Archive for the ‘National Security’ Category

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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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.