27 May 2007

memorial day

a while back, i scanned iris' scrapbook of stuff about gary, but i had never really gotten into looking at it all, since it was always too depressing --- well, all the killing in iraq (1,000 americans since last memorial day) has been on my mind, especially knowing what we went through, and when a friend of mine brought up the subject in some e-mail the other day, it got me to looking and rummaging through iris’ stuff and the internets to find out exactly where it happened and something of the context, which i had never done before --- even found some pictures of the area that were taken the month after he died --- he was in the 25th infantry division based at cu chi, which is about 40 miles northwest of saigon --- it was known as the southern terminus of the ho chi minh trail and sat atop miles and miles of tunnels that the viet cong guerillas began building in the 1940s as they were fighting the french --- the cu chi tunnels are now a tourist attraction in what remains communist vietnam --- during the tet offensive in late winter 1968, the viet cong used the tunnels as their headquarters --- gary's division was part of the defense of saigon which, along with the old imperial capital at hue and the big marine base at khe sahn, was a focus of the fighting---the tet offensive, as it is known, was named after the vietnamese lunar new year, tết nguyên Đán or feast of the first morning, 30-31 january 1968, which is when the vietcong and north vietnamese army launched surprise attacks against some 100 towns across south vietnam---there was a front page story in the atlanta journal/constitution on 10 february (he was killed on 9 February), and it had this to say:

elements of the US 25th Infantry Division clashed in three battles in saigon’s suburbs with bands of communist guerrillas and reported killing more than 300, the american command said. US casualties were put at seven dead and 45 wounded. The US brought 4,000 GIs into the saigon battle.
one of the biggest battles took place at the small village of hoc mon, on saigon’s [northwest] perimeter, where three companies of the 25th infantry reported killing 176 communists in a day-long battle that ended at dusk friday. the americans lost four killed and 15 wounded at hoc mon.
two companies of the 25th hit a communist force just east of hoc mon and killed 102 in a four hour fight. three americans were killed and 30 wounded in that battle.

i think gary was probably one of the three killed in that last one east of hoc mon, but I’m not sure --- the official citations and all say it happened at lan trung, in the vicinity of hoc mon, but I haven’t been able to locate such a place on any map ---

the communists took huge losses, ten to every one american, some said --- one source says 1,500 american, australian and korean dead, 2,800 south vietnamese, and 45,000 viet cong and north vietnamese --- plus 14,000 civilian dead, 630,000 homeless --- by the time the tet offensive was winding down in april 1968, the viet cong as an army had been destroyed --- it didn't matter: a harris poll was showing 60% of the country believing it to have been a major defeat, in spite of secretary of defense robert mcnamara and the rest of the administration touting the massive communist losses as evidence of a great strategic victory --- you still find a lot of stuff about how we would have prevailed in vietnam if we had just had had the will and if it weren't for the press sensationalizing the war with eye-witness reporting on the teevee and if there hadn't been all those traitorous war protesters (most of whom had never heard of dien bien phu) there is still some real bitterness out there, but when walter conkite went to vietnam and appeared on the teevee to report on 27 february 1968 that it "seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in stalemate," it was all over --- some still blame him for "losing" vietnam but president johnson knew he had lost public opinion and, on march 31, announced he wouldn't run for re-election --- peace negotiations began in paris later that year --- it was a major turning point, although the war would drag on until 1975, with another 20,000 american deaths along the way --- my parents still despise johnson ---

posthumously gary was awarded a purple heart; the distinguished service cross, the army's second highest decoration; as well as a second bronze star, the army's fourth highest decoration ---

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

.....a nice tribute.