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Cuba in Vietnam

The extent of military contributions by communist Cuba and its communist dictator, Fidel Castro, to the North Vietnamese effort during the Vietnam War, is a murky matter that remains officially unresolved. Then and now, neither the communist governments of Vietnam nor Cuba have divulged any information on this matter while maintaining a cloud of secrecy around their cooperative efforts. But there is no question that at the very least, there was a sizable contingent of Cuban military advisors present in North Vietnam during the war.

Several reports indicate that Cuban fighter pilots were even flying MIGs in aerial combat with American pilots over North Vietnam. One American advisor flying in a Sikorsky H-34 helicopter even used an M-79 grenade launcher to shoot down a Cuban flying a biplane in Northern Laos. This was the same kind of plane used in the attack against Lima Site 85 - the top-secret base in Laos providing guidance for American planes in the bombing of North Vietnam. 

Among these Cuban advisors was a large contingent of several thousand combat engineers called the "Giron Brigade," that was maintaining Route Nine (better known as the "Ho Chi Minh Trail"), the supply line running from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia to South Vietnam. The contingent was so large, Cuba established a consulate in the jungle to support them. Engineers from this same unit were building the airport in Grenada when American forces overran it, and they suffered 84 casualties and 638 captured, small consolation for what they are reported to have inflicted on U.S. Forces in Vietnam. 

A large number of American personnel serving in both Vietnam and Laos were either captured or killed along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and in all likelihood, many by the Cubans. One National Security Agency Signet report states that 18 American POWs were detained at the Phom Thong Camp in Laos, where they were closely guarded by Soviet and Cuban personnel, with Vietnamese soldiers outside the camp. 

The most alarming and horrendous of Cuba's involvements in the war in Vietnam was the torturing of American POWs, some of whom died from their beatings. The full extent of what happened became clear after a number of the POWs who returned home in Feb. 1973 told others what they had seen or heard in what became known as the "Cuban Program," which was the name given by its victims to the separation of 19 American POWs from the Vietnamese POW system and their subsequent interrogation and torture by a small group of Caucasians who spoke English with an apparent Spanish accent, had an excellent knowledge of Central America, and at least one seemed to have spent some time in the southeastern United States.

The "Cuban Program" was initiated around August 1967 at the Cu Loc POW camp known as "The Zoo," a former French movie studio on the southwestern edge of Hanoi. The American POWs gave their Cuban torturers the names "Fidel," "Chico," "Pancho" and "Garcia" The Vietnamese camp commander was given the name "The Lump" because of a fatty tumor growth in the middle of his forehead. He and various other Vietnamese cadre were often present during the brutal torture sessions administered by the Cubans. According to POW debriefing reports, "The Lump" told a group of POWs that the "Cuban Program" was a Hanoi University Psychological Study.

"Fidel," the Cuban leader of the "Cuban Program" was described in debriefing reports as a "professional interrogator" According to an expert on Cuba, "Fidel's" profile fits that of Cuban Dr. Miguel Angel Bustamente-O'Leary, President of the Cuban Medical Association. Bustamente is said to be an expert at extracting confessions through torture, and he was compared to the infamous Nazi, Dr. Joseph Mengele. 

According to the same expert, "Chico's" profile fits that of Maj. Fernando Vecino Alegret and it was stated in two intelligence reports that his "un-Cuban appearance" caused speculation that he was actually a Soviet Bloc officer (possibly Czech) in a Cuban uniform. 

"Fidel" and "Chico" weren't the only Cubans who were involved with American POWs. As part of their propaganda program, Dr. Fernando Barral, a Spanish-born psychologist, interviewed Lt. John Sidney McCain Jr. (later U.S. Senator) for an article published in Cuba's house-organ Granma on January 24, 1970. Barral was a card-carrying communist Internationale residing in Cuba and traveling on a Cuban passport.

Several other documents confirm that CIA analysts identified two Cuban military attaches, Eduardo Morjon Esteves (who reportedly served under diplomatic cover as a brigadier general at the United Nations in New York in 1977-78 with no attempt being made to either arrest or expel him), and Luis Perez Jaen, who respectively had backgrounds that seemed to correspond with information on Fidel and Chico, as supplied by returning POWs. However, unless the Cubans were overconfident, it is highly unlikely that those who participated in the "Cuban Program" would have used their actual names when serving in a professional capacity, since it is standard practice in undercover intelligence operations to use new identities.

Following his release, Maj. Jack Bomar, a Zoo survivor, described the brutal beating of Capt. Earl G. Cobeil, an F-105F EWO (Electronics Warfare Officer), by Cuban Maj. Fernando Vecino Alegret, known by the POWs as "Chico": The sight of Cobeil stunned Bomar, he stood transfixed, trying to make himself believe that human beings could so batter another human being. The man could barely walk; he shuffled slowly, painfully. His clothes were torn to shreds. He was bleeding everywhere, terribly swollen, and a dirty, yellowish black and purple from head to toe. The man's head was down; he made no attempt to look at anyone. He had been through much more than the day's beatings.

His body was ripped and torn everywhere: "hell-cuffs" (which are applied to cut off circulation during what is known as the "Vietnamese rope trick," where the arms are repeatedly cinched up behind the POW's back until the elbows are forced together, then if the excruciating pain of applying the "hell-cuffs" don't achieve the desired result, the arms are rotated upward further until the shoulders dislocate) appeared to have nearly severed his wrists; strap marks still wound around his arms all the way to the shoulders; slivers of bamboo were embedded in his bloodied shins; and there were what appeared to be tread marks from water hose beatings across his chest, back and legs.

As Cobeil related to Bomar, during the beating Fidel had smashed a fist into Cobeil's face, driving him against the wall. Then he was brought to the center of the room and made to get down onto his knees. Screaming in rage, Fidel took a length of rubber hose from a guard and lashed it as hard as he could into Cobeil's face. Cobeil did not react; he did not cry out or even blink an eye. Again and again, a dozen times, Fidel smashed his face with the hose. Because he was so grotesquely mangled, Capt. Cobeil was never repatriated alive, but instead was listed as "died in captivity" His remains were returned in 1974.

Air Force ace Maj. James Kasler was also tortured for days on end during June 1968. "Fidel" beat Kasler across the buttocks with a large truck fan belt until "he tore my rear end to shreds." For one three-day period, Kasler was beaten with the fan belt every hour from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and kept awake at night. "My mouth was so bruised that I could not open my teeth for five days." After one beating, Kasler's buttocks, lower back, and legs hung in shreds. The skin had been entirely whipped away and the area was a bluish, purplish, greenish mass of bloody raw meat.

Much less is known about 17 captured airmen taken to Cuba for "experimentation in torture techniques" They were held in Havana's Los Maristas, a secret Cuban prison run by Castro's G-2 Intelligence service. A few were held in the Mazorra (Psychiatric) Hospital and served as human guinea pigs used to develop improved methods of extracting information through "torture and drugs to induce American prisoners to cooperate"

After being shot down in April of 1972, U.S. Navy F-4 pilot, Lt. Clemmie McKinney, an African-American, was imprisoned near the Cuban compound called Work Site Five. His capture occurred while then-Cuban president Fidel Castro was visiting the nearby Cuban field hospital. Although listed as killed in the crash by DOD, his photograph standing with Castro was later published in a classified CIA document.

More than 13 years later, on August 14, 1985, the North Vietnamese returned Lt. McKinney's remains, reporting that he died in November 1972. However, a U.S, Army forensic anthropologist established the "time of death as not earlier than 1975 and probably several years later" The report speculated that he had been a guest at Havana's Los Maristas prison, with his remains returned to Vietnam for repatriation. Unfortunately, our servicemen held in the Cuban POW camp near Work Site Five (Cong Truong Five), along with those in two other Cuban run camps were neither acknowledged nor accounted for, and the prisoners simply disappeared forever. 

Conspicuously absent from the Operation Homecoming release in 1973 were POWs suffering from severe war wounds (amputees) and mental illnesses, leading analysts to believe these were among those permanently imprisoned in North Vietnam and Cuba, for ongoing experimentation and collaboration efforts after being broken by torture, drugs, and brainwashing.

The matter of the known prisoners of war held by Vietnam and Cuba whose remains have never been returned has been a major issue for their families. If our honor code of "Duty, Honor, Country," and our national policy of "No man left behind," are more than meaningless slogans, Cuba's murderous leadership must account for our POWs - especially the 17 airmen taken to Cuba. The civilized world and American veterans demand it, and their families deserve it.

There are those still working tirelessly toward finding a resolution to our missing heroes. On March 28, 2016, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Defense to obtain records about American POWs who may have been held captive by Cuban government or military forces on the island of Cuba. 

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense, No. 1:16-CV-00151).

This suit was filed after the Defense Department failed to comply with a June 1, 2015, FOIA request seeking "Any and all records depicting the names, service branch, ranks, Military Occupational Specialty, and dates and locations of capture of all American servicemen believed to have been held captive by Cuban government or military forces on the island of Cuba since 1960."

Responding to the suit, the Department of Defense initially claimed to have no responsive records.

(Sources: Miami Herald, August 22, 1999, and testimony by Michael D. Benge, before the House International Relations Committee, Chaired by the Honorable Benjamin A. Gilman, on November 4, 1999)

Editor's Note: 
When I reported to the 5th Special Forces headquarters in Nha Trang in Nov 1967, I was sent to get a Glama goblin shot. While waiting in the room for the medic to arrive, I noticed a movable hospital curtain. Curious, I looked behind the curtain and saw two bodies wearing non-described uniforms laying on gurneys. Both were dark-skinned with long black hair. When the medic came in, I asked about the bodies. He told me a Special Forces recon team operating in Laos near the Ho Chi Ming trail got into a firefight resulting in them killing some NVA and the two whose bodies were on the gurneys. Realizing the two were not Vietnamese, they gathered them up and carried them through the jungle to a place where they made an emergency extraction. The medic said the general consensus was the two were Cubans. He added that Russian soldiers were also helping the North Vietnamese as one of their bodies had also been recovered by a recon team a couple of months before. 


Last Flight From Saigon

It was April 1974 and I was a high school student in Denver, Colorado. I knew something of the Vietnam War thanks to news reports, and according to the Paris Peace Accord, we were done with that war. I knew my Uncle (the fighter pilot) Col. Earl E. Michler had served three tours in Vietnam making bomb runs sometimes 10 meters above the ground, and I knew he was stationed somewhere in Thailand because he sent my father pictures of ancient temples and historical sites.
Fast forward one year later to April 1975 and Vietnam was in the news again, something about the evacuation of Saigon because the North Vietnamese had broken the peace accord and were overrunning the south. It never occurred to me that my Uncle might have been there during that historical and tragic time.  After all, he was stationed over in Thailand, however, near the end of 1975, we heard from my Uncle that he had been in Saigon during the evacuation. It turns out in April 1975 he was sent there to help Maj. Robert S. Delligatti, who had been designated the Seventh Air Force's Supervisor of Airlift for Saigon. Delligatti had been doing a heroic job for months up to that point and can be credited for helping no less than 70,000 people exit Saigon through Tan Son Nhut Air Base (Saigon Airport). Delligatti stayed on to help see things through until the airlift ended.      
My uncle had been stationed at (NKP) Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Navy Base and he was tasked to take over as Supervisor of Airlift at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in light of the increased tempo of the airlift operations and the possibility of Saigon being overrun by the North Vietnamese Army. He personally facilitated the flight out for the President of South Vietnam and his family. We also learned my Uncle had been awarded a medal for his work there. Among other things he ran onto a bombed and burning aircraft, under fire, to make sure everyone got out safely. 

On April 29th, 1975, a C-130E [#72-1297], flown by a crew from the 776th Tactical Airlift Squadron, was destroyed by a 122 mm rocket while taxiing to pick up refugees after offloading a BLU-82 at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Col. Michler ran into the burning C-130 helping the crew to evacuate the aircraft and then directed them to depart the airfield on another C-130 that had previously landed. This was the last USAF fixed-wing aircraft to leave Tan Son Nhut, prompting Col. Michler to convey to the Seventh Air Force and Ambassador Martin that the airport was unusable, thus triggering the final phase of the evacuation of Saigon known as "Operation Frequent Wind".
The following is an excerpt from an article in which the author (Lt. Col. John L. Hilgenberg) while describing events, quotes part of my Uncle's reporting that describes ending operations at the Airport and highlights the actions of one of his officers.

 (From USAF Southeast Asia Monograph Series Vol. IV Monograph 6 Last Flight from Saigon ...page 80)

A second rocket hit about 100 yards away across from the Dodge City billeting, injuring two evacuees sleeping on the grass. These two were treated by the Army medics and one civilian doctor working in the gym dispensary. Another hit across the road in the Air America parking area, destroying several aircraft contemplated for use in the evacuation. Maj. Delligatti of the SOA, who was en route back to Tiger Ops, had spoken briefly to the Marine guards only five seconds before the impact killed them. These two were the only known U.S. citizens killed on Vietnamese soil during the entire evacuation. Two Marine helicopter pilots perished in a helicopter ditching at sea.
The latter was Dr. Jim Mayers from Hawaii who originally came into Vietnam to assist in evacuating orphans, then stayed on to help in the big evacuation. He was the only doctor readily available in the EPC and performed in outstanding fashion. Several of the pictures in the back were taken by Dr. Mayers and given to the Air Force for historical purposes.
From 0430 till the final lift-off the next morning more than 24 hours later, a multitude of things happened, many of them simultaneously. A chronological organization will be used hereafter. The rockets and what sounded like heavy artillery continued throughout the day with the greatest concentration of 40 rounds per hour between 0430 and 0800. Following the initial barrage, which seemed to hit indiscriminately in and around the Tan Son Nhut area, the rocket fire became more and more concentrated on the flight line and fuel and ammo storage areas. In fact, after about 0430, no one remembered any more rockets hitting the Defense Attache Office Compound or Annex. 

In the EPC, our first action was to get the crowds down and undercover, yet to remain organized in groups for rapid movement. Not surprisingly, the VN's knew exactly what to do to protect themselves from the rockets, but once the attack subsided, they grew progressively more difficult to control. Here is where the USAF Security Police and several assigned Marines were invaluable. As I observed throughout the evacuation, reaffirmed later in the day, an American in uniform was a powerful, reassuring control force, much more effective than an American in civilian clothes, even one who could speak the language of the evacuees.

On the flight line near Tiger Ops, the Supervisor of Airlift group and members of the Combat Control Team began investigating and reporting on the condition of the airfield. This action was extremely hazardous as rocket impacts were now concentrated there. Col. Earl Michler, USAF, was serving as Supervisor of Airlift at Flying Tiger Operations on the flight line when the rocket attack started and directed initial reporting. He described the action of one man, in particular, Capt. Bill O'Brien, USAF, on temporary duty to Saigon from the Clark AB Aerial Port:
"When the bad guys started shooting at us, Bill was least impressed--that is to say it was obvious he had been there before. Whenever we needed to know the status of the airfield, runways, taxiways, etc., it was always "Obie" who went out to check. There were several times when leaving the doubtful sanctuary of a building was not easy, but he went, usually without my asking. If we had a decision to make about whether or not to continue operations, he just accepted the fact that we needed to check, put on his hat and did it. During those final hours, Bill was, with the radios in his jeep, our only real contact with what was happening on the flight line. He was right in the middle of the chaotic mess and stayed there calmly reporting conditions until I ordered him out.

When I finally told Bill to get out, all hope of continuing airlift was gone and he was under fire not only from rockets and artillery, but was surrounded by the wild, uncontrolled melee on the ramp - Vietnamese were running around looking for a reason to shoot someone. Bill came out very slowly, moved all the way over to the tower to pick up one of his enlisted types in place there, then back to Flying Tiger Ops to meet with the rest of our people.


Military Myths & Legends: Common Myths of the Vietnam War

Common belief is that most Vietnam veterans were drafted. 

Fact: 2/3 of the men who served in Vietnam were volunteers. 2/3 of the men who served in World War II were drafted. Approximately 70% of those killed in Vietnam were volunteers.

Common belief that the media reported suicides among Vietnam veterans range from 50,000 to 100,000 - 6 to 11 times the non-Vietnam veteran population. 

Fact: Mortality studies show that 9,000 is a better estimate. "The CDC Vietnam Experience Study Mortality Assessment showed that during the first 5 years after discharge, deaths from suicide were 1.7 times more likely among Vietnam veterans than non-Vietnam veterans. After that initial post-service period, Vietnam veterans were no more likely to die from suicide than non-Vietnam veterans. In fact, after the 5-year post-service period, the rate of suicides is less in the Vietnam veterans' group.

A common belief is that a disproportionate number of blacks were killed in the Vietnam War. 

Fact: 86% of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasians, 12.5% were black, and 1.2% were other races. Sociologists Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler, in their recently published book "All That We Can Be," said they analyzed the claim that blacks were used like cannon fodder during Vietnam "and can report definitely that this charge is untrue. Black fatalities amounted to 12 percent of all Americans killed in Southeast Asia, a figure proportional to the number of blacks in the U.S. population at the time and slightly lower than the proportion of blacks in the Army at the close of the war."

A common belief is that the war was fought largely by the poor and uneducated. 

Fact: Servicemen who went to Vietnam from well-to-do areas had a slightly elevated risk of dying because they were more likely to be pilots or infantry officers. Vietnam Veterans were the best-educated forces our nation had ever sent into combat. 79% had a high school education or better.

The common belief is the average age of an infantryman fighting in Vietnam was 19. 

Fact: Assuming KIAs accurately represented age groups serving in Vietnam, the average age of an infantryman (MOS 11B) serving in Vietnam to be 19 years old is a myth, it is actually 22. None of the enlisted grades have an average age of less than 20. The average man who fought in World War II was 26 years of age.

The common belief is that the domino theory was proved false. 

Fact: The domino theory was accurate. The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand stayed free of Communism because of the U.S. commitment to Vietnam. The Indonesians threw the Soviets out in 1966 because of America's commitment in Vietnam. Without that commitment, Communism would have swept all the way to the Malacca Straits that is south of Singapore and of great strategic importance to the free world. If you ask people who live in these countries that won the war in Vietnam, they have a different opinion from the American news media. The Vietnam War was the turning point for Communism.

The common belief is that the fighting in Vietnam was not as intense as in World War II. 

Fact: The average infantryman in the South Pacific during World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four years. The average infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat in one year thanks to the mobility of the helicopter. One out of every 10 Americans who served in Vietnam was a casualty. 58,148 were killed and 304,000 wounded out of 2.7 million who served. Although the percent that died is similar to other wars, amputations or crippling wounds were 300 percent higher than in World War II. 75,000 Vietnam veterans are severely disabled. MEDEVAC helicopters flew nearly 500,000 missions. Over 900,000 patients were airlifted (nearly half were American). The average time lapse between wounding to hospitalization was less than one hour. As a result, less than one percent of all Americans wounded, who survived the first 24 hours, died. The helicopter provided unprecedented mobility. Without the helicopter it would have taken three times as many troops to secure the 800-mile border with Cambodia and Laos (the politicians thought the Geneva Conventions of 1954 and the Geneva Accords or 1962 would secure the border).

 The common belief that Kim Phuc, the little nine-year-old Vietnamese girl running naked from the napalm strike near Trang Bang on 8 June 1972 (shown a million times on American television), was burned by Americans bombing Trang Bang. 

Fact: No American had involvement in this incident near Trang Bang that burned Phan Thi Kim Phuc. The planes doing the bombing near the village were VNAF (Vietnam Air Force) and were being flown by Vietnamese pilots in support of South Vietnamese troops on the ground. The Vietnamese pilot who dropped the napalm in error is currently living in the United States. Even the AP photographer, Nick Ut, who took the picture, was Vietnamese. The incident in the photo took place on the second day of a three-day battle between the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) who occupied the village of Trang Bang and the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) who were trying to force the NVA out of the village. Recent reports in the news media that an American commander ordered the airstrike that burned Kim Phuc are incorrect. There were no Americans involved in any capacity. "We (Americans) had nothing to do with controlling VNAF," according to Lieutenant General (Ret) James F. Hollingsworth, the Commanding General of TRAC at that time. Also, it has been incorrectly reported that two of Kim Phuc's brothers were killed in this incident. They were Kim's cousins not her brothers.

The common belief that the United States lost the war in Vietnam. 

Fact: The American military was not defeated in Vietnam. The American military did not lose a battle of any consequence. From a military standpoint, it was almost an unprecedented performance. General Westmoreland quoting Douglas Pike (a professor at the University of California, Berkeley), a major military defeat for the VC and NVA. The United States Did Not Lose the War in Vietnam;  The South Vietnamese did after the U.S. Congress cut off funding. The South Vietnamese ran out of fuel, ammunition and other supplies because of a lack of support from Congress, while the North Vietnamese were very well supplied by China and the Soviet Union. The fall of Saigon happened 30 April 1975, two years AFTER the American military left Vietnam. The last American troops departed in their entirety 29 March 1973. How could we lose a war we had already stopped fighting? We fought to an agreed stalemate. The peace settlement was signed in Paris on 27 January 1973. It called for release of all U.S. prisoners, withdrawal of U.S. forces, limitation of both sides' forces inside South Vietnam and a commitment to peaceful reunification. The 140,000 evacuees in April 1975 during the fall of Saigon consisted almost entirely of civilians and Vietnamese military, NOT American military running for their lives. There were almost twice as many casualties in Southeast Asia (primarily Cambodia) the first two years after the fall of Saigon in 1975 than there were during the ten years the U.S. was involved in Vietnam.

Thanks for the perceived loss and the countless assassinations and torture visited upon Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians goes mainly to the American media and their undying support-by-misrepresentation of the anti-War movement in the United States. As with much of the Vietnam War, the news media misreported and misinterpreted the 1968 Tet Offensive. It was reported as an overwhelming success for the Communist forces and a decided defeat for the U.S. forces. Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite initial victories by the Communists forces, the Tet Offensive resulted in a major defeat of those forces. General Vo Nguyen Giap, the designer of the Tet Offensive, is considered by some as ranking with Wellington, Grant, Lee, and MacArthur as a great commander. Still, militarily, the Tet Offensive was a total defeat of the Communist forces on all fronts. It resulted in the death of some 45,000 NVA troops and the complete, if not total destruction of the Viet Cong elements in South Vietnam. The Organization of the Viet Cong Units in the South never recovered. The Tet Offensive succeeded on only one front and that was the News front and the political arena. This was another example in the Vietnam War of an inaccuracy becoming the perceived truth. However, inaccurately reported, the News Media made the Tet Offensive famous.


Battlefield Chronicles: Fire Base Mary Ann

Richard Nixon had campaigned in the 1968 presidential election under the slogan that he would end the war in Vietnam and bring 'peace with honor.' However, there was no plan in place to do this, and the American commitment continued for another five years. The goal of the American military effort was to gradually build up the strength and confidence of the South Vietnamese armed forces by re-equipping it with modern weapons so that they could defend their nation on their own. This policy became the cornerstone of the so-called 'Nixon Doctrine.' As applied to Vietnam, it was labeled 'Vietnamization.'

With a renewed U.S. offensive bombing campaign forcing a recalcitrant North Vietnam back to the negotiating table, with resulting progress in the Paris peace negotiations, on January 15, 1973, Nixon announced the suspension of all offensive actions against North Vietnam. This would be followed by a unilateral withdrawal of all U.S. troops. Twelve days later, on January 27, the Paris Peace Accords on "Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam" were signed, officially ending direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The agreement included the provision that all U.S. combat units would leave Vietnam by March 29, 1973. As an inducement for President Thieu's government to sign the agreement, Nixon had promised that the U.S. would provide financial and limited military support (in the form of airstrikes) so that the South would not be overrun. But Nixon was fighting for his political life in the growing Watergate scandal and facing an increasingly hostile Congress, which was withholding funding for the continuation of the war, and he was unable to back up his promise. Compounding the issue, many United States citizens had turned against the war, citing the length of time it had been going on, the high number of U.S. casualties, and U.S. involvement in such war crimes as the My Lai massacre.

With just a little over a month to go, American combat troops stationed throughout South Vietnam were ecstatic over the prospects of going home as they turned over their installations and war materials to the South Vietnam military. But as they did so, the NVA and Vietcong continued to wage battle, resulting in 68 Americans killed in 1973.  Thirty-three of those KIAs alone occurred in a single one-hour battle at Fire Support Base (FSB) Mary Ann.

However, before the agreement was signed and American troops began standing down, fighting the NVA and Vietcong raged on.  One battle in particular caught the eye of Americans - the siege of FSB Mary Ann on March 28, 1971.  

The firebase was strategically located to interdict the movement of enemy troops and materiel down the K-7 Corridor and the Dak Rose Trail (branches of the Ho Chi Minh trail running from Laos to the coast of South Vietnam). Originally intended to be a temporary base, it evolved into a more permanent location garrisoned by at least one company of U.S. ground forces. The base was manned by 231 American soldiers at the time of the attack. Also present on the base was a Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) artillery battery awaiting the turnover of the FSB to ARVN units.

FSB Mary Ann was similar to other U.S. firebases in South Vietnam, although it occupied a bulldozed hilltop which looked like a camel with two humps. Running northwest to southeast, the firebase stretched 500 meters across two hillsides with twenty-two bunkers. The headquarters consisted of the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) and Company Command Post (CP), and was located at the south end of the camp. The northwest end of the camp consisted of an artillery position with two 155mm howitzers, the fire direction center, and the artillery command post. Surrounding the firebase was a trench system protected by concertina wire.

For months leading up to the attack, the level of enemy activity in the area had been low and contacts were infrequent. The lack of significant recent engagements, along with preparations to turn the FSB over to ARVN units and their impending return home, had given the U.S. soldiers in the area a false sense of security.

But early on the fog-shrouded morning of March 28, 1973, an estimated 50 sappers from the 2nd Company, 409th NVA Main Force Sapper Battalion, working in small squads of three to six men, stealthily crawled through the jungle, using their fingertips as probes. When they detected trip flares, they used lengths of bamboo, carried in their teeth, to tie down the strikers. When they felt wires leading to Claymore mines, they used wire cutters to cut the lines. When they reached the concertina wire, they were careful to cut only two-thirds of the way through the strands, then used their fingers to silently break the rest of the way through the wire without shaking the large coils.

To make themselves less visible, and much more difficult targets in the darkness, their bodies were covered with charcoal and grease. Strapped to their backs were AK-47s or RPG-7s, with satchel charges strapped to their chests, and hand grenades hanging from their belts.

Crouching low, the sappers cut four paths through the base's two outer concertina barriers. They took more time moving through the third barrier, which was about 20 meters from the bunker line and then fanned out along the southwest side of the line.

Following standard sapper doctrine, their attack would commence with the first mortar barrage. The first enemy 82mm mortar shells hit FSB Mary Ann at 2:30 AM, signaling the start of the ground attack. Their supporting mortars opened with accurate fire on the TOC and CP on the base's southeast side, and on the remaining U.S. mortar and artillery positions in the northwest area. The NVA had achieved the element of surprise, as American soldiers were neither prepared nor on alert.

Once through the wire, the sappers scattered toward key targets: the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) bunker and the company command post, effectively disrupting the command structure on the firebase, plus the FSB's artillery and many of the perimeter bunkers. Their attack was aided by tear gas, delivered either by sappers (using grenades) or mixed in with regular high-explosive mortar rounds as part of the bombardment. 

At about the same time (2:51 AM), the TOC radio operator requested illumination rounds from supporting artillery batteries at LZ Mildred, but did not indicate that Mary Ann was under ground attack. A captain in the TOC grabbed the radio away from the radio operator and gave orders to begin firing artillery at various coordinates around the firebase. The response was delayed because one of the three responding firebases had failed to plot supporting fire coordinates.
The south end of the TOC was burning by this time, the fire started by a satchel charge igniting a case of white phosphorus grenades located near the south bunker entrance. 

Amidst all the explosions, the NVA managed to penetrate the south side of the FSB's perimeter. By the time the American soldiers inside the bunkers had recovered from the confusion, the sappers were already inside the camp, and hit half the bunkers using satchel charges and rocket-propelled grenades. The surprise attack by the NVA had the effect of immobilizing the camp's defenders, but those who survived the initial onslaught managed to mount a resistance against their attackers.

At around 3:30 AM, the NVA disengaged and withdrew from the firebase, trying to drag their dead and wounded comrades back through the concertina wire, when a helicopter gunship finally appeared and began firing its guns at the retreating sappers.

The wounded survivors of the 1st Battalion were finally airlifted out on medevac helicopters. 

The battle for FSB Mary Ann produced disastrous results for the U.S. Army, which suffered 33 killed and 83 wounded. It was the most deadly attack on a single U.S. firebase during the Vietnam War. The NVA casualties were largely unknown, but 15 bodies were left behind in the aftermath of the attack, and blood trails and drag marks indicated that the NVA may have suffered more casualties.

Maj. Gen. James L. Baldwin, commander of the 23rd (American) Infantry Division was removed from command and received a letter of admonishment as a result of the attack on Fire Support Base Mary Ann. The Commander of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Col. William Hathaway, was removed from the promotion list for Brig. Gen. and received a letter of reprimand. The commander of 1st Battalion 46th Infantry, Lt. Col. William P. Doyle, also received a letter of reprimand. Doyle remained in service until his retirement but did not receive another promotion. He died of acute alcoholism at age 54. All three commanders received these reprimands for not having ensured that standard operating procedures were followed with regard to perimeter security at FSB Mary Ann, thus facilitating the devastatingly deadly attack.

Baldwin, Hathaway, and Doyle protested their reprimands, but they were upheld by Gen. William Westmoreland, then the Army Chief of Staff. In fact, Westmoreland and his successor as Commander in Vietnam, Gen. Creighton Abrams, wanted Baldwin reduced in rank to Brig. Gen. and for him to receive a letter of reprimand. They were overruled by Secretary of the Army Robert Froehlke, and Baldwin received the less severe letter of admonishment and no reduction in rank. Doyle was himself nominated for a Silver Star for his heroics while suffering multiple fragmentation wounds during the desperate defense of FSB Mary Ann, but his commanding officer (Hathaway) refused to endorse the nomination, considering that Doyle was partially to blame for the sapper infiltration.

On June 29, 1973, the 196th Brigade was the last combat brigade to leave Vietnam. In total, the brigade suffered 1,188 KIA, and 5,591 WIA in Vietnam.

Author's Note: Among the 33 soldiers killed at FSB Mary Ann, two were from western Michigan. Their names were Michael Holloway and Warren Ritsema. I was the Survivor Assistance Officer (SAO) for Ritsema but not the Holloway family. Yet I did share a history with the Holloway family and decided to make a visit to the funeral home in hopes of reconnecting with any Holloway that might be there. 

When I entered the funeral home and was ushered into the room where Michael's body lay, I saw an older man I recognized as Maynard Holloway. As a little boy, I lived three doors down from Maynard and his wife, Ruth. Since he was in the Army during World War II, he was not around much, but I recalled his return home after the war, and the many times I saw him afterward. For whatever reason, Maynard and Ruth ultimately divorced, and while Ruth remained a family friend, I never saw Maynard again.

When Maynard first saw me, I was wearing my class-A uniform as I had just come from work (I was a National Guard advisor while finishing up college). When he saw the uniform, a spark of anger came into his eyes. But that quickly disappeared when I told him who I was and that I was only there to offer my condolences. I realized he was reflecting the pain any American who lost a loved one would feel at a time when the vast majority of Americans felt the war had gone on too long, and for families like his that had to suffer the loss of a loved one.

I didn't even try to comfort him. He was in no mood for words like 'honorable service,' 'the ultimate sacrifice,' 'For God and Country' or any of the words I normally said at a gravesite during my SAO duties. I just let him know how sorry I was for his loss. We shook hands and I left. 

Warren Peter Ritsema, the other Western Michigan man killed at FSB Mary Ann, was assigned to me as the family's SAO. He left a young, beautiful widow named Marcia. She and Warren and his family were devout Christians. For the rest of the time I remained in Grand Rapids, I would check in with the family to see if they needed any additional help.

I was struck by one thing that I have never forgotten. At Warren's funeral service, Simon and Garfunkel's 'Bridge over Troubled Waters' was played. As I listened to the words, I understood why it was selected.

I cannot help thinking of Warren, Marcia, and his family anytime I hear that music.


Profile in Courage: Heroes of the Coast Guard

Within days of their Dec. 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Imperial Navy occupied scores of islands throughout the western Pacific Ocean. Japan's goal was to create a defensive buffer against attack from the United States and its Allies - one that would ensure their mastery over East Asia and the Pacific. It wasn't until the United States' strategic victories at the Battles of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942) and Midway (June 4-7, 1942) finally halted the Japanese Empire's expansion that the Allies were free to unleash an offensive. 

The strategically-located Solomon Island chain, lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and critical to protecting the supply lines between the U.S. and Australia, was selected as the place to begin the island-hopping offensive campaign to take the Pacific back from the Japanese. The Solomon Island operation, America's first amphibious operation since 1898, lasted six months and consisted of a number of major battles - on land, at sea, and in the air. 

American forces first landed on the Solomon Islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Florida on the morning of August 7, 1942. It took some very fierce fighting, but the Marines cleared Tulagi and Florida in two days. The main American forces on Guadalcanal met little resistance on their way inland to secure the airfield at Lunga Point (later renamed Henderson Field). Almost immediately, Japanese naval aircraft attacked transport and escort ships, and Japanese reinforcements were sent to the area. The fight for control of Guadalcanal and the surrounding seas continued for months with no clear winner, while both sides continued to lose men, ships and aircraft.

It seemed that every time the U.S. achieved a hard-fought victory, the Japanese would resupply Guadalcanal by night via the infamous "Tokyo Express" fast destroyer resupply chain and be ready for more fighting the next day. But eventually, U.S. forces gained the upper hand, and by February 1943, after six months of deadly and costly combat, the Japanese withdrew the last of their men and conceded the island to the Allies. 

Guadalcanal was also the Coast Guard's first major participation in the Pacific Campaign. These men were assigned a vital role in the landings - the operation of amphibious-type assault craft. Many of the Coast Guard Coxswains (who are in charge of the navigation and steering of a boat) came from Life-Saving Stations, and their training and experience with small boats in treacherous waters close to shore made them the most-qualified small-boat handlers for the crucial task of landing fighting men on the beaches. One such boat handler was Douglas Munro.

Douglas Albert Munro was born on October 11, 1919, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His father, James Munro, who originally hailed from California, and his mother, Edith Thrower Fairey from Liverpool, England, settled their small family of four in South Cle Elum, Washington, just outside of Seattle, where they raised young Douglas and his elder sister Pat. Douglas remained in South Cle Elum, from grade school through high school graduation in 1937, and then attended the Central Washington College of Education in nearby Ellensburg, Washington.

Munro and his friend from Seattle, Raymond Evans, eventually enlisted in the Coast Guard in Sept. 1939, the same month that Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany. They served together on a Higgins boat landing craft off Guadalcanal during the Second Battle of the Matanikau, where both gained national acclaim for their heroic rescue operation that saved a Marine Corps unit trapped behind enemy lines.

Munro initially volunteered for duty on board the USCG Cutter Spencer, where he served until 1941 and earned his Signalman 3rd Class rating. In June 1941, President Roosevelt directed the Coast Guard to man four large transports and serve in mixed crews onboard twenty-two naval ships. When word arrived that these ships needed Signalmen, Munro repeatedly requested and was finally granted permission to transfer to the USS Hunter Liggett (APA-14).

The "Lucky" Liggett was a 535 foot, 13,712 ton ship and was one of the largest attack transports in the Pacific. She carried nearly 700 Officers and men and thirty-five landing boats, including thirty-three LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel, or Higgin's boats) and two LCMs (Landing Craft Mechanized). In April 1942, the Liggett sailed to Wellington, New Zealand, to prepare for a major campaign in the south Pacific.

As the task force gathered, Munro, now a Signalman First Class, was assigned to temporary duty on the staff of Commander, Transport Division Seventeen. During the preparations for the invasion, he was transferred from ship to ship, as his talents were needed. The task force rendezvoused at sea near the end of July, and on August 7, the Liggett led the other transports to their anchorage off Guadalcanal, serving as the amphibious task force command post until the Marines secured the beaches.

At the time of the invasion, Munro was attached to the staff of Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner on board the smaller 9,600-ton attack transport USS McCawley (APA-4). He made the landing on Tulagi Island where fierce fighting lasted for several days. About two weeks later, Munro was sent twenty miles across the channel to Guadalcanal where the Marines had landed and had driven inland. One of the bloodiest and most decisive battles ensued, and the Americans quickly seized the island's airfield. 

After the initial landings at Guadalcanal, Munro and twenty-four other Coast Guard and Navy personnel were assigned to the newly-established base at Lunga Point. The base was commanded by CDR Dwight H. Dexter, USCG, who was in charge of all the small boat operations on Guadalcanal. Situated on the Lever Brothers coconut plantation, the base consisted of a small house with a newly constructed coconut tree signal tower, and Munro was assigned there because of his Signalman rating. The base served as the staging area for troop movements along the coast. To facilitate this movement, a pool of landing craft from the numerous transports lay there to expedite the transportation of supplies and men.

A month into the campaign, the Marines on the island were reinforced and decided to push beyond their defensive perimeter. They planned to advance west across the Matanikau River to prevent smaller Japanese units from combining and striking American positions in overwhelming numbers. For several days near the end of September, the Marines tried to cross the Matanikau River from the east and each time met tremendous resistance. On Sunday, Sept. 27, Marine LtCol Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, embarked three companies of his 7th Marines in landing craft to land west of the river, drive out the Japanese and establish a patrol base on the west side of the Matanikau.

Just two weeks short of his twenty-third birthday, Munro took charge of ten LCPs (Landing Craft Personnel) and LCTs (Landing Craft Tank, or tank lighters) from the landing craft contingent at the Lunga Point base that were dispatched to transport Puller's men to a small cove west of Point Cruz. The destroyer USS Monssen initiated the assault shortly after noon with a covering barrage from her five-inch guns. 500 Marines, led by Maj. Ortho L. Rodgers, landed unopposed in two waves at 1 PM, then pushed inland and reorganized on a ridge about 500 yards from the beach.

Unbeknownst to Maj. Rodgers' Marines, a high-level Japanese air raid of 17 bombers struck Henderson Field as they were disembarking on the beach, interrupting the Marine's communication net and preventing word of unexpectedly strong Japanese forces from being relayed to Puller from a party of Marine Raiders probing further up the west side of the Matanikau River. The air raid also forced the support ships, including the Monssen and its supporting firepower, to temporarily get underway and withdraw from the vicinity of the island, denying the crucial fire support the Marines would immediately need. 

At approximately 1:50 PM, as they reached the ridge, an overwhelming Japanese force struck Puller's Marines from west of the river. This catastrophic situation deteriorated even further when Maj. Rodgers was killed and one of the Company Commanders was wounded. The Marines were stranded with no fire support or communications, facing superior enemy numbers, and in imminent danger of being surrounded and annihilated.

After landing the Marines, Munro returned to Lunga Point with his landing craft. A single LCP manned by Coast Guard Petty Officer Ray Evans and Navy Coxswain Samuel B. Roberts remained behind to take off the immediate wounded, staying extremely close to the beach to expedite the process. Meanwhile, Japanese forces that had worked their way behind the Marine landing party suddenly fired a machine gun burst that hit the LCP, severing the rudder cable and disabling the boat's steering controls. After jury-rigging the rudder, Roberts was struck by enemy fire and Evans managed to jam the controls to full ahead and sped back to Lunga Point Base. Unable to stop, the LCP ran onto the beach at 20 mph. Roberts later died but was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

As the shot-up boat piloted by Evans arrived back at the Lunga Point base, the plight of the Marines was not known, since they had failed to take a radio and were unable to communicate their predicament, and the bombing raid had driven the destroyer Monssen out of visual range with the Marines. However, the enterprising Marines used their under-shirts to spell out the word "HELP" on a ridge not far from the beach, and "Cactus Air Force" pilot Second Lieutenant Dale Leslie, flying out of Henderson Field in a Douglas SBD "Dauntless" naval scout plane/dive bomber, spotted the message and passed it by radio to another Marine unit. Word quickly arrived that the Marines were in trouble and were being driven back toward the beach.

At 4 P.M., Lt. Col. Puller, realizing that his men were isolated and endangered, embarked on Monssen to personally direct the covering fire for the Marines who were desperately trying to reach the beach for extraction. Puller re-established communications with his surrounded Marines via visual signals and directed the Monssen to blast a path through the Japanese to provide a route for his surrounded Marines to return back to the beach.

The landing crafts had meanwhile been readied at Lunga Point. Again, virtually the same boats that had put the Marines on the beach were assembled to extract them. Douglas Munro, who had taken charge of the original landing, volunteered to lead the boats back to the beach. None of these boats were heavily armed or well-protected. For example, Munro's Higgins boat had a plywood hull, it was slow, vulnerable to small arms fire, and was armed only with two air-cooled .30 caliber Lewis machine guns.

As Munro led the boats ashore, the Japanese fired on the small craft from Point Cruz, the ridges abandoned by the Marines, and from positions east of the beach. This intense fire from three strong interlocking positions disrupted the landing and caused a number of casualties among the virtually defenseless crews in the boats. Despite the intense fire, Munro led the boats ashore in waves of two or three at a time to pick up the Marines. Munro and Evans provided covering fire from their exposed position on the beach as the Japanese pressed ever closer to the beach, making the withdrawal increasingly dangerous with each passing second.

The returning Monssen, along with Leslie's "Dauntless" dive bomber, provided additional cover fire for the withdrawing Marines. As the Marines arrived on the beach to embark on the landing craft, the Japanese maintained a murderous and withering fire from the ridges abandoned by the Marines, just 500 yards away, and the last group with their twenty-five wounded were in danger of being cut down. Munro quickly identified the deadly situation and unhesitatingly maneuvered his boat between the enemy and the final group of withdrawing Marines to protect the remnants of the battalion. With no regard to his own personal safety and exposed to the enemy's deadly fire, Munro successfully provided cover and enabled the last remaining Marines to escape the deadly trap.

With all the Marines safely in the dangerously-overloaded small craft, Munro and Evans steered their LCP offshore. As they passed towards Point Cruz they noticed an LCT full of Marines grounded on the beach. Munro steered his landing craft to assist the disabled LCT and directed another tank lighter to pull it off. Twenty minutes later, the craft was free and heading out to sea. Before they could get very far from shore, the Japanese had set up a machine gun and began firing at the boats. Evans saw the incoming fire and shouted a warning to Munro, but the roar of the boat's engine prevented Munro from hearing him, and a single bullet hit him in the base of the skull. Munro remained conscious long enough to say only four words, "Did they get off?" before dying.

Due to his extraordinary heroism, outstanding leadership and gallantry, Signalman First Class Douglas Munro was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the only coast guardsman to receive such an honor. The U.S. Coast Guard has named two of their cutters in his honor, the high-endurance cutter USCGC Munro (WHEC-724), and the National Security Legend-class cutter USCGC Munro (WMSL-755), while the Navy has named a destroyer escort in his honor, the USS Douglas A. Munro (DE-422). The Douglas A. Munro Inspirational Leadership Award is annually awarded to the Coast Guard enlisted member who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and professional competence to the extent of their rank and rate.

Raymond Evans, who remained in the Coast Guard, retired as a Commander. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on Guadalcanal. He died on June 7, 2013, at the age of 92. The USCGC Raymond Evans (WPC-1110) is named in his honor. The CDR Ray Evans Outstanding Coxswain Trophy is a prestigious annual award that recognizes a Coast Guard coxswain who demonstrates exceptional boat handling skills and leadership. 

In honor of Samuel B. Roberts, the US Navy named three ships after him. The destroyer escort USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), commissioned in April 1944, fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf of October 1944 and was sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Battle off Samar on October 25, 1944. The USS Samuel B. Roberts (DD-823), a Gearing-class destroyer, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Samuel B. Roberts. In August 1970, the ship was ruled unfit for further service and was sunk as a target in the Atlantic Ocean 195 nautical miles north of Puerto Rico on November 14, 1971. The third USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58), is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate, commissioned in 1986 and decommissioned on May 22, 2015. When it struck an Iranian mine in the Persian Gulf in 1988 and was in danger of sinking, its crewmen who were engaged in damage control passed around and touched a plaque commemorating the first ship.

The Solomon Islands Campaign cost the Allies approximately 7,100 men, 29 ships and 615 aircraft. The Japanese lost 31,000 men, 38 ships and 683 aircraft. Over the next two and a half years, U.S. forces captured the Gilbert Islands (Tarawa and Makin), the Marshall Islands (Kwajalein and Eniwetok), the Mariana Islands (Saipan, Guam, and Tinian), Iwo Jima and Okinawa. With each island reclaimed from the Japanese, the U.S. moved closer to Japan. Growing superiority at sea and in the air, as well as in the number of fighting men, gave the U.S. increasing advantages. Nonetheless, wherever U.S. forces met Japanese defenders, the enemy fought long and hard before being defeated.


Latinos in Vietnam

After watching a six-part series on PBS called Latino Americans, I began thinking of those I encountered on my two tours of duty in Vietnam. On my first Vietnam tour from 1967-68, we had several Latinos in the 68th Assault Helicopter Company but no one seemed to make an issue out of it. All that counted were their qualities as soldiers.

I recall one maintenance warrant officer with us who was commissioned while there to 2nd Lt. He funded a good party at our little officers' club that night. I think he was from Puerto Rico.  He was good at his job and kept our aircraft ready and safe to fly.  

There was one crew chief in the Mustangs named Gonzales, aka "Gonzo."   He was good; had to be as a Mustang.  It was good to be flying his ship shortly after he received a care package from home as he received and shared Mexican goodies which enhanced our "C rats" memorably.  Introduced to tamales thanks to Gonzo; salsa too.  Does great things to "ham & eggs chopped" but doubt it could help "ham & limas".  We didn't have chili on our "C-rat" menu back then but I be surprised if it isn't available now.

He was shot in his tail section which was brought laughs from all the guys for some months after he was shipped home.  Something about a bullet which ricocheted off a mini-gun mount striking him up through his seat.  He recovered and has a story that he shares with a few I suspect.

I saw him in 1969 while at some mass event in Germany when he recognized me in the crowd.  He may have remained in the Army but I never saw him again.

My last crew chief was of Dutch and Indonesian descent.  Although we only flew together for a month or two before I left, it was evident that he was very good too and certainly got better after I was gone.  

I can't recall any Latinos in the 478th Aviation Company Heavy Helicopters on my second tour 1970-71, though there had to be more than a few there too.

We did have a full-blooded Navajo pilot (Cal Gatewood), a Canadian and Janos Karo, a Hungarian refugee. And can't leave out Gary Weis, a guy with a genuine Hitler signed, swastika bearing a 1942 German birth certificate.



Book Review: The Other Side of Military Life

Whether you are or were in the military yourself, a family member, or simply a reader seeking inspiration and spiritual guidance with issues that are personal, Landreville's book will open your eyes to a dedicate man who spent four years living with Marine and four years with Navy personnel and their families, sharing their hardships, fears, and joys. 

The activities of chaplain Landreville extend far beyond the sphere of religious practice. He was part of the daily lives of military men and women serving as a counselor, an advocate, and a teacher. He was there at marriages, baptisimals, funerals and the one who brought the news that a spouse, parent, or child has died or was killed. Such a case was a newly-wed Naval pilot who crashed while making landings and take-offs an aircraft carrier. As he approached the carrier, his plane suddenly broke in flames but he waited too long to parachute out, crashing into the ocean. His body was found in the wreckage. Landreville was tasked to notify the wife of her husband's death. He wrote "There are times when an experience like this will remain with you forever. This was such a case."

Landreville shares an incredible amount of detail; the book paints a very complete picture. He shares joy and happiness, beauty and grace and also tragedy and unhappiness. He shares his thoughts and feelings with an unvarnished honesty. It has a conversational style as if the author is talking to you like you are a close friend.

Landreville also brings together stories that touch the heart with inspiring messages drawn from the day-to-day lives of our nation's soldiers. This provided me with incredible insights into the many roles and functions of chaplains as they nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the fallen. 
This book is absolutely wonderful and inspirational! It is true testimony from a very inspirational life. It communicates so much about the challenges and joys Landreville faced. 

I enjoyed it very much. I could not recommend it more highly!

About the Author
Raphael P. Landreville was ordained in 1955 for the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan. Six years after ordination, he joined the U.S. Navy as a Military Chaplain. Upon completion of the Chaplain Training Program in Newport, RI his first assignment was the 5th Marines, Camp Pendleton, Calif. where he participated in the Cuban Conflict. He had severed in Okinawa, Japan and spent two years at the Marine Supply and Maintenance Base in Barstow, Calif. His next two were served on the Aircraft Carrier USS Shangri-La (CVA 38) touring the Mediterranean and two years at Ellyson Naval Air Station, Pensacola, FL. After completing an eight year tour, he returned to the civilian world, grateful to God. 

He currently lives in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area where he founded RPL Management Resources, Inc. He is also Adjunct Labor Law Professor at the Langston University, Tulsa Campus, OK for 15 years; Teaching College Credit Courses in Human Resources Management, Collective Bargaining, Arbitration and Conflict Resolution.