Saturday, February 28, 2009

Memories of World War II Combat Photo Display


If you missed the traveling exhibit "Memories of World War II, Photographs from the Archives of the Associated Press" when it opened in DC in 2004 or when it traveled through your area, you can catch it now at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. It will be on display through the end of March.


The case above displays artifacts of the war correspondent trade, small portable typewriters and HUGE cameras. I'm pretty sure the "Press" kevlar vest is recent history. The size of some of those things just blows my mind, My neck would break lugging one of those things around.

Look at the size of this thing! Holy cow!


This Nikon F, 35mm SLR had been carried by a Marine Sgt at the time he was mortally wounded in 1966. I have a similar model camera that had belonged to my grandfather. This one clearly and its carrier went through some type of explosion as its pretty charred.

I gotta tell you I have been pretty rough with my Nikons throughout the years. Even dropped one onto concrete from several feet up and never cracked the lens or broke anything on the camera. Nikons are like tanks - - so this one, this one really got it.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Phase 1A Build Updates

Do you remember this stark, empty, white construction wall?


Its been dressed up a bit. (I was clearly using a much better setting on my camera to get the below shot.) The photos along the length of the wall are photos Marine Corps Combat Camera have taken in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though we do not have gallery space for these conflicts, the museum is dedicated to having actions of current Marines documented in some way as many units tour the museum before deployment, or come through after deployment with their families, new boot camp graduates stop in as they return home with their parents and poolees (future Marine hopefuls on the delayed entry program) come in with their recruiters.


The big white wall under the Fighting top manned by Colonial Marines has been dressed up with a preview of what guests can expect in the Spring of 2010.


There will be exhibit galleries depicting Marine Corps history from the Revolution, Civil War, Boxer Rebellion, World War 1 and Early Marine Corps Aviation.


This is part of a replica of a Curtis Flyer that, I think all of us that volunteered in Restoration have worked on at some point. I know, it doesn't look like an air plane, does it? But it will. Actually, it probably already does. They will be moving large artifacts such as this into the galleries prior to the walls being built. I remember some really cool aircraft back in storage.


The final Museum change was our exit hall from the gallery. If any of you have ever visited the museum in the past, you may recall that this hall was very dark, kind of scary. In the middle was a weapons tower we affectionately called the "Cheese Grater" because that is what it looked like.


As you can see, the Cheese Grater is gone. Along the right wall is a photo display from 9/11 and along the left wall is combat art from the current war on terrorism. I will feature some of the combat art paintings in a future blog.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Over 2300 Lives Saved

Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, the group I am fostering Gracie through, sent out a wonderful e-mail today. I have edited it so that is isn't as long.

In 2008, Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation hit a record high in pet adoptions.

A total of 2,365 dogs and cats found new homes this past year. Rescued from poor conditions in rural shelters, surrendered by former owners, or born in foundation care, these pets can now enjoy long, happy lives with families who love and adore them.

Dog adoptions grew 17% in the past year, with 1635 being placed in a home during 2008. Lost Dog Lost Cat also exceeded historical cat adoption rates, with 674 finding new homes- a 13% increase from 2007.

Each year, the organization works to rescue more dogs and cats than the previous year, care for more injuries and illnesses, and find more good homes. This was especially important in 2008, because so many pets became silent victims of foreclosures in the housing market crisis, and then even more were surrendered due to additional economic downturns making pet care unattainable. In this past year alone, over 1780 dogs and almost 700 cats came to Lost Dog, either by way of rescue from a rural shelter, owner surrender, or being born in our care.

We know that 2009 will present new and difficult challenges for homeless dogs and cats, but Lost Dog's commitment will not waver. To date, the work of Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation has saved over 10,000 dog and cat lives. But for us, that is just a start. There are 10,000 more waiting for a new home.

Isn't this awesome!?!

I thank my co-worker for getting me in contact with this group and for letting me use their network to try and find Gracie a home. I hope we are closer to finding her her forever home.

If you are interested, there are opportunities to volunteer, donate or sponsor a rescue.

Here are some new photos and video of Gracie.

I didn't realize how shiny her coat is. Fancy Feast and Purina Pro Plan Selects in Salmon flavor suit her well.


These photos are a couple weeks old. She had an eye cold then. It has gone away. I think it was from the stress of being harassed by Ranger and Stryker and being taken to adoption events.


Taking her to adoption events is the best way to get her seen by the most people. It is heart breaking for me - - and I'm sure her too. She cries when I put her in the carrier and this is how she looks while at the adoption event.


At least she wasn't hiding under the towel. She's really good at burying herself. She looks SOO angry this picture makes me want to cry. To all the people who have ever said that cats are not expressive, just look at this picture. She is saying more than 1000 words. In fact a little boy walked by and asked me, "Why does that cat want to kill me?" I had to convince him that it wasn't him but me.


Now you've seen the "At Home" photos and the "At Adoption Event" photos, these are the at home videos. I have to shut her in my bedroom all day and night as my other cats attack her. Gracie actually growls and hisses first - - I guess she eggs them on. If you look at the second photo I posted, you may notice the scar across her nose. I think she may have been attacked by the feral cats that lived in the woods around the condo complex where she was abandoned.

Its been more difficult to place her because I have been trying to find a home where she will be the only animal. It seems that most people want a companion cat for an existing cat or dog. Gracie isn't a companion for another pet. She is a Diva cat. She wants her human's full attention. Here she is playing.

She is also very chatty and loving. There is a lady who has contacted me about adopting Gracie. As Murphy's law would have it, last weekend, when she came to look for Gracie, I was at the Museum and also had Saturday plans so I couldn't meet her. I hope that she has a chance to meet Gracie this Friday. I wish Gracie would show this personality at adoption events instead of the terrified, ticked off kitty.

I can say though that I am glad that I have had this week to prepare for not having Gracie in my life. I really hope she gets adopted, because I'd like her to have a life consisting of more than one room in the house and one in which she doesn't have to hide. However, I'm really going to miss her because she has been the sweetest cat I have EVER had come into my life. I am going to forward a link to this blog to the lady that is interested in adopting Gracie because I want her to see the Gracie I know. The REAL Gracie.

I call this next video "Kisses". Doesn't she just have a little purr motor? She is very talkative (not so much here) and loves to get petted and snuggle and she then has to give me 'kisses', which is a cat rubbing its face on my face (in this case the camera that was in front of my face).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hue Revisited


Lt. General Ron Christmas, President of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation was the speaker at February's Dinner and Speaker series at the Museum. He shared his experience as a Company Commander during the Tet Offensive in Hue City. He is pictured above standing in front of the the Ontos in the Vietnam War Gallery's Hue City exhibit.


Over the din of the Hill 881 soundtrack in the next gallery, he told the crowd of just over 100 that were packed into the gallery about how fitting it was that they start the evening's talk in this gallery. He pointed out the Ontos, a vehicle that proved quite helpful in the house-to-house, block-to-block combat that the Marines experienced. Pointing to the Navy Corpsman treating a wounded civilian, he described the importance of the Corpsman and how many Marines, including himself, owed their lives to the corpsman, but also how they were quick to treat wounded civilians as well as wounded enemy fighters. He then walked over to the 'figure' of Sgt. Jones peering around the corner of the wall, his M40 grenade launcher at ready, saying he had a Marine in his company that resembled this Marine.

After these introductions. Everyone filed out of the gallery and into Scuttlebutt Theater for the remainder of the presentation. To set the stage, he played the following CBS news clip:

General Christmas then began to give us the back story on how his company, Hotel company, ended up in Hue City and their subsequent action, which by the way, was shown in the above news clip.

General Christmas has taught classes on Urban warfare to Marines, he gave us a taste of what he tells young Marine leaders, but promised not to give us a class but to tell us "Sea Stories".

As Col Cheatham ( a former professional football player) told the CBS reporter, the Marines didn't have experience in urban warfare, in fact this was his first shot at it. (I can only imagine what the armchair generals would say today). Luckily, both the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the Marines made mistakes. Christmas said that the three principles of Urban warfare are:

1) Isolation of the enemy in the area you are attacking (doesn't have to be the whole city)

2) Choose entry points that are the most advantageous to you

3) Have a plan for execution.

For the Marines at Hue City, they didn't isolate the city and the NVA was able to resupply and bring re-enforcements in. Counter that, the NVA were unable to isolate the the Marines and the Navy was able to bring supplies up the Perfume River. The entry points were the Military Advisers Command Vietnam (MACV) compound in the south of the city and the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) compound in the northeast corner of the city. Those were the only areas that were able to prevent and resist the NVA infiltration.


Both formerly active duty Vietnam veterans in attendance and...


The Basic School Lieutenants paid close attention.


Lance Corporal Ingenuity, PFC Power

Another disadvantage for the Marines was lack of intelligence (not the brain kind but the spy kind). In fact, Christmas shared, they didn't even have accurate maps. When they tried to call in fire support the companies were identifying themselves as being in the blue building or the pink building next to the yellow building. Col. Cheatham would yell over the net, "Where the hell is the pink building?!"

Well, a couple Lance Corporals found a Shell gas station, broke-in and found three tourist maps of the city. The maps were so nice, General Christmas said, "All of the buildings were numbered and it was very accurate." Col Cheatham was given one of the maps. Whichever two companies were the leading the push through the city were given the other two.

Another case of LCpl ingenuity and PFC Power occurred when then Captain Christmas was trying to get his men across an intersection and into one of the government buildings. He said he was following what he had been taught, you lay down smoke and then move your men under its cover.

"Well guess what? The NVA had been taught the same thing. So when we laid down smoke and sent the first 4-man team across the road, the NVA opened up down the street, with their machine guns and took down all four men." After recovering the men, Christmas was trying to figure out how to get the guys across.

A LCpl approached him and said, "We can put the 106 on a Mule. That huge round will put the enemy to the ground and the back flash will provide cover, heck you could probably get the whole company across."

Christmas, lacking any other ideas, gave the LCpl the go-ahead. He and another LCpl rolled the 106 on the mule (this is not an animal but a flat bed type vehicle, kind of like a golf cart on steroids) out into the middle of the street, taking fire as they went, Christmas said it was like they had this protective bubble all around them. Just like the LCpl had said would happen, when they shot off the 106, the enemy took cover and the back flash provided the cover the Marines needed to get across the street.

Christmas noted that in today's Marine Corps, there are a lot of good ideas like that in the ranks, it takes a good leader to listen to them.

Christmas's company was the company that took the headquarters building that had been flying the NVA flag. He said the whole seven days they fought, they kept that flag in their sights, their mission, he said was to take the objective and take that flag down.

If you remember from the news footage, the African American Marine who flashed the big smile over the captured enemy, Christmas said that Marine always had a smile on his face. He was everyone's favorite because he was so positive. A couple days after this footage was shot, this Marine was wounded. After he had gotten patched up, he came trotting back up to Christmas and asked, "Where are my boys?"

Christmas answered, "Over there," and pointed in the direction of his platoon.

Hue City

Four hours after returning to his platoon, he was hit again, according Christmas, pretty hard this time. The Marine was sent back to the MACV compound where he was patched up and tagged for evacuation. An hour or so later, Christmas sees this Marine trotting back up the road, wrapped in so many bandages he looked like a Mummy from a horror movie. The MACV compound was 10 blocks away from their current position.

"Hey skipper, where are my boys?" the Marine asked.

Christmas again, pointed in his platoon's direction and said, "Over there."

The Marine rejoined his men. A few days later, this Marine's position was hit by mortar fire. Christmas ran over to the position. The Marine, horribly wounded, with tears streaming down his face said, "Skipper, I 'm sorry. I gotta leave my boys this time."

There was a deflated "Ohhh" from the audience. General Christmas responded by saying there was a happy ending to the story, the Marine survived, and Christmas spent a good amount of time with him at the VA hospital in Philadelphia.

On taking the Capital building and raising the American Flag

Christmas said the raising of the American flag is not political. It wasn't political that day, it was a matter of morale. The Marines had fought 7 days for this objective. The American flag to an American solider is just a symbol of pride in his and his men accomplishing their mission.

A Major gave him heck about flying this flag over the capital building and told Christmas to take it down. Christmas said he wasn't taking it down until they left the next morning. He told the Major, if he wanted it down, he could take it down himself, but Christmas couldn't guarantee what the Marines would do if he did.

The flag was left up until they left in the morning.

enemy flag

Now where did this Marine get this flag?

American Flag

Simple, from the MACV compound. Again, a couple Lcpls had returned to the MACV compound and lowered its flag and brought it forward, for just such an occasion as this.

Where is this flag now? It flies aboard the USS Hue City. Christmas says that every year, before it heads out on its deployment, a reunion is held aboard for all Hue City veterans (Vietnam veterans, not ship veterans).

Thank God for Chaplains

After taking the Capital building, Christmas's company was tasked with crossing a bridge and taking on the NVA on the other side of the railroad tracks. They were horribly out numbered and the Marines lost two squad leaders and a corpsman. When Col Cheatham realized they were out numbered, he ordered them back across the bridge. Christmas said not until he retrieved his men. Even though they were dead, he wasn't going to leave them there. So the Marines fought very hard to retrieve their dead. The only safe way across the bridge was to run.

He said that was horribly demoralizing for the Marines. Even though they had been ordered to fall back, having to run across that bridge made them all feel like they had run from the enemy.

While taking refuge at a boys school, the men were very down. The Chaplain approached Christmas and said the boys school had a chapel, it was bombed out, but still had its pews, could he give a mass in honor of the seven men they had lost? He'd like everyone to attend.

Well, Christmas couldn't make all the men attend, but he told everyone of the service and that it was a memorial. Everyone attended. He said it was amazing, when they entered, the chaplain was in full Catholic robes. The most touching point of the service was at the point of communion, the Chaplain went against the regulation of his church and provided communion to EVERYONE. That single gesture, Christmas said, turned the men around. Their priest/chaplain had given them closure. When they walked out of that mass, the spring was back in everyone's step.

Mistakes and Closure

Christmas told us of one of his two mistakes that he made as a company commander during the battle for Hue. He had deployed a sniper team to the top of the water treatment building and they were taking out NVA left and right.

Now, as a leader, the proper way to utilize a sniper team is to move them frequently. Because the team was so successful, he said he had gotten greedy. The NVA were able to zero in on the Marine snipers' position and they hit the top of the building with rocket fire.

Christmas lost his snipers. He said he had felt so guilty for their deaths over the past 40 years.

Three weeks ago, one of those snipers strode into the museum, walked up to General Christmas and gave him a hug. Christmas said he couldn't have been happier. He hadn't lost the sniper team and he had finally been given closure.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lima 6 Shares Tet Offensive Experience

Col Dick Camp (ret) recounted his experience as a company commander during the 1968 Tet Offensive to a Mess Hall packed with museum docents, last week.

Lima 6 was his call sign and is the title of a book he wrote about these experiences. At times, his animated talk was sobered by emotion as he recalled Marines he lost. His excitement in describing good kills was tempered with a good natured not to his wife, "I'm really not like that, honey".


Above, Camp (center) with some of his Marines at their 40th Reunion this past summer.

If you haven't read Lima 6, I recommend it. It was an especially interesting because I know Col Camp, he is the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation's Vice President of Museum Operations.

As with most books, I read this while on the elliptical trainer at the gym. I found myself running faster and faster when fire fights were described or as they trekked through the triple canopy jungle, ever wary of a possible Viet Cong ambush. I also found myself swallowing back tears as he recounted the story of one of his Marines that was mortally wounded by an IED. When he had returned to the base and inquired about the Marine (who had been alive and responsive), he was told the Marine had died. Camp went to his quarters and cried.

Col Camp is an engaging speaker. His adventure began with requesting a company command with 4th Marines. His detailer told him nothing was available. Camp said, "O.k. give me anything with the 3rd Marine Division. The detailer says, "O.k. we had a company command slot open up with the 3rd Division."

"I'll take it!" Camp said he exclaimed. Then he asked, "So, did the company commander cycle out?"

"No, he was killed last night." The detailer replied.

And so beings (at that time) Captain Camp's Vietnam adventure.

He tells of meeting then Major Carl Mundy, "He always looked like a Marine Corps recruiting poster. But I noticed his impeccable uniform was full of holes."

Camp asked Mundy about the holes, Mundy told him he had hung his uniforms in his tent and the tent got hit by a rocket, peppering his uniforms with with fragments, no miraculous near miss.

Camp also recalled his heightened senses.

"The NVA (North Vietnamese Army) smelled like fish and smoke, very distinct. Even today, if I smell fish and smoke, I alert like an old bird dog."

On one occasion, as one of his platoons traveled across a rice paddy on water detail, one of his Marines said he smelled the NVA. As they were heading up a slope, they by chance turned around and saw the rice paddy stand up and charge toward the battalion's main position. A 250 man NVA company had been waiting to ambush the Marines. You'll have to read the book to find out what happen. If you are looking for a spring break beach read, I recommend Lima 6.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

To A Special Kind of Parent

To the parents of Jordan Haerter, I am so sorry for your loss. I wish your visit to the museum were under totally different circumstances. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I have been thinking about how to respond or if I should. My wish is that I am able to tell your son's story and the stories of other Marines and do them justice. I believe every person has a story and their stories should be told. I'll admit, I have to swallow back the emotion all the time.

Please also, extend my sympathy to Nicole ( I read through your lovely memorial website to Jordan) girlfriends are so often forgotten or not even acknowledged. I've dated a few Marines and I can't imagine her heartbreak.

The ceremony on Friday should be very nice. I wish I could be there. Hope you get the opportunity to take a tour around the museum. Its a beautiful place.

You know, it takes a special kind of person to put their life on the line for others. Your son was one of those special people. It takes special parents to raise a child up to be that way. Sounds like he had you and some wonderful grandparents. Thanks for all that you have done and continue to do for the Marine Corps and veterans.

Semper Fi!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Navy Crosses to be Presented to Families at Museum

The families Lance Cpl Jordan Haerter and Cpl Jonathan Yale will posthumously accept the Navy Cross medals on behalf of their two sons who were killed in action in Iraq in 2008. The ceremony is to be held on Friday, February 20th (next week) in Leatherneck gallery.

The Navy Cross is the second highest medal for valor that can be awarded to a sailor or Marine.

The following was part of the news release from the Public Affairs office of the 2nd Marine Division.

Haerter and Yale were infantrymen assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, serving with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, and 2nd Bn., 8th Marines, respectively, and were killed in action while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The morning of April 22, 2008, according to Haerter and Yale’s personal award recommendations, a truck began to rapidly negotiate the obstacles leading to an entry control point in Ramadi, Iraq, where Haerter and Yale were standing post. The two Marines quickly recognized the threat a suicide bomber driving a truck capable of carrying a large quantity of explosives posed to the Marines and Iraqi policemen in the area and engaged the truck with precise fire. As a result of their actions, the truck stopped a few feet from their positions and the suicide bomber detonated the approximately 2,000 pounds of explosives in the truck, leveling the entry control point and mortally wounding the two Marines.

When I give tours at the museum, I have been telling this story after I tell the story about the Beirut Marines. Besides it being Marines in both cases, the make and model of truck the suicide bomber in Iraq drove was the same make and model driven by the suicide bomber in Beirut.
The theme I have been trying to weave through my stories is how Marines know they can count on each other. They do the things that they do because they know there are other Marines counting on them. Indirectly, they do what they do because there are civilians counting on them too.

The action of these two young Marines was captured in detail on security camera video. There was no question that they didn't hesitate to stand their ground. The video also shows the earlier lines of defense, manned by Iraqi's, running from their posts to save themselves. In fact, after the attack, General Kelly came to survey the damage along with his Iraqi counterpart. The Iraqi General asked General Kelly why his Marines didn't run, after all, his men ran and are still alive.

General Kelly responded, “They couldn't run, there were other Marines counting on them.” These two Marines were all that stood between 2000 pounds of fire and destruction and 50 other Marines manning the security post building. Had these two Marines run, there would have been 50 families mourning the lives of their lost sons. It really takes a special person to be able to stand up and face death, unflinchingly. Thank God for men such as these.

The ceremony will begin at 1100. I won't be able to bring you guys coverage like I had for Jason Dunham's Medal of Honor ceremony because I will be at work. Keep the families of these men in your prayers as it will surely be an emotional day for them. Also, keep those that visit the museum in your prayers too, I find that God brings people together for events such as these for special reasons, be it to inspire, or to allow someone else to reach closure on their own loss.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Thank God for Real Friends

All of my regular readers/friends have been following along this past year as I worked on a software implementation project. I never intended my work to be a subject that I blogged on. I suppose though, as it consumed my time and I needed to vent, I wrote about it entirely too often. I'll be honest, at times I have felt like it has been sucking the life out of me.

One of my dear friends who I've known now for at least 2 years from back on Yahoo 360, sent me a really honest, check your gut kind of e-mail. Her e-mail was packed with so much wisdom. She said she has noticed a "marked difference" in me. She came right out and said "you need to balance out what your priorities are in your life right now. Perhaps ask for a vacation or a break..."

"I think if you perhaps consider what it means to become humbled to various aspects of your life and allow all of the blessings that you are showered with daily, things will change dramatically and most likely in a blink of an eye."

"I believe in prayer, but I also believe that God wants and expects us to use discernment to "just do it" and make it happen, other than just "trying" or just "asking for patience, for example."

And in my opinion probably the most wise advice of all:

"Its not even the circumstances that are important here, its how you are choosing to react to this and your perception. Just a slight alteration of your perception could allow the patience that is already inside you to rise to the surface once again."

Now, I hope she doesn't mind me sharing all of that with you (sorry for not asking your permission - - it was good stuff and I had to share it because it really made me think).

So I want you to know, I did sit down and write out a list of my blessings. Sometimes its so easy to lose sight of all those blessings. As I looked at my list, I thought, I could do an entire blog entry on each one - - and I may do just that, at some point.

I just want my friend to know I praised her in Bible Study tonight. One of my friends commented, "Wow, she's a real friend, you don't want to lose her. It takes a real friend to tell you something like that."

So, to the most positive person I know (and you know who you are, as will some others) thanks for being the wonderful person you are and for pulling me back into the boat, giving me the cyber slap across the face to bring me back to my senses and for your continued friendship. I hope that I can be that for you.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Unpacking Operation Dewey Canyon

Col. Wesley Fox (ret) shared his experiences as a company commander during Operation Dewey Canyon with a crowd of about 100 at a dinner held at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

DSC_3470 DSC_3492

In January 1968, the North Vietnamese Army along with the Viet Cong, staged the Tet Offensive. It was hoped that the South Vietnamese would rise up in support of their northern brothers against the Americans. This didn't happen. Tactically, it was a huge defeat for the VC and NVA. For the Americans, who had been told by the US government that we were winning the war, it was also a defeat. After all, how could the NVA and VC launch such an attack when they were being defeated?

The following year, January 1969, things were pretty quiet. The combat fire bases were still taking hits from the NVA, but the Marines were not going outside the wire to engage the enemy. As Fox put it, we were engaging the enemy at a time and place that was convenient for the enemy.

As in years past, military intel could see the NVA pre-positioning supplies and building roads heading south in neighboring Laos. Marine Corps leadership decided to take the fight to the enemy and disrupt whatever it was the NVA was planning. This "take-it-to-the-enemy" was Operation Dewey Canyon.

I'm going to pull from my notes from Col. Fox's talk and from an article Vietnam War: Operation Dewey Canyon from HistoryNet.

According the HistoryNet, as many as 1000 trucks a day were observed heading south on Route 922 in Laos. They were moving supplies to locations in South Vietnam. In addition, movement at a NVA base within Laos suggested that large numbers of regular forces were moving into the A Shau Valley. The NVA would pre-position supplies along forward operating areas so that they could quickly supply troops when launching attacks. Gen. Raymond Davis, commander of the 3rd Marine Division, did not like the idea of watching all these supplies head south where it could be used to kill Americans.

How to stop the supplies? This was difficult because the NVA was operating from within Laos, which was a neutral country.

The decision was made that under the current rules of engagement, that the Marines could attack the NVA in Laos in self defense. According to Fox, everything that the Marines were about to do was completely unexpected. They were going to attack during monsoon season, in dense jungle. The dense jungle itself provided quite the obstacle. In order for helicopters to drop in troops, supplies and pick-up the wounded, the Marines would have to clear landing zones. The fact that this was monsoon season, meant the clouds were too low most of the time for air to come in and support the Marines. The NVA wouldn't expect the US to launch an operation they couldn't support by air.

"The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer." Col. Fox chuckled.

The operation was going to be so difficult that the war dogs had to be evacuated. It was too hot for the dogs and they would not be able to carry enough water to support them. Yep, how ironic is that? The dogs were out but the Marines were still in

Prior to 'jumping off' the 9th Marines had the opportunity to train while it waited at Vandergrfit Combat Base. Fox said his men were looking forward to resting so were not happy that he decided to 'school' them. The difference between the units in Vietnam and those in Iraq and Afghanistan today, was thatthe units in Vietnam didn't get a chance to train as a unit prior to deployment. Replacements would come in individually. They didn't have an opportunity to learn what to expect from each other. They were well trained Marines, just not as a unit. So, Fox explained to his men that his goal with 'schooling' was to send them back on the Freedom Bird, not in caskets. This kind of warmed them up to unit training.

This training came in handy when on February 22, Fox's company ran into a heavily fortified NVA bunker complex. Fox's command group took a direct hit from a mortar round, which killed or wounded everyone, except for the executive officer. All of his platoon leaders lost, radio operators dead and himself wounded, Fox took control of the radios giving orders to his men. He said that four weeks of training at Vandergrift had paid off because his Marines knew what was expected of them and what they could expect out of each other. The squad leaders took charge and when they went down, the Marines still knew what to do.

Fox had two options: 1) He could break contact and get out or 2) commit his reserve platoon. He was leaning toward option #1, however, he was afraid he wouldn't be able to get his wounded out because he didn't think he had enough able bodied me to carry them. It could take at least four, up to 10 men to carry a wounded man out through the hills and jungle on a poncho liner. He chooses option 2 and commits his reserve platoon. He said when he was about at wits end, the sun broke through and he was finally able to call in air suppport, which took out the NVA machine guns.

When the fight was over, Fox's company, which had gone in with just 90 Marines, 54 Marines were wounded and 11 Marines had been killed, 105 NVA dead were recovered. Yes, I know 90 is far short of the number of been in a company. One of his platoons had been called back to help guard two 122mm guns that had been captured several days earlier. There was some fear that the NVA would stage an assult to recapture them.


(Above, one of the 122mm guns captured during Operation Dewey Canyon.)

Later, on Hill 1044, a Marine set off to relieve himself in a bomb crater. As he was digging his hole, his entrenching tool hit a wood crate. The Marines ended up uncovering a large weapons cache and discovered that the NVA was burying their weapons in bomb craters.

For Fox, Operation Dewey Canyon was an eye opener, he was ready to go home when it was all over. Fox was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in this operation.

According to HistoryNet and Col Dick Camp at the conclussion of Col Fox's talk, Operation Dewey Canyon was considered one of the best regimental maneuvers of the Vietnam War. The statistics: 1,617 NVA were killed, while 130 Marines lost their lives and 920 were wounded. The Marines had disrupted a major NVA logistics center, captured tons of weapons, ammunition and food. Because of Operation Dewey Canyon, the NVA was unable to launch any offensive into I Corps that YEAR.

Unfortunately, at the end of the operation, the NY Times reported the incursion into neutral Laos. Anti-war groups were up in arms. The Secretary of Defense didn't confirm or deny the incursion however, the US ambassador to Laos apologized for the incident.

Friday, February 6, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You - - Story of My Life

Just got back from dinner and a movie with two of my friends. We along with, I think, almost every single woman in the Metro DC area packed the theaters for Opening night of this movie. My friends and I lingered a little too long over a Baja Fresh, so when we got to the theater, we had to sit in the second to front row. I don't think I've ever sat that close to a movie screen.

This was a cute movie. Almost painful to watch - - kind of like Napoleon Dynamite, where watching brought all the bad memories of High School flooding back. This brought back all the yuck memories of dating. Unfortunately, I'm still dating and still making those mistakes. I'm not AS bad as the main girl they follow. But I'm close.

The most entertaining aspect was listening to the audience reactions. Almost the entire audience was female. Well there was a smattering of poor male schmucks who got dragged to this chick flick by their wives or dates they are hoping to score with or they are the guys being used by a girl who's just not into him to score a free movie. One of those.

To be fair, this is probably a good movie for guys to watch so they can see just how confusing they are. Honestly, my opinion is, if you don't intend to call, don't say you will. If you don't want me to call, don't give me your phone number. I have only met one guy (Major A) who actually played fair, if he said he'd call, he did. However, like all guys I've dated - - he just wasn't into me.

Leaving, one of my friends commented, its nice to know we're not alone.

How true this statement was. The theater was, like I said earlier, flooded with single women. Beautiful single women. High school girls, college girls, career women - - every single one of us having experienced the "He's just not that into you" at least once and I'm sure many of us still experiencing that.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, I thought was funnier. There were quite a few characters in Not Into You so it was hard to follow who was who. If you go out with a group of your girls, this is fun to see in the theater. Otherwise, you can wait til it comes out on DVD.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dewey Canyon, Hue City, and Bing West

Last week, Col. Wesley Fox spoke about his experience as a company commander during Operation Dewey Canyon.


I haven't had a chance to unpack his talk, you know that is what I do here, its how I learn and retain what I've been told. I still don't have time to unpack it so I'll revisit later in the week. I think it has some parallels to Afghanistan - - not in that Afghanistan is going to be Obama's Vietnam. I don't think that at all.

In short, Dewey Canyon was an operation that took the fight from the Fire Support Bases to North Vietnamese along the Ho Chi Minh trail. It was a surprise to the NVA because they didn't expect US forces to cross into Laos, a neutral country. The results of Operation Dewey Canyon impeded the flow of weapons and personnel to the south. It also prevented the NVA from executing attacks on the cities in the Northern sector of I Corps of South Vietnam in 1969, probably saving the lives of hundreds if not thousands of civilians, NVA, SVA and US Marines.

The Battle of Hue City is another big touch stone battle for the Marines in Vietnam. February 20th, General Ron Christmas (ret) will be speaking on his experiences as a company commander in that battle. I'm really excited about that. One of my fellow docents and blog friends, Miss Jess, heard General Christmas speak at her husband's Marine Corps Ball a couple years ago. She said he was fabulous - - and she of course took notes. General Christmas will be doing his presentation in the Vietnam gallery, which I think will add to his talk.

You can purchase tickets for this event ($35 per person) by contacting or by calling 703-649-2350.

Now, I'm also very excited about this next event. Bing West is slated to speak on Thursday March 5th in the "Evening with a Distinguished Speaker" series. The Distinguished Speaker events are more expensive and the ticket price was not included on the announcement I received. You better believe I have this on my calendar.