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Apr-23-2012 08:40printcomments

Vietnam's Helicopter Valley: Graveyard of Marine CH-46's

Five Marine helicopters downed in 'Operation Hastings' were an unforgettable loss.

The fifth Marine CH-46 to go down in a place in Vietnam that gained the nickname, 'Helicopter Valley' in July, 1966.
The fifth Marine CH-46 to go down 15 July 1966, in a place that gained the nickname, 'Helicopter Valley', in Vietnam.

(SALEM) - In Vietnam, a particular place known as 'Helicopter Valley', will always be synonymous with loss and sacrifice of Marines who fill some of the riskiest occupations ever imagined.

CH-46s from HMM-265 shuttle into Can Lo
during Operation Hastings in July 1966. Photo by
former Marine helicopter pilot, Marion Sturkey.
Courtesy:
usmcpress.com

It is a place of skeletal remains, where the wreckage of five Marine CH-46 'Sea Knight' helicopters carrying the 3rd Battalion 4th Marines (3/4), who had lifted off the ground at Dong Ha, crashed down in a close proximity in Vietnam's Song Ngan Valley in 1966.

Lieutenant General Summer Vale, battalion commander, remembers the grisly sight of several panicked Marines being sliced to death "by the helicopter blades as they were getting out of the helicopters"[1].

It was a tragic event that claimed many lives and it was a reminder of the intense challenges facing the US military as it became increasingly engaged in this SE Asia war. In A Chronology Of Marine Helicopters In Vietnam 1962-1975, USMC Helicopter Association writes of Operation Hastings:

The gunner of a downed CH-46 helicopter staggers to
safety after being pinned down by enemy fire near the
DMZ. Two other crewman survived the crash that killed
12 Marines and one crewman from HMM-265. AP Wide
World Photo from the Requiem Collection.
Courtesy: MGySgt George Curtis, Popasmoke Admin

    OPERATION HASTINGS began as a search and destroy mission 55 miles NW of Hue to counter the NVA 324B Division across the DMZ. Task Force Delta, initially consisting of three Marine battalions, grew to six battalions, and five Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) battalions. Some MAG-16 units, including a detachment of eight UH-1Es from VMO-2, moved to Dong Ha Airfield to support Hastings[2].

It began when two of the birds in a third wave of helicopters delivering combat Marines, had their rear blades contact while offloading their Marines on uneven ground. Not expecting the tangling pair of doomed aircraft, a third CH-46 veered too close to trees in this thick jungle area; its blades caught and it crashed. Shortly after that, a fourth similar CH-46 was downed by sniper fire.

The full caption for the photo of the stricken aircraft above, courtesy of usmcpress.com, describes the loss of one of the fifth aircraft that day:

Hit by enemy AAA fire, a doomed H-46 from HMM-265 trails smoke and flame. The H-46 crashed, and exploded upon impact, in "Helicopter Valley" on the afternoon of 15 July 1966 -- the fifth H-46 lost in the valley that day. Of the 16 Marines aboard (4 crewmen and 12 Grunts) 13 died in the crash and fire. Although severely burned, the remaining three Marines survived. (Photo courtesy of Haas Faust)[3]

Marines flying the CH-46 helicopter in combat scenarios, are among of the boldest and most precise pilots and aviation crews in existence. I speak from experience when I say that catching a flight with these Marines in even semi-hairy situations in Iraq, can be one of the most hair-raising things most journalists will ever do.

Crossing Paths with the CH-46

HMM-164 in Vietnam

HMMT-164 insignia today

I came to know these somewhat awkward but mostly awesome aircraft as a young Marine in Southern California, back in the early 80's, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Tustin (LTA) which used to be the Marines' helicopter base in the area for the birds with wheels. They kept the skid types; UH-1 Hueys and AH-1 Cobras, at Camp Pendleton.

What I find personal about this story, is that I worked directly with one of the squadrons that made those unscheduled sacrifices that day: HMMT-164. The other squadron that paid dues that day was HMM-265; both were with Marine Aircraft Group-16 (MAG-16). The 'H' incidently, represents helicopter, the other letters represent 'Marine Medium' and the 'T' which was later added to 164, stands for 'Transport'.

HMM-164 was sent to Santa Ana, California, the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station, in 1969, after three long years in Vietnam. Many of the pilots and crews, were veterans of the Vietnam War, and some were likely flying the day carnage came to Helicopter Valley.

We were told the same went for many of the aircraft; that many had been in Vietnam, however the model of CH-46 being flown in 1966 was replaced long ago, and the old versions were never brought back to the United States. If CH-46's at Tustin were indeed Vietnam War vets, they were the more recent versions.

HMM-265 logo

Some view the CH-46 and a death trap as it carries a great deal of fuel and can turn into an incinerator box very quickly for the crew with a serious malfunction, or as happens too often in war, from a rocket or small arms fire. In the two photos at the top of the story, of the 5th CH-46 lost that day, 13 Marines died.

The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association posted the following information on flyarmy.org in an article titled: 'how 'Helicopter Valley' got its name':

HMM-164 was a US Marine Corps unit[4]
HMM-265 was a US Marine Corps unit[5]
MAG-16 was a US Marine Corps unit


Primary service involved, US Marine Corps
South Vietnam


Description:

    After Marine jets and artillery preped to two initial assault LZs for operation HASTINGS, 24 CH-46s from HMM-164 and HMM-265 brought the first wave of Marines from 3d Battalion, 4th Marines into LZ Crow, about five miles northeast of the Rockpile starting at 0800.

    The 24 CH-46As were divided into six divisions of four aircraft each since LZ Crow appeared large enough to accommodate four aircraft landing together. Each CH-46 carried 14 troops plus a crew of four. Since numerous automatic weapon positions were located to the northeast, the final approach heading was generally southeast, which caused the terrain to slope downhill to the zone. There was a tailwind of about 5 knots.

    The first two divisions landed in Crow without incident. HMM-265's EP-155, in the third division, overshot the landing point and hit a tree line, causing strike damage plus minor injuries to the crew and passengers. It came to rest to the right, outside and the zone and was smoking. HMM-164's YT-15, flown by MAJ Tom Reap, was the fifth division leader. The second ship in the fifth division was HMM-164's YT-18, flown by CPT W.J. Sellers. HMM-265's EP-160, flown by CPT R.O. Harper, was the third ship and CPT L. Farrell in EP-174 was the last ship in the fifth division which approached the zone in a free-trail formation.


    View Larger Map

    After examining several maps of Helicopter Valley in 1966, this appears to be
    the location, those with Google Earth can switch to that view and compare their
    information. It would be excellent to be able to pin down the exact location,
    thanks in advance to anyone who can clarify and help. My email address is below.

    In the report of aircraft mishap, MAJ Reap stated he believed he was slightly high and fast on final. Rather than flare and place his wingman in an awkward position, he picked a clear area about 75 feet east of the LZ. He came to a hover and the crew helped him avoid a small ridge already occupied by Marines.

    He started losing rotor RPM as he pulled power to move over the ridge. The CH-46 dropped the last 8-10 feet to the ground and landed hard. Sellers was about four rotor diameters behind Reap and a little higher. He flared to about 20 degrees nose up to get rid of this airspeed and moved abeam of the leader as he came to a high hover. Some trees near the stream, a stand of 20 foot bamboo, and troops already on the ground limited his touchdown choices. He started losing RPM in the hover and set down to the left of Reap.

    Both CH-46s were on uneven ground. YT-18 was only on the ground about four seconds before it meshed aft rotors with YT-15, which had already lowered its ramp and troops were leaving. Both aircraft began to shake and vibrate violently; then broke at the splice just forward of the aft pylon.

    The pylon dropped, injuring some men inside. YT-15's blades killed two Marines who had just left the aircraft.

    At 1815, while inserting a reaction company to guard the three CH-46s in LZ Crow, HMM-265's EP-171, flown by CPT T.C. McAllister with SGT R.R. Telfer as crew chief, was hit at 1,500 feet by 12.7mm fire. Photos taken from the ground show smoke coming from the cockpit windows and flames from the rear of the aircraft. When they tried landing on Crow, smoke filled the cockpit so no one could see. They overshot the LZ and crashed on the edge of the battalion's CP and 81 mortars. Thirteen Marines died and three were injured in this incident. Thereafter, the Marines referred to the Ngan River Valley as "Helicopter Valley."

    Comments: COL Hall, Richard; CO MAG-16; ; MAJ Reap, Tom; HAC HMM-164; ; CPT Sellers, W.J.; HAC HMM-164; ; CPT Harper, R.O.; HAC HMM-265; ; CPT Farrell, L.; HAC HMM-265; CPT McAllister, T.C.; HAC HMM-265; ; SGT Telfer, R.R.; CE HMM-265; KIA[6][7].

The pictures of the flaming CH-46A at the top of this article, (one of the most famous images of the war) is the subject CH-46A after it caught fire and was trying to get to the ground. It was filled with 12 USMCR troops and its crew of four. Other crew members of the aircraft were Sgt Gary Alan Lucas, gunner (second and third degree burns-face and arms), Capt Thomas C. (TC) McAllister, pilot, and 1stLt George Richey Jr., copilot.

EP-171 was totally destroyed by fire after crashing outside the borders of your photograph. If you assume your photograph to be aligned with North
to the top, there would be a small esker ridge just outside the border in the top center. EP-171 auto-rotated on the opposite side of that esker and
when it struck the ground the blades struck the ridge and toppled the aircraft onto its right side. The co-pilots escape was unimpeded once the escape
glass was broken and the flight deck crew escaped. An enlisted member was able to escape through the open gunners window. One other Marine, an
African American, escaped to die on the side of the hill. Courtesy: popasmoke.com

A Personal Narrative

Ronald Cutlers and Jim Reid who were members of Company B, 3rd Engineer Battalion that was attached to H&S/2/1, killed on EP-171.

I was an Engineer assigned to the Engineer detachment with 2/1 and was also TAD to HQ CO 2/1 since leaving San Diego with 2/1 in August of 65. Prior to that, I was one of the instructors at the Division Demolition Land mine Warfare School at Pendleton and was sent to join 211 at the docks in San Diego the night before we sailed.

Once we eventually were sent to Phu Bai. I was attached all over the place wherever 1 was needed and in late June, I was sent up to Cam To with E Co. to support an artillery Battery. I believe it was called "Task I Init Charlie". In the early morning hours of June 28th we were heavily mortared and nearly over run That morning, after the stet rose, I received a rather cryptic radio message to return to Dong Ha to catch a flight back to Phu Bai and was sent with a lone driver in a M- all the way back Dong Fla to catch the flight. Upon landing, and the ramp of the plane lowering, I saw my replacement Cpl. Jim Reid, a young African American that I knew to be a real nice guy, Coming down the ramp and briefly told him what had happened the right before as we passed on the ramp. I heard later while at Chu Lai, that Jim and those I was up there with were all lost in that burning Crash on July 15th, that appeared airborne and in flames on the Cover of "Stars and Stripes". While I knew it to be true, and after several emotional aborted attempts, over a period of several years, to find Jims name on the wall in DC, I recently overcame those demons and located his name on the mini traveling wall that was visiting my hometown.

It was a fellow instructor from the Division School al Pendleton, who had arranged for me to come to Chu Lai and give the classes at the VC trail he was setting up to train new arrivals in detecting and avoiding VC mines and booby traps, that pulled me from the operation on the DMZ a full month prior to my anticipated rotation dale and of Course ultimately saved me front the horrible fate my replacement met in that aircraft only 15 days later. - Submitted by Mike Shinkle

A Comment on the Incident

    July 15, 1966: Michael A. Cunnion, quarterback on the Holy Cross [Worcester, Mass] varsity football team, is Killed in Action along with 12 other Marines when his helicopter is hit by Viet Cong fire and crashes in Quange Tri province. - Submitted by Wally Beddoe, POPASMOKE Webmaster[8}

The USMC Helicopter Association wrote about different aspects of the event. They related how on the next day, 16 Jul, a platoon from 1st Force Recon Company rappelled from a MAG-16 helicopter onto the summit of the Rockpile, a few miles away from Helicopter Valley, to establish an OP for the first time. NVA units were located in large caves throughout the adjacent Razorback, which made for much contact during the coming month. The operation would prove to be tragic and costly.

Another excellent Website with information about the Marine crashes and Operation Hastings in the summer of 1966, is OperationHastings.com. Their pages include a great deal more about what happened and what resulted from this gutsy attempt to climb right into Charlie's back yard. They also feature gritty first-hand accounts from Marines who lived to tell the story.

As much as this operation is about lost helicopters, it is also about the Marine Infantrymen who went into what turned out to be, in some cases, impossible odds against the North Vietnamese 324B Division. These were prepared, hardened fighters, all of whom knew the terrain better than the Marines flown in and dropped off by the birds.

On the worst day, 24 July 1966, 18 Marines from 3/5 India Company were lost, with one officer among them.

Mission of the CH-46

Crash of a CH-46 in Vietnam- all aboard burned to death

The Marines are still flying this aircraft after so many years, and they will be around for a bit longer. The real replacement for this aging 'Vertol' as they are nicknamed, is the OV-23 Osprey, a combination between a standard helicopter and a fixed wing plane, it has two tilt rotors and I was fortunate to catch a ride in one of these when I was covering the Iraq war also, which was an interesting experience to say the least. They are super fast and very efficient for the Marines.

However the CH-46 is the staple, something that hasn't changed too much, for a long long time. According to Wikipedia, the United States Marine Corps CH-46E, also referred to as the "Phrog", is still regularly flown by the Marine Corps, its longevity as a reliable airframe has led to such mantras as "phrogs phorever" and "never trust a helicopter under 30".

CH-46E Sea Knights were used by the Marines in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I observed the aircraft in strong use in 2008. However the United States Navy retired the airframe on 24 September 2004, replacing it with the MH-60S Knighthawk. Of the remaining CH-46's, the Marine Corps plans to maintain its fleet until the MV-22 is fully fielded[9].

Closing Thoughts

Marine CH-46 Sea Knight in Southern California today. Photo: Wikipedia

As a Photojournalist for the NBC station in Yuma, Arizona, back in 1996, I was tipped off one day that a CH-46 caught fire on takeoff. I jumped in my truck and raced a few blocks to the base, and the Marines actually let me inside the gate to record that particular aircraft burning intensely.

Fortunately, no Marines were seriously injured. The clip ended up becoming part of the coolest news program open I'd ever seen. It isn't a sight I would soon forget.

I covered at least two other CH-46 crashes in this time, and also those of several other planes including F/A-18's and A/V-8B Harriers, though none that were fatal as I recall, until the very last one I covered out of Yuma; an EA-6B Prowler that went in at high speed killing all four Marine officers aboard. The CH-46 Sea Knight has its own dark history, but is is not unlike other Marine aircraft in that respect.

It seems fair to conclude that the helicopter, however outdated, really has a remarkably successful record in the bigger picture, and they have without question, carried countless Marines back to safety.

The story of the Marines who took part in Operation Hastings is one of immense courage, tragic loss, and hard lessons learned. It is both harrowing and extremely historic, I hope any who read this will take a moment and leave a comment, or drop me an email, this article is a tribute to all of you.

Please note: Comments on this story need to be respectful or they will not be approved, thanks.

References:

[1] The Vietnam Experience America Takes Over 1965-1967
        By Edward Doyle, Samuel Lipsman, and the editors of Boston Publishing Company ISBN: 0-939526-03-4

[2] USMC Helicopter Association - A Chronology Of Marine Helicopters In Vietnam 1962-1975

[3] usmcpress.com

[4] Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron 164 (HMM(T)-164) - Wikipedia

[5] Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (HMM-265) - Wikipedia

[6] How 'Helicopter Valley' got its name - flyarmy.org

[7] USMC H 1966, P 164-165; mishap rpts

[8} http://marines.togetherweserved.com - Case, Orson, Cpl

[9] Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight - From Wikipedia

______________________________

Tim King in 2008, covering the Iraq War

Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.

Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 20+ countries and regions.

Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide with an emphasis on Palestine and Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. Marines. You can write to Tim at this address: tim@salem-news.com. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)

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Anonymous July 22, 2014 1:38 pm (Pacific time)

it sucks for me, all i knew about my real father was his name was john and his helicopter got shot down, never knew him, God Bless


C Alvarez December 19, 2013 6:03 am (Pacific time)

the Marine CH-46 Sea Knight in Southern California is my husband. Semper fi

It is an honor to have you here, do you have a photo of your husband that we can add to this?

Many thanks

Salem-News.com


steve holgate March 4, 2013 10:56 am (Pacific time)

I was in 4th helo behind the 3 that went down,and so close to the one later that day that burned all nite also transferred as MP at Tustin base from vietnam

Tim King, Semper fi Steve, I would appreciate being able to share this with the public, this is an extremely important story, can you please write to me at tim@salem-news.com or timking@journalist.com? Thanks!


Steve eid June 11, 2012 12:31 am (Pacific time)

HMMT-164. The T does not represent "transport" it represents training. 164 turned into a training squadron at Pendleton. I worked for them. They train pilots and crew chiefs and do absolutely nothing else.

Editor: Thank you for clarifying.


Anonymous April 23, 2012 10:27 pm (Pacific time)

You are cool Tim..I wish countries could forgive and discuss as we did. Great info you gave also, I will keep up my research also. I hope to add a bit of spice to your website, keep ya motivated and maybe share in the posts things you cant share to the mainstream as you mentioned.. I totally understand, thanks for clearing that up. You seem to be Christian yes? How about a song then to end the evening? later my friend, I will try so hard to be professional and kind in my posts. I am a bit crazy tho, ya might have to put up with me once in awhile :-) song: bryan duncan re-did paul mccartney song, maybe Im amazed. I am a fan of Jesus. See ya on next articles that catch my attention... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKyVUQI90tM p.s. I am even getting along with Daniel, and I miss Henry.


Anonymous April 23, 2012 8:16 pm (Pacific time)

One last thing..I was probably about 12 when my brother went to viet nam. He did tell me, it was a difficult decision. But here is my point. I remember, my dad was a missionary to American Indians. In Bell Gardens, next door to Huntington Park, and I grew up in Maywood, so we have more in common than just long hair. And yes, I moved to Oregon for my kids and I do like it here. But anyway, one Sunday, at church, my dad put up an article on the posting board. It was about my brother..Seems as tho he got major awards for rescuing his Captain and several others. I cant even imagine, he was the gunner in the helicopter, the first target for the enemy. I asked my dad if I could take the article, he said yes, and I held on to it for years. I sure love my brother. He is now a missionary near TJ Mexico, helping orphaned kids. ok, thats all for today..thanks for chatting, maybe I can add a bit of spice to the website? And again Tim, what you wrote previously was awesome..

Tim King: Yes, Maywood, that is close, and I caught yesterday that one of the Marines killed in the helicopter fiasco, Lance Corporal Michael Gooden, was from Belflower, just south of where you grew up. My brother Kenny almost went to OCS in '68, he had a slipped disc and could not go, I'm glad, this reminds me why.  Thanks Stephen.


Anonymous April 23, 2012 8:01 pm (Pacific time)

Great job guys..And keep in mind Tim, I did not start the argument, I only reacted. I reacted irresponsibly, but it was a reaction. I apologize. Anyway, your response was great. I have read the book by smedley along with writings by lindberg, eisenhower etc..
I will have to do more research on the taliban, I sometimes think we might be getting more propaganda than truth. But check this out, how can we change anything in another country, when our own country lies, cheats, steals, kills etc. The taliban has caused very little havoc compared to what the west/U.S./NATO has caused. Libya is a perfect example. Libya was doing fine, and now they are in civil war, instigated and caused by the west. And from what I understand, the CIA uses the taliban, like they use "alCIAda" to be their scapegoats and do their dirty work. I think where you, I, and Daniel disagree, is I think their is an elite group, around for centuries, that control things. And these elite people are satanists and eugenicists. I know other countries have their problems, but in my opinion, the west is causing more problems. Depleted uranium, devaluation of the dollar causing massive starvation, pay for profit prisons with people serving years just because they had a drug habit, GMO killing us, flouride poison in the water, etc etc, I could do this all day long..Why dont we fix our own country first maybe? And about religious zealouts? How about the U.S. republican party? :-) does the taliban send bllions to israel to kill palestinians?
Thank you and Daniel for taking time, and you both made great points and a positive direction in my learning.. Especially yours Tim..You are one heck of a writer, you write from your heart. Thanks again.

Stephen, with regard to the Rothchild/Bilderberg-esque side of things, I am not in opposition to that belief, I just can't go there very often because I am dealing with a mostly mainstream audience.  I don't object to the content that does sometimes pass through here referencing such things.  As you know we have spent a lot of time on the GMO thing, and we are always plying the waters when it comes to Dow and Monsanto.  Just know we mean well.

Regarding the Taliban, I do not believe they are doing anything for or with the CIA, they are too rooted in their own issues and problems.  The US would not even talk to them for a long time, when ISAF was quoting their leaders regularly.  Al Qaeda is as you know, the name of the CIA operation to fund the Mujahideen rebels fighting the Soviets in the 80's.  The Taliban was one of the groups fighting the Jihad, but only one.  Remember 'The Northern Alliance'?  Those are the other guerrilla  groups and they had a great leader named Massoud, he was killed the day before 911 by assassins connected to the Taliban.  His face is all over Kabul on trucks, posters, billboards, etc.  This guy was a university student, not a religious nut.  So I guess I'm saying that there is and never was a connection with Taliban, who people in Afghanistan fear and know, and the al Qaeda group which nobody there knows anything about, other than the incessant media reports.  Thanks a lot.


Anonymous April 23, 2012 3:27 pm (Pacific time)

Tim..you and I have had our ups and downs, but we are still here I suppose..Indulge me while I simply ask a question. This is important to me, because its personal.
What do you think I should do? I am asking. I do my homework and my research, as mentioned, I have no agenda but truth. And from that truth, then people can decide their path. Its very difficult for me to support the marines, or that k-9 dog, etc. The reason this is personal, is because a couple months ago, I basically told my older brother, navy helicopter gunner in nam, that he did not fight for our freedoms, but from lies from the elite to continue world domination of tyranny.
He hasnt talked to me since, and says to me that I could not talk the way I do if he wasnt out there protecting my freedoms.. I disagree with my brother, but admire his service. I am not just so sure that I should support marines, or any military group, that simply does what they are told and brainwashed to do..As mentioned before, we have marines guarding opium fields in Afghanistan, flooding the U.S. with cheap and potent heroin. Then, the addict gets arrested and goes to a for-profit prison..I have 100 more examples.
How many wars have marines fought only for the elite bankers? All of them. NONE of them were for our freedom..We have been losing our freedom steadily for decades...The fact is, the marines faught for the the enslavement and tyranny of the U.S.
Ok, you can ban me, or whatever, but I really am asking a question from my heart, and wondering what your thoughts are..Dont yell at me, take a few minutes, think, and calmly answer..I need answers. I was a corpsman in the Navy by the way, top ten of my classes etc.. I support the troops, but I do it by telling the truth, not by patting them on the back for past wars where only the elite globalists won. All military needs to be educated to what is really going on...That is how I support the troops, by exposing the lies they are fighting for. What they did, is done and over with, but what about tomorrow's marines? Will they fight for the bankers too?

DJ: Read Smedley Butler's 1934 book War is a Racket and tell your brother about what Butler said in his years of speaking engagements. He said far more powerful things than what you have outlined above.

Tim King: Thanks DJ, Smedley Butler's story says a great deal.  With regard to your questions Stephen... and ignoring the really crappy things you wrote recently about us that were personal in nature, first, I wish I could say with all of my heart, that I believe all wars, all fighting... is avoidable and not necessary.  Sadly it is human nature and if we accept that, then we can work on it, but we haven't gotten people that far yet.  Citizens should have come unglued over the Iraq invasion, but they truly are sheep. 

With regard to Marines, part of the population is somehow exactly cut out for this work, not the bad wars, not the unacceptable treatment of Veterans, but a segment of society does include the warrior/defender.  I have to say too, that while my sons have been able to grow up without excessive fear of violence in school, etc.,, I had no such luck, as a white kid growing up in Huntington Park, California, about seven miles west of Downtown LA.  Everything was about gangs, sets, and violence.  So I didn't grow up believing anything in life was possible to achieve without some level of inescapable violence.  I have to say that Oregon has shown me another side of life, and that is good.  Anyway,  another part of it always, is culture.  Families are either anti-war, pro-war, or even worse, they are apathetic and do't even let the information in.  This is the "I don't watch the news" set.  My culture is the Marine Corps, it can't be changed, it is how it is, and that is why this content is here, no question about it.  But I don't support the stupid, unessential or illegal/immoral parts of it, you know I don't. 

Vietnam: like all wars, people that participate are generally apolitical when they join up, or they are vaguely political; patriotic, etc.  When people go to war and see what it is actually about; the death and destruction, the terrible sounds, the fear that is born from all of this, it changes many people.  Those who figure it out; arriving at the conclusion that most war is terrible and wrong, they end up like so many of our writers.  Vietnam, do you have any idea how bad the Communist forces were to their own people?  And bear in mind that we write about My Lai and educate people about the negatives, but it would have been great if the Americans could have won.  When you read about that war, you learn one overpowering thing, that is that South Vietnam was corrupt in ways that are ridiculous and that much of what went wrong, was a result of that. 

This story is about history, my past briefly overlapped with HMMT-164 and that made this mostly untold story all the more interesting to me.  Plus, I have been an aviation fan for meany years.  Those who were part of this, they were all young Americans doing what all people do everywhere, serving their nation.  It is honorable and it exists, so I thought it was a fascinating subject for a tribute article.  As far as the Marine Corps dog goes, why don't you look at it this way: we are obviously trying to educate Americans constantly in ways that bring a great amount of criticism, to me the USMC dog is a simple and heartwarming Veterans story, it isn't anything to get political about because it is after the fact, and you would be surprised around the Marines, at how consistent this service is, how dedicated they are. 

Also, Afghanistan: Do appreciate that the Taliban are mindless religious zealots, they are the guys who destroyed Buddhist statues that had stood for over a thousand years, they beat women in the streets and they force them to live in a way that I would find unacceptable for a convicted murderer.  I personally would like to see the Taliban have their ass handed to them, and nobody is winning if Karzai keeps calling these morons 'brother'.  They are not anything but a negative manifestation of religious extremism, they are up there with abortion protestors who shoot doctors, men who abuse women and children, etc.  I hope against all hope for a better day for the people of Afghanistan, they are beautiful and even if our involvement in this particular war is for the wrong reasons, we are indeed there and should help establish a country worth living in.  The Taliban don't listen to talk of peace, they laugh at our calls for a dismissal of violence.  

I'm not sure if I answered your questions, but I tried to express where we are coming from.  I don't support what is wrong with the program, only what is right, hence the recent pairing with OCCUPY MARINES.  It is a heartfelt group with a mission of peace and justice and we are on-board that train.  Strength is necessary, and the Marine angle attracts a lot of people to our site as we are a fairly specialized news agency, as you know.  Peace, Stephen 

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The NAACP of the Willamette Valley