No man is left behind. - Page 2

December 18th, 2014  
As I was cleaning out my attic I found a copy of Phnom Penh Post May 12, 2000 which I got while visiting Cambodia. In it are two articles, one about a marine abandoned in the 1975 attack on Koh Tang Island and the failed attempt to rescue of the crew of the container ship Mayaguez. First:
US Marine abandoned, killed —ex-KR

The former platoon commander of Khmer Rouge forces that repulsed the May 15, 1975, US Marine assault on the offshore island Koh Tang has told the Post that at least one US Marine was discovered at large on the island 10 days after the American withdrawal and subsequently killed.
The revelation is the most concrete evidence to date that US Marines were abandoned on Koh Tang during the confusion of the American withdrawal from a battle in which 18 US servicemen remain officially "unaccountable" 25 years later.
Ten days after the American soldiers left Koh Tang, a tree-cutting detail sighted a figure taking water from a well," explained Mao Ran, KR platoon commander on Koh Tang in 1975. When we investigated the area, we found boot marks which we knew had to belong to an American soldier because our men only wore sandals."
Ran immediately organized a search of the area, and shortly after, the abandoned Marine was discovered by KR troops.
The American jumped out from behind some vegetation and attempted to attack one of our men," Ran recalled. He was killed with a burst from an AK-47 and we buried him nearby."
Ran's admission adds credence to the belief held by many Marines who took part in the operation of a "lost machinegun team" abandoned alive on the island during the withdrawal.
We were told on the USS Coral Sea that a machinegun team was killed by the KR as we withdrew from the island, but years later, I suspect they were left behind," Koh Tang Marine veteran Dale L Clark told the Post. "I believe the US government knew the team was alive on the island because I heard and saw preparations made on the USS Coral Sea to return to the island to recover the team [but] no attempts were made ... I suspect the US government canceled the plans not wanting to have any more Marines killed during the recovery."
Clark's suspicions were heightened by a Feb 23 Washington Times article that described the three abandoned -Gary Hall, Joseph Hargrove and Danny Marshall as having survived for several days before being captured and killed.
One reportedly was shot dead after being caught stealing food from the Khmer Rouge camp, the Times reported. The other two apparently were bludgeoned to death.
Ran, who is now a Commune Chief in rural Kampong Speu, denies any knowledge of surviving servicemen on Koh Tang other than the one whose killing he witnessed.
Lieutenant-Colonel Franklin Childress, Public Affairs Officer of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting of MIAs in Hawaii, was unaware of Ran's allegations, but said MIA investigators were closely following the case.
December 18th, 2014  
The second article: Part 1
A Tragedy of Errors: The Mayaguez Incident Remembered

At 2:20pm on May 12, 1975, an otherwise routine voyage to Sattahip, Thailand, by the Sealand container ship Mayaguez was brought to a halt by a pair of Khmer Rouge naval patrol boats and their heavily-armed crews.
Accused of violating Cambodian territorial waters, the ship and its 39 member crew were diverted toward the Cambodian island of Koh Tang.
Coming just 12 days after America's humiliating retreat from Vietnam, the hostage-taking became the focus of US government efforts to salvage a superpower reputation perceived tarnished by the recent twin Communist victories in Cambodia and Vietnam.
"The National Security Council was convened and [then-US Secretary of State] Kissinger argued that much more was at stake than the seizure of an American ship ... [that] American credibility was more involved than ever," William Shawcross wrote of the incident in his book Sideshow. "Throughout the crisis the Secretary insisted that for domestic and international reasons, and particularly to impress the North Koreans, the United States must use force."
Although the Mayaguez crew was transferred by fishing boat to the port of Sihanoukville on the afternoon of May 13, American military intelligence believed at least half of the crew remained on Koh Tang, and plans were laid for a rescue attempt by American Marines based in Thailand.
The plans went askew horrifyingly fast.
The Khmer Rouge boat carrying the Mayaguez crew to Sihanoukville was repeatedly strafed and tear-gassed by American planes unsuccessfully seeking to force the ship back to Koh Tang. A group of the Mayaguez crew later unsuccessfully sued the government for chronic health problems incurred as a result of those aerial attacks.
On the evening of May 14, 23 US Marines became the Mayaguez Incident's first deaths after their helicopter crashed en route from Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Airbase to the operation's departure point of U Tapao air base. A US government memorial unveiled in Phnom Penh in 1995 by visiting Senator John McCain makes no mention of those men.
At dawn on May 15,170 Marines in eight Knife and Jolly Green Giant helicopters approached Koh Tang in the first stage of a rescue attempt in which little or no resistance was expected from what American military intelligence had described as an opposition force of 35-to-40 KR "irregulars".
Instead they entered a firestorm orchestrated by a well-armed and well-dug-in platoon of battle-hardened KR, veterans of the April 17 "liberation" of Phnom Penh, who assailed the invaders with their newly acquired American guns and ammunition confiscated from losing Lon Nol forces.
Within minutes three helicopters had been shot down and for the next 24 hours US forces fought for their lives in a battle that eventually killed 16 KR combatants and an additional 18 Americans, their remains the focus of intensive searches by US government MLA teams on Koh Tangy, that continue to this day.
In a bitter irony unknown to the Marines on Koh Tang until after their harrowing extraction to the US aircraft carrier Coral Sea on the morning of May 16, the crew of the Mayaguez had been freed on to a Thai fishing boat several hours before the attack commenced.
At 10:08am of May 15, while US helicopter gunships perforated with KR small arms fire struggled to land reinforcements and evacuate wounded Marines from Koh Tang, the crew of the Mayaguez was picked up by the US navy.
Shawcross wrote in Sideshow that President Ford was quick to describe the Mayaguez mission as a success in that " did not only ignite confidence in the White House ... it had an electrifying reaction as far as the American people were concerned. It was a spark that set off a whole new sense of confidence for them, too."
Calculating the costs of the battle — 41 American dead in return for the safe return of 39 merchant seamen and the loss of life and property of Cambodians unaware of their position in American foreign and domestic policy objectives —Shawcross is unequivocal in suggesting that the Mayaguez Incident left little to celebrate for either side.
"In the attacks on [Sihanoukville] the railroad yard, the port, the oil refinery and the airfield were virtually destroyed," he writes. "At Ream naval base, 364 buildings were flattened. Nine Cambodian vessels were sunk at sea. In order to rescue the Marines on Koh Tang, the island was heavily bombarded ... [ignoring] ... the August 1973 ban on bombing Indochina as well as the 1973 War Powers Act. The principal purposes of the bombing seem to have been to punish the Cambodians and to reassert a concept of American bellicosity which the collapse of Phnom Penh and Saigon was seen to have damaged."
At the pre-dawn briefing for US Marines chosen to participate in the rescue attempt of the Mavaguez crew mistakenly believed to be held by Khmer Rouge forces on the island of Koh Tang, the planned operation seemed deceptively straightforward.
"Our group's mission was to land on the beach, link up with the other groups and move toward the middle of the island where we were to link up and surround a compound believed to hold the captured Mayaguez crew," explained Dale L Clark, a Marine Lance Corporal fire team leader during the Koh Tang assault. "My group had two US Army interpreters that spoke fluent Cambodian [who] were equipped with bullhorns and tasked with influencing [the Khmer Rouge] in giving up the crew without a fight."
The battle for Koh Tang had all the necessary ingredients for a military disaster: inexperienced soldiers facing a seasoned enemy on its home turf and faulty intelligence assessments of the nature of the opposition.
"Very few within our company had any previous combat experience ... lots of the guys were fresh out of boot-camp or like myself had just been in about a year," recalled Koh Tang Marine survivor Larry Barnett. "I guess a fair general term to describe our company was greenhorns.
As they skimmed over the Gulf of Thailand in helicopters toward their fateful encounter with the KR on Koh Tang, both Barnett and Clark were comforted by military intelligence reports of the light resistance they would encounter upon arrival on the island.
"The most we were told to expect was sniper fire ...we were led to believe that the operation would be relatively easy," Barnett explained.
"We were led to expect the operation to be easy and with a quick withdrawal," Clark added. "We were told not to 'lock and load' our weapons until told to do so because combat was not expected."
An American scholar and former military officer who has researched and written extensively about the Koh Tang operation says that the Marines had been inaccurately informed to expect a KR militia force of between 20 and 40 men based on the estimate of a former Lon Not navy officer familiar with the island's garrison before the communist takeover.
"My estimate... distilled from CIA and DIA estimates and adjusted in light of the Marines impressions of the action was that the KR had approximately 200 people on the island, reinforced with heavy machineguns, possibly mortars and recoilless rifles," he told the Post. "Supporting my logic, an intercepted KR message from the island alter the battle indicated that the KR garrison had suffered 55 men killed and 70 wounded."
Clark admits going into "mild shock" by the intensity'' of the KR resistance to the Marine landing on Koh Tang.
"I could not believe what I saw ... the KR opened up on the first four helicopters that attempted to land on the west beach and then on the east beech
"I saw an antiaircraft gun tin placement near the edge of the island. I also saw a lot of smoke coming from a tree line we flew over ... from rifles being fired at the helicopters. I remember hugging the bottom of the helicopter, as we began evasive maneuvers to get out of the kill zone. I looked up and saw fuel spraying all over the inside of the front of the helicopter. I could not believe what I was seeing."
Clark and Barnett were victims of what both men concede was a severe failure of intelligence about the strength of the force facing them on Koh Tang.
"Being told not to expect resistance and having the opposite experience ... tells me it was an intelligence disaster," Clark said of the operation. "Years later after I conducted some minor research, I discovered that several branches of the military had an accurate assessment of the KR on Koh Tang ... the information was never passed on to the US Marine Corps."
Barnett is even more explicit in laying blame for the contradictory information given to him and his men before the Koh Tang assault.
"The intelligence that [the military] had on the island was good ... but did not make its way into the proper hands," Barnett said. "Our Company Commander and Company Gunnery Sergeant received a photo of the island's gun placements and bunkers the night before [the assault] ... but elected not to tell the troops for fear of making us more nervous than we already were."
Surprise and dismay over the events of May 15, 1975, were felt equally by the Khmer Rouge defenders of Koh Tang. Mao Ran, a 22-year old platoon commander, had arrived on Koh Tang a week earlier in advance of an expected incursion of Vietnamese troops. The last thing he expected, he told the Post from his village in rural Kampong Speu where he now serves as a Commune Chief, was an assault by American troops.
"I met those men from the [Mayaguez] and we were friendly and kind to them ... I had no idea they would be the cause of fighting between Cambodia and America," he said.
December 18th, 2014  
he said. "I think [the Americans] attacked us out of revenge because they had lost the war and they used the [Mayaguez] as an excuse ... remember, the Americans didn’t just bomb Koh Tang, but also the port and airfield at [Sihanoukville] — it was just revenge."Ran also challenges revised American estimates of the size of the KR defending force on Koh Tang.
"We had 40 men in total on the island, but only 20 men took part in most of the fighting," he insisted. "But we had a lot of weapons from the liberation of Phnom Penh ... we used American M16s and M30s to kill American troops. "While both Barnett and Clark are skeptical about Rari’s claims regarding the troop numbers under his command, they expressed admiration for the ferocity with which they fought.,,
"I was so scared and in danger, I had to defecate by pulling my trousers down while in a prone position and firing my weapon at the same time," Clark said. "I was expecting a KR [soldier] to come running out at me [from] the jungle. While KR rounds were cracking over my head I felt a snake crawl over my left leg [but] I was too terrified to stop firing to worry about the snake." Ran, however, was less than impressed by the fighting prowess of the US Marines he engaged on Koh Tang.
"Those American soldiers were not professional like Khmer Rouge fighters ... they spoke loudly and laughed and smoked so it was easy to pinpoint their location and monitor their movements," he recalled. "Later [on the evening of May 15] this behavior made it easy for us to launch a grenade attack against them."
In the air above Ran and his fellow KR defenders, American planes and AC‑130 Specter gun ships subjected their positions to withering cover fire that continued uninterrupted throughout the operation. At the height of the fighting KR positions were targeted with a 15,000 pound BLU-82 cluster bomb, at the time the biggest nonnuclear weapon in the US arsenal, carving out a huge crater still clearly visible on the island 25 years later.
"I think the Americans must have thought that all of us were dead because they dropped so many bombs and rockets on us from the air," Ran said. "That's why they flew so low, almost treetop level, which made it much easier for us to shoot at them."
After the withdrawal of the last Marines from the island at dawn on the morning of May 16, Ran and his fellow KR dragged the bodies of the dead Marines to the water's edge and threw them in. "I didn't count how many there were, but I remember dragging five or six bodies myself."
In a reference to the efforts of US government Joint Task Force-Full Accounting MIA searches which he has subsequently assisted in on Koh Tang, he joked: "If we'd known the Americans would have come back some day to look for the bodies, we would have put all the bodies in one easy-to-find place."
Ran justifies his obvious lack of sympathy for the American losses on Koh Tang due to what he describes as "many Cambodian deaths" that resulted from the operation.
"We lost six men on the island, and another ten were killed when their boats were sunk approaching Koh Tang," Ran said. "Many more people were killed by bombs in [Sihanoukville]."
Both Clark and Barnett admit to have agonized over the years over their experiences on Koh Tang and express interest in some day meeting Ran and other surviving Khmer Rouge from Koh Tang to discuss the operation from both perspectives.
"I'd love to ask them the same questions you asked me ... I would like to know what they were feeling at the time," Clark said.
Ran, however, is clearly less enthusiastic about rehashing the details of the Koh Tang battle with his former foes.
"[Koh Tang] was just like a training exercise ... the real battle and the real victory was the liberation of Phnom Penh on April 17," he said. "And people say now that the Khmer Rouge killed one million people [between 1975-1979], but another million people must have been killed in American B52 attacks on Cambodia ... I saw whole villages destroyed by B-52s and I'll never forget that."
December 18th, 2014  
You never leave a comrade behind , never , you come out together or not at all , this was our mindset in Vietnam , a soldier has to know that no matter what he will not be forgotten .
December 19th, 2014  
Originally Posted by tetvet
You never leave a comrade behind , never , you come out together or not at all , this was our mindset in Vietnam , a soldier has to know that no matter what he will not be forgotten .
Sometimes itīs the only solution.
Sometimes the mission is more important than the person.
And sometimes itīs impossible to retrieve the body.
December 24th, 2014  
Fact is there are times when it is not possible.
SOG, LRRPS, being over run, and others.
Survival of the team or mission comes 1st.
There have been lives lost retrieving bodies or wounded, but at some point you got to give it up and try again, especially in terms of corpses.

I don't think you can attribute the quote to anybody.

Lots of those quotes sound best in the basements where they are most commonly used by folks who never have bothered to venture far from there.
December 25th, 2014  
Mission is numba one , the dudes dead leave him , this guys alive get him .
December 28th, 2014  
Originally Posted by tetvet
You never leave a comrade behind , never , you come out together or not at all , this was our mindset in Vietnam , a soldier has to know that no matter what he will not be forgotten .
There are many veterans who are forgotten, after they have come home.
December 29th, 2014  
A veteran who gets home is expected to get on with it , you know get a life , a job become a viable part of society .
December 29th, 2014  
Originally Posted by tetvet
A veteran who gets home is expected to get on with it , you know get a life , a job become a viable part of society .
Not so fast. I've worked with the VOC "Veterans Outreach Center" which is an adjunct service for veterans after discharge.

Many veterans don't possess skills for todays job market. Also many veterans don't know how to conduct a job search in todays technological world. Others have physical and/or mental disabilities and require further assistance. It's not always an easy transition to civilian life. The sad fact is some of the vets become homeless, including a few who distinguished themselves in combat.

The VOC provides job and job searching console, mental health consoling. Housing for the homeless vets and directs the vets with disabilities on where-who to see for their concern.