Letters from Readers – April 2011-Vietnam

By Vietnam magazine
2/9/2011 • Vietnam Letters

Click pic to enlarge it. If you can identify any of these women, comment below or send an email to vietnam@weiderhistorygroup.com
Click pic to enlarge it. If you can identify any of these women, comment below or send an email to vietnam@weiderhistorygroup.com
Name Those Dollies
I found this picture of the Donut Dollies that I think some of the people in it would like to see. I didn’t know any of the women and can’t even remember how it came into my possession. Someone possibly left it in my picture album by mistake as we were reminiscing about round-eyed women. Perhaps if it is published, someone can identify these wonderful ladies who sacrificed their time and talent for us young kids in Vietnam. I remember a group of them visiting our fire base and trying to lift our morale. I was in Vietnam from March 1969 to March ’70, so this picture is possibly dated around that time.

Dave Andrews
New Boston, Ohio

True Tiger Tragedies
Rich Thurmond’s letter to the editor (February) questioning the veracity of author Karl Marlantes’ comment in the October “Interview” about a tiger attack caught my attention because I have specific knowledge that it did happen. I was not involved myself, but I knew the Marine who was killed in this incident. I was still in high school at the time, and my sister was dating Frank Baldino from Ashland, Pa. Frank was killed while on patrol on November 14, 1968. Recently I came across a related newspaper article about Frank. I suspect the incident in question and Frank’s death are the same. So many years have gone by, but reading the article made it seem like it happened yesterday. Just setting the record straight on behalf of Pfc Francis Baldino, United States Marine.

Bob Hall
Allentown, Pa.

The letter headlined “Tall Tiger Tales” was off the mark. Maybe the author of the letter never heard of an attack, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t occur. I served with the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Infantry (Mechanized), 4th Infantry Division in 1968. In November that year a soldier with the 2nd of the 8th was killed and partially eaten by a tiger. In Jack Leninger’s book, Time Heals No Wounds, he cites a 4th ID report dated November 2: “Shortly before 0655H, near ZAO56224, a tiger attacked and killed one member of a SRP from Company A, 2d Battalion (Mechanized), 8th Inf. The victim had been on watch while the other members of his team slept.” I remember when this happened, and I talked to a medic who saw the body. He told me it was a tiger attack. I communicated with him two years ago, and he again confirmed that it was a tiger attack.

Paul Marks
Lake Forest, Calif.

In my recently published book, Class of ’67, I write about a Marine who in November 1968 was dragged from a night ambush position by a tiger in the rugged mountains west of the Marine’s Vandegrift Combat Base. In the November 1968 Command Chronology for 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, it states that “a Company D ambush at XD754534 had one member of the ambush dragged away by a carnivorous animal.” The body of the Marine was found and recovered the next day.

Jack Wells
Cupertino, Calif.

I was the battalion armorer for 3/7 1st Marine Division, and a squad leader on a reactionary platoon. (One of the company commanders at that time was Captain Charles Robb, President Johnson’s son-in-law.) I was in Vietnam from April 1968 to May 1969 and heard of lots of tiger encounters! I still have an article from a March 1968 Leatherneck magazine showing a tiger that was killed in Vietnam (seen at left) after it came upon 1st Recon Battalion, Marine 1st Division.
                                                                                            Mike Phillips
                                                                                      Cochranton, Pa.

To all those concerned, they can research it all they want but it is true. There was a 1st Force Recon Company, 1st Marine Division Marine killed and half eaten by an estimated 300- to 400-pound Bengal tiger on May 7, 1970. It happened at night when a seven-man team was in its harbor site on top of a ridgeline. A yell was heard in the dark from the Marine who was at the end of the line wrapped in his poncho. It was my close friend Sergeant Robert C. Phleger. I was in the center of communications bunker at Camp Adnair near Marble Mountain when the team radio operator called in a situation report to me. I was told to tell the team to stay in position on 100-percent alert until first light to see what happened.

At first light all they found was a torn poncho liner, an M-16, bush hat, radio and drag marks. I was told to tell the team to follow the drag marks, as they thought Sergeant Phleger might have been captured. About 50 meters down the hill, they spotted the missing Marine, up against a tree with his head and one side of his body gone. All of a sudden a tiger came charging at the team, and they opened up with their M-16s. The tiger ran off, but in seconds came back for its kill. This time the Marines scared it away with some grenades. They wrapped what was left of the Marine in a poncho, and the team was extracted. Sergeant Phleger was 32 and had just returned from R&R in Hawaii, where he had married his high school sweetheart. We fought together, we lived in the bush together. This tragedy was seared into my memory, it’s no tiger tale. I write this as a tribute to him.

John E. Hoffman Jr.
Zelienople, Pa.

It’s a known fact that 3rd Recon Bn had at least one, if not two confirmed killed by tigers. Another one or two close calls occurred where the tiger was killed while trying to attack Recon members in their harborsites. I think they still have a story from Stars & Stripes or Sea Tiger on the 3rd Recon Bn website with photos etc. of some of the attacks. I thought you reprinted one of the stories in a previous issue of your magazine.

William J. Messner Sr.
GySgt 3rd Recon Bn 1966-67
Erial, NJ

Art of the Helmet
I’ve been a subscriber to Vietnam since it was first published. The helmet art portfolio in the October issue blew me away! I served a year starting in April 1968 with the 1st Air Cavalry, Charlie Company, 1/5. I kept my helmet cover, and when I show it to vets it takes them all back. Some cry, some laugh, but they all think it was great I held on to it. Back then, I drew Snoopy on everything—letters, my M-16, rucksack, everything. I think of Vietnam a lot. After you go through something like that, you learn to appreciate life and the great things we all take for granted.

Jerry Gormas
Delano, Pa.

Vets Helping Vets Get ‘Home’
I just came upon the news item “Circle of Warriors” and the excellent interview with former Army Chaplain James D. Johnson in the December issue. As an officer of the 25th Infantry Division Association, I make frequent contact with active duty soldiers and see how seriously the military is taking the tidal wave onslaught of PTSD this time around. Veteran’s Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki recently commented that veterans with PTSD successfully transition most rapidly when they return to familiar routines and are employed, aiding self-confidence and initiative. We Vietnam vets can and must help with this process, and that is part of how the “Circle” at my church in Tallmadge, Ohio, started. I can attest to the success we are seeing in healing the hearts of not only veterans, but also their wives, mothers and siblings. More information is available at: warriorsjourneyhome.com.

Thomas A. Jones
North Canton, Ohio

Long Shadow of Hue
Regarding the February 2011 article on Hue by James Willbanks, only the actual count of those killed in the city of Hue can be debated! The NVA and VC actions in Hue in 1968 led to the total breakdown of the South Vietnamese government, military and the citizens fearful of its reoccurrences in 1975.

Major Roger L. Kehrier, USA (Ret.)
Plymouth, Mich.

Bacon-Saving Radios
I had the privilege of serving with Robert Hunt, author of One Four Man Up and the article “Showdown at Dai Do” in the June 2010 issue. We served together on Mutter’s Ridge, the Rock Pile and the DMZ. I also got excellent training in the art of being a TACP radio operator from Ralph “Flash” Gordon. That training allowed us to hump the much heavier PRC-41 ground to air radio. The radio saved our pork several times.

Randy Williams
Decatur, Ill.

Patton Perspective
Thank you for your article on the M48A3 Patton tank (February “Arsenal”). I was with H Co, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in 1966-67. My Patton was hit in the fuel tank during Operation Junction City in an ambush, but we were able to defeat the NVA before we were forced to flee the burning tank. If it had gasoline fuel, I am sure that the outcome would have been different.

Richard Quinn
Newtown, Pa.

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