A Vietnam Veteran Returns to Vietnam

A Vietnam Veteran Army Retiree Returns to Vietnam – Again.

By Lou Rothenstein

I had previous trips to Vietnam after the War. One was a working one, the other was a healing return tour with Soldier’s Heart for Vietnam Veterans in 2012. My wife was with me on this tour and as a Nurse, decided she wanted to return to do some medical volunteer service. We did this over a couple of weeks with Vets With A Mission, a nongovernmental organization that has been doing medical care work in Vietnam for 28 years. We then traveled to several world heritage sites and I needed to return to see a bit of Saigon.

After four years in Europe and the Middle East – a great first four years of Army service – I was assigned to a CONUS stateside four-star HQ. Sort of a boring let down. I volunteered for overseas again. Vietnam came into my life shortly after I was assigned to KMAG – Korea Military Assistance Group. Seems like the unit became a bit over strength in certain grades, I was promotable into one of them and MAAG in Vietnam needed a few more warm bodies so I did several TDY trips there in 1961-2. TDY was a way to get around troop level strengths and that apparently worked for the Army.

I initially started as an admin-operations type that was mostly taking people here and there, there usually being the airfield. As a Speedy 5, I then worked (driver-gopher) for a Major who was usually in civilian clothes, was always around the press and had a room at the Caravelle Hotel. Fairly new, it was a pretty nice pad. I shared a small room with another NCO who was TDY from Japan. He was an Intelligence type that spoke several languages. I believe their job was to watch the foreign and U.S. press types as many had offices at the hotel. What was nice was that I got cash to pay for my billeting and breakfast in an air-conditioned facility. Few around then. It was around $5-6 and included laundry. We junior ranks usually had enough left over for liquid refreshments.



Capable of two-finger typewriter operations, I typed several reports on people and conversations. It had some interest but a bit boring. The press was always asking questions of us like we knew what was going on. We reported their questions. I became Interested in going out and looking around where there was some activity in addition to an office, behind the steering wheel of a car and drinking atop the Hotel at Saigon. I was just up there today drinking a local craft ale and remembered that it was one of just a few 10 floor buildings around in 61. The view of the Catholic Cathedral was still there, now tucked between the many high-rise hotels and office buildings that is now Saigon District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City.

Saigon today still has the same old French Colonial look around the downtown area. What has changed is the current high volume of traffic – mopeds, newer model cars, buses and trucks. People still hawk their food and wares on the sidewalks, and the Ao Dai are seen worn by employees at hotels and government businesses. It is hard to tell what city one is in around Asia these days. They have become quite western in appearance. Work has started on urban rail to alleviate the traffic a bit. To the traveler, one must plan drives well as traffic jams are frequent and uncomfortable. Avoid rush hours. I thought of a couple of books about Pham Xuan An. Perhaps one of the best placed agents working against us during the war. This was someone I probably saw at his undercover work several times. The Army gave our press much information about what was going on which he had open access to. Should be read by all MI types.

I eventually got a job escorting (carrying luggage) the newly assigned MAAG officers and senior NCO’s who were relegated to the field, away from the easy life of Saigon. Later, the time was split between MAAG-V and MACV that started up 1962. Sometimes people did not know for sure what unit they were in and we had SF teams TDY in and out, and there was always someone choking up on the bat as to who got an airplane ride to the boondocks rather than a jeep or worn-out sedan. New maps were coming out and getting them out to where they were needed allowed a couple of our gopher corps to see some of the country.

While traveling around the country, an occasional view of a former SF Camp or MAAG/MACV Advisory Team would pop up. Most have been levelled to the ground in rural areas but in towns, they are in use by local police or agencies. The sheer number of Vietnamese government buildings, compounds and activities is quite amazing. Even very small towns have their share. In the areas I served, the U.S. areas were built over but former provincial headquarters I see are now small museums about the war. Outside of one or two in the bigger cities, they are generally worthless historically. One does get an impression of our more effective programs by the sheer amount of coverage they receive on display.

The War Remnants Museum in Saigon is the largest around. It shows U.S. markings painted over ARVN and VNAF equipment. It depicts former U.S. Navy anti-war demonstrator and Senator John Kerry in a heroic manner and former U.S. Navy Seal Bob Kerrey, an effective anti-VC Cadre operator as a war criminal.

Few Vietnamese remember the war. What they have comes from their parents and the government. Vietnam has a young population that knows they do not have much power to change things. In addition to the Re-Education Camps, the government restricted the children of their former adversaries to have any jobs connected with the government. However, the grandchildren might be able to work for government industries but unless they are a member of organizations such as the Young Communists, they will never be in positions such as the police. So, children of GVN personnel work for private and overseas companies or are self-employed or work at labor. It is sad to see resources wasted like this over the years.

The English language newspapers daily have the same type of articles. There are always visits to Southeast Asian countries to improve commercial relations and there is some government official visiting somewhere promising aid or investments in economically troubled areas. The third area is that of government corruption. It is a way of life over here. If one rises to some position of authority, it is expected that part of costs provided to the government will go to these trusted officials. Officials such as customs and immigration have become much more professional, no open palms noted this trip. They have learned from other countries.

The Koreans have returned. They were our allies during the war and later brought good quality transport and commerce with them. Now they are a major tourist group. From these and language training, they are displacing the Russians rapidly. A Korean on vacation can make the four-and-a-half-hour flight from Korea, stay at a resort for five days, play two rounds of golf cheaper than a round might cost them in Seoul.

The watchful eyes of the party are still omnipresent. I recall my first trip here early 90’s when paranoia abounded as they feared that USSF was training the old and wounded Montagnards in North Carolina to return and cause them problems. In 2012, it was economic fears that non-governmental organizations (NGO) would somehow drain their collection boxes. This time it was over watch on who could get medical treatment from the NGO. In addition, the college interpreters were interrogated as to their experiences.

Whether in China, Russia, East Germany, or Vietnam, officials seem to continually invent threats, probably to justify their security positions. By the way, they are quite easy to spot. When there is a problem around, an NGO is a good scapegoat. One of the medical treatment sites might have been changed for one apparent reason but might be tied in with a visit during the period of a high-ranking party official in the area.

If any reader is a Vietnam Veteran, they should consider re-visiting Vietnam. It provides some closure on what might have been a traumatic time, as well as some decent traveling and tours at a reasonable cost. Air travel is relatively cheap in country and there are recurring U.S. to Vietnam flights at special rates.

I am not a travel expert but might be able to offer a few more suggestions. Like every Vietnam Veteran I know or have worked with, the war was different for everyone. Even the same unit or location experienced different battles a few months apart.

Pham Xuan An –
“Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent” by Larry Berman, 2007. This book is sold in many Vietnamese book stores in English.

”The Spy Who Loved Us: The Vietnam War and Pham Xuan An’s Dangerous Game” by Thomas A. Bass, 2009.

As I sat at a rooftop table at Saigon Saigon a couple of nights ago, I tried to bring up memories of those later well-known reporters and photographers who stayed at the Caravelle in the 1960’s. I tried to picture the spy with a cigarillo in his mouth, but they were popular smokes at the time. I recalled a few names but mostly remembered those reporters who visited we military guys in the field. Some were intelligent and reported facts but many did not report all of what actually happened. A couple would not listen to our warnings and have never been seen since. In retrospect, it seems that some of those actions I knew about and participated in never made it into the archives. Perhaps what was reported sold newspapers or TV time, but I feel deep down that what was reported, or the way it was reported was more influential on the outcome than the actual battles, deaths, and goals.


Acronym Key:
CONUS – Continental United States
TDY trips – Temporary Duty Yonder
NCO – non-commissioned officer
MAAG – Military Assistance Advisory Group
MAAG-V – Military Assistance Advisory Group Vietnam
MACV – Military Assistance Command, Vietnam
ARVN – Army of the Republic of Vietnam
VNAF – Vietnamese Air Force
GVN – Government of Vietnam

Remembering The TET Offensive…

Compiled from various accounts and reports by Rick Fulton, Tet veteran, who now lives in Pittsburg, Kansas.

For those who were there, the offensive is simply called Tet, yet even with such a short title, this was the most complex battle of the Vietnam War.

It encompassed all four corps tactical areas inside the Republic of Vietnam, yet also included engagements to the north of the DMZ, and to the lands beyond the western borders. The fights were air, land, sea, brown water, urban, rice paddies, hillsides and under the jungle’s triple canopy. Warriors included soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen, coastguardsmen; even a few folks in civilian dress. Besides the men, women and children who were generally called South Vietnamese, other battlefield participants included Thai, Australians, New Zealanders, Filipinos, Cambodians, Nationalist Chinese, Meo and other tribesmen, Laotians, Koreans, and of course about a half a million or so Americans.

There were others on the Allied side in Southeast Asia as well; people of Europe and elsewhere who helped so much with logistics, and with medical support. Some had small groups in-country. Together, all the Nations and lands that had joined together in the great struggle as part of a multi-national allied force waged the most intensive kind of war against those directly opposed– the South Vietnamese communists, called the Viet Cong, and their immediate allies, the North Vietnamese. The communists were backed up by volunteers from the Soviet Union, and by the North Koreans, the Cubans, and from the massive Chinese forces of Mao.

Most think of Tet as a struggle of just a few days in length; the very end of January 1968, and the first half of February, but it was actually defined by the attackers as a three-phased event. First there was the surprise attacks made during the traditional Vietnamese Tet Holiday. This included assaults of cities and hamlets, villages and towns, military encampments and airbases in all four of the tactical Corps areas.

In the far north of the Republic of Vietnam was I Corps, called “eye corps” by those who were there. In this area were such places as DaNang, Hue, Dong Ha, Khe Sanh, the valley of the Ashau, the hilltop redoubts and the special forces encampments guarding the far western border and the southern bank of the river marking in the most practical of terms the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Vietnam.

Next there was II Corps, home of Pleiku and Nha Trang, then the massive III Corps in which lay Saigon, its twin called Cholon, Tay Ninh City and other place names which Tet inscribed in the hearts and souls of all who took fire.

The IV Corps was in the far south, a land remote from the rest, the great Rat Sung Delta, through which flowed into the sea the many channels of one of the world’s great rivers, the Mekong. So in the north were mountainous regions, then jungles, then farming zones, rubber trees, three crop a year rice fields, then cities, then delta and swamp.

In all of this, in winter, spring, summer and early fall of 1968 was fought the three phase campaign of the communists called the Tet Offensive, a fight which had its beginnings in the multi battalion engagements along the borders in 1967, struggles to draw allied military power away from the intended Tet targets. In Phase One, the allies, together, lost more than nine thousand killed in action. Another 35,000 were wounded, and there were more than 1,500 who were listed as missing.

There were 14,000 or more civilians in the south who were killed by the communists in the attack, or caught in the fighting, and another 24,000 were wounded.

In Phase One alone, it is estimated that 17,000 communists were killed and another 20,000 were wounded. Exact figures are uncertain but what is known for certain is that after phase one ended, the Viet Cong force greatly was diminished and faded from most battlefields. In phase two and three, the enemy faced were primarily North Vietnamese. The communists sustained more than a hundred thousand casualties in all three phases of the campaign. More than 45,000 were killed and more than 60,000 were wounded.

On the allied side, total figures for all three phases just of Tet are unavailable, yet many lost their lives, were wounded or were missing during the 1967 fights on the fringe and then the nine months total of Tet. For America alone in the Vietnam War, more than 58,000 lost their lives, and most of those losses were in the 1967-1968-and half of 1969 period. In terms of economic loss, there was great damage done to the infrastructure of the south, and to the military resources defending the Republic. Some 123 aircraft, both fixed wing and rotary, were destroyed and more than 400 other aircraft were damaged. Installations, posts and bases had serious impacts, either from direct combat or from indirect shelling and rocket fire. Many cultural sites in the south, especially in Hue, were destroyed or heavily damaged.

Tet was brutal. It was fighting of the same or greater intensity of that experienced in World War Two and in the 1950-1953 Korean War. Keep in mind that veterans of the Tet period were, to some degree or another, also veterans of the overall Cold War, and many were also veterans of events in Libya, and in what was happening in northeast Asia with Korean War II, all going on at the same time as Tet.

It is impossible to compare experiences. What Marines had to handle at Khe Sanh was very different than the month-long urban fighting of Hue and of what allied force members faced in more than 100 towns and cities. Up and down the Republic of Vietnam, the allied forces were shocked and surprised, at least initially, with the intensity of the struggle. Of 44 provincial capitals (think “state capital” in the USA), there was serious combat in 36 of them, as well as five of the six autonomous cities, 72 of 245 district towns (think “county seats”), and in Saigon (think “Washington DC”).

This is what the Viet Cong and what more than 80,000 north Vietnamese troops brought into the lives of South Vietnam’s citizens—people in a war but not ready for the intensity of battle which was Tet. Indeed, Tet was supposed to be a holiday, the Vietnamese New Year when the first attacks took place. Instead of celebration and holiday feasting, there was an enemy surprise offensive that was the largest military operation conducted by either side up to that time in the war. Defeating such an enormous military undertaking was what Tet was truly all about – and make no mistake: That is precisely what the allied forces did, in each of the three phases of the operation.

When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, more than half of the enemy forces were destroyed, down on the ground, dead. Tet was not the victory for the communists claimed by the foolish of Kent State students and elsewhere, away from Southeast Asia. Those who were there and went through Tet just absolutely could not believe how any citizen of the United States could believe otherwise, but they did. We won the battles but Charley won the war, because they won the struggle of propaganda. Unbelievably, we have not yet seemed to grasp that information is a weapon, even though it was the ultimate weapon we used in the Cold War.

Getting back to Tet, South Vietnamese and U.S. Military intelligence estimated that the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong Forces actually inside the Republic of Vietnam before the Tet Offensive erupted included 323,000 men, a figure which included 130,000 North Vietnamese regulars, 160,000 Viet Cong South Vietnamese communists, and 33,000 troops assigned to service and support duties.

Beginning in the summer of 1967, 81,000 tons of supplies and 200,000 troops had moved south down the Ho Chi Minh Trail from North Vietnam. Many of these men were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and B-40 RPGs (rocket propelled grenade launchers). Many of these enemy soldiers were encountered by US and allied forces in the battles which took place along the borders of the Republic of Vietnam.

That fighting in 1967 was intensive and fierce, and it did cause movement of allied forces away from the cities and the coasts into the interior. At the same time this fighting was underway, there was also diplomatic activity taking place between the two sides. The allies saw massive numbers of trucks moving south through Laos and Cambodia, more than 6,000 in December 1967 alone. Many of these were destroyed by air strikes.

There were clear signs that some sort of attack against the country was soon to happen, but there was confusion and a general lack of cooperation and coordination among the various intelligence services of the allies. They all knew the enemy was growing in strength, and they knew an attack of some sort would be the result of all that logistical activity, but the leadership, both political and military, did not understand just how soon the attack would come, and they did not see that it would be activity that would just swell up inside the various communities of the south. Until Tet, History taught that military actions came in waves against strong points. That was true with D-Day in World War Two and with the North Korean attack in the summer of 1950. But it was not to be true for the defenders of Freedom in South Vietnam.

By the beginning of January 1968, the United States had 331,098 US Army soldiers and 78,013 Marines in-country; members of nine divisions, an armored cavalry regiment, and two separate brigades. The South Koreans had two divisions in-country and there were significant other allied units. The South Vietnamese strength was 350,000 regulars, supported by 151,000 regional forces and 149,000 popular forces (regional and local militias). In addition to ground forces, the allies included strong and capable air, river, gun line and over the horizon sea forces. The in-country bases which were used to project aerial attacks and support missions were well guarded. The United States Air Force, for instance, had battalion strength Security Police Squadrons that were as well armed as other ground force units, and even had indirect fire and armored fighting vehicle capabilities. It is significant that during any of the three phases of Tet there was no successful penetration of the interior of any air base, and that all attacks against the perimeters were totally repulsed.

Beginning with attacks in I Corps and II Corps which started shortly after midnight on January 30, the main Tet series of attacks began at 0300 the morning of 31 January. This included attacks against such places as Saigon and Cholon, Hue, Gia Dinh, Quang Tri, Tam Ky, Phu Bai, Can Tho, An Khe, Bien Hoa, Tuy Hoa, and many other places, stretching until a February 10th attack against Bac Lieu in IV Corps. In all 84,000 enemy troops made 155 attacks. Before and for a period of time during the initial Tet activity, the allied leadership mostly believed the enemy intent was to cut off northern I Corps from the rest of the Republic of Vietnam, and then to use the occupation of that area as a sort of bargaining chip in talks to end the war.

With the activity around Khe Sanh, and then the massive attack against Hue, this seemed to be a logical assumption by many of the allied generals; yet the efforts made against downtown Saigon seemed to almost immediately disprove the theory.

In Saigon the communists had six primary targets: the MACV and the ARVN Headquarters located on Tan Son Nhut Air Base, primarily defended by the United States Air Force Security Police; the Independence Palace; the US Embassy, the Republic of Vietnam Navy Headquarters, and the National Radio Station. Aside from the attacks against the sprawling Tan Son Nhut Air Base complex, carried out by enemy main force battalions and regiments, the other attacks were more in the nature of special operations activities. None succeeded, due to the joint and combined defenses mounted by military police and main force units.

With Tet, the enemy suffered the loss of more than 45,000 personnel. Many were killed in various kinds of ground battles, yet sea and air forces brought intensive capabilities to bear. Throughout all of 1968, it is estimated that the enemy losses were above 180,000 and that the Viet Cong ceased to be effective. 1968 was also the deadliest year for the forces of the Republic of Vietnam. They lost almost 28,000 military personnel. Another 14,000 civilians were killed, 24,000 were wounded, 630,000 new refugees joined with nearly 800,000 others displaced by the war, and many houses and much of the infrastructure of the Nation was destroyed.

Tet, in all, was a gruesome and bitter time for all involved. It is hard to see anything positive in such an event, yet this is a clear fact. The steam roller the communists had hoped to use to crush and to swamp the south with, and to then keep the traction going into other nations of the region, perhaps as far as to India and to Indonesia and even to Australia, was halted in place and then for a time was a capability mostly pushed out of the Republic. Americans suffered in the fighting but significantly did not lose the battles, and the units withdrawn after Tet went home to posts and bases with their military honors somewhat frayed yet mostly intact. The communists did not win military victories in South Vietnam when the allied forces stood with arms linked.

Seven years after Tet, though, in 1975, two years after the Americans left, the Republic of Vietnam fell and freedom was destroyed for the Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian people. This happened in great measure because of a failure of character of many of the American people who did not correctly understand the importance of America’s involvement in the unfolding events of Southeast Asia, resulting in a failure of consequences which remain to be reconciled.

Fifty years after Tet, the truth resounds that the United States of America is a Pacific Nation, and has national interests in the Pacific region as important as anywhere else. What happens in the Pacific community of Nations are events touching our own shores as well, and they are and forever will be as s important to the defense of Freedom for us, as they are for our neighbors.

As demonstrated by the courage and the sacrifices made against the aggression of the Tet Offensive, we do not stand alone.


WHEREAS, in 1967, the enemies of Freedom began a campaign of conventional battle to draw allied military forces away from population centers in coastal regions to the more remote jungle and mountainous areas along the borders of the Republic of Vietnam; and

WHEREAS, when 1968 began, in spite of large scale battle underway in the Khe Sanh area, there were indications by enemy leadership of a willingness for negotiations to begin towards a peaceful resolve of the escalating Vietnam War, as marked by a time of ceasefire during the upcoming traditional Tet celebrations; and

WHEREAS, enemy forces, secretly moved to overwatch positions, launched 155 large surprise attacks against the government and the people of the Republic of Vietnam, with massive barrages striking important government locations, as well as cities and hamlets, posts and bases, ranging from the DMZ in the north to the mighty MeKong River delta of the south; and

WHEREAS, enemy treachery brought unexpected death and destruction south, causing grave harm to thousands upon thousands of people caught in the triggered cauldron of war, from countryside to national capital, in a three-phased campaign of nine months duration; and

WHEREAS, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coastguardsmen, other members of the defense team, Police and Civil Authority of the Republic of Vietnam, United States of America, Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and other Allies, all joined together in a great joint and combined effort to meet the attacks, thwart them, and repulse the enemy intention to seize control of the Nation, and defeat the cause of Freedom in southeast Asia;

AND WHEREAS, The heart and spirit, the courage and resolve of proud and brave men and women stood fast against tyranny, did what was legal and right, and with the very best of battlefield leadership, broke the attack in half, sent its survivors reeling, secured another seven years of life for the Republic of Vietnam, and showed the world what was possible when free people stand together in allied effort to defeat aggression.

MAKE NO MISTAKE. The Tet Offensive was a thorough military defeat of the enemy powers who launched it.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED AND KNOWN, in this 50th year of Commemoration of countrymen and allies who stood together to defeat tyranny in a treacherous time, We extend congratulations and words of praise to All who served In-Country in 1968, the most intensive year of the Vietnam War. We thank you for your many sacrifices of blood, toil and loss; and for your valor and your service. We Welcome You Home.





Two Tet Vets

All of us need to remember Tet, what it meant, and what lessons for today and for tomorrow that we can draw from the event. Our times of today are as uncertain as they were in the 1960s. It is important for our nation to seek and sustain unity. The foes against us see the world very differently than we do, and they are capable of doing great harm to the Freedom we have because of the US Constitution. They learn from the past. So, too, must we. As we look fifty years back at Vietnam, we must not fall into the trap of making predictions about the future; yet we must always measure capabilities. That was not done as well as it should have been done in the mid 1960s, on until the end of the War. That is a mistake our Nation must not repeat, and that is why it is important to properly and honestly remember the lengthy battle called Tet. Speaking as a veteran of those days, thank you for presenting the information to your readers.

Manchuria 1945-1950

Aug 25, 2016

James E. Parker


Over this past summer I took a look at how our US military went from world-beaters in 1945, defeating two highly industrialized countries with ferocious, dedicated military, to its unsuccessful fight with the sub-par North Vietnamese 1965/1975.

Ended up where I never imagined.

Yalta 1945.

Allow me to explain.

The Korean War was significant among events that led to Vietnam.  Early on I came across that famous speech of MacArthur on 23 August 1950 in the conference room of his Hqs in the Dai Ichi building downtown Tokyo.  To relieve the pressure on the 8th Army at the Pusan perimeter in the south, MacArthur wanted to invade Korea at Inchon, despite the advice against that by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Marines and the US Navy.  No one thought the harbor at Inchon was a realistic landing site… with its limited beaches, high docks, enormously shifting tides and narrow approach channel that may have been mined.  The US invasion force would be massive; the Inchon landing place tiny and hard to access.

The best military minds in our country – save MacArthur – said no.  Not just no, but hell No. General Collins, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and Admiral Sherman, the Chief of Naval Operations, went to Tokyo for the express purpose of persuading MacArthur against this operation.

At that 23 August 1950 meeting with Collins and Sherman, MacArthur said their thinking got at one of the reasons Inchon would work, because the communist knew the U.S. military brass wouldn’t consider Inchon, and we’d catch them by surprise.

Impressive with his commanding presence and his persuasive, eloquent-phrased arguments, he carried the day.

Invasion at Inchon 15 September 1950 it would be.

And against all odds it was an enormous success.   In fact, most military scholars consider the battle one of the most decisive military operations in modern warfare; describing the Inchon “Chromite operation” as “an example of brilliant generalship and military genius.”

The general plan and the decision to land at Inchon were entirely MacArthur’s. He had made several significant battle plans throughout his military career, but none more momentous, none more fraught with danger, none that promised to be more decisive if successful.

Inchon was more than merely a name for a battle that changed the balance of power in Korea, more than just a great strategic victory; it was also an intensely personal victory for MacArthur.  Inchon had vindicated his judgment. He had – despite all opposition – come, planned, and conquered. He had assumed that the harbor approaches to Inchon would not be heavily guarded or mined; that the difficulties of tide and terrain could be surmounted; that the North Korean reserves stationed near the port would be slender; that the enemy’s morale would be quickly broken; and that Japan, stripped of its occupation troops, would remain quiet and orderly. Because he had assumed correctly on 23 August 1950, the Inchon invasion will go down in infamy as genus generalship.

MacArthur bent the US military to his will with his determined, persuasive arguments because he must have known that Inchon was absolutely doable, right?

Must have had the intelligence that he could bring in 60-80 thousand US GIs on maybe 250 ships through a very narrow channel and put them on shore against whatever the North Korean had set up in the way of defensives.  Shallow bottom.  Tides shifting up to 30 foot twice a day.  Mud flats.  Mines. Reinforced enemy positions with commanding fields of fire across the harbor.

Whole world watching.  Certainly the future of South Korea in the balance.

Like Daniel Boone said way back in his day, “Make sure you’re right and then go ahead.”

That was my thought about MacArthur.

Well, here’s the thing, MacArthur didn’t have good current intelligence on Inchon.  Had no friggin’ idea what was really out there when he convinced the US military to go along with his plans, and it was like three weeks before the invasion.

You read your history.  MacArthur’s G-2 Charles Willoughby only had dated ideas on the layout of the harbor’s defenses… and really no information on whether the channel was mined or not.

And like I said, it was three weeks before D-Day.

From the following books – Battle Report, The Landing at Inchon, MacArthur, Inchon Landing, Korea and Korea, The Untold Story – came reports of a mission organized right after the 23 August 1950 conference in which US Navy Lt Commander Eugene Clark, with a couple of ROK officers and some young South Korean partisans, evaded North Koreans for 15 days operating from one of the out-laying islands (Yonghung-do) near the approach to the Flying Fish Channel.  Despite the danger, despite the fact he operated as a singleton American using local resources and partisans… he got the necessary information on which MacArthur could make his final invasion plans.  Of particular interest to me was the locally scrounged single piston, putt-putt sampan on which he mounted a .50 caliber machine gun he had brought on the mission… that he used to destroy a small fleet of North Koreans who were intent on killing Clark.  He described the captain as an almost toothless old South Korean fisherman, who would – often at critical moments – have to restart the one piston engine to get out of harm’s way.  Makes for a great visual.


The whole Inchon invasion hinged on the work of one American; racing the clock, behind the lines, out witting the North Koreans who found out he was there.  Ending when he lit the harbor lighthouse to lead the invasion force in.

Military historians maybe haven’t given Clark his due for what he did… against almost impossible odds.  Someone suggested he had something like 500-1 chances of coming out alive.

Plus Clark himself knew the date of the invasion, so for him capture was not an option.  He supposedly carried a grenade around for a sure suicide in case capture seemed imminent.

I found that Eugene Clark had written a book on his mission, so I ordered a used copy from amazon.com and went back with my main research about the corrosion of US military effectiveness during the middle of the 20th century.  But I sure liked Clark.

I finally came to some conclusion on what happened to the US military and published an article on my web site mid May 2016.  I then re-worded the core of that research into a new introduction of my The Vietnam War Its Ownself… that will be out 1st of September 2016.  [Stayed tuned to amazon.com]

But all the time when I’m writing up the decline of our winning military ways… I kept expanding my reading and research about Clark, and his pre-invasion reconnaissance there behind lines, a whole invasion force waiting completion of his work.

The operation was called Trudy Jackson and Clark’s book, the Secrets of Inchon, was an interesting read… though some of it – to my great disappointment – didn’t ring true… like for example his Chapter 7 Taemuui-Do Raid, was just too hokey, too much like a bar-room sounding war story… and the raid wasn’t mentioned in any of the other books on Inchon I had read.

Also Clark’s mission was a joint operation with the CIA, as most books/articles pointed out, but Clark, other than saying up front it was a joint ops, never had anything to say about the CIA; who went, what the CIA did, or didn’t do.  And you gotta remember MacArthur didn’t allow the OSS into his Pacific theater during WW II… and the CIA had just been created, so this would have been the first joint ops with the CIA MacArthur ever authorized, so how it was managed was of interest to me.

Not a word in Clark’s book.

Through the help of a friend, we went through the gentleman who did the introduction to his book to get the name of Clark’s daughter (Clark himself has died), who supposedly had the manuscript daddy Clark had written in 1951 on the mission. We made contact over the telephone and had lunch together 26 December 2015 near her home in Reno.  She gave me the information on how the book came to be published from a manuscript she had kept “laying around the house” and some personal background on her Dad.

Her story had holes in it.  The chain of acquisition on the text/narrative of the book was not provable back to her Dad… in fact that the daughter dealt with professional writer/historian Thomas Fleming and Fleming’s agent to get it published – and received a $125,000 advance – seemed to add to the appearance of impropriety about its authenticity.

To find out last week that the publishing house, when the book was catalogued with the Library of Congress, had listed the book as “fiction.”  I got in contact with the Library of Congress to double check this… to find the Library of Congress wants to change the classification to “non-fiction” based almost entirely on the number of times the book is referenced in other books/articles on the Inchon invasion.  On Friday the 5th I sent the Library of Congress an email explaining my many areas of doubt about the veracity of the book… their final determination is goin’ be interesting.

But anyway in digging into Clark’s account of the invasion, up jumped Operation Racketeer, maybe a joint operation with the CIA that Clark led up the west coast of North Korea the last two week of October 1950, the month after the Inchon Invasion.  The mother ship in this very, very dangerous operation, far behind enemy lines, was PC 703, the same ROK sub chaser used to put the Trudy Jackson team on that island near the mouth of the Inchon channel early September.


Operation Racketeer got Clark to the mouth of the Yalu River, where he reported – in 6 of the 43 Intel reports he sent out during the mission – that 300,000 Red Chinese had crossed the Yalu and were in northern North Korea.


At the time MacArthur’s G-2, General Charles Willoughby, carried only 60 to 80 thousand Red Chinese in the mountains of northern North Korea.  So now with Clark’s information you’d expect Willoughby would have upped the estimated number of enemy in front of the two prongs of the US military 8th Army and the X Corps advancing towards the Yalu.



Willoughby must disseminate Clark’s information to the intelligence community and back to Washington.  Six times Clark said 300,000 Chinese soldiers have crossed the Yalu and were waiting for MacArthur’s army.

Yet, not a word from Willoughby.  No change to the projected number of Chinese soldiers in North Korea MacArthur’s headquarters.  And consequently no change to the CIA estimates on Chinese military in North Korea.

Understand Clark’s information went directly to Willoughby.  The receiving radio station for Clark’s one-time pad reports was near Willoughby’s desk.

In 1987 Clark gave an interview to historian John Toland (author of In Mortal Combat among many other classics), in which 1) he never mentioned having written a book about his mission… in fact was unsure of some of the facts Toland asked about, that were spelled out in the book he had supposedly written.  2) He did go into considerable discussion about the CIA participation in Trudy Jackson and its lack of participation in the Yalu River part of Racketeer.

CIA answered my FOIA request with something that they could find no records on CIA involvement in Trudy Jackson or Racketeer.

But other information is accumulating and I’m near a point to publish what I know about those two operations… with the significance of Trudy Jackson being the way the CIA and MacArthur’s people worked together, and Clark’s absolutely incredible contributions (despite what I’m considering a fanciful account credited to him 50 years after the fact, written by who knows who).

The significance of the Racketeer operation is Willoughby’s (or MacArthur’s) decision not to disseminate Clark’s behind-the-lines patrol reports.

But all this has led me to the question:  How did the Chinese communist come to be in Manchuria in such numbers that they could send at least 300,000 of their forces into North Korea?

This just 5 years after the end of WW II, when the Nationalist Army of Chiang Kai-shek was around 3 million strong, and Mao’s communist troops considerably less, 1.5 or 2 million.  This though the Nationalist had suffered the most casualties fighting the Japanese during the war.  Mao more or less sitting off to the side, hunkering down, waiting the war out, in northwest China, near the terminus of Soviet railroads.

US supported Chiang Kai-Shek.

USSR supported Mao Zedung.

How did Mao turn things around in 5 years?

Well, it doesn’t take much looking to see that the Russian invasion of Manchuria on the day after the US dropped Little Boy on top of Hiroshima, and the Soviet subsequent occupation of Manchuria and Port Arthur, played a big, big role in changing the history and the destiny of the Far East.


Here’s what Russia – Stalin – did:

First he used many or most of his “Penal” Divisions in the assault… these are front line outfits made up of riff-raff from other divisions.  Soldiers were assigned there rather than face execution or jail for violation of Soviet Army rules.  While some Penal units acquitted themselves well in combat, others acted just like a bunch of thugs.  They were regarded, understandably, as dregs of the Soviet military… throwaways.

These Penal divisions met light resistance from the Japanese in their invasion of Manchuria, because the Japanese troops here had been depleted to fill out replacement quotes for the Japanese Army out in the Pacific.

Then the more elite Soviet Army units moved in and took control of all the ports, including the strategic Port Arthur.

Behind them came the third wave of… Soviet engineers, who stripped the Japanese factories throughout Manchuria and sent the heavy equipment back to Russia.  Mukden, Manchuria, for example, was a thriving city of 2 million with Japanese factories galore when the Soviets attacked.  All factories, one after the other, were stripped clean of machinery by the Soviets.  OSS teams that entered the country soon after the Soviet occupation began, found factory after factory after factory, little more than building shells.  Nothing inside.

And the Soviets took over all the banks and transferred the gold, other precious metals and international currency back to the Soviet Union, exchanging them for worthless “Occupation Yen.”

And at the ports?  Soviets did not allow the Nationalist troops to come into Manchuria… giving Mao time to move his army up north.  And keep in mind that before the Soviet invasion, the Japanese kept Manchuria commie-free.


And in the insuring Chinese civil war 1945 to 1949, Manchuria became critical terrain.  Lower China would go to whatever army controlled Manchuria.

Surely you say the US saw this coming.  Right?

Wrong, again!

General Stilwell who worked with Chiang Kai-shek didn’t like him. Check the record.  And one of the reasons it seems to me, is that Stilwell didn’t consider Chiang Kai-shek an equal.  Chiang didn’t speak English.  Didn’t kowtow to the westerner or his ways.  Stilwell resented this.

And the “ol’ China hands” in the US State Department were predominately sons of missionaries who had been born in China, spoke the language fluently, and – because of the religious nature of their upbringing – believed the Mao propaganda about a “people’s” army.  State Department for the most part didn’t look on Mao as a communist that was getting great help from the Soviets and falling in line with their attitudes and policies, so much as Mao was a man of the people.

Then there was General George Marshall, who came over as the China civil war was just getting started and said, hey hold on a minute, let’s all take a minute here, catch our breaths and figure this thing out… like let’s have a cease fire… you, Chiang, and over there, you, Mao… let’s see if we can find a way to have a joint gov’t.

He kept to this cease-fire thing and “let’s talk” attitude, even though Mao boldly told him one time that his tactic in waging a long contested war was “Talk-Fight, Fight-Talk” (“Da-Da, Tan-Tan”).

Because the U.S. was providing the Nationalist with weapons and equipment, Chiang had to “cease fire.”

Did Mao?  Of course not.  He used the Marshall-imposed halt to Chiang’s maneuvering, to take great advantage.  Certainly to move up at the Soviet’s invitation into Manchuria.

And Marshall is on record as saying he didn’t like Chiang.  Again like Stilwell he never treated him as an equal and long-time ally of the U.S., the leader of western oriented forces in China.  Marshall it seems regarded Chiang pretty much as the union leader of bucktooth Asian laundry men, not at all comparable to say, European leaders.

And Marshall went on to be Secretary of Defense and then, God Save the Queen, he became the U.S. Secretary of State.

Chiang was toast.

The Chinese communist army would force the Nationalist Kuomintang out the back door to Taiwan and in October 1949, Mao assumed control of all China…. and a year later sent his troops across the Yalu to attack American forces…

So how did Stalin get such a good deal of occupying Manchuria ostensibly to help the US with its war on Japan… that eventually, surely, led to Mao’s victory in China?

Read the two attachments below:  excerpts from Spanning the Century and Special Envoy.  

Come to your own conclusions.  Decide who’s to blame for aiding and abetting the communist in Manchuria, and Korea, and then subsequently in Vietnam?



 “….  hurried to install an emergency power station and lay transmission lines to the conference sites. To Kathleen and Eddie Page fell the responsibility of assigning quarters. 

The Czar’s bedroom suite, the only one with a private bath, was reserved for the President. Private bed rooms nearby were set aside for Stettinius, who had succeeded Hull as secretary of state, Hopkins, Harriman, Bohlen, and James F. Byrnes, director of the Office of War Mobilization. General Marshall and Admiral King were put on the second floor, the latter in a suite that had once been the Czarina’s boudoir. The others were less fortunate. Major generals were billeted four to a room, colonels sixteen. Thirty-five officers were assigned to a single bath and forced to shave at water buckets beside their cots. 

After two days, Harriman boarded the President’s plane, the Sacred Cow, which had been ferried from Washington to Sevastopol, and flew off to meet Roosevelt nearly 1,400 miles away at Malta, while Kathleen was left behind to complete preparations at the palace. 

Churchill was already there when he arrived, as were the American and British military chiefs, who had been in a day-long debate over General Eisenhower’s strategy for crossing the Rhine. Hopkins had also joined the party, arriving from Paris, where he had gone to see de Gaulle. Worn out from his trip, he dragged himself off to bed early, leaving Harriman and Churchill to play bezique for several hours and to hash over what they expected from Stalin. 

The following morning, Roosevelt arrived aboard the cruiser USS Quincy after ten days at sea. It had been the kind of interlude that ordinarily rejuvenated him physically and spiritually, but this one obviously had not. Harriman was shaken by his “worn, wasted” appearance, alarmingly deteriorated since November. But haggard as he was, Roosevelt was alert and clearly excited about meeting Stalin with the end of the war in sight. He had only one short night to rest before jumping off on the last leg of his journey. 

The flight across the Mediterranean, over Greece, the Macedonian peninsula, and the Black Sea to the Crimea was the most hazardous part of the journey because there were still Nazi-controlled airfields along the route. To take advantage of darkness, they took off at three o’clock in the morning, under escort by half a dozen heavily armed P-38s. Churchill followed ten minutes later. Aside from the fighters, they entrusted their security to the darkness, radio silence, and a course carefully charted to take them around the enemy-held island of Crete.

The precautions were now especially serious, for American intelligence had learned that the Germans had discovered the location of the conference. And just the day before, an American plane taking equipment to Yalta had carelessly flown so close to Crete that German antiaircraft guns had attacked and damaged it before it got out of range.  

Seven hours after leaving Malta, they arrived at Saki Airfield at Sevastopol. In a huge tent, the Russians had laid out the inevitable refreshments- tables laden with cold cuts, eggs, curd cakes, wine, champagne, and Crimean brandy. Roosevelt skipped all of it, staying just long enough to join Churchill in inspecting the honor guard before leaving on the ninety-mile drive to Yalta. 

By the time the party reached the palace, Hopkins was so spent that Admiral Ross Mcintire, the President’s physician, seriously considered putting him aboard the Catoctin so he could have intense medical care. Hopkins would have none of that, but he stayed in his room throughout the conference, convening a few bedside meetings and, with obvious effort, taking the few steps down the hall for each day’s plenary meeting. Harriman stepped into his friend’s customary role.  He was, therefore, at Roosevelt’s side through much of the day; and on several evenings, he and Kathleen shared a quiet dinner in the President’s suite with Roosevelt and his daughter Anna. 

The President immediately went to work where he had left off at Teheran, trying to promote a civil relationship with the Russians after the war, but Stalin was as obstreperous as ever. To Averell’s consternation, the President made little effort at coordination with Churchill, allowing five days to pass without a private talk with the Prime Minister. Although Yalta would be ridiculed as a capitulation by an exhausted President, its political agenda had been thoroughly explored at Teheran and in the intervening fourteen months had dominated Harriman’s contacts with the Kremlin. Particularly in the case of the Far East, Yalta confirmed what had already been worked out through Harriman during the fall. 

The Pacific had been one of his urgent priorities from the day he arrived in Moscow. He had dogged the Russians for permission to use Soviet airfields in the bombing of Japan’s home islands, and since the Teheran conference, he had pressed Stalin to name his conditions for a Soviet declaration of war in the Pacific. 

As far back as the Moscow foreign ministers’ meeting in October 1943, Stalin had voluntarily assured Hull that the Soviets would help defeat Japan after Hitler was finished. Although he had extended his personal assurances to the President at Teheran, he had been reluctant to lay out his conditions. 

While Churchill was in Moscow in October 1944, Stalin had told Averell that the Red Army could mount an offensive against Japanese forces in Manchuria three months after the capitulation of Germany.  He had thirty divisions in the Far East, and he would move about thirty more from Europe after Hitler’s surrender. In preparation, he wanted the United States to stockpile supplies for two or three months’ fighting. He did not think the war would go on much longer.  

But aside from the American arms and ammunition, he continued, “political considerations” had to be taken into account. The Russian people had to know what they were fighting for. They fought against the Germans because they had been invaded. They would have to understand why they were fighting against the Japanese.

Two days later, Stalin handed Harriman the long list of supplies he wanted and promised to let him know in two weeks when the United States could begin delivering the four-engine bombers it was providing the Red Air Force. 

Clearly, the Soviet dictator now wanted to play a larger part than the Americans had in mind. In Washington, strategists envisioned the Soviet role as one of securing the railroads and taking control of Manchuria. But Stalin’s plan sketched for Averell was to drive south across the Mongolian desert into China, all the way south to Peking.

With that, Harriman had flown home to give Roosevelt a full account of Churchill’s Moscow visit and his own talks with the Premier. The President was pleased with Stalin’s new forthrightness and not particularly disturbed that references to “political considerations” indicated that territorial demands were coming. But Stalin’s comments about driving all the way to Peking caused him to wonder aloud, “If the Russians go in, will they ever go out?”40 

With the second Big Three summit delayed by quibbling over the site, the Soviets’ political demands in the Far East were finally spelled out to Harriman when he met Stalin at the Kremlin on December 14. 

In brief, Stalin wanted the Kuril Islands, an archipelago stretching from the northern tip of Japan to the Kamchatka Peninsula, plus the southern half of Sakhalin Island, which the Japanese had got in the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth. With control of the Kurils and all of Sakhalin, the Soviet Navy would have unimpeded access to the Pacific. He also wanted leases on the Manchurian ports of Dairen and Port Arthur, as well as on the Chinese Eastern and South Manchuria railroads. The rails would link Dairen and Port Arthur with the port at Vladivostok.

Harriman was skeptical of Stalin’s assurance that the Soviets would do nothing to interfere with China’s sovereignty in Manchuria, but Washington indicated neither disapproval nor acceptance of Stalin’s claims, and there the matter still stood when the leaders gathered at Yalta. 

It seemed as urgent as ever to bring the Soviets into the Pacific war. During their stopover at Malta, the combined military chiefs had reconfirmed their judgment that it would take eighteen months after Germany’s surrender to defeat Japan. Estimates suggested that as many as 200,000 American casualties could be prevented by prompt Soviet entry into the conflict. 

At Livadiya Palace, Harriman sat with Roosevelt and Stalin as the Marshal went over his demands again. Despite their profound implications, President accepted them almost casually, and Harriman raised no question. The agreement had to be protected with extraordinary secrecy because it would take time to move the Soviet divisions across Siberia and into position for the offensive. If it was revealed to the Chinese, both Stalin and Roosevelt feared, the Japanese would promptly learn about it and might even attempt a preemptive attack on the port of Vladivostok to prevent the buildup of stockpiles. 

Even Roosevelt’s secretary of state was kept in the dark. When Stettinius inquired whether his department should not be involved in the Far East discussions, the President politely told him that it was a military matter. Asia was never mentioned in the plenary meetings, nor in the sessions of the foreign ministers. When the conference ended, the only American copy of the agreement was taken back to the White House and locked in a safe by Admiral Leahy. Not even Chiang Kai-shek learned of the concessions until after the President’s death. 

While he raised no objection to Stalin’s demand for the islands, Roosevelt balked at the proposed lease arrangement for the ports and the rail lines. He preferred to see Dairen operated as a free port controlled by an international commission instead of being leased to the USSR. The Manchurian railroad, he insisted, should be jointly operated by a Soviet­ Chinese commission. After one meeting on the subject, drafting was turned over to Harriman and Molotov. As Harriman shuttled the various versions back to Livadiya, the President insisted upon keeping his amendments on both the railroads and the port at Dairen. Besides finally accepting the American position, the Soviets also bowed to Roosevelt’s insistence that the ten-paragraph agreement require the approval of Chiang. The President reciprocated by dropping his demand that Port Arthur be put under international control, accepting Stalin’s contention that a lease was necessary, since the port would become a Soviet naval base. 

Years later, the secret accord would become an exhibit for Yalta critics contending that the President had been fleeced by the Soviet dictator. Bohlen, who interpreted all of the conversations between the President and Stalin, thought that where the Far East was concerned, the United States had indeed been caught napping.

Being the American most involved, Harriman shared the blame, but he did not readily accept it. In his memoire, Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin, published in 1975, he insisted that he himself had been unhappy with parts of the agreement. He did not, he said, like the railroad and ports section, which stated that the Soviet Union’s “pre-eminent interests” would be protected at the international port of Dairen. Nor did he like the pledge that the Soviet claims would be “unquestionably fulfilled after Japan has been defeated.” He had told the President as much, but the President “was not disposed to fuss over words.” Harriman said he had hoped that the military chiefs would complain and give him an excuse to go back to Roosevelt, but they raised no objection. 

In demanding the Kurils and southern Sakhalin, Stalin insisted that he merely wanted a return to the situation that existed before the Russo­ Japanese War forty years earlier. The well-known truth was that Japan had gotten only the portion of the island below fifty degrees north latitude at the end of the conflict. The Kurils had been acquired from Russia by treaty in 1875. If Roosevelt had forgotten that, the State Department had not, and neither had Harriman. A memorandum describing the issue in detail was prepared before the President left Washington, but apparently he never saw it. When Harriman mentioned the history of the island chain, Roosevelt casually dismissed it. The Kurils seemed to him “a minor matter.“ 

The agreement was not accompanied by a map or list of the islands. Consequently, decades later, Russo-Japanese relations remained soured by Japan’s insistence that four of the islands ceded to Stalin at Yalta were, in fact, a part of the Japanese homeland, not the Kuril chain. 

Harriman saw Franklin Roosevelt for the last time on the day after the conference ended. 

Following a jovial luncheon to celebrate the signing ceremony at Livadiya, the President drove eighty miles down the coast to board the Catoctin, still anchored off Sevastopol. At the suggestion of his naval aide, Vice-Admiral Wilson Brown, Roosevelt agreed to spend the night aboard the ship as a gesture of thanks to the crew that had supported America’s Yalta contingent around the clock. 

Having watched the President at close range for nine days, Harriman had become truly alarmed over his physical condition. Now, following the strenuous conference, Roosevelt faced a trip home that would be as taxing as his journey to Yalta. From the Crimea, he would fly to Egypt, where he would re-board the Quincy. Before sailing, he was to meet with King Farouk, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, lbn Saud of Saudi Arabia, and Churchill. 

Under the circumstances, Harriman thought the President should rest another night at Yalta. He was furious at Brown’s insensitivity in suggesting that he go through the rigor of boarding ship and spending the night in cramped quarters. Nevertheless, the party went aboard in the late afternoon and passed what Harriman called a “ghastly night” in stifling heat. 

They departed at daybreak, and back at Saki Airfield, Harriman said good-bye. After Roosevelt had been lifted into his plane in a marrow­ chilling rain, the giant C-54 lumbered down the runway and climbed slowly into the sky over the Black Sea.”


 “…agree that any action of the Big Three powers should be submitted to the judgment of the little ones. Churchill challenged this remark. There was no question of the small powers dictating to the great ones. he said, but greatness carried with it a moral responsibility to exercise power with moderation and respect for the rights of weaker nations. “The eagle,” Churchill said, “should permit the small birds to sing an’ care not where for they sang.” 

When the Prime Minister offered a toast to the proletarian masses of the world, possibly by way of placating Stalin, the talk turned to the rights of people to govern themselves and get rid of leaders who no longer enjoyed their support. Churchill made the point that although he was constantly being “beaten up” as a reactionary, he happened to be the only leader present who could be thrown out of office at any time by his people, adding that he personally gloried in that danger. Stalin remarked that Churchill seemed to be afraid of election. Not at all, the Prime Minister replied. Far from fearing them, he was proud of the right enjoyed by the British people to change governments whenever they saw fit. 

A great cloud of myth and misinformation has obscured the true shape of the Yalta decisions for three decades.  Now, with the benefit of hindsight, certain right-wing critics have traced back to Yalta many of America’s postwar difficulties with the Soviet Union, the origins of the Cold War itself, and even the victory of Mao Tse-tung’s Communist armies in China.  Harriman, who was at Roosevelt’s side during most: the crucial Yalta negotiations, stands by his 1951 testimony:

The discussions at Yalta and the understandings reached there were an integral part of our negotiations with the Soviet Union throughout the war to bring the desperate struggle to a victorious and early conclusion and to find a way in which the United States, Great Britain and the U.S.S.R. could live together in peace. The postwar problems have resulted not from the understandings reached at Yalta but from the fact that Stalin failed to carry out those understandings and from aggressive actions by the Kremlin.

The Yalta discussions covered a wide range of topics:  final plans for concerting the defeat and occupation of Germany, and the terms and circumstances for Soviet participation in the war against Japan.   These essentially military decisions are best understood in light of the actual battlefield situation that first week of February 1945. Although General MacArthur had just entered Manila, the bloody battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa were yet to be fought. It would be more than five months before the first experimental explosion of the atomic bomb at Alamagordo, New Mexico. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had not taken the bomb into account in their calculations of the military pressures needed to break Japan’s resistance. (Harriman recalls that even five months later, at Potsdam, Admiral Leahy was offering bets that the bomb would not work.) The Chiefs of Staff, just before Yalta, had estimated that it would take eighteen months after the German surrender to defeat Japan. Far from visualizing Japan’s quick collapse, they were planning to invade the home islands in the winter of 1945-46. And in the event that the European war was prolonged, necessarily postponing the redeployment of troops to the Pacific, they contemplated postponing that invasion until “well into 1946.”

Anxious to reduce American casualties from what General Marshall conceived as a bitter-end campaign to invade and occupy the industrial heart of Japan through the Tokyo Plain, the Joint Chiefs looked to the Russians for help. In a memorandum to the President, dated January 2 3, 1945, they declared: 

Russia’s entry at as early a date as possible consistent with her ability to engage in offensive operations is necessary to provide maximum assistance to our Pacific operations. The United States will provide maximum support possible without interfering with our main effort against Japan. The objectives of Russia ‘s military effort against Japan in the Far East should be the defeat of the Japanese forces in Manchuria, air operations against Japan proper in collaboration with United States Air Forces based in eastern Siberia, and maximum interference with Japanese sea traffic between Japan and the mainland of Asia.

Stalin, understandably, had his own set of objectives in the Far East. He had outlined his terms to Harriman in December, claiming the return to Russia of the lower half of Sakhalin Island and the Kuriles. He wanted leases on the ports of Dairen and Port Arthur as well as the railroads in Manchuria built and operated by the Russians in Czarist times under contract with the Chinese. He also had asked for recognition of the status quo in Outer Mongolia, promising that the Soviet Union would not interfere with China’s sovereignty over Manchuria. On February 8, at Yalta, Stalin took up his demands with Roosevelt. Secretary of State Stettinius had no part in these discussions. The President asked Harriman alone to join him, Bohlen sitting in as the interpreter. Stalin, who brought Molotov and his own interpreter, V. N. Pavlov, to the meeting, said he would like to discuss the political conditions under which the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan, as he had explained them to Harriman earlier. Roosevelt saw no difficulty about the return of South Sakhalin or the transfer of the Kurile Islands. As for Dairen, he had suggested at Teheran that the Soviet Union ought to have access to a warm-water port at the end of the South Manchurian Railroad. But he could not speak for Chiang Kai-shek. Perhaps, rather than ask the Chinese for an outright lease, Dairen could become a free port under an international commission. That was the method he preferred, Roosevelt said, not only in Dairen but also in Hong Kong. As for the Manchurian railroads, instead of leasing them he would like to see them operated jointly by the Russians and the Chinese. 

Stalin pressed harder. Unless his conditions were met, he said, it would be difficult for the Soviet peoples to understand why Russia was going to war with Japan. They clearly understood the war against Germany, which had threatened the very existence of the Soviet Union, but they would not understand why Russia should attack the Japanese. If his political conditions were met, however, the matter could be more easily explained to the people – and the Supreme Soviet – in terms of “the national interest involved.”

Roosevelt stressed that he had not had an opportunity to discuss the matter with Chiang. It was difficult to speak frankly with the Chinese, he said, because anything said to them in confidence was known round the world, Tokyo included, in twenty-four hours. 

There was no rush about talking to the Chinese, Stalin said, but he did want his proposals put in writing and agreed to by Roosevelt and Churchill before the conference ended. Turning then to internal conditions in China, Stalin said he could not understand why the united front against the Japanese invaders had broken down. The time had come, he said, for Chiang to take the leadership, uniting his Kuomintang forces with Mao’s Communists in a common front against Japan. 

On February 10, at Molotov’s request, Harriman called at the Villa Koreis to receive and discuss the first draft in English of Stalin’ political conditions for entering the war against Japan.  He explained to the Soviet Foreign Minister that Roosevelt would have to ask for three amendments.  Stalin had agreed two days earlier, Harriman pointed out, that Port Arthur and Dairen should be free ports and that the Manchurian railroads should be operated by a joint Russian-Chinese commission. He also felt certain that the President would not wish to settle these matters without Chiang’s concurrence. All three changes would have to be incorporated in the Russian draft. 

Returning to Livadia, Harriman showed the President Molotov’ draft together with the amendments he was suggesting.  Roosevelt promptly approved the changes and Harriman resubmitted them to Molotov. The matter was settled after the formal conference session later that day. Stalin told Roosevelt that he agreed it would be more appropriate for the Manchurian railroads to be operated by a joint commission.  He accepted the requirement for Chiang’s concurrence adding that he wanted Chinese concurrence also on the status quo in Outer Mongolia. He was entirely willing to have Dairen a free port under international control, Stalin added, but Port Arthur was going to be used as a Soviet naval base, and for this a lease arrangement would be required. Roosevelt accepted this change, taking upon himself the responsibility for consulting Chiang Kai-shek as soon as Stalin notified him that the time was ripe. 

Harriman was unhappy with the final Soviet text, submitted for signing by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin on February 11. Without prior discussion, the Russians had written into the sections concerning Manchurian ports and railroads a provision that “the pre-eminent interests of the Soviet Union shall be safeguarded.” Harriman disliked the term “pre-eminent interests” and said as much to Roosevelt. But the President was not disposed to fuss over words. They meant nothing more, he said, than that the Russians had a larger interest in the area than the British or the Americans. This seemed to him true, and he was not disposed to argue over two words. Harriman also questioned a paragraph stipulating that the territorial claims of the Soviet Union in the Far East “shall be unquestionably fulfilled after Japan has been defeated.” It was just language, Roosevelt replied. Here again he was not going to quarrel with Stalin. 

Roosevelt felt other matters were more important, the establishment of the United Nations, for example. “He was trying like the dickens,” Harriman recalled, “to get Stalin to be more cooperative in other areas that he cared about, the United Nations and Poland.  He didn’t want to use up whatever trading positions he had and he may have been trying to save his strength. Perhaps it was a combination of the two. Roosevelt never was much of a stickler for language. Even at Teheran, when his health was better, he didn’t haggle with Stalin over language. It was my impression that as long as he could put his own interpretation on the language, he didn’t much care what interpretations other people put on it.” 

Nor did the Joint Chiefs of Staff raise the slightest objection when Harriman showed each of them the draft agreement. He hoped that they would question one detail or another so that be could take it back to Roosevelt and persuade him to get the language changed. But Marshall, King and Leahy all approved the draft. Even Admiral Leahy, who later wrote that he believed Japan could be defeated without Russian participation, remarked to Harriman, “This makes the trip worth­ while.” In his memoirs Leahy wrote: “No one was more surprised than I to see these conditions agreed to at Yalta labeled as some horrendous concessions made by Roosevelt to an enemy.”

The admiral carried the signed agreement back to Washington and locked it in the President’s personal safe. It was not mentioned in the protocol of the Yalta Conference. When Stettinius in a private conversation at Yalta asked the President whether there was some aspect of the Far East negotiations that the State Department ought to know about, the reply was that Harriman alone had handled the matter, which was primarily military in any case, and that it had best remain that way.

Roosevelt, it would seem, had not a great deal more confidence in the State Department than in the Chiang Kai-shek entourage at Chungking, when it came to keeping secrets. The most important reason for secrecy, of course, was the plain fact that Russia remained at peace with Japan and ostensibly neutral. Stalin had promised Roosevelt he would shift some twenty-five divisions to the Far East as soon as they could be spared from the European front, and he had reason to fear a pre-emptive attack by the Japanese against this thinly defended area if word of his intention to declare war leaked out before those divisions were in place. 

The crucial agreement, so far as the Joint Chiefs were concerned, was Stalin’s commitment to join the war against Japan within two or three months after the German surrender. The Soviet Union also undertook to conclude an alliance with Chiang Kai-shek, to assist the Chinese in driving out the Japanese invaders and to respect China’s “full sovereignty” in Manchuria. Stalin contended that he was asking, in return, little more than the restoration of rights and territories wrested from Imperial Russia by the Japanese in 1904. This was not strictly true of the Kurile Islands, which in fact had been peaceably transferred to Japan in 1875 by the terms of a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Russia. But Roosevelt dismissed Harriman’s reservations on this point before signing the agreement. The Kuriles seemed to him a minor matter, measured against the larger benefits of a Russian helping hand against Japan. 

Harriman, in spite of his reservations, felt the Far Eastern agreement was undermined less by Stalin’s duplicity than by Chiang’s weakness. “The agreement in no way weakened him,” Harriman said. “Stalin recognized Chiang as the head of the government of China. The formal agreement negotiated with Stalin by Foreign Minister T.V. Soong in July of 1945 promised to respect continuing Chinese sovereignty in Manchuria. If Chiang had been strong enough at home to hold up his end, the outcome might well have been different. In my judgment it was Chiang’s inherent weakness that gave the Chinese Communists their opportunity.“ 

For Churchill the problems of winning the war in the Far East were “remote and secondary.”13 Although he signed the agreement, he had taken no part in the negotiations. His chief concern was to prevent the domination of Europe by the Soviet Union. He fought Stalin hard (Roosevelt as well, at times) to ensure a respectable postwar role for France, to block the dismemberment of Germany and to guarantee the right to govern themselves.”

Parker Interview – Part 1

2LT James E. Parker Jr. Aka “Mule” is interviewed by John Thomas Wiseman 

John Thomas Wiseman: How do you define National Security?

James E. Parker: Well certainly any dictionary will have an answer for that, but my definition would be something more personal…. it would be not only efforts to keep us safe, but situational awareness of the things out there in the world (and here at home) that might put our life style in some danger, and then doing something to take away that danger. And I’m speaking of US National Security ’cause I don’t know what they think about security in Brazil, or in Uganda. You know ol’ George, Senior used to talk about how our country is a thousand shards of light, and I’m thinking he meant our geography, our history, our public utilities, our sense of justice, UNC bar-b-q, Hollywood, the Super Bowl, the freedom to go anywhere or say anything, that your home is your castle, your weapons a symbol of your freedoms, the interstate highway system, the Mississippi, and the Rockies, good hospitals and a 4th of July hot dog. That’s America.

And those things ain’t free. You gotta protect them. ‘Cause if you’re born in Timbuktu to a family that ain’t never had anything, they might not understand how we take it all we got for granted. How being American is also about being a little cocky, that we got it good. We are lucky in that we got all that Pacific and Atlantic water out there protecting our flanks. And a northern neighbor that’s part and parcel of the American culture. That shares our interest in protecting what we got…

So there.

National Security starts with an understanding of what we mean by national – and to my way of thinking that’s Bush Sr.’s thousands and thousands rays of light.

And Security is the means we have to use to protect our nation from those who wish us harm.

JTW: Which organization did you enjoy the most in your career?

JEP: Probably that would be the current Mule enterprises. I am at my core a story- teller. All my travels and adventures and utterances and thoughts and actions seem on some level to be just fodder for stories. And that’s the level I’m at now. Looking back, remembering, and often comparing this time with that to see how my perspective has changed… and my vantage on… life its ownself. Like today at the movies, it’s all about animation of dragons and talking animals and the incredibly stories of daring do… bases of which are not taken from anything I’ve known.

And the ads on TV show people of all persuasions enjoying this and that, as long as they buy this or do that. Venal appeal… buy this and life as you know it will be better.  And the actors presenting this message are not like anyone I can identify with.

And the shows are just a waste of time. The news reports are so programmed and narrow in focus as to be nothing that seems relevant to my life. Headlines are always the presidential elections; as if that’s the most important “news” of the day… well I don’t think so. Not in the world I live in… not in what I know about life.

Values are transient, often created by same-age airheads, not learned or taught by adults who fought life’s wars. Celebrity trumps peace of mind. Money often man’s raison d’etre.  And so many people out there. On the roads, in Africa, at the grocery store. There is no solitude anywhere close… except here at my desk, alone with my thoughts.

Aw, and to think back in the way of a story teller… there was purpose, and some real danger, and exciting places to see and smell and touch before the Discovery Channel, with the testosterone surging through my body 24/7. Demanding this course of action or that.

I think this is the best time of my life. My best “organization.”

JTW: What was your favorite assignment in your long career?

JEP: Well let’s see here… favorite?

If you were to ask my wife what was her favorite assignment, I think she’d say, all of them. But hell, she’s easy to please. Look who she married. She wakes up in the morning with a good attitude. Positive. She sees that glass half full. There was a story I used to tell about us meeting this woman in a Wal-Mart years ago…. in the 90s when we were still living in NC. She was big, wore a Wal-Mart mu-mu dress, round flat face. I have honestly forgot what it was that caused our meeting… but as we were walking away and I was looking for the right words about this woman was really in her element, and Brenda said, “Didn’t she have a nice smile.”

Brenda had a stroke in 2010, paralyzed the left side of her body. She’s done remarkably well since. Gets around mostly with a cane, and although she hasn’t regained the movement of her left arm and hand, she types her email.

And she has never complained. Not once that I can remember.

Now I’m goin’ to answer your question, but let me finish this thought. We used to live in a big ol’ sprawling house here in the SW of Las Vegas, but after Brenda’s stroke it was just too much to keep up – plus we were under water what with the real estate crash here in Vegas town, so we moved to the condominium we live in now… and in making the move, Brenda almost helpless, this Mexican woman pitched upon our doorstep saying she heard we might need some help.

Best I can figure it was God who talked her… because she’s still with us, three years later. Illegal as all hell, ain’t got paper one, but she’s an angel and has given Brenda back her pre-stroke freedom. They go shopping together, just to go shopping. Go to the grocery store, cook meals. Alma is here a lot… and she always talking, always asking Brenda’s advice, and always laughing. I don’t mean to say everything’s perfect, but damn it’s nice.

So what was the question?

Favorite assignment.

Got another story that you may have read in my Rants and Yarns… about my great Aunt Wilma, taught in NC classrooms for more than 70 years. Let me say that again, she taught in schools for more than 70 years. In her 90s she was driving around picking up relatives of migrant workers in Johnston County, NC, taking them to the local CC, teaching them English as a second language and then taking them back to their homes. I remember speaking with her once and said something like, “Boy you been teaching forever. Bet you’ve had some pretty smart students, huh?” And she said she had, “And I’ll bet you’ve really had some idiots too, huh?” And she, “No, every single one of my students was special. Every single one was smart.”

So I reckon to be true to heritage and my wife, on the favorite assignment thing, I have to say I have not had a favorite assignment, I’ve liked them all.

Some stand out, or come first to my memory.  But favorites, nope. Here are some that I remember.

My number 1 assignment was growing up rowdy in the mid-south, with a father that let me roam, telling me to “go out there and make something of yourself.” I got a lot from my youth. The “getting” part was not always appreciated by fathers of some of the girls I dated. If we carried a laugh-meter like health nuts carry around a step-meter on their belt… I laughed more than most of my peers growing up, did more stuff and certainly said more, “Holy s**t, what am I goin’ to do now?”

But here again, there’s a side story… that sort of explains my DNA…. it’s one of my early Rants and Yarns titled something like Travelling man… an interview my cousin Alan did back a couple of years ago.

Number 2 as well remembered events go, would be my year spent as a platoon leader in Vietnam. I’ve been blessed in this life… and one of my earliest conspicuous blessings was Staff Sergeant Cecil Bratcher who was my 1st Squad leader… until I made him my platoon sergeant. And we developed a great division of labor in running the platoon… I was just out of OCS and without his knowing hand, Jesus, what would have happened? You know so often in Vietnam, a young 2nd LT, especially a replacement, was merely the platoon mascot. The network of sergeants – from platoon sergeant down to fire team leaders really ran the show. There was zero room for error for replacement Lts. They mess up once in the field, some men get hurt, and the sergeants would take over. Or the sergeants would take over from the start, telling the new looey to just keep the Captain informed of what was goin’ on…. and they’d do the war fighting.

But there was never the case with Bratcher. We did it together. And he even came to my defense – supported me – when I picked a jive talking black I think from Detroit – a guy named Spencer – to be my radio operators. This was in 1965. Remember, for many of the good ol’ white boys in my platoon, this was their first chance up close and personal with American Blacks. It was when they were called Negroes, which the white grunts in my platoon would just spit out, rather than articulate. But here’s the thing, the majority of my Sergeants were black. So there was tension there, not that it was disruptive, but it was there… plus there was the sense that the black sergeants in my platoon were disenfranchised. But when Spencer started carrying my radio, things changed. Most notably was that the black NCO felt more involved, because the job of the RTO in the field is that he speaks for the unit commander, or figures what the commander wants and passes that on to Company or Battalion who were always on the horn when the shit hit the fan. And in free time Spencer would hang out with black buddies, and we were friends, Spencer and I, and that word got passed around in the platoon, and we were a better fighting unit as a results.

Bratcher and Spencer made a difference. Plus despite the great emotional horror that goes with war fighting, I enjoyed combat. The risk taking, the camaraderie, the job leading men on a battlefield.

Number 3 would be my first CIA assignment, upcountry Laos. To work with Hmong hills tribesmen fighting invading North Vietnamese. Just great on several different levels. One was the opportunity to work with American Ravens and Air America pilots and the collection of case officers the CIA hired to do this job… one of the biggest jobs in the history of the CIA. Who staffed it was no small matter. Now some of the CIA people up country looked as rough as cobs, but god almighty they were good, with great depth of character. Check out Kayak and Hog and Shep. Dick Johnson. Moose. All mentioned in my Rants and Yarns.  Well for sure check out Shep and Hog.

And we won our fight. Beat the hell out of tens of thousands of attacking North Vietnamese… commanded by some of the NVA’s best field Generals.

And the wonderful balance between war fighting with these great men, and then coming down to Vientiane every two or three weeks to that warm family of Brenda and the kids. Goin’ from Here to Eternity to a chic flick.

And also, or maybe first, was my contact and day-to-day emergence into the Hmong culture. The Hmong warlord we worked with, Vang Pao’s, first CIA case officer was a guy named Vint Lawrence. He told me once that it took him a year living in Long Tieng, working every day with VP and the Hmong, for him to get to the point where he could ask a good question.

They were humans, for sure, but they had had no contact with the western culture, these Hmong we worked with, and just went about life differently. There is so much we assume when we meet new people, but when those people are unlike any people that have ever dealt with Westerners, you gotta expect some newness, you know what I mean? Newness that it would take a year to really understand, and really come to grips with.

My first Hmong unit was GM 22, at the time out camped near Ban Na, north of Long Tieng… completely surrounded by Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese. And I would go out to their positions every day, by first convincing one of them mean sumbitch who flew Air America that it was safe, or safe enough, and then in arriving out with my people, having overflown enemy AA on the way, to do that terrible work most morning of sending wounded and dead collected from the night before, back to Long Tieng on the helicopter. Now here your mind’ll mess with you, ’cause it seemed this happened a lot, but probably not so much, it just seems that way because it was so poignant. Morning of just goin out to the position so uneventful.

The Hmong would, if you applied enough pressure, dig bunkers… though mostly they liked to hide behind rocks and scamper when the enemy came in force. But since we occupied this space out near Ban Na, they would send one of the littlest kid in their unit down the front side of the mountain where they were, send him down with a box full of grenades… and if the bad guys did come up to checky-check in the night this little guy’s job was to throw those grenades down the hill at the sounds he heard below and then beat feet back up to the top of the mountain.  Well often one of those grenades would have a short fuse and go off in the little guy’s hand or it would hit something and bounce back, or the bad guys would pick it up and throw it back at the little guy. Or the little guy would be shot trying to get back to the top of the hill.

What I remember so many mornings was these young, small and dirty soldiers laying there on blankets used as stretchers for the wounded or dead in the catastrophic way young men or killed or wounded by grenades. Loading them up on the helicopter and send them back to Long Tieng.

And then standing at the site watching that helicopter flying high over the enemy, and away from me. First losing the sound, and then watching it got as small as a dot in the early morning haze and then disappearing behind some distant mountain… and I would realize how quiet it was… and how particularly I was alone… except for these rock age Hmong.

And then over the course of months and months, coming to know them.

How innocent, how un-greedy, how smart, how interested they were in the US, like travel to the Moon for Christ sake, how they did math, what was important to them. And in all that, going about getting out there to find out where the bad guys were and killing them. And then later directing their attacks on North Vietnamese as they moved in force back the PDJ.

The enormous depth to that experience. How it made me understand how the life I knew from my mid-south upbringing was different, not better or worse than the experiences of these good men, just different. How I had no right to be critical – maybe judgmental of their lives, their hopes and dreams.

How their religion was so similar to mine in that it provided for a larger omnipotence, different in the detail but so absolutely the same human longing for understanding of this life we lived in…. No not absolutely the same…. they were more fatalistic… like no matter what you do, you still goin’ die.

And then later the evacuation from Vietnam… I mean there was a whole lot of interesting stuff goin’ on with that. No movie I have ever seen had as much drama as that evacuation… and I had a leading role.

And later that tour in Africa and my friendship with John Sherman. Here again you’ll have to read my Rants and Yarns on that guy – surely the most interesting man I ever knew.

I was a chief of station and had two posting that are still very classified… but they don’t compete with the others as memorable. Chief of Station was full of personnel problems. If not with my case officers, it was with night people that my case officers hung around with, rather than their wives, who complained to me that it was all my fault.

And then now, like I was saying above. I enjoy my life now. Every single day. I read three papers, but don’t watch the evening news. I read a book or two a week. Got a great man cave in which I write almost without distraction… like this email. Alma brought in my lunch of noodles around noon, but other than that, no pressure to go mow the lawn, or whatever it is that other 73-year-old men do with their mid-day Fridays. And I like to write. Like to tell the stories.

This has been fun… writing about not having just one favorite time.

A-37 in Vietnam

by Captain Richard Fulton

I was doing some looking around the site, which will continue, but the very first article that caught my eye was the A-37. I had a flight on one of them, hitting bunkers in III Corps, aboard an aircraft based at Bien Hoa. It was a two ship sortie and I remember it well because it was the only jet ride I ever had. Better do some explaining.

I went to Vietnam from Korea in 1967 and was assigned to 7th Air Force Directorate of Information, first to the internal information branch and then after Tet to the Combat News Branch. Combat News was headed by Lt Col Billy Vaughn. MSgt (Master Sergeant) Bob Need had been the NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge) but was wounded by rocket fire in February 1968 and sent home. He was replaced by another great NCO, MSgt Harvey Inouye, who was a cousin of the US Senator (Hawaii). We had a couple photographers on loan from 600 Photo Squadron and there were five or six gents like me, meaning information specialists in the E-4 and E-5 range. Most of what we did was write feature stories about the air war, all of which had to be cleared by MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) and most of which went downtown to JUSPAO (Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office). We also did some work supporting Tan Son Nhut at large because there was not a base IO shop there, though all the other air bases had one and usually had an OIC (Officer In Charge), NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge), photographer and couple of writers, with their work being sent south to the DXI for edit, clearance and distribution. In fact, how I got into Combat News was that the 366th TFW at DaNang IO shop had lost all its people except the lieutenant colonel. Our colonel, 7AF Director of Information Al Lynn, sent me up TDY (Temporary Duty) to lend a hand because of all that was going on in I Corps (Hue, Khe Sanh, Leatherneck Square, Dong Ha) and of course the Ashau Valley. So I had an exciting couple of months, and got in the habit of photographing as much as writing.

I should tell you about Colonel Lynn. He was on his third tour. Previous jobs had included pilot/AC of a Canberra bomber. The colonel had been around and did not like a staff job with weenies flying desks. He knew the gents in combat news were scrounging rides after normal duty so he got all of us on non crew member flight pay, had us issued flight suits and vests with all the goodies, and told us not to get killed, then grinned the famous “Black Cat” call sign and sent us forth to conquer. Getting rides was always easy. During my TDY (temporary duty) to I Corps, I got my Yankee Air Pirate patch for a run in an O-2 PSYOP north of the DMZ. I did six or seven flights on AC-47s based at DaNang, did C-123 and C-130 runs, and rides aboard US Army, Marine, and 41st VNAF Wing helicopters, UH-1s, H-19s, and a C-7A flight hauling VNAF (South Vietnam Air Force?) gathered refugee camp supplies into Hue city strip, the first fixed wing to land after the Tet attack. In fact some folks were still shooting that day. We took a couple rounds from somewhere but just into the PSP (Personal support program) and not into people. Later I got sent to Pleiku for a similar TDY and did another handful of Spooky flights in II Corps. Back at Tan Son Nhut we all had the opportunity to fly more gunships, but out of Bien Hoa. Later on there was a flight of AC-119 Shadows based at TSN (Tan Son Nhut?) and flown by Indiana Air National Guardsmen who were always happy for strap hangers to help hump ammo cans and pass flares. We had to turn our quarterly hours in, to get the flight pay, but this was never a big deal. All the gunship stuff was at night, usually the early birds before midnight. Once I was flying with an AC-47 crew out of Bien Hoa and it was unusual because we were fragged out on the late bird after midnight. Spookies (propeller driven aircraft) had to be ground or FAC (forward air control) controlled. Shadows were given box grids to work. Usually it was a lot of firing with little feedback, though once in I Corps we had been ground controlled by some SEALs on a river bank and hit a sampan barge sort of thing and got some good secondaries. That was very visual and of course all things being even I did not get a picture because of humping ammo cans Pilot ACs did the actual button pushing from the cockpit, gunners just kept the mini guns loaded in the back or worked getting flares out on command.

Anyway this sortie was after midnight, flown from Bien Hoa and had a hot target to work. We came back empty on ammo. It had been a busy night. On these gunship runs folks wore parachute harnesses for front packs that were kept in a bin by the door. It was very hot back there and you walked around more like a Gorilla and not normal because of the harness. Anyway, landing at Bien Hoa as the sun came up, the Bien Hoa IO shop had found an open seat on an A-37 that was going back to hit the area we had been working. I took with me a twin lens deuce and a quarter with all of 12 shots per roll and I had one reload. They got me all strapped in the right hand seat as I recall. We taxied to the arming area, the ejection seat pin got pulled, and off we went, a pair of A-37s, one very excited USAF SSgt journalist, two very laid back pilots and then we joined up with an O-1 FAC (forward air controller). He said he had some bunkers spotted for us to hit and we were to fly the X on what he marked, one aircraft to drop napalm and the other to come in and hit who ever might be running with cluster bombs which were in tubes operated by a kind of ram air pushing them out once the caps were fired off (it sounded like automatic shotgun blasts).

I did okay the first run. We dropped napalm, too excited to worry about the air sickness bag that had somehow gotten lost. Then it was our turn to fly the X with the CBUs (Cluster Bomb Units). I was to try and help spot for any tracer or any movements. We went in, the caps went off, the CBUs came out because the pilot rapidly put us in a climb. My stomach was left at the bottom of the X. I knew what was going to happen but I couldn’t get the mask off in time. Air sickness bag? Forget it! I did continue trying to work the camera and, eventually did get some decent shots as we flew back to Bien Hoa, but on landing I had to put my own ejection seat pin in to save it, and that seemed to take hours, plus I was of course majorly embarrassed for having upchucked. That was a fairly normal kind of A-37 mission for the pilots but I will never forget it. Most of our flights were on planes with props. I always wanted to get an F-100F counter but it never happened. We flew a lot in those days, our little group, and we all cranked a lot of stories out as was our task to do, but being in the Air Force and then being able to fly on combat runs was a special experience.

Just remembering.


What did America learn from the Vietnam War? By Captain Richard Fulton

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Awards earned by Captain Richard Fulton

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Decoration for Meritorious Civilian Service

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Fulton Interview – Part 2

Captain Richard Fulton is interviewed by John Thomas Wiseman.

  1. What is one of the more memorable or impactful experiences during your National Security Career?

The answer would have to be found in the years I spent in the reserve components of the United States Army, especially the Infantry experiences. I was a student at Pittsburg State University, following two enlistments in the Air Force. A friend knew I missed military life, and encouraged me to join the local Kansas Army National Guard unit. It was Company A, 3d of the 137th Infantry, 69th Infantry Brigade (Separate), Kansas Army National Guard. Because of prior military service and a number of years spent in USAF Security Police, I joined the ranks as a sergeant (E-5) and was assigned as a fire team leader in the company’s third platoon.

The Vietnam War was still going on and few people wanted to serve, so the company was at about sixty percent strength. About half had joined the Guard for less than patriotic reasons, yet some of them were very good soldiers. The other fifty percent were mostly Vietnam veterans, and the Kansas National Guard took good care of us, allowing us to grow. We did a lot of training in the strip pit lands of southeast Kansas, training mostly oriented towards squad and platoon tactics, We drilled one weekend a month, plus two weeks in the summer at regular Army posts, I went from fire team leader to squad leader, attended NCO Academy in Iola, Kansas (the hometown of General Fredrick Funston, a famous soldier at the turn of the century), and had free access to an impressive library of military manuals and regulations. As a university student the Guard became, as much as anything, a hobby, though one which paid, and which also had a unique purpose.

As a result of the Guard experience, I decided to try and become a commissioned officer. The university ROTC offered a one-year compression program. Students did MS-III and MS-IV together, two separate classes, each semester, plus the regular coursework of other classes, and also had to attend a summer camp. I became an ROTC cadet second lieutenant, and it was a paid USAR service. I missed my friends in the local unit, but enjoyed my classmates, even though I was older than them. One of those folks went on to become a three star general. Another was a colonel and dentist. Yet another was a JAG lawyer, all this on down the road, of course. The war mostly ended for America. Infantry lieutenants were no longer needed.

The Army said I was to become an AG officer. I had a choice so I completed the coursework, but resigned the program, enrolled in graduate studies, and returned to the National Guard. The company commander assigned me as acting platoon sergeant, and then a month later, as acting platoon leader. In terms of rank, I was a staff sergeant, but I did enjoy the year of commanding third platoon. Until 1975 we trained to the standard of being called to active duty and deployed back across the Pacific. What happened in 1975 ended that, of course, but we continued to train to a harsh standard under the command of officers who were Vietnam veterans. They taught us well. In 1976, because of our manpower problem, the Kansas NG decided to change us from an Infantry battalion into a combat engineer battalion. Officers started arriving in the units. I was given the task of being the company training NCO. Being in a combat engineer company was neat because we were trained in a lot of different skill areas, including demolitions. That was especially fun. My PMOS remained 11B30, though I had been given and had passed the 11B40 testing. The duty MOS was now 12B.

By 1977, I had finished a master’s degree in History and had been hired as a civilian employee at Fort Leavenworth. My job as a GS-7 was to be the editor of the LAMP weekly post newspaper. It was too far to drive for weekend drills, so I asked for discharge from the Guard, to join a new USAR company that was forming in Kansas City. That was the 308th PSYOP. I became an HC team leader, then company training NCO, then acting field first, then acting first sergeant. I always forgot the word “acting” and just did the job at hand. In 1979, following a Department of Defense Information School course, the Army offered me a GS-9 position at Fort Hood. I became the managing editor of the metro-sized four section weekly newspaper, the Fort Hood SENTINEL. As a civilian employee I supervised military journalists from three different headquarters companies within a separate brigade and two divisions. We all worked at the post Public Affairs building. The command information officer was a captain, Charley Schill, and the NCOIC was also our cartoonist, Sergeant First Class S. J. Stout, a really great soldier (and former Marine). The captain knew of my reserve activity, so he told me to handle daily operations with the mindset of a soldier, rather than of a GS-9 civilian employee. I did, and we had a great newspaper in those years, with most excellent soldiers doing most of the heavy lifting. It was a very unique organization, and the people were just plain fun to be with.

On the weekends I still wanted to soldier some, myself, so I initially joined the 100th PAD at state headquarters in Austin. Yet I missed the grit of a combat unit so when the year in the public affairs detachment was up, I went to A Troop, 1-124th CAV and became an E-6 in the Infantry squad of the Temple-based troop. You can trust me on this. There are no finer people to be in the field with than Texas National Guard troops. Every weekend we went to north Fort Hood’s brush, and it was fine training, especially when troop worked against troop. I always came home happy after those weekends, and had the extra-added benefit of learning about the same training areas, which regular soldiers used. Being able to walk the walk and talk the talk is just vitally important in any National Security activity. The Army again sent me back to DINFOS at Fort Benjamin Harrison and this time I took the Public Affairs Officer course. When I returned to Fort Hood I was promoted to GS-11 and assigned to be the III Corps public information officer.

One day at work I looked up and there were three officers from the Texas Army National Guard. They knew I was one of their staff sergeants so we a yes sir kind of conversation, which as it turned out was a question from the Texas AG, MG Willie Scott, asking if I would consider becoming a direct commission captain and spending weekends back in Austin as a Public Affairs officer. My internal SSG heart leaped, I passed the physical, and then it was time for summer camp. Two sets of orders arrived, one with the cav troop as a SSG, and one with a brigade to be the PAO as a captain. I called state headquarters and asked what to do. I was told to do what I wanted, and of course captain pay was higher…but I was initially somewhat in a pickle about how to properly act. I knew the work. I knew Fort Hood, which was hosting the annual training, but suddenly becoming “one of them” was a mindset not easily achieved. Fortunately, the Texas NG officers took me in hand and quickly–well, over the course of a year– got me squared away.

The Army then asked me to go to Korea to be the speechwriter for General John Wickham who were the UNC/ROK-US CFC/USFK CinC, and EUSA CG. In Korea I spent a year as a USAR Civil Affairs officer, until reserve duty interfered with regular DAC responsibilities and I resigned at about the 18-year point. My plan was to return to the states after the Korea tour and to finish out my -20 or -30 as an NCO, but life did not allow that plan to happen. I never did get to work for General Wickham and think that to be sad. I have great admiration for his style of leadership. Instead, I learned how to be a four-star’s speechwriter during the time General Robert Sennewald was the CINC. I am very grateful for all he taught me about application of words to the mission. The next two CINCs had been battalion commanders of Infantry in the Vietnam War, General Bill Livsey and General Lou Menetrey. They were great people to work for, and to assist in various ways during those stressful times. Initially General Livsey thought I was just a DAC and our initial meeting was tense. He asked if I knew what it meant to be a soldier. I told him of my background, and we just seemed to click. I did understand things he said to me, that I doubt other DACs lacking military experience would have, It was the same with General Menetrey. My job was to listen, sometimes as the hair was let down, and to keep my mouth shut about various conversations. It was also to think about things from a 4-star viewpoint, as words were selected, but not to try and be a four-star myself, nor to be some sort of mind reader.

I had two tours as speechwriter in Korea, and was directly invited back by General Livsey to have the second tour. All elements of the military world are important, air, land, and sea, and joint and combined activity is a must in our modern world. I was able to grow into a speechwriter position because of the time I had spent in the reserve components, learning the daily business of soldiering or of being an airman. To anyone considering a National Security career—and now I am talking directly to people who want to be federal civilian employees– never forget that people are the most important resource. The best way to understand that fact is to invest some personal time in being a reserve member. To walk the walk and to talk the talk gives you linkage and credibility with colleagues of all types and with the people you serve. In all cases, whatever the task or the position, always adhere completely and wholeheartedly to proper military standards because they are the foundation stones of National Security.

  1.  What is one of the most valuable lessons you learned from your NS time?

My answer would be found in an exploration of the armed forces, and why they are needed.

My wife and I are both from frontier stock, in my case going –it is alleged in family records–back perhaps to a sailor who made a voyage to Jamestown, and more provable, family to family to family, through New England, New Jersey, Virginia and Kentucky, back to the Pilgrims and the landing in 1620. The great great great (whatever) grandparents back then were John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. My wife’s people were latecomers and did not come to North America until the Civil War, that is the English Civil War. In both cases, they were in North America at least a couple, and more likely more, of generations before the American Revolution.

I am a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, and the organization traced my lineage on my mother’s side to a colonel named Emerson, though I really wanted to get in on the organization based on the memory of a soldier and his son who both died the harsh winter at Valley Forge. My dad was born in 1904, and did not marry until he was 40. He only had one arm, so in World War II he served in the Illinois State Guard. His father, my grandfather, was born right after the Civil War, but had a brother (my great uncle) who was in Mr. Grant’s Army at Vicksburg. In that same war we had a distant relative who was a Confederate general officer, a man named Rodes. My great grandfather had moved from Kentucky up into Illinois just before the Black Hawk War, and served in that fight in company with a member of the force named Lincoln.

We had people in the Mexican War and the War of 1812, struggles out along the frontier, and then, as I mentioned, in the Revolution. Before that time, family members served in colonial militia, and in the struggles clear back to King Phillip’s War, as well as many skirmishes on the frontier. We had family with Daniel Boone’s company, down on the dark and bloody ground of Kentucky. One of the family members from New Hampshire, earlier, was a woman who was kidnapped by Canadian Indians and repeatedly raped as she was being taken north. One night all the Indians, six or seven, went to sleep without posting a guard. She laid hands on a tomahawk and killed them all, then made her way south. Another family member back in colonial times was a man who shot a sheriff. They branded him on his thumb for doing so, but he survived. Tough times and tough people.

Those are the folks I come from, and the tradition continued through the times of the 20th century. I had a great uncle with General Pershing’s AEF in France in World War I. Another uncle, my mother’s half brother, was a sailor in the war, and also made it to France. In World War Two I had a cousin who was a Marine in the islands and then immediately after the war was a China Marine, who was recalled for Korea. He carried a BAR, a weapon I also became familiar with myself in Libya in 1962. Another cousin was one of the Merrill Force Marauders in Burma. Our folks were always out on the edge in the westward movement. When I was three my grandfather Fulton gave me a rusted shut revolver he had carried many years before. My mother had a freak about that, but I was fascinated—and hooked. My own grandchildren are going to inherit a raft of firearms. My great grandparents are buried in Havre, Montana. All mentioned because it was a constant struggle for us Americans as we went west, and built a Nation that then was filled in by a lot of Johnny Come Latelys.

So what?

Well, information mentioned because every event in our own nation building was done by ancestors of people alive today. We all come from tough and hearty stock, though some earlier than others, and we all have a shared History that had, at bedrock, a foundation based on courage. It wasn’t just the Indians and the British and the French and the Mexicans that had to be faced. It was also disease, wild game, wilder rivers, outlaws, harsh weather, unknown terrain that required the achievement of knowledge about, to then overcome. After we became a Nation, our local and colonial militias became a national Army and a national Navy, with a Marine Corps. Later we also had a Coast Guard and we had an Air Force, too. Why did we need these things, especially in times that were allegedly peaceful (though peace was always questionable out on the frontier).

Take the Army. What good was it for us to waste a lot of tax dollars on such a structure, long thought to be a warehouse for drunks and vermin. Wellllllll, my take on that – and keep in mind I wore a uniform some – is that people having such opinion are just ignorant, and are people who lacked the fortitude to serve themselves.

Let me tell you what an Army is all about, besides being a structured fighting force with a proud winning heritage, especially in Vietnam.

An Army is a place for a young citizen to make a personal contribution to society and to the Nation. Years spent in service are times to mature and to gain awareness of the importance of discipline and of service.

The United States Military, especially the Army, was a force that provided protection, and in a lot of different ways. It trained and educated much needed engineers. These were the map drawers, the cartographers, who surveyed the west and laid out the networks of roads and railroads.

It was the Army, which brought education to remote western settlements, as well as healthcare, law and order.

It was the Army—Zebulon Pike, Lewis and Clark– who went “out there” and then came back and told all of us of the vast potential of the frontier.

It was the Army that ran the Military Road, which linked a fort near St Paul, Minnesota with posts or cantonments in Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. This road was patrolled by soldiers, with plains tribes on one side and settlers on the other. It was the army that defended the Santa Fe Trail and had posts out along the Oregon Trail. It was the Army that first patrolled Yellowstone Park, and which handled issues of safety and security in Alaska.

It was the Army which learned, applied and taught the importance of science and technology to National Defense – communications, medicine, dental care, flight– all things having national applications. It was the Army, which laid out and built the network of roads and highways, by applications in which so many ways motorized the Nation, investigated and applied microwaves and use of the chip now so common in so many gadgets and computers. It was the military, indeed, that first used computers, and which also led the way into outer space.

So why have an Army? Do we need one? You bet.

  1.  What was one of the most difficult experiences you faced during your NS time?

The citation is the way Colonel Al Lynn, 7th Air Force Director of Information saw my duty performance, he and other supervisors. To properly answer your question, I believe I need to tell you how I remembered that same period, especially those months of February, March, April and May 1968, the time the decoration was all about.

I had been trying to get a Vietnam assignment since 1963, but it did not happen until October 1 of 1967. I deployed to Saigon from Seoul, actually Kimpo airfield to Tan Son Nhut air base, and was assigned to 7th Air Force DXI, headquartered at Tan Son Nhut, a sprawling military location that hosted MACV plus the 7th Air Force, headquarters, a large number of many types of aircraft (RF-101s, F-4s, C-130s, C-123s, C-124s, C-133s, AE-1s, O-1s, indeed, at one time or another, every different kind of plane that flew in the theater, at one time or another), and was also the Republic of Vietnam’s largest civilian airfield. The place was so large it took a battalion strength of USAF cops, plus twice as many RVN police and VNAF cops to secure it during each 8-hour shift. The RVN Vice President lived at Tan Son Nhut, and there was a large Air America (CIA) aviation operation located there.

Every day many soldiers rotated through the installation, some going R and R, others home in body bags shipped by the war’s largest mortuary. Tan Son Nhut is where the war was run from, and was the home of General William Westmoreland during his time in Vietnam. There were tremendous support facilities, miles of parking spaces, miles of runway, and many different encampments and housing spaces, some in three story concrete barracks, others in squad-sized a-frame huts that were surrounded by chest high walls of sandbags. The perimeter had left over fortifications from the French days, plus miles of minefields and wire entanglements. Inside the base there were crisscrosses of fortifications, plus homes for VNAF families, lots of clubs, a massive base exchange facility. If it flew or was connected to the war, it was on Tan Son Nhut, and that includes the large helicopter field that was also inside the perimeter, in fact quite close to where I worked.

When I first got to Vietnam I was assigned to the in-country airlift commanded headed by a one star general. It was an interesting organization, with lots of planes coming in from overseas but then lots of flights going out to places in Southeast Asian locations. The general flew a lot of C-123 missions himself and took along his Public Affairs troops to write stories about what we saw. I would have been happy doing that the entire tour but the stories written went through the 7AF DFXI and MACV clearance and distribution mechanism and I soon found myself with a sort of promotion, I was sent to the 7AF DXI Internal Information and Special Projects unit, given the job of writing reports about Air War North, the Rolling Thunder missions in North Vietnam.

I got up about 0230 each morning, went to the intelligence facility and was given unclassified information about the previous days strikes, the crews and their home towns, unit of assignment (usually at an air base in Thailand), and results of the strike. This series of paragraphs was then added to similar work done about in-country air missions. The editor reviewed the work, and then forwarded it to MACV for review and clearance. It came back to us with corrections, which were done, then was retyped into a document having a letterhead. Several hundred copies were made to be released that evening at the Joint US Public Affairs Office daily briefing about all phases of the war for the past 24 hours, and given to the civilian media present. This was the infamous Five O’Clock Follies. I did this work until Rolling Thunder ended, then having a new staff sergeant stripe, was put in charge of in-country distribution of the 7th Air Force NEWS, a weekly metro sized newspaper printed in Tokyo at the Stars and Stripes facility in Raponggi.

It was my job to gather cleared stories and features, as well as photos, and to send them to a pair of USAF Msgts in Tokyo who put the newspaper together, and then ship large pallets of papers back to Tan Son Nhut that I and assistants broke down and sent around to the various air bases. I also had some special projects to do, one of which was a collection of weekly clips about the war from magazines and newspapers both in the states and elsewhere, given to the generals.

In January 1968, 12 of us NCOs had been moved from a three story concrete barracks to a hut in the camp near the entrance to the heliport. The end of the month there were rumors that the enemy was going to attack Tan Son Nhut. Several of us had walked to the BX and, coming back, had stopped to chat with Army guards on the entrance of the heliport. They knew we had no weapons so told us that, if anything happened, to try and get to their position for cover. We said we would. That night none of us took off our clothes or our boots, but we did try and sleep. I remember waking up about 0300 and seeing a stream of heavy machine gun tracer fire ripping over the top of the hooch about 12 feet up. Most went for the bunkers in the immediate area. Some men from other duty sections and myself ran to the heliport. Flares and tracer streams were popping all over the place. To get to work we had to cross the helicopter landing field, go over a perimeter fence, down in a ditch, cross a road and then climb a board fence into the 7AF Headquarters area, the place where the HQ was, the O Club, the NCO Club, the Airman’s Club, the library, the headquarters squadron office, the buildings of the DXI, the buildings of various other staff functions, and a large clump of trailers where senior staff lived. Down in the shadows of the ditch, there was a security police gun jeep and they almost shot us but we were hollering. They covered us as we climbed the board fence. There were VC snipers throughout the area, and exchanges of fire were heard from near and far.

I arrived at the colonel’s office right after Master Sergeant Bob Need, NCOIC of the combat news branch, and Tsgt Dave Lardy who was a 600 Photo Squadron photographer who had been assigned to DXI for his tour. Our officers all lived in villas downtown and were trapped by street fighting. Bob and Dave were scrounging revolvers from the desks of our colonels and were also loaded up with helmets and flak jackets plus a couple cameras each. They were headed for the end of the runways where several regiments of Viet Cong were attempting to enter the base and were being held off by USAF Security Policemen. I wanted to go with them but Msgt Need ordered me to stay and to get the directorate up and running. I was to try and contact our officers, especially Colonel Lynn, and report status, plus to keep in touch with the base command post. They left and I started working the phones. This was inside a plywood building. A gunfight erupted just outside between a couple of cops and a couple of VC. I took my phone with me and worked from under the deputy DXI’s desk. Desk. It was not until 1600 hours that one of our officers finally found a way to get in. We had sent out one short news feature by Teletype to MACV for clearance. It was approved and we teletyped it on down to JUSPAO downtown. Lots of photos were taken by Need and Lardy, but several of their cameras were severely damaged during the fighting, as they fell on them.

The next few days were very tense. That first night there was a major company sized fight just outside the fence from the base exchange. We saw tracers go in many directions; tracers of various colors, plus a red flare went up at one point, which signaled a breakthrough. The only weapon I had was a sheath knife. Soon though a green flare popped which meant the enemy had been stopped. I think the soldiers involved were ARVN. We also had a lot of Army support, a cav squadron raced in and heavily engaged. Army helicopters, including Snakes (AH-1s) fired rockets and 40mm grenades plus machine guns. It went on all day. I saw two men shot off the top of water towers. We had rounds hit around us as we tried to gather stories in the daytime. I did a story about Ssgt Clarence Stokes who was NCOIC of the armored cars and the ammunition resupply trucks for the security police. He had been my flight commander in Libya in 1963 and 1964.

By the second day all the troops were in, and regular work was under way. At night we started receiving 122mm rockets. We had several wounded and two killed in the directorate, SGT Rick Ramsey and Airman John Kopfer, both now listed on Panel 40-E of the Vietnam Wall. They died in mid-February. Rick had been my first friend in country. One night Charlie hit Tan Son Nhut with a barrage of about 80 rockets. Afterwards only three aircraft on the base had not been hit.

In the end of February the combat news organization needed to be reestablished. Rick was dead, Bob Need was wounded so badly that he had to be medically discharged, all the rest were in field hospitals in Saigon or else had been shipped to Cam Ranh Bay. Up-country manning was very bad too. The colonel re-assigned me to Combat News Branch as a military journalist and sent me to the Information Office at DaNang to write stories about Air Force activities in I Corps in support of Marine and Army units.

I went to Hue several times, and also to Dong Ha and the end of March made it to Khe Sanh. The siege was still going on. We went in on a Marine helicopter because no fixed wings were landing and shot a lot of film of Marines defending the base camp, and of USAF air attacks in the vicinity. Once our film was gone we were able to go out on the first fixed wing that actually landed. There was a lot of incoming fire, some mortars, and some small arms. I saw a Marine shot in the head and others wrapped in ponchos. The night we were there we acted as spotters for a team of Marines using a .50 HMG loaded with tracer to mark enemy shooters firing at the camp, that were then engaged by Marine riflemen. From DaNang we flew several missions aboard C-47 Spooky aircraft operating in I Corps. On one of the flights, near Hue, we fired at a sampan believed to be carrying rockets. It exploded. I also went with civil affairs personnel to take supplies to refugee camps in Hue. That mission was aboard a C-7A cargo plane of the USAF, and was the first fixed wing to land at the Hue city strip. I also flew aboard PSYOP O-2 aircraft that was working a section north of the DMZ. The area came under fire from an offshore destroyer while we were there. That mission got me a Yankee Air Pirate Patch for my flight suit.

I sent out a lot of stories that 59 days and then was sent back to Tan Son Nhut. We landed right in the time of the mini-Tet fighting. My boss in I Corps sent Colonel Lynn a nice letter for my records, and I think that was part of the decision to award me the Bronze Star. He was Lt Col Al Cochrane, a fine man to work for. I was talking about Khe Sanh and used the pronoun “we” because we did a lot of work as a small team, which included a sound and radio man, a motion picture photographer, and a still photographer in addition to the cameras I also used. In all that time of those four months anything accomplished was always done as a team effort.

Later in 1968 I also did field team work in II Corps and in III Corps, twice in company with 8th Aerial Port Combat Controllers Tsgt Morty Freeman and Sgt Jim Lundy. They were the two Lt Col Joe Jackson earned the Medal of Honor picking up from Kham Duc Special Forces Camp when it was over run. We also worked with 25th ID soldiers and with 5th SF soldiers at Trang Sup and Thien Hnong SF camps. Personnel of combat news were on non-crew member flying status and we flew a lot of different kinds of missions, always writing accounts of them.

In early 1969 I was given the job of working for a captain and setting up an installation Office of Information for Tan Son Nhut, I had this job until my time in Vietnam ended (23 months) the first of September of 1969. I was also awarded a USAF Commendation Medal. (See picture below)

  1. What advice would you give new personnel thinking about starting a career in National Security? (See picture below)

Fulton Interview – Part 1

Captain Richard Fulton is interviewed by John Thomas Wiseman.

  1.  How would you define National Security and in what capacity have you been involved with United States National Security.  How did you get involved? (Approximate dates and job titles if possible).

My federal career started with enlistment in the USAF in 1962. When the Cuban Missile Crisis hit, I was in Air Police School at Lackland. In December that year I arrived at Wheelus Air Base in Libya for an 18-month assignment.  This was followed by time at a SAC base in Arkansas, then assignment to Korea for 13 months, and to Vietnam for 23 months.

I left the service as a SSgt holding the Bronze Star and the USAF Commendation Medal for work in the information career field during my second enlistment.  My work had been in public affairs and included duty as a wing historian and also an assistant to the 7th AF historian.  My first enlistment I had been an Air Police sentry dog handler.  I went to the university world and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in History. During this time I was active with reserve components of the US Army.  In 1977 I was hired to be a GS-7 Army civilian and to serve as managing editor of the Fort Leavenworth LAMP. I then worked in Public Affairs at Fort Hood, in Korea, in St. Louis, at Dugway Proving Ground, back in Korea, in Chicago and at Fort Jackson.  I am a graduate of the Department of Defense Information Specialist Course, the DINFOS Public Affairs Officer course, and the Army Advanced Public Affairs Course.  I reached GS-12/Step 8, was cut back by Army downsizing to GS-11/Step 10 due to downsizing, and wound up as a USACE YA-02 when recalled for Katrina duties. Along the way I met some great people, and really liked my job.  The Army awarded me the civilian equivalent medal to the Legion of Merit, for duty as a speechwriter in Korea.  As a retiree I am most interested in helping to inform concerning our Nation’s involvement in Libya for the 20 years after World War II.

As one who spent decades in the world of Military Public Affairs, the way I have come to think about a definition of National Security is the same manner in which I think about responsibilities with regard to command information, public information and community relations. In Public Affairs, we old timers came to think about the process as akin to safety and security, meaning it is everyone’s task, everyone’s responsibility. In a much greater sense, National Security is the same way. In and out of government service, every citizen has the personal obligation and the personal responsibility to be aware of, to be involved with, and to in all ways promote National Security. That is because the bedrock of our society is the United States Constitution.

Everything about us as a Nation depends upon this document, in terms of interpretation, and in terms of application. As a person reads the document, and sees the task of application by the executive branch and the legislative branch, and in terms of safeguarding proper applications of authority, the judicial branch, it is crystal clear that Freedom cannot endure without the sanctions, protections and the authorities of government at large. To be Free, Americans must always be made aware of, and understand, the costs. They must also comprehend the challenges, and then, in a variety of ways, provide the wherewithal to meet them.

To somewhat narrow the focus of this discussion, please permit a consideration of all who serve; civilians employed in all offices of government, uniformed personnel in the various entities, including the Department of Defense, but also some other departments in peacetime, in which abide coastal defense, and operations of health and transportation. These are not singular tasks and groups. Instead, it is all part of a large and very complicated circle, the outer perimeter of which constitutes the entity called National Security, a complex and intricate interlinked network, which has so many different kinds of ways and means to constitute the whole.

Differences aside, there is a commonality—the oath taken by all of the Federal Government to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Now, most of what follows involves words and paragraphs devoted to personal military experiences; but the foundation of such discussion for me—and for every veteran of government, especially the military—is that the act of discharge and retirement does not mean release from the oath. We who served followed unique and courageous traditions; we took that oath clearly and distinctly, and in lifetime it always remains with us. Without a Constitution there is no United States; a Nation rests on the sum of the parts of its Constitution, and not on this or that interpretation or debate of individual points.  This is what I have come to understand in a lifetime spent with various attachments and relationships of service.

I was raised in a single parent childhood by an employee of a TB hospital operated by the Administration of Veterans Affairs. My mother worked in house cleaning and as I grew up, would hear stories told to her by patients—men who had fought in the Spanish American War, World War One, World War Two and Korea. When I was 16, an explorer scout, the Air Force Reserve gave us aerial navigation course, along the way telling many stories about life in the service. I was hooked, and shortly after turning 17 visited the local Air Force recruiter. He told me I first had to finish high school (which I hated and didn’t do all that well in) before I could go to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. Six days after graduation I made that journey. From the very first day I liked being in the Air Force, which decided I should become an Air Policeman. That is the technical school I was sent to, and in the Air Force I began to grow up. Aside from training, the first real world event to surface which made me do some intensive thinking about who I was and what I was doing was the Cold War Cuban Missile Crisis. My flight was pulled from the classroom and we took over as the Lackland Base Police while those having the duty were forward deployed to bases in Florida. When they came home, they assumed the base police role and we returned to the classroom, only now with a much more precise knowledge about what it meant to be a cop and to protect an installation.

My first duty assignment was at Wheelus Air Base, about six miles east of Tripoli, Libya. I spent 18 months at Wheelus, in the 7272nd Air Police Squadron, first in regular law enforcement flight operations for a few months, serving as a BAR gunner in base alerts, and then mostly as a sentry dog handler, guarding remote locations. North Africa is always a cauldron, as true in the early 1960s as it is today. What I gained in Libya provided a crisp foundation for the stresses faced in later Asian locations; all a cumulative process. In Libya I spent a week on a bodyguard detail for the Monarch and his wife, when they came to the base hospital for some medical treatment. That was King Idris. I was handed an M-2 carbine and locked into an open bay, right next to the King’s suite. He honored me by insisting I was the youngest present during the first night of the annual Ramadan, and should be fed first. Other Libyan experiences I remember include spending the night on the beach with dog and M-2 (normally we carried side arms and occasionally shotguns) right after President Kennedy was killed; going to Cyrenia, landing at the Bennina Air Port at Benghazi, and going as part of a field hospital up the escarpment to the earthquake destroyed town of Barce (Al Marj); being at the bomb dump with three other handlers and a regular Air Policeman in the spring of 1964 when a group of Libyans flooded across the stone wall into the five square mile facility. In that early morning hour experience we were ordered to release all four dogs and then to fall back to the strong point in the middle where we set us an M-1919A6 .30 caliber machine gun and spent a long night until relieved at daylight. It was a long night. A lot was then going on throughout Tripoli. All of our dogs were bloody but unhurt.

In June of 1964 I returned to the United States and was assigned to a Strategic Air Command Base in Arkansas, where I served the rest of the enlistment as a sentry dog handler. The Vietnam War was building so I decided to re-enlist, but I cross-trained into the Information field, today called Public Affairs. As I trained I served as the sports reporter, an assistant in public information, and learned photojournalism. After I passed the necessary tests to be rated a five level, I was given the necessary security level and assigned for nine months as the wing historian. I volunteered for Vietnam but was sent to Korea in the early fall of 1966. Instead of being a military journalist I was put back to work in the Air Police. I was offered a dog but declined, so was assigned to Air Police Investigations for a few months, then when the pipeline produced an access of cops was sent to the Air Forces Korea newspaper, The DEFENDER, to be a features writer. It was an interesting job that let me see all of the Republic of Korea as it was 13 years after the signing of the armistice (very different than what it now is).

In 1967 I deployed to Saigon from Seoul, specifically Kimpo Airfield to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, and was assigned as a photojournalist within 7th Air Force Directorate of Information Combat News Branch. There were several different kinds of jobs in that 23 months before the 1969 discharge, but primarily I wrote features and did the necessary photography, mostly on bases but sometimes in the field. I was also put on non-crew member flying status to do the required coverage, and flew a variety of mission types aboard cargo planes and helicopters, and also aboard Shadow and Spooky gunships. I returned to the USA in early fall 1969 to honorable discharge and to enrollment in the Kansas State College of Pittsburg, later renamed Pittsburg State University. When I came home from Vietnam I was a staff sergeant who had a Bronze Star (M) for work during Tet, and a USAF Commendation Medal for having helped establish a base level Office of Information at Tan Son Nhut in 1969. I was the NCOIC of that operation, experience that would be very valuable in the years ahead.

To help pay for college I tried some jobs in civilian journalism but eventually went back to law enforcement, as a Campus cop. I also paid for college expenses by membership in US Army reserve components, the Kansas National Guard for several years where I was an Infantryman, and then in the compression program of USAR ROTC at the university. As a reserve soldier I eventually worked my way to captain. I did both undergraduate and graduate level studies at PSU. In 1977, the US Army offered me a GS-7 level job as post newspaper editor at Fort Leavenworth. My goal had been to become a community college instructor so I took the Leavenworth job, thinking it would be income while I searched for an opening. It wasn’t long though before I realized I really liked Public Affairs management, so I quit my teaching job hunt and applied myself to the DAC job.

My civilian career gave me a lot of opportunity; I attended and graduated from the Department of Defense Information School’s Information Specialist Course and the Public Affairs Officer Course, a PME course in Korea, and the Army Advanced Public Affairs Course at the College of Journalism University of South Carolina. It was all great training, with some wonderful colleagues as fellow students and PA practitioners. What I had learned as an NCO in the USAF and in the Army reserve components directly applied to the earliest jobs at Forts Leavenworth and Hood, being accountable for young troops and for senior folks as well in the various daily tasks of Public Affairs.

At Fort Hood as a GS-9 I provided daily leadership for a platoon strength of military journalists. In my mind I just remembered what some great NCOs – SMSgt Marcus Grant, SSgt Clarence Stokes, MSgt Harvey Inouye, and TSgt Joe Covolo – had taught me about duty performance and accountability. It worked like a charm, yet the higher up the ladder I climbed, fewer and fewer came the opportunities for daily contact with the people who were really making the Public Affairs process work. I missed that contact, and highly valued it when it briefly happened. At Fort Hood I was promoted to GS-11 and assigned as III Corps Public Information Officer, a job that allowed a lot of daily contact with some truly excellent Soldiers.

As an Army civilian, I served twice in the Republic of Korea as a speechwriter for the generals and others of senior leadership, simultaneously as a writer in the US Army Aviation Systems Command and in the US Army Troop Support Command in St. Louis, as the installation Public Affairs Officer for Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, as deputy PAO in North Central Division US Army Corps of Engineers then at the Fort Jackson PAO. I reached GS-12, Step 8, and had extra duties that were interesting such as being the career program manager on the side for the -22 program at the MACOM in Korea, and was also given additional tasking of command interest.

We returned to the United States in 1990 and almost immediately heard about Army Downsizing and Corps of Engineers consolidation. My job in Chicago was eliminated, and I was offered a GS-12 job with HUD. My life had been spent in the Department of Defense so I looked around a bit, talked to some folks, and was then offered a GS-11 deputy PAO slot that was open in TRADOC at Fort Jackson. It was GS-11, Step 10, a pay cut of several thousand dollars, but I took it, thinking I could find a GS-12 job on down the road. Instead, Fort Jackson experienced another round of downsizing and my position was eliminated. I was offered a GS-7 job in supply but decided instead to take early retirement, something I really hated to do.

We moved back to Kansas and I found a job in television news, and then a job working as an adjunct instructor at a community college. When Katrina came in, the US Army Corps of Engineers offered me a job in Mississippi as a rehired annuitant. I went to southern Mississippi expecting to be assigned way out on the fringe of the operation, but instead, within a month, I was the USACE Recovery Field Office PAO at Keesler Air Force Base, with responsibility for four field offices. The reason for the selection was previous disaster experience (the Underground Flood Fight in Chicago). At that time most of the USACE PA resources were assigned overseas and manpower was at a premium. I was in Mississippi for a total of five months, and then was kept on stand-by, unpaid another year and a half in case another major hurricane came in.

In retirement I have worked as a volunteer with the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War. It is a very special program. Information about this congressionally funded DOD program can be found at www.vietnamwar50th.com.  These days I am again retired, read a lot (as I have always done) and continue to be as knowledgeable as possible about world affairs and US National Security affairs and events. In that regard, the Internet is a wonderful device!

The last point in response to this question concerns a philosophy that was branded in my heart and mind and soul by a SAC colonel named Paul Handy. Early in the assignment of being a bomb wing historian, he saw the job was weighing heavily on my then E-4 Airman First Class shoulders. The officer was known as a typical gruff SAC leader, but he took the time to sit down with me and talk about the situation. My first enlistment had mostly involved time spent in the enlisted community. Now, all of a sudden, I was around a lot of officers and even some colonels. It was scary. What Colonel Handy did was to point to a model of a B-52 aircraft and to explain how every nut and bolt was important in order for the aircraft to fly and protect peace. We talked some about the SAC motto, “Peace is our profession,” and then he gave me a linkage of a few words – his own motto– which have been with me ever since. The colonel taught me to believe in PRIDE as an acronym with each letter standing for this: Professional Results In Daily Effort.

In all the days and years since that talk, I have always used the colonel’s words as an anchor point, and it has always worked, regardless of circumstances, even directly working for four-star generals!

  1.  Was there a particularly funny or comedic experience?

Ahhhh, Libya, and life in the barracks. It was towards the end of the month, our dog flight was on break, and none of us had any money—not even the quarter necessary to buy a movie ticket. It was a Saturday. We lived two blocks from the Med but had spent month after month of going to the beach. We were tired of shooting pool with broom handles, and of playing hand after hand of penny ante poker—there had to be something to do. Somebody spoke up. The base service club (a place we all religiously avoided, for some unknown reason) had a bus trip set up to go to Leptus Magna, the ruins of an ancient Roman city located roughly in the same area that ISIS now controls.

We decided to go and collected our water bottles. “I do have a new kind of pop”, Troy said, “I bought it payday but haven’t tried it yet; I’ll stick it in my camera bag”. So off we all trooped to the service club, boarded the primitive and shaky GI bus (think “old school bus”) and set off for an hour and a half or so trip to Magnus. There were a bunch of us doing this 1963 trip—Ted Baldwin, Russ Clark, Terry Seats, Ken Ward, Troy Lyons and myself. We drank our canteens dry, and then discovered there was no water supply on the bus, nor was their water available at the site.

Well, we trooped the city, walked the old tile roads, explored the coliseum, checked out all the eight-foot tall headless statues that someone over the ages had vandalized, and we stripped to our undies and went for a swim, trying to see what lay under the water. It was a neat day, except for the fact we had no water. Most of us had seen this city before, in a 1950s movie with John Wayne and Sophia Loren. We all took many photos, then trooped off to the bus to start the long ride home, back to Wheelus Air Base. The wheels were moving and we were on the Homs Road headed west. “Troy”, someone said, break out the pop, “We’ll share. We’re thirsty”. So our non-drinking friend did. He had bought a six-pack—of quinine water, to make gin and tonics with. It was a long thirsty trip home, and Troy couldn’t understand why we threw the empty cans at him.

Ahhhhh, Korea, and life in the Namsan Foreigners Village, a complex of two large concrete towers near the Hyatt Hotel, up on Namsan Mountain. This was home for international families, and once counted as representing over 40 separate Nations. A few service members lived there but most of the Americans were civilian employees down at Yongsan Garrison, at the bottom of the mountain. Most of the American families were long-term residents. We lived there during both of the speechwriter assignments. We even drew the same apartment, 1212-A Dong. On that second tour, my neighbor across the hall was a retired US Army chaplain (Major) who now worked at 8th Army’s recreation services. Bob had spent a lot of time in Vietnam and then in VA hospitals, before retirement. He taught himself a lot of magic tricks, involving playing cards, and making animals out of long tubular balloons. Bob was bored, so he started a clown troop of himself as the boss clown and the rest of us, five or six others, as his minions.

We all went whole hog with clown suits, face paint, floppy shoes, even red noses. We went to many organizational events and unit parties, and became—in a Yongsan sort of way—quite famous. It was the time of high school graduation, and the US Ambassador and his wife threw a yard party at the residence for the graduates. Bob was contacted and asked to provide a clown troupe. Now at the time there were a lot of street demonstrations going on, and the ROK riot police had their Black Maria paddy wagons out, along with many stick carrying troops, and a lot of pepper fog.

I didn’t hide fast enough, so Bob picked me to go with him, primarily because my son was one of the graduates and was taken to the residence in an escorted bus. Bob and I donned our makeup, dressed up, put on our noses, and called for a PX taxi. When it showed up, and the driver learned where we wanted to go, he didn’t want to take us. We paid double and off we went, down through a lot of clouds, horns honking, people yelling, and then we got caught in a traffic jam, right next to city bus full of students who were all scowling and carrying signs. Uh-oh. Bob thought fast and told me to start blowing up balloons. He made weenie dawgs and started handing them up through the window to the young people on the bus. Then he started doing card tricks. We sat there about half an hour, and finally decided to walk because it was only about six blocks. One of the students spoke English. We told him why we out and about, and where we needed to go. He got off the bus with about 15 or so friends, and they escorted us to our gig. I will never forget the Marine’s face when we showed up at the residence, dressed as clowns. It took some persuading to get in, but once inside we went on with the program—although most of the balloons were now gone. I thought that was the end of it, the ambassador didn’t seem mad, and I did have all that face paint on. How could anyone really tell who I was? Well, it was interesting who all said something to us the following week, and I am not telling who. Looking back, no harm, no fowl or foul or whatever, yet in retrospect we both should have known better. Just a couple of old Vietnam vets, having fun.

I grew up in a steel town in western Pennsylvania. Many of the workmen were from West Virginia and Kentucky. They were very opinionated about issues of race. My uncle was of those ranks, so when I enlisted in the Air Force I took with me a prejudice against people of other cultures and skin color. Eight years in the barracks mostly cured me of such foolishness, but what did the job the best was a friend I had in Vietnam. He was older than me and had been in close to twenty years, but I was an NCO and he was an airman so it took a bit for the walls to come down. Carl was a photographer, one of the best I have ever met. Now and then there would be things happening away from the air bases, out in what was called in Vietnam simply “the field.” This was a place you carried weapons and wore helmets and flak jackets. The 7AF Director of Information would ask for coverage of air force support activities, and off a small group of us would go. Our band usually included motion picture and still photography folks from the 600 Photo Squadron, and writers and radio tape folk from our combat news organization. We worked together. We helped each other carry tripods and so forth. We went to nasty places and learned what it was like to get shot at and to be mortared. Once my friend and I were on a Huey that had a mortar round explode right underneath us. That was an attention getter. Once we landed in what was supposedly a secure location, and started talking about what had just happened, doing this on a tape recorder, we looked way off into the distance and saw a man waving at us. We waved back. He waved again. We waved back. Then he stopped. We kept talking. When we got back to Tan Son Nhut and put the tape on a reel-to-reel machine with an amplifier, you could hear bullets snapping past us. We couldn’t hear them because we were wearing helmets.

So it is towards the end of Carl’s Vietnam tour. I had convinced his boss to assign him to the Office of Information at the base level, the same place I had been assigned to. Life was good. We were both short as was said and kicking back. Then the phone rang. It was a Vietnamese Air Force NCO we both knew, and had a good friendship with. He was in a panic. The Republic of Vietnam Vice President Air Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, a resident of the air base, needed a box of 8 x 10 portraits to be used as press handouts at the Paris Peace Talks. Our friend did not trust his photographers with such an assignment. Being young (or youngish) GIs I looked at Carl, who nodded, I grinned, and we said yes. Our captain was never around, so he didn’t know that an hour later a VNAF blue painted jeep showed up at the office door, we climbed in, and went downtown to the Presidential Palace where the Vice President had his office. As Vietnam’s top airman, he was a hard worker. His desk was a mess, papers all over the place. The Air Marshal came into the room, stood to his desk, sat down and fiercely scowled at our tripod-mounted camera. Carl asked that some of the piles of paper be moved a bit. There was a scowl but the papers were moved. Then Carl said, “Mr. Vice President, would you please smile?” Ky snapped “NO”! And Carl’s eyes got big. He looked at me, and being Mr. Cool, I said “Sorry sir”. Then Ky laughed. He had been toying with us. He did everything we asked, and Carl shot some wonderful portraits. We popped to attention but Ky was not done with us, and told us to come around to the other side of his desk where he showed us his submachine gun, laying on the shelf of a credenza behind him. And yes, he had on his revolver.

Now for the rest of the story. We went back to Tan Son Nhut and Carl went to the lab where he souped the film and started making prints. Some master sergeant wandered by, saw the pictures and went and got a lieutenant, who went to get a captain, who went to get some colonels—yes, more than one. “What’s this all about”, they asked. Carl had them call me. I explained how we were supporting VNAF. Very soon, Information Colonels were also involved. Our captain was still out there somewhere. Carl and I stood quiet and said “yes sir” a lot. However, one of the colonels had a sense of humor and he also liked Carl’s work, so we slid…but were told the next time the Vice President wanted something to be sure and mention it.

Well, that was Vietnam; to this very day I miss my friend. We lost track of one another. I think Carl moved back to Baltimore but I’m just not sure. I do know this. As skilled as he was with a camera I bet he made a fortune taking pictures at weddings! More weddings than Vice Presidents! Air Marshal Ky became American citizen Ky, and lived in Orange, California after the war. I still have a fond memory of the time he shared with us. A really neat gent!!

The first autumn I was an Army civilian employee, I was a GS-7 at Fort Leavenworth, a place where most people were majors. Second lieutenants were scarcer than hen’s teeth, and the one I found had just months before been a staff sergeant, the same stripes I wore on weekends in a Kansas National Guard unit. My wife and I became good friends with this couple. Mac was the officer in charge of a shop in a wing of the same building where the Public Affairs was located. He worked for a full colonel who decided to throw a Halloween Costume Party in his quarters. We were all invited. My wife sewed costumes for us that were supposed to be gray bats. When we got to the party we found Mac in Klu Klux Klan regalia, complete with mask and pointed hood. His wife was dressed in regular clothing, and told us, unlike her husband; she was dressed as a human being.

Mac and I immediately found the bar and did some drinking. Then the colonel announced that the fun and games of the evening would be a scavenger hunt. Most folks at the party were majors and formed teams together. Our wives ignored us, so we took the list, which included such things as a bloody Band-Aid and a B-B and a plastic clothespin and started wandering around in the late October evening of what was field grade housing. The routine was this. Go up to the door, knock, ask for an item, and then held out a shot glass. House after house. In the darkness, our costumes began to look alike.

Somebody called the M-Ps. It was a little old lady who told the desk that the Klan had invaded Fort Leavenworth. A young troop showed up and asked what we were doing. We told him. He started laughing, but then said to watch out for his NCOIC who was also headed in to take the call. Just then, another MP car showed up. This no nonsense NCO asked what we were doing. We showed him our list. He said, “Well, I must check this out, you two get in the back of the car”, and he drove to the senior colonel’s quarters where the party was located. He got out and started into the quarters. Our wives got big eyes when they saw us—still in costume—in the back of the patrol car. Some shrill voices erupted. The MP had everyone go into the quarters. Mac and I were left in the patrol car back seat. He had not taken our ID information. I looked at Mac. Mac looked at me. Staff sergeant-like smiles came out of nowhere. The sergeant had not locked the car. Quietly we escaped, I guess you could say, went around the quarters to the back door, shed our costumes, and then tiptoed into the back of the crowd to listen to the stern NCO trying to be stern with the crowd, most of whom had been in the sauce. We mixed in well. The NCO went back out to the car to get his prize subjects – and the car was open! The back door was open! Well, he left…and Mac and I did not win the costume contest nor the scavenger hunt, but we did make an impression, perhaps of the type no GS-7 or second lieutenant should ever do.

And about the KKK outfit, did I mention my friend was Black?

We had another adventure together, later. There was a community carnival my friend was in charge of. It was in November I think, and chilly. The boss of the carnival had ridden with Pancho Villa a long, long time back. Mac and I helped him empty a rum bottle and we learned a lot about the Texas border, back in the day. Being around Mac was always quite an education—and I loved every minute of it. My Army brother and his family moved on to a Pacific assignment and my wife, son and I went south to Fort Hood. After a few years of exchanging Christmas Cards, as in the military world only close friends do, we just lost track, but I have never forgotten him.

Oh, I should also say both the military police gents were Black also, but because we left our masks on, I don’t think he ever figured it out. Being a former military cop myself, the next day I did feel a little bit bad, but he really should have asked for our ID cards.

My Vietnam War

by Mule

My 3rd Platoon, A Co, 1st/28th Battalion, 1st Division in December 1965 before patrol in South Vietnam. Most men in this photo would be wounded or killed by the summer of 1966.


“We all went to Gettysburg, the summer of ’63:

Some of us came back from there

And that’s all,

Except the details.”

Captain Paxiteles Swan, Confederate Army,

Complete Account of the Battle of Gettysburg

I think I know how Captain Swan felt.

In my generation, we all went to Vietnam in the summer of ‘65.

All Americans were involved.

The war divided us as a country. We took sides. Initially most were in support. As time went on, more were opposed and then the war became very popular to oppose and demonstrators took to the streets by the tens of thousands.

American flags sewn to the seats of dirty jeans vied with those hung, reverently, traditionally from front porches of simple homes.

As a song of the time noted, the war happened during the “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” a time when we went to the moon, killed a president and a King, harnessed the atom, discovered the computer, swooned over Elvis and questioned authority. It was a time of radically expanded horizons.

Americans were pumped, masters of the world. The communication explosion provided instantaneous coverage of events around the world, and the speed of air travel shrunk the size of our world to hours, minutes. Increasing numbers of satellites circled the earth. The U.S. military/industrial complex produced awesome weapons of destruction because Communism — a godless, harsh, angry political ideology lurking beyond our borders — threatened our way of life. Communist leaders said they would bury us. They armed their missiles and aimed them at our centers of commerce. Americans dug bomb shelters in their backyards; elementary school teachers held “duck and cover” bomb drills.

Then Vietnam burst on the scene in 1964 and war there quickly wove itself into the fabric of our society. It became the lead story on the evening news as Americans sat down to supper — a panorama of monk immolations, rice paddies, Hueys, B-52s, dirty GIs, M-16 rifles, screaming children, Tet, Vietcong, Jane Fonda, POWs, dope, dust-offs, and lush bamboo jungles in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, where no building was safe from enemy sappers, where the Communists were willing to die and did, in fact, die by the hundreds of thousands — attacking in waves, blowing whistles, beating drums, running headlong into mine fields. It was an extravagant show unlike anything Americans had ever seen or imagined before. Clear good, clear bad, dramatic, easy to hate.

Some Americans went to Canada to avoid the military draft. Others in traditional fashion answered their country’s call — 2.6 million Americans served in Vietnam.

Whether protesting, fighting, or standing on the sidelines, we all were involved. In my generation, we all went to Vietnam in the summer of ’65.


For those of us who fought the ground war there, we found ourselves at some point kneeling on a spent jungle battlefield, exhausted, wet from the monsoon rain, stinking from putrid sweat, arms hanging loosely at our sides, eyes sunken into our heads, ears still ringing from the explosions of battle, and lungs filled with the smoke of gunpowder. And we knelt beside our buddies whose blood turned the soil black as they lay dying or wounded. A terrible anguish swelled deep inside us, and we tried to conquer our pain. For the most part we were citizen soldiers. The emotional consequences of war — killing each other — were hard to put into perspective and those moments always came as our emotions crashed following the adrenaline high that had sustained us in battle.

After a firefight, a soldier is emotionally wasted and helplessly watching a buddy die stuns the senses.

War expands the human experience. In war, a soldier sets aside his survival instinct because of a compelling obligation to unit and friend. He risks violent death because the men he serves with expect it. In the jungles of Vietnam, wealth, personality, and ambition counted for nothing. By simply closing his eyes and going to sleep a soldier displayed his extraordinary trust in his buddy. In the jungle, the military group — the fire team, the squad, the platoon — was everything. My battalion in Vietnam was the 1st/28th Infantry, 1st Division. I would have died for it, for my commanders, for my soldiers.

Faithfulness and death were common elements among U.S. combat units in Vietnam. So was youth. We were all youngsters. I was twenty-two years old when I first went. Most of my men were eighteen or nineteen years old. We knew little about life; we were so impressionable. For most of us, before Vietnam, we did not know anyone who had died. Yet, in this war, we saw friends, who meant more to us than any other friends we had ever known, die in the catastrophic way that men die in combat — ripped by shrapnel or torn apart by booby traps. They died in our arms. Their blood stayed on our clothes for days.

On our return home from Vietnam — when our homes were quiet late at night and we felt secure — we tried to tell our mothers and fathers or our girlfriends or our wives about the pain, how we felt fear, how we loved the men who died, how the experience plumbed the depths of our souls, and how, deep inside us, we had changed. But war is sensorial and difficult to put in words. We didn’t know until we tried to talk about our combat experiences how indescribable they were. We also realized that the telling took away from the joy our loved ones felt at our homecoming. So after a while, after we’d hemmed and hawed and seen our loved ones uncomfortable, we stopped talking.


To people outside the family, we were quiet for different reasons. We were apprehensive because, in this war, American soldiers were called “murderers” and “baby killers.” The television commentators — so clean, so self-assured — droned on incessantly with their dark litany about the “bad war.” No one said that our sacrifices had been worthwhile or had value. No one thanked us. Instead we heard, “disgraceful,” “debacle,” “tragedy.”

And we did not win. In our culture, nobody likes a loser. Nothing excuses losing — not bad government, not ineffective strategy, and not blundering diplomats. Because we didn’t win on the battlefield, we received no parades when we came home. Despite our love for our country and respect for its tradition of duty and service, we had the feeling among us that our country did not love us back or respect our patriotism.

So we didn’t talk much. To give dignity to the memories of our friends who had died so violently in Vietnam, we did not discuss their sacrifices or how we felt about their loss. We did not risk having our hard-to-explain feelings trampled and trashed by an unsympathetic public that saw us as part of a losing proposition.

Winning at war gives meaning and value to death in combat. For citizen soldiers in this war, there was no dignified alternative to victory, no way to soothe their souls — second place lost.

Like Captain Paxiteles Swan, who also fought bravely for an army that did not win, we who served in Vietnam became sullen, sensitive, and uncommunicative. We said, after a fashion:

I went to Vietnam,

I came back

And that’s all.

And the curtness was defensive — the brevity out of some embarrassment, some perceived notion that the listener really was not interested.

We did not win the “bad” war.


The Vietnam War now belongs to history and no longer divides us as a nation. There are other headlines, other TV lead stories, other conflicts, other issues. Protestors have grown up and gone on to jobs in the market place and academia. Retired. To them Southeast Asia combat is of fading interest.

This is not true of Americans who saw combat there. We have, after all these years, developed a clear voice about our service. We say with more confidence, “I served proudly in Vietnam.” There is the sense among us veterans that we are family. That we experienced something extraordinary in our jungle combat. We realize the enormous excitement and adventure in what we did and the unique closeness to the men we served with developed a fraternal bond unlike any relationship in ordinary American life, that brings us together now in reunions, that makes us stand so proudly when our country’s flag passes by. We know our fidelity helped preserve the concept of allegiance to our country during the tumultuous “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” when American ideals were reassessed.

And we are proud of the gritty manliness to our service, about enduring all those hours of boredom, slogging through the jungle, getting wet and dry a dozen times before changing fatigues, staying awake at night on ambush patrols and then fighting sleep on daytime sweeps, eating out of cans, drinking 100-degree iodized water out of plastic canteens, battling the fire ants, crapping out behind a tree, cussing, hacking at saw grass — and then suddenly, sheer stark terror. We have memories that cannot be duplicated in video games or movies. Or protest.

And we have the experience of coming home, which may be one of the greatest things about the war in Vietnam that non-vets will never know. Coming home to your mother. Seeing her for the first since fighting in a cold dark jungle so far away, you realize how much you had missed her. How deep inside, during those hours of combat horror, when you called out to your God, you also hungered for her comfort and safety. Her warm, tight, loving embrace. And then in final answer to your prayers there she is. In all of my life, there was no single greater joy than holding my mother when I came home from war.

I went to Vietnam,

I came back

And that’s all you’ll ever really know unless you went there too.

Story was originally published at: http://www.muleorations.com/blog/96-2

Background about the Author:    James E. Parker, Jr. a.k.a. Mule

James E. Parker, Jr. a.k.a. Mule

James E. Parker, Jr

Many people dream of success and living a fulfilling life. This Bronze Star and Purple Heart awarded veteran is one of the few people to ever actually achieve those dreams. Mr. James E. Parker, Jr. fought in Vietnam as a 2LT and eventually joined the CIA where he received two Certificates of Outstanding Service, a Certificate of Distinction and the Intelligence Medal. He has decided to share his insightful experiences and through stories on his website as well as in the books he has written which are listed below. The Lint Center for National Security Studies is thankful and proud that we are able to share some of his selected stories with you in our Virtual Archive.



The Vietnam War Its Ownself (2015)
Kessler Country Homilies (2013)
Battle for Skyline Ridge (2013)
Covert Ops (1997)
Last Man Out (1996)
Codename Mule (1995)

Hammock from Hell

Bob Dunn and I towards the end of our US Army tour in Vietnam worked at Battalion Hqs. One of our jobs was to make sure that everyone got on the helicopters coming back to the base camp from jungle operations. We were always on the last helicopter out. Here’s the cast of characters in this little story:

  1. At our base camp we lived in a tent with the Battalion supply officer, Moubry (alias) who was not our friend.
  2. Bradley was a former NCO who had gotten his commission, like me, from OCS. He had the Battalion recon platoon.
  3. Lingel was the Battalion commo officer.
  4. Dunn, who you’ll hear much about later.

As we trudged up the road from the airfield at Phuoc Vinh, our goggles pulled down to our necks, we looked like raccoons, with clean rings around our eyes. Our fatigues were dirty and sweaty from the two week operation, plus all the debris that they had collected from the dozens of helicopters in the lift. Our hair was matted down from dirt and grime. We were tired to the bone and we trudged along with our heads down.

When we arrived at our tent, we found devastation. A river from the monsoon rains had run through our section of the tent. Bob’s cot had been swept to my side. Our clothes, hanging on the mosquito netting of the tent, were mildewed. A package of cookies from home that had been ripped opened and destroyed by rats was lying on top of my cot. Mud was six inches deep across the floor to Moubry’s elevated section.

Moubry had added an easy chair and a rug. The light over his desk was shining down on his open Bible.

Still carrying our guns, we walked around our area of the tent in mud up to our ankles and tracked it across Moubry’s new rug, out into the company street, over to the supply tent and behind the counter. Moubry saw us and went out the back. Going down the line of supplies, we pulled out new fatigues, new skivvies, new socks, new sheets and new pillows. We went back to our tent and put our supplies on Moubry’s bed. On a revisit to the supply tent, we picked up shipping pallets to put on the floor of our tent section.

After showering, shaving and dressing in our new fatigues, we went to the mess hall and persuaded Cookie to make us some sandwiches, even though he had long since closed the line for supper.

Later at the officers’ club, Dunn and I were joined by First Lieutenant Frank Bradley, who had taken the recon platoon from Pete. We sat by ourselves and stacked beer cans five levels high. Dunn knocked them over. Then I went to my old tent in the Alpha Company area and retrieved the picture of the nude behind the bar.

Arriving back at the battalion officers’ club, I put the painting of the nude in a position of honor behind the bar. I proposed a welcoming toast to her. Bradley, drunk, stood up. He staggered to get his balance, saluted the lady and left. He stumbled down the battalion street as he tried to light a cigarette. He was so intent in lighting his cigarette that he lost his way and weaved off between two tents. Finally getting the cigarette lit, he found the tent that he shared with the communication officer, First Lieutenant Larry Lingel, who was in bed but not yet asleep. With the cigarette still in his mouth, Bradley stumbled to his cot and pulled up the mosquito netting. He turned around, sat down heavily and reached forward to undo his shoes. He couldn’t. He came halfway back up and fell back on the cot, his legs still off the side.

Lingel had seen the cigarette in Bradley’s mouth, but he didn’t know what happened to it, so he turned on a small bed light over his head.

Bradley started to breathe deeply. A couple of seconds later, the cigarette rolled off his chin and landed on his neck.

A couple of seconds went by.

Suddenly, he jerked forward and became entangled in the netting. He swung his arms around and became more ensnared — fighting, twisting, kicking. The cot turned over and he fell over backward, with his upper body completely wrapped in the mosquito netting. He thrashed around on the floor for a few more seconds and then he lay still.

Lingel, propped up on one elbow, looked down without comment.

The cigarette began to smolder inside the mosquito netting at Bradley’s back. He lashed out again, jerking and struggling, and rolled across the floor away from the overturned cot. Coming to rest in a ball in the middle of the tent, he lay silently.

Finally, from inside the netting, came a faint voice, “Lingel, Lingel, save yourself, I’m done for. Can’t get away.”

This true story, one of my favorites, is taken verbatim from the hard copy of my Last Man Out. You want more about Dunn go to the Last Man Out index and look up Bob Dunn. Also check police blotters up and down the west coast of the US of A.

Story was originally published at: http://www.muleorations.com/blog/18-2

Background about the Author:    James E. Parker, Jr. a.k.a. Mule

James E. Parker, Jr. a.k.a. Mule

James E. Parker, Jr

Many people dream of success and living a fulfilling life. This Bronze Star and Purple Heart awarded veteran is one of the few people to ever actually achieve those dreams. Mr. James E. Parker, Jr. fought in Vietnam as a 2LT and eventually joined the CIA where he received two Certificates of Outstanding Service, a Certificate of Distinction and the Intelligence Medal. He has decided to share his insightful experiences and through stories on his website as well as in the books he has written which are listed below. The Lint Center for National Security Studies is thankful and proud that we are able to share some of his selected stories with you in our Virtual Archive.



The Vietnam War Its Ownself (2015)
Kessler Country Homilies (2013)
Battle for Skyline Ridge (2013)
Covert Ops (1997)
Last Man Out (1996)
Codename Mule (1995)