Category Archives: Vietnam

A Vietnam Hero

To the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese, he was known as “White Feather” for the feather he wore in his cap, and they had a $30,000 reward for him. They sent their own snipers to get him, and he killed them all.

One of their best, named The Cobra, had him in his sights 500 yards away, and Carlos Hathcock, seeing the flash of his scope lens through his own scope, fired a fraction of a second first.

His bullet went through the enemy’s scope, killing him. Five hundred yards and hitting a lens maybe an inch in diameter.

A number of Hollywood movies have used this as a scene, but only Hathcock really did it.

The SEAL’s own Chris Kyle, considered to be the deadliest sniper in military history, credited Carlos Hathcock as his inspiration.

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Filed under Heroes Among Us, Marines, Vietnam

Fort Ord 1972 – Basic Training

Last time I mentioned a bit of how I came to be in the Army.

The Monterey Historic Races every August is an amazing event, if you have any gearhead in you. Over the years, I have seen them honor various marques, and the factories have flown their historic cars out to show them on the track.

Two of my most memorable times there were when they honored a man many consider to be the greatest driver of all time, Juan Manuel Fangio. He was at a table signing the posters that were given us, and I didn’t want to wait behind 20 others. Maybe I can attribute that to my Army days of so many lines.

Then there was the time that Audi, being honored one year, flew out their Auto Union 16 cylinder GP car and Daimler flew out their GP car to then to be together on the track; perhaps for the first time since the 1930s.

But that road to Laguna Seca racetrack also makes me a bit melancholy. You see, if you want to avoid the traffic getting there, you take the “back way”, the Salinas exit on Highway 101. And on the last turnoff to the track, you pass the remnants of what was the US Army’s Ft Ord.

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Filed under Army, Vietnam

My Army Beginnings – 1972

Ghost Town

26 Sep 1972. I had been in the Army 12 days.

We were talking in the Facebook Group today about stories of our Drill Sergeants we knew in the military, and I mentioned mine. Thought I would reprint it here, and of course I can’t just mention that without mentioning a bit more.

I’m really easy to spot in the above picture of all those shaven heads, once you know my background.

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James E. Williams

James E Williams

In between working on another post, which may take a few days, I was watching a program on Amazon Prime involving that famous trio, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May.

Except this wasn’t the Grand Tour but a boat trip through Cambodia and the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. It was a pretty interesting program, with the usual silly assortment of vehicles.

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Filed under Heroes Among Us, History, Naval History, Navy, Vietnam

It’s About Time

I received this email from a long-time Internet friend who knows Phil. He said that this has been discussed for decades. He was originally recommended for the MOH but it was downgraded because it was a special op mission in Laos, and officially we weren’t in Laos. 

BB


ItsAboutTime

The heroic actions of a USAF special operations helicopter pilot, who saved multiple American lives during a secret 1969 mission in Laos, are getting a renewed look as a Congressman is urging the Pentagon to upgrade the previous award of an Air Force Cross to the Medal of Honor.

Retired Col. Philip Conran, then a pilot with the 21st Special Operations Squadron based in Thailand, received the award for a mission on Oct. 6, 1969, as part of a multiple helicopter flight into Laos. During the flight, a lead helicopter was shot down and a rescue helicopter, designated H-1, in the formation refused a request to try to reach the downed crew because of how dangerous the area was.

Conran, then a major, was flying a H-3 Jolly Green Giant that was carrying troops. He had two choices: “depart the area leaving his downed comrades or attempt a rescue and reinforce the friendly troops already on the ground,” the Air Force Cross citation states.

Despite knowing the chance of survival was minimal, Conran decided to try to rescue the crew “since he felt his comrades would not survive the overwhelming enemy forces.” As the Jolly Green Giant began its approach, the helicopter’s servos were destroyed, but he continued on and landed, letting off the troops he was carrying. He then picked up the four Americans from the downed helicopter. As they tried to take off, enemy fire destroyed the helicopter’s transmission, making flight impossible.

The team fled the helicopter, and Conran took command, exposing himself to enemy fire to set up a perimeter. He ran back to the H-3 to pick up packaged parachutes to use as cover, and then ran 50 yards through enemy fire to get to the downed H-1 that had two M-60 machine guns and ammunition. As the day went on, Conran called in airstrikes, using a pocket compass to help direct the fires. Eventually he received a severe leg wound, but he remained a “source of energy” to the rest of his team. As night fell, the area “was completely sanitized with gas” and two H-53 helicopters were able to land to rescue the downed crews.

Even though he was severely wounded, as the team boarded the rescue helicopter, Conran got down on his hands and knees so another man could use his back as a stepping stone to get onto the aircraft.

“Major Conran’s decision to come to the aid of his downed comrades, his heroic actions above and beyond the call of duty while under severe hostile fire, and his outstanding leadership throughout the many hours were instrumental in enabling them to withstand the superior enemy force,” the citation states.

Conran’s local Congressional Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif) introduced a bill this week to authorize the President to award Conran the Medal of Honor.

“His heroic actions above and beyond the call of duty while under severe hostile fire, and his positive attitude throughout the ordeal were instrumental in enabling the two helicopter crews and 44 friendly troops to withstand superior odds until a rescue could be made,” the bill states. 

In a statement to Air Force Magazine, Carbajal said, “Conran served our nation with the utmost bravery during the Vietnam War when he risked his own life in combat to save his fellow soldiers. It has taken far too long for our country to honor his courage, and I will continue working to help secure this well-deserved recognition.”

In addition to the bill, Carbajal provided two eyewitness accounts from others on the mission to the Air Force Decorations Board to bolster the case for an upgrade.

In one of the statements, a gunner from the helicopter that was shot down said he owes his life to Conran because “before he joined us on the ground, I didn’t think we would survive the day.” The reinforcements from Conran’s helicopter and his leadership helped them “withstand the onslaught” of enemy fighters. The gunner said Conran’s decision to get on his hands and knees to help another soldier was a particularly “heroic act” “that still impresses me.”

In the other statement, the mission commander of the helicopter that was shot down wrote that Conran showed the “willingness to sacrifice to save your comrades” that shows Conran deserves the Medal of Honor.

“I know I lived to see another day because Conran risked his life to save me and my crew,” he said.

The aircraft commander wrote that at the time, politics prevented Conran from the recognition he deserved. Those who fought in Laos did not receive the same attention as those in Vietnam because the US was not publicly in the country.

“We were in a place we should not have been, doing what our country asked us to do, yet we were treated different from those in open combat when it came to recognizing our accomplishments,” he wrote. “In war some secret missions can’t be discussed until enough time has passed so as not to embarrass the nation. In this case, there is no excuse not to bestow this honor on a deserving warrior that was willing to give his life for his comrades.”

The military has in recent years upgraded several valor awards to the Medal of Honor. Last year, MSgt. John Chapman’s Air Force Cross was upgraded the Medal of Honor, and in October, President Donald Trump also awarded the Medal of Honor to retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. John Canley, who originally received the Navy Cross for his actions during the notorious Battle of Hue in 1968.

In 2010, former President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to CMSgt. Richard Etchberger, who originally received the Air Force Cross. Like Conran, Etchberger was deployed to Laos, where he was killed during the Battle of Lima Site 85.

There is precedent for a law pressing the military to upgrade an award. In 1999, then Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) introduced a measure to upgrade the Air Force Cross awarded to A1C. William Pitsenbarger to the Medal of Honor. The measure was included in the next year’s defense authorization bill, and the award was presented to Pitsenbarger’s family in 2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Easy decisions

By lex, on June 22nd, 2007

Sometimes decisions in international diplomacy are fraught with consequence and every action seemingly has as much going against it as it does to recommend it. Other times ** it’s easy:

When American GI’s returned from the Vietnam War, some tried to smuggle home the skulls of Vietcong and North Vietnamese soldiers. The graffiti-covered skulls served as ashtrays, candle holders and trophies. Six skulls were seized by the Customs Service. They remain in limbo, relegated to a drawer on the campus of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

At a time when President George W. Bush plans to chastise the Vietnamese leader about human rights abuses, a question confronts his own administration: Should we return the Vietnamese trophy skulls?

Absolutely, we should give them back.

I mean, it’s a no-brainer.

** 08-09-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.

 

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Humor, Vietnam

A Short Vietnam War Story

This was sent to me by my retired friend, the Air Force test pilot. And it was confirmed by a Lexican who was a whale pilot…

*****

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Naval Aviation, Vietnam