Copyright (c) 1980, 1987, The Vietnam War Library

Chapter 1 Footnotes

1 Malcolm X's assassination was big news, but he had pre-empted public astonishment by predicting it himself several months earlier. When it finally happened it was more like deja-vu than something new. Newspaper accounts of Pres-For-Life Nasser described him as an irrational leader who blew with whatever wind prevailed at the time. Because the strongest wind this year blew down from the North, Nasser chose to ally Egypt with the Soviet Union who ambitiously provided the guns he wanted to attack Israel. And Gemini launches were going up and coming down so fast it was difficult keeping up with their mission number. After seeing a half-dozen ticker-tape parades rolling down Times Square, space flights got to be old hat after the 3d splashdown.

2 Among the more prestigious group of personality-news anchors that included Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevaride, and John Chancellor, Huntley and Brinkley were said to be the most innovative network journalists.

3 Rebelling against the conservatives in the American music industry who snubbed the invasion of English rock because millions of dollars were being shipped to England, and parents who feared their kids were becoming unmanageable, America's youth grew closer to counter-culture music groups. And the groups, who sought to increase their popularity, appealed to the concerns as well as theirs ears of their audiences. By the fall of 1968 the vociferous anti-war feelings of those kids who grew up to be the primary targets of the Selective Service System, and the anti-war music of their heroes, were now completely synchronized in their mutual rejection of the war. A now-Zennist John Lennon would state, "The oneness of the Beatles and our fans have at last come full circle."

4 By the time my class of '69 got to Vietnam, we learned that a good percentage of those field interviews were not as authentic as they appeared to be. Many of them, we believed, were filmed with Special Service GI's acting out a field interview not during, but several hours or days after an operation or incident of newsworthy importance. Being filmed afterward, upsetting defeats could be modified to appear less depressing. And also, by the spring of 1969, it was getting harder for war correspondents to find a happy group of GI's in Vietnam who wanted to smile for the camera and say "Hi Mom". It was even rumored that some of those interviews were shot in scenically similar areas of the Philippines or Thailand. The U.S. Army's Special Service Corps were made up of non-combat troops who served as actors, musicians, generals attendants, USO liaisons, etc.

5 When reading about any one of a dozen Marine heroes, we automatically pictured John Wayne. In our minds, the Marines he portrayed were immortalized not so much by their own personalities as much as they were by Wayne's type-cast face.

6 TET marked the Asian New Year. Unlike the Western New Year which is celebrated only one day, TET lasted several days. Historically, the North Vietnamese believed that whatever manner of behavior they exhibited during the TET season would be reflected over the course of the entire year. If they fought aggressively and courageously, their forces would be guided by that spirit for the rest of the year. But if they fought poorly, their forces would do badly. Naturally, it was during TET each year when the North staged their most zealous offensives.

7 Using the press in their propaganda campaign, the President and State Department permitted controlled leaks to their favorite newspapers who reported secret think-tank studies had been conducted discussing the possible use of strategically-selected nuclear strikes on areas determined to be inhabited by heavy concentrations of enemy personnel.

8 Because only their Special Forces troops were actively engaged in ground combat operations, the Navy and Air Force were receiving the highest number of enlistments. The Marine Corps, considered to be one of the harshest of the four services, was receiving fewer (legitimate) recruits than the Army. To counter their attrition-loss, the Marines were allowed to scalp from recruiters of the other three services. And no resistance was offered because the others were meeting their quotas.

Chapter 2 Footnotes

1 Near the end of my tour the Army ordered the manufacturer to re-supply its pharmacies worldwide with a capsule containing a powdered form of the pellet to prevent it from being separated. GI's would now have to swallow a large number of capsules to get high. But before getting there he'd get an enormous headache from the large quantity of buffering agent.

2 In later years, after the war ended, critics would say "The Green Berets" was a distorted, conservative view of both the war and the GI who served there. I disagreed with their criticism. They were influenced by the dope-smoking, anti-war personality of the GI who served in the latter stages of the war. Wayne's direction, I feel, succeeded in portraying a certain segment of the US Army who, throughout the war, maintained the personalities the film's actors portrayed.

3 The theory that the Russians had developed their space program simply as a ruse to get Americans to divert billions of tax dollars away from social, military, and industrial programs was dismissed by everyone who didn't believe the Soviets were either intelligent or intuitive enough to predict and manipulate American behavior. But the Russians had taken a lesson from Karl Marx almost a century prior. Marx stated that Western response and behavior could be manipulated simply by exploiting the capitalistic need to compete.

4 The loss of their elite services could be felt over a decade later during the ill-fated hostage rescue mission over the Iranian desert attempted by a later President, Jimmy Carter.

Probably under relentless pressure, Carter bowed to the 4 Chiefs of Staff to have their branches included in the mission, and of course the press rewards a successful rescue would ensure. If the mission had been coordinated solely as a Special Forces operation, with a goal for success rather than publicity, it would have been, in all probability, a resounding success. Green Beret's serving as pilots, medical personnel, communication operators, technicians, and assault teams were designed for that type of operation. The uncoordinated combined conventional forces used in the mission were not.

5 It would not be fair to say it was the war that brought my brother and I into the military because both of us knew we would have enlisted at some point in time anyway. Serving in the United States Army had been a tradition with most of the men in my family since the Civil War.

6 Still used in the military today, combat growls were encouraged by our DI's as a self and group motivation tool during the infantry portion of basic training. More importantly, they were believed to be an intimidating threat to the enemy because our opponents would fear a highly motivated sounding attacker. The VC, however, had another, much older philosophy. They felt that he who even minutely possesses the concept of fear was the one who was most susceptible to its influence.

Seeing themselves as the defenders of their homeland, the VC and NVA had very little to be afraid of. Any fears they had in facing American gunfire were greatly reduced simply by reinforcing their belief that we were the intruders invading their homeland. They weren't invading ours. They firmly believed that the instigator of battle was always the one in the wrong. And the one in the wrong was the one that would eventually lose. They also believed that knowing one was right in defending one's property made one's determination to win much stronger than an enemy's belief he was right to attack you.

In applying this philosophy on the battlefield, the VC/NVA believed that a combatant, not knowing if his bullets were hitting the enemy, while at the same time seeing the enemy's bullets effectively reach their mark in his own comrades, quickly brought any concept of fear he may have had to the surface to work against him. This proved true in Vietnam because unless you could see your enemy fall, you never knew if your bullets were actually finding their mark in the dense foliage until the battle was over. And if one side prematurely retreated from battle because their losses were unacceptable they'd never be able to confirm if they killed more of the other guys.

7 Because of the tiring weight and the cumbersome length of the wooden-stock M-14, it was soon replaced with the mostly plastic, toy-like, M-16. Able to unload a 20-round clip in 1/2 seconds, the M-16 bullet could deflect on a single blade of grass at 300 yards. This meant maximum enemy casualties could be inflicted when a bullet would enter the body at one point, deflect on something as small as a blood vessel, then tear out in another direction and possibly strike another VC.

8 Rarely in Vietnam was the advice of JEMS taken by officers. However, not long after America's full-scale involvement, our grunts developed an offensive strategy called the "blind-fire" technique. Not really a technique as much as it was our only option in bush fighting, blind-fire resulted from our inability to quickly identify hidden enemy positions.

Blind-fire was the strategy of surrounding the enemy, as best as possible, and from fixed positions, randomly saturate the suspected area with concentrated automatic rifle fire. However, despite the best intentions and design of blind-fire, a small percentage of the enemy always seemed to survive. No matter how many bullets were fired, complete success of blind-fire could only be accomplished if at least 1 bullet managed to penetrate every 1-square-inch of ground in the target area. It took a concentration of close-patterned fire to absolutely guarantee a wounded or killed enemy. Because it was impossible to train hand-held rifles to evenly disperse their bullets in a dense-pack formation, the need for a high-concentrated, precision-firing method, led to the development of the special assault guns used on the Huey "Cobra" attack helicopter and the "Puff The Magic Dragon" airplane. Both could fire 100's of bullets per minute that were evenly distributed in near 1-square-inch saturation over a wide area. Very few, if any, enemy survived air blind-fire. Grunts were then left with the much easier task of performing mop-up and body counts.

9 There was no such thing as a "guaranteed" military job because many pre-enlistment promises made by our recruiters, even those in writing, were reneged on by the Army. The Army cited post-induction test scores as the reason. They disqualified an enlistees promised career choice if his test scores were "too low" in that field, or qualified him for other training if his scores were higher in another field. This, of course, was particularly distressing for the enlistee who, for example, wanted to be trained in combat avionics but was told he had to go to cook school.

10 Each Corps had its own Officer's Candidate School. Generally 2 of 3 months in length, these "instant officer" academies provided the Army's secondary officers. Its primary officers came from West Point. Prerequisites for OCS were a college diploma, field promotion, or senior recommendation. Contempt for officers by JEMS started in Basic Training, not in Vietnam as is commonly believed. Vietnam duty only gave JEMS the armed weapons and the conception they could carry out an assassination without being discovered.

11 Containing every piece of paperwork processed on a serviceman during his tour of duty, the 201 Master Personnel File was "our life history".

12 Although it was primarily the Army who received all the draftees, both the Air Force and Navy found their enlistments picked up dramatically after instructing their recruiters to propagandize to draft-eligibles that serving 4 years as a technician in the academic branches of the military was far less risky than serving as a grunt in the ground-fighting Army.

Chapter 3 Footnotes

1 However, beginning in 1974 an enormous military-wide drive was initiated to cut post-war, active-duty rosters. Many of these lifers, whom the military considered dead weight, were involuntarily retired.

2 In previous wars GI's served in war zones for the duration unless their unit was rotated home or to another zone. In the first few years of Vietnam, the length of a GI's service was indeterminate. But due to inconsistent public and Congressional support, the harsh and ungentlemanly combat, and the large number of psychological and physical basket cases coming home, 'Nam duty was cut to a maximum 12-month cycle for all ranks under Field-Grade. Anyone, however, could voluntarily extend his tour indefinitely.

3 12 years later, it would be Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States, who finally ordered a complete, long-overdue pullout of U.S. forces in South Vietnam.

4 Although the Boston Tea Party, December 16, 1773, was the first naval incident that directly led to an American war, the February 15, 1898 hostile sinking of the S.S. Maine set the precedent for using naval incidents as "justification" for declaring war.

Historically, the common denominator of the government using naval incidents, (civilian as well as military), to encourage American citizens to support its war involvements was not lost on us either. History reveals that nations, hungry for war, traditionally seek to portray themselves as the victims of aggression by selecting the most isolated of their outposts to forsake in order to solicit a public outcry for revenge. Ships, alone at sea, always seem to be the choice war planners select to fill the "lonely outpost" element. In early 1968, the North Koreans capture of the U.S.S. Pueblo, and in '74, the communist takeover of the Mayaguez in the South China Sea, were both called into question as being incidents with origins deserving serious investigation.

5 After arriving in Vietnam I met a guy who served in the "Fag Battalion". He was presently working as liaison officer between Military Intelligence and the local Vietnamese Corp Tactical Zone (CTZ) Commanding General. I learned there were "two" Fag Battalion's, or Gay Brigade's as he termed them, on Army Basic Training posts. He informed me that one of the Brigade's were composed of authentic homosexuals but the other Brigade were Military Intelligence trainees learning their trade under the cover of "an organization no one would dare make pointed inquiries about for fear of being suspected of being a homosexual and drawing attention to himself." "Enemy agents," he said, "were then forced to look for MI training facilities that didn't exist because they were located within the 'Gay Brigade' housing areas."

7 It was my belief in these feelings, and bad timing, that later disqualified me for other military assignments that could have led to an opportunity to work in a civilian security agency. During a debriefing interview after returning from 'Nam I was told that simply having been conscious of those ideas, whether I believed them or not, were "contrary". I was unsuccessful in convincing him that just because I believed those ideas didn't mean I thought living somewhere else was better than living in America. Having seen life in Southeast Asia left me no doubt where I wanted to call home.

As far as bad timing, when I arrived at my final tour-of-duty station, Ft MacArthur in San Pedro, California, after my 3-week Leave, the local MI station chief threatened to have me court-martialed for not being debriefed immediately upon my arrival back in the States. But despite the fact that he later learned the MI office at Oakland Army Base, where I landed, was swamped with debriefing security-sensitive GI's who were terminating their military duty, and leaving those of us who would be remaining on duty to receive our debriefing at our next duty assignment, I was still categorized as a "security-risk" simply because I didn't "insist" on remaining at Oakland Army Base for the additional 2 or 3 days it would have cost me to be debriefed there. Apparently, at the time, public concern over recent disclosures of the Phoenix Operation had the military very nervous about some of its returning GI's being interviewed by the press or Congress before being debriefed. Technically a GI could still be criminally charged with disclosing sensitive information prior to being debriefed after a classified assignment, but the chances for conviction were greatly reduced. While listening to the station chief scream obscenities at me, and grow increasingly irritated at the wide smile on my face, I found it completely ludicrous that armchair spies like himself were only concerned about the current security problem of the day. Those of us working for a living in 'Nam were dealing with operations like Phoenix as a matter of routine assignment. There were so many operations on-going, our concern for strict security was applied blanketly.

Chapter 4 Footnotes

1 The rig was a shielded metal cubicle about the size of a large closet. In it were contained several radios, a primary and 2 backups. 2 banks of teletypes, secret cryptographic equipment, antenna boosters, self-destruct equipment, life-support necessities, primary and backup generators, and an air conditioner. The rig was designed to operate attached to other equipment such as a tank, inside a large helicopter, or stand alone.

2 The Provost Marshall was the chief military policeman on an Army installation.

3 Located in downtown Augusta, the Sharon Hotel was the preferred "house" by Fort Gordon's enlisted men because all races and religions were serviced. Most of the women who worked there were single working parents or housewives who used the money to supplement their incomes. Although there were a few GI's who boasted they had favorite "girls" they never had to pay, when seeing some of them, their 40-plus years explained why.

Chapter 5 Footnotes

1 We were told there were only two liquids in Vietnam we could always trust drinking. One was potable water that had been chemically treated for drinking. The other was Coca-Cola.

2 Punji sticks were bamboo shoots shaved to a fine, knife-sharp point and inserted into the ground at an angle facing the most probable path of an approaching tank or ground force. Appearing like harmless bamboo shoots growing out of the ground, anti-armor punji's were hollowed out and filled with gunpowder and metal fragments. Dozens of these sticks were then neatly arranged in "tank traps" and wired to explode when passed over by armored vehicles. Anti-personnel punji-sticks were covered with an extremely toxic poison cultivated from human and animal waste. Intended to wound, infect, and incapacitate rather than kill, the VC's use of non-deadly poison was to take as many Americans as they could out of offensive combat. They knew it took more GI's to care for a wounded comrade than it did for us to take care of a dead one.

Chapter 8 Footnotes

1 During the 1st 6 months of Vietnam duty, a GI looked forward to "getting over the hump," his 6-month date. It was then he officially became a "shortimer". The odds of getting wasted seemed to increase as one got "shorter". Knowing this, most shortimers gradually gave up the thought of trying to survive their few remaining days.

Chapter 9 Footnotes

1 Currently headed by General Creighton Abrams, who replaced Westmoreland shortly after TET '68, MACV was the Supreme Allied Headquarters for all American and foreign military agencies in South Vietnam. Located in Long Bihn, not far from Saigon, all operations were directed from and channeled through MACV. Its emblem, a medieval battlement, signified America's firm commitment to build, defend, and remain in Vietnam for a long time.

2 The 1st Cav shoulder patch pictured the head of a black horse in the upper left corner over a yellow background. Running diagonally from the top right to the bottom left corner was a half-inch black band. In military symbology the diagonal black band originally defined "sinister." But later, as other front-line military units with a reputation for unorthodox warfare adopted the band as their symbol, it later went on to define "bastardy". The 1st Cav's original use of the band as part of their symbol was appropriate. When asked how they felt about being called bastards, dedicated Cav troopers would reply, "Yeah, and we're son-of-a-bitches too!"

Chapter 10 Footnotes

1 Distributed free in large industrial centers of the country, the Weekly People was the voice of the Socialist Labor Party, a pacifist front organization for the American Communist Party.

Chapter 12 Footnotes

1 A short time prior to Westmoreland's arrival the story of an AFRTN newscaster's appalling disappearance occurred. Story of the disappearance was all over South Vietnam. In the middle of his nightly broadcast the newscaster made a surprising statement that GI's in Vietnam were not being told the truth about things that were happening both here in 'Nam and back in the States. Before the station's transmitter was abruptly turned off shutting him off the air, the newscaster stated the AFRTN was censoring, distorting, and deleting a great deal of news from their reports. The newscaster was never heard from again.

Chapter 13 Footnotes

1 A Congressional hearing investigating the embezzlement of millions of dollars from the huge Army PX system was going on at the time in Washington, D.C. Involved was a handful of senior NCO's, all Vietnam vets. Suspected as being at the head of the group was the Army's senior enlisted man, Command Sergeant Major of the Army William Woolridge. Woolridge was responsible only to the Army Chief of Staff, then William C. Westmoreland. Taking the Fifth Amendment after every question, Woolridge was later stripped of his command. No Officers were charged in the co-conspiracy. No organized crime association was discovered. And none of the money was ever recovered.

2 A lone wolf was a VC sapper (infiltrator) who often operated alone and without authorization from his unit commander. Usually for personal, rather than political reasons, the lone wolf was a non-uniformed irregular on a kamikaze mission out for American blood. Most of the renegades who were captured or killed were discovered to be high on a "----load" of drugs.

The weapons stolen by Cowboys would be used in other burglaries or sold on the black-market for food and clothing. Although surprised and angered GI's were usually held at gunpoint and left unharmed during a cowboy burglary, there were occasions on record when a bunker full of GI's were discovered with their throats cut and their weapons gone.

Chapter 14 Footnotes

1 Highway One was the main road stretching from I CTZ to IV CTZ. Although more of the road was safe during the day and night, some areas were declared Charlie's road at night. Serving his needs as much as it served ours, the VC declared the road not be mined or damaged in anyway. They hoped to use it after their victory to link Hanoi with Saigon.

2 For the past couple of years, the Army had been under a lot of public and Congressional pressure to reduce the number of "incompetency losses" guys who were getting wounded or killed because they were not adequately trained or prepared for combat. There were too many stories in circulation about GI's who didn't know how to work a particular weapon or handle a particular task.

3 Nha Trang was the main headquarters for the 5th Special Forces Group.

Chapter 17 Footnotes

1 MACV report sent to the Pentagon. Report was passed through Bien Hoa comcenter.

2 Dow manufactured napalm and dioxin, the toxic component of Agent Orange.

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