HUMINT: A Continuing Crisis?

Author: W. R. Baker

Before Vietnam completely fades from memory and its lessons learned gather even

Vietnam

more dust, it might be worth exploring a few issues that will likely resurface again.

During the latter months of the Vietnam War (1971-72), the United States was actively sending units home, turning facilities and functions over to the South Vietnamese and to U.S. forces located elsewhere before the 29 March 1973 deadline for all U.S. forces to be out of the country. In January 72, President Nixon announced that 70,000 troops would be withdrawn by 1 May 72, reducing the troop level in Vietnam to 69,000.

Beginnings

I was assigned in 1971 to the 571st Military Intelligence Detachment in Da Nang, the unit primarily ran Human Intelligence (HUMINT) operations throughout I Corps in northern South Vietnam. I was quickly exposed to Viet Cong (VC), North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and friendly forces’ activity in our area of interest. As such it was evident that South Vietnamese forces that had taken part in Lam Son 719 in Laos were licking their wounds – even the much touted 1st Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Division, garrisoned in Hue had been severely crippled in this failed campaign in 1971.

We also dealt with other foreign country units, i.e., South Korean, who left I Corps a few months after I arrived, in addition to ARVN commanders and secret police officials.

As we ran Unilateral and Bilateral agent networks, remaining U.S. units in I Corps and MACV, USARV, USPACFLT, 7th AF, 7th PSYOPS, and our headquarters (the 525 Military Intelligence Group in Saigon) all received copies of our Intelligence Information Reports (IIRs), as they applied to their Areas of Operations and Interest. Unit 101 was an ARVN intelligence unit that also received selected reports. Being responsible for the distribution of all these IIRs allowed me to know the status of the remaining units, which would aid me later during the Easter Offensive of 1972.

Shortly after arriving at my unit, it became clear that it had been content to operate without understanding the tactical and strategic situation in I Corps (the identifier that most soldiers continued to use after it switched into the newer term, which I will continue to use in this article), relying on XXIV Corps, which soon became the First Regional Assistance Command (FRAC), for area knowledge when it became necessary. “The advisory command, recalled Major General Kroesen (the FRAC commander), was ‘heavily weighted to provide administrative assistance and logistical advice’ with only a token intelligence and operations section.  It was neither manned nor equipped to monitor the combat actively or to provide tactical guidance.”1 The general and his staff failed to mention these “little” points to our intelligence organization. The rub, though, is that we were the only functioning intelligence unit in all of I Corps/FRAC during the Easter Offensive of 1972 and we didn’t know it!

I was very fortunate to work for an organization that didn’t inhibit new ideas – actually, this was not uncommon for intelligence units then and for the next few years after Vietnam ended. Trained as an Intelligence/Order of Battle Analyst, I began creating topical files on enemy units and equipment (the “old” Composition, Disposition, Strength, etc, of FM 30-5 that was drilled into us in intelligence school), while obtaining 1:50,000 scale UTM maps, which took up considerable wall space. Our unit was lucky to also have helicopter support from the 358th Aviation Detachment for 2-3 weeks every month for “ass and trash” missions. I would occasionally fill in for sick door gunners and visit our teams in Quang Tri, Hue, Chu Lai, Tam Ky and Quang Ngai, making notes on the physical features I saw to make changes to our maps, highlighting such things as avenues of approach, military crests, new physical features, friendly military positions, etc. This type of reconnaissance was supplemented by occasional trips by jeep, as well.

The maps were an immediate “hit” with our unit, as we and any visitors would be able to view and comment on where enemy units were positioned and other loci made while using the maps. The maps were obviously a tremendous asset during the Easter Offensive, especially since they were manually and accurately updated. Unexpectedly, an event occurred that made use of them beforehand.

As U.S. units left, so our presence would eventually follow and so would the amount of money that could be expended on our agents. So it fell to me to go through each agent’s reports and each net that we ran. I protested at first, but I was told simply that there was no one else qualified to do it because I knew the military situation in I Corps and had created topical files for each area and unit.

Well aware that this “paring down” of agents was a huge responsibility and what the consequences meant, I took 3-4 months’ worth of IIRs for each agent, my topical files and the appropriate maps and carefully waded through them all. What I found was eye-opening. Some of the agents had been reporting virtually the same events over and over, making little changes. Some agents rarely reported anything, while others sometimes described units located well outside their operational area. Some agents were mediocre and a few were exceptionally good – these reports were always valuable.

The next step was to rate all the agents, each net, and to justify the reasons for each rating. Having my recommendations affirmed by the area specialists and our leadership was gratifying. Little did we know that this was to become more of a plus in our accuracy and information reliability during the Easter Offensive.

The NVA/VC were “expected” to make trouble during TET (mid-February) 1972. Because nothing happened, the press took the intelligence and various other command organizations to task for not having any idea of what was going on and of being mere sycophants of the upper echelons. Events were to prove that the press weren’t too far off

Because we were such a small unit that was HUMINT-oriented, we were never asked for our opinion or intelligence. We had received virtually nothing about TET from anyone, but early the next month (March), we started getting various indicators from our own agents. It is important to understand that we never received intel from 7th Air Force, MACV, DIA or CIA: our information always went up but NOTHING came down – we were disregarded, just as HUMINT was and generally is today.

Hostilities Begin

The 324B NVA Division moved into the A Shau Valley in early-March, heading for its usual AO to the west of Hue to keep the 1st ARVN Division occupied. The 324B was a Military Region Tri-Thien-Hue (MRTTH) unit. As it moved through the A Shau, it linked up with the 5th and 6th Independent Infantry Regiments, also of the MRTTH. As time progressed, it was obvious that at least two regiments were moving northeasterly and could act as a blocking force along QL-1 (the main north-south highway in country), while the other two regiments confined 1st ARVN to Firebases Bastogne and Birmingham. There wasn’t as much as a single ARVN battalion able to defend Hue as the 324B engaged ARVN.

We started to receive information from across I Corps on targets and unit activity. Though we were generally a strategic unit and our IIRs were often not timely enough to act on, it was necessary to make or strengthen contacts to respond to the targets that were rapidly presenting themselves, which could just as rapidly move away. There had been no usual way for us to provide targets to air or ground forces before. We had gone out with 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division units to confirm some of our IIRs, but time was always critical as units and weapon caches moved, etc.

We had been coordinating with the local Special Forces unit when we received information on the “Salt and Pepper” VC propaganda team operating to the west of Chu Lai. I knew they had an on-call capability, so I would feed them information on newly developed targets, as well. I also had a friend that worked ARCLIGHT (i.e., B-52) targets in Saigon and would make sure the 196th Light Infantry Brigade would get infiltration and unit reports for their AO.

In early March, we had information concerning the forthcoming Offensive of major importance. “Moreover, among the reduced number of enemy documents that were exploited were detailed orders of battle and COSVN plans for the spring offensive”2 contained in our IIRs. Even this information wasn’t enough to convince other intelligence agencies, nor command elements, that a major event was going to take place.

Throughout March 1972, the pace of incoming information quickened to the point that it was obvious that a major offensive was going to take place, but this time (and unlike TET 1968) it would involve main-force units, to include tanks – something the NVA had never done before! “One example of the close-mindedness of some senior military commanders was the total disregard (MG) Kroesen and (Gen) Westmoreland among others showed toward intelligence predictions of an enemy frontal assault along the Demilitarized Zone.”3

“John M. Oseth, who was then serving as the G-2 adviser to the 3rd ARVN Division, acknowledged that although there might have been isolated agent reports of an impending invasion, the general consensus, at least at the division level, was that the threat of enemy attack though present, was not great.”4

“The most prevalent problem in this regard was an unwillingness on the part of commanders to heed warnings of massed armor and heavy artillery.”5

“…and in spite of at least four separate human resources who claimed that there would be a ‘great offensive’ in the near future, American military personnel for the most part were dubious about any impending large-scale attack. Information from theses human sources proved to be both detailed and factually accurate as the Offensive took its course.”6 Undoubtedly, this was our northernmost network of agents.

As the IIRs arrived, it was obvious that we needed to report our compiled information in an expeditious manner. Again, I was asked how best to do this and we went with an Intelligence Summary (INTSUM) format, which allowed us to report virtually everything with a minimum of format. There had never been an INTSUM used by the 525 MI Group before, undoubtedly because there had never been a tactical situation arise before like the Easter Offensive of 1972. An INTSUM was later imposed by the Group on all its detachments, twice a day.

Just prior to the Offensive, many of the major NVA units crossing the DMZ, their commanders and their probable avenues of approach and initial objectives were developed and reported in our INTSUM.

Though not specifically cited, South Vietnam’s Joint General Staff was said to have issued an alert for the end of March based on intelligence reporting. This implies that our INTSUMs were used by at least one organization, though it was not an American one!

In fact, even the ARVN had little idea of the I Corps situation for days afterwards and the U.S. FRAC commander was caught dumfounded. LTG Ngo Quang Truong, ARVN I Corps Commander (beginning 3 May 1972) wrote, “Although there was general agreement in the intelligence community – Vietnamese as well as American – that an offensive in early 1972 was highly probable, some observers of the Vietnam scene, perhaps those not as well informed as those of us privy (my emphasis) to the most reliable estimates, were influenced more by what seemed to them to be the illogic of a major North Vietnamese attack at this time.”7

Our reporting was ignored until after the offensive began on the morning of 30 March 1972.  The exact time the Easter Offensive started depended on where you were located. One thing is certain, the NVA had acquired the M46 130mm Field Gun from the Soviets and they used it throughout the morning and very accurately.

In the first few hours of the Offensive, the first two Americans died. Both were US Army Security Agency soldiers assigned to the 407th Radio Research Detachment/8th RR Field Station. Bruce A. Crosby, Jr., and Gary P. Westcott were both working atop FSB Sarge when a rocket apparently blew up their bunker, killing them both.

As it was, the MACV commander, the U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam, the MACV J-2 and others were visiting their wives out of country. The Secretary of Defense was headed for Puerto Rico to play golf and the Senior Advisor of Team 155 to 3rd ARVN was also headed out the same morning that the Offensive began. The South Vietnamese warning was obviously not believed or didn’t make it into the U.S. command elements anywhere in the country.

Just below the DMZ, the newly organized 3rd ARVN Division occupied the northern and western firebases. The 2nd ARVN Regiment was taken whole from the 1st ARVN Division, while the 56th and 57th ARVN Regiments were entirely new 3rd ARVN Division units, composed of deserters and malcontents from within South Vietnam.

In an odd twist of fate (or design), 3rd ARVN’s 56th and 2nd Regiments were coincidently turning off their comms and swapping firebases when the NVA began their extensive artillery preparation of the battlefield, which began the invasion. The problem-plagued 56th Regiment was to occupy the western and northwesterly facing firebases to lessen the effects of something called “firebase syndrome,” after having only spent a few months in one of the northern firebases! Both regiments were on the road when the shelling began – well exposed in the open to NVA artillery.

Eventually, elements of the 56th ARVN reached Camp Carroll, the lynchpin of the western firebases and the major artillery support location in northern South Vietnam.

We were the only unit providing current intelligence for the first few weeks of the Offensive – primarily due to the bad weather across northern I Corps keeping winged-aircraft away and because FRAC was no longer in the intel business. Knowing that the USN destroyers were providing gunfire support in the waters off the DMZ (e.g., the U.S.Buchanan, DDG 14, in its resolute support of Captain Ripley and the Dong Ha Bridge), we tried to provide them with our INTSUMs (via the FRAC and NILO, who also supported the local SEALs). We also knew the destroyers would be in contact with PACFLT, who would also converse with MACV about the current situation.

The first day of the Offensive quickly became a Friday and a Saturday heralding the beginning of April and there was proverbially no rest for the weary. By Saturday, every ARVN firebase north of the Cam Lo River had fallen, from where the 57th ARVN had already been routed. But the first Sunday of the month (2 April 1972) was to be the most memorable.

Three key events were to occur within 1 ½ hours of each other on this Easter Sunday afternoon of 1972.

The first major incident occurred at 1520 when the LTC Phan Van Dinh surrendered all of his 56th ARVN Regiment at Camp Carroll to the 24th NVA Infantry Regiment/304th NVA Infantry Division and a tank company. The exploits of LTC Camper and MAJ Brown, who tried to convince LTC Dinh not to surrender are well-known. Dinh’s cowardice didn’t end with his surrender of Camp Carroll, as the next day he broadcast on Radio Hanoi to the military in South Vietnam to lay down their arms because the NVA was sure to win. The fall of Camp Carroll compelled the firebase at Mai Loc to be evacuated minutes later as the 66th NVA Infantry Regiment pressed their attack. The whole western defense line crumbled.

On the U.S. Army side, MG Kroesen wrote several statements in Quang Tri: The Lost Province that directly bear on this particular event. “The surrender (of Camp Carroll) has never been explained” and “…unidentified personnel of the regiment made radio contact with the enemy to arrange surrender terms.” LTC Dinh was the traitor who made the call and the arrangements. Another Kroesen error also mentions that the 56th lost two of its battalions and three artillery batteries, while “a third battalion refused to surrender and fought its way to Dong Ha.”8 This statement directly contradicts Camper and Brown’s MFR, as well as any other known documents and makes one wonder where this information originated. Not one battalion even attempted to fight its way out and there was a report that most of the 56th had been executed in the vicinity of the Rockpile, northwest of Camp Carroll.

Ironically, sometimes the press knew more than the generals. For instance, the Stars and Stripes had this to say about the fall of Camp Carroll. “The most crushing blow to the South Vietnamese Sunday was the fall of Camp Carroll, which had been pounded with hundreds of artillery, rocket and mortar shells since last Thursday. ‘Field reports said some government troops may have escaped and those left ran up a white flag of surrender. ‘All American advisors had been evacuated from Carroll by helicopter just before it fell, sources said. ‘It was not immediately known whether the four long-range 175mm artillery guns at Carroll were destroyed or fell into Communist hands.”9 A battery of four 175mm guns, a 155mm Howitzer battery, two 105mm batteries and numerous quad-50s and twin-40s were lost to the enemy. In their haste to surrender, none of these weapons were rendered useless.

One of the 175mm guns remains on display in Hanoi. The forfeiture of all the artillery in Camp Carroll without a fight represented the almost complete loss of all indirect fire assets in northern South Vietnam, with the exception of U.S. naval gunfire off the coast.

Even more outrageously, Kroesen wrote that the surrender of Camp Carroll “had not shaken the morale or confidence of the other defending forces to any noticeable degree.” The reverberations of a surrender of a whole regiment were quickly and keenly felt across the country. American advisors assigned to II and III Corps have written of the instances of cowardice and of turncoats after the Camp Carroll surrender occurred in their areas.

The second major incident was the Bridge at Dong Ha, which was blown at 1630, after various contradictory orders. The ARVN leadership didn’t want the bridge blown in order to use it for a counterattack, but the 3rd ARVN was not up to the task with NVA tanks attempting to cross the bridge. Marine Captain Ripley and Army Major Smock ended up blowing the bridge after great difficulty, with the assistance of the U.S.Buchanan which was laying close in-shore supporting them. The Buchanan is credited with destroying at least four PT-76 tanks. Though Team 155 Senior Advisor and a South Vietnamese I Corps commander (who was not assigned to I Corps at the time) all credit ARVN for blowing up the bridge, it is obvious that Ripley and Smock brought the span down under the eyes of the Buchanan.

The final major event of that Easter occurred some 20 minutes later, at 1650, when an EB-66, call sign Bat-21, was shot down south of the DMZ by SA-2/Guidelines located SOUTH of the DMZ in South Vietnam. Only one of the crew made it out of the aircraft, parachuting right into the attacking 308th NVA Division’s area. An immediate 27km no-fire zone was automatically imposed around the crewman (an Air Force lieutenant colonel). As Dong Ha Bridge was just blown, the invading NVA were forced to move west to the Cam Lo Bridge to cross or ford the Mieu Giang River, adding to the number of enemy troops in the area.

Though the no-fire zone was reduced, many enemy troops, trucks and tanks were able to cross the bridge at Cam Lo because it was not blown for 12 more days. The no-fly zone was a great matter of concern to ARVN and their advisors (et al), who chafed at the protection one man was receiving as the NVA moved without molestation in the area.

These three major events also show some of the major problems that occurred in Vietnam. The creation, training, and deployment of the 3rd ARVN Division was an open invitation to the NVA to strike at the key to the western firebases.  The changing dynamics of the battlefield which caused Ripley and Smock to act, undoubtedly saved lives by forcing the NVA to find a crossing to the west. The knowledge that SAMs and AAA had set-up shop in South Vietnam were known to USAF. The NVA had also created and improved the road network through the DMZ into South Vietnam allowing the NVA an easier entry into the South, which was observed and reported by 1st MIBARS during the year before.

As can be imagined, contact with our agents became increasingly more difficult as the Offensive continued, especially the northern most network in South Vietnam. The NVA divisions roared through the DMZ and Laos, primarily fighting in a regimental organizational structure.

Dropping the Ball

There were many senior officers who quite literally dropped the ball in not embracing the intelligence given them and acting upon it.

We will begin with COL Donald J. Metcalf, Senior Advisor of Team 155, advising 3rd ARVN Division. His U.S. War College Paper is an interesting bit of equivocation.   The first few pages have to do with why he didn’t know the Offensive was coming and the role of intelligence. For instance, “I contend that among all the items of intelligence produced prior to the attack, a small fraction indicated that such an offensive might occur, but other equally sizable and equally believable fractions indicated that something less might occur. ‘The sources available to me were the G2’s of the 1st and 3rd ARVN Divisions, and the American estimates produced by XXIV Corps, and they were in general agreement that the enemy would repeat the dry season activities of previous years….”  Past activity patterns, he wrote “can cloud the observer’s vision…” and “may have led informed persons in the intelligence community to give less credence than was warranted to (other) indications….”10 A not so nice way of blaming intelligence for the mistakes of a professional combat commander, it seems.

What COL Metcalf forgot to mention is that one the 571st’s Teams was co-located on Quang Tri and they were also recipients of our INTSUM, as well.

Kroesen states that, “Only a superficial study of the map, the foot mobility of the enemy, and the history of prior years was needed to conclude that these preparations would require two to three months.”11 Yes, general, but there were many reports of vehicular Ho Chi Minh Trail activity and of NVA activity above the DMZ and let’s not forget the 1st MIBARS reports that stated the NVA were expanding and improving roads below the DMZ, too. As for the history of previous years, one wonders why, “It’s always been this way” is an excuse? General Kroesen’s FRAC also received our INTSUMs, though he admits his intelligence capabilities were limited, one would have thought he would have prized any information (especially in light of some of his statements).

MACV, PACFLT, 7th AF, CIA, DIA, JCS, the South Vietnamese JGS and even the Secretary of Defense had no expectations of a North Vietnamese offensive. All had preconceptions, helped along by the NVA who showed the U.S. and South Vietnamese what they expected to see. Americans still became KIAs and WIAs (as did the ARVN and South Vietnamese Marine Corps-SVMC), though only a couple of U.S. units remained in-country after all the U.S. divisions left. The indiscriminate artillery shelling of thousands of civilians caused thousands of deaths, as well.

One of the reasons given by some high-ranking individuals was that they never thought the North Vietnamese would break their agreement of not striking from the DMZ. This, despite the years of the North Vietnamese and VC lying only adds to the incredulity that the Easter Offensive of 1972 was allowed to happen.

“(John Paul) Vann (who commanded II Corps/SRAC), ever the doubting Thomas, stated on 7 February 1972 that ‘Intelligence gathering is the chief problem’ and that ‘Nearly all reliable intelligence is limited to US S.I. (Special Intelligence) Channels.”12 Don’t listen to all of your intelligence personnel at your peril.

Aftermath

Having had this HUMINT experience, as I continued my MI career for a few more years in an all-source, multi-service environment, I found that HUMINT was often derided by commanders and analysts alike. Just as in Vietnam (and WWII before it), SIGINT was all knowing and all-important, with HUMINT relegated to a last-place position. I was to find years later that the remaining SIGINT units in Vietnam did have indications of some kind of NVA activity, but none of it was disseminated to other intel units. The question becomes why weren’t U.S. and ARVN/SVMC units warned?

LTG Michael Flynn, in his The Field of Fight, wrote about human intelligence and interrogation being “essentially nonexistent” at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Ft. Polk. He goes on to mention the “politicization of intelligence” and “don’t deliver bad news to your leaders” and how this “appears to be going in our intelligence system today regarding our fight against Radical Islamists….”13

Perhaps we need to relearn our lessons learned, again?

End Notes

  1. USMC in Vietnam, 1971-73, p. 48-49.
  2. Thomas H. Lee, “Military Intelligence Operations and the Easter Offensive,” (USA Center of Military History, 6 September 1990), p. 25.
  3. Ibid, p. 32.
  4. Ibid, p. 4.
  5. Ibid, p. 6.
  6. Ibid, p. 14.
  7. LTG Ngo Quang Truong, The Vietnam War, An Assessment by South Vietnam’s Generals, (TX, Texas Tech University Press, 2010), p. 610.
  8. MG Frederick J. Kroesen, “Quang Tri, The Lost Province” (PA, USA War College, 16 Jan 74), p. 8.
  9. “Reds Push Deeper South” (AP), (Stars & Stripes, 4 April 1972), p.1. & p. 24.
  10. COL Donald J. Metcalf, “Why Did the Defense of Quang Tri Province, SVN Collapse?” (PA, USA War College, 23 October 1972), p. 3 & p.4.
  11. Kroesen, p. 4.
  12. Lee, p. 30.
  13. LTG Michael T. Flynn and Michael Ledeen, The Field of Fight, (New York, St. Martin’s Press, 2016), p. 34-35.

About the Author: W. R. Baker

W. R. Baker

W. R. (Bob) Baker graduated with the first 96B/Intelligence Analyst class at Fort Huachuca, AZ in 1971. He was then assigned to the 1st Battalion (which soon became the 571st MI Det.), 525th MI Group, headquartered in Da Nang, Vietnam. His further assignments included positions at Fort Bliss, Texas; two tours with the European Defense Analysis Center (EUDAC) in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany; and the 513th MI Group in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

He left the US Army and worked as an analyst for Interstate Electronics, Northrop-Grumman and Xontec defense contractors before teaching in primary and secondary schools.

Mr. Baker has a bachelor of science degree in Government from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Dayton. He has authored other Easter Offensive articles and is currently writing a book on this subject.

 

 

 

The Vietnam War and Remembrance: (April 30th, 1975-April 30th, 2017)

[Editor’s Note: An individual who can witness, nay live through, decades on the battlements of hell and emerge with wisdom and beauty are to be welcomed. Those who speak with clarion voice allowing others to learn from that experience are to be celebrated. Thank you Kim Roberts.]

April 30, 1975—April 30, 2017. Then and Now. Photos of him the day we met, and of us

The way I am today. Taken with two girl friends two weeks ago

more than four decades ago when he was alive, then my current picture taken two weeks ago with friends from the Sadec Flower Village in Vietnam to America. Love and War. Destiny and the magic of life. Over four decades have gone by the window of my life, literally as swiftly as whiffs of fragrance in the whirlwind breeze–from the fresh scent of Spring essence to the intense, spicy, and aromatic Summer heat then transitioned to the soft, intimate touch of flurry Autumn leaves dispersing in the air, and ending it all with a silky, tendered scent of Winter rain drips. Life has been both a curse and a blessing, nonetheless, no regrets.

We met in April 1968 at a Military Chapel in Dong Tam, Vietnam, one year short of five decades ago, while taking communion. On April 30, 1975, he frantically tried to get me out of Vietnam to no avail. Taking a leap of faith, I planned an escape from Vietnam and succeeded. Months later, I was a tattered refugee in America beginning to build a new life. Survival, Love, and War. And hundreds, if not thousands, of other events in between. Oh, what a life! Continue reading

Cold War II

“Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac.  A little voice inside mydeadhead head said ‘Don’t look back, you can never look back…’”

“America can never be conquered.  It can only be brought down from within.”

“…Keep on rockin’ in the free world…”

The Cold War started before the guns of World War II had cooled.  All of us served in one capacity or another in that forty-four year non-conflict.  Many served when the war heated up nearly to the boiling point in faraway Korea and Vietnam.  Many lost life or limb and came home with unseen wounds and scars.  Many served with Army and Air Force units in Europe. Many served in the Marines and Navy around the world.  We won that war.  We thought it was over and we were right, but now it’s come round again.

For hundreds of years Russia has cast a covetous eye to the west and south.  While she has abundant natural resources one she has always lacked is warm water ports.

Murmansk Port

Murmansk Port

Much of Russia’s western ports (Murmansk) are located above the Arctic Circle and are iced in much of the year.  Vladivostok is on the Pacific coast and off the beaten track.  She has a major naval base on the Crimean Peninsula at Sevastopol but her Black Sea Fleet would have to force its way through both the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles Strait to get to the Mediterranean Sea and ultimately the Atlantic.

For much of the nineteenth century Great Britain and Russia engaged in what was then called the Great Game.  Russia took and annexed Central Asia with the goal of moving on India which was then the greatest jewel in Britain’s colonial crown.  Great Britain moved an army into  Afghanistan to block Russia.  Unfortunately for Britain, the Afghans didn’t (and still don’t) appreciate foreigners on their soil with guns in their hands.  Britain lost an entire army.  One doctor managed to make it back to India to tell the tale.

In October, 1917, the government of the Romanov Czars fell to the Bolsheviks.  Russia morphed into the Union of Soviet Socialists.  Once the Bolshevik (Communist) party had assumed control of the country they continued the programs the Czars had started with an additional goal of taking the Baltic states.  Regardless of who holds power in Russia the goal always remains the same.  In 1939 the Stalin government signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany.  Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June, 1942.

By the Spring of 1945 the Soviet Union and the Western Allies (the United States and Great Britain) had driven the German Wehrmacht back into Germany and had captured Berlin.  The war had cost the lives of millions of Russian citizens.  The Soviets had overrun the Balkan States, Eastern Europe and roughly half of Germany.    Stalin occupied the Eastern Europe.  He installed puppet Communist governments in each.  They would serve as a buffer zone for the Soviet Union in the event Germany tried to invade again.  This coalition was known as the Warsaw Pact. Western European countries led by the United States and Great Britain set up their own alliance known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This is where many of us came in.  NATO and the Warsaw Pact maintained a state of watchfulness on each other for more than forty years.    Many of us were there.

To make a long and complicated story short, the Warsaw Pact came apart and the Communist government of the Soviet Union fell in 1991.  Democracy was tried, but after

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin 2015

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin 2015

generations of strict Communist governance the Russian population wasn’t comfortable with freedom.  Many yearned for a strong leader.  That leader appeared in the person of one Vladimir Putin on December 31, 1999.

Putin had served the Soviet Union as a KGB operative in East Germany (he speaks fluent German).  With the fall of the Soviet Union he resigned (rank: lieutenant colonel) and entered politics in Saint Petersburg.  He very quickly worked his way up to become Prime Minister and President Boris Yeltsin’s hand-picked successor.  On 31 December, 1999 Yeltsin resigned as president.  Putin stepped up to replace him and has never looked back.

Putin has shown himself to be the reincarnation of a combination of the Czars and the Communist Party premiers.  Political opponents have been tried for various crimes and imprisoned.  Ditto political dissidents.  Reporters that have been critical of Putin’s activities have been murdered and the crimes remain unsolved.  While he hasn’t (yet?) gone to the genocidal extremes of Stalin, Putin obviously intends to not only maintain power in Russia, but he also plans to extend Russian hegemony.

“So, what does any of this have to do with a Cold War that’s long over?” I hear you ask.

I’m glad you brought that up.  In 1941 Imperial Japan knew that they couldn’t fight and defeat the United States.  They did know that if they could strike and defeat the U.S. Pacific Fleet in a surprise attack that the United States would be unable to rebuild and strike back before Japan had attained her strategic goals.  They obviously misread and underestimated the political will of America’s leadership and the ability of her people to build the war machine that would ultimately crush them and turn two of her cities into radioactive rubble piles.

Putin is thinking along the same lines, I think.  He wants to reestablish the East European buffer zone against NATO. He also wants to reestablish the old Russian empire.  He knows he doesn’t have to strike the United States or NATO militarily to attain his goals.  He’s judged the leadership of both and found them weak.  He’s already seized the Crimea from Ukraine and sponsored a revolt for roughly a third of that country to secede and reattach itself to Russia.  The Russian (I very nearly typed ‘Soviet’, old habits die hard, I guess) air force is busy bombing rebel and civilian targets in Syria to help prop up the Assad regime.   He has, in fact reignited the Cold War.

Putin knows he can never conquer, much less invade, the United States.  He also knows that to accomplish his short term and long term strategic goals the United States must be kept out of his way.  The best way for him to do this is to divide the United States politically and to keep us divided.  Up until this election cycle he’s only had to sit back and watch us divide ourselves.  For the last eight years we’ve become expert at doing just that.  Since Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 we’ve become every bit as divided as we were in 1860. The one big difference is that we’re not divided geographically as we are politically.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

Until Obama was elected I had never heard of demands that an elected president show his birth certificate.  Did I miss something in the forty-eight years that I’ve been eligible to vote?  I had never heard of demands for any president before Jimmy Carter to show proof of their citizenship. I’ve been a life-long Republican.  These days I’m referred to as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) by people that haven’t been voting nearly as long as I have.  I learned in the Army that when we saluted an officer we saluted the rank, not the man.  I believe that the office of President is owed a certain amount of respect whether one agrees with his politics or not.  Although I didn’t (and wouldn’t) vote for him I believe that Barack H. Obama is the legally elected president of the United States.

The “Birther” Movement that tried (and still tries) to prove that Obama can’t be the legally elected president because he is ‘technically’ an American citizen.  The ‘Birthers’ believe that Obama was born in Kenya.  Apparently there was a conspiracy when he was born to some day make him the president so that he could drag the country to Hell.  They also believe that he’s Muslim. I haven’t read in the Constitution that any particular religion disqualifies a person from holding office, but I digress. One of the leaders of the ‘Birther’ movement has been one Donald J. Trump. He has kept pouring small amounts of gasoline on the birther fire since it’s conception although he denies it in spite of video and audio evidence to the contrary (“Who you gonna believe?  Me? Or that lying video?”)

Now Trump is the Republican candidate for president.  Against all expectations he managed to defeat a very qualified GOP field of primary candidates.  He made every possible mistake that a candidate could possibly make and still won the nomination.  The only insult that he hasn’t thrown at his opponents is to accuse any of them of bigamy (see Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel) but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he did.  To say that Trump has run a very unconventional campaign would be the understatement of the millennium.  Trump has proved time and again that he is not qualified to hold the office of president (Nuclear Triad? Why can’t we just nuke ISIS?) yet his supporters don’t care.  They claim that during his campaign rants that Trump says what they’re thinking.  That thought alone makes me very nervous.

One of the few people that Trump has not insulted (besides his supporters) is Vladimir Putin.  Trump claims that he has never met Putin (depending on which Trump interview you believe) but that Putin has said nice things about him so he believes that Putin must be a nice guy.  Trump even defended Putin during the third presidential debate with Hillary Clinton.  Evidently, Putin is a very nice guy.  He’s done more to advance Trump’s presidential hopes than probably anyone else.

Russian intelligence services have hacked Democratic Party computers as well as those of Clinton’s campaign staff.  They’ve passed hacked emails to Wikileaks which has posted them on the internet for the world to see.  Trump has read these emails to the crowds at his rallies.  I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t care that they’re stolen goods.

So, we have a foreign power openly interfering in American politics during a presidential election year.  I have to wonder why.  My theory is that Putin wants an American president that he can not only manipulate but can possibly push around using whatever tricks he learned in the KGB.  Trump thinks he’s a lady’s man.  He believes that rich as he is he’s entitled to any woman he wants.  He took the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.  According to Russian intelligence sources, they have plenty of dirt on Trump.  A possible honey trap wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility; the Russians are masters at that.

Before any of this information came out Trump had publicly announced that the United States pays too much into NATO.  He said that in the event of a war in that region he would have to check the balance sheet of the affected countries to see if they’d payed their dues before we would come to their assistance.  Possibly he didn’t realize that we have ground units in Poland?  Would he at least try to get them out of harm’s way or would he sacrifice them to ‘Nice Guy’ Putin?  I believe that if Trump is elected president he would leave the door to Eastern Europe wide open to Putin’s strategic ambitions.  Eastern Europe would be on its own and some of the blood shed would be American.

I’m obviously not a Trump supporter.  I haven’t been since I listened to his announcement that he was tossing his hat into the presidential ring.  The man disgusts me to be perfectly honest.  There are many more reasons that I don’t want to see him sitting in the Oval Office, but for the purposes of this blog I’ll stick to the cold war that’s been reignited.  I believe that if/when Trump takes office his butt won’t even have time to warm his chair in the Oval Office before Putin starts making his moves.

Wilson’s Contribution to the Cold War

“To love truth for truth’s sake is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the

John Locke published in Popular Science Monthly Volume 66 1904 or 1905

John Locke published in Popular Science Monthly Volume 66 1904 or 1905

seed-plot of all other virtues.” — John Locke

Oft quoted in my youth, I lost contact with John Locke’s advice over the years.  Ricochet’s Daily Shot and a strong ‘cuppa’ re-awakened Locke’s view of truth in an explosive burst of energy that rocked my head and dragged me to the dreaded keyboard.  Loving truth and finding it in the labyrinth of life are two entirely separate actions tangled together in a Gordian knot suspended above each individual’s ‘La Vida Loca’.  President Woodrow Wilson’s contribution to a future, unforeseen Cold War is a leading example of my search for truth in the political rabbit warrens of war and peace.  Actions, ego, and being “the smartest guy in the room” have consequences—good and bad.

Was there a line of people eagerly awaiting support and ‘lessons learned’ about ditching colonial yokes, freedom, self-determination, and the rights of individuals from the United States? Although difficult to say with any certainty, the U.S. was, at that time, admired for its triumph following a bitter fight with its colonial master, England.  We know that the U.S. commitment to trade rather than conquest as a prime directive was a new, novel, and successful model.  We also know that the WWI Paris Peace talks in 1919 attracted

Council of Four at the WWI Paris peace conference, May 27, 1919 (candid photo) (L - R) Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Great Britian) Premier Vittorio Orlando, Italy, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, President Woodrow Wilson Edward N. Jackson (US Army Signal Corps) - U.S. Signal Corps photo

Council of Four at the WWI Paris peace conference, May 27, 1919 (candid photo) (L – R) Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Great Britian) Premier Vittorio Orlando, Italy, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, President Woodrow Wilson
Edward N. Jackson (US Army Signal Corps) – U.S. Signal Corps photo

slightly fewer than twelve present and future leaders from various colonies testing independence and sloughing their colonial bonds. Some, including Nguyễn Sinh Cung (Hồ Chí Minh) from Vietnam, attempted to meet with Wilson.[1]   It had, after all, been a mere 136 years since representatives from the rebellious colonies in North America and England gathered in Paris to sign the 1783 treaty with England to end the American Revolutionary War.  The United States had been tested by a great Civil War and found wanting.  It’s model, however, provided for growth and society to take cyclical steps toward a more perfect union. The new model was battle tested and  tough.  How quickly we forgot. Continue reading

Orlando Ramblings

Stumbling through the profound predawn darkness of the modern house, I managed to coffeegrab a cup of cold coffee and initiate the false dawn of the local news markets in one fluid motion born of years of practice.  News mongers hawking their wares with the staccato of an 8 mm film fills the screen. The streets of Orlando and its victims are showing live and on various stage sets; each accompanied by an inlay of experts who know exactly zero facts other than what we’ve all been briefed. Political candidates running for offices and those in office from president to lamp tender welcome interviews in mind-numbing succession.  Each has an opinion: it’s hate, it’s ideology, it’s guns, it’s policy, it’s white privilege, it’s his fault, her fault, the government’s fault. News crews and their tethered experts lecture, salve or throw salt into the wounds of the grieving populace in the wake of the June 12th terrorist attack at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub that left forty-nine dead and at least half that number in a hospital cleaving to life.  Even my President lectures me against painting groups with a broad brush that exists only in his imagination. I know the difference and I suspect most of my 330 million fellow Americans know the difference.  The bitterness of cold coffee yields a longed-for reassurance and I return the room to its predawn gloom.  Enough!

The porch is better for these thoughts. Somewhere in the Atlantic the sun rises and reassuring humanity of its return as cirrus clouds turn pink and salmon.  On the porch heat and humidity stifle breathing yet birds call, racers rustle leaves on the wee forest’s floor looking for squirrels beginning their ceaseless struggle for food, and tree frogs chat.  Life’s cycle continues undeterred.

The Pulse began welcoming Orlando’s robust GLBTQ (the ‘Q’ stands for Questioning)

Antonio Brown, a Florida A&M University graduate who died at Pulse night club in Orlando after a shooter opened fire on June 12, 2016.(Photo: Facebook)

Antonio Brown, a Florida A&M University graduate who died at Pulse night club in Orlando after a shooter opened fire on June 12, 2016.(Photo: Facebook)

community in 2004. The venue was legendary and extended far beyond Orlando. The club welcomed people from across the country and all walks of life.  People like Army Officer LT Antonio Brown who came to relax and, perhaps, spend some time on the dance floor or laugh with old friends met the same fate as those who frequented the club regularly. The roll call of the dead and wounded in the early Sunday morning attack reflects the diversity of the club’s appeal. First and foremost, they were and are Americans attacked in the United States based on a specific, extreme ideology.  Similar ideologically based attacks have erupted like boils across the United States since the 9/11 attacks of 2001.  Instead of confronting the ideological abyss, the nation, it seems, is committed to rubbing snake oil on the abscesses then blaming whomever is in the room during the next violent eruption.

The United States, you see, is not very adept at handling gaping ideological divides that are an anathema to Western culture.  The last one, the Cold War, wherein the United States and its Western allies fought Communism, continued for 70 years and saw millions die.  The Soviet Union was bankrupted, but Communism was not defeated. The Cold War ended by Presidential decree in 1991 when President Clinton said it was over. Not much had been resolved and a great deal was destroyed.

I would like to believe the Navy’s take-away message from its commercial graphically

To get to you, they'd have to get through us.

To get to you, they’d have to get through us.

spotlighting a family is surrounded by concentric circles of Naval personnel from all disciplines: “To get to you, they’d have to get through us.”  Not true in today’s United States of confused culture.  The United States is sliced and diced along racial, income, sexual, belief system, age, and professional boundaries. We are not one nation. We are hyphenated and arguing over whose lives matter.  We argue over immigration rather than the expectation that all immigrants want to and will become Americans.  Last week, the administration issued a directive:

Its latest policy statement, issued jointly late last week by the departments of Education and Health and Human Services, advises states to instruct early childhood students in home languages different from English, and to help them retain separate cultural attachments.

The administration warns that “not recognizing children’s cultures and languages as assets” may be hurting them with school work. “Over half the world’s population is estimated to be bilingual or multilingual,” the statement lectures almost plaintively.

My head and my heart scream “NO, we are Americans who have signed onto rule by a Constitution let us begin to act as such.”  Let parents teach the old cultures and languages as part of their children’s heritage.  As the children assimilate into the culture, let them introduce what is good about the old ways to the rest of us. Let schools welcome immigrants as Americans and as a wonderful infusion to an unbridled future based on a proven system.

And so, like Ishmael in Melville’s Moby Dick, I find myself following a procession that may lead me to the world. For Ismael the procession was a funeral and the world was the whaling ship, Pequod.  I find myself in a procession that leads to employers that can transport me back to a world where maybe I can make a difference, even if only a tiny one…a country manager in Turkey perhaps. The effort beats back this restless feeling of sitting on a hot porch of a Tuesday morning feeling powerless, useless.

[Editor’s Note: We, at the Cold War Warrior, grieve with our fellow citizens in Orlando.  Our condolences go out to the families of those who lost loved ones and our hope for complete recovery to those who were so injured by this terrible act of terrorism.]

FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA or a short, twisted history of immigration

Dear America and the State of Texas, I have some hard truths to tell you. Most of you

"... the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...": FDR’s First Inaugural Address

“… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance…”: FDR’s First Inaugural Address

won’t like what I have to say and I really don’t care. You are afraid. Yep, I said YOU ARE AFRAID. Someone needed to say it and I just did. You’re afraid of your government. You’re afraid of ISIS and Al Qaeda. You’re afraid of immigrants and immigration. You are one short step away from walking around with an aluminum foil

hat on your head. You’re afraid that Obama’s storm troopers are going to kick your door in some evening to confiscate your firearms. You are afraid of many things and that’s dangerous.

I’m frightened myself, but I think I’m afraid for different reasons than you. I’m not afraid of ISIS. I refuse to let a group of religious fundamentalists (Muslim or Christian) control my thinking. I’m not afraid of immigration, but I’ll go into that further down. I’m not afraid of my government. I think our government in its current state is too inept to do much of anything, but that’s a subject for another blog on another day. Ditto the United Nations. Continue reading

FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND…

Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding-Elton John

Mike and memories. (Photo by Steve Traywick)

Mike and memories. (Photo by Steve Traywick)

“Check it out

Going to work on Monday

Check it out

Got yourself a family

Check it out

All utility bills have been paid, you can’t tell your best buddy that you love him…

So, check it out….” John Mellencamp

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived”-George S. Patton

I did tell one of my best buddies that I love him today. He’s my friend. He was one of my mentors. He taught me how to be an effective NCO and how to be a decent Human Being. He taught me how to relax and have fun. He taught me how to take care of my troops by taking care of his “kids”. I watched him and learned. Now, he’s dying from a killer form of cancer. God, I’m going to miss him. I knew that as long as Mike was around that I had a friend in the world. I knew that there was someone I could go to for advice. Someone that would tell me I was being an idiot in a way that I couldn’t possibly get butthurt over it. Continue reading

A Soul Divided

Like Elvis, the United Sates has left the building. Citizens and politicians are heating up

US Navy 060417-N-8157C-162 The American flag flies prominently during the World Patriot Tour performance at Hickam Air Force Base By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Dennis Cantrell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

US Navy 060417-N-8157C-162 The American flag flies prominently during the World Patriot Tour performance at Hickam Air Force Base
By U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Dennis Cantrell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Facebook, Twitter, and the airways with anger, acidity, and hatred of each other. The foil is refugees not even at its outer shores. The insanity is that these otherwise reasoned people, including President Obama, are attacking each other rather than face the reality of the world around them. Liberals, who last week were pleading for civility, are calling for the heads of conservatives and conservatives are screaming that leftist liberals are to blame. It is a madness attributed to the death throes of terminally ill dogs. Left untreated, dead and dying curs become a vultures’ feast and so will the culture that changed the world. As we sow the seeds of freedom, we must continuously pull the weeds of self-destruction.

The United States, a great experiment in freedom through rebirth, is considering its next renaissance. A country that chose to march to the beat of its unique drum with a history rife in human failings embedded in noble souls and reflected through its art. It is a country willing to evolve and improve. Renascence, a 1912 poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, in many ways, reflects the soul of the United States through the decades and centuries as it coped with wars, natural disasters, and the pain of those less fortunate.

“…I saw at sea a great fog bank

Between two ships that struck and sank;

A thousand screams the heavens smote;

And every scream tore through my throat

No hurt I did not feel, no death

That was not mine; mine each last breath

That, crying, met an answering cry

From the compassion that was I.

All suffering mine, and mine its rod;

Mine, pity like the pity of God.

Ah, awful weight! Infinity

Pressed down upon the finite Me!

My anguished spirit, like a bird,

Beating against my lips I heard;

Yet lay the weight so close about

There was no room for it without.

And so beneath the weight lay I

And suffered death, but could not die….”

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

France is suffering as the United States suffered fourteen years ago. This may be a good time to stop and listen to the heartbeat of the world, read a poem, and listen to some music by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Beethoven, or Rachmaninoff. We do not need to fear. It is only the echoes of the Cold War we hear.

Introspective peace corralled into learning yields understanding and productive dialog. Productive dialog excludes blaming and hatred while uniting those at odds and sets the stage for solutions. Solutions are in desperately short supply and high demand. You can and may change the world. ad1_imageDefining terms such as ‘counterinsurgency’ and exploring the legacy of the Cold War on the geopolitical stage is the focus of the next several posts. These posts may add to the dialog by adding ideas that achieve a desired outcome or identifying those that deserve dropping into a ‘failed’ box along with their enabling structures and bureaucracies.

Maintaining a ground, a frame of reference, is vital for our conversation. What is the historical and philosophical evolution of the great experiment called the United States of America?

 

TANKER STORY NUMBER 5

Sean Provart and Ozzy take Crazy Train without a lot of permission.

Crazy Train

Crazy Train

In April of 1989, I was about three months short of getting out. I had been offered sergeant stripes if I agreed to extend my enlistment for a few months, but I was just about done with the Army at that point. I was the company armorer for my tank company, Charlie, 1-64 Armor Battalion, 24th Infantry Division stationed at Fort Stewart Georgia, just about 30 minutes west of Savannah.

We were training at the US Army’s National Training Center (NTC) outside of Barstow, California, in a huge war game exercise that the American tank battalions go through every two years. In Germany, we trained in these exercises at a place called Hohenfels and Grafenwohr Germany four times a year. We flew from Georgia to California in a can of whoop-ass, a C-130, but that is another story.

Crazy Train was known as the tank with the two Specialist 4s (Spec 4s… now known as simply a Specialist). A Spec 4 is essentially as high you can go as an enlisted person before becoming a non-commissioned officer. Infantry units have corporals, but tanks have specialists. The reason is that the four man crew must always have enlisted men to do the grunt work. Specialists don’t really care, are VERY good at their job, and just want to be left alone until 5pm rolls around so they can run to the bar, drink beer and find women. (That didn’t ever happen, but we thought if we kept trying eventually we would meet someone hot that just love to meet tankers.) I REALLY wanted to meet Heather Locklear. I went to BASIC and then served on a tank for a short periods of time with her first cousin, Kenny Locklear. He didn’t look anything like her, FYI. I’m still irritated that she didn’t fly over to Germany to visit us. Continue reading

My Vietnam era mode of transportation (1968 – 1975)‏

Note to reader:  As a U.S. invited contractor I was issued a Department of defense noncombatant’s certificate of identity with assimilated rank of Colonel/EGS-15, equal to a military grade of 0-6.  I was issued blanket travel orders  to board military aircraft to any in-country military installation.  These travel orders were valid from 1968 to March 1973.  After which I traveled either on commercial or Air America aircraft until April 1975.

Going There: World Airways DC-8 Charter ~ 1968

Aboard a World Airways DC-8 Charter from Travis AFB to Tan Son Nhut AFB, Saigon, VN. One of the stewardesses was Linda Phillippe; who happened to be the daughter of one of my old bosses. She took good care of me while in-flight.

Aboard a World Airways DC-8 Charter from Travis AFB to Tan Son Nhut AFB, Saigon, VN.
One of the stewardesses was Linda Phillippe; who happened to be the daughter of one of
my old bosses. She took good care of me while in-flight.

Trivia:

In the 1960s, World Airways became the first U.S. charter airline to enter the jet age with the acquisition of new Boeing 707s.

The USAF Military Airlift Command, “MAC”, used World Airways Charters extensively during the Vietnam era for Military troop transfers.

World’s most famous flight was on 2 April 1975

The first ‘Operation Babylift’ flight took off from Saigon in darkness; the airport had turned the runway lights off. The DC-8 departed without a formal clearance to take off or a flight plan filed. Oakland Aviation Museum Life Members Bill Keating and Ken Healy piloted the flight. Ed Daly paid for the flight out of his own pocket. Continue reading