Letters from Readers – December 2010

By Vietnam magazine
10/27/2010 • Vietnam Letters

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.

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