770 – Marine Vietnam Vet Blaine Underwood goes to DC

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Blaine Underwood, 68, a Vietnam veteran from Middletown, and his daughter, Christina Fink, toured the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall as part of his Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

In this episode your happy podcaster, Mack Payne, brings you another story about a brave Vietnam Veteran who served his country with distinction and had to wait fifty years for a proper recognition and welcome home. This veteran’s story is described in an article found in The Journal-News of the Dayton Daily News Titled: McCrabb: Vietnam veterans deserved better treatment that was submitted by Rick McCrabb Staff Writer for the Dayton Daily News.

Blaine Underwood of Middletown, Ohio joined the Marines in 1966 upon graduation from Monroe High School in Butler County. Soon after that he found himself in Vietnam serving with the Marines in I Corps (That’s up north near the DMZ). When he came home he noticed something strange about a women who lived across the street. Before he went to Vietnam she was very friendly and neighborly and would often speak to him. That all changed when he returned. She never spoke to him again because she did not approve of our country’s actions in the Vietnam War. Blaine had another neighbor about his age who joined the Army about the same time he had joined the Marines. His neighbor was sent to Germany where he served his tour of duty. Upon his return the neighbor lady through him a nice “Welcome Home” party yet she never acknowledged Blaine’s existence when he came home from Vietnam.

Blaine finally got his proper welcome home when he went on an Honor Flight with 108 other veterans to see the memorials in Washington DC. He said that throughout the entire flight they were all treated “like royalty.” When the veterans and their chaperones landed at Dayton International Airport around 10 p.m., they were cheered by 1,500 people, many of them waving American flags.

Blaine’s wife, Kitty, who was among the welcome home crowd said “It was really emotional,” “ It brought tears to your eyes. The way they honored them. It made your heart… The guys were crying. I just was amazed. People that didn’t have anyone there, they came to honor the veterans.”

After all these years Blaine Underwood got his welcome home.

Mack Payne, vietnam veteran news

Mack Payne, the happy podcaster

769 – How one Vietnam Vet tackles PTSD

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,Jim and Christine Murphy, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Henrico County residents Jim and Christine Murphy pose for pictures. Jim is a disabled veteran who served in the Vietnam War, and Christine is an employee at the Survivor Outreach Services office at Fort Lee. Together, they are fighting Jim’s post traumatic stress disorder. Terrance Bell/Fort Lee Public Affairs

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a terrible challenge facing many Vietnam Veterans. Jim Murphy is one Vietnam Veteran who is successfully tackling his PTSD demons with the help of others. His story was featured in an article in The Progress-Index of Petersburg, Virginia titled: Couple tackles veteran’s repressed war experience submitted by Terrance Bell of the Fort Lee Public Affairs. It is a story about how one person is overcoming his PTSD demons and how his methods could help others with similar challenges.

Jim Murphy served in Vietnam with the 11th Pathfinders Company, 11th Aviation Group, 1st Air Cavalry Division based in Bien Hoa. He came home in 1970 and at the airport in San Francisco he encountered vociferous anti-war protestors who shouted things like: “Boo! Baby killers! Here comes the baby killers” at the returning heroes as they deplaned. Murphy was puzzled unable to comprehend their actions. He was proud of his service and wanted to show it off but the protestor’s actions left him in a state of bewilderment. He felt like everyone had turned against them. He began to wonder if he was the enemy.

As a result of the treatment he received upon his homecoming, Murphy had difficulty becoming a civilian. He missed the life-or-death camaraderie that shaped his persona as a foot soldier. He had no one he could connect with from that life. All that made things even worse when he began to exhibit symptoms of the dreaded PTSD. He could not talk about the war for thirty years.

Jim Murphy was lucky to have found a loving wife (number three), Christine, and he was blessed with three loving children and twelve grandchildren who love and support him. They would tell him “Dad, we need you, we love you and you need you to function better.” They never said we’re leaving you or we’re giving up on you.  He said “I’m one of the more fortunate ones.”

He was also fortunate to have a wife who was willing to work with him to make him function better. Today they stand as a shining light to other veterans with similar problems.

768 – Lao government hits Hmong People with genocide

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Hmong People

It this episode of the podcast we will take another look at the Hmong People situation. A story from the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization website titled: Timeline: Hmong will be featured in this update.

Just a reminder, the Hmong People were indigenous tribesmen who had the misfortune of living in Laos, one of the countries carved out of the old French colony of Indo-China. During the Vietnam War many of the tribesmen were recruited by the CIA to fight in a “secret war” against the North Vietnamese military forces that were flooding into the supposedly neutral Laos.

The Americans pulled out of Vietnam and its secret war in Laos after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 leaving their faithful Hmong fighters behind. In 1973 North Vietnam took over South Vietnam since the south had been deserted by the Americans. Simultaneously communist governments took over Laos and Cambodia.

There was no love lost between the new communist Lao government and the Hmong People. Immediately the communists were determined to eliminate all the Hmong people. They are still suffering the consequences of backing the losing side in the Vietnam War to this day. Persecution is a daily reality and many Hmong live in fear of arbitrary arrest and torture while experiencing abject poverty. Their lands are being stolen and exploited with gold mining, illegal logging, over building of dams, flooding the land and the reduction of wildlife and fisheries.

It is apparent the Lao Government is intent upon committing genocide against its Hmong population and its neighbors are complicit in this vile objective. When Hmong people seek refuge in other countries they are in danger. Vietnam and Thailand have agreements with the Laotian government to detain and aid the forceful repatriation of Hmong refugees.

It is a terrible situation these brave people are facing and something really needs to be done to help them.

Hmong Fighters, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Hmong Fighters during the Vietnam War

767 – Aussie Vietnam Vets honor their war dogs

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TRIBUTE TO HEROES, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

TRIBUTE TO HEROES: Ballina’s Macca McCallum (second from left) at the unveiling of a statue of tracker dog Caesar at Ingleburn, south-west of Sydney, with other Vietnam veterans who also served as Caesar’s handlers during the war.

This podcast is going to the dogs in this episode. Specifically, the Australian war dogs that were utilized by the Aussies in Vietnam are to be highlighted here. One of those dogs and its handler was featured in a story in The Northern Star of Lismore, Australia titled: For Macca it “ripped his guts out” to leave a mate behind.  The Northern Star is a newspaper located in Lismore which is in the northeastern corner of New South Wales. Macca is Australian Vietnam Veteran named Macca McCallum who lives in Ballina, which is located on the Coral Sea coast about fifty miles south of Brisbane and 500 miles north of Sydney.

According to the Northern Star article, as part of a tribute to war dogs at Ingleburn, south-west of Sydney, near where the infantry tracker dog training center once stood, an unveiling was held. The statue unveiled was a four-legged soldier with the regimental number D6N03, tracker dog Caesar. Caesar was one of 11 tracker dogs utilized by the Australians in Vietnam. Macca McCallum was part of the tracker dog team for the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, and he was Caesar’s third handler of seven. Caesar served in Vietnam from 1967-1970, but the black labrador-kelpie cross didn’t come home due to Australia’s quarantine restrictions.

Macca said he honored to be able to attend the unveiling at Ingleburn. His experiences on a sheep farm near Dubbo (about 200 miles northwest of Sydney) working with sheep dogs got him into a dog handler slot with the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment in Vietnam in 1968.

When he was matched up with his scout dog Caesar, Macca said the two of them  just “hit it off”. The Aussie tracker dog teams were made up of a dog, a handler, two visual trackers, a machine gunner and an RTO. The tracker dogs, were deployed on a 10 meter leash to its handler, and they would lead troops through rice paddies or into the jungle, with the handler working with hand signals or tugs of the leash to work with the dog in silence.

766 – M60 rated as best machine gun ever

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U.S. Marine Corps M-60 in all her glory. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

One of the most recognizable weapons of the war in Vietnam was the M-60 Machine Gun or as it is officially called the United States Machine Gun, Caliber 7.62 mm, M60. The iconic machine gun was described in a story found in The Business Insider website Military & Defense section titled: Why the M-60 ‘Pig’ remains one of the best US machine guns ever submitted by  Paul Huard.

In Vietnam the M-60 was ubiquitous. Every combat squad had one when they went on operations. Very few Huey helicopters did not have M-60s mounted on each side for its door gunners. Most all defensive bunkers had them as well convoy escort vehicles.

It is no surprise to the writer of this piece, that the M-60 was inspired by German equipment from the World War II era. American weapon designers were highly impressed with the German MG-42, a machine gun so powerful that it was nicknamed “Hitler’s Bone Saw” by the Wehrmacht troops that fired it. The MG-42 had a blinding rate of fire and was belt fed—both qualities were considered desirable by weapons designers. The Fallschirmjägergewehr 42, or FG 42 battle rifle, also had equally desirable qualities, such as a gas-operated bolt, which were closely scrutinized by the Americans.

American ordnance experts studied and analyzed German MG-42 and FG-42 machine guns and came up with a new weapon that in 1957 was adopted by the Defense Department and it was named the United States Machine Gun, Caliber 7.62 mm, M60. Ever since it has served American fighting men from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the harsh country of Afghanistan. Thanks to its German inspiration, the M-60 Machine Gun stands ready to provide our fighting men (and now women) the firepower they need when it comes to facing hostile opponents in wars where ever they may occur.

German Light Machinegun Mg42, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

German Light Machinegun Mg42

Fallschirmjägergewehr 42, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Fallschirmjägergewehr 42

765 – Vietnam Vet Doug Gray helped start the Marshall Tucker Band

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The Marshall Tucker Band in the 1970s. (Photo: Marshall Tucker Band)

In the continuing effort to execute one of the primary purposes of this podcast, the story of Vietnam Veteran Doug Gray will be featured on this episode. It is the contention of the writer of this piece, the Vietnam Veteran Generation is as great as any that ever heeded the call of duty of its country. This Podcast is devoted to telling the stories of those brave veterans who fought for their country under sometimes brutal conditions in Vietnam, came back to an ungrateful homecoming and withstood the verbal abuse thrown at them to go on and continue to serve their country in a broad spectrum of pursuits as better people.

Doug Gray served his country after his time in Vietnam in a rather unique fashion. His story is told in a story found in the Naples Daily News titled: Marshall Tucker Band gave it one more try, rest is history that was submitted by Dave Osborn – dave.osborn@naplesnews.com or call him at 239-263-4896.

Osborn tells about Gray’s lifelong interest in music. Along with the other original members of the Marshall Tucker Band, they had played in various bands during their Spartanburg, South Carolina-area high school days in the mid-1960s. When he came home from Vietnam, Gray liked eating so he got a job in a Spartanburg bank but he still had a passion for music. He and the others decided to give music one last try. If it didn’t work out, they could always go back to their regular day jobs.

It did work out. By happenstance they were heard by an agent who recognized their talent and got them a recording contract in Macon, Georgia. The rest was history. For more than forty years Marshall Tucker has performed at the White House, the Kentucky Derby, at biker festivals and everywhere in between. Doug Gray is the only surviving original member of the Marshall Tucker Band. Their long list of hit songs include: Can’t You See and Heard It In A Love Song.

If you are going to be in the Southwest Florida area this Friday, December 2, you are in luck. The Marshall Tucker Band will be performing at the Southwest Florida Performing Arts Center, 11515 Bonita Beach Road SE, Bonita Springs at 8:00pm. For more information: swflpac.com or 239-389-6901; marshalltucker.com.

You are encouraged to go and see this show and support a Vietnam Veteran, Doug Gray.

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The Marshall Tucker Band today.

764 – Vietnam Vet, Vincent Okamoto, named a Hero of America

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Vincent Okamoto is recognized at the American Veterans Center awards ceremony.

In this episode you are going to discover the story of another outstanding representative of the great Vietnam Veteran Generation. Vincent Okamoto, an American of Japanese descent, was recently declared a “Hero of America” by the American Veterans Center in Washington, DC. The event was featured in a story from The Rafu Shimpo Los Angeles Japanese Daily News title: Judge Okamoto Saluted as ‘Hero of America.’  Over 500 people, including veterans and their families, generals, admirals, celebrities Kevin Spacey and Julianne Moore, and cadets from West Point and the Air Force Academy, gathered to honor veterans.

The basis for selecting Okamoto for the designation of Hero of America included his military accomplishments during the Vietnam War and service to his community and country after the War. During his three year hitch in the US Army, Okamoto received 14 combat decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and three Purple Hearts.

After he left the Army he earned a law degree from University of Southern California and began a career of public service. Beginning as deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County he went on to win election to the Gardena City Council and served as mayor pro tem.

Okamoto received a presidential commendation from President Ronald Reagan for his work in helping veterans suffering from PTSD and to obtain veterans’ benefits. In 2000, he was honored as Man of the Year by the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute.

Not stopping there, Okamoto was appointed a Superior Court judge by Gov. Gray Davis in 2002. In 2006, he was honored as UCLA ROTC’s most decorated alumnus and selected as Los Angeles County Veteran of the Year. In 2007, Okamoto was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia.

He has served on the boards of many charitable nonprofit organizations and corporations, and was one of the founding members of the Japanese American Bar Association.

The ironic thing about this great Hero of America, he was born in a concentration camp during World War II or rather as it was called at the time a “relocation center”, the tenth child and seventh son of Japanese immigrants. Vincent Okamoto overcame this shabby treatment by his country, turned the other cheek and went on to serve that country with distinction.

Recommended Reading:

763 – More about Vietnam Vet Robert Pempsell in Cambodia

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Robert Pempsell, fourth from the right, receives the Bronze Star for Valor for his efforts fighting the North Vietnamese in Cambodia and confiscating their weapons and supplies.

In the previous episode number 762 Vietnam Vet Robert Pempsell was featured. In this episode his story will be continued. It came from an article in The Buffalo News titled: Vet helped wage the ‘other’ Vietnam War in Cambodia that was submitted Lou Michel.

In the spring of 1970 college students across the country were raising havoc over their unhappiness with President Nixon’s conduct of the ongoing war in Vietnam. The event that set up that round of collegiate acting up was the invasion by the US and allied forces of Cambodia. Things got a little out of hand at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The protestors moved off campus and began to damage property in the town as a result; the National Guard was called out to help restore order. Unfortunately one thing led to another and four of the protestors ended up dead.

While all this was going on back in the States the brave troopers of the 1st Cav Division, 25th Infantry Division, 11th Armored Calvary Regiment, elements of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade and several ARVN units were engaged in serious combat with the North Vietnamese Army during the invasion of Cambodia.

Robert Pempsell was assigned to D Company 5th of the 12 Infantry. While his unit was in Cambodia it picked up the title “Dying Delta.” It went into the fray on May 25 with 80 men. They returned across the border into Vietnam on June 24 with 50 men. They lost 30 men as KIA and WIA as the college students wasted four of their own during the Kent State Riots.

In the case of Robert Pempsell and the men in his unit, 5th of the 12th Infantry, they did some good. While in Cambodia his unit was credited with capturing:

  • 320 tons of rice, enough to feed 20 enemy companies an entire year
  • 449 small arms weapons
  • 437,000 rounds of ammunition
  • 676 rifle grenades
  • 4 K-62 radios

For his brave actions during the invasion Pempsell was awarded the Bronze Star with V Device for valor. After his ETS in March of 1971 he returned to his hometown of Lancaster, New York and worked at the East Side meat processing plant for 37 years before retiring and moving to Bennington.

762 – Vietnam Vet Robert Pempsell fought in Cambodia

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a. When Robert Pempsell shot at a silhouette behind a bush, firing on his unit from that area ceased.

Vietnam Veteran, Robert Pempsell, participated in the now infamous incursion into Cambodia during the War. He was mentioned in a story in The Buffalo News titled: Vet helped wage the ‘other’ Vietnam War in Cambodia that was submitted by Lou Michel.

Pempsell of Bennington, New York told about his times in Vietnam when he was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 12th Infantry, 199th Light Infantry Brigade. In the spring of 1970 he was a part of the forces invading Cambodia that included the 1st Cav Division, 25th Infantry Division, 11th ARC, the 199th Brigade and several ARVN units.

The purpose of the invasion was to destroy military materiel being accumulated by the NVA across the border in supposedly neutral Cambodia. The Ho Chi Minh Trail ran to the Vietnamese border not far from Saigon, the capital of Vietnam. The move made military sense but it proved to be highly controversial back home. Unhappiness with the decision to invade the country of Cambodia eventually resulted in the death of students at Kent State University involved in protests.

Robert Pempsell, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Robert Pempsell trudges through the jungle while unsuccessfully trying to avoid ambushes by the North Vietnamese.

In The Buffalo News story Pempsell told about the three ‘horseshoe’ ambushes his unit experienced. He said: “the enemy would surround you on three sides, from the front and on the left and right.”  Pempsell said he radioed in for artillery support. But the enemy had carried out a maneuver known as “hugging the belt,” he said, and was close enough to the patrol to avoid being struck by the exploding artillery shells.

“They knew to get close on account of us avoiding friendly fire. A round going off at 30 or 40 meters away could end up injuring us instead of the enemy,” Pempsell said. “So I had to call in the Cobra gunships. They shot their rockets at close range.”

Pempsell survived the invasion of Cambodia where he served his country with distinction and war and afterwards he continued to serve he country back home in New York.

761 – Marine Corps Tank Battles in Vietnam

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Oscar E. Gilbert’s new book Marine Corps Tank Battles in Vietnam would be an excellent Christmas gift for any Marine Vietnam Veteran, other Vietnam Veterans, anyone interested in tank warfare and military history with a leaning toward armor applications. Even Guenther Guderian grandson of the Panzer General Heinz Guderian of World War II notoriety would probably like a copy.

A review of the book by LTC Raymond A. Stewart, USMC (Ret) found on The Marine Corps Association & Foundation website tells about the book and some of the challenges Gilbert encountered as he was conducting research of Marine tank operations in Vietnam. The lack of documentation was particularly troublesome and challenging for him. In Vietnam in the case of tanks, which were attached or in direct support of the infantry, the battalion S-3 who compiled the monthly Command Chronology often did not know the details of the day-to-day activities of the battalion’s tanks. The supported infantry—if they did report on the supporting tanks’ activity—did not cite specific tanks, let alone their crews.

Gilbert persevered and through dogged research and meticulously gathered oral interviews, he finally “brings to life” the Vietnam War-serving Marine tanker. He shows how these leathernecks made “tank country” out of the hand they were dealt.

His book described the different missions Marine tankers carried out in Vietnam. They included:

  • Long-range harassing and interdicting (H&I) fires supplemented long-range artillery.
  • Convoy
  • Fire base support with .30- and .50-caliber machine gun, point-blank 90 mm canister fire, and occasionally by crewmen using their .45-cal. grease guns and pistols to kill the enemy as they swarmed over their tank.
  • In city-street fighting,

Oscar E. Gilbert’s book is a great read, painting a real-life picture of how Marine tankers fought the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong enemy, defeating them in every encounter.