Share This Article

Battle Heroes, Lost in Shuffle, Found

At an October rose garden ceremony, President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Unit Citation—the highest honor a U.S. military unit can receive—on an army squadron whose medals for valor were overlooked for nearly 40 years. On March 26, 1970, in what came to be called “The Anonymous Battle,” Troop A, 1st Squadron, of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, rescued the 100 men of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry (Airmobile) Division, who faced death or capture. Against 4-to-1 odds and suffering many casualties after hours of fighting enemy troops concealed in a large, fortified bunker complex near the Cambodian border, Charlie Company was on the brink of defeat.

Even though exhausted after months of continuous combat, Troop A’s soldiers volunteered to go to the rescue of their surrounded comrades. They mounted up, President Obama said at the ceremony, “and plowed their tanks and armored vehicles through the thick jungle…mile after mile…and finally emerging from the jungle to the rescue—what one member of Charlie Company called a ‘miracle.’”

Fighting off the enemy soldiers, the men of Troop A saved all of Charlie Company and battled the tenacious enemy until nightfall before retreating, at a loss of at least two in Troop A killed and 20 wounded.

To commend his unit, Alpha Troop’s captain, John Poindexter, requested medals of valor for all 150 of his men. He had long assumed the requests were fulfilled until 2003, when he read the book Into Cambodia and realized that only 20 of his men had received their medals.

Poindexter was determined to fulfill his obligation to his men. “And so he spent years tracking down his troopers and gathering their stories, filing reports, fighting for the Silvers Stars and Bronze Stars they deserved and bringing us to this day,” President Obama recounted.

The six-inch-thick application for Troop A’s unit citation was finally filed in 2004, and five years later, the citation was delivered to the squadron in April.

At the White House ceremony, more than 80 Troop A vets were in attendance, as well as many soldiers from Company C whose lives they had saved nearly 40 years ago. “All of us feel,” said Poindexter, “that we are participating in this award ceremony standing instead of all Vietnam War veterans.”

President Obama told the men: “One of the saddest episodes in American history was the fact that these vets were often shunned and neglected, even demonized when they came home. And on days such as this, we resolve to never let it happen again.”

Silver Star—Better Late Than Never

When Daniel Hernandez and his Marine commander in Vietnam, Lt. Jim Lupori, reunited a few years ago, Lupori congratulated Hernandez on his Silver Star—which came as a big surprise to Hernandez because he never received it.

Under fire on March 5, 1966, Pfc Hernandez risked his life to carry a wounded Marine to safety. Grazed by a bullet, he refused to be evacuated, instead running through oncoming fire to kill an enemy soldier who was shooting at a group of wounded Marines, before another bullet grazed his head and he was evacuated. Lupori recommended Hernandez for the Silver Star, but he was transferred and lost contact with the private.

Lupori re-applied for the medal, and on October 3, Hernandez, a prominent Los Angeles community leader, finally received the Silver Star. It was presented to him by Maj. Gen. John F. Kelly at a ceremony attended by hundreds including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Wall and FedEx Team Up to Match 58,261 Names with Faces

In an ambitious effort to collect photographs of all 58,261 servicemen and woman killed in the Vietnam War whose names are on The Wall, FedEx has teamed with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) in a “National Call for Photos.”

FedEx is using its 1,600 FedEx Office locations across the country to facilitate the scanning and uploading of the photographs to the VVMF, which plans on using the pictures in its education center that will be built adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. The pictures are intended to comprise the center’s focal point: an immense wall that will showcase the photographs of those lost in the war.

According to FedEx, family members or friends of a Vietnam War veteran can take the photos, through May 31, to any FedEx Office store, where the pictures will be scanned by a store employee and uploaded at no cost. The donors of the photos will be asked to provide information about the service member.

Frederick Smith, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx and a Vietnam War veteran, currently serves on the leadership committee for the Memorial Fund’s drive to build the education center, which is chaired by Vietnam veteran Peter Holt, a San Antonio businessman and the owner of several sports teams, including the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

In addition to the veterans’ photographs, the education center will include several other exhibits and a selection of the more than 100,000 items that have been left by visitors at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial since 1982.

Photographs may also be submitted directly to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund at For a listing of all FedEx Office locations, go to

Anguish Over Afghanistan, or Vietnam?

Like it or not, the Vietnam War continues to play an important role in shaping American military policy as we enter the second decade of the 21st century. As the current administration, the military commanders and the commander in chief decide on which way forward in Afghanistan, reports are rife that among the Washington bestseller lists these days are books on the history of the Vietnam War and the decision-making that got us there in the first place.

Two books in particular have been widely discussed of late as being circulated and read among the members of President Barack Obama’s war councils. According to reporting in The Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker, Gordon Goldstein’s acclaimed 2008 book, Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam, has been among the recent reading of the president and others in the White House. In the book, Goldstein examines Bundy, who was the hawkish national security adviser to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson from 1961 to 1966. As Goldstein writes, years later Bundy concluded that the war in Vietnam was one we should not have fought.

Much the counter weight to Goldstein’s book, reportedly making the rounds at the Pentagon is Vietnam veteran Army officer and former CIA official Lewis Sorley’s A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam. Sorley’s 1999 work focuses on the latter years of the war, and argues that U.S counterinsurgency strategy was so improved after the disasters of 1968, thanks largely to General Creighton C. Abrams, that if the public had not turned so sharply against the war, sapping the will of political leaders, the United States may have won. Sorley’s book was reportedly influential during the Iraqi “surge” debate in 2007.

Stay tuned.

Adams Archive to Texas

Eddie Adams’ extensive photographic archive has been donated to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas. Valued at $7 million, the archive documents the Pulitzer Prize– winning photojournalist’s long career and work, including the 1968 “Saigon Execution” photograph that so influenced world opinion. “It is important that Eddie’s legacy be preserved by an educational institution,” remarked Adams’ widow Alyssa.

Veterans Affairs’ Shinseki Announces Expansion of List of Accepted Agent Orange Related Illnesses

In a significant breakthrough in a 40-year-long effort of veterans and their health care advocates, in October Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki revealed that three additional illnesses have been added to those that are officially recognized as being caused by exposure to herbicides during the Vietnam War.

“I’ve often asked why, 40 years after Agent Orange was last used in Vietnam, we’re still trying to determine the health consequences to our veterans who served in the combat theater,” Shinseki said. “Veterans who endure a host of health problems deserve timely decisions.”

Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease and B cell leukemias will join an existing list of illnesses already presumed to be caused by Agent Orange exposure. For veterans suffering from these illnesses, they will no longer have to prove the connection between their condition and their service in order to receive VA Agent Orange benefits.

The decision to establish the connection was based on the latest evidence of the illnesses’ association with Agent Orange, presented in an independent study by the Institute of Medicine. “We must do better reviews of illnesses that may be connected to service, and we will,” Shinseki said. Veterans who have previously had claims rejected or who have never submitted claims for these Agent Orange–related illnesses should contact their local VA health facility.

Maj. Gen. Charles R. Bond Jr. Flying Tiger Ace, led 2nd Air Division

A commander during the Vietnam War and one of the last of the WWII “Flying Tigers,” retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles R. Bond Jr. died in August in Dallas at the age of 94. Piloting shark-mouthed Curtiss P-40s with Col. Claire L. Chennault’s American Volunteer Group over China and Burma, Bond was credited with shooting down seven Japanese aircraft. Following a short retirement, he joined the Army Air Forces and continued a long and distinguished military career, holding a number of command positions. During the Vietnam War, he simultaneously was deputy commanding officer of the 2nd Air Division based in Vietnam, and of the Philippines-based Thirteenth Air Force. In 1984 he published his memoir, A Flying Tiger’s Diary.

William Safire Nixon speechwriter, NY Times columnist

William Safire, a speechwriter in the Richard Nixon White House who coined the phrase “the nattering nabobs of negativism” in a speech for Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, died September 27 in Rockville, Md. Safire said he wrote the commentary because he was “looking for some criticism for people who were defeatists, who thought we could never win in Vietnam.” Safire was a political columnist for The New York Times from 1973 to 2005, and won the Pulitzer Prize for his commentary on Bert Lance, who had been forced to resign from President Jimmy Carter’s administration. He also wrote a weekly column “On Language” for The New York Times Magazine from 1979 to 2009. In 2006 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his lifetime achievements.


Originally published in the February 2010 issue of Vietnam. To subscribe, click here