Tuesday, November 16, 2004

John Charles Stuller my adopted POW/MIA

An E6 in the US Army that fought and is a possible POW in Vietnam. He was born in 14 December, 1942 in Washington D.C. His hometown was Falls Church, Virginia. Here is the story of what happened to him.

Kham Duc Special Forces camp (A-105), was located on the western fringes of Quang Tin ("Great Faith") Province, South Vietnam. In the spring of 1968, it was the only remaining border camp in Military Region I. Backup responsibility for the camp fell on the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal), based at Chu Lai on the far side of the province.

The camp had originally been built for President Diem, who enjoyed hunting in the area. The 1st Special Forces detachment (A-727B) arrived in September 1963 and found the outpost to be an ideal border surveillance site with an existing airfield. The camp was located on a narrow grassy plain surrounded by rugged, virtually uninhabited jungle.

The only village in the area, located across the airstrip, was occupied by post dependents, camp followers and merchants. The camp and airstrip were bordered by the Ngok Peng Bum ridge to the west and Ngok Pe Xar mountain, looming over Kham Duc to the east. Steep banked streams full of rapids and waterfalls cut through the tropical wilderness. The Dak Mi River flowed past the camp over a mile distant, under the shadow of the Ngok Pe Xar. Five miles downriver was the small forward operating base of Ngok Tavak, defended by the 113-man 11th Mobile Strike Force Company with its 8 Special Forces and 3 Australian advisors. Since Ngok Tavak was outside friendly artillery range, 33 Marine artillerymen of Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 13th Marines, with two 105mm howitzers were located at the outpost.

Capt. Christopher J. Silva, commander of Detachment A-105 helicoptered into Ngok Tavak on May 9, 1968 in response to growing signs of NVA presence in the area. Foul weather prevented his scheduled evening departure. A Kham Duc CIDG platoon fleeing a local ambush also arrived and was posted to the outer perimeter. It was later learned that the CIDG force contained VC infiltrators.

Ngok Tavak was attacked by an NVA infantry battalion at 0315 hours on May 10. The base was pounded by mortars and direct rocket fire. As the frontal assault began, the Kham Duc CIDG soldiers moved toward the Marines in the fort yelling, "Don't shoot, don't shoot! Friendly, friendly!" Suddenly they lobbed grenades into the Marine howitzer positions and ran into the fort, where they shot several Marines with carbines and sliced claymore mine and communication wires.

The defenders suffered heavy casualties but stopped the main assault and killed the infiltrators. The NVA dug in along the hill slopes and grenaded the trenches where the mobile strike force soldiers were pinned by machine gun and rocket fire. An NVA flamethrower set the ammunition ablaze, banishing the murky flare- lighted darkness for the rest of the night. SFC
Harold M. Swicegood and the USMC platoon leader, Lt. Adams, were badly wounded and moved to the command bunker. Medical Spec4 Blomgren reported that the CIDG mortar crews had abandoned their weapons. Silva tried to operate the main 4.2 inch mortar but was wounded. At about 0500 hours, Sgt. Glenn Miller, an A-105 communications specialist, was shot through the head as he ran over to join the Marine howitzer crews.

The NVA advanced across the eastern side of Ngok Tavak and brought forward more automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. In desperation, the defenders called on USAF AC-47 "Spooky" gunships to strafe the perimeter and the howitzers, despite the possible presence of friendly wounded in the gun pits. The NVA countered with tear gas, but the wind kept drifting the gas over their own lines. After three attempts, they stopped. A
grenade fight between the two forces lasted until dawn. At daybreak Australian Warrant Officers Cameron and Lucas, joined by Blomgren, led a CIDG counterattack. The North Vietnamese pulled back under covering fire, and the howitzers were retaken. The Marines fired the last nine shells and spiked the tubes. Later that morning medical evacuation helicopters supported by covering airstrikes took out the seriously wounded, including Silva and Swicegood.

Two CH46's were able to land 45 replacements from the 12th Mobile Strike Force Company, accompanied by Capt. Euge E. Makowski (who related much of this account to Shelby Stanton, author of "Green Berets at War"), but one helicopter was hit in the fuel line and forced down. Another helicopter was hit by a rocket and burst into flames, wrecking the small helipad. The remaining wounded were placed aboard a hovering helicopter. As it lifted off, two Mike Force soldiers and 1Lt. Horace Fleming, one of the stranded aviation crewmen, grabbed the helicopter
skids. All three fell to their deaths after the helicopter had reached an altitude of over one hundred feet.

The mobile strike force soldiers were exhausted and nervous. Ammunition and water were nearly exhausted, and Ngok Tavak was still being pounded by sporadic mortar fire. They asked permission to evacuate their positions, but were told to "hold on" as "reinforcements were on the way". By noon the defenders decided that aerial reinforcement or evacuation was increasingly unlikely, and night would bring certain destruction. An hour later, they abandoned Ngok Tavak.

Thomas Perry, a medic from C Company, arrived at the camp at 0530 hours the morning of the 10th. He cared for the wounded and was assisting in an attempt to establish a defensive perimeter when the decision was made to evacuate the camp. As survivors were leaving, Perry was seen by Sgt. Cordell J. Matheney, Jr., standing 20 feet away, as Australian Army Capt. John White formed the withdrawal column at the outer perimeter wire on the eastern Ngok
Tavak hillside. It was believed that Perry was going to join the end of the column. All the weapons, equipment and munitions that could not be carried were hastily piled into the command bunker and set afire. The helicopter that had been grounded by a ruptured fuel line was destroyed with a LAW. Sgt. Miller's body was abandoned.

After survivors had gone about 1 kilometer, it was discovered that Perry was missing. Efforts were conducted to locate both Perry and Miller, including a search by a group from Battery D. They were searching along the perimeter when they were hit by enemy grenades and arms fire. Neither the men on the team nor Perry was ever found. Included in this team were PFC Thomas Blackman; LCpl. Joseph Cook; PFC Paul Czerwonka; LCpl. Thomas Fritsch; PFC Barry Hempel; LCpl. Raymond Heyne; Cpl. Gerald King; PFC Robert Lopez; PFC William McGonigle; LCpl. Donald Mitchell; and LCpl. James Sargent. The remaining survivors evaded through dense jungle to a helicopter pickup point midway to Kham Duc. Their extraction was completed shortly before 1900 hours on the evening of May 10.

In concert with the Ngok Tavak assault, the Kham Duc was blasted by a heavy mortar and recoilless rifle attack at 0245 hours that same morning. Periodic mortar barrages ripped into Kham Duc throughout the rest of the day, while the Americal Division airmobiled a reinforced battalion of the 196th Infantry Brigade into the compound. A Special Forces command party also landed, but the situation deteriorated too rapidly for their presence to have positive effect.

The mortar attack on fog-shrouded Kham Duc resumed on the morning of May 11. The bombardment caused heavy losses among the frightened CIDG soldiers, who fled from their trenches across open ground, seeking shelter in the bunkers. The LLDB commander remained hidden. CIDG soldiers refused orders to check the rear of the camp for possible North Vietnamese intruders. That evening the 11th and 12th Mobile Strike Force companies were airlifted to Da Nang, and half of the 137th CIDG Company from Camp Ha Thanh was airlanded

The 1st VC Regiment, 2nd NVA Division, began closing the ring around Kham Duc during the early morning darkness of 12 May. At about 0415 to 0430 hours, the camp and outlying positions came under heavy enemy attack. Outpost #7 was assaulted and fell within a few minutes. Outposts #5, #1 and #3 had been reinforced by Americal troops but were in North Vietnamese hands by 0930 hours.

OP1 was manned by PFC Harry Coen, PFC Andrew Craven, Sgt. Joseph Simpson, and SP4 Julius Long from Company E, 2nd of the 1st Infantry. At about 0415 hours, when OP1 came under heavy enemy attack, PFC Coen and SP4 Long were seen trying to man a 106 millimeter recoilless rifle. Survivors reported that in the initial enemy fire, they were knocked off their bunker. Both men again tried to man the gun, but were knocked down again by RPG fire. PFC Craven, along with two other men, departed the OP at 0830 hours on May 12. They moved out 50 yards and could hear the enemy in their last position. At about 1100 hours, as they were withdrawing to the battalion perimeter, they encountered an enemy position. PFC Craven was the pointman and opened fire. The enemy returned fire, and PFC Craven was seen to fall, with
multiple chest wounds. The other two men were unable to recover him, and hastily departed the area. PFC Craven was last seen lying on his back, wounded, near the camp.

OP2 was being manned by 1Lt. Frederick Ransbottom, SP4 Maurice Moore, PFC Roy Williams, PFC Danny Widner, PFC William Skivington, PFC Imlay Widdison, and SP5 John Stuller, from the 2nd of the 3rd Infantry when it came under attack. Informal questioning of survivors of this position indicated that PFC Widdison and SP5 Stuller may have been killed in action. However, the questioning was not sufficiently thorough to produce enough evidence to
confirm their deaths. The only information available concerning 1Lt. Ransbottom, SP4 Moore, PFC Lloyd and PFC Skivington that Lt. Ransbottom allegedly radioed PFC Widner and PFC Williams, who were in the third bunker, and told them that he was shooting at the enemy as they entered his bunker. SP4 Juan Jimenez, a rifleman assigned to Company A, 2nd of the 1st Infantry, was occupying a defensive position when he was severely wounded in the back by enemy mortar fire. SP4 Jimenez was declared dead by the Battalion Surgeon in the early morning hours of May 12. He was then carried to the helipad for evacuation. However, due to the situation, space was available in the helicopter for only the wounded, and SP4 Jimenez' remains were left behind.

At noon a massive NVA attack was launched against the main compound. The charge was stopped by planes hurling napalm, cluster bomb units and 750 pound bombs into the final wire barriers. The decision was made by the Americal Division officers to call for immediate extraction. The evacuation was disorderly, and at times, on the verge of complete panic. One of the first extraction helicopters to land was exploded by enemy fire, blocking the airstrip. Engineers of Company A, 70th Engineer Battalion, frantically reassembled one of their dozers (previously torn apart to prevent capture) to clear the runway. Eight more aircraft were blown out of the sky.PFC Richard E. Sands was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry, 198th Light Infantry Brigade being extracted on a CH47 helicopter (serial #67-18475). The helicopter was hit by 50 calliber machine gun fire at an altitude of 1500-1600 feet shortly after takeoff. Sands, who was sitting near the door gunner, was hit in the head by an incoming rounds. The helicopter made a controlled landing and caught fire. During the evacuation from the burning helicopter, four personnel and a medic checked PFC Sands and indicated that he had been killed instantly. Because of the danger of incoming mortar rounds and the fire, personnel attempting to remove PFC Sands from the helicopter were ordered to abandon their attempt.

The remaining personnel were evacuated from the area later by another helicopter. Intense antiaircraft fire from the captured outposts caused grave problems. Control over the indigenous forces was difficult. One group of CIDG soldiers had to be held in trenches at gunpoint to prevent them from mobbing the runway. As evacuation was in progress, members of Company A, 1/46, who insisted on boarding the aircraft first, shoved Vietnamese dependents out of the way. As more Americal infantry tried to clamber into the outbound planes, the outraged Special Forces staff convinced the Air Force to start loading civilians onboard a C130, then watched as the civilians pushed children and weaker adults aside.

The crew of the U.S. Air Force C130 aircraft (serial #60-0297) consisted of Maj. Bernard Bucher, pilot; SSgt. Frank Hepler, flight engineer; Maj. John McElroy, navigator; 1Lt. Steven Moreland, co-pilot; George Long, load master; Capt. Warren Orr, passenger, and an undetermined number of Vietnamese civilians.

The aircraft reported receiving ground fire on takeoff. The Forward Air Control (FAC) in the area reported that the aircraft exploded in mid-air and crashed in a fire ball about one mile from camp. All crew and passengers were believed dead, as the plane burned quickly and was completely destroyed except for the tail boom. No remains were recovered from the aircraft.

Capt. Orr was not positively identified by U.S. personnel as being aboard the aircraft. He was last seen near the aircraft helping the civilians to board. However, a Vietnamese stated that he had seen Capt. Orr board the aircraft and later positively identified him from a photograph. Rescue efforts were impossible because of the hostile threat in the area. At the time the order was given to escape and evade, SP4 Julius Long was was with Coen and Simpson. All three had been wounded, and were trying to make their way back to the airfield about 350 yards away. As they reached the airfield, they saw the last C130 departing. PFC Coen, who was shot in the
stomach, panicked and started running and shooting his weapon at random. SP4 Long tried to catch him, but could not, and did not see PFC Coen again. Long then carried Sgt. Simpson to a nearby hill, where they spent the night. During the night, the airfield was strafed and bombed by U.S. aircraft. SP4 Long was hit twice in the back by fragments, and Sgt. Simpson died during
the night. SP4 Long left him lying on the hill near the Cam Duc airfield and started his escape and evasion toward Chu Lai, South Vietnam. SP4 Long was captured and was released in 1973 from North Vietnam.

The Special Forces command group was the last organized group out of the camp. As their helicopter soared into the clouds, Kham Duc was abandoned to advancing NVA infantry at 4:33 p.m. on May 12, 1968. The last Special Forces camp on the northwestern frontier of South Vietnam had been destroyed. Two search and recovery operations were conducted in the vicinity of OP1 and OP2 and the Cam Duc airfield on July 18, 1970 and August 17, 1970. In these operations, remains of personnel previously reported missing from this incident were recovered and subsequently identified. (SP4 Bowers, PFC Lloyd, Sgt. Sisk, PFC Guzman-Rios and SSgt. Carter). However, extensive search and excavation could not be completed at OP1 and OP2 because of the tactical situation.

It was assumed that all the missing at Kham Duc were killed in action until about 1983, when the father of one of the men missing discovered a Marine Corps document which indicated that four of the men had been taken prisoner. The document listed the four by name. Until then, the families had not been advised of the possibility there were any American prisoners taken other
than Julius Long. A Vietnamese rallier identified the photographs of Roy C. Williams and John C. Stuller as positively having been POWs. Until proof is obtained that the rest of the men lost at Ngok Tavak and Kham Duc are dead, their families will always wonder if they are among those said to still be alive in Southeast Asia.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Vietnam too early for video games or too late?

World War II the war most of our grandfathers fought in or even parents. That war was remembered in a good light which made it an instant success for the video game industry. Actually I personally believe the video game industry does not know when to stop. I personally feel that WWII has been beaten to death so many good memories with some games and so many horrible disappointments with others. Now the gamind industry has made a move that will most likely cause some controversy thats right kids Vietnam.

Charlie Don't Surf
The intial breakout into Vitenam was made by bargain bin titles now the big hitters are stepping up the plate and hoping to make a homerun. A Czech company was one of the first to make a decent game called Vietcong it didn't really deal with any real issues of the war but made some vague references. The biggest problem I had with this game was it A)Made it so corny right before a major assault is laid on your base the main character makes the stupid ass comment of, "Either we kill them all or die a hero." What the hell kind of statement is that? I do not know of any vets that think of that because anyone who did is most likely dead now. B)They simplified the war you never once went into a village of people and have to ferret it out the Viet Cong amongst them nor do you ever and I mean ever see the strife between the Montgnards ,a Native Mountain people of Vietnam who were latter killed of by the Vietnam Government for aiding the US, and the Vietnamese soldiers. At times the tension between the two ethnic groups was near bloodshed. This game did open the doors to Vietnam though.

Kiddizing the 'Nam
EA the meglomaniac company that gobbles up smaller electronic companies made their debut into Vietnam with Battlefield:Vietnam. I have major gripes with this game because they make the War seem like fun and not the living hell it was. The biggest fire fights of the game do not feel even the slightest bit stressful but you begin to see what this game leads to. They make the game not even face the horror of war and continue on with what they did with 1942 it is a kids game no matter what anybody wants to say otherwise. Having played this game online quite a bit for its intial release I soon grew disgusted with the players because they were the most racist piles of garbage I have ever seen. You could not go a round without hearing "Die Gook this." or "I'm going to napalm your fuckin village you yellow commie bastard." I mean is this what EA wanted these kids to learn is to be racist and that war is all about napalming people and laughing your ass off? Now I can't really blame EA but I do blame the players when you actually like to play with Germans just so you can't understand them thats bad. Though EA did one thing right which was the music they have some of the greatest hits of the 60's and its definetely just worth playing with the crappy AI offline just to listen to the music.

Back into the 'Nam
Now two new games are making the jump into Vietnam. The first one I'm going to talk about is Shellshock Nam 67. Jesus H. Christ is all I can say about this game how did this filthy pile of shit ever get the greenlight? You want to know what I'm bitching about? Well lets just say I have warned you. Shellshock promises to bring the horrors and attrocities of Vietnam to your screen well they sure do deliver. With village slaughter sequences where you play can go around chucking nades in hooches just to watch Momma-san squell before she blows to chunks. Now the gore factor is extreme when I say extreme I mean when you can tell what internal organs are sticking out of a guy thats a little to much. Also the game is so loosely based on Vietnam its disgusting. Obviously they just wanted a jump into Vietnam but decided to scratch the research. First off they make your guy a draftee but they play on how many draftees fought in Vietnam and according to the DOD 90% of people fighting in Vietnam were there of their own free will the rest were draftees. Unlike WWII which had the highest draft percentage of any war. Also you are in a line unit which means your a basic grunt but somehow you get put in a Special Forces camp??? WHAT IN THE WORLD DO YOU PEOPLE NOT EVEN DO BASIC RESEARCH??? Ok now that I'm calmed down I would beg no I would plead with you not to play this garbage because its just degrading to all involved....but you can buy porn in the game so I guess some of you will buy it anyways. Men of Valor a game created by the developers of Medal of Honor are putting together a splendid game. This game deals with all things about Vietnam except in a tasteful manner. You play a African-American Sergeant in the USMC who will lead his men through some of the biggest battles in Vietnam. The game will deal with racism, drugs, anti-war movement, hatred for the Vietnamese and many other hot button issues of the time. I can not wait personally for this game to be released because it will accomplish what needs to be done.

In Closing
All I have to say ok beg is if your going to get a history lesson for the love of God get a book done by a veteran of the war and not somebody with a political platform they want to pound with or a journalist that just wants to make a name for themselves. Remember games are entertainment just like movies they are not meant as a history lesson so before you open your mouth about History make sure you read something first because if you ever talk to me about the Vietnam War and your statement starts out like "Once on Rambo." I will punch you in the face then run you over with my tank of a jeep just a fair warning.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

United States Marine Corps gets into the Video Game spotlight

Thats right there has never been a good game about the USMC ever. The US Army has by far had the most including: Medal of Honor series, Call of Duty, America's Army and Full Spectrum Warrior to name a few. Even the US Air Force has a good run of games: Falcon 4.0, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator, Red Baron series, and various other flight simulators. Also the Navy has had major success in the trend of video gaming: SOCOM Series, Destroyer Command, and various flight simulators. Now the Marine Corps is getting its due with 3 new games coming out showing the espirit de corps known amongs the Corps. Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault takes a major detour from its usual roots in the Army and begins what it started in the horrible console game Rising Sun. Having played the demo I think this game will accomplish everything it has promised and more with amazing graphics and visuals that will astound the eye. Men of Valor based during Vietnam will do many things amongst being a first person shooter were you are a Marine but it will be one of the first games to make the main character a black man and during the turbulent times of the 60's racism, drugs, anti-war movement will be among some other issues addressed in this game and with good taste. Next is a tactical FPS from Microsoft Close Combat: First to Fight. Close Combat takes a dramatic change from its strategy roots and makes it so you fight in a major conflict in a fake country leading a fireteam into combat as a Marine Sgt. All in all I would say its about time that the Marine Corps gets its due gaming wise. Soon to come on my blog my thoughts on the new trend in the MilSim shooters based on the all new favorite genre of the gaming industry Vietnam.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

My Newest Addiction

I have become addicted to this free turn-based strategy game called Steel Panthers:World at War. It is based on World War II mostly but it has a few campaigns that are what if scenearios and its has campaigns from Korea and the French Colonial conflict in Vietnam. I don't know why I'm so addicted its a complex gameplay wise but the graphics are old school. The US Army has the wide range of infantry but the crappiest tanks I swear those Shermans just combust on their own. The Nazis or Germans whichever you prefer to call them have pretty good everything and usually have the best tanks on the battlefield unless the Soviets can get hold of their best then your tank rounds just ping off them. US Marine Corps pretty much with their campaigns its pure infantry combat through the jungles of the south Pacific so tanks do not get to be used much but then can help in a tough defensive situaition. Japan is totally fanatical their rifle squads can get slaughtered down to one man and they continue the fighting its insane also they have the special abilites of conducting a banzai charge playing as the USMC I watched in disbelief has a Japanese rifle squad conducted a banzai charge on one of my tanks and destroyed it. The USSR well what can you say depends on numbers their infantry are pretty lame though they do have pretty good mountain troops that make it easy to move through the tough terrain of Russia they also have the best tanks in the game but you usually won't be able to get them depending on what the computer lets high command have open for you. All in all its a good game a little buggy and just plain annoying with the Japanese a little too strong and unbalanced but still a good game. If you wish to download and play this game its FREE visit http://www.steelpanthersonline.com/main.asp

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Excerpt from Musashi's The Book of Five Rings

I have been many years training in the Way of strategy, called Ni Ten Ichi Ryu, and now I think I will explain it in writing for the first time. It is now during the first ten days of the tenth month in the twentieth year of Kanei (1645). I have climbed mountain Iwato of Higo in Kyushu to pay homage to heaven, pray to Kwannon, and kneel before Buddha. I am a warrior of Harima province, Shinmen Musashi No Kami Fujiwara No Geshin, age sixty years...]

[...If you practise day and night in the above Ichi school strategy, your spirit will naturally broaden. Thus is large scale strategy and the strategy of hand to hand combat propagated in the world. This is recorded for the first time in the five books of Ground, Water, Fire, Tradition (Wind), and Void... This is the Way for men who want to learn my strategy:

Do not think dishonestly.

The Way is in training.

Become aquainted with every art.

Know the Ways of all professions.

Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.

Develop intuitive judgement and understanding for everything.

Perceive those things which cannot be seen.

Pay attention even to trifles.

Do nothing which is of no use...

Decisions....I hate them

You know what I think my problem is I take to long to make a decision at times I can be so indecisive especially if its a big decision. So I have been going over options career wise what I want to do well what I want to end up doing is either working as an analyst to the Central Intelligence Agency or teaching Military History at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Virginia Military Insitute or the Citadel. So to help get myself into such a career choice I've been looking into different enlistment options and Commission options open to me via the US Military. I have looked at the possibility of going to college up north to Weber, BYU, or UofU for their US Army ROTC program but the thing is I don't know if I want that much responsiblity being a young 2nd LT and being placed in a position the Army needs me which will most likely be a combat branch which I don't have a problem with but I don't think I would handle at least at this time ordering men to their possible demise. Talking to the US Army Career counselor who said if I wanted to see if I would like the military to go US Army Reserve but the biggest problem is that would put me into a MOS of Medical Supplies based in St. George which I do not want because I know it will be damn near impossible to get out of that. So I'm looking at either joining the Navy or Marines and seeing if I can get a better option career wise then what the Army is trying to shove me into.