During the Vietnam "War," I served (August 1967-August 1968) as a first lieutenant (1193) in the United States Artillery in both the Fourth Division and Americal Division. I filled a number of slots including the following: Battery Executive Officer, Battery Commander, Forward Observer, Battalion Liaison Officer, Brigade Liaison Officer, Property Book Officer and others which now do not come to mind. Some of my duty assignments were posts reserved for senior captains on the major's promotion list. At that time there was a shortage of artillery officers in the U S Army, and when my efficiency report was being calculated, the then battalion executive officer performing the review offered me this deal which I politely refused: If I re-upped in the Army for two additional years, I would be promoted immediately to captain. That same major, some months before, had admonished me with these portentous words: "If you wish to make the Army your career, lieutenant, you better not talk anymore to those "niggers."
Pretty much near the end of my Vietnam tour, I was called upon to replace a forward observer assigned to an APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) unit in the Americal Division. When I arrived by "chopper" to the unit already dug in, I was stunned to see, on the high radio antennas of three of the APCs, the famous Stars & Bars of the Confederacy! Wherever I went in that unit, I could hear Southern accents filling the air, and "with tongue in cheek," I was referred to as a "Yankee" by many of the unit's members. Some of them had necklaces "beaded" with the ears of their enemy and their enemy's children.
After a couple of days, I sat down and wrote a letter to the governor of New York, Nelson A Rockefeller. I addressed the envelope so: "Honorable Nelson Rockefeller, Governor of the State of New York, Albany, New York." I did not have in mind any street address or city code. I wrote "FREE" in the top right-hand corner of the envelope'letters to the continental United States from those serving in Vietnam were costless'and I drop the missive into the company's mail bag for pickup later.
Some two weeks subsequently, I received a package and in it was a letter from the commanding general of the New York State National Guard'and a New York State flag! The letter explained that Governor Rockefeller had ordered the general to send me a flag ASAP.
I hoisted the flag on the APC that I had been assigned to, and two or three days later an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) from division was distributed forbidding anything to be attached to radio antennas.
When I returned to New York after my Vietnam service had been completed, I fulfilled a dream I had while I humped with the grunts in the Fourth Division on the borders of Laos and Cambodia: I checked into an elegant hotel (The Essex House) off Central Park and enjoyed smoking a cigar in hot bath waters. In fact, the only American who ever thanked me for serving in Vietnam was The Essex House's doorman who asked me if I was the lieutenant returning from Vietnam, and then told me the number of my room in which I found a bottle of champagne and a huge bowl of fruit'on The Essex House!
John F. Kennedy
In 1961, the deteriorating political situation in Laos posed a serious concern in U.S. foreign policy when President John F. Kennedy took office. | Photo: The White House archives |
spent three or four days strolling around Manhattan before I met my family. I wanted to let the kinks out of my nervous system'crimps which had taken hold of me after a year stepping about with eyes glued for some attack and my body tensed to react suddenly to whatever provocation. The right side of my right thumb was still calloused from flicking on and off the safety of my M-16.
One day, while I was jaunting, I came upon a throng of people waiting in front of a hotel. There were journalists and cameramen about. I walked up to one and asked about what was going on. The reporter told me Governor Rockefeller was due to come out at any minute. I looked for a member of Rocky's staff, and when I found one, I told him of my experience with the New York State flag in Vietnam. He told me to stay close to him. When Rocky exited the hotel, the aid caught his attention, and quickly whispered in Rocky's ear my flag story. Rocky came to me and, sticking out his right arm, said: "You did a great job in Vietnam, fella'," and quickly bent his head to enter his waiting limousine.
The DisUnited States of North America?