Obama on Our Side?
For the first time since becoming a subscriber to Vietnam I find myself wondering if I should renew my subscription. This is due to the Peter Brush essay in the April issue that gives me the impression that there are those within your ranks who are so naive as to believe that our current commander in chief (who politically has far more in common with our enemies), Barack Hussein Obama, is a supporter of our military. Based upon words written by some third party and read from a tele prompter, does Brush really believe that the socialist messiah has any idea where Khe Sanh is or what significance it has?
Charles R. Morris
Normandy Beach, N.J.
Tigers by the Tail
I am writing in regards to Col. Wesley Fox’s letter in your June issue. I am sick and tired of hearing about “Tiger Force atrocities.” I had the honor and privilege of serving in Tiger Force in 1967. You sir, have not done your homework on Tiger Force! You take at face value what you have read about us. For you to besmirch our unit is unacceptable. Your letter smacks of interservice rivalry.
Our unit was highly decorated in Vietnam, and during my time I saw no such thing as described by the Toledo Blade or Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss.You sir, have probably not looked at our after-action reports. Our leaders were impeccable. No matter what you or anyone else says about our unit, it will never tarnish our legacy.
Guadalupe P. Balderas
Dusting Off at Kham Duc
I read your June article on Kham Duc. I had the “privilege” of being there in July 1970 as a crew chief with the 498th Dustoff. I was on loan to Chu Lai Dustoff, as they were in dire need of flyable aircraft. The missions we flew at Kham Duc were probably the scariest I flew in my 23 months in Vietnam. The NVA and VC typically would booby trap the areas where they thought the good guys were going to be. The re-taking of Kham Duc was a complete surprise to them, and they had no time to rig traps.
All the missions we flew were a result of contact wounds, not booby traps. Of the five GIs killed in the operation, I remember for sure one mission we flew where we picked up one KIA and one gunshot wound to the leg. We and the ground unit were in contact with the enemy the whole time. It took hours to complete the mission, as we had to hover alongside a small knoll. The guys on the ground did a great job of keeping the enemy pinned down, so we could make the pickup.
Donald “Bones” Jones
The My Lai Effect
Much has been said about My Lai (June) but nothing about the deaths of American soldiers caused by the media hype at the time. In January 1970, I was flying a mission in the 183rd Reconnaissance Airplane Company north of Phan Thiet in my O-1 Birddog. I found a tax collection point and reported it to Sector HQ. They said artillery rounds would impact the target in two minutes. Seconds later, I saw people come out of the elephant grass onto the road. They looked very young, so I called for a ceasefire. Headquarters had some intelligence I didn’t have, so they denied it—which was unheard of. As this was during all the publicity about My Lai, I feared if we killed civilians, I would find myself sharing a cell beside Lieutenant Calley, my life ruined.
The only way to determine if they were civilians was to go down and check. I made a pass at 50 feet and saw that they were teenagers, mostly boys but some girls. I waved and they waved back, grinning. Again I called for a cease-fire and got an immediate denial. Then, as I turned to come up the other side of the road, the teenagers reached into the elephant grass and pulled out AK-47s and machine guns and let me have it. I was flying right into a company-size NVA ambush. At first I could hear the rounds breaking the sound barrier as they passed the cockpit, but they were so close that I could hear the muzzle blasts. I dove into the elephant grass and the little Birddog plowed its way through. After flying out of range, I pulled hard back on the stick. Climbing, I could see the sky through a hole at my feet. Do you think I blame the media? Hell yes. In war, if you hesitate, you die.
After seeing my letter in print (August), I realized that at some points I used a poor choice of words and may have come off disrespecting the honorable service of the vast majority of Vietnam veterans. That was not my intention, and I apologize to any who were offended. I don’t believe My Lai was an isolated incident, but it happened after the war had gone grinding on for four long years. I think that our war effort was beginning to rot by then and maybe long before. Some terrible things happened and we were responsible.
It doesn’t matter how much more horrible, vicious and cruel the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese were. It doesn’t matter how many more innocents they killed than we killed. It was never a just war for Americans to be involved in. American servicemen and women were used, abused and betrayed. The American Vietnam War experience just came down to survival. I guess in war if you survive, you’ve won.
Richard B. Ellenberger
Normandy Park, Wash.
Twice on Hamburger Hill
In an August issue letter, Bill Schulz of Bravo Co., 1-506, 101st Airborne, wrote about what they had to endure trying to get to the top of Hamburger Hill. He wrote that after the battle, the 3-187, which I was in, “went to Eagle Beach for a well-deserved rest” and that his unit stayed in the Ashau Valley. We were sent, and it was well-deserved. Schulz’s unit also deserved a rest.
After our short rest, however, we were sent back to the Ashau. My mother saved a newspaper article that reported the 3-187 would be given security details, implying that our fighting was done. That’s what she believed. But we were sent back to the floor of the valley and were linked up with an armor unit, with tanks and APCs and huge bulldozers called Rome Plows. We protected those units as they built a road to the top of Hamburger Hill. From there, we ran patrols. When we came down from the hill, the APCs took us to recon in the valley. The second time on Hamburger Hill was certainly not like the first, but being there two times was more than enough for me.
Bravo Co., 3-187, 101st Airborne
Questions about Sharon Lane
Sharon Lane was born in Canton, Ohio, and graduated from nursing school at Aultman Hospital, where today there is a statue of her. The Vietnam Veterans of America Sharon Lane Memorial Chapter 199 is always interested in articles about Sharon, including the April article by a nurse named Sylvia Lutz-Holland (“Privileged to Comfort the Dying”). Sharon’s mother, Mrs. Kay Lane, read the article and does not remember certain accounts as described by Lutz-Holland, who says Sharon replaced her in the hospital’s Vietnamese ward. According to Mrs. Lane, Sharon actually replaced a Lieutenant Kathy Lee in the ward. The June 8, 1969, rocket attack actually happened at 5:55 a.m., and IVs and compression were not administered because Sharon was killed instantly. Many others were wounded and needed medical supplies and attention. They would not have been wasted.
Glen M. Conley, Secretary
Sharon Lane Memorial Chapter 199
Vietnam Veterans of America
Sylvia Lutz-Holland replies: About the time Sharon Lane started working on the Vietnamese ward, I moved from there to Receiving and Emergency. I wrote in my essay that the rocket attack occurred early in the morning before sunrise, around 5 a.m. Sharon’s was the first litter in the emergency room, and the doctor and I were so used to seeing GIs or civilians that seeing one of our medical staff was unnerving. We knew she was dead. For me, I had to try and do something, and an IV was the first place to start. There were no veins because she had bled out. The doctor stopped compressions almost as soon as he started. We “wasted” lots of supplies, blood, IV needles and dressings on every casualty who came into that hospital. We never gave up. Those are my recollections of that tragic day 40 years ago.
Still Sweating the Chopper War
I’m a disabled vet who served in Vietnam from May 1966 until the North Vietnamese took me out during the 1967 Tet “cease-fire.” The August issue was especially poignant to me as a former machine gunner of Delta Recon, 2/12, 1st Cavalry Division. I broke out into a sweat when I read the cover story by David F. Crosby (“High Tech vs. Low Tech”) about the awful damage to our choppers. God bless you all for a great job telling our story.
James Francis Breen
Living with the Long Night at Loon
I served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam for one year starting in September 1967. Most of that time I spent in HQ Company, 8th Combat Engineers, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Over the last 40 years I’ve read everything I could find trying to make sense of what was going on, why we went where we did.
I have read Vietnam magazine since 1991, and my collection of books about Vietnam has grown to over 165. When the August issue arrived, I found a real jolt in the new book reviews: Loon. I would like to say welcome home Jack McLean, I am glad you survived, I really wish we all could have come home. I am glad you wrote this book; you have filled in a lot of missing details I had long wondered about. For 41 years, I’ve lived with the long night we spent at Loon. It still seems like it just happened.
Nora Springs, Iowa
In August’s “High Tech vs. Low Tech” feature, Lt. Gen. Hal Moore was misidentified as the first commander of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in Vietnam. Then–Lt. Col. Moore was actually the first commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment. Major General Harry W.O. Kinnard was the commander of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
In August’s Arsenal, we wrote that the first combat deployment of the Walleye guided glide bomb was on Hanoi’s main power plant in May 1967. The first combat use of the Walleye was actually on March 11, 1967, against the Sam Son Barracks near Vinh in North Vietnam.
Originally published in the October 2009 issue of Vietnam Magazine. To subscribe, click here.