There is nothing more destructive, nothing
more wasteful, nothing that causes more human suffering than modern
warfare. Even the greatest natural disasters pale in comparison to the
devastation caused by human conflict. Man spends generations building
great civilizations, and then tears them to pieces. My dragon is only one
of millions that wait for a chance to take control.
I understand where mine came from, and why
I released him. I have learned that the only way to control the dragon is
to control the situation.
I will always have a breaking point. There
will always be a situation that will push me over the edge. I must use
whatever is necessary to make my environment a place where the dragon
doesn’t fit. If enough of us don’t make the effort, and recognize the
potential for destruction; then even the most natural chain of events can
lead to disaster.
It’s natural for groups to form, made up
of those with common interests. These groups can grow into powerful
organizations with significant influence. Influential organizations with
similar goals form coalitions with even more power. Eventually mighty
nations are born. When mighty nations find themselves at odds with one
another, then the stage is set for destruction.
There was a time in the late 1930’s when
World War II became inevitable. After John Kennedy was killed there was no
way to stop the Vietnam War from running its full course. There have been
times throughout recorded history when mankind reached a point when war
couldn’t be stopped. The trick is to avoid that point, but mankind still
isn’t able to do it.
Man is not ready to trust his fellow man;
and, with good reason. In the past one hundred years alone the world has
seen monsters coming to power, men like Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler,
Benito Mussolini, Maummar Gaddafi, Sadam Hussein, and Osama Ben Laden.
Once men like these took control, and began to promote their objectives,
there was no choice but to counter their actions with massive military
It therefor falls to each man and woman to
watch their leadership carefully. Pay attention to the policies that your
government enacts. Ask yourself if all those under its influence are being
treated fairly. Ask yourself if the wealth is being distributed evenly.
Find out if neighboring nations are being treated with respect. Check your
home as well as your federal government, your work place as well as your
state legislature, your neighborhood as well as your city hall. If things
don’t feel right then they’re probably not.
Keep in mind that there is always a way to
make the situation better and less volatile. Most of the time it won’t be
possible to solve problems immediately. They’re too complex. It takes
time, courage, perseverance, and sacrifice. Understand that the costs will
be high. Powerful organizations don’t like opposition, and they don’t play
Above all be honest with yourself. Don’t
let your own selfish motives make you part of the problem rather than an
aid to a solution. Ask the same questions of yourself as you ask of those
Do I treat my fellow man fairly?
Do I take advantage of those who are
vulnerable in order to enhance my own position without regard for their
Do I help when I can without the promise
of future benefits?
My earlier list of monsters didn’t include
any Americans. Throughout our relatively short history we’ve had our
share. Every minority and native American group, including immigrants of
all races and nationalities, have suffered because of them. Their
influence has been generally limited, but has briefly found its way to the
national level. If, for example, you believe that a single maniac with a
cheap rifle killed John Kennedy, then you’re not being honest with
yourself. Why was the full content of the report from the Warren
Commission kept under wraps for so long? Why was the investigation handled
so poorly? How was it possible for the man with the most first hand
information to be killed while he was surrounded by police officers? These
are the types of questions that a truly civilized nation cannot allow to
This isn’t about the Kennedy
assassination. I only use it as an example of what can happen in a country
that we assume is moral and civilized. We, naturally, want to believe the
best about ourselves and those who we allow to lead us. But, each one of
us is only human with all of the weaknesses and shortcomings that stand in
the way of life as it should be lived.
These human flaws can cause leaders to
make bad decisions. If bad decisions lead to poor leadership, then there
must be checks and balances to either change leaderships’ course, or
change the leadership. We have such checks and balances in this country,
and they work well when used properly. But, they can’t work unless enough
of the population is involved. A very wise man once said “You can fool all
of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time. But
you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
Unfortunately, people allow themselves to
be led when they see what they want to see. Hitler led Germany into ruin
because the Germans wanted to be fooled.
Once war begins it will always run its
course. Neither side will back down until there is no choice. In the mean
time thousands suffer.
We find ourselves on this road to
destruction for various reasons. Dangerous men gain control and must be
stopped, nations with limited resources attack their neighbors and take
what they need, those with strong ideals or convictions attack those who
have different views, to mention just a few. However, only when people's
survival is threatened can they justify making war on their fellow man.
Once war begins there is only one way to
fight it, with complete commitment to destroying the enemy. As terrible as
it is, it's the only thing that can shorten the horror. It's also what
makes nations avoid conflict in the first place. This country failed in
Vietnam because it lacked resolve. It sent its young men and women to
suffer and die without being committed to swift and complete victory.
Thousands died on both sides because we tried to fight a limited war when
there is no such thing. The immediate task in any war is to kill as many
of the enemy as quickly as possible, thereby preventing your allies and
comrades from being killed. The long-term task is to damage the enemy's
resources and infrastructure so that he can no longer wage war.
We had the ability to crush the V.C. and
North Vietnamese and didn't use it. We controlled the air, the sea, and
whatever piece of land we decided to take. They threw everything that they
had at us in 1968, and failed militarily, not being able to hold or
control anything long-term. Here's my personal account of how we limited
My first assignment was to take a search
light section to an outpost between DaNang and the Laotian boarder. It was
located on a hilltop overlooking a river valley and village. It was an
excellent place to control the entire area below. There was an adjoining
valley that ran from the river toward the border. The river ran to the
coast, and emptied into the sea just outside DaNang.
The valley that connected the river with
the area adjoining Laos was called Antenna Valley because of the number of
marine radio operators that had been killed or wounded there. It was
classified as an N.V.A. regimental assembly area although I doubt that
there was ever a full regiment there. None-the-less, it was a natural
highway from Laos to a number of areas in South Vietnam. I'm certain that
the N.V.A. used it extensively. Lt. Mike Litwin, a platoon leader involved
in an operation through nearly the full length of the valley said that he
and his unit found a huge rice cash there, enough to feed a regiment. That
amount of food was of great value, and would only be left in an area where
there would be large troop concentrations.
Minh Hoa village just down river from our
position was called "V.C. Ville." because of the regular Viet Cong
activity there. The Marines had occupied it countless times only to have
the N.V.A. and V.C. move back in as soon as they left. We'd have saved
lives on both sides by moving the civilians out and leveling it.
The tactical importance of hill 300, my
first outpost, was tremendous. It was at the crossroads of the natural
highways that lead from the north. It overlooked an integral part of the
supply lines that fed the N.V.A. and V.C.. We had a chance to choke it
off, or even cut it entirely, and didn't.
We were set up to hit Antenna Valley, any
point on or along the river, or the village with artillery or air strikes
any time we needed. The whole area was within range of the artillery base
at An Hoe that had 105, 155, and 8" howitzers. In addition, we had 4.2"
mortars and a 106 recoilless riffle on top of the hill. Our firepower
potential was tremendous.
Furthermore, we had artillery experts in
the unit. I was one of them. Before being transferred to a searchlight
section in the 29th artillery, I taught classes on all aspects
of fire direction at the army's artillery school at Ft. Sill Oklahoma for
a full year. In addition to teaching I participated in live firing
exercises twice each month. I knew how to precisely hit targets, and could
have done so at any time during our stay on the hill. This was our
advantage, tremendous firepower, and the ability to use it effectively.
"Charlie" (the North Vietnamese and Viet
Cong) countered this advantage by operating at night. That was his time to
rule. Our answer could have been and should have been strategies and
technologies designed for night fighting like the searchlights. They were
not only powerful enough to light up any part of the valley, but also had
infrared capabilities. That meant that in most cases, we could see them,
but they couldn't see us. We had snipers equipped with Starlight rifles
scopes designed to pick up targets on the darkest of nights.
The only thing missing was practice. We
should have conducted massive nighttime operations. Only then could we
fine tune the skills, and develop the coordination necessary to take
control of the nighttime. Instead, we only took defensive action at night.
We never used the unit's offensive capabilities because we weren't allowed
to try. So, during the day, we kicked Charlie's ass, and at night, he
kicked ours. The stalemate went on year after bloody year.
The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were “a
one trick pony”, only capable of a single style of fighting. Their success
depended on being able to move troops and equipment without being seen. We
allowed them to bring the fight to us after dark. They picked the times,
the places, and the circumstances, which put us at a tremendous
We were badly outnumbered the night we
were overrun, and taken completely by surprise. We never should have
allowed that to happen. We had the capability to stop it, but didn’t. I
blame the losses on leadership’s mistakes, and include myself because I
was in charge of the searchlight section.
We should have taken an aggressive
approach to our defense on Nong Son. In fact, we shouldn’t have considered
it a defensive position in the first place. It should have been a base for
offensive action. If we’d have been active around the hilltop that night
we wouldn’t have been surprised. We could have brought our firepower to
bear early enough to keep them off of us.
I won't argue whether or not we should
have been in Vietnam in the first place. That argument will never be
settled. My point is this, once committed to war, there is no choice but
to make the commitment total. It's a very messy business. It's about
killing, and there's no way to make it anything but brutal. It's not about
pins in a map or numbers on sheets of paper. It's about blowing a hole in
someone large enough so that the bleeding can't be stopped and that person
dies. If that sickens you, then maybe you understand war a little better.
If not I’ll explain it further. Civilians
are crippled and killed, including children. The best of a nation’s youth
die before their lives truly start. They will never know the joy of
watching their own children grow up, or have the pleasure of reading a
story to their grandchildren. Resources that could be spent on medicine
and education are used to produce tools that maim and destroy. Mothers and
fathers receive word that the sons and daughters who have been such a
great part of their lives won’t be coming home, and they will never see
The decision to make war is the gravest
and most difficult that any leader must make. Religious beliefs, political
ideologies, or the desire for wealth or power can’t justify it. It must be
a last resort, only appropriate when the lives and well being of a
nation’s citizens are threatened.
Continued next week