Category Archives: War

Death is Easy and Life is Cheap in Asia

Life has always been cheap in Asia. All breeds of men go there to die every kind of horrible death, and they have done this for centuries on end. I remember thinking that we had so little to win in Vietnam. A little country for which we had absolutely no use. Any way you look at it the pissy little place was a money hole and an abyss of death for soldiers.

Our country knew it was a fruitless waste. Because they knew this underlying truth they could not help but be embarrassed. We in our pride marched into darkness whilst they at home turned to other matters. Having consigned us to our fate no more attention was needed. As we died so very far away, our government made every effort to maintain the appearance of normality. Box and bury the dead; we knew they would die when we sent them there…we are now busy with the truly important business of this world.

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Fraulein and the NCO Club

On every Saturday night, in every NCO club in the world, at some point when every man was drunk enough to tackle anything with many slowed brains but sober enoughs not ruin it but just hash it up good…somebody punched “Fraulein” into the jukes box.

In a room(s) with from 50 to 500 of the loudest mouths in all the various training brigades, the noise level becomes a steady drone way above the tolerance of humans.

Yet, when “Fraulein” came on there was always an instant of silence while the old minds wearied and boozed plugged into the rhythm. First a few started to sing along with the words; then in growing volume the rest jumped into it.

With complete abandon old WW II/Korean/Vietnam fighters with leathered faces and scarred bodies would soften in their own memories of sweet lipped young German girls they had left behind. Here & there a tear fell and many a misty-eyed old warrior whipped his cheeks unashamed.

As the crescendo of the end approached the voices and emotions peaked. In a final thunder the last Fraulein crashed out & trembled out as all silently bid silence adieu to their long ago and now lost phantom girls in unrequited live of what might have been.

Then, what the bartenders had all been awaiting: One toughens old grizzled Sargent would look calmly at another and say, “That’s tears on your cheek you old queer sum bitch!!!!”

And as quickly as wildfire pushed by the wind of a Blue Northerner, the fight would spread. Flailing arms, flying feet and the pounding of big meaty fists consumed the next 10 minutes or so until the war ends as quickly as it began & brotherhood reins again in drunken bliss.

Fraulein with Boxcar Willi

A short list of things that change you:

*When you find yourself surrounded by people who hate you with every fiber of their being.
*When you are specifically targeted with a bullet fired by somebody who wants you dead…really badly wants you dead.
*When friends are stabbed, shot, ripped apart, blown apart, and they just disappear forever without an opportunity to grieve them, much less say goodbye.
*When you must endure against your will within an unholy alliance of evil and find yourself unable to ever speak or even acknowledge it again for fear of reliving it.
*When you shoot at someone wanting very much to kill them…when you feel good about taking another’s life while realizing to what depths your soul has sunk.
*When you spend a year building a family with whom you willingly die and are ripped from them in mere hours or days.
*When you are taught for months things that might possibly keep you alive and then have these lessons reinforced with new ones on a daily basis…lessons that undoubtedly preserve your life…and be expected to forget it all instantly.

Little things like these separate you from your friends and family. The only family with whom you could share at one point, your companions-in- arms, in time is dissolved. If perchance you can reform them you find yourself grown apart by time and life. In fact, from the moment you enter into combat you likely find yourself on a lonely path even with those whom you best love.

9/11 ~ My Secret Shame

TET Vietnam War Destruction

On September 11, 2001 I was at work. Hearing excited voices I went to the kitchen where the TV showing the scene of the Twin Towers smoking and soon to fall. The emotions of my fellow workers was astonishment and horror. As the second airliner plowed into the buildings I cannot remember feeling anything out of the ordinary.

My own mind was going back to my arrival in Vietnam in 2/1968. The TET offensive by the Viet Cong (many NVA also) had swept South Vietnam and the huge resulting fight to trap and kill them left most of the cities and towns severely damaged and burning.

The shot-up, bombed-out buildings; the furious fighting and continuous rolling sound of battle; and, mostly to me, the piles of dead VC stacked along the roads made a huge impression on my new-to-war mind. I hope to never see that situation again.

But with my mind comparing that old memory with what was occurring on the television, I could not help but think two large buildings was not that big a deal. I was so ashamed of that thought I never mentioned it. Yet, it never left me.

I hate that all those people died. I have compassion for all their families. I suppose that it was the Civil War when wide spread devastation due to warfare last visited our country. All the many wars since we have sent off our boys to fight…many returned and a few did not rejoin their families. We grieved and moved-on as a people. But our country was largely untouched.

My horrible thought at the time was that the world has suffered and it must visit our shores eventually. These two buildings in a city of thousands of buildings and millions of people in a huge prosperous land just did not seem that much. I am ashamed of that thought but I will not apologize for it.

My hope was that the country would improve it’s vast resources it already possessed in preventing such disasters in the future. But, true to bureaucratic concepts, it’s only response was to add huge new layers of uncontrollable agencies, spent inconceivable new sums of money, tell innumerable lies to the people, seek and receive erosions to our liberties, freedom and privacy, and eventually accomplish nothing.

The US Army is viewed as one of the most controlling environments in which an individual might find themselves. Yet here is the underlying truth. At some time in your war time experience, most troops find the entire war reduced to your own personal battle against your own private (at that moment in time) enemy.

This moment is likely the most dangerous moment of your life. At the same time it is a shining moment of freedom. For you and you alone determine your fate. Kill or be killed. The Army prepares each of it’s soldiers for this moment knowing, like a parent, that it must trust to the training and experience given to carry that soldier through the experience.

Knowing and understanding that freedom I was astonished when my government moved in a completely polar opposite direction. Instead of trusting, encouraging and bolstering that individual freedom, they placed their trust in the bureaucracy and deserted the individual. I was even more staggered that the American people approved and embraced that approach. I have always considered yielding freedom for security to be completely Un-American and a sign of ultimate cowardice.

In line with that last thought I have wondered many times if Osama Bin Laden truly understood the huge loss he inflicted upon us. Loss of life and property in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania was horrible. The loss of freedom is tantamount to the loss of our country and way of life. And, that makes me very very sad.

2TET 68

In Battle Solitary

Battles are not won by great bombers or fast stealthy planes dropping thousands of tons of armament and firing millions of hot lead bullets.
Battles are not won by great guns firing rounds by the thousands blasting great holes into earthen battlements.
Battles are not won by the planning staff of famous generals and great Marshall’s of the Field.
Battles are not won by fast trucks hauling supplies & fuel into the heat of the fight.
Battles are not won by tracked vehicles spitting death in every direction.
All these are, of course, assistance…support and of incalculable value. But, they do not win battles.
Battles are won by one man with a rifle killing his enemy one at a time until there are no more to kill. One man braving a tunnel system, fortified bunkers, or impenetrable jungles or pitiless deserts or broad, limitless plains or mountains the top of which he cannot perceive the distance with his eyes.
A battle is won by bringing death close, brutal, bloody, torn from living bodies through the fly filled stench of blood to every single enemy warrior. And, the last man to stand alive is at once triumphant and lost.

Dehumanizing Speech and Behaviors of War

The following was written originally as a response to internal disputes on a Vietnam Veterans Only site.

We have seen several disputes over our persistent use of slang in reference to the Vietnamese people and references to the enemy dead. This has even led to the loss of some members.

Personally, I consider such an argument between two Vietnam Veterans pretty out of bounds. Every war in history involved an effort to dehumanize and objectify the enemy. This is especially true of Christian nations such as America. We were all to one degree or another raised with a respect for individual life.

To kill, especially due to hate, was strictly taboo. How else and you get a bunch of well-trained young men to not only kill other humans but to kill them in huge numbers? Further it is not only necessary to dehumanize the enemy in order to kill them but the warriors must be able to live with themselves once the conflict is over.

The soft fluttering of an incoming mortar, the angry zip of a round overhead, an unusual sound amongst the myriad of sounds of an Asian jungle; all these and numberless others are imprinted upon our very soul. Reinforced time after time, they become the means to remain alive. Those who learned these lessons had the best chance of going “home”.

Just as important to holding onto out mind and soul were those self-same dehumanizing terms we used. We did not hunt and kill young Vietnamese men and women and their children. We hunted and killed gooks, monkeys, rats and the endless array of inhuman names we gave them. When they were dead they were not honored as human bodies they became greased, popped, capped, ripped, blown away, gut & slung (actually done due to bloating), tits-up, tits-down, caca dau, lit-up, exterminated, or crispy critters. These terms were so burned into our psyche that they last for a lifetime.

Those who deny these means of preserving life & limb, mind and soul, and our ability to literally live with ourself, are denying the reality of war. If you survived these inhuman times and have stumbled upon a better means of dealing with your past, then congratulations. Do not condemn or belittle those who must cope with the only tools available. Arrogance is not a desirable trait amongst brothers!

Those who have never been faced with the horrors of war have no standing to judge and in condemnation those who have, should be ignored as they are like clueless children.

War

Gettysburg: Marching/running/riding into massed muskets filled with mini-balls, and cannon fire with grape, cannon balls and chain. Unbelievable courage at horrendous cost. I can’t imagine a more horrible battle. Men and horses lost footing, falling & floundering on the blood soaked ground. 51,112 in total died in battle and later from wounds (http://www.army.mil/Gettysburg).

624,511 of our best men died in the entire Civil War in addition to the near total devastation of the South. It took over a century to reach a semblance of recovery.