Sunday, May 31, 2015
"Yeah, come on in," I called out, setting down the PDF file on a little known battle in Vietnam. Looking up, I saw who it was.
"Thanks Boss, it's been a rough weekend."
"Yeah, yeah, sit down Muse, take a load off."
"Nah, thanks, I need to get home and hit the sack."
"That bad?" I asked, sitting back in my chair.
"Yeah. I know all this stuff went down a long time ago, but it feels, I dunno, like it happened yesterday. Some of the comments..."
"Yup. Some of the readers have 'been there, done that' - those memories die hard. If at all."
"Yeah Sarge. I want to look at this from a wider point of view. Put the battle in context. I mean this stuff happened after Tet, right? And that d-bag Cronkite had already told the American people that we were losing the war, right?"
"Well Muse," I paused and leaned forward, elbows on knees, hands clenched under my chin, thinking back to those days, back when we still trusted the media.
"Yeah. The media. Man, we used to trust those bastards..."
"Sorry to bring that up Sarge but..."
"Nah, it's okay Muse. At least now we know it's not about reporting facts, it's about selling products. Pleasing the sponsors. Eff it."
"I just need a break Boss, this stuff is kinda depressing..."
"Yeah, yeah, sure. Juvat's up for Monday, Tuna may have something for Tuesday, though he might be traveling for work again, but I got it covered. Take a couple of days. Sort things out..."
"Thanks Sarge. Tuesday afternoon?"
"Yeah, stop by Tuesday. Take some time, smell the flowers, have a beer or twelve."
Yeah, I gave my Muse some time off. Sometimes the research is tough, too many bad memories. Though it was over forty years ago, some of that stuff feels like yesterday.
I'll be back.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
|U.S. soldiers of Company A, 70th Engineer Battalion, waiting to be airlifted out of Kham Duc, in a ditch beside the runway. (PD)|
BTW, the story of how and why I became a FAC is a story for another time, but Sarge if you want a post about an operation that garnered an O-5 C-123 driver the MOH right in my back yard in an operation I flew several sorties as an F-4 GIB in support of, hit WIKI for the story of a "Khe Sanh in reverse" about the "Battle of Kham Duc" S.F. Camp in Quang Tin Province, I-Corps, south of DaNang. in May, '68. A lengthy, but spell-binding read.I read the Wikipedia entry (here) but decided to dig a little deeper. That's going to take some time.
The Vietnam War raises strong emotions even 40 years later.
Forty years ago I was a brand new Airman Basic. Think "slick sleeve," no stripes at all, the very bottom of the heap.
I went in on the 13th of May, 1975.
To put that in context, Saigon fell two weeks before. On the 30th of April. I have many memories of those years. I cannot imagine the memories of those who were there.
I used to work with a Vietnamese lady, she, her husband and children fled Vietnam as the Communists entered Saigon.
On a moped!
He was a Lieutenant in the Republic of Vietnam Navy. The family managed to reach his ship. Waiting as long as they could, they put to sea shortly before the NVA arrived.
Her story was fascinating.
My cousin was stationed at Bien Hoa, Air Force. He too had stories to tell.
Most of my instructors in tech school in Denver had been in Southeast Asia, mostly in Thailand where I was eventually slated to go.
My assignment was cancelled, I remember listening to a radio broadcast as my buddy and I drove across country for Christmas leave. I heard the sound of F-4 Phantoms departing Thailand. I would work on many of those jets in the years to come.
But not in Southeast Asia.
Like I said, I glanced at the Wikipedia article on Kham Duc. I decided to do a bit more research, that article seemed to have a bias I did not care for.
Perhaps it's just me letting my emotions get the better of me.
Friday, May 29, 2015
|A U.S. Air Force Cessna 0-1E Bird Dog aircraft (s/n 56-4200) in flight over Vietnam in 1967.|
I first "met" Virgil over at Lex's place. He's been around the block, flown fast jets over the "friendly" skies of Southeast Asia and lived to tell about it.
Not everyone who flew there lived to tell about it. The other day, Juvat was remembering and Virgil had this to say -
Lots of names, but the one that stands out for me--a courageous pilot and good friend--Sam Deichelmann, Capt, USAF, (RAVEN 47) MIA, SVN, 6 Sept '68. (Ironically, Sam was never downed in Laos, the most dangerous part of his tour, but, but during a "vacation" trip to see his brother at Bien Hoa (where he was flying F-4s) Sam was then to wend his way up the coast for an end-of-tour party an old friend--a Prairie Fire FAC--and I were throwing him at Da Nang before he returned to his base in Laos.Juvat suggested this story might make a good post. I thought so too.
(I believe Sam has finally been declared KIA and promoted to Major posthumously due to his time in MIA status.)
PS: His brother was later killed in a mid-air refueling accident. The sons of an AF Maj General, all three (and their Mother) are interred at Arlington--with a memorial headstone for Sam.
Upon further reflection, it's funny how the dots are sometimes connected. I first met Sam in summer of '65 at Lockbourne AFB, Columbus OH where I was attending AFROTC "summer camp." Lockbourne was a SAC base with KC-135s and C-130s. Sam was a 1st/Lt 130 right-seater--met him at the O-Club--he was both a man's man and a ladies man all rolled into one. We stayed in touch, where he eventually proceeded me to SEA where he became a C-123 "Blind-Bat" AC. in Laos before he became an O-1 RAVEN FAC. He found out I was at Da Nang thru a mutual friend, an O-4 Prairie Fire FAC who staged out of Da Nang, but worked exclusively in Laos. Sam managed to get over to Da Nang a couple of times for 2-day FAC "coordinating conferences." (LOL) so I got to know him well if only briefly. He went MIA leaving Bien Hoa after seeing his brother on an "end of tour" trip which was to have included a trip to Da Nang for a party the Prairie Fire types were throwing him. Such is life... a helluva guy--one of a kind. The RAVEN site has a special page for him as does Arlington.
Meet Major Samuel Mackall Deichelmann, USAF -
His Dad, Major General Matthew Kemp Deichelmann, USAF -
And his brother, Captain Stephen Travis Deichelmann, USAF -
Before we go further, what's a FAC? Well (as you might suspect), FAC is an acronym which stands for Forward Air Controller. These guys flew in small, light aircraft which could loiter over a battlefield at slow speeds to help direct CAS (Close Air Support) for troops in contact on the ground. The fighter bombers of the time were just too fast to spot targets on the ground in the hilly jungle of Vietnam without endangering friendly troops.
Theirs' was a dangerous job indeed, ground fire and terrain were always waiting to bring down their small birds. Trying to coordinate troop locations on the ground --friendly and enemy--, direct air strikes, operate the radio and fly the aircraft kept a fellow busy! These men were special individuals with nerves of steel.
Rather than paraphrase what Wikipedia has to say about the Raven FACs, I'll just quote that source at length. It jibes with other sources I've read on the program and will suffice:
As tactical air strikes began to be used in Laos, it became apparent that for the safety of noncombatants, some means of control was necessary. Beginning at least as early as July 1964, the absence of a close air support control system caused a variety of enterprising individuals to improvise procedures for marking bombing targets. At various times, ground markers (including bamboo arrows) and dropped smoke grenades were used. While some of these individuals had military training, such as the American Army Attaché, others had little or no specialized training in close air support. They varied in nationality, being Thai, Lao, or Hmong, as well as American. Both Continental Air Services, Inc and Air America pilots would sometimes serve as ad hoc forward air controllers.To put things in their geographical context -
To begin an operation of great secrecy, the U. S. Air Force originally forwarded four sergeants from Combat Control Teams in 1963. These sergeants turned in their uniforms and military identification and were supplied with false identification so they could work in civilian clothing. This process was designed to preserve the fiction of American non-involvement dubbed plausible deniability. Once "civilianized", the Butterflies flew in the right (co-pilot's) seat in Air America Helio Couriers and Pilatus Porters. They were often accompanied by a Lao or Thai interpreter in the back seat. The Air Commando sergeants directed the air strikes according to U. S. Air Force doctrine, using the radio call sign Butterfly.
Two of the Butterfly Air Force combat controllers were Master Sergeant Charlie Jones, soon joined by Technical Sergeant James J. Stanford. Another of the Butterflies was Major John J. Garrity, Jr., who in future would spend several years as the éminence grise of the American Embassy to Laos. They, and their successors, ran air strikes without notice or objection until General William Momyer discovered that enlisted men were in charge of air strikes; at that point, he ordered their replacement with rated fighter pilots. By that time, the number of Butterflies had escalated to three pairs. Both the impromptu strike controlling and the Butterfly effort ended with General Momyer's tirade in April 1966.
Development of rules of engagement by the Embassy also threw more reliance on increased control over the in-country close air support. So did the introduction of an integrated close air support system for Southeast Asia in April 1966. Also, beginning in April 1966, part of its effort to better direct air strikes, the U. S. Air Force installed four tactical air navigation systems in Laos to guide U. S. air strikes. One of these was emplaced on a mountain top at Lima Site 85, aimed across the border at Hanoi.
A successor operation, code-named Palace Dog, began replacing this original Butterfly effort in 1966. Central Intelligence Agency agent James William Lair recommended the use of Lao interpreters flying in the rear seat of light aircraft flown by American pilots, thus establishing the Ravens. The Ravens were airborne fighter pilots in unarmed light aircraft who flew observation missions, marked enemy targets with smoke rockets, directed air strikes onto them, and observed and reported bomb damage assessment post strike. They were based in five Lao towns: Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse, Savannakhet, and at Long Tieng on the Plain of Jars.
Prairie Fire was an operation which sent MACV-SOG* units (Green Beret) into Lao. It was conducted in conjunction with the Marine Operation known as Dewey Canyon in the A Shau Valley south of Fire Base Vandergrift and south of the Rock Pile and Camp Carroll. The area in Laos was designated Prairie Fire.
Later, an emergency call of Prairie Fire from this area authorized all available air, sea and ground units to respond. Of course, there were no sea and ground units available in Laos. All air units were authorized and expected to respond. A Prairie Fire was called just east of the village of Xepon in early Aug, 1969 when about 2 dozen Green Beret ran into a division size NVA** force and all air units available responded. (Source)Another good FAC story is here. You can read about Blind Bats here.
I hope that sheds some light on what Major Deichelmann's job was in Southeast Asia. Virgil was correct in his assumption that Maj Deichelmann had been declared KIA (Killed in Action) and promoted posthumously to Major. His entry at the unofficial Arlington Cemetery website is here. His brother's is here and their father's is here.
I have been searching the web of world-wideness for more information on the brother of Virgil's friend, Captain Stephen Deichelmann but information is somewhat scarce on his fate, other than he was killed in a mid-air collision with another aircraft. He has a street named for him at Nellis AFB in Nevada which lends credence to a story I read which says he was killed after his tour of duty as an F-4 Phantom pilot in Southeast Asia. The Arlington website says he was killed over Vietnam.
Their father had a long career in the military and was a graduate of West Point. His Air Force biography is here and his West Point memorial page is here.
Both boys attended Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery, Alabama upon whose website they are profiled, Major Deichelmann here, Captain Deichelmann here. The major is also mentioned in a book excerpt, here.
Three men who served their country and served her well. Two paid the ultimate price. Mrs. Deichelmann outlived them all but eventually rejoined her boys at Arlington.
The FACs from the Vietnam War have their own website, pay them a visit and join me in remembering those brave men.
|An O-1A over Vietnam.|
(National Museum of the Air Force Photo)
|An O-2A fires smoke markers at a target.|
(National Museum of the Air Force Photo)
|An OV-10A marks a target for a 531st TFS F-100D, 1969.|
(National Museum of the Air Force Photo)
|A 416th TFS F-100F Fast FAC, in 1968|
(National Museum of the Air Force Photo)
* MACV-SOG = Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group, think Special Forces, or Green Beret as the source mentions.
** NVA = North Vietnamese Army
Thursday, May 28, 2015
|O-2A over Laos 1970|
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo 110316-F-XN622-005 (Source)
I have to tell you, anytime I look into the Vietnam War I get...
I grew up watching our government fritter away everything our troops paid for in blood.
I am too pissed for words.
Georges Clemenceau once said, "La guerre! C’est une chose trop grave pour la confier à des militaires." (War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.)
Well, in my book he was dead wrong. He was one of the architects of the Versailles Treaty at the conclusion of World War One. For his efforts we got World War Two and all the horrors that entailed and all the misery which followed.
Politicians are, in general, assholes.
Pardon my French...
Perhaps we should negotiate with our enemies?
Works for me...
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
|The Battle of Trafalgar|
(William Clarkson Stanfield)
The frigate, outsailed then outshot, spent a last bit of Gallic pique upon Jester, rippling out one final, irregular broadside. A crash aft and below, as a ball scored at last, caving in the transom timbers abaft the stores rooms and officers' quarters, a great thonk as the ball continued to carom down the length of the empty berth deck. Glass shattered as another exploded the larboard quarter-galleries -both Lewrie's and the gunroom's- toilets. Splashes and feathers to either beam around the stern, and a further hollow thonk and high whine as a ball plowed a furrow down Jester's side. - Copyright 1997 Dewey LambdinA ripping good yarn so far.
|HMS Temeraire and HMS Victory at Trafalgar|
(Detail from 'Hold the Line' by Richard Grenville)
The cover bore a painting of fighting ships so I took a peek. I read a few words and I was hooked. So far the book has me riveted.
Oddly enough, the first book I ever read concerning the age of fighting sail I also got for free. It was on Okinawa in the last century (and yes, I do like saying that) and was given to me by a fellow airman. A Purdue man as I recall (the college, not the chicken concern) who had left that august institution short of the credits required for a degree.
As I remember it, he, like myself, was far too fond of beer to make time to actually study. So he, like me, left university to pursue other endeavors.
He, like me, wound up in the Air Force and at Kadena Air Base.
As I recall he had three novels which he no longer had any use for (having read them already) so he asked if I was interested. The concept of something for free aroused my inner Scotsman. Of course I said "Yes, render them hither!" (Or words to that effect...)
That set me off down a long road following the career of a certain Richard Bolitho of His Majesty's Royal Navy. That is a long series written by Douglas Reeman under the pen name Alexander Kent. I believe I have read most of that series.
Mr. Reeman was a officer in the Royal Navy in World War II and has also written books on naval warfare during that time period. The man knows the sea very well. Checking his Wikipedia article (linked above), I see he also has a series featuring the Royal Marines. As I know an ex-Bootneck or two, I feel honor bound to start reading that series as well.
Oddly enough I have never read any of Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey novels. Though I have seen the movie, Master and Commander, the big screen seldom does a good book justice. So there's another series of books on my "to do" list.
Where oh where will I find the time?
Or the ready coin?
But do it I must, because...
Belay that! What about Hornblower, man? C. S. Forester and all that?
Ye gads, another series I need to read!
I'm all aback!
Hands aloft! Loose topsails!
Of course, I need to do all that and keep the blog up and running. I have responsibilities dontcha know?
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
As any homeowner knows, maintenance is something that needs to be done.
Whether it's cutting the grass, painting, trimming, weeding or what have you, it's one of the "joys" of home ownership.
Some years back, we decided that we weren't going to paint the place every few years. So we had siding put on.
It looks very nice. It has to be cleaned periodically (funny how the sales guy never mentioned that) but it beats painting.
The deck, however, requires some maintenance from time to time. I do not believe just how much the weather tears up a paint job.
But it does.
So this past Memorial Day weekend, The Missus Herself decreed that the deck would be cleaned, scraped and painted.
Yea verily, so it was done.
Saturday we cleaned and scraped the old paint away (for the most part). A new power washer helped that task along mightily (and will also be of benefit to the cleaning of the aforementioned siding).
Sunday 'twas a late start. We went to church and then had lunch at Panera Bread, a place I am most fond of, painting did not commence until nearly 3 in the afternoon.
We got the railings done, all that white stuff above.
Monday we did the deck floor itself with a product from Behr called "Deckover." It is a very thick paint with a certain amount of grit in it. It's almost like no-skid.
So the floor was painted. Upon completion, The Missus Herself declared that veggies would be grilled and consumed with couscous and shrimp (one of the Sarge's favorite meals).
All hands retired to the fantail, er, backyard, where veggies were grilled and adult beverages were consumed. (What veggies you ask? Well, there were leeks and red onion, zucchini and red bell peppers, all having been liberally doused with garlic and olive oil. Most delicious I must say!)
While partaking of an Old Brown Dog (from Smuttynose Brewery, up New Hampshire way), I tipped my drink to the West, the North, the East, to the South and then to the Heavens, I then thanked those who gave their lives so that I might enjoy my freedoms.
The men and women who gave the last full measure of devotion to these United States of America are never far from my thoughts.
For me, it was an excellent weekend.
I owe so much, to so many.
Yes, I'm blessed...
Monday, May 25, 2015
“Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans — established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.”
|Rocket is 5th guy (in flight suit) from the |
|Capt Ross LaTorra|
|Lt Col Murdock|
|Capt Phil Neel|
|SSG Chris Staats|
Sunday, May 24, 2015
“Please don't thank me for my military service this weekend. I can wait until November and Veterans' Day. Monday is Memorial Day for those who have died in service to our country.”
"The word is out. Thanks to a widespread campaign that has at times bordered on militancy, the public is surely grasping that Veterans Day is for those who’ve served, and Memorial Day is for those who’ve served made the ultimate sacrifice. Those you honor on Memorial Day should also be honored on Veteran’s Day."
Then there's my neighbor whom I never met, Capt. Matt Bancroft, USMC who died when his KC-130 crashed in Afghanistan in 2002. He was never truly my neighbor, since his widow didn't move their family into the house across the street until 2007, when our daughters became friends. I think about him often, even though we never met, usually when I see his now teen-aged daughter who never really met him either.
So in addition to the entire populace of those who died wearing a military uniform, I'm thinking about those brave men specifically.
It's not just people's understanding of the difference between Veteran's Day and Memorial Day that I hope I'm seeing. This next one is a bit more political in nature, and one that might take a little faith on your part if you were to agree with it.
He emphasized that the problem went far beyond the police, who he said are too often deployed to “do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise” in broken urban communities where fathers are absent, drugs dominate and education, jobs and opportunities are nonexistent. NY Times 4/28/15
|War cemetery at Deir el-Belah 1918, Gaza|
Such a long way from Scotland...
This weekend lies heavy on my heart.
Great grandpa Joseph, 22nd New York Volunteer Infantry, Civil War
Great Great Uncle Pliny, 7th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, Civil War, WIA
Great Great Uncle Robert, Royal Scots Fusiliers, World War I, KIA
Grandpa Louis, United States Army, World War I
Uncle Louis, United States Army Air Forces, World War II
Uncle Charlie, United States Army, World War II
My Dad, United States Army, Berlin Airlift
Miss you all...