Morgantruce looks at the military service of Bush and Kerry

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Discus: College Confidential Café: 2004 Archive: Morgantruce looks at the military service of Bush and Kerry
By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 03:49 pm: Edit

Warning: strong, graphic material in this post.

Here are some FACTS that I can attest to----because they are from my OWN experience. Some of them favor Bush, some favor Kerry---it simply does not matter!

I joined the New Jersey Air National Guard in 1965. At that time we were told that it would be highly unlikely that our unit would NOT get called up for Vietnam----because the unit I was joining had been called up for every minor international skirmish since it was formed.

Joining a Guard unit was NOT a good way to avoid being sent into harm's way---not for me---and not for George W. Bush either. It still isn't!

In 1968 my Guard unit was activated and I---along with THOUSANDS of other guardsmen and reservists from all across the country were sent to Vietnam for a one-year tour. Few of us were thrilled; none of us were surprised.

I spent a year----well, 11 months, 10 days----on an Air Force base in Vietnam. I was NOT a grunt---I was a mechanic. I was not in enormous danger every day---but I did get shot at three different times, and I did not like that one bit. I was lucky.

I was NOT in a forward exposed position where one would expect to see all the horrors of war--- and yet I saw some horrible things!

Young American Army troops would come on our base to use the Base Exchange store. On several occasions I SAW some of them with leather strings of ears, which they proudly carried, strung from their web belts. In traveling around several cities in Vietnam, I saw the same type of "souvenir" collecting---from several different Army units. I did spend some time around several Marine units---and did NOT see that sort of activity among them.

I SAW captured Vietnamese prisoners being dropped out the door of American Army helicopters--and watched them fall to their deaths. These were NOT accidents!

I SAW a B-52 strike on distant mountains, which was followed up by napalm delivered from OUR unit's fighter planes. We were told that the mountainside was "one huge underground Viet Cong HOSPITAL!" I think I was the ONLY man there not cheering as the bombs were dropped. I asked around---and could not find even ONE other individual that thought there was anything wrong with bombing a hospital!

Those were just some of the things that I SAW with my own eyes. I emphasize again that I was in a "rear" position. "Rear" is a relative term---the base that I was at was rocketed during Tet (a few months before I arrived) and was completely over-run a few months after I left! I was "lucky"---- but that did not exempt me from witnessing many things that any rational person would have to admit were simply war crimes.


When John Kerry returned from Vietnam and testified before the Senate about things he had witnessed, I did not think that ANY of his testimony was out of line with what I had personally seen.


My FEELING is that such things go on in every war---- but I cannot testify to that. I can only testify to what I saw during MY tour.

I am CERTAIN that other people had completely different experiences. Many saw a whole lot more. Many, perhaps saw a whole lot less---but I find it difficult to imagine ANY assignment to Vietnam that was SO cushy that one could have avoided seeing at least some of the types of things that I refer to.


From my experience, I would draw two conclusions:

(1) It is a huge mistake to assume that joining a National Guard or Reserve unit is in any way the equivalent of draft dodging.

(2) It is a huge mistake to dishonor anyone whom the military has deemed to have served honorably.

ANYONE dabbling in either one of those mistakes is ill-informed at best... or the lowest form of filthy scum at worst. Such people cannot possibly imagine the feelings of pain and frustration their actions bring upon those who have served honorably.

I am particularly incensed when one veteran would seek to dishonor the service of another---for political gain. I simply cannot dream of a more dishonorable, reprehensible thing to do.

By Simba (Simba) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 03:57 pm: Edit

Morgantruce: Thank you

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 05:19 pm: Edit


Thank you. When I was in college, there was a lot of concern about the brutalizing effect of the Vietnam War on American society. Your description supports those concerns. I am also reminded that Ron Ridenhour disclosed the My Lai Massacre in April 1969, a year after it had taken place. I vividly recall the Life Magazine issue that carried the horrifying pictures of old women and young children who'd died in that Massacre. Whether or not that had a direct bearing on his decision, John Kerry came out against the Vietnam War shortly thereafter.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 05:50 pm: Edit

MT, thank you for your post. Agreed that it is despicable when a person's service is dishonored for political gain. I am very glad for the information you posted. I also wish the election campaign would focus more on today's issues.

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 07:49 pm: Edit

I could sit here and, without the aid of a newspaper or magazine, list fifty things that George W. Bush did or didnít do that are a disgrace to the high office he holds. But it would be outrageous to include his service in the Texas Air National Guard in such a list.

If anyone thinks that learning to fly an F-102 fighter interceptor, an inherently dangerous high performance jet, and then training in all weather, day and night intercepts ----does not qualify as brave service to oneís country, that person is in serious need of a big reality check. Standing next to such a plane while it is starting up involves more real danger than most of us face in a lifetime of civilian perils.


Itís true: the Vietnam War did brutalize American society in a terrible way. It hung like a dark cloud over each minute of every day. Anyone with a memory of those times is probably feeling pretty gloomy right now just thinking about those years.

Today we have an administration that has been largely successful in hiding the brutal effects of the war we are presently engaged in. We see nothing of flag draped coffins and wards full of terribly injured and burned solders. A respectful reading of the names of the war dead on TV was described by supporters of the administration as mere anti war propaganda!

The administrationís long progression of slick, but meaningless, slogans (none quite so neat as ďMission Accomplished!Ē) would make George Orwell feel justifiably proud.

If our counry were so fortunate this November to watch a victorious John Kerry on Election Evening... I hope I would see one small hand-scribbled banner held by someone in the cheering crowd: "Mission Accomplished!"

By Simba (Simba) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 01:00 am: Edit

Morgantruce: I salute you. Pain and hurt shows up in your writing. I have utmost respect for the soldiers who are willing to pay the price with their lives and those who are alive with their emotions.

I personally, am a pacifist who believes in Gandhian philosophy of,"I will die for a cause, but will not kill for a cause".

Many have no idea of the horrors of war - They are basically TV warriors.

Marite: One more Buddhits trivial information for you. The spread of Buddhism in Asia is attributed to King Ashoka in India. Ashoka was an empire builder. Once after a war he visited the battlefield. Saw the dead and maimed, and got converted to Buddhism. He started sending monks to different parts of Asia and that's how the religion spread.

By Browninfall (Browninfall) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 01:51 am: Edit

Morgantruce - thank you for serving our country and my apologies for being subjected to the terrible indescretions of the soldiers who don't understand what this great county stands for. We are a great no other entity in recorded history.. we are the beacon....we are America.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 10:53 am: Edit


As another veteran, I'm disappointed that you carefully avoided the real reason for the frustration many of us have with GWB's service:

- political strings used to gain entrance into his unit.

- lack of attendance in the final year of service, losing flight status etc.

I will also humbly disagree with your conclusion that "Joining a Guard unit was NOT a good way to avoid being sent into harm's way. Let's look at the numbers:

~ 3,403,100 (including 514,300 offshore) personnel served in the Southeast Asia Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand, and sailors in adjacent South China Sea waters).

~ National Guard: 6,140 served, 101 died.

Finally, from an offical government source: "Vietnam revealed a negative aspect of relying on reservists. For largely domestic political reasons, President Johnson chose not to mobilize most of the nation's reserve forces. The 1968 callups were only token affairs. Johnson's decision to avoid a major reserve mobilization was opposed by the senior leadership of both the active duty military establishment and the reserve forces, but to no avail. The Reserves and the Guard acquired reputations as draft havens for relatively affluent young white men. Military leaders questioned the wisdom of depending on reserve forces that might not be available except in dire emergencies." (emphasis added)

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 10:59 am: Edit

Off topic--- Did the now-lost town of Ashokan owe its name to King Ashoka? Was it the King's visit to an ancient battlefield that inspired this lovely music which Ken Burns put to such good use in describing a more recent battlefield?

By Simba (Simba) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 11:48 am: Edit

Morgantruce: Hard to say. The article does state that the name Ashokan is the corruption of an Indian word. There have been specultions that many of the Indian tribes can trace their origins to China.

The music was indeed very beatiful.

I do share Massdad's feelings about national guard service though. I would actually put the so called draft dodgers ahead of them - they actually believed in something and paid the price. Many in the guard units are nothing but the present day chicken hawks.

Soldiers don't make the war - chicken hawks do.

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 12:04 pm: Edit

The Pentagon has a very long history of understating and hiding its use of guard and reserve components in overseas operations. It rarely calls up and dispatches whole units to overseas trouble spots.

It activates units, sends the "unit" to some stateside base---and then strips most of the needed personnel and ships them overseas as individuals. The "unit" (mainly administrative people) remain officially in the States. The main body of personnel are sent overseas to fill required slots.

That is why your 6,140 figure is bogus. That figure represents only a tiny fraction of the guard and reserve servicemen who served in Vietnam.

Rumsfeld continues the practice to this day. If it weren't for the unfortunate situation in the Abu Graib prison, few Americans would have even heard that there were Reserve troops being used in Iraq.


If George W. Bush's military unit saw fit to classify his service as "Honorable", I am not interested in any less informed opinions. His unit commander had every opportunity to view his service as inadequate---and even throw him out and recommend that his local draft board move him to the top of their draft list. Such things happened. But, as much as you wish that had happened to Bush, it did not.

Several years ago, someone signed your DD214--- classifying your military service as "Honorable". How would you like it if his judgement were called into question?

That's exactly what you are doing.

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 12:18 pm: Edit


You seem to have a lot of real-world experience with guard and reserve mission, personnel, and programs. Please continue.

By Simba (Simba) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 01:20 pm: Edit

Morgantruce: I think you are mistaking me for Massdad. I don't have any real world experiences. I was not born in this country and I have held and fired a gun only once in my five decade+ life !!

By Massdad (Massdad) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 02:47 pm: Edit

"If it weren't for the unfortunate situation in the Abu Graib prison, few Americans would have even heard that there were Reserve troops being used in Iraq. "

I guess only a "few" americans have read the daily newspapers regarding mobilization of huge numbers of guard personnel, police departments that are understaffed and so forth. Couple that with your statement:

"The Pentagon has a very long history of understating and hiding its use of guard and reserve components in overseas operations."

You are feel free to believe what you want, but I find it rather amazing that many of the same folks that choose to accuse the pentagon of misleading figures regarding this, Viet Nam service, chose to believe the pentagon and government regarding reasons for the current Iraq war.

I guess folks that believe in such parallel realities would also never believe that the National Guard, which is under STATE control, would never play politics with the service of the son of a prominent citizen/politician. " His unit commander had every opportunity to view his service as inadequate---and even throw him out and recommend that his local draft board move him to the top of their draft list. Such things happened." Yea, right, but NOT to the politically well connected, and you, as a veteran, should know better.

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 03:11 pm: Edit

If you want to defame some fellow's service record... knock yourself out. I want no part of it.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 04:19 pm: Edit

Actually, the jiggering at that time was a bit more subtle. Certain MOS's were virtually guaranteed Stateside service and some people had strings pulled if they enlisted instead of waiting to be drafted. With respect to the ANG, your chances of winding up in 'Nam were tied to what kind of aircraft you flew/worked with. If you were in an F4 unit, Good Morning, Vietnam. If you flew interceptors, no way would you be in Vietnam.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 07:17 pm: Edit

" If you want to defame some fellow's service record... knock yourself out. I want no part of it."

I would never defame someone's service record. It's the LACK of a record that troubles me.

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 10:20 pm: Edit

The lack of a military service record doesn't trouble me one bit, but we're not talking about such a situation here. Both candidates have military records. They both have honorable discharges. Why in the world should anyone set themselves up in judgement of someone else's honorable service?

If I had to guess, I would suggest that you view service in the reserves and guards as somehow being "less honorable" than honorable service in the active components. Of course, this is not the first time I've heard of such sentiments, but I must tell you: it usually comes from less intelligent quarters.

All inter-service and active/reserve rivalries apart, let me remind you that all are on the same side and have a pride in what they have done.

Do you honestly think it's less digraceful to try to discredit George W. Bush's military service than it is to discredit John Kerry's military service? You and the "swifties" are of the same fabric. To me, you both sound more like a bunch of little boys arguing over nonsense than grown men who really care about the country.

This swirl of disgusting attacks continue to top the news even while American soldiers are fighting and dying. Do we honor those soldiers by making them wonder if some day 30 years from now a bunch of fat old men are going to question their service?

By Thedad (Thedad) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 12:01 am: Edit

MT, the issue isn't whether service in the Reserves and Guard is less honorable than with the Regulars...that's not a question at all. And indeed, the NG and Reserve units are carrying a much heavier burden proportionately today while getting screwed on everything from benefits to equipment...a military listserve I'm on periodically seethes about this.

I would just roll my eyes and move on about Bush's service if not for the way Kerry's service is being attacked. There are two troubling aspects to Bush's service. The first is the degree to which political influence secured his appointment in a highly sought after unit, skipping over 195 people in the process. The second is the degree to which he actually met his service requirement. A DD-214 is just a piece of paper--I handled dozens of them while processing VA benefits once upon at time--and if you don't think that a friendly administrator subject to Congressional influence would ice something like that as a favor, then you're a hell of a lot less cynical than I am.

If you want to say it's an ugly dispute, I won't disagree.

Against that, I think Kerry made a mistake by trying to remain above the fray the past couple of weeks.

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 09:01 am: Edit

" MT, the issue isn't whether service in the Reserves and Guard is less honorable than with the Regulars...that's not a question at all."

I'm happy to hear you feel this way. Have you spoken with many Regulars on the subject?

By Thedad (Thedad) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 05:20 pm: Edit

It's pretty much Regulars or Regulars (Ret.) that I converse with, 03-06, though some of the Regs then went into the Reserves and have seen Both Sides Now.
The common bond I see is that they're all from the mud services and have nothing good to say about the AF in any variety, considering them to be about on the same level as they regard either the French or Democrats.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 07:19 pm: Edit


Yes, most of us army vets never really considered the airforce to be a combat arm. After all, their contribution was from 30,000 feet, or from a rear base well protected by army units. The joke I heard was that the first thing the army did when it moved into a new area was dig foxholes, or course. The first thing the AF did was build an officer's club.

It is also fair to say that AF pilots that went down received instant respect, and became honorary grunts at that point (which I'm sure the pilots would agree with.) We also did not consider A10's etc. to be part of the airforce. I do believe the AF leadership would agree with this.

By Vancat (Vancat) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 08:39 pm: Edit

Massdad, do you honestly believe that the AF is a "lesser" service than the army or marines? Or was that just sarcasm?

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 09:19 pm: Edit

All the ribbing (about being in the Air Force) that I took from Army troops was stateside. In Vietnam most of the comments were of the "You guys saved my **s last week..." sort. The feeling was mutual.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 11:34 pm: Edit

Vancat, it was a joke - military humor, if you will. I suspect the air force thinks the army just likes to play in the dirt all day. And, as Morgantruce pointed out, when s*** is flying, everyone pulls together. In Viet Nam, the army guys really liked when that warthog softened things up for them, or when that high level bombing actually hit a target of interest. I'm not sure when the AF liked the army though.

But the difference in facilities was a real one, and sometimes the subject of some jealousey. I suspect the real difference was that airfields are kinda tough to move - not very portable, whereas army units are designed to move, so they did.

By Vancat (Vancat) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 11:40 pm: Edit

good thats what I thought.

By Vancat (Vancat) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 12:12 am: Edit

"In Viet Nam, the army guys really liked when that warthog softened things up for them"

Massdad, are you perhaps referring to the warthog as the A-10 THunderbolt II? IIRC, the very first production model of the A-10 (commonly referred to as the Warthog) was delivered to the AF in October of 1975 with most aircraft filling out AF squadrons by 1977; which means that it did not participate in Vietnam.

Of course, the warthog flying CAS is certainly a morale booster in Iraq and Afgahnistan these days.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 12:50 am: Edit

Yes, back then it was a modified c-130.

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:23 am: Edit

About "facilities"...

I didn't need a degree in Rocket Science to understand that the humble facilities and accommodations that airmen had in Vietnam were The Ritz compared to what many soldiers had to put up with---or without.

Quite a few Army troops passed through our base---to catch a standby flight or to use the Base Exchange. If I saw some that looked particularly needy, I would go up and simply ask, "Hot shower, cold beer?" The answer was always, "YES!" Our barracks had a locker stuffed with clean towels and a small fridge we kept stocked with various beverages.

I was merely "passing along" the same sort of gesture that was afforded me several years earlier. I had been stationed at Chanute AFB in Illinois for "tech school" training. A few of us had weekend passes and we went to Chicago... in uniform. We weren't in Chicago five minutes before an older fellow saw us and offered to buy all of us lunch. As we were eating, he said, "Ahh, but there's one little hitch to this: some day when all of you are older and out of the service, you'll see some GI's in a train station or wherever. Please remember the meal you're now eating.... and then ask them if you can treat them to a meal."

During the forty years since that day in Chicago, I have bought many dozens of meals for GI's traveling around the country... and I always make it a point to tell them, "There's one little hitch..."

In recent years, it's mainly been local Army Reservists doing their weekend drills and showing up in a nearby Burger King----but I've never encountered even one who didn't appreciate the gesture. If they're already seated, I just bring over a tray of sundaes.

Of course I have no way of knowing whether this has become some kind of ever-expanding pyramid scheme; I sure hope so. Anyone reading this: please join in.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:56 am: Edit

The most remarkable thing I had happen was in Germany. I was in town in uniform just before Christmas. An elderly gentleman stopped me because he wanted to wish me Merry Christmas, in very broken english, and told me the best Christmas he ever had was in 1944, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was a POW. I guess we treated prisoners well back then.

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