Camp Larry Baxter

September 12, 2017

Camp Baxter

While in Da Nang, I thought I saw Camp Baxter. I did not yet have press credentials and the area was sealed with concertina topped with razor wire but I could see nothing worth a visit. There was never much at Camp Baxter, just a truck turnaround and loading for a trip back to Phu Bai. Even the name of Camp Baxter was gone. Back in the world people never heard of it. Those who did had perhaps forgotten, but it was named for Pfc. Larry Baxter, of Pierce City, Missouri, who drove a tanker truck carrying several thousand gallons of petroleum. It wasn’t a glamorous job like flying an F-4 Phantom over Hanoi, not the kind that brought promotions or medals. It was a job someone had to do.
Pierce City didn’t seem like the kind of town from which Baxter would have come. It was best known for an incident in 1901. A white woman was murdered and reportedly raped, and you already know how this story ends. It was a black man or men. They not only took the life of a beautiful white woman, they defiled her body. One black man was hanged, two were burned to death in their homes and 300 black citizens were banished from the town at gunpoint. Their homes, their land, their livestock, everything they were unable to carry with them, even their land, mysteriously disappeared. There was nothing for their children or grandchildren to return to in Pierce City.
I don’t know Baxter’s race or religion. I don’t know whether he was drafted or volunteered. I don’t know how he felt about the war or his country. All I know is what he did. Baxter’s tanker was hit by an RPG and set ablaze. Baxter could have jumped out of the truck and saved his life but that would have trapped the trucks and drivers behind him. Disregarding his own safety, Baxter drove the truck through intense enemy fire and despite being wounded drove the blazing truck off the road and over an embankment ensuring his own death but saving the lives of his comrades.
Baxter was posthumously awarded a Silver Star, not much of an award for one’s life. If he had thrown himself on a grenade to save a couple of buddies he would probably have received a Medal of Honor. Baxter saved more lives than that and his sacrifice wasn’t an instantaneous reaction. It was a considered plan. A motor transport depot was named for him and now that was gone, having an even shorter life than Baxter.
I don’t have many heroes left. One by one they have crumbled on feet of clay, and I am too old or wise or eccentric to consider rock musicians, athletes or actors as heroes. Larry Baxter and the CUPP Marines remain my heroes although Camp Baxter is gone and few signs of the CUPP Marines remain.
There is a footnote. I wrote a story, “Up the Street of No Joy With the Wild Bunch” about Motor Transport from Camp Baxter to the DMZ. None of the “Wild Bunch” contacted me but Larry Baxter’s family did. They wanted to know everything I knew about Baxter but I had written everything I knew about Baxter except what I know about his home town. For me, Baxter not only saved the lives of his comrades, he redeemed the reputation of his home town.

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Camp Larry Baxter

September 12, 2017

Camp Baxter

While in Da Nang, I thought I saw Camp Baxter. I did not yet have press credentials and the area was sealed with concertina topped with razor wire but I could see nothing worth a visit. There was never much at Camp Baxter, just a truck turnaround and loading for a trip back to Phu Bai. Even the name of Camp Baxter was gone. Back in the world people never heard of it. Those who did had perhaps forgotten, but it was named for Pfc. Larry Baxter, of Pierce City, Missouri, who drove a tanker truck carrying several thousand gallons of petroleum. It wasn’t a glamorous job like flying an F-4 Phantom over Hanoi, not the kind that brought promotions or medals. It was a job someone had to do.

Pierce City didn’t seem like the kind of town from which Baxter would have come. It was best known for an incident in 1901. A white woman was murdered and reportedly raped, and you already know how this story ends. It was a black man or men. They not only took the life of a beautiful white woman, they defiled her body. One black man was hanged, two were burned to death in their homes and 300 black citizens were banished from the town at gunpoint. Their homes, their land, their livestock, everything they were unable to carry with them, even their land, mysteriously disappeared. There was nothing for their children or grandchildren to return to in Pierce City.
I don’t know Baxter’s race or religion. I don’t know whether he was drafted or volunteered. I don’t know how he felt about the war or his country. All I know is what he did. Baxter’s tanker was hit by an RPG and set ablaze. Baxter could have jumped out of the truck and saved his life but that would have trapped the trucks and drivers behind him. Disregarding his own safety, Baxter drove the truck through intense enemy fire and despite being wounded drove the blazing truck off the road and over an embankment ensuring his own death but saving the lives of his comrades.
Baxter was posthumously awarded a Silver Star, not much of an award for one’s life. If he had thrown himself on a grenade to save a couple of buddies he would probably have received a Medal of Honor. Baxter saved more lives than that and his sacrifice wasn’t an instantaneous reaction. It was a considered plan. A motor transport depot was named for him and now that was gone, having an even shorter life than Baxter.
I don’t have many heroes left. One by one they have crumbled on feet of clay, and I am too old or wise or eccentric to consider rock musicians, athletes or actors as heroes. Larry Baxter and the CUPP Marines remain my heroes although Camp Baxter is gone and few signs of the CUPP Marines remain.
There is a footnote. I wrote a story, “Up the Street of No Joy With the Wild Bunch” about Motor Transport from Camp Baxter to the DMZ. None of the “Wild Bunch” contacted me but Larry Baxter’s family did. They wanted to know everything I knew about Larry but I had written everything I knew about Baxter except what I know about his home town. For me, Baxter not only saved the lives of his comrades, he redeemed the reputation of his home town.

A Crack in the Dam: Will Treason Leak Out?

July 26, 2017

Suddenly there is a crack in the dam and the bottled up news of the sabotage of the 1968 peace negotiations by Republican Party Leaders may trickle out. July 12, Jonathan Martin wrote in the New York Times, “There is only one known historical parallel to the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Russians, and it involves Richard M. Nixon. Running for president in 1968, Nixon told H. R. Haldeman, his eventual White House chief of staff, to “monkey wrench” peace talks in Vietnam in order to scuttle any deal that would have handed Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic nominee, a political victory in the closing days of the election.”

It’s not a secret but it is largely unknown. Anna Chennault, the widow of Flying Tiger hero Gen. Claire Chennault, revealed her part in the treachery in her 1980 autobiography, The Education of Anna. Seymour Hersh reported it in his 1983 biography of Kissinger, The Price of Power. Bui Diem, South Vietnamese ambassador to the US, wrote about it in his books. The documentary evidence in the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library was declassified in 2008, and you can hear President Johnson say, “That’s treason,” and Republican leader Everett Dirksen reply, “I know”. However, outside of book reviews, the story has been widely ignored by the news media and historians, even histories of the Vietnam War and biographies of Lyndon Johnson.

Mr. Martin cited John Farrell’s new book, Richard Nixon: The Life. Maybe at last the truth will be known.

Republicans vs. Religious Liberty

July 14, 2017

Christianity, Islam, Judaism and most other religions require followers to practice hospitality to others, especially to refugees, “the least of these” as Jesus expressed it. However, politicians who claim to believe in limited governmental power also claim the unlimited power to deny religious liberty to believers who attempt to practice their religion in addition to proclaiming it.

Naomi is the Answer

June 12, 2017

Many people believe the Bible is a book of answers. If so, is there an answer to our troubled nation? There are many rules in the Jewish Bible regarding hospitality to the stranger, the foreigner, the other. There are many references to the sins of Sodom and all are about inhospitality to outsiders. In the Christian Bible (Matt. 25:43) Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you did not invite me in.” Therefore, you are doomed to the same eternity as Satan and his angels.
However, those scriptures have shallow roots and few seeds. Maybe a story would be more fruitful.
Because of famine, a Judean family moves to Moab as economic refugees. Does God have an attitude toward Moab? Yes. According to a Psalmist, “Moab will be my chamber pot,” God declared, because they were inhospitable to the Hebrews. (Ps. 60:8) In Moab, Naomi and her husband raise two sons who marry Moabite women. That is a violation of the Mosaic law that forbids Jews allowing sons or daughters to marry outsiders (Deut. 7:3)
In time Naomi’s husband and her two sons die. Naomi decides to return to Judea and tells her daughters-in-law to return to the homes of their mothers. Women had few choices in those days.
One of the widows returns to her mother’s home hoping to be invited in. The other, Ruth, tells Naomi, “Your people will be my people.” Ruth was not an economic refugee. She was trying to keep the family together. Nevertheless, to be politically correct Naomi should have said, “No. My people are exceptional people and you cannot be one of us.” (Gen. 17:7)
Ruth also said, “Your God will be my God.” To be religiously correct, Naomi should have said, “No. No Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God.” (Neh. 13:1) Because Naomi was not politically or religiously correct, Naomi and Ruth return to Judea where Ruth meets Boaz, a relative of Naomi. Boaz was not politically or religiously correct either and the rest is a love story with a religious and cultural convert becoming an ancestor of King David, the glory of Israel, and Jesus the Savior of Christians.
Although the story is set in the time of the Judges, many Christian scholars tend to believe the Books of Ruth and Jonah were written in reaction to the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah that chronicle the return of the Judeans from Babylonian captivity. When they saw the desolation of Jerusalem, they vowed to make Judea great again.                                 First order of business: National Security. Rebuild the wall.
Second order of business: Tribal Cleansing. Ezra called for an assembly in Jerusalem.          Those who did not assemble would lose their property and be exiled. Those who did assemble were told they must separate from those unclean. (Ezra 10: 7-11) To be religiously correct, the returning captives rejected their wives, some of them likely pregnant, and their children. The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to the wives and children but we know. We read it in the newspaper every day.
Perhaps Naomi’s way was the better way, the way our nation should go.

A Snake Story Vietnam

May 31, 2017

This is a small part of a book I am writing. I am publishing it with the hope that someone else will remember it and send me their memory of it. This would have been December 1970. Col. Bernard Trainor was C.O. of Force Recon. He went on to become a General, a military correspondent for the New York Times, and a military expert for NBC. The corpsman may have been Doc Truhe.

Our last night harbor was selected while there was light to examine the area for likely paths of V.C. patrols, safest ways to escape if detected, a rally point if we separated, and to settle in a close circle in the best cover so that it would be harder for V.C. patrols to stumble upon us. Every Marine was in reach of the Marine on either side to silently alert him or to wake him if he snored.
“There’s a snake in here with us,” a Marine whispered our last night in the bush. “Pass it on.” That got everyone’s attention. What kind of snake? There are about a 140 species of snakes in Vietnam and 30 are venomous. King Cobra? Bamboo viper? Krait? Rhinoceros Viper? As the ground cooled, the snake would seek warmth and a Marine body on the ground was the ideal place to find warmth.
We got up cautiously and quietly and looked at the snake. It was bigger than any snake I had seen in a zoo or circus. Should we run far enough to escape it in our dreams and settle into another harbor with snake on our minds? The Team leader wanted to take the snake back for display in the Recon shack. That meant killing it but no one wanted to get close enough to kill it with a Ka-Bar. A shot meant running at least a mile because the shot would attract attention. It was hard to pinpoint the source of a shot in the mountains and the area was supposed to be relatively safe from V.C. other than couriers or unarmed bearers but once a shot was fired all illusions of safety evaporated faster than the sound that reverberated across the valleys.
The corpsman shot the snake in the head with his .45. That was the beginning of trouble. A sturdy Marine grabbed the snake to carry it over his shoulder but the dead snake had a mind of its own. Three Marines wrestled with the snake trying to stretch it out and carry it like a corpse. That also was unacceptable to the dead but lively snake.
I’m sure the leader was thinking about debriefing. “You jeopardized the mission and the team by killing a snake to mount in the Recon shack and then you ran off and left it when you had one night and a wakeup before extraction?”
The corpsman produced a large canvas bag and it took all hands to put and keep the snake in the bag with all hands and arms free of the coils. The sturdy Marine threw the bag over his shoulder and without a word or gesture we ran after the leader keeping our interval until the sturdy Marine signaled a stop. We were going to have to take turns carrying the heavy snake. And it had bitten him through the bag and his uniform.
The snake wasn’t venomous and didn’t have fangs but it had teeth that held prey until it could squeeze the life out of it. The corpsman looked at the bleeding bites, put some ointment on them and told the sturdy Marine to report to sickbay after debriefing. All hands stretched out, held down and calmed the dead snake with whispered curses and heavy breathing until the corpsman skinned it, rolled up the hide, stuffed it in the bag and handed the bag to the nearest Marine.
We moved quietly away from the remains two or three hundred yards and went into our night harbor knowing that the remains and the smell of blood from the skin that was still with us would attract carnivores. Possibly a tiger.
Later I was told that the snake was 17-feet-long and the skin was mounted in the Force Recon Shack. To put it in perspective in April, 2017, in Indonesia a 25-year-old man was swallowed by a 23 -foot python.

Pro Life Pretenders

January 27, 2017

Charles Camosy, Professor of Ethics in Fordham’s Theology Department, chided Sister Simone Campbell, spokesman for “Nuns on the Bus”, for calling “Pro-Life” proponents “Pro-Birth”. Once a baby is born it’s abandoned to the mercy of air, water, food and environment polluters and other merchants that put profit before life..

According to Reuters (7-14-05) Unborn US babies “are soaking in a stew of chemicals,” including mercury, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group based on tests of umbilical cord blood that reflects what the mother passes to the baby through the placenta. That stew of 287 chemicals includes 180 that cause cancer in humans, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. A Government Accountability Office report said the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the powers it needs to fully regulate toxic chemicals. “Pro-Life Pretenders” is the more accurate name for those want to weaken or eliminate the EPA.

Professor Camosy wants a Catholic religious (sharia) law to become a federal law that favors the “most vulnerable” but denies religious freedom to others. Dr. Camosy believes the most vulnerable in a pregnancy is a zygote (fertilized egg) although more than half of zygotes are not implanted. That 50+ percent would be the most vulnerable of the “vulnerable” because have no possibility of life. Yet, no one. including Camosy, proposes any effort to save them. They receive no religious rites and are treated as body waste without protest. Are they to be favored over a family? The mother loses her life, the children lose their mother and the father loses his wife. The family seems most vulnerable to me.

A nun suggested a federal law requiring a father to donate a kidney in exchange for a kidney for his fetus, baby or child should it require one. That seems a good law. The baby, fetus, child is clearly most vulnerable. Most fathers can live an ordinary life with one kidney and he would have some skin in the law. The law would be less prejudiced if the father were required to donate whatever could be transplanted—heart, lungs, liver, skin. So far, no Pro-Life Pretenders in politics, ethics or religion have made any effort to include the father in protecting the “most vulnerable.”

If it’s about “life” or “most vulnerable” which is more vulnerable, the father or the mother?

I’m not Transgender

January 5, 2017

In 1964, the Dallas Theater Center’s production of my adaptation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying to the stage was selected as the United States’ entry at the Theater of Nations Competition in Paris. Almost immediately the U.S. Ambassador to France, Chip Bolton, called to say that the French loved President Kennedy and publicity combining Dallas and “As I Lay Dying” would be seen by the French as a play about the assassination of Kennedy. The name had to be changed, he insisted. On a transatlantic telephone call I changed the name to “Journey to Jefferson”.
Jean, my late wife, and I went to Europe with the cast. We knew all of them, including “Miss Iceland’, having worked with all of them in the Dallas production. Our first landing in Europe was Brussels. Most of us immediately headed for the rest rooms. The ladies’ room was first and the men’s room a short distance away. We separated by gender and immediately came face-to-face inside. It was a large rest room and most of us looked around for our place. What we saw were young and old, male and female citizens of many nations and colors in a unisex rest room, the first we Americans had ever seen.
We were apprehensive at first but laughed about it the next day with jokes about recognizing each other by our socks. The Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed in 1923, failed in 1982 because of scare ads declaring that if the amendment passed men and women would have to use the same rest rooms. Terrifying indeed. Today there are unisex rest rooms everywhere and sometimes they are the only rest rooms.
Last summer, in Houston I saw signs asking, should men and women use the same rest rooms?, reviving the old scares that females would lose protection, families would be destroyed, young women would be drafted, traditional America would be lost. All because of transgendered people that five years ago most Americans had never heard of and most citizens still do not understand.

Star Wars Missile Defense

September 9, 2016

September 4, 2016, the San Antonio Express-News published a Tribune News Service report that the Pentagon gave Boeing a $2 billion performance bonus although the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System (GMD, formerly known as Star Wars) “failed to destroy their targets in six of eleven tests.” If a student gave the wrong answer on six out of eleven questions, that would be failure. If a teacher had several students who missed six out of eleven questions, the teacher would be fired.

Although it has never worked, the GMD is still regarded as the correct answer. On 9/11, Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to introduce a new national security policy with the GMD missile defense as a cornerstone and terrorism as an afterthought. (Washington Post (04/01/04) Her speech was interrupted by 19 hijackers.

There is a bright side. Reagan pledged that when the missile system worked he would give it to the Soviet Union (about halfway in the Reagan-Mondale Presidential Debate). If the missile defense worked, a President Trump might fulfill Reagan’s pledge and give GMD to his friend Vladimir Putin.

Christie Goodman: Everyday Theology: Like a Mother WrenGood lesson from a good Mother ren.

June 29, 2016

There are several milestones in a child’s life that parents celebrate: sleeping through the night, taking those first steps, going to the restroom on their own, making their own breakfast, first da…

Source: Christie Goodman: Everyday Theology: Like a Mother Wren