|Vietnam Veterans of America|
OH, WHAT A NIGHT
On June 6, 1969, I came down with malaria and was medevaced to the 312th Evac Hospital in Chu Lai. On June 8 the ward got hit by a rocket attack that killed my nurse, 1st Lt. Sharon Lane.
On August 7 my doctor sent me to a convalescent hospital at Cam Ranh Bay. That night, six Viet Cong commandos did a raid from the beach, killing two Americans and wounding 99, including 35 patients (I was one of them), before withdrawing without casualties. They destroyed ten wards, damaged three others, and blew up the hospital’s water tower and the officers’ barracks.
I had been thinking Cam Ranh Bay was as safe as downtown D.C. Wrong.
What a night that was.
Eugene F. Lafleur, Jr.
I just got the latest issue and wanted to tell you about my experience with Canadian sailors.
I went to boot camp in San Diego in 1965, then to NCTC Pensacola A school. We were learning Morse code, and we had a Canadian sailor in our class. After about two months we got our top-secret clearances and I can’t say much else about what we did, but that Canadian sailor was a good guy and a friend.
After graduating, I went to Japan for two years and then to Phu Bai. I re-enlisted and went back to Pensacola for HFDF A school. There were a couple of Canadian sailors in my class, also good guys. After that I went to Skaggs Island, California. Five Canadians were there on an exchange program. One of them became one of my roommates when I moved off base. He could get booze duty free, but we had to go to San Francisco to order it. Talk about cheap! He became a real good friend.
I liked all the Canadian sailors I ever met.
Thank you for the recent article on Canadian Vietnam veterans. You might be interested to know that Canadian Peter Lemon was stoned on pot when he performed the actions that brought him the Medal of Honor.
In an interview with The Detroit Free Press in June 1971, he said: “It was the only time I ever went into combat stoned. You get really alert when you’re stoned because you have to be. We were all partying the night before. We weren’t expecting any action because we were in a support group. All the guys were heads. We’d sit around smoking grass and getting stoned and talking about when we’d get to go home.”
Marc Levy Salem,
DUAL PURPOSE BARRACKS
The cover of the January/February issue shows Canadian military members in front of a building in 1973. In 1970 I served as Squadron Section Commander of the 377th Security Police Squadron at Tan Son Nhut AB. Squadron personnel were housed in a compound containing barracks buildings like that for about seven hundred men. My office was on the upper floor of one barracks in the compound that detail-for-detail looks the same as the building on the cover.
Are you able to confirm that the cover picture was taken at Tan Son Nhut at the former 377 SPS compound? By 1973, I believe that the 377 SPS would have been removed from Tan Son Nhut and the Canadians might have been housed there.
Robert M. Powers
BRONZE STAR TOW TRUCK
Seeing the cover of the last issue instantly brought back memories of a Canadian I served with in Vietnam.
In the fall of 1967 I was a new lieutenant assigned to take over the tank platoon at Con Thien, a Marine firebase just below the DMZ that was under siege by the NVA. The driver on my tank was Lance Cpl. Albert Trevail. Bert, as he preferred to be called, had previously served a stint in the Canadian Army, then attended college for a few years before coming to America to join the U.S. Marines. He had been at Con Thien a month before I arrived, and he schooled me well on how to stay alive during incoming.
Bert always carried a chessboard in his tank. When we were on an operation with the infantry and stopped for the night, he would challenge any nearby officer to a match. He never lost. In July 1968 during Operation Thor in the DMZ, Bert was a tank commander when I wrote him up for a Bronze Star for bravery under fire. We were in the midst of a tank and infantry attack on an NVA bunker complex when one of my five tanks drove into a bomb crater. Bert towed that stuck tank out of the crater with his tank while dodging incoming mortar rounds and enemy bullets.
Bert Trevail stayed in the Marines for 22 years, retiring as a master sergeant. I’ll always feel honored to have served with him.
James P. Coan
I enjoyed the January/February article on the supply line on the Cua Viet River. The sailors of the coastal and river forces of Vietnam serving on PB, LSD, LPD, LCM, LST, LCPL, APL, ATC, Zippo, ASPB, YFR, and PACVs far in the North and South fought a war unlike that of other sailors off the coast in Vietnam.
The Mobile Riverine Forces in Operations Market Time, Game Warden, Clearwater, and Sealords all displayed bravery and courage in line with the sailors of other wars. Richard Currey did an excellent job with his review of a part of Vietnam history that is mostly unknown.
I read with interest the article, “Supply Line on the Cua Viet River” by Richard Currey. Not to take away from the bravery of the Mike Boat skippers of the U.S.S. Ogden, but the bulk of resupply to Dong Ha was through the efforts of YFU and LCU craft from NSA Danang. The aerial view you published of the boat ramps at Dong Ha actually shows these boats and not the small Mike 9s noted in the article.
For this and other supply routes to Chu Lai, Duc Pho, and Hue, NSA Danang was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation. I was responsible for seven of these craft, and was aboard when we re-supplied the Marines at Hue during the Tet Offensive of 1968. I can personally attest to the bravery and skill of the NSA Danang boat captains and crew who navigated these waters daily for the full term of their deployments.
Stephen D. Blacker
It is hard for me to believe that the boat crews on the Cua Viet supply line were not eligible for Hazardous Duty Pay (combat pay). If they were on the river, then they were in country.
I served on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam. While we were on line, we were given Hazardous Duty Pay. Why would boat crews on the rivers not be eligible? Looks like they should get some back pay.
The article, “Supply Line on the Cua Viet River,” in the last issue claims that “no medals and no commendations” were available for the Navy personnel serving on the river.
But commanding officers or others could have recommended them for the Navy Commendation Medal, among other awards. After January 1969, they would also have been eligible for the Meritorious Service Medal, the peace-time equivalent of the Bronze Star. The article states that they were not eligible for other awards because DOD and the Navy did not consider them to be in the combat zone.
In addition, they could have received other commendations. All that was required was for commanding officers or others to initiate the paperwork. This could have been in the form of letters of commendation, certificates, and so forth.
A TRUE MENSCH
Thank you for publishing the remembrance of former VVA staffer Bernie Edelman by his son, Aidan. His words beautifully describe his dad who truly “dedicated his life to the well-being of all men and women who served.”
Bernie was a special guy, so knowledgeable about veterans’ issues that several years ago I invited him to teach a week-long class with me at the Chautauqua Institution in Upstate New York. The topic: The Vietnam War and Its Impact on Its Veterans.
The students in the class appreciated Bernie’s wisdom gained from his experience working with vets for more than twenty years. They learned a great deal about the challenges we all face.
I will never forget the times Bernie and I worked together on VVA issues. In fact, those of us who were his friends became better men and women for knowing him. Bernie was a true mensch, a person with integrity and honor.
ROUTE TO RECOGNITION
John DeLeone wrote about troubles updating his DD214.
One of the fellows I served with at the 406th Medical Lab at Camp Zama in Japan told me that shortly after I left our unit Stars & Stripes reported that the lab was awarded a Meritorious Unit Citation. He gave me a yellowed copy of the article.
I went to my congressman, Todd Platts, with the article and my DD-214. A few months later I received a DD-215, a correction to the DD-214, that said “ADD: MERITORIOUS UNIT CITATION”
Perhaps going through your member of Congress, Mr. DeLeon, is the route to go for proper recognition.
A DIFFERENT CLASS OF VETS
The Vietnam War was the last war where conscripts were used. All subsequent wars have been fought by those who volunteered to fight it. We were not offered the option to not go if it “wasn’t our thing.”
Our feelings toward war are more like the Korean War conscripts than Gulf War vets. We were not all called heroes when we returned. It is bad enough to think that we were lied to when we were told that if we ran off to Canada we would be considered deserters and punished. Later those cowards were rewarded with open arms when they came crawling back across the border.
Those patriots who fought in the wars subsequent to Vietnam deserve their recognition as true Americans, but they are in a different class than Vietnam vets. It is no less noble, but it is different.
DELAY, DELAY, DELAY
It has been over a year since Congress designated three new Agent Orange presumptive disabilities. I filed a disability claim for hypothyroidism last February and my claim has been in the decision phase since August 2021. My veteran service officer says none of the claims he filed for the new presumptive conditions last year have been decided.
Apparently there are more than 400,000 claims pending that represent over a billion dollars monthly in disability payments. I know many of those claims are for veterans of more recent conflicts, but there are a substantial number of Vietnam veterans who are still awaiting claims decisions. How about a regular monthly column to address VA claims status to keep visibility on the VA and how they are doing? It seems VA disability claim performance is drifting back to the way things were in the 1970s and 1980s.
Is it possible the VA has revived its strategy of delay, delay, delay in hopes we older vets die before they have to pay us? This administration is spending trillions of dollars but can’t seem to take care of compensation for disabilities received from service in Vietnam fifty and more years ago.
Robert E Ousley
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