viet nam; north

KING CALLS WAR A ‘BLASPHEMY’

uncredited writer, Chicago Tribune, 26 March 1967

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership conference, told 5,000 peace demonstrators yesterday that the Viet Nam war is a “blasphemy against all that America stands for,” and that President Johnson is more interested in the Viet Nam war than in the war on poverty.

Dr. King had led the demonstrators in a parade in State street. At his side was Dr. Benjamin Spock, co-chairman of the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, a sponsor of the parade and rally.

Atrocities Equal Cong’s
Speaking in the Coliseum, Dr. King said, “We are committing atrocities equal to any perpetrated by the Viet Cong. We are left standing before the world glutted by our own barbarity. We are engaged in a war that seeks to turn the clock of history back and perpetuate white colonialism.”

Dr. King said the United States spends $322,000 for each enemy that is killed and it spends $53 for each person in the “so-called” war on poverty.

“And much of that $53 goes for salaries of people who are not poor,” he said.

Peace Lovers Organize
“Those of us who love peace must organize as effectively as the war hawks. As they spread the propaganda of war, we must spread the propaganda of peace. We must combine the fervor of the civil rights movement with the peace movement. We must demonstrate, preach, and teach, and organize until the very foundations of our nation are shaken.”

Dr. King left immediately after he spoke, and the audience began to leave with him. Dr. Spock, who followed Dr. King to the rostrum, spoke to a half empty house.

Dr. Spock called America the aggressor in Viet Nam and charged that our government has succumbed to an unhealthy distortion of reality.

“Accusation Isn’t True”
“Lyndon Johnson launched attack on North Viet Nam claiming that it was engaged in a direct military effort to take over South Viet Nam. But history shows—to anyone willing to read it—that this accusation was not true.

“For 13 years our government has been trying, unsuccessfully to gain control of South Viet Nam, by means of a Quisling puppet regime and more recently by armed invasion.”

Dr. Spock to Quit
After the rally, Dr. Spock, 64, said he plans to retire from his post at Western Reserve university to devote more time to the peace movement.

 Another speaker, Emil Mazey, secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers, said, “There has been a tremendous credibility gap in the information that the American people have been fed concerning Viet Nam.”

He called upon President Johnson to redouble efforts to achieve peace.

Peaceful Pacifists
During the parade, the demonstrators marched along peacefully carrying numerous signs protesting the war and identifying some of the groups of marchers.

Most of the spectators went about their shopping business after brief glances at the parade. Here and there along the route were groups of young men who carried signs saying “We support our men in Viet Nam” and shouting “We hate communists” and “we want Rockwell.”  This was a reference to George Lincoln Rockwell, head ot the American Nazi party.

Con Thien: A Muddy Hell on Earth for Marines in Viet

uncredited writer, Chicago Tribune, 28 September 1967

CON THIEN, VIET NAM — The name Con Thien may not be recorded in marine history beside Guadalcanal or Iwo Jima, but those who are here will remember these muddy hills as a place where bravery was routine and heroism was commonplace.

Con Thien is a forward position for a detachment of United States marines hanging on grimly in the face of the greatest artillery, rocket, and mortar siege seen in Viet Nam since the French were overwhelmed 13 years ago at Dien then Phu. The big shells come from the north, but the enemy is everywhere.

Con Thien is an artillery base and an observation post. It is the high ground two miles south of the demilitarized zone [DMZ} that divides Wet Nam. The topmost hill rises about 500 feet and observers can look across the DMZ into North Viet Nam. The hills are scarred and scraped by shell blasts. Red mud covers everything.

Con Mien is many other things.

It is teen-age warriors in filthy, tattered fatigues digging their holes deeper in the brief intervals between barrages. They joke as they dig. Sometimes they laugh.

It is the marine officer slogging over a muddy field in the midst of a shelling to try to help a wounded man. Unable to lift the man in the thigh-deep muck, he crouches over him to shield him until the shelling lifts.

It Is the Sergeant …
It is the big staff sergeant whistling tunelessly as he sorts his gear and prepares to move out into “Indian country.” He will set up a night ambush. One aim is to discourage probes by North Vietnamese who carry bamboo torpedoes to blow up the bather wire around the slim perimeter.

It is the figures, covered from boots to helmet in red mud, huddled in a ditch waiting for the helicopter that will lift them out because they have “won” three Purple Hearts. If a man is wounded three times, marine corps policy permits hint to be transferred to serve the rest of his tour in Okinawa or some other post. Some have been hit three times in a single day.

It is the medical corpsman using his two hands to try to stop bleeding from the necks of two wounded men, while be clenches a flashlight in his teeth.

It is the soft spoken chaplain, standing in the center of a little circle of men, their heads bowed at darkness as he gives thanks for the food, and the day and the night.

Con Thien is all these things on three muddy mounds of earth facing North Viet Nam. The marines moved in last April because it is a “commanding piece of terrain, the important piece in the area,” as officers express it.

Air Strikes Daily
Almost immediately the position came under enemy guns. In the spring and early summer, the shellings were heavy. Then the intensity dropped.  More marines moved into positions flanking Con Thien. More gun pits were set up 2,000 yards to .the south. The artillery at Dong Ha, Cam Lo, and Gio Linh, the other corners of “Leatherneck Square,” and the big guns at Camp Carroll, farther west, supported Con Thien. B-52 bombers and tactical air strikes pounded the enemy day after day.

A month ago the North Vietnamese again began to show they were still there with heavy guns in the treelines, ridges and mountains. The pounding of Con Thien was stepped up.

There is no pattern to the siege. Sometimes it is quiet for an hour, two hours, three hours. Then there is the shout: “In-coming.”

Nights Usually Quiet
Men race for bunkers, holes and ditches. Some officers say the nights are usually quiet because the enemy knows it is easier to spot the muzzle flashes of his guns in the dark. But a bunker may shudder from the exploding shells at 2 or 3 a. m. The enemy throws everything at Con mien—artillery, 120 mm. and 140 mm. rockets and mortars. Usually they are mixed together.

There were plans to build an all-weather road that would link Con Thien with points to the south, and truck in supplies, troops, and equipment. The road has not been completed. A big culvert was blown up by the enemy. Rock fill sinks into the mire.

Almost everything coming into Con Thien must move by helicopter. When one begins to descend, troopers on the ground head for their holes, knowing a barrage can be expected.

Maj. Gorton Cook, commander of the Con Thien defense force, says there has been adequate ammunition, food, and water despite the siege. But a few days ago marines were getting only one C ration a day. Then more supplies were lifted in, and they got two a day.

Water is lifted in by helicopter in jerry cans and some two-wheeled trailers mounting a storage tank. Troops string up ponchos to trap rainfall and funnel it into cans to supplement their water ration.

Medical Aid Limited
Medical facilities are limited in the aid station bunker. Dr. Donald Shortridge, a navy lieutenant from Indianapolis, says his job is to keep the seriously wounded alive until medical evacuation helicopters can move them to hospitals. His emergency receiving room takes up about half the bunker where he and his men live. There is no water to wash mud from the wooden floor. There is no whole blood because there is no refrigerator to keep it in.

Two questions are asked: Why can’t air power and big United States guns knock out the enemy positions? Why be in Con Thien at all? Military men answer the first by saying that the enemy positions are scattered and dug in on the slopes so only a direct hit can silence the guns. Mortars and rockets can be moved quickly from one place to an-other. And marine positions in Con Thien are a concentrated target, one on which the enemy gunners can take aim with precision.

As to why the marines stay put, the answer from the high command goes back to the high piece of terrain that makes up Con Thien. But other places that look into the demilitarized zone and into North Viet Nam might be easier to supply and to defend.

A Commitment Is Made
The answer appears to be that when the decision was made to control Con Thien it Was not believed the enemy could mount and maintain such an offensive. It was believed his guns could be spotted and wiped out.

This has not happened, but a commitment was made. To pull back would give the enemy a propaganda victory. It would go counter to marine thinking. Marine officers believe Con Thien can be held. They consider the enemy would have to mass 5,000 to 6,000 troops to launch a ground assault that would overrun these muddy hills. They believe the price would be greater than Hanoi is willing to pay.