882 – A look at the Communist paradise of Vietnam and its lessons for all

North Vietnam, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

North Vietnamese troops wash themselves in the palace’s fountain after their victory. (Courtesy of history.com)

Whenever you talk to someone who has lived under communism they all in one way or another express the opinion that communism as the worst political philosophy for a country to endure. That is very important for all Vietnam Veterans to know because it is the underlining of the primary reason we were there. We went there with the noble mission of stemming the tide of world communism no matter the fact we committed some bonehead errors in the execution of that mission.

It this episode the opinion of a Vietnamese person who lived in Vietnam under communism will be featured. Today he is an American living in South Dakota. He wrote an editorial piece in The Capital Journal of Pierre, South Dakota titled: Once a country is divided, it can never heal.  The submitter was by Phu Nguyen Phu.nguyen@capjournal.com.

Nguyen’s title is the theme of his piece where he describes how his home country of Vietnam was divided at the 17th parallel in 1954. Despite the passage of 63 years of history his home country remains divided and he is pessimistic as to  whether it will ever heal from its division. He points out that “the North Vietnam Army broke the Paris Peace Accords — which were signed in 1973 — and took over the country on April 30, 1975” and that only aggravated the dissociation of the northern and southern parts of the country.

In Vietnam to this very day, a person cannot get a government job if there is a family connection to the old South Vietnamese government going back three generations. In large Vietnamese communities such as those in California, Houston or Seattle the flag of Vietnam is considered a “flag of blood” because of the bloodshed and destruction they believe it brought to their homeland.

Nguyen warns America that it must not become divided politically. He has seen the results and they aren’t very pretty.

881 – VA Choice Card Program news from Alabama

VA Choice Card, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

VA Choice Card

When a nation sends its young people off to fight in a war, that nation incurs a solemn obligation to those young people. The sending nation has a moral obligation to its people to make sure they are taken care of in the event the receive  injuries or sickness resulting from their service in that war. Note, we are making the assumption this is a moral nation.

America set up the Department of Veterans Affairs to oversee the nation’s obligations of medical care to its veterans. The VA as it is known today has grown into a gargantuan bureaucratic behemoth that does a good job overall but it does manifest weaknesses on occasion when it comes to providing timely and effective medical services to the veterans.

One example of the occasional shortcoming of services was so serious it cost a VA secretary, Eric Shinseki, his job. It seems a situation arose where as 40 veterans died at Arizona clinic while waiting for potentially lifesaving care. Management at the Arizona clinic claimed ignorance but the people and Congress were stirred up.

To help stem the tide of complaints Congress came up with the Veterans Affairs Choice Card. In theory, this card will allow former military personnel facing lengthy wait times or who live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility to seek help from a private medical service provider and the VA will pick up the tab.

Sounds good in theory in theory but the Choice Card program is amassing a large number of complaints. The biggest of which is that the bureaucratic challenges to getting paid by the VA for services rendered is motivating private medical service providers to decline patients who intend to pay with a VA Choice Card.

The situation with the VA Choice Card Program is highlighted in a story on the website al.com titled: 142,000 veterans living in rural Alabama have VA health benefits extended that was submitted by  Christopher Harress, charress@al.com.

Listen to the podcast episode and you decide.

880 – Vietnam Vet, Jim Crigler, to paddle down the Mississippi for Gold Star Families



Let me introduce:

Mark Carlson, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

In this podcast episode of Vietnam Veteran News, two special people will be featured. One is Mark Carlson of Aston, Iowa who was the winner of last month’s podcast appreciation contest. Today his is sporting his new Digital American Flag Camo Hoodie he won in the contest. Mark is not a Vietnam Veteran but he holds them in high regards. He sent me two messages that showed his appreciation for the contest prize and for all Vietnam Veterans. His messages can be seen on the testimonial page of this website.

The other special person to be recognized in this episode is Jim Crigler. He intends to paddle a canoe down the Mississippi River 2300 miles from the Mississippi’s headwaters at Lake Itasca to New Orleans beginning on April 22, 2017. The purpose of this trip is to start a movement to change America’s attitude toward its Gold Star families. Jim believes that for too long they have often felt like the forgotten casualties of war; the stigma and controversy surrounding the war have prevented many of these families from even talking about it.

Crigler said “While I was doing research for the book, I met and spoke to many Gold Star families, I consistently heard the same story – no honor, no support, no thanks.” He was deeply moved by this and decided to do something to right this wrong. He plans to use this trip down the Mississippi in a canoe to bring attention to this group of forgotten victims of the Vietnam War.

He will be making numerous stops along the way. A list of the cities and towns that Crigler plans to visit is shown below. His story comes from a press release found on The benzinga.com website title: Solo Mississippi Canoe Trip Calls Attention to Forgotten Vietnam Gold Star Families

CLICK HERE  for more information about his Mississippi canoe trip, his book and his background

CLICK HERE  for more information about the Mission of Honor and how you can help make it happen.

Jim Crigler’s contact information:

1600 W Gilmore Ave
Suite 100
Winona, MN 55987



Jim’s planned river stops:

Bemidji, MN
Grand Rapids, MN
Brainerd, MN
Little Falls, MN
St. Cloud, MN
Minneapolis MN
St. Paul, MN
Hastings, MN
Red Wing, MN
Lake City, MN
Fountain City, WI
Winona, MN
La Crosse, WI
Prairie du Chien, WI
Dubuque, IA
Clinton, IA
Quad Cities IA/IL
Muscatine, IA
Quincy, IL
Hannibal, MO    St. Louis, MO
Cape Girardeau, MO
Caruthersville, MO
Memphis, TN
Greenville, MS
Vicksburg, MS
Natchez, MS
Baton Rouge, LA
New Orleans, LA


Mission of Honor, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Buy This Book. Available April 21, 2017.

879 – Operation Buffalo, a stiff challenge for the Marines in Vietnam

Operation Buffalo, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

US Marines at Con Thien after Operation Buffalo, 1967.

Operation Buffalo was a bloody twelve day battle fought by the US Marines against NVA regulars of the 90th NVA Regiment. It took place between Con Thien and the DMZ. It began on July 2, 1967 and ended on 14 July with total Marine casualties for the operation amounting to 159 killed, 845 wounded and 1 missing. U.S forces reported that the NVA suffered 1,290 confirmed killed and a further 513 probably killed. 164 bunkers and 15 artillery and rocket positions were destroyed. 100 NVA weapons were captured.

Although it was called an operation it was in fact a brutal battle where on the first day of the operation the Marines suffered their worst one-day loss in the Vietnam War where two companies from the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines suffered 84 killed, 190 wounded and 9 missing.

The complete story of Operation Buffalo was presented in an article on the Wow website titled: Operation Buffalo (1967) that was sourced from Wikipedia. The article pointed how the Marines faced up to a savage attack by the NVA near the DMZ and they prevailed. Elements from the following units participated in the battle:

1st Battalion 9th Marines

3rd Battalion 9th Marines

1st Battalion 3rd Marines

2nd Battalion 3rd Marines

1st Battalion 12th Marines – “A” Battery

3rd Battalion 12th Marines – “E” Battery

3rd Reconnaissance Battalion – detachment

Keith William Nolan wrote an excellent book on Operation Buffalo and it is recommended by anyone wanting to know about one of the Marines most challenging battle in Vietnam.

It is his fifth book on the Vietnam War and it presents the definitive account of one of the Marine Corps’ most blood – soaked battles: a tale of snipers and ambushes in the blinding elephant grass; of tanks firing point-blank into tree lines swarming with enemy troops; of air strikes called in within yards of friendly positions, and of individual Marines fighting isolated and outnumbered.

His other books include: Into Laos; The story of Dewey Canyon II/Lam Son719, Vietnam 1971, Death Valley: The Summer Offensive, I Corps, August 1969, Battle for Hue: TET 1968, and Into Cambodia: Spring Campaign, Summer Offensive,1970.


Operation Buffalo, vietnam veteran news, mack payne


878 – How the Vietnam War got televised

TV Coverage in Vietnam, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

A television cameraman filmed as Marines charged against a sniper down the trail of Phu Thu peninsula southeast of Hue in March 1966. Credit Eddie Adams/Associated Press

Ronald Steinman's DoD ID card, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Ronald Steinman’s DoD ID card.

If you served in Vietnam, more than likely at one time or another in your in country tour there you had an interaction with a member of the news media. It could have been with a camera crew filming some type of action or it could have been one of the ubiquitous newspaper and magazine correspondents searching for the next Pulitzer Prize winning story. It is said Vietnam was the first televised war. For that reason this episode will highlight the work done by an NBC News Saigon bureau chief in 1966 and 67. The story is told in An Opinion piece in the New York Times titled: The First Televised War that was submitted by that NBC News Saigon bureau chief Ronald Steinman.

Steinman describes the situation he found when he arrived as the new Saigon NBC bureau chief in mid-April 1966. A typical NBC News foreign bureau consisted of a correspondent with one two-man crew and a small staff. Because of the enormity of the Vietnam War things were different at the Saigon NBC News bureau. Steinman had at his disposal five correspondents, five camera crews made up of a cameraman and a sound man, a full-time radio reporter and an engineer to keep the equipment running. In addition he had five Vietnamese drivers who owned their own cars and he often took advantage of the services of many freelance cameramen. On top of all this he had two experienced on staff Vietnamese reporters who roamed the streets and the halls of the Vietnamese government looking for stories.

Steinman’s large staff was managed by his office manager. She was a young Vietnamese woman responsible for exit and entry visas to and from Saigon, who kept them in local supplies, paid the bills and served as a negotiator and translator when needed.

Steinman’s piece describes how his staff would go anywhere, do anything in its mission to get the real news about the Vietnam War back to the TV screens of America.


vietnam veteran news


877 – He loved the smell of napalm in the morning

COL David Haskell Hackworth, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

COL David Haskell Hackworth

David Haskell Hackworth was a remarkable American who reportedly coined the phrase “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Next to Audie Murphy he was one of the most decorated individuals to serve in the US Army. He served gallantly in Vietnam where he earned high accolades from both his superiors and those who served under him in battle. His attitude toward the Vietnam War began to change as he saw more and more of the useless destruction to people and country it had wrought.  

His changed attitude toward the Vietnam War was trumpeted during an ABC interview near Saigon when in June of 1971 he declared that the war was unwinnable and called for immediate U.S. withdrawal.  This statement immediately caused him to become a persona non grata with the military hierarchy. Shortly after that event he left the service of the armed forces and became among other things and anti-nuclear war activist.

Dr Norm Sanders (left) and U.S. Colonel (ret.) David Hackworth, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Dr Norm Sanders (left) and U.S. Colonel (ret.) David Hackworth on the campaign trail in Tasmania, 1984 (Image supplied)

There was a very informative story into the Colonel in The Independent Australia website title: Colonel David Hackworth: The man who loved the smell of napalm and hated war. The story was submitted by Dr. Norm Sanders. Sanders told of a change meeting with Hackworth in New Zealand while both were speaking at a rally protesting visiting American warships in 1984. It turned out Hackworth and Sanders, an emigre who had renounced his American citizenship, had a lot in common. They both were from the same area of Southern California and had surfed on the same beaches.

Sanders was running for a seat in the Australian Senate in Tasmania and was being frozen out by the media. Hackworth offered to help get some coverage and that began a long time friendship. Sanders story in the Independent Australia goes on to describe Hackworth’s career in the military and his post military activities as an anti-war activist. It is a very informative story for this podcast episode.



876 – A brave Air Force pilot story

  • Dan Petkunas, F-4 Weapons System Officer & Pilot. vietnam veteran news, mack payne
    Dan Petkunas, F-4 Weapons System Officer & Pilot. Courtesy photo

In this episode of the podcast “Vietnam Veteran News” the story about a brave US Air Force pilot will be featured. It comes from The Signal of the Santa Clarita Valley titled: Dan W. Petkunas, Vietnam War Fighter Pilot – Valencia Resident and it was submitted by Bill Reynolds. Reynolds describes Dan Petkunas’ story beginning with his 1948 birth in Chicago then his high school graduation at Proviso West High School in June 1966 and college graduation at the University of Illinois at Urbana.

Dan was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant through the ROTC program at Urbana and he immediately entered the Air Force flight training program. The next thing he knew he was an F-4 Phantom II Weapons System Officer assigned to the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai Air Base. Dan flew 222 combat missions during twelve month tour at Udorn. His missions took him from the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam to the regions around Hanoi and he believes they used up seven of his nine lives.

One of his closest calls came on the night of July 30, 1972. He was flying on an escort mission with an F-4 recon team over the city of Hanoi. The length of the mission required air to air refueling out over the South China Sea. While they were in sight of the refueling tanker they ran out of fuel and the pilots had to eject in the dark over the water. After a thirty minute soak time in the Sea he and the other pilot were relieved to see the arrival of a Marine rescue helicopter prior to the appearance of approaching NVA patrol boats.

Dan completed his tour at Udorn, met and married a lovely Thai lady and completed a career as an Air Force pilot. He retired in 2011 from his job as a contract manager. Today Dan enjoys bicycling, the gym, playing poker, and visiting in-laws in Thailand.

In the photo below note the difference in how pilots flying different type of combat aircraft dress for the occasion.

875 – Vietnam Vet family still seeking answers

Mark V. Dennis, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Vietnam Vet, Mark V. Dennis, memorial service in Miamisburg, Ohio

The Vietnam War legacy is filled with many gut wrenching stories of sadness and sorrow many families suffered when they discovered they had lost a loved one in that war. In this 875th episode of the “Vietnam Veteran News Podcast” the story of a fallen hero’s family and their excruciatingly painful experience will be featured. The story about the family of fallen Vietnam Veteran, Mark V. Dennis, and their quest to know who is buried in their loved one’s grave is found in two stories on WDTN Channel 2 News in Dayton, Ohio, one is titled: Buried truth: who was laid to rest at Hill Grove Cemetery? and a follow up story titled: Graveside memorial for local man killed in Vietnam.  Both stories were submitted by Katie Ussin.

Mark V. Dennis was a Navy medic serving in Vietnam with the US Marines. In 1966 at the age of 19 he was in a helicopter with fifteen others. It crashed and burned after being shot out the air and only three survived the disaster. The survivors did not include Dennis. The GR (graves registration) personnel apparently chose one of the burned corpses and assigned it the identity of Dennis.

The pick and miss identified remains of the brave and good Mark V. Dennis were sent home to his family at Miamisburg, Ohio and he was honored with full military honors and a graveside memorial at Hillgrove Cemetery. The grieving family and friends went on with their lives the best they could after the burial ceremony. Then something happened that stirred up the pot in reference to the disposition of the earthly remains of Mark V. Dennis.

In a 1970 edition of Newsweek Magazine that included an article about POWs, an image of an unidentified American POW was included in the story. Due to the remarkable resemblance of the POW in the story and their loved one, the family decided to dig into the matter literally. They had samples of the remains in Mark’s grave analyzed by laboratories in two different states. Both reported the remains in the grave were not those of Mark. Despite the findings of the independent labs, as of today, the DoD still stands by its position the remains in the grave are those of Mark.

Mark V. Dennis, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Mark V. Dennis, on at left and the mysterious unidentified POW photo in a 1970 Newsweek article on the right.

The remaining family members essentially said “to hell with it” and decided to put the matter to rest by holding a second memorial service for Mark at the same spot it was first held in 1966.

The pastor at the service said it best: “Today we lay Mark’s spirit and memory to rest.”

874 – A Vietnam Vet and his Pontiac LeMans

  • Bob and Sue Banks, vietnam veteran news, mack payne
    Newlyweds Bob and Sue Banks pose for a picture while on a fishing trip to Little Fort, British Columbia, in the spring of 1968. Their boat is atop Bob’s 1967 Pontiac LeMans Sprint, which he bought two days after returning from serving with the Navy in the Vietnam War in April 1967. (Courtesy Bob and Sue Banks)

This episode of the podcast “Vietnam Veteran New” you will be treated to a love story. It is about a Vietnam Vet, Bob Banks, who is celebrating several fiftieth anniversaries this month. The story about them are found in The Herald of Everett, Washington titled: Home from war 50 years ago, he met his love and bought a car.  It was submitted by Julie Muhlstein, 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein @heraldnet.com.

Some of the fiftieth anniversaries Bob is celebrating this month include:

  1. His safe return from the Vietnam War.
  2. He was able to go back to his old pre-Vietnam War job he had with West Coast Telephone Co. in Everett.
  3. He bought a 1967 Pontiac LeMans.
  4. He proposed marriage to his sweetheart and she accepted.

The notable thing about Bob’s anniversaries is that he is still married to his sweetheart, Sue and he still owns the same 1967 Pontiac LeMans.

Bob is another great example of the tremendous Vietnam Veteran Generation. He served his country in Vietnam, came home and continued serving as a citizen of Marysville, WA. He put in a career with West Coast Telephone Co. (later GTE Corp) in Everett, he maintained a stable home where he raised two children and he stayed married to the same woman.

The fact that he kept the car he purchased fifty years ago is especially noteworthy to this writer because I too bought a Pontiac LeMans in 1966 but did not have the foresight or wherewithal to hold on to it. When I went to Vietnam the first time, one year seemed like an eternity so I sold my prized LeMans before I departed. Now after hearing about Bob Banks keeping his LeMans, I am kicking myself for not doing the same.

Talking about his life in Marysville, Washington Bob says: “We’ve been awfully happy and awfully blessed.”

873 – Montagnards still under the gun in Vietnam

The Montagnards, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Montagnards attend a church service in Bang Yai, Thailand, in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of the Montagnards Assistance Project

In this episode of the podcast “Vietnam Veteran News” the plight of one of our most loyal and effective allies in the Vietnam War will be featured. In the highlands of Vietnam there existed numerous tribes of “indigenous” peoples. Historically they were looked down upon by the ruling Cochin people of Indochina as backward and they suffered much discrimination at the hands of their more advances neighbors in the lowlands. The French referred to the tribes as  Montagnards which translated means mountain people.

The friction that existed between the Montagnards and especially the northern Vietnamese contributed to their willingness to work with the Americans when they came to fight against the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War. When the war ended and the Americans left the country the Montagnards were left high and dry to suffer the ire of their former opponent when the North Vietnamese took over the entire country in 1975. Ever since they have suffered persecution and retribution from a revengeful Vietnam Communist government.

Recently a story appeared in Radio Free Asia titled: Dozens of Montagnards Flee Cambodia For Thailand Amid Fears of Repatriation to Vietnam. The story was reported by Thanh Truc for RFA’s Vietnamese Service, translated by Viet Ha and written in English by Joshua Lipes. It describes what some Montagnards are doing to escape the vengeful treatment they receive from the Communists in Vietnam and Cambodia.

It appears that a group of Montagnards who made their way to Cambodia seeking refugee status are being threatened with repatriation back to Vietnam where they face jail time and torture according to the escapees. Some have moved on to Thailand to avoid being sent back to Vietnam.

This is a sad state of affairs for a former loyal and effective ally in the Vietnam War.

CLICK HERE for more on Denise Coghlan, the director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, and what she is doing to help the Montagnard people in Cambodia.