Veterans Day: A Note from the Senior Editor

LZ Rockcrusher (abandoned) November 1969 (I Corps, Vietnam)

By Cpl. Gordon Duff, USMC 0311

Alpha Company, 2nd Platoon, 2nd Squad
First Bn., 26th Marines (Battalion Landing Team)
9th Marine Amphibious Brigade

1st Marine Division (rein)
FPO San Francisco, California 96602

This is for you sending me snail mail half a century ago.  I would have been operating in Elephant Valley from Firebase Six Shooter, a base camp made of 3 tents and lots of barbed wire which we saw on rare occasions.  It was always better to be out in the field than back there, burning shitters and visiting our handful of frightened “lifers.”

Those I was with then, all but a very few dead and long in the ground, some for almost 50 years, will always be my family.

The war, now that’s something else.  Every single one of us knew then it was all a crock of shit.  Our unit motto, from Cpl. Karl Foster:

“The Marine Corps is a festering pimple on the asshole of my sanity”

Typically this was engraved on Zippo lighters with a unit insignia on the other side.  I didn’t smoke though if someone can’t tell you what a “ten-pack” is, they weren’t in Vietnam.

I loved the Vietnam war, I loved combat…when we weren’t being slaughtered…and miss many of those I was with every day.  Others, well you can’t love everyone.

Most of us never wanted to come home, we knew then, so long ago, what was coming.  Vietnam was a lesson, the best teacher of all time, a slaughter that destroyed a generation of Americans, devastated a nation and opened the door for a political takeover of America that has culminated in what we see today.

Special memories for Bill Eckard, double amputee and close friend who survived to raise a family and live a short but productive life including time as a board member at VT and exec with Veterans Affairs.  Long story there…heartbreaking.

Larry Williamson, from Columbus, Ohio, killed February 20, 1970.  We spent a year together and he was always a joy, even an inspiration from time to time.  Missed.

Somewhere out there, LCpl. Eddie Lee Harris, perhaps the toughest of all Marines, somewhere in California, Arroyo Grande perhaps?  Alive and well?

So many other names.  Those that survived, like Karl Foster, died young.  Foster killed in 1971 on his 650 Yamaha, drunk driver.  We had matching bikes.

Endless names and faces but all shared one ideal, hatred of the war, recognition of the utter corruption of the military-industrial complex and loyalty to one another.

Some bigger than life characters, Master Sgt. Miller W. Scott, our only “real” lifer, a Gary Cooper clone.

During my 25 plus years of writing on military and veterans issues, the most rewarding with VT and the great staff there, I have benefited from a history education unimaginable during my university days….years….as I ate up endless subsidies, GI Bill, Voc Rehab and even a stipend from the (redacted).

Then I was immersed in veterans, some like John B. Harrison, World War I.  Most remembered with Jim Hooker, a Pork Chop Hill vet and alleged CIA recruiter, who died mysteriously in 1976, a good friend.

So many forgotten, Dave Mead who broke the Japanese Naval codes before Midway, another friend or Paul Varg.

A Googling will show them all erased from history as with so many others, erased or as today, smeared, Google and Wikipedia. Funny, they don’t know how funny but I do.  I laugh and laugh.  In fact, I laugh all the time, it is hard to stop sometime.

Truth?  Thus far our study group hasn’t found a single just war in the past 2000 years, that’s “truth.”

If you can think of one, let us know.  Good luck with that.

As for those who fight them, whatever side you are on, you have brothers.

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  1. Mr. Duff, Will you please clarify this seeming discrepancy?

    “I loved the Vietnam war, I loved combat…”

    “Endless names and faces but all shared one ideal, hatred of the war, ”


  2. I went to school with a Minh, father a General. He studied premed and told me his goal was to return and help his people recover. As with everyone that lived, fought, and served. I hope they can recover. Minh was a stand up guy.. Best to all who served on this Veterans Day.

  3. I graduated from Pasadena High School in California in 1956. No teacher or book ever mentioned General Smedley Butler and his heroic efforts to prevent wars especially WWII during the 1930’s. Here is a brief quote about him:
    “Smedley Darlington Butler
    Born: West Chester, Pa., July 30, 1881
    Educated: Haverford School
    Married: Ethel C. Peters, of Philadelphia, June 30, 1905
    Awarded two congressional medals of honor:
    1. capture of Vera Cruz, Mexico, 1914
    2. capture of Ft. Riviere, Haiti, 1917
    Distinguished service medal, 1919
    Major General – United States Marine Corps
    Retired Oct. 1, 1931
    On leave of absence to act as
    director of Dept. of Safety, Philadelphia, 1932
    Lecturer — 1930’s
    Republican Candidate for Senate, 1932
    Died at Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, June 21, 1940
    For more information about Major General Butler,
    contact the United States Marine Corps.”
    Even today his memory is largely buried and ignored. My parents were avid readers but I think even they were ignorant of General Butler. They never mentioned his name either.
    Thanks Gordon Duff for a very moving article.

  4. In Flanders Fields
    John McCrae – 1872-1918

    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

  5. I layed out where we used to patrol on Google Earth with pins. New villages, DaNang a huge city, may someday finally go back and look for shreds of evidence we were ever there.
    Strange story….came upon an old french outpost in ‘rumor valley’ as it closes in on the end of Charlie Ridge/AZ territory.
    on ambush, did two hours with radio, then crashed…woke up miles away and no one else remembered that we weren’t where we had set up. Suspect a possible UFO experience.
    Set up along a river with date trees….woke up and it was all gone…night was 100% lunar illum.

    • Mr Duff – I read your 11/11/2011 article,

      The Last Bayonet Charge in Vietnam.

      Would you mind sharing the GPS coordinates of the cemetery where you were shot at?

      Thanks. Best wishes.

  6. Thank you Gordon! All you wrote above … too true. Most of all thank you for your commitment to the truth of what’s really going down in the world. You and Gen. Butler, voices speaking out in the wilderness of government wars and media hokum. Carry on!

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