1018 – Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War and Troy Walker

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Episode 1018 will feature an editorial about the Ken Burns epic documentary The Vietnam War found in the Morehead News of Kentucky titled: New PBS series on Vietnam gritty, painful. Also highlighted will be the noble project initiated by an Army veteran designed to help those being affected by veteran suicides.

The epic documentary The Vietnam War is half way through its ten part run consisting of 18 hours of gut wrenching information. In the opinion of the Morehead News editorial staff, “The Vietnam War” series is a gritty, painful history lesson that should be seen by every American. They contend “It offers powerful evidence that we Americans were intentionally misled by our political and military leaders about the corrupt governments in the South, our failure to win support of the people and told outright lies about battlefield successes.”

Whatever a person’s opinion is toward the Vietnam War it is very important for all to see this program. The cost of that war in life and treasure to all parties involved is so high it should never be repeated. Knowing the reasons why the War came about will help succeeding generations from making the same tragic mistakes.

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Troy Walker’s‏ Dog Tag Furniture project is the only non-profit organization dedicated to paying for veteran’s funerals.

Troy Walker is an Army veteran who lives in Norwood Young, Minnesota, not too far from Minneapolis. A while back one of his best friends from his Army days committed suicide. His friend’s widow let Troy know she did not have the resources to provide a proper burial for her late husband. Troy stepped forward to help his friend’s widow. What he did for her led him to create a tremendous program that helps many others in the same situation.

CLICK HERE and discover the wonderful thing Troy Walker is doing to make a big difference for other veterans and their families.

Listen to episode 1018 and discover the full story about what veteran Troy Walker is up to and what the editorial board at the Morehead News really thinks about Ken Burns epic documentary The Vietnam War.

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1017 – Hurricane Irma Blues and Why Ho Chi Minh hated America

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Hurricane Irma Aftermath

The previous episode of this podcast, number 1016, ended with the announcement the podcast CP was soon to be under attack by Hurricane Irma much the same way Lima Site 85 on Phou Pha Thi in Laos was assaulted in 1968. Shortly after the episode was put on the air Irma scored a nearly dead hit on the podcast CP. This episode, number 1017, will be an after action report of the hurricane hit and a bonus report on Ken Burns impressive documentary, The Vietnam War.

Hurricane Irma blasted Lake Placid and the immediate environs with sustained winds in excess of 100 mph for six hours. The podcast CP which is located in the writer’s residence held up well until about 11:00 pm, Saturday night (September 9, 2017). At that time a window next to the podcast broadcast center blew out and 120 MPH winds and rain blasted into the room. The writer of this piece was slashed by flying glass which required ten stitches to close the wounds.

After ten days of no power, water, phones, TV or internet service, things are slowly coming back. The stitches have been removed and all essential services have been reinstated. The podcast should be back on a regular schedule beginning with this episode.

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Ho Chi Minh

The electrical power came back in time to for the writer to view the second episode of Ken Burns documentary about the Vietnam War. There have been both positive and negative opinions about the program. The first episode of the program may have covered the real reason why Ho Chi Minh hated America. If it did not you will be pleased to know the reason why will be explained in detail in the podcast.

If you want to know why the opposition forces in Vietnam, namely the NVA and National Liberation Front were willing to take so much punishment from the Americans and keep on ticking listen to episode 1017.

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1016 – Battle of Lima Site 85 sad outcome

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View of the west side of Phou Pha Thi. Photo by Robert Destatte.

Episode 1016 of the Vietnam Veteran News will highlight The Battle of Lima Site 85, also called Battle of Phou Pha Thi. This is fitting considering the command post for this podcast is under attack by Hurricane Irma. You would probably have a hard time finding a Vietnam Veteran who had ever heard of the Battle of Lima Site 85 primarily because it was a part of the “secret war” carried out in Laos that everyone in the Vietnam War AO knew about its existence.

The writer of this piece became aware of the story about the battle after hearing a report by Sam Lightner, Jr., a renowned rock climbing specialist from Lander, Wyoming. He has climbed challenging mountains all over Southeast Asia (see episode 1014 of this podcast). He is always on the lookout for more daring rock climbing locations. It was while climbing in Vietnam he heard about the mystic Phou Pha Thi mountain in Laos.

It has a fearsome appearance that led the local Hmong and Yeo people that lived in the area to consider Phou Pha Thi to be a place of religious significance. They believed it was inhabited by spirits possessing supernatural powers to exercise control over their lives. The US Air Force did not share the same opinion about the mountain as that of the locals. Instead the Air Force saw its tremendous potential as a valuable asset in the air operations against the North Vietnamese military in North Vietnam and Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It was located in Northern Laos only 15 miles from the North Vietnam border and it sat only 100 miles due west of Hanoi.

The Air Force encountered difficulty in obtaining permission to set up a TACAN station that would provide pilots with distance and bearing information for missions. In July of 1962 the US signed on to the International Agreement on the Neutrality of Laos.

Listen to all of episode 1016 to get the full story about The Battle of Lima Site 85.

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1015 – Vietnam Vet Tom Richards came home a better man

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Tom Richards holds a photograph of a swift boat; he served on one during the Vietnam War. Credit Emily Hunt/WXXI

Episode 1015 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast will feature another tremendous representative of the great Vietnam Veteran Generation. This podcast and its producer is a strong backer of the proposition the Vietnam Veteran Generation is as great as any that ever heeded the call of duty from its country. The featured veteran in this episode is Tom Richards of Rochester, New York. Recently he was interviewed by Evan Bourtis and Denise Young of WXXI News. The story about the interview was titled: Tom Richards: ‘When I finished … I was better for it.’

Many times the writer of this piece has stated that when Vietnam Veterans came home they were older, wiser, stronger and better able to deal with adversity. Richards echoed that sentiment when he said “They say the military makes men, and it does. When I finished, I was better for it.” His father had served in the Army Air Forces during World War II. That apparently instilled in him a strong spirit of duty and service to his country.

When he finished college in 1965, the Vietnam War was just beginning to heat up and he could have easily opted to attend graduate school and avoid service in the military. The patriotic spirit his father’s service had given to him would not allow him to sidestep duty to his country.  He chose to serve in the US Navy.

After going through training, Richards was assigned to a ship, the USS Eldorado, working out of Subic Bay in the Philippines. Duty on that ship soon became boring and he wanted to do something more adventurous. He violated the most basic of all tenets of military service and volunteered for the swift boat program. There he joined other notable alumni of swift boat service like Dave Roever and John Kerry.

Listen to the entire episode 1015 and get the full story about Tom Richards and how he served his country both in Vietnam and Rochester, NY.

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1014 – Mountain Climbing inspired new Vietnam War Book

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Sam Lightner Jr. climbs in Thailand in the 1990s. Lightner’s interest in climbing in Southeast Asia inspired a book he recently wrote on the Vietnam War. (Bobby Model)

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Sam Lightner, Jr. is a life-long writer and climber who lives in Lander, Wyoming.

Episode 1014 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast is all about an interesting person from Lander, Wyoming, his dangerously interesting avocation and a book he has written about an unknown battle involving intrigue, danger and secrecy. A story in The WyoFile website titled: Climbing trip inspires war story by Kelsey Dayton tells about Sam Lightner Jr. and how his passion for rocking climbing led to him writing his book Heavy Green: The Collision of Two Unlikely Missions in America’s Secret War.

Lightner was raised in Jackson, Wyoming. At different times he has been fortunate enough to also live in southern Thailand, Banff, Alberta, and Moab, Utah, but Wyoming has always been “home.” Traveling and living  in such diverse places has helped Sam greatly as a writer. Not only has it provided a plethora of settings to build stories upon, but also  given insight into diverse people and cultures.

Lightner was not a Vietnam Veteran but he always had an interest in the Vietnam War since he was a child. The war dominated the news and some of his earliest memories. When he began his quest for new climbing sites in other areas of Southeast Asia, he turned to military reports, news clips and documentaries from the Vietnam War for clues.

That is where he discovered the fascinating story of Phou Pha Thi. A “sacred mountain” in Laos “believed by the locals to be inhabited by great “phi”, or spirits. His attraction to the mountain was its enormous sheer cliff faces that presented  inviting challenges for rock climbers. During the Vietnam War the sacred mountain attracted the attention of the USAF because of its strategic heights and location being 100 miles south of Dien Bien Phu, 160 miles west of Hanoi.

In 1966 at the direction of the CIA the Hmong “Secret Army” recaptured the mountain from the North Vietnamese.  The CIA then proceeded to build a 700 foot landing strip next to the mountain and setup Lima Site 85 for the purpose of direction air strikes against NVA operations. On March 10, 1968 the NVA reclaimed Phou Pha Thi.

Listen to episode 1014 to get the rest of the story about Lima Site 85 on Phou Pha Thi. Get a copy of his book and discover the fate of the hapless Air Force personnel stationed on the sacred mountain.

Recommended Reading:

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Sam Lightner Jr. climbs in Vietnam while Todd Skinner belays him. Lightner’s climbing expeditions to Vietnam eventually led him to write a historical novel on the Vietnam War, set on a mountain he wanted to climb. (Jacob Valdez)

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1013 – Sam Bocetta talks about tanks in Vietnam

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An M48 Patton tank operating in Vietnam

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Sam Bocetta

Episode 1013 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast will be a continuation of the featured story in the previous episode number 1012. FYI the featured story was from The Small Wars Journal website titled: 7 Important Weapons Used By the United States in the Vietnam War by Sam Bocetta. In that episode the venerable Colt 1911 .45 pistol and the M-16A1 rifle shared the spotlight. That was a case of something old and something new. The Colt 1911 was inspired by our experience in the Filipino-American War. Before the Vietnam War that was our first experience with jungle warfare.

It was quickly discovered that the standard issue .38 Long Colt pistol did not have the punch for close in jungle fighting. Colt answered the question with the Model 1911 which is still serving today. The new was the M-16A1 rifle which some of its variants are also still with us today.

Bocetta begins his article with: “War, what is it good for? Well, as it turns out, weapons development. The Vietnam War saw the fastest rate of weapon development of any period since WWII. The ever increasing ferocity of the combat, and the body count, meant that unprecedented levels of resources were poured into weapon development.”

Another of the weapons he featured in his story was the M48 Patton Tank. The M48 was the third tank to named after the famous general of World War II. Nearly 12,000 M48s were built from 1952 to 1959. Six hundred of which were used in the Vietnam War. According to Bocetta, most of the rapid rate of weapon development passed over the tanks in Vietnam.

Go to episode 1013 and listen to the entire episode audio content to discover how tanks were used in Vietnam and how they were modified to meet the challenges of jungle guerilla warfare.

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1012 – The Colt .45 and M-16A1, two mainstays of the Vietnam War

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Two familiar weapons of the Vietnam War

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Sam Bocetta

Episode 1012 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast will revisit two of the most iconic weapons of the Vietnam War. The old faithful Colt model 1911 .45 caliber pistol and the revolutionary, at the time, M-16A1 rifle. Sam Bocetta is a retired engineer who worked for over 35 years as an engineer specializing in electronic warfare and advanced computer systems.  Today he teaches at Algonquin Community College in Ottawa, Canada as a part time engineering professor.

He provided an article for The Small Wars Journal website titled: 7 Important Weapons Used By the United States in the Vietnam War. His article reviewed seven weapons. Two of those were featured on this podcast episode. One was, as I call it, the old faithful Colt .45 pistol. This reliable piece of equipment was developed back in 1911.

As a result of urgings from the “Yellow Journalist” media of the late 1800’s we went to war against the hapless Spanish Empire in 1898. We ran them out of Cuba and proceeded to seize their possessions including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.  Unfortunately, in the latter territory Armed conflict broke out between U.S. forces and the Filipinos when U.S. troops began to take the place of the Spanish in control of the country after the end of the war, resulting in the Philippine–American War.

Early on the Americans discovered the standard issue .38 Long Colt pistol, did not deliver enough power for the close-in jungle fighting. In response to the need for a firearm with more of a punch Colt answered with the Model 1911. It delivered a huge amount of power at close range. The Model 1911’s emergence was too late for the Spanish-American War bit it was an ideal weapon for the jungles and tunnels of Vietnam.

Go to episode 1012 to discover more about the Model 1911 and the iconic M-16A1.

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1011 – The Wall That Heals coming to Flathead Valley, Montana

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The Wall That Heals on its way to Flathead Valley, Montana

Episode 1011 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast will tell about a replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall making an appearance in the Flathead Valley of Montana. The event was described in story found in The Flathead Beacon titled: Vietnam Veterans Group Brings ‘The Wall That Heals’ Back to Montana. The story was provided by Justin Franz.

A half-scale version of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC known as The Wall That Heals along with a mobile education center that teaches the history of the Vietnam War will be open to all visitors in Kalispell from Thursday, September 7 through Sunday, September 10, 2017. It will be set up in the open field due north of the Rosauers store at 2000 U.S. Highway 93 on the south side of Kalispell.

This visit of The Wall That Heals was made possible by the Chapter 1087 of the Vietnam Veterans of America. Ironically, the genesis of the VVA chapter, one of the most active in the state, was inspired by the first and only visit of the Wall to the Flathead Valley in 2013. Area Vietnam Veterans were so moved by the visit of the Wall they decided to start a VVA chapter in the Flathead Valley.

The inspiration held because to this day the chapter organizes fundraisers to help local veteran causes, including the food pantry and the Montana Veterans Home. One member, John Wise, says: “Our whole goal is to serve veterans, and not just Vietnam vets, but anyone who served.”

The Wall that is coming to Kalispell is approximately 250 feet in length and features more than 58,000 names of service members killed during the Vietnam War. It was created in 1996 so that veterans who could not make it to the Wall in DC could have the experience of viewing the Memorial.

Discover more about this event in episode 1011.

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1010 – Military nurse stories sought

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The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is shown at Arlington National Cemetery. The Pantagraph

In episode 1010 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast a special request from the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation will be announced. A story about the request is in The Pantagraph of Bloomington, Illinois titled: Retired Army nurse urges female vets to tell their stories. The story was submitted by Lenore Sobota.

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Retired Army Lt. Col. Jill Henry preparing for another presentation about the Women in Military Service for America Memorial

In her story, Sobota told about Retired Army Lt. Col. Jill Henry becoming an ambassador for the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. She is on a mission is to get more women to register and share their stories about their military service.

The memorial is located in Arlington National Cemetery and will mark its 20th anniversary in the fall of 2017. It is called a living memorial that serves women veterans, those who are serving now and those serving in the future.

The memorial is operated by the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation and contains the records of 265,000 women who have served and registered. The director of public relations and development for the memorial, retired Army Lt. Col. Marilla Cushman, pointed out that three million women have served in the military.

Getting more of those women veterans who haven’t registered with the Memorial is what is driving Jill Henry. She wants as many women as possible to tell their story because as she says it: “If we don’t keep our own history and tell our own history, no one will — or someone else will do it, but it won’t be accurate.”

Vietnam Veterans are well aware of the tremendous contributions made by women serving in the military during the War and this Vietnam Veteran supports Jill Henry in her mission to get those women Vietnam Veteran stories told. Women can register at www.womensmemorial.org, or by calling 703-533-1155. You can also email Henry at wimsa.amb.il1@gmail.com for help.

Discover more about the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in episode 1010.

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1009 – Vietnam and India get closer

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc talk as they attend a signing ceremony after their meeting in Hanoi. Photo: EPA

Episode 1009 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast will delve into what the little country of Vietnam is up to these days. The reason for this gallivant into this subject by a Vietnam Veteran is easy to understand. You see, when a young soldier spends a one or two year period in such an intense experience as the Vietnam War, an interest in the country will more than likely remain with the young soldier for life.

Therein lies the basis for the featured story in this episode. It is about the blossoming relationship with Vietnam and other nations. First we discussed the relations with Vietnam and the US. Now we are going to take a look at what is happening between little Vietnam and large India. The matter is taken up in an article Rudroneel Ghosh wrote for The Times of India titled: Toasting Friendship: India-Vietnam relations experience strong tailwinds.

Ghosh observed that: “There’s no denying the fact that New Delhi and Hanoi have moved perceptibly closer in the last few years.” In his words: “This has been largely due to a convergence of strategic interests.” China has become the neighborhood bully and is pushing its weight around.

One area that is particularly bothersome to all in the neighborhood is the South China Sea. That area is loaded with natural resources including not only some of the richest fishing grounds but also vast petroleum deposits. In addition to this, a large portion of commercial sea traffic pass through the South China Sea. Whoever controls this portion of the ocean is in a powerful position.

China’s method of gaining control of the South China Sea is to claim ownership of the Spratley and Parasol Islands that are scattered about the Sea. According to international law area control extends out 200 miles from an island in the ocean so whoever owns the Spratleys and the Parasols have control over all the Sea and its resources.

In episode 1009 you will discover what India and Vietnam are doing to bring co-prosperity to Southeast Asia.

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