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Pat Lisi

            I’ve read a lot of stories, articles and books pertaining to the Vietnam War.  And, with each one I know there is at least a teeny bit of ‘drama’ as I go through the pages.  I’m acutely aware that editors of articles, books and especially movies want and need to ‘spice’ it up a bit for the audience in order for the project to sell.

Recently, I came across a narrative about a battle that took place in Nam in October, 1968 and it especially caught my attention.  Why? Because I was there in person, and so were 4 fellow Marines who are still alive today and have also read this certain accounting of the mêlée.  The clash was for a piece of high ground that we later dubbed “Hill 100”.

I must take a moment to make this announcement:  I do not have permission to reprint or republish the article I’m going to tell you about, as there are copyright issues to deal with and I can’t get hold of the author.  Instead, what I’m going to do is “review” his article and then you can make up your mind if you want to go to the Internet and read it in its entirety.

There is a website out there called “War Tales”.  Its owner and chief contributor is a gentleman named Don Moore.  The site is actually quite large and there are tons and tons of stories about military veterans who represent several wars over the decades.  I enjoy reading stories from Mr. Moore’s website and I will continue to refer to “War Tales” for my reading enjoyment.

One of the pieces that appeared under “War Tales” was entitled, “Marine survives nearly fatal wound from VC machine-gun in Vietnam.”  It was published October 22, 2010 and posted to Moore’s website which is:

http://donmooreswartales.com/

The expose’ is about a former Marine named Charles Shaughnessy who was a member of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, which is exactly the same outfit I was in.  In fact, as it turns out I was there the night the Shaughnessy article was ‘born’.  It’s of little consequence to the point here, but, I don’t remember Corporal Shaughnessy at all even though he was apparently a squad leader in 2nd Platoon, again the same platoon I was in.  I do know he was not my squad leader.

At any rate, the enemy did indeed assault Hill 100 on the morning of October 12th   with men, mortars and rockets, which are right in line with Shaughnessy’s recollection.  He reports to Don Moore and “War Tales” that the 60 Marines in our company were attacked by at least 1,000 enemy soldiers from all sides (of the hill).  He then goes on to say he was filled with fear and that he turned instinctively animal.  He claims he cut off the heads of his enemy and displayed them at the top of the hill.

(Okay, now we’re starting to veer from the truth and we’re heading into Hollywood, Charles!)

My problem with this statement by Shaughnessy is twofold:  I don’t believe there were 1,000 enemy soldiers coming up the hill that night; and I can guarantee that no one displayed the heads of any enemy soldiers during or after the combat.  Mr. Shaughnessy would have found himself in a Marine Corps brig somewhere, is my guess, if he had committed such atrocities.

As the article goes on, sometime during the fight Corporal Shaughnessy bravely rushed to the aid of one of our machine gun crews that had been knocked out of commission and he fired back at the enemy.  He claims the barrel of the gun melted by firing 100 to 150 rounds in a hurry before replacing the barrel.

For his bravery that early morning, Corporal Shaughnessy was awarded a Bronze Star with combat “V”.  I have read the citation and I do believe that he did receive this prestigious medal, and I respect him for that.

In his Bronze Star citation it states that the enemy sustained 31 casualties (which in Marine talk means “dead”).  But, in the “War Tales” article it says the records show that there were 2,728 enemy casualties.

Okay, time out – I’m confused, again.  If there were 1,000 enemy soldiers coming up to kill 60 Marines on top of Hill 100, then how the hell could they have sustained 2,728 casualties?  And, why does an official Marine Corps Bronze Star citation say there were 31 enemy casualties? The math just isn’t making sense, it isn’t adding up.  But, that’s not the worst of it.

The very next sentence in Shaughnessy’s and Moore’s article states the Marines lost 269 killed and 1,730 wounded in the fight!  C’mon, really?  How could 60 Marines sustain 269 KIA and 1,730 WIA among their own ranks?  I don’t get it.  I really don’t.

(Let me do my math again.  269 + 1730 = 1999 divided by 60…).  I have it!  If the math is correct, it means that each of the 60 of us were either killed or wounded 33.31 times in that battle!  Why, that’s incredible!

Moore’s website is set up so that readers can respond to the articles with their own comments.  I took advantage of the opportunity, in fact twice.  I put forth the preceding mathematical problems in the comments section and know they were posted as I checked a few days later.  I also went to the phone and called my other 4 Marine buddies who lived through the battle for Hill 100, including the company commander who was there that night, and directed them to Shaughnessy’s article.  To the man they agreed that the article is full of significant errors and needs to be corrected.

Let’s look at this whole mess logically for just a moment.  Don’t you think that with these casualty numbers this would have clearly been the biggest battle ever fought during the entire Vietnam War?  If so, why hasn’t someone made a movie about it?  This would make “Platoon” or “Hamburger Hill” look like training missions!

Here’s another problem:  Hill 100 was quite cramped for space, It was a knoll at the top of a foothill for gosh sakes.  There was barely enough room for our company of 60 men to dig foxholes apart from each other.  So, again looking at some of Shaughnessy’s math, if there were 2,728 enemy casualties, and then 269 Marines KIA plus 1,730 Marines WIA, let’s see… that comes to a whopping 4,727 human beings all piled up together on top of the hill!  There was no way.

We’re not talking about a little bitty error here.  This story isn’t about a couple of juicy tidbits to spice it up for the reader. No, this is significant.  So, I wrote and posted my 2 comments to the article and I pointed out these mathematical inconsistencies.  I also tried to contact the author of the article, Mr. Moore, by e-mail and by phone.  No luck there, but my comments did show up at the bottom of the piece like I said.

A couple of weeks went by and one night, out of the blue, I got a call from Charles Shaughnessy himself, who was not in a particularly pleasant mood about my response to his article.  We got to talking about it and I wanted to know why it was so blatantly over-dramatized, and Charles responded that Mr. Moore must have taken some facts out of context.  He also said that Moore had used Marine Corps records that he found on line pertaining to casualty counts and that perhaps Moore was looking at monthly totals for the entire battalion, or maybe even the whole regiment.  I pointed out to Shaughnessy that I know all about the website he was referring to and that I had done my homework before responding to his article in “War Tales.”  The casualty counts did not come anywhere near supporting Shaughnessy’s and Moore’s storyline.  They were clearly way out of proportion and no one made an ‘innocent mistake’.

The bottom line for some folks is, who cares?  What’s the big deal, anyway?  The whole damned war was a waste of human life all around, so what’s the f’’n difference if a fun little story like this is filled with fantasy?

The problem for me is I don’t want this yarn to go down in history as being even slightly construed as truth.  People already romanticize war and they love to read these ghastly tales of crazy combat.  This BS story could actually end up in some archive someday and I don’t want to see that happen.

I asked Charles if he would contact Mr. Moore and have him redo the article with more realistic facts and figures, to which Charles said that it was too late.  The article had already reached some newspaper in Florida where he lives.  But, I argued, the website version could easily be changed.  I didn’t get a straight answer from Charles on that one and we ended up at sort of an impasse with things kind of ‘patched up’ between us.  Shaughnessy, after all, is a decorated combat veteran and I have no qualms about bragging him up for that.  Maybe Don Moore is in the habit of making things look worse than they really are; maybe his goal is to excite the reader whatever the cost; maybe he doesn’t do his research well enough to tell the straight story; maybe there are things in his other articles about war veterans that aren’t true.  But, all I wanted was to have Moore and Shaughnessy get together and make the website version closer to reality.

What happened, instead, was this:  The story remains the same on the internet today as it did when I first read it in 2012, and the comments I wrote at the end of the article to dispute the numbers were all deleted by whoever has control of the website.  So, someone took the time to go in and erase my objections which tells me there is clearly no intention by the authors to make things right.

I find myself asking this question, “What difference does it make?”

Well, my objective here is to leave behind a written protest to that article.  Hopefully, mine will be infinitely posted to ‘the web’ just like theirs is, and perhaps someday my critique here will be important to use as a ‘counter’ to Shaughnessy and Moore.

To bring my “review” to a close, this War Tale is pretty much just that – a War TALE.  The Vietnam War was hard enough for those of us who went over there and fought it.  The Echo Company Commander, Captain John Woggon, told me in an e-mail that October 12th, 1968 was and still is the worst day of his entire life. Fairy-tales like this one can only serve to cheapen the whole Vietnam experience.  It’s disrespectful to the brave men who fought and died in the fight for Hill 100.

By the way, there were actually 8 Marines killed on Hill 100 the morning of October 12th.  Their names are: Michael Wasserman, James Thomas, Luis Saverdra, John Metzler, Adolfo Bejarano, David Pietraszak, Henry Kuykendall, and Wiley Martin.

Thomas Hankins was killed October 8th as we assaulted Hill 100; J.D.Walters, Benny Hicks, and Willie Ferguson were KIA on Hill 100 on October 11th.  That’s 12 total Marines KIA on the hill.  We were lifted off Hill 100 on October 19, 1968 and it was last we saw of it during my tour.

The battle up on Hill 100 was awful and gruesome enough all on its own, it doesn’t need a BS accounting from Mr. Shaughnessy or Mr. Moore to make it look worse than it already was.

 

 

One Response to “A Real BS Vietnam Story”

  • Jimmie Creach:

    I was there. Shot in the head on initial assault. I think it was Oct 8. Would like to communicate wit you.

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