Monthly Archives: June 2015


“…We were moving in a shallow ditch.  Their urgency was coming through to me, in my half conscious condition.  The trees were covering us and there was another thirty yards to go before we would be out from under the canopy, but it didn’t matter.  I wanted to sleep.

Jim was whispering hoarsely in my ear, “Hurry, napalm!”

His words registered but my body was too exhausted to respond, or increase its’ speed.  It didn’t matter, anymore.  I didn’t care and for the life of me, I couldn’t recall what was so important, a few minutes ago.  After less than ten meters with Jim’s words in my mind, the forest ignited above our heads.  The huge canopy turned into glowing golden fire.  A gigantic flame roared and rolled from treetop to treetop, with searing heat and glistening orange fire.  Great dollops of syrup thick flames dripped to the ground, fluttering noisily and splashing brilliantly.  They consumed the oxygen around us and surrounded us with a scorching wind.  Gasping for breath, the heat touched deep into my chest.  The heat blast curled the leaves around us and brought wisps of steam out of the ground.  It blistered our exposed skin.  More explosions roared, fire surrounded the three of us.  We ran blindly, afraid to breathe, as the world became an inescapable flame.  Steam and flame encircled us and we expected to burst into flames ourselves, at any second.  I was on the brink of accepting the death the flames offered.  I was done and knew it, so let it happen, my body whined.  But that other voice, deep within my spirit, screamed his last blast of energy into my failing body ‘Like Hell!’ he roared.  And my legs answered with one last series of strides….”


“…Sitting just inside the tree line, trying to catch my breath for the fifth or sixth time in the last four hours, my body was shaking uncontrollably and sweating profusely, from head to toe.  I guzzled the last of my water and ate the last of the dried fish in my pockets.  It didn’t amount to a mouthful and I knew I was pushing it.  I had to look away from the group at the gate below.  To do that, I began a scan with the binoculars, anything to avoid those accusing eyes.  Over the black slate high sloping rooftop north of the school, I could see a large body of NVA troops approaching.  They were heading for the rear of the orphanage.  They were moving in infantry combat lines, not columns.  Their uniforms were of a lighter gray, so I guessed they were not from the regiments I’d spotted earlier.  Those khaki clad troops were approaching the orphanage along the red dirt road that ran toward the east.  Both groups were moving fast.  The group I saw in the valley had sent a large contingent toward the orphanage and the narrows.  Probably after their sniper missed his shot at me, he informed them of our proximity.  Some of them were marching toward the school, down the road to the front gate, but others were out in a combat line and moving on the double toward the hill I was on.  It was just luck I got out when I did.  At least two hundred men were converging on the school, and ten times that many behind them.  As I watched from the cover of the trees on the hilltop, a second line came into view over the rooftop of the school.  My head count went higher, and in the face of such numbers, I decided my luck had been pushed to the absolute limit in the last few days.  I got up and ran…”



“…The day they went for it, we left camp at 0600 and moved north, toward the jungle on the other side of the small high valley.  Our camp overlooked the open ground to the north.  The eastern side of the camp allowed a view of a jagged boulder covered slope, so steep, large bodies of men could not effectively climb it, nor would they want to be caught trying.  To the south and west, our camp guarded the road climbing out of the main valley.  The road climbed into the highlands, a two hundred yard wide swath of defoliated growth, burnt black by napalm.  Visibility prevented surprises.  The Army hated surprises, so the Vietnamese countryside felt much better to us with a giant black scar of burnt poisoned land, on each side of our supply road.  It snaked north to other camps and firebases.  It ended up north where Giap cut it, during the siege of Khe Sanh.  The road was our sacred river for men and supplies.  Our life’s blood that must be protected or we’d all whither, and die.  Our camp was fairly safe, dominating the high ground for three and a half of its’ four sides, and guarding the road and two valleys.  If a man stood at the gate facing west, a klick beyond the road his left eye would see Cambodia, his right Laos, and if he went due west two klicks, he’d be standing on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

The strategic importance of controlling the area around our camp was obvious to the lowest private in the Army, so the brass, in its’ infinite wisdom, left the defense of our camp to its’ formidable terrain, and sixty-one officers and men of the first Special Forces Group.  Naturally, we supported Command’s position with enthusiastic confidence, actually believing we were up to the task.  Every man in our camp had heard the criticism of the army engineers who designed the camp, because they forgot to include alternate gates.  The camp had one gate large enough to allow trucks through.  The others were small walking gates, on the south side.  But we weren’t worried because we knew, it was inconceivable the gooks would try and break into an American camp.  What we didn’t know was the leadership of the NVA didn’t rule out the option of attacking an American base; the poor little bastards didn’t know it was inconceivable.  They were about to show us arrogance was a lousy defense….”



“…I was acutely aware of the forest around me.  I was part of it.  The jungle was becoming my world.  I was falling in love with the nightly raids.  I’d joined one of the most active outfits in the U.S. Army, and found it appealed to me.  We jokingly referred to our raids as ‘hunts’.  We crept up on our enemy, waiting for one to fall behind and isolate himself.  We were half convinced we had become predators, preying on the weakest members of the herd.  My senses had grown more and more acute, with every trip into the jungle.  I could identify that world by sound and smell.  Often, sight wasn’t possible, nor was it necessary.  My reflexes had taken on a quick decisiveness that was thrilling beyond anything I’d ever known.  All that we did was natural, even killing, and we did it to stay hidden and alive.  We had been trained, and I felt we were falling backward in time, a reverse evolution, de-evolving us back to the mythic predator/soldier, the fittest of this primal world.  Conventional soldiers were consumed by disease or hunger in every jungle.  We had learned to flourish…”

“…Our uniforms were a light weight cotton and silk blend, with a tiger striped pattern of black and olive drab; designed to be silent and to blend into the jungle and make us invisible.  We wore no patches or marks on our uniforms, nothing to identify our rank or specialties.  We each had a towel tucked into our collars, to absorb sweat and keep the insects from gaining access, and olive duct tape securing everything; our collars, sleeves, and canvas boots.  Everything on us was either tied or taped down, with no dingle berries, and most of all, nothing to catch light or shine.  Our faces were black with camo; we both wore veils and were armed to the teeth, including the clamshell case of my long gun that was strapped to my back.  We did not look like the regulars and that was a source of pride for us…..”


I’ve often heard Americans compare the United States to the Roman Empire.

From the time of Augustus Caesar to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, approximately two hundred years, the world knew peace and prosperity under the Pax Romana.  Rome was history’s greatest empire.  When Rome sent her legions into a province and conquered it, that province became a part of Rome, ruled by a local government, overseen by a Roman Governor, with a cohort, or two, of Rome’s legions to ensure the enforcement of Roman Law.  In exchange for being brought into the Roman economy and the protection of Roman Law, the province paid taxes to Rome.  Under Roman rule, the citizens of that province enjoyed the prosperity that can only come in a peaceful and orderly society.  Rome’s military was so powerful that new territories were given the option of entering Roman society as a province of Rome, or being destroyed.

In four hundred years there were only four rebellions, three from Jerusalem and one from Britain.  None of those rebellions ever lasted for more than a year, and died out soon after a couple of legions were sent back into the territory to bring order.

Rome understood that the game of Empire came with the responsibility of Empire.  There was more to Rome than her legions.  Rome was a great conqueror and built perhaps the greatest Empire the world has ever known, with only the British Empire coming in second.  Rome, however, was not a racist society, as England was, and the British Empire only lasted half as long as the Roman Empire.  Both empires brought the rule of law, but only Rome granted status to the citizens of her conquered provinces.  Both empires understood that you don’t send in the military if you are not prepared to let them loose to do their job, and keep them there to govern and maintain order. and accept the responsibility of making those conquered lands a part of their own country.

In 2003, the United States sent her armies into Iraq to conquer without the intention of governing that country.  We destroyed that government, dismantled their armies and left governance to chaos, under the guise of ‘freeing the Iraqi people’.  The dismantled and disgruntled Iraqi military, that we had once trained and armed, became ISIL, and now threaten the entire Middle East.

There are many who say that if only we had kept our armies in Iraq, this would never have happened and that President Obama created the problem by withdrawing the troops.  The fact is that the new Iraqi government insisted we remove our armies and refused to sign the agreement not to prosecute American troops, giving the president no choice but to remove them, being unwilling to place them in harm’s way.  The only way we could have kept troops in Iraq would have been to make it a province of the United States and govern it, to behave as an empire.  If we are not willing to behave as an empire, we should not be sending in our legions.

Today, there is a great deal of talk in the United States about whether, or not, to send ground troops to destroy ISIL, with absolutely no discussion of what to do after that.  There is a great deal of ‘chest thumping’ by politicians with political agendas, but nothing is being said about how to proceed after our armies conquer those lands.

The last time we did that turned out to be a disaster and put us in our current position because we failed to accept the responsibility of the power vacuum we created.  Before we put ‘boots on the ground’, once again, we need to decide if we are willing to follow through, as an empire, and if we are not willing to govern that land we need to ignore the wealthy oil corporations that purchase politicians in an attempt to manipulate our government, and leave the Middle East to the people that live there, to settle their own differences.  If we are willing to accept the responsibility of ruling as an empire, then we need to build up our legions and just send them in.

We should, however, take into consideration that our military is currently spread so thin, that only a draft would resolve the lack of manpower, and to consider the fact that our Congress has cut benefits for veterans in need, while cutting taxes for their billionaire masters.  Before we tell other governments how they should behave, perhaps we should concentrate our efforts on taking care of our own.  If we are going to allow ourselves to be railroaded into war by ‘big oil’ interests, then we had better be willing to commit for the duration, and back it up with the lives of our children.