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Archive for August, 2013

Book Reviews,Marines,Vietnam War

August 23, 2013

On Nicholas Warr, Phase Line Green and Hue City

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Phase Line Green The Battle for Hue, 1968 by Nicholas Warr

A Review by Ken Rodgers

The Siege of Khe Sanh had already been going on for over a week by the time the Tet Offensive began. Some historians believe that the North Vietnamese commander-in-chief, General Vo Nguyen Giap, planned the Siege of Khe Sanh as a ploy to draw off firepower so that when Tet arrived on January 30, 1968, the NVA and Viet Cong onslaught on South Vietnam would swamp the American and South Vietnamese militaries.

I recall sitting in my fighting hole, shivering in the trench, hiding in my bunker as news flashed out of my old transistor radio about the all-out assault on South Vietnamese and American forces during the annual Vietnamese New Year which almost all Vietnam vets just call “Tet.” All around South Vietnam, North Vietnamese troops were attacking cities, towns, villes and outposts, some of them falling as we sat inside the Khe Sanh fire base and listened to the battles…our battle, as well as the ones described over Armed Forces Radio. The assault on Khe Sanh was frightening, and the news reports from AFR piled on the panic. Saigon, Danang, Kon Tum, Dong Ha, were just a few of the names that blared out from the speakers of our transistor radios.

Most frightening of all to me was the fall of Hue City, the old Imperial Capital and the symbol of Vietnam’s regal past and a symbol, too, of what we were fighting to preserve. A way of life based on a blending of east and west, or so we thought. So when Hue fell it seemed like a portent of what eventually came to us in Vietnam, defeat. But at the time that portent wasn’t nearly as potent as the thought of a general butt-whipping to all of the American forces in Vietnam in early 1968, and something deeper, the fear of my own death. Yes, my death was paramount, or to put it another way, my life. Nevertheless, the thought of defeat, that the awesome and unbeatable American juggernaut might be defeated bothered me a lot. It still does…this notion of defeat.

I digress. Day and night, when we weren’t dodging incoming or sneaking outside the wire to set up ambushes and listening posts, to charge out on perilous patrols, we listened to the radio accounts of the battle to take back Hue.

I had very little training in house-to-house combat. What I had experienced at Camp Pendleton prior to my trip across the pond to the Republic of South Vietnam made me think at the time: I hope I never have to do that. Going in on the bottom floor, up stairs, in closets, down halls, with the enemy hiding in there, well ensconced, well armed, dropping grenades on our heads, spraying us with AK-47s.

At Khe Sanh we took tremendous amounts of incoming and when we went outside the wire, the ensuing fights were brutal, savage, with bayonet charges and hand-to-hand combat. Hue was a different type of battle. Not in terms of courage and fear, cowardice and death, but in how it was fought.

In Nicholas Warr’s memoir Phase Line Green, The Battle for Hue, 1968, the events surrounding the fall of Hue and its eventual recapture are played out in intensely personal, vivid images. The war is intimate, not something alluded to in wall charts and maps by intellectuals and staff command officers. This is war shouted from the throat of the fighting man.

Nicholas Warr was a second lieutenant and platoon commander with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. His story begins when Tet begins, and Charlie Company is out in the bush between Hue and Danang. As the initial fighting begins, Charlie Company sits in eerie quiet as they listen to the war going on around them. This quiet allows us to meet Lieutenant Warr and the men in his command, men who will not survive much longer.

The 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment was ordered to proceed to Hue and retake the citadel, the old imperial headquarters surrounded by thick walls; a city of tree-lined streets with substantial houses, all held by crack troops of the North Vietnamese army. This war would be house-to-house. The men of Charlie Company had never fought house-to-house.

They entered the old citadel and assembled on one side of a residential street, a place named by the Americans, “Phase Line Green.”

I will not let slip the details of what happens to Warr and the men of Charlie Company, 1/5, but I will tell you that this story rages, begs, pleads, screams, cries, hates, commands and exults on a visceral, intimately personal level. As a young enlisted man, I never imagined that officers thought and feared and hated like us, the snuffies who fought the war, but Warr shows us that officers and gentlemen react and act just the same as enlisted men.

This is war through the eyes of the grunt, on the ground, in the spine-rattling chaos that is combat:

“Doc looked over at me with despair in his eyes and said, ‘We gotta do an emergency tracheotomy; his windpipe’s crushed. I need a tube, something to stick into the opening when I cut into his windpipe.

“I was stunned, stupid, unable to think or move. None of the Marines was any more help. Estes was dying on my lap, making feeble convulsive motions, and I couldn’t move.

“’Break down your .45, Lieutenant, goddammit. I can use the barrel as a temporary airway.'”

This story is fast-paced and compelling. You fall and stumble, hide and crawl with the men of Charlie Company, 1/5. Once I started this book, I couldn’t put it down. In some ways the combat was the same…the fear, the need to overcome fear, the need to not be a coward, the shaking and the tears…as what I had seen at Khe Sanh. Yet in other ways the combat at the battle of Hue City was foreign to me, like Fallujah in Iraq or cobblestoned European streets in WWII.

This story is about how it feels to see your comrades dead in the street thirty or forty feet away, and the inability to help them, retrieve them, grieve in the old honored ceremonial ways that allow us to put death in its proper slot. This story is about how it feels to assault across a frontier out of relative safety into the unknown region of death and mayhem.

Nicholas Warr tells us about rage, and not just about rage at the enemy, but the political machines that manage battle, and not to the benefit of the snuffies slugging it out. And of course, the rage against generals and presidents and senators is a focused rage, it seems to me, but also aimed at us, the American public, for our lack of commitment and patience, as we sat (and sit now in the current conflicts) in our houses while the few died and the rest enjoyed largesse at the warriors’ expense.

And related to this lurks the memory of the thirty year period after Vietnam when the warriors who carried the battle to the enemy were shunned. I was once told, “You guys couldn’t whip anybody.” This in reference to the men who fought in Vietnam, to me and my Marine brothers, both at Khe Sanh and Hue City. What made, and still makes, that phrase like a bitter lump of burning shrapnel trapped in my gullet is the fact that in a huge majority of the battles fought in Vietnam, American forces came out the victors. Yet our country lost the war. And it lost other things, too, like innocence and optimism. And we are only now beginning to hear the multitude of stories out of the Vietnam experience; decades later, when the Vietnam vet is suddenly popular, when he is thanked belatedly for his service to his country. Fifty years on.

You can find out more about Nicholas Warr, Phase Line Green and Warr’s other books here.

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August 22, 2013

News On Lloyd Scudder Services

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News from Lloyd Scudder’s son, Jason, via BRAVO! Marine Ron Rees on the services for BRAVO! Marine, Lloyd Scudder who passed away on 8-19-2013.

There will be a viewing starting today, Aug 22nd at 1300 hours through Friday, August 23rd (ending time undetermined )
at: WAUD’S FUNERAL HOME located at : 1414 3rd St, Tillamook, Oregon.

Memorial service will be held on August 31st at 1300 Hours.


First Christian Church
2203 4th St.
Tillamook, OR, 97141

Note: Family requests NO FLOWERS

Donations may be made to:

Pat Scudder
17775 Wilson River Hwy.
Tillamook, OR, 97141

Eulogies,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

August 21, 2013

Lloyd and I…In Memory of Lloyd Scudder

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BRAVO! Marine Michael E. O’Hara muses on the passing of BRAVO! Marine, Lloyd “Short Round” Scudder. Both Lloyd and Michael are featured in the documentary film, BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR.

8/19/2013 – Some of you may know at this point that Lloyd Scudder, that lovable little guy we all affectionately called “Short Round,” has slipped away from us so quickly we all were surprised. Ken Pipes states he talked to him just last evening and he was making plans to return home from his recent heart surgery on Friday. Isn’t that how it always is? We just refuse to accept the inevitable and when we least expect it we get bit right on the rump. I had been out this morning and got home after the noon hour. When I opened Cal’s (BRAVO! Marine Cal Bright) e-mail the chair literally shot out from under me as I began to immediately try to process the information. (That’s a round-about way of saying I began to cry as I was falling to my knees.)

Each of us has our memories. Cal and Short Round were pals all along at Khe Sanh. I first met Short Round when he returned to the platoon after visiting his brother on an in-country R&R. That of course was after 25 February. This is when Lloyd and I began to pal up. I was at the end of 2nd Platoon and his bunker was the beginning of 3rd Platoon area. We would talk often before Watch in the evenings.

But our paths would cross again in ’69, I believe it was. I was stationed at the Weapons Section at Camp Horno, Camp Pendleton, California, and was a primary instructor giving the classes on the M16A1. I was just a few days from going on leave when Short Round came into the section as a corporal. It was there he would be assigned to the hand grenade range. We didn’t get to spend much time together as I was soon going home for about a 3-week leave. I told him I would see him when I got back. I never did. That was when he experienced the event that would change his life forever. A private dropped the grenade in the pit. It killed the private and severely injured Lloyd’s eyes, both hands and arms. We all (Khe Sanh Veterans) know they had to amputate his hands in the end. To add insult to injury the Marine Corps did everything in their power to make him a scapegoat over that event which would cause him much heartache and sorrow over the years. He even had trouble getting his VA benefits. But he endured.

I think the next time I saw him was at the 1995 Khe Sanh Veterans reunion in Las Vegas. That was when I realized the grenade incident nearly blinded him as well.

He sure was a hoot wasn’t he? You just couldn’t help but love ol’ Short Round. I pray for his family and wish them well. Short Round is now at rest, finally, guarding the gates until his relief arrives, as always, Standing Tall.

Semper Fi Marine Scudder.
It was my pleasure to serve with you.

Book Reviews,Vietnam War

August 15, 2013

On Grady C. Myers, Julie Titone and “Boocoo Dinky Dow”

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For years I shied away from movies and books about Vietnam. I suppose it’s because I felt that none of them told the real story as I had known it. I saw Platoon and Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket and The Deer Hunter. I read The Things They Carried and even though that book and all those movies were fine examples of pain and conflict converted to art, they did not ring my war-memories’ bell. I could not emotionally connect with them, or if I did, it was on a partial basis.

Lately, I’ve been reading books on Vietnam and I suspect that I have done this as a result of making BRAVO! Maybe what I tried to forget or ignore for so many years has now become something I want to explore. Or maybe the stuff I am reading now is more in tune with my war.

One of the books I recently read was a memoir by the artist and newspaperman, the late Grady C. Myers and his former wife, Julie Titone. The title of the book is Boocoo Dinky Dow, My Short, Crazy Vietnam War. Grady Myers was an artist who went into the Army, went to Vietnam and was wounded in an ambush on March 5, 1969.

Julie Titone is a newspaper reporter and University communications director who was married to Grady C. Myers. There is this to consider: Julie Titone is a veteran of being married to a Vietnam veteran, and lived her own special post-combat version of Vietnam. I think that experience must have helped to inform the narrative in the book. I believe I also need to give Julie credit for having the wisdom to interview Grady and persist with the important work of recording and saving his stories.

The book is a no-nonsense and yet often humorous look at life in the Army and the former Republic of Vietnam in late 1968, early 1969. In some ways it reminds me of a funny Full Metal Jacket as it traces Grady’s Army experience through induction, boot camp, Vietnam, his wounds and his discharge.

Even though I was in a Marine unit and in-country earlier than Grady, a lot of what he and Julie write about is quite familiar to me. It’s often zany and several times reminded me of the film The Boys in Company C. The book portrays a Vietnam War a lot zanier than I recall, yet it rings true to me when the narrative describes patrols, standing watch, work parties, the firefights. The way the authors render the ambush when Grady was wounded really bores into a reader. You are there:

“It felt as if someone had welded a 10-penny nail to a sledgehammer and slammed it into my left shoulder…It seemed like it took 15 minutes for my M-60 to drop, 30 minutes for me to fall backward. With a lingering, sonic-level boom, a grenade exploded beside me and threw my body up and over to one side. My head thudded down and my eyes, which had been focusing on the leaves that shimmered and shook in the sunlight above me, began to roll back in their sockets.”

The reader meets a lot of interesting characters in the book. Some are funny, some are crazed, some are killers and most seem to be just like the men I served with…young kids tossed into the chaos of war. And like many of the men I served with, some of them go home in a body bag.

I like how Myers and Titone question memory in this book. It is a memoir, so it is about real events that happened, but the authors understand that memory is often eroded over time. What happened gets altered as you live your life going forward from the hell of war. Things that you heard while sitting around the trench on watch might become part of your own experience, or what happened to you in a firefight or on a listening post gets altered, expanded, forgotten.

Myers went on to have a successful career as an artist. There are some very funny and realistic drawings in this book that he composed. Many of Grady’s drawings are in the collection at the National Veterans Art Museum, some of which you can view online at,+Grady+C.

I found Boocoo Dinky Dow to be a realistic and honest rendition of the Vietnam War that jibes with what I recall from my time in-country, a rendition without literary or post-modern shenanigans; and one would suspect that it should be, since both Myers and Titone were in the newspaper business for a number of years.

You can get a copy of Boocoo Dinky Dow, My Short, Crazy Vietnam War at in either hard cover or Kindle e-book at

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Book Reviews,Khe Sanh,Marines,Other Musings,Vietnam War

August 7, 2013

On Michael E. O’Hara’s “Lest We Forget”

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We have just finished reading “Lest We Forget,” a history of Veterans Affairs in Brown County, Indiana, meticulously researched and written by Bravo’s own Michael E. O’Hara.

It is awe-inspiring to understand the dedication and countless hours O’Hara spent poring over records at the Brown County Historical Society, interviewing local residents, tracking down missing information, and assembling the information for all time.

Complete with footnotes, old and new photographs, historic documents and newspaper clippings, O’Hara tells the long and intricately woven story of Brown County veterans from 1836 through the Vietnam War, and other Brown County history through the present. We learn about those forever lost in battle, Army nurses, veterans organizations and memorials, POW/MIAs, community dinners and historical buildings. Much like a Norman Rockwell painting, it is a microcosm of American history.

“Lest We Forget” is clearly a labor of love written in O’Hara’s strong patriotic voice and inspired by the urgency to assemble and preserve the history of a man’s homeland. But more than that, it is a tribute to those who have served to protect and defend our people and our way of life.

A favorite quote from this book-on-CD puts a 1906 community dinner into perspective:

“…I have found very distinct differences in the generations that have evolved throughout our history. It is obvious that many things have caused that to occur. Technology, methods and modes of travel and an ever-evolving environment in which we live have all contributed. It does stymie the mind somewhat though to think that in 1906 before many folks even owned an automobile they were able to muster between 3,500 and 5,000 people for a bean dinner at a local cemetery. Some of those folks came from over seven states over multiple years to attend those events.”
What brought them out? Another quote, this one from a 1906 article in the Brown County Democrat regarding the Bean Dinner:
“…the masses love the Old Soldiers and are determined that while there are Veterans enough left on this earth to get up a commemorative bean dinner that remnant shall be honored by the presence of their loving fellow citizens who are enjoying the benefits of the restored union of the states, so dearly bought by the expenditure of blood and treasure; and the chief cost of the restoration, all agree, was in the blood shed, lives lost, early graves of many thousands, and crippled forms, and shortened lives of yet surviving Veterans.”

Clearly, in this CD and in his everyday life, Michael E. O’Hara has taken up the banner to carry the appreciation and history of Brown County veterans well into the future.

From the Brown County (Indiana) Historical Society website, “‘Lest We Forget’ is available on CD and will be an invaluable source of information to anyone interested in history, genealogy, or veteran’s affairs. The CD is currently available at the Brown County Community Foundation for a minimum donation of $25.00. All donations will go toward the Larry C. Banks Bronze Star Scholarship. Please contact BCCF by calling 812-988-4882 or at:”

Congratulations to Michael E. O’Hara for this major achievement.

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