Saturday, August 20, 2011

How I Lost the War

I'm a loser
I'm a loser
And I'm not what I appear to be

--I'm a Loser
, The Beatles

Some day, yeah

We'll put it together and we'll get it all done

Some day

When your head is much lighter

Some day, yeah

--Ooh, Child
, Nina Simone

Maybe I, I tried too hard

to find someone to blame
And maybe it's me who changed
And now I'm left with nothing again
--Failure, Unloco

[*This is a true story. No sh*t.]

There are some things to which a man cannot admit. We cannot countenance the thought that our peckers are small and short-fused, nor admit that we have reluctant bladders, or that we really were not heroes.

The following admission goes way beyond these foolish psychosexual fripparies. It has been Ranger's secret cross to bear for decades. You see, he is the reason the U.S. lost the Vietnam War.

Forget all of the armchair quarterbacking you've heard over the years, blaming everything from hippies to the U.S. running like scalded dog. I am here to tell you the real deal: The weight of the nation rested upon the fitness of U.S. Army personnel, and Ranger let the sacred honor of the nation down on this front

He knows because CPT Willoughby told him so. It was OH Dark Thirty and the universe was clipping through the month of September in the year 1968. Tet '68 had just delivered a humbling, and Ranger was a young shave-tail wearing infantry brass on collar if not in his heart.

The revelation occurred during Physical Training, specifically, the jumping jacks portion. Ranger was dogging it because he was tired, hungover and just did not give a flip about the exercise regimen of the Army at that moment. His mien was dour; Richard Simmons he was not (nor is he.) He needed some serious tightening up.

My bad attitude was infecting the Army, or so said Captain Frank
"Fucking" Willoughby, our class training monitor. Frank called me all sorts of sorry motherfucker and said in no uncertain terms that it was guys like me that were losing the war. Incidentally, it was Ranger's first exposure to motherfucker as non-hyphenated noun versus verb. Motherfucker as an entity in and of itself, and not the description of an unsavory action.

That encounter started my thinking about alternate recompense for being a soldier. If the Army paid a quarter for every time someone called me a motherfucker, I would be a rich mother-fucker. Sadly, this initiative was never adopted.
(I'd like to kick the ass of the motherfucker who nixed my proposition.)

In retrospect it is clear the National Liberation Front and VC had a rarefied intel apparatus to be able to divine my dogging it during PT and learn that all they need do is wait for me and my ilk to make our way forward.

After a lifetime of forced denial, I bare my soul and individual culpability in this colossal failure. This is why I shun most fraternal military gatherings: I know we lost before I even got on station, and that the loss was my doing.
My crossed rifles may as well be scarlet.

This is my most important confession.


  1. I shouldn't laugh, and yet I did...dammit, Jim, how am I suppose to remain dour, sour, and glower when you're making me laugh?

    Now I must get back to...wait...Motherf#cker? Really?

    I don't recall when I was introduced to was, I think, one of "those" words that didn't get traction in my highschool till I was a senior...yeah, I remember my first introduction to it...a girl was screaming at another girl...I don't know whether I was shocked or impressed...that a girl could swear like a guy, or that a girl would put those two words together.

  2. Now that jim has confessed and all, and admits to setting in motion innumerable and irretrievable falling dominoes, what are we gonna do with him?

    Any ideas, s?


  3. sheer,
    You miss my point . This was my introduction to MF non-hyphenated. This is much worse than the polite form.Don't you remember your language instruction? BTW Willoughby was a prior service Marine.
    Worse yet, what do i do with me? There's more to come. Watch for 365 bottles of beer highlighting my time with 5th group/SOA.
    Since i no longer attend church and Willoughby is dead i turn to the ether world for absolution.

  4. Well, now we know. All those decades blaming the dirty fucking hippies. I think you need to apologize to the next gray-bearded old stoner you see.

    And here I thought I was the only one who had doubts whether maxing my PT run would keep the Soviets from annexing Little Diomede.


  5. I found some penance for you, jim.

    I hope you can appreciate it. ;)


  6. The guy who played the sergeant actually served, and died.


  7. Kissinger must have found out about your slacking off, so that is why he caved at the Paris Peace Talks - you think????

    Willoughby probably tipped him. I wonder if it is the same former Marine Cpl 'Spanky-Franky' Willoughby I knew back in the early 60s? He had a great deal of animosity towards shavetail 2nd looies, and everybody else as I recall. How the hell he ever got thru Army OCS I'll never know, let alone end up as an instructor there.

  8. Mike,

    He was the senior guy at Lang Vei (during PT-76 Tank maneuvers-a-thon). Actually, a Lt.Col, boss type got stuck there during this escapade, but this Willoughby guy was the HMFIC of the command Bunker. He seems to have survived that contretemps, however, I was unable to dig up more. Mike, he might have been the guy you knew ..... Who knew? Was he a PT instructor while recuperating, or in spite of recuperating?

  9. Eddie -

    I don't think it is the same guy. Spanky was an 8-ball of high magnitude and a 3-hashmark Cpl. Not that there is anything wrong with that in itself, but IIRC he did have a serious problem with firewater. I was pulling Jim's leg about him being the same guy. But maybe they were cousins?

    Regarding Lang Vei, four decades plus afterwards, the Bru, Van Kieu and other mountain people are still getting f*cked over by Hanoi. Ethnic and cultural cleansing - forced relocations and confiscation of tribal lands - gang rapes of Montagnard girls by Vietnamese. A small minority of Montagnard Christians get all the press in this country, but it has happened to all the mountain people there regardless of whether they are Buddhist, Pagan, or Catholics. And apparently it does not matter whether their grandfathers helped the VC or the Americans, all are fair game now. Kind of like what we did to the indigenous first Americans after the Revolutionary War. We relocated, killed or starved or impregnated their women until there was little left of both the British Indian allies and our own allied tribes. Good to know we are not the only sons-of-bitches in this world.

    And of course the ARVN were not much better back in the day. I recall a certain South Vietnamese RuffPuff NCO who was pimping out a teenage Montagnard girl.

  10. Mike.
    Frank was not an instructor. He was a CASUAL and they stuck these guys as training observers etc...He was awaiting his IOAC/Advance course to start.FW was not in the chain but he was a real pain in the ass . My Co CDR was a 4th ID survivor who got his shoulder blade removed from his body by the NVA.
    I was a casual in BCT when 1st Entered Active duty.
    Willoughby retired as an o4 and was our Bde S3 when i was a Co CDR and i don't remember him ever even grunting my way.
    I didn't mention him and the command bunker out of kindness.LTC Shungel was at LV b/c the Marines were not providing proper fire support for LV.I had later encounters with Shungel in the 5th grp SOA.
    Paul Longgrear is the last officer still living from the LV fight.Paul was just installed in the Ranger Hall of Fame , but wouldn't put in a good word for me.

  11. Mike Willoughby was about 6ft 1 and 175-85 lbs.
    He could be your man as he seemed to hate at least 1 2LT in the company.
    OCS slid a lot of guys through, but Willoughby was a competent soldier.

  12. Jim -

    Not the same guy IMO.

    And you say: "LTC Shungel was at LV b/c the Marines were not providing proper fire support for LV." That may be true. I know that they were providing fire support to several of their own units on hills 881, 861A & B, 568, 950 and several other units outside the KS wire. Also I have read that when LV called in for fire support against armor, that the Marine FSCC did not believe them at first. But then neither did the I Corps SOG Commander and neither did Westmoreland and his G-2. And I doubt seriously that the howitzers of 1968 would be effective against armored vehicles. Even if they used PD fuzes, they just were not accurate enough to target individual tanks. I will defer to FDChief if he has a different opinion.

    But my understanding was that LtC Shungel was at LV more for protocol because the Royal Laotian Battalion Commander would not take orders or guidance from Willoughby. So SOG field grades had to take their turn at LV to provide polite diplomacy and it was Shungel's turn in the barrel.

  13. Mike,
    I'll ask Longgrear the next time that i see him.
    In fact i'll write and ask him to reply here on Milpub; i'm not sure that he'll respond, but i'll try.

    The SF at LV were unprepared for an armored atk. They lacked heat rds for the 106 RR. I think they only had 3 rounds . The pt 76's should have been easily killed with LAW's, but i think these were scarce during this shoot out.
    The USMC fire support could've separated the en infy from their armor.
    The Fire Support question was a long term problem and not confined to the final assault phase. I don't fault the Marines for giving priority of fires to their own elements since that's what their CDR was being paid to do. Same as Shungel. I feel that Corps arty should've been used as reinforcing fire. This deficiency falls on COMUS MACV, imo. SF has no organic arty, only mortars. The Marines could've assigned a battery for DS support and surely for GS since the SF was protecting an avenue of approach. Tanks or no tanks.
    This battle has fallen into the pages of mil. history.
    FW should've done more side straddle hops.

  14. jim -

    It would be great to get a post here from Col Longgrear, not only on Lang Vei but also on his perspectives on counterterrorism as I understood he was now somewhat of a middle East expert. But I thought you said he was not talking to you. And he may not like our brand of debate, you think?

    You mentioned LAWs. I read that they had 100+ at LV but there was a high failure rate, both misfires and dud rounds failing to detonate. But the duds could have been due to the good design of the PT76. Yup, the armor was thin but the inclination of the frontal armor and the turret made most shots glance off.

    Regarding the arty support, yes, as you say it "could've separated the en infy from their armor." Also it could have been used for counterbattery against NVA arty on Co Roc. I am not sure what arty they had at Khe Sanh - I assume that the 155-mm and 8-inch were back at Camp Carroll and the Rockpile with the Army Long Toms. I play golf, hopefully next week, with an old friend who was at KS at the time and will get his insight.

    The Long Toms would probably have had the range to Lang Vei from either Carroll or the Rockpile. But I suspect they would not have been a good weapon for close-in support. I understood that although they were extremely accurate in azimuth, they could have extreme range errors, kind of like naval gunfire - great if they are firing parallel to your lines, piss poor if they were firing perpendicular to your lines.

    Also, do you know if there was an Army FO at Lang Vei? The FAC, an AF captain, has a briefing on line at:
    that seems to indicate (slide #6) he had responsibility for calling in arty as well as air at LV. Could that be true? Surely there was an SF guy acting as an FO who had all the appropriate freqs and call signs for arty support? But then interservice coordination has never been an American strong suit except in a few exemplary cases.

  15. jim - Darn it. Lost another post here. I was up to 11 last night composing it and now it is somewhere in the bit/byte netherland. Maybe it was too long. Will try again tonight. In any case it would be great to hear some insight from Col Longgrear IMO.

  16. Mike,
    I talked to Paul today- face to face and he tried to answer here at the Pub. He'll try again.
    Here's my take of his cmts, and i'm trying to be accurate.
    _The marines wouldn't fire unless there were at least 22 en atk'ing. Weird to me since it's hard to count people in an assault, esp at nite.
    -The defenders were more interested in illum than HE in the fight. Initially.
    -Navy A1 E's ? or A1's saved the team from being destroyed when they were bunkered up.
    This according to Paul,he credits all survival to their bombing runs.
    Pauls agrres that the NVA had poor combined arms coord in this fight. NVA aar's indicate that 11 of 16 pt's were destroyed at LV.
    -The infy in Pauls sector were killed and separated from the tanks by the Yards simply killing them.
    -The 81's HE separated some infy from the tanks.
    -The laws did in fact seem to richochet from the angles of the hulls.
    - The 106 did only have 3 heaT ROUNDS.
    excuse my typing/computer.
    Hope Paul gets thru, if not i will channel him.
    Actually i will retransmit his ltr if he sends it to me.

  17. jim -

    I talked to that golfing buddy who was at KS during that time. He said the there were some 155-mm tubes there but could not recall if it was a full battery or not. There was a full battalion of 105s and a battery of four-deuces. He said most guns were firing round the clock counterbattery against NVA artillery and also trying to suppress NVA AAA. He mentioned some Army quad-50s and direct fire 40-mm there at KS, which might have been better used at LV. He did not have any insight into the Army 175-mm at Camp Carroll.

    The A-1 was a good close support platform - low and slow - lots of loiter time - it could take AAA hits and still get home - and it could carry a heavy ordnance load.

  18. Mike,
    Paul has lived in Israel and Russia or the Ukraine, as a missionary. So i reckon he knows the T. of the area.
    Paul has the Bragg training on Terrorism.
    Paul is trying to get the pilots awards for their actions at LV. Better late than never.

  19. The smartest thing Giap did was send the BV33 to Lang Vei with 2200 dependents. The State department and CIA were more interested in their well being than our survival.

    A field grade officer had to be there for international relations. This destroyed unity of command. Shungle over-rode Willoughby and Pappy Craig and dictated what happened.

    A few things were neglected such as overseeing the liaison team attached to the Laos. Young would have not been captured and there would have been someone on the 2nd 106. There might even have been some more HEAT rounds (there were only 3 rounds.

    And, most important to me, Lindewald and Hannah would have been inside the camp and might have swung the battle.

    The "rescue force" did nothing but ride the helos into the old camp and ride them out again. They never set foot in Lang Vei. We made our break out before they arrived.

    Anymore questions?

    Longgrear sends