Military Medley

Rockets, Sand and Amalgam by Robert Engelmeier

Rockets, Sand and Amalgam by Robert Engelmeier

Webster's Dictionary defines amalgam as "a mixture or blend", making it the perfect word to describe Vietnam veteran Robert Engelmeier's experience in country, as well as his 2023 memoir of it.  The author has written countless academic articles about his chosen career in dentistry and prosthetics as a retired professor who directed the graduate program at the University of Texas Houston Dental Branch for 14 years and served as Prosthodontic Department chair at the University of Pittsburgh and is still a visiting Professor at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Simply put, he knows dentistry well.  What he didn't know when he arrived in Vietnam was life in the U.S. military. As a result, the recollections in his memoirs are filled with stories and incidents from his time there, where his ignorance of military protocol occasionally got him into a bit of trouble. Engelmeier was a young dentist when he deployed to South Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay. He was a fresh graduate of the University...

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Unforgotten in the Gulf of Tonkin by Eileen A. Bjorkman

Unforgotten in the Gulf of Tonkin by Eileen A. Bjorkman

When Air Force Maj. Alan Saunders arrived in Vietnam in June 1963; true combat search and rescue (CSAR) as we know it today was just beginning to form. Saunders was bringing his experience fighting World War II in the jungles of Burma to Det. 3, Pacific Air Rescue Center in Tan Son Nhut. Maj. Alan Saunders and His Experience Fighting World War II Saunders knew that the jungle didn't burn and create smoke around the wreckage of a downed aircraft. Nor did it easily cough up a surviving pilot, soldier, or Marines separated from their units or anyone else unlucky enough to be in the jungle alone and among the enemy. Instead, the dense jungles of Southeast Asia swallowed aircraft whole. When it went in, the trees opened up, and the canopy quickly closed around it. Finding a downed aircraft, even a flaming one, was difficult if not impossible, Sanders said. It was the beginning of a sea change in how the United States military treated its missing in action. Before Vietnam, the U.S. was...

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Secret Soldiers by Philip Gerard

Secret Soldiers by Philip Gerard

They were masters of the craft of illusion and deception, and their greatest disappearing act was to vanish from history. The men of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops were recruited to become phantom warriors in a ghost army to help win the Battle of Europe. A thousand strong, they fought in more campaigns, from D Day to the Rhine River, with more Allied armies, than any other unit in the European Theater of Operations - yet, not even their fellow American soldiers were aware of their presence. After Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., USNR, completed a tour of England and its special forces installations, the Hollywood star convinced the Navy brass to train an elite unit that eventually evolved into the only Army force of its kind. These elite soldiers counted among their number designer Bill Blass and painter Ellsworth Kelly. The Special Troops' mission was two-fold: to deceive the German Army into believing that the Allies possessed more troops and material than they actually did and, even...

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Make Peace or Die by Charles Daly

Make Peace or Die by Charles Daly

As many readers of the Dispatches Newsletter might be aware, "Make Peace or Die" is the motto of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. For Charles Daly, it became a regular choice he would have to make, time and again, over the course of his entire life.  "Make Peace or Die: A Life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares" is everything the name promises it to be. At times terrifying, the book is always engrossing and descriptive. It’s one of the finest personal recollections of the Korean War today.  It’s also a joint collaboration the author co-wrote with the help of his son, Charlie Daly. About the Author of Make Peace or Die Daly grew up in a family of Anglo-Irish immigrants. They became American citizens when little Charles was just eight years old. Their story, as Daly admits from the start, was not the typical picture of huddled masses yearning to breathe free. His father was a Shell Oil Company Executive, and they came to the United States on a luxury liner in first class.  When...

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Don Rickles, U.S. Navy (1944-1946), WWII

Don Rickles, U.S. Navy (1944-1946), WWII

Before emerging as the renowned comedy legend celebrated for his wit and humor, Don Rickles navigated a significant chapter in his life that often goes overlooked. Long before his name became synonymous with laughter, Rickles dutifully answered his country's call by enlisting in the United States Navy during World War II. These military years in the Navy laid the groundwork for the extraordinary career that would later make him a comedy icon adored by audiences worldwide. Don Rickles’s Early Years Donald Jay Rickles was born on May 8, 1926, in New York City. Raised in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, Rickles grew up in a close-knit Jewish family. Despite the financial challenges posed by the Great Depression, his parents Etta and Max Rickles nurtured his comedic talents, encouraging him to find laughter in everyday situations.  After graduating from Newtown High School, Rickles embarked on a new chapter in his life. In response to his country's call during World War...

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Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part by William E. Peterson

Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part by William E. Peterson

At the age of 19, William E. Peterson embarked upon a life mission which many would gladly have missed. He went to war in Vietnam! In this 302 page book he brings to life his journey from his decision to enlist in the Army, through twelve months of helicopter combat, to his return home. It takes the reader on a wild ride with a helicopter crew chief and door gunner with the First Air Cavalry, C/227th Assault Helicopter Battalion. The typical memoir written by a Vietnam veteran begins with a short accounting of his youth and ends with his homecoming. Sandwich between is a detailed rendering of the serious, heartbreaking nature of war: fear, tragedy, loss, sorrow, growth, and relief interlaced with nature's emotional shutoff valve, humor. While Peterson's Mission of Fire and Percy does much of the same things, his writing has much greater clarity since it is drawn from scores of letters he send home to his family, friends and girlfriend Cindi. He adds anecdotal recollections to what he...

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Black Ops Vietnam By Robert M. Gillespie

Black Ops Vietnam By Robert M. Gillespie

Have you read "Black Ops Vietnam" By Robert M. Gillespie? During the Vietnam War, the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (MACVSOG) was a highly-classified. It was a US joint-service organization that consisted of personnel from Army Special Forces, the Air Force Special Operations Forces, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance units, and the CIA.  This secret organization was committed to action in Southeast Asia even before the major build-up of US forces in 1965 and fielded a division-sized element of South Vietnamese military personnel, indigenous Montagnards, ethnic Chinese Nungs, and Taiwanese pilots in its varied reconnaissance, naval, air, and agent operations.  MACVSOG was, without doubt, the most unique US unit to participate in the Vietnam War, since its operational mandate authorized its missions to take place "over the fence" in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, where most other American units were forbidden to go. During its...

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VA Updates: Remembering Veterans on Veterans Day

VA Updates: Remembering Veterans on Veterans Day

The purpose of Veterans Day is to honor those who served in the Military. I call or email my Veteran friends, catch up, and thank them for their service. I display the flag and watch any military movie I can find. I also visit the graves of Veteran family or friends at Arlington National Cemetery, even though I know that’s much more the focus of Memorial Day. Veterans Pension Program One group of Veterans I find myself thinking about is elderly Veterans who, because of age or other reasons, aren’t as visible. The reason I bring this up is because an FAQ I often receive is about their possible benefits.   Someone will ask about a distant Uncle who is a Veteran or the Veteran who is a neighbor, less active in the community but still nearby. A common theme is the concern that as the Veteran gets older, he may not have the resources to continue to support himself. The question then becomes – Is there a VA benefit that could help him.  ...

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Veterans Day: Honor a Veteran on TogetherWeServed

Veterans Day: Honor a Veteran on TogetherWeServed

In United States, Veterans Day is observed on November 11 of every year as a federal holiday.   On the eleventh hour of November 11, 1918, fighting ceased during World War I. This was seven months before the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, which marked the official end to the conflict. Because of these origins, the nation celebrates Veterans Day as we recognize it today and takes time to honor America’s veterans “for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.” The U.S. holiday began as a celebration of the end of WWI. But in the wake of even deadlier conflicts, November 11 became a day to honor all military veterans. Besides just thanking veterans for their service (which you should absolutely do!), why not use the holiday as an opportunity to learn more about its history and about our veterans themselves? Origin of Holiday It occurs on November 11 every year in the United States in honor of the “eleventh...

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1LT James Earl Jones, U.S. Army (1953-1955)

1LT James Earl Jones, U.S. Army (1953-1955)

Before gaining fame as the iconic voice behind Darth Vader in 'Star Wars,' James Earl Jones had a significant chapter in his life. During his youth, Jones responded to his country's call and served in the United States Army during the Korean War. His military experience profoundly influenced his character and laid the foundation for his exceptional journey in the entertainment industry. James Earl Jones’s Early Years James Earl Jones was born on January 17, 1931, in Arkabutla, Mississippi. His father, Robert Earl Jones, a boxer and actor, was largely absent from his life growing up. At an early age, Jones was raised by his maternal grandparents on their farm in Michigan. He is of Irish, Cherokee and African descent. Jones developed a severe stutter in childhood, which left him terribly self-conscious and shy around other children. He refused to speak in school until a teacher helped him out of his silence during his high school years. "I had a great English teacher who believed in...

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Firehammer by Ric Hunter

Firehammer by Ric Hunter

If you'd like to know what it's like to pilot a high-performance jet in training and combat - without risk and actually having to get into one - you cannot do better than to read Ric Hunter's just published 'Firehammer.' A resident of Burnsville, retired Col. Hunter had 27 years and 4,000 hours of high-performance jet time, and was commander of an F-15 C Eagle squadron. His book describes the last days of the Vietnam War, including the SS Mayaquez rescue and the final evacuation of military personnel from the island of Koh Tang. Although the book is fiction and meant to be entertaining as well as informative, Col. Hunter was actually one of the pilots involved in this last battle of the war. The fictional star of the book is Capt. Randy "Pepper" Houston, who was assigned to an F-4 Phantom squadron. The detailed description of his demanding and hair-raising training to fly a different model jet than he'd previously flown and his later combat experiences have the ring of authenticity...

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Budapest to Vietnam by Nicholas J Hun

Budapest to Vietnam by Nicholas J Hun

Today, an estimated 200,000 U.S. military members are not actually citizens of the United States. They join for many reasons; a pathway to citizenship, learning new skills, or just being part of the camaraderie of their respective services. It's nothing new; foreigners have been joining the armed forces since the birth of the nation.  Times were no different during the Vietnam War. Many noncitizens joined to fight, and fight they did. One of those came from an unlikely place: Hungary. From the end of World War II until 1989, Hungary was part of the Warsaw Pact, a country dominated by the communist Soviet Union. But just because the country was under Communist control doesn't mean the Hungarian people were all for it.  About the Author of Budapest to Vietnam One of those Hungarians was Nicholas J. Hun. Hun's family moved from Hungary to the United States in search of a better life and a better future. He was Hungarian by birth but was raised on the streets of Cleveland,...

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