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Entries in Vietnam (5)

Monday
Jul092012

Six Airmen Lost over Laos in 1965 Buried at Arlington

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Six Air Force airmen killed in a 1965 plane crash in Laos during the Vietnam War were laid to rest Monday at Arlington National Cemetery, the culmination of a decades-long effort to find their remains, which were all interred in one casket.

The airmen were killed when their AC-47D “Spooky” gunship crashed on Christmas Eve, 1965, while on a combat mission over southern Laos.  A “mayday” signal was sent, but all contact was lost with the crew. Two days of search efforts for the plane and its crew proved unsuccessful.

Killed in the crash were Col. Joseph Christiano of Rochester, N.Y.; Col. Derrell B. Jeffords of Florence, S.C.; Lt. Col. Dennis L. Eilers of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Chief Master Sgt. William K. Colwell of Glen Cove, N.Y.; Chief Master Sgt. Arden K. Hassenger of Lebanon, Ore.; and Chief Master Sgt. Larry C. Thornton of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Their remains would not be found for the next 45 years.  Today, they were interred with full military honors at Arlington National Ceremony before family members who finally got closure for their missing loved ones.

Jessica Pierno, a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), said group burials are not uncommon for remains recovered from aircraft crashes, “given the state of remains when they’re recovered.”  In this case, Pierno said, investigators, “weren’t able to individually identify each member from the group, but we were able to determine that everyone from the group is represented in these remains.”

She notes that one member of the crew was individually identified from the remains found at the crash, Hassenger, who was buried on June 1 in Lebanon, Ore.  According to Pierno, Hassenger’s remains were also represented in Monday’s group burial.

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In 1995, a joint U.S.-Laotian search team was led to the crash site by a local farmer who had found aircraft wreckage in a nearby field.  The site was recommended for follow-up visits, but no human remains were found in four subsequent visits between 1999 and 2001.

Additional searches at the crash site in 2010 and 2011 led to the recovery of human remains, personal items, and military equipment.  Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command used dental records and circumstantial evidence to identify the remains of the six airmen, with the final identification made this past March.

Pierno called the identification of the six missing airmen “a huge victory,” but also noted how big the effort is to recover America’s missing service members.

“It’s really important to understand that this is an effort going on year round with recovery teams around the world looking for 83,000 missing from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Cold War,” she said. There are still 1,665 service members missing from the Vietnam War, 73,681 from World War II and 7,954 from the Korean War.

The recovery of the missing from the Vietnam War is made tougher with each passing day because of the acidic soil in Vietnam.

“The more acidic the soil, the more it can deteriorate the remains,” Pierno said. “The longer they are in the ground, the more they deteriorate and they’ll be harder to identify.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May162012

40 Years Late, Vietnam Hero Leslie Sabo Gets Medal of Honor

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Forty-two years after his selfless act of heroism during the Vietnam War saved the lives of his fellow soldiers, Army Specialist Leslie H. Sabo Jr. posthumously received the Medal of Honor Wednesday.

"This Medal of Honor is bestowed on a single soldier for his singular courage. But it speaks to the service of an entire generation, and to the sacrifice of so many military families," President Obama said in a White House ceremony before presenting the nation's highest decoration for valor to Sabo's widow and brother.

Sabo, then 22, died on May 10, 1970, as his patrol was ambushed near a remote border area of Cambodia. The attack by North Vietnamese troops killed seven of Sabo's fellow soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division and would come to be known as the "Mother's Day ambush."

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"Les was in the rear -- and he could have stayed there. But those fighters were unloading on his brothers," Obama said. "So Les charged forward and took several of those fighters out."

When an enemy grenade landed near a wounded comrade, Sabo used his body to shield the soldier from the blast as he tossed the grenade out of the way. Even though he had been wounded by automatic weapons fire, Sabo "did something extraordinary," Obama said. "He began to crawl straight toward an enemy bunker, its machine guns blazing."

"Les kept crawling, kept pulling himself along, closer to that bunker, even as the bullets hit the ground all around him. And then, he grabbed a grenade and he pulled the pin. It's said he held that grenade and didn't throw it until the last possible moment, knowing it would take his own life, but knowing he could silence that bunker. And he did. He saved his comrades, who meant more to him than life," Obama said.

Sabo's commanders nominated him for the Medal of Honor, but the request was somehow lost. "Four decades after Leslie's sacrifice, we can set the record straight," Obama said Wednesday.

"Leslie Sabo left behind a wife who adored him, a brother who loved him, parents who cherished him, and family and friends who admired him. But they never knew. For decades, they never knew their Les had died a hero. The fog of war, and paperwork that seemed to get lost in the shuffle, meant this story was almost lost to history," the president said.

A campaign to correct the oversight began in 1999 when Tony Mabb, a researcher for the 101st Airborne Division Association's magazine, came across a thick file of Sabo's paperwork in the National Archives. Mabb contacted members of Congress, who worked to extend the statute of limitations for nominations for the Medal of Honor so Sabo's case could be reviewed. Nominations for the medal usually had to be made within three years of the incident.

After legislation was passed in 2008 that eliminated that hurdle, the Army's recommendation that Sabo should receive the Medal of Honor was forwarded to the White House in 2010. The White House announced in April that President Obama would posthumously award Sabo the medal.

The president Wednesday personally thanked Mabb for his determination to "right this wrong."

Sabo emigrated with his family from Austria as a toddler. He met Rose Mary Brown at a high school football game. They dated for two years and were married in 1969, after he received his draft notice.

The 30 days of Army leave he took before being deployed overseas were the only time he and his wife would spend together as a married couple before he was killed in action the following May.

Brown was visibly shaken Wednesday as the president, standing with his arm around her, presented her with her husband's Medal of Honor. As she wiped away tears, Obama leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. Afterwards, an emotional Brown told reporters, "I know a piece of cloth and a medal won't bring him back, but my heart beats with pride for Leslie."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May162012

Four Decades Later, Vietnam War Hero to Receive Medal of Honor

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Forty-two years after his selfless act of heroism during the Vietnam war saved the lives of his fellow soldiers, Army Specialist Leslie H. Sabo, Jr. will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony on Wednesday.

President Obama will present the nation's highest decoration for valor to Sabo's widow, Rose Mary Brown, and brother, George Sabo.

The then 22-year-old Sabo died on May 10, 1970 as his patrol was ambushed near a remote border area of Cambodia. The attack by North Vietnamese troops killed seven of Sabo's fellow soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division and would come to be known as the "Mother's Day ambush."

A White House statement announcing Sabo's receipt of the Medal of Honor in April described how Sabo gave his life that day to silence the enemy fire.

According to the release, Sabo charged enemy positions and killed several North Vietnamese fighters while drawing fire away from his unit.

Later, Sabo used his body to shield a wounded soldier from the blast of a tossed grenade. Wounded by automatic weapons fire, he crawled towards an enemy bunker and dropped a grenade that "silenced the enemy fire, but also ended Specialist Sabo's life."

The statement said Sabo's "indomitable courage and complete disregard for his own safety saved the lives of many of his platoon members."

Sabo's commanders nominated him for the Medal of Honor, but the request may not have been properly processed and was subsequently lost.

A campaign to correct the oversight began in 1999 when Tony Mabb, a researcher for the 101st Airborne Division Association's magazine, came across a thick file of Sabo's paperwork in the National Archives.

Mabb contacted members of Congress who worked to extend the statute of limitations for nominations for the Medal of Honor so Sabo's case could be reviewed. Nominations for the Medal have to be made within three years after the incident.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul042011

Last Vietnam Era Draftee Finally Retires

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- It was 1972, a time of protest when war was stigmatized and some of those who fought in it were spat on.

A young drywall installer in Oregon, just 19 years old, had just gotten a letter from the White House, and believed that President Nixon had sat down and written to him. It was a letter informing him that he would be drafted.

Now that teenager is Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Mellinger, and he's been in the Army for 39 years. He is the only active duty army soldier that was drafted and is still serving. At 58, he is now about to retire.

"If somebody told me I'd be in the army for 40 years on that day I would've just laughed at them, you know," Mellinger said, chuckling.

He said that many other young men of the day did not have a lot of respect for the military. He was ready to serve, but found a military system plagued by drug abuse, racism, and indifference. His first commander, however, taught him what military service means, he said.

"It was a very difficult time," Mellinger said. "It seemed down on the bottom of the food chain that we were fighting for survival and it was through the efforts of a great many dedicated leaders that just said that we aren't taking this anymore."

Proudly donning a T-shirt with the American flag emblazoned on the front, Mellinger is now the archetype of an American patriot.

He became an Army ranger and has participated in more than 3,700 parachute jumps, survived more than two dozen roadside bomb attacks and has been the top listed man in Iraq for two and a half years.

Despite his many accomplishments, Mellinger does not care for all of the attention focused on him, preferring to remember all of the other people who served the country.

"I'm a lot more comfortable talking about our soldiers than I am about me ... very proud of the people I've been associated with. They're the ones who made me who I am, not the other way around, and whatever I passed on was driven into me by somebody else," Mellinger said. "We all ride on the backs and shoulder of people ahead of us."

He thinks of his fellow soldiers a lot, especially around Independence Day. He plans to take a familiar trip this Fourth of July to Arlington Cemetery. The trip serves a reminder of the age-old adage that freedom is not free.

Even though Mellinger is retiring, he said his heart will always remain with the Army.

"I found a home. I found a place that I love. People that I love," he said. "It's not just the army, it's the services."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr292011

Donald Trump's Own Secret Documents: Vietnam Draft Records

Bill Clark/Roll Call(NEW YORK) -- Newly released documents suggest that a young Donald Trump received several deferments that could have allowed him to avoid service in Vietnam, contrasting claims he made this week that he missed the draft solely because he had a high lottery number.

Trump, who has hinted in recent weeks at a possible run for the White House, told WNYW in New York, that he was "lucky" to avoid the draft and remembered the lottery taking place while he was a student at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

"I was going to the Wharton School of Finance, and I was watching as they did the draft numbers and I got a very, very high number and those numbers never got up to," Trump said.

In that conversation Trump did not mention he also received several deferments.

According to his Selective Service records, first obtained by the website The Smoking Gun through a Freedom of Information Act request, Trump received four student deferments between 1964 and 1968 while in college and an additional medical deferment after graduating.

Trump graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 1968. The lottery occurred in December 1969, conflicting with Trump's recollection of the event.

Lottery numbers ranged from 1 to 365 and were allotted according to birth dates. Trump's number was a very high, 356.

Trump received his first two student deferments while enrolled at Fordham University in New York City in June 1964 and December 1965. He transferred to Wharton as a sophomore that year and received another two 2-S deferments in December 1966 and January 1968 during his last year of college.

He was classified "available for service" (class 1-A) in November 1966, but just three weeks later in December 1966 he was given a new student deferment.

Upon graduation Trump, the son of a wealthy New York City real estate developer, was no longer eligible for student deferments.

In October 1968, he was declared medically unfit to serve except "in time of national emergency," even though he had been declared fit to serve in 1966.

In 1972, Trump was ultimately declared ineligible for service and given a final 4-F deferment.

The documents do not specify the reasons Trump was given a medical deferment. Nor do the documents categorically suggest it was deferments and not a high draft number that ultimately allowed him to avoid the draft.

The discovery of the records come in the same week President Obama released his long form birth certificate proving that he was born in Hawaii in 1964. Trump, 64, a billionaire businessman turned reality star, has tested the waters for a possible presidential run in recent weeks, demanding that Obama release his own records.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio