Subsidiary of J.J. Johnson Enterprises, Inc.

R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Gunny G's Old Salt Marines Tavern