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  Revisiting Vietnam American RadioWorks
     
  Vietnam Scrapbook
     


BILL BOTH, Vietnam veteran
WEST HEMPSTEAD, NEW YORK, USA

I REPORTED ABOARD THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER U.S.S. CORAL SEA IN SUBIC BAY, PHILIPPINES ON 4/1/75. AT 64,000 TONS, IT IS STILL THE BIGGEST APRIL FOOL'S JOKE EVER PLAYED ON ME! I HAD FLOWN ACROSS COUNTRY FROM SAN DIEGO TO LONG ISLAND TO BE WITH MY FAMILY FOR EASTER AFTER GETTING OUT OF "A" SCHOOL.

THEN, IN THE SPACE OF 30 HOURS, I FLEW FROM NEW YORK TO SAN FRANCISCO, TOOK A RIDE OUT TO TRAVIS AFB, FLEW TO HAWAII, TO GUAM, AND THEN FINALLY TO CLARK AFB, PHILIPPINES. THEN, AFTER ALL THAT FLYING, THERE WAS STILL AN EXCRUCIATING 4 1/2 HOUR BUS RIDE FROM CLARK TO SUBIC IN AN UNAIRCONDITIONED BUS IN TROPICAL HEAT WHILE WEARING THE SAME HEAVY DRESS BLUES I'D WORN FOR THE WHOLE 30 HOURS OF PREVIOUS TRANSIT OVER THE WORST ROADS KNOWN TO MAN.

FINALLY, I ARRIVED AT SUBIC AT ABOUT 2100 (9 PM CIVILIAN TIME). I WAS THRUST INTO TWO STRANGE WORLDS: THE GRAY / REDLEADED JUNGLE OF A SUPERCARRIER WHERE 50-100 MEN OF ALL DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS WOULD INHABIT A SPACE NOT MUCH BIGGER THAN AN OVERSIZED LIVING ROOM AND THE PHILIPPINES, WHERE YOU HAD TO LOOK BEFORE DUMPING TRASH IN THE DUMPSTER TO AVOID HITTING LOCALS WADING THROUGH THE GARBAGE ROTTING IN THE TROPICAL SUN. THE PHILIPPINES, WHERE SAILORS AND MARINES WERE SOLD SOUVENIRS JUST OUTSIDE THE BASE GATE THAT VENDORS KNEW COULD NOT BE BROUGHT INSIDE. DISGUSTED SERVICEMEN THEN THREW THE USELESS TRINKETS INTO A RIVER NAMED S--T FOR ITS DARK BROWN COLOR AND INDESCRIBABLY FOUL SMELL. WHEREUPON LITTLE BOYS, HIRED BY THE SAME VENDORS, WOULD DIVE INTO THE LATRINE-LIKE WATER TO RETRIEVE THE ITEMS. I WAS JUST BEGINNING TO ADJUST TO ALL THIS WHEN VIETNAM BEGAN TO FALL AND WE WERE SENT OUT TO HELP IN THE EVACUATION OPERATION KNOWN AS "FREQUENT WIND". OUR PLANES ESCORTED THE EVACUATION AIRCRAFT, INCLUDING THE PLANELOAD OF ORPHANS TRAGICALLY SHOT DOWN BY SOME EVIL-MINDED VC GUNNERS. THEY WOULD CLAIM THAT THEY DIDN'T KNOW THAT WHO WAS ABOARD, BUT THAT WAS A LIE. THE OCCUPANTS AND TIMING OF THE FLIGHT WERE WELL ADVERTISED IN ADVANCE TO AVOID SUCH AN ERROR.

WE ALL HEARD ABOUT THAT TRAGEDY AND WERE DEEPLY SADDENED BY IT. IN FACT, THE WHOLE CREW EXPERIENCED A MIXTURE OF EQUAL MEASURES OF SADNESS, SHAME, ANGER, FRUSTRATION, AND HUMILIATION AT THIS WHOLE SORRY EPISODE. THERE WAS A REAL FEELING OF HELPLESSNESS THAT I REMEMBER DISTINCTLY TO THIS DAY. WE WANTED TO BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING TO STOP THE TRAGEDY, BUT WE COULDN'T. THEN CAME THE MAYAGUEZ OPERATION. WITH A CONTINGENT OF BATTLE-READY MARINES ABOARD AND OUR PLANES ARMING FOR REAL COMBAT, WE FINALLY THOUGHT WE WERE GOING TO BE ABLE TO STRIKE BACK. BUT THEN, AS HELICOPTERS CAME BACK ABOARD RIDDLED WITH ENEMY FIRE, CARRYING WOUNDED MARINES, WE REALIZED THAT THE OPERATION, IN SPITE OF GREAT HEROISM BY THOSE MARINES, HAD NOT GONE WELL. THREE MARINES WERE EVEN LEFT BEHIND TO THE TENDER MERCIES OF THE KHMER ROUGE, THE BRUTAL BASTARDS WHO THEN SLAUGHTERED OVER A MILLION OF THEIR OWN PEOPLE. I'VE OFTEN WONDERED WHAT THE LAST MOMENTS OF THOSE POOR GUYS WERE LIKE.

THE REAL CULPRIT WAS KISSINGER. HE GOADED FORD INTO INSERTING THE MARINES SEVERAL DAYS BEFORE THE JOINT CHIEFS WERE READY. AS A RESULT, THE MARINES WERE BADLY OUTNUMBERED ON THE GROUND, THERE WAS INADEQUATE RECONNAISSANCE, AND COMPLETELY INEFFECTUAL AND BADLY COORDINATED PRELIMINARY AIR ATTACKS. THE ASSAULT FORCE WAS NEARLY OVERRUN, RESULTING IN THOSE THREE GUYS BEING LEFT BEHIND. SEALS WERE LATER INSERTED TO TRY TO FIND THEM, BUT THEY WERE UNSUCCESSFUL. AN ACCOUNT OF A KHMER ROUGE DEFECTOR LATER INDICATED THAT THEY WERE BLINDFOLDED AND LED AWAY TO BE EXECUTED. AND THAT WAS HOW THE VIETNAM WAR ENDED. MCNAMARA AND KISSINGER ARE BEST BUDDIES. WHY AM I NOT SURPRISED?

   

 

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