Sunday, October 22, 2017

TheList 4568

To All
I hope you all had a great week. The List is back from the ashes of a burned out hard drive. New solid state Hard drive. Thanks to Tim my IT friend who made me a set of restore disks when I bought the computer 6 years ago I was able to go back to Windows 7. The back up I did on 10 October saved the rest and Geek Squad put it together.
This Day In Naval History - October 19
1843 - CAPT Robert Stockton in Princeton, the first screw propelled naval steamer, challenges British merchant ship Great Western to a race off New York, which Princeton won easily
1915 - Establishment of Submarine Base at New London, Connecticut.
1944 - Secretary of Navy orders African American women accepted into Naval Reserve
1987: U.S. Navy destroyers destroy two Iranian oil-drilling platforms during Operation Nimble Archer. This action was in response to the Iranian Silkworm Missile that hit MV Sea Isle City, which was under the protection of Operation Earnest Will.
On this day in history (October 19):
1874: The first wedding in a balloon took place as Mary Walsh and Charles Colon were hitched over Cincinnatti, Ohio.
1969: U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew referred to anti-Vietnam War
protesters "an effete corps of impudent snobs."   Oh those nattering nabobs
of negativism!
And today is:
National Seafood Bisque Day
More history for today
The Vandals, led by King Gaiseric, take Carthage in North Africa.
King John of England dies at Newark and is succeeded by his nine-year-old son Henry.
The Ottoman Sultan Murat II defeats Hungarian General Janos Hunyadi at Kosovo, Serbia.
The peace of Torun ends the war between the Teutonic knights and their own disaffected subjects in Prussia.
England declares war on Spain over borderlines in Florida. The War is known as the War of Jenkins' Ear because the Spanish coast guards cut off the ear of British seaman Robert Jenkins.
Major General Lord Charles Cornwallis surrenders to George Washington and Count de Rochambeau at Yorktown, Va. Cornwallis surrenders 7,157 troops, including sick and wounded, and 840 sailors, along with 244 artillery pieces. Losses in this battle had been light on both sides. The Revolutionary War is effectively ended.
Napoleon Bonaparte begins his retreat from Moscow.
John "The Pathfinder" Fremont moves out from near Westport, Missouri, on his fourth Western expedition–a failed attempt to open a trail across the Rocky Mountains along the 38th parallel.
At the Battle of Cedar Creek, Va., a narrow victory helps the Union secure the Shenandoah Valley.
Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Rutgers universities draft the first code of football rules.
The German cruiser Emden captures her thirteenth Allied merchant ship in 24 days.
Thanks to Hal –
On this date in history 10/17, some interesting people came to an end.  In
1793 Queen Marie Antionette of France at age 37 lost her head.  It seems the little people took umbrage at her smartassed remark while they were hungry and she said, "What? They don't have bread.  Well, let them eat cake".
In 1946,  Alfred Rosenberg (53), Arthur Seyss-Inquart (54), Ernst Kaltenbrunner (43), Fritz Sauckel (51), Hans Frank (46), Joachim von Ribbentrop (53), Julius Streicher (61), Wilhelm Frick (69), & Wilhelm Keitel (64), all Nazi war criminals, were hanged.  Now there is a lot more to this story than meets the eye. These Nazi war criminals were of no further use to us.  But there were a bunch more that were.  In the last days of World War II, the armies of the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union were dashing about looking for certain brainy Nazis and we had Operation Paper Clip going.  We got Werner von Braun who was responsible for the V-1 and V-2 rockets that fell on London killing civilians wherever they ran out of fuel and fell.  We brought him here to head up our rocket program in a race against the Soviet Union.  We also bagged Dr. Erich von Traube who headed Germany's chemical and biological weapons program.  We brought him to Plum Island labs to work for us. He brought some colonies of ticks with him which gave us duck enteritis which killed off the duck farming industry in Long Island. He also gave us what became known as Lyme disease.  Plum Island, which is out in Long Island Sound, is a stop on the flyway for migratory birds.  The next stop is Old Lyme, Connecticut. In time Lab 256 at Plum Island would give us West Nile Fever. You might well ask, how does a disease, carried by mosquitoes, that exists on the swampy west side of the Nile River in Africa make it to America and kill a man in Queens, NY?  Hmmmm..  study a map and plot the prevailing winds.
Lots of very wanted German war criminals escaped.  1st LT James Jesus Angleton of US Army Counterintelligence helped a few along the "Rat Line". 
The Vatican issues passports to quite a few and President Juan Peron of Argentina welcomed them with open arms.  He sent bundles of Argentine passports to give new identities to some bad guys.  The International Red Cross stepped in to save Obersturmbannfuhrer Adolph Eichmann with a passport.  He took the name Riccardo Klement and went to Argentina to disappear.  In that he was the man responsible for eradicating the Jews, or as Hitler called it, "The Final Solution", he was wanted and found by the Israeli Mossad.
You might ask why were we helping some key Nazis?  Simple answer....Communism, the Red Army, and Josef Stalin, posed a bigger threat for us in the future.  Many of these Nazis could be of use in the coming Cold War.  Especially those who were intelligence officers.
This Day In Naval History - October 20
1824 - U.S. Schooner Porpoise captures four pirate ships off Cuba.
1944: The U.S. Navy lands four Sixth Army divisions ashore on Leyte. Japanese aerial counter-attacks damage escort carrier Sangamon and a few other ships, but do not hinder the landings. Later in the day, Gen. Douglas MacArthur gives his "I have returned" radio message to the Philippine people. The Japanese prepare to send five strong naval forces to drive off the American fleet and add more troops for the land fighting. In the following days, this response will lead to World War II's biggest and most complex sea fight, the multi-pronged Battle of Leyte Gulf.
1952 - Task Force 77 establishes ECM Hunter/Killer Teams of 2 ECM equipped aircraft and an armed escort of 4 Skyraiders and 4 Corsairs.
1967 - Operation Coronado VII began in Mekong Delta, Vietnam.
1983 - Due to political strife, USS Independence (CV-59 ) ordered to Grenada.
This Day In Naval History - October 21
1797: The frigate Constitution launches at Edmund Hartt's Shipyard, Boston, Mass. The ship is now the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy.
1942 - British submarine lands CAPT Jerauld Wright, USN and four Army officers at Cherchel, French North Africa, to meet with a French military delegation to learn the French attitude toward future Allied landings.
1943:T(October 20) BFs from Composite Squadron (VC) 13, then based on board the escort carrier USS Core (CVE 13), sink the German submarine U 378 north of the Azores.
1944 - Leyte Landings continue.
American Minute for October 21st:
  British Admiral Horatio Nelson lost his right eye capturing Corsica and his right arm attacking the Canary Islands. He captured six and destroyed seven of Napoleon's ships at the Battle of the Nile and successfully assaulted Copenhagen. Horatio Nelson is best remembered for winning one of the greatest naval battles in history, The Battle of Trafalgar, on OCTOBER 21, 1805. The daring 47-year-old Nelson defeated 36-year-old Napoleon's combined French and Spanish fleets, consisting of 33 ships with 2,640 guns off the coast of Spain. The fifteen million dollars Napoleon received two years earlier from selling 600 million acres to the United States was not enough to change the outcome. Admiral Nelson's defeat of the French navy abruptly ended Napoleon's power at sea, and with it, his dreams of world conquest. The 90,000 French troops assembled on the coast of France were forced to abandon their plans of crossing the English Channel and invading Britain. During the Battle of Trafalgar, cannonade and musket shot ripped apart ships at point blank range, killing or wounding nearly ten thousand.
Admiral Nelson was fatally shot in the spine. He was carried below deck to the ship's surgeon where he died. Admiral Horatio Nelson's last words were:
"Thank God I have done my duty."
The Pilot Who Stole a Secret Soviet Fighter Jet ...
Thanks to Dr. Rich
Thanks to Loel …
Viktor is a good friend whom I met back in the early 90's, and have gotten to know him pretty well over the years … He's the most capitalistic Communist I've ever known, but then again, I only know one … and full of amazing stories of his early experiences in the U.S. when he defected … many having to do w. his only knowledge of America having come from Communist propaganda .. and his expectations that were totally different …
One that I can tell in mixed company is a friend's surprise who visited him in his apartment a few months after he arrived, and asked "Viktor, I didn't know you have a dog"?  to which he replied, "Oh, that … the American's are so clever … beef stew and gravy in a can" … not realizing he had been eating dog food !  … and many, many more.  
Anyway, enjoy the story .. and if you have any questions, Viktor is on this email chain and I'd be happy to forward them to him ….
Click on the screenshot, or the link below it …  I believe the BBC has made a movie of Viktor's escape and defection as well ...
2016 Today in History October 21
Seljuk Turks at Chivitot slaughter thousands of German crusaders.
The Pope names Henry VIII of England Defender of the Faith after defending the seven sacraments against Luther.
Tokugawa Ieyasu defeats his enemies in battle and affirms his position as Japan's most powerful warlord.
The Tricolor is chosen as the official flag of France.
Vice Admiral and Viscount Horatio Nelson wins his greatest victory over a Franco-Spanish fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar, fought off Cape Trafalgar, Spain. Nelson is fatally wounded in the battle, but lives long enough to see victory.
Under a flag of truce during peace talks, U.S. troops siege the Indian Seminole Chief Osceola in Florida.
The Battle of Ball's Bluff, Va. begins, a disastrous Union defeat which sparks Congressional investigations.
Many leaders of the Kiowa, Comanche and Kiowa-Apache sign a peace treaty at Medicine Lodge, Kan. Comanche Chief Quanah Parker refused to accept the treaty terms.
The U.S. Naval Academy admits John H. Conyers, the first African American to be accepted.
After 14 months of testing, Thomas Edison first demonstrates his electric lamp, hoping to one day compete with gaslight.
Panamanians clash with U.S. Marines in Panama in a brief uprising.
The first U.S. troops enter the front lines at Sommerviller under French command.
As war heats up with Germany, the British war cabinet holds its first meeting in the underground war room in London.
Ernest Hemingway's novel For Whom the Bell Tolls is published.
Eight American and British officers land from a submarine on an Algerian beach to take measure of Vichy French to the Operation Torch landings.
North Korean Premier Kim Il-Sung establishes a new capital at Sinuiju on the Yalu River opposite the Chinese City of Antung.
The Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opens in Manhattan.
Bob Dylan records his first album in a single day at a cost of $400.
The "March on the Pentagon," protesting American involvement in Vietnam , draws 50,000 protesters.
Israel's Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan resigns over disagreements with Prime Minister Menachem Begin over policies related to the Palestinians.
The United States sends a ten-ship task force to Grenada.
North Korea and the US sign an agreement requiring North Korea to halts its nuclear weapons program and agree to international inspections.
With our thanks to THE Bear at
October 21, 2017    Bear Taylor    
RIPPLE SALVO… #594… Coincident with the Stennis Hearings of 11-25 August and the authorization of Rolling Thunder 57, many here-to-fore restricted targets in and near Hanoi and Haiphong were freed up for attack. On 6 October the President added five more in the heart of Haiphong to the list of approved targets. Two weeks later a correspondent for Agence France-Presse provided a report from ground zero… but first…
Good Morning: Day FIVE HUNDRED NINETY-FOUR of another look at the 40-month air war called Operation Rolling Thunder…
21 OCTOBER 1967… HEAD LINES from The New York Times on a sunny Saturday in Manhattan…
Thanks to Dr. Rich
Thanks to YP ...
Incredible story of strength, survival and duty …  When I say I was a Navy flight surgeon during Vietnam, I'm ashamed that folks might mistakingly think I went through even 1% of what Dr. Kushner endured … Just think of how many other men went through similar incredible situations in Vietnam, and have never told anyone ...
This should go to every NFL owner and player as well!!
Sue and I donated a USN/USMC flight surgeon display at the USMC Museum in Quantico … I'm hopeful that Dr. Kushner's story might be displayed there.  I know his family would be proud, even if he would be reluctant ...
We are SO incredibly fortunate that the selfless 1% do so much for our country …
I want you to know that I don't do this often. I was captured 2 Dec.1967, and returned to American control on 16 Mar.1973. For those of you good at arithmetic - 1931 days. Thus it has been 32 years since capture and 26 years since my return. I have given a lot of talks, about medicine, about ophthalmology, even about the D-Day Invasion as I was privileged to go to Normandy and witness the 50th anniversary of the invasion in Jun.1944.

But not about my captivity. I don't ride in parades; I don't open shopping centers; I don't give interviews and talks about it. I have tried very hard NOT to be a professional PW. My philosophy has always been to look forward, not backward, to consider the future rather than the past. That's a hell'uva thing to say at a reunion, I guess. In 26 years, I've given only two interviews and two talks. One to my hometown newspaper, one to the Washington Post in 1973, and a talk at Ft. Benning in 1991 and to the Military Flight Surgeons in 1993. I've refused 1,000 invitations to speak about my experiences. But you don't say no to the 1-9th, and you don't say no to your commander. COL Bob Nevins and COL Pete Booth asked me to do this and so I said yes sir and prepared the talk. It will probably be my last one.

I was a 26-year-old young doctor, just finished 9 years of education, college at the University of North Carolina, med school at Medical College of VA, a young wife and 3 year old daughter. I interned at the hospital in which I was born, Tripler Army Med Center in Honolulu, HI. While there, I was removed from my internship and spent most of my time doing orthopedic operations on wounded soldiers and Marines. We were getting hundreds of wounded GIs there, and filled the hospital. After the hospital was filled, we created tents on the grounds and continued receiving air evac patients. So I knew what was happening in Vietnam. I decided that I wanted to be a flight surgeon. I had a private pilot's license and was interested in aviation. So after my internship at Tripler, I went to Ft. Rucker and to Pensacola and through the Army and Navy's aviation medicine program and then deployed to Vietnam. While in basic training and my E&E course, they told us that as Doctors, we didn't have to worry about being captured. Doctors and nurses they said were not PWs, they were detained under the Geneva Convention. If they treated us as PWs, we should show our Geneva Convention cards and leave. It was supposed to be a joke and it was pretty funny at the time.

I arrived in Vietnam in Aug.1967 and went to An Khe. I was told that the Div. needed two flight surgeons; one to be the div. flight surgeon at An Khe in the rear and the other to be surgeon for the 1-9th, a unit actively involved with the enemy. I volunteered for the 1-9th. The man before me, CPT Claire Shenep had been killed and the dispensary was named the Claire Shenep Memorial Dispensary. Like many flight surgeons, I flew on combat missions in helicopters, enough to have earned three air medals and one of my medics, SSG Jim Zeiler used to warn me: "Doc, you better be careful. We'll be renaming that dispensary, the K&S Memorial Dispensary."

I was captured on 2 Dec 67 and held for five and a half years until 16 Mar 73. I have never regretted the decision that I made that Aug to be the 1-9th flight surgeon. Such is the honor and esteem that I hold the squadron. I am proud of the time I was the squadron's flight surgeon.

On 30 Nov.1967, I went to Chu Lai with MAJ Steve Porcella, WO-1 Giff Bedworth and SGT McKeckney, the crew chief of our UH-1H. I gave a talk to a troop at Chu Lai on the dangers of night flying. The weather was horrible, rainy and windy, and I asked MAJ Porcella, the A/C commander, if we could spend the night and wait out the weather.

He said, "Our mission is not so important but we have to get the A/C back." I'll never forget the devotion to duty of this young officer; it cost him his life.

While flying from Chu Lai to LZ Two Bits, I thought we had flown west of Hwy. 1, which would be off course. I asked Steve if we had drifted west. He called the ATC at Duc Pho and asked them to find him. The operator at Duc Pho said that he had turned his radar off at 2100. He said, "Do you want me to turn it on and find you?" MAJ Porcella replied "Roj" and that was the last thing he ever said. The next thing I knew I was recovering from unconsciousness in a burning helicopter which seemed to be upside down. I tried to unbuckle my seat belt and couldn't use my left arm. I finally managed to get unbuckled and immediately dropped and almost broke my neck. My helmet was plugged into comm and the wire held me as I dropped out of the seat which was inverted. The helicopter was burning. Poor MAJ Porcella was crushed against the instrument panel and either unconscious or dead. Bedworth was thrown, still strapped in his seat, out of the chopper. His right anklebones were fractured and sticking through the nylon of his boot. SGT Mac was unhurt but thrown clear and unconscious. I tried to free Porcella by cutting his seatbelt and moving him. However, I was unable to. The chopper burned up and I suffered burns on my hands and buttocks and had my pants burned off. While trying to free Porcella, some of the M-60 rounds cooked off and I took a round through the left shoulder and neck. My left wrist and left collarbone were broken in the crash, and I lost, or broke, 7 upper teeth.

Well, after we assessed the situation - we had no food or water, no flares, no first aid kit or survival gear. We had two 38 pistols and 12 rounds, one seriously wounded WO co-pilot, a moderately wounded doctor, and an unhurt crew chief. We thought we were close to Duc Pho and Hwy 1 and close to friendlies. Bedworth and I decided to send Mac for help at first light.

We never saw him again. Later, 6 years later, COL Nevins told me that SGT Mac had been found about 10 miles from the crash site, shot and submerged in a rice paddy.

So on that night of 30 Nov. 1967 I splinted Bedworth's leg, with tree branches, made a lean-to from the door of the chopper, and we sat in the rain for three days and nights. We just sat there. We drank rainwater. On the third morning, he died. We could hear choppers hovering over our crash site and I fired most of the rounds from our 38's trying to signal them, but cloud cover was so heavy and the weather so bad, they never found us. I took the compass from the burned out helicopter and tried to go down the mountain towards the east and, I believed, friendlies. My glasses were broken or lost in the crash and I couldn't see well: the trail was slippery and I fell on rocks in a creek bed and cracked a couple of ribs. I had my left arm splinted to my body with my army belt. My pants were in tatters and burned. I had broken teeth and a wound in my shoulder. I hadn't eaten or drunk anything but rainwater for three days. I looked and felt like hell. One of the cruel ironies of my life, you know how we all play the what if games, what if I hadn't done this or that, well, when I finally reached the bottom of the mountain, I estimated 4 hours after first light, the weather cleared and I saw choppers hovering over the top. I knew I couldn't make it up the mountain, and had to take my chances. But if I had only waited another 4 hours

I started walking up the trail and saw a man working in a rice paddy. He came over and said Dai-wi, Bac-si- CPT Doctor. He took me to a little hootch, sat me down and gave me a can of sweetened condensed milk and a C-ration can, can opener and spoon. This stuff was like pudding and it billowed out of the can and was the best tasting stuff I ever had. I felt very safe at that point. One minute later, my host led a squad of 14 VC with two women and 12 rifles came upon me. The squad leader said, "Surrenda no kill." He put his hands in the air and I couldn't because my left arm was tied to my body. He shot me with an M2 carbine and wounded me again in the neck. After I was apprehended, I showed my captors my Geneva Convention card, white with a red cross. He tore it up. He took my dogtags and medallion which had a St. Christopher's (medal) on one side and a Star of David on the other, which my dad had given me before leaving. They tied me with commo wire in a duck wing position, took my boots and marched me mostly at night for about 30 days. The first day they took me to a cave, stripped my fatigue jacket off my back, tied me to a door and a teenage boy beat me with a bamboo rod. I was told his parents were killed by American bombs. We rested by day, and marched by night. I walked on rice paddy dikes, and couldn't see a thing. They would strike these little homemade lighters and by the sparks they made, see four or five steps. I was always falling off the dikes into the rice paddy water and had to be pulled back up. It was rough. On the way, I saw men, women and kids in tiger cages, and bamboo jails. I was taken to a camp, which must have been a medical facility as my wound was festering and full of maggots and I was sick. A woman heated up a rifle-cleaning rod and gave me a bamboo stick to bite on. She cauterized my wound through and through wound with the cleaning rod and I almost passed out with pain. She then dressed the wound with mercurochrome and gave me two aspirin. I thought, what else can they do to me. I was to find out.

After walking for about a month through plains, then jungles and mountains, always West, they took me to a camp. I had been expecting a PW camp like a stalag with Hogan's Heroes; barbed wire, search lights, nice guards and red cross packages - and a hospital where I could work as a doctor. They took me to a darkened hut with an oriental prisoner who was not American. I didn't know whether he was Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian or Chinese. He spoke no English and was dying of TB. He was emaciated, weak, sick and coughed all day and night. I spent two days there and an English-speaking Vietnamese officer came with a portable tape recorder and asked me to make a statement against the war. I told him that I would rather die than speak against my country. His words which were unforgettable and if I ever write a book, will be the title. He said, "You will find that dying is very easy; living … living is the difficult thing."

A few days later, in a driving rain, we started the final trek to camp. I was tied again, without boots, and we ascended higher and higher in the mountains. I was weak and asked to stop often and rest. We ate a little rice which the guards cooked. We actually needed ropes to traverse some of the steep rocks. Finally, we got to PW camp one. There were four American servicemen there, two from the US and two from Puerto Rico. Three were Marines and one in the Army. These guys looked horrible. They wore black PJs, were scrawny with bad skin and teeth and beards and matted hair. The camp also had about 15 ARVNs who were held separately, across a bamboo fence. The camp was just a row of hootches made of bamboo with elephant grass roofs around a creek, with a hole in the ground for a latrine. This was the first of five camps we lived in the South-all depressingly similar, although sometimes we had a separate building for a kitchen and sometimes we were able to pipe in water thru bamboo pipes from a nearby stream.

I asked one of the Marines, the man captured longest and the leader, if escape was possible. He told me that he and a special forces Captain had tried to escape the year before, and the Captain had been beaten to death, while he had been put in stocks for 90 days, having to defecate in his hands and throw it away from him or lie in it. The next day I was called before the camp commander and chastised and yelled at for suggesting escape. My fellow PW then told me never to say anything to him that I didn't want revealed, because the Vietnamese controlled his mind. I threatened to kill him for informing on me. He just smiled, and said I would learn. Our captors promised us that if we made progress and understood the evils of the war they would release us. And the next day, they released the two Puerto Ricans and 14 ARVNs PWs. The people released wore red sashes andgave anti-war speeches. Just before the release, they brought in another 7 American PWs from the 196th Light Bde who were captured in the TET offensive of 1968. I managed to write our names, ranks and serial numbers on a piece of paper and slip it to one of the PRs who was released. They transported the information home and in Mar 68 and our families learned we had been captured alive.

We were held in a series of jungle camps from Jan. 68 to Feb 71. At this time, conditions were so bad and we were doing so poorly, that they decided to move us to North Vietnam. They moved 12 of us. In all, 27 Americans had come through the camp. Five had been released and ten had died.

They died of their wounds, disease, malnutrition and starvation. One was shot while trying to escape. All but one died in my arms after a lingering, terrible illness. Five West German nurses in a neutral nursing organization, called the Knights of Malta, similar to our own Red Cross, had been picked up (I always thought by mistake) by the VC in the spring of 69. Three of them died and the other two were taken to North Vietnam in 1969 and held until the end of the war.

The twelve who made it were moved to North Vietnam on foot. The fastest group, of which I was one, made it in 57 days. The slowest group took about 180 days. It was about 900km. We walked thru Laos and Cambodia to the Ho Chi Minh trail and then up the trail across the DMZ until Vinh. At Vinh, we took a train 180 miles to Hanoi in about 18 hours. We traveled with thousands of ARVN PWs who had been captured in Lam Song 719, an ARVN incursion into Laos in 1971.

Once in Hanoi, we stayed in an old French prison called The Citadel or as we said, "The Plantation", until Christmas 72 when the X-mas bombing destroyed Hanoi. Then we were moved to the Hoa Lo or "Hanoi Hilton" for about three months. The peace was signed in Jan 73 and I came home on Mar 16 with the fourth group. In the North we were in a rough jail. There was bucket in the windowless, cement room used as a latrine. An electric bulb was on 24 hours a day. We got a piece of bread and a cup of pumpkin soup each day and three cups of hot water. We slept on pallets of wood and wore PJs and sandals and got three tailor made cigarettes per day. We dry-shaved and bathed with a bucket from a well twice per week, and got out of the cell to carry our latrine bucket daily.

Towards the end, they let us exercise. There were no letters or packages for us from the south, but I understood some of the pilots who had been there awhile got some things. In the summer, it was 120 in the cell and they gave us little bamboo fans. But there were officers and a rank structure and commo done through a tap code on the walls. No one died. It was hard duty, but not the grim struggle for survival which characterized daily life in the camps in the south. In the north, I knew I would survive. In the south, we often wanted to die. I knew that when they ordered us north, I would make it. In the south, each day was a struggle for survival. There were between three and twenty-four PWs at all times. We ate three coffee cups of rice per day. In the rainy season, the ration was cut to two cups. I'm not talking about nice white rice, Uncle Ben's. I'm talking about rice that was red, rotten, and eaten out by bugs and rats, cached for years, shot through with rat feces and weevils. We arose at 4, cooked rice on wood ovens made of mud. We couldn't burn a fire in the daytime or at night unless the flames and smoke were hidden, so we had these ovens constructed of mud which covered the fire and tunnels which carried the smoke away. We did slave labor during the day, gathering wood, carrying rice, building hootches, or going for manioc, a starchy tuberous plant like a potato. The Vietnamese had chickens and canned food. We never got supplements unless we were close to dying then maybe some canned sardines or milk. We died from lack of protein and calories. We swelled up with what is called "hungry edema" and beriberi. We had terrible skin disease, dysentery, and malaria. Our compound was littered with piles of human excrement because people were just too sick or weak to make it to the latrine.

We slept on one large pallet of bamboo. So the sick vomited and defecated and urinated on the bed and his neighbor. For the first two years, we had no shoes, clothes, mosquito nets or blankets. Later, in late '69, we got sandals, rice sacks for blankets, and a set of clothes. We nursed each other and helped each other, but we also fought and bickered. In a PW situation the best and the worst come out. Any little flaw transforms itself into a glaring lack. The strong can rule the weak. There is no law and no threat of retribution. I can report to you that the majority of the time, the Americans stuck together, helped each other and the strong helped the weak. But there were exceptions and sometimes the stronger took advantage of the weaker ones. There was no organization, no rank structure. The VC forbid the men from calling me Doc, and made me the latrine orderly to break down rank structure. I was officially forbidden from practicing medicine. But I hoarded medicine, had the men fake malaria attacks and dysentery so we could acquire medicine and keep it until we needed it. Otherwise, it might not come. I tried to advise the men about sanitary conditions, about nutrition and to keep clean, active and eat everything we could; rats, bugs, leaves, etc. We had some old rusty razor blades, and I did minor surgery, lancing boils, removing foreign bodies, etc. with them, but nothing major.

At one time, in the summer of 68, I was offered the chance to work in a VC hospital and receive a higher ration. The NVA Political officer, who made the offer and was there to indoctrinate us, said it had been done in WW II. I didn't believe him and didn't want to do it anyway, so I refused and took my chances. Later, upon return, I learned that American Army doctors in Europe in WW II, had indeed worked in hospitals treating German soldiers. But I'm glad now I did what I did. We had a 1st Sergeant who had been in Korea and in WW II. He died in the fall of '68 and we were forbidden from calling him "Top". The VC broke him fast. I was not allowed to practice medicine unless a man was 30 minutes away from dying, then they came down with their little bottles of medicine and said "Cure him!" At one point we were all dying of dysentery and I agreed to sign a propaganda statement in return for chloromycetin, a strong antibiotic, to treat our sick. Most of us were seriously ill, although a few never got sick, maintained their health and their weight. I never figured it out.

When a man died, we buried him in a bamboo coffin and said some words over his grave and marked it with a pile of rocks. I was forced to sign a death certificate in Vietnamese. I did this 13 times. The worst period was the fall of '68. We lost five men between Sept. and Christmas. Shortly before the end of Nov., I thought I was going to lose my mind. All of these fine young strong men were dying. It would have been so easy to live, just nutrition, fluids, and antibiotics. I knew what to do, but had no means to help them. I was depressed and didn't care whether I lived or died myself. At this time, we were simply starving to death. As an example of how crazy we were, we decided to kill the camp commander's cat. Several of us killed it, and skinned it. We cut off its head and paws and it dressed out to about three pounds. We were preparing to boil it when one of the guards came down and asked us what was going on. We told him we had killed a weasel by throwing a rock. The guards raised chickens and the chickens were always being attacked by weasels. Well, the guard, who was a Montagnard, an aborigine, found the feet, and knew it was the cat. The situation became very serious. The guards and cadre were was about 3 AM. The prisoners were lined up and a Marine and I were singled out to be beaten. He was almost beaten to death. I was beaten badly, tied up with commo wire very tightly (I thought my hands would fall off and knew I would never do surgery again) for over a day. I had to bury the cat. And I was disappointed I didn't get to eat it. That's how crazy I was.

Shortly thereafter, the Marine who had been beaten so badly died. He didn't have to. He simply gave up, like so many. Marty Seligman, a professor of psychology at University of Pennsylvania has written a book about these feelings called "Learned Helplessness and Death". The Marine simply lay on his bamboo bed, refused to eat, wash, or get up and died. So many did this. We tried to force them to eat, and to be active, but nothing worked. It was just too hard. This Marine wavered in and out of coma for about two weeks. It was around Thanksgiving, the end of November. The rains had been monstrous and our compound was a muddy morass littered with piles of feces. David Harker of Lynchburg, VA and I sat up with him all night. He hadn't spoken coherently for over a week. Suddenly, he opened his eyes and looked right at me. He said, "Mom, dad...I love you very much. Box 10, Dubberly, Louisiana." That was Nov 68.

We all escaped the camp in the south. Five were released as propaganda gestures. Ten Americans and three Germans died and twelve Americans and two Germans made it back. I am the only PW who was captured before the end of 67 to survive that camp. I came back Mar 16, 1973 and stayed in the hospital in Valley Forge, PA for a month getting fixed up with several operations and then went on convalescent leave. The first thing I did was go to Dubberly, LA and see the Marine's father. His parents had divorced while he was captured. I went to see five of the families of those that died and called the others on the phone.

It was a terrible experience, but there is some good to come from it. I learned a lot. I learned about the human spirit. I learned about confidence in yourself. I learned about loyalty to your country and its ideals and to your friends and comrades. No task would ever be too hard again. I had renewed respect for what we have and swore to learn my country's history in depth, (I have done it), and to try to contribute to my community and set an example for my children and employees. I stayed on active duty until '77 when I was honorably discharged and entered the Reserve from which I retired an as O-6 in '86. I have a busy medical practice down in Florida and been remarkably successful. I am active in my community in a number of ways and despite being drenched with Agent Orange a number of times and having some organs removed, have enjoyed great health. Except for some arthritis and prostate trouble, I'm doing great. So I was lucky...very lucky and I'm so thankful for that. I'm thankful for my life and I have no bitterness. I feel so fortunate to have survived and flourished when so many braver, stronger and better trained men did not.

Dr. Hal Kushner
1/9 Cav, 1 Cav Div
Via Bluto
16 October 2017

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