925 – Mel Gibson helps soldiers remember forever

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Thomas Welch, who was in the battle portrayed in the movie, “We Were Soldiers,” Starring Mel Gibson, shows off the photo from the real person Gibson portrayed, signed by the actor while he was in Clinton filming recently. [Item photo/Jan Gottesman]

In this episode number 925 of the podcast Vietnam Veteran News a connection between a Vietnam Veteran named Thomas Welch and Mel Gibson, the movie star, will be covered. The connection was featured in a story found in The Worcester, Massachusetts Telegram newspaper titled: Soldiers forever carry the memories of war that was submitted by Ken Cleveland.

Thomas Welch of Clinton, Massachusetts, went to Vietnam in 1965 where he became a member of the 2nd Battalion of the 32nd Artillery. That was a 175mm howitzer unit that fired 147 pound projectiles twenty miles away.

In the Vietnam War the fact that the artillery targets were sometimes twenty miles distant from the firing guns it did not provide the gunners with immunity from attacks. When fighting an elusive enemy like the Viet Cong and NVA who could move anywhere in the combat arena, artillery batteries were just as vulnerable to attack as infantry units out in the pursuit of the opposing forces. That was the case with Welch’s unit. As a result of assaults on their firing positions with mortar and sapper attacks his unit lost 39 men.

In November of 1965 his artillery battery provided fire support for the 1st Cavalry Division at the Battle of Ia Drang. It was a fierce battle that was the first engagement of the Vietnam War that involved large forces. Joseph Lee “Joe” Galloway, a newspaper correspondent, was at the battle and later wrote a book along with the ground commander, Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore, titled: We Were Soldiers Once… And Young. The book inspired the movie We Were Soldiers with Mel Gibson portraying the commander Hal Moore.

As luck would have it Mel Gibson came to Clinton to film scenes for a movie. Welch was determined to get an autograph from the movie star who has portrayed the famous Vietnam commander Hal Moore. Showing his persistence he took an article on the general with his photo and sought to have Gibson autograph it.

Discover what happened to Thomas Welch when he went to seek Mel Gibson’s autograph at the Old Timer Restaurant in Clinton and more about this Vietnam Veteran at episode 925 of the Vietnam Veteran Podcast.


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924 – Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam news media coverage

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A CBS camera crew interviewing American soldiers in Vietnam in 1967. Credit Tim Page/Corbis, via Getty Images

In this episode, number 924, of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast another one of the factors that make the Vietnam War and “upside down” affair when compared to previous conflicts this country has partaken in will be covered. The factor discussed will be news coverage of the War. An opinion piece in The New York Times titled: Lyndon Johnson’s Living Room War that was submitted by Chester Pach, a professor of history at Ohio University sets the stage for the coverage.

In World War II and the Korean War the military maintained a heavy hand over journalists. They had to submit their stories to military censors for clearance. In Vietnam there was a 180 degree turn in public information policy. Reporters were allowed a free rein to go wherever they wanted and report whatever that saw. It was thought by information officers that developing good working relationships with journalists and relying on a policy of “maximum candor consistent with security considerations” would be a better policy.

The Vietnam War became the first televised war that brought live, real time action into American living rooms. In 1967 the policy of openness with news coverage of the war began to have some unfavorable consequences for President Johnson. He became obsessed with how television covered the war.

The president favored ABC’s coverage over that of CBS and NBC.  He once proclaimed he believed  CBS and NBC were “controlled by the Vietcong.” It worried Johnson that Vietnam was the first war during which a majority of Americans relied on television as their main source of news. He blamed the media for the erosion in support for the war by the American public.

That erosion of support for the war led him to forego running for a second term. Here Pach’s complete opinion piece in episode 294 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast.

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923 – Bakersfield remembers Vietnam Veteran lives lost

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The Wall of Valor at the Kern Veterans Memorial at Bakersfield, California.

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Across this great land there will be barbecues, memorial services, family gatherings and pool parties celebrating the day. For many it will be the official start of summer but we must never forget the real reason for the day. Without the sacrifice of so many the rest of us would not have the freedoms we enjoy today. We owe them a lot.

The Citizens of Kern County, California takes great pride in what they do to celebrate Memorial Day. Dick Taylor, the county veterans service officer at the Kern County Veterans Service Department wrote a compelling opinion piece about Memorial Day that appeared in the website Bakersfield.com Community Voices section titled In war, it is always the young who take the brunt of combat casualties.

Taylor’s piece talked about Memorial Day in Bakersfield with an emphasis on how the brunt of combat casualties fall on the young. He pointed out the since the beginning of time, it has always been the young, inexperienced, low-ranking personnel who suffer the worst in combat casualties.

It was the same in Vietnam. Almost 75 percent of Army casualties were from the three lowest ranks and in the Marines it was even worse. 91 percent of Marine casualties were of the three lowest ranks. In addition, many of those casualties were young. Nearly a quarter of all enlisted casualties in Vietnam were between the ages of 17 and 19.

Kern County is considered to be one of the greatest communities in how they honor those who were killed in action. They have created a monument known as The Wall of Valor at the Kern Veterans Memorial with more than 1,000 names of those killed in service to their country from Kern County.

The memorial is located adjacent to the Kern County Visitors Bureau in Bakersfield. All in the area are encouraged to see it in person.

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922 – Guess What – The Vietnam War was winnable

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President Lyndon Johnson, left, meeting with Dean Rusk at the White House in 1967. Credit PhotoQuest/Getty Images

An intriguing question about the Vietnam War is “was it winnable?” In this episode, number 922, of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast that question will be featured. Many Vietnam Veterans have the belief that the war was winnable but most discount that opinion out of hand without any discourse at all.

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Dr. Mark Moyar, the director of the Center for Military and Diplomatic History

Prominent military and diplomatic historian by training, Dr. Mark Moyar, offers very strong reasoning as to why the answer to the pressing question is an emphatic – yes. He states his case in an opinion piece in the New York Times titled: Was Vietnam Winnable?

It all started with Dr. Moyar in the early 1990’s when he took a college course on the Vietnam War. He was drawn to the subject due to his fascination with the visceral contempt that his peers, professors and intellectuals generally had not just for the war, but for its veterans. He was deeply moved by what he felt was the profound wrong that the young men who had risked their lives in Southeast Asia were deemed less worthy than those who had stayed safe at home.

In a move that proved detrimental to his academic job opportunities he began a deep study of the war that introduced fundamental challenges to the reigning Vietnam War orthodoxy. He started delving into the conflict’s deep crevices and came upon a wealth of untapped information pointing him in a different direction.

He discovered monumental mistakes committed by the American national leadership that in effect guaranteed defeat. The included:

  1. The decision by the American ambassador to South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, to engineer the coup that overthrew Ngo Dinh Diem.
  2. President Johnson’s decision to not block the Ho Chi Minh Trail with American ground forces in Laos.
  3. The Failure of President Johnson to win over the support of the America people for the reasons and purpose of the war.

Discover more of Dr. Moyar’s research findings about the Vietnam War at episode 922 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast.

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921 – Vietnam Vet Carey Owen honored at Auburn, Alabama

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On Monday, retired U.S. Army medic and Vietnam War veteran Carey Owen will be recognized as this year’s Distinguished Veteran at the annual Mayor’s Memorial Day Breakfast. (Don’t know which is Carey but they both look good.)

In this episode number 921 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast the story of Carey Owen will be featured. He is a Vietnam Veteran from Auburn, Alabama who is being honored at the annual Mayor’s Memorial Day Breakfast at Auburn. The story comes from The Auburn Villager, Auburn, Alabama and is titled: Army medic to be honored for service during Vietnam War. It was submitted by Allison Blankenship Associate Editor.

Owen is another one of those brave and outstanding Vietnam Veterans who served their country well in Vietnam and came home to continue service as civilians back home. He was drafted in 1968 at the age of 20 in his home town of Alexander City, about thirty miles northwest of Auburn.

He was sent to Vietnam as a combat medic and assigned to the 506th Infantry with the 101st Airborne Division.  Owen said this about his call to arms: “When it was my turn, it was my turn, and I felt like I needed to serve just like they did.” His father and grandfather had served in the military before him.

Owen was thrust into many dangerous and life threatening actions with the 101st. For his brave service he was awarded a Silver Star for saving a wounded lieutenant during the battle at Hamburger Hill. He and the lieutenant, Terrence Smith still to this day keep in touch with each other.

He left the Army in March 1970 and went off the college down the road at Auburn. He earned a degree in sociology with a minor in management from AU. He went on to become CEO of East Alabama Medical Center-Lanier.

In 2014, Owen was awarded the 506th Infantry Distinguished Member of the Regiment award. He said he believes it’s important to share what serving is like from a veteran’s perspective. In retirement he devotes much of his time to share his military memories with students at Auburn City Schools and Auburn University.

Go to episode 921 at the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast to hear about how this Vietnam Veteran will be honored on Memorial Day, 2017.

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920 – Reece brothers close out NC Vietnam Vet picture quest

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Brothers Tom and Jim Reece at the New Hanover County veterans memorial in 2013. Paul Stephen Paul Stephen – Wilmington Star News

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has taken up the mission to find a photograph of every person whose name appears on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. To date they have surpassed the 40,000 mark for pictures located. Although much progress has been made there is still much to be done to find a picture for every name.

There are wonderful people across the nation who are dedicated to helping make the noble mission complete. Janna Hoehn of Hawaii is one of the “rock stars” of the crusade and she has been on our podcast several times. She provides updates on her efforts and gives helpful hints to others who desire to join in the mission.

In this podcast episode the work done by two brothers in North Carolina will be featured. A story in The News and Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina titled: A successful, decade-long mission for 2 brothers: Finding photos of NC Vietnam casualties that was submitted: By Richard Stradling  (stradling@newsobserver.com) outlines the work done by brothers, Jim and Tom Reece.

Douglas Bane ‘Smitie’ Smith, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Douglas Bane ‘Smitie’ Smith

Recently they were able to locate a photo of Douglas Bane ‘Smitie’ Smith, the last missing photo of the 1,958 North Carolinians who died in Vietnam. The Reece brothers got involved in the picture search over a decade ago when Jim Reece began a project to find pictures of his high school classmates in Wilmington who had died in the war.

Once they began finding missing pictures they were hooked and made it their mission to find all the photos for North Carolina names. Last November, 2016, they were down to needing the last 22 names. These were the toughest of the tough, they said, the ones with tenuous or no connections to family or the places they had lived. With dogged determination they were able to complete the task.

After a short break they intend to assist others in other states locate missing photos.

If you would like to assist in this noble pursuit go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website for more information. CLICK HERE. www.vvmf.org

919 – Vietnam Vet’s Corvette brings $675,000 at auction

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The marina blue 1967 Chevrolet Corvette that was auctioned for $675,000 Saturday at the 30th annual Mecum Auctions, Indiana State Fairgrounds, Indianapolis. The Corvette belonged to late Vietnam war hero Richard Litavsky.

Keith Richard Litavsky, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Keith Richard Litavsky

In this episode of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast the story about a Vietnam Veteran and his car will be featured. When Keith Richard Litavsky came home from Vietnam, one of the first things he did was buy a marina blue 1967 Chevrolet Corvette from a dealer in Illinois. He had dreamed about that car everyday he was in country. Done on a leap of faith, he carefully saved up enough money to purchase his dream car because survival in Vietnam was doubtful for Keith because he faced some of the toughest fighting.

Apparently the fact that he survived the fighting and killing in Vietnam and that he had wisely saved the money to buy the car on his own made him appreciate it even more. He took meticulous care of his treasured car until he passed away in 1993 as a result of a cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange. The car was passed on to Keith’s son Matt who continued the meticulous maintenance of his father’s car mainly due to the tremendous respect he held for his father.

After 24 years of treasured ownership son Matt made the difficult decision to sell his father’s Corvette. There were two newspaper articles about the car and it sale that will be shared on the podcast episode. One came out just prior to the sale of the car and the other describes the result of the sale where the car brought $675,000 in a Dana Mecum auction in Indianapolis.

The first story came from USA Today titled: Vietnam Vet’s beloved Chevy Corvette heads to auction and was submitted by Justin L. Mack of the Indianapolis Star. The auction result story came from The Indianapolis Star and was titled: Carmel man pays $675,000 for a 1967 Corvette at Indy auction  and was submitted by John Tuohy, john.tuohy@indystar.com.

God bless Keith Richard Litavsky and his extended family.

918 – Vietnam – West Virginians Remember – documentary debuts Sept. 14 on WVPB

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Morgantown resident Paul Casto on his first tour of Vietnam. He is one of five combat veterans from West Virginia featured in the upcoming West Virginia Public Broadcasting documentary, “Vietnam: West Virginians Remember,” which airs Sept. 14

In this episode 918 of the podcast Vietnam Veteran News word about something of interest to Vietnam Veterans from the great state of West Virginia will be featured. It comes from a story in The Charleston Gazette-Mail titled: Documentary creating archive of West Virginians in Vietnam War that was submitted by Douglas Imbrogno, Assistant Lifestyles Editor.

It seems that two of West Virginia Public Broadcasting award-winning documentarians are creating a one-hour show titled: “Vietnam: West Virginians Remember.” It will make its debut Sept. 14 on WVPB. The program will be in conjunction with the Ken Burns Vietnam War documentary program series which is also planned for a September 2017 showing.

West Virginians played a significant role in the Vietnam War with a total of 36,578 Mountain State residents serving in the war and, of that number, 1,182 making the ultimate sacrifice. That is why West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia State Archives are sponsoring the upcoming program that will highlight the service of West Virginia Vietnam Veterans.

They are looking for help from the public. They need more material from the Vietnam Era to make the program as vivid as possible. The producers are putting out the call for home movies, pictures, slides, letters and other papers from the war related to experiences of West Virginia soldiers, their families back home, doctors and nurses, and other related material . It will be used to build an archive on the Vietnam War at the West Virginia State Archives in the state Capitol Complex.

The state archives will create a digital copy of the materials for its records, and the originals will be returned, unless people wish to donate them permanently to the collection. People who donate materials will also receive a digital copy of their materials for their own use.

To lend or donate materials for this program or for more information, contact:

  • Richard Fauss at richard.e.fauss@wv.gov or call 304-558-0230 x701
  • Russ Barbour at rbarbour@wvpublic.org or phone at 304-696-3635.

917 – The Marine on a tank

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Wounded Marines including Alvin Bert Grantham ride on top of converted tank used as a make-shift ambulance during The Battle of Hue, Vietnam, 1968. By John Olson/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images.

A new book titled: Huế 1968 has been added to the recommended reading list of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast. It was recently released by Mark Bowden. He is an American writer and author thirteen books. They include:

In his spare time he has been The Distinguished Writer in Residence at The University of Delaware since 2013. He is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and also a National Correspondent for The Atlantic.

In this episode, an excerpt from his new book, Huế 1968, about the Tet Offensive which took place in Vietnam during the month of February,1968 is featured. It described the tortured experiences of Alvin Bert Grantham, an eighteen year old Marine from Mobile, Alabama.

The story picks up where Grantham was a machine gunner with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment based in Huế. On the night of January 31, 1968, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops began pouring into the city and a bloody 25 day battle began with a bang. The fighting was hand to hand and room by room as the Marines fought to clear the three-square-mile ancient citadel that was the former imperial capital of Nguyen Dynasty. It was built in 1362, and it took 203 years to complete.

One day in the battle the four other members of Grantham’s machine gun crew were knocked out. Despite this he kept pouring heavy fire on the enemy until he took a bullet to the chest. His struggle to survive a life threatening wound is described in an award winning fashion by the writer, Bowden.

 Huế 196 should be read by all who want to get a true picture of the Vietnam War and the brave Marines who fought in that war.