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SO I WAS AT THE GYM THE OTHER DAY - wearing my PT uniform*, and thankful that I have a job that allows me to spend time at the gym. Mandates it, in fact - but I'm a guy who would spend his off duty time there anyway. (And there would be fewer posts on this site, to the joy of some.)
The treadmill is always my last stop. I run outdoors, of course, but I like to do speedwork on a treadmill - it keeps me honest, and I live in flat country so the machine provides my only hills, too. Although I can't do quarter miles at what used to be my one-mile speed I think my half dozen sub-six minute/mile reps (with recovery jogs) are respectable for a man of middle age and limited time. I know it helps keep me lean, I like to believe it helps keep me young.
So I'm standing on the machine getting ready to start, plugging my mp3 player into my ears (I think this tune sets a good workout rhythm, if I say so myself...) when I glance up at the bank of televisions on the wall above me. (Did I say gym? I meant Fitness Center, and the one I'm standing in is barely a year old. It ain't your father's army post...)
The TV above me is tuned to CNN, but the sound is turned down. On the screen I see the unmistakable face of Colonel Bud Day, USAF (ret). I thought that was a remarkable coincidence - I'd just written about Col Day at MilBlogs. In an odd bit of synchronicity, this long time friend (and former cellmate) of John McCain had been the first commander of a unit in Vietnam that would later be briefly led by then-Major Merrill McPeak, who as co-chair of the Barack Obama campaign had made weekend news by spouting catty remarks about John McCain's weight.
For those who wouldn't recognize America's most decorated living veteran CNN provided his name in a caption - albeit without identifying him as such. There was only one thing CNN wanted the viewer to know about Bud Day - that was made clear in the frame around the video. The one thing CNN wanted Americans to know about Bud Day was that he was a member of the Swiftboat Veterans.
I made a mental note to check out why CNN was featuring Bud Day later. Then I pushed play, hit the quick start button, and cranked up the speed.
Like many of my generation I did not go to war gravely and soberly, as Lao-tzu tells us a wise man ought. But I returned from it that way.Many veterans would probably concur with that simple quote from Steven Pressfield's brilliant novel Killing Rommel. I suspect Bud Day might be among them.
Among military members, Bud Day needs no introduction. For others:Whenever I think I'm "torturing" myself in the gym, I think of guys like Bud Day.George "Bud" Day was seventeen in late 1942 when he badgered his parents into allowing him to volunteer for the Marine Corps. He spent nearly three years in the South Pacific during World War II, then returned home, went to college, and got a law degree. In 1950, he joined the Air National Guard. When he was called up for active duty a year later, he applied for pilot training and flew fighter jets during the Korean War. After being promoted to captain in 1955, he decided to become a "lifer" in the Air Force.Here's a video of Bud telling the rest of the story (once again - you'll recognize the name of his Hanoi Hilton "roomate"). More here and here (including his Medal of Honor citation).
In 1967, Day, now a major, was put in command of a squadron of F-100s in Vietnam involved in a top-secret program. Nicknamed the Misty Super Facs, their mission was to fly over North Vietnam and Laos as "forward air controllers," selecting military targets and calling in air strikes on them. On August 26, ground fire hit Day's plane, destroying its hydraulic controls and forcing it into a steep dive.
Then this:In February, 1971 several American prisoners at the Hoa Loa camp gathered for a forbidden religious service. Suddenly they were interrupted by the enraged enemy guards. As the guards burst into the meeting room with rifles pointed at the prisoners, one of the Americans stood to his feet. Ragged, battered but unbroken, it was George Day. Looking into the muzzles of the enemy rifles he began to sing. The song was "The Star Spangled Banner", our National Anthem. Next to him another prisoner stood. Commander James Bond Stockdale was the ranking American in the prison and he lended his voice to Day's anthem of freedom. Soon the other prisoners joined the refrain, and then from throughout the entire prison camp, came the sounds of others. Stockdale, who would join "Bud" Day in receiving Medals of Honor five years later wrote that, although he was punished for the episode, it was exhilarating: "Our minds were now free and we knew it."
John Donovan, writing in a different context:For those of you who aren't familiar with Once an Eagle, Anton Myrer's story of an Army that no longer exists, Courtney Massengale is the officer who is the consumate Organization Man in a Suit. Always playing the game the right way, angling for the right jobs, etc. Sam Damon is... a warrior.Bud Day defines warrior:
All armies have their share of both. Successful armies find enough Damons to counteract the Massengales. The Massengales, while happy to use the Damons, also tend to drive them out, because a Damon makes a Massengale uncomfortable, and isn't as skilled at "the game" as the Corporation Man.He is often cited as being the most decorated U.S. service member since General Douglas MacArthur, having received some seventy decorations, a majority for actions in combat. Day is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.Without ever once citing the fairness doctrine he went on to make the Massengales of this world extremely uncomfortable. More on that later.
After being passed over for nomination to brigadier general, Day retired from active duty in 1977...... At his retirement he had nearly 8,000 total flying hours, and 4,900 in single engine jets, and had flown the F-80 Shooting Star, F-84 Thunderjet, F-100 Super Sabre, F-101 Voodoo, F-104 Starfighter, F-105 Thunderchief, F-106 Delta Dart, F-4 Phantom II, A-4 Skyhawk, A-7 Corsair II, CF-5 Tiger, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and CF-18 Hornet jet fighters.
Col George "Bud" Day, USAF
Day retired in 1977 and entered law practice in Florida. When retirees were thrown out of the military medical care system, during the Clinton administration years...
Among other endeavors, Day filed a class action lawsuit against the United States government in 1996 on behalf of military retirees who were stripped of their Air Force medical care benefits and told to apply for Medicare.
Here's what NBC wanted to tell Americans about Bud Day in 2007:
One of the members of John McCain’s new Truth Squad — which his campaign says was launched to respond to unfair attacks on his record of military service –- was a member of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and appeared in an attack ad for the group in 2004.Which he did - they've even got a photo capture from the video to prove it.
And since they brought it up, here's the full video:
To understand Col Day's opinion of John Kerry, you'd have to be familiar with Kerry's testimony before congress - given while Day and the other POWs in that video were being tortured in Vietnam:
Col Day wasn't much interested in John Kerry's Vietnam career. His issue with the Democrat's choice for President was related to Kerry's post-war conduct. Day explained his position in 2004:
Letter from Col. George E. "Bud" Day regarding John KerryBefore teaming with Kerry's fellow Swift Boat veterans, Day and other POWs had told their stories in the documentary "Stolen Honor: Wounds that never heal", a film that received an amazing review from the New York Times:
The major issue in the Swiftboat stories is, and always has been, what John Kerry did in 1971 after he returned from Vietnam. Kerry cast a long dark shadow over all Vietnam Veterans with his outright perjury before the Senate concerning atrocities in Vietnam. His stories to the Senate committee were absolute lies..fabrications..perjury..fantasies, with NO substance. That dark shadow has defamed the entire Vietnam War veteran population, and gave "Aid and Comfort" to our enemies..the Vietnamese Communists. Kerry's stories were outright fabrications, and were intended for political gain with the radical left..McGovern, Teddy and Bobby Kennedy followers, Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, and the radical left who fantasized that George McGovern was going to be elected in 1972. Little wonder that returning soldiers from Vietnam were spit upon and castigated as "baby killers".
A returned war hero said so. Kerry cut a dashing figure as a war hero, lots of medals, and returned home because of multiple war wounds..even a silver star. His Senate testimony confirmed what every hippie had been chanting on the streets.."Hey hey LBJ..How many kids did you kill today"????? He obviously was running for political office in 1971.
Until Lt. John O' Neil, himself a Swifboat commander, spoke out before the 1972 elections against Kerry's outright deceptions, there was no one from the Swiftboat scene that could contradict Kerry's self serving lies.
I was a POW of the Vietnamese in Hanoi in 1971, and I am aware that the testimony of John Kerry, the actions of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, and the radical left; all caused the commies to conclude that if they hung on, they would win North Vietnamese General Bui Tin commented that every day the Communist leadership listened to world news over the radio to follow the growth of the anti-war movement. Visits to Hanoi by Jane Fonda and Ramsey Clark gave them confidence to hold in the face of battlefield reverses. The guts of it was that propaganda from the anti-war group was part of their combat strategy.
While the Commies were hanging on, innumerable U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Air Force members were being killed in combat. Every battle wound to Americans after Kerry's misdirected testimony is related to Kerry's untruthfulness. John Kerry contributed to every one of these deaths with his lies about U.S. atrocities in Vietnam. He likewise defamed the U.S. with our allies and supporters. His conduct also extended the imprisonment of the Vietnam Prisoners of War, of which I was one. I am certain of at least one POW death after his testimony, which might have been prevented with an earlier release of the POWs.
My friend and room mate Senator John S. McCain denounced the Swiftboat video by John O'Neil. I have a different take on the Swiftboat tape and disagree with my good friend John.
John Kerry opened up his character as a war hero reporting for duty to the country with a hand salute...and his band of brothers..of which he was the chief hero. Most of his convention speech was about John Kerry..Vietnam hero, and his band of brothers. John Kerry's character is not only fair game, it is the primary issue. He wants to use Bill Clinton's "is", as an answer to his lack of character.
The issue is trust. Can anyone trust John Kerry?? "Never lie, cheat or steal" is the West Point motto. When a witness perjures himself at trial, the judge notes that his testimony lacks credibility. Should we elect a known proven liar to lead us in wartime??
I draw a direct comparison of General Benedict Arnold of the Revolutionary War, to Lieutenant John Kerry. Both went off to war, fought, and then turned against their country. General Arnold crossed over to the British for money and position. John Kerry crossed over to the Vietnamese with his assistance to the anti-war movement, and his direct liaison with the Vietnamese diplomats in Paris. His reward. Political gain. Senator..United States. His record as a Senator for twenty years has been pitiful. Conjure up, if you will, one major bill that he has sponsored.
John Kerry for President? Ridiculous. Unthinkable. Unbelievable. Outrageous.
Col. Geo. "Bud" Day, Medal of Honor, Vietnam POW 1967- 1973, USMC- USA- USAF- Attorney 1949-2004
Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," the highly contested anti-Kerry documentary, should not be shown by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. It should be shown in its entirety on all the networks, cable stations and on public television.The Kerry campaign was quick to instruct their adherants how to feel about the group's charges: "While the stories of the POWs sounded legitimate, the Kerry campaign warned that the group has a shady history." And "This group is the poor, distant cousin of the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush," said Mark Nevins, a spokesman for the campaign. "It’s comprised of people with questionable backgrounds whose sole mission in life is to smear John Kerry."
The anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has spent more than $10 million trying to discredit Kerry's war record, recently changed its name to Swift Vets and POWs for Truth to bring into its fold dozens of Vietnam prisoners of war opposed to Kerry's candidacy. Many of those POWs are interviewed in the documentary, "Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal."Sinclair Broadcasting planned to air the film on it's network stations in the weeks prior to the 2004 elections. The possibility of Americans hearing the testimony of these former POWs so frightened the Democrats that they filed complaints with the FCC and organized boycotts against Sinclair sponsors.
Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal was never aired on American television, but you can still see excerpts of the film on the web site.
Bud Day may have retired from the Air Force - and helped end the presidential aspirations of ex-lieutenant John Kerry, but he has never quit the battlefield:
A Message from MOH Recipient Col. Bud DayThe Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation home page is here. You'll find more information about Bud Day here, and excerpts from his autobiography here.
October 4, 2007
My Dear Fellow Americans:
For the last few weeks, the “Liberal’s War on America” has gone badly.
* MoveOn, the New York Times, and Senators who accused Gen. Petraeus of being a traitor and a liar have been exposed and repudiated;
* The media’s attempted flim-flam to portray Iran’s Terrorist Dictator as a “Statesman,” tripped on Columbia University’s red carpet;
* The brave combat Marines whom Congressman Murtha and the press eagerly charged with “cold-blooded murders” in Iraq are being found innocent, acquitted one by one.
The “War” is not going well … the “War On America,” that is.
Those who claim they “Support the Troops” are finally being unmasked, shown for being the cowards they are. But, it won’t be long before they regroup, begin their own “Surge” in this decades-long “War On America.” We won’t stand by quietly when they do; nor, should you.
My fellow POWs and I have long known the contempt the extreme Left has for our military. We felt the crush of rifle butts in our faces, beatings and unspeakable torture in the Hanoi Hilton Prison when we refused to kowtow to American traitors who traveled to these countries for propaganda “photo-ops” with our Communist jailors.
The so-called “anti-war movement,” lead by the likes of Lt. John Kerry and his mentor, Sen. Ted Kennedy, also said they “supported the troops”. What they didn’t say is whose “troops.”
We knew the answer then, we were witnesses and victims. It’s the same today. They “support” America’s enemies, any Communist Regime, Dictator or Terrorists that vow to kill and maim American soldiers and innocent civilians.
American soldiers in Vietnam were falsely accused of being a “barbarian horde,” “rapists,” “murderers,” “drug addicts” and “baby killers.”
Today, their sons, daughters and grandchildren serving in uniform stand accused of being “terrorists,” “Nazis,” “cold-blooded murderers,” people who wantonly conduct “air raids on villages” bombing and killing civilians.
Every one of those spurious accusations were spewed from the Halls of Congress, most often by the same men and women who voted to send America’s youth to war, only to denounce, vilify and abandon them later, when the opportunity for personal, political advantage presented itself.
When I and my fellow veterans — POWs, Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Navy Swift Boat combat veterans alike — attempted to warn America about one of the most notorious turncoats from the Vietnam era, we were initially ignored by the mainstream media.
When the press and TV networks could no longer cover-up for John Kerry’s very public treasonous conduct, we were accused of being “serial liars,” shouted down by Leftist political campaign operatives disguised as “journalists.” All the while the networks kept the film evidence of Lt. Kerry’s betrayal under lock and key, where it remains hidden from the American public even today.
The recent treatment accorded Gen. Petraeus by the same radicals in Congress and the media was strikingly similar to our experiences in 2004. Before he uttered a single word, this highly decorated combat veteran, a man of great honor who has risked his life many times in the defense of our country, stood accused, disparaged and berated by a pack of power-hungry shirkers and slackers unworthy to polish his combat medals.
Veterans who attempted to expose Sen. Kerry in 2004 were treated no better. But, Kerry and his band of Leftist comrades had something special in store for me and my fellow POWs and their wives. We were sued repeatedly for three long years, forced to spend $1 million just to defend ourselves in several frivolous lawsuits.
What did we do to cause such a prolonged, vindictive assault? We told the truth no Mainstream Media news operation wanted the American public to know, then or now.
Dozens of my fellow POWs and their wives participated in a documentary, “Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal.” In that film we said Kerry and his anti-war followers were liars and frauds working on behalf of our brutal Communists captors. Their collaboration with the enemy prolonged our captivity and the Vietnam War itself by years. Their vicious lies accusing us and all U.S. servicemen of being “war criminals” put our lives and the lives of Americans still fighting on the battlefield in grave danger.
Worse of all, Kerry’s self-aggrandizing, false accusations against American soldiers who had born the brunt of the bleeding and dying in Vietnam, spawned the myths our young men and women in Iraq today are forced to defend against, even as they fight for their lives on the battlefield each and every day.
You can draw a straight line from the deceitful Leftist tactics used to bring America’s defeat and dishonor in Vietnam to Iraq today.
America’s military didn’t lose the Vietnam War. Congress declared defeat, voted to abandon South Vietnam nearly two years after our last combat troops left. That sell-out, not only of our South Vietnam ally, but the nearly 60,000 Americans who gave their lives on the battlefield, ignited a genocidal holocaust throughout Southeast Asia that can still only be measured in the millions, an estimated three to five million innocent civilians brutally murdered.
We cannot let that happen again. We will not let that happen. You can stand shoulder to shoulder with us to prevent that from happening.
Three years ago, I and my fellow POWs and Vietnam combat veterans created a non-profit organization, ” The Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation”. Our mission was simple, to set the record straight about the Vietnam War and those who served and fought there. Little did we know then we’d be slapped with multiple lawsuits for daring to uncover the layer upon layer of lies that constitute the false Vietnam History.
Nor, could we know then the Left’s plans to use the same Vietnam blueprint for defeat in Iraq. Little wonder Kerry and his followers wanted to sue us into silence! But, we prevailed. We successfully defended against each of those lawsuits, all have now been withdrawn. And, we will not remain silent any longer.
Our research into the Vietnam War, most especially, those individuals and organizations responsible for creating the completely false history of Vietnam, is voluminous, factual and compelling. We have amassed a virtual library of records, documents and eyewitness testimony that proves, conclusively, the popular history of Vietnam is pure bunk, propaganda.
Once we get the truth out to the American people, there will be winners. Those winners will be every man and woman who has served in our Armed Forces. To them and their families, this is a war we cannot lose.
The “War On America” is just heating up again. What we do now will dictate America’s future, whether it is one of victory over terrorism, or, decades more of defeat, humiliation in a lost, but noble cause.
God Bless You and America,
Col. Bud Day
America's most decorated living veteran - it's no small wonder the Left fears him.
Tracking: thanks to Instapundit, PowerLine, Dean Esmay, Gateway Pundit, The Smallest Minority, Pal2pal, The Conservative Syndicate, Amused Cynic, and Chapomatic for joining the conversation! (If I missed you, leave a comment or send an email and I'll add you in.)
McCain devotes more pages to Bud Day's travails than his own in "Faith of Our Fathers", even minimizing his own torture and crediting Bud's example as having pulled him through.
Important point: there are Congresspeople who indeed voted to go to war, then turned around and betrayed the troops once it became expedient. Once it got tough, nasty, and ugly, once it started requiring real guts to stick with, they broke faith with the military they had urged on to war. One by one, these leaders slithered off the bandwagon, deserting the troops and silently allowing a leftist culture against the military to bloom unimpeded.
Now, NOW, the troops have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, with brute muscle, blood and guts, and got things going the right way. Now, even Obama is rethinking whether or not we need an immediate pull out.
Now that it's easy, now that our uniformed friends and family have punched through the "impossible" and the "hopeless", these summertime cheerleaders are onboard. I remember those who stayed behind the troops even when it was expedient to undercut the mission and turn your back. The through-thick-and-thin leaders, who hung in there, duking it out until things got to this point, will always have our gratitude.Posted by jordan at July 5, 2008 04:47 PM
What Jordan said!
Also, GH, thank you for this site. I learn so much here, and use THE FACTS here to educate my friends who are willing to listen, and actually HEAR what's being said. Unfortunately there are not many around here who ARE willing. I speak very calmly, and methodical, and think of you while doing so, as that is what your writing says, to me anyway.
Another also, is that you singing? Have you done a CD yet? If so, how can I get one?Posted by Maggie45 at July 5, 2008 06:09 PM
Ooops, never mind about the second also....I just went to the main page...and downloaded it to my Itunes. Thanks!Posted by Maggie45 at July 5, 2008 06:14 PM
I've been spotting the asinine term "swiftboating" in more and more MSM (and junior MSM) contexts (by the latter I mean trade press and business mags). I keep seeing sentences about some business competitor 'swiftboating' another or some individual launching a 'swiftboat' campaign. Nobody, ever, ever, points out how ridiculous this term is, and it is really beginning to seep in. Thank you for beginning the process of unmasking this charade. I'm hopeful that in the end it will be another example of MSM being careless about what they wish for. A re-examination of Kerry and the Swiftboat guys might be just what the doctor ordered.Posted by Journowatcher at July 5, 2008 06:49 PM
Thanks Maggie. That's me singing and playing the guitar parts. I made a video too, now playing here at the top of the 4 July Dawn Patrol
(And thanks to Mike Yon for use of his photos therein...)
There are other videos of me playing and singing throughout the site, and on the MilBlogs YouTube page.
Any chance that "Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal" might show up on Youtube?
It worked for "Fitna."Posted by John D at July 7, 2008 05:09 AM
A dissenting voice here, if you don't mind.
To begin with, there is no doubt that Bud Day is one of the great military heroes of the Vietnam War.
There is also no doubt that Bud Day's memories of the war are colored through a hard-right perspective. He certainly earned that perspective, but his take-no-prisoners perspective allowed him to put his name behind two falsehoods during the 2004 campaign against John Kerry.
To begin with, Bud Day and the Swift Boaters with which he aligned himself in 2004 charged that the communists used John Kerry's anti-war statements while torturing American POWs in Hanoi. Kerry made his statements in 1971. The torture of American POWs in Hanoi actually stopped after Ho Chi Minh's death in 1969.
Numerous POWs went on the record in 2004 to note that they never heard boo about John Kerry while still being held in Hanoi. Conversely, there were so many anti-war critics with military creds in 1971 (General Shoup, Rep McCloskey, etc.) that Hanoi didn't even need John Kerry's words.
More importantly, Bud Day signed a statement claiming that "Kerry cast a long dark shadow over all Vietnam Veterans with his outright perjury before the Senate [in 1971] concerning atrocities in Vietnam. His stories to the Senate committee were absolute lies..fabrications..perjury..fantasies, with NO substance...."
Bud Day is speaking here of the so-called Winter Soldiers who gave testimony in Detroit in 1971 about their service in Vietnam. As soon as the Winter Soldiers opened their mouths, the Nixon Administration accused them of being phony veterans telling lies about a war in which they had never served.
However, despite decades of diggging by various right-wing organizations, not a single Winter Soldier who gave testimony was ever shown to be a fake veteran. Indeed, many have proven their bonafides over the years with discharge papers, letters, diary notes, award citations, photos of themselves in Vietnam, etc.
More to the point, though a few of the Winter Soldiers were probably exaggerating their atrocity stories, many have been born out over the years. In fact, recently declassified CID reports show that Jamie Henry (B/1-35th Infantry, 4th Div, RVN, 1967-68) was telling the absolute truth when he described at the Winter Soldier Investigation the numerous rapes and murders committed by his comrades during the hard days of the 1968 Tet Offensive.
I could name numerous other Winter Soldiers whose testimony has been validated by CID and NIS reports, contemporary news accounts, official histories, etc.
Bud Day is an American Hero, but he is also a highly-politicized figure who has no problem demeaning the service of left-wing veterans with whom he disagrees.
That he threw his wholehearted support behind hucksters like the SBVFT still makes me cringe.
Keith Nolan (author of RIPCORD, OPERATION BUFFALO, HOUSE TO HOUSE, etc.)
Google: Al Hubbard.
Your comments are welcome here. I only wish you'd made them when the story was still fresh. I urge you to read the more recent entry I made here. In addition to McCain's actual testimony on his Hanoi time, linked therein you might even find my 2004 post in which I waved the bullshit flag on a Newsmax story headlined McCain: Hanoi Hilton Guards Taunted POWs With Kerry's Testimony.
Meanwhile, of those various investigations of "not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command" (John Kerry) resulted in convictions? More on that below.
Only a fool would argue that no American soldier ever harmed a civilian, or that soldiers are in their entirety a righteous breed. I'm more familiar with the current crop than the previous generation, but folks don't evolve at a pace where that really matters. I know the Abu Ghraib sort don't represent the overwhelming number of folks in uniform now, and I believe the same of the My Lai crew. Sadly, I can only hope that the Joe Darbys and "Buck" Thompsons are proportionately better represented than that bred or the "Winter Soldiers" who (according to their own testimony) never spoke or acted when it mattered. (Thus in one regard the two sides of the winter solder argument boil down to "they're liars" or "they're cowards".)
I'd question your assertion that Day is somehow chiefly politically motivated. I think his reasons are deeper. I'm quite sure that upon hearing Kerry's testimony for the first time - whenever and wherever that was, he didn't ask what color tie the SOB wore.
I'm not sure that's true of all involved. In fact, the prime question in my mind is one of motive. What motivated these 'Winter Soldiers" to do what they did? What did they hope to achieve? And what was John Kerry's goal? Others ask the same.
B.G. Burkett, Stolen Valor:
The same disrespect for the truth was in operation during the Winter Soldier hearings. After all the atrocities were dutifully taken down, the transcript was inserted into the Congressional Record by Sen. Mark O. Hatfield, who asked the commandant of the Marine Corps to investigate the many crimes, particularly those perpetrated by Marines.
"The results of this investigation, carried out by the Naval Investigative Service are interesting and revealing," said historian Guenter Lewy in his book America in Vietnam. His history of the war was one of the first to rely on previously classified documents in the National Archives. "Many of the veterans, although assured that they would not be questioned atrocities they might have committed personally, refused to be interviewed. One of the active members of the VVAW told investigators that the leadership had directed the entire membership not to cooperate with military authorizes.
One black Marine who testified at Winter Soldier did agree to talk with the investigators. Although he had claimed during the hearing that Vietnam was "one huge atrocity" and a "racist plot," he could provide no details of any actual crimes. Lewy said the question of atrocities had not occurred to the Marine until he left Vietnam. His testimony had been substantially "assisted" by a member of the Nation of Islam.
"But the most damaging finding consisted of the sworn statements of several veterans, corroborated by witnesses, that they had in fact not attended the hearing in Detroit," Lewy wrote, "One of them had never been to Detroit in his life." Fake "witnesses" had appropriated the names of real Vietnam veterans.
Lewy pointed out that incidents similar to those described at the Winter Soldier hearings did occur. "Yet these incidents either (as in the destruction of hamlets) did not violate the law of war or took place in breach of existing regulations," Lewy wrote. Those responsible were tired and punished.
"In either case, they were not, as alleged, part of a 'criminal policy,'" Lewy said. Despite the antiwar movement's contention that military policies protecting civilians in Vietnam were routinely ignored, Lewy said the rules of engagement were implemented and taken very seriously, although at times the rules were not communicated properly and the training was inadequate. That's what made the failure so notable.
..."The VVAW's use of fake witnesses and the failure to cooperate with military authorities and to provide crucial details of the incidents further cast serious doubt on the professed desire to server the causes of justice and humanity." Lewy wrote. "It is more likely that this inquiry, like others earlier and later, had primarily political motives and goals."
Thanks for the quick and courteous response, Grayhawk. Allow me to make some counterpoints:
1.) You wrote: "Your comments are welcome here. I only wish you'd made them when the story was still fresh."
Ah, actually, I've been screaming about the validity of the Winter Soldier Investigation since it became an issue in 2004.
I need to make myself clear. I'm not a particular fan of John Kerry (he's too stiff, too arrogant, too liberal, and pats himself endlessly on his own back for serving in combat), but he did earn a Silver Star and a few other medals in the service of his country.... and I gotta respect that, especially when I think about how many of his rich-kid peers hid under their beds instead of going to Vietnam.
Conversely, the Winter Soldiers, as a group, are a little too radical for my blood.... but, again, I gotta respect their service no matter what side of the political fence they eventually landed.
And that's my beef. If the right-wing had simply argued (in 1971, and when the issue came alive again in 2004) that the Winter Soldiers were addressing the worst U.S. conduct in Vietnam, and that their stories were not representational of the majority of veterans, you'd have heard not a peep from me.
Instead, the right-wing argued (in 1971 and 2004)that the Winter Soldiers were a pack of frauds making up lies about a war in which they never served.
Well, as a historian of the Vietnam War, I've met some of the Winter Soldiers over the years, and know from documents and photos that they were real veterans. I've also spoken to enough Vietnam veterans of all political stripes to know that many of the Winter Soldier stories rang true.
For example, Scott Moore, formerly a platoon leader in the 9th Division, spoke at the Winter Soldier Investigation about fake body counts. In fact, the 9th Division under General Ewell was infamous for fake body counts. (See ABOUT FACE by Colonel Hackworth.)
Robert Kruch, formerly a grunt with the Americal Division, spoke at the Winter Soldier Investigation about a hyper-aggressive battalion commander who ordered his unit not to take prisoners so to boost the body count, and also about a combat refusal that took place near FSB Center, I Corps, RVN, in August 1969. Well, the combat refusal was covered extensively by the press at the time, and I tracked down Kruch's former company commander who confirmed that, yes, their battalion commander was a little nuts, and did, in fact, put out the word that he didn't want prisoners.
Mike McCusker spoke at the Winter Soldier Investigation of a rape-and-murder incident committed by B/1/5 Marines in 1966. That incident was confirmed in the official marine history of court-martials in Vietnam by LtCol Gary Solis, USMC.
Another Winter Soldier spoke of a company commander in the 9th Marines being assassinated (fragged) by his own men in 1969. Again, that murder was confirmed in LtCol Solis's official history.
Then there's Jamie Henry, formerly of the 4th Division, who cooperated with the CID to have justice done regarding the rapes and murders he had seen--rapes and murders confirmed by the CID--only to have the whole mess swept under the rug as a political embarrassment. (Just as the Tiger Force atrocities were also swept under the rug at the same time by the same agencies.)
In addition, as a researcher/writer with an interest in establishing the veracity of the Winter Soldier Investigation, I began tracking down veterans as of 2004 who might confirm or deny what was said in Detroit in 1971. Numerous veterans provided me old letters and diary entries that confirmed the atrocity tales told by the Winter Soldiers. Some of those same veterans also provided me with old photos of hamlets being burned down, villagers toyed with at gun and bayonet point, prisoners being brutally beaten, and GIs holding up heads hacked from dead Viet Cong.
I could go on and on.
In any event, history might chalk such atrocities up as "isolated incidents"--but confirmation of such incidents makes a lie of the SBVFT claim that Kerry's Winter Soldiers were a pack of frauds.
2.) You wrote: "Google: Al Hubbard."
Ah, Al Hubbard, the achilles heel of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War--the guy who most definitely lied about his military service, exaggerating his rank, exaggerating the extent of his service in Vietnam, ad naseum.
Al Hubbard never made any atrocity claims, however, and never said boo in front of the microphones at the Winter Soldier Investigation.
Incidentally, after decades of digging for dirt on the Winter Soldiers, Al Hubbard is the only guy the right-wing can actually point to as a B.S. artist--and, as I say, he was an organizer who didn't actually offer any personal testimony.
One other thought: I've never encountered a veterans organization of any political persuasion that did not have a few flakes and liars.
3.) Regarding the Winter Soldiers, you write that "they never spoke or acted when it mattered. (Thus in one regard the two sides of the winter solder argument boil down to "they're liars" or "they're cowards".)
Not so fast. It's no simple thing for a stressed-out nineteen-year-old grunt to rat out his buddies when they do something ugly in the heat of the moment--and virtually impossible when some of those ugly things are being done at the orders of lieutenants and captains. You're expecting some kind of moral clarity out of teenagers that often wasn't possible in the confusing landscape of an ugly guerrilla war like Vietnam in which the name of the game was body count, body count, body count.
Also, please bear in mind that the record shows that many war crimes in Vietnam WERE reported by outraged grunts and junior officers--whose reports were then covered up by their superiors who feared having the careers derailed by scandal. (See: My Lai, the atrocity behind the book Casualties of War, etc., etc., etc.)
4.) You reference B.G. Burkett's Stolen Valor (which is really a hilarious piece of work, filled with much feel-good whitewashing and outright distortions of the historical record).
More specifically, you reference an NIS investigation cited by Burkett that claims the former Marines who testified at the Winter Soldier Investigation were confirmed as fakes: "... the most damaging finding consisted of the sworn statements of several veterans, corroborated by witnesses, that they had in fact not attended the hearing in Detroit... Fake 'witnesses' had appropriated the names of real Vietnam veterans...."
Quick point: not one of those real veterans who supposedly had their identities ripped off has ever stepped forward. Names, please!
Longer point: that purpoted NIS investigation is the only "proof" that the Winter Soldiers were fakes. Couple big problems, however. The report was never made public in 1971, and neither Navy nor Marine archivists could locate a copy in 2004.
Guenter Lewy cited the NIS report in America In Vietnam, but when contacted by reporters in 2004, admitted that he wasn't sure if he actually read the report--or merely accepted a verbal paraphrasing of the report from an official at the Pentagon.
In any event, the former Marines who told the wildest tales at the Winter Soldier Investigation (Mike McCusker, Scott Camil, and Joe Bangert) are all real veterans with photos and documents to back up their claims of service. They are certainly not the fakes claimed in the NIS report. McCusker's stories have been confirmed by the historical record. I personally think Camil's stories are half true, half exaggerated, and I doubt anything a maniac like Bangert has to say.
No matter: all three of those guys are USMC veterans of the Vietnam War, no matter what innuendos were floated by the NIS to Guenter Lewy.
Well, this is a lot of verbiage! I'll end by repeating my main point: as a kind of right-wing, pro-military guy myself, I've always been embarrassed that the right-wing (from Nixon to Burkett to Scott Swett to the SBVFT) simply couldn't dismiss the Winter Soldiers as being non-representational of the majority of Vietnam veterans--instead of perpetuating the lie that those poor shell-shocked kids who became Winter Soldiers hadn't actually fought and bled for their country in Vietnam.
Disgraceful. That's the kind of nonsense I'd expect out of a gas bag like Michael Moore, not the Grand Old Party.
Keith Nolan said:
"Also, please bear in mind that the record shows that many war crimes in Vietnam WERE reported by outraged grunts and junior officers--whose reports were then covered up by their superiors who feared having the careers derailed by scandal. (See: My Lai, the atrocity behind the book Casualties of War, etc., etc., etc.)"
As a matter of fact that's exactly what Jamie Henry did, and exactly the response it got.
Nice points, BTW.
Posted by skylark at July 8, 2008 06:11 AM
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