Monday, February 11, 2013

VIET NAM WALL statistics

Here are some very interesting stats I got from a friend in an email today.

Interesting Veterans Statistics off the Vietnam Memorial Wall

There are 58,267 names now listed on that polished black wall, including those added in 2010.The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized. It is hard to believe it is 36 years since the last casualties.

The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth , Mass. Listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed on June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.

There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.

39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.8,283 were just 19 years old.
The largest age group, 33,103 were 18 years old.
12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.
5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.
One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.
997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam ..
1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam ..
31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.
Thirty one sets of parents lost two of their sons.

54 soldiers attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia . I wonder why so many from one school.
8 Women are on the Wall. Nursing the wounded.
244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on the Wall.
Beallsville, Ohio with a population of 475 lost 6 of her sons.
West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.
The Marines of Morenci - They led some of the scrappiest high school football and basketball teams that the little Arizona copper town of Morenci (pop. 5,058) had ever known and cheered. They enjoyed roaring beer busts. In quieter moments, they rode horses along the Coronado Trail, stalked deer in the Apache National Forest. And in the patriotic camaraderie typical of Morenci's mining families, the nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps. Their service began on Independence Day, 1966. Only 3 returned home.

The Buddies of Midvale - LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez, Tom Gonzales were all boyhood friends and lived on three consecutive streets in Midvale, Utah on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues. They lived only a few yards apart. They played ball at the adjacent sandlot ball field. And they all went to Vietnam. In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967, all three would be killed. LeRoy was killed on Wednesday, Nov. 22, the fourth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Jimmy died less than 24 hours later on Thanksgiving Day. Tom was shot dead assaulting the enemy on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

The most casualty deaths for a single day was on January 31, 1968 ~ 245 deaths.
The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968 - 2,415 casualties were incurred.

For most Americans who read this they will only see the numbers that the Vietnam War created.
To those of us who survived the war, and to the families of those who did not, we see the faces, we feel the pain that these numbers created. We are, until we too pass away, haunted with these numbers, because they were our friends, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters.

There are no noble wars, just noble warriors.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

a perilous medevac...Fall 1966

A true story about a night medevac in Viet Nam, Fall 1966.

 “…there is just something about the H-34 that just makes you feel an allegiance to it. Kind of like an old sweetheart you never got over.” Fred Williams, USMC, former H-34 crew chief.

          To the troops in the field, helicopters were everything. They were the source of food, water, ammunition, new uniforms to replace those rotted off by the jungle, medicine, reinforcements, mail and cookies from home, and, eventually, an escape from the dangerous combat environment in the jungles of Viet Nam. Most importantly, the troops always knew that when they were wounded, the H-34 pilots would risk death to carry them out as soon as possible whenever they needed a medical evacuation. It is no wonder the troops loved to see us coming. From the pilot’s point of view, we were there for the troops.
          Sometimes it got a bit hairy.
          One night, late September 1966, I was co-pilot for a senior first lieutenant on a perilous medevac in the hills northwest of Dong Ha known as “Mutter Ridge.” As we hovered ninety feet above the trees in darkness, the only horizontal reference we had to relate to for hovering purposes was the geometric plane defined by tracers, red for the marines, green for the enemy, whizzing back and forth beneath us. But that plane of reference was about 30 degrees off from level. This made it most difficult for the lieutenant to hold the helo in a stable hover. If we drifted too far in a northerly direction, we might drift into trees on the upslope.  The enemy held that high ground. Occasionally a tracer would rise vertically, passing uncomfortably close to the helo. Each tracer represented four or five bullets.
          Losing the fight to keep the helo in a stable hover, the lieutenant realized the solution.  He asked me:  “Bill, do you know where the hover/flood light switch is?” My first thought was that there was simply no way he was going to ask me to turn on those lights. To do so was for us to die instantly. I answered him with a relaxed, “Yes, sir” wondering why he even asked. A millisecond later that I realized, omygod, he is going to have me throw that switch!  When those lights flash on, we are going to be the biggest target in the province, hovering over who-knows-how-many hundreds or thousands of NVA. This is it. I am going to die in this war, right here, right now!  I only hoped that I would get shot and die quickly and not be cremated alive as the thrashing, crashing, flopping, chopping, slicing, dicing, whirling ball of flaming, exploding, helicopter tumbled through the trees.
           “Bill, when I tell you, you turn on those lights.”  I knew I was done, but what could I do?  Refuse an order?  “Death before dishonor,” was our creed. I was a Marine Corps pilot, duty bound to do what my pilot in command told me to do, even if it meant my immediate fiery death.
          I threw that switch.
          The results were amazing!  Every combatant on the ground, enemy and friendly alike must have thought he, himself, was the most exposed fellow on the planet. Each man must have thrown himself into the nearest foxhole or behind the nearest tree. The battle came to a complete stop for at least 30 seconds while we hovered there fully lighted up like Friday night high school football game! It seemed like forever.
          Nothing happened. Nothing!
          We hoisted the wounded marine aboard, turned off our lights and flew him to the hospital.

          Captain Bill Collier not only survived the Vietnam War, but continued to fly helicopters commercially for another 29 years. His last flying gig was senior pilot for the Orange County Fire Department in Southern California. In 2008 he retired to Sandpoint, ID. He recently had opportunity to rescue on ancient H-34 from the scrapyard, and blogs about it at: