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LtCol Mike Christy
Editor and Chief
This month's Dispatches covers topics that are somewhat well known and a couple that may surprise the readers. Whichever the case, hopefully, you will discover something valuable in each of the stories. And as always, if you have a story you would like to submit, please send it to me at Mike.Christy@togetherweserved.com.
1/ The Bizarre Battle of Los Angeles
2/ Profiles in Courage: Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer
3/ Military Myths & Legends: Women of the Vietnam War
4/ Battlefield Chronicles: Operation Union II
5/ Brief History Series: Battle of Cowpens
6/ POW/MIA Recovery Slowdown
7/ TWS: Beta Testers Needed
8/ TWS Bulletin Board
9/ Letters to the Editor
10/ Book Review: Each One A Hero: A Novel of War and Brotherhood
In the early morning hours of February 25, 1942, the city of Los Angeles found itself in the grip of a mass panic. Spurred on byreports of a Japaneseair raid, local military units sounded warning sirens, ordered a mass blackout and lit up the sky withmachine gun fire and over 1,400 anti-aircraft shells. The so-called "Battle of Los Angeles" would eventually drag on for several terrifying hours, yet when the guns finally fell silent, no evidence of an enemy attack was found. Military brass chalked the false alarm up to "jittery nerves" caused by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but it remains one of the most mysterious chapters of World War II.
In the frantic weeks that followed the Pearl Harbor attack, many Americans believed that enemy raids on the continental UnitedStates were imminent. On December 9, 1941, unsubstantiated reports of approaching aircraft had caused a minor invasion panic in New York City and sent stock prices tumbling. Onthe West Coast, inexperienced pilots and radar men had mistaken fishing boats, logs and even whales for Japanese warships and submarines. Tensions were high, and they only grew after U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson warned that American cities should be prepared to accept "occasional blows" from enemy forces. Just a few days later on February 23, 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, and hurled over a dozen artillery shells at an oil field and refinery. While the attack inflicted no casualties and caused only minor damage, it marked the first time that the mainland United States had been bombed during World War II.
The day after the oil field raid, paranoia and itchy trigger fingers combined to produce one of the most unusual home front incidents of the war. It began on the evening of February 24, 1942, when naval intelligence instructed units on the California coast to steel themselves for a potential Japanese attack. All remained calm for the next few hours, but shortly after 2 a.m. on February 25, military radar picked up what appeared to be an enemy contact some 120 miles west of Los Angeles. Air raid sirens sounded and a citywide blackout was put into effect. Within minutes, troops had manned anti-aircraft guns and begun sweeping the skies with searchlights.
It was just after 3 a.m. when the shooting started. Following reports of an unidentified object in the skies, troops in Santa Monica unleashed a barrage of anti-aircraft and .50 caliber machine gun fire. Before long, many of the city's other coastal defense weapons had joined in. "Powerful searchlights from countless stations stabbed the sky with brilliant probing fingers," the Los Angeles Times wrote, "while anti-aircraft batteries dotted the heavens with beautiful, if sinister, orange bursts of shrapnel." Chaos reigned over the next several minutes. It appeared that Los Angeles was under attack, yet many of those who looked skyward saw nothing but smoke and the glare of ack-ack fire. "Imagination could have easily disclosed many shapes in the sky in the midst of that weird symphony of noise and color," Coastal Artillery Corps Colonel John G. Murphy later wrote. "But cold detachment disclosed no planes of any type in the sky - friendly or enemy."
For others, however, the threat appeared to be very real. Reports poured in from across the city describing Japanese aircraft flying in formation, bombs falling and enemy paratroopers. There was even a claim of a Japanese plane crash landing in the streets of Hollywood. "I could barely see the planes, but they were up there all right," a coastal artilleryman named Charles Patrick later wrote in a letter. "I could see six planes, and shells were bursting all around them. Naturally, all of us fellows were anxious to get our two cents' worth in and, when the command came, everybody cheered like a son of a gun." The barrage eventually continued for over an hour. By the time a final "all-clear" order was given later that morning, Los Angeles' artillery batteries had pumped over 1,400 rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition into the sky.
It was only in the light of day that the American military units made a puzzling discovery: there appeared to have been no enemy attack. "Although reports were conflicting and every effort is being made to ascertain the facts, it is clear that no bombs were dropped and no planes were shot down," read a statement from the Army's Western Defense Command.
Ironically, the only damage during the "battle" had come from friendly fire. Anti-aircraft shrapnel rained down across the city, shattering windows and ripping through buildings. One dud careened into a Long Beach golf course, and several residents had their homes partially destroyed by 3-inch artillery shells. While there were no serious injuries from the shootout, it was reported that at least five people had died as a result of heart attacks and car accidents that occurred during the extended blackout. In a preview of the hysteria that would soon accompany the Japanese internment, authorities also arrested some 20 Japanese-Americans for allegedly trying to signal the nonexistent aircraft.
Over the next few days, government and media outlets issued contradictory reports on what later became known as the "Battle of Los Angeles." Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox dismissed the firefight as a false alarm brought on by "jittery nerves," but Secretary of War Henry Stimson echoed Army brass in saying that at least 15 planes had buzzed the city. He even advanced the provocative theory that the phantom fighters might have been commercial aircraft "operated by enemy agents" hoping to strike fear into the public. Stimson later backpedaled his claims, but there was still the matter of the thousands of military personnel and civilians who claimed to have seen aircraft in the skies over L.A. According to an editorial in the New York Times, some eyewitnesses had spied "a big floating object resembling a balloon," while others had spotted anywhere from one plane to several dozen. "The more the whole incident of the early morning of Feb. 25 in the Los Angeles district is examined," the article read, "the more incredible it becomes."
What caused the shootout over Los Angeles? The Japanese military later claimed it had never flown aircraft over the city during World War II, providing fuel for a host of bizarre theories involving government conspiracies and visits by flying saucers and extraterrestrials.Still, the most logical explanation for the firefight is that trigger-happy servicemen and rudimentary radar systems combined to produce a false alarm. In 1983, the Office of Air Force History outlined the events of the L.A. air raid and noted that meteorological balloons had been released prior to the barrage to help determine wind conditions. Their lights and silver color could have been what first triggered the alerts. Once the shooting began, the disorienting combination of searchlights, smoke and anti-aircraft flak might have led gunners to believe they were firing on enemy planes even though none were actually present.
While it's likely that the Battle of Los Angeles was only a mirage, it was still a chilling reminder of the vulnerability that many Americans felt at the beginning of World War II. The Japanese would later hatch several schemes to attack the American mainland - including launching over 9,000 explosives-laden "fire balloons" - yet none of them ever produced the level of mass hysteria that accompanied the phantom shootout over Los Angeles. Even at the time, many journalists noted that it was fitting that the incident had taken place in the home of the film industry. In an article from March 1942, the New York Times wrote that as the "world's preeminent fabricator of make-believe," Hollywood appeared to have played host to a battle that was "just another illusion."
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Profile in Courage - Dakota Meyer
Sergeant Dakota L. Meyer is a United States Marine Corps veteran, the recipient of the Medal of Honor and the New York Times best-selling co-author of 'Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War.' He is also an entrepreneur, having founded a successful construction company in Kentucky.
Meyer earned his Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Ganjgal in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, as part of OperationEnduring Freedom. He is the first living Marine to have received the medal in 38 years and one of the youngest. Humble and soft-spoken, Meyer insists that he is not a hero, and that any Marine would have done the same thing he did in battle.
Born June 26, 1988 and raised in Columbia, Kentucky, he is the son of Felicia Gilliam and Michael Meyer. In 2006, after graduation from Green County High School, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at a recruiting station in Louisville, Kentucky and completed basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
Meyer deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, in 2007 as a scout sniper with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. On his second deployment to Afghanistan with the U.S. Marine/U.S. Army ETT (Embedded Training Team) 2-8, he gained national attention for his heroic actions.
On September 8, 2009, ETT 2-8 led TF (Task Force) Chosin, a combined group of Afghan Army and National Police forces led by a
small team of American advisors and trainers, on a patrol operation near Ganjgal village on their way to meet with village elders. TF Chosin had only 3 months earlier closed down a mountainous border smuggling route between Pakistan and Afghanistan, earning additional ire from the Taliban, who controlled the smuggling routes.
During TF Chosin' s mission planning, it was made clear that no dedicated close air support would be available for the mission but commanders promised artillery support from nearby forward bases. They were promised, however, that helicopter support could be redirected from an operation in a neighboring valley within five minutes. Available intelligence indicated that Taliban fighters were aware of the mission and were setting up ambush positions within Ganjgal village with a forward force of at least 20 fighters.
Just after dawn, after inserting into the valley and approaching Ganjgal, TF Chosin came under heavy machine gun, small arms and RPG fire from at least 100 entrenched Taliban fighters, far more than indicated by intelligence reports. Coalition forces soon found itself pinned down in a deadly three-sided ambush. Initial calls for artillery support were rejected by the command post due to new rules of engagement put in place by Gen. Stanley McChrystal in an effort to reduce civilian casualties. Both an Army artillery NCO and an Air Force Joint terminal attack controller took immediate action to provide the ambushed coalition forces with fire support but were overruled by the command post. ETT 2-8 informed the command post that they were not near the village but were again denied fire support. Calls for emergency helicopter support were also denied because adjacent helicopter assets were tied up and taking fire in support of another operation.
The coalition forces were taking increasing fire and could observe women and children shuttling fresh ammunition to Taliban fighting positions. Within 30 minutes of making contact, the ETT request the command post to provide an artillery barrage of smoke canisters to cover their withdraw. Told that no standard smoke was available, the team requested white phosphorus rounds be used instead to screen their retreat.Nearly an hour later, the white phosphorus rounds landed and the coalition forces retreated under heavy fire a short distance before being pinned once again. By this time, three U.S. Marines, their Navy Corpsman, their Afghan interpreter and several Afghan soldiers had been killed. Taliban snipers were moving into flanking positions when helicopter support finally arrived and began to attack Taliban positions. This arrival allowed the wounded to be pulled out and for three Marines to fight their way back up the hill to retrieve fallen comrades. It was nearly nine hours, including 6 continuous hours of fighting, from initial contact until coalition forces were able to totally disengage from the firefight.
The position occupied by the three dead Marines and the Navy Corpsman had been overrun by the enemy, who stripped the bodies of their gear and weapons. The bodies were recovered after their comrades, including Meyer, braved enemy fire to return to the location.
Meyer suffered a shrapnel wound in one arm and was sent home after the battle with combat-related stress. The loss of his teammates and friends continued to haunt him for years.
An investigation led U.S. Army Col. Richard Hooker and U.S. Marine Col. James Werth was launched into the lack of requested fire and air support. While members of the task force publicly blamed Gen.McChrystal's new ROE's (Rules Of Engagement, as dictated by President Obama), and personnel at the command post agreed, the investigation placed most of the blame on the battalion leadership. It found that three U.S. Army officers at nearby Forward Operating Base Joyce, from Task Force Chosin, a unit comprising soldiers from 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum, N.Y, had exhibited "negligent leadership" which had directly contributed to the loss of life in the battle. Two of the three officers, Maj. Peter Granger and Capt. Aaron Harting were given formal reprimands.
On November 6, 2010-fourteen months after the Battle of Ganjgal-Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, told reporters during a visit to Camp Pendleton, California that a living Marine had been nominated for the Medal of Honor. Two days later, Marine Corps Times, an independent newspaper covering Marine Corps operations, reported that the unnamed individual was Dakota Meyer, citing anonymous sources. CNN confirmed the story independently two days later.
When the White House staff called Meyer to set up a time for President Barack Obama to inform him that his Medal of Honor had been approved, they were told Meyer was working at his construction job and were asked to call again during his lunch break.
When Meyer was reached by phone, a White House staffer went over the details of the Medal of Honor ceremony and other particulars. At the end of the conversation, Meyer asked if he could have a beer with the president. That requests was arranged and on the afternoon before the ceremony, President Obama and Meyer, both in shirtsleeves and ties, sat at a metal patio table on the White House lawn, each with a clear glass mug of ale. During their meeting, Meyer requested that his colleagues at the ambush be honored at the ceremony. President Obama agreed.
This is the story of that day, as told by President Obama himself on Sept. 15, 2011, during the Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House.
"Let me tell the story. I want you to imagine it's September 8, 2009, just before dawn. A patrol of Afghan forces and their American trainers is on foot, making their way up a narrow valley, heading into a village to meet with elders. And suddenly, all over the village, the lights go out. And that's when it happens. About a mile away, Dakota, who was then a corporal, and Staff Sergeant Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, could hear the ambush over the radio. It was as if the whole valley was exploding. Taliban fighters were unleashing a firestorm from the hills, from the stone houses, even from the local school.
"And soon, the patrol was pinned down, taking ferocious fire from three sides. Men were being wounded and killed, and four Americans - Dakota's squadmates and friends - were surrounded. Four times, Dakota and Juan asked permission to go in; four times they were denied. It was, they were told, too dangerous. But as one of his former high school teachers once said, 'When you tell Dakota he can't do something, he is going to do it.' And as Dakota said of his trapped teammates, 'Those were my brothers, and I couldn't just sit back and watch.'
"The story of what Dakota did next will be told for generations. He told Juan they were going in. Juan jumped into a Humvee and took the wheel; Dakota climbed into the turret and manned the gun. They were defying orders, but they were doing what they thought was right. So they drove straight into a killing zone, Dakota's upper body and head exposed to a blizzard of fire from AK-47s and machine guns, from mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
"Coming upon wounded Afghan soldiers, Dakota jumped out and loaded each of the wounded into the Humvee, each time exposing himself to all that enemy fire. They turned around and drove those wounded back to safety. Those who were there called it the most intense combat they'd ever seen. Dakota and Juan would have been forgiven for not going back in. But as Dakota says, you don't leave anyone behind.
"For a second time, they went back - back into the inferno; Juan at the wheel, swerving to avoid the explosions all around them; Dakota up in the turret - when one gun jammed, grabbing another, going through gun after gun. Again they came across wounded Afghans. Again Dakota jumped out, loaded them up and brought them back to safety.
"For a third time, they went back - insurgents running right up to the Humvee, Dakota fighting them off. Up ahead, a group of Americans, some wounded, were desperately trying to escape the bullets raining down. Juan wedged the Humvee right into the line of fire, using the vehicle as a shield. With Dakota on the guns, they helped those Americans back to safety as well.
"For a fourth time, they went back. Dakota was now wounded in the arm. Their vehicle was riddled with bullets and shrapnel. Dakota later confessed, 'I didn't think I was going to die. I knew I was.' But still, they pushed on, finding the wounded, delivering them to safety.
"And then, for a fifth time, they went back - into the fury of that village, under fire that seemed to come from every window, every doorway, every alley. And when they finally got to those trapped Americans, Dakota jumped out. And he ran toward them. Drawing all those enemy guns on himself. Bullets kicking up the dirt all around him. He kept going until he came upon those four Americans, laying where they fell, together as one team.
"Dakota and the others who had joined him knelt down, picked up their comrades and - through all those bullets, all the smoke, all the chaos - carried them out, one by one. Because, as Dakota says, 'That's what you do for a brother.' Dakota says he'll accept this medal in their name. So today, we remember the husband who loved the outdoors -Lieutenant Michael Johnson. The husband and father they called 'Gunny J' - Gunnery Sergeant Edwin Johnson. The determined Marine who fought to get on that team - Staff Sergeant Aaron Kenefick. The medic who gave his life tending to his teammates - Hospitalman Third Class James Layton. And a soldier wounded in that battle who never recovered - Sergeant First Class Kenneth Westbrook.
"Dakota, I know that you've grappled with the grief of that day; that you've said your efforts were somehow a 'failure' because your teammates didn't come home. But as your Commander-in-Chief, and on behalf of everyone here today and all Americans, I want you to know it's quite the opposite. You did your duty, above and beyond, and you kept the faith with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps that you love.
"Because of your Honor, 36 men are alive today. Because of your Courage, four fallen American heroes came home, and - in the words of James Layton's mom - they could lay their sons to rest with dignity. Because of your Commitment - in the thick of the fight, hour after hour - a former Marine who read about your story said that you showed how 'in the most desperate, final hours - Â¦our brothers and God will not forsake us.' And because of your humble example, our kids - especially back in Columbia, Kentucky, in small towns all across America - they'll know that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can do great things as a citizen and as a member of the American family.
"Therein lies the greatest lesson of that day in the valley, and the truth that our men and women in uniform live out every day. 'was part of something bigger,' Dakota has said, part of a team 'that worked together, lifting each other up and working toward a common goal. Every member of our team was as important as the other.'
"So in keeping with Dakota's wishes for this day, I want to conclude by asking now-Gunnery Sergeant Rodriguez-Chavez and all those who served with Dakota - the Marines, Army, Navy - to stand and accept thanks of a grateful nation.
"Every member of our team is as important as the other. That's a lesson that we all have to remember - as citizens, and as a nation - as we meet the tests of our time, here at home and around the world.
"To our Marines, to all our men and women in uniform, to our fellow Americans, let us always be faithful. And as we prepare for the reading of the citation, let me say, God bless you, Dakota. God bless our Marines and all who serve. And God bless the United States of America. Semper Fi."
Following the reading of the citation, President Obama carefully placed the Medal of Honor around the neck of Dakota Meyer as he stood stiffly at attention, eyes straight forward as his proud family, friends and fellow combatants looked on.
As is sometimes the case, however, there was some debate over Meyer's Medal of Honor and questions raised over former U.S. Army Capt. William D. Swenson's recommendation for the Medal of Honor by Marine Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force at the time.
An investigation by McClatchy News Service concluded that the justification for Meyer's decoration may have been inflated and that the nomination for Swenson's Medal of Honor may have been intentionally lost.
On December 14, 2011, McClatchy news outlets published an article which questioned the actual number of lives Meyer saved. The article stated that"crucial parts that the Marine Corps publicized were untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated," but that Meyer "by all accounts deserved his nomination."
Nearly a year later, in September 2012, a McClatchy journalist interviewed nine Afghan soldiers from the Afghan National Army's 1st Kandak, 2nd Infantry Brigade 201st Corps who had been present at the battle. The Afghan soldiers disputed portions of the USMC's account of the battle, stating that the Taliban did not charge Meyer's vehicle and that only two dead Taliban were found after the battle. The Afghan soldiers stated that it was the belated arrival of attack helicopters which finally chased away the Taliban, not the actions of any of the U.S. Soldiers or Marines on the ground. The Afghans added that the three Marines and naval Corpsman, Johnson, Kenefick, Johnson, and Layton, were killed after remaining behind to cover the withdrawal of the Afghan soldiers from the ambush site.
In response to McClatchy's findings, the Marine Corps said it stood by the official citation that was produced by the formal vettingprocess. Asked to explain the individual discrepancies and embellishments, the Marines drew a distinction between the citation and the account of Meyer's deeds that the Marines constructed to help tell his story to the nation. At least seven witnesses attested to him performing heroic deeds "in the face of almost certain death."
Meyer and co-author Bing West wrote the book 'Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War, about the Battle of Ganjgal.' It was published on September 25, 2012. In the book, Meyer makes a case for Army Capt. William D. Swenson to be awarded the Medal of Honor; Swenson had criticized Army officers at the nearby Forward Operating Base Joyce for not providing fire support, the resulting political fallout not conducive to awarding him the medal. Those same officers were later cited following a military investigation for "negligent" leadership leading "directly to the loss of life" on the battlefield.
In August 2012, California Representative Duncan D. Hunter wrote to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta regarding the Medal of Honor nomination of Swenson. In January 2013, Hunter said Swenson's nomination had been awaiting President Obama's approval at the White House since at least July 2012.
Swenson was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 15, 2013
A year after the battle, suffering from PTSD, and after a night of heavy drinking, Meyer attempted suicide with what he thought was a friend's loaded weapon, which turned out to be unloaded.
In September 2011, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear bestowed upon Meyer the honorary title of Kentucky Colonel during an event in his hometown of Greensburg in which Meyer served as grand marshal.
On March 13, 2015, Meyer became engaged to Bristol Palin, daughter of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. After a tumultuous year of on-again, off again relationship and the birth of a daughter together, Meyer and Palin were married on June 8, 2016. In December 2016, Palin announced that she was expecting a girl, the couple's second child together.
Military Myths and Legends: Women of the Vietnam War
It has been estimated that as many as 11,000 women served in Vietnam or in other locations, but over 90% served as nurses. Some served as nurses in evacuation hospitals, MASH units and aboard hospital ships. Others worked in support roles in military information offices, headquarters, service clubs, and various other clerical,medical, and personnel positions. Servicewomen in Vietnam experienced many of the same hardships as their male counterparts and served bravely in dangerous situations. Many were awarded personal citations.
Non-military women also served important roles. They provided entertainment and support to the troops through the USO, the American Red Cross, and other humanitarian organizations. Women working as civilian nurses for USAID (US Agency for International Development) participated in one of the most famous humanitarian operations of the war, Operation Babylift, which brought thousands of Vietnamese orphans to the U.S. for adoption. Additionally, many women reported the war for news and media agencies.
Combat nurses worked twelve-hour shifts six days a week and when a mass casualty incident occurred, like a major battle, those twelve-hour shifts could easily turn into twenty-four to thirty-six hour shifts. Nurses also volunteered their time in the communities around them, often going to the local orphanages or hospitals to offer the civilians their medical services or to teach classes on basic hygiene, first aid or even English. Nurses also had to deal with numerous emotions: stress from the amount of patients they had to serve, anger at seeing young men so horribly wounded and guilt at not being able to save all of the wounded men or make them whole again.
Despite the long hours and sometimes horrifying wounds these women had to face, many nurses found their service rewarding. They were able to serve their country and save and comfort the wounded men in their facilities. During the Vietnam War 98% of the men who were wounded and made it to the hospital survived. Nurses witnessed some truly miraculous events such as men recovering from their wounds or acts of true selflessness that are common during combat situations, and many nurses made close friends with their fellow co-workers some of whom still keep in contact into the present day.
Eight U.S. of these heroic nurses died in Vietnam; six were killed, two died of illnesses. Each dedicated themselves to taking care of the wounded and dying.
See their faces and remember their names. These are their stories.
Lieutenant Colonel Annie Ruth Graham, Chief Nurse at 91st Evacuation Hospital in Tuy Hoa. A native of Efland N.C., she suffered a stroke in August 1968 and was evacuated to Japan where she died four days later. She was a veteran of both WW II and Korea. She was 52.
First Lieutenant Sharon Anne Lane died from shrapnel wounds when the 312th Evacuation Hospital at Chu Lai was hit by rockets on June 8, 1969. From Canton, OH, she was a month short of her 26th birthday.
She was posthumously awarded the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Bronze Star for Heroism. In 1970, the recovery room at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, where Lt. Lane had been assigned before going to Vietnam, was dedicated in her honor. She was 26 years old.
In 1973, Aultman Hospital in Canton, OH, where Lane had attended nursing school, erected a bronze statue of Lane. The names of 110 local servicemen killed in Vietnam are on the base of the statue.
View here service shadow box on TogetherWeServed: 1stLt Sharon Ann Lane
2nd Lt. Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba(L) of Dunmore, Pennsylvania, and 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Ann Jones of Allendale, South Carolina. Both were the first military women killed in the Vietnam War. Both were assigned to the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon. On February 18, 1966, they were on an administrative flight to Dalat aboard a helicopter from the 197th Assault Helicopter Company, 145th Combat Aviation Battalion, when the aircraft struck a high-tension transmission line over a river in the vicinity of Bien Hoa. They died along with five other passengers in a helicopter crash including Jones' fiance. Both were 22 years old.
They are honored on Panel 5E, Row 46 and Panel 5E, Row 47 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Capt. Eleanor Grace Alexander (L) from Westwood, New Jersey, and Lt. Hedwig Diane Orlowski of Detroit, Michigan died on November 30, 1967, when a U.S. Air Force C-7B hit a mountain about 5 miles south of Qui Nhon. The presence of low clouds and rain had reduced visibility to about two miles. It took search and rescue teams five days to locate the crash site in the dense jungle. Twenty-six people were killed in the crash. Four crewmen were lost, two Air Force passengers and 18 U.S. Army personnel, including two U.S. civilians, were also killed in the accident. With them when their plane crashed on the return trip to Qui Nhon were two other nurses, Jerome E. Olmstead of Clintonville, WI, and Kenneth R. Shoemaker, Jr. of Owensboro, KY.
To help in a rush of wounded, both were assigned to temporary duty in Pleiku. Alexander's regular duty was at the 85th Evacuation Hospital and Orlowski was at the 67th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon. Alexander was 27; Orlowski was 23. Both were awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
They are honored on Panel 31E, Row 15 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Second Lieutenant Pamela Dorothy Donovan, from Allston, MA, became seriously ill and died on July 8, 1968, in Gia Dinh Province, South Vietnam, at the age of 26. She was assigned to the 85th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon. She was born in Wirral, Merseyside (in England), UK, March 25, 1942, to Irish parents. The family returned to Dublin, Ireland; and Pam was raised and educated there before the family came to Brighton, Massachusetts.
Capt. Mary Therese Klinker, U.S. Air Force was from Lafayette, Indiana. On April 3, 1975, Klinker was aboard a U.S. Air Force C-5A leaving Saigon and bound for Clark Air Base in the Philippines. She was a part of the initial mission in "Operation Babylift." The C-5 troop compartment carried 145 Vietnamese orphans and seven attendants' en route the United States. The cargo compartment held 102 orphans and 47 others. Twelve minutes after takeoff, the rear loading ramp's locks failed, leading to explosive decompression and massive structural damage. The C-5 touched down in a rice paddy, skidded about 1,000 feet before becoming airborne again, hit a dike, and broke into four parts. The cargo compartment was completely destroyed, killing 141 of the 149 orphans and attendants. Klinker was posthumously awarded the Airman's Medal for Heroism and the Meritorious Service Medal. She was 27 years old.
These eight women embody selfless love, sacrifice, and courage. They are American heroes who volunteered to serve their country.
A grateful country remembers.
American Red Cross
In 1966, the American Red Cross expanded its Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO), a program that provided recreational activities to servicemen posted too far from USOs and other military entertainment facilities. The Red Cross recruited female college graduates between the ages of 21 and 26 to participate in these "Clubmobiles." Soldiers referred to these young women as 'Donut Dollies,' a reference to the Red Cross Donut canteens of World War II.
Donut Dollies often brought along candy, decks of cards, paperback books, mirrors, combs, stationery and other items to distribute to the soldiers. They also set up and staffed more permanent Red Cross recreation centers for troops, which offered coffee, Kool Aid, games, reading libraries, music, and other activities.
The young women serving with the Red Cross provided a valuable respite for soldiers, and played an important role in maintaining the morale of the troops.
Virginia E. (Ginny) Kirsch was born on December 2, 1948, in Erie, PA. Ginny graduated from Brookfield High School in 1966 and from Miami University of Ohio in 1970. In July of 1970, Ginny attended Red Cross training and arrived in Vietnam about two weeks later. She was assigned to the American Red Cross at Cu Chi.
At approximately 3:50 am, August 16, 1970, a man was seen running from the back door of Kirsch's room. She entered Kirsch's room and observed Kirsch on the floor with stab wounds to the throat, left side, left arm, and left finger. Kirsch was transported to the 25th Medical Battalion Dispensary and was pronounced dead from the stab wounds. She was not sexually molested.
Ginny was the first Red Cross worker to have been murdered in the 17-year history of overseas service.
Hannah E. Crews died in a jeep accident, Bien Hoa, October 2, 1969.
Lucinda J. Richter died of Guillain-Barre syndrome, Cam Ranh Bay, February 9, 1971.
Army Special Services
The Army Special Services Program in Vietnam began on July 1, 1966. In pursuit of their mission, the women who served as Special Services librarians and recreation specialists worked long hours in monsoon mud and dusty heat. Because there were far fewer personnel than there were installations requiring their services, they travelled extensively by any available means: jeeps, 2 1/2 ton trucks, helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, and on foot. They endured rocket attacks, mortar barrages, and commando raids mounted against the installations.
They managed permanent libraries, similar to small public libraries in the United States; they directed a variety of recreational programs and activities, from ping pong tournaments to song fests, running them from service clubs; and they coordinated USO tours of entertainers and celebrities, and produced, directed, and acted in little theatre productions at larger base camps.
Rosalyn Muskat died in a jeep accident, Long Binh, 1968.
Dorothy Phillips died in a plane crash, Qui Nhon, 1967.
Central Intelligence Agency
Barbara Robbins was an American secretary employed by the Central Intelligence Agency. She was killed when a bomb exploded in front of the American Embassy, Saigon, on March 30, 1965. Before the explosion, there was a confrontation between the driver and a policeman and Robbins went to the window of her second-story office to see what was happening; she was killed instantly.
She was the first female employee to be killed in action in the CIA's history, the first American woman killed in the Vietnam War and, as of 2012, and the youngest CIA employee to die in action.
United States Agency for International Development Marilyn L. Allen was from Albany, NY. She was a civilian nurse working with the United States Agency for International Development. She was murdered in Nha Trang on August 16, 1967 by a U.S. soldier who then committed suicide.
Dr. Mary Breen Ratterman was born on Jun. 26, 1926 in Los Angeles County. She was in Saigon working with the American Medical Association. She died from a brainstem injury resulting from a fall from an apartment balcony in Saigon, October 2, 1969. She was not married.
United States Department of the Navy Regina "Reggie" Williams died of a heart attack in Saigon, 1964.
Georgette "Dickey" Chapelle was killed by a mine on patrol with Marines outside Chu Lai, November 4, 1965.
Philippa Schuyler was killed in a helicopter crash into the ocean near Da Nang, May 9, 1967.
Missionaries Rev. Archie Mitchell, Dr. Eleanor Ardel Vietti, and Daniel Gerber were taken prisoner in 1962 at the leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot.
It was about 7:45 p.m. when approximately twelve armed men appeared on the compound. Dividing into three groups, one accosted Dan Gerber and tied him up.
Another band went directly to the house of Rev. Archie Mitchell, the administrator. Ordering him out of the house, they tied him up and led him away to join Dan Gerber. The third group crossed over to Dr. Vietti's house and ordered her to the location just outside the compound where Mitchell and Gerber were being held.
About ten that evening they departed in one of the hospital vehicles. Not a shot had been fired. Nor had they attempted to molest any of the Vietnamese or the four missionary nurses on the compound. But their orders were explicit to Mrs. Mitchell and the nurses: they must leave the Leprosarium the following day and not return.
The missionaries who had been left behind informed the authorities in Ban Me Thuot. The next morning U.S. military advisers joined the South Vietnamese soldiers in a search-and-rescue operation. When they got within sight of the abductors and saw they had been heavily reinforced, the American commander reluctantly decided not to attack. He notified Alliance headquarters in Saigon that a rescue attempt would only bring heavy loss of life. Optimism for their early return waned as months went by with little information.
During the years following the abductions, fierce battles were fought in the area. Still, tribesmen coming in from the jungle brought encouraging stories. One Montagnard said he had seen the three captives alive in a mobile VC prison camp. A woman told of seeing two white men and a white woman with a group of VC; the white woman had asked for a Bible. In 1967, Allied soldiers overran a VC jungle hospital and found prescriptions which they claimed only an American doctor could have written.
As late as 1969 negotiations were still under way to get these three people back from the VC. They continue to be listed as POW-MIA.
Janie A. Makil was shot in an ambush while in the arms of her father, who was also killed, at Dalat, March 4, 1963. Janie was 5 months old. Her twin sister, an older sister, an older brother (who was also wounded), and mother survived the ambush.
Carolyn Griswald, Ruth Thompson and Ruth Wilting were killed in a raid on leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot during Tet, February 1, 1968.
Betty Ann Olsen was born to missionary parents in Bouake, Ivory Coast. She had attended a religious school and missionary college in Nyack, New York. Curious about the way the other part of the world lived, she went to Vietnam in 1964 as a missionary nurse for Christian and Missionary Alliance and was assigned to the Leprosarium at Ban Me Thuot, South Vietnam. This center treated anyone with a need as well as those suffering from leprosy.
Betty was captured along with Henry Blood during a raid on a leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot during Tet, Feb. 1, 1968. For months the two and Michael Benge captured a few miles from the hospital, were chained together and moved north from one encampment to another, over 200 miles through the mountainous jungles. The trip was grueling and took its toll on the prisoners. They were physically depleted, sick from dysentery and malnutrition; beset by fungus, infection, leeches and ulcerated sores.
Hank Blood weakened steadily and eventually died of pneumonia. He was buried along the trail by Olsen and Benge. Betty Ann Olsen died September 29, 1968, and was buried by Michael Benge along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Mike Benge survived and was released from Hanoi in 1973 during Operation Homecoming. Betty's remains have not been recovered.
In the late hours of Saturday, October 27, 1972, a small group of North Vietnamese soldiers (NVA) invaded the southern Laotian town of Kengkok where Missions of Many Lands maintained a missionary hospital facility. The communists took Beatrice Kosin and Evelyn Anderson prisoners along with Samuel Mattix and Lloyd Oppel, a Canadian citizen, to a nearby village located in a small clearing surrounded by dense jungle. The men were taken north but the women were tied together.
On November 2, 1972, a radio message from Hanoi was intercepted by U.S. intelligence that ordered the execution of Evelyn Anderson and Beatrice Kosin. Later a captured NVA soldier, who was present during this entire incident, told U.S. military intelligence that after the women were captured; they were placed back to back with their wrists tied with wire around the center post of a hut. He also stated the women remained in that position for five days
Immediately after receiving the order to execute the two nurses, the communists simply set fire to the house where they were being held and burned them alive. Further, the NVA torched some 200 other huts thereby destroying the whole village. Reportedly, a later search of the smoldering ruins revealed the corpse of Miss Anderson with her wrist severed, indicating the struggle she made to free herself. There was no report of the condition of Beatrice Kosin's remains.
Gloria Anne Redlin was a nurse for Lutheran World Relief. Little information is written about the death of Redlin and her companion 1st Sergeant Louis Emil Janca but what is known the pair were returning by moped to Dr. Pat Smith's hospital in Kontum City late at night on October 13, 1970. On the way, they tried to run an ARVN roadblock, not knowing if it was friendly. Sergeant Janca was killed and Gloria Redlin was seriously wounded. She died of her wounds on October 21, 1970.
According to a collection of official records, the number of American civilian women thought to have died were 67. Fifty-nine were civilians, including 37 women volunteers who died when a plane carrying them and Vietnamese orphans crashed on takeoff during Operation Babylift. Eight were military nurses.
Battlefield Chronicles: Operation Union II
Operation Union II was a military operation that took place in the Vietnam War. It was a search and destroy mission in the Que Son Valley carried out by the 5th Marine Regiment. Launched on May 26, 1967, the operation ended June 5. It was a bloody 10-day battle that resulted in 594 NVA killed and 23 captured, while U.S. casualties were 110 killed and 241 wounded.
The Que Son Valley is located along the border of Quang Nam and Quang Tin Provinces in South Vietnam's I Corps. Populous and rice-rich, the valley was viewed as one of the keys to controlling South Vietnam's five Northern provinces by the communists and by early 1967 at least two regiments of the 2nd Division of the People's Army of Vietnam had been infiltrated into the area. The 1st Battalion, 5th Marines (1/5) and 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (3/5), experienced units that had fought in Vietnam since their arrival in the summer of 1966, were assigned to the valley in 1967 to support the outnumbered the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) forces in the area.
From April 21 to May 16, the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines had fought the PAVN 21st Regiment near the Marine outpost on Loc Son Mountain for control of the southern part of the Que Son Valley. Operation Union II was launched on May 26 to destroy the withdrawing remnants of the PAVN with a helicopter assault by the U.S. 5th Marine Regiment, commanded by Col. Kenneth Houghton. The assault was coordinated with ground attacks by the 6th ARVN Regiment and the 1st ARVN Ranger Group.
The operational plan called for 1/5, commanded by Lt. Col. Hilgartner, to establish blocking positions in the western portion of the valley while the 3/5, commanded by Lt. Col. Esslinger, was to make a helicopter assault into the southern part of the valley and sweep northeast.At the same time, the three battalions of the ARVN Ranger Group would attack southwest from Thang Binh, while two units of the 6th ARVN Regiment attacked northwest from a position near Tam Ky. The ARVN named their part of the operation Lien Kit 106.
The operation began the morning of the 26th with the 1/5 and ARVN troop movements proceeding as planned. 3/5, composed of three infantry companies, one weapons company, and a command group, was carried by helicopters to Landing Zone Eagle, an area five kilometers east of the Loc Son outpost. The first two waves to arrive at the landing zone (LZ) experienced only light small arms fire, but as the bulk of the battalion landed, the LZ was subjected to heavy weapon and mortar fire. An attack by Lima and Mike Companies launched to relieve the pressure on the LZ found a well-entrenched PAVN (NVA) force, identified as being elements of the PAVN 3rd Regiment, northeast of the landing zone.
Supported by artillery and air strikes, India Company enveloped the PAVN's flank, and the Marines soon gained the upper hand. By the late afternoon, the Marines had overrun the last PAVN positions, counting PAVN 118 dead for a Marine loss of 38 killed and 82 wounded. The Marine and ARVN forces swept the area for the next three days but contacts declined as the PAVN withdrew from the area. Concluding that the enemy had been routed, the ARVN ended their part of the operation.
Col. Houghton, however, was not convinced and responding to intelligence reports he directed the 5th Marines to continue sweeping the region. On the morning of June 2, the Regiment was sweeping toward the Vinh Huy Village complex. 3rd Battalion 1st Marines encountered 200 PAVN troops entrenched 1,000 meters east of the scene of the May 26th battle, engaging and overrunning the PAVN by 1:30 that afternoon.At the same time the 1st Battalion, pushing forward to relieve pressure on the 3rd, was ambushed by PAVN troops while crossing a 1,000-meter-wide rice paddy. Caught in a crossfire the Marines were pinned down and consolidated their positions while calling artillery and air strikes on enemy positions. During heavy fighting Foxtrot Company, commanded by Capt. James A. Graham, was decimated. Capt. Graham was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for defending to the last his company's dead and wounded.
At 2 p.m. Col. Houghton, commander of 1/5 called for the commitment of the First Marine Divisions Reserve "Bald Eagle Reactionary Force," a battalion sized reactionary force unit made up of three different companies from different battalions, commanded by Lt. Col. Mallett C. Jackson Jr., the Battalion Commander of 2/5, to include Jackson's own Echo Co. 2/5; Delta Co. 1/7; and Echo Co. 2/7. At 7 p.m., in total darkness, the Bald Eagle Reactionary Force units of E-2/5 and D-1/7 were inserted by helicopter northeast of the fortified enemy positions and quickly moved south to engage the (NVA) PAVN's left flank positions in order to relieve battle pressure on the 5th Marine units of 1/5, 2/5, and 3/5, that were now pinned down by a large entrenched NVA force.
The Bald Eagle Reactionary Force companies of Echo 2/5 and Delta 1/7 quickly moved forward and were soon hit with heavy automatic weapons fire and heavy barrages of large 82 mm high explosive mortar rounds by the well-entrenched NVA enemy force. It was only whenE-2/5 and D-1/7 came under attack that Lt. Col. Mallett C. Jackson Jr. and his S-3 Operations Officer, Maj. Richard Esau who were together in a fighting hole in the middle of this attack when word came over the command radio, that the pressure had been taken off the pinned down companies of the 5th Marines. Delta Company 1/7 had taken many casualties and their 2nd Platoon Commander, Lt. David Harris radioed requests for medevac choppers, but all requests were denied because of the extreme darkness.
In desperation, Lt. Harris repeatedly called out several SOS's and MAYDAY's for an emergency medevac on the radio. Quickly the voice of Capt. N.J. Chilewski, the pilot of a large CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter that had just dropped off the Bald Eagle Reactionary Force Marines of Echo 2/7 at the original landing zone, had taken off and now was flying at an altitude of 2,000 feet. His reply back was "Of course we would" and with the help of a D-1/7 strobe light, the chopper was guided into the landing zone directly in the middle of the battlefield. The Marines with life-threatening wounds were loaded aboard the chopper and were flown back to the hospital for medical treatment. When the chopper returned to its Da Nang Airbase, it was noted that the chopper had received a total of 57 holes in its sides from the exploding mortar rounds and automatic weapons fire during the battlefield landing.
Later Col. Hilgartner described the insertion of the Bald Eagle Division Reactionary Force, led by Lt. Col. Mallet C. Jackson as crucial and helped change the dynamic in favor of the Marine.
The sudden presence of the strong Division Reactionary Force on its northern flank caused the NVA (AVN) units to disengage and make a hasty withdrawal to the southwest, but the move proved costly to them. Once the NVA (PAVN) soldiers left the protection of their fortifications, they were easy targets for the Marines supporting arms fire. The action of June 2 - 3 marked the last significant battle of Operation Union II.
Total enemy casualties were 701 killed and 23 captured, a favorable ratio to 110 Marines killed and 241 wounded. For actions in both Union I and Union II the 5th Marines and all units under its operational control, including the division reactionary force companies of Delta Company 1/7 Marines and Echo 2/7 Marines received the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions during Operation Union II.
The unwelcome discovery of a strong enemy force on its northern flank prompted the PAVN forces to attempt a hasty withdrawal during the night, exposing themselves to Marine supporting arms fire. Meanwhile, the 5th Marines regrouped and evacuated casualties. The Marines themselves suffered 71 killed and 139 wounded in the battle. The following morning, when the battalions swept the battle area, 476 PAVN dead were counted in and around the contested rice paddy and its formidable hedgerow complex. 31 weapons were captured.
Leaving a rear guard to slow pursuit, the main body of the PAVN withdrew rapidly, escaping to rearm and refit, a process that would eventually allow them to launch new attacks in September. However, for three months, the PAVN 2nd Division was no longer an effective fighting force. The entire 5th Regiment received the Presidential Unit Citation (US) awarded by President Lyndon Johnson.
Brief History Series: The Battle of Cowpens
In the early morning of January 17, 1781, in South Carolina, American troops under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan defeated a force under British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton in one of the more decisive victories for the Americans in the south during the Revolutionary War.
In late 1780, the American commander-in-chief of the southern theater, Nathanael Greene, made the daring decision to split his already limited number of troops in the face of a superior force under British Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis. Accordingly, part of Greene's force was given to Daniel Morgan. The British saw Morgan's troops as a threat to some crucial posts, so Cornwallis sent troops under up-and-coming commander Banastre Tarleton to take on Morgan.
When word reached Morgan of Tarleton's approach, he decided to face his enemy in a cow pasture called Cowpens rather than risk being overrun while trying to cross the Broad River. Knowing Tarleton favored frontal attacks, Morgan deployed his infantry troops into three lines - meant to exhaust the energy and resources of the British - with his dragoons positioned in reserve behind the third line.
When Tarleton's men arrived, they were met by fire from riflemen in Morgan's first line, who after a few shots withdrew to join the second line, composed of militia. Morgan had instructed the militia to fire two volleys at the approaching British and then retire, which they did. Seeing the American militia appearing to flee, Tarleton sent dragoons after them, but they were met by the American dragoons, led by Lieutenant Colonel William Washington.
The British infantry had been stunned by the fire from the American's first two lines and now faced the third line, predominately composed of experienced Continental troops overseen by Lieutenant Colonel John Howard. Meanwhile, Tarleton sent his reserve infantry and additional dragoons to try to outflank their opponents on the Americans' right. The Americans on that side were commanded to turn to face the British, but the order was misunderstood, and they instead began marching to the rear, triggering a retreat in neighboring parts of the line. The confusion was corrected, however, and they turned to face the British in time. Those Americans were joined in the fight by the militia of the first and second lines, who had circled around the back of the American position.
Morgan's near-genius plan worked, and the Americans decimated the British. Although the two forces were relatively evenly matched, with roughly 1,000 men each, the British sustained 110 killed and 830 captured or wounded, while the Americans had 12 killed and 61 wounded. The battle wiped out nearly all of Tarleton's force, striking a serious blow to Cornwallis's army.
POW/MIA Recovery Slowdown
By John Stryker Meyer
Two Green Beret associations are frustrated that only one veteran listed as missing from the Vietnam War has been publicly announced as accounted for since June 9. They expressed bitter disappointment that a new director hasn't been appointed to the DoD's Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA) since the sudden departure of Director Michael Linnington eight months ago.
In October, knowledgeable sources told SOFREP that a replacement for Linnington was selected, but before any formal announcement of that candidate's name - another Army general - was publicly made, that man withdrew from consideration. This further clouded the DPAA top leadership selection process for an agency formed over two years ago to bring together three separate federal organizations to improve U.S. efforts to account as fully as possible for U.S. servicemen and designated civilians still missing from the Vietnam War. The wheels of change that led to the formation of DPAA began rolling in early 2014 when then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed the undersecretary of defense for policy to reorganize the DoD's efforts to account for personnel missing from our nation's past conflicts. Hagel said, "Finding, recovering, and identifying the remains of these individuals is one of our highest responsibilities, and I believed that the DoD could more effectively and transparently account for our missing personnel while ensuring their families receive timely and accurate information." In 2015, the DPAA was formed through the consolidation of three federal organizations: the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), based in the D.C. area; the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) based in Hawaii, where two of three forensic laboratories are located and from which search teams are launched on missions to recover unaccounted-for Americans; and the Air Force's Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory (LSEL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. LTG Mike Linnington was the first DPAA director, appointed in June 2015 for what he announced would be a 10-year tour of duty with the fledging federal, merged agency. However, Linnington resigned last June after one year on the job, thus necessitating a search for a new director that continues today. That resignation occurred just five days before the National League of POW/MIA Families 47th Annual Meeting, where Richard Childress, the league's senior policy advisor, characterized Linnington as a "shooting star that appeared briefly" in the decades-long effort to bring home missing Americans. Childress, who has worked on this issue with the league and the government for more than 40 years - including eight as director for Asian affairs in Reagan's National Security Council - added that Linnington' s "sudden departure has set the issue back once again, especially given his previous stance that this was an abiding priority for him." Since Linnington's departure, the acting DPAA director is Mrs. Fern Sumpter Winbush. A recently retired Army colonel, she was hired by her former boss, Mike Linnington, on Oct. 27, 2015, to formulate policy, oversee business development, and increase outreach initiatives to achieve the agency's goal of providing families and the nation with the "fullest possible accounting of missing personnel from past conflicts," according to a DoD release. Today, there are more than 82,000 Americans technically considered missing and otherwise unaccounted for from Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War, and World War II, though most acknowledge that nearly half of the 73,000 unaccounted for from WWII are unrecoverable, deep-sea losses. Earlier this year, the only Southeast Asia recovery by DPAA was the return of Marine Corps Reserve Officer 1st Lt. William C. Ryan, the first person since June 9, 2016, announced as accounted for from the Vietnam War. He was listed as KIA/BNR (Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered) on May 11, 1969, after his Phantom F-4B jet was hit by enemy fire while on a bombing pass over Savannakhet Province, Laos. Today, there is still 1,617 U.S. personnel missing and otherwise unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, including 50 Green Berets listed as missing or killed in action while fighting in the secret war in Laos. They are among the 300 still unaccounted for in Laos, including aviators who supported the secret war. "Although we appreciate DPAA's efforts in the accounting mission, we are astounded at DoD's lack of progress in appointing a new director," said Mike Taylor, chairman of the Special Operations Association/Special Forces Association's joint POW/MIA Committee. Taylor, who fought over five years in the secret war, added, "No doubt the selection process has been complicated by the change in administrations, but this process has taken far too long. We were told that the first person selected withdrew his application and that the DoD then did an internal search for a director within the ranks of the Senior Executive Service, but found no one. Then, we were told that the position would be posted anew in USAJOBS, but there is no evidence that this has occurred to date. "What makes this particularly difficult to understand for both of our associations and the (National) League (of POW/MIA Families) is the fact that we have endorsed a highly qualified candidate with vast experience in this arena, a man who has proven himself with his leadership and diplomatic skills, while correcting internal dysfunctional problems he inherited and gaining the respect of family and veterans groups. Our recommendations and input regarding criteria for selection have apparently been ignored. Our associations and the league are mystified as to why this talented, dedicated candidate was not selected. On a personal level, this makes me question who doesn't want to select a good leader and why?"
"We're trying hard to support the DPAA with Congress and the administration regarding budget requests and the need for new, dynamic leadership, but sometimes it feels as if we are trying harder than they are." Green Beret Cliff Newman, who served two tours of duty fighting in the secret war, has returned twice to Southeast Asia with DPAA recovery teams in unsuccessful attempts to locate the remains of two Green Berets and four helicopter crew members who died in Laos during the secret war. He pointed out an additional concern among all Vietnam veterans and families of Vietnam veterans: "Every day that is delayed going into Southeast Asia, the acidic soil there eats away at the remains of our dead service members. Naturally, we share the concerns of all families from all wars who have loved ones unaccounted for from World War II, Korea, or Vietnam, but in Southeast Asia, Vietnam veterans share a heightened sense of urgency due to the acidic soil." Experts said it is the most acidic in the world, and that it is destroying not only the remains of our missing in action, but it's eating away at their bones and teeth, literally destroying the evidence needed by DPAA recovery teams. Additional confusion on this issue was sparked in 2009 when Congress mandated the Pentagon to develop the capacity and capability to identify up to 200 missing-in-action personnel by 2015 - a number that officials admitted could not be met in 2015 or last year. The mandate didn't stipulate actually recovering 200 remains, just to develop "the capacity and capability" to identify up to 200 a year. Thus, there's been pressure both within the ranks of the DPAA and from WWII and Korean War families to place more emphasis and resources on recovering remains of service members from those wars. They say that the DPAA will recover more remains, for example from one WWII bomber crew of 10 or 11 men, than digging in the jungles of SEA for one or two U.S. personnel. Reflecting a division within DPAA ranks, in 2015 the Honolulu Star Advertiser newspaper quoted DPAA Deputy Director, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Spindler, saying, "Right now we're focusing (on Southeast Asia) in the near term, even though the cost is high." Spindler, who was appointed in September 2015, said the DPAA will develop a "campaign plan" as part of a long- term plan where "we know that we are going to shift probably in our main focus, out of Southeast Asia and into the Pacific and World War II into Europe."
No DPAA official has publicly countered Spindler's comment. Spindler remains on the job and there are others in DPAA leadership roles pushing for numbers over SEA recovery efforts, which further concerns Vietnam veterans.
Taylor's response to Spindler's unanswered comment was, "It is certainly unwelcome news for us, something we'll minimalize, but he confirms what others at DPAA are publicly denying." For example, in April 2015, DoD staff said it would disinter the remains of 388 sailors and Marines who were killed aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor in WWII. The remains of these 388 servicemen were interred in U.S. soil at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly known as the Punchbowl, though not individually identified. In 2015, the deputy secretary of defense directed disinterment of these losses and, with modern forensic sciences, larger numbers can now be identified, but will such an effort negatively impact SEA efforts? Regardless of who is appointed, there are many major challenges awaiting the second DPAA director: 1. Improving agency morale. 2. Lowering priority on WWII disinterment and IDs, and restoring the priority on accounting for Vietnam War missing, where there are still 1,617 Americans unaccounted for. 3. Improving internal agency communications 4. Improving agency links with Laos and Vietnam. Cambodia has been fully cooperative for many years 5. Supporting an effort to renew and restore the work of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs (USRJC) 6. There are more than 600 military personnel and civilians assigned to the DPAA. These resources are always subject to change based on funding and the priorities of the DPAA director, which in 2016 included: Field activities: with 239 civilian and military personnel who deploy on investigations/recovery missions, explosive ordnance disposal technicians, medics, field communications, and forward-based personnel Support and administration: 162 personnel, logisticians, policy officials, operations planners, finance specialists, and external communications staff Research and analysis: 113 personnel including historians, analysts, researchers, and archivists Forensics: 88 people including anthropologists, archaeologists, odonatologists, lab and evidence technicians, and a medical examiner.
Besides the director's position, there are more than two dozen skilled positions in the new agency that have not been filled. There has also been an effort to discourage retaining skilled, long-term civilian positions, dedicated people bringing historical knowledge and political insights, and to instead replace them with military personnel - men and women who spend two to three years at the agency, get their career ticket punched for a joint assignment, then move on. Some care more about career advancement than recovering America's unreturned veterans, though most are genuinely motivated and some cite their tour with the accounting mission as the most meaningful of their entire military career. In addition to these issues, the Feb. 10 edition of the National League of POW/MIA Families newsletter "update" pointed out several slowdowns in Vietnam War accounting missions, at a time when SEA political leaders are more willing than ever to work with the U.S. on this humanitarian issue: A joint field recovery mission in Cambodia was cancelled, the only one scheduled for 2017, before it was rescheduled in March. But, due to funding issues, the reduced scope of the planned recovery mission's in-country time has been dropped from 60 to 30 days. "The unwelcome Cambodia-related news led to a further discovery that, also due to a funding shortage, the DPAA had drastically cut the Vietnam JFA (Joint Field Activity) due to begin in February. The JFA in Laos was also postponed by three weeks due to an aircraft breakdown and delay," the update stated. Additionally, the newsletter said DPAA budget requirements will not permit the funding in the fiscal year 2017 needed to "increase the pace and scope of operations as has repeatedly been requested by Vietnam - DPAA has not yet provided clarification on any of the budget-related questions, but the full explanation should be provided without further obfuscation." Last, but not least, the update reiterated a key point that Taylor made regarding the search for a new director: "The selection official, then-acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Brian KcKeon, apparently didn't share our sense of urgency to replace retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Linnington. Hopefully, this means that the Trump administration will carefully consider recommendations provided by the league, Special Operations Association, Special Forces Association, and others. Up to now, there has been no indication that serious qualifications - experience, character, commitment, and dedication to the mission - were given any consideration, nor crucial factors such as having earned the trust and respect of affected families, veterans, and foreign officials whose willingness to authorize necessary cooperation is critical to success." About the Author Born on Jan. 19, 1946, John Stryker Meyer entered the Army Dec. 1, 1966, completed basic training at Ft. Dix, N.J., advanced infantry training at Ft. Gordon, Ga., jump school at Ft. Benning, Ga., and graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course in Dec. 1967. He arrived at FOB 1 Phu Bai in May 1968, where he joined Spike Team Idaho, which transferred to Command & Control North, CCN in Da Nang, January 1969. In October 1969 he rejoined RT Idaho at CCN. That tour of duty ended suddenly in April 1970. Today he is a program director at the Veterans Affordable Housing Program, based in Orange, CA and joined the SOFREP team of correspondents in March 2015. He has written two non-fiction books on SOG secret wars: 'Across The Fence: The Secret War in Vietnam - Expanded Edition,' and Co-Authored 'On the Ground: The Secret War in Vietnam' with John E. Peters, a member of RT Rhode Island.
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TWS Bulletin Board
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Volunteer of the Month SMSgt Gary Wiesner
US Air Force (Ret)
SMSgt Wiesner has been a member of Air Force Together We Served since Jun 14, 2012.
In 2013 Gary joined our Volunteer Profile Assistance (VPA) Team where he checks each and every new profile to make sure they get at least one unit added to their page. Our VPA is our front line and the first people most of our new members have contact with. Gary is here day in and day out, reaching out to our members and answering questions.
Thank you, Gary, for all your hard work to make AFTWS the best it can be.
Service Reflections Video of the Month
Up Close and Personal Video Interview With TWS Member GySgt Paul Moore. US Marine Corps (Ret). WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War Vet.
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From Our TWS Historian
We are preparing for future developments in a new feature as in a battle page. We will have maps, videos, units, descriptions, documents and display everyone's personal battle memories. In preparation, if you have any documents like say AARs or battle reports or maps send them to email@example.com.
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Roger A. Gaines
LTC, SC (Ret US Army)
TWS Senior Military Advisor
Chief Historian and Database Manager
TWS 3rd All Service Reunion 2017
Our 3rd "All Service" Reunion dates have been set! A year from now we will be in New Orleans! Come join us!
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If you do, please contact Diane Short at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss doing a presentation for your reunion.
VA and Other News
Message from VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin
I am grateful to President Trump and to members of Congress for entrusting me with the privilege of serving Veterans and the dedicated employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs as your secretary. It is my highest professional honor.
Together, we'll ensure our nation's obligation to provide care and benefits to those "who shall have borne the battle" and fulfill our institutional I CARE Values: integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect, and excellence.
That obligation and those values are sacred to me, first, as an American - a beneficiary of the service and sacrifices of Veterans and their families who defend our uniquely American freedoms and opportunities. They're also sacred to me because my father served the nation as an Army psychiatrist, and both my grandfathers were Army Veterans. My paternal grandfather served as the chief pharmacist at the VA hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, and as a young doctor, I trained in VA hospitals. So, serving the nation and serving Veterans is a family tradition.
It was a privilege to serve as VA's Under Secretary for Health over the past year and a half. Now, I look forward to continuing our collective efforts across the department and our country to deliver the care and services our Veterans need and deserve. Among many critical efforts already underway, we will continue building on significant progress increasing access for Veterans, preventing suicide, addressing unique needs of women Veterans, supporting Veterans' families and caregivers, continuing to drive down the disability backlog and Veteran homelessness, and pursuing necessary legislation to reform the outdated appeals process and for other critical legislative priorities.
With the support of the president, Congress, Veterans, their service organizations, and the American people, we - the dedicated employees of VA - will continue to fulfill President Lincoln's promise.
There is no nobler mission. There is no higher calling for any American. I am humbled and proud to serve with you.
Dr. David Shulkin
Remains of Marine shot down during Vietnam War heading home after 48 years
A Marine radar intercept officer missing nearly 48 years after he was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War has been accounted for after his remains were found last year, the Bergen Record reports.
The remains of Marine Corps Reserve 1st Lt. William (Billy) Ryan, of Bogota, N.J. (left in photo) were identified through DNA tests conducted by the Defense Pow/MIA Accounting Agency at the Pentagon, the paper reported Friday.
Ryan's plane crashed on a combat mission in southern Laos near the Vietnam border on May 11, 1969, the day before his son's first birthday.
"I always knew my dad died in the crash, and that's what my mom told me," Michael Ryan, 48 told the paper. "What she didn't tell me is that part of her held out hope that maybe she'd see his face again."
His aircraft was pulling out of a bombing run when it was hit by enemy fire. The pilot bailed out and was rescued.
Ryan was also shot down in 1968 over the Gulf of Tonkin but he survived that crash.
According to the Record, military investigators went to the Laos crash site in 1990 and found his plane seat.
Investigators visited the site on six other occasions from May 2012 to January 2016 to look for remains.
A lab identified the remains as Ryan's and notified Michael last month.
The next day Ryan's widow Judith was diagnosed with stage-4 stomach cancer.
"I don't know, it's strange to me," Michael told the paper. "We've waited 48 years for this. And now I'm looking up at God and saying, 'Can you give this woman a week to celebrate?'"
Billy Ryan will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on May 10, the eve of the crash anniversary.
Courts Nix VA's Slow Roll on Emergency Care Claims
The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims rejected a motion from the Department of Veterans Affairs asking that it be allowed to stop taking steps toward reimbursing hundreds of thousands of veterans for non-VA emergency care costs until higher courts rule on VA's appeal. The latest ruling ensures VA will start the process required to begin paying veterans' emergency room bills.
VA to Begin Processing Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Claims
The Department of Veterans Affairs expects a surge of compensation claims totaling more than $2.2 billion from veterans exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune, N.C., but nothing compared to the "tidal wave" of cases that came out of the Agent Orange class-action suit.
After years of lawsuits and appeals, acts of Congress and amendments since the contaminated water at the Marine Corps base was confirmed in the 1980s, the VA will begin accepting claims March 14 for disabilities stemming from eight presumptive conditions.
A final hurdle to the compensation process emerged with the inauguration of President Donald Trump and his order blocking new federal regulations, which appeared to override rules approved in the last days of President Barack Obama's administration.
However, the office of Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said last week, "The White House has granted an exemption. This means the Camp Lejeune regulation will go into effect on March 14, 2017, as scheduled."
All of the Lejeune claims initially will be handled by the VA's Louisville, Ky., Regional Office (RO), Thomas Murphy, VA's acting undersecretary for benefits, said at a House Committee on Veterans Affairs (HVAC) subcommittee hearing last week.
"Ideally, we want to keep them in the one RO" in Louisville, where a Center of Excellence has been set up to deal with presumptive claims, Murphy said. "But if they can't handle the volume, we're going to have to train another and expand it, so we'll have to keep a very close eye on that."
Patriot Assistance Dogs
Patriot Assistance Dogs (PAD) trains dogs to assist veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD, traumatic brain injury or a related psychiatric issue. Founded by trainer Linda Wiedewitsch, PAD has paired up around 100 service dogs with veterans since its founding in 2011. The goal of Patriot Assistance Dogs is to place these dogs with the veterans and at no charge to the veterans.
For more information, visit the Patriot Assistance Dogs web site and follow PAD on Facebook: http://www.patriotassistancedogs.org/
The National Coast Guard Museum Association is proud to offer our supporters the opportunity to be a National Coast Guard Museum "Plankowner." As many of you know, in nautical terms a Plankowner is any individual who served as an original crewmember on a new vessel. Anyone can become a Plankowner by simply establishing a recurring donation of any amount and by utilizing an Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) deduction through your banking institution. In return, you will be honored with your own Plankowner Certificate, a beautifully hand-drawn work of art by retired Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Schon Russell. To become a National Coast Guard Museum Plankowner, visit CoastGuardMuseum.org/plankowner
Requesting Donations for Flight Engineers Reunion
Dear Family, Friends, Colleagues and Associates,
As many of you might know, I was a Flight Engineer and flew JOLLY GREEN GIANT helicopters while serving with the 129th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. After many years, we have planned a Reunion of the Flight Engineers who flew together from 1975 to 1991. The Reunion will be this coming September.
I am seeking donations to help defray expenses of the Reunion and to support any of our members who may need financial assistance to attend the Reunion. Any remaining funds will be donated to Military Veterans Assistance Organizations. A campaign has been initiated at Go Fund Me to help get this request out to all and to provide background information explaining what we did.
I was cleaning out a place in Paxton Florida. The guy was on drugs and passed away.
I helped his mother clean the place up and found a bag of challenge coins. His mother said he was never in the military and didn't know of anyone in the family that has ever served. She was going to throw them away and I refused to let them go.
I brought them home with me and took pictures of them and advertised in my area. Nobody came forward to claim them. Of course not everyone has Facebook so I am reaching out to try to find the owner or their family. I've tried google searches and nothing.
If you can identify them or would like them, please contact me.
Shipmates of SN David Ouellet
I am working on a memorial ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of my uncle, David G Ouellet. He was killed during the Viet Nam War and is a Medal of Honor recipient. The ceremony would be held in May or June 2017, in Massachusetts.
My family was hoping to make contact with some of the servicemen that may have been with him at the time of his death.
Were You on a YW?
My name is Raymond Melninkaitis. I am the Director of Corporate Resources for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association. I want to interview Navy personnel that served on hull type YW (water camels) in the bays and harbors of Vietnam. The object is to define the role of these vessels during the Vietnam War as to where they obtained their water and where it was delivered. This effort will play a crucial role in the reinstatement of presumption to the Vietnam Blue Water Navy with respect to exposure to Dioxins contained in herbicides, aka Agent Orange. Please contact me at email@example.com. Thank you.
Raymond G. Melninkaitis
Director Corporate Resources
Do You Remember Me?
I am looking for anyone who may remember me from Dyess AFB, 1965 - 1969. I was a Crew Chief on a C-130E, tail Number 7886. I also worked in Phase Inspection.
I am in quite a dispute with Veterans Benefits folks and they would like to hear from anyone who remembers me flying from Clark AFB, the Philippines in and out of Vietnam --- Oct. and Nov. -- 1968. They have no record and are denying me entitled benefits.
Officers Who Served With PFC Michael Conrad Roell
We are looking for the names of any military officers who may have served in the Vietnam War, and knew PFC. Michael Conrad Roell, Vietnam Casualty, 26 May 1967.
Based on information provided by Michael's brother Edward J. Roell, the family's parents received a letter from 25 military officers who signed the letter expressing Michael's bravery. They expressed Michael should be honored for the Medal of Honor. His brother, Edward was a young teenager at the time the letter was given to the family.
The letter is lost. The military eyewitnesses who signed the letter is required for consideration to award Michael, The Medal of Honor. It's my understanding, The Awards and Decorations Branch of The United States Army, Fort Knox, TN, require additional support by at least 4 military officers who signed the letter or knew of his bravery.
This is very important to the family and for Michael.
Note: Edward J. Roell can be reached by telephone cell: 201-800-3960 or 201-664-3740.
State Senator Gerald Cardinale assured his support for Mr. Edward Roell's brother Michael.
Jack A. Fornaro
Legislative Aide to Senator Gerald Cardinale
Legislative District 39, Bergen County NJ
F.Y.I. BROOKLYN'S 150TH MEMORIAL DAY PARADE
TO KICK OFF ON MAY 29, 2017 AT 11:00 AM
Brooklyn, New York -- Veterans, bands, civic and corporate groups, schools and church groups will all muster on May 29, 2017, at 11:00 AM to march in Brooklyn's sesquicentennial Kings County Memorial Day Parade. Parade Chairman, Raymond P. Aalbue said, "Veterans from the Grand Army of the Republic and the Mexican-American War along with active duty Soldiers and local residents met 150 years ago to plan a memorial march to honor their comrades who died during the Civil War. The first parade was along Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway in May 1867. We are honored to have carried on the tradition in Bay Ridge after it was moved here over 30 years ago." Marching bands, floats, military units, vintage autos and military vehicles, the NYPD and FDNY will all march side-by-side with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, high school bands and many other youth organizations. This year, special guests include the US Air Force Honor Guard from Washington D.C. and the Veteran Corps of Artillery. The Grand Marshals are Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, Jr. USMC (Ret) and Korean War Veteran Prisco DeAngelis. A Veteran does not have to belong to a Veteran Service Organization to participate and there will be floats and cars for those who are not able to march. All Veterans are invited to march.
Parade route: Parade kicks off promptly at 11 AM on 3rd Ave. & 78th St. and runs along 3rd Ave. to Marine Ave., up to 4th Ave. and over to John Paul Jones Park for a memorial service. Come out to honor all the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in selfless service to our country.
General membership meetings to plan and discuss the logistics of the parade are held at the US Army Garrison Fort Hamilton Post Chapel, building 219 on Grimes Road at 7:00 PM on the following dates: April 18 and May 16. You must call 917-886-0784 if you wish to attend a meeting. Go to www.brooklynmemorialdayparade.com and like us on FaceBook at Brooklyn's 150th Memorial Day Parade.
For more information call Scott Dinkel at 917-838-9602
Help an Old Marine
Celebrate his 99th Birthday!
MGySgt Loren Wesley Moulton
1st Marine Division, USMC
WWII Veteran 99th Birthday & Military Service Celebration
March 15, 2017, 12 noon
At his home:
308 Madison Drive
Ruther Glen, Virginia 22546
Master Gunnery Sergeant Loren Wesley Moulton, USMC (Ret), will be turning 99 years old in May 2017. The American Legion Posts within our area are joining forces with other organizations in planning a Birthday & Military Service Celebration for MGySgt Moulton to be held on March 15, 2017, at 12 Noon at his home.
MGySgt Moulton is bedridden & cannot be moved, nor can he be around people due to his medical condition. His bedroom window allows him to see outside from his bed. His Military Service & 99th Birthday celebration will take place outside his bedroom window so he can look out to see & hear the gathered friends.
The Lead Coordinators for this Celebration are members from American Legion Post 221 (Caroline) and American Legion Post 55(Fredericksburg). Veteran organizations & Military organizations are invited to attend and be present as we honor Master Gunnery Sergeant Moulton at his home.
MGySgt Moulton, due to his age and medical health, will have his 99th Birthday & Military Service celebrations moved up to March 15, 2017, at Noon.
You and your organization members are invited to attend the celebration honoring Master Gunnery Sergeant Moulton at his home on March 15, 2017 at Noon so we can wish him a Happy 99th Birthday & Celebrate this WWII Veteran's Military Service.
Your writing is great! I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles in the TWS Dispatches.
This time, I think the most memorable line is "... the beach, where he flagged down a U.S. destroyer that happened to be sailing off the coast"--just how does one "flag down a destroyer"? ~Gene Burnham
LT, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Great job; Wonderful Journalism/Writing/Reliving History/Story telling!! Garwood & Puller on the same page; some may view as very sacrilegious; God Bless America/Semper Fi: ~Marcus P .Merwin
U.S. Marine Corps
Your readers might be interested in this operation that occurred in December, 1969. It was a rescue operation that was launched from NKP Thailand to rescue two downed pilots. The operation took 3 days to get the survivor out (Code named Boxer 22). You can Google this operation by searching for "All for one, the rescue of Boxer 22."
There is an overview of the book written about this operation, the book is very expensive but worth it to me because I was the end of runway when he came in on the Jolly Green. Thinking about it still brings a tear to my eye. When the shot up chopper set down, my crew and myself ran over to it to see if they needed help no when we got there a beat up, jungle moss covered bruised pilot stuck his head out the door and said, "thanks boys, the beer is on me". I will never forget. If you research the Google web site there is another story from one of the chopper pilots involved in this operation. ~Ed Dotto
U.S. Air Force
The Last POW of the Vietnam War Just read the account of the last American POW of the Vietnam War. I find that story similar to one written about Ronald Alley, a Korean War POW when returned home was charged with collaborating with the enemy, served prison time. Interesting book, "A Soldier's Disgrace." If interested in learning more I can help. ~John P. Schwartz
U.S. Air Force 1955-60
When I clicked on your news update for Sunday, I was truly surprised. The first story listed was about Bobby Garwood. This is of real importance to me as I am related to him through marriage. My uncle, my father's brother, married a woman whose married name was Garwood, from a previous marriage, and she had a son named Bobby. Ever since I first heard about this, years ago, I was interested in getting as much information on it as I could. I found a newspaper article that talked about him. The article talks about a movie that came out starring Ralph Macchio, as Garwood, and Martin Sheen as a fellow POW. The article reported that this movie would be seen on TV. Channel 3 at 8 P.M. on Monday. I do not have the date of the article. I have been looking for the movie hopefully on a DVD and a book, but so far no luck. It is not that I like what he did but since he is a family member, by marriage, I wish to add him to my genealogy. Thank you for having that article, I copied it for my records. ~TSgt Francis McMillian
U.S. Air Force
I read your article on Robert Garwood with interest. While serving with the 1131st SAS in the early '70's, we had multiple reports of Garwood and his collaboration with the VC as well as reports of his having crossed into Northern Thailand late in '73 or early '74 before returning via Laos to North Vietnam.
The political realities of the USA during the '70's regarding anything related to Vietnam resulted in his being let off easy by the Corps, but he was, without any doubt, a collaborator at best and an active participant at the worst against U.S. forces. We did have indications that he held the rank of Lieutenant in the NVA, but no unclassified tangible proof. There were also teams sent out with specific orders to kill him if found (along with other identified turn-coats) but they were never able to catch him.
I followed his trial with interest, and during the Kerry/McCain Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in the '91-'93 period, I was contacted by congressional aides to provide background/insight into his case specifically. I was not the only one contacted by several members of the unit were apparently contacted.
Anyway, interesting article - about as neutral as you could make it but still informative. Thanks for the memories it invoked, both good and bad, but never-the-less memories of guys and days have long gone by. ~George Whitaker
CMSgt, U.S. Air Force (Ret)
Editor's Note: Following a letter I sent to George Whitaker thanking him for his experience in the Garwood case, he sent me further information about other collaborators. Very interesting stuff!
The only other "story" that I personally put much credence in was the already well-known "Salt & Pepper" team that was reported multiple times in the I Corps AOR. There were a number of theories concerning the sightings of a Caucasian and a "dark-skinned" individual working with or leading VC forces over a period of time. Many speculated the two were soldiers who had deserted from U.S. forces and found roles with the VC fighting against us. The (to my thinking) more plausible story was the two were deserters alright, but hold-overs from the Dien Bien Phu era. It was well known that many from either the French colonial troops or Legionnaires had remained in Vietnam after the French pull-out and because of the leaning of the French towards communism or socialism, had joined forces with the PAVN, eventually leading forces against the Americans. There was more than one operation to find or capture the two, and it is rumored - nobody to substantiate - that Pepper was killed in the early '70's.
When it became obvious that the Communists were going to take over the country early in '75, the Embassy put the word out that any Americans "living" in Saigon or the South should report to the Embassy for evacuation. I know there were several plane loads of personnel evacuated to Clark AB in the Philippines between the first of the year and the fall in April. I am pretty sure there were a number of deserters in the group but have no information on them. Many of the evacuees were former military members who had separated/retired and returned to Vietnam to rejoin their wives/girlfriends or to open businesses and chose to leave vice stay behind, although many did remain when the NVA forces rolled into town. Most of those were kicked out within a year or two, going to Thailand via the Red Cross before returning to CONUS.
I had thought at one time that the DIA would be able to bring the issues surrounding those we actually left behind out into the open but have long since given up on that.
Anyway, thanks again for the response. The TWS website is nice and very worthwhile. ~George Whitaker
I enjoyed your article on PFC Garwood and have one question: was there a Marine Major Negron involved in the case? I worked with him at HQMC and sort of remember him talking about this case. ~William T Maroney III
Major, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret)
Editor's Note: The name Major Negron did not show up on any of the research done for the Garwood story.
Great Locomotive Chase Thanks for the article on Andrews Raid, often miscalled The Great Locomotive Chase. Well acquainted with the story but enjoyed the refresher. My great-grandfather, Henry Parker Haney, was the fireman on the Texas that day. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the participants had reunions of all the participants - North and South. He was the last surviving member from either side as he was only 16 on the date of the raid! The restored General is located indoors at a museum in Kennesaw, GA. and the restored Texas currently is sitting outside (unprotected) at Grant Zoo in Atlanta awaiting remodeling of the building housing the Battle of Atlanta diorama. ~Rob Moreland
General Petraeus: About Our Military Today I just read the letter in the March 2017 Dispatches that's attributed to GEN Petraeus. This was, in fact, written by Nick Palmisciano of Ranger Up Clothing. See the link by him about this confusion. Thanks. ~Jeff Coulter
This book is about Daniel Dundee, a fictional blue-collar New Yorker, who gets drafted in the late sixties, ended up serving a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam with the Eleventh Armored Cavalry Regiment.
The story begins with Daniel and other new arrivals to Vietnam riding in the back of a deuce and a half truck heading for the "Blackhorse" base camp several miles south of the village of Xuan Loc. March waste no time in getting the reader into the action. On page two, the convoy is ambushed by Viet Cong, killing two of the new replacements and escaping into the jungle. From that point on, the author gives the reader Daniel's one year of combat duty in Vietnam, capturing what it meant to face lethal danger, to follow orders and to hope that he survives.
Throughout his one-year tour (July 1967-July 1968), Daniel gets assigned to various jobs. Assigned as an artillery man within the fire direction control (FDC), Daniel's days are spent filling sandbags and spending many a day or night on bunker guard around the perimeter. He also goes out on missions with a platoon of mechanized troops on bridge security, road clearing and ambushes in the jungle as well as dodging frequent mortars and rockets fired into the basecamp. It was during one of these mortar attacks that he witnesses the death of one of his best friends. From that moment on his main goal was to stay alive and return home in one piece.
While assigned to the FDC, his ability to compute and order fire mission for the artillery was lauded by his superiors but one such mission ended in disaster: a nine-year-old Vietnamese boy was accidently killed, calling for an investigation, which caused him to question his competencies as fire direction coordinator.
Like most junior enlisted men, Daniel is assigned to the latrine burning detail with another soldier who is ready to go home. The short-timer offers him a joint and they smoke weed the entire day. This led to Daniel being a daily pot smoker and congregating with other pot heads and misfits in whatever unit he was assigned.
Taking R&R in Bangkok, Daniel and several buddies meet some bar girls with whom they spent their entire time while in Thailand. Daniel's female friend was Mia, who took him all around Bangkok, including a famous Buddhist temple where he felt at peace with himself and what he had seen in Vietnam.
Returning to Vietnam, he was told to meet with a board for promotion to sergeant. This was the last thing he wanted so he sabotaged his chances by antagonizing the board members. He never rose above the rank of E-4.
From the descriptions of the battles, terrain, and living conditions, March takes the reader along on Daniel's one year journey through the day-to-day drudge and monotony of the Viet Nam war, days that were punctuated by life-and-death challenges, sad losses and momentous gains, including the constant attitude of survival and self-preservation and the various smells and sounds associated with Vietnam.
While the subject matter is graphic and the language used is very raw, behind the blood, tears, and vulgar language exists a story that needed to be told. And Michael March did a wonderful job of writing a very realistic account into the life of Daniel Dundee.
This book held me captive from the beginning to the end.
Reader Reviews When I was in high school, I remember my dad telling me stories about his shocking and poignant experiences while serving the United States Army in the Vietnam War. It was around then, he vowed to write a book about it. Heart, determination, courage, and now, I am holding a copy of Each One a Hero! What an amazing book, Dad. Reading about your time in the Vietnam jungle via the gripping third-person point of view of Daniel brings to life the stories I heard all those years ago in such a fresh, relevant fashion. This autobiographical novel helps me understand the trials of your life while also entertaining any reader with riveting action and slice-of-life humor. ~Scott Martin
This is another story about a more modern "Lost Generation" and is authentic right down to the hard and truthful conversations. This must be added to your collection of true Vietnam stories written by a vanishing breed. ~David Ramati
This book literally made me laugh and made me cry. I know personally that the book speaks the truth about the experiences of Black Horse cavalrymen. My husband was the man called Mickey in the book. He had told me several of the stories. Michael March relates and the details are the same to a T. This is such a well-written, moving account of a group of boys thrust into an impossible situation and they manned-up and got the job done while holding on to their youth and hope for surviving the experience. ~Rose Pellegrino
I read the book and I must tell you, it got me thinking. Therefore, saying that I liked it a lot would be an understatement. I loved it. After all, if a book gets you thinking, it means it really got the job done.
The terrible ordeals of a war are described in such living colors, but also in a very human way. In the skin of Dan, a guy forced to go to the war in Vietnam, I felt like I was there, even had to clean off dust after dodging some bullets.
I watched M*A*S*H, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket and man, this one goes hand in hand with them all. It made me laugh, it made me cry. ~Marcos B.F.
The plight of the young men who were drafted is brought to the forefront in this book. How they were viewed and treated helps the reader understand the stance some of these soldiers took.
One aspect of the descriptions that drew my attention was the way the author chose to describe in extreme detail the various smells and sounds associated with the modern battle. For me, this made everything clearer. Also, March shares many military terms and designations relating to equipment and tactics.
Bookended between arrival and departure, you witness the growth and evolution of the main character during his one-year tour of duty. After reading this book, you will understand why no soldier can return home from war unscathed.
This is an excellent book. The author is a skilled writer. The subject matter is graphic and the language used is very raw. But behind the blood, tears, and vulgar language exists a story that needed to be told. Michael March accomplished that task with this book. ~Alan B.
About the Author Born in Brooklyn, New York, Michael March attended James Madison High School and after graduation studied industrial engineering at Fashion Institute of Technology. But rock and roll were his first love. Foolishly, he left school to pursue that musical dream and did so, until that day he found a letter of greeting from Uncle Sam in his mailbox. Michael served with the Eleventh Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam from July 1967 to July 1968. After his discharge from the Army, he traveled America, visiting the revolutionary hotspots. First stop was Berkeley, Calf., followed by Madison, Wisconsin where he entrenched himself inside the counter-culture. Eventually making his way back to New York, he married, and worked as a production manager and clothing designer in the garment industry. The world of consumer electronics beckoned and he found employment as store manager at Crazy Eddie, the infamous electronics chain. After working in that industry for twenty-five years, Michael took his leave and moved south to Atlanta, where he currently resides and writes every day.
In the author's own words: "Possessing a wild streak tempered by the idealistic belief that good will overcome evil, in the end, can cause spiritual indigestion. That's my biggest problem. I find my imagination takes control of my fingers and I never know what will come out of my keyboard.
"I have experienced much in my lifetime, including attending Fashion Institute of Technology, being ripped off as a professional musician, learning a trade in the garment industry, working at Crazy Eddie and then at Uncle Steve's, and as an early indoctrination to fear and guilt, serving my country during the war in Vietnam.
"The most important lesson learned though, is the need to express love and to be kind to others. I try to communicate that in my work. Each One a Hero is my first novel and hopefully, only the beginning of my creativity."