Sunday, May 29, 2011

Vietnam -- Remembering Caption CPT Loyd Van McCarthy, Jr. On Memorial Day

CPT Loyd Van McCarthy, Jr.  He was nicknamed  "Budman".

He loved flying and being part of something bigger than life. He was at the right place for that.

A smart, good natured man. Enjoyed smoking a pipe. We had someting in common with that.

Willing to talk to an enlisted man -- such as myself -- without making the enlisted man feel inferior.

Rest in peace, my fellow El Toro soldier.

Name: CPT Loyd Van McCarthy, Jr.
Status: Killed In Action from an incident on 03/16/1971 while performing the duty of Pilot.
Age at death: 27.7
Date of Birth: 06/21/1943
Home City: Borger, TX
Service: FA branch of the reserve component of the U.S. Army.
Unit: B/4/77 ARA 101 ABN
Major organization: 101st Airborne Division
Flight class: 69-18
Service: FA branch of the U.S. Army.
The Wall location: 04W-052
Short Summary: Tried to beat weather. Crashed 4 - 5 k south of Quang Tri with CPT Charles D. Allen, Jr.
Aircraft: AH-1G tail number
Service number: O5424027
Country: South Vietnam
MOS: 1982 = 19 Airfield Commander
Primary cause: A/C Accident WX
Major attributing cause: aircraft connected not at sea
Compliment cause: vehicular accident
Vehicle involved: helicopter
Position in vehicle: aircraft commander
Vehicle ownership: government
Started Tour: 04/19/1970
"Official" listing: helicopter air casualty - other aircrew
The initial status of this person was: no previous report
Length of service: *
Location: Quang Tri Province I Corps.
Military grid coordinates of event: XD357472
Reason: aircraft lost or crashed
Casualty type: Non-hostile - died of other causes
married male U.S. citizen
Race: Caucasian
Religion: Roman Catholic
The following information secondary, but may help in explaining this incident.
Category of casualty as defined by the Army: non-battle dead Category of personnel: active duty Army Military class: officer

Vietnam -- Reflections: My Own After Action Report For The 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery

Between March of 1968 and to the conclusion of the unit's participation in Vietnam, the 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery(AFA) flew an unconventional artillery piece known as an AH-1G Cobra straight into some rather heated and hostile gun battles.

While the mission of the unit was firm -- supply ground forces with close combat artillery support -- in many stations, the artillery aviation officer was able to assess the situation and determine exactly what was needed to complete the mission accurately, effectively and will minimal loses.

Perhaps a mirror reflection of the young men serving with the unit, the 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery(AFA) suffered identity issues. While the unit saw no reason to have a staff for press coverage, that mistake allowed the press to think --wrongfully -- that all Cobras were gunships and there was no distinction between the purpose and mission deployment.

In retrospect, had the 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery(AFA) assigned one officer to be in charge of awards and decorations and one officer assigned to public affairs at battalion level and a similar dedication at Battery level, the unit would have gained higher levels of distinction and more accurate press coverage.

Furthermore, factual and accurate information verses politically charged and conventional brown shoe attitudes, not only tainted individual heroism, in many cases, it inflicted wounds onto the very essence of bravery.

One officer going through the Air Assault School made it plan and simple: "There's no room for a 10 mile per hour mind in a 100 mile per hour division."

We had just too many whose thoughts flowed like refrigerated honey.

Incidents such as Frederick Cappo's actions to save the lives of two of his fellow officers while under fire didn't earn him the Medal of Honor. 

Instead, he got a silver star. Craig Geis was not awarded anything for trying to save Cobras from a burning hanger. Jeffery Johns was never given any kind of award to share with the wives of two dead pilots who lost their lives over Fire base Nancy on May 4th during a practice red alert.

Captain Winfrey, who lost his life on May 4th, flew with a burnt hand and left behind a 9 month old daughter. There is no excuse for the lack of recognition.

These were the officers who flew their Cobras into the armpits of hell. 

You can fairly well imagine that there was at least one or two acts of bravery or going beyond the call of duty that enlisted soldiers did that never saw the words of valor attached to them.      

In short, the AFA was its own worst enemy.

Both logistical issues and helicopter limitations restricted affected reactions to a fire mission or a direct conflict with enemy soldiers.

The AH-1G Cobra simply put was under powered and less agile than what was needed to perform the missions. The kind of configuration demanded by the Aerial Field Artillery was called "Heavy Hog" for a very good reason.  Fuel had to be compromised just to get the Cobra off the ground.

So while it appeared the Cobra provided a means by which 72 rockets could be carried, stress on the rotor blades in the form of the Teflon sleeves allowing the blades to pitch smoothly proved otherwise.

Parts and aircraft mechanics proved to be another vulnerable issue. In both cases you either had too many or not enough of the same kind to assure the unit was at 100% combat ready status every day.

In some rare cases, parts were used a bargaining chips.  Instead of flowing through the supply lines as they should, some parts were horded or worse, went into private inventories.

Logistical paperwork also impeded on the performance of the unit. Maintenance support forms had to be issued for untimely maintenance requests and standard maintenance cycles were strictly enforced.

While conventional 105mm and 155mm howitzers had maintenance schedules, it didn't have a thousand moving parts.  Short of being in a C-130, Howitzers don't fly and fire off rounds at the same time.

If the Battalion had Apache helicopters during the Vietnam conflict, indeed, if the technology we have today was available then used there, hands down, we would have sent the NVA to China.

But we didn't and because of this, because the Cobra was not qualified to fly in all weather conditions, units such as the 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery were restricted to line of sight engagements.

Without night vision goggles, flair ships were needed to illuminate the battle below; compromising ground force's positions.

Despite these problems and limitations, the 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery(AFA)  or Aerial Rocket Artillery (ARA), performed well, a single engagement, for example netted 128 NVA KIAs without a single loss of a helicopter or loss of an American life.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vietnam -- A time of war, a time of rememberance and a time to move on

Often, when I look back at what was going on, I remember and would like to point out now, that we weren't alone. Soldiers from other countries were there, too. 

The "Rocks" from Korea, Canadian soldiers and "Aussies" from Australia were also there fighting side by side with us -- that is when we weren't fighting each other.

Put soldiers from the 82nd Airborne with soldiers from the 101st Airborne into the same bar and, well, the bar didn't fair well after that. Egos clashed and bones and teeth took the brunt of the altercation.

But there was a more important ally supporting us every step of the way. And that was our parents.   Without them, aside from the obvious fact that we would have been there in the first place, many of us would not have been able to do the things we did. They were our moral support and they made us feel like there really was light at the end of the tunnel.

With Memorial day just around the corner, for all you mothers and fathers still alive today to read this, you are the real heroes for putting up with us and being there when we needed you the most.

As for the 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery, it became the 101st Airborne Division 's anwer to addressing the issue of countering the massive tank threat the WARSAW Pact had behind the East/West German wall.  

Today, with the WARSAW Pact no longer a threat, while the primary mission is to use Hellfire missiles to destroy tanks and to support soldiers on the ground with close range artillery support, the concept of a fast and mobile aerial platform has staid true with the attack helicopter.

It is something that all of us who were involved with the Aerial Rocket Artillery should be proud of.

This is what the 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery did before the colors were retired:

From Army Aviation Digest -- December, 1976

The formation of an attack helicopter battalion from divisional units was part of the answer by the 10lst Airborne Division (Air Assault) to provide a quick-fix to kill tanks on a mid-intensity battlefield.

The 4th Battalion (Attack Helicopter), 77th Field Artillery was formed in January 1976. It was tested at Fort Campbell, KY, in air assault tactics and deployed to Europe in August 1976 to participate in Reforger 76.

The unit performed superbly and was recognized for its highly professional employment against armored

Although many had expressed doubt that the unit could organize and train for such an exercise in this short time, the Soldiers of the battalion, like the bumblebee, didn't know that they could not. So, they ATTACKED to get the job done.

This article discusses the battalion's training, preparation, deployment and participation in Reforger 76 and some of the lessons learned. While much has been done, the surface has only been scratched.

The use of attack helicopters is only limited by the imagination of those who employ them against opposing forces.

At this point in my career with the military, not knowning this had happened, my focus was on convincing a LTC Gerald E. Lethcoe that I was going to be the 3rd Combat Aviation Battalion Public Information Officer (PIO) and I was about to put our Anti-tank AH-1S Cobra battalion in the homes of America via Hillery Brown of ABC News.

From the perspective of military history, it is our slice of American history that was written in the blood, sweat and, yes, tears of the soldiers who shared Vietnam as their home while serving their country.

Vietnam -- FSANGC Raids

My experiences in Vietnam would not be complete without a few encounters with mela drama. I mean, after all, why would you want to writer about Vietnam if everything you did was routine, on the up and up and didn't add a single line to someone elses day of infamy?

So what does FSANGC stand for? Find, Steal And Not Get Caught.

Wait, wait, before you go sigh and turn me off, we had perfectly good reasons to want to perform these mini raids.  They just wouldn't hold up in a court of law.

But then our primary targets weren't exactly maintaining straight ledgers either.

Suppose, for example, you were looking for the newer, thicker skid pads for your 12 AH-1G Cobras and knew a set -- just one set, mind you -- would mean the difference between having 4 sections up instead of three.

So, you go to your parts manual, get the part number, fill out the request card and drive over to the helicopter parts supply center. You just spent a an hour doing all of this and the E-6 behind the desk has got an attitude problem, sizes you up and tells you he's fresh out.

Now, as a SP-4, you're not exactly in the driver's seat to tell this dip shit to get off his dead ass and look at his parts list to see if the part truely does or doesn't exist. And when you can actually see the parts just feet away from you and you have a Cobra down because of this...its time for Batman and Robbin to appear in the raw black ink of a red dust filled night.

It was time to give that E-6 and attitude adjustment.

It was time for a FSANGC raid.

Understand we really weren't trying to do anything legal.  Technically we were just trying to keep an Aviation unit flying and combat ready.  So consider the following peeves.  One, all parts supply centers had excess parts on hand for their local units. Even when a Red Ball order -- one that is of the highest priority and requires immediate attention -- comes in, the E-6 has the right to not take his last one off the shelf.

And when I'm looking right at those skid pads and its June 18th when we were flying every Cobra that was able to fly to support our soldiers from being massacred up at Fire base Ripcord, I'm sorry if stealing those pads could land me in jail, I'm going to get those pads and I'm going to make damn sure they're on that Cobra no later than the dawn of the next day.

So, Lt Geis and I went over to the same same supply center and I dropped him off on the side of the building. We had done this twice before so I was pretty well versed on what I was supposed to do next.

I walk in the supply center and said, "I'm back!"

"Okay, what do you want this time?"

"Grab some coffee and just chit chat about Ripcord."

"Ripcord?? Yeah, every one's talking about Ripcord like its some big deal."

"I know, its horrible. Chinook goes down, the fire base is pretty much destroyed and they have to live in the CS gas while constantly getting shelled by Viet Cong mortars", I said as a matter of fact.

About then, Lt Geis slips producing a horrendous clamor the dead would have been woken up by.

"What was that", asked one of the parts clerk to the other.

"Well, it wasn't incoming," I suggested, "So maybe the wind knocked something down."

Okay, so this wasn't working. So, I did something I used to do as a kid.

"So, here's the real reason why I'm here tonight. And hear me out before you say no, okay?"

They were both willing to listen. That was a good thing.

"I really came down here for one thing. Now, you can tell me no. But I can see what I need from here. So, I know you have the part.

"I could go through normal channels and get those Cobra skid pads by placing the order with you for them in three days. The men up at Ripcord don't have three days to wait for additional support from us or for that matter, from anyone else.

"So yeah, you can tell me you're out.  But I'm going to tell you that without them, two Cobras won't be flying tomorrow and when you're flying 24 hour missions 7 days a week, these additional Cobras will become instrumental in saving the lives of our fellow soldiers.

"So, think about about the decision you're about to make and realize that part isn't just a part, it represents the loss of American lives."

I got two pairs of skid pads, tied them to the back of my jeep and picked up Lt. Geis near the corner of the building.

"Sir, are you alright?"

"I'm fine, Dick.  Jesus Christ, how did you pull that one off?"

"Just told them the truth, Sir.

"Our Cobras are saving lives up on Ripcord. Having two down due to skid pads would mean the loss of more American lives. I'm sure, they didn't want that kind of guilt on their conscious."

Our 4 sections continued to fly and support the efforts to soften up enemy strong holds. When you're out numbered 40 to one, our Cobras played a vital role. The following is from the After Action Report from Firebase Ripcord:

Heavy 12.7mm anti-aircraft fire was directed against the aircraft flying into the firebase.

Air, artillery, and ARA destroyed several enemy mortars and 12.7mm machine guns.

In addition, numerous enemy driven into the open by CS were killed by air, artillery, and ARA.

Sometimes, just explaining the impact of a decision can make all the difference.

We never did another FSANGC raid again.

Vietnam -- Sea Bees and other things that went bump into the night

When the time came to begin rebuilding our unit with maintenance support buildings, it wasn't the 20th Engineer Battalion or the US Army Corps Of Engineers, it was the Navy Sea Bees who performed the work.

Below, is a picture of our old hanger just months away from destruction.

This is a picture of the new work area built on the cement slab where the hanger used to be.

But let me be quick to say that while the Sea Bees were responsible for much of the rebuilding, I don't believe that a single one of us didn't pump on from time to time and helped them.  Me included.

We wanted our jobs, organization, and our unit back. More importantly, we wanted a sense of dignity put back into our lives.

From May 3rd to July 31st, 1970 our unit not only went from literally nothing to fully operational. And while I was running from Da Nang to Camp Evans, I also performed the following functions:

  1. Supported a fire mission on May 4th
  2. Moved the 2 minute section to A Company, 5th Transportation
  3. Moved the 2 minute section to A Troop, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry
  4. Helped with loading rockets into the Cobra rocket pods during the evacuation of Firebase Ripcord
  5. Helped with loading rockets into the Cobra rocket pods when confirmation was given that we had 128 known NVA in bamboo huts just north of Hue.  
  6. Helped fill sandbags.
  7. Fabricated a replacement part for one of our Cobras that took a round.  Then was flown up to Quang Tri  and repaired the Cobra that was supporting Command And Control of North Vietnam (CCN). missions.
  8. Drove Lt Craig Geis and Capt Denny Kramp to Eagle Beach
  9. Flew down to Red Beach with Lt Graig Geis to drop off the log book and other related documents that tracked the life of a Cobra that was picked up by CH-47 Chinook and taken down by sling to that location after its fuel bladders were ruptured by a 122mm rocket.
  10. Maintained my vehicle by washing and waxing it. Extended radio capabilities with a longer antenna.
  11. Participated with Lt Craig Gies on various occasions while performing FSANGC raids through out Vietnam. I'll explain what FSANGC stands for later.
  12. Performed a wide variety of other sorties including officer ass in seat missions to the PX, the hamburger joint, and to the special services movie runs.
Somewhere in between all of this, I got some sleep and played soldier.

Vietnam -- ET Call Home

Okay, maybe it wasn't ET. But RT Edwards did.

Just not by conventional land phones.  Would take a bit more than D-Cell batteries and a hand crank to make the connection.

Fact is, the roll of the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) stations was to provide an up link to civilian radio stations throughout the world. Basically, the forerunner for the world wide web.

The idea was to promote the use of single side band (SSB) transmitters and receivers as a civil defense network.  Why use SSB? Simple. Double the wave on itself and you have a condensed carrier wave capable of going around the world with just about the same wattage usage as your micro wave.

Furthermore, digitizing a wave as a folded over conventional wave meat that the wave could run up a metal pole and be sent sky word so that it radiated in a 360 degree area. The problem is, the voice wave carried with the wave could cut across the normal AM/FM frequencies. So the umbrella effect could and did disrupt normal TV and radio voice waves.

When you have an I Love Lucy show addict watching the show and a local MARS station came on line, well, there were calls made and the MARS owner would get a fine and either shut down completely or simple run his station late at night.

If you've every driven along one of the interstate highways and your radio station suddenly becomes a Breaker, Breaker One Nine, most like, the guy in the rig has fired up his SSB CB Radio.

Simply put, a low cost transmitter and receiver -- or combination of both known as a transceiver was purchased by a hobbyist or Amateur Radio Operator or ham radio operator. We also built our own.

Anyway, during the conflict, cell phones, e-mail and the WWW did not exist -- although some of these types of capabilities were transmitted back and forth between civilian stateside stations and the military.

Indeed, the military embraced the use of this system as a means through which soldiers and their spouses could talk to each other. Morale and welfare messages were key to maintaining a soldier's sense family life back in the states.

A very well known card was passed over to the civilian community during the conflict along with other incentives to participate in the program.

This card was known as a QSL card. These "Call Cards" could come from anyone around the world. And they did. From Japan, Germany, South Africa and South America.  Even from places in the United States.

I personally and professional find it intriguing that QSL becomes SQL and MARS is also associated with the use of SQL Server and Multiple Active Result Sets (MARS).

Especially when a transmitter came on line, the first twitter was "SQL" followed by the call sign of the licensed operator and location. 

I called my mother three times while stationed in Vietnam using a MARS station located at Camp Eagle.
Very awkward to have to say over every time you're done with a sentence.

Final thoughts.  If you ever wondered how the anti-war protesters knew what was going on in Nam almost as fast as it happened, you can thank MARS and all the listening stations for that. Almost anything we did in Nam was being sent over SSB and picked up by every receiver in the world.

Including the enemy.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Vietnam -- Mail Call

Next to "In Coming", "Mail Call" got the attention of the troops. While both found them crowding around each other, the later was reacting to the threat of death.  The former was the mail room clerk reacting to the threat of death.

I don’t think a single man didn’t expect his name to be called while letters started pouring out of the U.S. Mail mailbags.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like if every piece of mail was actually addressed to the mail room clerk and no one else.

Stars and Stripes:

The men of B Battery the 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery (AFA) acted like bulls in a china closet when they stuffed the mail room clerk into a US Mail mailbag and stamped the bag with ‘return to sender’.  

Half frozen, the mail room clerk was holding 20 pieces of mail.  They were all addressed to him.

These same men then proceeded to blow the orderly room into smithereens and used the ashes to roasting marshmallows.

When the CO asked what happened and found out the mail was only for the mail clerk, he grabbed a stick and started roasting marshmallows with the rest of his men.

Guess they don't cal it the Bull Pen for nothing.

My point is, the one thing you didn’t do if you were a mail clerk is mess with the mail. Most never did.

There were also some other rules you learned but were never written. You never read over a soldier’s shoulders, never asked to see his girls and never, ever laughed at a guy who got a Dear John letter.

Not everyone would go to mail call. The other 10% were so cherry – so new to being stationed in Nam -- the mail hadn't caught up to them yet.

For some reason mail clerks were either very tall or very short. Most were shot. Why that was the case, I can’t say. My guess is when the tunnel rats were going home the last 90 days had them doing the mail. Otherwise, I don’t believe the height of a mail room clerk was legal.

These guys were so small they made short timer -- a combat hat on pair of jungle boots -- look tall.

Okay, maybe not that small but I'm willing to bet the guy doing the mail had wished he was that small on days when one or two pieces of mail came in for himself and no one else.

And when Kentucky didn’t get any mail, you didn’t have to be in the same building with him to know he was going off on the poor mail clerk.

"Whhaat you mean their ain't no wa mail for me, boy, I'm going to kick youur aaass," he would wail.  The men got a good laugh out of that and headed for the mess hall.

Mail Clerks also had to deal with something even more insidious than the female snake in an envelope.  In fact, this kind of snake was a real, cold blooded and had fangs. So, placing ones hand into a seemingly empty mailbag could be hazardous to one's health.

Too, these mail room guys, I swear, were from a different planet. Or at least a different country. English was a second language and they were proud of that fact, too.

Four very specific kinds of mail came out of those mail bags. Letters from moms, care packages from moms, letters from future moms, and mental letter bombs fused by dear Johns.

The rest was men's magazines and pure, cheap and rude sex scandals made shows like MASH look like a baby in diapers. The kind of stuff that the tabloids cringe trying to report on.

Most of that material headed for the out houses where a little more than pee and feces was being deposited in the shittier.

I harbor the belief that spamming became an art form way before the birth of Christ. A system of making money from someone else's ledger only got better over time.

As soon as you come to realize that major magazines were selling their mailing addresses to a wide variety of companies throughout the world, the easier it will be for you to realize that soliders in Vietnam were not only hot property for the US military. 

They were also lucrative gold mines for what we now call spam. Only, it was sexual and filthy.

I'm all for a good does of sexy and fillthy.

And from this where on girl could talk to hundreds of guys per week, the better you are at understanding where $2,500,000 per month was going.

The first letter was an introduction. If the soldier responded back, images of a girl were sent with a tease letter which said, basically, send me $50 and all show you all of me. Then came the strip show followed up with $100 will get you some pink. It wasn't that straight on. But that's the jest of it.

Playboy was cheaper.

Then there were the supposedly "legitimate girls" but they were after the $40,000. 

These black widows would fly to Japan or Australia, get hitched, make sure the guy was the type that would go nuts with a dear John letter and send him a picture of herself being sexed up by another guy and then tell the soldier goodbye.

Of course, the reverse was true, the guys knew how to play the women the same way. Assumming they wer actually chatting to real women. I knew of three married guys with 12 girls writing to him once a week.

Personally, I liked the TastyKakes my mom sent me. The Butter Scotch ones hit the spot. That plus the homemade fudge brought home to my Vietnam cot. I lived for these once a month care packages.

Scented letters made the hooch smell better than the smell of men, brasso, and weapon cleaning fluid.

I don't know if that was a new thing for the Vietnam conflict or not but those perfumed letter sure smelled good. Only thing better would have been the physical presence of the soft, warm skin wearing it up close and personal.

When a quiet one got a Dear John, we all went on 24 hour alert.

It was the quiet one that would take you with him if he decided to go.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vetnam -- One Hell Of A Story

I had just come down from a seven minute sensuality contest with one of the prettiest dames I had ever laid eyes on. Skin soft. Mounds firm. Stomach flat, and a racey set of legs that delivered what the rest promised.

There was something of intimacy and sadness in those crystal blue eyes that said more about this woman's angel face and long black hair. She was like a lonely mare whose time had passed but still looked as good to me as the mare looked to a stallion.

The cool breeze battled against the heated stench being radiated off the sun cooked cement. If felt good against a sweaty skin. I took in a deep breathe of the heat, slid out the pack of Cool Super Longs, pooped open the box and pulled out the menthol laced pipe tobacco smelling cancer stick.

Once in my mouth, I turned against the wind, cupped the lighter with my hand and dipped the tip into the gold tipped flame. I breathed in. Nothing like having menthol in your lungs after a woman treats you to her honey scented warmth.

I looked up, he was still doing a long circle to my right. Tall and built like a well seasoned Green Beret.
He came over to me.  His face was hard with a hint of a scar on his face where a steely knife from a frenzied assailant tried for the jugular but was to dead to strike true.

"Can I buy a cigarette from you?" he asked in a voice that didn't match his body.

"Why don't I just give you one instead. You don't mind if its menthol?"

The big man shook his head. I whipped open the pack and handed him one.

"Need a light?

Again, big man shook his head.

He walked away a few lights down, pushed his back against the pole and pulled out what I expected to see. It was definitely Nam bought. The lighter was a flip open with your thumb liquid filled type. The sharp spring action of the top made that familiar pop the top sound and the engravings on it looked like the work I had seen in Siagon.

I could smell her before I heard her.  Had I not, at the very least, she would have a black eye. She walked like the breeze.

"See you've met my brother?"

"Your borther", I said incredusiouly.

"Okay, he's actualy not my brother. But step brother. Never been the same since Vietnam. Used to be fun, loving and easy going. They turned him into a cold, shell of a man who could cut you up into pieces and not miss a good nights sleep," she said in a dry matter of fact way.

"So why do you..."

She put her finger over my lips and told me to not ask with those story line eyes of hers.

"He makes me feel safe. That's all you need to know...that and the fact that your cools are in his pocket.

"Don't go there soldier boy," she warned softly. "Let him be."

She was of course right. His reaction time was lightning fast as I never did see the lighter light the cigerette or go back into his pocket.

"Besides, I rather enjoyed you," she said in a way that I knew was truthfull. "I haven't been that aggressively plowed into since my dead husband did me like that."

"Do you know, for such a beautifull woman. You sure have a 'to the point way' with words."

"Well, when you were married to a Green Beret, speak your mind and get to the point.

"So, I'll get to mine. Charles died near Kea Sanh during Lam Son 719. Got killed by friendly fire.

Little bit of me died with him.  The part where I would never marry another man."

She paused for a moment, pulled out a pack of Marlboro Lights and handed me two. I put one between my head and my right ear. She light hers and then lit mine.

"Not Menthol but better than trying to tackle that bear over there", she advised.

"You're a reporter, aren't you?" she asked without expecting an answer.

"Is that painted on my butt somewhere," I asked.

"No, but the fact that you were in Vietnam is with that tatoo on your arm. And a lefty, no less."

"Guilty as charged," I said my body going through the motions of surrundering to her.

That made her laugh. The chuckle wavering through her as her long hair almost caught fire being blown in her face, she pulled her hair back behind her head and tied it back with a rubber band.

"Tell you what, you listen to a sotry about that man two light poles up and I treat you to seconds.


How could I refuse?


"Then speak softly as I am and so he can't hear you, Okay?"

"Okay" I said in a softer, quieter tone.

"That man over there is Robert Crowley..."

"Wait a minute, THE Lientenant Colonel Robert Crowley???"

"One in the same."

"I did a piece on him when I was in Siagon. He served 5 tours in Nam from 68 to 72."

"Yes and he won the Congressional Medal Of Honor...

"And then proceeded to TKO his commanding officer. Which of course destroyed his career in the military", I said with respect and awe. "But no one knows why he decked the Colonel."

"I do.  I've had to relive that nightmare over and over again at least once a month for the past 40 years."

"Gawd he still looks young," I said sizing his face I had just mentally photographed against his age.

"That's what plastic surgery can do for you when half your skin gets melted off your face by napon bomb dropped on a helicopter going into a hot LZ at Firebase Ranger."

"Bad timing?"

"No deliberate. The fast mover saw the chopper approaching the LZ and asked the Colonel for abort orders and the Colonel told the pilot no, proceed. I know this to be true because I talked to the pilot who dropped the bomb.

"That doesn't make sense," I said with anxiety flavoring my words.

"If you think about if, it makes a lot of sense if your career was riding on the amount of NVA KIAs you could net from the this skirmish. You've got hundreds of NVA with their focus on shooting down this helicopter and not on the fast mover about to buring them alive into ashes.

"According to my sources, the helicopter was about 50 feet off the deck when the bomb went off below them. Since Robert could hear the radio chatter, he ordered everyone to close their doors and push up the windows.

"The chopper was completely engulfed in flames, crashed on its side and rolled away from all the napom towards the friendly forces. Roberts co-pilot and door gunner were killed instantly. Robert got out.."

"And saved both the crewchief and a second man from a fiery death despite having a borken leg, " I said with confidence like I knew the story by heart.

"Actually," she said, "He saved three. A gay Second Lieutenant by the name of Carmichael."

That toook me a moment to digest. They I replied, "The Colonel's son was gay?"

"Robert decked Carmichael after he was awared the Medal of Honor because Carmichael couldn't have the name tarnished by his gay son."

"Robert was a basket case when he got home both mentaly and physically. I love him before and after so I took him in. There were days whien I wish I hadn't and days when his sunshine drenched my life.

"Do you know what a man in torment does? He tries killing himself with booze. The bottle never talks back. I learned to listen, put cold compresses on his head when he went into hot sweats. When he screamed in pain and agony, I soothe him with love and words of comfort.

"It has taken a long time, but he's learned to live with a limp and the sounds of the high pitched screams only a dead man makes as he is burned alive. These are the memories Robert could have taken with him but he won't."

A beeper goes off, she pulls it out of her purse and looks at it, upside down and backwards, I read the words, "Dr. Savanah Livigston, confirmed appointment for Private James Simmons at 10am, your office.

She slipped her pager back into her purse.

"See that building across the street?"

"The one that looks burnt down?"

"There were 12 people on the third flloor who were traped by the flames and the fire department was too late to save.

"Robert saved all 12. That's my Robert. That's a real hero. Ready to be one when needed."

"You coming back up?"

"Let me get another cigerette from you and I'll be right back up."

She handed me a cigerette and went back up stairs.

I focused my thoughts and my eyes on a man two street lights away.  Off in the distance was the lonely sound of a late night freight train rumbling on steel through the sticky, muggy curtain of an ink black night.

I wondered at the moment when he flipped the last of the cigerette out onto the street, how we build heros for the moment. But they were always there and never go away.

And as he faded back into the ink of black air, I realized that heroes never fail at being amazing. Instead, we fail them by not being, as Dr. Savanah Livigston put it, "ready to be one when needed."

Walking up the stairs to her room, I  thought to myself, this is going to be one hell of a story. One, only a hero would dare to write.

Vietnam -- REMFs

I'm not sure where Rear Echelon Mother F**kers came from but it had to have come from someone with an IQ of a turd.

Most likely some bitch grunt who didn't get enough John Wayne Bars or sex on R&R. Who knows. Who cares. Who gave a damn. Certain facts are certain.
  1. That wasn't the original meaning of the phrase: REMF.
  2. It was used by the Infantry soldiers as a derogatory statement
  3. The phrase was about as pleasant to hear a nigger. And just about a prejudicial.
  4. REMF drew a line in the sand between the infantry soldier and anyone else who wasn't.
The key point to remember here is this.  An Infantry soldier was a man who was used for target practice and was capable of killing his enemy where as the REMF solder was a man who was used for target practice and was not ALLOWED to kill his enemy.

Believe me, you down in a blaze of glory Infantry solider, if I had it my way, your butt wouldn't have been required on my battle field of today -- unless, of course, you really do like getting shot at.

Do you have any idea how extermely costly you were to support? Listen, John Wayne, stop and think. Or are you too damn egotistical to realize you could have simply stopped what was going on by telling those West Point glory day boys that they were full of WWII shit.

You did near the end of your experiences in Nam but by then, it was too late for many of your fellow brothers who died needlessly in a war they called a conflict.

Fact is, I didn't want you to be in that country dying for a future one star anymore than I wanted to be there getting shot at and not being able to defend myself.

Besides, someone else was calling the shots and, damn man, don't you get it? None of us wanted to be there. Neither did the ones stateside calling the shots.

I don't advocate the Instinct to die.  Rather the instinct to survive.

Where common sense should have ruled, the spirit of death overruled. Do you think I enjoyed watching you die on TV?  Or witness men in silhouetted by the red fire of a B-40 motor round?
Or seeing you with bits and pieces of your bodies blown away on the hospital ship Sanctuary?
Or hearing the haunting screams of a man who was told he would never walk again?

Jungle warfare was never a situation where we should have been without years of training and expertise. And even at that, we were playing their game on their grounds.

Two facts were true about the Nam experience. 
  1. We used helicopters (choppers) for mobility
  2. TV coverage of the conflict brought the war into the homes of the America.
These facts possessed strengths and vulnerabilities. The choppers were expensive, required fuel, trained pilots and made plenty of noise. They also produced radio chatter the enemy could hear and understand. While a chopper could fly at over 100 miles per hour, its sound waves traveled at 700 miles per hour. But radio traffic could be heard as soon as the helicopter was in the air. Giving the enemy ample time to booby trap an LZ or prepare a welcome to my party with their B-40 mortar round assaults.

TV coverage didn't help either. They should you every night bloodied by war for no apparent reason.

But you knew why. You were going your job. You were following orders and you were as scared of being put into a body bag as we were.

But the TV media couldn't understand, nor could we for that matter, why there wasn't a front line where winning or losing could be measured. In Vietnam, the rules of engagement meant the front line was always around you. Like a lion stalking its pray. The vulnerable being picked off by snipers.

We, on the other side of this picture performed our jobs. Like us or not, we weren't your enemy.

We were your support. In my world that support came in the form of Aerial Field Artillery. And when the enemy did form a line and try to over take your position, we were the ones bringing the artillery to you.  Call us REMFs.  We helped to take the worry out of having the enemy up close and personal.

Without us, may of you grunts would not be with us today.

We were your close combat support.

We were the 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery(AFA).

Vietnam -- Another copy of another copy of Vietnam Terms

Since I don't feel like rewriting this, below is a glossary of terms used by Cobra Pilots in Vietnam:

Acid pad-Helicopter landing pad.
Aerial recon-Reconning a specific area by helicopter prior to the insertion of a recon patrol.
Airburst-Explosive device that detonates above ground.
Air Strike-Surface attack by fixed-wing fighter-bomber air-craft.
AIT-In the U.S. Army, Advanced Individual Training that follows Basic Training.
AK-A Soviet bloc assault rifle, 7.62 caliber, also known as the Kalashnikov AKA7.
AO-Area of operatjons, specified location established for planned military operations.
Ao dai-Traditional Vietnamese female dress, split up the sides and worn over pants.
ARA-Aerial rocket artillery.
Arc Light-A B-52 air strike.
Artillery or Arty Fan-An area of operations that can be covered by existing artillery support.
ARTO-Assistant radiotelephone operator.
ARVN-Army of the Republic of (South) Vietnam.
A Team-Special Forces operational detachment that normally consists of a single twelve-man team composed of ten enlisted men and two officers.
ATL-Assistant team leader
A Troop or Alpha Troop-Letter designation for one of the aero-rifle companies of an air cavalry squadron.
Baseball-shaped hand grenade with a five-meter kill range.
BDA-Bomb Damage Assessment.
Beat feet-To run from danger.
Beaucoup or boo koo-French for "many."
Veehive-Artillery round filled with hundreds of small metal darts, designed to be used against massed infantry.
Berm Built-up earthen wall used for defensive purposes.
Big Pond-Pacific Ocean.
Bird Dog-A small fixed-wing observation plane.
Black box-Sensor device that detects body heat or move-ment. They were buried alorg routes used by the enemy to record their activity inthe area.
Black PJs-A type of local garb of Vietnamese farmers also worn extensively by Viet Cong guerrillas.
Blasting cap-A small device inserted into an explosive substance that can be triggered to cause the detonation of the main charge.
Blood trail-Spoor sign left by the passage or rernoval of enemy wounded or dead.
Blues-Another name for the aerorifle platoons or troops of an air cavalry squadron.
Body bag-A thick black plastic bag used to transport Ameri-can and allied dead to graves registration points.
Break contact-Disengaging from battle with an enemy unit.
Bring smoke-Placing intensive fire upon the enemy. Killing the enemy with a vengeance.
B Troop or Bravo troop -Letter designation for one of the aerorifle companies of an air cavalry squadron.
Bush-The jungle.
Buy the farm-To die.
C4-A very stable, pliable plastique explosive.
CA-Combat assault.
Cammies-Jungle-patterned clothing worn by U.S. troops in the field.
Cammo stick-Two colored camouflage applicator.
C & C-Command and Control.
CAR-15-Carbine version of the M-16 rifle.
CCN-Command and Control (North), MAC-SOG.
Charlie, Charles, Chuck-GI slang for VC/NVA.
Cherry-New arrival in country ChiCom Chinese Communist
Chieu hoi-Government program that encouraged enemy sol-diers to come over to the South Vietnam side.
Chinook-CH-47 helicopter used for transporting equipment and troops.
Chopper-Slang for helicopter.
Chopper pad-Helicopter landing pad.
CIDG-Civilian Irregular Defense Group. South Vietnamese or Montagnard civilians trained and armed to defend themselves against enemy attack.
Clacker-Firing device used to manually detonate a claymore mine.
CO-Commanding officer.
Cobra AH-lG-Attack helicopter.
Cockadau-Slang for the Vietnamese word meaning kilL
Cold-An area of operations or a recon zone is cold if it is unoccupied by the enemy.
Commo-Communication by radio or field telephone.
Commo check-A radiotelephone operator requesting confirmation of his transmission.
Compromised-Discovered by the enemy.
Contact-Engaged by the enemy.
CP-Command post.
CS-Riot gas.
Daisy chain-Wiring a number of claymore mines together with det cord to achieve a simultaneous detonation.
Debrief-The gleaning of information and intelligence after a military operation.
DEROS-The date of return from an overseas tour of duty.
Det cord-Timed burn fuse used to detonate an explosive charge.
Diddy boppin'-Moving foolishly, without caution.
Di di-Vietnamese for to run or move quickly.
DMZ-Demilitarized zone.
Doc-A medic or doctor.
Double canopy-Jungle or forest with two layers of overhead vegetation.
Doughnut Dollies-Red Cross hostesses.
Drag-The last man on a long-range reconnaissance patroL
Dung lai-Vietnamese for "Don't move".
Dust-off-Medical evacuation by helicopter.
DZ-Drop zone for Airborne parachute operation.
E-1 or E-2-Military pay grades of private.
E-3-Military pay grade of private first class.
E-4-Military pay grade of specialist fourth class or corporal.
E-5-Military pay grade of specialist fifth class or sergeant.
E-6-Military pay grade of specialist sixth class or staff sergeant.
E-7-Military pay grade of sergeant first class or platoon sergeant.
E-8-Military pay grade of master sergeant or first sergeant.
E-9-Military pay grade of sergeant major.
E & E-Escape and evasion, on the run to evade pursuit and capture.
ER-Enlisted Reserve.
ETS-Estimated termination of service.
Exfil-Extraction from a mission or operation.
Extension leave-A thirty-day furlough given at the end of a full tour of duty after which the recipient must return for an extended tour of duty.
FAC-Forward air controller. Air force spotter plane that coordinated air strikes and artillery for ground units.
Fast mover-Jet fighter-bomber.
Finger-A secondary ridge running out from a primary ridge-line, hill, or mountain.
Firebase or fire support base-Forward artillery position usually located on a prominent terrain feature, used to support ground units during operations.
Firefight-A battle with an enemy force.
Firefly-An LOH observation helicopter fitted with a high-intensity searchlight.
Fire mission-A request for artillery support
Fix-The specific coordinates pertaining to a unit's position or to a target.
Flare ship-Aircraft used to drop illumination flares in support of ground troops in contact at night
Flash panel-A fluorescent orange or yellow cloth used to mark a unit's position for supporting or inbound aircraft.
FNG-Fucking New Guy. Slang term for a recent arrival in Vietnam.
FO-Forward observer. A specially trained soldier, usually an officer, attached to an infantry unit for the purpose of coordinating close artillery support.
"Foo gas" or fougasse-A jellied gasoline explosive that is buried in a fifty-five-gallon drum along defensive perime-ters and when command-detonated sends out a wall of highly flammable fuel similar to napalm.
Freak or freq-Slang term meaning a radio frequency.
G-2-Division or larger intelligence section.
G-3-Division or larger operations section.
Gook-Derogatory slang for VC/NVA.
Grazing fire-Keeping the trajectory of bullets between normal knee-to-waist height Grease-Slang term meaning to kill.
Green Beret-A member of the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Gunship-An armed attack helicopter.
H & I-Harassment and interdiction. Artillery fire upon certain areas of suspected enemy travel or rally points, designed to prevent uncontested use.
HE-High explosive.
Heavy team-In a long-range patrol unit, two five or six man teams operating together
Helipad-A hardened helicopter landing pad.
Ho Chi Minh trail-An extensive road and trail network running from North Vietnam, down through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam, which enabled the North Vietnamese to supply equipment and personnel to their units in South Vietnam.
Hootch-Slang for barracks or living quarters.
Horn-Radio or telephone handset.
Hot-A landing zone or drop zone under enemy fire. HQ Headquairrs.
Huey-The Bell UH helicopter series.
Hug-To close with the enemy in order to prevent his use of supporting fire.
Hump-Patrolling or moving during a combat operation.
I Corps-The northernmost of the four separate military zones in South Vietnam. The other divisions were II, III, and IV Corps.
Immersion foot-A skin condition of the feet caused by prolonged exposure to moisture that results in cracking, bleeding, and sloughing of skin.
Incoming-Receiving enemy indirect fire.
Indian country-Territory under enemy control.
Indigenous-Native peoples.
Infil-Insertion of a recon team or military unit into a rocon zone or area of operation.
Intel-Information on the enemy gathered by human, electronic, or other means.
Jungle penetrator-A metal cylinder lowered by cable from a helicopier used to extract personnel from inaccessible terrain
KCS Kit Carson Scout-Repatriated enemy soldiers working with U S combat units
Khmer Rouge-Cambodian Comrnunist.
Khmer Serei-Free Cambodian.
KIA-Killed in action.
Killer team-A small Lurp/Ranger team with the mission of seeking out and destroying the enemy.
LAW-Light antitank weapon.
LBJ-Long Benh jail. The incountry military stockade for U.S. Army personnel convicted of violations of the U.S. Code of Military Justice.
Lie dog-Slang meaning to go to cover and remain motionless while listening for the enemy. This is SOP for a recon team immediately after being inserted or infilled.
Lifer-Slang for career soldier.
LMG-Light machine gun.
LOH or Loach OH-6A-Light observation helicopter.
LP-Listening post. An outpost established beyond the pe-rimeter wire, manned by one or more personnel with the missibn of detecting approaching enemy forces before they can launch an assault.
LRP-Long-range patrol.
LRRP-Long-range reconnaissance patrol.
LSA-Government-issue lubricating oil for individual weapons.
LZ-Landing zone. A cleared area large enough to accomodate the landing of one or more helicopters.
M-14-The standard-issue 7.62mm semiautomatic/automatic rifle used by U.S. military personnel prior to the M-16.
M-16-The standard-issue 5.56mm semiautomatic/automatic rifle that became the mainstay of U.S. ground forces in l967.
M-60-A light 7.62mm machine gun that has been the pri-mary infantry automatic weapon of U.S. forces since the Korean War.
M-79-An individaally operated, single-shot, 40mm grenade launcher.
MAAG-Military Assistance Advisory Group. The senior U.S. military headquarters during the early American involve-ment in Vietnam.
MACV-Military Assistance Command Vietnam. The senior U.S. military headquarters after full American involvement in the war.
MACV-Recondo School A three-week school conducted at Nha Trang, South Vietnam, by cadre from the 5th Special Forces Group to train U.S. and allied reconnaissance personnel in the art of conducting long-range patrols.
MACV-SOG-Studies and Observations Group under com-mand of MACV that ran long range reconnaissance and other classified missions over the borders of South Vietnam into NVA sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia
Maguire rig-A single rope with loops at the end that could be dropped from a helicopter to extract friendly personnel from inaccessible terrain.
Main force-Full-time Viet Cong military units, as opposed to local, part-time guerrilla units.
Marine Force Recon-U.S. Marine Corps divisional long-range reconnaissance units, similar in formation and function to U.S. Army LRP/Ranger companies.
MARS-Military/civilian radiotelephone system that enabled U.S. personnel in Vietnam to place calls to friends and family back in the United states.
Medevac or dust off-Medical evacuation by helicopter.
MIA-Missing in action.
Mike Force-Special Forces mobile strike force used to reinforce or support other Special Forces units or camps under attack.
Montagnard-The tribal hill people of Vietnam.
MOS-Military occupation skill.
MP-Military police.
MPC-Military payneent certificates. Paper money issued to U.S. military personnel serving overseas in lieu of local or U.S. currency.
NCO-Noncommissioned officer.
NDP-Night defensive position.
Net-Radio network.
NG-National Guard.
Number One-The best or highest possible.
Number Ten-The worst or lowest possible.
Nungs-Vietnamese troops of Chinese extraction hired by U S Special Forces to serve as personal bodyguards and to man special strike units and recon teams. Arguably the finest indigenous forces in Vietnam.
Nuoc mam-Strong, evil-smelling fish sauce used to add flavor to the standard Vietnamese food staple-rice.
NVA-North Vietnamese Army.
ONH-Overnight halt.
OP-Observation post. An outpost established on a prominent terain feature for the purpose of visually observing enemy activity.
Op order-Operations order. A plan for a mission or operation to be conducted against enemy forces, covering all facets of such mission or operation.
Overflight-An aerial reconnaissance of an intended recon zone or area of operation prior to the mission or operation for the purpose of selecting access and egress points, routes of travel, likely enemy concentrations, water, and prominent terrain features.
P-38-Standard manual can opener that comes with government-issued C rations.
Pen flare-A small spring-loaded, cartridge-fed signal flare device that fired a variety of small colored flares used to signal one's position.
Pink Team-An aviation combat patrol package composed of an LOH scout helicopter and a Charlie model Huey gunship or an Ah-1G Cobra. The LOH would fly low to draw enemy fire and mark its location for an immediate stnke from the gunship circling high overhead.
Pith helmet-A light tropical helmet worn by some NVA units.
Point-The point man or lead soldier in a patrol.
POW-Prisoner of war.
PRC-1O or Prick Ten-Standard-issue platoon/company radio used early in the Vietnam War.
PRC-25 or Prick Twentyfive-Standard-issue platoon/com-pany radio replaced the PRC-10.
PRC-74-Heavier, longer-range radio capable of voice or code communication.
Project Delta-Special Forces special-unit tasked to conduct long-range patrols in Southeast Asia.
Project Gama-Special Forces special unit tasked to con-duct long-range patrols in Southeast Asia.
Project Sigma-Special Forces special unit tasked to conduct long-range patrols in Southeast Asia.
PRU-Provincial Reconnaissance Units. Mercenary soldiers who performed special military tasks throughout South Vietnam. Known for their effective participation in the Phoenix Program, where they used prisoner snatches and assassinations to destroy the VC infrastructure.
Ps or piasters-South Vietnamese monetary system.
PSP-Perforated steel panels used to build airstrips, landing pads, bridge surfaces, and a number of other functions.
P-training Preparatory training-A one-week course required for each new U.S. Army soldier arriving in South Vietnam, designed to acclimatize new arrivals to weather conditions and give them a basic introduction to the enemy and his tac--tics.
Puff the Magic Dragon-AC-47 or AC-119 aircraft armed with computer-controlled miniguns that rendered massive support to fixed friendly camps and infantry units under enemy attack.
Punji stakes-Sharpened bamboo stakes, embedded in the ground at an angle designed to penetrate into the foot or leg of anyone walking into one. Often poisoned with human excrement to cause infection.
Purple Heart-A U.S. medal awarded for receiving a wound in combat.
PX-Post exchange.
Radio relay-A communications team located in a position to relay radio traffic between two points.
R & R-Rest and Recreation. A short furlough given U.S. forees while serving in a combat zone.
Rangers-Designation for U.S. long-range reconnaissance patrollers after January 31, l969.
Rappel-Descent from a stationary platform or a hovering heli-copter by sliding down a harness-secured rope.
Reaction force-Special-units designated to relieve a small unit in heavy contact.
Rear security-The last man on a long-range reconnaissance patrol
Redleg-Military slang for artillery.
REMF-Rear-echelon motherfucker. Military slang for rear-echelon personnel.
Rock 'n' roll-Slang for firing one's weapon on full automatic.
Round eye-Slang for a non-Asian female.
RPD/RPK-Soviet bloc light machine gun.
RPG Soviet- Bloc front-loaded antitank rocket launcher used effectively against U.S. bunkers, armor, and infantry during the Vietnam War.
RT-Recon team.
RTO-Radio telephone operator.
Ruck-Rucksack or backpack.
Ruff-Puff or RF-South Vietnamese regional and popular forces recruited to provide security in hamlets, villages, and within districts throughout South Vietnam. A militia-type force that was usually ineffective.
Saddle up-To prepare to move out on patrol.
Same same-The same as.
Sapper-VC/NVA soldiers trained to penetrate enemy de-fense perimeters and to destroy fighting positions, fuel and ammo dumps, and command and communication centers with demolition charges, usually prior to a ground assault by infantry.
Satchel-charge Explosive charge usually carried in a canvas bag across the chest and activated by a pull cord. The weapon of the sapper.
SEALs-Small U.S. Navy special operations units trained in reconaissance, ambush, prisoner Snatch and counter-Guerrilla techniques.
Search and destroy-Offensive military operation designed to seek out and eradicate the enemy.
SERTS-Sereaming Eagle Replacement Training SchooL Rear-area indoctrination course that introduced newly arrived 101st Airbome Division replacements to the rigors of combat in Vietnam.
SF-U.S. Special Forces or Green Berets.
SFC-Sergeant First Class E-7.
Shake 'a' bake-A graduate of a stateside noncommissioned or commissioned officer's course.
Short rounds-Artillery rounds that impact short of their target.
Short-timer-Anyone with less than thirty days left in his combat tour.
Single canopy-Jungle or forest with a single layer of trees.
Sit rep-Situation report. A radio or telephone transmission usually to a unit's tactical operations center to provide infor-marion on that unit's current status.
SIX-Designated call sign for a commander, such as Alpha six.
SKS-Communist bloc semiautomatic rifle.
Slack-Slang for the second man in a patrol formation. The point man's backup.
Slick-Slang for a lightly armed Huey helicopter primarily used to transport troops.
Smoke-A canister-shaped grenade that dispenses smoke, used to conceal a unit from the enemy or to mark a unit's location for aircraft. The smoke comes in a variety of colors.
Snake-Cobra helicopter gunship.
Snatch-To capture a prisoner.
Sneaky Pete-A member of an elite military unit who operates behind enemy lines.
Snoop and poop-A slang term meaning to gather inteffigence in enemy territory and get out again without being detected.
Socked in-Unable to be resupplied or extracted due to in-clement weather.
SOI-Signal operations instructions. The classified codebook that contains radio frequencies and call signs.
Sp4 or Spec Four-Specialist fourth class E-4.
Spectre-An AC-130 aircraft gunship armed with miniguns, Vulcans, and sometimes a 105mm howitzer, with the mission of providing close ground support for friendly ground troops
Spider hole-A camouflaged, one man fighting position fre-quently used by the VC/NVA.
Spooky-AC-47 or AC-119 aircraft armed with Gatling guns and capable of flying support over friendly positions for extended periods. Besides serving as an aerial weapons plat-form, Spooky was capable of dropping illumination flares.
Spotter round-An artillery smoke or white phosphorus round that was fired to mark a position.
S. SGT-Staff sergeant E-6.
Staging area-An area in the rear where final last-minute preparations for an impending operation or mission are conducted.
Stand down-A period of rest after completion of a mission or operation in the field.
Star cluster-An aerial signal device that produces three individual flares. Comes in red, green, or white.
Starlight scope-A night-vision device that utilizes any out-side light source for illumination.
Stars and Stripes-U.S. mllitary newspaper.
Stay behind-A technique involving a small unit dropping out or remaining behind when its larger parent unit moves out on an operation. A method of inserting a recon team.
Strobe light-A small device employing a highly visible, bright flashing light used to identify one's position at night. Normally used only in emergency situations.
TA-Target area. Another designation for AO or area of operations.
TAC-air Tactical air support.
Tail gunner-Rear security or the last man in a patrol.
TAOR-Tactical area of responsibility. Another designation for a unit's area of operations.
TDY-Temporary duty.
Ten forty-nine or 1049-Military Form 1049, used to request a transfer to another unit.
Thumper or thump gun-Slang terms for the M-79 grenade launcher.
Tiger Force-The battalion reconnaissance platoon of the 1/327, 101st Airborne Division.
Tigers or tiger fatigues-Camouflage pattern of black and green stripes usually worn by reconnaissance teams or elite units.
Time pencil-A delayed-fuse detonating device attached to an explosive charge or a claymore antipersonnel mine.
TL-Team leader.
TOC-Tactical operations center or command center.
Toe popper-Small pressure-detonated antipersonnel intended to maim, not kill.
Top-Slang term for a first sergeant, meaning top NCO.
Tracker-Soldiers specializing in trailing or traking the enemy.
Tri-border-The area in Indochina where Laos, Canhoda, and South Vietnam come together.
Triple canopy-Jungle or forest that has three distinct layers of trees.
Troop-Slang term for a soldier, or a unit in a cavalry squadron equal to an infantry company in size.
Tunnel rat-A small-statured U.S. soldier who is sent into underground enemy tunnel cornplexes armed only with a flashlight, knife, and pistol.
URC-1O-A pocket-size, short-range emergency radiocapable of transmitting only.
VC-Viet Cong. South Vietnamese Communist guerrillas.
Viet Minh-Short for Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh or league for the Independence of Vietnam. Organized by Communist sympathizers who fought against the Japanese and later the French.
VNSF-South Vietnamese Special Forces.
Warning order-The notification, prior to an op order, given to a recon team to begin preparation for a mission.
Waste-To kill the enemy by any means available.
White Mice-Derogatory slang for South Vietnamese Army MPs, originally referred only to Saigon police.
WIA-Wounded in action.
World-Slang term for the United States of America or home.
WP or Willy pete-White phosphorus grenade.
XF or Exfil-Extraction from the field, usually by helicopter
XO-Executive officer.
X-ray team-A communication team established at a site between a remote recon patrol and its TOC. Its function is to assist in relaying messages between the two stations.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vietnam -- AH-1G Cobra food

 work would not be complete without talking about AH-1G Cobra food. More specifically, the various types of rockets we fed our Cobras.

Back behind the pilot on the right are a combination of both 10 and 17 pound warheads.  There's only two 17 pound rockets in the middle of various types of 10 pounders. 

The two at the farthest end of that row are M255E1 Flechette rounds. Those are the ones with the beige cones.  Those rounds were classified for a while. Not too many people know what those rounds are or what they do. I can tell you now.

When fired, the round slows down. a firing pin releases once the round starts to slow down and produces a red cloud of colored dust.  Inside that cloud are hundreds of flying nails. If Charlie was high, he could get hit with many rifle shots and still kill you. A round like this nailed his ass to the ground.

The technical sheet for the rest are:

M151 High-Explosive. The M151 HE (diagram) is an antipersonnel, antimaterial warhead and is traditionally referred to as the 10-Pounder. The bursting radius is 10 meters; however, high velocity fragments can produce a lethality radius in excess of 50 meters. The nose section is constructed of malleable cast iron which is threaded to receive the fuze. The base section is constructed of steel or cast iron and is threaded so that it can be attached to the rocket motor. The base section and the rocket motor are welded (brazed) together. Total weight of the loaded, unfuzed, warhead is 8.7 pounds, of which 2.3 pounds is composition B4. The M151 can use M423, M429, or M433 fuzes.

M156 White Phosphorous (Smoke). The M156 (diagram) is primarily used for target marking and incendiary purposes. It ballistically matches the M151 and is of similar construction. Filler for the

M156 is 2,2 pounds of WP with .12-pound bursting charge of composition B. The approximate weight of the fuzed warhead is 9.7 pounds. M423 or M429 fuzes can be used with 156.

M229 High-Explosive. The M229 HE (diagram) warhead is currently in the inventory. An elongated version of the M151, it is commonly referred to as the 17-Pounder. The M229 filler consists of 4.8 pounds of composition B4 and can use the same fuzes as the M151. Its unfuzed weight is 16.4 pounds.

M247 High-Explosive, Dual-Purpose. The M247 (diagram) is no longer in production; however, some of these warheads may still be found in war reserve stockage. With a shape charge for antiarmor capability, the M247 employs a cone-shaped charge like that of the M72 LAW. The point-initiated detonating fuze is an integral part of the warhead. The weight of the M247 is 8.8 pounds, of which 2.0 pounds is composition B.

M257 Illumination. The M257 (diagram) illumination warhead provides one million candlepower for 100 seconds or more. It can illuminate an area in excess of one square kilometer at optimum height. A deployed main parachute descent is approximately 15 feet per second. An M442 integral fuze provides a standoff range of approximately 3,000 meters with the MK40 motor and approximately 3,500 meters with the MK66 motor. The weight of the M257 is 10.8 pounds, of which 5.4 pounds is magnesium sodium nitrate.

M259 Smoke-Screening (White Phosphorous) The M259 (diagram) smoke-screening warhead is in inventory but is not currently being produced. It provides the capability to produce tactical smoke screens. With conditions favorable to smoke operation, 14 rockets can produce an effective smoke screen for 5 minutes. With a motor burnout fuze (M446) and an MK40 motor, the warhead can provide a stand-off range of 2,500 to 3,000 meters. The weight of the warhead is 8.8 pounds. An improved smoke warhead, the M264 smoke screen (red phosphorous) is in development to replace the M259. The M264 will employ the M439 fuze.

M261 High-Explosive Multi-purpose submunition. The MPSM HE (diagram) warhead provides improved lethal effectiveness against area targets such as light armor, wheeled vehicles, material, and personnel. It has a plastic nose cone assembly, an aluminum warhead case, an integral fuze, an expulsion charge, and nine M73 (diagram) submunitions. The primary warhead fuze (M439) is remotely set with the ARCS, MFD, or RMS to provide range (time of flight) from 500 meters to approximately 7,000 meters. On the AH-1, the RMS is programmable only from 700 meters to 6,900 meters.

Initial forward motion of the rocket at firing initiates fuze timing. At fuze time an at a point before and above the target, depending on the launch angle and range, the expulsion charge is initiated. The SMs are separated by ejection, and arming occurs when the RAD (ram air decelerator) deploys. The RAD virtually stops forward velocity and stabilizes the decent of the SM. An M230 omnidirectional fuze with an M55 detonator is used on each SM and is designed to function regardless of the impact angle.

Each SM has a steel body which has a 3.2-ounce shaped charge of composition B for armor penetration. The SM is internally scored to optimize fragments against personnel and material. Upon detonation, the shaped charge penetrates in line with its axis and the SM body explodes into high velocity fragments (approximately 195 at 10 grains each up to 5,000 feet per second) to defeat soft targets. The fuzed weight of the M261 is 13.6 pounds.

M267 MPSM Smoke Signature (Training). The M267 MPSM (diagram) training warhead operationally, physically, and ballistically matches the M261. Three M75 practice SMs and six inert SM load simulators take the place of nine HE submunitions in the M261 warhead. Like the M274, each of the three practice SMs contains approximately 17 grams ( 0.6 ounces of pyrotechnic powder. An M231 fuze with an M55 detonator is used with practice SMs.

M274 Smoke Signature (Training). The M274 (diagram) smoke signature training rocket provides a ballistic match for the M151HE warhead. The casing is a modified WTU-1/B with vent holes or blowout plugs. A modified M423 fuze mechanism is integral to the warhead. A cylindrical cartridge assembly is in the forward section of the casing; it contains approximately 1.4 ounces of potassium perchlorate and aluminum powder which provides a "flash, bang, and smoke" signature. The M274 weighs 9.3 pounds.

The M255E1 flechette warhead, which contains approximately 1,180 sixty-grain hardened steel flechettes, is in limited production. It has possible air-to-air as well as air-to-ground application. The M255E1 is designed for use with the M439 fuze

Vietnam -- Federick Cappo: A hero to be remembered

All of this time, I've tried to do my best not to talk so much about the young aviators we had in Vietnam. There were two reasons for this.
  1. Almost all of them I didn't know or wasn't able to spend enough time with them to know them
  2. None but one really stood out as one I could identify as a full blown, ace in the hole Maverick type hero.
So, why haven't I mentioned him before now?

Because I was an E-3 at the time -- aka enlisted -- and, unlike years later, when General Officers knew me personally -- we were the low class, low lifes and they were the elite.

That wasn'y the case with Denny Kramp, Craig Geis, and Fredrick Cappo. These gentlemen made me feel good, made me feel like I was doing something I could be proud of. 

Now, Cappo could have easily been shot down himself that day and killed.  Instead, he landed beside the crippled Cobra and flew to two pilots out on his rocket pods and skids.

This man should have been given the medal of honor. Instead, he got a Silver Cross. Why? Because like me, he didn't play by the book.

For all the work I did for my unit, for all the things I did for them above and beyond, nothing, na da, zilch was award to me. 

No Air Medal, nothing. All I got from Vietnam was an ARCOM and a Bronze Star.  Standard issue of you kept your nose clean.

But this is Fred's story.

This was the first time -- and not the last -- that Frederick Cappo would show up on my radio performing some kind of gutsy move. An example of this was when he was flying by a mountain we called nu e ka. He observed some 122mm rockets being fired from that mountain and alerted Camp Eagle that some enemy rockets were launched.

No telling how many lives were saved because he reacted the way he did. But he didn't stop there.  He fired all of his 2.75 inch rockets at the location where those 122mm rockets were being fired and probably stopped more 122mm rockets from being fired at us.

What did he get for his efforts?  A letter of reprimand stating that firing rockets at a target without first making sure the area was cleared of friendly forces was in violation of standard rules of engagement.

What very few people knew -- and the by the book officers were totally clueless -- was those 122mm rockets that Fred called in were marked for civilian targets on the other side of Camp Eagle. So while we heard the sirens go off that we were under attack had either hit or were about to, the first volley never hit Camp Eagle at all.

It is the belief of this writer that because Fred did what he did actually stopped the NVA from firing a dozen or more of these rockets.  Not only at us but at other civilian targets. Later on that night, additional 122mm rockets were fired at civilian targets and a single 122mm rocket was launched hitting right behind one of our AH-1G Cobras.  The force of the explosion pushed me backwards as I watched it hit while trying to beat Craig Geis to a jeep.

Fred was also a friend.  When I wanted to learn more about how to take pictures, he provided me with a book on how to use the Ashi Pentax.

I didn't return the book back to him until 1975 when we were both assigned to the 2/17th Cavalry. I also gave him my Cobra Tie which was presented to me by Bell Helicopter Textron as a thank you for all the publicity I created promoting the use of the TOW Cobra in Germany.

Fred, my hat is off to you Sir for being the Maverick you were.

Vietnam -- Too stubborn to remember, too young to know, too quick to forget

As I grow closer to finish adding the last chapters of this work, I find myself in a world where the men around me are in their 20s and 30s.  They know little to nothing about Vietnam.  They know we fought there, they know its someplace in southeast Asia. But they don't know the stories.

Those who do have been fed spit shinned stories with a thread of truth and a lot of vague, distorted fluff.

No, I didn't die.  No, I didn't kill anyone. No, I wasn't a pilot. And more importantly, no, I didn't hate the Vietnamese.

Truth stings like the stench of human waste mixed with kerosene burning nearby and filling your nostrils with the acrid smell. You cannot take back anything. You cannot bring back the dead or remove senses experiences, the humiliation or the degregation a Vietnam Veteran went through.

Those things got burried, like a dog burries a bone in the back yard, in the back of your mind. Either that orr it drove you crazy with pain and sorrow.

It is my hopes through all of this to paint a truer picture of the life and times of a soldier who felt betrayed by a system with no conscious.  A system above the law.  A system that has, is, and will be doing what it pleases without retort.

Some of the articles here seem rude and crude. I make no apologies. There were times when rude and crude gets the job done.

I pray that all of you -- both Vietnam Veterans, their spouses and their children -- both find something here worth reading and leave my world I've painted for you with this:

We may have died young, but we lived with the strength of steel.  We may have come back in various percentages of complete body and mental facalties, but the strength of our soul triumphs.

As for me, I may be getting old, but I ain't dead yet.

My last thought here.  The other day my younger brother equated me as being older than dirt. I retorted with, older than dirt implies I'm heading in the direction of the grave. Call me younger than sunshine.

Vietnam Battalion Stringer -- Part Four: Tough act to follow

As hard as you wish time would stop when you're having fun, at some point your time runs out and it is time to go home.

If there's anything I can say that sums up my time as 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery (AFA), is that I did the best I could and took the battalion from obscurity to making the world aware of our existence.

I may not have been the best writer, I may not have won every battle with the division public information office, but I did try and I did my best.

I believe the battalion knew this and began to recognize the value and importance of a stringer. So when the time came to provide a replacement for my job, a young man came into my life and took on my responsibilities.

Basically, I had two weeks to show him the ropes. So, the first week, I introduced him to the people I had created a relationship with,  showed him where the photo-lab was located and provided him with tips on how to get the pictures he needed for the press releases.

The second week was more an education on how to take images of Cobras and the people who made it possible for those Cobras to be combat ready. I gave him my cheat sheets.

Then we talked about the many experiences I had while working for B Battery.  Talked to him about the life and death situations that had occurred on the El Toro tarmac and discussed why everything I did prior to becoming the battalion stringer helped me to write more effectively about the people, places and things we collectively knew as B Battery, 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery.

I also pointed out to him that both A and C Battery were of equal honor and deserved equal time and coverage with respect to press coverage.

As I walked off the tarmac for the last time, he turned to me and said, "I don't think I can do this?"

"Why not," I asked.

"You're going to be one tough act to follow."

"Well I appreciate that.  But you're going to do just fine. Just give yourself enough time to prove that to yourself."

Four days later, I would be reading one of my articles on the plane home published in Army Times.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Vietnam Battalion Stringer -- Part Three: Developing a sense for news

For this dyslexic, writing was a second language.

So,when the editors wanted words from me in some kind of intelligent presentation, I had to learn how to write them. This included what is known as cut lines.

Cut lines are brief descriptions under images that explained what the image was all about.

I was notorious for run on sentences. I still do it. Just not as bad as I used to. Here's an example of what I mean:

On February 20th, 1970, I decided it was time to go on R&R because I wanted to and decided to go to Japan where the sun isn't out and I could enjoy the simple pleasures of the cold weather and visit Osaka and take images of places where the good times are and could meat very interesting people.


I'm not even going to try to clean that mess up.

So, what is reverse pyramid?  It is an agreed upon presentation of information that a reader expects to see in a single glance. Starts of with the how, what, where when and why:

At approximately 13:13 pm, on Friday the 13th Of March 1969, serial killer Freddy Krueger sliced and diced another sleep deprived teenager at the corner of Glen Fry and Eagle Street, Record Label, PA.

Now, I'm not going to bore you with the entertainment I have rolling around in my head...not.

"We got this call from a hysterical lady saying a blob of human rubble was lying in the street," said police Sergeant Johnny-on-the-spot PublicityFreak. "So, we hurried over and sure enough, there's the body."

1"Another dead teenager. No longer human.  Just a pile of blood red, raw meat.

2"Makes me sick. I won't be able to eat pink glazed doughnuts for a week."

Okay, so I produced the first line using:

Who:     Freddy Krueger
What     Murdered a teenager -- sex unknown
When:   13:13 pm, on Friday the 13th Of March 1969
Where:  Glen Fry and Eagle Street, Record Label, PA. 
Why:    We can't possibly know why since Freddy Krueger hasn't been caught and questioned 

Explicit facts about the scene of the crime are presented in such a way that each fact can stand alone without having any adverse effect on the story. Aside from comic relief, the last two lines -- marked 1 and 2 -- don't move the story along quick enough. So, they would most likely get cut before going to blues.

The easiest way for a cub reporter to work the reverse pyramid is to be given a book with tear sheets:


Title:      _____________________________________________
By:        _____________________________________________

Who:     _____________________________________________
What     _____________________________________________
When:   _____________________________________________
Where:  _____________________________________________ 
Why:    _____________________________________________

First Interviewee:





Second Interviewee:





Third Interviewee:





This proved to be very valuable as it forced me to stay inside 300 words and taught me how to write sense into my non-sense.

But there was another type of article I needed to be able to write.  One known as a feature. And that is much longer than 300 words. Today, I know how to write those and quiet easily. Back then, having to write one was a nightmare on Elm Street.

Enter SP4 Thomas Harding.  He was assigned to Division Artillery and he was an excellent writer.
And I was the guy with the camera. But to make this work, I had to provide him with some facts.

This is what we settled on:

  1. Provide a scenario were friendly forces might see these Cobras in action without being under fire.
    1. Practice mission
      1. During the day
      2. During the night
    2. SERTS training
  2. What makes your unit different than the Air Cavalry
    1. Purpose of the unit
    2. Why this kind of unit is necessary in Vietnam
      1. Issues with double and triple canopy
      2. Close air to ground support for friendly troops
      3. Over target assessment of the situation
      4. Extends the maximum range beyond that of 105mm and 155mm
    3. How many other uints are like it in Nam
  3. What are the names and the nick names of the Batteries
    1. Where are they located
    2. How many Cobras are assigned
    3. What signifying mark tells them apart
  4. How does each Battery work
    1. What is a section
      1. How many cobras are assigned to each section
        1. How is the Cobra armed
          1. How many rockets
          2. How many rounds for each mini gun
          3. How many rounds for each 40mm grenade launcher
        2. How does each section react with each other
          1. Describe the purpose of the 2 minute section
          2. Describe the purpose of the 5 minute section
          3. Describe the purpose of the 15 minute section
          4. Describe the purpose of the standby section
      2. What happens when the section goes "Hot"
      3. How is the "Fire Mission Handled"
        1. What are the pilots able to see once "on target"
        2. What happens if the Artillery Pilots in the Cobras need more firepower
        3. What happens if additional Cobra support is needed.
        4. What happens when the mission is over
      4. What other kinds of missions does your battalion support
        1. Escorting Hueys
        2. Clearing LZs
        3. Pepper entrenched enemy with CS gas
        4. Flying CCNs out of Quang Tri (Probably can't do this since its not public domain)

And that is how the  The 4/77th Aerial Rocket Artillery Story landed a spot in the 101st Airborne Division's Rendezvous With Destiny in the fall of 1970.

Vietnam Battalion Stringer -- Part Two: Taking pictures with an SLR

My return to country on second trip to Expo 70 went flawlessly. I arrived back in country on time and had plenty of time between arrival and departure to visit some of the places I had been to the first time I toured around Da Nang. 

I took mental images of pictures I wanted to take, knew enough about the camera to properly focus the lens, keep the shutter above 125th of a second and adjust the F-Stop so that the needle was exactly in the middle of the gap on the right side of the viewing screen.

I also knew Ektachrome was what the Public Affairs Office of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Mobile) wanted me to shoot.  Had around 20 rolls of Ektachrome film and decided to use the polarizing filter like a religion.

By the time I got back on the C-130 and headed up to Camp Eagle, all but a few shots were left on roll 20. I used them up on landing at Phu Bie and arriving at Camp Eagle. I had just enough time to turn in the film over at the PX.

I counted 19 rolls. I had forgotten that one roll was back in the hooch and forgot where I put it.
So, I processed 19 rolls.  Two days later, I processed the 19th roll over at the recreational services photo-lab.

My hear skipped a few beats.  Not because the images were lousy but because the hand developed images looked so much better than I remembered what they looked like in real life.

A few day later, the images came back in from the PX. I payed for them and opened the slide boxes. They came out okay but didn't give me that feel of confidence the roll I developed myself did.

From that day on, I would develop my own rolls of color slide film over at the recreational services photo-lab and no where else.

After going through the slides, I narrowed down the images I wanted to show division PIO editors what I had and went over to them with the slides.

One of them gave me a ho hum look, put them up on the white Plexiglas table and started giving them a once over with a loop. I don't believe he he got passed the first one before calling his buddy over.

The first editor gave me this look that said without words, "Okay, who are you?"

The second editor,  "Man, we need this one for a double truck."

He then turned and looked at me, "How took these pictures?"

"I did."

"I think you missed you calling!"

"Thank you, what's a double truck?"

"A two page spread."

"We got a pack of 40 rolls in the refrigerator. It is a bit outdated. You have a refrigerator at the Battalion?"


"Good, take it. Bring two rolls back here per week. We'll process the film for you. You'll have to come in and write your name on the bottom of each slide."

"Do that with these and we'll use them," said the first editor. "Mark the location where the images were taken on the top. Here's some slide protectors. Once you mark your slides, place them into these.  And be careful not to touch the film of the slides."

We put the slides back into the box and I grabbed the film out of the refrigerator and headed back over to battalion. After putting the film into our battalion refrigerator and started marking all my slides with my name on the bottom and the location on the top.

So, for the next 16 weeks, I took two rolls of film over to them, added the locations and my name on the bottom of each slide and gave them images that to this day I'm not sure what they did with them all.

In the mean time, between taking pictures for the division PIO and the task of taking Battalion Awards and Decorations ceremonies, I was pretty busy working on the articles I wanted to get published.