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Pageantry and war

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wonderful news! Our guys in blue terminated the life of the most evil man in the world. Have you noticed that vast majority of the people celebrating in the streets were young people? It is great to see them involved and cheering the success of that long sought goal.

Yes, I will have to admit it. I did watch the Royal Wedding real time on TV. Along about four o'clock in the morning I got up to check on my wife and found her curled up downstairs in front of the TV enjoying the spectacle. I joined her in watching for a few minutes and got hooked. Now in my mind weddings are a girl thing, an exercise that we males have to endure to capture the prize and in my case well worth it.

No it wasn't the wedding ceremony itself that captivated my attention, it was the pageantry, that the British do so well. The events of the day were carried off with absolute precision. The royal uniforms fitted and worn perfectly looked splendid and every lady wore a dress, tasteful and elegant. I detected nary a glitch, not a detectable error in timing, no intrusive television camera, no obnoxious reporter poking a camera into someone's face and nary a picture of a protestor holding an obscene sign. Even the gloomy English weather cooperated with sunshine.

The United Kingdom just has to be proud of their handsome young prince and his beautiful princess. Pride in one's country is a good thing and the rest of the world can only wish them well.

An Air Force Academy classmate, Don L. Brooks, has recently released a book on his experiences as a forward air controller -- FAC -- in Vietnam. Vietnam, the war that we in the military won hands down only to have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory by our politicians aided by a liberal media. Why might I be bitter?

Don's book "Fly to the Sound of Battle" describes his life at the academy, and as a young bachelor officer flying the mighty B-52. He then had an assignment at SAC headquarters in Omaha and was a major when he received his assignment to spend a year in Vietnam. Don drew the twin-engine turboprop powered OV-10 to fly the FAC mission and spent the year as commander of a unit at Quan Loi. His narrative is well-written even if he uses the gritty language of aircrews operating in constant danger. It is a great read.

Don's narrative brought to mind a vivid memory of a conversation that I overheard one day on guard channel sometime circa 1968. Flying our tanker at 25,000 feet altitude in air-conditioned comfort we heard a FAC working with the survivor of a bailout up in the DMZ (Supposedly demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam) somewhere north of Hue. The crew of a Navy F-4 had been forced to eject and the surviving backseater was on the ground absolutely scared nearly to death. The FAC flying his single engine unarmed and unarmored light aircraft was calm personified. Somehow the FAC spotted the survivor on the ground and directed him to get into a nearby bomb crater. The survivor reported small arms fire, obviously coming from bad guys nearby. We could only hear the radio transmissions on the emergency frequency but the FAC had to have been having concurrent conversations on at least two other radios and frequencies with a controlling agency, fighter bombers diverted to help out in the rescue and the Jolly Green Giant helicopters coming to pick up the guy on the ground.

Flying over Vietnam all too many times we heard the yelp yelp yelp of a rescue beacon as some poor aircrew had to punch out of a disabled aircraft. It seemed that whenever that happened the whole war came to a halt and all the Air Force and Navy fighters airborne at the moment, along with the Army helicopters in range, all headed for the site to help out in a hopeful rescue.

So it was that day when a flight of Navy F-8s, several flights of Air Force F-100s and at least two Air Force A-1 "Spads" (A large propeller- driven fighter that had flown off carriers in a prior life) arrived on scene.

The FAC directed the "fast movers" to drop their ordinance in the area near where the survivor was holed up in his bomb crater. They did so dropping on his smoke rocket marks, then the FAC got on the radio to ask if all was quiet in the area. Evidently the survivor was panicking a bit and worried that his hand held radio might fail. The FAC stated "No problem, I have a couple extra with me and I can drop you one if you need it."

Then the two Jolly Green rescue helicopters arrived on scene and the FAC cleared the first one to make the pickup. The chopper crew sighted the survivor and came to a hover over him. Then they lowered a cable with a seat on the end (called a "jungle penetrator") for him to ride up to the helicopter. No sooner than the Jolly pulled into a hover a bad guy shot the chopper hitting the engine compartment. Evidently the hit was in the fuel control units and his engines began surging, one going to idle and then to 100 percent rpm and the other engine alternating while doing the same. The pilot prudently called "uncle" and departed the scene.

That caused the survivor to panic (couldn't blame him) and the FAC had to calm him down while promising that things would get better. Now picture in your mind that this FAC was probably a 25 year old Captain, listening and talking on at least four radio frequencies while directing the action. It had to have resembled a juggler keeping four balls in the air while simultaneously hand flying his aircraft all while being exposed to enemy fire himself. Then the FAC directed the Spads to drop CBU's (cluster bomblets, about 100 hand grenade sized units per container, illegal now but a very effective anti-personnel weapon) around the area to neutralize any enemy activity. That done the enemy fire ceased and the second Jolly could go in to the attempt the rescue.

Whether that action was successful we never learned because by then we had flown out of radio range. Unknown to us was the identity of any of the warriors below us that day. Whether the rescue was effected or the fate of the pilot who never came up on the radio we will never know.

During the war I lost two friends flying their O-1s in the forward air controller role. Richard Whitesides, was a pilot training friend that simply disappeared over the jungle and was never heard from again. The other, Harlow K. Halbower, an Academy classmate from Kansas was shot down in a fire fight trying to defend an isolated Army outpost. Both their names are engraved on the Wall of the Vietnam Memorial. It was a different world then and a different war but I proudly call them my brothers.

Upon reading this Ann wanted to state that she is thankful that I never got the assignment to fly A-1s for which I volunteered. She didn't want me in the FAC role, either, as she is convinced that I would have stayed in the action too long and never made it back home. Either would have been an exciting tour but instead I did my part by simply passing gas.

That is the way I saw it.

Dick Trail


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Mr. Trail

Excellent article with one exception, which is your quote "Vietnam, the war that we in the military won hands down only to have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory by our politicians aided by a liberal media".

The U.S. Congress passed the Case-Church Amendment which forbid any further U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia, effective August 15, 1973. The veto-proof vote was 278-124 in the House and 64-26 in the Senate.

At the time there was 242 Democrats in the House and 56 Democrats in the Senate. I was not able to come up with a tally of how many Republicans or Democrats voted for the Amendment, but there was enough Republicans voting for it to secure a super majority to bypass any veto effort.

During 15 years of military involvement, over 2 million Americans served in Vietnam with 500,000 seeing actual combat. 47,244 were killed in action, including 8000 airmen. There were 10,446 non-combat deaths. 153,329 were seriously wounded, including 10,000 amputees. Over 2400 American POWs/MIAs were unaccounted for as of 1973.

The citizens of our country grew tired of waging a 15 year war with no end in sight. Our elected officials (or Politicians as you call them) could no longer deny this fact and acted to stop our Military Involvement.

I think it is a giant leap of faith to lay blame on the "Liberal Media" or any media outlet for the outcome of the war.

-- Posted by Geezer on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 10:05 AM

Hey Dick, you ol gas passing Toad, you are right on, 100% correct. Gen. Giap, the General of North Vietnam made a comment that he couldn't possibly figure why we pulled out when we did. After the bombing of Dec.1972, they were ready to call it quits and give in to the US. But, the politicians, and left wing media, along with John Kerry and Jane Fonda thought otherwise. I bet "Geezer" probably thinks those two are real fine people. I know a lot of Marines and B-52 crews that will agree with you Dick, turn up the heat a tad, a lot of people find it hard to face facts.

-- Posted by Chief Gun on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 4:57 PM

Da Chief

Speaking of facts, do you have any to back up your claim about General Giaps comments?

Supposedly, General Giap had written in How We Won the War that in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive of 1968, the Communist leaders in Vietnam had been ready to abandon the war, but that a broadcast by Walter Cronkite, declaring the Tet Offensive a Communist victory, persuaded them to change their minds and fight on. This rumor was entirely false. Giap had not mentioned Cronkite, and had not said the Communists had ever considered giving up on the war.

Several variants of this rumor appeared in 2004. In these, Giap is supposed to have credited either the American anti-war movement in general, or John Kerry's organization (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) in particular, for persuading the Communist leaders to change their minds and not give up on the war. Giap is sometimes said to have made this statement in How We Won the War, sometimes in an unnamed 1985 memoir. All versions of the rumor are false. Neither in How We Won the War, nor in any other book (the 1985 memoir is entirely imaginary), has Giap mentioned Kerry or Vietnam Veterans Against the War, or said that the Communist leaders had ever considered giving up on the war.

Analysis: Circulating in various forms ever since the 1990s, this statement attributed to General Vo Nguyen Giap of North Vietnam is not authentic, has never been authentic, nor will any amount of repetition will make it so.

http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bl...

-- Posted by Geezer on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 7:35 PM

Geezer,

About.com, A part of The New York Times Company??And you attribute credibility to this left wing media organization? Nuff said.

-- Posted by Chief Gun on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 8:15 PM

Da Chief

The Authors sources are listed so you can verify his conclusions.

All I asked was for you to provide the facts for your statement. I provided my source of information and it would be appreciated if you provide yours, Thanks.

-- Posted by Geezer on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 10:12 PM

Chief if you can automatically discount any information from a source that you consider unreliable because of your perception of their political leanings, may we then automatically discount anything that comes from say Fox noise which is little more than the privately owned propaganda arm of the Republican party?

I'd say that if anything the incident Dick describes should have given that airplane rider a deeper appreciation of what we on the ground experienced nearly every time we went out through the wire and in under the triple canopy.I'll submit that had we stayed much longer they'd have had to make that black wall a couple miles long and the question remains why were we there in the first place and what would have been accomplished by our "winning"?

-- Posted by davis_x_machina on Fri, May 6, 2011, at 8:20 AM

davis-x-machina

The source I discounted was not "automatically" it was viseral. I read, I listen, I learn, I decide from there. As for "We on the ground experienced" Been there, done that, USMC, 3/9.

As for why were we there? ever hear of relief from oppression, freedom of speech, freedom of religion? Where do you reckon we would be now if Gen Washington decided; "It's too darn cold, my troops are cold and hungry, we're out gunned and out manned and I don't think I want to cross that river at night. We'll just wait here and see what happens. If we had stayed the course, the South Vietnameese would probably have freedom, Pol Pot probably wouldn't have come to power, multi-thousands of Vietnameese and Cambodians would still be alive. But, we'll never know, due to a bunch of gutless politicians and cess pool skinny dippers, thousands of my brothers and sisters died, for what? So that bunch of miscreants through out the USA and Washington DC could strut around and brag about their accomplishment. Maybe you and the "Geezer" should tie-up at Sarges bar and have a beer and high-five each other, better yet maybe you two should buy Dick a beer or two, he is only one of many heros in McCook.

-- Posted by Chief Gun on Fri, May 6, 2011, at 5:10 PM

Da Chief

The Historical Facts do not support your or Mr. Trails conclusion that the Vietnam War was lost due to Politicians aided by a Liberal Media.

What led to the eventual stoppage of the War was the release of the classified documents known as the "Pentagon Papers". These classified documents were prepared by the Department of Defense Vietnam Study Task Force under then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamarra. The 7000 plus pages of documents amounting to 47 volumes - contained a complete history of our countries political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.

The documents revealed that the U.S. had deliberately expanded its war with bombing of Cambodia and Laos, Coastal raids on North Vietnam, and Marine Corps attacks, none of which had been reported by the media in the US. The most damaging revelations in the papers revealed that four administrations, from Truman to Johnson, had misled the public regarding their intentions.

Our country was in a state of shock at the realization that the public had been manipulated by our own government. This marked the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War.

The Pentagon Papers can be found at many locations on the Internet, 4100 pages were entered into the Congressional Records by Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska. There have been many books written about the subject along with several documentaries. Nearly every media organization in the country followed the release and impact of these documents which eventually led to Congress passing an Amendment defunding the Vietnam War. The People of our Country stopped the Vietnam War, the Congress made it legal and binding, and the media reported it in detail.

Supreme Court Justice Black quoted the following statement concerning the importance of maintaining a free press to expose deception in Government:

Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.

Following is a link to a video which gives a historical accounting of the release of the Pentagon Papers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuuAtAhso...

-- Posted by Geezer on Sun, May 8, 2011, at 1:19 AM


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Dick Trail
The Way I Saw It