No Enemy Flamethrowers?
In the article “Zippos in Vietnam” (June) it was stated that the enemy didn’t have flamethrowers. First, I remember one instance during my time in Lam Dong Province where the command bunker of a Regional Force company was destroyed by a flamethrower, though the occupants all survived because they detected the different sound of a Bangalore torpedo as compared to the rain of mortar rounds, and made it out of the bunker and into the trench line just in time. Also, Chinese flamethrowers were used against the Marines in the Con Thien area. The most publicized use of flamethrowers was the annihilation of Dak Son village in the Central Highlands, where several hundred men, women and children were burned to death for failing to cooperate with the Viet Cong. Also, Keith Nolan mentions in one of his books that an attack on a U.S. fire support base resulted in one soldier running from the perimeter in flames after a flame attack. His body was never recovered. As for use by U.S. troops, my unit in the 25th Division used both the M2 series, which was similar to the WWII variety, and served as a test bed for the one-shot and multi-shot portable flamethrowers that used some sort of magnesium-based power projected by a rocket to eliminate bunkers and tunnels in the Trapezoid area south of the Michelin Plantation.
Joseph B. Mucelli
San Francisco, Calif.
I’d like to make a historical correction to the June article on Zippos in Vietnam. The NVA did have and did use flamethrowers, as Charles Krohn has described in The Lost Battalion of Tet. A buddy of mine found that out the hard way.
Dust Off Done Right
I read the October interview with Dr. Ronald Glasser with much interest. He said that the Army promised 10 minutes for dust off. In many cases that was true, but not always. On Feb. 27, 1966, I was with the Big Red One, 1/26. We had found an enemy base camp the night before and were following some commo wire when we got ambushed. The right flank man, Don Van Horn, was killed. I was point when I got hit with a grenade that blew out much of my intestines. The medic, Jack Russel, got to me and I was taken to Tay Ninh. Later that day, we suffered two more wounded, Platoon Sergeant Bob Silva and Rifleman Don Bacon, and another killed, Clarence Varnardo. If it hadn’t been for the actions of all the people from the platoon medic to the chopper pilot and the nurses and surgeon, I would have been another name on The Wall. To each of you, from Jack and all the others, thank you!
Conscription Key to Winning Wars
After avoiding reading about, or even thinking about, Vietnam for more than 30 years, I now read your magazine regularly. Dr. Glasser (October Interview) got it right with his Foreign Legion analogy to our all-volunteer Army, which has freed the American public’s conscience from the ultimate responsibility for the waste of lives and resources and enables the government to continue to expend these valuable assets with little public outcry. I have long believed that the only way the United States will ever win another war as we did in WWII is to conscript all without exception. When citizens are required to serve in harm’s way, they will get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to get back to their sane lives; and their parents will support them on the home front. Until then, there will be no victories.
Incidentally, I was a patient at Camp Zama in Japan when Dr. Glasser was there, and I made a similar observation as he. I was startled to see who was actually fighting the war and the price that they were paying. I was from a Special Forces unit where, as a lieutenant, I was one of the youngest among older professional soldiers who were volunteers three times over and experienced warriors.
Gerald W. Johnson
POWs and Torture
In his letter in the August issue, Jerry Lembcke, author of Hanoi Jane, Sex & Fantasies of Betrayal, writes regarding American POWs, “With the sources we have, it is hard to distinguish what hardships were due to the harshness of prison life, the punishment for rule breaking and torture.” Would Lembcke have me believe anything but severe torture caused the permanent injuries to John McCain, the son of a U.S. Navy admiral? If the North Vietnamese would permanently disable an admiral’s son via torture, what makes Lembcke believe they would not torture, at will, all U.S. personnel they held? Of course, the North Vietnamese tortured any and all American pilots to gather intelligence so they could be more efficient in shooting down aircraft that they knew would be involved in future bombing. Mr. Lembcke would have us believe that only “senior ranking” American officers believe the North Vietnamese extensively used torture. I simply love all the academics that talk about “veterans reeling from a lost war.” To be totally accurate, the Congress of the United States chose to lose the war when it failed to continue funding the former Republic of South Vietnam.
Roger L. Kehrier
Who Needs Urban Legends?
In the book review section of the April 2011 issue, I read about a book on Jane Fonda. The author, Jerry Lembcke, points out that many of the things said and written about Jane Fonda are “urban legends.” I never use these stories against Jane Fonda; I don’t have to. When I saw Fonda on the news sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, that was enough for me. Sitting on that gun was an act of treason that Jane Fonda has never answered for.
Duane S. Russell
Aretha: Gets Respect at Any Speed
Your piece on Aretha Franklin (Homefront, October) reminded me about when I was in Vietnam at a fire base about a mile from the Cambodia border. My sergeant would play Aretha Franklin all day on his tape player. But his batteries were always low, so her songs would be played in slow speed. Still, whenever I hear Aretha Franklin on the radio, I get tears in my eyes, and whenever I hear “Respect,” I think about that fire base.
Dayan’s Wars: In our October feature on Israeli General Moshe Dayan’s 1966 tour to Vietnam, we mistakenly identified the June 5-10, 1967, Six-Day War as the Yom Kippur War. The Yom Kippur War, or the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, was fought October 6-25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria.
Medal of Honor Miscues: Thanks for all the letters and emails regarding an error in our October news item about the “Sacrifice Window” recently dedicated at the Marine Corps Museum to Father Vincent Capodanno, who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his action in Vietnam in September 1967. We mistakenly stated that Father Capodanno was the “only chaplain to receive” the Medal, when we should have stated that he was “the only chaplain to receive the Medal of Honor for service with the Marine Corps.” In addition to Capodanno, Army Chaplains Charles Joseph Watters and Charles James “Angelo” Liteky were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in Vietnam. Four Army chaplains were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Civil War and Navy Chaplain Joseph T. O’Callahan was a Medal of Honor recipient for his heroism aboard the aircraft carrier Franklin on March 19, 1945.
Also, in our August review of Wartorn 1861-2010, we misspelled the last name of Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient Paul “Buddy” Bucha. We regret these errors.
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