Category Archives: Infantry OCS

R.I.P. Joe Bol


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.

Hoi An, the colonial Williamsburg of Vietnam


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.

Uncle Ho


My OCS buddy Jay Fortun spotted this poster on his recent father-daughter trip to old South Vietnam.

Saigon fell 40 years ago today


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?

Another VA scandal looming

When the most recent VA atrocity, the “waiting-list” scandal, broke last year, His Earness’s party designed a solution to the problem in which nineteen veterans of America’s wars had died waiting months for an appointment at a VA clinic or hospital.

The new $10 billion Choice program was supposed to let veterans avoid waiting lists by choosing private doctors at VA expense—those docs, anyhow, who are willing to put up with the delayed payments and costly paperwork of the federal bureaucracy. Many docs have long shunned Medicare and for the same reason now are trying to avoid Obamacare.

I got my Choice card in the mail a few months ago, one of 8.6 million sent out since November. Having private insurance, I didn’t need it and not wishing to take the slot of some other veteran who did, I didn’t return the form to activate it. I threw away the card. Which was just as well because I seemed not to qualify, anyhow, not living at least 40 miles from a VA clinic. As usual our corrupt political class and their news media cronies trumpet their solutions while hiding the fine print.

Apparently it wouldn’t have mattered if I had lived at least 40 miles from a clinic: “A recent Veterans of Foreign Wars survey on the Veterans Choice Program found that ’80 percent of the 1,068 survey participants who reported that they either lived 40 miles from a VA medical facility or could not be seen by VA within 30 days said they were not afforded the choice to receive non-VA care.'”

Now Wormtongue appears to be backing off the Choice program entirely, by moving some of the allocated $10 billion to help shore up the VA system. Which figures. The VA health system has long been an unfulfilled promise to many veterans, one further stressed in the past two decades by forcing career-military retirees to use it.

As an old Infantry OCS pal of mine, who worked for the VA after the war, told me: When applying for anything from the VA you should treat the multitude of requested form submissions as a hobby. With luck you’ll eventually get somewhere. Maybe.

It’s good for some. Mrs. Charm’s Navy career retiree father refused to go anywhere else for treatment of his lung cancer. My Air Force retiree father wouldn’t have stepped foot in it on a bet. Pity that pols have always preferred lying to telling the truth and that Mr. Hope & Change is just another member of the mendacious pack.

Via WSJ.

The Christmas Truce

Historically, the Christmas Truce goes back to World War I and possibly earlier. But we had them in Viet Nam, too, though I only recall the one of 1969 when I was there.

Russ Wheat, an OCS classmate, recalls a ditty his rifle company used to sing about that time: “Jingle Bells, shotgun shells, VC in the grass, you can take your Christmas Truce and shove it da-da-da.”

Of course such truces made a certain sense in a European war, but none at all in an Asian one where the enemy not only did not celebrate Christmas but had few if any Christians. Likewise they didn’t “respect” the red crosses on the medevac birds, no more than the Taliban has in Afghanistan.

The Christmas Truce of 1969 was pure politics, consumption entirely for the home folks for whom the anti-war protests were becoming ferocious. It had little or no effect on us with the misfortune of having to fight the damn war.

Refusing to ride on an M-113

That’s what thirty IDF reservists have done, using the Israeli military reservist reputation for independent (okay, insubordinate) action, to help get their fellows out of the death traps laughingly called M-113 “armored” personnel carriers.

Funny only if your life doesn’t depend on them, like the six seven Golani soldiers (one of them from Texas) killed in one a week ago. The first time I rode in a 113, way back in Army training in 1967, I thought: how efficient, cheap and convenient, all the soldiers inside can be quickly buried in the thing.

Then I heard that the slab-sided, box-on-treads—an easy target for even a pathetic marksmen—was even worse: it was made of bullet-permeable aluminum. I vowed to walk when the real time came and always did.

UPDATE:  According to Haaretz: “Chief of Staff Benny Gantz is already leveraging the attack on the obsolete armored personnel carrier, in which seven Golani soldiers were killed, to ask for an upgrade of all the army’s APCs.”