I discovered something while cleaning out a cabinet this morning: A 2005 email from the late Ron Cima about our OCS reunion in San Antonio that year. He attended briefly enroute to somewhere else.
“I was very moved by my short time in San Antonio and very much appreciated having the time to talk with you and Tom [Ringwald, I think it was],” he wrote. “I regret I could not have stayed longer and spent more time with everyone else.”
He also mentioned a tip I gave him in line with his then MIA-hunting job at the Pentagon, on a mass burial of dead VC near my basecamp in 1969 on the southeast side of LZ Baldy, which was southwest of Da Nang. I had a faded old photo of the dead in a pile but not the exact location.
“Your information about a mass burial is something I could potentially share with the Vietnamese,” Ron added. “Although they may not know what to do with it, our relationship with them is reciprocal and we try to give them what we can when we can. If and when you can come up with a more specific location, I’ll look for an opportunity to pass them the information.”
I wrote a short story about the encounter and the mass grave, collected in my book “Leaving The Alamo, Texas Stories After Vietnam,” but never had anything specific to share with Ron so our correspondence ended.
These are the men of 60th Company, OC 504-68, who were killed in Vietnam. We graduates of that 1968 class of Infantry Officers Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, commemorate them each Memorial Day.
One graduate: 1LT Jacob Lee Kinser.
Two Tactical Officers: CPT Reese Michael Patrick and 1LT Daniel Lynn Neiswender.
Four drop-outs: CPL Sherry Joe Hadley, SP4 Reese Currenti Elia Jr., SP4 Robert Kendrick Chase, and PFC Jeffrey Sanders Tigner.
Some of my former co-workers, now also retired, periodically wax nostalgic about the snooze biz. I’m not nostalgic about it in the least, and can get downright irritable when I remember how it turned into the Leftist suckup news media that is pounding Trump, just like it enabled the Bush 2 haters and spent so much ink and paper kissing up to the lunatics of Code Pink
Undeserved credibility back then went to CP every time they held a “protest.” Some hapless reporter (including myself more often than I like to remember) was dispatched to “cover” their nonsense and lies. And if you tried to write objectively or included too many quotes from their critics, you got beaten back. As one editor told me in excising same from one of mine: “This is THEIR story.”
A President Trump will bring them back to the streets, I’m sure, and back to the pages of the snoozepapers, which are now struggling to pay the light bill. But it will be worth it to see the CP apoplexy. I hope they yell their pink selves hoarse and turn red. They already are Reds, politically, of course.
Who were, as an OCS friend’s WW2 veteran father once said, “the same as Nazis but in crappier uniforms.”
Joe Bol, friend, OCS classmate, rare reader and occasional commenter here, passed on to the next world Wednesday, from complications of multiple medical problems. Adios, Joe, see you again on the turnaround and may our next incarnations not include a thankless political travesty like the Vietnam War.
Via his adopted son Joseph Bol.
UPDATE: Obit for Joe with updated photo. Pity for the misspellings and the usual military ignorance of our non-serving, self-centered fellow citizens. Thus he is credited with a Bronze Medal for Vietnam, as if he had been competing in the Olympics. It’s Bronze Star Medal, of course. Nothing at all about where he went to school or his occupation after the war. I don’t know the former but, IIRC, he was an accountant for the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which promotes professional athletics, horse racing, etc.
Another from OCS bud Jay Fortun. My old stomping ground of Hoi An (first half of 1970) was a major stop on the ancient Europe-to-China sea route around Africa called the Silk Road. As such the seaside town of about 120,000 today has long had warehouses and villas built by Dutch, Portuguese and Japanese.
My Advisory Team 15’s compound was believed to have been built by the East India Company. Subject of one of my short stories in Leaving The Alamo and more in my novel The Butterfly Rose.
Hanoi is now promoting the little port for tourism, including building hotels, and Jay says the crowds of foreigners show it’s working. Even UNESCO is in on the act, branding the core area of about five by five city blocks a historical preservation site.
My OCS buddy Jay Fortun spotted this poster on his recent father-daughter trip to old South Vietnam.
Most of my OCS classmates still consider the American war in Vietnam to have been a misguided intervention in a civil war. For my part I saw both confirmations and contradictions of American policy and practice, making me an outlier even among my peers. Let alone with scumbags like John Kerry, single-handed author in
1973 1971 of the baby-killer myth that still dogs some of us.
This photo goes with a WSJ opinion piece backing the still-disputed policy position that we were helping our South Vietnamese allies fight aggression from North Vietnam. You could, of course, call that a civil war, as well, since they were cousins. Although the war’s persistent critics tend to see the civil war in terms of the black-pajamaed Viet Cong, who were mainly Southerners.
My South Vietnamese militia companies in the northern part of South Vietnam in 1969, however, rarely fought the VC. Most of the time we were in contact with small units of uniformed North Vietnamese Army soldiers who generally inflicted more casualties on us than we did on them.
The WSJ piece also resurrects the idea that “historians generally agree” we were winning the war in its last years of our involvement before the Democrat congress (with the acquiescence of a Republican president) decided to bow to the anti-war protesters (people like Kerry and our probable next president Hillary Clinton) and cut and run.
I presume these historians base their conclusions on Pentagon statistics, some of whom were collected by young lieutenants like me in what was called the Hamlet Evaluation System. The monthly HES reports were supposed to measure civilian loyalty to the Saigon regime which was taken to be a metric of who was winning. My own reports were deemed too negative by my superior and were rewritten to reflect command optimism though only I had visited the hamlets in question. So I discount the claims of winning, at least in 1969, while agreeing that we were fighting aggression more than we were a civil war.
Does it matter after forty years? The WSJ author (a two-tour Army officer who went back as a civilian to help evacuate South Vietnamese orphans) says it does because it’s weakened U.S. standing in the world. It’s hard to see how it could be any weaker with our Little Barry as president. But we may not have had him at all without the cut-n-run four decades ago. We certainly would not have Mr. Baby-Killer himself for a U.S. Secretary of State.
As for us alleged baby-killers, we all became eligible for a shiny new medal in the early 1990s. The citation says that by countering Communist agression (North Vietnamese, VC, Russian, take your pick) we helped win the Cold War. How’s that for irony?