696 – Three Tasmanian Vietnam Vets tell their story

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Circular Head locals John “Yogi” Phillips and Michael French with former Circular Head resident Graham “Shorty” Reeman along with other past and present servicemen and women will be recognized at a memorial service at Anzac Park, Smithton today in commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan and ‘Vietnam Veterans’ Day’. Picture: Ashleigh Force.

When America fought in Vietnam to stem the tide of communism some strong allies stood by us shoulder to shoulder. Among the best were the Australians. In this episode three of those brave Australians who fought with us in Vietnam will be featured. They were highlighted in a story in The Circular Head Chronicle titled: Servicemen reflect on Vietnam by Ashleigh Force.

The trio included Circular Head locals John “Yogi” Phillips and Michael French and former Circular Head resident Graham “Shorty” Reeman. The Circular Head RSL World War I Centenary Committee recognized Australian Vietnam Veterans at the Long Tan Battle 50th year commemoration. A memorial service was held at Anzac Park in Smithton on Thursday August 18, 2016 where a Vietnam memorial will be established in the near future.

As with many Australians, the three were imbued with a spirit of willing service to their country engendered by the examples set by Australian soldiers in two world wars.

John Phillips who now lives in Circular Head was born in Winchelsea, Victoria in 1945. He joined the Army in 1964 as a teenager. He spent two years in Malaya and three months in Borneo with the 4th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) before he was dispatched with the 3RAR to Vietnam. He made his entry in country at Tan Son Nhut Air Base and was immediately sent to the RAR base camp at Nui Dat to help with building the facility in anticipation of the soon arriving main body of personnel.

Graham “Shorty” Reeman was born in Deloraine in 1945 and drafted in 1966 when he was living in Circular Head. Upon of his military training he was assigned to the 7th RAR in Vietnam. His route took him from a departure in Darwin on a direct flight to Vung Tau, Vietnam and then a harrowing trip on a truck to their base at Nui Dat.

Michael French was born in Wynyard, Tasmania in 1948. He became a resident of  Circular Head and that is where he joined the Army in 1968. He served in the Royal Australian Signals Regiment’s 104th squadron.

Hope you enjoy their memories of their time in the Vietnam War as told in this episode.

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The Circular Head RSL, 123 Nelson Street, Smithton, Tasmania

695 – Vietnam Vet John Valdez served on Dusters

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“DUSTER” with Twin Mounted 40mm guns.

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John Valdez is pictured on July 25, 2016, at his home in Casper.

This episode is a continuation of a look at the Vietnam Veteran interviews done as part of the Wyoming Welcome Home Program being run in conjunction with the Wyoming Vietnam Veterans association and the DoD 50 Year Commemoration of the Vietnam War. John Valdez of Casper, Wyoming is the featured Vietnam Veteran in this episode. His story was featured in The Casper Star Tribune article titled:  Sgt. E-5 John Valdez, Casper submitted by Christina Schmidt.

Valdez is another wonderful representative of the great Vietnam Veteran Generation. He was drafted into the Army in 1967 and attended basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Bliss, Texas. He performed well enough during basic training and AIT he was sent to Fort Benning to serve as a drill instructor. He quickly grew tired of training soldiers with a war going on so he requested a transfer to Vietnam and at the age of 21. In January of 1968 He arrived in Vietnam and was assigned to A Battery, 4th Battalion, 60th Artillery, Air Defense, at Chu Lai on the South China Sea. A few days later, the Tet Offensive began.

His unit was equipped with “Dusters.” They were potent air defense weapons that were armed with two 40 mm anti-aircraft guns. Since the threat of attacks by North Vietnamese, Chinese or Russian aircraft never materialized the Dusters were used for other fire support missions. These included covering mine clearing operations, road and bridge support, convoy support and support infantry ground operations.

On Sept. 13, 1968, on his 22nd birthday, Valdez was promoted to sergeant and became a the commander of his Duster and its Duster’s crew. He survived his tour in Vietnam and came home to Casper where He worked for Amoco for 17 years and for the Casper City Utilities for 18 years.

694 – 35th Land Clearing Team to hold reunion

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Vietnam War veterans of the 35th Landclearing Team and the 538th Landclearing Company pose for a photo in 2005, the last time the group held its annual reunion in Skanateles.

Some of the most revered soldiers to me in the US Army were the combat engineers. In this episode a story about a group of those esteemed veterans holding a reunion will be featured. The story comes from The WOCJournal.com titled: ‘Healing experience’: Vietnam veterans who served together convene for Skaneateles reunion submitted by Jonathan Monfiletto jonathan.monfiletto@lee.net.

The story tells about 35 Vietnam veterans of the 35th Land Clearing Team and the 538th Land Clearing Company who are holding a reunion and will take part in the Skaneateles, New Your Labor Day parade on Sunday, Sept. 4. One of the unit members who lives in Skaneateles will be driving a ten ton tractor much like the one he drove in Vietnam in the parade. The truck comes from a collection of military vehicles owned by local resident Jack Gregory.

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Skaneateles resident Jerry Vile poses in Vietnam in 1970 with the bulldozer he operated as part of the 538th Landclearing Company.

Vietnam Veterans from the 538th Land Clearing Company started organizing reunions in 2000 when a former member, Roger Briggs decided he wanted to meet up again with his comrades in arms. His efforts led to the unit holding numerous reunions. In 2001 they met in Benton, Kentucky, the group has organized events such as touring in 2004 the Rome Plow plant in Rome, Georgia that built and supplied the bulldozers the two used in Vietnam and dedicating a plaque to the 538th in a veterans ceremony in Fremont, Wisconsin in 2012. The group also visited veterans museums in LePorte City, Iowa in 2009 and in Burleson, Texas in 2013.

The veterans of the 35th have a lot to talk about at their get togethers. It was one of three land clearing teams formed at Fort Lewis, Washington in the spring of 1967. The 35th landed at Phu Cat Airbase, just north of Qui Nhon, in early July 1967. From there they moved on up to the central highlands and later participated in the battle at Dak To with distinction.

All are encouraged to attend the Skaneateles Labor Day parade Sunday, Sept. 4 where members of the 35th Land Clearing Team will be on parade in their 10 ton truck.

CLICK HERE for more information about the 538 Land Clearing Company.

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Jack Gregory’s 10-ton truck pays tribute to Vietnam War veterans of the 35th Landclearing Team and the 538th Landclearing Company 2005, the last time the group held its annual reunion in Skaneateles.

 

693 – Vietnam Vet Jim Robinson served in the Field Artillery

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Jim Robinson is pictured outside his home in Riverton, Wyoming.

The Wyoming Veterans Commission along with the Casper Star-Tribune and the Casper Journal as part of the Wyoming Welcome Home Program have started a project to publish weekly profiles of Wyoming Vietnam veterans. This podcast is featuring selected Vietnam Veteran stories from the project. In this episode, Vietnam Vet Jim Robinson, will highlighted. Jim’s story came from an article in the  Casper Star Tribune titled: 2nd Lt. Jim Robinson, Riverton submitted by Gayle Irwin.

Jim was born and raised in Comanche, Texas. He went to college in Texas and he graduated just in time for the Vietnam War. He arrived in Vietnam in November, 1968, and was assigned to the 6/32 Field Artillery, 8 inch and 175 mm, IFFV, II Corp near Phu Hiep.

He followed the standard Field Artillery officer assignment pattern. First he was a forward observer. That meant he and a radio operator was assigned to accompany an infantry unit as it moved out on operations. It was the modus operandi in Vietnam for front line officers to serve six months in the trenches and then be assigned to a rear echelon job. So after a six month stint with the infantry units, Jim was called back to the fire base to serve as a fire direction officer in the FDC (fire direction center). This was the place where the input from the forward observers was received and used to compute firing date that was sent to the guns.

After serving as the battery fired direction officer, Jim moved up to the battery executive officer position. The battery XO is responsible for the proper operation of the gun section chiefs. He liked it so well he extended his tour in Vietnam thereby preventing his younger brother who was drafted from coming there. Instead the younger brother was sent to Germany.

After his Army term of service ended he began a career as a teacher in Wyoming. He experience in the war made him a better man, teacher and patriot.

692 – Jim Arndt – Vietnam Vet Extraordinaire

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Jim Arndt stands in front of a fire truck in honor guard uniform in 2015

Another outstanding representative of the great Vietnam Veteran Generation, Jim Arndt, of Riverton, Wyoming is featured in this episode. His story is found in an article in The Casper Star Tribune titled: Spec. 5 Jim Arndt, Riverton submitted by Gayle Irwin.

Jim Arndt is another Vietnam Veteran who is proud of his service to his country and would gladly do it all over again if he was called upon to do it again. He served a total of sixteen years in the US Army and Air Force. He enlisted in the Army first in 1966 and landed in Vietnam just after the Tet Offensive as a combat medic.

From day one he was confronted with life and death situations. One incident that haunts him to this day is when his patrol was near a civilian bus that his a land mine in a road. The bus was carrying civilians to work at Camp Black Horse. Everyone on the bus that included men, women and children were killed. Arndt had to remove the bodies from the twisted vehicle.

Another chilling incident with mines occurred on March 24, 1969 when he and another medic were near a minefield where the member of a patrol stepped on a mine and numerous members of the patrol were seriously wounded. The blast blew away all the markings but Arndt and his fellow medic went into the area anyway to help the wounded not knowing if they might also step on another mine.

He was medically discharged in 1984. He’s experienced 13 tumors on his right leg as a result of exposure to Agent Orange.  According to Arndt  he has undergone several surgeries and he lacks mobility and feeling in his right foot. Despite this he serves on the Fremont County Honor Guard assisting with and serving in military funerals, and he also helps manage Veterans Hall in Riverton.

Hope you enjoy Jim Arndt’s inspiring story of service to his country.

691 – Vietnam fighter pilot reunited with his plane

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Retired Air Force fighter pilot Col. Fred Claussen on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016, was reunited with the plane he flew in combat 46 years ago in Vietnam at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale. (Credit: Steven Sunshine)

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the F-105 Thunderchief

In this episode the story about an Air Force pilot who was reunited with an aircraft he last flew 46 years ago is featured. The event is described in a story in The Nassau Long Island publication titled: Retired fighter pilot is reunited with old war plane by Valerie Bauman

valerie.bauman@newsday.com.

Retired Air Force Col. Fred Claussen who currently resides in Lutz, Florida was the guest of honor at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, New York at an event arranged by museum officials. Claussen was reunited with the same F-105 Thunderchief that he had flown during the Vietnam War.

Claussen was momentarily overwhelmed with emotions when first saw the aircraft he had not seen or flown in 46 years. He was awash in the memories of the 100 combat missions he flew the fighter plane that were so dangerous. Adding to the emotional load of the meeting was the fact he named the plane Christie after his daughter. He brought his family, including daughter, Chris Brandley, 49, of Keller, Texas — the namesake for the cherished aircraft — as well as his granddaughter Maddison Brandley, 17, and wife of 28 years, Sunny Claussen, 55, along for the reunion with a plane that he said was once an extension of his own body.

Here is what he has to say about his mind set in that war: “It got to the point where I couldn’t wait to go out and fly combat again,” he said. “If I went out on a mission and didn’t get shot at, I felt disappointed. That sounds kind of strange, but that’s just how it was. We knew we were the best fighter pilots in the world and we thought we were invincible. . . . You might say we were all insane.”

Claussen’s story is another verification of the greatness of the Vietnam Veteran Generation. Hope you enjoy it.

690 – El Paso knows how to honor Vietnam Veterans

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Emma Acosta

They know how to honor Vietnam Veterans in El Paso, Texas. In this episode a special event to be held on August 28, 2016 honoring Vietnam Veterans will be featured. It is described in a report in The El Paso Times titled: El Paso honors Vietnam vets Aug. 28 submitted by City Representative Emma Acosta a Guest columnist.

In the report, Acosta tells how a chance conversation with, Patti Olivas, her long time friend who was an airline stewardess back in the day got the ball rolling for the appreciation event. Olivas had seen firsthand how Vietnam Veterans were abused by anti-war protestors. It was during that conversation they decided to do something to welcome home El Paso’s Vietnam veterans.

A committee was formed to plan an event that would perform a 50 year delayed welcome home ceremony and to honor the veterans for their service to their country for fighting an unpopular war. The majority of the members of the committee were Vietnam Veterans and they were asked for their opinions on what would be the best ways to honor and officially welcome home the veterans.

Many things were suggested including banners lining the streets, a parade, a reception, a dinner, a concert, a family event, a day at the baseball park. According to Acosta, after almost 18 months of planning, all of the suggested things on the list are slated to be executed during the celebration.

Acosta’s office teamed up with the Department of Defense and its 50th Vietnam War commemoration program. A to be named later DoD official from Washington, DC will come in to be the guest speaker. Each Vietnam veteran will be awarded a pin, provided by the Department of Defense.

In conjunction with the event, a local college is compiling a collection of El Paso Vietnam Veteran’s memoirs and publishing them in a book titled: “A Tribute to El Paso Vietnam Veterans, Our Heroes.” A copy will be given to every Vietnam Veteran in attendance at no cost.

Everyone in the El Paso area are invited and urged to attend the appreciation event to be held on Saturday, August 28.

689 – Vietnam Vet Roger Reynolds and his crusade

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Years after he survived the horrors of combat as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam, Roger Reynolds, of Ottawa, IL, now leads a Posttraumatic Stress Disorder group at the Veterans Administration La Salle clinic in Peru. Reynolds called his time and work with fellow veterans his “life’s calling.”

One of the primary missions of this podcast, Vietnam Veteran News, is to feature examples of the great Vietnam Veteran Generation. It is the opinion of the writer of this piece that the Vietnam Veteran Generation is as great as any that ever heeded the call of their country. In this episode another of the great ones will be highlighted. He is Roger Reynolds of Peru, Illinois and was written about in a story from The Times website: mywebtimes.com titled: Reynolds helps PTSD veterans out of the dark, into the light submitted by Steve Stout, steves@mywebtimes.com, 815-431-4082.

Reynolds is a Vietnam Veteran who served in the U.S. Marines. He carried heavy baggage from the war that included memories of when he accidently killed his best friend in a night fire fight. He suffered from post-traumatic stress and it was not until years after he returned home did he discover part of his personal salvation. That salvation came as he helped form a peer-led, community-based group at the Veterans Administration Clinic in Peru for local veterans affected by PTSD.

Today he leads a group of Vietnam Veterans at the VA hospital where he fights for the proper mental and physical care of fellow former servicemen with the men themselves and the VA. The articulate Reynolds explained, “Once home, returning vets, especially those of us who experienced combat, often miss the big picture of their lives by dwelling on the small details of their problems. Many combat veterans never return to the civilian life with the personality and the mental stability they had before they went into the service.”

Reynolds called his work with the PTSD group his “life’s calling.” He said, “This is what I was always meant to do. My time here is to help my brothers with their problems and to find answers for them to survive each and every day. Vets with PTSD often miss the big picture of their life by focusing on the small details of their personal problems. Together, we try to solve problems before they become unmanageable — because when that happens, tragedy happens.

The Vietnam Veterans in the LaSalle County are fortunate to have someone like Roger Reynolds to call on if they need help. Hope you enjoy his story in the podcast episode.

688 – Dr. Binoy Kampmark’s take on the Long Tan Commemoration dispute

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Dr. Binoy Kampmark lecturer at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

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Vietnamese Police like these gentlemen blocked Australian Vietnam Veterans from the Long Tan Battle site.

In previous episodes we have looked at the deplorable situation where three thousand Australian Vietnam Veterans and their families suffered a shocking disappointing turn of events at the hands of the Vietnam government. It seems the Vietnam government cancelled a 50th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Long Tan that was to be held at the battle site on the eve of the event. Much has been written and spoken about the situation on both sides of the issue. In this episode the opinion of, Dr. Binoy Kampmark, a lecturer at RMIT University, Melbourne will be featured. It comes from a piece in the Global Research website titled: Australia and the Vietnam War, The Hypocrisies of Commemoration: Dispute at Long Tan by Dr. Binoy Kampmark.

To review the historical event that led up to this despicable and rancorous act by the Vietnam government, we must go back to August of 1966. In a rubber plantation not far from the resort city of Vung Tau, a company of 120 Australians was attacked by 2500 NVA soldiers on a rainy afternoon. When the smoke arose after the fighting was over, 18 brave Australian troopers lay dead. It was a heavy price for the Australians but they prevailed in the battle. 250 enemy bodies were left on the battle field and signs were evident that many other dead and wounded enemy fighters were removed from the killing ground.

For the last eighteen months a special 50th year commemoration ceremony had been planned in cooperation with the Vietnamese. Three thousand Australian Vietnam Veterans and their family members paid the fees and made the trek to Vietnam with the intention of honoring the dead on both sides. The night before the event it was abruptly cancelled by the Vietnamese citing too many foreign participates and potential hurt sensitivities of surviving locals.

Dr. Kampmark thinks the Aussies are out of line by wanting to celebrate losing. He cites the example of annual remembrance ceremonies at Gallipoli, Turkey. Listen to his opinion in this podcast and let us know your opinion. State your mind in the comment box on the show note for this episode at vietnamveterannews.com

687 – Another viewpoint about Dirty rotten Vietnamese actions

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Former war journalist Mike Carlton (pictured) has defended Vietnam’s decision to restrict Australian commemorations of the battle of Long Tan

It appears the “Dirty Rotten Vietnamese Government” has a little bit of a heart after all. In the previous episode titled Dirty Rotten Vietnamese Kick Aussie Vets in the Gut the sorry story was featured. It seems a group of 3000 Australian Vietnam Veterans and family traveled to Vietnam to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. In that battle a company of 120 Australians and New Zealanders engaged a force of 2500 NVA and they prevailed in the battle. The ANZAC forces suffered 18 KIA and numerous wounded. The purpose of the commemoration was to honor the fallen soldiers.

At the eleventh hour the night before the event was to take place the Vietnamese government cancelled the event claiming the large number of foreign participants would insult and hurt the feelings of Vietnamese veterans and people. The opinion of the writer of this piece was that the Vietnamese move to cancel the event was deplorable. The Australians had traveled all the way to Vietnam to pay their respects to the dead.

Being open minded the writer of this show note in this episode is featuring a story from The Daily Mail titled: ‘What if the Japanese turned up to commemorate the bombing of Darwin?’ Mike Carlton DEFENDS Vietnam for banning Australia’s Long Tan by Leith Huffadine For Daily Mail Australia and Australian Associated Press. It seems former war journalist Mike Carlton defended Vietnam’s position. He said it’d be like Japanese visiting Darwin to commemorate their bombing of the city in World War II.

Sorry but the writer of this show note disagrees with Mike Carlton’s opinion. The Australian veterans and family did not go to Vietnam to participate in victory parades and celebrations. They went to pay their respects to their brave veterans who died in a war.

Thank goodness the Vietnamese relented slightly after the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had a conversation with his Vietnamese counterpart. Allowances were made so the visitors could visit the site of the battle. Also the dinner in Vung Tau was allowed to proceed. It looks like there is still a ways to go for all the wounds of war to heal up completely.

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Vietnamese and Australian veterans pose for a photo during a gala dinner commemorating the 50th anniversary of Long Tan battle in Vung Tau city, Vietnam