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Letters from Readers -- February 2007 Vietnam Magazine

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: December 20, 2006 
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Fire Support Base Thunder III
I am writing to correct a mistake I discovered while reading Tim Long's "The Battle for Fire Support Base Thunder III" (October 2006). On page 48, he states: "Near the end of August 1969…Already in position inside the perimeter was a battery of 155mm howitzers from the 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery (3-197 FA), a New Hampshire Army National Guard unit." While he makes no further reference to the 3-197 in his text, its supposed position is plainly indicated on the diagram on page 49.

No New Hampshire National Guardsmen were still at FSB Thunder III after August 27, 1969 (about two weeks before the major action noted in this article). Battery A had left Thunder III on August 27 as the Guardsmen were all being transferred to Long Binh to return home as a unit. In fact, the memorial service for the five Guardsmen killed when their truck ran over a landmine on August 26 was the last time any Guardsmen were located at Thunder III; by August 27, all had been gathered together at an outprocessing point in Long Binh waiting to go home.

If, as Long states, he arrived at Thunder III in mid-August, Guardsmen from New Hampshire would still have been in place and perhaps he met some of them or heard about them from others on the base. Perhaps he was unaware that the unit left on August 27. But by the time of the September 5 attack, they were all gone (and home), and so your diagram contains faulty information. In fairness, this mistake affects the men serving in 2-12 FA, who are being deprived of proper credit, more than it does the men of 3-197 who took no part but appear to get the credit. I am sure you will want to correct the record in your next issue. Thank you for your time and consideration.

John W. Listman Jr.
Contract Historian
Departments of the Army and the Air Force
National Guard Bureau
Arlington, Va.

Thanks for your article "The Battle for Fire Support Base Thunder III." I was with A 2-2, 1st Infantry Division, that night. My track was No. 134, and it was positioned two tracks to the left of the one that was destroyed by the sappers. I still have some pictures that I took the next morning of that track and the KIA just before they dug the hole (inside the perimeter) and buried the bodies with what was left of the APC and the bunker.

Tim Frake
Crystal Lake, Ill.

Although I read every issue cover to cover, the article by Tim Long on the Battle for FSB Thunder III caught my immediate attention. I commanded the Second Surgical Hospital at Lai Khe at that time. I kept a diary of my tour (later published as Trung Ta Bac Si).

Wesley Grimes Byerly Jr. M.D.
Hickory, N.C.

Tim Long replies: I would like to thank John Listman for pointing out this error. When I arrived in August at Thunder III, the 3-197 FA was there. I also remember that near the end of August I was told that some of the Guardsmen were killed when their vehicle hit a mine on Thunder Road on the way in to process out of country. My battery's mess truck was in the convoy and I heard the mess personnel talk about this incident.

Mr. Listman's documents show the 3-197 departed from Thunder III by August 27, 1969, and returned to the States on September 4, one day prior to the battle. I had no knowledge that the 3-197 had departed from Thunder III when the battle occurred. All equipment from that battery remained at Thunder III. Being assigned to a gun section, it was mandatory to stay in very close proximity to the howitzer for fire missions, and it was rare that we got to communicate with soldiers from other units. I also never heard any mention of the replacement unit, 2-12 FA. Based on these circumstances, I believed the 3-197 was still at the FSB. This belief is what led to the error in placing the 3-197 on the diagram.

I worked on this article in my spare time over a two-year period, and my sources, which covered five states, were contacted via telephone and e-mail on different occasions. I hoped to avoid any inaccuracies; I regret the error and hope no one feels slighted.

I'm glad Tim Frake enjoyed the article. I would have liked to consult him as another source for the article, had anyone referred me to him.

I appreciate and enjoyed Dr. Byerly's notes from his diary covering September 4-8, 1969.

Naval Gunfire Support
I truly enjoyed the excellent article on naval gunfire support by Vincent Clayton ("Arsenal," October 2006). I would like to correct a couple of minor errors and add a couple of points.

The author says that the Gearing-class destroyers lost two of their six guns during a modernization effort just before the Vietnam War. Most did, but not all, and the modernization extended into the early years of the war. There were two fleet rehabilitation and modernization (FRAM) programs applied to the Gearings from the late 1950s through the mid-1960s. Another point is that the LSM(Rs) (landing ship medium, rocket) had 16 launchers for their 5-inch spin-stabilized rockets, in eight twin mounts. While they had a theoretical maximum firing rate of 480 rounds per minute (versus the author's 380), the practical firing rate was 240 rounds per minute.

Philip C. Gutzman
Middleton, Idaho

I am a veteran Marine tank commander, and an avid and a longtime subscriber. This past week I read with great interest the "Arsenal" article by Vincent Clayton.
I was unfortunate to have been in-country during the fighting in Hue City during Tet of 1968. Unknown to me, the military "brass" back in Washington, D.C., was making decisions to activate and refit the battleship New Jersey, and as I understand it they pushed the button to begin this process in April of that year.

Contrary to the caption on page 15, New Jersey did not provide naval gunfire in support of the fighting in Hue City. It did support us immensely when it finally arrived in the waters off Vietnam in September 1968. In fact, it saved our bacon a few times when the NVA attempted to mass troops to attack us from the North. Semper fidelis.

John Wear
New Hope, Pa.

James Megellas
Thank you for printing Kenneth David Hall's interview with James Megellas ("Have We Learned From Our Mistakes?") in the October 2006 issue. I served with the 4th Infantry Division under Maj. Gen. William R. Peers 1966-67, so I enjoy reading about subsequent acts in the Highlands. I wish that there had been more in the article about the working relations between our main force units and the Regional Forces/Popular Forces, and between Vietnamese II Corps and First Field Force to ensure the security of the people. I will never forget the pictures of President John Kennedy in Vietnamese homes I visited.

Megellas is right on target with his comments on support back at home during our war and that for our troops in Iraq today. The irony remains that soldiers are more willing to pay the price than the general public and so-called public officials. Our enemies are also willing to ratchet up the cost when dissent surfaces at home. Those who serve and pay the price deserve better.

Laurence W. Feasel
Penfield, N.Y.

Ken Wallingford
As a former POW in Vietnam, captured at Khe Sanh, 2/25/68 to 3/16/73, I enjoyed your article on Ken Wallingford ("Personality," October 2006). I have known and worked with Ken for years. He continues to assist our servicemen and deserves our respect, for that as well as his own service to the nation.

Ronald L. Ridgeway
Houston, Texas

Mike Novosel
I am a charter subscriber of your fine magazine, and was pleased to see the October 2006 "Letter from Vietnam Magazine" concerning the passing of CW4 Mike Novosel — although I was saddened by his departure for the Big Parade Ground in the sky. I met Novosel quite a few years ago and would have been proud to serve with him if that had been my lot.

One thing of interest that was not mentioned: Novosel was sent out one day to pick up the crew of a downed UH-1 medevac ship that had been shot down some miles from base. He had no idea until he arrived that the downed aircraft was piloted by his son, Mike Jr. A few months later, the tables were turned when Mike's ship was downed by enemy fire and Mike Jr. received the call for rescue — again, not knowing who was on the downed aircraft ahead of time. I believe this is the only time father and son have rescued each other.

Y'all take care and keep up the good work with your magazine.

Bill Atkeison
Vietnam, U.S. Army, 1968-69
Semmes, Ala.

Operation Babylift
I vividly remember the events of April 1975, when I had returned to Vietnam after my 1972 tour. The day of the C-5A crash was chilling for all of us. I thought that Vietnam had a hold on all of us and we would not get out. Luckily I was wrong. Page 29 of the October issue shows nurse Christie Leivermann. I knew her in Vietnam; I had seen her photo in Time Magazine after the crash and was glad she survived.

SGM (ret.) Raymond Ebbets
Sylmar, Calif.

Kathy Manney's article on Operation Babylift meant a lot to me; this was one of the things about the Vietnam War that I will never forget. I was born around that time, grew up in Southeast Asian refugee camps and am now serving in the U.S. Navy. Time goes by fast, but my ordeals of the past, and the humanitarian works of Babylift as well as individuals such as Lana Noone, will never fade away in me.

To my cousins — Vietnamese adoptees — I am hoping that they do well and always treasure the care they received from their adoptive parents.

Son T. Huynh
Supply Support, USS Lassen (DDG82)

I've received several e-mail messages from subscribers to Vietnam Magazine who wrote to let me know how much they enjoyed the Babylift article. One California Vietnam veteran visited his local Borders bookstore and purchased several copies for others to read as well. Everyone who has read the article complimented it and the photo you published of Jennie and me.

Please feel free to forward my contact information (www.vietnambabylift.org and lana@vietnambabylift.org) to anyone interested in Babylift, as I present Babylift programs for schools, libraries, museums and community groups throughout the United States and would be pleased to discuss them with anyone interested in the topic.

Lana Noone
Garden City, N.Y.


Send letters to: Vietnam Editor, Weider History Group, 741 Miller Drive SE, Suite D-2, Leesburg, VA 20175; or e-mail to Vietnam@weiderhistorygroup.com. Letters may be edited.



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