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Husband of the world's most wonderful wife, father of the world's four most brilliant children, grandfather to the world's eight most beautiful granddaughters and two handsomest grandsons

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Goodbye Westy

The nation mourns and the liberal media ridicules the late General William Westmoreland. Westy had his problems. He also had his bright moments. The brightest came time and again as he insisted quite correctly that we did not lose the Vietnam War, we were only guilty of having abandoned our allies, the South Vietnamese. But he missed the lessons of the culture of the East. As his hands were tied by the government and he was not allowed to do the one thing that would have won the war... invade, seize territory and hold it; the only option was a war of attrition The idea being that if we kill enough of the enemy, they would be demoralized and quit. Ho Chi Minh had already written that the Communists were willing absorb 10 casualties for every one of ours. In actuality they proved themselves willing to accept a hundred or more to one. By 1970 we had almost wiped out every North Vietnamese male over the age of 18 and were fighting children and Chinese volunteers. With the unlimited well of Chinese young warriors to draw from, they could STILL be fighting there. The Chinese could breed soldiers faster than we could shoot them.

But my favorite story about the General has nothing to do with his understanding of Communist commitment, it's about pine trees.
The Americal Division chopper pad at the massive base at Chu Lai was landscaped with short Asian pine trees growing out of the sand. Those shrub-like pines put out thousands of tiny pine cones which fall to the ground and soon form a carpet a foot deep. General Westmoreland was scheduled to inspect the division headquarters. The commander of the 23rd (Americal) Infantry division of which I was a member, by the way, walked out to the chopper pad and had the brilliant idea that all those pine cones under the trees looked messy. All his rear echelon soldiers were cleaned up polished and ready to be inspected in ranks. He went back to his office and called the first company commander who came to mind and said to pull his unit out of field duty and bring them to the rear at once. The soldiers, left off fighting and were choppered back and put to work scooping up pine cones around the landing pad and loading them in trucks. They only had a few hours, but got the job done. The cones were taken to the dump, the troopers raked the sand into parallel lines and were given well-deserved permission to celebrate at the enlisted and NCO clubs. They were soon partying.

Meanwhile, the General's chopper lands at the pad and he is greeted by the Division Band. After the pomp and ceremony the Division Commander and his General walked down the path through the trees. The Commander swelled with pride as he saw Westy glance at the newly manicured grove. But the General frowned. “H'm. pine trees. No pine cones. That's not natural.” Panic stricken, the division commander whispered hurriedly to his executive officer. The division clerical staff rushed to the clubs and dragged the soldiers from their drinks. The were taken to the dump where they dug out the pine cones and reloaded them into the trucks and quickly re-spread the cones evenly under the trees.

A few hours later, his inspection completed, General Westmoreland was escorted back to his helicopter. As he walked down the path he looked around and smiled. “Pine trees... and pine cones. Good.”

And that's how the RRR remembers Westy.


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