February 23, 1945: The Mass on Mount Suribachi

Tuesday, February 23, AD 2016

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Iwo Jima probably has the sad distinction of being the most expensive piece of worthless real estate in the history of the globe.  Expensive not in something as minor as money, but costly in something as all important as human lives.  In 1943 the island had a civilian population of 1018 who scratched a precarious living from sulfur mining, some sugar cane farming and fishing.  All rice and consumer goods had to be imported from the Home Islands of Japan.  Economic prospects for the island were dismal.  Eight square miles, almost all flat and sandy, the dominant feature is Mount Suribachi on the southern tip of the island, 546 feet high, the caldera of the dormant volcano that created the island.  Iwo Jima prior to World War II truly was “of the world forgetting, and by the world forgot”.

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3 Responses to February 23, 1945: The Mass on Mount Suribachi

  • Gysgt. John Basilone was killed in battle at Iwo Jima. If I am not mistaken, Basilone is the only previously decorated Medal of Honor recipient to ever die in battle.

  • He married Sgt. Lena Mae Riggi at Saint Mary, Star of the Sea near Camp Pendleton before he shipped off. She never remarried, dying in 1999, still wearing her wedding ring. She gave the $10,000.00 insurance money from the death of her husband, worth over 132,000 today, to his family. An extraordinary man had an extraordinary wife.

  • The B29 pilots that had to deal with engine problems were most grateful for those runways at Iwo Jima.

James Forrestal and his Prophecy

Friday, February 27, AD 2015

Flag Raising Iwo Jima

 

The last cabinet level Secretary of the Navy, and the first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal was not content to remain in Washington.  As Secretary of the Navy during World War II he often visited the sites of active combat operations.  Thus it was that he was present on Iwo Jima when the flag was raised on Mount Suribachi.  What he said then has entered the lore of the Marine Corps:

The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.

Appointed the first Secretary of Defense in 1947, Forrestal fought against budget cuts proposed by President Truman that he thought endangered the nation’s security.  He also opposed the proposal to unify the services which would gut the Navy and eliminate the Marine Corps.  On March 31, 1949, Harry Truman, angered over Forrestal’s opposition to his policies, fired him.  Tragically, Forrestal, who had worked non-stop on Defense issues since he joined the Roosevelt administration in 1940, had a nervous breakdown.  While undergoing psychiatric treatment he committed suicide by jumping from the 16th floor of the National Naval Medical Center.  He left behind a note with a quotation from Sophocles’ Ajax:

Fair Salamis, the billows’ roar,

Wander around thee yet,

And sailors gaze upon thy shore

Firm in the Ocean set.

Thy son is in a foreign clime

Where Ida feeds her countless flocks,

Far from thy dear, remembered rocks,

Worn by the waste of time–

Comfortless, nameless, hopeless save

In the dark prospect of the yawning grave….

Woe to the mother in her close of day,

Woe to her desolate heart and temples gray,

When she shall hear

Her loved one’s story whispered in her ear!

“Woe, woe!’ will be the cry–

No quiet murmur like the tremulous wail

Of the lone bird, the querulous nightingale–

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10 Responses to James Forrestal and his Prophecy

  • This caught my eye for perhaps obvious reasons.

    “The Navy struck back with the Revolt of the Admirals where several admirals spoke out against the defense policies of the Truman administration at the cost of their careers.”

  • It seems that the authentic power over the A-bomb had gone to Truman’s head. To denigrate the sacrifice of the Marines on Mt. Suribachi smacks of treason. Different branches of the Armed Forces are like different personalities. Men adhere to the “Espri de Core” (sp). I knew a Marine, a paratrooper (said one had to be crazy to jump from a plane but he did) an Air Force man, but no regular Army man and almost had a Navy man as a son-in-law. These people would have been stabbed in the heart by Truman’s really stupid concept of the Armed Forces.
    .
    But would any change impact the Chaplains’ service as did Obama? During the government shutdown, Obama demanded the sacrifice from the Armed Forces encamped in government facilities by forbidding the Mass to be said, even as human beings were living out their lives unto dying. That is not a president who represents his constituents, allowing them to live and die without the consolation of their Faith, a despicable treason.

  • I think I am a Marine: Semper Fi

  • It was always heartening to see from our quarters our guarters a patrol of marines in full battle dress go down into the jungle on the lookout for “the bad guys”. My then third grade son presented me with a picture he had drawn of three heroes – a US Marine, a USN chaplain and a Navy pilot.
    I hope to run across that drawing of 20 years ago as that chaplain conducts burials at Arlington Cemetery.

  • Appearing in the film were several Marine veterans of the Pacific, including Colonel David Shoup, who earned a Medal of Honor for his heroism at Tarawa, and who would later serve as a Commandant of the Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Crow who led a Marine battalion at Tarawa. The Marines’ Hymn is sung in the film after the death of Wayne’s character, one of ten films in which a Wayne character died, and as the raising of the flag is recreated. Taking part in the flag raising were Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley, the three survivors of the six flag raisers.

    I’d have loved to have cross-examined William Manchester with this datum.

  • A friend pointed out certain similarities between Truman and the current CIC. I have tried not to believe them, but after reading this post, among other signs, well…

  • No US Navy equals no Navy SEALS. Horrid thought!!!

  • “There’s no reason for having a Navy and Marine Corps. General Bradley tells me that amphibious operations are a thing of the past. We’ll never have any more amphibious operations. That does away with the Marine Corps. And the Air Force can do anything the Navy can do nowadays, so that does away with the Navy.”

    Military brass & govt appointees who tell politicians what they want to hear are heartbreaking & sickening to the very core of my heart.

  • I had no idea that Truman tried to end the Marines & the Navy!! He was insane. Especially after WW 1 & 2. What was his reasoning?

  • Barbara G., I think that Truman, being a politician (naturally venal and ignorant), believed that the nuke weapon ended the need/utility of conventional warfare.
    .

    In Truman’s administration’s stupidity (signals/statements), Comintern gangsters – Stalin, Mao – came to assume/believe that the US would not fight over Korea. Ergo, Truman needed to unseriously (not using all the arrows in the quiver and strategically not fighting to win) fight the Korean War. And, more than 36,000 young Americans seriously fought and gave their lives for South Korean freedom.
    .

    After Obama and Carter, Truman may be the worst POTUS. The 19th century POTUS losers don’t measure down. They didn’t have the power to massively mess up everything.
    .
    JFK officially swung away from nuke dependence and presided over the formations of the green berets and SEALS; and started “playing” with American blood in Vietnam, Republic of.

February 23, 1945: The Mass on Mount Suribachi

Monday, February 23, AD 2015

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Seventy years ago today the Marines raised the flag over Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima and a mass was said at the summit.  Iwo Jima probably has the sad distinction of being the most expensive piece of worthless real estate in the history of the globe.  Expensive not in something as minor as money, but costly in something as all important as human lives.  In 1943 the island had a civilian population of 1018 who scratched a precarious living from sulfur mining, some sugar cane farming and fishing.  All rice and consumer goods had to be imported from the Home Islands of Japan.  Economic prospects for the island were dismal.  Eight square miles, almost all flat and sandy, the dominant feature is Mount Suribachi on the southern tip of the island, 546 feet high, the caldera of the dormant volcano that created the island.  Iwo Jima prior to World War II truly was “of the world forgetting, and by the world forgot”.

The advent of World War II changed all of that.  A cursory look at a map shows that Iwo Jima is located 660 miles south of Tokyo, well within the range of American bombers and fighter escorts, a fact obvious to both the militaries of the US and Imperial Japan.  The Japanese forcibly evacuated the civilian population of Iwo Jima in July of 1944.  Awaiting the invading Marines was a garrison of approximately 23,000 Japanese troops, skillfully deployed by General Tadamichi Kuribayashi  in hidden fortified positions throughout the island, connected in many cases by 11 miles of tunnels.  The Japanese commander was under no illusions that the island could be held, but he was determined to make the Americans pay a high cost in blood for Iwo.

Tasked with the mission of seizing the island was the V Marine Amphibious Corp, under the command of General Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, consisting of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Divisions.

On February 18th, 1945 Navy Lieutenant, (the Marine Corps, although Marines are often loathe to admit it, is a component of the Department of the Navy, and the Navy supplies all the chaplains that serve with it) Charles Suver, Society of Jesus, was part of the 5th Marine Division and anxiously awaiting the end of the bombardment and the beginning of the invasion the next day.  Chaplain Suver was one of 19 Catholic priests participating in the invasion as a chaplain.

Father Suver had been born in Ellensburg, Washington in 1907.    Graduating from Seattle College in 1924, he was ordained as a priest in 1937, having taught at Gonzaga University in Spokane.   Prior to the war, while teaching at Seattle Prep, he rigorously enforced the no running rules in the hall, even going so far as to tackle one errant student!  Father Suver was remembered as a strict disciplinarian but also a fine teacher. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, he joined the Navy as a chaplain.

On February 18th, 1945, Chaplain Suver was discussing the upcoming invasion with other Marine officers.  A lieutenant told him that he intended to take an American flag onto the top of Mount Suribachi.  Suver responded that if he did that, he would say mass under it.

At 5:30 AM the next morning Father Suver said mass for the Marines aboard his ship, LST 684. (The official meaning of LST was Landing Ship, Tank;  the troops designated them Large Slow Target.)  After mass, nervous Marines, more than a few of whom had not much longer to live, bombarded the chaplain with questions, especially questions about courage.  He responded, ” A courageous man goes on fulfilling his duty despite the fear gnawing away inside.  Many men are fearless, for many different reasons, but fewer are courageous.” 

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7 Responses to February 23, 1945: The Mass on Mount Suribachi

  • Pingback: Vets Take Iwo Jima Memorial | The American Catholic
  • Don–with these posts you consistently capture the essence of history, the struggles of humankind. Thanks.

  • We Christian Americans are dedicated to living our spiritual lives by the events and history of two thousand years ago in Israel. But we seem to have somehow lost all memory and knowledge of what was done and occurred just 70 years ago.

    A world weary of war had recently fought a bloody battle which at the finish they called the war to end all wars. That of course was more false hope than anything close to reality. As America was trying to recover from the Great Depression the evil in the hearts of power hungry men in control of the nations of Germany, Italy, and Japan were overrunning their weaker neighbors in Europe and Asia with unspeakable savagery and ethnic cleansing in extermination camps to expand Hitler’s Master Arian Race and Japanese Imperialism. The sudden onslaught of superior military forces caught tiny and unprepared nations off guard and helpless. France was no match for Hitler and the British were being besieged by daily aerial bombings. Burma and China were under the ruthless swords of swarming Japanese armies. There seemed to be no way the Axis powers could be stopped from dominating over half of the globe. That is until the God fearing nation with God given rights guided by Divine providence and Trust in the power of the Almighty had seen enough. Yes, America, the nation of immigrants that built their government on Christian values and the desire for liberty for all men would rise to the occasion going to the ends of the earth shedding the blood of their patriots in every land to subdue the Evil establishing peace once more standing alone as the greatest force for good in the world, even helping to rebuilding the nations we defeated.
    We still are that nation but the question is are we still that people?

  • Excellent post and excellent comment by Bill Sr.

  • Those who would desecrate our national emblem for purity, courage and truth deserve nothing; not our American Flag nor our country. The Supreme Court in its decision that burning the American Flag is freedom of speech had it backwards. Without an American Flag and without a country, these desecrators have forfeit any country, any flag and any freedom they had. Love it or leave it. You do not get a chance to destroy it.
    .
    If anyone needs to destroy our country to live in it, he may as well get lost.
    Burning the American Flag outside of America says that you are a coward and a creep.
    .
    The men on Mount Suribachi are patriots. Patriotism is the price of citizenship.

  • outstanding Post Don – makes for further reading and research. Thank you!

  • Thank you for this excellent post and also to Bill Sr. I would say we are that people. Do we have leaders worthy of our troops who have fought in Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere? No, we do not. At daily Mass when the Host is raised at the Consecration, I pray that Jesus has mercy on our and allied troops in harm’s way. Our priests in uniform are exceptional men, worthy of those they minister. To attend Mass celebrated by a priest who has cammies underneath his vestments and is surrounded by men and women in uniform is special.

Iwo Jima: Valor Was a Common Virtue

Sunday, February 22, AD 2015

 

 

Seventy years ago the battle of Iwo Jima was under way.  The ferocity of the fighting can be gauged by this stark fact:  there were 82 Medals of Honor earned by Marines during the entire war in the Pacific, 22 of them were awarded for heroism on Iwo.  Here, chosen at random, is the citation for the Medal of Honor earned by Sergeant Darrell Cole.  Prior to serving on Iwo he had fought on Guadalcanal, Kwajalein, Tinian and Saipan.  At twenty-four, his entire adult life had been spent fighting in the Pacific.  Here is his citation:

 

 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Leader of a Machine-gun Section of Company B, First Battalion, Twenty-Third Marines, Fourth Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the assault on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945. Assailed by a tremendous volume of small-arms, mortar and artillery fire as he advanced with one squad of his section in the initial assault wave, Sergeant Cole boldly led his men up the sloping beach toward Airfield Number One despite the blanketing curtain of flying shrapnel and, personally destroying with hand grenades two hostile emplacements which menaced the progress of his unit, continued to move forward until a merciless barrage of fire emanating from three Japanese pillboxes halted the advance. Instantly placing his one remaining machine gun in action, he delivered a shattering fusillade and succeeded in silencing the nearest and most threatening emplacement before his weapon jammed and the enemy, reopening fire with knee mortars and grenades, pinned down his unit for the second time. Shrewdly gauging the tactical situation and evolving a daring plan of counterattack, Sergeant Cole, armed solely with a pistol and one grenade, coolly advanced alone to the hostile pillboxes. Hurling his one grenade at the enemy in sudden, swift attack, he quickly withdrew, returned to his own lines for additional grenades and again advanced, attacked, and withdrew. With enemy guns still active, he ran the gauntlet of slashing fire a third time to complete the total destruction of the Japanese strong point and the annihilation of the defending garrison in this final assault. Although instantly killed by an enemy grenade as he returned to his squad, Sergeant Cole had eliminated a formidable Japanese position, thereby enabling his company to storm the remaining fortifications, continue the advance and seize the objective. By his dauntless initiative, unfaltering courage and indomitable determination during a critical period of action, Sergeant Cole served as an inspiration to his comrades, and his stouthearted leadership in the face of almost certain death sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

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2 Responses to Iwo Jima: Valor Was a Common Virtue

  • My late father was in US Army (6th Army) logistics and artillery and working in the “Pineapple Pentagon” 1945, and was privy to the multiple daily dispatches coming back from Iwo Jima that detailed the unbelievable hellish fighting and the correspondent casualties. He used to say he was almost overwhelmed — by the madness of the Imperial forces’ leadership on the one hand, and by the heroism that was not uncommon of the US Marine personnel at Iwo, at Okinawa, at Tarawa, at Saipan.
    We all should be awed by them—I am—and it is another moment of peace to participate in the traditional Latin Mass to offer for them, the expiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead (see TLM prayer, “Suscipe, Sancte Pater” at start of the Mass of the Faithful). They are all present there, even now.

  • According to Wikipedia 12 of the 22 Medals were awarded posthumously.

    Sergeant Cole is also the namesake of the U.S.S. Cole, 56 of whose crew were early casualties in our present war against militant Islam.
    .
    Excuse me, I meant victims of a man-caused disaster that has nothing to do with religion because causing disasters is a perversion of religion.
    .
    Or so we’ve been repeatedly told lo these many years.

John Wayne and the Sands of Iwo Jima

Saturday, February 21, AD 2015

 

 They told me to get you into shape so you can handle a piece of this war.

That’s what I’m gonna do and that means I’m gonna tell you what to do every day,

how to button your buttons and when to blow your noses.

If you do something I don’t like I’m gonna jump and when I land it’ll hurt.

I’ll ride you until you can’t stand up. When you do, you’ll be marines.

John Wayne as  Sgt. John M. Stryker, Sands of Iwo Jima

Something for the weekend.  The Marines’ Hymn.  Seventy years ago the battle of Iwo Jima was underway as the Marines took a giant step forward towards Tokyo.  The film  Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) earned John Wayne his first Oscar nomination as best actor.  (Broderick Crawford would win for his stunning performance in All The King’s Men.)   Wayne was initially reluctant to take the role, partly because he had not fought in World War II, and partly because he saw script problems and didn’t like the character of Sergeant Styker as initially written in the screen play.  (There is evidence that Wayne, 34 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and with 3 kids, did attempt to volunteer in 1943 for the Marine Corps with assignment to John Ford’s OSS Field Photographic Unit, but was turned down.) 

Wayne was convinced to take the role because the film had the enthusiastic backing of the Marine Corps, which viewed it as a fitting tribute to the Marines who fought in the Pacific, and to help combat a move in Congress to abolish the Corps.  Marine Commandant Clifton B. Cates went to see Wayne to request that he take the role and Wayne immediately agreed.  (Thus began a long association of John Wayne with the Marine Corps, including Wayne narrating a tribute to Marine Lieutenant General Chesty Puller.)

Appearing in the film were several Marine veterans of the Pacific, including Colonel David Shoup, who earned a Medal of Honor for his heroism at Tarawa, and who would later serve as a Commandant of the Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Crow who led a Marine battalion at Tarawa.  The Marines’ Hymn is sung in the film after the death of Wayne’s character, one of ten films in which a Wayne character died, and as the raising of the flag is recreated.

Taking part in the flag raising were Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley, the three survivors of the six flag raisers.  (The three men who raised the flag and subsequently died in the battle were Franklin Sousely, Harlon Block and Michael Strank.)  (First Lieutenant Harold Schrier, who led the flag raising party that raised the first, smaller, flag on Mount Suribachi, and who was awarded a Navy Cross and a Silver Star for his heroism on Iwo Jima, also appeared in the film.)  The flag on top of Mount Suribachi could be seen across the island, and was greeted with cheers by the Marines and blaring horns by the ships of the Navy.  A mass was said on Mount Suribachi at the time of the flag raising and I have written about that here.

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Vets Take Iwo Jima Memorial

Saturday, October 5, AD 2013

 

iwojima_preview

 

I doubt if most of them would call themselves the greatest American generation, probably deferring to the generation that fought the American Revolution or the generation that fought the Civil War.  However, we owe them a lot, and the debt keeps growing:

I’m told, “The Syracuse Honor Flight just knocked down the barrier and a couple hundred of them are at the Memorial now.”

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5 Responses to Vets Take Iwo Jima Memorial

Marines’ Hymn

Saturday, January 8, AD 2011

Some people work an entire lifetime and wonder if they ever made a difference to the world.? But the Marines don’t have that problem.

Ronald Reagan

Something for the weekend.  The oldest of the official songs of a branch of the US military, the composer of the Marines’ Hymn is unknown, but is thought to have been a Marine serving in Mexico during the Mexican War, hence the “Halls of Montezuma”.  The music is taken from the Gendarmes Duet from the Opera Genevieve de Brabant, written by Jacques Offenback in 1859.

Prior to 1929 the first verse used to end:

” Admiration of the nation,
we’re the finest ever seen;
And we glory in the title
Of United States Marines”

which the then Commandant of the Marine Corps changed to the current lines.  On November 21, 1942,  Commandant Thomas Holcomb approved a change in the words of the first verse’s fourth line from “On the land as on the sea” to “In the air, on land, and sea”.

My favorite rendition of the hymn is in the movie The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)  This film earned John Wayne his first Oscar nomination as best actor.  (Broderick Crawford would win for his stunning performance in All The King’s Men.)   Wayne was initially reluctant to take the role, partly because he had not fought in World War II, and partly because he saw script problems and didn’t like the character of Sergeant Styker as initially written in the screen play.  (There is evidence that Wayne, 34 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and with 3 kids, did attempt to volunteer in 1943 for the Marine Corps with assignment to John Ford’s OSS Field Photographic Unit, but was turned down.) 

Wayne was convinced to take the role because the film had the enthusiastic backing of the Marine Corps, which viewed it as a fitting tribute to the Marines who fought in the Pacific, and to help combat a move in Congress to abolish the Corps.  Marine Commandant Clifton B. Cates went to see Wayne to request that he take the role and Wayne immediately agreed.  (Thus began a long association of John Wayne with the Marine Corps, including Wayne narrating a tribute to Marine Lieutenant General Chesty Puller.)  

 Appearing in the film were several Marine veterans of the Pacific, including Colonel David Shoup, who earned a Medal of Honor for his heroism at Tarawa, and who would later serve as a Commandant of the Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Crow who led a Marine battalion at Tarawa.  The Marine Corp hymn is sung in the film after the death of Wayne’s character, one of ten films in which a Wayne character died, and as the raising of the flag is recreated. 

 Taking part in the flag raising were Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley, the three survivors of the six flag raisers who survived the battle.  (The three men who raised the flag and subsequently died in the battle were Franklin Sousely, Harlon Block and Michael Strank.)  (First Lieutenant Harold Schrier, who led the flag raising party that raised the first, smaller, flag on Mount Suribachi, and who was awarded a Navy Cross and a Silver Star for his heroism on Iwo Jima, also appeared in the film.)  The flag on top of Mount Suribachi could be seen across the island, and was greeted with cheers by the Marines and blaring horns by the ships of the Navy.  A mass was said on Mount Suribachi at the time of the flag raising and I have written about that here.  Go here to see the ending of the Sands of Iwo Jima and listen to the Marines’ Hymn.

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13 Responses to Marines’ Hymn

  • “Greet them ever with grateful hearts”, The Doughboys by Lawrence Stallings, chapter heading.

  • Some people work an entire lifetime and wonder if they ever made a difference to the world.? But the Marines don’t have that problem.

    I am reading the use of “difference” in this statement as expressing something positive. And I accept this statement as probably true in a very general sense. As the son of a Marine, I have long admired the discipline and structure that the Marine Corps introduces into the life of its soldiers, and, believe me, that rigor trickles down to how a Marine raises children!

    But, as my father, who served during Vietnam, often tells me, many actual Marines harbor deep, deep regret and guilt over what their service entailed. The difference these Marines think they made is one that they wish they hadn’t made. So while I think that military training, which the saints and doctors often pointed to as an analogy for the rigorous regiment of the spiritual life, is something admirable, I equally think that we must be cautious about unqualified claims about the difference that the soldiers of the U.S. make, since, in the actual, historical world, that difference is not always one they and/or the citizens of the U.S. are and should be proud of. The reality of being a soldier is that you are not in command of yourself, which means that it is possible that you will be used in ignoble ways.

  • “But, as my father, who served during Vietnam, often tells me, many actual Marines harbor deep, deep regret and guilt over what their service entailed.”

    Considering that they were fighting to keep South Vietnam free from the Communist despots who now oppress what was South Vietnam I find that odd, except for the usual feelings of regret that many men have for actions necessary in a war, no matter how just the cause, and our involvement in Vietnam was a completely just war. The Marines I know who fought in Vietnam have told me that their only regret is that politicians lost what was won on the battlefields of Vietnam. A good recent book on this topic is linked below:

    http://www.amazon.com/This-Time-Win-Revisiting-Offensive/dp/1594032297/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1294524739&sr=8-1

  • A Marine, and any member of the service, of course always has the right to disobey any illegal order under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

  • Considering that they were fighting to keep South Vietnam free from the Communist despots who now oppress what was South Vietnam I find that odd, except for the usual feelings of regret that many men have for actions necessary in a war, no matter how just the cause, and our involvement in Vietnam was a completely just war.

    Again, this is a far to general and naive way of thinking about war. What makes “actions necessary in a war” necessary, and who determines this? Here’s what I mean:

    Suppose Vietnam was a just war for the U.S. to engage in (I doubt any sound argument can be made that it was just, but let’s just suppose it was true for the sake of argument). It would not follow from this hypothesis that every specific action within that just war would be just. Hence, the Church has always distinguished between jus ad bellum and jus in bello. A nation could both have a just cause to go to war (ius ad bellum) and go to war for the right reason (recta ratio), while it’s soldiers nonetheless perform specific unjust actions in that war. The unjust actions would not make the war itself unjust, but the actions would nevertheless be immoral. These are very basic concepts in war ethics.

    When my father and I talk about the Marines and Vietnam, he often talks about unnecessary and horrendous actions that many Marines committed against both South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese. By our hypothesis, these actions would violate jus in bello), but not violate jus in bellum. It seems entirely possible to me that the Marines you know had different operations than my father and the Marines he knows had. So why would it be “odd” that my father personally knows many Marines with whom he served who regret their actions in Vietnam?

  • “It would not follow from this hypothesis that every specific action within that just war would be just.”

    Of course not, just as not every American action in defeating the Nazis in World War ii was just. That is why we have courtmartials to punish troops who engage in crimes during wars. By the way, if your father knows of any Marines who engaged in crimes during the Vietnam War he can contact the Pentagon, and, depending upon the offense, prosecution can be undertaken.

    As to the justness of the Vietnam War, I consider it to be self-evident. Ho Chi Minh and his Vietnamese Communists seized power in the North and kept power through the usual terror apparatus that all Communist regimes relied upon to maintain power. They sought to unify all of Vietnam under their rule. Several million North Vietnamese, many of them Catholic, fled to the South.

    Ho and his regime sponsored the Viet Cong (Vietnamese Communist) movement in the South to bring this about, supplying weapons and manpower. The US aided the non-Communist forces in the South to resist. Finding that the Viet Cong were being defeated, the North Vietnamese sent regular North Vietnamese (PAVN-Peoples Army of Vietnam) units south to support the NLF (National Liberation Front) units of the Cong. On the battlefield, units of the US and ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) were largely successful at defeating both the NLF and the PAVN. America tired of the war before final victory could be obtained and Congress cut off support for South Vietnam in 1974, with the PAVN conquering South Vietnam in 1975 in a lightning conventional offensive. Since that time Vietnam has amassed an appalling human rights record with millions of Vietnamese fleeing the country, and with the Church in Vietnam undergoing periodic bouts of persecution. American attempts to prevent this outcome were not only just but noble.

  • A good website to keep tabs on the human rights abuses of the Vietnamese government is linked below:

    http://www.vietnamhumanrights.net/IndexE.html

  • As to the justness of the Vietnam War, I consider it to be self-evident.

    I think if it were “self-evident,” there be much wider agreement. And the detail of your argument suggests that it is not self-evidently just (I am thinking of the two senses of “self-evident” that Aquinas outlines in the Summa, neither of which seem to apply to your claim). But you and I can have that discussion another time, and I am especially interested in having it.

    All I intended to point out in my first comment was that a general claim such as “No Marine will wonder whether he/she made a (positive) difference to the world” should be qualified in a manner that reflects the actual service of real (as opposed to idealized) soldiers. As my father recounts, there are plenty of counterexamples to that unqualified claim. Coming from a military family, which represented three branches of the military, I do not think what I expressed in any way denigrates the military or soldiers themselves.

  • I wait with eager anticipation MJ your support for your belief that the Vietnam War was manifestly unjust. Any time you wish to address the subject I will be happy to take up the gauntlet, but I agree that I do not want this thread to become a rehash of stale debates from the Sixties over Vietnam.

    As to the Reagan quote, I think it is accurate. I believe the Marines have been a force for good in this world. This of course does not excuse any crimes that individual Marines may have engaged in, nor would any reasonable person think that it does, just as any reasonable person would not think that any praise for priests as a group would mean to include pedophile priests and the criminal bishops who protected them.

  • I think, then, we are in agreement on a number of general claims relating to your post.

  • Believe in our Country!!!

  • MJ: You and your father are in the minority.

    I am a Vietnam Era USAF veteran. I am in close contact with many combat air crewmen whom I have known for over 40 years. Our unit (I couldn’t fly) staged B52 raids that helped stop the Easter 1972 NVA invasion and the Christmas Bomb Campaign that brought the Paris Peace Accords BUT in 1975 the vietcongress refused to honor that treaty and denied supplies to the ARNV allowing the glorious liberators to take everyhthing and methodically murder 500,000 Vietnamese.

    Surveys of VN vets show 91% believe their service was positive, and 74% said they would do it again. I am not saying any of it was pleasant.

    One difference between WWII and Korea Marines and Vietnam marines was they needed to draft marines. By the end of the war, the Army was demoralized – sad. I saw it in West Germany.

    The USAF somehow stayed the course.

    Apply one huge grain of salt to anything any retired-hippy/pothead/LSD/SDS/VC symathizer prof ever told you. To wit: the comintern agents that ran the pro-VC, er, peace campaign in the US always called CONTAINMENT (US Foreign Plocy in effect since 1946) “imperialism.”

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