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Letters from Readers - June 2012

By Vietnam magazine 
Originally published by Vietnam magazine. Published Online: May 15, 2012 
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Those Beautiful Evil Eyes
Reading "Rescue in Death Valley" (April) relating to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163, the "Evil Eyes," took me back to Aug. 8, 1966. I was a platoon sergeant with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, and we were flown to the Dong Ha area to evacuate a Marine Recon Team that was surrounded by the NVA. Once our platoon landed and established a perimeter, the morning exploded with mortars and grenades, wounding my platoon leader and me. After a lull, helicopters from HMM-163 flew in to take out our KIAs and wounded. As I stood holding a .45, wounded in my eye and neck by shrapnel, the approaching choppers took heavy fire. The crew chief in the one closest to me grabbed me by the arm as his bird powered up and held onto me as we went airborne. I was later evacuated and taken to the Bremerton Naval Hospital. I received a Purple Heart and Naval Commendation with Combat V. But I never did get to say "Thanks" to that HMM-163 crew chief on that Evil Eye. Sweet bird. Semper Fi!

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Robert Pace
Tacoma, Wash.

Striking a Chord
I read with interest the article by Hardy William Bryan III, "God Bless America in Vietnam" (April). I have several things in common with Captain Bryan. I served as an adviser in Vi Thanh, Chuong Thien Province (1969-70), I have the utmost respect for those who shed blood in the service of their country, and I tend to get emotional at the playing of patriotic music, notably the national anthem and taps. I enjoyed Captain Bryan's article and can confirm that we in Vi Thanh were truly at the end of the supply chain. I do, however, have one small correction to make. In the fall of 1967, the advisory team headquartered in Vi Thanh was Advisory Team 58, not 56. Later, Advisory Team 58 was officially redesignated Advisory Team 73, and it served in Vi Thanh until the implementation of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973.

John S. Raschke
Springfield, Ill.

Tip of the Hat to Tom Hill
Kudos for spotlighting General James T. "Tom" Hill in your April "My War." The story he relates seems typical of this outstanding leader's courage, commitment and judgment and is certainly consistent with what I know from personal experience about him. Tom Hill is one of the architects of rebuilding our Army in the wake of Vietnam, and that perhaps is his greatest legacy. I had the privilege of working for then–Brig. Gen. Hill on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon in 1992-93 (J-5 Strategic Plans and Policy, European Division) and can confirm that he is a "soldier's soldier" and a "leader's leader." Not mentioned in the article is his outstanding performance in February 1991 as a brigade commander in the 101st Airborne Division, when he played a key role in Operation Desert Storm and winning the Gulf War. Tom Hill is truly one of "the good guys."

Jerry D. Morelock, Ph.D.
Editor in Chief
Armchair General

Con Thien Snubbed in HD History
Regarding April's review of Vietnam in HD, I was disappointed. I served in the Marines in Vietnam and wrote Con Thien: The Hill of Angels. One of the major battles of the war was the siege of Con Thien in 1967. But, if you depended on Vietnam in HD, you'd never know that Marines were heavily involved before Khe Sanh and Hue City in 1968.

James P. Coan
Sierra Vista, Ariz.

Saving Saigon in Tet's Storm
I was a bit disappointed after reading "The Center of the Storm" (February) by Rod Paschall, as there was no mention of Air Force Security Police units defending various USAF airbases, with some loss of life and several members who were highly decorated for their actions. One of the photos in the article (pg. 28) shows the famous "Bunker Hill Ten" at Bien Hoa, where Senior Master Sgt. Pete Piazza, USAF, earned the Silver Star and where Captain Reginald V. Maisey, USAF, was killed. At Tan Son Nhut, Major Carl Bender and Captain Carl DeNisio earned Silver Stars for leading the defense of the air base. Paschall's article made no mention of them or USAF Security Police units including the 3rd SPS at Bien Hoa and 377th SPS at Tan Son Nhut. A photo on pg. 29 shows the 377th SPS at Tan Son Nhut taking up positions on the base perimeter to push back the Viet Cong attackers. There was no mention that these were, in fact, USAF Security Policemen. In Battle for Saigon, author Keith William Nolan sets the record straight on the role of USAF Security Police in air base defense during the 1968 Tet Offensive. More information is available from the Vietnam Security Police Association at www.vspa.com and the Air Force Security Forces Association at www.afsfa-online.com.

Larry Breazeale
Anaheim Hills, Calif.

I greatly enjoyed Rod Paschall's article on General Fred C. Weyand, known to us in the 25th Infantry Division as "The Old Man." Your readers may also enjoy a YouTube video from Christmas 1966 that shows a side of him which partly explains why he was such an effective and beloved leader. At YouTube, search on "USO Christmas Show, Cu Chi, Vietnam, 1966."

Tom Jones, President
25th Infantry Division Association

I served as an administrative assistant for General Weyand from 1970 to 1973, when we left Saigon, and continued to provide administrative support until his retirement from active duty in September 1976. Then, in Army retired status, I continued to provide support to Weyand until he passed away in Honolulu in 2010. I believe that if General Weyand were still living, he would strongly agree with every word written by a great soldier, Rod Paschall, which appeared in the February story "The Center of the Storm." Some media sources maintained that Tet 1968 in Vietnam, particularly in and around Saigon, was not an overwhelming victory for the U.S. forces. Those soldiers who fought it, however, know better. Although credited as the "Savior of Saigon" during Tet, General Weyand always maintained that "it was done by the men who laid their lives on the line and fought the battles."

Howard S. Okada
Honolulu, Hawaii

Jarring Tough Memories
Reading Don Hirst's "Capturing the Embassy Sapper" (February) brought back my own memory of the day Hirst's friend Spc. 4 Mark Lafaro was killed. I was new in-country, assigned to the 54th Signal Battalion. That morning, Mark and I and a few others were at breakfast and Mark asked to borrow my lighter. I can still see Spc. 5 Rock, who had gone out with Mark that day, running into the barracks yelling that Mark had been shot in the head. We held a memorial service at the chapel between the PX and the camp. Everyone wrote a note of sympathy for Mark's family. Needless to say, more than 40 years later I was surprised to see him mentioned in Vietnam.

Walter Dreyer
Park Hills, Mo.

Still Loving Chris Down Under
I have just read the story on Chris Noel in your February edition, "A Date With Chris." In addition to the 500,000 U.S. armed forces fans, 8,000 Aussies and Kiwis were in love with her, too. God bless you, Chris.

Ian "Akko" Atkinson
Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia

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Vietnam Editor, 19300 Promenade Drive, Leesburg, VA 20176; or to Vietnam@weiderhistorygroup.com.
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