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Friday, June 17, 2005

Blogwatch - Friday, June 17, 2005

Make sure to include in your blog-hopping this week a visit to Echo9er.

He's got this great picture of a C-5, and the story of some missing WWII heroes who are finally coming home.

Reflections of a POW

Written in February, 1998, and published in the Richmond-Dispatch, this article contains some very important observations from a former POW, Paul Galanti. It was written during the Clinton Administration. I have highlited a few sections I found particularly compelling.

A number of radio hosts, bloggers, etc., have been saying the same things, but this one is written by someone who has a first-hand perspective.


Paul Galanti of Richmond spent 6
1/2 years in North Vietnamese prison camps. He reflects here on his experiences on the 25th anniversary of his release from captivity.

"This can't be happening to me," thought this cocky young Navy jet pilot as his A-4 Skyhawk was blasted from the hostile skies of North Vietnam 32 years ago. My next 2,432 days were spent in the various POW camps in North Vietnam collectively called the "Hanoi Hilton" by their residents. It wasn't supposed to happen - but it did. Here with the story of a small number of
American servicemen who were forced to endure significant adversity, but who emerged personally victorious from the experience on February 12, 1973 - 25 years ago this past Thursday.

With a quarter-century of hindsight, I think some truths are evident. Some of those truths were the unintended consequences of ill-conceived actions taken in haste, but all raise questions in the present, when truths are, apparently, whatever one wants them to be.

I really didn't expect to be held long. My estimate of my release to the "Old Guys" upon arrival in Hanoi was six months to a year - at the most. The reason? I'd seen the plans for the total destruction of North Vietnam in 1965, but waited in vain for them to be carried out. Instead, there were "cease-fires" of various durations, usually to appease domestic constituencies in the U.S. In March, 1968, peace talks began. They dragged on for nearly five years while the Communists built up their strength, and their allies in the U.S. - witting and un- - helped the Communists' cause by
weakening U.S. resolve.

I spent more than a year in solitary confinement with the hours broken only by infrequent communications (tapping through 18a of concrete) with other Americans and a quarterly miserable re-introduction to the "Camp Regulations for Captured American Criminals." A twice-daily English language broadcast provided a version of the war as seen by the Communists (and their too-many American supporters) and gave us deep insights into a government of lies, deceit, and perfidy - theirs, not ours, or at least that's what we thought at the time.

I lived in 10 camps scattered all over North Vietnam - several in Hanoi, the capital; a couple in the countryside, including the Son Tay camp raided by U.S. Special Forces in November, 1970; and one near Lang Son, a few kilometers from the Chinese border. The camps were similar, consisting of small cells that held from one to four POWs each. Attempts to communicate
with other Americans or other rooms were punished by a month in leg irons with one's hands handcuffed behind his back and a torture session to force the POW to apologize for "breaking the camp regulations" and "committing crimes against the 'Vietnamese people.' "

Despite all efforts to break the POWs, we remained as unified as possible under the circumstances. Our excellent leadership (Colonel Robbie Risner and Commander Jim Stockdale) held us together under those difficult circumstances, and we came out - most of us - better men than when we went in. Stockdale, tortured many times for his efforts to unify us, received the
Medal of Honor. Seven Vietnam POWs received the Medal of Honor - three for heroism prior to their being captured - an incredible percentage for a group that totalled 801, including civilians.

After the Son Tay raid in 1970, the North Vietnamese hastily moved all American POWs to camps in the Hanoi area. Because there were too few of the small rooms, they were forced to move up to 50 POWs into each of several 60' by 20' cells. During solitary confinement, many of us had relived our lives, going back in time to each of the classrooms where we had learned while growing up and in college. Now that we were together at last - for the longest held, Everett Alvarez, it had been more than six years - we formally organized a structured learning environment.

While each room was slightly different, mine held classes on every conceivable topic. I taught French from my Naval Academy courses and learned Spanish and German. Russian was taught, as were math, architecture, engineering drawing, and even music. Classes taught without benefit of books, A-V equipment, or teaching certificates were so effective that three of our enlisted men who'd had no college training prior to capture passed more than 100 semester hours of college-level validation exams on their return.

We were proud to be serving our country and openly ridiculed our North Vietnamese captors, who proclaimed that they were going to drag the war out so their allies in the United States would force the American government to withdraw. We discounted trips to Hanoi by various American personalities such as Jane Fonda, Ramsey Clark, and a few anti-war no-names who were referred to as "comrade" by the Vietnamese.

When President Nixon mined the harbors of Vietnam in 1972 and unleashed the very heavy bombing of the country that had been planned in 1965, we POWs knew that the war would be over within weeks. We had known seven years before the missions were actually implemented what it would take to force the North Vietnamese to negotiate seriously.

And, indeed it was so. The North Vietnamese agreed to release the prisoners of war. The U.S. agreed to go home, and the North Vietnamese agreed to stay out of South Vietnam. We were going to resupply the South Vietnamese and give that country support in the event of further Northern aggression. The POWs were released, and many happy scenes occurred throughout the nation when families were reunited after many years of separation.

What has happened in the 25 years since then? Amid the turmoil surrounding Watergate, an indifferent Congress pulled the plug on the Republic of Vietnam, and we observed the Soviet- and Chinese-supplied North Vietnamese invade the South while an unequipped South Vietnamese army was impotent to repel the invasion.

And so now, 25 years later, these questions: Had the press not reported total defeat at the hands of the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong following the devastating (to them) Tet offensive in 1968, would the war have ended in 1968 rather than in 1973 and 40,000 lives later? Do those who manned the barricades to protest the war realize the part they played in costing some of those lost lives? Had Watergate not distracted President Nixon, would we have intervened in 1974 to save the Republic of Vietnam?

And these further questions, extrapolated to the present day: Does the disgraceful conduct of the Commander-in-Chief amidst his incredible popularity polls similarly render impotent any foreign policy initiative to contain Saddam Hussein? Or will that conduct result in a McNamara-type sacrifice of American lives as a distraction? Does the President's apparent personal absolution by the public in the polls render it okay for mere military personnel to engage in similar debauchery? Is there any cause the American public thinks worthwhile enough to judge on its merits? Is there anything sacred?

Tough questions. From those heady days of finally being free again in 1973 to having to ask these questions today is a stretch I never thought I'd have to make. I don't know the answers, but I do know the questions will not be answered by the current Washington power-elites. I'm not sure whether I want to get mad about it or to cry. I do know this anniversary is not as happy as
it should be.

But I also know that when my fellow ex-prisoners of war and I reunite in Dallas later this year, we will rejoice in the personal friendships and experiences gained under fire. We'll pray for the country, because it appears to be navigating rocky shoals without a moral compass or a leader who commands respect. And we will hope that, somehow, our children will be spared the kind of amoral actions taken by our political leaders in the '60s.

Update: For more on the amoral actions of Dick Durbin, visit Mudville Gazette's "Gitmo Dick" Durban Update

Sgt. Gabriel F. Al-Rajhi, cryptological Arabic linguist, 3rd Radio Battalion, proudly stands at his unit's headquarters after returning from a 13-month long deployment to Iraq. The Anaheim, Calif. native, who grew up in Saudi Arabia, now feels as though he has earned the right to live in the United States. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Megan L. Stiner
Quote of the Day
“I volunteered to stay in Iraq so that I could feel as though I have the right to live in a country with so many freedoms and rights.”
-- U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriel F. Al-Rajhi, regarding his deployment to Iraq.
(see the article about Sgt. Al-Rajhi here)

News of Note
In Iraq
'Operation Spear' Launched - Major military operation in northwestern Iraq near Syrian border involves 1,000 Marines and Iraqi troops
Iranians Go to Polls
Iraq Deadline Would Encourage Terrorists — Story
Americans Need to Recognize Progress in Iraq
Soldier Charged in Deaths of Unit Officers — Story
Iraqis Increasingly Intolerant of Insurgents — Story

The Irony of it all:
PETA Workers Charged With Animal Cruelty

Fox News
Security Scare Shuts U.S., Other Consulates in Nigeria
N. Korea May Return to Talks
Calif. Terror Dad, Son Indicted
Pols Push Iraq Exit Strategy
Goodyear Blimp Crashes
Bush Bashes Iran Leaders, Vote

Department of Defense
New DoD Guidance Deals with Detainees — Story
Citizens Providing More Help to Iraqi, Coalition Forces
Raid Nabs Mosul's Top al Qaeda Operative

Woman Soldier Receives Silver Star for Valor — Story
Iraqis Prepare for Oil Platform Security Duties — Story
U.S. Army Doctors Offer Hope, Health to Iraqis — Story

U.S., Iraqi Forces Search for Insurgent
'Warhorse' Milestone: 40,000 Safe Flight Hours

Bagram Groundbreaking Marks Hospital Start
Infantry Course Provides Realistic Training

Marine Linguist Leaves Big Impression in Iraq — Story
Operation Gears Up for Shipment — Story

Base Realignment and Closure 2005
Medal of Honor
Two Years in Iraq

Leader Talks of Progress in Iraq
Employee Lauded for Iraqi Progress
Sailor, 5 Marines Killed
Iraqis Rescues Australian Hostage
Australia Praises Hostage Rescue
Rumsfeld: Iraq Shows Progress
Officials Talk About Iraq’s Future
Water Project on Schedule
Iraq Daily Update
Multinational Force Iraq
Iraq Reconstruction
Weekly Progress Report (pdf)

Soldiers Wounded; Troops Save Child
Afghanistan Daily Update

Exercise Tests Attack Response
Officials Detail Detainee Efforts
Progress in WMD Countermeasure
Waging and Winning the War on Terror
Terrorism Timeline
Terrorism Knowledge Base

Invention Eases Helmet Discomfort
Deployed Can Use Travel Specials
National Guard, Reserve Update

Officials Identify Marine Casualties —Story

from The Weather Channel
Al Azamiyah Al Basrah Al Hillah Al Karkh Al Kazimiyah Al Kut An Nasiriyah Baghdad Baqubah Mosul Najaf Nineveh Tall Kayf
Bost/Laskar Ghurian Herat Kabul Qandahar

Today in History
1579 - Sir Francis Drake lands in CA.
1775 - Battle of Bunker Hill (Breed's Hill).
1837 - Charles Goodyear is given his first rubber patent.
1863 - At the Battle of Aldie, Confederates fail to drive back Union forces.
1885 - The Statue of Liberty arrives in NYC aboard the French ship Isere.
1894 - The first US Polio epidemic breaks out in Vermont.
1895 - The US Ship Canal in the Bronx(W 225th St) is completed.
1940 - France asks Germany for terms of surrender.
1942 - The first WW II American expeditionary force lands on the Gold Coast in Africa.
1944 - The Republic of Iceland is proclaimed.
1953 - Sup Court Justice William O. Douglas stays the executions of spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg scheduled for the next day, their 14th anniversary.
1954 - The televised Senate Army McCarthy hearings end.
1957 - The Tuskegee boycott begins (African-Americans boycot city stores).
1963 - The Supreme Court rules against Bible reading and prayer in public schools.
1967 - China becomes the world's fourth thermonuclear power.
1975 - Voters in Northern Mariana approve commonwealth status with the U.S.
1982 - President Reagan makes his first General Assembly address (his "evil empire" speech).
1985 - The 18th Space Shuttle Mission (Discovery 5) is launched.
1986 - Chief Justice Warren Earl Burger resigns.

- King Edward I of England
1742 - William Hooper, signed Declaration of Independence
1858 - Eben Sumner Draper, Governor-MA
1870 - George Cormack, created "Wheaties" cereal
1920 - Francois Jacob, biologist/bacteriologist, Nobel Prize winner

1939 - Eugene Weldman, last person guillotined in France.
1989 - David S. Griggs, astronaut, in crash of WW II vintage plane.

Reported Missing in Action:
The following lost in the explosion / crash of a C130E, cause unknown:

Adams, Oley N., USAF (MO); Killed, body not recovered
Cobbs, Ralph B., USN (IL); Killed, body not recovered
Collette, Curtis D., USN (CT); Killed, body not recovered
Cairns, Robert A., USAF (CA); Killed, body not recovered
Dempsey, Jack I., USN (MT); Killed, body not recovered
Freng, Stanley J., USN (SD);Killed, body not recovered
Gravitte, Connie M., USAF (NC)Killed, body not recovered
Hess, Gene K., USAF (DE);Killed, body not recovered
Romig, Edward L., USN (PA)Killed, body not recovered
Savoy, M.J., USN (MO); Killed, body not recovered
Siegwarth, Donald E., USNR (NJ);Killed, body not recovered
Washburn, Larry E., USAF (TX); Killed, body not recovered

Also Reported Missing in 1966:
Galanti, Paul E., USN (NJ); A4C shot down, paraded by the North Vietnamese in the "Hanoi March," released by DRV February, 1973 - alive and well as of 1998

Sparks, Donald L., US Army (IA); reportedly died in captivity

Cochrane, Deverton C., US Army (MA); known wounded in ambush
Laker, Carl J., US Army - Ranger (FL); believed KIA, known gravely wounded in ambush