Thursday, December 27, 2012

R. J. Sams and Lloyd Morris - World War One

World War One, 1914 – 1918, was a bloody struggle brought on by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. It was a war of imperial arrogance, differing political ideology, stupidity, old treaties, and simmering disputes over boundaries and territorial intrigues. Over 10,000,000 soldiers perished, and 7,000,000 civilians. The United States entered the war April 6, 1917 under the command of General “Black Jack” Pershing. The conflict ended November 11, 1918. Uncle Sam lost 117,465 souls.
(L-R) Lloyd Morris, Jay Henry (father), ?, General Tire Rep.
Lloyd Morris was my father’s business partner at Morris and Henry General Tire in Knoxville. I was young then and never questioned Lloyd about his military career. I remember bits and pieces of conversations I overheard at the tire company. He was a happy individual, impeccably dressed, who always had a nice word for me and a warm smile. Mister Morris was an officer in the Army, a captain as I recall. He spoke a few times about conditions at the Front. It was pretty grim stuff, dead men strewn all over the battlefield and unexploded ordinance in no-man’s land. He once spoke about the mutinies by the French soldiers. Many of their officers were incompetent and poorly trained.  Lloyd had a sense of duty and purpose about him. I imagine the war made him that way.

Bob Sams, another military man, was a relative of mine, another cousin. Bob was my father’s best friend. They grew up in Vestal where I was born. Vestal was a thriving lumber center at the turn of the 20th Century. Huge trees were cut and hauled by rail from Townsend, Tennessee.

Bob Sams
Bob told me about the time he was blown out of a trench by an artillery shell. He laughed and said it got him in the ass.  Bob was a currier delivering messages between command posts whenever the telephone lines were cut by shell fire. He was also gassed in France. Bob was lucky. The mustard gas only made him sick for a few weeks. He was a delightful individual who marveled at life and just being alive. I guess that had something to do with the war too.

Bob had three blue tick hounds. Old Abe was the lead dog. Daddy and Bob took me possum hunting many times when I was a youngster. He loved to fish, and came to our place on Little River once or twice a week.

Mister Sams had a daughter, Doris, who played professional baseball during World War Two. Doris Sams is credited as one of the greatest women players that ever lived.

Bob Sams died in his early sixties. My father passed away when he was eighty six. Those were the best years this country ever saw. Our greatest generations, World War One and World War Two, are mostly gone now. I miss those marvelous men and women, and their love for God and country. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Rare, Real man among many men : "Tango Mike Mike"

I recently came across the video below... 

Roy Benavidez was a member of the elite 82nd Airborne Division. In 1965 he stepped on a landmine while serving as adviser to an ARVN infantry regiment in Vietnam. Following recovery, 
he trained with the 5th Special Forces Group, returning to Vietnam in 1968. There he found a place of honor in the Halls of Valhalla.  

"Blood dripped from the door as the chopper lumbered into the air."

This is the true story of a poor orphaned Mexican boy who became an American hero in Vietnam. I don't believe his story was ever told by the media. They're more interested in Reality TV, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and the usual bread and circus for those who prefer tofu and white wine. 

The veterans I knew, mostly gone now, were another breed. They believed in God and country. God and country is what made our nation great. Try and tell that to the typical Progressive who preaches Political Correctness. Or the men and women in Washington who sing the praises of Socialism. I revere that Mexican-American youngster who became one of our heroes. 

Master Sergeant Benavidez passed away November 29, 1998.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Daniel Butler

The Cold War spawned the Korean and the Vietnam wars. There were two Vietnam Wars, the French Colonial War, which ended at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, and the American version, which began to collapse after the politicians who had already bungled ten years of blood and treasure cut off military support to South Vietnam in 1973. Vietnam and the 1960s sparked the American drug culture, a moral decline, the politically-induced entitlement mentality, and throwing God out of Uncle Sam’s public schools.

Dan Butler was commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation from The University of Tennessee in 1966. His first duty station was Fort Campbell, Kentucky, but he was soon deployed to the Republic of Vietnam where he served two tours of duty with the 101st Airborne Division, and two tours of duty as advisor to the South Vietnamese Army. Dan Butler was a patriot.

Dan saw extensive combat with Northern I Corps, including operations in the Quang Tri and Thau Thien provinces. He participated in numerous operations in the A Shau Valley, and fought through the 1972 Easter Offensive.

The Easter Offensive, March 30 to October 22, involved some of the most vicious fighting of the war. It caught the Allies by complete surprise. Additional problems involved the ineffective capabilities of some of the ARVN units. Lieutenant Colonel Phan Van Dinh surrendered his 56th ARVN Regiment following a brief skirmish on Easter Sunday. Additional cowardice would hamper the Allied war effort.

The NVA attacked on several fronts with massed artillery fire, accompanied by hundreds of Chinese tanks. Dan was west of the Imperial City of Hue at the time serving as advisor with the 1st ARVN Division, considered to be the best in the South Vietnamese Army. Soon everyone was fighting for their lives. Massive bombing and B-52 strikes leveled the jungle for miles. Thousands of NVA were blown to pieces. The stench of death in the tropical heat became horrendous.

For some odd reason the communists halted after they achieved their initial objectives. They did this more than once. Otherwise they might have overrun South Vietnam had they continued the fighting. The North lost approximately 58,000 killed and 60,000 wounded, but the battle which drug on for seven months was a tactical victory for Hanoi. ARVN losses were 10,000 dead and 33,000 wounded.

Returning home in 1973, Dan was assigned to Tactics at the US Army Infantry School. He left there in 1976 for advanced studies at the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Subsequent years saw tours of duty in Canada, Europe, and the continental US with assignments to the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 4th Infantry Division, 8th Infantry Division, and the Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. Dan attended the Army War College 1989-1990, and returned to Fort Leavenworth to serve as School Director at the Command and General Staff College.

My cousin retired from active duty in 1993 at the rank of colonel. Dan followed a second career in the defense industry for almost twenty years. Presently he resides in Leavenworth, Kansas, with his wife Maggie. They have a son and a daughter.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jack Marshall

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, disaster struck! The Battle of Midway took place June 4-7, 1942. The Imperial Japanese Fleet lost four of their main line aircraft carriers, and one heavy cruiser. American losses were the Yorktown and one destroyer, the USS Hammann. The 1940 Battle of Britain had come and gone with both the British and the Germans sustaining terrible losses. Then Barbarossa claimed the lives of millions. The world was at war. 

Jack Marshall was twenty when he joined the Navy in 1943, serving two and a half years with the all-volunteer motor torpedo boat service. After patrols with Squadrons 3, 2, and 10 in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea, he returned to Melville, Rhode Island as a gunnery instructor. He was discharged the day after Thanksgiving, 1945, a day he refers to as “most appropriate.”

His first duty station was the island of Tulagi across Iron Bottom Sound from Guadalcanal. Patrols began at sundown lasting until dawn. Most targets were barges loaded with men and equipment. The Japanese fleet had abandoned Guadalcanal after suffering heavy losses in 1942 and early ‘43, but continued ferrying troops in at night by barge, destroyer, and submarines. Sinking those barges meant fewer Allied casualties in the campaign up the Solomon Slot.

Jack makes me laugh when he talks about the green tracer bullets, and shore batteries firing at him. He refers to the “pucker factor.” One tends to pucker when a bullet zips past your noodle. Cousin Jack has always had a warped sense of humor, but he’s very intelligent and a funny individual.

From Tulagi they sailed northeast to Rendova Island. Rendova with its black sand beaches was a major base for PT boats in the South Pacific. This is part of the New Georgia Islands which lies in the middle of the Solomon chain. More night patrols, more sea battles as a .50 caliber gunner, and the ever present pucker factor.

Next stop was Green Islands northeast of Bougainville at the northern tip of the Solomon chain. Bougainville is volcanic and extremely beautiful.  But a lot of Americans and Japanese died there during the war. At night a PT boat leaves a wake like an arrow pointing toward the ship. Jap aircraft often used that wake for an aiming point.

Jack completed his overseas tour of duty on the island of Morotai, New Guinea, and came home with malaria. He was scheduled to return to the Pacific for the invasion of Japan when the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Jack told me he loved that bomb. It meant he didn’t have to go back. 

My marvelous cousin just turned 90. 

About Me

I remember seeing men wearing military uniforms standing on the street corner at The University of Tennessee. I was little then, maybe five or six. Daddy said it was because of Hitler and the Nazis. I didn’t know what that meant, except by the look on my father’s face I knew it must be bad. He told me those men and women were serving their country. I wanted to be like them.

I enlisted when I was eighteen, becoming a proud member of the United States Marine Corps. Boot camp was hard, worse than clearing trees for my father’s real estate business. The heat at Parris Island was pretty bad that summer. We spent long hours out in the sun, close order drill, jogging, marching with our field packs, and learning to fire our M-1 rifles.

I learned it well, but something else happened during those memorable days of my eighteenth orbit around the sun. Those young men from my platoon and I became brothers. Not brothers in the usual sense of the word, but blood brothers. We knew in our hearts that we were bonded together for life. The day we graduated from PI an old general stood on a wooden podium in front of the parade grounds and told us, “You are now United States Marines.”

We were green as gourds, but it made us proud.  After I returned home from active duty, I continued to follow the troops overseas. It wasn’t long before we were involved in Vietnam. As the years rolled by, I began to realize that something was wrong. I knew how our military was trained, and how they maneuvered. We were bred to fight and defeat the enemy, any enemy. I couldn’t understand why the war was going badly, or why our men continued coming home in steel boxes if they came home at all. So I began to dig into the politics of Washington, DC, and the Vietnam War. What I discovered set me on a course to tell the story of the American soldier.

War changes the men and women who serve their country. They go away as military. They come back as veterans. No one can comprehend that transformation unless he or she has been there. I’ve tried to write about it in my novels. Over the past decades I’ve come to appreciate just how special our Armed Forces personnel truly are. Writing is my way of exposing the abject arrogance and stupidity of the politicians, while honoring our brave men and women who wear the uniform.

Semper Fidelis

Friday, August 3, 2012

Garden of Eden 3: Battle of the la Drang Valley

Garden of Eden 3

A heart-warming novel sharing love, heroism, and the rite of passage during the Vietnam War

Battle of the la Drang Valley

Technically, la Drang was a series of battles spread out over several miles. Highway 51, south of Pleiku: Two ambushes against an ARVN column sent to relieve Plei Me, October 23-25; Plei Me: Under siege, October 19-25; la Drang Valley: Several skirmishes beginning November 6, 1965. This analysis describes briefly what happened at LZ X-Ray and LZ-Albany which has come to be known as the Battle of la Drang.

This two-part slugfest took place November 14th through November 18th in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. American forces consisted of the 1st Battalion, 7th Calvary, 2nd Battalion, 7th Calvary, and the 2nd Battalion, 5th Calvary of the United States Army.

General Giap’s forces included the 33rd, 66th, and 320th Regiments of the People’s Army of Vietnam, PAVN, plus the National Liberation Front, NLF, of the H-15 Battalion. General Giap’s intentions were to cut Vietnam in half by driving a wedge through the ARVN forces before the Americans could establish a military buildup.

ARVN, Army of the Republic of Vietnam, was for the most part poorly led and poorly trained. Many of their officers had no formal military training. Nor were they enthusiastic about fighting. The ARVN major who led the ARVN column to relieve Plei Me drug his heels for two days causing additional casualties at the camp. Many of the South Vietnamese soldiers were capable, they simply had ineffectual commanders.

General Westmorland and his staff wanted to test their newly developed air mobile cavalry. A search-and-destroy mission was planned to track down the enemy insurgents that besieged the Special Forces camp at Plei Me. The insurgents had withdrawn to their sanctuary in the la Drang Valley.  Army Intelligence was lousy. The untested Americans were about to enter a region where they would be up against what some considered the best light infantry in the world.

It was soon discovered there were 1,600 communist troops on the Chu Pong Mountain northwest of Plei Me. The Americans were told not to attempt scaling the mountain, bombers would do the job. What they didn’t know at the time, there were additional communist forces in the valley superior in numbers to the Air Cavalry.

Just before 1300 hours on the first day, the Vietnamese attacked in force. At first, all went well. Casualties were inflicted on the enemy. The Americans held the advantage of air superiority and field artillery. But soon the situation grew critical. Massive attacks, repeated frontal assaults, flanking maneuvers. The enemy was relentless, attacking again and again. The Americans held on, calling down artillery and air strikes against the communist forces besieging them from every direction.

Valor became a common virtue those first fifty hours. The United States Army stood their ground against a relentless enemy that seemed impervious to death. Hundreds were slaughtered, hundreds more wounded. Seventy nine Americans were killed and one hundred and twenty one wounded. The battle was won. A great victory has been achieved. Colonel Brown then requested permission to withdraw his men from the battlefield. His troops were exhausted, having not slept for two days, and more PAVN soldiers were reported in the valley.

General Westmoreland refused Brown’s request, stating he wanted to avoid the appearance of a retreat. B-52 Stratofortresses were on the way from Guam to bomb the Chu Pong Mountain, so the Americans were ordered to march to a safe zone away from the target area. They walked straight into the 8th Battalion, 66th Regiment, 1st Battalion, 33rd Regiment, and headquarters of the 3rd Battalion, 33rd Regiment of the PAVN.

A nightmare ensued. Vicious hand-to-hand fighting. Air strikes were called down which resulted in American casualties by friendly fire. The six foot grass made it impossible to see. Trees rose up one hundred feet. The tide of battle ebbed and flowed. In the end, an additional one hundred and fifty five Americans lay dead, and over a hundred more wounded. General Westmorland had just made his first tactical blunder of the war.

It should be noted that Captain Ed Freeman, United States Army, flew his Huey helicopter in and out of the combat zone fourteen times that first day bringing in ammunition, water, and medical supplies, and flying out approximately thirty critically wounded. The fighting was so intense the Medevac commander ordered his crews not to land. That was wrong. The men on the ground fought bravely and honorably. They needed all the support they could get against a courageous and determined foe. Ed Freeman was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W Bush. Major Freeman passed away in Boise, Idaho in 2008.

The kill ratio was 12 to 1 in favor of the Americans. General Westmorland saw that as a winning strategy. He never deviated from his WW2 experience. He failed to see the significance of Dien Bien Phu or the centuries of Vietnam battling the Chinese.

General Giap is portrayed by Hanoi and others as one of the great generals in history. His tactics were straight out of the pages of WW1. US casualties ran over 58,000. General Giap’s losses were estimated near 1,000,000.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Garden of Eden: Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy & Johnson

Garden of Eden

 A heart-warming novel sharing love, heroism, and the rite of passage during the Vietnam War

Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, & Johnson

Ho Chi Minh was our friend during the Second World War. His men rescued American fliers shot down by the Japanese. They performed heroic acts on behalf of the Allies against Imperial Japan. Toward the end of the war Ho sent word to President Roosevelt requesting recognition of Vietnam as a sovereign nation to get the Colonial French off the backs of the Vietnamese people. But Roosevelt was preoccupied with the Pacific, and a dying man. 

President Truman chose to ignore Ho's request because France was an ally during WW2. Charles De Gaulle was an arrogant windbag similar to Bernard Montgomery. Harry Truman was more of the same vintage. This led to the first Vietnam War where French forces were defeated at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu by General Giap's Viet Minh Communists. The French might have prevailed had the French politicians sent a relief column to the trapped soldiers, but like so many times in France's checkered political history the politicians dithered while their Foreign legion fought and died. 

Ho Chi Minh was a national hero. He had driven the French out after nearly 100 years of colonial occupation. A national election was to be held to determine a new president. But the Diem regime in South Vietnam, friendly with the United States, was against elections. Ho might win, and Diem and his gang of political thugs would be out of power. Fighting broke out between the North and the South. 

The British and the French both warned President Eisenhower not to get involved. They called it a civil war, telling him Ho Chi Minh would probably win the election. But Eisenhower believed in the Domino Theory. If one country goes communist, it spreads like a bad habit to its neighbors. Ike sent 300 military advisers to help train the South Vietnamese Army. The elections were blocked by the South, with help from the Central Intelligence Agency and American Special Forces. With Washington plotting against him, Ho Chi Minh turned to Moscow. 

Ho was a nationalist more so than a communist, but Kennedy viewed North Vietnam with skepticism. President Kennedy believed in the Domino Theory the same as President Eisenhower. Ike advised John to send additional troops. In the meantime Ngo Dinh Diem had become a thorn in the side of American diplomacy. The South Vietnamese government was as crooked as a barrel of fishhooks, and their military was a mixed bag of professionals and clueless incompetents. The ARVN leadership in Saigon was no match for the battle-hardened North Vietnamese Army of Hanoi. 

Two years into his presidency JFK was coming to believe that Vietnam was unwinnable. Many factors played a role, but Diem and his generals were the major stumbling blocks. The people didn't like Diem, and they didn't appreciate their dictatorial treatment at the hands of Diem's military. JFK was probably going to pull the plug if he won reelection. 

Dallas doomed the United States to a land war in SE Asia. That was the very thing General MacArthur warned President Kennedy against in 1961. President Johnson and Robert McNamara didn't know a squat about the centuries old conflicts between China and Vietnam. They knew even less about Vietnam's culture or religion, and very little about Diem and his wicked brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu. The stage was set for disaster, and President Johnson jumped in with both clod hoppers. 

Lyndon Baines Johnson micromanaged the Vietnam War from his air-conditioned oval office in Washington, DC. The Pentagon was seldom allowed to make independent decisions. The Air Force was told to bomb Viet Cong villages and the Ho Chi Minh Trail, while Westmoreland scattered his ground troops across South Vietnam in WW1-style fire bases. Johnson and McNamara both feared China might enter the conflict on the side of the Communists. So North Vietnam was never invaded, the Trail was never cut, and Hanoi and Haiphong were never blown off the map. The war was run by a Texas school teacher and an Ivy League business executive. Militarily, both men were hopeless failures. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Garden of Eden: The Turning Point

Garden of Eden

   A heart-warming novel sharing love, heroism, and the rite of passage during the Vietnam War.

The Turning Point

What would I have done had I been President Johnson? Knowing what I know today probably nothing. Ho Chi Minh was our friend during World War Two. His men rescued American fliers shot down by the Japanese. Ho and his forces performed heroic deeds helping the Allies against Imperial Japan. Toward the end of the war Ho asked President Roosevelt to declare Vietnam a sovereign nation to get the Colonial French off the backs of the Vietnamese people. Roosevelt was ill at the time, preoccupied with the Pacific, a dying man. Truman ignored Ho's request because France was an ally. So Ho turned to Moscow who was only too happy to oblige.

Had I been Nixon replacing Johnson I would have met personally with Ho. "Uncle Ho" died September 4, 1969, so Nixon had the opportunity. Protocol was just another stumbling block which is the usual circumstance with politics. Kissinger was a lousy negotiator. He was all about himself and playing God.

Had my meeting with Ho failed I would have given him and his Politburo fair warning. We were committed so it was a matter of honor and saving American lives. Get your troops out of South Vietnam in thirty days or forfeit Hanoi, Haiphong, and your Red River rice dikes. Blowing people and places off the map has a certain sobering effect.

I don't know when Johnson and McNamara decided to play it safe over their fears China might enter the war on the side of the North. Militarily, both of them were pussies. The turning point via combat was January 30, 1968, the Tet Offensive.

North Vietnam threw 85,000 troops into the offensive, mostly Vietcong, against the objections of General Giap. General Giap was commander of the North Vietnamese Army. He predicted correctly that Allied firepower would decimate his communist forces. But the Politburo overruled Giap and went ahead with their offensive. This was according to the Chinese Doctrine of direct confrontation. The USSR urged caution. The Vietcong were virtually wiped out. What NVA were involved sustained heavy casualties. 

North Vietnam suffered a terrible defeat, but the world news media played it up as a loss for the Allies. The liberals in America coveted an American defeat in Vietnam. When that didn't happen they manufactured one. That was flat-out treason, but many in Congress were Left-wing defeatists so it went unchallenged. Walter Cronkite's "We are mired in a Stalemate" was broadcast on the CBS Evening News February 27, 1968. Public opinion then swung Left against Johnson and the war. 

What North Vietnam never envisioned was a political victory. They lost the battle, but due to the media and the war protesters and a gutless Congress and the American Left, we sacrificed over 58,000 of our men and women plus another 300,000 wounded over a lousy political chess game. 

How does one win a war? Kill people and break things! Bombing Soviet trucks along the Ho Chi Minh Trail with B-52 bombers while leaving Hanoi and Haiphong intact was political insanity. It cost us the war.