Essays on War: Mattis

by Stan Coerr November 28, 2016

America knows General James Mattis as a character, Mad Dog Mattis, fount of funny quotes and Chuck Norris-caliber memes.

Those of us who served with him know that he is a caring, erudite, warfighting general. And we know that there is a reason he uses the callsign Chaos: he is a lifelong student of his profession, a devotee of maneuver warfare and Sun Tzu, the sort of guy who wants to win without fighting—to cause chaos among those he would oppose.

image source: https://wn.com/james_mattis

To Marines, he is the finest of our tribal elders. The rest of the world, very soon, will know how truly gifted he is. Our friends and allies will be happy he is our new Secretary of War; our enemies will soon wish he weren’t.

I worked for General James Mattis three times: when he was a Colonel, a Major General, and a Lieutenant General.

Read the entire story here

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Burial At Sea

by Lt Col George Goodson, USMC (Ret)

In my 76th year, the events of my life appear to me, from time to time, as a series of vignettes. Some were significant; most were trivial.

War is the seminal event in the life of everyone that has endured it. Though I fought in Korea and the Dominican Republic and was wounded there, Vietnam was my war.

Now 42 years have passed and, thankfully, I rarely think of those days in Cambodia, Laos, and the panhandle of North Vietnam where small teams of Americans and Montagnards fought much larger elements of the North Vietnamese Army.

Instead I see vignettes: some exotic, some mundane:
*The smell of Nuc Mam.
*The heat, dust, and humidity.
*The blue exhaust of cycles clogging the streets.
*Elephants moving silently through the tall grass.
*Hard eyes behind the servile smiles of the villagers.
*Standing on a mountain in Laos and hearing a tiger roar.
*A young girl squeezing my hand as my medic delivered her baby.
*The flowing Ao Dais of the young women biking down Tran Hung Dao.
*My two years as Casualty Notification Officer in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.

It was late 1967. I had just returned after 18 months in Vietnam. Casualties were increasing. I moved my family from Indianapolis to Norfolk, rented a house, enrolled my children in their fifth or sixth new school, and bought a second car. A week later, I put on my uniform and drove 10 miles to Little Creek, Virginia. I hesitated before entering my new office. Appearance is important to career Marines. I was no longer, if ever, a poster Marine. I had returned from my third tour in Vietnam only 30 days before. At 5’9″, I now weighed 128 pounds – 37 pounds below my normal weight. My uniforms fit ludicrously, my skin was yellow from malaria medication, and I think I had a twitch or two.

I straightened my shoulders, walked into the office, looked at the nameplate on a Staff Sergeant’s desk and said, “Sergeant Jolly, I’m Lieutenant Colonel Goodson. Here are my orders and my Qualification Jacket.”

Sergeant Jolly stood, looked carefully at me, took my orders, stuck out his hand; we shook and he asked, “How long were you there, Colonel?” I replied “18 months this time.” Jolly breathed, “ you must be a slow learner Colonel.” I smiled.

Jolly said, “Colonel, I’ll show you to your office and bring in the Sergeant Major. I said, “No, let’s just go straight to his office.” Jolly nodded, hesitated, and lowered his voice, “Colonel, the Sergeant Major. He’s been in this job two years. He’s packed pretty tight. I’m worried about him.” I nodded.

Jolly escorted me into the Sergeant Major’s office. “Sergeant Major, this is Colonel Goodson, the new Commanding Office. The Sergeant Major stood, extended his hand and said, “Good to see you again, Colonel.” I responded, “Hello Walt, how are you?” Jolly looked at me, raised an eyebrow, walked out, and closed the door.

I sat down with the Sergeant Major. We had the obligatory cup of coffee and talked about mutual acquaintances. Walt’s stress was palpable. Finally, I said, “Walt, what’s the h e ll’s wrong?” He turned his chair, looked out the window and said, “George, you’re going to wish you were back in Nam before you leave here. I’ve been in the Marine Corps since 1939. I was in the Pacific 36 months, Korea for 14 months, and Vietnam for 12 months. Now I come here to bury these kids. I’m putting my letter in. I can’t take it anymore.” I said, “OK Walt. If that’s what you want, I’ll endorse your request for retirement and do what I can to push it through Headquarters Marine Corps.”

Sergeant Major Walt Xxxxx retired 12 weeks later. He had been a good Marine for 28 years, but he had seen too much death and too much suffering. He was used up.

Over the next 16 months, I made 28 death notifications, conducted 28 military funerals, and made 30 notifications to the families of Marines that were severely wounded or missing in action. Most of the details of those casualty notifications have now, thankfully, faded from memory. Four, however, remain.

MY FIRST NOTIFICATION
My third or fourth day in Norfolk, I was notified of the death of a 19 year old Marine. This notification came by telephone from Headquarters Marine Corps. The information detailed:
*Name, rank, and serial number.
*Name, address, and phone number of next of kin.
*Date of and limited details about the Marine’s death.
*Approximate date the body would arrive at the Norfolk Naval Air Station.
*A strong recommendation on whether the casket should be opened or closed.
The boy’s family lived over the border in North Carolina, about 60 miles away. I drove there in a Marine Corps staff car. Crossing the state line into North Carolina, I stopped at a small country store / service station / Post Office. I went in to ask directions. Three people were in the store. A man and woman approached the small Post Office window. The man held a package. The Storeowner walked up and addressed them by name, “Hello John. Good morning Mrs. Cooper.”

I was stunned. My casualty’s next-of-kin’s name was John Cooper! I hesitated, then stepped forward and said, “I beg your pardon. Are you Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper of (address)?”

The father looked at me-I was in uniform – and then, shaking, bent at the waist, he vomited. His wife looked horrified at him and then at me. Understanding came into her eyes and she collapsed in slow motion. I think I caught her before she hit the floor.

The owner took a bottle of whiskey out of a drawer and handed it to Mr. Cooper who drank. I answered their questions for a few minutes. Then I drove them home in my staff car. The store owner locked the store and followed in their truck. We stayed an hour or so until the family began arriving.

I returned the store owner to his business. He thanked me and said, “Mister, I wouldn’t have your job for a million dollars.” I shook his hand and said; “Neither would I.”

I vaguely remember the drive back to Norfolk. Violating about five Marine Corps regulations, I drove the staff car straight to my house. I sat with my family while they ate dinner, went into the den, closed the door, and sat there all night, alone. My Marines steered clear of me for days. I had made my first death notification.

THE FUNERALS
Weeks passed with more notifications and more funerals. I borrowed Marines from the local Marine Corps Reserve and taught them to conduct a military funeral: how to carry a casket, how to fire the volleys and how to fold the flag. When I presented the flag to the mother, wife, or father, I always said, “All Marines share in your grief.” I had been instructed to say, “On behalf of a grateful nation….” I didn’t think the nation was grateful, so I didn’t say that.

Sometimes, my emotions got the best of me and I couldn’t speak. When that happened, I just handed them the flag and touched a shoulder. They would look at me and nod. Once a mother said to me, “I’m so sorry you have this terrible job.” My eyes filled with tears and I leaned over and kissed her.

ANOTHER NOTIFICATION
Six weeks after my first notification, I had another. This was a young PFC. I drove to his mother’s house. As always, I was in uniform and driving a Marine Corps staff car. I parked in front of the house, took a deep breath, and walked towards the house. Suddenly the door flew open, a middle-aged woman rushed out. She looked at me and ran across the yard, screaming “NO! NO! NO! NO!”

I hesitated. Neighbors came out. I ran to her, grabbed her, and whispered stupid things to reassure her. She collapsed. I picked her up and carried her into the house. Eight or nine neighbors followed. Ten or fifteen later, the father came in followed by ambulance personnel. I have no recollection of leaving.

The funeral took place about two weeks later. We went through the drill. The mother never looked at me. The father looked at me once and shook his head sadly.

ANOTHER NOTIFICATION
One morning, as I walked in the office, the phone was ringing. Sergeant Jolly held the phone up and said, “You’ve got another one, Colonel.” I nodded, walked into my office, picked up the phone, took notes, thanked the officer making the call, I have no idea why, and hung up. Jolly, who had listened, came in with a special Telephone Directory that translates telephone numbers into the person’s address and place of employment.

The father of this casualty was a Longshoreman. He lived a mile from my office. I called the Longshoreman’s Union Office and asked for the Business Manager. He answered the phone, I told him who I was, and asked for the father’s schedule. The Business Manager asked, “Is it his son?” I said nothing. After a moment, he said, in a low voice, “Tom is at home today.” I said, “Don’t call him. I’ll take care of that.” The Business Manager said, “Aye, Aye Sir,” and then explained, “Tom and I were Marines in WWII.”

I got in my staff car and drove to the house. I was in uniform. I knocked and a woman in her early forties answered the door. I saw instantly that she was clueless. I asked, “Is Mr. Smith home?” She smiled pleasantly and responded, “Yes, but he’s eating breakfast now. Can you come back later?” I said, “I’m sorry. It’s important. I need to see him now.” She nodded, stepped back into the beach house and said, “Tom, it’s for you.”

A moment later, a ruddy man in his late forties, appeared at the door. He looked at me, turned absolutely pale, steadied himself, and said, “Jesus Christ man, he’s only been there three weeks!”

Months passed. More notifications and more funerals. Then one day while I was running, Sergeant Jolly stepped outside the building and gave a loud whistle, two fingers in his mouth…… I never could do that….. and held an imaginary phone to his ear.

Another call from Headquarters Marine Corps. I took notes, said, “Got it.” and hung up. I had stopped saying “Thank You” long ago.

Jolly, “Where?”

Me, “Eastern Shore of Maryland. The father is a retired Chief Petty Officer. His brother will accompany the body back from Vietnam….”

Jolly shook his head slowly, straightened, and then said, “This time of day, it’ll take three hours to get there and back. I’ll call the Naval Air Station and borrow a helicopter. And I’ll have Captain Tolliver get one of his men to meet you and drive you to the Chief’s home.”

He did, and 40 minutes later, I was knocking on the father’s door. He opened the door, looked at me, then looked at the Marine standing at parade rest beside the car, and asked, “Which one of my boys was it, Colonel?”

I stayed a couple of hours, gave him all the information, my office and home phone number and told him to call me, anytime. He called me that evening about 2300 (11:00PM). “I’ve gone through my boy’s papers and found his will. He asked to be buried at sea. Can you make that happen?” I said, “Yes I can, Chief. I can and I will.”

My wife who had been listening said, “Can you do that?” I told her, “I have no idea. But I’m going to break my ass trying.” I called Lieutenant General Alpha Bowser, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, at home about 2330, explained the situation, and asked, “General, can you get me a quick appointment with the Admiral at Atlantic Fleet Headquarters?” General Bowser said,” George, you be there tomorrow at 0900. He will see you.

I was and the Admiral did. He said coldly, “How can the Navy help the Marine Corps, Colonel.” I told him the story. He turned to his Chief of Staff and said, “Which is the sharpest destroyer in port?” The Chief of Staff responded with a name.

The Admiral called the ship, “Captain, you’re going to do a burial at sea. You’ll report to a Marine Lieutenant Colonel Goodson until this mission is completed… “

He hung up, looked at me, and said, “The next time you need a ship, Colonel, call me. You don’t have to sic Al Bowser on my ass.” I responded, “Aye Aye, Sir” and got the h-ll out of his office.

I went to the ship and met with the Captain, Executive Officer, and the Senior Chief. Sergeant Jolly and I trained the ship’s crew for four days. Then Jolly raised a question none of us had thought of. He said, “These government caskets are air tight. How do we keep it from floating?”

All the high priced help including me sat there looking dumb. Then the Senior Chief stood and said, “Come on Jolly. I know a bar where the retired guys from World War II hang out.”

They returned a couple of hours later, slightly the worst for wear, and said, “It’s simple; we cut four 12″ holes in the outer shell of the casket on each side and insert 300 lbs of lead in the foot end of the casket. We can handle that, no sweat.”

The day arrived. The ship and the sailors looked razor sharp. General Bowser, the Admiral, a US Senator, and a Navy Band were on board. The sealed casket was brought aboard and taken below for modification. The ship got underway to the 12-fathom depth. The sun was hot. The ocean flat. The casket was brought aft and placed on a catafalque. The Chaplin spoke. The volleys were fired. The flag was removed, folded, and I gave it to the father. The band played “Eternal Father Strong to Save.” The casket was raised slightly at the head and it slid into the sea.

The heavy casket plunged straight down about six feet. The incoming water collided with the air pockets in the outer shell. The casket stopped abruptly, rose straight out of the water about three feet, stopped, and slowly slipped back into the sea. The air bubbles rising from the sinking casket sparkled in the in the sunlight as the casket disappeared from sight forever….

The next morning I called a personal friend, Lieutenant General Oscar Peatross, at Headquarters Marine Corps and said, “General, get me out of here. I can’t take this anymore.” I was transferred two weeks later.

I was a good Marine but, after 17 years, I had seen too much death and too much suffering. I was used up.

Vacating the house, my family and I drove to the office in a two-car convoy. I said my goodbyes. Sergeant Jolly walked out with me. He waved at my family, looked at me with tears in his eyes, came to attention, saluted, and said, “Well Done, Colonel. Well Done.” I felt as if I had received the Medal of Honor!

A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America for an amount of up to and including their life.’

That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.’

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Where Do You Live?

By: Ed Creamer

I find there are times when doors open and memories sit beside me. Now that may sound like a strange statement to make. But I believe we all have those times. Times when our mind takes a breather from the rush of today and stops just long enough for an instant in time to remember. The times that caused us to live where we live.

I’m not talking about what street we live on or if we live in up state or by the river or even in the heart of the city. I’m talking about what in our mental house makes us who we are and why we are that person. The people and the things that caused us to build the number of rooms we have in our mental makeup.

There are rooms devoted to my parents, my family and some uncles I had. Some of the rooms belong to teachers I had in school. One room in particular belongs to the judge who could have locked me up at age 18 but instead gave me a choice. I have rooms for my senior D.I., a room for my Company Commander who promoted me to Corporal when I was an 0311 and the First Sheriff who told me, “Corporal, you’re too dumb to carry a BAR”. He then pointed me toward aviation as a career.

Over time, as I received more promotions and made Warrant, rooms were set aside for people who touched my life and helped point the way toward where I would live. There’s a special room in my house for my first squadron commander. Not only did he help define who I was as an officer but what the definition of SLJO was.

During each of my two tours in combat I found there needed to be rooms set aside for those that cheated playing acey-ducey. I’ve even set aside a room for the mess cook who never learned how. And, if you’re the one who short sheeted my rack, your room is the four holer.

Then, there are the rooms for those who walk with me every day. I can visualize some of them dressed in their flight suites. Can hear the terrible jokes some of them told. I even think that when I sit down to put words on my monitor screen, the doors open for some to sit with me. For these are the rooms for those that gave their lives defining what the words “ultimate sacrifice while defending freedom” meant.

Now you know. And, if you stop and think about it, it’s a house like your house. It’s a house built with memories and touched by the lives of others. And in this house, you are never alone. It’s where you live.

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The History of HMM-163’s “Evil Eyes”

By Norm Urban

HMM-163, to my knowledge, is, and has been, the ONLY U.S. Marine helicopter squadron that has distinguished itself for almost 40 years, using a non-standard, nonregulation, unofficial paint scheme. evil-eyesIn Viet Nam, at least in 1966, most other Marine Sikorsky H-34 squadrons painted the transmission hump a specific color. But HMM-163’s were Marine green, with the “Evil Eyes” on the engine clamshell nose doors. This started while I was there, in January 1966. Soon, some Marines in the field were requesting support from the “Evil Eyes” choppers. Today, “Evil Eyes” are STILL painted on the nose of HMM-163’s Boeing H-46s.

Who did it? Who was the first? Why? How did it spread to all the squadron birds? How was it approved by the Group (MAG 16), and the Wing (1st MAW)? How has it survived through different groups and wings for almost four decades?

Today’s HMM-163 Boeing H-46 with “Evil Eyes” on nose
Today’s HMM-163 Boeing H-46 with “Evil Eyes” on nose

The H-34s at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, and the Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar, are painted in HMM-163 colors, one with “Evil Eyes” on the nose, so clearly, it’s a significant question.

From February to October 1965, The HMM-163 “Ridgerunners” helicopter squadron became rather famous for it’s operations in Viet Nam. This was primarily due to a LIFE magazine cover story that appeared in the April 16, 1965 issue. The story, with photography by Mike Burrows, documented the combat death of Marine H-34 pilot, 1/Lt, James E. Magel and the rescue of wounded and paralyzed 1/Lt. Dale Eddy, while on a strike mission transporting South Vietnamese troops. For most U.S. citizens, this was the first time they were made aware of the extent of America’s involvement in Viet Nam.

April 16, 1965 LIFE magazine cover showing wounded 1/Lt Dale Eddy and Crew Chief James Farley

Later, in October 1965, HMM-163 relocated to the Marine Corps Air Station at Futema, Okinawa. LtCol Charles A. House replaced LtCol Norman G. Ewers as the new commanding officer. Since all the squadron personnel had finished their tour in Viet Nam, virtually all pilots and enlisted Marines were new replacements from other squadrons and bases. It was clear to LtCol House, and many in this composite squadron, that we needed to shake off the Life Magazine image, and begin jelling as a new unit.

And there wasn’t much time! The squadron was scheduled to return to Phu Bai, Vietnam in three months, on Jan 1, 1966.

One day, late in October ’65, Capt. Al Barbe, 1/lt Duel “Chris” Christian, and an unknown third officer, were discussing this need for unit cohesion symbol, when the Commanding Officer, LtCol House happened to join them. They tossed about various ideas to develop and build morale and espirit d’ corps. Suddenly, Al Barbe said, “I’ve got it!”

Al Barbe, HMM-163’s Intelligence Officer (S-2), was an experienced pilot who had left the Marine Corps to fly H-34s for Air America in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia for some time before re-joining the USMC and the squadron. He had married a Thai bride, had a home in Thailand, and was well versed in the SE Asian culture. Barbe suggested that two things upsetting to Orientals were evil spirits and being watched. This led to his idea of painting eyes on the clamshell nose doors of HMM-163’s Sikorsky H-34 helicopters.

After drawing a basic design, they presented the idea to LtCol House, who liked the concept and approved it immediately. Stencils were created and tested on one H-34, while still on Okinawa.

On January 1, 1966, HMM-163 flew by C-130 to Phu Bai, Viet Nam, relieving HMM-161 And taking over their H-34 helicopters. Painting of what were then called “Genie Eyes” (after the “I Dream of Jeannie” TV show), began immediately.

Painting the “Genie Eyes” for the first time. January 1966. Photo by Ted Mayberry
Painting the “Genie Eyes” for the first time. January 1966. Photo by Ted Mayberry

By March ’66, HMM-163’s “Genie Eyes” were being called “Evil Eyes” by ground Marines and squadron members. In August or September 1966, orders came from Wing to eliminate white paint on Marine helicopters. So the “MARINES” on the aft fuselage was changed from white to black, and other white markings, including the “star and bars” U.S. insignia, were to be eliminated or toned down. However, HMM-163 was now aboard a carrier off the coast, and used the excuse that they were therefore not directly under Wing command, so the “Evil Eyes” remained white. HMM-163 H-34 med-evac.

Note “Star and Bars” painted over with spray paint and white eyes
Note “Star and Bars” painted over with spray paint and white eyes

In October 1966, the squadron once again returned to Phu Bai, Viet Nam, still with black and white “Evil Eyes”. LtCol Otto Bianchi, now Commanding Officer, was a good friend of Major General Louis B. Robertshaw, First Marine Aircraft Wing Commander. Nevertheless, when Robertshaw, on a visit to Phu Bai, saw the “Evil Eyes”, he began to read Bianchi the riot act. However, also in the room, was the Marine General commanding the ground Marines in the area. He interrupted to say that; “It sure is great to have the “Evil Eyes” back here at Phu Bai!” Robertshaw relented and the “Evil Eyes” remained.

And have remained, ever since! Today “Evil Eyes” is the squadron logo, identity, trademark, and even radio call sign.

The above information has been collected from personal memories, interviews with HMM-163 veterans and internet sources. Any clarifications, additional information or corrections would be appreciated.

Norm Urban
nurban@adelphia.net

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Former Marine Navigates Life After Active Duty

Former Marine, Dianna DiToro, joined the Marines shortly after college and transitioned to life as a Reservist in 2008. Read below to hear her inspirational story about navigating life outside of active duty and finding success in a rewarding new career as a Certified Personal Trainer.

Former Marine Dianna DiToro
Former Marine Dianna DiToro

Former Marine Navigates Life After Active Duty
by Dianna DiToro

Many servicemen and women will choose to leave active duty this year and many veterans will be left wondering, “what’s next?” From my personal experience, there many unanswered questions when you make the transition into civilian life, especially when it comes to finding a job. I hope my story about career selection may provide some with a different perspective.

I joined the Marines shortly after graduating college. I saw the opportunity as the ultimate test of mind and body, a challenging fit for my competitive nature. After serving as an air support officer and deploying twice, my husband and I decided that I would leave active duty and serve as a Reservist so we could expand our family.

Using the standard post-military resume builders and tips, I found a desk job quickly after the transition, but it wasn’t something I loved; it was difficult to find the same motivation and excitement in a career outside of active duty. I knew that there must be something else. After a series of life events, I found myself newly widowed and alone with my young son, who suffered from health problems as an infant. I was afraid and the path in front of me felt daunting, but I knew my experience in the Marines had provided me with the courage to not only face fear, but also overcome it.

I quickly realized that any job I pursued couldn’t be “just a job,” it had to be something of which I could be proud. I asked myself, “What would I do even if I wasn’t getting paid to do it?” Helping people and fitness were the answers for me. A few of my friends encouraged me to look into the National Academy of Sports Medicine’s (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) program. I was hesitant at first but after attending a seminar, I was impressed by the NASM instructors’ knowledge and decided to enroll in the CPT program. The fact that I could do something I loved on a flexible schedule was an added bonus.

After I completed the program, a few of the instructors told me about NASM’s Military Pursuit of Excellence Award and I jumped at the opportunity. On a whim, I applied for the award and was shocked, and honored, to learn that I had won. The award paid the full tuition for my master’s degree and gave me the foundation I needed to pursue my next dream of working as a physical therapist.

Today, I am finishing my doctorate and feel fortunate to have the skills I received through NASM. My journey hasn’t been an easy one, but I’ve found comfort in working with wounded warriors to teach them adaptive exercises through Team Red, White, and Blue. I’ve been able to use my education to offer online and in-person training sessions when my schedule allows and best of all, my son is a happy and healthy four-year-old who tags along to my group training classes.

I know that if I can overcome, so can others. I can only encourage my fellow Marines to think about what their passion is and what truly matters to them. Reflect on what you would do even if you weren’t getting paid and then use your creativity, resilience, and motivation to find a way to get paid for doing what you love.

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Jeremiah Denton blinked “torture”

The most famous Morse Code communication in history – and the bravest. Wall Street Journal, Mar. 31, Pg. A12 | Editorial

Jeremiah Denton never blinked.

He did not blink while leading bombing runs over North Vietnam as commander of a squadron of A-6 Intruders. He did not blink after he was shot down and taken prisoner on July 18, 1965, three days after his 41st birthday.

And he did not blink when, 10 months later, he was hauled before a Japanese film crew to deliver what Hanoi expected would be a propaganda statement denouncing the American war effort and praising his captors for humane treatment. “Whatever the position of my government, I believe in it, yes, sir,” he said. “I am a member of that government, and it is my job to support it, and I will as long as I live.”

All the while, he used his eyelids to bat out the word T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse Code. It was the first confirmation of the true nature of the treatment being meted to American POWs. Thanks to YouTube, you can watch the tape of Denton’s eyelid Morse communication, in what was an astonishing act of bravery and fidelity to duty. His captors soon realized what he had done, and he was beaten and tortured some more. Of his nearly eight years in captivity, four were spent in solitary, often in boxes the size of a coffin.

The North’s torturers never broke him. With James Stockdale and other senior officers, Denton inspired his fellow prisoners to resist, to say no, to maintain their honor amid the relentless and violent efforts to degrade it.

Freed at last in 1973 after the Paris Peace Accord, Denton, who would go on to become an admiral and a Senator, delivered a brief speech: “We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our Commander-in-Chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America.” We’ve no doubt God is blessing Jeremiah Denton.

More:

“Denton, who would survive 7 1/2 years confined in a tiny, stinking, windowless cell at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” and other camps before his release in 1973, died of heart problems Friday in Virginia Beach, Va., at age 89.” [cbsnews.com]

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It’s Our Code

By: Ed Creamer, vegasmarine1@roadrunner.com

On 30 August 2006, Marine Col. F. Brooke Nihart, at 87 years of age, executed his orders to report for duty at Marine Detachment, Heavens Pearly Gates. As a Sgt. during WW-II, he served on the aircraft carrier Saratoga during the battle for Wake Island. He later fought on Okinawa. In 1951 he lead a force of 200 Marines in the first nighttime helicopter operation in military history. He and his men landed on a hilltop near the Punch Bowl. As a result of actions against North Korean forces there, he was awarded the Navy Cross.

That alone should be enough for us to remember most men by. However, he will best be remembered for something we, who have served, all take for granite. He will be remembered for putting down on paper in 1955 the words we learned to speak by heart. He was the originator of “The Code of Conduct”. The code we each followed and practiced while serving in the defense of our country. On 17 August 1955 President Eisenhower signed an Executive Order making this the official credo for Americans in all who serve.

Article I tells us, “I am an American, fighting in the armed forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” How true those words are even today. For they speak of the ultimate sacrifice we all understood the price we, and those serving today, might have to pay just to have our freedom.


Article III goes on to say, “If captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape.” This is the one statement I think all of us wanted so much to adhere to if we were ever captured. The one statement that went to our very core of what we hoped we were all made of. WE MUST NEVER GIVE UP was the thought we always kept in the back of our mind.

Article V advises us to give only our name, rank and service number if captured. It goes on to say, “I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability.” And with these words we each wondered how much we could endure just to abide by those words.

While the words “Code of Conduct” seem simple enough when taken by themselves. We all had them read to us in either Boot Camp or OCS. It’s not until you take that first step toward serving in a combat zone that you realize how real those words have become. How your fellow man and your country expect you to act in the face of an enemy. How you would want yourself to act.

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