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#1
Old 07-02-2009, 10:42 PM
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Did soldiers really frag officers in Vietnam?

Being a Vietnam Veteran (in country 11/67-9/68) I heard a lot about fragging but had no close experiences with it; however I do have an alternate possibility for the disparity between the numbers from Vietnam and other wars. That is, in previous wars units trained, traveled and fought with one another for the duration of the war; but in Vietnam people rotated in and out of fighting units individually, having no bonds with each other or, and especially in this case, their officers.
It is a lot harder killing someone that has been through everything you had along with you, than it would be to kill a stranger you disagree with, especially if the disagreement is deep.
I think that what I am talking about becomes apparent when looking at the numbers and types of reunions spawned from WWII vets as compared with reunions of people serving together in Vietnam. Although they are growing far more infrequent now, there were many, many WWII reunions; but I have never been informed of any reunion from my unit, nor have I heard of any of my fellow Vietnam vets going to a reunion of their units, ether.
I think the word I am looking for is camaraderie - we didn't have much of that in Vietnam. Fragging an officer was not hard and easy to get away with, hence the problems with statistics.
That's just an opinion, of course, but one formed from the experience of being there.
#2
Old 07-02-2009, 11:22 PM
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Link to the column: https://academicpursuits.us/columns/...ers-in-vietnam
#3
Old 07-03-2009, 01:04 AM
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Interesting. I had always assumed that most fragging took place in the field, where the perpetrator could plausibly claim that the enemy was responsible.
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Old 07-03-2009, 03:10 AM
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I'm just now reading "Going After Cacciato," by Tim O'Brien, who served in Vietnam from 1969-1970. There's a fragging that takes place in the field, against a gung-ho lieutenant. Now, of course this is a novel, but it does make you wonder what O'Brien saw, or knew, or if he was just influenced by folklore around fragging, or if in fact he helped create some of it (though the novel was published in I think 1977, and from Cecil's article it's clear that fragging was pretty widely known already).
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Old 07-03-2009, 06:46 AM
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If there was less 'fragging' during the 2 WW's than there was in Vietnam, it could be because troops as a whole were less subservient than soldiers of previous generations, and were beginning to question their roles on the battlefield more, instead of just reciting "Ours is not to question 'Why?'. Ours is but to do or die."?

Last edited by ivan astikov; 07-03-2009 at 06:48 AM.
#6
Old 07-03-2009, 11:02 AM
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Disclaimer: wasn't there, and just about all my informants who were there were anti-war activists. If that could be held to color their testimony, well, there you have it.

But what I gleaned was that the issue was not so much personal like or dislike, but competence. Officers were eager to get into the war zone, there is nothing like leading men in combat to add lustre to an officer's career potential. And just like the enlisted men, the officers would spend a year in-country, and rotate out. Which means that just about the time when they got some idea what the hell they were doing, they were gone.

Anyway, the thinking was explained to me like this: this guy was gonna get dead anyway, the only question was how many others he took with him.
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Old 07-03-2009, 11:04 AM
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Good column, Cecil and Una. I was very surprised to learn that (at least from the very limited data we have) most of the fraggers were volunteers. I always assumed that most if not all of them were sullen, pissed-off draftees.

And am I the only one who read the column and thought of Niedermeyer, the beast of an ROTC officer from Animal House? In the "where are they now" wrapup at the end of the movie, we're told he was "Killed in Vietnam." Pause. "By his own men."
#8
Old 07-03-2009, 11:27 AM
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Remember the end of "Animal House" said that Neidermeyer, the ROTC dick, was "shot in Vietnam by his own troops". A friend in Canada who skipped out rather than fulfill his ROTC duties mentioned that much of his graduating class of ROTC officers died in Vietnam. I suspected cynicism.

I recall reading an analysis - not sure where - about all that went wrong with Vietnam. (March of Folly??) Among the problems, as pointed out above, that newbies were dropped into existing units and did not develop camaraderies, was the issue that combat experience was essential to a successful career in the Pentagon. Thus, those "gung-ho" lieutenants, full of book larnin' and eager to win things and push their career, were rotated into and out of units like mid-level managers in today's corporations, with a similar degrees of arrogance and inexperience. Mix that with established bottom ranked troops' desire to keep their heads down and avoid excitement, resulted in a mix that could be problematic in a firefight.
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Old 07-03-2009, 11:56 AM
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Still, what little information Cecil digs up seems to indicate the fragging was likelier not among the people on the frontline, but in the rear -- from the column one gets a picture not of gung-ho green LTs being taken out before leading the troops to collective suicide, but of frustrated lower-quality officers and go-to-war-or-go-to-jail "volunteers" stuck in REMF jobs, being asses about it and taking it out on each other. Or if indeed it was hardass officers getting comeuppance, it was only once everyone was back in garrison, the urgency of field survival had passed, and the perps had time to stew in their juices (and in dope and booze).

Still, one of the key factors in taking such a step is if the subject cares about consequences -- and in that sense, overall general poor morale does have an influence, if you have more people with a "WTH, my life is f*cked anyway, can't get worse" attitude.
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Old 07-03-2009, 12:31 PM
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Sounds like a great idea for a video game.
#11
Old 07-03-2009, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by JRDelirious View Post
Still, what little information Cecil digs up seems to indicate the fragging was likelier not among the people on the frontline, but in the rear -- from the column one gets a picture not of gung-ho green LTs being taken out before leading the troops to collective suicide, but of frustrated lower-quality officers and go-to-war-or-go-to-jail "volunteers" stuck in REMF jobs, being asses about it and taking it out on each other. Or if indeed it was hardass officers getting comeuppance, it was only once everyone was back in garrison, the urgency of field survival had passed, and the perps had time to stew in their juices (and in dope and booze).

Still, one of the key factors in taking such a step is if the subject cares about consequences -- and in that sense, overall general poor morale does have an influence, if you have more people with a "WTH, my life is f*cked anyway, can't get worse" attitude.
Point of order--rear unit crimes are easy to report, & have plenty of witnesses, & often are very hard to explain away as enemy action, i.e.: How in the world did a VC sniper kill Colonel Whimwam in the shower? Inside Theatre HQ?

On the front lines, weapons are universal. As are explosives. As in enemy fire.

Who can tell who fire a shot, in the middle of a war?

This is why souvenir enemy weapons are prohibited.
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#12
Old 07-03-2009, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
Point of order--rear unit crimes are easy to report, & have plenty of witnesses, & often are very hard to explain away as enemy action, i.e.: How in the world did a VC sniper kill Colonel Whimwam in the shower? Inside Theatre HQ?

On the front lines, weapons are universal. As are explosives. As in enemy fire.

Who can tell who fire a shot, in the middle of a war?

This is why souvenir enemy weapons are prohibited.
Sure, but now you're arguing, "Hey, it coulda happened," where the question is, "Did it happen?"
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#13
Old 07-03-2009, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy View Post
Sure, but now you're arguing, "Hey, it coulda happened," where the question is, "Did it happen?"
No, I'm arguing that if it happened in the rear, where it was easy to catch, & stress levels lower, then it happened at the front, where stress was higher, weapons easier to get, & detection all but inheard-of.
#14
Old 07-03-2009, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
Point of order--rear unit crimes are easy to report, & have plenty of witnesses, & often are very hard to explain away as enemy action, i.e.: How in the world did a VC sniper kill Colonel Whimwam in the shower? Inside Theatre HQ?

On the front lines, weapons are universal. As are explosives. As in enemy fire.

Who can tell who fire a shot, in the middle of a war?

This is why souvenir enemy weapons are prohibited.
Perhaps I'm missing your meaning, but weapons aren't universal. An AK-47 round is not at all the same as an M-16 round. An autopsy (if done) would reveal that pretty quickly. Of course, autopsies weren't usually done. Dead was dead. Souvenir weapons weren't prohibited, but were supposed to be leaded/disabled.
#15
Old 07-03-2009, 02:25 PM
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Perhaps I'm missing your meaning, but weapons aren't universal. An AK-47 round is not at all the same as an M-16 round. An autopsy (if done) would reveal that pretty quickly.
I am aware of this.
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Of course, autopsies weren't usually done. Dead was dead. Souvenir weapons weren't prohibited, but were supposed to be leaded/disabled.
AK-47 were used by US Forces in Vietnam, often in preference to early model M-16s.
#16
Old 07-03-2009, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
I am aware of this.


AK-47 were used by US Forces in Vietnam, often in preference to early model M-16s.
Yeah, I suppose it would be easy enough to pick up a dead NVA's weapon and turn it on a friendly. The early M-16 (before the A1 mod) was more a liability than a help, for sure. I always preferred the M-14 over all of them.
#17
Old 07-03-2009, 02:46 PM
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And am I the only one who read the column and thought of Niedermeyer, the beast of an ROTC officer from Animal House? In the "where are they now" wrapup at the end of the movie, we're told he was "Killed in Vietnam." Pause. "By his own men."
And in Twilight Zone: The Movie, the section with the ill-fated Vic Morrow finds him at one point in Vietnam during the war. He overhears a bunch of soldiers who are lost. One soldier says "I told you guys we shouldn't have fragged Niedermayer!"


That segment was directed by the same John Landis who directed Animal House.
#18
Old 07-03-2009, 06:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
No, I'm arguing that if it happened in the rear, where it was easy to catch, & stress levels lower, then it happened at the front, where stress was higher, weapons easier to get, & detection all but inheard-of.
I find that difficult to believe. Sure combat is chaotic, but soldiers weren't in firefights from the minute they left their base camp. You're in a platoon of 40 guys with everyone tense and more or less on alert. Someone is going to see you try to frag the LT.

It may have happened, but I doubt it was with anywhere near the same frequency as in the rear.
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Old 07-03-2009, 07:27 PM
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I find that difficult to believe. Sure combat is chaotic, but soldiers weren't in firefights from the minute they left their base camp. You're in a platoon of 40 guys with everyone tense and more or less on alert. Someone is going to see you try to frag the LT.

It may have happened, but I doubt it was with anywhere near the same frequency as in the rear.
In "Going After Cacciato," all the soldiers had to agree, at least tacitly,before the more motivated ones pulled the pin. Again, a work of fiction, but by someone who was there and apparently is well known for putting a fairly thin veneer of fiction on his life experiences. Now, it doesn't prove anything, but still interesting to consider.
#20
Old 07-03-2009, 08:33 PM
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Did soldiers really frag officers in Vietnam

I was part of the first combat troops officially in 'Nam - a Marine outfit that landed in Vietnam in March, 1965.
We set up around the outskirts of the airstrip in Da Nang.
My first experience with fragging (although I don't remember if we called it that) was around May or June, 1965 when, one late night, a few of us in the "radio tent" heard a nearby explosion.
A little later another Marine came in laughing and said someone blew up the officer's "outhouse" (we referred to it by another name).
We slapped hands and all laughed.

We assumed the reason for this was the unequal treatment of officers over us "peons" We had a wooden box with 4 holes in it placed over a 6'x6'x6' foot hole. No walls... no privacy... just sitting out there in an open field.
I used to wait until nightfall to use it.
The officers had nice wooden outhouses built for them.

I ate my "B" rations under a big tent with no sides... drank warm water that was in 15 gallon containers sitting in the dirt and tried my best to flick the flies off of my food. I sat on a wooden bench and ate off a long wooden table.
100 feet away was the officer's mess. It had screens on the sides. They had 3 containers on a table at the front of their tent. They were labeled water, kool aid, and something I can't recall. They were so cold, I could see the sweat dripping off of them. Their long tables were covered in a white table cloth and there were Vietnamese girls who cleaned up after them.

I had no love for my officers.
Blowing up their outhouses was the least we could do to demostrate that lack of love.
Later I heard that an officer was was in one outhouse when it was fragged.
No one seemed to care.
I have always assumed that this was the beggining of the practice of fragging officers.
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Old 07-03-2009, 09:50 PM
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I was there from 2/69 til 2/70 with Golf company of the 7th Marines.

The only "fragging" I personally knew of obviously wasn't meant to kill anyone. A pissed off loser threw a gas grenade into our platoon sergeants hootch. This also wasn't a matter of competence. The sergeant in question was well into his second tour, was well liked, and knew his stuff.

The OP mentioned reunions. On the weekend of the 18th I will be in St. Louis where my company will be having its 12th reunion. I've made 11 of them, counting the one coming, and look forward to them all year. We generally have between 50 and 120 men show up.

The OP makes a good point, IMO, on the issue of comaradarie. By the time I got around to rotating home there were only a handfull of men in the company that I knew, and didn't particullaryly care to know any of them. Which was pretty much the attitude of the old timers when I first got there.
#22
Old 07-03-2009, 10:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
No, I'm arguing that if it happened in the rear, where it was easy to catch, & stress levels lower, then it happened at the front, where stress was higher, weapons easier to get, & detection all but inheard-of.
That it happened should not be in question -- but the limited amount of information available does not allow conclusions about the incidence in the front, only in the rear. There could have been more fragging in the front, or less fragging in the front, no way of knowing it.

I notice that in RoadRage's anecdote the alleged frontline fragging casualty is (a) either incidental, or else disguised as incidental for plausible deniability: ("oh, we were just blowing up the officers' latrine, but so what if one of them got hit"); and (b) it happens at CAMP, not while on patrol or under fire. In SandyHook's account its objective apparently was mere harassment -- again, at camp. Which indeed would be a better source of alibis -- if you are at a frontline camp or firebase you can always say "some VC must have infiltrated the perimeter and nailed him, then slipped away, we probably have VC agents among our own local support people".

A true "fog-of-war" alibi for a hit while on patrol or under fire would be harder as ISTM it requires either the collusion of everyone else around you, or that you break contact with the rest of the unit, make the hit, and rejoin afterward, (extremely risky situation if out on patrol, because who says you won't stumble into Charlie himself while running your errand, or if you make some noise some other GI will fire upon you), or that you indeed keep your wits so together that during the firefight you remember to shoot the LT in the back (never mind grabbing an enemy weapon to do it) while trying to succesfully fight an engagement.

Last edited by JRDelirious; 07-03-2009 at 10:16 PM.
#23
Old 07-03-2009, 10:24 PM
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I don't think you would necessarily need to acquire an enemy weapon to make a fragging look like a regular combat death. A friendly fire incident during battle creates plausible deniability just the same.

Of course, if a company commander got killed by friendly fire, and his replacement was also killed by friendly fire, I'd be pretty suspicious of the character and motives of the grunts in that particular company.

Last edited by MOIDALIZE; 07-03-2009 at 10:25 PM.
#24
Old 07-03-2009, 11:47 PM
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I knew a guy in college who was one of the most loathsome people I have known. He was a narcissistic, back stabbing shit. His father was killed by friendly fire in Viet Nam. I always suspected that if may have been a fragging if his Dad was anything like he was.
#25
Old 07-04-2009, 11:03 AM
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Oh, but yes, I did miss that: "friendly fire" WOULD be a more likely way to go about a line-of-fire fragging. Still you have to know what you're doing and wait for the right moment -- you don't want the platoon sergeant and your squad leader to see you actually turn and aim for the LT. Though I have the feeling the more asshattish officers would favour "leading from behind" for that same reason, had they any sense.

It's still hard to nail it down, since a high incidence of "friendly fire" at the line level can also get explained away by faulty training and incompetence leading to personnel don't know better than to stay out of their own squad's field of fire or at least keep their heads down if they have to cross it (so, an incompetent LT may get fragged, or may indeed have completely of his own obliviousness walked into the suppressing fire; same end result). In these cases, I suppose it would be much easier to get the rest of the unit to go along with "eh, he got what he deserved anyway" and not waste time investigating too hard.
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Old 07-04-2009, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by fgasparini View Post
In "Going After Cacciato," all the soldiers had to agree, at least tacitly,before the more motivated ones pulled the pin. Again, a work of fiction, but by someone who was there and apparently is well known for putting a fairly thin veneer of fiction on his life experiences. Now, it doesn't prove anything, but still interesting to consider.
And Platoon was loosly based on Oliver Stone's experiences in 'Nam but I somehow doubt the sergeants in his platoon were running through the bush trying to kill each other.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JRDelirious
Oh, but yes, I did miss that: "friendly fire" WOULD be a more likely way to go about a line-of-fire fragging. Still you have to know what you're doing and wait for the right moment -- you don't want the platoon sergeant and your squad leader to see you actually turn and aim for the LT. Though I have the feeling the more asshattish officers would favour "leading from behind" for that same reason, had they any sense.
I would think that even the most dedicated and competant officers rarely lead from the front. The platoon or company commander would likely lead from a position where he would be able to oversee his squads/platoons and call in necessary support without getting distracted and caught up in local events. Leading from the middle in a sense.


RoadRage's story has a few of holes in it. "Later heard"? "No one seemed to care"? Lots of "assumptions" and third-party information. But that's how rumors and urban legends start in the first place.

But the attitude seems consistant with what I would expect would lead to "fragging". Stong sense of class differences and inequities. Feelings of apathy and disconnect. Add to that the stresses of an unpopular war that isn't going well. It's not hard to imagine some imbalanced individual with too much time on his hands deciding to vent his rage while in the relative safety of basecamp.

What I have trouble imagining is the same disgruntled loser, out in the bush with 40 guys, many of whom he barely knows, all of a sudden seizing on an opportunity to take out his officer with a few errant rounds. If the situation is so chaotic that you could get away with taking out your LT without being seen by your 5-10 squadmates, the first sergeant, the radio guy, the medic, whoever else normally travels with the lieutenant, and the rest of the platoon, I have to think you would be more worried about protecting your own ass from Charlie. Or at the very least, you would be worried about be caught since no matter how bad the officer is, the other soldiers have a vested interest not having a mentally imbalanced soldier who would kill his own side with them.
#27
Old 07-04-2009, 01:42 PM
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I was grunt in the 9th Division in the Mekong Delta 1968-69. I only saw one attempt at fragging and it involved a colonel, not a company grade officer (lieutenants and captains). It also involved rifle fire rather than a hand grenade.

Our field grade officers (majors, lieutenant colonels and full colonels) were so poor that they embarassed themselves before history. They didn't LEAD men into battle, but rather tried to MANAGE them into battle.

We went through a succession of colonels as battalion commander. None made much of an impression on us grunts. We simply never saw them. Although I imagine each went home telling everyone how much we loved and respected him, and he had a pet-name like "Wild Bob."

Whichever colonel was in command at a given time, he would fly 5,000 feet above us, safe and dry in his helicopter. He would radio down to us how worthless we were, how we should be travelling through the mud and jungle at some much higher speed, and how we were letting down the country. In the afternoon he'd fly back to the basecamp, have dinner in the officers' mess, and sleep in his nice, comfortable bed.

I'm sure every grunt was thinking the same thing: "Why don't you come down here and get your boots dirty. Then you'll see how fast we can go. Why don't you spend the night with us in the mud and mosquitos? Then you'll see how fresh and rested we are in the morning." But no colonel ever did and all were ignorant of the terrain.

I saw one field grade officer in the field only once. A lieutenant colonel landed in his helicopter late one afternoon. He humped with us for about 45 minutes, and then flew away again. These guys were simply absent - cowards. We could die, but that just didn't fit into their career plans.

Now to the fragging incident: My squad was sent on a ambush patrol one evening. We were bedded down in our ponchos alongside a jungle trail. There was another squad about 200 meters away.

Someone in the other squad unscrewed the flash suppressor from his M16 and fired at the colonels chopper- reputedly an M16 minus a flash supressor sounded like an AK47 when fired at you, maybe so, who knows? The colonel then had the door-gunners spray down the entire area with M60 machinegun fire. It was a miracle no one was killed.

Later, through contacts with supply in the rear, the helicopter pilot let us know that he didn't mind if we shot the colonel, but since he didn't care to be shot himself, he would bank the chopper so that we could get a clear shot. Nothing ever came of that.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Peter
#28
Old 07-05-2009, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by MOIDALIZE View Post
Interesting. I had always assumed that most fragging took place in the field, where the perpetrator could plausibly claim that the enemy was responsible.
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Originally Posted by Cecil
Why did fraggers do it? ... (a) 80 percent of the murders happened at base camps, not in the field; (b) 90 percent of the assaults took place within three days after an argument with the victim;
But these were CONVICTED fraggers: ones who were prosecuted successfully. There were probably many more incidents in the field or with no apparent motive, which could not have been prosecuted.
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Old 07-05-2009, 11:41 AM
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In "Going After Cacciato," all the soldiers had to agree, at least tacitly,before the more motivated ones pulled the pin. Again, a work of fiction, but by someone who was there and apparently is well known for putting a fairly thin veneer of fiction on his life experiences. Now, it doesn't prove anything, but still interesting to consider.
Tim O'Brien doesn't write autobiographies. It's fiction. He admitted as much when giving a reading I attended.
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Old 07-05-2009, 11:52 AM
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What I have trouble imagining is the same disgruntled loser, out in the bush with 40 guys, many of whom he barely knows, all of a sudden seizing on an opportunity to take out his officer with a few errant rounds. If the situation is so chaotic that you could get away with taking out your LT without being seen by your 5-10 squadmates, the first sergeant, the radio guy, the medic, whoever else normally travels with the lieutenant, and the rest of the platoon, I have to think you would be more worried about protecting your own ass from Charlie. Or at the very least, you would be worried about be caught since no matter how bad the officer is, the other soldiers have a vested interest not having a mentally imbalanced soldier who would kill his own side with them.
I have to say I see the "fragging in a firefight is hard" line of reasoning. After all, aren't you pretty worked up trying to kill the real enemy than worrying about your own officer?

But... there are opportunities for when you're somewhere on the front lines, but are still bored with time off. It sounds odd that 80% of incidents would occur in base camp. The '90% had a recent argument' also sounds like an artifact of successful prosecution.

Do we have any insight on the circumstances of the court martials that resulted in acquital?

Last edited by Alex_Dubinsky; 07-05-2009 at 11:54 AM.
#31
Old 07-05-2009, 05:34 PM
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RoadRage's story has a few of holes in it. "Later heard"? "No one seemed to care"? Lots of "assumptions" and third-party information. But that's how rumors and urban legends start in the first place.
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Assumptions? I'm telling you no one cared.
Third-party information? So if I heard that a guy who was shot died that night... that's third party information?

Sorry but I was not a war correspondent and it happened 44 years ago...
so I can't tell you names and details.

And 'nam was not an urban legend...
#32
Old 07-05-2009, 07:04 PM
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The VietNam War was notorious for friendly fire bombing. Legend always was that this was American deserters suspected of going over to the VietNamese side. In the end, the VietNamese won, the dictators and gangsters went the way they did in Cuba and now there's probably as many MacDonalds in Hanoi as in 'Ho Chi Minh City'
#33
Old 07-05-2009, 07:25 PM
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Yes, there were Fraggings

While there were many stories, I only witnessed one while "In Country" how typical it was I can not say.
Generaly, they were cases of some A--hole lifer NCO, who got fragged for harassing an enlisted soldier. Though not necessarily to kill him, but to aquaint him with the fact that his attitude needed to be adjusted. If he got injured in the process, so be it.
I was given advance notice of the event only because my bunker was well within the area at risk. The NCO in question had entered a latrine (small two seater of wood and sheet metal) near my bunker. I left the area, a grenade was toss at the door to the latrine. The NCO was not seriously injured, if he had been He would have come to the only medic out there, me. He did not want me to check him out, he did not want to talk about it.
I have no idea if this effected a permanent change of attitude on his part. Nothing was said or done about it. I rather suspect that even the officers, felt he needed the experience. I am sure some sort of paper work was created regarding the incident. A new latrine was built, a lesson apparently learned and no questions were ask.
This happened about June of 1970, at a Fire Base near Phuc Vihn.
As far as I know, there were more stories than actual fraggings.

Bac-Si
#34
Old 07-05-2009, 11:26 PM
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Look, I understand that O'Brien is writing fiction. And I'd be curious to hear what he actually said about how his life experience became fiction. But this is not one of those questions where we're going to come to any sort of definitive answer. I think it's worth considering and weighing portrayals in fiction by those who were there, as well as accounts on this thread by Vietnam veterans, even if they don't claim to have directly participated in a fragging, or seen one perpetrated, or been the victim of one. There's nothing wrong with a process of reflective amalgamation, as long as no one claims it's a definitive account of the phenomenon.
#35
Old 07-06-2009, 10:00 AM
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Again: I was there. I was a grunt.

Generally speaking we operated in formations of company-size (120-150 men) or battalion size (700-800 men). While we tried to be dispersed, a cluster of soldiers presented a tempting target, the soldier population of the area we were in at any given time was dense. We tried to maintain about 10 meters between men. That meant there was almost always someone - a potential witness - within sight.

We weren't constantly in a firefight while in the field. Most of the time we were moving through the area trying to flush VC from cover - no firing, no explosions. A rifle shot or a grenade explosion would draw attention, lots of it.

When we were in a firefight, there was confusion and noise. However (there's a Mark Twain quote that goes something like this), someone trying to kill you concentrates the mind wonderfully. No one would be thinking about bumping off an officer or lifer NCO, we were just too busy trying to stay alive.

So the field didn't produce a lot of opportunities for fragging despite the intuitive supposition that it did.

Now, in the rear areas: Imagine hundreds of young men 19 to about 22 years old supplied with guns and bombs in profusion. There was a lot of horseplay that could get rough. And there were opportunities, no doubt, to stalk a victim.

An example of horseplay - the fusing mechanism can be unscrewed from the body of a hand grenade. Then pulling the pin and releasing the spoon will allow the blasting cap to detonate without exploding the grenade itself. This can be done in, say, a ditch or some other "safe" place. Screwing the grenade back together results in a dud grenade. Now, this can be used for lots of fun things, like throwing it into a crowded beerhall.

Another example - some guys I knew strung trip flares around all the showers while we were in the basecamp. There was a fun show when someone went to take a shower, the flares went off, and the MPs swarmed the area. Good times.

There was another incident in the basecamp when two guys got into a fight in a barracks in the middle of the night. One of them pulled the pin on a grenade but held onto the spoon. So, here we were, 30 or so of us with a nut-job holding an armed grenade. Somehow we got the two combatants separated and the pin back in the grenade.

So I find it very believable that someone blew up the shitter with an officer inside, as told by Roadrage. It fits completely with my experiences. This is the way things were. This is the way it happened.

Peter
#36
Old 07-06-2009, 01:06 PM
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Sorry you went. Glad you came home.
#37
Old 07-06-2009, 08:07 PM
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Originally Posted by petesally View Post
Later, through contacts with supply in the rear, the helicopter pilot let us know that he didn't mind if we shot the colonel, but since he didn't care to be shot himself, he would bank the chopper so that we could get a clear shot. Nothing ever came of that.
Hi Peter. This bit caught my attention because it seems so unlikely. I can understand that this is what you heard and I'm not disputing that.

OTOH, how many guys do you know who, or for that matter, have you ever even heard of who can make a shot like that? One (probably seated) target on an orbiting bird without anyone or anything else? BC and the pilot are not the only two guys on that aircraft. Banked or not, no one realistically makes a shot like that.
#38
Old 07-06-2009, 08:41 PM
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Originally Posted by signal11 View Post
Hi Peter. This bit caught my attention because it seems so unlikely. I can understand that this is what you heard and I'm not disputing that.

OTOH, how many guys do you know who, or for that matter, have you ever even heard of who can make a shot like that? One (probably seated) target on an orbiting bird without anyone or anything else? BC and the pilot are not the only two guys on that aircraft. Banked or not, no one realistically makes a shot like that.
Oh, I doubt anyone could make that shot. As I said 'nothing ever came of it.' And, you're right there would be other people on the chopper: the colonel, the pilot, the co-pilot, two door gunners and no doubt some HQ staff like radio operators. I was never on one of the command choppers, so I don't know who would be on it.

The story, as I related is true. A former grunt was re-assigned to supply after being wounded by shrapnel several times. He was a friend of mine and kept in contact with us. He is the one who told us what the pilot said. I have no idea if the pilot thought the shot was possible. Very likely he meant it as a joke, and I always thought it was a pretty funny thing to say.

Another point you failed to make is that if someone did make the miracle shot and hit the colonel, it's likely that the bullet would pass through his body and strike someone else in the helicopter - possibly the pilot himself. So, I'm sure the pilot didn't want anyone shooting at his bird.

As far as I know, no one ever took another shot at the colonel's helicopter.

Peter
#39
Old 07-07-2009, 11:31 AM
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I'm surprised nobody has brought up John Kerry and his "let's go re-enact where we were in a firefight last week".

Although from a Canadian perspective, it amazes me that an election ago a pair of draft-skipping dicks (sorry, only one was really a Dick) could successfully argue that they were morally superior to a guy who volunteered, went over there and got shot at. And twist the facts to make the member of the armed forces, being shot at, look bad. Either your politicians are super-slimy or your voters are super-stupid, or both. "You can fool some of the people all of the time..."
#40
Old 07-07-2009, 05:52 PM
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The biggest confusion for me after reading the column is why there would be so many murders committed using grenades, but no mention of officers simply being shot (seems easier). However, I came across this on wikipedia:
Quote:
Although the term is derived from the grenade, the act was more commonly committed with firearms during combat in Vietnam.
If this is correct then everything makes sense. Maybe I'm just dense, but I'll post this in case others were suffering from the same confusion.
#41
Old 07-08-2009, 11:29 AM
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msmith537 said:
Quote:
RoadRage's story has a few of holes in it. "Later heard"? "No one seemed to care"? Lots of "assumptions" and third-party information. But that's how rumors and urban legends start in the first place.

RoadRage said:
Quote:
Assumptions? I'm telling you no one cared.
Third-party information? So if I heard that a guy who was shot died that night... that's third party information?

I wasn't there, have never been in the military, so this is difficult to really feel. I can sort of accept that playing with grenades (i.e. pulling the fuses, or blowing up outhouses) was accepted and nobody really made a fuss. What I think is striking the incredulity meter is the idea that someone could blow up an outhouse that had an officer in it, the officer die, and the military ignore it. That just doesn't sound right. Given that people were prosecuted for killing their officers, and given that discipline is a major component of military culture, I just can't believe that the military would ignore the death of an officer at the hands of an enlisted man based upon it being a prank gone wrong. Sure, accidents in the field happen, but something as silly as a prank causing death would get attention.

Whereas I can easily see how the rumor that an officer was in the outhouse could be started and passed along. It amplifies the sense of retribution for the enlisted. And I can see how the rumor could be spread even if the officer corps itself knew it wasn't true - there wouldn't be any real way for them to stop it.
#42
Old 07-08-2009, 01:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
msmith537 said:



RoadRage said:



I wasn't there, have never been in the military, so this is difficult to really feel. I can sort of accept that playing with grenades (i.e. pulling the fuses, or blowing up outhouses) was accepted and nobody really made a fuss. What I think is striking the incredulity meter is the idea that someone could blow up an outhouse that had an officer in it, the officer die, and the military ignore it. That just doesn't sound right. Given that people were prosecuted for killing their officers, and given that discipline is a major component of military culture, I just can't believe that the military would ignore the death of an officer at the hands of an enlisted man based upon it being a prank gone wrong. Sure, accidents in the field happen, but something as silly as a prank causing death would get attention.

Whereas I can easily see how the rumor that an officer was in the outhouse could be started and passed along. It amplifies the sense of retribution for the enlisted. And I can see how the rumor could be spread even if the officer corps itself knew it wasn't true - there wouldn't be any real way for them to stop it.
I think if you read Roadrage's post carefully, you will discover that he never claimed the officer in the outhouse was killed - or even hurt, for that matter. You have jumped to the conclusion that this was a fatal incident and gone from there to speculating about mlitary culture etc.

Peter
#43
Old 07-09-2009, 01:55 AM
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Originally Posted by petesally View Post
Oh, I doubt anyone could make that shot. As I said 'nothing ever came of it.' And, you're right there would be other people on the chopper: the colonel, the pilot, the co-pilot, two door gunners and no doubt some HQ staff like radio operators. I was never on one of the command choppers, so I don't know who would be on it.

The story, as I related is true. A former grunt was re-assigned to supply after being wounded by shrapnel several times. He was a friend of mine and kept in contact with us. He is the one who told us what the pilot said. I have no idea if the pilot thought the shot was possible. Very likely he meant it as a joke, and I always thought it was a pretty funny thing to say.

Another point you failed to make is that if someone did make the miracle shot and hit the colonel, it's likely that the bullet would pass through his body and strike someone else in the helicopter - possibly the pilot himself. So, I'm sure the pilot didn't want anyone shooting at his bird.

As far as I know, no one ever took another shot at the colonel's helicopter.
This is what I meant to clarify. The pilot did not literally mean what he said because on a surface level reading, someone could walk away with the impression that the pilot would not only condone this action, but would aid in it.

The Vietnam experience was a valuable one for no other reason than it is a strong example of how not to conduct war. Every element of the chain of command was set up for failure from bottom to top. It is no wonder that breakdowns of good order and discipline happened as frequently as they did. It is something that we in the last decade of the 20th and the opening decade of the 21st never had to deal with.

That said, I did explicitly mention the possibility of others getting hit because that was the first thing that popped into my mind.

I was not there and I generally don't presume to judge the actions of those who were. I don't know you, I don't know the shooter, and I don't know the colonel in question, but reading your story, I cannot help but judge. This shooter is an buddyfucking asshole lowest order. If he had a homicidal urge against the colonel, while I don't condone, I can understand. Firing at the command chopper? Sorry, no. There's other guys up there.

So no, I can't imagine the pilot, the co-pilot, or the enlisted crew, presumably of which there are at least three onboard (crew chief, door gunner, CO's ratelo) would be too happy about this incident.

Nor do I imagine his squadmates were too happy about his drawing fire.

You can bet your ass if that if I had ever heard of something like that going on in my unit, somebody would have been nailed the wall.

But then, those were different times, different circumstances and a different army.
#44
Old 07-09-2009, 12:06 PM
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petersally, perhaps I did draw the conclusion that when RoadRage was talking about fragging officers, he was talking about killing them (what the term means), rather than just blowing up outhouses as a form of protest (which is how the story started). Perhaps I am making the assumption that a device designed to send sharp metal fragments at high velocities combined in an explosive mix that sets off a shock wave that can level an outhouse will tend to put high velocity fragments into anyone inside said outhouse.

Okay, let us assume that there was an officer in the outhouse when said outhouse was hit by a grenade. Let us assume said officer somehow escaped major injury and death - maybe he got a few splinters and a ringing in the ears for a few minutes. Now you're telling me that said officer is not going to scream bloody murder to his chain of command about discipline in the ranks? In a military where striking a superior is an act that can get you sent to Leavenworth (actually in time of war, it can be punished by death)*, you're really saying that that the military hierarchy would laugh off the potential death of an officer because some enlisted soldier felt denigrated by the different amenties? Because regardless of what the actual circumstances might have been (surviving and no injuries), you cannot tell me that being in the vicinity of a detonating grenade is something that couldn't lead to death. That's what they are designed to do.

I'm sorry, but even in Vietnam, junior officers weren't cheap enough to allow our own soldiers to kill them for sport.

-----
* The obligatory cite: http://usmilitary.about.com/od/punit...es/a/mcm90.htm
Quote:
“Any person subject to this chapter who—

(1) strikes his superior commissioned officer or draws or lifts up any weapon or offers any violence against him while he is in the execution of his office; or

(2) willfully disobeys a lawful command of his superior commissioned officer; shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, and if the offense is committed at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.”
I suppose one could argue the specifics of the terms of this article with regards to "while he is in the execution of his office". There's also language concerning being a direct superior officer, so maybe this specific regulation does not apply. But the categorization of the severity of the results still is relevant.
#45
Old 07-09-2009, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by signal11 View Post
This is what I meant to clarify. The pilot did not literally mean what he said because on a surface level reading, someone could walk away with the impression that the pilot would not only condone this action, but would aid in it.
...
That said, I did explicitly mention the possibility of others getting hit because that was the first thing that popped into my mind.

I was not there and I generally don't presume to judge the actions of those who were. I don't know you, I don't know the shooter, and I don't know the colonel in question, but reading your story, I cannot help but judge. This shooter is an buddyfucking asshole lowest order. If he had a homicidal urge against the colonel, while I don't condone, I can understand. Firing at the command chopper? Sorry, no. There's other guys up there.

So no, I can't imagine the pilot, the co-pilot, or the enlisted crew, presumably of which there are at least three onboard (crew chief, door gunner, CO's ratelo) would be too happy about this incident.

Nor do I imagine his squadmates were too happy about his drawing fire.

You can bet your ass if that if I had ever heard of something like that going on in my unit, somebody would have been nailed the wall.

But then, those were different times, different circumstances and a different army.
Exactly. The chopper guys let loose a stream of pretty good bullets where they knew there was likely their own troops. Even if the colonel was clueless, the door gunner probably knew exactly what was going on and decided to make a point.

That they didn't hit anyone may have been deliberate or may have been luck.


Quote:
Okay, let us assume that there was an officer in the outhouse when said outhouse was hit by a grenade. Let us assume said officer somehow escaped major injury and death - maybe he got a few splinters and a ringing in the ears for a few minutes. Now you're telling me that said officer is not going to scream bloody murder to his chain of command about discipline in the ranks? In a military where striking a superior is an act that can get you sent to Leavenworth (actually in time of war, it can be punished by death)*, you're really saying that that the military hierarchy would laugh off the potential death of an officer because some enlisted soldier felt denigrated by the different amenties? Because regardless of what the actual circumstances might have been (surviving and no injuries), you cannot tell me that being in the vicinity of a detonating grenade is something that couldn't lead to death. That's what they are designed to do.
However, if the guy is a royal flaming a-hole, odds are the command chain knows it too. As long as nobody is hurt, their motivation to investigate would probably be low, just to reinforce the object lesson. "I.e. Just because we back doesn't mean there's no limit to how you abuse the troops" is the unspoken subtext. The "we are unable to figure out who did it" part sort of remind the officer to smarten up. Smart people learn from experience.

For serious investigations, the search for strawberris in The Caine Mutiny comes to mind.

Not every officer was a clueless dick.
#46
Old 07-09-2009, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
Okay, let us assume that there was an officer in the outhouse when said outhouse was hit by a grenade. Let us assume said officer somehow escaped major injury and death - maybe he got a few splinters and a ringing in the ears for a few minutes. Now you're telling me that said officer is not going to scream bloody murder to his chain of command about discipline in the ranks? In a military where striking a superior is an act that can get you sent to Leavenworth (actually in time of war, it can be punished by death)*, you're really saying that that the military hierarchy would laugh off the potential death of an officer because some enlisted soldier felt denigrated by the different amenties? Because regardless of what the actual circumstances might have been (surviving and no injuries), you cannot tell me that being in the vicinity of a detonating grenade is something that couldn't lead to death. That's what they are designed to do.

I'm sorry, but even in Vietnam, junior officers weren't cheap enough to allow our own soldiers to kill them for sport.
Irishman, you're approaching this from the wrong perspective.

What do you think are the primary insecurities (psychological) of a junior officer? I will tell you right now that it's not being killed, wounded or maimed. A junior officer, above all, fears appearing weak, incompetent, and cowardly. This is essentially the common soldiers' experience of seeing the white elephant, only applied to command and leadership.

An incident such as the one that was described is a slap-the-face wake-up call that not only are you not performing well, but that you have lost any respect and good will that you may have had. That everyone else around you isn't doing anything about it means that everyone around you feels the same. If this happens to you and your CO does nothing about it, it means that your CO probably thinks you need to apply some corrective action to your behavior, pronto. So in Roadrage's story, I can understand.

The Vietnam experience is one that is in the back of every junior officer mind, for no other reason that most guys don't want to be THAT lieutenant.
#47
Old 07-09-2009, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
petersally, perhaps I did draw the conclusion that when RoadRage was talking about fragging officers, he was talking about killing them (what the term means), rather than just blowing up outhouses as a form of protest (which is how the story started). Perhaps I am making the assumption that a device designed to send sharp metal fragments at high velocities combined in an explosive mix that sets off a shock wave that can level an outhouse will tend to put high velocity fragments into anyone inside said outhouse.

Okay, let us assume that there was an officer in the outhouse when said outhouse was hit by a grenade. Let us assume said officer somehow escaped major injury and death - maybe he got a few splinters and a ringing in the ears for a few minutes. Now you're telling me that said officer is not going to scream bloody murder to his chain of command about discipline in the ranks? In a military where striking a superior is an act that can get you sent to Leavenworth (actually in time of war, it can be punished by death)*, you're really saying that that the military hierarchy would laugh off the potential death of an officer because some enlisted soldier felt denigrated by the different amenties? Because regardless of what the actual circumstances might have been (surviving and no injuries), you cannot tell me that being in the vicinity of a detonating grenade is something that couldn't lead to death. That's what they are designed to do.

I'm sorry, but even in Vietnam, junior officers weren't cheap enough to allow our own soldiers to kill them for sport.

-----
* The obligatory cite: http://usmilitary.about.com/od/punit...es/a/mcm90.htm


I suppose one could argue the specifics of the terms of this article with regards to "while he is in the execution of his office". There's also language concerning being a direct superior officer, so maybe this specific regulation does not apply. But the categorization of the severity of the results still is relevant.
Look, I don't doubt there was a crime involved in the events described by Roadrage. I'm not defending the acts involved. But, it seems to me that folks on this board like to parse very finely what other people say, and yet, they also like to leap to conclusions.

Roadrage said someone blew up the outhouse with an officer inside. He did not say the officer was killed or even hurt. You leaped to that conclusion and I caught you in mid-flight.

You can get on your high horse and spout about military regulations.. Leavenworth (Marines, BTW, go to Portsmouth)... little metal fagments. But, you're caught in an assumption.

Peter
#48
Old 07-09-2009, 06:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by signal11 View Post

SNIP

You can bet your ass if that if I had ever heard of something like that going on in my unit, somebody would have been nailed the wall.

SNIP
Let's assume the colonel was as smart as the pilot. The pilot figured out that it was GIs firing at the helicopter, the colonel must have, too. Let's also assume that the colonel discussed the incident with all his officers at the next staff meeting - all the battalion officers knew as well.

My squad leader, a sergeant, knew it was GIs doing the shooting. If I knew, he knew.

What would you have me do? Report the incident to my sergeant? Report it to my platoon leader, a lieutenant? Both already knew as much about it as I did.

Would you have me go over and confront the other squad - one man against ten? Would you have me just bushwack them and shoot them all?

I would love to hear what you propose. What would you do to nail them to your wall? Your bluster is amusing.

Peter

Last edited by petesally; 07-09-2009 at 06:44 PM.
#49
Old 07-09-2009, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by petesally View Post
Let's assume the colonel was as smart as the pilot. The pilot figured out that it was GIs firing at the helicopter, the colonel must have, too. Let's also assume that the colonel discussed the incident with all his officers at the next staff meeting - all the battalion officers knew as well.

My squad leader, a sergeant, knew it was GIs doing the shooting. If I knew, he knew.

What would you have me do? Report the incident to my sergeant? Report it to my platoon leader, a lieutenant? Both already knew as much about it as I did.

Would you have me go over and confront the other squad - one man against ten? Would you have me just bushwack them and shoot them all?

I would love to hear what you propose. What would you do to nail them to your wall? Your bluster is amusing.

Peter
As I clearly stated in my post, Peter, I don't know because I wasn't there and I don't know what it was like.

The entire notion of some idiot taking knowingly taking aimed rifle shots at ANY friendly vehicle and having everyone else cover for him is a foreign concept to anyone who put in his time in the past twenty years. We don't function that way no and we haven't functioned like that for a very long time for a very good reason.

Let's say that everything you believe to or propose to be true is true and happened in the manner in which you describe - and I have no reason to believe otherwise. Every key element would have been handled differently.

If that comes across to you as bluster, then maybe you should take a step back and stop being so defensive.

As for my value judgment, it is what is.
#50
Old 07-10-2009, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by petesally View Post
Leavenworth (Marines, BTW, go to Portsmouth)...
[Nitpick]Marines went to Portsmouth. The Portsmouth Naval Prison closed in 1974. [/Nitpick]
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