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Vocapedia > War > Action, Combat




A U.S. Army helicopter gunner,

his helmet face painted as a skull,

awaits soldiers to board

his Chinook transport helicopter for transport

out of the Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan.


Taliban insurgents had attacked

a nearby U.S. Army outpost,

and the Americans responded

with machine guns, mortars

and helicopter gunships.


October 30, 2008


Photograph: John Moore

Getty Images


Boston Globe > Big Picture

2008 in photographs

_the_year_in_photographs_p.html - broken link


















Farewells in San Diego on Monday

before the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard

sailed for Iraq.



web frontpage

December 6, 2004















draft / call-up








the draft-eligible        USA










draft dodger        USA










desertion        UK










WW1 > be shot for cowardice or desertion        UK














deserter        UK










go Awol (absent without leave) / abscond        UK










troops        USA












soldier        USA












soldiers of fortune        USA










service members > suicide        USA










military suicides        USA


A new report on U.S. military deaths

contains a stark statistic:


An estimated 7,057 service members

have died

during military operations since 9/11,

while suicides among active duty personnel

and veterans of those conflicts

have reached 30,177

— that's more than four times as many.


The data highlights

the divide between the dangers posed by war

and the persistent mental health crisis

in not only the military

but the country at large.










wear armor and helmets        USA










combat        USA










combat duty / combat tours / war tours / stop loss













street-to-street combat










sniper        USA






assault on N





storm        USA








take over










be backed by heavy air support and armor





be backed by artillery and tank fire





reinforcements        UK / USA





















Marine Cpl. Jeremy Slaton

shows off his tattoo

which reads "Death" across five skulls.


The Marines are banning

any new, extra-large tattoos below the elbow or the knee,

saying such body art is harmful to the Corps' spit-and-polish image.


Photograh: Chris Park



Marines ban big, garish tattoos

By Thomas Watkins, Associated Press Writer


28 March 2007

marines_N.htm - broken link





















jets / drones > attack











napalm attack        UK






under attack        UK






deter attacks











attack on N





attack position        USA






terrorism / war > car bomb attack        UK






"stand-to"        USA






war on terror        UK











carry out a raid





carry out an operation





raid into N





on the frontline / on the front lines        USA






front        UK
























airstrike        USA






launch airstrike in N        USA






fire 59 Tomahawk missiles

from the USS Porter and USS Ross destroyers        USA





















home in on N





zero in on N





WW2 > Japan > kamikaze        UK


















Illustration: Brian Stauffer


How We Learned to Kill

SundayReview | Opinion

By TIMOTHY KUDO        NYT        FEB. 27, 2015
















engage        UK











rules of engagement    R.O.E.































poison attack





assault        UK






air assault





air assault on N        USA






land assault





ground offensive against N





air- and ground-offensive





lose ground





flee        USA











move into N




















lucky shot






























sworn enemies





enemy forces





U.S.-led forces















platoon        USA











on patrol        USA






on foot patrol        UK






patrol        USA






U.S. military convoy















Afghanistan > A Year at War        USA        2010


Some 30,000 American soldiers

are taking part in the Afghanistan surge.


Here are the stories of the men and women

of First Battalion, 87th Infantry

of the 10th Mountain Division.


Over the next year,

The New York Times will follow their journey.


























Brian Stauffer


How We Learned to Kill

SundayReview | Opinion

By TIMOTHY KUDO        NYT        FEB. 27, 2015





























firefight        USA






firing squad





fire heavy weapons        USA






fire on N





return fire





machine-gun fire










in the line of fire





crossfire        UK






hostile fire        USA






open fire





under fire / under heavy fire










shoot        USA






gun down        UK






kill        USA
















"friendly fire"         UK / USA











































































friendly fire /"blue-on-blue" shooting        UK






mistaken fire





mistaken identity










military blunder





bungled air attack






























let up




















be caught in cross-fire / crossfire





be fired at N





be aimed at N























car bomb








truck bomb
















launch an artillery barrage








launch a heavy air and artillery bombardment of N
































a piece of shrapnel








mortar bomb attack on N










hail of mortar shells
































blast to smithereens
























load a howitzer








open fire on N
































retaliation        USA










in retaliation for N        USA


















target miss








rogue missile








stray rocket




















guerrilla bastion





stronghold        UK / USA








rebel stronghold





insurgent hideout        USA






militant        USA






insurgent        UK
















insurgency leader





a hotbed of resistance to N





ambush        UK






break clean        UK


1634231.html  - 28 February 2009










a rebel ambush on + N





resistance fighter










target / target










siege        USA






seek out




















bomb-making cell





militant        USA








insurgent        USA








Afghanistan > Taliban        UK
















Afghanistan > Q&A: The Taliban        2008


Their funding, their weapons and their evolution

since being ousted as Afghanistan's rulers



















US Marines, Charlie Company - 1st Division push into Kuwait City

February, 1991

http://pdngallery.com/legends/morris/main03.html - broken link















military action





bayonet and grenade actions





rogue actions        UK






mop up































combat deployment



















move into position





take up positions





an out










bog down





























battle / battle        UK / USA

























do battle








pitched battle        USA










fierce battle        UK










battle stress








last stand








battle zone








battlefield        UK










battlefield        USA












on the battlefield        USA










outpost        USA














stiff resistance








encounter fierce resistance
















serve in N        USA






fight / fight        UK






fight        USA






brutal fight        USA






fighter        UK






fighting        UK






hand-to-hand street fighting





fierce fighting





skirmish        UK






military build-up










offensive        USA











ramp up





fight back





fight to the death










fierce fighting





ferocious fighting





heavy fighting





clear out





take cover behind N





pocket of resistance





crackdown        UK






operations / ops





















fighter jet > Tornado        UK






warplane > blast        USA











strike at N





strike        USA






warplanes > strike        USA






strikes on N        UK






military strike on N





pre-emptive strike





in an air strike on N





carry out air strikes on N








airstrike        UK / USA




















libyan-air-strikes-idUSRTR2K76D#a=1 - 2011












launch airstrikes on N        USA






during an American airstrike on N





aerial bombing of N





a bombing and cannon strike

by American warplanes










hit targets        USA








missile attack        USA






Tomahawk cruise missile        USA






launch        USA






pound        USA






pound N from the air





carpet bombing





a wave of bombings





2003-2004 > USA -> Iraq > "shock and awe" air attack




























rip apart





be hit by a missile










rescue and recovery operations











bring down





shoot down        UK






seek and destroy





war’s wreckage >

downed helicopters, destroyed tanks, dead soldiers        USA

















airman        USA






flying ace > Col. Donald Blakeslee        USA






WW2 > USA > fighter ace > Alex Vraciu    1918-2015
















missing in action    MIA        USA






missing        USA

























U.S. Marines searching a building for weapons

in Mogadishu, Somalia

August, 1992

http://pdngallery.com/legends/morris/main05.html - broken link















suicide bomber        USA






take aim at N        USA






suicide attack





suicide blast        USA






ram a vehicle into + N






suicide car bombing










defeat        USA






















an army barracks

























Afghanistan war > Camp Bastion >

Britain's vast military base in the Afghanistan desert        2011






Life on a British base in Sangin, Afghanistan        Pictures        2010






























troop morale        USA


story.php?storyId=1804541 - March 31, 2004








low morale        USA


story.php?storyId=1804541 - March 31, 2004
















brave        UK


































cowardice        UK

















clash        UK / USA











clash of civilizations
















wipe out





spray fire at random on N





spray and slay





mayhem        UK






carnage        UK / USA














butchery        USA
















pull out / pullout        USA













pull back








withdraw        UK / USA












withdraw from N        UK










withdrawal        UK / USA






















drawdown        UK / USA












troop reduction








come home








homecoming        USA

















war crime        UK










court martial    UK / USA












be prosecuted for war crimes

under the International Criminal Court Act 2001        UK

























peacekeeping force


























Rob Rogers


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



30 August 2010















stress disorder        USA








post-traumatic stress disorder    PSTD














military therapist








medical team        USA










Army doctor        USA










medics        USA

















biometric data        UK

















Video: Inside the surge        UK        2007


The Guardian's award-winning photographer

and filmmaker Sean Smith

spent two months embedded

with US troops in Baghdad and Anbar province.


His harrowing documentary

exposes the exhaustion and disillusionment

of the soldiers.










Inside the surge, part 2: the provinces        UK        2007


An exclusive film

from Guardian photographer Sean Smith

on his time embedded with the US Marines

in Iraq's Anbar Province

and the mountain division

in the so-called Triangle of Death.










Sean Smith in Iraq        UK


Guardian photographer Sean Smith

was in Iraq before the invasion,

and stayed in Baghdad

throughout the allied campaign

until the city fell to US forces.


Here three galleries of photographs

show his view of the conflict










Guardian photographer Sean Smith        UK        May 2007


embedded with US soldier

in Al-Anbar province

and in the so-called "triangle of death"

near Baghad, Iraq










Sean Smith,

the Guardian's award-winning war photographer,

spent nearly six weeks

with the 101st Division of the US army in Iraq.        2006


Watch his haunting observational film

that explodes the myth around the claims

that the Iraqis are preparing to take control

of their own country.










Guardian photographer Sean Smith

was in Iraq before the invasion,

and stayed in Baghdad throughout the allied campaign

until the city fell to US forces.


Here three galleries of photographs

show his view of the conflict.












Corpus of news articles


War > Troops, Soldiers > Action / Combat >


Ground offensive, Airstrikes




On War and Redemption


November 8, 2011
7:45 pm
The New York Times

Home Fires features the writing of men and women
who have returned from wartime service
in the United States military.


When I returned from Afghanistan this past spring, a civilian friend asked, “Is it good to be back?” It was the first time someone had asked, and I answered honestly. But I won’t do that again. We weren’t ready for that conversation. Instead, when people ask, I make it easy for everyone by responding, “It’s fine.” That’s a lie, though. It’s not fine.

It’s not the sights, sounds, adrenaline and carnage of war that linger. It’s the morality. We did evil things, maybe necessary evil, but evil nonetheless. It’s not the Taliban we killed that bother me. They knew as well as I did what can happen when you pick up a gun and try to kill your enemies. But the enemy isn’t the only one who dies in war.

I joined the military when we were already long into this conflict. Aside from driving to San Francisco to protest the Iraq invasion, I quickly embraced the inevitability of these wars and relinquished their execution to the government. That was a terrible mistake. In 2006, as both wars raged and the Iraq conflict seemed doomed, I felt obligated to do something. I had no idea what I was committing to when I raised my right hand and took the oath. I realize that my decision was extreme, but it’s one I felt bound to. Only now do I understand the responsibility that military members bear, not only for the lives of others, but also for the consequences of their actions.

It was on a patrol early in our deployment in September of 2010 when the Afghan farmer dropped his shovel and ran for his life. Our squad of 10 dove for the ground. We looked toward the staccato crack of machine gun fire but saw nothing. A few anxious Marines fired anyway. We moved. Someone observed Taliban in a small building just ahead. We fired. It was the first time in an hour anyone had a clue where the enemy was. I saw two Afghans calmly building a wall despite the war erupting around them. Nothing made sense.

We cleared the building. As one team assaulted it, a Marine holding security spotted two armed men driving toward us on a motorcycle. Gunfire rang out from multiple directions. “Are you sure they have guns?” I asked. Nobody knew. We shot a smoke grenade as warning in case they were civilians. They paused, then resumed course. We yelled and waved for them to stop. They persisted. I thought: they might kill my Marines but if we kill them, we might be wrong. Cracks and flashes erupted from the motorcycle. The only hard fact about the rules of engagement is that you have the right to defend yourself. You decide for yourself to pull the trigger. The Marines returned fire for 10 long seconds. The motorcycle sparked where the rounds slapped the metal and drove into the bodies. The bike stopped. The men fell.

The building was empty. No bodies, no blood, no bullet casings. The fog of war lifted. I had been certain what was happening and I was wrong. The combination of confusion, chaos and adrenaline can’t be explained unless you’ve also experienced it. We ran to the motorcycle. One Marine made a quiet plea, “Please let them have weapons. Something. Anything.” They were dead. Their weapons were sticks and bindles. The muzzle flash was light glaring off the motorcycle’s chrome. One man was no older than 16. It was late afternoon then and, in the Muslim tradition, their family quickly arrived to bury them in the last hour of sunlight.

Even now, I don’t know what led them to drive toward a group of Marines firing machine guns, despite warnings, yells and waving. I know that our decision was right and, given the outcome, that it was also wrong. We trained to kill for years and given the opportunity, part of us jumped at the chance to finally be Marines. Despite the school construction and shuras, that’s what it meant to make a difference in uniform; it meant killing our enemies. But these men weren’t enemies. They were just trying to get to a home so close that their family was able to watch them die. After the shooting, the families encircled us in hysterics as they collected the bodies. It was the first and only time I saw an Afghan adult woman’s face. The wailing continued in the distance as we continued on our mission.

The insanity of war means that incidents like this are accepted. By the standards of those who fight wars we actually did the right thing. The catastrophe is that these incidents occur on an industrial scale. Throughout Afghanistan, there are accidental civilian killings; it is war’s nature. When we choose war, we are unleashing a force, much like a natural disaster, that can literally destroy everything and from which there’s no going back. As 10 years of conflict have shown us, nobody knows how wars end.

With six months left on our deployment I had no choice but to move on. I told myself we did what we were trained to do and that it just ended badly. I stuck with that reasoning despite feeling terrible and soon, my emotions caught up to my logic. People say they can remember a traumatic incident like it was yesterday. I can’t. Since my return, Afghanistan has melted into a feeling more than a memory. But I do remember the widows and orphans and wailing families and the faces of two men on a motorcycle. They understood they were being killed as it happened, yet they couldn’t accept their fate. They died painfully. Their teeth clenched and grimacing.Their eyes open. Those eyes gave them a final pleading expression. Why did you kill us?

Back in the United States, I look at people and think: “You have no idea what right and wrong are.” Much that I once held as matters of conscience is now just custom or culture. The challenging thing about ethics is you have to figure them out for yourself. What the war taught me is first: you should always strive to do the right thing even though you can’t control the outcome. Second, wrong decisions have tragic, irreversible consequences. There is no return. Nothing changes it and no lesson justifies it.

I never pulled the trigger on my rifle but I ordered other men to kill. For an officer, there is little difference. In all militaries, individuals don’t kill, groups do. We are each assigned small tasks in the orchestrated murder of our enemies and oftentimes, this decentralization creates its own momentum. We became excellent at engineering the enemy’s death. After one incident, my commanding officer told me that he was ultimately responsible. Yes, by the letter of the law, that is true. But everything we did over there we did together. We’re all responsible. I feel it, and I know that the other officers and N.C.O.’s share the same moments of pride and shame. I also know that that this sense of responsibility is shared all the way to the presidents I’ve served under who saw the consequences of our actions at the hospitals at Bethesda, Walter Reed and Dover Air Force Base.

Only the dead have seen the end of war. This is a maxim that has been used to illuminate humanity’s propensity for war, but it is also an accurate reflection of many veterans’ experiences. The war not only came back with us, it was here the entire time, experienced by orphans and widows. It was experienced by the widows from my unit who were unable to cook a single meal for their kids since their husband’s death. During a memorial a few weeks after our return, families of the dead collapsed grief-stricken in front of their loved ones’ pictures as a thousand Marines solemnly bore witness. When an officer went to the house to check on one family, the littlest one told him matter-of-factly, “My daddy is dead.”

Civilians can’t shoulder the responsibility for killing, but the social contract demands they care for those who do. And this is the great disconnect in our society right now, because that feeling of responsibility is still locked behind the fences of our military bases. My friends killed and died over there for America. And while many of my peers view that as sentimental, jingoistic, naive, or (behind closed doors) stupid, those men believed so deeply in something they were willing to give everything for it. When we wage war to defend the American way of life, there’s an obligation to uphold that ideal. Can we honestly say we’ve done that?

The Marine Hymn states that we are “first to fight for right and freedom and to keep our honor clean.” Since the shooting, I’ve thought about what that means and decided that it was beyond good and evil. It was an accident. War doesn’t distinguish between innocence or guilt, skill or incompetence, intelligence or idiocy. But we do. We see injustice in the deaths and can’t accept their inevitability. But it was fated when we decided to go to war. In that sense, we’re all responsible.

After coming home, our commanders told us we earned glory for our unit, but I know it’s more complicated than that. War has little to do with glory and everything to do with hard work and survival. It’s about keeping your goodness amid the evil. But no matter what happens, you never work hard enough, people die and evil touches everyone. Our lives will go on but the war will never go away. That’s why it’s not simply good to be back. I thought my war was over, but it followed me. It followed all of us. We returned only to find that it was waiting here the entire time and will always be with us.



Captain Timothy Kudo

deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan

between 2009 and 2011

with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.

He’s currently a Senior Membership Associate with Iraq

and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Before joining the military he taught middle school math

in the Bronx with Teach For America.

He is a native of Santa Monica, Calif.

On War and Redemption, NYT, 8.11.2011,






Senate Repeals

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’


December 18, 2010
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The Senate on Saturday voted to strike down the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, bringing to a close a 17-year struggle over a policy that forced thousands of Americans from the ranks and caused others to keep secret their sexual orientation.

By a vote of 65 to 31, with eight Republicans joining Democrats, the Senate approved and sent to President Obama a repeal of the Clinton-era law, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy critics said amounted to government-sanctioned discrimination that treated gay, lesbian and bisexual troops as second-class citizens.

Mr. Obama hailed the action, which fulfills his pledge to reverse the ban, and said it was “time to close this chapter in our history.”

“As commander in chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best-led and best-trained fighting force the world has ever known,” he said in a statement after the Senate, on a preliminary 63-to-33 vote, beat back Republican efforts to block final action on the repeal bill.

The vote marked a historic moment that some equated with the end of racial segregation in the military.

It followed an exhaustive Pentagon review that determined the policy could be changed with only isolated disruptions to unit cohesion and retention, though members of combat units and the Marine Corps expressed greater reservations about the shift. Congressional action was backed by Pentagon officials as a better alternative to a court-ordered end.

Supporters of the repeal said it was long past time to abolish what they saw as an ill-advised practice that cost valuable personnel and forced troops to lie to serve their country.

“We righted a wrong,” said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut and a leader of the effort to end the ban. “Today we’ve done justice.”

Before voting on the repeal, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants who came to the United States at a young age, completed two years of college or military service and met other requirements including passing a criminal background check.

The 55-to-41 vote in favor of the citizenship bill was five votes short of the number needed to clear the way for final passage of what is known as the Dream Act.

The outcome effectively kills it for this year, and its fate beyond that is uncertain since Republicans who will assume control of the House in January oppose the measure and are unlikely to bring it to a vote.

The Senate then moved on to the military legislation, engaging in an emotional back and forth over the merits of the measure as advocates for repeal watched from galleries crowded with people interested in the fate of both the military and immigration measures.

“I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as the debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”

Mr. Wyden showed up for the Senate vote despite saying earlier that he would be unable to do so because he would be undergoing final tests before his scheduled surgery for prostate cancer on Monday.

The vote came in the final days of the 111th Congress as Democrats sought to force through a final few priorities before they turn over control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans in January and see their clout in the Senate diminished.

It represented a significant victory for the White House, Congressional advocates of lifting the ban and activists who have pushed for years to end the Pentagon policy created in 1993 under the Clinton administration as a compromise effort to end the practice of barring gay men and lesbians entirely from military service.

Saying it represented an emotional moment for members of the gay community nationwide, advocates who supported repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” exchanged hugs outside the Senate chamber after the vote.

“Today’s vote means gay and lesbian service members posted all around the world can stand taller knowing that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will soon be coming to an end,” said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and his party’s presidential candidate in 2008, led the opposition to the repeal and said the vote was a sad day in history.

“I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage,” Mr. McCain said. “And we could possibly and probably, as the commandant of the Marine Corps said, and as I have been told by literally thousands of members of the military, harm the battle effectiveness vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military.”

He and others opposed to lifting the ban said the change could harm the unit cohesion that is essential to effective military operations, particularly in combat, and deter some Americans from enlisting or pursuing a career in the military. They noted that despite support for repealing the ban from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other military commanders have warned that changing the practice would prove disruptive.

“This isn’t broke,” Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, said about the policy. “It is working very well.”

Other Republicans said that while the policy might need to be changed at some point, Congress should not do so when American troops are fighting overseas.

Only a week ago, the effort to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy seemed to be dead and in danger of fading for at least two years with Republicans about to take control of the House. The provision eliminating the ban was initially included in a broader Pentagon policy bill, and Republican backers of repeal had refused to join in cutting off a filibuster against the underlying bill because of objections over limits on debate of the measure.

In a last-ditch effort, Mr. Lieberman and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a key Republican opponent of the ban, encouraged Democratic Congressional leaders to instead pursue a vote on simply repealing it. The House passed the measure earlier in the week.

The repeal will not take effect for at least 60 days, and probably longer, while some other procedural steps are taken. In addition, the bill requires the defense secretary to determine that policies are in place to carry out the repeal “consistent with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.”

“It is going to take some time,” Ms. Collins said. “It is not going to happen overnight.”

In a statement, Mr. Gates said that once the measure was signed into law, he would “immediately proceed with the planning necessary to carry out this change carefully and methodically, but purposefully.” In the meantime, he said, “the current law and policy will remain in effect.”

Because of the delay in formally overturning the policy, Mr. Sarvis appealed to Mr. Gates to suspend any investigations into military personnel or discharge proceedings now under way. Legal challenges to the existing ban are also expected to continue until the repeal is fully carried out.

In addition to Ms. Collins, Republicans backing the repeal were Senators Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, John Ensign of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and George V. Voinovich of Ohio.

“It was a difficult vote for many of them,” Ms. Collins said, “but in the end they concluded, as I have concluded, that we should welcome the service of any qualified individual who is willing to put on the uniform of this country.”

Mr. Lieberman said the ban undermined the integrity of the military by forcing troops to lie. He said 14,000 people had been forced to leave the armed forces under the policy.

“What a waste,” he said.

The fight erupted in the early days of President Bill Clinton’s administration and has been a roiling political issue ever since. Mr. Obama endorsed repeal in his presidential campaign and advocates saw the current Congress as their best opportunity for ending the ban. Dozens of advocates of ending the ban — including one severely wounded in combat before being forced from the military — watched from the Senate gallery as the debate took place.

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, dismissed Republican complaints that Democrats were trying to race through the repeal to satisfy their political supporters.

“I’m not here for partisan reasons,” Mr. Levin said. “I’m here because men and women wearing the uniform of the United States who are gay and lesbian have died for this country, because gay and lesbian men and women wearing the uniform of this country have their lives on the line right now.”

    Senate Repeals ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, NYT, 18.12.2010,






Martin Russ,

a Marine Who Wrote About Combat,

Dies at 79


December 9, 2010

The New York Times



Sheets of enemy gunfire and a hail of mortar shells pinned down Sgt. Martin Russ and his platoon of Marines when they ventured into the no man’s land between North and South Korea in the summer of 1953 — the last days of the Korean War.

“During the barrage,” Sergeant Russ later wrote, “I tried to draw my entire body within my helmet, like a fetus.”

For seven months, when he was back in the bunkers, he scribbled his thoughts in a small notebook. Diaries were prohibited, so when a lieutenant asked what he was writing, he said they were notes for letters home. Those notes became “The Last Parallel: A Marine’s War Journal,” which rose to No. 8 on The New York Times best-seller list in 1957.

Mr. Russ, a college dropout who went on to write other books about the chaos of combat, died Monday at his home in Oakville, Calif., his sister S. K. Dunn said. He was 79.

At 21, Sergeant Russ served on that front line — the 38th parallel — with the First Marine Division. The Marines called it the M.L.R., or main line of resistance — a strip that in some places was a hundred yards wide, in others thousands. There, despite horrific battles, the armies did not move on, he wrote; they just dug deeper into their trenches and caves, outposts they named for movie stars: Marilyn, Ingrid, Ava and Hedy. Decimated companies were replenished by fresh troops.

Both sides became so fortified that few men ever ventured out in daylight and survived. Night after night, patrols wove through the brush and terraced rice paddies to confront the enemy, rescue the wounded or die. It was a stalemate accepted by both sides because a breakthrough would have cost more casualties than it was worth — a stalemate that holds to this day.

Home from the war, Mr. Russ tried his hand at acting in Pasadena, then moved to a small town in Oregon where he sold sewing machines and turned his combat notes into his first book.

“A book for the years that sets new standards for candid narratives about citizens in armor,” The New York Times said in a review.

Among Mr. Russ’s other books, most of them based on interviews with combat veterans, are “Line of Departure: Tarawa” (1967) and “Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea” (1999).

In “Line of Departure” he recounted the World War II battle in which, for the first time, American forces faced serious Japanese opposition to an amphibious landing; the Japanese fought almost to the last man and exacted a heavy toll.

For “Breakout,” Mr. Russ interviewed Marines who were surrounded when a Chinese army of about 60,000 poured over Korea’s border in November 1950, intent on wiping out American forces marching north to the Yalu River on orders from Gen. Douglas MacArthur. About 12,000 Marines, strung out along 80 miles of winding mountain road leading to the Chosin Reservoir, battled their way out of the encirclement.

Martin Saxon Russ was born in Newark on Feb. 14, 1931, to Carroll and Lavinia Saxon Dunn. His parents were professional writers. Mrs. Dunn later married Hugh Russ, who adopted her children. Besides his sister S. K. Dunn, Mr. Russ is survived by his wife of 48 years, the former Liza Blaisdell; another sister, Sissy Turner; two daughters, Phoebe Russ and Molly Russ; a son, Luke; and two grandchildren.

After graduating from a private school in Connecticut, Mr. Russ attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., but dropped out in his junior year to join the Marines. Assigned to an ordinance battalion, Private Russ made a nuisance of himself until his request for combat duty was granted.

In later years, although he had no college degree, he taught writing at what is now Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Despite the fear and devastation he had faced in Korea and later wrote about, Sergeant Russ remained “a gung-ho Marine” throughout his life, his sister said.

Of his time on the front line, he wrote in his first book: “I’d rather be here than anywhere else in the world. Whether I’m ready for the loony bin or not is beside the point.”

    Martin Russ, a Marine Who Wrote About Combat, Dies at 79,
    NYT, 9.12.2010,






Forgotten Battalion’s

Last Returns to Beachhead


June 6, 2009
The New York Times


William G. Dabney could hardly have expected to be spending that ferocious June day in 1944 hunkered on Omaha Beach, struggling to keep aloft one of the tethered silver balloons intended to confound German pilots trying to bomb or strafe exposed Allied invaders in Normandy.

As a member of the only all-black unit in the D-Day landings on Omaha and Utah, the two beachheads assigned to American forces, Corporal Dabney was a rarity in a European war that in its early days was fought almost entirely by whites.

The contributions of his unit, the 320th Antiaircraft Barrage Balloon Battalion, have been largely forgotten over the years. But on Saturday, Mr. Dabney, now 84, will join President Obama near Omaha Beach to mark the 65th anniversary of the invasion. On Friday, he received the Legion of Honor from the French government. Officials of the White House Commission on Remembrance, which organizes services at American war memorials, say he is the only survivor of the 320th they have been able to track down.

At 17, Mr. Dabney, of Roanoke, Va., had chafed to join older friends already at war, and had to persuade his grandmother to let him enlist. Most black soldiers were being given support roles in the United States, but like many young men, Mr. Dabney craved action at the front. He volunteered for “special service,” which he thought would have him loading artillery weapons.

“I didn’t know that it involved flying balloons,” he said in a telephone interview from Roanoke.

He was sent to Tennessee to train with the 320th, a unit intended mainly to deploy blimplike balloons for coastal defense. But he soon found himself bound for England and a role in the invasion of France.

In retrospect, Corporal Dabney and his contemporaries can be seen as pioneers. As late as the mid-1930s, the Army had been less than 2 percent black. The Coast Guard used blacks only as stewards, the Navy mainly for kitchen help. The Marines and the Army Air Forces barred blacks outright. The discriminatory treatment was defended by an Army War College report in 1925 concluding that blacks lacked intellect and courage.

“Blacks wanted to participate” in World War II, “but the position of the military was that wartime is not a time for social experimentation,” said William A. De Shields, a retired Army colonel and founder of the Black Military History Institute of America.

Blacks who did join the services were often assigned to thankless jobs as stevedores, stewards or ammunition handlers. (A single catastrophic explosion of ammunition at Port Chicago, Calif., in July 1944 claimed the lives of 202 black sailors, among a total of 320 people killed.)

Some seeds of change had already been planted, however. In June 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, wary of backlash from whites but pressured not only by groups like the predominantly black Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters but also by his wife, Eleanor, ordered an end to discrimination in war industry employment.

And that March, the Army Air Forces created a unit of black fliers now well known as the Tuskegee airmen. Their achievements, along with those of other black units, helped discredit the War College report.

Still, before the invasion of France, most black soldiers, whose numbers had risen to 700,000, were stationed in the United States. By 1944, however, manpower shortages were acute, and by the end of that year more than two-thirds of black troops were overseas. Corporal Dabney was part of that wave.

So was George A. Davison, another member of the 320th, who died in 2002. In a letter home after D-Day, Sergeant Davison recalled crossing the English Channel on the morning of the invasion, in a landing craft shared with Army rangers. “It was our turn,” he wrote.

Once the landing craft approached shore, the troops had to wade through chest-high waves, then dig in on the beach under extreme fire. That done, the men of the 320th deployed their balloons by filling them with helium.

The balloons, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported, “provided a screen of rubber several miles long on the two main beachheads.” Three German planes were downed when they struck balloons, which carried explosives, or hit their cables.

The balloons came in various sizes. Corporal Dabney headed a three-man crew responsible for one balloon, of a type classified as V.L.A., for very low altitude.

Sergeant Davison also worked with V.L.A.’s. “These weren’t the big barrage balloons,” which could be 60 feet long, his son Bill said in an interview. “They were about the size of a Volkswagen.”

“They had only 2,000 feet of line, as opposed to bigger balloons with 10,000 feet,” Bill Davison said. “But 2,000 would keep enemy planes from strafing the beaches.”

Mr. Dabney recalled the intensity of the Germans’ fire. “We thought at one time me and my crew might get pushed back into the English Channel,” he said, “because they were fighting so furiously.”

Sergeant Davison saw a ranger near him blown apart. It was a day, he wrote home, “of ducking bullets and anything that would kill a man.” He was “too afraid to be afraid,” he wrote.

Four members of the 320th died. One who lived showed particular courage. Waverly B. Woodson Jr., a medic, was injured by a mine explosion but went on to work for 30 straight hours treating other wounded men. He received a Bronze Star.

The younger Mr. Davison, who has pledged to keep his father’s story alive, recently sent President Obama a letter about it.

“I hope he reads it,” Mr. Davison said, “and hope he has some sense of the African-Americans who were there.”

So does Colonel De Shields, of the Black Military History Institute. “Obama is a young man,” Colonel De Shields said. “We hope he’ll have an appreciation for the contribution that African-Americans made in World War II, when we were fighting two enemies: the enemy abroad and racism at home.”

Forgotten Battalion’s Last Returns to Beachhead, NYT, 6.6.2009,






Spike Lee to Focus

on Black Soldiers


July 3, 2007
Filed at 11:25 a.m. ET
The New York Times


ROME (AP) -- Spike Lee announced plans Tuesday to make a movie about the struggle against Nazi occupiers in Italy during World War II that he hopes will highlight the contribution of black American soldiers who fought and died to liberate Europe.

The film will spotlight the courage of black soldiers who, despite suffering discrimination back home, offered a contribution that has so far gone largely unnoticed in other Hollywood movies, Lee said.

''We have black people who are fighting for democracy who at the same time are classified as second-class citizens,'' the 50-year-old filmmaker said. ''That is why I'd like to do a film to show how these brave black men, despite all the hardship they were going through, still pushed that aside and fought for the greater good.''

Based on the novel ''Miracle at St. Anna'' by James McBride, the movie will tell the story of four black American soldiers, all members of the Army's all-black 92nd ''Buffalo Soldier'' Division, who are trapped behind enemy lines in an Italian village in Tuscany in 1944.

Filming is planned in Tuscany, Rome and the United States, Lee said.

Shooting is expected to start early next year, said producer Roberto Cicutto.

Cicutto said the movie will cost $45 million.

''This is a wonderful story and what makes it even more wonderful is that it is based upon true incidents,'' Lee said. ''If you look at the history of Hollywood, the black soldiers who fought World War II are invisible.''

The film will also look at the relationship between the soldiers and the villagers, some of whom are partisans.

''We had good relationships with the Italian people, they gave us a lot of information,'' recalled 82-year-old William Perry who, at 19, was an infantry soldier in the Buffalo Division.

''I'm not a hero, the heroes are those buried in the American cemetery in Florence. I hope this movie will put a positive spin on some of our activities here,'' Perry said.

    Spike Lee to Focus on Black Soldiers, NYT, 3.7.2007,






Searching for MIAs _ How You Can Help


July 3, 2007
Filed at 12:13 p.m. ET
The New York Times


WHOM ARE THEY LOOKING FOR -- Some 88,000 U.S. troops still missing from World War II and other conflicts.

HOW TO HELP -- Investigators rely heavily on tips and information from relatives and private citizens. They particularly value eyewitnesses. Relatives can provide DNA samples taken from swabs of the inside of the cheek.

WHOM TO CONTACT -- The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, can be contacted through their homepage at http://www.jpac.pacom.mil/Contact.htm . The Defense POW/MIA Personnel Office, which oversees policy issues and maintains a family support team, has a homepage at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/ .

Searching for MIAs _ How You Can Help, NYT, 3.7.2007,






Soldier's diary

recalls horror of the Somme


Thursday March 8, 2007
Paul Lewis


For almost a century, poets and historians have struggled to describe the carnage of July 1 1916, the bloodiest day in the history of the British army. Personal tales are easily lost amid the colossal death toll of the first day of the battle of the Somme. Of the 120,000 British soldiers who scrambled out of the trenches to march into a wall of fire, almost 20,000 died.

But a blunt account of the initial offensive by a grocer from South Yorkshire, which sold at auction yesterday for £7,360, goes some way to explaining what it was like to be there that day.

Not a lot is known about Walter Hutchinson, a stretcher-bearer in the 10th Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment, who wrote the diary during the first three weeks of the battle. He is said to have been a mild-mannered and bespectacled man who stood 5ft 5in tall. He had a wife, Evelyn, and a daughter, Connie. He retired in the Lincolnshire seaside resort of Cleethorpes before he died in the 1980s.

But thanks to his diary, a few facts are indisputable. It reveals that Walter's "first taste of gas" came on the morning the deadliest battle of the first world war commenced, after he and his comrades crossed a marsh and clambered into a communication trench.

His description of the bloodshed that unfolded, repeated again and again in the diary, is as moving a phrase as any other. It was "an awful sight".

"We hadn't gone far up the trench before we came across three of our own lads lying dead," he wrote on that first day. "Their heads been badly damaged by a shell. Their names were Voice and Webster Brothers. We had to go scrambling over the poor fellows - in and out, in and out. It was one of the awful sights I had ever witnessed and at this point our own lads was coming out wounded as we was following them in."

The "lads" were ordered to "dump everything and fix bayonets" and fight. "We obeyed the order like men."

Walter was hit on the hip by a piece of shell, but "kept running after the boys".

"We then landed at the trench we was making for and found out it was our own original front line trench. And we saw some awful sights in it for a lot of wounded men had not been got out there."

The following day Walter peeled back the a sheet from the corpse he believed was covering his pal Charley: "But I went and lifted the oilsheet from over his face and found that it was Harold Beecher. And I asked questions about him and found out he was badly wounded Saturday night and died early on Sunday morning. He was a clerk in civil life. I was very sorry for we had been good chums from the day we arrived in France."

He and his colleagues were rescued, but spent three days without food.

On the third day, amid a lull in the fighting, Walter and his fellow men "got to work and dug some graves for our poor comrades. We buried the poor fellows as respectful as we could under the circumstances". There were more burials the next day. And the next. "It was an awful sight. We then got the poor fellows buried which was a very difficult task for shells was dropping all around us."

The diary, which fetched 10 times its estimate, was sold at Dix Noonan Webb auctioneers in London by Walter's niece, Jeanette Ive, 75, from Wimborne, Dorset. It went to a private bidder alongside a Military Medal and a pocket watch presented to him in 1917.




Extract 'We obeyed the order like men'


Saturday July 1

As soon as we got on the road we saw an awful sight, for there was wounded men by hundreds coming from the line ... then the order came down, dump everything and fix bayonets, you have got to fight for it lads. We obeyed the order like men ... I know we had had a lot of lads wounded and I had not seen anything of Charley my pal since ... the morning.


Sunday July 2

I asked about my pal and they told me they was afraid he had been killed. But I went and lifted the oilsheet from over his face and found that it was Harold Beecher ... I was very sorry for we had been good chums from the day we arrived in France ...


Tuesday July 4 - Friday 7

Made some tea and had something to eat for the first time since Saturday morning ... We was fairly quiet from the Wednes to the Friday teatime, then Fritz started shelling us again. I was talking to these three men some 10 yards away and a shell dropped and killed all the three of them. It was an awful sight.

    Soldier's diary recalls horror of the Somme, G, 8.3.2007,






Revisiting Sgt. York

and a Time When Heroes Stood Tall


June 18, 2006
The New York Times


CHÂTEL-CHÉHÉRY, France — On Oct. 8, 1918, Cpl. Alvin Cullum York and 16 other American doughboys stumbled upon more than a dozen German soldiers having breakfast in a boggy hollow here.

The ensuing firefight ended with the surrender of 132 Germans and won Corporal York a promotion to sergeant, the Congressional Medal of Honor and a place in America's pantheon of war heroes.

Now another battle is unfolding as rival researchers use global positioning systems and computer programs, old maps and military reports to try to establish the exact site of the fighting on that day 88 years ago. Their heated examinations do not challenge the essential heroism of Sergeant York, yet such scrutiny helps explain why it is hard to be a hero these days.

There are other reasons, too, of course. Wars are often unpopular clashes fraught with moral ambiguity, and while the news media are often attracted to heroism, they also like to challenge myth building.

The military's attempt to turn Pfc. Jessica Lynch into a hero after the invasion of Iraq unraveled when it emerged that she had not emptied her rifle at advancing Iraqi soldiers, as first reported. The initial accounts of Cpl. Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan in April 2004 came undone when it was disclosed that the corporal, a former N.F.L. star, had been killed by members of his own unit.

Military abuses now have a longer shelf life than acts of derring-do.

It was easier to create heroic stories in 1918 when the press was more pliable and the public more gullible, and the popular media had a fondness for uplifting tales of uncomplicated bravery. Though newspaper articles at the time refer to members of Sergeant York's platoon who challenged the accounts of that day, the doubters were given only enough attention to dismiss them.

His exploits grew until he had single-handedly silenced 35 German machine gun nests and killed 25 enemy soldiers.

The latter-day search for the site of his heroic stand raises questions about the long-accepted story. In particular, evidence of the sprawl of German military positions that day does not mesh easily with the geographic concentration described in Sergeant York's published diary.

According to his account, he was in a group of 17 men who sneaked behind enemy lines to attack German machine gunners who were holding up a larger American advance. They surprised a group of soldiers, who surrendered, but almost immediately came under fire from machine gunners on a ridge 30 yards away.

Six of the Americans were killed and three others were wounded, leaving then Corporal York the officer in charge. He is credited with overcoming the superior force by using his sharpshooting skills, honed during turkey shoots and squirrel hunts in the Tennessee woods.

"Every time I seed a German I jes teched him off," his published diary reads.

This version holds that the senior German officer in charge eventually offered to order his men to surrender if Corporal York would stop shooting. Within weeks the young Tennessean was being feted as a war hero, and by the time he returned to a New York City ticker-tape parade the next May, he had been anointed the Great War's bravest patriot.

But even he seemed bemused by the mythmaking that surrounded him, and he shunned the lucrative limelight after the war for the obscurity of his old Tennessee home.

His heroism might have been forgotten outside the state had Hollywood not revived the story in the 1941 film "Sergeant York." Gary Cooper won an Oscar for his portrayal of the hero, and the film became the highest-grossing movie of the year as another European war was under way.

But underlying the well-shaped tale is a murkier, more complex narrative. Sergeant York's published diary is actually a heavily embellished account written for magazine serialization in the 1920's with help from a flamboyant Australian soldier-poet named Tom Skeyhill, who was blinded earlier in the war.

That diary contradicts itself on several points, and the homey, mountain vernacular in which it is written is almost certainly an invention of Mr. Skeyhill, who often wrote in colorful dialects. Michael Birdwell, a historian and the curator of Sergenat York's papers at the Alvin C. York Historic Site, says the sergeant's family has never made the real diary available to historians, so it is not clear what it contains.

"The question is, what is really York and what is after-the-fact addition and what is plain fabrication?" said Mr. Birdwell, who is part of a team searching for the exact location of the battle. "I personally dismiss much of the document."

Nor did Sergeant York's tale go unchallenged. Although the Army took affidavits from the surviving platoon members corroborating his account, at least one of the men later asserted that he, too, had fired his weapon during the battle and that it was impossible to tell who was responsible for killing the most Germans or how many of them had died.

Two corporals, William Cutting and Bernard Early, who were both wounded, said the Sergeant York legend had started with a reporter for The Saturday Evening Post, George Patullo. They met him at a first aid station after the incident, they said, and told him about the day's events.

Mr. Patullo chose to focus on Sergeant York, presumably because of the tighter, richer narrative his story allowed. The article, titled "The Second Elder Gives Battle" in a reference to his position in his Tennessee church, tells the story of an uneducated backwoods Christian who reluctantly goes to war and reconciles his religious beliefs with his sense of duty to his country.

The article made him an instant celebrity. But Corporal Cutting insisted long after the war that the senior German officer had surrendered to him that day, not to Sergeant York. He even threatened Warner Brothers with legal action if it did not acknowledge his claims in the film.

At the release of the film, The Boston Globe ran an advertisement in the name of the seven men saying that they did not recall signing the affidavits corroborating Sergeant York's account and that none of them were "in agreement with Warner Bros.' or Sergeant York's version of what really happened 'over there.' "

The Germans, too, investigated the incident and found that Sergeant York could not possibly have carried out the feat alone. They suggested that the story was a compilation of several events that day. Almost all of those who have wrestled with the tale, like Mr. Birdwell, agree that the claim that he silenced 35 machine guns is pure fiction.

Still, the many inconsistencies do not detract from the fact that he and his comrades exhibited extraordinary courage that day.

Now competing groups obsessed with pinning down the truth — to the amusement of the local French — are using modern forensics to find the spot where Sergeant York stood.

A group of Tennessee college professors announced in March that they were "80 percent" certain that they had located the spot using metal detectors, hand-held global positioning devices and a sophisticated computer program that overlays historic and modern maps. But an American military intelligence officer working for NATO insists that the professors' location is wrong and that he is close to finding the correct spot.

"They're not even in the right valley," said the officer, Lt. Col. Douglas Mastriano, standing in a poplar grove with a metal detector that beeps and buzzes at buried shrapnel and cartridge casings.

Each side says its theories about where Sergeant York stood will be proved correct if it finds spent cartridges from a Colt .45 semiautomatic pistol that he and several witnesses said he fired at seven German soldiers who charged him with fixed bayonets.

But each .45 cartridge casing is less than an inch long, and the pan of a metal detector is only about a foot wide. The wooded area in which he could have been standing covers more than a square mile and is peppered with bits of exploded artillery and bullets, as well as spent rifle and machine gun cartridges.

In the end, it does not really matter who is right. The wooded valley where the fighting took place, its silence broken only by intermittent birdsong, still carries geography's sometimes powerful spell. Standing there, one can imagine the murmur of voices, followed by shouts, the sickening rattle of machine gun fire and, finally, the cries of falling men.

Mr. Birdwell and Colonel Mastriano have found American ammunition that may have come from York's bolt-action Lee-Enfield Model 17 rifle. Colonel Mastriano also found an American bullet buried in the dirt on the crest of the ridge that he says Sergeant York was firing at.

But his rifle has disappeared, and so there is no way of verifying whether he fired any of the rounds found. The proof, both sides say, will be finding cartridge casings from a Colt .45 semiautomatic like the one that Sergeant York fired — if they are to be found at all.

Revisiting Sgt. York and a Time When Heroes Stood Tall,
NYT, 18.6.2006,






Diary of North Vietnam Doctor

Killed in U.S. Attack

Makes War Real


June 6, 2006
The New York Times


HANOI, Vietnam — A lost wartime diary by a doctor in which she tells of love, loneliness and death on the Ho Chi Minh Trail has become a best seller in Vietnam, bringing the war alive for a new generation of readers.

The journey of the diary itself has given it a special postwar symbolism for people here. It was returned to the doctor's family just last year by a former American soldier who recovered it after she died on the battlefield in 1970.

The writer, Dang Thuy Tram, was killed at the age of 27 in an American assault after she had served in a war-zone clinic for more than three years. Among the intertwining passions she expressed were her longing for a lost lover and her longing to join the Communist Party.

This combination of revolutionary fervor with the vulnerabilities and self-doubts of a too-sensitive young woman might be called ideology with a human face, reminding readers that it was people like them, trapped in a moment of history, who died on their behalf.

"Later, if you are ever able to live in the beautiful sunshine with the flowers of Socialism," wrote Dr. Tram, addressing herself, "remember the sacrifices of those who gave their blood for the common goal."

Her story stops abruptly with a cascade of blank pages in her little book, putting an inconclusive end to her passions and hopes, a reminder that life can be more pointlessly cruel than fiction.

Two days before she was killed, Dr. Tram wrote of her weariness and her longing for "a mother's hand to care for me."

"Please come to me and hold my hand when I am so lonely," she wrote. "Love me and give me strength to travel all the hard sections of the road ahead."

It is this tenderness of feeling that has drawn readers, breaking with a genre of politically correct diaries that emphasized the heroism but not the pathos of war.

"Just yesterday," she wrote at one point, "a badly wounded soldier 21 years old called out my name, hoping I could help him, but I could not, and my tears fell as I watched him die in my useless hands."

When the diary was serialized in newspapers last year, people cut out and saved the articles, passed them among their friends and read them aloud to one another. When it was published as a book, its print run was a sensational 300,000 or more in a country where books are generally published in small numbers, well under one-tenth that number.

"I really admire her," said Vu Thi Lan, who works in a camera shop and said she was 38, "the same age as her daughter if she had had one."

Ms. Lan said she had read everything she could find about Dr. Tram in newspapers and on Web sites, and wondered whether, in the doctor's place, she could have found the strength to endure.

"In my generation we haven't had a chance to live in that kind of situation," Ms. Lan said. "And it's a diary. It's real. That's what makes it interesting. She didn't mean for people to read it. It was just to release her feelings."

Two-thirds of Vietnam's 83 million people were born after the war ended, in 1975. "So for them, the Vietnam War is ancient history," said Hue-Tam Ho Tai, a professor of Vietnamese history at Harvard. "It's their parents' history and it's rather dry, especially in the way it's taught."

This looser, more nuanced presentation suggests that the Communist government, which bases much of its legitimacy on its wartime victories, "is secure enough to feel that it's O.K. to talk about the hardship of the war as well as the glory of it," Ms. Tai said.

At one point, speaking of lost friends, Dr. Tram wrote bitterly, "War never cares about anyone."

The book's huge press run reflects real demand, said Peter Zinoman, a professor of Vietnamese history at the University of California at Berkeley. But it may also involve an effort by the government to "re-energize these old values."

He said Dr. Tram might now enter an official pantheon of wartime heroes, who include a number of brave young women.

In addition to the book, a hospital is being built and a statue erected in her memory at the remote site of her clinic in Quang Ngai Province in central Vietnam.

Her grave just outside Hanoi has drawn hundreds of visitors, and special "Following Dang Thuy Tram" tours have begun taking visitors to places mentioned in her diary.

The visits to Hanoi of the American soldier who saved her diary, Fred Whitehurst, have drawn wide attention and he has been welcomed almost as a member of the family by Dr. Tram's mother, Doan Ngoc Tram, 81, and three sisters.

In a telephone interview from North Carolina, Mr. Whitehurst, who is now a lawyer, said he had been a military interrogator whose job included sifting through captured documents and destroying those that were of no tactical value.

He said he had come to feel that his discovery of the diary linked him and Dr. Tram in a shared destiny, and he now calls her "my sister and my teacher."

"We were out there at the 55-gallon drum and burning documents," he said, describing that moment, "when over my left shoulder Nguyen Trung Hieu said, 'Don't burn this one, Fred, it already has fire in it.' "

In the evenings that followed, Mr. Hieu, his translator, read passages to him from the small book with its brown cardboard covers and, Mr. Whitehurst said, "Human to human, I fell in love with her."

According to Dr. Tram's account, two earlier volumes were lost in a raid by American troops, which means the published diary begins as abruptly as it ends, as if in mid-conversation.

Last year, after keeping it for decades at home, Mr. Whitehurst donated the diary to the Vietnam Archives at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Within weeks, Dr. Tram's family was located in Hanoi through informal veterans' networks, and last October her mother and sisters were brought to Texas to be reunited with the diary.

"It seemed that my own daughter was in front of me," her mother said in an interview at her home. "For me the information in the diary is not the important thing. What is important is that when I have the diary in my hands, I feel I am holding the soul of my daughter."

She said she was only able to read the diary in small sections because of the power of the account. "She wrote us letters, but we never imagined that she was suffering those dangers," the mother said.

"It's my birthday today," Dr. Tram wrote on Nov. 26, 1968, "with enemy guns sounding from all four directions. I am used to this scene already, rucksack on my shoulder, taking the patients to run and hide. After two years on the battlefield, it was nothing."

Her real battlefield, though, seems to have been within herself. The diary is as much a drama of feelings as a drama of war.

From the start, she went to the front with mismatched aims, her mother said: to fight Americans — "bloodthirsty demons," she called them — and to follow a childhood love, a soldier she refers to only by an initial, M.

The story of their failed reunion has disappeared with the first two volumes of her diary. The passages that remain are filled with the pain and recriminations of lost love.

"Where are you, M?" she wrote. "Are we really so far away from each other, my beloved? Why do I feel that my heart is still bleeding?"

Throughout the pages, written in a tiny, neat script, Dr. Tram continued to try to tame her restless thoughts and to force the romantic heart of a young woman into the rigid discipline of a soldier and a Communist.

"Do you understand, Miss Stubborn Girl?" she chided herself, or, using an affectionate family name, "Answer the question, stubborn Miss Thuy."

It is a struggle she never wins. Dr. Tram seems unable to distance herself from her sorrows and hopes, or from the patients she treats and loves.

"Oh! Why was I born a girl so rich with dreams, love, and asking so much from life?" she wrote.

In an entry dated February 1969, as soldiers around her prepared for battle, she tried, once again, to push away her feelings.

"Forget all the thoughts of love burning in your heart and pay attention to your job!" she ordered herself. "Can't you hear the sounds of the guns, signaling the start of the Spring Offensive?"

Diary of North Vietnam Doctor Killed in U.S. Attack Makes War Real,
    NYT, 6.6.2006,






March 30 1971


Calley found guilty of 22 murders


From The Guardian archive


March 30 1971
The Guardian


Lieutenant William L. Calley was last night convicted of murdering 22 people in the South Vietnamese village of My Lai during a massacre of civilians by American soldiers.

Calley (27) had been charged with murdering 102 people. He was charged with killing or ordering to be killed 30 people in My Lai, killing or ordering to be killed 70 people in a ditch, killing an elderly monk, and killing a baby.

The jury convicted Calley of premeditated murder and assault with intent to kill. It found him guilty of one of the 30 deaths in the village, and 20 of the 70 deaths in the ditch. He was convicted of murdering the monk, and of assaulting the baby with intent to kill.

The jury will decide the sentence later today. Calley's conviction is likely to spark public indignation almost everywhere in the US, except, surprisingly, in the army itself.

Liberals and conservatives, for different reasons, are united on the issue. Conservatives say it is an outrage for an American soldier to risk his life in combat, and then come home to be tried. Liberals believe it is wrong to single out one man for punish ment while letting go everyone else involved in the My Lai massacre.

Calley [is said to have] received thousands of letters of support and only about 10 attacking him. Local citizens are upset about the trial. "They ought to give him a medal," a waitress said: "I think they're going too far." Restaurants where Calley dines refuse to allow him to pay for his meals. If he stops for a glass of beer, a customer usually pays for him.

But army officers seem to have hoped that the jury would find against him. Two young captains stormed into the press room to chastise a local television reporter. They said his stories were biased in favour of Calley, who had admitted killing at least some civilians in My Lai.

"You're not presenting a fair picture," one said. "It's important that we know the prosecution's side of the story. If he is let go, it will give a licence to everyone who walks out of Officers' School to go to Vietnam and kill anyone they feel like."

A young captain, who — like Calley — had been a platoon leader in Vietnam, said: "If he did what they said he did, they should hang him. I crawled around on my belly for eight months over there, and I didn't rape anyone, and I didn't shoot them either, unless they shot at me."


Calley was sentenced to life imprisonment

but freed by a federal judge after three and a half years' house arrest.

From The Guardian archive > March 30 1971 >
Calley found guilty of 22 murders, G,
Republished 30.3.2007, p. 38,






On This Day: March 30, 1971


From The Times Archive


Lieutenant William Calley
was the only person to be convicted
in connection with the My Lai massacre.
Although he was sentenced
to life imprisonment with hard labour
he was free by 1974


LIEUTENANT WILLIAM CALLEY was found guilty at a court martial today of murdering South Vietnamese civilians at My Lai on March 16th 1968. The verdict was announced at Fort Benning, Georgia, after the jury had spent 13 days weighing up the evidence in the four-month trial.

The jury must now determine the sentence, which has to be either death or life imprisonment. In deciding his guilt, the jury of six Army officers rejected the defence that Lieutenant Calley, who is 27, was obeying orders from above — a practice which he said had been instilled into him since he joined the Army.

There were four charges against Lieut. Calley: that he murdered at least 30 “oriental human beings” at a junction of two trails; that he killed 70 others in a ditch; that he shot a man who approached him with hands raised begging for mercy; and that he killed a child running from the ditch where the 70 died. Lieut. Calley was found guilty on the first three charges, although the figures of the dead in the first two were reduced. On the fourth he was found guilty of assault with intent to kill the child, a lesser offence.

The hearing to determine the sentence will begin tomorrow. Three of Lieut. Calley’s superior officers remain to be tried on charges arising from the massacre. Two men junior to Lieut. Calley have been tried and acquitted and charges against 19 others have been dropped.

Massacres like the one at My Lai “occur in every war — it’s not an isolated incident even in Vietnam”. Lieutenant Calley is reported to have told an American news agency before the verdict. “I will be extremely proud if My Lai shows the world what war is and that the world needs to do something about stopping wars.”

From The Times Archives > On This Day: March 30, 1971, Times, 30.3.2005,






June 9 1944


Attack began on D-Day minus one


From The Guardian archive

From David Woodward,

'Manchester Guardian'

War Correspondent


(Mr. Woodhead was one of the three British war correspondents who were landed in France from the air. He went by glider with a parachute unit. He was wounded, but not seriously, and is now in England.)

Somewhere in England. A British parachute unit formed part of the Allied airborne force which was the spearhead of the Second Front. It was landed behind German lines, seized vital positions, and then linked up with Allied forces which had landed on the beaches. I watched the unit go to war at dusk on D-1 (the day before D-Day), parading with everybody, from its brigadier downwards, in blackened faces. 'We are history,' said the colonel.

By the time the glider on board which I was had landed it was very nearly daylight, and the dawn sky was shot with brilliant yellows, reds, and greens from explosions caused by the huge forces of Allied bombers.

The inhabitants of little French villages awoke to find themselves free again. German prisoners proved a very mixed bag. The generally poor quality of these troops was not unexpected, and it was realised that behind them lay some of the best units of the German Army.

Our men were continually harried by snipers. Later German tanks and Panzer Grenadiers began their attack. Paratroops are considered light-weights for this kind of work, but these men stood up to the Germans. When the fighting was at its most critical a large force of gliders carrying reinforcements flew right in and landed their cargoes.

These gliders turned the tide, and next morning it was an easy matter for us to drive in a captured car to the beachhead formed by troops from the sea. The countryside looked empty, but it still looked like posters advertising summer holidays in Normandy. Scattered over the ground were the black shapes of our gliders, most of which had been damaged in their landings.

The pilots of the gliders which had done so well the day before were embarking in an infantry landing-craft for England to get more gliders to bring over. Having become a casualty, I travelled with them across the Channel, which in places seemed literally crowded with ships [in] the swept channels through the minefields.

The glider pilots landed this morning at one of the ports used to receive men during the evacuation from Dunkirk. One of the glider lieutenants told me he had been brought there at that time. 'The people cheered us then,' he said, 'and now they just watch us go by. Do you suppose the English ever cheer their victories?'

From The Guardian archive,
June 9 1944,
Attack began on D-Day minus one,
Republished 9.6.2007, p. 36,






May 8, 1940


Preparations for slaughter

on the Maginot Line


From the Guardian archive


Wednesday May 8, 1940


Evelyn Montague


Yesterday I tried to describe the queer, confused night fighting which goes on nowadays round our outposts in front of the Maginot Line. It seems all the queerer in its setting of country almost unspoilt by war.

The woods are in the full glory of the new leaf, except where it has been stripped away in places by bursts of shrapnel. The fields, across which the attackers move stealthily at night, are seen by day to be brilliant with cowslips and dandelions, and in "no-man's-land" there are apple trees in blossom in the orchards of deserted villages.

Behind the front line, the countryside shows even fewer signs of war. The local villagers were evacuated long ago, and British soldiers in rest and off duty wander, through streets unharmed but deserted.

One of my colleagues was walking through such a village the other day when he heard the sound of organ music coming from the church. He went in and found two British privates taking turns at the organ, one blowing while the other played for 10 minutes, strictly timed.

They were transport drivers from Northumberland, off duty for an hour or two and busy satisfying the good North Country craving for music. In another deserted church, British and French soldiers have attended together services conducted by a priest in the uniform of a French private.

There are plenty of French troops about, since our force in the Maginot Line is an integral part of a larger French formation. Such posts, held by mixed troops of both countries under a single command, are used on each of our flanks to weld up smoothly and firmly to the French forces on either side and to avoid leaving a weak spot.

I do not know whether we have yet used in these combined posts the British unit which appears to be more suitable than any other - the Hampshire Regiment, which draws heavily on the Channel Islands and has plenty of French names.

In the peaceful country farther back there are discreet preparations for the slaughter which has not yet happened. The first British military cemetery of this war - our earliest casualties, in December, were buried in a neighbouring French civilian cemetery - has six brown wooden crosses. A hundred yards or so away is the first German cemetery in the Allied area, with seven crosses in it. Only one of the crosses on the German graves has a name on it, the other six dead men could not be identified.

The Germans do not give away many points in the game of war.

From the Guardian archive,
May 8, 1940,
Preparations for slaughter on the Maginot Line,
Republished 8.5.2006,










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