"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Friday, November 21, 2014

Military Life - Service or Career: by John McClarren

Published: Createspace Publishing
Paperback and Kindle
224 Pages

About the Book

Military Life - Service or Career is a book for young people who are interested in the military as a service, or a career.   It should help anyone trying to make such a decision

It is also for older readers who have had military service and would like a good read to reminisce about the old times and remember their own experiences.

It is also a good read for those who enjoy reading about military affairs or engagements. I include many of my personal experiences as examples of my major points in the book.

The book is informative, exciting, sad, and at times, very humorous, all in one volume. It is full of stories that are entertaining, as well as educational and emotional. It emphasizes the good, as well as the less than good elements and what to expect. 
Buy at Barnes & Noble

"John and Debbie McClarren are friends from my hometown in Oscoda, Michigan. John felt that joining service, or considering joining service should be no surprise, shock, or blind experience. He clearly shares his experiences in boot camp and in peaceful and wartime action. No holds barred. 
He offers many sides to the decision about whether to join or not join in the first place. He emphasizes PERSONAL ORGANIZATION and ACCEPTING STRESS and making it work for you. I believe even if a young man or woman chooses NOT to join one of the services he/she understands more about the importance of these two assets in any career. 
I am gifting this book to my own grandsons and highly recommend it as a GOOD READ and ESSENTIAL MANUAL in making a choice that could lead to a temporary term of service or a lifetime career. I bought this first in Kindle and then 2 copies in paperback to share with family and friends." --L. Bartus

"Good read! In "Military Life – Service or Career", John McClarren writes an interesting perspective on reasons why a career in the military can be a very wise choice for some people. It also acknowledges that it is not the life all may desire. 
McClarren shares many of his personal experiences from his military career, including tours to Vietnam. He writes with vivid descriptions, family experiences in their military service, and a sense of humor. 
Although today’s military life may be slightly different than the days of Vietnam with its more ‘strict’ military atmosphere, it should give a young person who is considering this as a career, or just a few years of service, an idea of what military life is like. Interesting and informative!" --D. Chase

John McClarren - US Army (Retired)
About the Author

John McClarren was born at the end of World War II in San Diego, California.  He grew up in southern California, developing into a "beach rat" early in life. 

Body surfing was one of his primary activities, and he developed his publishing logo because of that very strong interest. 

Some major influences caused him to gravitate toward the military for a lifelong career, although circumstances also oriented him toward education. 

He ended up majoring in German and minoring in English at the University of Arizona after having been active in the US Army and serving a tour of duty in the Republic of South Vietnam. Including reserve components, he served a total of thirty years with the Army, as well as being a high school teacher for twenty of those years. 

His first published book is currently available in print and e-book formats, titled Military Life - Service or Career, A Soldier's Perspective. He has a memoir coming out shortly, titled Taking Risks, Defining Life

John and his wife, Debbie, raised three boys together, two of whom have been on active duty with the US Army and one is a geologist. Of the two who have been in the Army, one became a heavy equipment operator, the other a forester with the US Forestry Department. 

John is currently living in northern Michigan. He is retired from everything but writing and substitute teaching, and Debbie is still an active special education teacher.

Besides his first two books, John is working on a humor book that most likely will be titled Hey, it Wasn't My Fault, and he is also working on a novel, but that may take a while before completion, and it is already looking like it may well become a lengthy series. The reason for that is because it is going off into a realm of no time and no space; at least not with any dimensions or limitations. It is a spiritual realm, but one with physical beings as well.

John's Website
John's Facebook Page

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

History/Archival Sites for Vietnam Vets: Byron Edgington

"We Remember" ... and We Should Share
With the fortieth anniversary of the fall of Saigon approaching next April, there may possibly be a renewed interest in Vietnam veterans and their stories.

I compiled this short list of resources for my fellow vets who may wish to contribute their Vietnam stories, or to read the accounts of others.

The list is by no means exhaustive. A quick check of a local library or college history site will produce many more, and likely better resources. A few of these sites are taken from various college history departments.

Texas Tech seems to have a pretty thorough website dedicated to Vietnam vet stories, for example. Rutgers University does as well. 

If a local college offers veterans a chance to record their stories, we should do that. Many schools do, and it isn’t difficult to track them down.

One site includes methods for teaching students about the Vietnam conflict, and could be used for our grandkids’ teachers, or for those of us who’ve been asked to visit high schools. 

I was asked last year to visit a local school to talk about my Vietnam experience, and the time I spent with those kids was priceless. I encourage any veteran to seek out these opportunities, and take advantage of them.

With the war in Vietnam fading into history, and with current similar conflicts around the globe today, our stories must be told, because they still resonate. These history and archival sites should help keep our experience in Vietnam alive:

Memoirs From Nam
The Vietnam Graffiti Project
The Vietnam Center and Archive
The Vietnam Center and Archive/General
Research Military Records: Vietnam War
Military Resources: Vietnam War
Electronic Data Records: Military Objectives & Activities: Vietnam War
Digital Archive: Documents on Vietnam War
The Virtual Wall
The Wall of Faces
The Vietnam War Song Project
Veterans History Project
Vietnam War Student Project
Vietnam War Commemoration
Vietnam Era Veterans Oral Histories
The Vietnam War: Oral Histories
Rutgers: Oral History: Participate
Veterans History Project
University of Kentucky: Oral History Project

Byron Edgington

Byron Edgington
The SkyWriter

Byron's Book

Other Articles by Byron Edgington:

Vietnam: Arriving at the Truth
Do Guns Equal Safety?
Laotian Rescue Mission
Ho Chi Minh
Terror and Hilarity
A Return to Vietnam
The War That Will Not Let Us Rest
War: A Waste of Youth
The Right Seat is the Wrong Seat
Jim, Frank, and The Snake
Smokey, The Alcoholic Pup

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Crew Chief's Memory of Thanksgiving '68

Thanksgiving - Vietnam War-Style

by Lance Pinamonte

Sometimes one person’s story inspires another, only from a different angle, but still from the same day.

Like most days, a helicopter crew's day begins the day before. 

After landing from a 12-hour day, we went to work on the aircraft, most of the time in the dark.

The Pilots had already gone in to be debriefed and get their assignments for the next day. The Gunners took their guns to the cleaning station and began their tear downs for cleaning.  The Crew Chiefs were pulling intake barrier filters, wiping, lubing rotor heads, and inspecting every inch of the ship. 

When the Gunners were done with the cleaning, they returned to the ship to help the Crew Chief with maintenance. So around 2300, most of the crews were done, and many finished their aircraft and were helping those who had more to do, like intermediate inspections.

Maybe by 0100, all the crews were done and they had a chance to go in and check the mission board for the next day, grab a bite to eat at the mess hall, take a shower, and change clothes..

This was Thanksgiving and the mess hall smelled great, as they prepared for the next day. Nothing was ready, of course, but it smelled great.

After my shower and a change of clothes, I checked the mission board and saw "Resupply, 0600 report" and knew it would be an early wake up. If I could get to sleep, I could maybe get a solid four hours of shut eye. So I went out to my ship, strung my hammock, dug my poncho liner out and hit the sack.

The pilots and Gunner woke me up at 0500 by opening the doors.  I wiped the sleep from my eyes, put up my hammock and liner, helped the gunner haul his guns/ammo, and went over the pre-flight with the AC and Pilot. 

Once all was in place, we fired up the bird, and with a quick "Clear Left/Clear Right", we were on our way to the resupply pads of Lai Khe.

Contact with the resupply crews and landing in between their rows of supply's, we would usually load up the ship with C rations and ammo, but today was different.  Today they had deuce and a halfs just off the pads and were hauling insulated containers for hot meals to the pads. 

We loaded our ship with everything and took off, all of this while the ship was running. Then we flew towards the boonies.

Smoke popped in a small clearing in the middle of nowhere as we swooped down to deliver chow to a worn out looking group of grunts, 11B. They would be waking up in a bug infested jungle, tired, eaten, wet, and smiling at our arrival.

Sometimes the temps would be in the high 90's, humidity at 98%, and they had been walking for days. "Looking for trouble", is what my ex-grunt Gunner would say. 

These guys were our reason to be thankful. They were the ones who were sleeping in the mud, while we slept, showered and were clean. 

We would sometimes steal ice cream from the VIP supply pads for them -- it was always good to see them smile -- they were our brothers. When they said "Thank You", we knew it was felt and it made our day...  on this day, the smiles were contagious.  

We helped them unload the containers, then took off for another sortie to another group. This went on all day and then we returned to the outfits later to pick up the empty containers.

The funny part is the fact that we only got to eat some beanie weenies from our C's, and had very little time to think about what we were missing meal-wise.

So another day ended and once again we went to work on our evening inspections, cleaning, then finally going to the mess hall for our turkey sandwich, a cold shower -- and if we were lucky, the "Thank you’s" would be our reason for a good night’s sleep ...

Happy Thanksgiving to all the 11Bravos out there.

God bless America.

Lance L. Pinamonte
U.S. Army - 1967 to 1970
67N30 Crewchief/Doorgunner Helicopter Mech.
Champagne Flight

Other Articles by Lance:

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Landon's Odyssey: by J.A. Gasperetti

Publisher: Author House
492 Pages

About the Book

Gil Landon, a returning Vietnam veteran, has a pervasive feeling of angst.

His love is gone, his graduate studies interrupted, his prospects for a job are bleak, and his treatment for a war wound mediocre.

This is quite a plateful for a veteran to handle while trying to acclimate back into civilian life.

To make his current state more tolerable, Landon begins a journey, an odyssey, if you will, to find some relief by seeking his past to improve his future. 

His voyage of discovery is prompted by the discovery of six letters, which he inexplicably finds in a shipping crate he sent back to himself from Vietnam. They belong to six wartime buddies, who Landon plans to visit and belatedly deliver their respective letters. 

The letters are the mysterious glue that holds the story together and propels it forward. 

As if by black magic, one of the letters brings him back to an old college anti-war adversary, Josh Hannigan, who knows the location of Landon's lost love: Becky Morris. 

Unknown to Landon, Hannigan is the fortuitous acquaintance of one of the letter recipients: Johnnie Krupke. Krupke's letter links him to Hannigan and Corsican heroin dealers. The hunt is on to find Landon and the evil contents found in Krupke's letter that Landon has in his possession. 

Through a series of flashbacks, both to Landon's college days and his Vietnam experiences, the characters are defined and shaped. 

The major players all come together for a climactic ending in the psychedelic kingdom of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco during the turbulent year of 1968. 

To give added flavor to this evocative age, the songs of the 60's are included throughout as a thematic emphasis in the respective chapters they are inserted. 

Painted over a broad national and international canvas, Landon's Odyssey is truly an epic journey. It is a unique and relevant tale for a generation, one still coming to grips with the tumultuous times.

Buy the Book

Joe's Website

Primary user Picture
Joe Gasperetti
About the Author

Joe (J.A.) Gasperetti was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Wisconsin, with course work at both the Madison and Milwaukee campuses. Now retired, he enjoyed a successful career in sales and marketing. 

Joe is a Vietnam veteran, who served with the 4th Infantry Division in 1966-67. His novel, Landon's Odyssey, is loosely based on his wartime experiences, as well as providing an historical fiction glimpse into the turbulent 60's. It will also provide the uninitiated with what all the buzz was about.

Landon’s Odyssey is his first novel. He is actively looking for a screen play writer, since a number of readers believe it would make a good movie.

Joe now lives in Iowa City, Iowa, with his wife of 43 years, Anne. They raised two daughters, Talia and Larissa.

J. A. Gasperetti
4th Infantry Division
Republic of Vietnam, 1966-67

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Enough: by Lance Pinamonte

Reverence ... or Shame?

Hope you like, CJ...

Enough ...

For the people who give their lives to this nation,
then watch the same war in different name take more
For it's not enough ...

To those who die from the chemicals we lay down,
then we ignore the death for the profit
For it's not enough ...

When the waters rise above our heads, lands lost,
we shun those with the reason
For it's not enough ...

The wealthy grow to hate the poor, grow richer,
to where they hold the future of all
For it's not enough ...

A place where lies and hate take the place
all for the promotion of fear
For it is not enough ...

So we ask the question that lies in wait,
"When will we be free of these things?
When will it be ... enough?"

God bless America.


Lance L. Pinamonte
U.S. Army - 1967 to 1970
67N30 Crewchief/Doorgunner Helicopter Mech.
Champagne Flight

Other Articles by Lance:

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Waiting for Willie Pete: by Byron Edgington

Revenge: Capt. Ahab ("Moby Dick") and Cdr. Ahearn 
CJ: Here's a piece for the blog if you want to use it. It's an excerpt (Chapter 57) from my novel in progress about Vietnam.

A cross between "Matterhorn" and "Moby Dick", "Waiting for Willie Pete" is about a lift company with a commander who's a madman.

Captain Ahearn seeks revenge on his old nemesis, Colonel Dung, an NVA infantry commander who wounded him several years before.

Ahearn will find Dung and kill him -- even if it means losing his entire company.
Steve Piper is the company goat, the man no one likes.

It takes place in the club the night before a big mission to find Colonel Dung.

Piper's speech defending himself is a tribute to my fellow VN vets, guys who share the honor of having served.  As Steve Piper says, "...when the cause seems hopeless, the only thing to honor is the call, and each other."

Enjoy the piece, and share it if you like. And happy Veteran's Day to my colleagues.

I’d finished presiding over Benning’s initiation. He’d failed in his first attempt with Lady Hooker and rushed outside to compose himself. 
In his absence, I grabbed a Strohs from Ted and settled at the bar, listening to the company song. 
“…goin’ home in a body bag, doo dah, doo dah, you’re goin’ home in a body bag, all the doo dah day..’ 
Frank wandered over. “Hey, Foot, big day tomorrow. Gonna finally get that bastard Dũng." 
“Or he’s gonna get us, Reverend. Seen the latest?” 
“G-2 hasn’t got it right yet, Frank.” 
He sucked his PBR. “Let’s hope they’re wrong this time, too. Army intelligence is one of them oxymormons, you know?” 
Cold Strohs filled my nose, but I fought it back. “Aren’t you getting short, Frank?” 
He took another pull. It wasn’t like Frank Tiberi to ponder. This time he pondered. “Don’t matter, Rev,” he said. Then he sucked his beer dry, slapped my back, and got up to leave. 
“…in the morning, Reverend.” He eased toward the door. 
CCR filled the speakers. 
‘…I see the bad moon arising…I see trouble on the way…’ 
I went back into my Strohs, what was left of it. It was ten P.M. and I was about to retire to my hooch. 
A shout from the pool table turned my head that way. “…give it up, asswipe!” 
“Stebbins, you don’t know…” 
“…know an asshole when I see one, Piper. Nobody cares about your dead brother anymore, okay? Knock off the sob story and go the fuck home to California.” 
“…think you’re so damn smart, Stebbins, got it all together…” 
“…none of us got it together, Piper, especially you.” Stebbins stabbed Piper’s chest, backing him across the room. 
I’d seen Tony in his more aggressive condition, and knew that beer fueled it.

The briefing an hour before hadn’t helped. Ahearn had ordered us into the room, seething at men who’d come late, even though we’d flown from dawn to dusk. 
Waiting for us to file in, he'd paced, grumbled, and smacked the map with his cane. “…here, men, right next to LZ White! 
Tomorrow we will find him! Tomorrow is the day, men. Launch at first light. We will find that bastard, or…" 
“…or die trying…” 
“…total insanity, Ahearn…”  
The commander had stormed out, hobbling across the compound in the ominous dusk.
Creedence wailed through the club. 
…I see earthquakes and lightnin'…I see those bad times today… 
From out of the shadows, Fisk loomed over Piper. “…take my dog and get him killed, Piper. You must have the reverse Midas affect, everything you touch turns to shit.” 
“…sorry about Major Barkley, Mike, I never…” 
“And what’ve you been doing in ops, Piper? Cassady says you harass him every damn night.” 
Stebbins shoved Piper toward the door. “…skating out of flying, on sick call all the fucking time…” 
“…never lets me fly, Tony, you know that.” 
“’cause you never want to, Piper.” 
“Goddamit, listen to me for once!"   
Piper staggered toward the center of the club. Reeling, drunk, he pulled out his .38 and waved it around. His arm came up. He aimed the gun overhead, and his eyes clamped shut. 
The clap slapped my ears, a single shot popping into the ceiling. Dust filtered down, coating Piper’s shoulders and hair. 
“Just goddam listen!” 
Beer cans slapped the bar. Heads came up. 
Fisk staggered backward. “…take it easy, Steve…” 
“Back off, man, nobody meant…” 
My ears ringing, I eased off the stool and started toward Steve Piper. 
‘…I hear hurricanes a blowing…I know the end is coming soon…’ 
Ted snapped the toggle and the music stopped. The only sound was Piper’s ragged breathing. 
I eased closer to him, and stared into his hollow eyes. 
Chest heaving, the pistol sweeping back and forth, Piper fixed each of us in a ghostly stare. Saliva dripped from his open jaw, and sweat beaded on his forehead. But his gun hand never wavered. The dark pistol stuck into the dim light, rounding on each of us, an evil presence that could not be ignored. “Just…god…damn…listen!” 
We listened. 
“Since my first day in this unit I’ve been the guy everybody picks on. Find one guy to harass so you don’t have to deal with your own fear.” 
“…not it, Piper…” 
“Shut up!” He raised the gun to chest level and swept the room again. “Just shut the fuck up and listen. You always gotta have a nigger, a guy who gets the shit end of the stick, ain’t that right, Double D?” 
Daggert’s voice sounded. “Seems like it, doesn’t it?”

“A guy you gang up on so you feel like you’re part of the crowd.” 
“…sorry, Steve, we…” 
“Shut the fuck up, Tony!” Piper centered the room. Tears streamed down his face and the little gun bobbed and weaved. 
“Here’s what I know about being an outcast. I understand what it’s like. Hey, Palmer!” 
My neck prickled. “What?” 
“You ought’a know better’n anybody. Think I didn’t see you and that Chrisman guy?” He creased his eyes and sneered. “…love you, Cal…love you too, Jimmy.” 
At that moment I knew enough to do what Piper ordered. I just shut up. 
“Stebbins, you think I don’t hear you almost every night in your bunk? That girl kicked your ass, so you beat yourself to death dreaming about her? She’s gone, Tony. You took your hits, get over it.” 
“…don’t have a clue, Piper…” 
The pistol swing toward Stebbins. “Wanna take a few more?” 
Tony’s palms rose, and he fell silent. 
“Frank, you know the number of times I wanted to laugh in your face? Got your insignia ‘embroiled?’ A bull in a Chinese shop? Do they really talk like that back in Jersey, Frank? Dad must be really proud.” 
Tiberi shook his head. “Guess I need to pay more attention, Steve, I…” 
“Guess so. Mike, do you really think that goofy novel’s going anywhere? GIs screwing native girls? There’s a unique idea. That’ll sell a million copies, Mike.” 
Piper examined every one of us. “You guys’re right; I shouldn’t bring Keith into every damn conversation, but he’s why I came here. I could’a skated, as you say, Stebbins. But I didn’t. I volunteered to come here, to make up for my brother’s death. 
I’m no different from any of you. As a kid, I listened to all those war stories. Saw the movies growing up, John Wayne, Audie Murphy, The Longest Day, Sands of Iwo Jima
Hell, my dad didn’t just go to that war; he knows the guys I saw on the big screen. They were my fucking neighbors. 
I read all the comic books, the heroes of that war—our heroes! Then what? Then they sent us to this shitass little place and it ain’t like any of that. Vietnam ain’t a thing like we were told it would be. 
They told us we’d be fighting for freedom, and liberty and to defeat the commies. Bullshit. None of that’s true. 
Here’s the biggest thing: I want to know what the fuck it means when we’re told one thing all our life and then learn something completely different. Does that give us the right to beat up on somebody else?” 
Piper studied all of us, his chest rising and falling. He lowered the pistol. “Have I ever shamed any of you? Harassed you because you’re here without even knowing why? Have I?” 
Heads sagged. Outside in the compound, two men shouted about guard duty, their battle rattle clanking as they crossed the gravel. 
At a remote sector of the base a mad minute started, outgoing rounds popping and cracking. 
“Have I ever made your lives miserable? Made you the butt of the joke? Why the fuck’re we here, anyway? To pick on somebody weaker? I thought we came here to stick up for people like that? 
Those ARVN guys board our aircraft with their damn chickens and ducks and rice, and I see the people we came here to fight for, to give them a shot at what we have. And you pick on me, because I volunteered to help with that?” 
“…hopeless cause, Steve.” 
“Doesn’t matter, Mike.” 
“It does matter, Piper. There ain’t a fucking thing we can...” 
“Heroes, all of you.”

“…fucking crazy, Piper…” 
“Get over it, man…” 
Piper’s head wagged. “All heroes, including my…” 
Stebbins’ voice. “Jesus, the brother thing again…” 
“All heroes, Tony. Know why?” He slammed fingers at his chest. “Because we came, that’s why.” 
Tears flowing, Piper scanned the room. He swiped an arm across his runny nose and went on. “Enemy’s no threat to us. Shit, our biggest threat is our own damn commander.” 
“How’s that make us heroes, Piper?” Stebbins said what all of us were thinking. 
“Because, you came, Tony.” 
“…dad’s were heroes…” 
“It was easy for those guys, with Hitler, the Japs, the Germans. The threat was real, and everybody knew it. There’s no threat here, and nobody knows why the fuck we stay. 
At home they say we ought’a pull out. Mom sends me clippings. It’s bad back there, guys. People are sick and tired of Vietnam, the body count, the terrible command decisions, lost battles at places they can’t even pronounce.” 
Piper pointed the pistol at each of us, one by one. “Outcasts,” he said, an evil smile playing on his lips, head bobbing. “Your day’s coming, my friends. You’ll get back to the world and no one’ll give a shit about what you did here. No one will give a fuck that you risked your life for your buddies and did your duty. 
You’ll want so bad for someone—anyone—to ask about it, to be interested in what you did over here, and how it went. No one will. They’ll ignore you, change the subject, and walk away. They’ll talk about their own lives instead, their kids, their jobs, their new Chevy. They won’t want to hear about Vietnam. 
As soon as you start talking about it they’ll give you a look that says I don’t care and please don’t bring it up again in polite company. Hell, even our girlfriends, our wives, our kids and grandkids will ignore what we’ve done here. 
Then you’ll see what it’s like to be the outcast. People will shun you. They’ll shun all of us.” Piper licked his lips. “We’ll have war stories. We’ll just have to tell them to each other and move on. You’re all heroes, every goddam one of you.” 
Piper’s head bobbed and his chest shuddered. “My brother died over here. But your dreams died over here. 
There’s a special kind of honor in serving at a dishonorable time, in a dubious cause. A special place of honor in serving when the cause seems hopeless, and the only thing to honor is the call, and each other. All heroes, and all my brothers, every damn one of you.” 
Piper riffled his shirt and produced a tattered scrap of paper. He balled it up and tossed it to the floor. Then he shoved the pistol in his belt, grabbed his cap and walked out of the club.
Mike Fisk retrieved the paper and unfolded it. He scanned the lines, cleared his throat. “…be dipped in shit.” 
“What’s it say, Mike?” Tony moved into the light. 
We all shuffled toward Fisk. 
“Dear David…a pleasure to see you and Colleen at our home in Palm Springs before your departure for Vietnam.” 
“David?” Frank leaned over the letter. “David who?” 
Fisk went on. 
“…Peter and I have lost our older son, Keith. We know your options as Steven’s commander are limited, but please see that he’s kept out of harm's way as much as possible, if that can be done.” 
Fisk looked around at all of us. “Piper’s mom. Guess his folks and Ahearn…” 
Silence. One by one we grabbed our hats and filed out into the night. 
The next morning, as we lifted off to engage Colonel Dũng at last, Steve Piper was ensconced in the right seat of Ahearn’s Huey. 
As he took off, I raised my hand and saluted. He saluted back. Then he flew off toward the far horizon.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thanksgiving in Tam Ky, Vietnam 1967

The Nam
by Patrick Camunes
D/4/31 196th Lt. Inf. Bde
Tay Ninh 12/66-04/67
Tam Ky 04/67-12/67

It's November 27, 1967, and I'm attempting to squat or sit on anything dry, and that's almost impossible to find in what we call a bunker---our feeble attempts to make our home away from home.

I'm short, along with several others of my squad, with only a couple of weeks to go in-country and the situation we're in gets "hotter" everyday.

We're standing at a 100% alert in a newly established fire base that consists of not only one perimeter, but three. No one ever asks, (or even wants to know), what we are to do when we get to the last perimeter and can't go any further.

This hilltop has only a number for a name, like so many others, and we have been on many around Tam Ky. The overcast skies and cloud cover make it difficult for our daily supplies, and especially for any kind of fire support---both are a necessity.  We've been in these mountains for several months and as a "light" infantry unit, we travel with only what we can carry.

In Vietnam there is no need for field jackets or cold rain gear ... that was until we hit these mountains that have suffocating jungles in the daytime and near freezing nights. Our blood has thinned from the 100 degrees-plus temperatures, and we are more sensitive to the sharp temperature-ranges of the mountains. Ponchos are at a premium here, even though they don't offer that much protection, but the security of having the vinyl-like cape makes one bear the wet, wind, and cold a little better.

Our intelligence tells us that the NVA are all around us and we all know that we're sitting here as hopeful bait, just waiting to be hit so the "big" guns and air strikes can come in and take care of Mr. Charles at our expense.

The days are overcast and dark, with colors a thing of memory. Pale sickly-hues of gray-green, gray-dreary, gray-black ... and, when we are lucky, an occasional, rare, gray-pink. The nights are cold enough to rattle teeth, and darker from heavy mist and clinging clouds that steal away the stars and moon-shadows of a few months ago. It is lonely, waiting for Charlie.

Sounds of enemy armor can be heard in far distant trails below us. We know the enemy is building up for something big, and the days and nights only grow longer and darker for those of us that are "short" and ready to rotate back to the "world".

I squat in my bunker, semi-dozing, as I had been up all night. My senses warn me before I hear and feel the unmistakable thump of a Huey trying to make it through the overcast skies. Jesus! (a prayer more than a curse), there must be something important going on for them to try to land in this crap. Anyway, I'm not making it up that steep muddy incline to check it out ... I'll find out what it's all about soon enough---which will probably be more bad news, as usual.

I hear a commotion above and instinctively check my weapons and alert my fellow squad members. Someone sends word down that these idiot chopper crews have volunteered to bring us our Thanksgiving meals! (I can't believe it!)  I've seen these guys risk their lives to pull us grunts out of some tight situations ... but to deliver a meal?  That's a NEW one. 

The word quickly spreads to bring up mess kits. MESS KITS?  Mine had gone a month ago in the black market to trade for some much needed 45 ammo clips.

I'm told, "No worry, they have paper plates!" Now I KNOW something's wrong and I need to get some much needed sleep ... someone said they really had paper plates---I've got to be dreaming.

I don't believe it, until one of the most naive members of my squad runs up the hill and returns with a steaming plate of turkey, potatoes, vegetables and CRANBERRIES! He's mud-slick from slipping on the red-clay hill side, and a mud-caked thumb extends into the steaming food, but there's no mistaking his wide grin and the sweet smell of real baked yams and turkey! 

This is no dream and it's discipline at it's highest, to keep everyone from rushing up at the same time. I accept the brainwashed training I've gone through and wait until all of my squad has gotten their share. I begin the climb to get what I'm still thinking has to be a dream, but those all too real and delicious smells that I thought my senses would never experience again, pull me up the hill.

When I get to the top, there's someone in a white uniform serving paper plates full of "goodies". WHITE!  I didn't know the color white still existed since I've been in these mountains. Strange that I notice, but this man in white is clean-shaven and has that strange smell of cleanliness around him. At any other time, I would have shunned him off as an REMF, but not today ... this man and the helicopter crew had volunteered for this act of kindness and it meant so much to us.

In this land that consists of death and so much destruction everyday, it's hard to comprehend the kindness and sharing these men are bringing to us this day. I have the urge to hug these men but we're grunts and "hard core" so that's completely out of the question.

I slip and slide down the hilltop and managed to spill my plate only twice, but I scoop it all up without losing much. I too am grinning widely, like the others of my squad. The grit of dirt and mud is a minor inconvenience as I enjoy the welcomed flavors and even the lack of plastic ware. As in most of my meals, the ever-present crunch of grit can't keep me from enjoying this incredible feast.

Today, as another Thanksgiving Day nears, I'll remember those men that brought a part of the "world", our world, to us so many decades ago.

As in years past, while I enjoy my family and our Thanksgiving meal, I'll taste the imaginary grit of dirt, and remember (and regret) that I never truly thanked those men for what they did that day and what it meant to us.

Destiny had its ways of separating us Vietvets through the years. There are so many of us on the other side of a black granite wall, and the rest are scattered across the nation. But there is always that one reason for giving Thanks that we all share, and that is in our "Brotherhood" which can never be forgotten. 

May we all give "Thanks" in our own ways this Thanksgiving Day, as we remember each other and those who remain forever young in our minds.

Patrick Beanie Camunes

APVNV  Pat Beanie Camunes
D/4/31 196th Lt. Inf. Bde
Tay Ninh, 12/1966-04/1967
Tam Ky, 04/1967-12/67

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Combat Memories Last Forever: by Michael Lansford

Michael "Surfer" Lansford
As always, thank you, Ms. CJ --

Strangely enough, by reading others' writings, it brings up lost or hidden feelings I've had all these many years. Things like we've talked about that are very personal and hard to say, but must be told for us all. 

Hopefully, others will read and remember their inner thoughts that lay hidden from long ago. There are so many, and words can't begin to describe them all. They are just small snippets of memory, remembrances from my heart and my soul that I have kept inside.

Every day there was something that happened, or someone who affected us, all remembered for a lifetime. 

If our medics, doctors, and nurses could tell us how their lives were affected day and night in country, I don't think people could possibly fathom the reality of what they experienced -- the combat injuries, casualties, and war. I can't imagine how horrible their world was, except maybe for the nurse I already wrote about, the one who held my bloody hand and arm, telling me I would be okay. 

I think about what they lived daily and know how hard they tried to save us all, but couldn't. Combat medics especially, as they were what is now called 'first responders' in a crisis. They did amazing things to save us as I mentioned earlier in another post. 

Seeing them first hand do what they did gave us the will to live. Of course, some didn't live, but a medic would never tell you that you wouldn't live. They always told us we would be okay. Anything to keep us going. 

When one of our own went down, we felt so helpless. We were trained in basic combat trauma, but not enough to do much more, like medics knew how to. All we had were morphine injections, 1 shot only, rubber tubing for tourniquets, bandages, and always someone to hold each other together and say the same thing, "You're gonna be okay."

Medevac Chopper
The hardest part was keeping someone from going into shock. That was Priority One.

Then we had to try and stop the bleeding as best we could, and all the time maintaining what we called a circle of life to protect whoever was down, suppressing enemy fire, and always someone tried to draw fire towards themselves and away from our hurt comrade. 

Whenever possible, someone would find a way to flank the enemy and get them in a crossfire like they did to us. It kind of leveled the playing field, if you will.

We did whatever it took to save someone who was hurt, so the Medevac could get in and out fast. It was just part of our every day life out there. 

Sorry, I got to rambling a little. I just remember almost every day and night there, every mission. You try and forget and put it behind you, but in reality, it never leaves us, ever.

There are those that can't talk about it, and I completely understand. The pain and suffering they went through is too great for them, so they do what I did -- withdraw. But at some point in our lives, things will bring it all back -- a song, a movie, certain sayings, even words.

For me, even now, as I watch anything on TV that has any weapon being fired, I still count how many rounds they fired with that particular weapon. It's something you learned early on. You always knew how many rounds you fired, how many you had left, and most importantly, you made every round have a target. You just didn't waste ammo out there. That's all you had. That is one reason I carried an AK. It's a better weapon and it always worked. 

The bad guys had extra parts, etc., and best of all, they carried ALL the extra ammo I needed, so I could carry other things we may, or may not, need.

More importantly, out in the jungle we made sure we always walked with our weapon ready to use.  We were looking for trouble everywhere. We never strolled around, period. A sniper would get you every time with the element of surprise, because you wouldn't know where it came from. If you were watchful, you could locate the sniper and end that fear, even if for only a short time.

I've reread what I wrote and it still makes me cry and hurt inside. There is no escape, but I know I'm healing by writing about it. Like we used to say, "Don't mean nothing", or "Sin Loi", which meant, "Sorry about that."

Other Articles by Michael Lansford:

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Blades Carry Me: Inside the Helicopter War in Vietnam

by James V. Weatherill

With Anne Weatherill

About the Book

James V. Weatherill served as an Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam from November 1967 to November 1968.

His memoir, "The Blades Carry Me: Inside the Helicopter War in Vietnam", takes the reader into the CH-47 Chinook helicopter cockpit and involves them in the daily life of a 22-year-old pilot.

The young man must reconcile his ideals of patriotism, courage, and honor, with the reality and politics of a war where victory is measured by body-count ratios, instead of territory gained, or lost. 

When it's time to go home, he realizes he will leave more than war behind ...

The pilot's wife, Annie, provides the written perspective of a pregnant college senior and military spouse who waits for him back on the home front, during an unpopular war.  

With letters and tape recordings as their sole means of communication, how will they grow up without growing apart?

Anne Weatherill: 

"I think one thing that makes our book special is that we wrote it together, so it tells both sides of the personal effect of war. It was difficult, because we had to relive it over and over while we wrote it. For us, it was a milestone in our path to healing. 

What happened to each of us during that time is still with us, but it does not "own" us anymore. It has brought us closer together. 

We are encouraging others to "slay their dragons", refute the stereotypes, and tell the true history of that military action."

James and Anne Weatherill

Where to Buy:

eMail Jim

A Few of the Many 5-Star Reviews:

"I was there with Jim in 1968. I spent my time over the cargo hook watching ammo, 105 Howitzers, dismantled UH-1s, C-rations, concertina wire, and anything else that needed to be moved. Jim's recollection of the life in a "hook" company is spot on. It brought a flood of great (and not so great) memories as I relived my youth in the pages of this fabulous book. 
 Anne brought to life the worries of a wife coping with pregnancy, school, and the nightly news. A combined story of the generation that went to war in Southeast Asia. I highly recommend this work to anyone interested in that part of history that we label the Vietnam Conflict. A great tribute to "Big Windy".
--Jerry S. Sears 

"I still have butterflies in my stomach after completing this autobiography in three sittings. James Weatherill's painstakingly detailed memory had me hovering with him in the cockpit of his helicopters between the thunderclouds and the Vietnamese landscape. 
Punctuated by Anne's own domestic vignettes of life back home in America, juggling university and the birth of her daughter, the point-and-counterpoint flow of this highlight provided the right amount of adventure and relief, respectively. And James' aerial recollections occasionally read like poetry with descriptions such as "I feel like witness to murder, fleeing in disbelief, looking for an amnesia cloud. 
"THE BLADES CARRY ME" is a unique contribution to the great body of Vietnam War literature. I especially recommend it to anyone curious about the human beings who fought the war, because in this book one experiences the entire spectrum of human personality."
--Robert Grayson 

"A fine, expertly written book that provides indelible images of the Helicopter War, of those who fought it, and those who awaited anxiously for their safe return. Time and time again, Jim flies the huge CH-47 Chinook in and out of hot fire zones, delivering troops, ammo, food--extracting wounded or rescuing downed comrades from enemy infested sites. 
Annie, pregnant and determined to finish college, fights her own inevitably lonely battles on the home front. 
 They tell their stories in tight, well-chosen present tense prose that carries a reality spanning more than four decades, showing us how it was, and what it was for thousands of twenty something American patriots. 
There's pain, there's joy, and there's the eternal issue of how we treat those who go into harms way to protect our way of life. An important book. Read it."
--Robert Knotts 

"This book is not just another war story. It is an unveiling of a couple's lives and relationship while separated by the Vietnam war. The authors' unique perspectives and witty humor help to balance the heaviness of their reality. A personal and well written account about living to make history and honoring those who didn't make it. I recommend reading this book."
--Christine Mackleit 

"Jim and Anne Weatherill wrote the story of many of the Warrant Officer Pilots in Vietnam and their families at home. It has not been told any better or truer. 
I was a Chinook pilot in a sister company in Pleiku, Vietnam. The events and feeling he and Anne talk about did happen. I was also there at the same time in the same places in the central highlands. The exact story may vary, pilot by pilot, but a similar story could be told by most of us. 
I knew Jim in Vietnam only as one of the pilots that came up to help from the "Big Windys." I got to know him and his wife well in Fort Benning, after we both returned from Vietnam. 
The people in the book, Jim and Anne, are real people telling a true story. Their personalities as told in the book are authentic. Jim was a great pilot and was never afraid to tell someone what he believed. Anne is just as witty in real life as she is in the book. The emotions they shared were felt by many pilots and their wives and mothers back home. 
The book was a hard read at times and I had to put it down because it brought back memories I have tried to forget. I am buying a copy for my son because they tell the story better than I ever could.  Thank you Jim and Annie for telling our story."
--Roger N. Lesch 

"If you want the real story of flying Chinooks in Vietnam you have to read this book. Jim and Anne's story of surviving the deployment to Vietnam in 1968 is riveting. You will feel like you know this amazing couple after reading this book. 
Anne's perspective as an Army wife really moved me. As a Soldier I really never understood how hard it is on those left waiting on loved ones at home. Jim lived three lifetimes in his year as a 22 year old WO1 pilot in command in Vietnam. 
This book accounts what real bravery and patriotism look like."
--Travis W. Wallace

Jim with Wife, Anne
About the Author

James Weatherill lives in Texas with his wife, Anne, who also helped to write the book, but from her own unique perspective -- that of a young wife waiting at home.

James has been a pilot since 1963. He flew helicopters in Vietnam 1967-68 amassing 1,341 combat hours throughout the west, logging, fire fighting, and constructing dams, power lines and ski lifts.

He later flew for commuter, regional and national airlines, retiring as a Boeing 737 Captain with flights ranging from Alaska to Peru.

He is adding time to his schedule for more writing, playing his guitars, and is looking forward to traveling America with Anne.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The "Lore of the Corps"

Starting in boot camp, all Marines study the actions of those who have served before them. 

The history of the Marine Corps is a rich tapestry weaving together the contributions of all Marines. 

Over the past two centuries, certain aspects of the Corps’ history have taken on an almost legendary status. 

Below are examples of some of the stories, terms, and traditions that have come to be known as the “Lore of the Corps.” 

The Blood Stripe 

Marine Corps tradition maintains that the red stripe worn on the trousers of officers and noncommissioned officers, and commonly known as the “blood stripe,” commemorates those Marines killed storming the castle of Chapultepec in 1847. Although this belief is firmly embedded in the traditions of the Corps, it has no basis in fact. The use of stripes clearly predates the Mexican War.

In 1834, uniform regulations were changed to comply with President Andrew Jackson’s wishes that Marine uniforms return to the green and white worn during the Revolutionary War. The wearing of stripes on the trousers began in 1837, following the Army practice of wearing stripes the same color as uniform jacket facings. Colonel Commandant Archibald Henderson ordered those stripes to be buff white. Two years later, when President Jackson left office, Colonel Henderson returned the uniform to dark blue coats faced red. In keeping with earlier regulations, stripes became dark blue edged in red. In 1849, the stripes were changed to a solid red. Ten years later uniform regulations prescribed a scarlet cord inserted into the outer seams for noncommissioned officers and musicians and a scarlet welt for officers. Finally, in 1904, the simple scarlet stripe seen today was adopted.


In 1776, the Naval Committee of the Second Continental Congress prescribed new uniform regulations. Marine uniforms were to consist of green coats with buff white facings, buff breeches and black gaiters. Also mandated was a leather stock to be worn by officers and enlisted men alike. This leather collar served to protect the neck against cutlass slashes and to hold the head erect in proper military bearing. Sailors serving aboard ship with Marines came to call them “leathernecks.”

Use of the leather stock was retained until after the Civil War when it was replaced by a strip of black glazed leather attached to the inside front of the dress uniform collar. The last vestiges of the leather stock can be seen in today’s modern dress uniform, which features a stiff cloth tab behind the front of the collar.

The term “leatherneck” transcended the actual use of the leather stock and became a common nickname for United States Marines. Other nicknames include “soldiers of the sea,” “devil dogs,” and the slightly pejorative “gyrene,” (a term which was applied to the British Royal Marines in 1894 and to the U.S. Marines by 1911), and “jarhead.”

“Devil Dogs” 

According to Marine Corps tradition, German soldiers facing the Marines at Belleau Wood called themteufelhunden. These were the devil dogs of Bavarian folklore - vicious, ferocious, and tenacious. Shortly thereafter, a Marine recruiting poster depicted a dachshund, wearing an Iron Cross and a spiked helmet, fleeing an English bulldog wearing the eagle, globe and anchor.

A tradition was born. Although an “unofficial mascot,” the first bulldog to “serve” in the United States Marine Corps was King Bulwark. Renamed Jiggs, he was enlisted on 14 October 1922 for the “term of life.” Enlistment papers were signed by Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler. Although he began his career as a private, Jiggs was quickly promoted to the rank of sergeant major. His death at the age of four was mourned throughout the Corps. His body lay in a satin-lined casket in a hangar on Marine Corps Base Quantico until he was buried with military honors.

Other bulldogs followed in the tradition of Jiggs. From the 1930s through the early 1950s, the name of the bulldogs was changed to Smedley as a tribute to Major General Butler. In the late 1950s, the Marine Barracks in Washington became the new home for the Marine Corps’ bulldog. Chesty, named in honor of the legendary Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, Jr, made his first public appearance on 5 July 1957.

Today the tradition continues. The bulldog, tough, muscular and fearless, has come to epitomize the fighting spirit of the United States Marine Corps.

“Semper Fidelis” 

The Marine Corps adopted the motto “Semper Fidelis” in 1883. Prior to that date, three mottoes, all traditional rather than official, were used. 

The first of these, antedating the War of 1812, was “Fortitudine.” The Latin phrase for “with courage,” it was emblazoned on the brass shako plates worn by Marines during the Federal period. 

The second motto was “By Sea and by Land,” taken from the British Royal Marines “Per Mare, Per Terram.” 

Until 1848, the third motto was “To the shores of Tripoli.” Inscribed on the Marine Corps colors, this commemorated Presley O’Bannon’s capture of the city of Derna in 1805. In 1848, this was revised to “From the halls of the Montezumas to the shores of Tripoli.”

“Semper Fidelis” signifies the dedication that individual Marines have to “Corps and country,” and to their fellow Marines. It is a way of life. Said one former Marine, “It is not negotiable. It is not relative, but absolute…Marines pride themselves on their mission and steadfast dedication to accomplish it.”

8th and I

A notice posted in the Washington newspaperNational Intelligence on 3 April 1801 offered “a premium of 100 dollars” for the “best plan of barracks for the Marines sufficient to hold 500 men, with their officers and a house for the Commandant.” The site for the barracks, near the Washington Navy Yard and within marching distance of the Capitol, was chosen by President Thomas Jefferson, who rode through Washington with Lieutenant Commandant William W. Burrows.

The competition was won by George Hadfield, who laid out the barracks and the house in a quadrangle. The barracks were established in 1801, the house, home of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, was completed in 1806. It is the oldest public building in continuous use in the nation’s capital.

Marine Corps traditions holds that when Washington was burned by the British during the War of 1812, both the Commandant’s House and the barracks were spared out of respect for the bravery shown by Marines during the Battle for Bladensburg.

Today, 8th and I is home to one of the most dramatic military celebrations in the world -- The Evening Parade. Held every Friday evening from May through August, the Evening Parade features “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, “The Commandant’s Own” The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, and the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. It has become a lasting symbol of the professionalism, discipline, and esprit de Corps of the United States Marines, a celebration of the pride taken in a history that spans more than 230 years.

The Eagle, Globe and Anchor 

The origins of the eagle, globe, and anchor insignia worn by Marines can be traced to those ornaments worn by early Continental Marines as well as to the British Royal Marines.

In 1776, Marines wore a device depicting a fouled anchor. Changes were made to that device in 1798, 1821, and 1824. An eagle was added in 1834. The current insignia dates to 1868 when Brigadier General Commandant Jacob Zeilin convened a board “to decide and report upon the various devices of cap ornaments of the Marine Corps.” A new insignia was recommended and approved by the Commandant. On 19 November 1868, the new insignia was accepted by the Secretary of the Navy.

The new emblem featured a globe showing the western hemisphere intersected by a fouled anchor and surmounted by an eagle. Atop the device, a ribbon was inscribed with the Latin motto “Semper Fidelis.” The globe signified the service of the United States Marines throughout the world. The anchor was indicative of the amphibious nature of the Marine Corps. The eagle, symbolizing a proud nation, was not the American bald eagle, but rather a crested eagle, a species found throughout the world.

On 22 June 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an Executive Order which approved the design of an official seal for the United States Marine Corps. Designed at the request of General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps, the seal replaced the crested eagle with the American bald eagle, its wings proudly displayed. With the approval of this seal by the President of the United States in 1955, the emblem centered on the seal was adopted as the official Marine Corps emblem.

The eagle, globe, and anchor insignia is a testament to the training of the individual Marine, to the history and traditions of the Marine Corps, and to the values upheld by the Corps. It represents “those intangible possessions that cannot be issued: pride, honor, integrity, and being able to carry on the traditions for generations of warriors past.” Said retired Sergeant Major David W. Sommers, “the emblem of the Corps is the common thread that binds all Marines together, officer and enlisted, past and present…The eagle, globe and anchor tells the world who we are, what we stand for, and what we are capable of, in a single glance.”

The Marines’ Hymn 

Following the Barbary Wars of 1805, the Colors of the Corps were inscribed with the words “to the shores of Tripoli.” After the capture and occupation of Mexico City in 1847, the Colors were changed to read “from the shores of Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma.” These events in Marine Corps history are the origin of the opening words of the Marines’ Hymn.

Tradition holds that the words to the Marines’ Hymn were written by a Marine serving in Mexico. In truth, the author of the words remains unknown. Colonel Albert S. McLemore and Walter F. Smith, Assistant Band Director during the John Philip Sousa era, sought to trace the melody to its origins. It was reported to Colonel McLemore that by 1878 the tune was very popular in Paris, originally appearing as an aria in the Jacques Offenbach opera Genevieve de Brabant. John Philips Sousa later confirmed this belief in a letter to Major Harold Wirgman, USMC, stating “The melody of the ‘Halls of Montezuma’ is taken from Offenbach’s comic opera...”

Its origins notwithstanding, the hymn saw widespread use by the mid-1800s. Copyright ownership of the hymn was given to the Marine Corps per certificate of registration dated 19 August 1891. In 1929, it became the official hymn of the United States Marine Corps with the following verses:

From the Halls of Montezuma
to the Shores of Tripoli,
We fight our country’s battles
On the land as on the sea.
First to fight for right and freedom,
And to keep our honor clean,
We are proud to claim the title
of United States Marine.

"Our flag’s unfurl’d to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in every clime and place
Where we could take a gun.
In the snow of far-off northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes,
You will find us always on the job
The United States Marines.

"Here’s health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we’ve fought for life
And never lost our nerve.
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven’s scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines."

On 21 November 1942, the Commandant of the Marine Corps authorized an official change in the first verse, fourth line, to reflect the changing mission of the Marine Corps. The new line read "in the air, on land and sea." That change was originally proposed by Gunnery Sergeant H.L. Tallman, an aviator and veteran of World War I.

Shortly after World War II, Marines began to stand at attention during the playing of The Marines’ Hymn, Today that tradition continues today to honor all those who have earned the title "United States Marine."

Happy Birthday, Marines ... Semper Fi.

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Vietnam: Arriving at the Truth: by Byron Edgington

Byron's UH-1 Huey

The view in the photo is from the cockpit of my UH-1, Huey, taken sometime in September 1970 in northern I Corps.

The photo shows American combat troops approaching a Huey that will fly them to another location. 

Not seen in this shot are troops loading my helicopter in similar fashion, directly behind me as the picture was taken.

A new website created by the Pentagon has a view of the war as well. Put on line several months ago, at a cost (thus far) of $15 million, the website strives to arrive at the 'truth' of American involvement in Vietnam, not from a political or ideological perspective, but to “assist a grateful nation” in thanking veterans and their families.

I applaud any effort to arrive at truth concerning our involvement in any war. The fact that the effort is being made is a hopeful sign that we refuse to bury details, however sordid, of our nation's foreign affairs and that we try not to repeat mistakes. 

I applaud, as well, the focus of the website, if it does indeed target American troops rather than the political minions, populists and military operatives who made many of the mistakes associated with Vietnam and our conflict there.

What bothers me about the website effort and its attempt to arrive at 'truth' about Vietnam, is the genesis of it. The troops the site celebrates should write their own stories of Vietnam, without fear or favor, and allow visitors to come to conclusions based on those narratives. 

As it is, the Pentagon and such luminaries as Tom Hayden and others are weighing in on the American effort in Vietnam, and once again the voices of those who fought and died in the paddies, jungles and hamlets of Vietnam.  Those critical voices are being relegated to the periphery.

Also, a connection should be made, however tenuous, to our efforts in Vietnam and the misadventure in Iraq. While it is true that any effort to connect the two conflicts is immediately fraught with political and ideological spin, that doesn't mean we should avoid potential historical references. 

Those connections may help in a courageous and transparent attempt to arrive at the 'truth' we claim to seek. Looking out a cockpit window shows only a partial view. History and its explication widens that view, if we're willing to look.

Byron Edgington

Byron Edgington
The SkyWriter

Byron's Book

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.