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Letters from Readers - December 2010

By Vietnam magazine 
Originally published by Vietnam magazine. Published Online: October 27, 2010 
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My Friend Matty
Your August "Offerings" showed a baseball and glove and a note left at the Wall in 1992 in remembrance of 1st Lt. Ronald Matel. "Matty" was my roommate in Infantry OCS at Fort Benning. He was the only person I knew before going to Vietnam whose path I crossed while in-country. In the fall of 1968, he was a platoon leader with the 46th Scout Dog Platoon, and I was working with elements of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division in Tay Ninh Province. Standing outside the brigade TOC one day, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see Matty grinning. It was a wonderful but brief reunion. I never saw him again. Matty was a fine young officer and an all around good guy. He is fondly remembered whenever his classmates get together and is memorialized at a monument that our OCS Class 5-68 dedicated to him and our other fallen classmates at Fort Benning in 2004.

Bob Tagert
Clarks Summit, Pa.

Of Hearts, Minds and Kids
Thank you for the article on the Combined Action Program ("From Torching to Teaching," October). I served in CAP 3-2-5 and 3-2-1 in 1968-69. The children in the villages played a major role with Marines by washing our clothes, acting as interpreters, preparing meals and even sometimes cleaning weapons. As we moved about the village and into the homes of the villagers, our "houseboys and girls" moved with us. The children of the village showed that to win hearts and minds you have to open your own hearts and minds—like children. Reporter Gloria Emerson wrote that had we been familiar with Vietnam's epic piece of literature, The Tale of Kieu, we would have known better than to go to war in Vietnam.

Mike Murray
Los Angeles, Calif.

Dieter's Story Stirs Memories
Thank you for "Dieter Dengler's Great Escape" (August). My father served in Vietnam in 1966-67 as a member of VA-145 and knew Dieter very well, but I just recently heard about his story. When I asked my dad about Dieter, he instantly teared up and told me what happened. His wounds from the war are still fresh, and like a lot of vets he doesn't talk much about his experiences. Since then he has shared some of the other things that happened to him during the war. I bought the book Hero Found, and I can't wait to read it. I'll also give it to my dad to read in hopes that it will start the healing process for him. I am an extremely proud son of a Vietnam veteran.

Steven F. Rhoads
Gilbertsville, Pa.

Fragging Close to Home
Peter Brush's excellent article about fragging in the October issue retells the incident in which my West Point classmate, 1st Lt. Thomas A. Dellwo, was murdered when a disgruntled soldier in his unit tossed a fragmentation grenade into the quarters where he was sleeping. I arrived in Vietnam six months later. Brush correctly reports that Tommy was not the intended victim. The soldier meant to murder Tommy's battery commander, an officer I know, respect and subsequently served with who went on to become a general. Tommy died in the arms of one of my best friends, now a retired Army colonel. Tommy's "mistaken" murder further illustrates why fragging is such a cowardly and insidious means of attacking an officer or noncom. Hand grenades don't distinguish between intended victims and innocent bystanders, but do allow the gutless fragger to avoid having to actually look his victims in the eye.

Jerry D. Morelock, Editor in Chief
Armchair General magazine

Civilians in the Cross Hairs
October's "Body Count," by Gary W. Bray, struck a chord with me. Violence against civilians was virtually programmed into the Vietnam War. I was a 23-year-old Army  platoon leader in 1971 at Long Binh and ran back and forth to Vung Tau. The villagers all looked alike to me. Some even had weapons. Thank God I was never put in the same situation as 2nd Lt. Bray. Welcome home, Gary, and thanks for your service.

Tom Hopkins
Lawrenceville, Ga.

Marble Mountain Miracles
In regards to the Robert Stokes article about the Marble Mountain Navy Hospital (October), I was a Navy corpsman there from August 1967 to August 1968. Primarily my duties were taking X-rays and helping in the initial triage/treatment area for battle casualties. While it was sometimes called the Marble Mountain facility, we commonly referred it as NSAH Da Nang. We were not at the actual base of Marble Mountain, the Seabee compound was, and we were to the north. Across the road from the Seabees was a POW compound. Directly across from us, was Marine Air Group 16, a Marine helicopter base. The Viet Cong were all around Marble Mountain, so there were bombing and strafing runs almost every night.

Mr. Stokes gave an accurate description of the ICU. I saw things there that I cannot put into words and much of what I saw and did there remains with me. That facility saved countless lives, and pioneered treatment for combat casualties, yet it is largely forgotten.

David Fossum
Norco, Calif.

Dogs Rule!
Thank's to all for the warm response to "Dogging It" (August). It is encouraging as we continue our research and promotion of the history of the U.S. military working dog teams. The article also spurred generous donations for establishment of a National Monument for the U.S. Military Working Dog Teams. You can learn more at www.jbmf.us.

John C. Burnam
Bethesda, Md.

Send letters to: Vietnam Editor, 19300 Promenade Drive, Leesburg, VA 20176; or e-mail: Vietnam@weiderhistorygroup.com


4 Responses to “Letters from Readers - December 2010”


  1. 1
    Raquel martinez says:

    I am looking for 1 Feb issue and 2 Dec issues, how may I get my hands on these. We only have 1 bookstore that was sold- out.

  2. 2
    Renaldo Browne says:

    July 20th, 1966, I remember Dieter Dengler's escape very well. I was the radio operator at Da Nang, who received the call that a pilot was spotted, wearing a flight suit, and waving a white flag.

    I received the call about 9am that morning. I got off at noon, so, I didn't find out until that evening, that he had escaped from a Laotian POW Camp.

    I was attached to Det. 1, 3rd Aerospace Rescue Recovery Group at Da Nang. I was TDY from the 605th Tac Control Group at Clark Air Base.

    I didn't actually find out who the pilot was, until 1997, when I read an article in the Oakland, CA, Montclarian Magazine written by Bill Mann. He wrote about Dieter's biography "Little Dieter needs to Fly" .

    At work, one of my co-workers was telling me about her reading about POW's, and I asked her if she read about Dieter Dengler. She said she just read his book "Escape from Laos". I told her I was the radio operator who received the call. I had her locate Dieter if she could, and give me his phone number or address.

    A couple of days later, I did get a chance to talk to Dieter on the phone for a short time. I told him I was the radio operator who received the call. He was very surprised.

    He took my name, address and phone number, he said, in case Hollywood wanted to make a movie of his escape.

    This is the highlight of my military career.

  3. 3
    Bob says:

    I was stationed at Marble Mt MAG-16 USMC..1968-69..I recall the Navy hosp across from us, remember the Seebees,,I was with Zulu Co. perimeter/guard & patrols for a while..remember going to renforce the VC-NVA pow camp the US Army had, word was 3000-4000 NVA on their way to get the pows out, I think that was summer 1968..recall the VC overrun of the marines on top of Marble Mt..they fired the captured recoiless at us,,but not for long..remember the little village at the base of the mountain,,going inside and seeing marble statues..though it was long time ago..seems like it was yesterday..lost a lot of bro's over there….semper fi



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