It is Veterans Day, November 11, 2009 and I want to take this opportunity to thank all who are serving and all who served. I especially want to remember those members of Marine Medium Helicopter squadron 161 with whom I served in New River, North Carolina, and in Vietnam, and of course, the "grunts" we supported.
I found a segment of a MilitaryVideo.com video, that now is on You Tube, of the 9th Marine Regiment conducting Operation Dewey Canyon in norther I Corps in early 1969. The operation was led by Gen. Raymond Davis, a Medal of Honor recipient who served in WWII, the Korean War where he fought at the Chosin Reservoir in the action for which he was awarded the MOH, and as commander of the Third Marine Division in Vietnam.
If you read the Wikipedia entry on Gen. Davis in Vietnam you will be misled into believing that until January 1969 the Marines were huddled down in base camps, not doing their usual job of aggressive contact with the enemy. This is not true.
It was in 1967 under the Lyndon Johnson Administration and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that the ill-conceived and ill-fated McNamara Line along the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Vietnam forced the Marines into a defensive strategy that was counter to our tactical training and overall strategic objectives. But when Gen. Davis arrived in Vietnam in April 1968 he immediately put an end to that concept and it was at that time that he freed the Marine combat battalions from their defensive postures.
I know, I was there from May 1968 through June 1969 most of which was spent with my brothers in HMM-161 under the command of Lt. Col Paul W. Niesen. We flew thousands upon thousands of missions with every single Marine regiment in northern I Corps in addition to missions in central and southern I Corps. The strategy employed by Gen. Davis worked exactly as it was intended and operations such as Meade River and Lancaster II put a major hurting on infiltrating North Vietnamese units, stopping them dead, literally.
Dewey Canyon, launched in January 1969, was the crown jewel of Gen. Davis' tour in Vietnam and was a textbook example of how to move infantry units through rough terrain in bad weather, while staying under the cover of nearby artillery units.
Dewey Canyon stifled the communists' attempts to resupply their troops in South Vietnam and significantly reduced their ability to mount a second Tet Offensive, which was its goal. Wikipedia says it didn't permanently halt the flow of supplies down the Ho Chi Minh trail into South Vietnam. Well, it wasn't supposed to permanently stop the flow. If that was the intent, we would have stayed there. That wasn't the nature of the operation nor the overall US strategy.
The You Tube video I found has a couple of great shots of my former unit HMM-161 engaged in troop lifts into the battle zone. You can tell it is 161 by the white winged horse on the upper aft section of the helicopter. The numbers 47 and 29 lower on the tail indicate helicopters that were assigned to our squadron.
I have been watching the lead up to the Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans Day with considerable interest in recent weeks and the one thing I keep noticing is that virtually every channel and every network jumps right over much of the Korean War and nearly all of Vietnam when they show photos of veterans. Still lots of coverage of WWII, and lots of coverage of the current engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, but even though Vietnam veterans are the dominant demographic in the veteran community, and we fought the longest American War, and we won every single major battle, we still can't get more than a flash of remembrance. So I am giving you something to look at here.
I wish I had the entire Military Channel segment on Operation Dewey Canyon, but all I could find was the four-minute segment below. Nonetheless, it gives a good representation of the fighting and the terrain and especially of my unit in action. Considering that we are now focusing the action in the War on Terror back on Afghanistan which has similar if even more rugged terrain, today's commanders might want to review the strategy that Gen. Davis used in Dewey Canyon, and the results it produced.
It has been more than 40 years since Operation Dewey Canyon, and a lot of water has gone over the dam, but I haven't forgotten the Marines I flew with, nor the grunts we supported, in this case the 9th Marines and 3rd Marines.
For all who serve or served and those who support those who served please also visit this website: www.jensensutta.com:80/slideshows/RTB for a beautiful tribute to veterans.
To all of them, and to all other veterans Happy Veterans Day. I hope this finds you well and happy. Semper Fi
Wednesday, November 11, 2009