A value staple of military units for generations, the phrase “No man left behind” became,
for the first time, a real possibility during the Korean War (June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953) and a battle cry during the Vietnam War (November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975). Until recently, the legacy goal of “No man left behind” drove the U.S. Military, the CIA, and the State Department. A utopian objective, as it is impossible to fully realize, it was and should remain an important core value to those on the battlefield and those who support the people who fight for us. It is a legacy worth having and it comes with great stories of daring to beat the odds.
The Korean War Legacy-That Others May Live
Forrest L. Marion’s monograph, That Others May Live: USAF Air Rescue in Korea, pinpoints the exact time when it became feasible to rescue large numbers of soldiers, wounded soldiers, and civilians from bloody chaos of an active battle. “When the Korean War began in June 1950, the United States Air Force’s Air Rescue Service was a fledgling organization possessing a variety of aircraft types, most having seen service during World War II. The concept of using helicopters and amphibious fixed-wing aircraft to rescue airmen downed behind enemy lines or in hostile waters had gained little consideration by the Air Force and was largely unproven. But by the fall of 1950, the 3d Air Rescue Squadron had begun to write a new chapter in the history of air power, and by July 1953, when the armistice was signed in Korea, air rescue had become established as an integral part of U.S. fighting forces. Although the H-5 and H-19 helicopters and SA-16 amphibians gained attention worldwide by virtue of countless daring rescues performed throughout the war, lesser known aircraft such as the L-5, SC-47, SB-17, and SB-29 also played important roles in building the U.S. Air Force’s overall air rescue capability in the Korean War theater.”
The Vietnam War Legacy
The Vietnam War transcended all other wars in horror and hero news coverage, and forever changed the soldiers who fought and lived to see another day. Those whose lives spanned that war remember the tales and the pictures of the Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant rescuing downed airmen and others. Smaller helicopters with cover fire from above landed during live fire to load and transport the wounded and dying from the front lines of that war to field hospitals almost non-stop. Lives, by the thousands, were saved thanks to helicopters and their pilots. In Vietnam, soldiers were given hope, with some basis in reality, that they would not be left behind to suffer the brutal or psychotic vagaries of the enemy.
From Ashcan 01 comes a terrific tale of one such rescue complete with the lessons learned and incorporated into future rescues, The Craziest SAR I’ve Ever Seen:
“On the morning of 10 December 1971, Ashcan 01, an F-105G out of Korat RTAFB, was downed by a SAM in the Mu Gia Pass. The pilot, Major Robert E. Belli, had received launch indications and had started evasive action when his aircraft was hit. The aircraft went immediately out of control and Major Belli called for the backseater to get out while he (Major Belli) went for his ejection handles. Major Belli recalled that the negative “G” forces made it almost impossible to reach the handles, but “I do remember finally grabbing them.” And that’s all I do remember until I woke up on the ground.
Major Belli’s impact with the trees was so great that his parachute was torn in half and he was completely separated from the shroud lines. When he awoke, approximately 15 minutes after his ejection, he discovered that he had a badly broken arm and a dislocated knee. The injuries immobilized him and, in his own words, “I knew that I was going to stay right there until either they rescued me or something else happened.”…” Continue Reading
At Khe Sanh January and April 1968 however, no rescue came and the surviving soldiers who fought there talk about the tearing of their souls remembering their abandoned brothers. No man left behind, burned in their brains as winning the battle drove their bodies beyond reasonable expectations. The History Channel provides a blow-by-blow of the 77-day battle complete with the memories of the men who fought it.
“…General William Westmoreland, commander of the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (MACV), believed that Vietnamese Communist forces had targeted Khe Sanh as part of a general effort to seize South Vietnam’s northernmost regions and put themselves in a stronger position prior to any future peace negotiations. (They had done this successfully against French colonial troops at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, prior to obtaining independence at the Geneva peace conference.) As part of a program codenamed Operation Scotland, Westmoreland reinforced the Marine garrison at Khe Sanh (bringing the total number of troops to around 6,000), stockpiled ammunition and refurbished the airstrip at the base, all in preparation for a possible attack…”
The North Vietnamese blew up the ammo stockpiles, and re-supply came slowly and
inaccurately. The anticipated enormous North Vietnamese attack failed to materialize. Reinforcements finally showed up 77 days later. About 500 Marines died and many wounded were left in the fields. General Westmorland lost his job and his replacement, General Creighton W. Abrams closed Khe Sanh and that chapter in the Vietnam War.
Iranian Revolution-The Canadian Six
On November 4, 1979, President Jimmy Carter suffered through the seizure of the U.S.
Embassy in Tehran, Iran, and the imprisonment of 66 U.S. citizens who worked there. The citizens were abused and assaulted physically and psychologically. Six workers escaped that fateful day and a Canadian diplomat hid them. An angry and righteously indignant President Carter directed the State Department to get those six home by whatever means necessary. The State Department took the ‘whatever means necessary direction to heart and challenged the CIA to bring them home.
“…The team set up a dummy company, “Studio Six Productions,” with offices on the old Columbia Studio lot formerly occupied by Michael Douglas, who had just completed producing The China Syndrome. This upstart company titled its new production “Argo” after the ship that Jason and the Argonauts sailed in rescuing the Golden Fleece from the many-headed dragon holding it captive in the sacred garden—much like the situation in Iran. The script had a Middle Eastern sci-fi theme that glorified Islam. The story line was intentionally complicated and difficult to decipher. Ads proclaimed Argo to be a “cosmic conflagration” written by Teresa Harris (the alias selected for one of the six awaiting exfiltration).
President Jimmy Carter approved the rescue operation. The CIA team prepared for the newly christened “movie-production crew” forged documentation and disguise packages to be shipped via diplomatic pouch to the Canadian Embassy in Tehran. CIA specialists—under the guise of a Studio Six Productions team scouting for a suitable filming location in Tehran—traveled to Iran to complete necessary travel documents and make final arrangements with the six Americans and their Canadian hosts….”
The six lucky escapees made it home, Canada got the credit it richly deserved and the story fell into the archives. It took many more months of pain and suffering before the Embassy hostages were rescued, but no man (or woman), was left behind.
Kosovo War-Post Cold War and The Legacy Continues
On March 29, 1999, The New York Times published Eric Schmitt’s article on the
downing of an F-117A stealth fighter. Schmitt reported that:
“…Within minutes, a nighttime recovery mission was under way, tapping the talents of an elite special operations team that stands poised to pluck downed and injured pilots from stormy seas or from behind enemy lines.
Nearly 5,000 miles away in Washington, the national security adviser, Samuel R. Berger, broke the news to President Clinton at the White House. “Keep me informed,” Clinton responded grimly, according to a White House aide.
For the next seven hours, Berger, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Gen. Henry H. Shelton, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, waited anxiously and fielded dozens of phone calls from Gen. Wesley K. Clark, NATO’s military commander in Brussels, updating them on the situation….”
It took several days of hardship, about 150 troops and six helicopters, but they rescued the pilot, Lt. Col. Dale Zelko, safely. This was the second time President Clinton pulled out all the stops to rescue a pilot during this conflict. The first time it happened was when Captain O’Grady’s F-16C was shot down over Bosnia in 1995.
The legacy of no man left behind continued through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but fell during the Arab Spring.
The Arab Spring-The Legacy is Forgotten
No man left behind is a terrific legacy of the Cold War that carried forward from administration to administration. Somehow, about the time of the Benghazi massacre on September 11, 2012, the legacy was dropped by the State Department and, therefore by definition, the administration. Four Americans died in a horrific fashion and they were abandoned by the woman who would be president: U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens; information management officer Sean Smith; and two security officers who were former Navy SEALs, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
Mrs. Clinton, to her credit, accepted full responsibility for the security failures. She has not, however, accepted responsibility for the failure to send in the cavalry to rescue the four Americans who fought for hours waiting and believing in the country they served. Judicial Watch recently received a copy of an email, where the phones at the State Department remained unanswered.
“From: Bash, Jeremy CIV SD [REDACTED]
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 7:19 PM
To: Sullivan, Jacob J; Sherman, Wendy R; Nides, Thomas R
Cc: Miller, James HON OSD POLICY; Wienefeld, James A ADM JSC VCJCS; Kelly, John LtGen SD; martin, dempsey [REDACTED]
I just tried you on the phone but you were all in with S [apparent reference to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton].
After consulting with General Dempsey, General Ham and the Joint Staff, we have identified the forces that could move to Benghazi. They are spinning up as we speak. They include a [REDACTED].
Assuming Principals agree to deploy these elements, we will ask State to procure the approval from host nation. Please advise how you wish to convey that approval to us [REDACTED].
Judicial Watch may have just published this email, but certainly the House Select Committee on Benghazi had to know about it and yet they did nothing, including asking the right questions. According to the Washington Examiner’s Sarah Westwood on December 8, 2015, “…A spokesman for the House Select Committee on Benghazi said investigators had received the unredacted version of the email, which was obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act and made public Tuesday, last year but had declined to make it public….”
Hillary Clinton’s latest testimony before the House Select Committee illuminated her effort to muddy the water with the great video illusion and President Obama went to bed that September 11th night dreaming of dollars from donors in Las Vegas. It’s become clear that the Pentagon chose to lie and the House Select Committee, led by Republicans, lacks integrity.
Hillary Clinton would be President. The rest of the bunch—the Pentagon, the President of the United States, and the House Select Committee— appear to desire moral capital in the face of obvious lack of integrity. Four people died horrific, grotesque deaths for their country that fateful September 11, 2012 day and maybe, just maybe they did not have to.
Warning: The following pictures are graphic. They are intended to be a reminder that wars are hell and dishonorable people kill others and walk away to play another day. Think about that as you consider your vote for any candidate for President of the United States, Senator, Representative, Governor, Mayor, or Sheriff.
The Victims Before and After: