Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam’

Having a Drink with the Duke

July 14, 2014

As I read the news about John Wayne’s estate engaging in a legal battle with Duke University over the use of  the name Duke, it reminded me of  the time I had a drink with the Duke.

The estate wants to put the name “Duke” on the label of bottles of Kentucky bourbon. Duke University reportedly opposes that idea. From personal experience, I know that Wayne did like bourbon.

He had just finished shooting some scenes for The Green Berets, a film about the Vietnam War at Fort  Benning.   Meeting him on location the night before, I had so upset him when I asked if he was making a propaganda movie that he cut the interview short and stormed off, saying, “You’re just trying to provoke me. I’m  trying to make an entertaining  movie.”

The next morning his publicist called me to say that Duke felt bad about the episode with me, that he had been upset by something else and that he would give me another interview if I wanted it. The publicist and I met him at his apartment after that day’s filming.  He gave me his famous smile and a hardy handshake,  explained that he had been in a bad mood the night before because of problems he was having with one of his actors who had a drinking problem,  said he understood I was just doing my job and I could ask  him anything I wished.  I responded by honestly telling him I was a fan and had really enjoyed his latest movie in the theaters, The War Wagon. He invited me to join him at the apartment’s  kitchen table to do the interview.  He also asked me if I would like to have a bourbon and water with him.  Usually, I didn’t drink on the job, but there was no way I was going to  not have a drink with John Wayne.

I interviewed him for an hour.  He gave me a lot of interesting inside stories about such things as the mafia’s influence in Hollywood. I sent both the short interview from the  night before and the hour interview to  CBS.  They only used the one with the verbal fireworks from the night before.

 

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A Blogger’s Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning

June 29, 2014

Being a UU, I know that Unitarian Universalists do not have a creed, but UU communities affirm and promote Seven Principles. The Fourth one, “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” is the one that concerns us for this post. I am examining how that principle applies to the body of work that I have produced for this blog, which is a Personal blog. WordPress, which hosts more than 60 million websites including this one, says Personal “is the broadest category and includes blogs about personal topics like politics, music, family, travel, health, you name it.”

Since I started this blog in 2008, there have been 690 posts. There is no way we can examine each one, so let’s take a look at the one that has gotten and continues to get the most hits. The August 19, 2009 post AN EMOTIONAL WILLIAM CALLEY SAYS HE IS SORRY not only continues to get a lot of hits, but continues to get comments from readers.

Former Army Lt. William Calley, the only person convicted of participating in the massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War, including a lot of  women and children,  used the occasion of speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus (Georgia), to apologize for his  role in the war crime.  My report was picked up by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, carried by all McClatchey newspapers , and fed by the L-E to the Associated Press,  causing it to be reported around the world.

I can’t speak  for others, so I’ll just concentrate on what I  see to be true in the report.  One significant truth to me is that some human beings of any nationallity are capable of unspeakable acts. Another one is that not only are some people incapaable of that, but they will actively oppose those who are.    

 What’s the meaning of the story?  For one thing, to me, it again raises the point that  war is an insane way for nations to resolve conflicts.  For another,  it shows that political leaders can get a lot of people killed unnecessarily and can be disingenuous about justifying their lethal actions.    

I realize that it may have an entirely different truth and meaning for you. Please feel  free to click on the comment button and let me know how you feel about the subject.  I do request that comments be civil, not too profane, and sans name calling. 

 

Why the 20th Century was the Most Violent in History

June 18, 2012

NIALL FERGUSON’S DOCUMENTARY WAR OF THE WORLD SAYS RACE, NOT IDEOLOGY, DROVE THE WARS 

The 20th Century was not the century of two World Wars and a Cold War, but the century of a single Hundred Years War.

Nationalism didn’t cause the conflicts. Empires did. It wasn’t ideologies of class or the influence of democracy or socialism that drove the century. It was race.

Though we thought the West had triumphed, the truth is that power moved towards the Eastern empires.

Those are the controversial assertions of Scottish historian Niall Ferguson in his documentary series War of the World, which is also a highly acclaimed book.  I saw three of the documentary episodes on Netflix, but there is also a website, Top Documentary Films, that offers it free.  You can check it out by clicking this link.

The Ferguson doc is not only exceptional for the creative way it is written and produced, but for a new way of understanding why the 20th Century is the most violent in history. 

One of his interesting claims is that World War III is not in the future.  It started right after World War II.  In other words, the Cold War was actually hot. The United States and the Soviet Union couldn’t fight directly because of the guaranteed mutual destruction that a nuclear exchange would engender.  They fought it through proxy countries.  A couple of good examples were Korea and Vietnam. 

The shift of empire power to the East  started in 1905 when the Japanese sank two-thirds of the Russian fleet.  Up until then the West truly dominated the world, with its empires subjugating  the East. Those empires have since been demolished.  Nations like China and India are ascending.

 And he points out that  war can cause the good guys to be bad guys as they adopt the tactics of the bad guys, using as examples the massive killing of civilians by bombardment from artillery and the air in World War II.

His findings are controversial, but he has a good case for his positions.  Watch the series and tell me what you think.   

Responses to Calley Apology Keep Coming

October 30, 2011

It is easy to get the  idea that people only read my latest blog posts, but when comments continue to come in on posts I have  written more than two years ago, I realize that a blog can take on the characteristics of a book. Because of search engines and links, people continue to read your collection of articles.  Just about every week, the largest number of hits for a single article is the one I wrote in 2009 about former U.S Army Lieutenant William Calley’s apology speech to Columbus Kiwanians.  Not only do people continue to read it, some also continue to comment on it.  

I thought the one I received today was interesting enough to not only add the comment to the post on “When is an Order Unlawful,” which related to the Calley story, but to run it as a featured post.  Former Jordan Vocational High Student Bob Cox sent this comment:

Dick, I’m a little late finding your blog.  I saw a post on Facebook about it.

Bob Cox

I was working in Columbus at AHP Medical Gloves at the time of Lt. Calley’s trial.  I recall there were many army wives at the factory and a few of them penciled a petition saying Calley should be set free. One of them handed it to me and said, “Sign This.” I told them that was impossible because I thought he was guilty of shooting Senior Citizens , children, women and non- combatants. This enraged many people and someone said, “Thats the way you damned Mexicans think.”  Actually I’m Welsh Irish descent, but I lived off and on in Mexico and in fact am now in Mexico. In the heat and ignorance of the moment, and I’m sure the ladies there most of whom were married to soldiers, felt that their husbands could be in Calley’s shoes. They handed the petition to a Japanese girl who I knew had been in Hiroshima when the A-bomb was dropped and told her, “Sign this.” I told her, “Dont sign it Aiko. The next petition will be one saying lets drop an A-bomb on Hiroshima.”

 “But this might happen to my husband,” she said. I remarked, “Somehow I can’t see your husband machine gunning 6-month-old children in a ditch.”
On another note, I was in the ROTC at Jordan High. One day the Captain was giving a talk on types of ammo used in M1′s in the basement firing range. Black tips are armor-piercing; red tip bullets are incendiaries. You see a grass shack on a hill, you fire a few rounds into it and set it on fire, the enemy runs out and you shoot them.  I asked,  “And if the people fleeing are civilians?” He said, “Shoot them anyway, its good target practice.” I remarked, “Isn’t that against Geneva Convention rules?” He glared at me and said, “You’re a G…D… Commie arent you?”  That was the beginning of the end of my military career at Jordan. After that I tried to set a Guiness World record of getting the most demerits. In two months I was taking Study Hall instead of ROTC.
Enjoy your articles Dick. It’s taking me awhile to go through older posts.

You can learn more about Bob Cox by going to his blog, Mexico Mystic’s Blog.

The Top Dick’s World Posts in 2010

January 3, 2011

What is interesting to me about writing for a blog is the fact that posts keep getting read over time. WordPress sent me a list of the top posts of 2010 and the top five were first posted in 2009. The number one article about William Calley’s apology for the My Lai Massacre in the Vietnamese War got even more visits in 2010 than when it ran the first time in 2009, when it also topped the list.  WordPress said that illustrates that my writing has “staying power.” That’s nice to know.

Here are the top 5:

1 AN EMOTIONAL WILLIAM CALLEY SAYS HE IS SORRY – August 2009
 
2 Savannah Revisited  #2 – June 2009

3 Behind the Scenes at IMAX at Patriot Park, Home of the New National Infantry Museum –  March 2009

4 Go to the National Infantry Museum at Least Once by Yourself – August 2009

5 Romance of the Rails – July 2009

Calley Offered a Chance to Speak to Vietnamese People

August 26, 2009

Former Army Lt. William Calley, the only American convicted for participating in the My Lai massacre,  can speak directly to the Vietnamese people if he chooses.  He can go there, or he can be interviewed on the Voice of America. 

Voice of America radio studio (Courtesy: Voice of America)

Voice of America radio studio (Courtesy: Voice of America)

Judy Nguyen, who is Senior Editor of the Vietnamese Service for VOA,  contacted this blog and asked for help in contacting Calley.  We haven’t had success with that. 

She wants to let him know that VOA will interview him and beam the interview to Vietnam where it will be heard by a lot of people.  The interview will be translated into Vietnamese.

She says,  “We believe our listeners in Vietnam would be keenly interested in hearing what Mr. Calley has to say, especially if it is different from what they have heard or been told by their own media. If ever Mr. Calley wanted to say anything that would be heard by the people of Vietnam, the Voice of America would be the appropriate channel.”

He has also been invited to come to My Lai by the director of the memorial museum there.  According to the Canadian website “Media with Conscience,” Pham Thanh Cong,  who saw both his mother and brothers killed during the massacre,  wants Calley to return to see how things are there now. “Maybe he has now repented for his crimes and his mistakes committed more than 40 years ago.”  He also said he accepts Calley’s public apology, with a condition. He wants Calley to send him a letter or email apologizing for his part in the My Lai massacre.

When Is an Order Unlawful?

August 23, 2009

You are a young lieutenant. 

You are ordered to take out a machine-gun emplacement on a hill. 

You lead your men up the hill to the emplacement. 

The enemy has lined up women and children in front of the machine gun.  You decide you will not shoot the innocent civilians. 

When you get back to your superior officer, he tells you that you have flunked the test.

That’s a true story, told to me by my friend, retired Lt. Col. John Nix,  who served as an  attorney in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.  He was that young lieutenant – well, he was actually an R.O.T.C cadet pretending to be a lieutenant for that exercise.   He was informed by his instructor that it is a lawful order to shoot innocent civilians if they block your target.

Naturally, this conversation was triggered by the story about the  apology for his role in the My Lai massacre by former Army Lt. William Calley.  ” The difference,” he said, “is that you could not say herding innocent civilians into a ditch and killing them was removing shields that were in front of a target.”

Calley’s defense all along has been that he was following orders.  That was denied by his superior officer.  If Calley’s assertion had been determined right,  he would still have had the problem of following an unlawful order.   

John  Nix says whether an order is lawful or not can end up in a courtroom dispute.  He warns that if a soldier decides not to follow one, he had better be right because the consequences can be dire.  However, the consequences of following an illegal order can also be dire.

According to About.com, the Manual for Courts-Martial says, “An order requiring the performance of a military duty or act may be inferred to be lawful and it is disobeyed at the peril of the subordinate. This inference does not apply to a patently illegal order, such as one that directs the commission of a crime.

Who decides whether an order is lawful or not? It’s certainly not the soldier who decided not to follow the order.  About.com puts it this way: “Ultimately, it’s not whether or not the military member thinks the order is illegal or unlawful, it’s whether military superiors (and courts) think the order was illegal or unlawful.”

Wonder how much, if any, training about whether an order is legal or not is given to the average soldier.  I never got any. When I was in basic training I was told just how horrible my life could be if I disobeyed an order.  Nobody ever said, that I can remember,  that I didn’t have to obey an unlawful order.  Maybe it’s different now.  I took basic training fifty-five years ago. 

Basic training graduation ceremony parade, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning/Columbus

Basic training class graduation ceremony parade, June, 2009, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning/Columbus, GA

This is IT!

July 14, 2008

  

  My former WTVM newsroom co-worker and still friend Cyndy Cerbin took me on a fascinating tour of the new National Infantry Museum recently.

 

 

  

CC

Cyndy Cerbin

 

 

 Cyndy is now Director of Communications for the Infantry Foundation. She said, “Dick, this is the ‘It’ they were talking about when they said Columbus needs an ‘It’ to attract lots of tourists.” Since this baby could bring in between 400,000 and 500,000 visitors a year, I think she’s right.

  

 

 

 

 National Infantry Museum Panorama

 National Infantry Museum Under Construction

 

 

   Fort Benning is already supplying 3,000 visitors a week to eat in the city’s restaurants, stay in its hotels and visit tourist attractions.  With the original National Infantry Museum still operating on post, and, in town, add the Coca-Cola Space and Science Center, the National Civil War Naval Museum, the Columbus Museum, and an attractive softball complex at South Commons, and you can see they already have a lot to do.

 

  Those 3,000 visitors come from all over the country to Fort Benning each week to attend a loved one’s graduation ceremony. That ceremony is going to move to the new National Infantry Museum’s “back yard.” The field is ready now, but the stands have to be added.

 

  

 

NIM GRAD FIELD

National Infantry Museum Graduation Field

 

  

 

  Either before or after the ceremony they’ll be able to stroll through the World War II barracks area, which not only boasts real WW II barracks, but General Patton’s headquarters building and the cabin near it where he slept. They’ll also see a WWII Patton tank, and a smaller tank of the type Patton used during Fort Benning exercizes.

 

  

 

WWII Barracks

World War II Barracks

 

 

 

 

Patton Shack and Tanks

Gen. Patton’s Sleeping Quarters and Patton Tank

 

 

  

   Once inside the !00 million dollar museum, they’ll walk along the Last One Hundred Yards Ramp, It’s called that because of the famous saying that, “the infantry owns the last one hundred yards of battle.”  This one hundred yards will contain exhibits that graphically depict, with virtual high-tech aids, seven major battles fought by the infantry, ranging all the way from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan.

  

 

 

NIM Lst. 100 Yrds.

Last 100 Yards Ramp 

 

   A couple of standouts will be a real Bradley Fighting Vehicle that saw action in Iraq and Vietnam era Huey Helicopter. Both will hang over the side of the ramp where they will also be seen from the Grand Hall on the Gallery level. The Bradley is already there. Cyndy said that it’s so heavy it had to brought in during the early stages of construction, that the museum is being built around it. 

 

  

 

NIM Brad Ft. Vehicle

 Bradley Fighting Vehicle

 

 

 

 

BFVOH

Bradley Fighting Vehicle seen from Grand Hall on Gallery Level

 

 

  

  At the end of the ramp is the  Fort Benning area, where they will see and experience how young civilians are transformed into soldiers. There will be a jump tower. Also, a virtual firing range will allow visitors to experience the same virtual firing training that our soldiers receive. There will also be a section dedicated to the relationship with Columbus over the years.

 

  

 

FBA

Fort Benning Section

 

 

 

Because of the Department of the Army’s sanctioning of the museum, it cannot charge admission. However, it can charge admission to the 300 seat IMAX Theater and adventure simulators. Income will also be generated by the full service restaurant and gift shop.

 

 

 

 

IMAX

IMAX Theater Entrance

 

 

The galleries on the lower level will feature large exhibits of the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam together, and the desert wars.

 

  

NIMDW

Desert Wars Exhibit

 

 

 

 The Vietnam exhibit will feature another Huey that is already in place. Part of the Vietnam exhibit will recreate the jungle atmosphere of Vietnam, including the tropical weather that soldiers had to endure while fighting in that country. 

 

 

VNHUEY

Covered Huey Helicopter in Vietnam War Exhibit

 

  

 You’ll be able to see the finished product on March 20, 2009.  That’s the target date to open the museum. As the late Arthur Godfrey used to say on CBS Radio, “If the good Lord be willing and the creek don’t rise,” I’ll see you there.