John Ripley’s All-American Tenacity
I had the good fortune to engage in a brief exchange of correspondence with the late Colonel John Ripley featured in your October issue (“Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”) and found him to be a gentleman. I first read of Ripley’s exploits in John Miller’s excellent book The Bridge at Dong Ha, and I was indeed privileged to have had even a fleeting distant acquaintance with him. The heroism, tenacity and stamina he displayed were quite extraordinary. He exemplified all that is best about your country and countrymen, unlike that intemperate nonsense in that letter in the same issue criticizing President Barack Obama.
The Power of a Picture
I was struck by an incident referred to in “The Madness of Mini Tet” (October) in which five photojournalists ran into a Viet Cong squad in Saigon on May 5, 1968. The squad instantly killed two, and an officer cold-bloodedly executed two others. The last photographer only survived because he ran away while the VC officer reloaded. The irony is that no pictures were taken of these brutal murders of noncombatants. Only three months earlier, Eddie Adams photographed General Nguyen Ngoc Loan’s street execution of a VC captain who was out of uniform and led an assassination unit that had just executed 34 people, including the entire family of one of Loan’s men. The Adams photo contributed to the slow erosion of America’s will in Vietnam. I wonder what the effect of a photo of the photographers’ execution would have had.
Raymond Paul Opeka
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Me and Bobbie at LZ Dolly
I enjoyed reading about Bobbie Keith’s experience as the Armed Forces Vietnam TV weathergirl. I recall watching her while on firebase Dolly. I guess being on a hill in the otherwise flat III Corps made it possible to receive the signal. While sorting through some pictures recently I came across one of Bobbie when she visited my unit, but I had to do a search on the internet to remember her name as well as take me to your website, HistoryNet.com, and read the interview to learn more.
What a surprise when I clicked through the pictures to the one titled “At LZ Dolly with the 1st Cav, 1968.” That’s me pulling the lanyard to fire the 105mm howitzer M-102. I am sure of this because it is the exact same picture I recently found in my file, an official 1st Air Cavalry Division U.S. Army Photo.
I also have a photo of just Bobbie covering her ears. All I remember of the visit was being nervous. At that point of my tour I hadn’t seen many, if any, American women. When it came time to fire the howitzer, either Bobbie didn’t want to pull the lanyard or I pulled it quicker than she expected because it startled her. Her visit is one of the good memories of my experience in Vietnam. Thank you, Bobbie!
The Many Faces of Chieu Hoi
The article on the Chieu Hoi program (“Weapons of Mass Persuasion,” October) reminded me of when I was an S2 scout in a 3rd Marine Division infantry company in 1968-69 and worked with two Kit Carson Scouts. One of them, Tran Van Bay, had been in the North Vietnamese Army and was with us for the last six months I was there. Beyond a fellow Marine who was killed two days before I was wounded, he was my best friend in Vietnam. When I took a piece of shrapnel through my elbow, Tran was at my side and stayed with me until I was medevaced out and suddenly my war was over. I never saw him again but still wonder what became of him.
Ronald E. Miller
Lima Company 3/3/3
Regarding the Chieu Hoi program, in addition to the posters and fliers there was an effort to explain the program to the people. I am a collector of war photos and among them are some MACV photos of a young Vietnamese woman named Miss Thuy explaining Chieu Hoi. According to the photo caption, among her stops were the villages within the Michelin Rubber plantation in the spring of 1967.
Dania Beach, Fla.
No Sympathy for Max Cleland
As a Vietnam veteran (1966-67, 1st Infantry Division), I found the interview of the ultraliberal Max Cleland (December) very interesting. First, the true story of how Cleland lost his limbs in Vietnam was not explained. And Cleland lost his Senate reelection bid in 2002 not because his patriotism was challenged, but because of his dishonesty regarding how his injuries were acquired, as well as other issues involving his ultra-liberal voting record. As a proud veteran and former infantry sergeant, there is nothing Mr. Cleland could speak to me about or teach me. He is just another liberal who I suspect doesn’t speak for most veterans past or present!
Santa Clara, Calif.
To suggest Max Cleland was denied reelection because his “patriotism was challenged” is just a footnote off a page of the playbook of the extreme left. What gives his opinion higher status than the average private on patrol? Should we stand silently by while Cleland is cited by the left as a hero because of his “battlefield injuries,” and is used as a rallying point for those who insist honorable Vietnam veterans were duped into service?
Edward J. Green
Save the “Yards”
October’s “Advisers Targeted for Destruction” mentions the Montagnards. Your readers may be happy to learn there is a vibrant community of about 9,000 “Yards” in central North Carolina. The Montagnards and their culture have almost been annihilated in their homeland. They have been driven off their land, starved and poisoned. All because they chose to be our allies. Even those who make it to the hoped-for protection of UN camps in Cambodia find no sanctuary. Two organizations that are helping in their relocation are the Montagnard Dega Association and Save the Montagnard People, www.montagnards.org.
Right on Mac, Wrong on Walter
In the December editorial, “Cronkite, McNamara, Truth and Integrity,” you hit the target on McNamara but joined the revisionists who lionize Walter Cronkite. You set objectivity aside to credit this man and his impact on journalism. His reporting on the war in Vietnam (both from within and from afar) was not objective, but simply piled on the growing antiwar effort. I was there in 1968-69 and I can assure you that the Tet and subsequent offensives in 1968 were overwhelming defeats for the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army.
The false reports by Cronkite and his ilk set the stage for the effective surrender of our “political will”—while our military’s resolve never faltered. His reporting had the ultimate effect of making the sacrifice of 58,195 men and women in vain. After Vietnam I watched this journalist malign our military, embrace unilateral disarmament and solidify his standing with the left. I didn’t celebrate his death, but I did celebrate the silencing of a voice that was anything but objective.
William T. Meddings
Cross Plains, Wis.
I believe that Walter Cronkite had no idea what he was talking about when he gave his opinion of the war based on his one-sided view of Tet. In World War II, if a reporter would have seen only the Allied casualties after the 12-week breakout from the Normandy beachhead, it probably could have been concluded that we lost the war. This man had an agenda, and I don’t think most Vietnam vets have forgotten or forgiven.
Jay W. Sukits
No More McNamaras?
Bravo, Marc Leepson! It’s about time the word got out about the travesty orchestrated by Robert McNamara (“McNamara and Me,” December) and his Camelot cronies blindly serving John F. Kennedy and later Lyndon B. Johnson. Someone needs to speak on behalf of all of us Vietnam veterans, especially for the 58,000 sacrificed and long-silenced. Thank goodness there are no “arrogant, condescending, self-aggrandizing” politicians these days interfering with American military strategy affecting our national security. History, indeed, does repeat itself.
Lawrence C. Reid
North Attleboro, Mass.
A Marine Born to Lead
I read Franklin Cox’s account (“Marines in a Viet Cong Noose,” August) of an operation near Da Nang in 1966. I served with Lieutenant Cox’s company commander, the flamboyant Captain Carl Reckewell. Carl was an extremely competitive guy who “lived” to lead Marines into combat. When 1965 came and Vietnam became a place we would all come to know all too well, Carl immediately requested orders back into the division to be right in the middle of the fray. The same Carl Reckewell made Time magazine in April 1966 when he stared down a South Vietnamese M-48 tank at the Da Nang bridge with his .45 at the ready and helped avert a power struggle between two South Vietnamese generals.
It’s Over, Move On
Letters from a Washington reader (August, October 2009) indicate a man wrestling with himself 40 years after the fact. The tired left-wing clichés about “soldier as murderer” versus “soldier as victim” have long been exposed. The “justness” of any war is a subjective conclusion. Some have earned the right to make their own personal judgment, some have not. Of course Vietnam vets were betrayed—soldiers often are. We were betrayed by government, by moneyed interests, by an amateur secretary of defense, and by leftists who kept the war going after it should have ended and ensured that the wrong side won. McNamara was right about one thing: War is far too complex to be comprehended by any human mind. The gentleman from Washington should do what the vast majority of Vietnam combat vets have done—give it a rest and move on with his life. It’s over.
Originally published in the February 2010 issue of Vietnam. To subscribe, click here.