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Letters from Readers - August 2012

By Vietnam magazine 
Originally published by Vietnam magazine. Published Online: July 10, 2012 
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Saluting Summers
In the June "Letter From Vietnam," you wrote about retired Army colonel and founding editor of Vietnam Harry G. Summers Jr. and featured the cover of the premier issue of Vietnam published in 1988. I retrieved my first issue and found Colonel Summers' interview with General Fred C. Weyand, titled "Troops Equal to Any." The article and interview straightens out the cruel misperception that the American fighting men in Vietnam did not measure up to the World War II and Korean War fighting men. Twenty-five years later, it still hits home.

John Hoffmann Jr.
Zelienople, Pa.

Editor's note: The interview of General Weyand by Harry Summers that ran in our premier issue has been republished in the magazine once and can be found on our website:

Colonel Harry G. Summers Jr. was the best of the best in understanding strategy. I came in contact with this great American warrior-scholar's work through the finest boss I ever had in the Army, Colonel Donald Lunday, a MAC-SOG warrior. Once I knew about Colonel Summers and his writings, I read everything he wrote and listened to his speeches. He had the most profound understanding of warfare of any man I ever encountered. General Fritz Kroesen is the only living warrior who has such a great grasp on things strategic.

Colonel Joe Blair III (U.S. Army, ret.)
Hendersonville, N.C.

Tet's Unsolved L.A. Sheriff Mystery
I wonder if you or your readers might know of a particular incident that occurred during the Tet Offensive of 1968. I was at the 219th Military Intelligence Detachment within the II Field Force compound when the rockets came in at 0300 hours, followed by a ground attack by the 273rd VC Regiment at dawn. We were on the perimeter bunker on Highway 1 across from Gia Vinh village where the Viet Cong had infiltrated the night before. There was an exchange of small-arms fire between our side and the village.

Then, to our disbelief, a few jeep loads of Military Police from the II Field Force barracks came rolling down Highway 1 and, like the off-and-on flow of a water hose, gunfire on our side ceased when the jeeps were downrange and resumed after they passed. That alone was pretty impressive; however, what really struck us was that in one of the MP jeeps was a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy in his deputy uniform! We never found out why or who made that arrangement. I'm hoping some reader in the know or maybe even the sheriff's deputy himself or one of the MPs will see this and be able to explain it.

Ted F. Meyer
Santa Cruz, Calif.

Editor's note: We heard a variation of that story in a 2008 article by John Gross who was commanding a rifle company in the 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry, during Tet, and called it one of the "most bizarre and inexplicable incidents of the day." Gross wrote that an MP colonel accompanying the L.A. County sheriff's deputy explained that they were there to teach the soldiers how to properly search a house. Gross told him they were in the middle of combat and wrote: "He ignored me and went to a nearby house where he and the deputy sheriff kicked in the front door. At that moment, a burst of VC machine gun fire erupted, causing the colonel, the deputy and their Vietnamese escorts to pile into their vehicles and roar off in the direction from whence they had come. We never saw them again." The article on Tet by John Gross can be read in full at

Glen and Figgie
I am writing in response to the letter in the April issue under the heading "Non-Citizen Soldiers," written by Glen Duncan. I am the "young Cuban" everyone knew as "Figgie" that Mr. Duncan was referring to who had volunteered to go to Vietnam even though he was not a citizen. I have been looking for Glen for the last 40 years, and I now hope to make contact with him soon.

Raul Figueroa
Jacks Creek, Tenn.

South Vietnam: A 'Disappeared' Nation
I recently read the August 2010 interview with Lt. Col. James Zumwalt, in which he describes his numerous trips back to Vietnam, and his cathartic bonding with our former enemies. No doubt, North Vietnamese troops were dedicated and patriotic.

They were also subjected to constant propaganda that vilified the American "invaders," and glorified their duty to rid their land of those barbarians, so that all Vietnamese could live as brothers, yada, yada, yada. With the tens of millions of dollars the Soviets were pumping into the antiwar movement over here, I'm sure it was some of the same propaganda that had our young "Useful Idiots" running through our streets waving North Vietnamese and Viet Cong flags.

The missing piece in this charming scenario, however, is how the roughly 15 million citizens of The Republic of Vietnam felt about their forced "unification" by invasion and subjugation by a brutal Communist dictatorship from the North. When the two countries, North and South, were established, a million Vietnamese fled south before the border was secured. I'm pretty sure the South Vietnamese understood what lay in store for them, once the invasion succeeded. There's been a lot of dialogue over the years about the Americans and the North Vietnamese. There is the tendency to act as though a sovereign nation wasn't actually "disappeared" in the process.

Scott Anderson
Green Valley, Ariz.

Khmer Catastrophe
I didn't know whether to laugh or scream when I read "Khmer Rouge Leaders Refute Genocide Role, Blame the United States" (April News). I can't blame tired old men who are on trial for their lives for parroting the same silliness believed by many of our own "best and brightest" in the media and academia. They claim that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's 1970-73 bombing of Cambodia put them in power! Kissinger forced the Khmer Rouge to take over Cambodia and kill millions? If the United States hadn't bombed, Lon Nol would still be in power? It was only when "anti-warriors" forced the U.S. to abandon Indochina that the Communists were able to conquer and murder the innocent and fight each other.

Regarding another news item, "Iraq War Ends; Vietnam Comparisons Continue," I don't support President Obama on any issue except his Mideast policy, which—as the article shows—is in the fine tradition of using our military to protect the world, including us, from mass-murdering psychos. I hope that the world's support of anti-Gadaffi rebels shows that things have changed since the 1970s when "anti-warriors" believed that surrendering to evil was the path to peace. Keep up the good work and God bless America, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Raymond P. Opeka
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Four-Legged Enemies
Several letters in recent issues described tiger encounters in Vietnam, and I want to verify that the dangers from tigers were very real. I was with Marine Recon in 1966-67 and was once on a patrol that was stalked by a tiger. One night, as we moved our position after a flare was tripped, I stopped the team three times, sensing something wasn't right. At the new harbor site up the mountain, I found a mound to rest on for the night and took off my gear. With my automatic weapon ready, I faced in the direction we had come from. Another guy moved up to my location and sat on my gear, and soon he sensed what I'd been feeling for the last 30 minutes.

We heard brush moving, followed by a loud roar, and saw a tiger in midair, leaping toward us. We both lay back on the ground and fired a magazine each into its underbelly. The force of our firepower and the mound we were on kept the tiger from touching us, but it wasn't lying there as a trophy; it ran back into the jungle. It still gives me shivers knowing how blessed we were not to be that tiger's meal. We had other wild animal encounters there as well—rock apes, wild boar, snakes, army ants and termites—something that was never addressed in our preparation for Vietnam. I was more afraid of the animals than the enemy.

Bob Lowrey
Lynden, Wash.

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