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Mercy Warriors: Saving Lives Under Fire

Mercy Warriors: Saving Lives Under Fire

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Mercy Warriors: Saving Lives Under Fire

495 pagine
6 ore
Feb 24, 2012


Mercy Warriors: Saving Lives Under Fire by John “Doc” Combs brings the war in Vietnam to life through the stories and experiences of the men who saved lives. These were the corpsmen and medics assigned to combat units, the mercy warriors, who struggled to keep men alive long enough to get back to a hospital unit. Afterwards they were the ones who worried if they had done the best they could. These and other worries continued long after their military service. Their powerful stories and observations will help current and future generations of mercy warriors save lives and help themselves cope with the consequences.

Feb 24, 2012

Informazioni sull'autore

John “Doc” Combs is an economist and retired college instructor who served in Vietnam from 1968-1969 first with Alpha Battery, 1/12, 3rd Marine Division, Delta Company, 3rd Medical Bn., 3rd Marine Division, and the remainder with the hospital ship, the USS Sanctuary. He lives in central Florida with his wife, Donna.

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Mercy Warriors - John “Doc” Combs

Mercy Warriors:

Saving Lives Under Fire

John Doc Combs

Mercy Warriors: Saving Lives Under Fire

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© Copyright 2012 John Combs.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written prior permission of the author.

Editor: Ms. Caroline Lucy Cheney, University of Central Florida, English Adjunct Professor.

Cover Photograph by Arthur Greenspan with reproduction permission by AP/Wide World Photo.

Cover Redesign and Illustration by Donna R. Combs.

Printed in the United States of America.

ISBN: 978-1-4251-6799-8 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4251-6800-1 (e)

Trafford rev. 02/29/2013

North America & international

toll-free: 1 888 232 4444 (USA & Canada)

phone: 250 383 6864 fax: 812 355 4082









CHAPTER 1: The Platoon Medical Officer

CHAPTER 2: The Layers of Medical Help

CHAPTER 3: The Paradox

CHAPTER 4: The Social Link



CHAPTER 5: Invisible Heroines

CHAPTER 6: The Military Doctors

CHAPTER 7: The Men Assigned to Graves Registration



CHAPTER 8: The Betrayals

CHAPTER 9: Guilt, Grief, and The Cost of Self-Esteem

CHAPTER 10: Contraction of Social, Religious, and Moral Values

CHAPTER 11: Journey to the Berserk State



CHAPTER 12: My Last Three Months: The Freedom Flight Home

CHAPTER 13: Ecstasy With Escape: The Agony of Readjustment

CHAPTER 14: Readjusting to New Careers and Jobs: Lessons Learned

CHAPTER 15: Doc: Summing the Parts: Parting Shots








This book is dedicated to my maternal Grandfather,

the late John Thomas Hanks,

who once told me when I was a young teenager,

"If [someday] you go to write a book, don’t just write a book to write a book.

Tell the world something it needs to know."

And to my precious wife, Donna

Who married an ambitious and intelligent man one year before he went to war,

But who saw him wither after the war to nearly nothing.

She has stood by through it all, giving support.

The Dept. of Defense owes her some medals as well. She never lost hope!


The very word, Vietnam, still reverberates in the American culture as a flashpoint in the thinking of my generation. A few, like I did, feel guilty for having taken part in the huge destruction of a third world country and the decimation of its population. My brothers and sisters, who didn’t go, in many cases, still feel guilty about sitting the war out, and/or the shabby treatment given veterans of that war when they came home. Many public school history books provide a chapter to World War I, as many as three chapters about World War II, a chapter about the Korean War, and two or three paragraphs to the Vietnam conflict. I suppose that is normal when a country feels disgraced by its participation in a war gone badly. Japan still shuns its role in World War II, and while Germany has been forthright in its role, the past has still been painful to accept for many.

Success has lots of fathers [and mothers]. Initially, I would like to thank Ms. Betty Donovan, who first suggested I write the book in December, 1996. Her insistence that a book that told as precisely as possible what enlisted combat Docs did at war would help her with what she needed to know to give more effective counseling to those men. It all began that month with a discussion of Dr. Shay’s book, ACHILLES IN VIETNAM.

I thank my Vietnam comrade-in-arms and great, lovable blood-brother and friend, Vincent Bear Morrison, who entered my life again after 15 years in 1984, and who was the first person to help me turn my life around. Bear was the one guy in Nam I could never forget. He has done a lot of research to assure me that the participants in this book really did serve in Vietnam. He continues to be there when I need him.

Ms. Johanna Bolton, an accomplished and published writer in her own right, gave me tips about writing and publishing this book. More importantly, she created the book’s web site for me. Charles Yontz in Tallahassee chipped in with suggestions and names of former Docs he knew. He put me in contact with Charles R. Figley concerning past research in this area.

Art Davis, a WWII and Vietnam vet in Orange City, Florida, who spends time helping veterans find veterans, sent me several volunteers, as did Ms. Cessie Cunningham in Tennessee. Both believed in the need for the book from day one. Ms. Alberta Wehrle allowed me to use her Masters Thesis when developing Chapter 5. Ms. Diana Dwan, a veteran nurse who served in Vietnam and who volunteered to be part of the study, also contributed extensively to the development of the chapter, as well as Chapter 6. While not always credited, her insight can be found in later chapters as well.

Ms. Caroline (Lucy) Cheney, Seminole State College, served as the book’s editor. She initially coached me in applying dynamics to my writing, then served as the editor.

Barry Gibson, Daytona Beach Community College, who is also a Reserve Army Officer, spent time one afternoon telling me about the Army’s concept of future wars, and how that concept might affect the needs and goals of the medical chain.

Dr. Jim Ralph [Doc, or Jimbo], a participant in the research, also assisted in developing that picture. And Doc passed along the latest research concerning PTSD and possible links to secondary illnesses brought on by stress.

Ms. Connie Menefee of Cincinnati contributed some of the poetry used within these pages. She was awarded $5,000 and special recognition for her poetry in 1998 by the State of Ohio. She also did a substantial amount of library research for Chapter 7 in the book. Chapter 7 had another major contributor in Leamon Smith, who served a full year in Graves Registration (GRREG) in Vietnam, and who is about the only well-balanced person I have met who did that job, although I am sure there are many others. I haven’t met too many GRREG people-they are very hard to find.

Ms. Dea Browning, recently of the VAMC, Gainesville, Florida, also assisted me with libraryresearch for Chapters 13 and 14. Ms. Marilyn Macquarrie, a counselor working at the Daytona VA Clinic, provided technical advice for Chapter 13; and really, all through eightyears of work with me, her help is evident in nearly every chapter in Part IV. She offeredencouragement and suggestions throughout this study, and has done her utmost to makesure I was healthy enough to finish this work. Chief Kite at Great Lakes, Ill and SeniorChief Hacala at the Naval Bureau of Medicine in Washington, DC both assisted with warstatistics.

Dr. Roger Patterson of the VA, Daytona Clinic, and Marine Corps General Ray Davis, my division commander in Vietnam and a Medal of Honor recipient, accepted the challenge of reading the manuscript before it went to press. Both offered suggestions on professionalism and readability, as did Ms. Donovan.

Mr. Jonathan Angel served us by converting and guiding Donna in creating the new web page from one of asking for research volunteers to that of announcing the birth of the book, and Ms. Betty Davis, Astor, provided final proof-reading services.

To each man and woman vet who opened his/her heart and bared confidential information to me—a complete stranger for the most part—I thank you each for the questionnaires and interviews that you granted me. I sincerely hope you will find in these pages of difficulty, based literally on thousands of years collectively of struggle for balance and readjustment, that this is truly our book. Each could have contributed at least a chapter. In shifting briefly a time or two through the book to focus on what these men and women had to say about the topics discussed, I have not done full justice to any of them. I can assure the reader, however, that they are among the best this country’s military ever produced for any conflict.

To each of you, thank you! No man succeeds without the help of many others. For a guy who had just about given up, I have had a determined group behind me to let me succeed.


Mercy Warriors

by John Doc Combs

Greater love hath no man than this,

that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

All the major religions of the world put a high value on going to the aid of a fallen friend or brother for survival and comfort in times of imminent danger. Most Christian believers have heard this verse of scripture since early childhood. Yet, most people would not equate that line of scripture to a specially trained person on the battlefield in times of war. These people are called Army Medics and Navy Hospital Corpsmen. Each medic and corpsman has not only the training, but also the dedication to upholding the highest military and medical standards possible under the current circumstances on the battlefield.

Hospital corpsmen have to volunteer for their training; they are not selected at random or even by aptitude. This is not to suggest that these people are all conscientious objectors. Each has his own reasons for his chosen occupation as a medic, and all medics/corpsmen become subject to battlefield duty during hostilities.

I was a combat corpsman during the Vietnam War. What I saw and what I did there has made the ultimate impact of how I live my life today. Although I have earned a Masters Degree in an area of economics from a major southern university, and have been accorded recognition for civic and educational efforts in the past, no other event has played such a pivotal role in my life as the year I spent in Vietnam, first with Alpha, 1/12, 3rd Marine Division, an artillery battery, and then as chief nurse in Company D, Medical, 3rd Marine Division, a Vietnamese children’s hospital in Dong Ha. And nothing before or since has made me question virtually everything I learned in academics and religion as did those twelve months. That short period of time nearly destroyed me emotionally, as it did very, very many medics and corpsmen who survived the trauma of the battlefield. Its effects still haunt me today and may well do so for the rest of my life.

When I went to Vietnam in the summer of 1968, I was 24 years old, significantly older that the average FNG.*¹With 126 credit hours from the University of Kentucky, I had more education than most of the officers I served under, although I still had a semester to go before I would graduate.

I also had a wife and three children from her previous marriage. When I left Vietnam in July 1969 to return home, I knew the battlefield had changed me. I was cynical and depressed, a mental state almost completely opposite of the optimistic outlook about life I had held before Vietnam. It was as if I couldn’t get away from Vietnam, even though I was back in the real world. If this syndrome could happen to me, then it could happen to anyone. During the first nine months with Alpha 1/12 that year I died a thousand deaths as artillery found us some days more often than we fired out. When I transferred to the children’s Hospital at Dong Ha, I saw a thousand deaths in eleven weeks, and the stream couldn’t be shut off. I went numb. I turned off everything in my mind, and possibly my soul. I only thought of how great it would be to get home to some sanity. I don’t recall how I accomplished this, but I even signed up for a correspondence course from Kentucky and got it about half completed before I left the Children’s Hospital, just to take my mind off what was happening to the children and to us as care givers. Just hanging on until my rotation date became my only goal once I was off the battlefield.

I went through the LAX airport in Los Angeles the morning of July 4, and I was more frightened to be with this huge number of people as I was on the battlefield. I had heard stories of returning soldiers being spit upon or worse while awaiting flights home. Without incident I flew on to Chicago to meet my wife, reuniting with her by early afternoon. She sensed she was receiving damaged goods within the first hour of our reunion. Only I knew just how lucky I was to be back in the country in one piece physically.

What had happened to me had been termed in previous wars as Soldier’s Heart, Shell Shock, and Battle Fatigue, to name a few. The formal designation was attached in 1978 as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, thanks in large part to Charles Figley, Arthur Egendorf (both Vietnam veterans), and others who noticed that the combat vet from Vietnam was having in many cases a very difficult time readjusting to civilian life. Post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, became a recognized disability by Congress and the Veterans Administration and entered the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, third edition, in 1980. I paid no attention.

When I left Vietnam, I promised myself I wouldn’t look back. I wanted nothing further to do with the people I had met and with whom I had served. I would not associate with anybody I knew to be a Vietnam vet when I got back home. I didn’t talk to anyone about the war or my part in it. I wanted no reminders of that unrealistic agony called Vietnam. I was ashamed that I had gone. I looked forward to completing my Bachelors Degree and starting a career. The problem was that all my contacts had disappeared. What I had lined up in 1966 did not exist in 1971. Furthermore, it was too easy for someone to learn that I was a veteran.

My loving wife suggested I go to graduate school. I did. The nightmares that had started when I was with Alpha hadn’t gone away with my return home, and still hadn’t stopped as I returned to college in January 1971. I learned that a couple of bourbons and branch (water) just before bedtime would contribute to a peaceful night’s sleep. I found that I was temporarily losing control of my ability to control my thoughts as well. A certain noise or smell would take me back to Con Thien or Mutters Ridge to shelling that was actually so real that I couldn’t differentiate fiction from reality. I was so befuddled and confused that I was virtually useless to myself for the next couple of days. I had to work that much harder to keep up with my studies.

By the time I finished graduate studies at Kentucky and launched my career with a large southern dairy marketing cooperative, I was drinking half a fifth of bourbon, but about the same small amount of branch each night. It eventually would grow to a whole bottle a night, but it was controlling the nightmares to some degree, at least so I thought. Once home from the office each evening, I would pour the first of several whiskeys and effectively (figuratively) retire to my cave, as Dr. John Gray¹²might offer, to try to make sense of what had happened to me in Vietnam. If I drank enough, there would be no nightmares. I always felt terrible the next morning. I hid breath odor with mints.

The position with the dairy coop became the first of twelve new careers over the next 18 years. After 30 months, I was asked to resign. This started a pattern that would continue up through 1991. I then stabilized to work as a part-time college instructor off and on until my recent retirement. Like a major league baseball manager, I knew when I started with a new firm that I’d be leaving soon. I always stayed one day longer with each firm than I should have if I’d wanted to quit. I got so tired of hearing the words incompetent and anti-social attitude that I could write my own out-day report for the Human Resource department. I was making less and less money with each new job, and I was being fired fairly quickly after I started each new position. I got to the point thirty years ago that I wouldn’t even put down that I had any college at all, and considered the possibility of stating that I didn’t finish high school when making out job applications. I didn’t know when I would hit bottom, but I knew I had to hang in there working at something. I had to do it for my wife and for myself. I had to try to hold onto what little self-respect I had left. But bouncing from job to job only depressed me more, and my self-esteem was nearly nonexistent. Suicide seemed a good option.

And the rage. It was with me every minute of every day. It hit my bosses, my family, my parents, and even at times my tennis partner, who was probably my only friend, as well. I had no close male friends. I had only my wife for support. She didn’t know what had happened to me, but she was willing to hope for that day when I might begin to get better. It would be a long wait, and more than once she was on the verge of giving up on me. If she had given up and walked out, I couldn’t have blamed her, because I wasn’t much of a husband or anything else. However, I believe it would have been the last straw for me. I owe her so much for her patience.

Three distinct events in the last thirty years began to turn my life around, give me new hope, and furnish me the understanding I needed to approach some appearance of a normal existence. Armco had hired me in 1977 as an economist, but after a year, the chief economist decided that my drinking was too much of a concern and gave me a chance for re-employment in another department. I landed a job in the Corporate Computer Center. During the next four years, I would be the angry economist/vet of the department, and Howard, the supervisor, would frequently hear my disagreements about how he ran his department. Jim, a member of the CCC staff, determined from a Playboy article he read that I probably had PTSD from Vietnam. In January 1982, Jim left a Playboy on my desk at Armco Steel. The article was by Philip Caputo, another Vietnam vet, entitled The Unreturning Army. I reported sick the next day, went to Cincinnati and met with a representative of the Disabled American Veterans. I told him that I was a combat corps-man, but I had not been myself since the war, and I wanted to know if I might have PTSD. In 15 minutes, he had me actually crying about the people who had died under my care. I had not cried since I lost my first fistfight at the tender age of 6. Within the next hour he had me set up with an appointment for evaluation at the VAMC in Cincinnati. From that evaluation, I was assigned to a group that met in the downtown Cincinnati area on a week-night, and had been scheduled for appointments in Franklin, the town in which I lived at the time, to see a psychologist counselor twice a week for an hour each time.

I was fired the next month from Armco. Three months later, my wife and I moved to Florida. I failed to inform either the DAV or the VA Regional Office in Cleveland about my move and gave up the chance for an early service-connected diagnosis. No medical record of mine ever made it to the VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida. After 18 months, I quit asking about it, but I was getting worse all the time. Since I couldn’t produce verification of the program that was underway in Cincinnati, the Veterans Administration did nothing; and worse yet, I did nothing. I didn’t have the guidance or the knowledge to attempt to do anything. Since I did not associate with other veterans, I had no idea of how the VA’s adjudication system worked. But I did have a diagnosis, PTSD, and that was a start. What was missing was a plan for recovery.

As I tumbled down the economic scale almost in a free-fall toward minimum wage in Florida, the stress got worse, and I got worse. I landed a job driving a produce truck for a local company for about five months before I was fired, but within that short interval the second, and possibly the most important, major event occurred. The International Drive in Orlando was part of one of the routes assigned to me. One day, as I entered a restaurant on I-Drive to make a delivery, I thought I recognized a huge black man as one of the guys from the artillery battery, but I went on into the restroom without missing a step. When I came out, the man asked, Doc, is that you? Vincent Morrison, or Bear, was at that time working as a National Service Officer (NSO) for the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). He invited himself into my life, because I was still extremely reluctant to associate myself with any other Vietnam vet. However, this man knew what I had done in the war. He also knew the statistics concerning combat medics/corpsmen. It didn’t take him long to realize that I was in trouble, so he stepped in where the VA had refused, to work with me so that I could start climbing out of my hole. My drinking began to taper off, and finally one day I realized I had not had a drink of alcohol in better than 24 hours. I didn’t think I could go that long without booze. Bear encouraged me to get into the flow of life again.

I got active in Masonic and civic work. I was out most nights of the week. I knew if I were going someplace that evening, I couldn’t have that drink after work. By the time I got back home, I had to start getting ready for bed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was beginning to restore my own self-respect. He also got me to start talking about the Vietnam experience, first with him, then with other vets, and finally with anyone, although I’m still very selective.

At his urging, I filed through PVA for service-connected PTSD in August 1992, and the Department of Veterans Affairs finally diagnosed me as service-connected PTSD in January 1994, twenty-five years after I had come home. I consider it the third major event. I started group counseling in 1993 with other vets that had the affliction. I not only learned more about PTSD and the workings of the VA, but I began to think differently about my own involvement in the war, and the intense hatred I had for Doc has slowly died away. The loss of self-hatred cooled the rage that I had carried all those long, hard years. In September 1995, the outpatient clinic in Daytona assigned me an excellent counselor, and I have learned so much more from her.

What happened to us out there on that battlefield that triggered post-traumatic stress in me? Why were medical people in general among the hardest hit, regardless of their level in the medical evacuation and treatment hierarchy? To answer these and other questions, I started locating medics, corpsmen and nurses around the country who were stationed in Vietnam during the conflict. Eventually, Nam doctors joined the study. And I read with great interest Dr. Jonathan Shay’s book, Achilles in Vietnam. Some of his analyses will be referenced in looking at such a person who would lay down his life for his friends.

John Doc Combs and Vincent Bear Morrison.



Throughout military history, the severity of battlefield losses has played havoc with the ability to wage and win wars. For much of man’s history, from cave dwelling to the first organization of societies, man has had to fight one-on-one with his club, his rocks, his bamboo spears, and anything else that he may have come up with that might give him an advantage over his opponent. Sometimes, just the size and strength of a warrior were determinants to success on the battlefield, as we glimpsed at the size of Goliath before he did battle with David in the Old Testament.

As families grew and were added to other groups, the concept of civilized societies developed, where people organized enough to decide who would make the civic and political decisions to lead the group. About twelve thousand years ago, this led to the development of city-states, which led to territorial claims, which led to training men to become soldiers for the municipality. Still, the only way to wage a conflict was to send men into battle as hand-to-hand combatants, one-on-one until the issue was decided with the wounding or death of the opponent, then on to find a new opponent. However, the ancient warrior had leadership and a sense of direction at all times because the army’s commanding officer was also on the battlefield leading and coordinating the fight.

The concept of a King developed because a particular person claimed land title of considerable size. He became someone responsible for protecting his people, those who planted and harvested crops from his land. He led them into battle. Theoretically, he would die for them. In times of hardship—famine or other disaster—he might even become a willing sacrifice to the powers (gods) in order to buy better conditions for his subjects.

The only way for a King or commander to have had a winning record was for one army of individuals to be superior in at least one of the critical areas of overall strength. For instance one army may have a larger number of trained soldiers, or better armor, or maybe a combination of a better supply system and superior weapons. Each completed war brought new analyses of what went wrong, or what could be made stronger, more flexible, moved in greater volume, etc.

With all the capabilities to destroy life and property increasing in both technology and intensity with each new war, one would think that the achievements on the side of living and patching up would lag behind as man thinks of more and more creatively inhumane explosive devices through which the foot soldier, or grunt in today’s language, must pass and withstand in order to survive. As we will see, nothing could be further from the truth. The very leaps in weapons technologies have required huge leaps in medical and surgical procedures; but at what price?

The Twentieth Century was the bloodiest and most destructive in the history of the human race. The world has seen two world wars of gigantic proportions, especially the second. It has been witness to at least three major wars, nearly on a world-participation level (Korean, Vietnam, and Afghanistan), and certainly in the length of time required for calling a truce. There have been several smaller wars (Israeli 6-Day War, Falkland Islands, and Gulf War, to name three), and countless revolutionary wars in the name of liberation. In the course of these wars, we have managed to murder over 160 million people (McNamara, p. 4), all because a small group of men have wanted to better this planet socially, religiously, militarily, genetically, and/or economically. As a result, the rebuilding of houses, businesses, roads, bridges, and great cathedrals and temples has been ongoing since 1919. There was not a single day in the Twentieth Century that total peace reigned on this globe. There has been no year of total peace since before Christ was born, according to recorded history.

To be sure, as we begin the Twenty-first Century, we have now incorporated rules by which we play this game. Man has ingeniously outwitted himself by developing various weapons that can annihilate whole standing armies, or (even more impressive) totally vaporize and level everything in the immediate surrounding area, depending on the makeup and size of the bomb. There is currently a worldwide movement underway to ban the production and use of anti-personnel land mines because of the high losses of limb and life to civilians long after the guns of the conflict have silenced. Already, according to international agreement, we are not to use certain chemicals, or certain microbes, against another army or a country’s citizens. After what we saw in Vietnam, napalm should definitely be added to the list. By the same logic, it just isn’t cricket to use nuclear weapons anymore. Not even tactical nuclear weapons designed for battlefield use exclusively. To the credit of both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, the two presidents who waged the war in Vietnam, these International Rules were wisely observed.

Also throughout military history, foot soldiers have survived the battlefield, walking away unscathed physically, or physically wounded but with some ability to heal and to adjust to the attending disability. The wounds of the mind, which have occurred to combatants in every war in history, however, show not physically and therefore get no medals. Unfortunately, they are the hardest to heal. They also take the longest, if in fact they ever really heal.

Surviving warriors were hailed as heroes, and at least up until the last two or three centuries, were immediately cleared aside and forgotten until another war had to be won. Until the invention of gunpowder, hand-to-hand combat was pretty much the way wars were fought. That meant that the warrior was probably a professional soldier who used his own sword, his own armor, and if he had one, his own horse. His knack for survival depended on his strength, quickness and intelligence; and from time to time, a bit of luck.

The invention of gunpowder allowed gunsmiths to develop a weapon that propelled a projectile much faster than a warrior’s adversary could react, and gave the advantage to the warrior who owned the gun. But engineering was slow to improve the firearm, and until about a hundred forty years ago, more or less, these weapons were inaccurate and ineffective from much of a distance. Even less effective was the accuracy and distance of artillery. Only when mathematics was applied to calculate the amount of charge (powder) needed and the angle of trajectory of the shell did the use of artillery swing a constant advantage to the side who owned the cannon.

With the invention of the firearm, a new industry was born. With the birth of the new industry came the effort to recruit governments to purchase weapons in quantity for the armies they required. For the first time the soldier did not have to buy or make his weapon, or his armor, or his horse. He didn’t have to buy his uniforms, or his rank devices. The outgrowth from block sales of weapons to governments stripped the professional soldier of the right he had held to use his own equipment as he saw fit. At some point before the twentieth century unfolded, he became dependent on a supply line over which he had no control. He had to take what was issued or offered as food and drink. If he was conscripted, he legally could not quit his obligation. He had lost his right to decide if he wanted to participate.

His king or commanding officer-in-charge was no longer in the field with him issuing orders as the fight ran its course, but resided somewhere else and probably not exposed to battle. The officer-in-charge might even be half a world away and not even on top of what might be developing at the moment; could not possibly know the fine details of the battle in which our warrior could be slain with the wrong order being followed.

With so many skirmishes in Vietnam going on every minute of each twenty-four hours all over the countryside, to say nothing of what may be going on in the major cities, being the Commander-in-Chief by necessity meant delegating nearly all authority to lower-echelon unit commanders and hope for the best. For the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong), the beauty of the Tet Offensive of 2/68 was the almost total chaos created by the coordination of attack all over South Vietnam. No American or South Vietnamese commanders expected it. The only fighting exhibited initially by U.S. and Allied Forces were defensive and tactical. There was no General Westmoreland or President Johnson present in Saigon, Hue, and DaNang to direct a strategic operation to recapture the element of the surprise. However, even around Hue, the old Imperial City, no ground was rested from the holds of American forces, and the Communists suffered huge losses as a result.

Since wars nowadays are so lethal to the soldier actually engaged in combat, perhaps we need to look further at the uplifting rule that the Stone Age warriors of New Guinea apparently have practiced since probably the beginning of time for their civilization, as discussed in William Styron’s Prologue to The Face of Mercy (p. 1) of Peter Matthiessen’s book, Under the Mountain Wall.

"Although the

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