Vietnam War

The Captain Stephen J. Chaney Story

Steve Chaney

The Captain Stephen J. Chaney story reads like a Hollywood script, one starring the likes of John Wayne. However Steve Chaney was a real person who grew up in Marion, Ohio and was killed in action in September of 1969 on a secret mission during the Vietnam War. The Green Beret soldier was only 23.  On May 3, 2013 in a ceremony at the Ohio State House, Lt Governor Mary Taylor and a host of military officials posthumously inducted Steve and nineteen other Ohioans into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame.

Chaney was born in 1946 and graduated from Marion Catholic High School in 1964. A stellar athlete he was heavily recruited by most college football powers. His father was a career army man and sharing the love of the military, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Steve would attend West Point. However, a visit to Notre Dame woke up the echoes for Steve. At South Bend he saw the traditions of his Faith combined with that of the gridiron. Upon returning to Marion his parents were stunned with his desire to attend Notre Dame.

As Steve arrived at Notre Dame in the summer of 1964 the Gulf of Tonkin Incident which sparked the United States’ heightened involvement in the conflict had just occurred. Before there was Pat Tilman (the football star who left the NFL to join the army and was killed in action in Afghanistan,) there was Steve Chaney. After one year at Notre Dame, Steve against the advice of fellow freshman and future Vietnam vet and Pittsburgh Steeler Rocky Bleier, would leave South Bend and a disappointed new Coach Ara Parseghian to enter the US Army. At that point the small anti-war movement only helped to push Chaney further toward doing what he could for the burgeoning war effort. Chaney entered the Army as an enlisted man and left as a Captain.

After one tour of duty he could have left the army, but Chaney saw the deterioration of the command structure and felt a younger leader like himself might help buttress morale. Because he led from the front, Chaney was popular with his men and the man from Marion felt he knew what it took to lead in those critical times. More than once Chaney had to pull aside a fellow officer and remind him of setting a moral example and living with what he was doing in the field, and the consequences a much Higher Power might inflict upon him at a yet undetermined date.

Chaney even confided in his parents, shortly before his second tour of Vietnam, that he secretly longed to return to Notre Dame and get back on the football team. Sadly that possibility never occurred as Captain Chaney was killed in action during a secret mission to Laos in September 1969. Caught in an ambush and a failed air assault, a critically injured Captain Chaney called in more air support all the while trying to locate all of his men. When helped arrived, he clung to life but only for a short time, he died before the helicopter landed at the nearby field hospital. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The Known Unknown

Michael Blassie

“At a moment of great crises in the history of the world, he gave of himself,”

Archbishop Justin Rigali at funeral mass for Michael Blassie

Air Force First Lieutenant Michael Blassie’s life came to an end at age twenty-four on May 11, 1972 when the A-37B Dragonfly that he was flying in support of South Vietnamese troops in An Loc was shot down.  His body could not be recovered because the North Vietnamese had control of the area where his plane was shot down.  The Saint Louis native, a 1970 graduate of the Air Force academy, had a short military career but an illustrious one:  earning a Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, and an Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters.  Thanks to the air support he and his colleagues gave, the North Vietnamese did not take An Loc.

Five months later partial skeletal remains were recovered from the crash site.  Initially identified as being Blassie’s, the remains were later reclassified as being unknown when it was erroneously determined that the height and age of the remains did not match with Blassie. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Hey, Who Did Win the Vietnam War Anyway?

 

Vietnam Today

 

History is full of ironies and none more so than the development of Vietnam in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.  Independent journalist Michael Totten, who specializes in covering wars and desperately poor, ill governed countries, gives us refreshing news about Vietnam:

 

The ruling Communist Party knows better than just about anyone that communist economics are a disaster. Vietnam’s economy has been growing at light speed for a while now. I knew that in advance, and yet it still stunned me. The city trembles with industriousness and entrepreneurship. Small and large businesses are everywhere. Half the residents seem to be in business for themselves. Anything and everything you can possibly imagine is for sale, though it’s not all high-end yet. I saw a Louis Vuitton outlet next to a bootleg CD store, an elegant Western-style café next to low-end bar with hard chairs and no air-conditioning, a Body Shop next to a used clothing store with cast-off second-hand T-shirts from the West, and an art gallery next to a store selling old pots and pans.

Market economies are uneven, no doubt, but they sure as hell beat the alternative. I could hardly believe it, but when I was a kid the Vietnamese stood in long lines on the street to exchange ration coupons for handfuls of rice. Today the country is one of the world’s largest exporters of rice.

Japan and South Korea: watch out. If the economy keeps growing and the political system breaks open, Vietnam will be a country to reckon with. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Rocky Versace: The Bravest Man You Have Never Heard Of

Captain Versace

 FOR THE ROCK and the children and sugar people of NamCan

Dedication of the book The Fifteenth Pelican by Marie Teresa Rios Versace

 

For his entire life Captain Humbert Roque ‘Rocky’ Versace was on a mission.  His first mission was as an Army Ranger.  His second mission was to be a Catholic priest and to work with orphan kids.  He had been accepted to a Maryknoll seminary but then fate intervened.  The son of Colonel Humbert  J. Versace from Puerto Rico and his wife Marie Teresa Rios Versace, a novelist and poet who, among many other books, wrote The Fifteenth Pelican on which the TV series The Flying Nun was based, Rocky was an unforgettable character.  A graduate of West Point in 1959, he was an Army Ranger and a soldier as tough as they come.  He had an intelligence of a high order as demonstrated by his fluency in French and Vietnamese.  He loved to laugh and have a good time.  At the same time he was deeply religious and a fervent Catholic.  In short, he was a complete man.

Volunteering for service in Vietnam, he began his tour as an intelligence advisor on May 12, 1962.

Rocky fell in love with the Vietnamese people, especially the kids.  In his free time he volunteered in a Vietnamese orphanage.  He believed in his mission and regarded it as a crusade to prevent the people he loved living under Communism.  During his tour he received news that his application to attend a Maryknoll seminary had been accepted.  He planned after ordination to return to Vietnam and work with Vietnam orphans as a priest.  He agreed to a six month extension of his tour since that fit in with his plans to attend the seminary.

On October 29, 1963 he was serving as an intelligence advisor with the 5th Special Forces Group (Green Berets).  He accompanied several companies of South Vietnamese Civilian Irregular Defense (militia) that were seeking to remove a Viet Cong command post in the U Minh Forest.  They were ambushed and Rocky gave covering fire to allow the South Vietnamese to retreat and get away.  He was captured.  The Viet Cong murdered him on September 26, 1965.  What happened in between made Rocky a legend.  He was taken to a camp deep in the jungle along with Lieutenant Nick Rowe and Sergeant Dan Pitzer.  After their eventual release they told all and sundry what they witnessed Rocky do. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Ho Chi Minh, Obama and History

That President Obama praised dead Communist dictator Ho Chi Minh will come as a surprise only to Americans who haven’t been paying attention, which, alas, is a large segment of the population.  For the benefit of those people, historian Ronald Radosh in The Wall Street Journal gives some background to Ho:

 

During World War II, Vietnam—a French colony—was taken over by Japan, and toward the end of the conflict, with Japan in retreat, a power vacuum developed. Ho Chi Minh, leading the Viet Minh communist guerrilla group, saw a chance to seize power before the French could restore colonial rule. He needed allies and knew that the American president, Franklin Roosevelt, had a reputation for being anti-French and anti-colonial. Thus began Ho’s courtship of the U.S. by citing the Declaration of Independence and appealing to the American ideal of liberty.

His aim, according to Ho’s biographer, William Duiker, was to “induce the United States to support the legitimacy of his government, rather than a return of the French.”

In reality, Ho was a “disciplined Communist, who had “proved time and again his profound loyalty to Communism,” according to the ex-communist German revolutionary Ruth Fischer, writing in Foreign Affairs in 1954. She had known him in Moscow in the 1920s when he was receiving his training.

Ho didn’t get the U.S. support he sought, but he still succeeded in his national takeover, proclaiming himself president of a provisional government in what he called the Vietnam Democratic Republic. In October 1945, just how democratic the republic would be became clear: Ho ordered the slaughter of his political opponents, including 50,000 of the then-powerful Trotskyist communists. During a trip to Paris in late 1945, Ho told the French Socialist leader Daniel Guerin, “All those who do not follow the line which I have laid down will be broken.”

In his own writings during the war, Ho Chi Minh stressed that the revolutionaries had to have a “tactical, flexible attitude towards the national bourgeoisie,” but as for the Trotskyists, “there can be no compromise, no concession.”

Ho’s posturing as a Jefferson-inspired lover of independence failed to dupe the U.S. in the 1940s. Let’s be generous and assume that antiwar protesters in the 1960s and early 1970s didn’t know any better when they bought into his fiction. Let’s give President Obama the same benefit of the doubt. But let’s also retire the idea that Ho Chi Minh had the slightest interest in the Declaration of Independence except as a tool he once deployed hoping to achieve his communist goals. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Lying to Join The Band of Brothers

I have never served in combat or been in a warzone for which I thank God.  However, many of my friends are veterans of combat in conflicts stretching from World War II to Iraq.  Such an experience marks them.  They tell me that they have some of their best memories from their time in service, along with some of their worst.  It is a crucible that they have passed through which is hard to completely convey to someone like me who has never gone through it.  Usually they do not speak much of it, although often I have seen a quiet pride when they do speak about it:  a knowledge that they were given a test on their passage through life and made it through, mingled with sadness for their friends who were lost.  They belong to the exclusive club of those called upon to put their lives on the line for the rest of us.  They are entitled to respect for their service, whether they are given that respect by the rest of us or not.

Therefore I take a very dim view of anyone who seeks entry into their ranks under false pretences.  The New York Times has revealed that Richard Blumenthal, Democrat Attorney General of Connecticut and candidate for the Democrat nomination for the US Senate is one such person:

At a ceremony honoring veterans and senior citizens who sent presents to soldiers overseas, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut rose and spoke of an earlier time in his life.

We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. “And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it — Afghanistan or Iraq — we owe our military men and women unconditional support.”

There was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam. He obtained at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970 and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, according to records.

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