A Tribute To Love
Birds Eye Six
The Commander’s Burial
The New Commander
Killing The Guns
The Machine Gunner
Dance of Death
Spectre On Target
The Rear Guard
"We Are A Team"
Crew Chiefs End
The Operations Officer
Tay Ninh Forest
Vietnam, Spring '75
The Domino's Fall
Colonel Le Van Me
Escape From Viet Nam
The New Americans
Journey of Love, Survival, Hope and Glory
The Reeducation Camps
The Land Of Opportunity
MOVE TO Medal of Honor Section and Index to correct entry
Board For Correction of Military Records
FINDING/Granted in Full-PENDING BOARD Recommendation
SUBMISSION (CLICK TO VIEW)
DOCUMENTATION/LETTER TO SENATORIAL LIAISON
BIOGRAPHY ( CLICK )
In the Spring of 1972, the North Vietnamese Army launched a major offensive with fourteen Infantry Divisions and twenty-six separate Regiments supported by long range Russian artillery and 1200 armored vehicles and tanks. The enemy force was 150,000 strong. In the Central Highlands, three Divisions plus separate regiments were in the attack. I was the lone American Advisor to the Vietnamese 11th Paratrooper Battalion. The paratroopers were tasked to block the critical mountain pass to the Kontum Region.
(North Vietnamese Army (NVA)
Central Highlands Commander,
General Dan Vu Hiep
Commanding General 320th (NVA) Division)
We move southwest from Cambodia,
Down the old French Highway.
It has been rebuilt for heavy trucks.
It is camoflaged and not known about.
Cross-over the mountains at Hill 1015.
There is a pass, it will be blocked,
Most likely by a Paratrooper Battalion.
Smash through them, advance to Route 14.
Route 14 will take you to Kontum.
There should be little or no resistence.
They have commited their Reserves
Believing they could hold us in the mountains.
Once Kontum is taken, reorganize.
The next move will be toward the Coast.
Our Forces have already secured the Coast.
A link-up will divide South Viet Nam.
A simple plan, do not fail to execute.
This has taken four years to organize.
You have the previlege of leading our soldiers.
Execute rapidly, that is key to success.
(General Lich And Colonel Peter Kama
Brigade Commander and Senior Advisor)
"The NVA will attempt to break through.
The pass at Hill 1015 is their best choice.
We must place our best Commander there.
This battle will be decisive for Kontum."
"The NVA rebuilt the old French road last year,
It will allow them to reinforce and resupply.
They will attack on this high finger ridge,
It'll leads right into our best defensive zone."
"The 11th Battalion deploys here, Colonel Bao commands.
He is fearless and a very determined leader,
His paratroopers respect his judgement.
He has some of my best officers in the Brigade."
"The Advisor is experienced, on his third tour,
He is big and tough and very combat savvy.
The only problem, he has no back-up.
He told me: "not to worry," he'll handle it."
"O.K. The best battalion for the toughest mission,
This will be a fight to the death for "Firebase Charlie".
What is the Advisor, Major Duffy's call sign?"
"Sir, he is designated "Dusty Cyanide".
"Really! Perhaps a bad omen for the NVA.
NVA term refers to "North Vietnamese Army", the enemy.
Hill 1015 is height in meters of mountain
above pass. During the battle: It is designated "Firebase Charlie".
Kontum was decisive to the defense of the Central Highlands in South Viet Nam.
Advisor Team normal compliment: Two Officers and Two Non-Commissioned Officers.
Call Signs: Designate leaders on the battlefield.
Combat Assault Briefing
It is a four ship Landing Zone.
Recon Platoon will go in first.
Have an Artillery Observer with them,
Just in case we need fire support.
Flight time is fifteen minutes.
Each platoon will require four ships.
Split headquarters personnel amongst them.
Commanders go in on the lead ship.
The LZ is expected to be cold, but be prepared.
The NVA are moving from Cambodia,
Hill 1015 is the best crossing point.
They must get through the mountains.
The insertion should require two hours.
Get in, off load and prepare defenses.
Expect an attack, be prepared.
I will follow Recon, second flight lead.
Are their any questions? If not,
Check your men, check your commo.
Prepare your reverse loading order.
We will do battle, fight like a paratrooper!
The Commander's Order
The NVA have us surrounded.
They hold the mountain tops.
They have positioned their guns
To shoot down the helicopters.
It is here we must do battle.
It is here we must bleed them.
Do not let them take our positions,
This battle is to the end.
Tell the paratroopers to fight bravely.
Tell them to aim all of their bullets,
For we will not have a resupply.
Dig in deep and prepare for combat.
Any trooper not ready to fight,
I want him off the mountain.
I'll not have him die with us.
I'll not have him share in our glory.
A Tribute To Love
(Le Van Me letter to his wife)
This may be my last letter for awhile.
The situation is approaching critical.
The Colonel is doing all that is possible.
The NVA will push forward and we will battle.
I will soon fight in a ferocious battle.
The Commander and the paratroopers are ready.
Perhaps, all will not return from this battle.
That is the fate of soldiers serving their country.
My thoughts will always encompass you.
My heart will always belong to you.
My strength is a tribute to your love.
Our children are testament to our love.
Do not worry when you hear the reports of battle.
I am ready and I know how to survive in combat.
I will come back home to you my precious love.
I will battle the dragons and return to your arms.
Birds Eye Six
(NVA spotter team leader "call sign")
Overlooking the "Charlie" bunkers,
An NVA artillery spotter team observes all.
Their job is to destroy the bunkers
And to kill the Commander's of "Charlie".
"The Commander just went into his bunker.
The Advisor is already in his bunker.
It is time to execute our fire plan.
They will never know what hit them."
"Give me the radio and watch the bunkers."
"Red Fire, this is Birds Eye Six, over.
Birds Eye Six, this is Red Fire, over.
Fire mission, three bunkers on Charlie."
Twenty kilometers away, the gun rolled on tracks
To its firing point outside a mountain tunnel.
"From Charlie One Register, ninety meters south,
Fire one round, I'll adjust from impact.
The one hundred thirty millimeter shell impacted.
"From impact, adjust forty meters east.
Direct hit, fire three rounds for effect.
Bunker destroyed, shift target north sixty meters."
"Gunner, one round - on target, three for effect.
Gunner, next target, shift thirty meters west,
Fire one round - on target, three for effect.
Report: three bunkers destroyed, Six out."
The Commander's Burial
The New Commander
(Colonel Le Van Me)
He lost his friend and Commander.
The Executive Officer takes command.
His burden is great, his duties heavy,
But he is strong, fearless and experienced.
His staff and commanders receive orders:
"We will hold "Charlie", it is critical.
If the NVA break through, Kontum will fall.
There are no Reserves left, only us paratroopers.
"Duffy, can you take out the NVA guns?"
"If I have air support and someone covering me,
I will eliminate every gun that shoots.
That is what I can do. I will not fail you."
"Major Hai, see that Duffy is covered.
Pick the best man we have, no failures."
All agreed that "Charlie" must be held.
This will be a battle to the last man.
Killing The Guns
"Major Duffy is on the perimeter.
He is being targeted by the NVA."
"He's in the open, he'll never last.
He is too big a target, they want him."
"He is changing location every few minutes.
He targets the guns, knocks one out
And then he is running to a new spot.
Everywhere he goes, the enemy targets."
"He has taken out the Spotter Team.
He has taken out four AA guns.
He is going after the 130 artillery."
"Them blowing his bunker up got his attention."
My radio on my back,
I move to the perimeter.
Getting closer to the enemy,
I target their guns first.
The Forward Air Controller
Stacks strike aircraft above.
I go after the anti-aircraft guns
And take out the Spotter Team.
Every few minutes, I change locations.
The enemy knowing, it is me killing them.
I take out the 105 artillery guns,
Then, I go after the 130 guns.
The bombers roll in to release.
Enemy fire is directed to destroy them.
The bombs drop off, killing gunsites.
All afternoon, I work the airstrikes.
Twice, I am blown off my feet,
Enemy fire nearly destroying me.
Ears ringing, I get up and run.
My radio still transmits, I keep killing guns.
Dance Of Death
(Panther 36 - Bill Reeder)
(Panther 13 - Dan Jones)
"Panther Lead, this is Dusty Cyanide."
"Dusty Cyanide, this is Panther Lead."
"I have multiple targets for you,
All fifty-one caliber machine guns."
Panther Lead was given locations,
Advised that the guns were all hot,
And that the gunners were eager.
He flew off into the sun, to set-up.
I watched him come out of the sun.
He was targeting the high gun first.
He flew straight into the gun,
Blazing away with his mini-gun.
From the hill top, the gun opened fire.
The green and red tracers crossing,
Then the Cobra fired his rockets,
The gunner and gun vanished in the explosion.
Four times I watched this performance.
It was a dance of death between gunners.
The North Vietnamese lost this fight,
Four gun crews destroyed, four guns taken out.
"Dusty Cyanide, this is Panther Lead.
Be advised, running low on fuel,
And I'm bingo on ordnance.
Enjoyed the hunt, do call on us again."
Spectre on Target
The enemy guns go silent near dusk.
The setting sun is obscured by haze.
The battlefield is burning and smoking.
All is quiet except for the wounded.
I lay down on some sandbags and sleep.
My radio still buzzes, as I listen for a voice.
From a deep slumber, I am awakened:
"Bravo Company needs help, NVA are attacking."
My head clears, it's a night attack on Bravo.
They are about to be overrun by the NVA.
I contact the Forward Air Controller above:
"Covey, do you have "Spectre" on stand-by?"
"Dusty, this is Covey, that's affirmative,
But, be advised, your position is overcast.
"Spectre" needs to see his target before he fires."
"Covey: I see a hole above, fire into the hole."
The gunship spits out 40 millimeter rounds.
I adjust gunfire on to the attacking NVA.
I order, "Fire all guns for effect, kill them!"
The NVA attack is stopped. "Dusty out."
Note: "Spectre" is a C-123 flying gun platform configured to rapid fire 40mm rounds from a pair of twin mounted barrels firing from the side of the airplane. In this case, it also had flare dispensers to allow for visibility during night hours.
"Covey" and "Spectre" were "on call" and on station since a "Prarie Fire" emergency had been declared, i.e., a friendly force in emminent danger of being overrun.
The Machine Gunner
The Rear Guard
The troopers are out of ammunition.
The NVA will overrun "Charlie".
Only the "Cobra" gunships are stopping them.
We must break-out and escape.
The troopers can disengage
And withdraw before it's too late.
I'll work the gunruns closer
And hold the enemy at bay.
It's our only chance to escape.
No time to waste, give the orders.
The commander orders a withdrawal
And insists on staying with me to the end.
A rear guard of two, Me Le and me,
To stop two battalions in the attack.
This fight will need precision,
Cobra's in the attack and luck.
Me Le, the new Commanding Officer post
Colonel Bao being killed in battle.
Two battalions of NVA (650 per battalion) estimate.
"We Are A Team"
(Cobra pilots: Bill Reeder, Dan Jones,
Forrest Synder, Dennis Trigg, Owen McFarland,
Sam Scott, Robert Gamber, David Messa,
Ron Lewis(WIA), and Captain McDonald)
The paratroopers are pulling back,
Major Hai Doan is leading them.
They are spent, out of ammunition,
Many wounded, all hungry and thirsty.
"I'll cover the withdrawal with air."
The Cobra gunships are flying above us.
I'll use them to disrupt the enemy.
I'll work them close to cover the break-out.
The new Commander, Colonel Le Van Me:
"I'm staying with you, you need cover,
We are a team, we have fought together
And if need be, we will die together."
"Panther Lead, this is Dusty Cyanide.
The enemy is closing on us from our west.
They are advancing in the trenches.
Hit them hard, break up their attack."
The Cobra's swoop down with guns blazing.
"Adjust fire! Drop three meters!"
Blow them away. Work it close.
The Cobra's work with deadly precision.
The explosions are hot and blinding.
The shrapnel shredds the enemy.
Colonel Le Van Me, hit in the chest - staggers.
I am peppered with hot fragments of steel.
The Cobra's stop them, that was close,
"Let's go Colonel, it is time to get away."
Bleeding from wounds, but joyful,
We get up and run away from death.
Note: This poem and "Break-Out"
which follows cover the same
event in the battle with different emphasis.
(B-52 cell, three aircraft)
"Covey Nine Nine, this is Dusty Cyanide, over."
"Dusty Cyanide, this is Covey nine nine, over."
"Covey, Dusty, we are moving off "Charlie".
I have a target request for you, over."
"Dusty, go ahead, pass your request."
"Covey, request Archlight strike on "Charlie".
Target, two battalions of NVA troops in the open.
Request strike be executed as soon as possible."
"Roger Dusty, Covey, stand by one!"
"Dusty, that is an affirmative.
An Archlight is being diverted to "Charlie".
You need five hundred meters distance, over."
"Covey, this is Dusty moving northeast,
Give me fifteen minutes to get distance, over."
"Dusty, Bingo plus twenty minutes till drop.
I'll advise pre release of the bombs,out."
" Dusty, this is Covey, one minute warning."
"Roger Covey, we are in defilade, over."
"Dusty, bombs released, impact ninety seconds,
Hang on to your steel pots and open your mouths!"
"Covey, you rattled us good with that load.
Report: "Charlie" obliterated and smoking.
Casualties, no bomb damage report possible.
Covey, thanks, we are moving northeast, out."
Note: Each B-52 carries 108 five hundred pound bombs.
All 324 bombs are dropped simultaneously for concerted impact effect.
"Incoming. Everyone, get down!"
"That is 105 fire from our own batteries.
Who the hell gave the clearance to fire?
They are killing our own paratroopers."
"Brigade, Dusty Cyanide calling, over."
"Dusty Cyanide, this is Brigade Three."
"Brigade 105 artillery is hitting us.
Do you have a fire mission working?"
"Dusty, that is 113 Company fire mission."
"Brigade, impact is killing my paratroopers.
Check Fire! Check Fire! Immediately!"
"Dusty, Check Fire in place, confirmed."
"Brigade, this is Dusty Cyanide,
I have three KIA and seven WIA.
Who authorized this fire mission?"
"Dusty, 113 Company requested this mission."
"Brigade, did you clear this fire mission?"
"Dusty, affirmative, I'll plot you on my map."
"Brigade, do not authorize fire missions.
Check with me before you approve, over"
"Dusty, Roger that, I will clear all fire missions.
We'll post your progress on the map board.
Is there anything else we can do for you?"
"Aside from blowing your brains out, no."
"Dusty Cyanide out!"
Crew Chiefs End
(Dallas Nihsen, the gunner and Major Hai Doan,
the Operations Officer were taken to the Plieku Medical Station)
The Operations Officer
(Major Hai Doan, WIA)
(Cross of Gallantry w/Palm and
Bronze Star w/Valor device)
It had been the fiercest of battles.
The Battalion Commander had been killed,
Company Commanders lost leading their men,
The Executive Officer and the Advisor wounded.
Two weeks holding the enemy waves back.
Incoming artillery a routine happening.
Surrounded by a North Vietnamese Regiment.
Heavy machine-guns above us on the high ground.
Finally, the break-out into a pitch black jungle.
Friendly fire inadvertently killing paratroopers.
The check-fire and the morning ambush,
Breaking through the "kill zone" to escape.
The Advisor leads us to an opening,
Enought room for a helicopteer pick-up.
He forms a perimeter and redistributes ammo.
On his radio, he calls for an extraction.
The NVA have pursued us to our location.
We engage in battle for more than an hour.
The lift ships arrive and begin the extraction.
Three lifts out, only the command group remains.
We await the last lift ships arrival.
The enemy wants to capture our group.
The enemy shouts our names to surrender.
We answer with gunfire and Cobra attacks.
I'm the last to board except for the Advisor.
He jumps on the strut. I'm hit and falling.
I'm falling to my death, I know I am dead.
Hands grab me and haul me back into the aircraft.
My leg is shattered by an enemy bullet.
It hurts, I hear myself screaming.
I know with so much hurt and pain,
I must be alive, life is still mine.
(CAR-15, Serial # 906557)
The helicopter flew north to Brigade.
It had been a desperate battle.
We had held the enemy back.
We had stopped them for two weeks.
The battalion had fought well.
The new commander Colonel Le Me
Was a determined fearless leader.
I was proud to have been his advisor.
My CAR 15 had been given me
By another fierce warrior.
I had promised to pass it on
To a warrior worthy of the gun.
At the time, this gun had status.
I handed it to Le Van Me and said:
"Only a warrior has rights to this gun."
His eyes teared up just a bit.
He held the gun as a new friend.
"I will honor this gun as a warrior.
I will fight for my beloved country
With courage and the gun of a hero."
Note: Captain James Butler, a decorated "Green Beret" hero presented this gun to Major Duffy.
Footnote: Decorations awarded Colonel Le Van Me
before he escaped Viet Nam with his family.
Colonel Le Van Me is one of his countries most decorated officers:
National Order Of Viet Nam, Knight
Army Distinguished Service Cross
7 Gallantry Crosses with Palm
6 Gallantry Crosses with Gold, Silver or Bronze Star
3 Wound Medals
Bronze Star with Valor Device
Letter Of Hope
Colonel Le Me's letter was delivered
By a Captain from Headquarters staff.
He gave Sen, Le Me's wife, the letter
And he awaited her instructions.
Sen opened and slowly read the letter,
Her young children playing in the garden.
Tears slowly ran down her cheeks.
She thanked the Captain for his courtesy.
Sen read and reread the letter again,
It was her reassurance while waiting.
She heard all the reports of battle:
Fierce fighting reported on "Firebase Charlie".
She trusted and believed her husband.
She so wanted him to come back to her,
To return to their three small children
And to be the father of his family.
The reports from the North Vietnamese
Claimed that they had killed or captured
All of the paratroopers that had fought
On "Firebase Charlie"; Colonel Le Me included.
She held his letter close at night.
Tear drops stained the pages of the letter.
He had promised to return to her.
The letter was her last hope.
She heard his knock on her door.
She gasped and ran to the door:
Her man had returned as he promised.
He laughed at her tears and kissed her.
The Commanders Family
The author was honored with the award of the "Distinguished Service Cross" for actions with the 11th Airborne Battalion, the citation:
In the aftermath of the battle for Firebase "Charlie", an award winning book was written about the battle, "The Red Flames of Summer" by Nam Nhat Phan, and a song was composed by Tran Thanh, "The Ones who stayed at Charlie". This is a weak effort at interpretation of that song (Translation: Le Van Me & John J. Duffy). The bodies of the fallen were left where they fell in battle. This song is still sung by Vietnamese to lament their fallen warriors.
Requiem For Those On Charlie
(KIA, April 2-15, 1972)
You can walk up the mountain to"Charlie".
You are required to take a guide with you.
"Charlie" has become a tourist attraction,
A battle site from a long ago war.
Two hundred meters from "Charlie's" top,
You see the signs that indicate danger.
There are unexploded bombs above you,
Too many to clear in a safe manner.
It is just as well that this is so
As the soldiers from both sides rest above.
Some were hastily buried in shallow graves,
Others, strewed about from the fallen bombs.
These men gave their lives in battle.
Both sides, the South Vietnamese paratroopers
And the North Vietnamese Army soldiers
Fought and died in the battle for "Charlie".
The stories of struggle, combat, heroes and death,
They were told in poetry, books and a famous song.
The song grieves for all who died in the war,
It is sung around the world, tear drops lament the fallen.
Salute the fallen Vietnamese of a war now long past.
Remember a husband, your father, or a brother.
They were men of courage who fought to their death.
Remember the face, whisper the name of a hero.
Heroic Engagement By Vietnamese Paratroopers On The Southern Front In "The Battle For An Loc":
The Red Beret
(Battle of An Loc)
April 20, 1972
The enemy, reinforced during the night.
They were intent on destroying the battalion.
The airborne troops of the 5th Battalion,
Dug in deeper, preparing their defenses.
The green tracers came in from our front.
The mortar rounds impacted among us.
The smoke and haze of the battle intensified.
Our red tracers cut into the attack formation.
The battalion was engaged in a death struggle.
No matter how many NVA we managed to kill,
More came out of the rubber trees of An Loc.
We were about to be overrun by the NVA.
The orders were given during a lull in the battle:
"51st Company, hold the line - all others disengage!"
The 51st Commander repositioned his paratroopers.
He now had to hold the enemy as long as possible.
The paratroopers all knew this was their last assignment.
First, the Commander removed his combat helmet.
He replaced it on his head with his red beret.
The rest of the paratroopers followed his example.
The NVA came out of the rubber trees firing.
They crossed the defensive road and we killed them.
New attacking NVA fomations followed behind them,
Until, it was kill or die in the trenches of An Loc.
Only the smoke, dust and noise of battle were heard.
51st Company no longer existed, they were dead.
This fight allowed their fellow paratroopers to escape.
They died fighting, wearing their "red beret".
Stopping The Enemy On The Northern Front (The Battle For Quang Tri):
(Task Force Le Van Me)
June 22, 1972
(South side of My Chanh River)
The battalion was part of a holding force.
The command was bringing in reinforcements
Before attacking across the My Chanh River
And driving north to push the NVA from Quang Tri.
Twelve tanks and six armored track vehicles,
Plus two more companies of paratroopers were attached.
I now commanded a powerful spearhead unit.
I was tasked to defend Hue and hold the NVA at the river.
My patrols reported enemy tank movement at the river.
The NVA had a crossing point and crossed at night.
The first probing attack came in the morning.
It was only three tanks, we destroyed them.
I repositioned my armor, awaiting their next attack.
It came at dawn, two dozen tanks with infantry.
I first called in artillery fire on the approaching tanks.
Next, it was attack aircraft that targeted them.
Most still rolled forward, at three hundred meters,
I gave the order: "Fire!", my tanks blasted them.
My anti-tank guns fired, my machine guns opened up.
All killed the enemy; blasting, gunning and shooting.
When the dust cleared, only burning NVA tanks remained.
The battalion had killed twenty four tanks.
A battalion of NVA infantry slaughtered by our gunners.
The remnants of the enemy retreating back across the river.
We had lost two tanks plus a dozen killed.
Another twenty had been wounded, few seriously.
I placed artillery fire on the retreating NVA force.
That would be the last time they tried to cross the river.
The Bridge No One Crossed
(My Chanh River, 19 kilometers South of Quang Tri)
(LTC Peter Kama, Senior Advisor)
I was the Senior Advisor
To a Vietnamese Airborne Brigade.
We were advancing to recapture Quang Tri
From the North Vietnamese Army.
The "Easter Offensive of 1972"
Proved to be the fiercest battles of the war:
Three separate fronts, 150,000 enemy in the attack.
South Viet Nam was fighting for its survival.
Two major battles in the south had been won.
Now, we needed to recapture Quang Tri.
The NVA had attacked south along the coast.
They had come very close to capturing Hue.
I had fought in the "Kontum Battle".
Now, we must defeat their main thrust.
We were moving north toward Quang Tri.
We were tasked to destroy the NVA.
We crossed a river and we saw death.
The bridge had been destroyed by the NVA.
Refugees fleeing war were stopped at the river,
The NVA systematically killed them with gunfire.
The killing had been done several days before.
The vehicles were burnt out, the bodies mummified.
A macabre view of war, death and destruction.
Even tough soldiers can cry at horror and brutality.
Stunned, I wandered through the death scene.
I picked up a little shoe with a foot in it,
I could not find the rest of the child's body.
Everything had been destroyed and by-passed.
A line of destroyed vehicles five kilometers long,
Twenty five thousand dead; innocents fleeing war.
Only the vultures and rats visited here.
"What the hell is this war about?" I voiced.
No one answered, the dead do not talk.
Inhumanity does not respond, no press coverage.
The voices were silenced, bodies decaying in the sun.
I wept for a child, a parent, a grandmother.
I wept for mankind.
The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death
(Colonel Pete Kama)
The enemy had mounted an attack:
Fourteen Divisions on three fronts.
My job was to stop the northern thrust,
Four Divisions strong, moving straight toward us.
I was with an elite Airborne Brigade.
I advised and coordinated firepower.
The Brigade Commander relied on me.
It was my job to bring in the ordnance.
The enemies vanguard was moving south,
Two regiments, reinforced with tanks.
They were in a valley two miles from us,
Preparing their units for the assault.
I needed to engage this enemy force
Before they could close in and crush us.
We could not persevere against armor.
I needed bombers to destroy them.
I contacted the General on my radio:
"I need flights of B-52 bombers,
I need all you can get, right now."
Two flights, six aircraft were diverted.
In two hours, they would arrive.
I had a table set up with white cloth.
I took out two bottles of cognac and glasses,
I had saved them for a special occasion.
Before noon, on the forth of July, 1972,
Just south of the Demilitarized Zone
I invited the airborne command and staff,
To join me in a celebration toast.
On schedule at noon, the bombers arrived.
They released their loads of destruction,
Six hundred bombs of whistling death.
Where the enemy was, fire and smoke arose.
I lifted my glass of cognac and toasted:
"Happy 4th of July. Happy Independence Day."
My Vietnamese Commander offered his toast:
"To victory, freedom and independence."
Note: With Colonel Le Van Me's Task Force stopping the NVA tanks (27) at the My Chanh River and General Lich's (Senior Advisor, LTC Peter Kama) destroying 119 NVA tanks, the enemy push in the North was halted.
The recapture of Quang Tri City, 19 kilometers north of the river, was anti-climatic.
The mop-up campaign north to Quang Tri City was a pursuit in force by the Marines/Paratrooper units. It took time, but the NVA without armor could only fight a delaying action.
The North Vietnamese soldiers would tattoo on their arms: "Born in the North to die in the South" and so ended this final battle.
Tay Ninh Forest
The End Of The Viet Nam War:
Vietman, Spring of '75
Escape From Viet Nam:
Colonel Le Van Me
Escape From Viet Nam
The New Americans
Journey of Love, Survival, Hope and Glory
(Nguyen Thi Sen and Le Van Me)
March 17, 2018
I received a birthday card today.
It was from Me Le and his wife Sen.
I'm turning eighty and I've known
The both of them for more than half my life.
They have been married for fifty years.
My birthday is just before their anniversary.
They were young then and in love,
A beautiful accomplished woman and an officer.
He was a young lieutenant soon to be a paratrooper.
Viet Nam, his country was fighting a war.
Their future was precarious and uncertain,
But love wins over war and lovers are foolish.
Married life was all of excitement, passion and fear.
Yes, A paratrooper officer fought in the vanguard.
To wear a red beret invoked courage and fearlessness,
And Sen, the woman of his heart was his strength.
She knew the war was just and the goal was peace.
Her first child Vu arrived, he brought great joy.
He was followed by Quyen, a beautiful smiling baby.
Phuong joined the family, a perky baby with great strength.
Me Le went to war and became a commander.
The battles were fought and his courage prevailed.
He would return to Sen and she would heal him.
His pride and joy were his children and Sen.
He would tell me when we were in battle together:
"My wife Sen is a flower in paradise, with passion.
She loves everything and her love is like a rock.
She never falters, she never complains, she is always there."
Me Le became a hero in Viet Nam, his legend is known:
He was the Commander the enemy could not break.
But the war failed, the North Vietnamese prevailed
And only one choice was left: flee and survive.
They escaped on a derelict boat commandeered at gunpoint.
The nights were cold the days with little food.
On the seventh day, with hope furlough,
They were rescued by a ship with rope netting to climb.
Me Le carried his daughters on his shoulders up the netting.
The boy Vu was strong enough to attempt the journey alone,
One slip and he would be crushed between the boats.
Sen, seven months with child, climbed one foot at a time fearfully.
In the Philippines: "I'm ready to go anywhere.
It is time for the family to begin a new life."
They arrived in America, the land of cowboys.
A new baby born, they named him Ozark, after the mountains.
A church sponsored them and they went to Missouri.
Whatever work was needed, Me Le did without complaint,
But, he also attended night school to learn new skills.
In a year, they began their journey to California, the land of dreams.
They needed a house, Me Le signed his name, pay later.
"We'll earn our bread, study and educate our children."
Sen and Me Le worked, oftentimes at two jobs
And Me Le with a degree, became an engineer, earning more.
All the children completed college, Vu became an engineer.
Quyen, a Berkeley graduate, went on to law school.
Phuong, the spunky daughter, became a journalist,
And Ozark, the American born, is an educator.
Four grandchildren, all American to the core,
Struggle with the little Vietnamese they've learned.
The family laughs and celebrates all that they have done.
I celebrate their triumphs, their love, their great friendship.
Thirteen Years Of Torture/Retribution:
The Reeducation Camps
(Post Viet Nam War, 1975 - 1990)
With defeat, my world vanished.
I was no longer a being in self.
I was an enemy of the new State.
I was to be reindoctrinated to obey.
I reported as ordered to the police.
I was to be reeducated into society.
The education camp was in the jungle
Where I was transported without trial.
I must have been stupid or stubborn
For I refused to bow to the communists.
I refused to worship Chairman Ho Chi Minh.
I refused my education on socialism.
After a year of stubborn refusal,
My captors determined I needed reform.
I was placed in wooden stocks.
I was isolated underground to rehabilitate.
For nine years I was allowed to reform,
Nine years alone in my wooden stocks,
Nine years kept alive while underground,
I never changed my views, I never bent.
Three more years of reeducation in the camp,
I worked as ordered by my captors.
In time, I must have seemed reformed.
One day, after thirteen years, I was released.
Thereafter, I escaped their jurisdiction.
I escaped their indoctrination of fear.
I escaped to a life of being a free man.
I escaped Viet Nam, communists and subjugation.
I walk in freedom. I earn my bread.
I believe in hope and aspiration.
I relish each day of my freedom,
I'm free from repression, torture and communism.
My name is Nam Nhat Phan
Note: Nam is a celebrated author, lecturer and talk show host. His heroic resistance while in captivity is acknowledged by all.
The Land Of Opportunity
Our families escaped terror:
The terror of defeat in war,
The terror of torture and prison,
The terror of retribution forever.
The culture of America is ours.
The culture of Viet Nam is heritage.
We are a blend of past and future.
We are hungry for the opportunity.
We owe our parents our freedom.
They made the dangerous crossing.
We owe them obligations to do our best.
We need to study, work and achieve.
Only in America can we sing:"Freedom!":
Freedom to be part of the American culture,
Freedom to be part of the American dream,
Freedom to be in "The land of opportunity".
The Love Of An Artist
(Nguyen Cao Nguyen)
The woman is a mosaic of shells.
She is beautiful beyond compare,
Dressed in a Mandarin costume of old,
Painted by Nguyen Cao Nguyen.
The model is his lovely young wife.
Love shows in the work of the artist.
Nothing makes a masterpiece as viewed,
As full of beauty as a lover in love.
Soon the war would separate them.
Children replaced the man at home.
The love would encompass a family.
This egg shell mosaic would be forever.
Jesus in Asia
(Nguyen Cao Nguyen)
Behold, Jesus is hanging on a cross.
Below him are the faithful grieving,
Christians depicted as Orientals
With slanted eyes and Asian beauty.
The artist tells the story of faith.
He believes in the Catholic religion,
In a land where Buddism is norm.
His faith is powerful as seen on canvas.
The strenght and beauty that he creates
Represents the love his faith holds forth.
Nguyen Cao Nguyen is a believer.
This painting expresses his passion for God.
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The War Years
(Major Nguyen Cao Nguyen)
The temples are burning
In a land of milk and honey.
The women are beautiful
In a land without men.
The war years painted by an artist:
Nguyen Cao Nguyen is brilliant.
His strokes of paint tell a story,
A story of women and war.
This is a very large painting
Splashed with the beauty of the tropics
And the flames of a landscape afire.
All wars are terrible, we should remember.