A soldier carrying his gun above his head as he is submerged. Mekong Delta. 1968 Copyright Henri Huet AP
The Mekong Delta was a strange place. A big place. The only Infantry was the 9th & ARVN’s. We went around building firebases all the time, fire for a bit & turn them over to the ARVN troops. We never had the troops to cover the whole Delta but they had us dodging around all over the place. Whenever there were no operations, we fired H&I into big free-fire zones.
On firebase Schroeder we caught & repelled a major attack one night. I read a later news article that the ARVN’s we gave it to were overrun one night & everybody (ARVN’s often had their family with them) was killed down to the kids.
We were all the way down to the U Mihn forest once but normally in a great big semi-circle around Dong Tam. We fired in support of the boats a great deal. I remember the big Riverine air boats working rice paddies for Charlies under water breathing through straws. The huge fans under the boat would literally blow them out of the water. An M60 on the back took them out.
In June of 1976 Palestinian and German terrorists hijacked an Air France flight with mainly Jewish and Israeli passengers. After refueling in Benghazi, Libya the hijackers were welcomed with open arms by by the government of Idi Amin of Uganda. The hostages were held in the Entebbe Airport.
The Israel government declined to deal with the terrorists and authorized a secret operation to rescue the hostages. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) special commandos lain plans with Intel provided by Mossad.
Without forming a coalition of nations, permission from the United Nations, or even Ugandan passports, 100 IDF members flew 2500 miles to Entebbe in complete silence.
In the 53 minutes the IDF was on the ground they:
Rescued 102 hostages (one was killed when mistaken for a terrorist) ,
Killed about 50 Uganda troops including the 7 hijackers,
Destroyed about thirty Soviet-built MiG-17s and MiG-21 fighter planes of the Ugandan Air Force,
Engaged Uganda forces while loading the hostages on aircraft killing and wounding additional enemy,
When fired upon by Uganda troops in the airport tower they reduced the tower to rubble,
5 IDF members were wounded and the commander Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed during the operation. One female hostage had been moved to a local hospital for treatment prior to the raid. After the operation Uganda officers killed her and her doctors in retaliation.
Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu
I whupped my paw
kissed my maw
and lit out for Arkansaw.
I ain’t got far
when from afar
I seen a star.
I layed on the bed
& took what they fed
till I thot I wuz dead.
In come the judge
a big puffed-up drudge
my freedom he did begrudge.
The US Calvlary
would now be my salary
he vowed to the gallery.
So each day I muster
with old General Custer
one more man on his roster.
But this ain’t bad duty
my ol’ horse is a cutie
an’ the boss ain’t never moody.
We’re up on the Big Horn
chewin’ dried feed corn
sleepin’ under the sky ‘n up at dawn.
The scouts rode in to warn
there’s Sioux in a swarm
down on the Little Big Horn.
So down we did ride
till “Indians” they cried
and danged, next I knowed…I’d died!
Now maw sits by the fireside
her old eyes squinted a mite
in the dying of the light
on the note with my name was inscribed
and she cries and cries and cries.
According to the brass & politicians it was a war of attrition. In theory when we killed enough of them they would give up. However, the North was willing to fight to the last man or woman or child. We used every weapon in our arsenal to kill the communists (except biologic & nuclear…even at that we used Agent Orange & other chemicals at hand).
The American public lost stomach in this type of war. I do believe that at some point the average American grunt would have rebelled in killing ever younger/older enemy troops even had we been allowed to invade the North. There were well over a million Vietnamese (N&S) who died in during the war. That does not include those in Laos, Cambodia or the many lingering deaths from Agent Orange, unexploded ordinance, etc.
In WW II German leaders divided their homeland and conquered lands in terms of “good and bad” people. The German policy was to kill-out all the bad folks (a few were sent to “re-education” camps). Pretty much what we did in Vietnam. We never envisaged our war in those terms, but that was the path on which our leadership placed us.
Before we condemn that leadership recall the era in which they/we existed then: In the ’50’s the popular slogan was “The only good Red is a Dead Red!” History had recently proved that theorem when the Russian purge resulted in tens of millions dead and in China literally hundreds of millions perished. There was nothing even remotely good about the Red Peril. We went into Vietnam dedicated to blunt the spreading evil of Communist domination.
Hindsight is excellent. Too bad we did not have it then. In the long term, Communism was unable to further spread it’s heinous body and then fell under it’s own weight…Thank God!