The Veterans of Vietnam

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        The Veterans of Vietnam
          A Publication of the National Vietnam Veterans Committee

       Volume 1, Issue 4 - Winter 2006/07

A Conversation With Lt. General Harry W.O. Kinnard
   Former Commander, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)

           Reflections on the Vietnam War
                        Dr. Lewis Sorley

           Vietnam: The POW Experience

               Fallujah: Two Years Later
         The Heroes of Today’s Generation Share
              Their Own Stories of Valor
                         From the President
On March 22 America lost a great lady. On that day Mrs. Carrie This capital campaign will help us to better our mission to high-
Moorer, widow of the late Admiral Thomas Moorer died after a light the stories and sacrifices of America’s heroes, and to pro-
long illness.                                                        vide a forum for the veterans of Vietnam to share their stories of
                                                                     valor with the public through our speaker programs, documenta-
Admiral Moorer had one of the most distinguished careers in U.S. ries, and this publication.
Military history. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he was a
junior naval aviator at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. We owe a special debt of gratitude to Admiral Moorer, who was
He saw extensive combat in World War II and was decorated for one of the earliest supporters of our organization, and who spoke
his heroism. Enjoying a meteoric rise through the ranks of the at the first six of our national conferences. It is fitting that, in this
Navy, Admiral Moorer would serve as Commander-in-Chief of issue of Valor, we include the transcripts from several of the speak-
both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets (the first Navy officer to have ers and panels on Vietnam from our Ninth Annual Conference
commanded both fleets). He was Chief of Naval Operations from held last November. The conference was a tremendous success,
1967-1970, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1970- and brought together some of the great heroes of Vietnam along-
1974.                                                                side their counterparts of World War II, Korea, and those fighting
                                                                     today in Afghanistan and Iraq. The conference was televised live
Tom and Carrie Moorer had a long and loving marriage and were on C-Span, then replayed several times in the ensuing months.
true partners in life. “They say a wife can make a man successful None of this would have been possible without the early support
or happy,” Admiral Moorer said of his wife. “Mine has made me of our friend, Admiral Moorer.
both successful and happy.”
                                                                     If you would like more details on the capital campaign please
He related how, after Pearl Harbor, his young wife had to make write to me at the following address:
her way back to their home in Alabama, traveling by ship, train
and bus for several weeks with an infant in her arms. Mrs. Moorer                National Vietnam Veterans Committee
navigated innumerable moves during her husband’s long career,                          1100 N. Glebe Rd., Suite 900
including duty stations in Japan and Britain and many places in                            Arlington, VA 22201
between. She took the lead in raising four children and was a
superb homemaker and hostess as well as a trusted advisor.           As we look to the future, we will continue to provide an outlet
                                                                     for America’s greatest veterans to share their experiences with
Following Admiral Moorer’s death I approached Mrs. Moorer with the public, and to preserve them for future generations. And
the idea of naming the Committee’s planned new headquarters we thank you again for your support.
after him. She and her family readily agreed and we are preparing
to launch an ambitious capital drive to acquire the funds for this Sincerely,
effect. The new Moorer Center will also include a tribute to Mrs.
Moorer.                                                              James C. Roberts

             Valor: The Veterans of Vietnam
Valor: The Veterans of Vietnam - Issue 4.
A quarterly publication of the National Vietnam Veterans
Committee, 1100 N. Glebe Rd, Suite 900, Arlington, VA
22201. Telephone: 202-777-7272. Fax: 202-408-0624.
                                                                                National Vietnam Veterans Committee
The National Vietnam Veterans Committee is a division of
                                                                       Brig. Gen. R. Steve Ritchie (USAF-Ret) - Honorary Chairman
the American Veterans Center. Valor is mailed to donors to
                                                                                        James C. Roberts - President
the National Vietnam Veterans Committee who make a con-
                                                                                 Tim Holbert - Editor/Program Director
tribution of $50 or more per-year. Contributions help to
                                                                                  Jim Michels - Director of Development
fund the Committee’s various speaker conferences, student
                                                                                        Michael Paradiso - Publisher
programs, the National Memorial Day Parade, documen-
tary and oral history projects, and this publication. To make a           
contribution or subscribe, call 202-777-7272.                             

                                                          Valor - Issue 4
                  A Gathering of Heroes
                                                By Tim Holbert
Everywhere one looked, from November 9 through 11 at              Miyamura received the Medal of Honor for his service on
the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, in Arlington, Virginia they       April 24-25, 1951, where during an intense battle north of
saw a hero. Gathering there for the American Veterans             Seoul, he killed over 50 Chinese attackers before being felled
Center’s Ninth Annual Conference were distinguished vet-          by an enemy grenade. He was captured and held as a POW
erans from World War II,                                                                            for the next 28 months.
Korea, Vietnam, and Op-
erations Enduring Free-                                                                                “Bud” Day needed little in-
dom and Iraqi Freedom.                                                                                 troduction to the audience.
Here, they met with and                                                                                Shot down by the North
spoke to their fellow vet-                                                                             Vietnamese on August 26,
erans from across the gen-                                                                             1967, Day was seriously
erations, a grateful public,                                                                           wounded and captured.
and several hundred high                                                                               Despite being tortured and
school and college stu-                                                                                physically spent, Day es-
dents, eager to hear of their                                                                          caped from captivity, nearly
experiences in service to                                                                              reaching the safety of a unit
America.                                                                                               of U.S. Marines. He was
                                                                                                       eventually recaptured, and
The conference proved to                                                                               sent to the infamous
be a who’s who of Ameri- Ssgt. Rex Swartz and 1st Lt. Christopher Rauh, veterans of Operation Iraqi “Hanoi Hilton.” Day be-
can heroes, and featured Freedom with the 101st Airborne Division and speakers at the Ninth Annual came one of the great lead-
such legends as veterans of Conference, speak with Vietnam veterans following a wreath-laying ceremony ers among the Vietnam
                                   at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Friday, November 10, 2006.
the “Doolittle Raiders” and                                                                            POWs, and was later
“Band of Brothers” from World War II, former prisoners of awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism. John McCain,
war from Vietnam, Medal of Honor recipients, and deco- his cellmate in Hanoi, would call him “the bravest man I
rated veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Joining them were have ever met.”
such prominent veterans as Lt. Gen. Dave R. Palmer, former
Superintendent of West Point and noted military historian; At the conclusion of the panel, Malone told the students,
Dr. Lewis Sorley, veteran of Vietnam and the preeminent “Each generation has an obligation to future generations to
historian on the war today; Lt. Gen. Harry W. O. Kinnard, make things better. Your turn will soon be here.”
aide to Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe during the siege of
Bastogne and commander of the 1st Cavalry Division (Air- For the next panel, four young men who were not much
mobile) in Vietnam; and Brig. Gen. R. Steve Ritchie, the older than the students in attendance, their time has already
only Air Force ace pilot from Vietnam.                            come. Moderated by former Marine Lieutenant Wade Zirkle,
                                                                  the panel featured decorated veterans of Iraq and Afghani-
While the conference provided an opportunity for these stan, young men who have already answered their country’s
veterans to share their stories with each other and the pub- call. Among the panelists was David Bellavia, who as an
lic, the focus was on the many high school and college stu- Army staff sergeant during the battle of Fallujah, single-
dents, who were given the opportunity to learn from some handedly cleared a house full of insurgents, and was later
of America’s greatest heroes. During a panel featuring Medal nominated for the Medal of Honor.
of Honor recipients George “Bud” Day and Hiroshi
“Hershey” Miyamura, Lt. Col. George Malone, recipient of “America does not owe this generation anything,” Bellavia
the Navy Cross during Vietnam and panel moderator, in- said. “I think we owe America, and that’s why we fight for
vited each and every one of the students in attendance to our country. We volunteered for this.” He continued, “I think
come forward and shake the hands of these two men. that the enemy today completely underestimated what we

                                                        Valor - Issue 4
have to offer. If they are going to take us on, they better forging the Marines who will continue on the fight in Af-
wear their hardhats and pack their lunches.”                         ghanistan and Iraq. If SSgt. Viggiani is any indication of
                                                                     the kind of Marines America is producing, the insurgent
Following the three days of speaker sessions and wreath forces do not stand a chance.
laying ceremonies at the war memorials, the event was
capped off with the annual awards banquet, this year ex- Leaving a different impression was Timothy Connors, who
panded to honor veterans of not                                                                    despite being one of the great
only World War II, but each era                                                                    young heroes of Iraq, could have
since. Presented with the Audie                                                                    walked through the room largely
Murphy Award for Outstanding Ser-                                                                  unnoticed. Now a college student
vice in World War II were the leg-                                                                 at Holy Cross, the 23-year-old
endary “Doolittle Raiders.” Given                                                                  Connors might have been mistaken
the Ray Davis Award and Joe                                                                        for one of the many ROTC stu-
Ronnie Hooper Award for Korea                                                                      dents who were in attendance, or
and Vietnam respectively were                                                                      possibly the grandson of one of the
Hiroshi Miyamura and George                                                                        veterans of World War II. In fact,
“Bud” Day. Also on hand to be hon-                                                                 Connors, sitting at a table with the
ored were the men of 3rd Platoon,                                                                  World War II Marines who took Iwo
E Co., 28 Marine Regiment, 5
           th                       th
                                                                                                   Jima and their wives, might have
Marine Division—the men who                                                                        appeared slightly out of place.
scaled Mt. Suribachi leading to the                                                                However, once his story was read,
famed flag raisings during the battle                                                              it quickly became clear that he be-
for Iwo Jima.                              Christopher Glass of Covenant Life High School          longed right alongside these heroes
                                        introduces Dr. Lewis Sorley prior to his presentation at of yesterday. Then-Cpl. Connors
Despite the great heroes of the the Ninth Annual Conference, which was carried live on was the veteran of a dozen house
                                       C-Span. Each conference speaker is introduced by one of
past, it was the heroes of the the students attending the conference, in an effort to battles during the brutal fight for
present who left the most striking encourage them to learn about, and from, the veterans Fallujah two years ago, the most
impression on those in attendance.                             they meet.                          house fights ever recorded in
Honored with the inaugural Paul Ray Smith Award for Out- American military history. During a particularly vicious fight,
standing Service in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Connors was responsible for retrieving the body of a fallen
Freedom were Marine SSgt. Anthony                                                               comrade, saving him from falling into
Viggiani and Sgt. Timothy Connors.                                                              enemy hands, and is believed to have
Until recently, Sgt. 1st Class Smith was                                                        taken out Omar Hadid, Abu-Musab
the only Medal of Honor recipient                                                               al-Zarqawi’s top man in Fallujah. He
from the current struggle against Is-                                                           was later awarded the Silver Star.
lamic radicalism. He was killed dur-
ing the initial invasion of Iraq in a                                                           The evening ended with a tribute to
firefight where he was credited with                                                            the soldiers of the 101st Airborne who
saving the lives of dozens of his com-                                                          fought in World War II, and those who
rades.                                                                                          are continuing on their tradition of ex-
                                                                                                cellence in Iraq today. Veterans of the
SSgt. Viggiani, presented the award by Heroes of then and now. Col. “Bud” Day (right), now-famous “Band of Brothers” be-
Sgt. 1st Class Smith’s widow, Birgit, veteran of three wars and recipient of the Medal stowed medals upon six current ser-
                                            of Honor, with Marine SSgt. Anthony Viggiani,
stood out in a room full of heroes. Cur-       recipient of the Navy Cross for actions in       vicemen of the 101st who recently re-
rently a drill instructor for the Marine                      Afghanistan.                      turned from Iraq, a symbolic passing
Corps at Parris Island, Viggiani, wearing his “Dress Blues,” of the torch from the Greatest Generation to this latest
looked the part of the legend that he has quickly become. generation. As a crowd gathered around them all to take
On June 2 of popped a few aspirin, and rejoined his men in photographs, master of ceremonies Gene Pell remarked,
pursuit of the enemy. For his actions, he was awarded the “Folks, this is what it is all about.” Seeing the heroes of
Navy Cross. Now, as a drill instructor, he is charged with yesterday and today together, no more needed to be said.
                                                         Valor - Issue 4
                                           Audie Murphy Award
                              For distinguished service in the United States military during World War II

                                                    The most decorated soldier of World War II, Audie Leon Murphy was born to Texas
                                                    sharecroppers in 1924. He joined the army as a private in 1942, shortly after his 18th
                                                    birthday. Throughout his three years of active service, Murphy fought with the 3rd Infantry
                                                    Division in nine major campaigns in the European theatre. He received every medal the
                                                    Army had to offer including two Silver Stars and three Purple Hearts. He received the
                                                    Medal of Honor for his valor repelling six German tanks and their supporting infantry
                                                    near Holtzwihr, France. Murphy also received five medals from France and Belgium. While
                                                    rising to the rank of Second Lieutenant, Murphy killed over 240 Germans and single-
                                                    handedly eliminated a tank. He was deactivated on September 21, 1945. After the war,
                                                    he became nationally known for both his wartime heroism and his leading role in films.
                                                    Audie L. Murphy is and will remain one of America’s most heroic sons.

                                                      The Doolittle Raiders

         Col. William                     Lt. Col. Richard                      Maj. Thomas                       M/Sgt. Edwin                      Maj. Gen. David
            Bower                             E. Cole                            C. Griffin                         Horton                             M. Jones
On April 18, 1942, sixteen B-25 bombers launched from the airstrip of the USS Hornet, situated deep in enemy controlled waters. Their destination was Japan. Still reeling
from the attack on Pearl Harbor, these last few months had gone poorly for the Allies in the Pacific. Determined to strike back at Japan and boost American morale,
American war planners had conceived of an idea in which twin-engined Army bombers could be launched from an aircraft carrier. Tapped to plan and lead this difficult and
dangerous mission was the famed aviator and engineer, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle.
Doolittle’s task was enormous. Gathering together 24 crews at Eglin Field in Florida, he had to teach them to lift off in a B-25 at 50 miles per hour after a 500 foot taxi—
less than half the speed and distance pilots were accustomed to using. In order to lighten their loads, the bombers were stripped of all unnecessary equipment, while extra fuel
capacity was installed. Each was loaded with four 500-pound bombs.
On April 2, the USS Hornet, with crews and bombers aboard, left Alameda Naval Air Station enroute to Japan. Two and one-half weeks later, an enemy patrol vessel was
sighted about 650 miles off the coast of Japan. The vessel was quickly sunk, but not before sending a radio warning to the mainland.
Recognizing that time was of the essence, Doolittle decided to launch the attack immediately, despite being 200 miles further from the Japanese coast than planned. The
already dangerous mission now faced an alerted Japan, poor weather, a longer trip that would tax already perilously-limited fuel supplies, and an estimated arrival time during
the middle of the day—a much easier time for Japanese fighters to attack the B-25s.
After a successful launch, all 16 planes proceeded directly to their military targets in the cities of Yokohama, Kobe, Osaka, and Tokyo. In spite of anti-aircraft fire and
Japanese fighters, all 16 planes successfully reached their targets.
Clear of Japanese resistance, the new fear was making it to friendly territory before running out of fuel. Fifteen of the planes raced toward the coast of China, while the
16th flew toward Russia, where upon landing, the crew was interned for several months. The other fifteen crews were forced to bail out or crash land off the coast of China
or over its coastal mountains. One crew member was killed bailing out, while two more died while swimming ashore. Eight, were captured, and subsequently starved and
tortured, by the Japanese. Following a mock trial, three of the eight were convicted of charges of which they were never made aware. The next day, all three were executed.
Immediately following the raid, Doolittle told his crew that he believed the loss of all sixteen aircraft, combined with the relatively minor damage inflicted on Japan, had
rendered his attack a failure and he expected a court martial upon his return to the United States. Instead, the raid provided a tremendous morale boost to a country that
was in desperate need of good news. At the same time, Doolittle’s attack struck fear into the Japanese command, which recalled fighter units back home to defend against
further raids—a strategic shift that would have huge consequences at the next turning point of the war—the Battle of Midway. For his actions, Jimmy Doolittle was
awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted to Brigadier General, while each of the Raiders received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
                       Raymond G. Davis Award
                  For distinguished service in the United States military during the Korean War

                                     Raymond G. Davis was appointed a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in
                                     1938, following his college graduation and ROTC training. Throughout his military career,
                                     Davis fought in three wars and fourteen different campaigns. He rose to the rank of general,
                                     while earning 18 American and seven foreign awards. Among these included the Navy Cross,
                                     earned for actions at Peleliu during World War II and the Distinguished Service Medal
                                     during Vietnam. However, it was in December of 1950, near the Chosin Reservoir in
                                     Korea, that Davis would earn the acclaim that has made him legendary. While carrying his
                                     wounded along, he led his battalion over icy ridges to rescue a stranded rifle company. During
                                     this mission alone he was credited with saving over 1,000 Marines from certain death and
                                     6,000 additional Marines from possible destruction. For this, he was awarded the Medal of
                                     Honor, and remains one of the great heroes in Marine Corps history.

                            Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura
                                 On the night of April 24, 1951, Corporal Hiroshi Miyamura waited with his five riflemen and ten machine
                                 gunners for the expected attack of the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF). The 3rd Infantry Regiment was
                                 situated north of Seoul. The UN forces had recently recaptured the capital city, and their line had advanced
                                 farther north. The CCF had already attacked other areas of the line, and the Americans had been forced to
                                 withdraw. Holding Seoul was crucial for the Allied forces. Though not militarily strategic to the troops, the
                                 city provided the United Nations with extra clout when bartering with the North Koreans for peace.
                                 The Chinese had attacked other areas of the line on the 22nd, driving parts of the UN line backwards and
                                 collapsing the ROK 6th Division, several miles to the east of Miyamura and his men. Marines hastily
                                 attempted to fill the gap as over 250,000 Chinese troops prepared to attack on the early morning hours of
                                 the 24th. As darkness fell, the South Korean conscripts among Miyamura’s men deserted the company. The
                                 attack began, and the Chinese came in waves for hours. The Americans were forced to pull back as supporting
                                 Filipino and Korean regiments crumpled exposing their flanks.
As they threatened to overwhelm his squad, Miyamura deserted his machinegun. Charging forward, he killed ten Chinese with his bayonet. He
returned to his machine gun, firing until the gun jammed. Undaunted he bayoneted his way to the second machinegun, assuring his men that he
would cover their retreat. Unaware that Miyamura was still fighting, American forces began dropping phosphorus bombs on his position. After
killing over 50 Chinese, Miyamura’s ammunition was depleted. He made his way toward what he thought was the U.S. lines. A dying Chinese
dropped a grenade after being bayoneted by Miyamura. It exploded filling his legs with shrapnel. He stumbled onwards until he was too weak
to continue. After crawling into a ditch, he lost consciousness.
The American troops continued to withdraw over territory they had gained less than six weeks before. Miyamura awoke the next morning to
find hundreds of passing enemy soldiers. Hoping to remain unnoticed, he played possum. However, one Chinese was not deceived. He stood over
Miyamura and in English told him not to worry—the Chinese had a lenient policy. Soon he was joined by other wounded Americans. After
helping bandage each other’s wounds, they began their march to the prison camp.
The UN line continued to retreat until the 28th of April. Able to halt the Chinese a few miles short of Seoul, the tide once again turned. As
the Americans advanced north, this time it was the Chinese doing the retreating. The line became static as peace negotiations began with the
North Koreans and Chinese. Miyamura spent the next 28 months as a prisoner of war. Poorly fed and with no medical attention, he lost over
50 pounds before he was released on August 23, 1953.
Hiroshi Miyamura fought in one of the most savage battles of the Korean War. Through his personal sacrifice, he saved the lives of many while
inspiring others to fight on against overwhelming odds. For his valor, Miyamura was presented with the United States military’s highest
award—the Medal of Honor.
                        Joe Ronnie Hooper Award
                 For distinguished service in the United States military during the Vietnam War

                                       The most decorated soldier in international combat in American history, Joe Ronnie Hooper, a native
                                       South Carolinian, joined the military when he was 19 years old. He was deployed with the 501st
                                       Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, popularly known as the Delta Raiders in 1966. During
                                       his two tours of duty in Vietnam, Hooper killed at least 115 Vietnamese. Surpassing both Sergeant
                                       Alvin York and Second Lieutenant Audie Murphy, Hooper earned 37 medals, including two Silver
                                       Stars, six Bronze Stars and eight Purple Hearts. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his
                                       courage on February 21, 1968 in the battle of Hue during the Tet Offensive. Among his many acts of
                                       valor that day, he is credited with single-handedly destroying three enemy bunkers, eliminating the enemy
                                       in four more with grenades and killing additional Vietnamese with his rifle and bayonet. He accom-
                                       plished these feats while he was wounded, refusing medical help until his line was restored. Hooper retired
                                       as a captain in 1972 at the age of 34, one of America’s great heroes of Vietnam.

                                Colonel George “Bud” Day
                                 On August 26, 1967, then-Major George “Bud” Day, commander of squadron of F-100s nicknamed
                                 the “Misty Super FACs,” was leading a mission over North Vietnam to locate military targets and call in
                                 air strikes on them. Suddenly, ground-fire hit his plane, destroying its hydraulic controls and forcing it into
                                 a steep dive. While Day was able to eject, he smashed into the plane’s fuselage, breaking his arm in three
                                 As Major Day descended toward the ground, North Vietnamese militiamen gathered below, eager to make
                                 him their prize. Upon being captured, Day was marched to a hidden underground shelter to be interrogated.
                                 Despite treatment that would break many men, Major Day refused to talk. His captors then staged a
                                 mock execution and hung him from a rafter by his feet for several hours. Figuring that Day was too weak
                                 to attempt an escape, the North Vietnamese took little care in tying him securely. They figured wrong as on
                                 his fifth day of captivity, Day untied himself and escaped.
On the second night following his escape, Day was sleeping in thick jungle undergrowth when a nearby bomb or rocket explosion violently
shook him awake, leaving him bleeding from his ears and sinuses and sending shrapnel into his leg. Despite his wounds, Major Day forced
himself on toward the south for several days, eating berries and frogs, and evading enemy patrols.
Nearly two weeks later, Day heard helicopters in his vicinity and stumbled toward the sound. Realizing they were U.S. choppers evacuating
a Marine unit, Day hurried to catch them. Unfortunately, he arrived just as they were leaving the landing zone. His bad luck continued, as
the next day, he ran into a North Vietnamese Army patrol, which shot him in the leg and hand before capturing him and bringing him back
to the very same camp from which he had previously escaped. Once again, he was subjected to more torture.
Soon, Major Day was moved to the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” The conditions were miserable – Day suffered from malnutrition, and his
wounds were untreated. He was repeatedly tortured, at one point for 48 hours without rest. Finally, the enemy believed that they had broken
him, as Major Day began to talk. Once again, they were wrong, as despite being broken physically, Day had the mental strength to provide
them with false information on every important question.
In February of 1971, a number of American POWs gathered for a forbidden religious service. They were suddenly interrupted by enraged
enemy guards, who burst into the service with rifles pointed at the prisoners. At that moment, one of the prisoners stood, staring directly into
the muzzles of the enemy rifles, and began to sing. The song was the Star-Spangled Banner, and the man was Bud Day. One by one, the
other prisoners stood, joining in the anthem to freedom, their bodies broken, but their spirits strong.
George “Bud” Day was released on March 14, 1973. Three years later, along with fellow POW James Stockdale, he was presented with
the Medal of Honor by Gerald Ford. Colonel Day saw extensive service in World War II, and later served in Korea. He is the most
decorated living American soldier.
                          Paul Ray Smith Award
      For distinguished service in the United States military during Operation Enduring Freedom and
                                         Operation Iraqi Freedom
                                        Paul Ray Smith was born in Texas in 1969. He enlisted in the United States Army in
                                        1989 and was deployed with Bravo Company of the 3rd Infantry Division to Kosovo in
                                        2001, rising to the rank of sergeant first class the spring of 2002. In January of 2003,
                                        he was deployed to Kuwait in preparation for what would become Operation Iraqi Free-
                                        dom. On April 4, 2003, two weeks after the invasion, Smith’s unit found itself engaged in
                                        heavy combat against superior numbers of enemy forces near Baghdad International Air-
                                        port. In the heat of the battle, Smith ran under heavy fire to a nearby mounted machine
                                        gun. While maintaining this exposed position, he killed nearly 50 enemy fighters before he
                                        was mortally wounded. His selfless actions saved the lives of more than 100 soldiers and
                                        repelled the enemy attack. For his valor, he posthumously was awarded the Medal of
                                        Honor—to date the only American service member to receive the military’s highest honor for
                                        Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.

                       Staff Sergeant Anthony Viggiani
                                               Operation Enduring Freedom
                                  On June 2, 2004, the First Battalion, 6th Marines launched Operation Asbury Park, an mission that
                                  aimed to push deep into the Taliban stronghold near Dey Chopan, Afghanistan. Prior to this expedition
                                  twenty-four-year-old Sergeant Anthony Viggiani and his men in Charlie Company had seen little combat as
                                  they uncovered considerable caches of arms, ammunition and ordnance. However, their luck was not to
                                  continue. That day near Siah Chub Kalay, they were ambushed by anti-coalition militia (ACM) and
                                  proceeded to fight an intense seven hour battle with the enemy.
                                On the following day as the company entered the village of Khabargho, they spotted approximately 20
                                heavily armed men fleeing into the nearby mountains. Squads led by Viggiani and Sergeant Ryan West
                                moved after the enemy. Realizing that the Marines would be hard to escape, the ACM left five fighters to
                                cover their retreat farther into the mountains. Three hid in a cave on the right side of the valley; one positioned
                                himself on the opposite hillside, while the fifth fighter waited for the Marines in the valley floor. The Marines
made their way over the rough, rock strewn terrain into the valley under intense fire. As the Marines on the left slope descended into the valley,
Lance Corporal James Gould was hit in the calf by a 7.62 round. Corporal Randy Wood helped him find shelter behind a rock. They were
targeted with a heavy barrage of bullets from the cave across the valley. One of the bullets ricocheted off a nearby rock and cut across Wood’s
As Viggiani made his way down the right slope, he saw a break in the rock. When he leaned through the opening, he spotted a piece of cloth.
Realizing he had found the ACM’s hideout, he fired his rifle into the opening several times, paused and fired again; but the hostile firing
continued. Realizing that rifle power was futile and a grenade was needed to eliminate the enemy, Viggiani sprinted toward two nearby
Marines to retrieve one. As he returned to the cave under heavy fire, the ACM fighter across the valley hit Viggiani in the leg. Blood oozed
from the wound above his boot. Intent on reaching the cave and eliminating the enemy, Viggiani did not notice. He quickly made his way over
the rocks. When he reached the cave, he pulled the pin and tossed the grenade inside flattening himself against the rocks for protection against
the oncoming explosion.
With the three fighters silenced, help reached Gould and Wood. The Marines were able to eliminate the others; and in less than ten minutes
after entering the valley the Marines were ready to move out. It was then that his comrades noticed the crimson stain above Viggiani’s boot.
Encouraged by his fellow Marines to return to the aid station, Viggiani refused, determined to continue with his company deeper into the
mountains after the enemy. After taking two aspirin, he was once again on the move. For his relentless determination in destroying a brutal
enemy, Viggiani was awarded the Navy’s second highest award for valor, the Navy Cross.
                            Paul Ray Smith Award
                                    Sergeant Timothy Connors
                                                      Operation Iraqi Freedom
                                    On November 15, 2004, the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division, came under fire from
                                    three sides as they attempted to clear a section of twenty houses in the eastern section of the Iraqi city of Fallujah,
                                    long known as a hotbed of terrorist activity. The city had been declared secure two days previous; the Marines were now
                                    eliminating the remaining insurgents. As the Marines in Battalion 1/8 took cover, LCpl Travis Desiato was shot
                                    down in the corridor of a small one-story, three room house. Fearing for Desiato’s safety and feeling responsible as he
                                    had allowed Desiato to fight that day, Corporal Timothy Connors decided to investigate the situation.
                                    Connors, already a veteran of eleven house fights and the battalion’s most experienced squad leader, cautiously moved
                                    towards the entrance. As he entered, he noticed the main room on his right was empty. A corridor on his left led past
                                    a second room into a back bedroom. Against the bedroom wall in plain sight was Desiato’s body, stricken by a hail of
                                    bullets as he had fallen to the floor. LCpl Matthew Brown followed Connors into the house. After confirming that
                                    Desiato had been killed, Connors entered the corridor, determined not to let his fellow Marine’s body fall into enemy
                                    hands. A barrage of AK fire greeted him. Quickly stepping back and grabbing a SAW, he let two hundred rounds
                                    fly into the backroom. Silence reigned.
Connors grabbed a grenade and pulled the pin. Pulling his arm back to throw the grenade, he glanced down the corridor. His eyes locked with a man with
a full beard and wild hair, his arm also back and armed with a grenade. “Grenade!” Connors yelled as he pulled Brown into the room on his left. After the
explosion, they moved out into the courtyard. Making his way down the narrow alley to a small window, he raked the room with bullets before quickly
retreating before the insurgents could get to the window and return fire. Next Connors threw a stick of C-4 down the corridor and ran to take shelter under
the overhang of another house with three other Marines. The C-4 blew. Before the Marines could react a muzzle poked out of a hole in the roof and
sprayed the wall a few feet above their heads with bullets. Connors threw a grenade into the opening, the explosion silencing the enemy.
The main Marine force had pulled back to a larger house about thirty feet away. After lobbing a few more grenades at the house, Connors and his
companions joined their fellow Marines. Corporals Eubaldo Lovato, Camillio Aragon, Brad Donaghy, and Lonnie Longenecker returned with Connors
to the house. The other Marines provided covering fire. They entered the house; a short burst of fire came from the back room. Aragon and Longenecker
threw a few grenades into the room and were greeted with silence. Suddenly Donaghy noticed that Desiato’s SAW was missing. Apparently it was in enemy
hands. Not knowing if there was anyone else in the room, Connors and Aragon inched down the hallway. When they reached the door of the room,
Aragon fired his pistol into the room. Silence. As he re-cocked, they were met with two hundred rounds of SAW power. The stream of bullets flew past.
The two Marines stumbled backwards to the door of the next room where Lovato was pulling the pin on a grenade. “Frag out!” he yelled.
After reaching safety, they decided that they needed more firepower. Tanks were called in. With the house now breached, the Marines rushed forwards,
killing two insurgents attempting to escape. They discovered six insurgents in the room. The one with the thick beard and wild hair that had lobbed the
grenade at Connors resembled Omar Hadid, a notorious terrorist who Abu Musab al-Zarqawi reported martyred but whose body was never identified.
Hadid was known for being particularly brutal, and was the leader of the Fallujah insurgents.
The battle for Fallujah was one of the toughest fights in recent American military history. There, the Marines and Army attacked room by room,
reminiscent of the battle of Hue City, three and one-half decades earlier in Vietnam. Prior to the taking of Fallujah in November of 2004, many
insurgents believed that the United States military would never fight in such close combat, that they would rely on air and artillery strikes. This attitude
changed with Fallujah, as the insurgents learned that the choice to stand and fight the Americans would be a fatal one.
Timothy Connors, in his four-hour battle to retrieve the body of his fallen comrade, personified the toughness of the United States Marine Corps in
Fallujah. He would end up fighting at least a dozen of these vicious house-battles, the most in recorded American military history. For his courage, he
would be awarded the Silver Star, and is a worthy successor to those Americans who fought at Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir, and Hue City.
                    A Conversation With
              Lt. General Harry W.O. Kinnard
Then-Lt. Col. Harry W.O. Kinnard parachuted with the 101st              I would like to back up just a bit regarding the 1st Cav. The
Airborne Division into France on June 6, 1944. From there he            Army had not done as well in developing its movements as
would lead his men through Normandy, then into Holland, before          it had in firepower. This was recognized by a lot of people,
finding he and the rest of the 101st surrounded at Bastogne during      including Secretary McNamara. McNamara had directed
the Battle of the Bulge. It was there that he gained everlasting fame   the Army to take a hard look at improving our mobility
by suggesting General Anthony McAuliffe’s one word response to          through use of aircraft, primarily helicopters, but other air-
the German demand for surrender: “NUTS!”                                craft as well.

General Kinnard would go                                                                                     At the time I was the
on to become the original                                                                                    assistant division com-
commander of the 1st Cav-                                                                                    mander of the 101st Air-
alry Division (Airmobile),                                                                                   borne down at Ft.
and has been called the fa-                                                                                  Campbell. I received a
ther of airmobile warfare.                                                                                   phone call that the
It was under his leadership                                                                                  Chief of Staff of the
that the 1st Cav became                                                                                      Army wanted to see me
battle-tested in Vietnam.                                                                                    in Washington the next
General Kinnard spoke of                                                                                     day. Well that’s a little
his experiences at the Ninth                                                                                 rare, for a brigadier gen-
Annual Conference in a dis-                                                                                  eral to be called up by
cussion moderated by Gene                                                                                    the Chief of Staff! But
Pell.                                                                                                        anyway, I went.

Gene Pell                                                                                                   He said to me, “Harry,
In July, 1965, then-Ma-      Soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) on a reconnaissance mission.  we’re going to find out
jor General Harry                                                                                           how fast and how
Kinnard took command of the 1st Cavalry Division, and quickly the Army can embrace air mobility; how quickly
one month later deployed to South Vietnam with his sol- and how completely. And you’re going to be the guy to do
diers.                                                                it.” And I said, “Yes sir!” He said, “It’s very important. I’m
                                                                      going to let you have your pick of personnel,” which was
The climate was quite a bit different for you in the jungles wonderful.
and rice paddies of Southeast Asia from the war in Europe
during World War II, and particularly in a place called Ia So I left walking on cloud nine. But it was a tough thing.
Drang, where at this point you were commander of the 1st For two and a half years we tested everything; it was called
Cavalry Division. That was a pretty bloody fight, wasn’t it? the 11th Air Assault Division, and I was the commander of
                                                                      it. We tested everything that you could think of, to include
General Kinnard                                                       even atomic war. Starting with guerilla war and going all
Yes it was. And I have often thought about the same differ- the way up through the spectrum to include atomic war. So
ences that you just described—the complete difference be- there was a real question of whether the Army was going
tween the weather and the terrain in Germany and Viet- to improve this thing. At the end of test of the 11th Air
nam. We were in the highlands of Vietnam, of course.                  Assault Division, we fought the 82nd in a big maneuver in
                                                                      the Carolinas, and we whipped the socks off of them,
                                                                      frankly, despite some very bad weather.

                                                            Valor - Issue 4
But anyway, word went through the Army staff that we              detail in the White House, in the Pentagon, etc., and by a
were good, and that this was a concept that we should go          lot of people in high places in high office who had no expe-
with. I thought that we should be called the 101st Air As-        rience whatsoever in the military.
sault Division; but General Johnston, who was Army Chief
of Staff and had been in the 1st Cav., said, “No, we’re going     General Kinnard
to call it the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).” So I said,      It was a miserable situation, actually, which I have thought
“Yes sir!” though I did ask that all of the elements of the       about forever. In fact, one of the main reasons I got out of
division be airborne—I thought that they should be jump-          the Army was I was so upset at the way our people were
ers. My father, who was in the                                                                 being treated when they came
Army, always told me that it is                                                                back from Vietnam. You hit the
very difficult to tell in advance                                                              nail right on the head. We
whether a man will be a hero or                                                                thought we could do this thing
a coward once into combat. But                                                                 swift and quick, and McNamara
I thought that if a guy would                                                                  wanted to put sensors out all
jump out of a perfectly good                                                                   over the jungle and such, con-
airplane, there might be a bet-                                                                trolling things down to almost
ter chance that he could be a                                                                  the squad level.
                                                                                                Gene Pell
So anyway, the Chief of Staff                                                                   We’ve talked about the differ-
came down for our graduation,                                                                   ences between the weather and
and told us that we would be                                                                    the political differences be-
going to Vietnam. He said to me                                                                 tween World War II and Viet-
that President Johnson was go-                                                                  nam, now tell me a little bit
ing to be going on TV to de-                                                                    about the differences in terms
clare a state of emergency. This                                                                of fighting a set piece army and
was important because without                                                                   fighting against local insurgen-
                                  The 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) is awarded the Presidential
a state of emergency any sol- Unit Citation by Lyndon Johnson for heroism in the Ia Drang       cies.
dier could get out when his time    Valley in Vietnam from October 23 to November 26, 1965.
was up. Well I had a number of          Standing center is Lt. General Harry W.O. Kinnard.         General Kinnard
soldiers who only had a few                                                                        There were several differences.
months left in their service. As                                                                   First, there was no air threat
it turned out, the President changed his mind between the from the Vietnamese, which made it an entirely different
day the Chief of Staff spoke to me and when he made his war. I had a meeting with General Westmoreland when I
talk—he didn’t announce a state of emergency. Conse- first went over there. Westy didn’t know what had been
quently, I lost thousands of people from my division right going on with the air assault testing and such. In addition
before going into combat.                                          to the fact that there was no air threat from the Viet Cong,
                                                                   the biggest threat was just finding them. In Germany, you
Gene Pell                                                          didn’t have the least problem finding the Germans…they
This brings up another point, I think an important differ- were there, big time! The trick in Vietnam was that it was
ence between these two wars in which you played such a primarily a hunting operation to find these people.
prominent role. In World War II, the entire country was
behind the effort, from beginning to end. The terms were Gene Pell
unconditional surrender. From my understanding, Roosevelt Did Westmoreland know about this special mobile support
pretty much left things to George Marshall and his generals that he was about to get?
and admirals to run. Now you come to Vietnam, and you’ve
got decision making taking place in the smallest level of

                                                       Valor - Issue 4
General Kinnard                                                   Gene Pell
He knew very little of it, unfortunately. I said to him,          Surely one of your biggest problems of all would be what I
“Westy, I have a divisional structure that requires that we       would call the issue of sanctuary because the rules of en-
be concentrated as a division. There’s not enough aviation        gagement did not allow for pursuit across the border. The
that allows it to be split up into packets to be sent all         enemy was able to pick and choose when he wanted to
around.” Fortunately, I was also able to tell him that the        fight and disappear when he wanted to disappear, locating
Chief of Staff of the Army said that our principle job was        himself where his supply lines were shortest and most con-
to keep the Viet Cong from cutting the country in two in          venient.
the line from Qui Nhon
to Pleiku, which had                                                                                    General Kinnard
been a real battleground                                                                                Actually, Hal Moore,
in the earlier wars with                                                                                who with Joe Galloway
the French.                                                                                             wrote the book We Were
                                                                                                        Soldiers Once…and Young,
Gene Pell                                                                                               was representative of
Tell us how it worked in                                                                                how we fought that
practice, as opposed to                                                                                 thing. When we were
all of the training you                                                                                 first there and Westy, as
had done.                                                                                               I said, did not know
                                                                                                        much about our capabili-
General Kinnard                                                                                         ties and limitations, he
It worked even better                                                                                   would typically send us
than I had expected to                                                                                  into some area and say,
work; it was incredible. Lt. General Harry Kinnard with ROTC students at the American Veterans Center’s “I want you to go in
There were a lot of                         Ninth Annual Awards Banquet - November 11, 2006.            there and fight for 48
problems that had to be                                                                                 hours.” That’s a strange
solved. We flew, basically, what we called “nap-of-the- kind of mission, and didn’t mean a thing to me. I kept
earth,” or flying right above the tree line, and would end up saying, “Why don’t you tell me to develop a situation? I’ll
with a lot of tree limbs and leaves stuck in your helicopters go any place that you think is hot, and I want you to give
as you flew—I mean you were right on the deck. And you me the latitude to develop the situation and then fight it.”
flew under power lines, not over them, and stayed basi-
cally right on the ground. This made us much less vulner- Finally when there was the attack on the ARVN camp out-
able than we otherwise would have been. But there were a side of Pleiku, I convinced “Swede” Larsen, who was a
lot of tough problems that go along with this, such as com- classmate of mine and corps commander, to tell Westy,
municating with other low-flying aircraft that are, say, 75 “Give Kinnard the chance to go in and chase these guys
miles away from where you are. My division had a tremen- out of there.” Westy agreed, and we took on out after these
dous operational area—we were 100 miles from Qui Nhon guys and chased them from the ARVN camp all the way
on the ocean back to the border with Cambodia and Laos. out to where Hal Moore had the big fight at LZ XRAY. At
And it was about 100 miles in the other direction, as well. the end of that fight, the enemy remaining headed for the
No division in the world ever had to cover a chunk of border, and I asked for permission to cross the border with
territory like that, and we actually did a pretty good job. my division. I wanted to put them clear out of action, and
Later, of course, other divisions came in. Anyway, there we were trying to pursue them as much as possible. It was
are a lot of problems to solve in communications with low- approved by Westy, and it was approved by our ambassa-
flying aircraft, but once you do, it’s just incredible how much dor, who was Lodge at the time. But then we got word
difference it makes if you have somebody that can’t be back from the United States: “disapproved.” It was right
interdicted on the ground as they moved.                            then that I said that there was no way we were going to win
                                                                    this war if we were going to let this guy have a sanctuary.

                                                      Valor - Issue 4
            Reflections on the Vietnam War
                                              Dr. Lewis Sorley
Dr. Lewis Sorley graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in              get a wide range of views as to the nature of the fighting
1956. His Army service included leadership of tank and armored            they were engaged in, and the enemy they were engaged in
cavalry units in Germany, Vietnam, and the U.S. In Vietnam, he            fighting, and that will be because some were engaged in
was the Executive Officer, 1st Battalion, 69th Armor, 25th Infantry       fighting in one province, some up in the north near the de-
Division. He retired from the Army a lieutenant colonel, and re-          militarized zone, where the nature of the war was, let us
ceived his PhD from Johns Hopkins University.                             say, more conventional, and others who might have found
                                                                                                             themselves in the Mekong
Dr. Sorley is the author of several                                                                          Delta, where for most of the
books, including Arms Transfers                                                                              time the war was more of a
Under Nixon, Thunderbolt:                                                                                    guerrilla-type war. Then, some
General Creighton Abrams and                                                                                 who served in the early period
the Army of his Times, and the                                                                               will have one experience, while
acclaimed, A Better War: The                                                                                 some who came later will have
Unexamined Victories and Fi-                                                                                 had a different experience—
nal Tragedy of America’s Last                                                                                maybe in the very same prov-
Years in Vietnam—a work which                                                                                ince or provinces. And so, what
was nominated for the Pulitzer                                                                               you have really is a patchwork
Prize. One of the most esteemed his-                                                                         of experiences, all of which are
torians of the Vietnam War, Dr.                                                                              a part of the whole. But if you
Sorley addressed the Ninth Annual          ARVN soldiers gather outside of a transport in 1971. South        try to reason from an individual
Conference on November 10, 2006.        Vietnamese forces grew increasingly effective as the war progressed, experience at one time and in
                                         and with American materiel and air support, repulsed two major
The following is a transcript of that                           NVA offensives.                              one place, you will only get one
presentation.                                                    Bettmann/CORBIS                             piece of that whole.

I am very pleased to be here and to, in a very short time, say          The conduct of the war is probably the most interesting
a few words about the war in Vietnam. The Vietnam War                   aspect of it. It’s interesting to think of the war in terms of
was one of the longest and most complex wars our country                segments. I have used for analytical purposes four segments
has ever taken part in, so you will understand that what I              (involving the U.S. experience in the war) starting with 1960.
am going to say is highly selective, but I hope will open up            You can pick different starting points, but for those of us
some aspects of the war that you may want to talk about. I              who served in Vietnam, we each received a medal from the
would like to say something about the nature of the war,                government of the Republic of Vietnam—the South Viet-
about the conduct of the war, about the outcome of the                  namese—and on the ribbon of that medal, there is a little
war, and about the people who fought the war.                           metal scroll. It has the opening date—1960—then a little
                                                                        dash, and then it is blank after that. I presume the intention
First of all, one of the controversies you have heard over              was, at some point, to fill in the last date, but unfortunately
the years has to do with the nature of the war, with some               by the time that date came, there was no longer a South
commentators arguing that it was essentially a guerrilla war,           Vietnam, for reasons which you know and on which I will
and others disagreeing, saying that it was a conventional               comment in a bit. I took the date 1960, the date that they
war. I think that, in many ways, this is a false dilemma.               chose, as a reasonable starting point for the American in-
Because the fact is that, in some times and in some places,             volvement, even though we had people there in various
it was one, and in other places and other times, it was the             roles before that. I think it’s useful to look at the period of
other. Sometimes, in the same place, and in the same time,              1960-1965 as the period of primarily advisory effort of
it was both. You talk to people who served in Vietnam, you              Americans in Vietnam, although we did do other things

                                                            Valor - Issue 4
during that period, to include helping the South Vietnam-        that time they had a lot more combat wherewithal, and in
ese improve communications, and with intelligence and lo-        some cases a lot more combat experience. We are out of
gistics. By the way, the advisory effort that we made during     there at the end of March 1973, pursuant to the Paris Ac-
that period was a very difficult one for the American armed      cords, as they were called, which were a so-called peace
forces, particularly for the U.S. Army, because the people       agreement, theoretically ending the war. Of course no such
who were sent there as advisors, primarily senior non-com-       thing happened, because the North Vietnamese violated
missioned officers and junior officers, were drawn from the      the accords from the very first day, and meanwhile we with-
existing units. We had no separate corps to fill that role, so   drew as we had said we would.
we pulled those people out of their units, which meant that
less experienced people had to step in to fill those jobs, and   So then you have the final period, from 1973 through ’75,
others would fill in behind them. This extended advisory         when on the 30th of April of that year Saigon fell, which
period in Vietnam took something of a toll on our existing       was the end of the war for the South Vietnamese, and North
units. So let us state that the advisory period went from        Vietnam, as they had always sought to do, had unified the
1960 to 1965. I pick that date                                                                   country by force under their
1965 because at that point                                                                       communist domination.
President Lyndon Johnson
decided to commit ground                                                                          Let me go back and say a little
forces to Vietnam, a major                                                                        bit about how those various
change in the nature of our                                                                       periods were conducted, as
involvement, and in the na-                                                                       they were quite different. In
ture of the conduct of the                                                                        the earlier period, when Gen-
war.                                                                                              eral Westmoreland took com-
                                                                                                  mand and we began to deploy
In the spring of 1965, some                                                                       the large numbers of forces
Marine units went in and, in                                                                      which I described, his ap-
July of ’65, major American                                                                       proach to the war was to con-
ground forces were sent in to                                                                     duct what he called a “war of
                                  Supported by helicopters, ARVN troops conduct missions in 1972.
Vietnam. The next period                                                                          attrition,” and to conduct op-
could be called the “buildup                                                                      erations in pursuit of that
of the American involvement in Vietnam.” This is combat strategy that were characterized primarily as search and
involvement on the ground, side by side with the South destroy operations. What this meant was the measure of
Vietnamese and, as time went on, with certain forces from merit in this period of the war was body count, as the ob-
other nations as well, primarily those from the Republic of jective of a war of attrition was to kill as many of the en-
Korea. This buildup continued from the summer of ’65 emy as possible. The theory was that if you killed enough
through when it was capped early in 1969. It eventually of the enemy they would lose heart, cease their aggression
resulted in our fielding 543,400 Americans on the ground against South Vietnam, and therefore our objectives would
in Vietnam at the peak—over one-half million people on be accomplished, and our objective from the beginning to
the ground helping to fight the war. That was the period of the end was to allow South Vietnam to be able to sustain
the buildup. I end that period at Tet of 1968, because that and maintain itself as an independent non-communist gov-
event was a watershed in many ways, including a change in ernment, free of domination from the north. During this
command on the part of American forces there from Gen- period of the war of attrition, as I mentioned, the buildup
eral Westmoreland, who had commanded from June of 1964 continued, and the use of these forces, larger and larger
until June of 1968, to General Creighton Abrams, who com- American forces, was primarily to conduct large-scale multi-
manded from 1968 until 1972. So from ’68 through ’73, battalion and sometimes multi-division operations prima-
that is the period of American withdrawal, and handing rily in the heavily jungled areas adjacent to South Vietnam’s
over more and more responsibility for the conduct of the extended western border with Laos and Cambodia. And one
war to the South Vietnamese themselves, who of course of the major problems of this period was finding an elusive
had the sole responsibility before we had become involved, enemy, because we had said that, politically, we had put the
so it was a change back to the earlier situation, except by constraint on ourselves that we would not cross those west-

                                                      Valor - Issue 4
ern borders. So if the enemy decided or desired to disen-            sent more and more forces south, and of course many of
gage, they had a relatively simple mechanism for doing that,         them were slaughtered too, but yet more would come to
which was simply to move to the west across the borders,             take their place. Meanwhile it’s only fair to say that two
where they were off-limits and out of reach of our forces            more important missions did not get the attention that con-
and those of the South Vietnamese.                                   duct of the ground war was getting. To wit, the South Viet-
                                                                     namese were not trained, counseled, advised, and improved
During this same period, the South Vietnamese forces were as they might have been, both because of the secondary
relegated to somewhat of a secondary mission in support mission and because they did not get the first-line weap-
of what was called pacification, and I am sorry to say given onry that other forces were getting. And another extremely
what were rather inferior weap-                                                                      important mission, which was
ons, largely castoff World War                                                                       conduct of the pacification pro-
II American weapons. Those                                                                           gram in the villages and the
were great weapons in World                                                                          hamlets of South Vietnam, was
War II, but they were not the                                                                        neglected. The importance of
best weapons in the world by                                                                         that was that the communists
the time we are talking about                                                                        had in place and had had in
now. Furthermore, if any of                                                                          place for a long period of time
you ever lugged a BAR, and                                                                           in these villages and hamlets a
you looked at the average Viet-                                                                      covert infrastructure that was
namese person of rather slight                                                                       through terrorism and coercion
stature, and think of them try-                                                                      keeping the South Vietnamese
ing to lug a BAR through the                                                                         people, the populace in the ru-
jungle, that’s not the easiest U.S. Marines fight in the streets of Hue City, the fiercest battle of ral parts of Vietnam under their
task in the world. Meanwhile                         the 1968 Tet Offensive.                         domination. Until you came in
                                                        Dept. of Defense Photo
American forces were getting                                                                         and rooted out this infrastruc-
the best first-line weaponry (which included the M-16 rifle) ture and neutralized it, the people could not be free no matter
and by the way, so were the enemy forces, which in 1965 what happened out in the deep jungle.
began to be armed with the best of current ChiCom and
Soviet-bloc weaponry, such as the famous AK-47. Unfor- The Tet Offensive of 1968, which began at the end of Janu-
tunately it was not until about three years later that the ary and lasted throughout February was a huge event, a
South Vietnamese began to get comparable weaponry. So watershed event, I think it is fair to say, in the history of the
if you hear people criticize the South Vietnamese forces war. In part because in the months preceding that Lyndon
during these early years, I think it is only fair to bear in Johnson, General Westmoreland, Secretary Rusk, and oth-
mind that they had inferior weaponry, not only to what the ers had been saying that the war was proceeding extremely
American forces had, but inferior to what the enemy forces well. And then, people across the country saw on their tele-
had. And by the way, Americans were also hogging most of vision screens this offensive in which all of a sudden, in
what we might call combat wherewithal, I am talking about most of the major cities and towns of Vietnam, here came
close air support, B-52 bomber raids, intra-theater troop enemy uprisings that were completely unanticipated, at least
lift, helicopter gunship support, all things which are com- by the people at home. There was an argument as to whether
bat multipliers, and which American forces had in abun- they were anticipated by the forces in the field. A series of
dance, but the South Vietnamese very little.                         cataclysmic and dramatic events followed from that, includ-
                                                                     ing Lyndon Johnson’s announcement that he would not be
How did this work out during this period? I would have to seeking reelection and his decision to begin a partial bomb-
say that the approach of General Westmoreland was highly ing halt in North Vietnam.
successful in its own terms, which means that large casual-
ties were inflicted on the North Vietnamese and the Viet Soon after that the command changed in Vietnam. General
Cong—horrifying numbers, really—but the intended and Creighton Abrams replaced William Westmoreland. Inter-
desired and anticipated outcome did not result. They did estingly enough they were 1936 classmates at West Point,
not give up their aggression against the south, they simply Westmoreland an artilleryman and Abrams a tanker, and a

                                                        Valor - Issue 4
horse cavalryman before that who had been a great hero in came, the problem of finding them, which had plagued us
World War II when he commanded a tank battalion that in the earlier years was much less, and secondly, if they
had broken through the German encirclement to relieve engaged you, you had the opportunity to deal with them. If
the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne. Abrams had a dif- they couldn’t get through, then the people in the village
ferent view of the nature of the war, and that view led him and the hamlet, if you got the infrastructure out, would be
to prosecute it in a different way. He saw the war as “one increasingly free. That was the nature of the war in that
war,” as he described it, along with his two excellent col- second period. And, by the way, things went extremely well,
leagues, Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker and William Colby, so much so that I was emboldened in A Better War to say
who had come out from the Central Intelligence Agency to that the war was won. The fighting hadn’t ended, but the
be in charge of support for the pacifi-                                                   war was won and the reason it was won
cation program. They all described it as                                                  was because the South Vietnamese had
“one war,” which meant a continuation                                                     achieved the ability to maintain their in-
of the military fighting, as had been the                                                 dependence and freedom so long as we
case previously, but much revised. In                                                     kept the commitments that we had
equal measure with fighting, there was                                                    made to them.
emphasis on pacification and rooting out
the infrastructure, which I described,                                                    We come up to January of 1973, the
and upgrading the South Vietnamese                                                        Paris Accords the supposed peace treaty
armed forces so they became more ca-                                                      that had been agreed to in Paris, then
pable of undertaking a major responsi-                                                    pursuant to that agreement, we began
bility for defense of their country.                                                      to withdraw our forces. They were all
These things were enhanced by now fi-                                                     out by the end of March of 1973. Be-
nally giving the South Vietnamese first-                                                  fore that, in the spring of 1972, the en-
line equipment, giving them better                                                        emy had mounted a major conventional
training, and especially incorporating                                                    invasion of the south, across the so-
into the armed forces and giving em-                                                      called demilitarized zone in the north,
phasis to territorial forces. Territorial     In his four years as U.S. commander in      and through two places in the western
forces were what were called Regional Vietnam, General Creighton Abrams proved borders I had mentioned before, and a
Forces and Popular Forces, and they re-     to be remarkably effective in achieving the   very fierce battle had ensued that lasted
                                          military’s goals of securing the population and
mained at the province and district building the South Vietnamese infrastructure several months, but the South Vietnam-
level, which meant that they were basi- while training and equipping the Vietnamese ese prevailed. Our ground forces were
cally defending their homeland and                  military to stand on its own.         mostly gone by that time and did not
families. They were very strongly moti-                        U.S. Army                  play any part in the battle, although our
vated by that, and as they were given upgraded equipment air and naval forces did. With support from them, the South
and training they became a very important part of the South Vietnamese were able to prevail and throw back that inva-
Vietnamese ability to defend themselves.                             sion of a force totaling the equivalent of about 20 divi-
                                                                     sions. It was a very serious battle.
The changed tactics were also very important and need to
be mentioned. General Fred Weyand, who was a very close Some people criticized the South Vietnamese, saying they
associate of Abrams, said, “The tactics changed within 15 could not have prevailed except for American air support.
minutes of Abrams taking command.” The way in which That is a rather strange criticism, because we had at that
they changed was from emphasis on large operations and in time hundreds of thousands of troops in Europe to help
the deep jungle a change to an emphasis on small unit op- the European allies in the very same manner, should they
erations, and for those operations to be positioned more in need it, and we had about 50,000 troops in Korea to help
between the enemy and the people, because Abrams recog- the South Koreans in the very same manner, should they
nized that this was a war for the control of people, and if need it, and nobody was criticizing them for not being able
you positioned yourself so that the enemy had to come to to defend themselves without American help. But in Viet-
and through you to get to the people, first of all, if they nam, I think that criticism was unfairly leveled. By the way,

                                                        Valor - Issue 4
General Abrams rose to the occasion, saying, “I doubt that         last brief message, “Ultimate outcome hardly in doubt, be-
the fabric of this thing could have been held together with-       cause South Vietnam cannot survive without U.S. military
out American air power, but, if the South Vietnamese had           aid as long as North Vietnam’s war-making capacity is un-
not stood and fought as they did, ten times the air power          impaired and supported by Soviet Union and China.” So
would not have allowed us to prevail.”                             that is basically the end of that story.

In January, 1972, rather late in our involvement, just before       I have only a little time left, but I want to say a little some-
the Easter Offensive, one of the famous people of the war           thing about two groups of people who fought in the war.
was a man named John Paul Vann, who was an Army of-                 First, I want to talk about the American veterans of the
ficer early in the war, and went back and rose to a very            war in Vietnam. We have been hearing for a number of
senior position in the pacification program and was very            years now about the Greatest Generation as christened by
highly regarded, especially by Gen. Abrams. Vann said in            Tom Brokaw, those who fought in World War II. That was a
January of ‘72, “We are now at the lowest level of fighting         wonderful generation, and I am extremely proud of them,
the war has ever seen. Today                                                                         and what I have to say in no
there is an air of prosperity                                                                        way denigrates that genera-
throughout the rural areas of                                                                        tion. My father was a part of
Vietnam, and it cannot be                                                                            that generation. My uncle
denied. Today the roads are                                                                          was a part of that generation.
open and the bridges are up,                                                                         But if I last long enough, I
and you run much greater                                                                             am going to try to write an-
risk traveling any road in                                                                           other book, the title of which
Vietnam today from the scur-                                                                         might be Also Great, and the
rying, bustling, hustling                                                                            subtitle would read The Gen-
Hondas and Lambrettas than                                                                           eration That Fought the Vietnam
you do from the VC.”                                                                                 War, because I think they are
                                                                                                     a mar velous generation
The end of the war in Viet-                                                                          which has not gotten the
nam is a very sad case, and it Atop their M-48 tank, ARVN soldiers display the “V for victory” sign. credit they deserve. For ex-
is in part because—and there The photo was taken in early 1973, shortly after the South Vietnamese ample, very few people
                                               repulsed the NVA’s “Easter Offensive.”
is no other way to describe                                Bettmann/CORBIS
                                                                                                     know, as B.G. Burkett points
it—we wound up abandon-                                                                              out in his wonderful book,
ing the South Vietnamese. I told you about the crucial con- Stolen Valor, two-thirds of Vietnam veterans volunteered
ditionals. We had promised the South Vietnamese that if for their service. He said, compare that to the 33% of World
there was renewed fighting, if the North Vietnamese vio- War II veterans; in other words, the percentages are just the
lated the Paris Accords, we would reintroduce combat forces opposite. I doubt that many people know that.
to punish those violations—air and sea power. Secondly, if
there were renewed fighting, we would replace—as the Paris Not too long after the Vietnam War was over, the Veterans
Accords permitted—we would replace major combat sys- Administration got the Harris polling company to poll those
tem losses on a one for one basis; that means artillery pieces, who had served in Vietnam to ask them a number of ques-
tanks, and aircraft. And we said we would maintain robust tions, and the results were very interesting. Ninety-one per-
material support for the South Vietnamese for the indefi- cent told the pollsters they were glad they had served. Sev-
nite future. In a meeting at the Western White House, Presi- enty-four percent said they had enjoyed their time in ser-
dent Thieu of South Vietnam and President Nixon had men- vice. And most impressive of all, two out of three said they
tioned the figure of about $1 billion. When it came to crunch would serve again, even knowing the outcome of the war.
time, I am sorry to say, we defaulted on all three commit- Those are great people and we have every reason to be proud
ments. Meanwhile the North Vietnamese are getting much of them and grateful to them. And as I am sure you have
increased support from their patrons, the Soviet Union and heard, the only thing that was missing was when they re-
China. As Tom Polgar, the last CIA station chief, said in his turned from their service very few people said, “Thank you

                                                        Valor - Issue 4
for your service, and welcome home,” which every veteran, My closest Vietnamese friend is a man by the name of Ha
of course, wants to hear.                                              Mai Viet. Viet and I were captains in the armor officer ad-
                                                                       vance course in 1961-62. He rose to be a colonel, and was
The last thing I want to say to you is about the Vietnamese the G-3 to General Truong, considered by most Americans,
who fought that war. They were very heroic people who including General Abrams, to be the best fighting general
fought for a long period of time under a number of severe the Vietnamese fielded during the war, and Viet was a won-
handicaps which I described earlier but, when they got the derfully fine staff officer for him, having commanded him-
wherewithal to do the job, did it very well until we essen- self and being a province chief in Quang Tri, one of the
tially pulled the plug on them monetarily and logistically, toughest provinces to deal with. I lost track of him when
and they no longer had the wherewithal to go ahead. Many the collapse came, but a few years ago I found him in Hous-
of them - no one knows exactly                                                                   ton. He and his wife had found
how many, fled their country to                                                                  their way to America. He had got-
avoid living under communist                                                                     ten a menial job, and she got work,
domination. You have heard them                                                                  too. Eventually he was trained as
described as the “boat people.”                                                                  a draftsman and worked in the oil
Many of them perished in the                                                                     industry and did very well. Viet
South China Sea trying to escape;                                                                and his wife worked at two jobs,
storms overturned their boats, pi-                                                               and sometimes three jobs—a day,
rates attacked and robbed them,                                                                  night, and weekend job—to put
but many of them made it to the                                                                  their five kids through Texas A&M
United States to refugee camps and                                                               and Sam Houston State college,
were sponsored by church groups                Dr. Lewis Sorley speaks at the conference as
                                                                                                 which is near where they live in
and in some cases by their former                       televised live on C-Span.                Houston. All five kids are now
advisors who were compassionate                                                                  professionals. The mother, a very
toward them. There are now about one million former Viet- strong woman, had a conference at one point when all five
namese in this country, spread out over a number of places kids were still at home. She said to them, “Any of you who
around the country.                                                    want to go to college, we’ll find a way to put you through
                                                                       college. Any of you who do not want to go to college, I will
I would like to end with two vignettes. There is a place very give you $1,500 to get yourself started, and you can leave
near where we are now, in Northern Virginia, that is called now. Who wants to go to college?” And all five hands went
the Eden Center. It is about a city block, and hollow in the right up. They all did extremely well, though they had a
middle. Around the outside of it, there are all Vietnamese little problem when the youngest daughter, Qui, wanted to
establishments—jewelry stores, a grocery store, restaurants get married. She married a Chinese man from Malaysia, and
of all kinds, a music store, a bookstore. In the hollow middle, they were worried that if she got married, she wouldn’t fin-
besides parking, there are two tall flagpoles, one of which ish college—she had a year to go still. So Viet said to her,
flies the American flag, and right next to it is the flag of “If you will let me do this in the ancient way, between me
South Vietnam, still flying proudly.                                   and her father, I will agree to it.” She went along with it,
                                                                       and Viet wrote to the father, who as he knew, was in an
I was there a few years ago on the 30 of April—the date internment camp somewhere in Southeast Asia. The letter

of the fall of Saigon, and a date that is commemorated, but had to go through a cutout in Paris before going to the in-
not celebrated, by many Americans and their Vietnamese ternment camp, then through the same route on the way
friends. I met a person there who had been a captain with back. That took about six months each way, and by the
the Regional Forces at a place called Dak Sut. He was with time the response had come back, Qui had graduated, they
his wife, who had also been a captain. Their daughter had got married, and everybody was happy.
graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings
Point, and she was now an Air Force captain. She was get- I would like to close by saying, I am very proud of our Viet-
ting her PhD at a college in Tennessee, after which she was nam veterans. I am very proud of our Vietnamese colleagues,
going to teach at the Air Force Academy. They were very though I wish we had done better by them in the end. And
proud of her, and I was very proud of them.                            I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with you today.
                                                        Valor - Issue 4
    Vietnam: The POW Experience
On November 10, the Ninth Annual Conference featured a panel     Marshall, here. These are two family members who waited
on the POW experience in Vietnam. The panel, which was televised very patiently for years. Many of the families of the POWs
live and on replay on C-Span, featured Maj. General Edward       felt alone and quite helpless when they were waiting for
Mechenbier, Captain Jack Fellowes, Lt. Colonel Marion Anthony    them to come home. They felt cut off from the news from
Marshall, and Colonel George “Bud” Day—recipient of the Medal    their husbands, sons, and brothers, and they were isolated
of Honor his heroism while a prisoner of war. The panel was      from each other. So what was it like when these men re-
moderated by Taylor Kiland, co-                                                              turned home, when most of the
author of the book, Open Doors:                                                              country wanted to forget about
Vietnam POWs, Thirty Years                                                                   Vietnam? I call it the “Rip Van
Later and cur rently V.P. of                                                                 Winkle effect.” Many of these
Communications at the U.S. Navy                                                              men left in the early to mid-
Memorial. In this issue of Valor, we                                                         1960s. As most of you know, be-
print an excerpt from this panel of                                                          fore 1965 much of our country
distinguished veterans of Vietnam.                                                           still resembled the way things
                                                                                             were in the 1950s. The men re-
Taylor Kiland                                                                                turned home in 1973. Think
Good Morning, my name is Tay-                                                                about the cataclysmic political,
lor Kiland. I am the co-author                                                               social, and cultural changes that
of a museum exhibit and book            Operation Homecoming culminates with the release of  occurred while they were gone.
called Open Doors: Vietnam                hundreds of jubilant American prisoners of war.    So what was it like for these men
POWs, Thirty Years Later, which                                                              to go back to work or to read a
takes a close look at the current lives of thirty former Viet- newspaper? Many of them are pilots; what was it like for
nam POWs, including the four with us today, in words and them to get back in the cockpit? One of the POWs told me
pictures. There have been many articles and documentaries that when he left for Vietnam, his wife had on long skirts
written about the POW experience—especially the Viet- and his son had short hair. When he came home, his wife
nam POW experience—and that’s because this is a unique had on a short skirt and his son had long hair. He was eager
group of men, and their families are just as unique. They to reestablish himself as head of the household so he
were the longest held group of POWs in our nation’s his- grabbed his son by the ear got him down to the barber and
tory. Many of them were held for years—one, three, and got his hair cut. He said that in retrospect it was the most
some of them even nine years. Their families did not know damaging thing he had done to their relationship and it took
of their fate for years. Not days, not months, but years. These years to repair. So how did these men adjust when they
were the days before CNN, before the Internet, and before came home and what can these men teach us about how to
cell phones. Back then, communication took a lot longer. overcome adversity and take advantage of the second
So many of these families did not know the fate of their chances that freedom offers you?
loved ones for a very long time.
                                                                 These men took the lessons gleaned from captivity and from
This is also a unique group because our country was not war, and incorporated them into their lives, but focused on
unanimously appreciative of the service and sacrifices of the positive things. And that is the goal of the museum
these men. As Dr. Lewis Sorley said, there is this lingering exhibit and the book I co-authored with my friend, photog-
negative stereotype of the Vietnam veteran as the down- rapher Jamie Howren. But these men also have many les-
trodden, alcoholic, jobless, unemployed veteran. And while sons for us, and also for many of the soldiers and sailors
our objective in this book and exhibit was to celebrate these now returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Some were
men specifically, if we are able to defy that lingering ste- wounded physically and some were wounded in spirit.
reotype that is all-the better.
                                                                 I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing thirty of these gentle-
We are lucky to have Colonel Day’s wife, Doris Day, with men of the little more than 700 who came home in ‘73. We
us today. And we also have Colonel Marshall’s sister, Sue have with us today Colonel George “Bud” Day, who spent

                                                       Valor - Issue 4
a long career in the military, retired and is now quite active       going on, the great caring for each other, the maintaining
as a lawyer, and his wife Doris helps him out at his law             of the standards you were supposed to maintain. It was
practice. We have Captain Jack Fellowes, who is a retired            just marvelous to see that because of the brutality of our
Navy captain and taught at the Naval Academy upon his                captors—a lot of times a lot of things happened that you
return from Vietnam and is now a tireless volunteer at An-           just had no control over. Things did not go exactly the way
napolis. We also have with us Colonel Tony Marshall. He              that you wanted to, but over that long period, things came
returned from Vietnam, finished out his military career and          out well—the POWs that came out of there could hold
is now a captain with United Airlines. And then we have              their heads up and for that I’m grateful. And I also want to
Major General Ed Mechenbier, who actually was one of                 publicly thank Jack Fellowes here who picked me up and
the last Vietnam POWs to retire from the military, finally           cared for me after 101 days of torture and kept me alive.
retiring two years ago. He now works for SCIC, a defense
contractor, and also does a lot of motivational speaking.               Taylor Kiland
So I am going to ask a series of questions to each of these             I think it’s interesting that George Day mentioned stepping
men. Each one is directed at                                                                           up to the plate. Many of you
one of the panelists and I’m                                                                           may not know that in his work
hoping when he answers the                                                                             as a lawyer, he actually repre-
question he will also tell you a                                                                       sented a group of veterans and
little bit about himself in the                                                                        filed a class action lawsuit
process.                                                                                               against the government that
                                                                                                       went all the way to the Supreme
The first question I’m going to                                                                        Court. So he saw a need and he
ask is to Colonel Day. Can you                                                                         did step up to the plate and was
tell us what lessons you                                                                               an absolute tireless fighter in
brought home from your expe-                                                                           this lawsuit for almost six years.
rience that you shared and used                                                                        He is still active, works about
with your family and personal                                                                          six days a week, and he and his
                                    Families of servicemen welcome home the POWs as they return to
life, as well as professionally?                 Clark Air Force Base just after their release.
                                                                                                       wife have four children and 12
                                                                                                       grandchildren and a grandson
Colonel George “Bud” Day                                                who just returned from a second tour in Iraq.
I have been waiting a long time for this opportunity. The
major lesson I brought home from Vietnam was that with The next question I ask I would like to direct to Tony
great adversity comes great opportunity. I certainly did not Marshall. A lot of people, when I tell them I did some work
like my POW experience. But I learned a great deal from it, with POWs, say that it must have been very depressing.
about my enemy both foreign and domestic. I want to thank But I say it’s actually quite inspirational. They ask me, “Well
Dr. Sorley for his marvelous analysis of how that war went. how many of them are homeless?” And I say, “Zero.” But
His book is absolutely splendid, and no one should leave there is a lingering question about how the POW experi-
here without buying Dr. Sorley’s book, A Better War. And I ence affected you physically and emotionally over the long
say this because it fills in the absolute vacuum that all of us term, if at all. Some of you may know that the POWs par-
sitting here have. We did not know, after reading the earlier ticipate in medical studies. There is a center down in
books that are out there exactly what happened during the Pensacola that sponsors a yearly physical for these men and
war. And Dr. Sorley fills that gap in and explains to you just their families or the spouses and families if they are inter-
how things went under General Westmoreland then over to ested so they can track their emotional and physical well
General Abrams and to the disaster that followed.                       being over a long period of time. The results have been
                                                                        compared to a group of Naval aviators of about the same
What I brought home from there was realizing the need to age who were not POWs. There are some interesting com-
stand up to the plate when the opportunity is there. So what parisons about how they have fared physically and emo-
I took away from there was, first of all the very marvelous tionally. The divorce rate is about the same, and the POWs
work that those hundred and sixty POWs who preceded seem to be suffering more from their injuries—broken bones
me in jail, the marvelous things they had done, how they and muscle problems from their ejections and treatment by
got the system organized. The resistance effort that was their captors—than from heart disease. So Tony, can you

                                                          Valor - Issue 4
tell us how the POW experience emotionally and physi- common with us now as well as hip problems from sleeping
cally changed you? And how did your recovery compare to on a concrete bunk for six years. So a lot of our damage is
prevailing stereotypes that exist out there about Vietnam just now coming to light with long-term structural damage.
veterans and his/her readjustment after the war.
                                                                         Emotionally—well you have to understand that I don’t think
Lt. Colonel Marion Anthony Marshall                                      any of us volunteered to be a POW. And so you look at us
I would like to see if Ed would like to answer that one. I now and people say, “Gee I could never do that. How did
was going to defer to Ed because he had a much longer you do it?” Well the fact of the matter is, we were not spe-
experience than I did. My experience there was fairly simple. cially trained to go become prisoners of war in North Viet-
I got there in the late summer of 1972. Things had changed nam. We were merely products of a society in uniform that
quite a bit by the time I got                                                                            everyone in uniform got. Any-
shot down. I could see most                                                                              body would have performed
of the changes going on in the                                                                           exactly the same way—some
country. I had a fairly good                                                                             good, some bad. But we kept
view of what was going on                                                                                faith. And so I think it’s im-
with the dissatisfaction at                                                                              portant to understand we
home, a chance to adjust to                                                                              were nothing special. Not
what was going on. So my                                                                                 even really different from any-
transition in the short period                                                                           body else at the time in the
was fairly simple. Again be-                                                                             fact that we had, as Jeremiah
cause the folks who had gone                                                                             Denton said, the opportunity
before me had endured all the                                                                            to serve under a most unusual
torture and harsh treatment,                                                                             circumstance.
I had a fairly easy time of it
there. So the adjustment was          After years in captivity, former POW George “Bud” Day is finally   The return. Dr. Sorley talked
not as great for me. As Bud                              reunited with his wife, Doris.                  about the return of the Viet-
said, I learned some profound                                                                            nam veterans. When we came
things about both sides as far as what’s good, what’s bad, home we were heroes—again not because we were differ-
and I think the biggest thing I came out of there with is ent, but because the perspective of the nation had for one
realizing that there is nothing critical in life anymore—move reason or another had finally changed. And so if there is
on, take things one day at a time.                                       anything that we as individuals and as a group feel today it
                                                                         is the slogan that is spelled out at the bottom of the MIA/
Maj. General Edward Mechenbier                                           POW flag: “You are Not Forgotten.” We were the lucky
There are among our group those who came down later ones who were afforded the privilege by God to come home;
who were a little shy to associate with us because they fig- to have that opportunity to be welcomed home. And at the
ured they were just the new guy, that they weren’t there same time we have spent a lot of time at VA centers with
very long. But in reality, five minutes makes you an old pro. veterans groups, saying “Hey folks, this isn’t about Bud
I guarantee you that every one of us who were there for six, Day, Jack Fellowes, or anybody else. It’s about you—it’s
seven, eight years has nothing but the greatest fidelity for about us.” And so like Dr. Sorley said, if we have a mission
the guys who arrived later.                                              now, it’s to remember those who were not privileged to come
                                                                         home and at the same time to deflect some of the attention
On the physical side, I think I’m pretty typical. I lost 66 lbs. we get to all those who very honorably served in Vietnam.
in jail. The good news is that I didn’t put it all back on. The
other side of that is that back in those days the ejection Taylor Kiland
seats were like a 21-G cannon shell ride. I used to be a little I would also like to say that I don’t feel like these men and
over an inch taller than I am now. It was just a compression their unique experiences they have learned have been used
fracture. Again, on the physical side we euphemistically re- enough by today’s military. They go out and talk about how
ferred to it as “abuse.” But the Vietnamese did use physical they survived the experience, but there is not enough em-
means to extract what they thought was the desired out- phasis as to how they readjusted to life afterwards. Today
come. So a lot of things like shoulder dislocations are pretty you know there are many veterans who are coming home

                                                         Valor - Issue 4
who are diving right back into the civilian life and we know      So my point is get with people who want to survive, who
that the military is an increasingly isolated part of our soci-   are positive, who have a sense of humor. By the way, the
ety, and a smaller and smaller part of our society. So they       next story Bud Day told me was that he was coming into a
are being brought back into civilian life with peers who have     landing in England at 200 feet and his engine froze up and
absolutely no idea what they went through and I think these       he had to bail out. He said, “Yeah, the chute didn’t open,
men can really serve as an inspiration and instruction, as        either.” I’m thinking, “Well now, come on Bud!” But that’s
someone who has gone before.                                      true. He landed in a tree. So I found out that everything
                                                                  that Bud Day told me was true. That helps too.
Let me ask one more question. I want to direct this ques-
tion to Captain Fellowes, because there were incredible           Taylor Kiland
changes that occurred in our country during the time that         The next question I am going to ask is to General
these men were gone. I call it the “Rip Van Winkle effect.”       Mechenbier, hoping he won’t get too political, but I am
They may have another term for it. But how did you react          wondering how you personally feel about the controversy
to the changes that occurred both in the military and our         surrounding the treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo
culture while you were gone, and how did these changes            Bay. For that matter, what do you feel about the compari-
affect you and how did you react and adjust to it?                sons between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam War?

Captain Jack Fellowes                                         Maj. General Edward Mechenbier
There is an expression that says “It’s not who you know, it’s Tony, I thought we had this discussion last night! Tony and
what you know.” But in my case, it was who I knew. I knew     I had dinner last night, and we decided this really is some-
these guys—I knew 680-plus prisoners who had the same         thing that a military officer doesn’t have the privilege of
goal, which was to support and care for each other. So I      having an opinion to express. Not that we are apolitical
came out with this sense of togetherness as a group.          when we put the uniform on, but I don’t care if it’s a Demo-
                                                              crat or Republican or Libertarian or whatever, we still sa-
I moved in with Bud Day on one strange day—he was a lute and march forward. We execute the policy of those
legend because of what he’d been through—and I walked lawfully appointed over us.
in there and I said, “What the hell am I doing here?” At
which time Bud told me that he was married to Doris Day, Now having said that, with a look at this question, I think
and I looked at him and said, “You can’t even give me a that the only thing that can really properly be said was ex-
straight answer on the first day!” Well I found out he was pressed by Captain Fellowes. The men and women who are
married to Doris Day, but his Doris Day was far more beau- out there fighting the war now, whether it’s at Guantanamo
tiful than even the other one, and she’s the real Doris Day. Bay, whether its Iraq, Afghanistan, on a ship off the coast
                                                              of those “-stans” that we never knew existed until a few
What I developed out of this whole thing is a sense of hu- years ago, or flying over our nation’s capital deserve noth-
mor. And I can tell you we’ve lost it. And we are not going ing but our greatest respect and support. And having been
anywhere in this society until we get it back. For example, part of the Guantanamo detainee movement—I was as-
we just went through the most horrific, mind-boggling elec- signed the privilege of still flying airplanes in the Air Force
tion I can ever imagine. I can’t imagine calling Ed at age 62 when I retired a couple years ago—the unit to
Mechenbier a liar, a cheat and a thief, and then the next day which I was assigned for flying as an attached pilot moved
we shake hands and work together. That’s not the way it all the guys from the Middle East to Guantanamo Bay. I
operates. What this country should do is listen to these can tell you right now that for every person who was in the
guys—these guys know how to get along. These guys know back of that airplane with handcuffs and hoods on their
how to survive. And the most basic instinct of all, I think, heads, there were two Americans whose mission it was to
is survival. I just think this group knows more collectively make sure that if anything went wrong, they got off the
than this entire country because they know how to survive, airplane—they, being the detainees. So the legal status of
they know how to take care of each other. They know how the fellows down in Guantanamo are not mine, as a mili-
to support each other. Never one day did I go through that tary officer, to question. But I can tell you honestly they are
imprisonment that I didn’t feel Bud Day’s strong arm on being very well treated. It’s like all the things you see in the
me or Ed Mechenbier over there helping me.                    press about how bad things are going—you know in most
                                                              of Iraq, outside 25 miles of Baghdad, it is fairly safe. All

                                                      Valor - Issue 4
you have to do is talk to the young men and women who             kids in the Air Force, one an airman first class, he’s going to
have been there. And as far as comparisons between the            be deployed in the springtime. I’ve got a daughter who is a
war in Iraq and Vietnam, the military is an instrument of         tech sergeant in the Air Force. Jack’s got kids and relatives
foreign policy, the political will of this nation. So if I have   going, Bud has people going, Tony Marshall has a 26 year-
any opinion it would be for all Americans to lay aside your       old-daughter who he couldn’t be more proud of. It’s what
political opinions of the war, and support the men and            the next generation did after our experiences. We must have
women who voluntarily joined. Ok, Dr. Marshall, your turn.        done something right.

Lt. Colonel Marion Anthony Marshall                                 Colonel George “Bud” Day
As Ed said, probably the most demoralizing thing in the I would like to focus on another kind of issue. We’re at a
middle of a war is the lack of support from back home. If point where there is an enormous parallel right now with
you look at the situation with Guantanamo, when you’ve the government having essentially turned over to 1968 when
got someone in the captive situation, the sliding scale goes Lyndon Johnson stopped the bombing and all of a sudden
from good accommodations, to                                                                   our policy just got reversed in
abuse, to torture, to execution.                                                               many respects. After I got released
What you hear in the papers                                                                    from POW Camp I went with John
mostly is railing against someone                                                              McCain and Floyd Thompson—
putting underwear on someone’s                                                                 the longest held prisoner—and a
head or some other area that I                                                                 Marine who’s name I unfortu-
wouldn’t determine as abuse. You                                                               nately can’t remember, over to
hear very little about folks who                                                               Vietnam to kind of sort out what
are beheading civilians. In my per-                                                            was going on from our perspec-
sonal opinion, again, they are de-                                                             tive, and amazingly we found out
tainees; they are innocent until                                                               that Congress had just chopped
proven guilty, but I hold absolutely                                                           all of the funding off for the Viet-
no comfort for terrorists once they   Senator John McCain returns to the infamous “Hanoi       namese. They were down to fir-
are determined to be terrorists       Hilton” - the site where he and his fellow POWs were     ing just a very minimal amount of
who are not sponsored by any rec- tortured and beaten - 25 years following the fall of Saigon. ammunition, and General Vien
ognized state, or if they are kill-                                                            told me that they were only flying
ing civilians.                                                      something like 25 percent of their sorties because they had
                                                                    no fuel. And suddenly our allies who we fought with, bled
Captain Jack Fellowes                                               with, were suddenly almost defenseless. So pull that up on
When I got home my kids had grown somehow. I don’t know your radar screen and think what might happen in Iraq. I
how they do that. But they were 2, 4, 6 and 8 when I left think every one of you ought to be in contact with your
and 9, 11, 13 and 15 when I came home. And I had a little Congressman and tell him not to pull the plug on Iraq. Be-
runt of a son who wore one of those Eddie Bauer baseball cause if that money isn’t there, we are going to have an-
caps so I could never see his eyes. So we sat down in the other Vietnam on our hands after all the marvelous work
room and the first thing my daughter did was to bring out a that these young kids have been doing. We listened to four
record of the new music—which terrorized me. Everybody of them yesterday, and they make my heart beat a mile a
sat around the table talking, but Tom didn’t say anything. I minute because they are exactly as Dr. Sorley described them.
said to my wife, Pat, “What’s the matter?” She said, “Well They are the heirs to our generation and their war is abso-
you are not home very long, give him some time.” So after lutely as good as the Vietnam War or the Korean War, or
they all walked out, he then came around and lifted up his World War II. We cannot shirk our responsibility to make
hat and said, “Dad, you’re the greatest.” And I was home. certain that these kids get the appropriate funding and that
                                                                    we have the country behind them all of the time, all the
Colonel George “Bud” Day                                            way and in every way.
When Jack’s kid said he was the greatest, he was right.
Maj. General Edward Mechenbier                                      If you knew you were going to be POWs beforehand would
You know one thing you might find interesting, I have two you still have served?

                                                       Valor - Issue 4
Lt. Colonel Marion Anthony Marshall                                  can get up and go any place I want, do anything I want, as
As was alluded to earlier, we all volunteered to go. One of          long as it’s within the law. What a magnificent deal! I just
the things I like to remind people, I had to fight to get into       hope they let me live. They just put in a defibrillator in.
flying. I had to fight to get into fighters. I had to beg to go to   The doctor said, “I want to take it out at 96.” I said, “Why
combat. And knowing what the possibilities are, I would              96?” He said, “The heart doesn’t want to restart when you
not shirk from that. So if I had it                                                            are 96.” I said, “Leave it in!”
to do all over again, knowing what
I do now, I would do it exactly the                                                             Maj.Gen. Edward Mechenbier
same.                                                                                           You walk into a room and you take
                                                                                                things for granted—the light
Captain Jack Fellowes                                                                           switch is right there, the hot water
You’re damn right I would do it                                                                 is on the left, cold water on the
again.                                                                                          right, and if you want to get a real
                                                                                                shock go someplace where they are
Maj.Gen. Edward Mechenbier                                                                      backwards. But I think that’s the
I think any one of us would be ly-                                                              one thing we learned—to not take
ing if we said we weren’t anxious                                                               all that we have for granted. All the
about going. But when you look at Maj. General Edward Mechenbier listens as Captain Jack freedoms and all the privileges and
all the good things that came out Fellowes recounts his story during the panel as televised on the quality of life that we do have,
of it, for us personally, the things                                                            as Jack and Bud and Marshall said.
we don’t take for granted. The bond between us—you can’t A lot of the things we learned, a lot of the philosophical
buy that. You can’t teach that. You can’t share that in any changes that we learned you really can’t describe. But again
other way than just to live it. So if you don’t look at the there are things everybody learns by being tried and tested,
glass being half-empty, giving six years of your life, and you and that do change your values—they do change your out-
look at what happened as a result of it, you will be alright. look, they do change your perspective.
We are all much richer for it. Look at the Doolittle Raiders
here. They volunteered to go do something with a greater When I got out of my airplane, it takes two seconds from
understanding of the fear that they                                                          when you eject from an F-4 until the
might not come back than we ever                                                             parachute deploys. My airplane hit the
did. We were fighter pilots, nothing                                                         ground at over 600 miles per hour. I
was going to hurt us. But those guys                                                         was within two seconds of dying.
went into it, knowing they were walk-                                                        How can you not be grateful to God
ing on a short plank and they did it                                                         for getting an extra 30 years on life?
anyhow. And the way these gentle-                                                            That isn’t half bad.
men conducted themselves this morn-
ing in their own panel, the camara-                                                          Question
derie, they shared as if it had been                                                         What can you tell us about the
one of their reunions. Sometimes you                                                         changes in race relationships since
                                           Maj. General Edward Mechenbier, Captain Jack
have to take a step backward to go Fellowes, and Lt. Colonel Marion Anthony Marshall the 1960s?
1,000 steps forward.                      - friends and comrades for over 35 years - reunite
                                                          prior to the panel.                Lt.Col. Marion Anthony Marshall
Question                                                                                     One of the things you have to look
How has your philosophical approach to life changed since at is where your priorities are in life. Probably the best thing
you were a POW?                                                      out of this experience is you don’t have time to worry about
                                                                     those petty differences. Skin color, religion, whatever.
Captain Jack Fellowes                                                You’ve got a mission to do. You’ve got the camaraderie
I love life. I get up in the morning and I’m alive! I do have going and your priorities there are to do the best job you
to check if I ache, because at my age, you ache—and if I can at the time. And you let the best people do the best job
don’t ache, I check the obituary column to see if I am in it. they can. Keep faith with the fellows there and your best
But do you realize what we can do as American citizens? I will come out.
                                                        Valor - Issue 4
            Fallujah: Two Years Later
The American Veterans Center’s Ninth Annual Conference was held from               Grounds Element at Marine Barracks in Washington, DC. The panel was
November 9-11, 2006. Exactly two years earlier, United States soldiers             moderated by American Veterans Center President James C. Roberts.
and Marines were locked in a brutal struggle with enemy insurgents for the
Iraqi city of Fallujah. When the history of Iraqi Freedom is written, the          Jim Roberts
second Battle of Fallujah—Operation Phantom Fury—will go down as the               Sgt. Connors, can you begin by describing the preparations you
iconic battle of the war. Fallujah had become a magnet for Iraqi insurgents        made for the battle itself?
and foreign jihadists, eager to make martyrs of themselves, all while killing as
many Americans as they could.                                                                                      Timothy Connors
                                                                                                                   When we started I was stationed
By the time the battle began on No-                                                                                at Al-Asad air base and we were
vember 7, 2004, the city’s citizens had                                                                            just doing counter-mortar ops
all but fled. Remaining were several thou-                                                                         going back and forth in the desert
sand of the most fanatical jihadists in                                                                            and outside cities. We really
Iraq. They were fearless, vicious fight-                                                                           weren’t allowed inside cities at
ers, who had come to die. Many of them                                                                             that time, and were just trying to
were high on drugs—liquid adrenaline,                                                                              stop mortar attacks on the base
amphetamines, heroin, and 3-                                                                                       when we got the call that we were
quinuclidinyl benzillate, also known as                                                                            going to go into Fallujah. So ev-
“Agent Buzz”, a hallucinogenic chemi-                                                                              eryone I was with was very ex-
cal weapon. This made the enemy fight-                                                                             cited. It’s an honor to fight; it’s
ers nearly impervious to pain, and able                                                                            an honor to be a part of some-
                                             Soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division prepare to enter a building in
to fight on after sustaining wounds that                                                                           thing like this. For all of us to be
                                           Fallujah, November 9, 2004. A tactic of the insurgents was to hide in
would have taken down a normal man. single rooms and wait for coalition forces to enter before unleashing a together, to be as close as we
                                                                  flurry of small arms fire.                       were, and be able to do some-
There were an estimated 39,000 build-                                                                              thing, and actually know we are
ings with 400,000 rooms in Fallujah, and it was the grim task of the making some kind of difference was huge for us.
American soldiers and Marines to root out the insurgents block by block,
house by house, and room by room. They advanced through streets booby We went to Camp Fallujah where we trained every day for about
trapped with mines and improvised explosive devices, and faced an enemy as a week until it was time to go in. The day of the actual invasion
lethal as any our military has ever known.                                      of the city we sat outside the city a few miles, and I watched in
                                                                                awe of the power we unloaded—missiles, air strikes, artillery
At the November conference, four distinguished veterans of Operation Phan- rounds. The actual power that our country has prior to men go-
tom Fury gathered to share their experiences. We are printing the transcript ing in is unbelievable. We all sat there in complete awe—you need
of this panel to demonstrate to our readers that the valor and heroism of the to see it to believe it. The first wave went in and pushed probably
men who stormed the beaches at Normandy and Iwo Jima, who survived the about a block or two in, and then we ended up pushing past
bitter cold at the Chosin Reservoir, and who battled in the streets of Hue them to the Government Center.
City lives on in the current generation of United States soldiers, sailors,
airmen, and Marines.                                                            David Bellavia
                                                                                I was an Army Infantry squad leader at the time. I think there was
Participating in the panel were former Army SSgt. David Bellavia, who a preconceived notion about the war in Iraq, leading up to it, that
single-handedly took out a house full of insurgents, for which he was subse- it was going to be a sterile war, with something like General
quently nominated for the Medal of Honor and awarded the Silver Star, as Schwarzkopf with a laser pointer, showing bombs that blow up
well as former Marine Sgt. Timothy Connors, recipient of the Silver Star and you don’t really see the aftermath of it. When you look at a
and veteran of twelve house fights in Fallujah—believed to be the most of any fight like Fallujah, you can train all day and all night to enter and
American serviceman. Also participating were Sgt. Matthew Ragan, a Marine clear a room, but training only gets you so far. It’s something you
Battalion Senior Intelligence Analyst and Sgt. Jeremy LaForce, veteran of really can’t prepare for. You can train for the fundamentals over
1st Battalion 8th Marines in Fallujah and currently NCO in charge of the and over again but until you get into that first house fight, I think

                                                                    Valor - Issue 4
pretty much all that training goes out the window. It becomes a          Jim Roberts
survival instinct. And one of the things this enemy has constantly       Can you describe the battle plan for taking the city?
taken for granted is the fight of this generation of Americans. I
was really honored and privileged to fight with warriors from the        Matthew Ragan
Marine Corps and the 2/7 Infantry, in be what will truly be re-          I was mainly worried about just my battalion but from what I
garded as my generation’s Normandy. So when you see the abso-            got, we were going to start from the north. We were going to
lute lethality, the professionalism of the United States military—       have a couple battalions down south of the city, and to try to
Air Force, Navy Corpsmen, United States Marines, and Army                push the insurgents all north. We knew that the Jolan district which
infantry going toward one objective, at one time, it is incredible.      was in the northwestern part of the city was the most heavily
For all of the brothers and sisters we lost that entire year, we         defended. It was considered the heart of the insurgency and it
knew that that the capital of all evil in Iraq was Fallujah. So we all   probably had the worst terrorists and insurgents. We knew the
had a staked interest in taking it out. I echo what Sgt. Connors         foreign fighters were mainly in there. And the foreign fighters
said. It was a privilege to be a part of that offensive.                 were the ones who were going to stay and die, while the local
                                                                         insurgents were going to fall back. They were willing to die for
Jim Roberts                                                                                           their cause but they were going to fall
What were you told to expect before                                                                   back and try to survive if possible.
you went into Fallujah and how did it                                                                 We pushed south from the northern
match up with what actually happened?                                                                 part of the city, and did a right flank
                                                                                                      to the river and then just continued
Jeremy LaForce                                                                                        down until we cleared the entire city.
We were told it was going to be the
fight of fights, and to expect the worst.                                                              Jim Roberts
And for the most part that’s what we                                                                   Talk about the insurgents and jihadists.
got. Some days were slow, and some
days were just what you expected. For                                                                  Timothy Connors
most Marines and soldiers, most of                                                                     From my experience in the house
us joined to get into the fight and help      A satellite photo of the city of Fallujah. U.S. forces,  battles, you ran into two types. There
out. But like David said, we lost a lot supported by Iraqi Army elements, entered the city from the were the ones where as soon as you
of good people. It does tend to be- north, pressing block by block, and house by house, to clear went in and they saw you they started
come more of a fight for survival, it            the city of insurgents and hard-core jihadists.       screaming and yelling, and pretty much
doesn’t matter how much you train for it. It’s kind of strange to gave up. Then there were the ones where it didn’t matter how
say but in a sense it becomes your 9 to 5 job, and you’re there to many of us there were, or how few of them, they were they
make sure that the Marine next to you is able to come home were going to fight until it was over. During the fight, I didn’t
safely. And that’s the big picture for us.                                know much about the drug use, but it would make sense. There
                                                                          were a lot of times when you would destroy a room with frags
Matthew Ragan                                                             and they would still keep fighting. You would think to yourself
Unlike my colleagues, who are infantry, I’m an intelligence analyst, that there was no reason why they should still be fighting.
so we knew about three weeks before this thing kicked off that
we were going to be going in. For me the buildup was basically After we pushed to the end of the city and we started clearing the
trying to get everything prepared, knowing that there are 5,000 to houses, that’s when we ran into the majority of the insurgents.
12,000 enemy insurgents in there and trying to make sure that the That’s when we had to go back and clear every single house. Like
squad leaders had everything they needed, including the maps and I said, there were different types of insurgents, but the one thing
the intelligence that they might need. It was my job as a senior that was common through all of them was when they got there,
intelligence analyst for the battalion to keep the staff informed of they were given money, weapons, a bunch of ammo, and were
the enemy threat, but it was also my job to make sure that the told to go find a place to wait where they would be contacted.
companies and platoons had their intelligence analysts so that’s That’s what every single one of them we captured said. They
when we pushed down intelligence analysts to individual compa- were obviously not all contacted, but just left alone by themselves.
nies. Everything they said is absolutely correct, it was a fight for Mostly if they were in smaller groups they would end up surren-
our lives. My battalion lost 33 Marines, with over 75 others dering. A lot of the people we caught were not Iraqis. We caught
wounded. It was just a horrible fight.                                    Chinese, Saudis, Jordanians, and Chechens—some Chechen snip-
                                                                          ers were very well trained. It was a variety of nationalities.

                                                            Valor - Issue 4
David Bellavia                                                        the next thing you know they are shooting at you. But it doesn’t
We found a house that had some Hezbollah flags in it. We had          take much for your mind to get set right and get back in the
some Palestinian passports. What really blew me away was the          game. It is pretty strange; at first we couldn’t figure out exactly
imagery provided to us by the intelligence guys—I have never          how in the middle of a firefight when one of them would get hit,
been a part of any operation that was more thoroughly gone            rather than go down these guys would keep fighting. Later on
over. To give you a quick background, the Fallujah Brigade was        you figure out that these guys are on heroin and adrenaline shots
left in Fallujah from April of 2004 until the start of the battle.    and caffeine pills.
This Fallujah Brigade was intended to be an Iraqi civil-defense
corps that turned into Iraqi army, and was made up of locals          It was crazy to see what these guys were on, and just how bad
from that region. They were given Texas                                                    they wanted to get you. On the 26th of No-
barriers—the large 15-ft high blast walls—                                                 vember we had gone into a house, and got
Jersey barriers, and Hesco baskets. So when                                                pinned down, shooting at each other
the Fallujah Brigade proved a failure, the                                                 through a door. I lost my point man, and
insurgents were able to take these barriers                                                had my whole squad pinned down in a
to fortify themselves in the city. As they got                                             room. It’s kind of strange when you are
ready for the battle in November we could                                                  shooting 5.56 and putting a dent in the wall,
actually see on the intelligence imagery                                                   the other is shooting 7.62 and it’s coming
where they put these barriers. We had the                                                  through. I’m not going to lie, we were
eyes and ears when we went in to know                                                      scared. But in this sense it kind of makes
which areas would most likely have IEDs.                                                   you want to prove the fact that it doesn’t
We knew that there were a tremendous                                                       matter what you are shooting at us, we are
number of roadside bombs that were put                                                     going to come and get you. There were
in the ground.                                                                             seven Marines in that house, and we lost
                                                                                           the one, but we ended up taking the house
What I really was not prepared for was the                                                 down and finding out there were 14 insur-
amount of gear these guys were wearing.                                                    gents in there with a huge cache of weap-
We were fighting guys with protective bal-                                                 ons, IEDs, and frags—they pretty much
listic vests and Kevlar helmets; the Army                                                  had a little armory inside the house. It was
had given their excess battle dress uniforms                                               something to see how far these guys were
                                                Perhaps the most famous photograph from
to the Iraqi army so these guys were essen-     Operation Iraqi Freedom, by Lucian Read of willing to go to try to prove their point.
tially wearing our uniforms. They were wear- World Picture News. Marine 1st Sergeant Brad
ing our protection. The Marines’ uniform          Kasal is carried from a house in Fallujah,  David Bellavia
is a little bit different but at the same time following an intense battle with insurgents. Just to touch on that, they would mark their
when you are looking at 300 meters and Kasal was shot seven times during the fight, houses with different insignia. They would
you see a guy running with that gear, you and was hit with nearly 40 pieces of shrapnel have a flag on the outside, which would
                                               when he used his body to cover a fellow Marine
always pause cause you never want to be in from a grenade blast. Though he lost 60 percent mean perhaps this is the house that had
a situation where you are shooting your of his blood, Kasal emerged from the house RPGs in it. You’d find houses with IV bags
own.                                                   alive. The insurgents did not.         and medical gauze. They actually had a pretty
                                                                        good plan of when in doubt, go and instigate on the Marine side
The other thing was a lot of these guys had the atropine auto then run behind the lines and try to pick a fight over here. It
injectors that we use for nuclear, biological and chemical attacks. seemed to me in an urban fight like that what this enemy is trying
They were juicing themselves up—a couple insurgents we found to do is to get you to make the first inappropriate move. He
with heroin needles broken off in their arms. If you’ve got to wants you to chase him through street corners so he can lead you
dope yourself up for your cause, then your cause really isn’t all into an ambush. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to
that worth it. We’re out there doing it on old-fashioned coffee maintain your battle plan even though all these things are jumping
and Coca-Cola.                                                          up. A couple times there were squads that would chase a guy and
                                                                        walk into a platoon-sized element just unloading on them.
Jeremy LaForce
To touch on what he said about the insurgents doping themselves On 9 November there was an insurgent who walked down the
up, it definitely plays a bit of a trick on your mind if you see street with a PKC machine gun, Rambo-style with a belt on his
someone wearing what we thought to be Army uniforms and arm. He started shooting it wildly and motioned for us to come

                                                           Valor - Issue 4
and get him. There’s no way a sober mind does that. This all says           Prior to going in we were trained extensively in techniques to
something about accountability of the al-Qaeda leaders out there.           clear the houses. But what I found most helpful for my squad
Not only do they not care about innocent life, they don’t care              was using our imaginations. I told them that if they had any ideas
about their own soldiers. They are just throwing them out to the            on how to get in, something that the insurgents wouldn’t think of,
slaughter and that’s what happened in scores in Fallujah.                   to throw the idea out and we would try it. Instead of busting in
                                                                            the front door that they probably had covered by machine gun
Matthew Ragan                                                               fire, I would rather climb up a different house, jump from house
I want to add one point regarding the discussion of our uni- to house, climb down, and attack from the top.
forms being compromised. If you really think about it, the Geneva
Convention and the rules of war really need to be sat down and So just like our tactics changed, their tactics changed. The houses
thought through, because these people are not abiding by the in Fallujah are usually set up the same. There is the main house
rules of no-strike targets, for instance, or wearing our uniforms. with a small courtyard outside, surrounded by a wall. First we’d
No-strike targets means such things as                                                                 have to penetrate the wall to get into
mosques, hospitals, police stations, and                                                               the courtyard; so what they’d end up
such—things that you just shouldn’t tar-                                                               doing is drill holes through the walls and
get because there will likely be innocent                                                              take machine guns and point them at
people in there. Well we found multiple                                                                an area like the front gate, and tie a string
weapons caches, armories, hospitals,                                                                   to the trigger. As they heard us come in
medical facilities, and weapons repair fa-                                                             they would be in a separate room and
cilities inside mosques. They knew that                                                                start blasting the machine gun. So we
we weren’t going to target those places.                                                               would be shooting at a machine gun
We found C-2 nodes, places where they                                                                  which had nobody actually firing it. We
did their command and control, where                                                                   adapted to whatever situation we had
they gather their intelligence inside hos-    An American Marine entertains a young Iraqi following and just moved from there.
                                                               the battle for Fallujah.
pitals and schools because they knew
that we couldn’t target there. It’s just something that we have to David Bellavia
deal with—going into a mosque, an already sensitive place, and The creativity of the American infantryman is amazing. You look
finding these things and having to fight inside of it. A point I like back to World War II and Normandy, and to get through those
to bring up is that it’s not all fun and games when we go out there hedgerows it took a young E-5 in the Army to come up with a
and the media often twists it on us. We don’t want to go into plow to put on a Sherman tank. Throughout our history we’ve
mosques or desecrate anything that’s holy to them and we don’t always had NCOs coming up with contingency plans using their
want to kill any innocents. But sometimes bad things happen.                creativity. That’s what will always make us elite, as Americans in
                                                                            general. The officer corps allows the NCO the creativity to come
Jim Roberts                                                                 up with their own plans in battle. We needed that creativity to
Can you tell us about the strategy and tactics of the enemy? Things meet the challenges the insurgents met us with. There were a few
like pre-positioning of weapons caches, and of the tactic of shoot- times I was in a house where we had made contact and there
ing to wound rather than kill in order to draw in rescue forces. were mirrors that were broken off on all the corners which these
                                                                            guys used to look around corners into rooms like a periscope to
Timothy Connors                                                             see where you were coming from. We found a house where they
The hardest thing about fighting in cities is that you not only have created a maze of cinder blocks about eight-feet high. They tried
to fight inside, there’s also a threat outside. There is a threat every- to arrange it so you were forced to walk through it while at the
where. The worst part is when you are walking down the street, same time they had it covered by two machine gun positions on
there is always the threat of a sniper, which is often difficult to the roof. You would want to break contact out of that maze,
find. If you were out in the open, a sniper would take his shot at obviously, and right there was a 130mm ready to blow.
one of your fellow Marines or soldiers, but not shoot to kill—
he’d shoot to wound so he could get more Marines or soldiers to Fallujah is about the size of Tampa Bay, Florida. When it isn’t full
come out to try and help pull the wounded one away. As they of insurgents it’s full of about 300,000 law abiding Iraqis. The
went out to get him, the sniper would continue shooting. It was insurgents had shut off all buildings to the north and east and
kind of like they were baiting us, because they knew we would west. What we saw were doors. They know that the American
go get our men, and it didn’t matter how many guys went down, infantryman likes to get on roofs and take the high terrain. They
all of us would still go after our fellow soldiers and Marines.             cut that off from you and try to force you down avenues or kill

                                                              Valor - Issue 4
sacs. We saw newly bricked doors, closed off to keep us from of getting things done, and people get caught up on the word
being able to get inside. They were ready for us. It’s the creativity “doctrine.” There is no way it should be. If there was then we’d
of the infantryman which at the end of the day wins the fight. still be fighting with swords and shields. Everything changes. It’s
                                                                               just doing what you think feels right using people’s past experi-
Jim Roberts                                                                    ences so you won’t have to experience the same things they did.
As David mentioned Tim was involved in 12 house fights. That’s
clearing insurgents out of 12 houses, which we think is a record. Jim Roberts
We don’t know anybody that approaches that, probably going One thing I have discovered in listening to the veterans of Iraq
back to World War II. Was there a particular strategy for clearing and Afghanistan is that while they are all very articulate, they are
a house, the point man for instance?                                           also very modest in describing their own actions. I am very famil-
                                                                               iar with the records of Sgt. Connors and SSgt. Bellavia because I
Timothy Connors                                                                wrote up their stories a couple weeks ago. David Bellavia as you
In our training, you stack on doors and are supposed to rush into know is very talkative, but not when it comes to describing what
rooms. The purpose is to overwhelm a room with fire so you he did. You should know he’s been recommended for the Medal
can kill the enemy. But at the same time you take casualties your- of Honor and his story is almost quite unbelievable. I’d like you
self. One of the first things you are                                                                           to walk through November 10th.
taught when you start training is that
there is an 85 percent casualty rate,                                                                           David Bellavia
which to me is not acceptable. So                                                                               Well, in a nutshell it was my 29th
I soon realized that rushing into                                                                               birthday—two years ago yester-
rooms, in my mind, was not the                                                                                  day—and we walked into a com-
best tactic. I decided that slow and                                                                            pound. We had 1/8 to our west
steady was the way to go. Either                                                                                and they were in a pretty good fight,
you to rush into a room and get a                                                                               which was keeping us, a cell of
lot of people killed, or you take                                                                               about 6 to 12 guys, locked into one
your time, go slow, and hopefully                                                                               neighborhood. My XO Edward
they’ll give up their position before                                                                           Iwan, who was actually killed two
you give up yours.                           Timothy Connors (left) speaks during the conference panel on       years ago today, had the foresight
                                                      Fallujah. Seated next to him is David Bellavia.           to block off a neighborhood with
War is a big chess game but once you are put inside a house, you Abrams tanks using their thermal imagery to keep these guys from
are fighting a war inside that house and it is a tiny chess game— moving. We knew we had 6 to 8 guys in a block of about 70
you cannot make a mistake. There are times when you might look houses. And for the most part we cleared these houses, waiting
out the window or doorway and five feet away from you is for the insurgents to set their trap. Finally, we walked in to one
another head looking right at you trying to do the same thing. house and they unloaded on us. There were a couple guys on the
That’s when the creativity comes in. Your training can only take bottom floor who opened up on our boys and got them pretty
you so far, and there is a point where you over-train and lose good. We had some under-vest wounds in the stomach and some
your creativity, lose your imagination, and that’s mainly when people facial wounds from broken glass and metal.
get hurt. The best tactic you can use is your imagination. You have
to outthink the people you are fighting or else you’re done.                   First of all, I want to say no one left Fallujah without a nick, a cut,
                                                                               a scrape, a gash, whether they are wearing a Purple Heart or not.
You need to be ready to use everything at your disposal. I had a But once we were all inside the house returning fire from the
lot of different tools I could use. Obviously you could call for other side of the door, these idiots shot from the window with a
missile strikes, artillery, etc. It’s not just using the obvious, it’s also PKM machine gun belt-fed 7.62x54 and just unloaded on my
using what you would not find so obvious. There’s a story from inner cordon. Kids got hit in the face and back, and for the most
my company where another squad of Marines tried to clear a part what made that story just crazy, was these guys were taunting
house, but the insurgents were barricaded in the middle of the us. We have young men that are screaming that they were hit in the
house in a kind of bunker so it was very hard to go in and take eyes, shouting out their injuries, and these terrorists are making
them out. The Marines happened to see a big bulldozer driving fun of them. From the position I was standing, it would have
down the street, so they called the bulldozer over, covered it, and been great if I had had a Sgt. Connors to my right or left. But I
the bulldozer took out every corner of the house until the house had a bunch of kids and they were scared. I was scared, we were
ended up collapsing on itself. There are so many different ways all scared. From where I was standing I made the decision that

                                                               Valor - Issue 4
any one on this panel would have made which is assault by fire.        was my mission and the mission of the four Marines that helped
I’m not a very good mathematician and I thought there were two         me. We all did it together, going back and forth, throwing gre-
in the house but there ended up being six. I got caught and I          nades, fighting within a few feet of each other, around doors and
walked out by the grace of God. It was just dumb luck. I feel          everything. It went on for awhile and it ended with a tank coming
really fortunate and I treasure my life and my family because of it.   in and shooting some holes into the room. Through small arms
                                                                       fire we ended up killing the rest of the insurgents.
Jim Roberts
Sgt. Connors you saw a lot of combat, and you were awarded It went on for four hours because there were six insurgents in
the Silver Star. Could you describe the action for which you re- there and apparently they were using each other for shields. After
ceived that award?                                                      one would die they would cover each other up with the body in
                                                                        the hopes that we would think they were all dead. We ended up
Timothy Connors                                                         getting Travis’s body out and getting him home, which was our
We were at the end of the city; we had pushed all the way down. main goal. That was what it was for. The other Marines with me
The city bottlenecks at the end and                                                                      received Bronze Stars, I think. It
there were so many troops and                                                                            doesn’t matter what people receive
soldiers there, too many people in                                                                       as an award. I could have gotten
one area. So we kind of got                                                                              nothing, that wouldn’t have mat-
pushed ahead, there probably were                                                                        tered. I just wanted to get him out.
12 to 15 insurgents in the open and                                                                      Awards are for the paper at home
we were pretty much chasing                                                                              and your parents.
them down the street as they were
running out of the city. We got to                                                                       Jim Roberts
the edge of the city before anyone                                                                       Sgt. LaForce, Sgt. Ragan what
else did and were fighting them as                                                                       stands out in your mind?
they hid behind barns and behind
houses. We were fighting them in                                                                         Jeremy LaForce
the open and we got the call that David Bellavia (center) with a group of the high school students My battalion lost 21 Marines in
                                        who attended the conference. Each day, the conference began with
we were too far forward. My pla- speakers dedicated to World War II and Vietnam, working its way Fallujah. Some of which were four
toon sergeant made the call that we to the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, giving these students an or five at a time, going into houses
had to fall back on the line so there opportunity to learn from veterans from across the generations. and having a whole fire team get
would be no fratricide where we would be shooting each other. hit. It is really something to see just how heartless people can
We fell back and upon falling back we ended up getting sur- be—like David was saying they were making fun of guys who
rounded. We were getting shot at from every angle. My platoon screamed out when they were injured. I think what is really im-
sergeant chose a house to go into to use as a base until everyone portant is that we get the word out for everybody to know what
caught up with us. That was the biggest house there and he made is going on there. I didn’t get the Medal of Honor or the Bronze
the right call; it was the biggest, strongest house there, with two Star. Nobody goes out there and does it for an award. In a sense
floors and a big roof, higher than any other house. So a squad it’s nice to get recognized for what you do but at the same time
went in there to clear it out and a Marine by the name of Travis you’d rather have that soldier or Marine you just lost back with
Desiato went into a room first. I think what happened was he you next time. The story needs to get out for those 21 Marines
thought that there was a stack behind him and he got bumped by that didn’t make it home and for their families to know that they
accident—a bump is a signal to go in a room. The other Marines didn’t pass away without somebody caring about them. It’s not a
behind him weren’t ready and he ended up getting shot. I was matter of how many guys are shooting at you, it’s a matter of
somewhere else dealing with a completely different situation. I getting back in there and getting that Marine out of there and
heard someone yell, “Corpsman up!” which nobody likes to hear. bringing him home, knowing that he’s going home just like you.
I ran back to the house and went inside to see what was going on,
where everyone told me what happened. It was one big firefight Matthew Ragan
that went on for about four hours. Our whole purpose was to I would like to finish by saying that war truly is horrible. One of
get Travis out in the best shape possible so his family could bury my favorite quotes is from Robert E. Lee, who said, “It is well
their son. I wanted them to be able to see their son before he was that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.” And we all
buried. So I looked at him, although he was shot up, he wasn’t in lost a lot of brothers out there, our own soldiers and Marines.
as bad shape compared to others who had been killed. So that Thank you for coming and listening to us.
                                                           Valor - Issue 4
                         The American Veterans Center’s
                     Tenth Annual Conference
                             November 8-10, 2007 - Washington, DC

                                                              You have read their stories, now meet them in person. This
                                                              November, some of America’s greatest heroes will once again
                                                              gather in Washington for the American Veterans Center’s Tenth
                                                              Annual Conference. From the great battles of World War II to
                                                              the jungles of Vietnam to the desert of Operation Iraqi Free-
                                                              dom, and all the years in between, this is your opportunity to
                                                              spend a weekend with heroes. A full schedule will be available
                                                              in the coming months. To receive information on the upcom-
                                                              ing conference, contact the American Veterans Center at 202-

                              Learn history from those who were there.
                    To receive more information on the Tenth Annual Conference, call
                    202-777-7272 or e-mail

                 Thank You For Your Support!
The National Vietnam Veterans Committe was
formed to tell the true stories of valor, courage,
and honor displayed by our Vietnam veterans both
during the war, and in the years since. Through its
various programs, the Committee is working to pro-
vide a forum for the veterans of Vietnam to share
their experiences and knowledge with the public, and to preserve them for future generations. The continued
support of thousands of individuals across America has allowed the Committee to expands its efforts over the
years, instituting a number of quality projects, including:

   The National Memorial Day Parade                                         Annual Veterans Conference
Held each year along the National Mall in Washington, DC, and featur-   Every Veterans Day veterans gather to share their stories. The 2006
ing nearly 200 elements and over 100,000 spectators.                    conference was televised live on C-Span.
                                                                           Youth Activities and Educational Outreach
    Valor: The Veterans of Vietnam                                      The underlying theme of each of our programs is to provide a forum
Our quarterly publication, which provides the opportunity for veter-    for veterans of Vietnam to pass their knowledge and experiences on to
ans to tell their stories, in their own words.                          future generations. Students and youth groups are encouraged to par-
                                                                        ticipate in Committee activities, and the Committee sponsors essay
    Documentaries and Radio Series                                      contests, a high school and college scholarship, and a summer intern-
The Committee has a long history of producing quality radio docu-       ship program where students meet and interview Vietnam veterans.
mentaries in association with the Radio America network, and cur-           Supporting Our Troops
rently sponsors two weekly radio series, Veterans Chronicles and        In addition to featuring the stories of those currently serving in our
Proudly We Hail. Both programs feature interviews with America’s        publications and radio programs, and including them in the National
great military heroes from across the generations.                      Memorial Day Parade, the Committee is proud to sponsor regular
                                                                        events for our wounded heroes currently undergoing rehabilitation at
                                                                        Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
                                        Coming this May
The 2007 National Memorial Day Parade
                   Presented by the American Veterans Center

                                                       This Memorial Day—May 28, 2007—join over 100,000 fel-
                                                       low Americans in Washington, DC as we honor our veter-
                                                       ans and fallen heroes at the third annual National Memorial
                                                       Day Parade. The parade, sponsored by the National Viet-
                                                       nam Veterans Committee and its parent organization, the
                                                       American Veterans Center, will feature nearly 200 veterans
                                                       organizations, marching bands, and youth groups, as well as
                                                       active duty military personnel and an Air Force flyover.

This year’s parade will pay special tribute to our wounded
heroes from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as celebrate the
60th Anniversary of the United States Air Force. The
parade will begin at 2:00 PM and travel down Constitu-
tion Avenue along the National Mall.

Veterans’ organizations are invited to participate in the
parade. To learn how, or to volunteer, call the American
Veterans Center at 202-777-7272 or visit

National Vietnam Veterans Committee
A Division of the American Veterans Center
1100 N. Glebe Rd., Suite 900
Arlington, VA 22201