|Vietnam Veterans of America|
Kudos to David Biggs for “After the Bases Closed,” a well-written article on the aftermath of our involvement in Vietnam. I ETS’ed out a few scant months before the ’72 Easter Offensive really began.
His map of U.S. bombing missions in the area my battalion worked in got my attention. I didn’t need to put in my hearing aids to bring back what the sounds and ground tremors of each one of those dots represented.
Being a grunt, my only thought is: If other colored dots had additionally plotted artillery missions, readers would have had a clearer idea of the devastation, as well as the infiltration routes of the NVA.
I have been back a few times doing volunteer work, mostly in I Corps, and have seen the hard work that has been done by the Vietnamese in rebuilding their country, as well as the results of undetonated ordnance and genetic problems in children.
It will take generations to truly get their country back, as Biggs points out.
The altered genes that the Vietnamese—as well as American veterans and their allies—are passing to future generations is added proof that the Vietnam War was not just about the Boots on the Ground generation, but is much, much larger. Just as returning veterans from the Middle East will not be the only ones to reap the devastation of our involvement in the Wars on Terror.
Marc Leepson’s article, “Accounting for the Dead,” in the last issue lists 32 who are “presumed dead, body remains recovered.” I don’t understand. Please explain.
UXOS IN SE ASIA
My congratulations to David Biggs for his article “After the Bases Closed,” in which he outlined the issues that remain after the U.S. abandoned the war in Vietnam. I was particularly taken by the map that showed the bombing density of the more than 256,000 tons of bombs dropped between March and October 1972.
Biggs didn’t mention the Secret War that was being fought in Laos. The U.S. dropped more than 2 million tons of bombs on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years—making it the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.
This was a covert war. The highly secret missions flown by the units I served with in Nakhon Phanom and Udorn were almost exclusively dedicated to stopping the traffic from North Vietnam supplying their invasion of the South.
Unfortunately, the mission turned out to be moot when the U.S. pulled out in 1972. Even more unfortunate was the some 288 million cluster munitions and about 75 million unexploded bombs (UXOs) that were left across Laos after the war ended. Since the fighting ended, these UXOs have killed over 20,000 people and maimed many more.
After relations were established with Laos in 1995, efforts to defuse or disarm these munitions began. Legacies of War has lobbied Congress to establish funding for de-mining UXOs. The Obama and Trump administrations committed $40 million a year toward de-mining, and it is expected to go forward under the current administration. The land needs to be cleared not just to prevent further deaths and harm, but also to clear the land for agriculture, the primary economy of Laos. From 1996-2009, more than 23,000 hectares of land were cleared.
Laos remains a poor nation with little of the resources developed by Vietnam, but organizations such as Legacies of War, Mines Advisory Group, and HALO continue to work with the Laotian government to repair the damage done to the country. I encourage readers to look into and support these organizations.
A SONG OF RECOGNITION
I’m a survivor of the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans collision and want to thank you for the piece you did on us along with your article, “Accounting for the Dead.” I didn’t realize we were in the magazine until I read it today. Thank you so much.
In 2019 for the 50th anniversary I wrote a song called “Recognition” to honor our lost 74, and I released it on an album of the same name. In May 2019, my wife and I drove cross-country to attend the 50th anniversary ceremonies and ship reunion in Long Beach, Calif., which turned into a seven-week grassroots tour singing my song and telling our story at VFWs, American Legions, and small venues.
Just this month I released a music video of the song, which you can listen to here. I just wanted to share it with you.
FREE LIFE INSURANCE
I was reading the article by Pete Peterson, “Widows Need DD-214s,” and was not aware of the availability of a free death insurance policy as a permanently and totally disabled veteran.
I have never been told about this. Can I still get it?
A GOOD READ
I enjoyed the Speak Out! by Larry Reid in the last issue, especially his reference to casualties in May ’68. I was in the support element of my unit, Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (MACVSOG, or just SOG), a highly classified, multi-service, special ops unit.
Our Special Forces recon units, consisting of American and indigenous troops, ran clandestine missions in Vietnam, as well as in neighboring countries. In May 1968 SOG recon casualties exceeded 100 percent: Every SOG recon man was wounded at least once, and about half were killed. What always amazed me is that these brave (maybe a bit crazy), wonderful SOG warriors kept coming back to run these highly dangerous missions.
There have been very entertaining and informative books written by former members of SOG, including John K. Singlaub, who was the commander when I arrived in 1968. His book, Hazardous Duty: An American Soldier in the Twentieth Century, recounts his service as a founding member of the CIA, as a World War II OSS operative, his service in Korea, as the SOG commander in Vietnam, and in later years, his involvement in the controversial Iran-Contra Affair.
John Stryker “Tilt” Meyer wrote Across the Fence: The Secret War in Vietnam, as well as On the Ground: The Secret War in Vietnam and SOG Chronicles, Vol 1.
Billy Waugh was awarded eight Purple Hearts. At 71 while working for the CIA, Waugh was in Afghanistan chasing Bin Laden and killing Taliban fighters. His book, Hunting the Jackal, chronicles his work tracking the international terrorist Carlos the Jackal.
I may have missed it, but I don’t recall any of these books being reviewed in our magazine. They make interesting reading about real heroes in action.
Gary L. Daugherty
AVVA’S PAPER SAFE
I was very excited to read Pete Peterson’s article in the last issue. I want to thank him for recognizing the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America and our Paper Safe when he wrote about the documents that families need to have at the time of their veterans’ passing.
The Paper Safe continues to be one of the most successful and longest-running AVVA programs. It has been available for almost twenty years, with yearly re-printings to keep up with the demand. The Paper Safe is an estate planning guide and reservoir for documents such as VA and medical reports, passwords, wills, DD-214s, insurance policies, and banking information. It was designed with the veteran’s family in mind so that when that dreaded day arrives, the family can locate all the documentation needed for military honors, funeral arrangements, burial at a National Cemetery, etc. There is no charge for the Paper Safe. Our only request is that you help with postage if you are able.
AVVA continues to assist veterans and their families by working together, developing educational programs, and offering the Paper Safe.
Nancy S. Switzer
I just received the May/June issue, and would like to set the record straight about Chapter 594 moving the Southwest Florida Vietnam Veterans Memorial to Cape Coral, across the bridge from the original location in Fort Myers. Having worked on that memorial from the beginning through the 11 years it took to realization and dedication, they should not be getting praise for their theft.
The memorial was designed specifically for its original location on a site with trees and vegetation on two sides, a pond on the third, and a dramatic walkway with a row of flags. The original location is on historic McGregor Blvd., the street where Thomas Edison and Henry Ford had winter estates. The idea to move it was first raised when a member heard about a proposed roundabout that might take the memorial’s site.
Chapter 594 had no right to steal the memorial for ECO Park. It was dedicated to the citizens of Southwest Florida in 2008. Once it was put in place, the site became sacred and while the chapter deserves a pat on the back for its creation, it was not a property that the chapter could do with as it pleased.
So let’s set the record straight. They have moved the memorial to a site on the edge of a major highway right-of-way, with no visual or sound barrier from the traffic and the noise it generates. It is crammed into a narrow strip between the access road and the right-of-way. The engraved panels that had been placed on mounts are now on the ground. It’s a crowded, shrunken memorial crammed into a lousy location. And ECO Park is gated with access prohibited at night.
A memorial belongs to all the people, not just those in a specific location, and no group should ever even consider moving one unless it is to save it from destruction. Rather than spend the thousands it took to move it, why couldn’t they have designed their own memorial better suited to that location? The dominant feature of ECO Park is the Iwo Jima Memorial. At its original location, our memorial was the dominant feature. Now it has been relegated to being just another display in ECO Park. Lee County Chapter 594, shame on you.
Robert Cour in the May/June “Locator” requested info to get a basic training photo from Ft. Ord in 1963.
The website togetherweserved.com posts basic training photos. The email for Mr. Cour did not work.
It’s so good to be getting The VVA Veteran back in circulation and in the mail box. I read it cover to cover, then as always passed it on.
There’s an option to visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C.: Visit Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial in Perryville. It’s just south of St. Louis on Interstate 55. For details, go to mnvmfund.org
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