Faas Found to Be Mystery Man
Your August issue just arrived, and I was prompted to respond after seeing the picture of Horst Faas and then reading “Images of Hell at Dong Xoai.”
The photo of Faas helped me to solve a decades-long mystery of a picture that I have been carrying around, on the back of which I had noted “Reporter?” This picture was taken in late 1966 by a friend, Captain Richard Beal, who was the battalion intelligence officer of the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry (Golden Dragons), 3rd Brigade Task Force, 25th Infantry Division. Like Faas, Dick always had a Nikon around his neck as he moved around our area of operation. Dick died of a heart attack some 20 years later while serving as a colonel in the Pentagon. After his death, his widow had passed on a bag of his excellent black-and-white photos so share among his friends.
Our photo of Faas was not dated, but I believe it was likely taken around November 23, 1966. The Golden Dragons were operating north of the Ia Drang Valley-Chu Pong Mountain region and were engaged in an intense battle with the NVA on November 19, in an area that became known as “Dragon Crater.” Captain Beal led a battle assessment party into the area on November 20. I have no specific detail of Faas being there, but the Battalion Journal for November 23 mentions a visit to the scene by “Morley Safer and other CBS reporters,” so Faas may have been among that group or perhaps visited earlier.
One of those “the rest of the story” things dealing with the 1965 Dong Xoai operation is the little-known fact that some of the men fighting in the Central Highlands in 1966 were involved. They had only been in-country for four days when that Special Forces Camp was overrun on June 10, 1965. As others from the 25th Infantry Division had been doing for years, these men were trained volunteer helicopter door gunners on classified 90-day temporary duty orders as part of what was called the Shotgun Program. This particular group was known as “Shotgun 10” and they performed heroically. Their platoon leader at that time was Lieutenant James “Terry” Scott, who retired years later as lieutenant general and head of all Special Operations Forces. Several of their platoon members were KIA in that action at Dong Xoai and were commemorated on a guidon the men designed and had made in Vietnam.
President, 25th Infantry Division Association
Texas Tech Treasure
Thank you for your August interview with Steve Maxner of the Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. He has done an excellent job of carrying on the legacy of Jim Reckner, the center’s founder and former director. I am amazed at how many Vietnam veterans have never heard of this wonderful resource and repository of “our war’s” memorabilia. I have donated materials to the Center and presented papers at several of their annual symposia. It is really gratifying to see so many young scholars interested in the people, culture and history of Vietnam and the American War. The Center is truly a state-of-the-art archive, and they post many materials online so anyone can explore our experience in Vietnam. I applaud Vietnam for spreading the word.
Neil H. Olsen
Salt Lake City, Utah
Ho No Hero
Many Americans still misunderstand the role of Ho Chi Minh (August, “Ho, Giap and Me”). In 1945, when working with the OSS, Ho’s mind was of the universal society, not the country Vietnam. He was good at taking advantage. Of course, he has been the legend of the Communist community in Vietnam, even though they probably all know Ho was a traitor. The Party and Ho himself had to create the Ho Chi Minh icon for the propaganda. Eventually, many of them have bravely awakened after years of having been deluded. It is sad that the people in Vietnam have been brainwashed and, more importantly, that some American writers tend to be like one of them.
Zippos and Fashion Statements
I really enjoyed the article on Zippos in the June issue. I still have my old Zippo with a 199th Light Infantry Brigade badge on it. When I went back to Vietnam in 2008 to bury some ghosts, I found every tourist shop had a basket of old Zippos from the war, most worn down to the brass and selling for about $30. Typically, alongside them was a basket of old dog tags. It was upsetting to me, but a fashion statement for others.
Galloway Got It Wrong
In the June issue, Joe Galloway said when asked why the U.S. effort failed (Interview), that our military was a draftee force with very fast basic training and a little advanced. That’s bull! We had eight weeks of intense basic and eight weeks of intense advanced infantry training. We fought hard and were as good as any army in the world. He also rejects the “media lost the war charge.” Well, after the 1968 Tet Offensive, the Americans changed their minds about the war. When General Westmoreland was telling the media we were winning during Tet, the media reported we were getting beat bad. The truth was the Viet Cong were never a true fighting force again. The North took over most of the fighting. Galloway also says Walter Cronkite had nothing to do with losing the war. In Cronkite’s book A Reporter’s Life, Cronkite proudly admits he spun his coverage in the favor of the views of the antiwar dissidents.
Air Support at Attleboro
That was a great article on Operation Attleboro in the August issue. However, never did the author mention what part the 1st Aviation Brigade contributed to the operation. The 173rd Assault Helicopter Company (Robin Hoods) and others took the troops there, took out the wounded and the fallen, and provided important air support from our gunships (Crossbows). I know this, because I was there as a crew chief, flying support day and night along with a number of sister units.
Anthony Zanfardino Jr.
Alert Reader Rights Flag Wrong
Thanks to eagle-eye Vietnam reader Edward Riesel of Herkimer, N.Y., for pointing out that the flag draping the coffin of Laotian General Vang Pao (News, June) was placed incorrectly. According to official U.S. flag etiquette, the union should be placed at the head and above the left shoulder.
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