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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Bicycle Ride to Support Our Troops

John Demerjian is beginning a very special cycling tour tomorrow, expecting to finish in September. He is going to ride from South Carolina to Canada, and back again - a 5,000 mile ride.

The goal of the bicycle trip is to get pledges for care packages and adoptions for Soldiers’ Angels. He'll be wearing ride jerseys silkscreened with the Soldiers' Angels logo. John will be sending updates from the road as often as possible. Here’s a little info from him about the tour:

The basic purpose is to get pledges for CARE packages. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less, except that I'm going to get some much needed exercise along the way.

My bicycle route is RT 82 across Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas to Texarkana, Arkansas. At Texarkana, I'll take RT 71 north until I get to Missouri. At Missouri, I'm going over to Pittsburg, Kansas, and north to Fort Scott, Kansas. Once I leave Fort Scott, I'm going west to pick up RT 81 which goes north to York, Nebraska.

At York, I'll head due east to Columbus, Ohio. After Columbus, I'll turn north toward Sandusky, Ohio, which is on the southern shore of Lake Erie.

Once in Sandusky, I'll take the lake ferry across Lake Erie to Ontario, Canada, at Leamington.
At Leamington, I'll cycle RT 3 to Niagara Falls. Then I bicycle the short way to Rochester, New York, where I'll turn south. I'll cycle from Rochester, New York, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on mostly on RT 309.

Once in Philadelphia, I cycle to Cape May, New Jersey, and catch the ferry to Lewes, Delaware. Then I'll come down the Del-Mar-VA peninsula to Virginia Beach.

And once I've gotten to Delaware, I'll be on the Atlantic Ocean. I'll cycle due south through the Outer Banks of North Carolia and back to St. George, South Carolina.

The route is all by secondary roads. Bicycle cargo weighs in at 60 lbs. My pace will be 50-65 miles per day. Travel will solely be self-contained, using my tent with the only exception being when staying with friends.

If you’re anywhere along John’s route, be sure to say hello. And if you’re interested in making a pledge, or adopting a soldier, be sure and let him know!

A Soldier from Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), makes some new friends while on patrol near Qayyarah, Iraq. Photo by Jory Randall.

The Mayaguez Incident

If you look in the MIA's listed in today's news post, you'll see a staggering number related to the Mayaguez Incident. Here is a summary of what happened, from information gathered by the P.O.W. Network:

When U.S. troops were pulled out of Southeast Asia in early 1975, Vietnamese communist troops began capturing one city after another, with Hue, Da Nang and Ban Me Thuot in March, Xuan Loc in April, and finally on April 30, Saigon. In Cambodia, communist Khmer Rouge had captured the capital city of Phnom Penh on April 17. The last Americans were evacuated from Saigon during "Option IV", with U.S. Ambassador Martin departing on April 29. The war, according to President Ford, "was finished."

2Lt. Richard Van de Geer, assigned to the 21st Special Ops Squadron at NKP, had participated in the evacuation of Saigon, where helicopter pilots were required to fly from the decks of the 7th Fleet carriers stationed some 500 miles offshore, fly over armed enemy-held territory, collect American and allied personnel and return to the carriers via the same hazardous route, heavily loaded with passengers. Van de Geer wrote to a friend, "We pulled out close to 2,000 people. We couldn't pull out any more because it was beyond human endurance to go any more..."

At 11:21 a.m. on May 12, the U.S. merchant ship MAYAGUEZ was seized by the Khmer Rouge in the Gulf of Siam about 60 miles from the Cambodian coastline and eight miles from Poulo Wai island. The ship, owned by Sea-Land Corporation, was en route to Sattahip, Thailand from Hong Kong, carrying a non-arms cargo for military bases in Thailand.

Capt. Charles T. Miller, a veteran of more than 40 years at sea, was on the bridge. He had steered the ship within the boundaries of international waters, but the Cambodians had recently claimed territorial waters 90 miles from the coast of Cambodia. The thirty-nine seamen aboard were taken prisoner.

President Ford ordered the aircraft carrier USS CORAL SEA, the guided missile destroyer USS HENRY B. WILSON and the USS HOLT to the area of seizure. By night, a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft located the MAYAGUEZ at anchor off Poulo WaI island. Plans were made to rescue the crew. A
battalion landing team of 1,100 Marines was ordered flown from bases in Okinawa and the Philippines to assemblE at Utapao, Thailand in preparation for the assault.

The first casualties of the effort to free the MAYAGUEZ are recorded on May 13 when a helicopter carrying Air Force security team personnel crashed en route to Utapao, killing all 23 aboard.

Early in the morning of May 13, the Mayaguez was ordered to head for Koh Tang island. Its crew was loaded aboard a Thai fishing boat and taken first to Koh Tang, then to the mainland city of Kompong Song, then to Rong San Lem island. U.S. intelligence had observed a cove with considerable activity on the island of Koh Tang, a small five-mile long island about 35 miles off the coast of Cambodia southwest of the city of Sihanoukville (Kampong Saom), and
believed that some of the crew might be held there. They also knew of the Thai fishing boat, and had observed what appeared to be caucasians aboard it, but it could not be determined if some or all of the crew was aboard.

The USS HOLT was ordered to seize and secure the MAYAGUEZ, still anchored off Koh Tang. Marines were to land on the island and rescue any of the crew. Navy jets from the USS CORAL SEA were to make four strikes on military installments on the Cambodian mainland.

On May 15, the first wave of 179 Marines headed for the island aboard eight Air Force "Jolly Green Giant" helicopters. Three Air Force helicopters unloaded Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines onto the landing pad of the USS HOLT and then headed back to Utapao to pick up the second wave of
Marines. Planes dropped tear gas on the MAYAGUEZ, and the USS HOLT pulled up along side the vessel and the Marines stormed aboard. The MAYAGUEZ was deserted.

Simultaneously, the Marines of the 2/9 were making their landings on two other areas of the island. The eastern landing zone was on the cove side where the Cambodian compound was located. The western landing zone was a narrow spit of beach about 500 feet behind the compound on the other side of the island. The Marines hoped to surround the compound.

As the first troops began to unload on both beaches, the Cambodians opened fire. On the western beach, one helicopter was hit and flew off crippled, to ditch in the ocean about 1 mile away. The pilot had just disembarked his passengers, and he was rescued at sea.

Meanwhile, the eastern landing zone had become a disaster. The first two helicopters landing were met by enemy fire. Ground commander, (now) Col. Randall W. Austin had been told to expect between 20 and 40 Khmer Rouge soldiers on the island. Instead, between 150 and 200 were encountered. First, Lt. John Shramm's helicopter tore apart and crashed into the surf
after the rotor system was hit. All aboard made a dash for the tree line on the beach.

One CH53A helicopter was flown by U.S. Air Force Major Howard Corson and 2Lt. Richard Van de Geer and carrying 23 U.S. Marines and 2 U.S. Navy corpsmen, all from the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. As the helicopter approached the island, it was caught in a cross fire and hit by a rocket.
The severely damaged helicopter crashed into the sea just off the coast of the island and exploded. To avoid enemy fire, survivors were forced to swim out to sea for rescue. Twelve aboard, including Maj. Corson, were rescued. Those missing from the helicopter were 2Lt. Richard Van de Geer, PFC Daniel A. Benedett, PFC Lynn Blessing, PFC Walter Boyd, Lcpl. Gregory S. Copenhaver, Lcpl. Andres Garcia, PFC James J. Jacques, PFC James R. Maxwell,
PFC Richard W. Rivenburgh, PFC Antonio R. Sandoval, PFC Kelton R. Turner, all U.S. Marines. Also missing were HM1 Bernard Gause, Jr. and HM Ronald J. Manning, the two corpsmen.

Other helicopters were more successful in landing their passengers. One CH53A, however was not. SSgt. Elwood E. Rumbaugh's aircraft was near the coastline when it was shot down. Rumbaugh is the only missing man from the aircraft. The passengers were safely extracted. (It is not known whether the passengers went down with the aircraft or whether they were rescued from the island.)

By midmorning, when the Cambodians on the mainland began receiving reports of the assault, they ordered the crew of the MAYAGUEZ on a Thai boat, and then left. The MAYAGUEZ crew was recovered by the USS WILSON before the second wave of Marines was deployed, but the second wave was ordered to attack anyway.

Late in the afternoon, the assault force had consolidated its position on the western landing zone and the eastern landing zone was evacuated at 6:00 p.m. By the end of the 14-hour operation, most of the Marines were extracted from the island safely, with 50 wounded. Lcpl. Ashton Loney had been killed by enemy fire, but his body could not be recovered.

Protecting the perimeter during the final evacuation was the machine gun squad of PFC Gary L. Hall, Lcpl. Joseph N. Hargrove and Pvt. Danny G. Marshall. They had run out of ammunition and were ordered to evacuate on the last helicopter. It was their last contact. Maj. McNemar and Maj. James H. Davis made a final sweep of the beach before boarding the helicopter and were unable to locate them. They were declared Missing in Action.

The eighteen men missing from the MAYAGUEZ incident are listed among the missing from the Vietnam war. Although authorities believe that there are perhaps hundreds of American prisoners still alive in Southeast Asia from the war, most are pessimistic about the fates of those captured by the Khmer Rouge.

In 1988, the communist government of Kampuchea (Cambodia) announced that it wished to return the remains of several dozen Americans to the United States. (In fact, the number was higher than the official number of Americans missing in Cambodia.) Because the U.S. does not officially recognize the Cambodian government, it has refused to respond directly to the Cambodians regarding the remains. Cambodia, wishing a direct acknowledgment from the U.S. Government, still holds the remains.

In Today's News - Sunday, May 15, 2005

Quote of the Day
"They said this mystery never shall cease: the priest promotes war, and the soldier peace."
-- William Blake

News of Note:
Panel OKs $441B Defense Bill

In Iraq:
Bodies of 13 men discovered in Sadr City
U.S.: Operation Matador a Success
Air Force Metorologists Critical to Planning

In Afghanistan:
Insurgents Killed in May 8 Battle

War on Terror:
Two al-Qaida members sentenced in Yemen

BRAC News:
Base plan would alter military landscape
Pols to Fight Base Closures

Definitely NOT on my summer reading list:
Saddam Hussein to write memoirs Associated Press
Pakistan denies report of al-Qaida killing
Witness: Hundreds dead in Uzbek uprising

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: War on Iraq
Lebanese speaker calls election law faulty
Pakistani activists detained after race
Palestinian leader to meet with Bush
U.S. calls Iraq border offensive a success
1,010 bid for Iran's presidential nod
Egypt's president criticizes protesters
Gunmen assassinate top Iraqi official

Fox News:
Senior Al Qaeda Operative Believed Killed by CIA Drone
Doctor Reports 500 Dead in Uzbek Violence
Iran OKs Pro-Enrichment Bill
Rice makes surprise visit to Iraq
D.C. Plane Panic Pilot Faces Action by Government
Frist's Filibuster Showdown - Justice Dept. Enters Fight
Bolton Floor Vote a Nailbiter?
Bodies of 13 Executed Men Found
Governor Survives Bomb Attack
Gunmen Kill Foreign Ministry Official

Various Sources:
Iraqi authorities crack down on solo drivers in effort to stem attacks
Coalition warplanes fire near Fallujah

Department of Defense:
'Topo' Soldiers Map Battlefield Terrain — Story
Services Improve for East Baghdad Residents — Story
Reconstruction Efforts Progress in Iraq
Al-Oubaidy District Improvements Continue

Iraqi Freedom Combat Equipment Returns
'Desert Dogs' Keep Aircraft in the Air

U.S. Paratroopers Deal Blow to Taliban Forces

USS Mustin Rescues 27 in Persian Gulf
Deployed Mustin Sailors Stay In Touch With Home
Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship Supports Iraqi Navy

BRAC Web site


Base Realignment and Closure 2005

Iraqi Citizen Tip Leads to Weapons
Roadside Bombs Kill U.S. Soldiers
Iraq Daily Update
Weekly Progress Report (pdf)

Colonel Works to Control Borders
Insurgents Killed in May 8 Battle
Villagers Ask for Security Presence
Afghanistan Daily Update

Myers Addresses Spike in Violence
Pilot Confident in Capital Security
Symposium Focus: War on Terror
Waging and Winning the War on Terror
Terrorism Timeline
Terrorism Knowledge Base

Medical Team Trains to Deploy
Mobile Security Unit Deploys
Bush Approves Funding
National Guard, Reserve Update

Today in History
1602 - Cape Cod discovered.
1702 - War of Spanish Succession.
1718 - James Puckle patents world's 1st machine gun
1862 - The Confederate cruiser Alabama runs aground near London, the USDA is created, General Benjamin F. Butler directs that the women of New Orleans are to be treated as whores as a result of their treatment of Union soldiers.
1864 - Battles in Reseca, GA and New Market, VA.
1882 - Czar Alexander III bans Jews from living in rural Romania.
1902 - Lyman Gilmore becomes the first person to fly a powered craft.
1916 - Asiago, Italy falls.
1940 - First successful helicopter flight in US, German armor division moves into northern France, German troops occupy Amsterdam, Gen. Winkelman surrenders, Nazis capture General Persbureau.
1941 - British attacks in Egypt & Libya; Nazis in the Netherlands forbid Jewish music.
1942 - Nazis arrest 2,000 Dutch officers.
1943 - Halifax bombers sink U-463, The Warsaw ghetto uprising ends with the ghetto's destruction.
1944 - 14,000 Hungarian Jews are deported to Auschwitz, Eisenhower, Montgomery, Churchill and George VI meet to discuss plans for D-Day.
1948 - Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Saudi-Arabia attack Israel.
1958 - The USSR launches Sputnik III.
1960 - The USSR launches Sputnik IV.
1962 - U.S. marines arrive in Laos.
1963 - Faith 7, the last Project Mercury flight, is launched.
1966 - The South Vietnamese army clashes with Buddhists, killing approximately 80.
1988 - Moscow begins withdrawing its 115,000 troops from Afghanistan.

1802 - Confederate Major General Isaac Ridgeway Trimble
1819 - Union Major General Thomas Leonidas Crittenden
1830 - Confederate Brigadier General Laurence Simmons Baker
1859 - Pierre Curie France, physicist, Nobel prize winner
1910 - Robert F. Wagner (Mayor, NYC)
1942 - Anthony Wayne England, Ph.D. /astronaut (STS 51-F)
1949 - Frank L Culbertson Jr , Commander USN/astronaut (STS-38)

- Valentinianus II emperor of Rome (375-392), murdered at 21
1932 - Ki Inukai premier Japan (1931-32), murdered
1945 - Major Courtney US medal of honor marine, dies in battle of Sugar Loaf
1992 - Robert Morris Page US physicist (radar), dies at 88

Reported Missing in Action:
McMorrow, John P.,USN, Air America medic - Released August, 1962
Shore, Edward R., Jr., US Army, Air America pilot - Released August, 1962
Wolfkill, Grant, civilian (WA), Air America reporter - Released August, 1962

Balcom, Ralph C. USAF (WA) - Negative SAR contact
Jensen, George W. USAF (WA) - Remains returned December, 1999
Madison, William L, USAF (KY) - Remains returned December,1999
McKenney, Kenneth D., USAF (MA) - Remains returned December, 1999
Preston, James A., USAF (GA) - Remains returned - disputed - December, 1999
Reilly, Lavern G., USAF (MN) - Remains returned December, 1999
Tapp, Marshall L. USAF (CA) - Remains returned December, 1999
Thompson, George W., USAF (WV) - Remains returned December, 1999
Williams, James E., USAF (MS) - Remains returned December, 1999

Heiliger, Donald L., USAF (WI), Released by DRV February, 1973, alive and well 1998
Hill, Charles Dale, USN (MO)
Pollard, Ben M., USAF (KY) - Released by DRV March, 1973, alvie and well 1998

Benedett, Daniel A., USMC (WA) - May 1975 Mayaguez incident
Blessing, Lynn, USMC (PA) - May 1975 Mayaguez incident; Remains ID'd May, 2000
Boyd, Walter, USMC (VA) - May 1975 Mayaguez incident; Remains ID'd May, 2000
Copenhaver, Gregory S., USMC (MD) - May 1975 Mayaguez incident; Remains ID'd May, 2000
Gause, Bernard, Jr., USN (AL) - May 1975 Mayaguez incident, Remains ID'd June, 2000
Garcia, Andres, USMC (NM), - May 1975 Mayaguez incident, Remains ID'd May, 2000
Hall, Gary L., USMC (KY) - May 1975 Mayaguez incident
Hargrove, Joseph N., USMC (NC), May 1975 Mayaguez incident
Jacques, James J., USMC (CO), May 1975 Mayaguez incident
Loney, Ashton N., USMC (NY), May 1975 Mayaguez incident
Marshall, Danny G., USMC (WV), May 1975 Mayaguez incident
Manning, Ronald J., USN (OH), May 1975 Mayaguez incident, Remains ID'd June, 2000
Maxwell, James R., USMC (AR) - May 1975 Mayaguez incident,
Rivenburgh, Richard W., USMC (CA) - May 1975 Mayaguez incident
Rumbaugh, Elwood E., USAF (PA) - May 1975 Mayaguez incident
Sandoval, Antonio R., USMC (TX), May 1975 Mayaguez incident, Remains ID'd May 2000
Turner, Kelton R., USMC (CA), May 1975 Mayaguez incident, Remains ID'd May, 2000
Van De Geer, Richard, USAF (OH), May 1975 Mayaguez incident, Remains ID'd June, 2000

Rapp, Jeff - Released July 1979
Smith, Karen - Released July 1979