The Last Year of the Vietnam War

The Last Year of the Vietnam War.

By Gordon L. “Box” Bocher
Major, USAF Retired

Eight years ago I retired from all work and decided to write a novel based upon my experiences in the United States Air Force. I served from January 1968 until June 1980. From February 1972 to February 1973, I served in the 16th Special Operations Squadron as a fire control officer (FCO) assigned to fly the AC-130A Gunship. During that year I flew over 170 combat sorties. I was in-theatre when the armistice was signed in Paris on January 27, 1973. Unlike those men who fought on the ground, my aircraft covered virtually all the areas of combat throughout Southeast Asia. In addition, I was the flight examiner FCO and so I was privy to classified briefings from several CIA representatives.

In doing research for the book and later on when I went on a speaking tour, I found a great deal of misinformation regarding the last year of the war. In one speaking engagement, a high school student came up to me and stated that Vietnam was an “unwinnable” war. What she thought was factual was anything but. I was not angry at her because she only parroted what she was taught. Somebody needs to set the record straight, and that’s what I intend to do with this essay.

In the spring of 1972, the United States was involved with the process of electing a new president. The leading Democrat was Sen. George McGovern from North Dakota who campaigned on the promise to immediately end all combat operations in Southeast Asia. The Republican incumbent, President Richard Nixon, took a hawkish stance in promising to continue the war until its natural conclusion. Four years earlier, the Vietcong conducted the first Tet Offensive in order to embarrass and politically damage (then) Pres. Lyndon Johnson. As result of that offensive operation in 1968, most of the combatants who formed the Vietcong were killed. The Vietcong as a fighting force had to be repopulated by members of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The first Tet Offensive was a military victory for the United States but a political disaster for Pres. Johnson. Our fighting forces killed at least 40 of their fighters for every one that we lost. However, our losses were in the tens of thousands and that was politically unacceptable to the American public. As a result, Pres. Johnson was forced out of the race for reelection in 1968. Four years later, with Pres. Nixon facing reelection, the North Vietnamese tried the same strategy and instigated a second Tet Offensive because it was in the North Vietnamese political and strategic interests to elect Sen. McGovern to replace Pres. Nixon.

Unlike the first Tet Offensive which started in January 1968, the second Tet Offensive started in late March 1972. The reason that it was delayed was threefold. First was the weather. March through September is the wet season in Southeast Asia. During this time the monsoons regularly drive through this area causing low clouds and continuous precipitation. This reduced visibility created difficult flying conditions which hampered any effort to aid our friendly ground forces using air power. The second reason was a scheduled refit of the H-model gunships which included the following: upgraded engines; the aft 40mm cannon was replaced by a 105mm Howitzer which went from a fixed position to being placed upon a movable mount which would allow this particular weapon to be “slaved” to the sensor that was made primary by the FCO; and finally, the analog computer was replaced by a digital computer which freed the pilot from the necessity of flying a precise circle around the target in order to fire accurately. This digital computer would immediately correct for deviations in flight parameters, i.e., angle of bank, airspeed and altitude. This refit was scheduled for this time of year because of the aforementioned weather. The third reason was due to manning levels. While all the H-models were down because of a scheduled refit, the A-model crews were only half manned because most of the new incoming FCOs were assigned to the more advanced H-model system. As a result, the H-models crews were fully manned but their aircraft was not flyable and the A-models, who could fly, had only half the crews fully manned. We had 26 A-model crews and only 14 FCOs to man them.

I learned from a CIA briefing that the second Tet Offensive would be centered around the city of An Loc which was located on State Route Seven between Saigon to the south and Cambodia to the north. The CIA agents told us that if the North Vietnamese were successful in capturing the city, then An Loc would be named the provisional capital of the “People’s Republic of South Vietnam”. That would have created a huge political embarrassment for Pres. Nixon and made it harder for him to win reelection in November of that year.

Frankly, this plan would have worked a year earlier, but not in the spring of 1972. What the enemy did not know and which was a carefully guarded secret by our forces was that the AADS -6 Infrared System was replaced by the AADS-7 Infrared System in November 1971. This top-secret upgrade made it possible to see through a great deal of moisture as well as triple canopy jungle. The AADS-6 was primitive in its design and lacked effectiveness. The AADS-7 upgrade was a massive leap in technology. Weather was still a factor… but not the factor it would’ve been a year earlier. The AADS-7 allowed us to see the ground in most cases and be determinative in locating various forces even though the weather was dismal.

At that time, I was an A-model FCO. I flew two to three sorties a day starting at the end of March until the end of April 1972. Those combined combat missions lasted approximately 9 to 15 hours of flying time which translated to 15 to 19 hours of crew duty-day. What eventually helped was the fact that the Air Force recognized the need to speed up the refit of the H-models which they did. By the end of the third week of April, the newly refitted H-models were coming online and were able to enter the fray. On or about April 29th, my crew was assigned to work the southern part of the city and assist an US Army Ranger and forward air controller (FAC) whose call sign was Tunnel Ten Alpha. On that particular night, the wind at altitude was so strong that most of our A-model pilots would not have been able to get into the proper firing geometry. One of those exceptions was my pilot, Maj. Conrad Story who was the best pilot that I have ever encountered. Tunnel Ten Alpha led a band of several hundred South Vietnamese Rangers. The friendlies and an overwhelming enemy force were facing each other with a road separating the two opposing sides. Tunnel Ten Alpha estimated the enemy force between 1100 to 1500 NVA. We opened fire and inside of eight minutes, we “Winchestered” the aircraft (fired every available round of ammunition). Tunnel Ten Alpha reported that the entire enemy force was destroyed… No survivors!

At precisely the same time we were operating just south of An Loc, a newly refitted H-model, working north of the city along Route Seven, found a column of 25 T–54 Russian battle tanks moving from the Cambodian border southward to join up with the forces facing Tunnel Ten Alpha and his men. This H-model gunship fired 26 rounds of 105mm shells at those tanks. The first shot gave the FCO the gun line error. He placed the correction in the brand new digital computer and they opened up on the tanks. Each of the next 25 shots found its mark. 25 shots resulted in 25 destroyed tanks. This happened precisely the same time that we were killing between 1100 to 1500 NVA regulars south of the city. In that 10 minute span, the enemy lost two major forces without a single friendly casualty!

The breaking of the siege of An Loc in reality ended the second Tet Offensive. In fact from May 1972 to the end of the war (27 JAN 1973) the enemy never again gathered in large numbers in South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese learned a hard lesson at An Loc. They knew from that moment on that they could no longer come together in a large offensive force as it would be a large target and liability rather than a military capability. Gunships made that option a nonstarter!

The next turning point was in December 1972. Approximately seven weeks after Pres. Nixon was overwhelmingly reelected he ordered Linebacker II. This operation was an all-out strategic assault on virtually every enemy military asset throughout North and South Vietnam. For the nine weeks of its duration Pres. Nixon changed the rules of engagement which in turn, gave the North Vietnamese basically nine weeks of World War II rules. Permission to fire on targets in populated areas which was an absolute “no-no” before Linebacker II became an everyday event. Our B-52s decimated all targets of strategic value in North Vietnam. The new infrared technology combined with smart bombs allowed us to take out all the bridges which connected North Vietnam to China thereby eliminating the main source of resupply of their diminished military assets. For the nine weeks of Linebacker II, it was nonstop destruction of their forces and infrastructure… Not unlike the bombing that Germany endured in the last year of World War II.

In 1977, I was going through a refresher course in survival training in the state of Washington. On my last day there, while waiting for my return flight, I met a Colonel who in 1973 was assigned as an intelligence officer. One aspect of his job was debriefing our returning POWs. Because of his rank, he was selected to interview a full colonel B-52 pilot who was shot down in the second or third day of Linebacker II. The following is the story that was related to me by the Colonel assigned to intelligence:

The B-52 pilot was captured almost immediately upon parachuting to the ground after being shot down by a surface-to-air missile. He was placed in one of the “Hanoi Hiltons” where he was interrogated on a daily basis. Every day for the next eight weeks or so he was brought to a room with three or four men who would take turns beating him. Finally one day after they brought him into the room for his daily beating and interrogation when something different happened. Before they got started, the door opened and a wizened old man with his own entourage entered the room. The interrogator and all the guards immediately “popped” to attention. The POW colonel noticed how nervous they were and realized that this old man was probably a member of the North Vietnamese Politburo.

The old man sat down and then asked the POW colonel, “How long does he think President Nixon will continue the bombing?” His question was immediately translated by the interrogator.

The Colonel pointed his finger at the interrogator and told him to tell this elderly gentleman exactly what he said and not to soften the meaning of his words. The interpreter nodded his agreement nervously and then the colonel looking directly at the wizened old man replied, “Pres. Nixon will continue the bombing until there are not two bricks left stuck together in this f—-ing country!”

The interrogator, with much trepidation, translated the colonel’s response. The old man’s eyes bulged momentarily and then he nodded that he understood. He said something to the interrogator in Vietnamese and immediately left with his retinue. Our POW was returned to his cell without his daily beating and his treatment was immediately improved until he was freed. More importantly is what happened the very next day. The North Vietnamese decided to accept our terms for an armistice. That is how the war ended.

How and why did we lose the peace? In August 1974, Pres. Nixon resigned rather than face an impeachment trial in the Senate. The Congress feeling that they were now the superior branch of government defunded all aid to South Vietnam, our allies in Cambodia and the Hmong tribesmen in Laos. What was even more egregious, was the directed Congressional defunding of all gunship operations in Southeast Asia. The last AC-130 Gunship left Thailand on 15 December 1974. Four months later (15 APR 75), Saigon fell. Eliminating the gunships from theatre operations was like removing all law enforcement from the Wild West. What followed was a slaughter of our indigenous allies. Upwards of 3 million people who chose to tie their fate to the West were killed by various Communist forces in the three countries. As long as the gunships where there, the indigenous friendly forces were safe. Removing the gunships allowed our enemies to gather in force and overwhelm those friendly governments and other allied groups. Once the Communists achieved power, they went on a killing spree of Holocaust proportions.

That war was won by our brave men who fought all of those battles for more than 10 years. The hard part was done. The ensuing peace was lost because our Congress would not make the minimum investment needed to aid our allies and allow gunship operations to continue to protect the friendly indigenous forces. In essence, Congress eviscerated the sacrifice of over 58,000 men whose names are etched on a black wall in Washington because they would not see our commitment through to fruition…One of the darkest periods of our history.

The misinformation and the downright lies that have become the “accepted history” of the Vietnam War are in contrast to the true facts. I was there and I know what I saw. I am reminded of the old saying, “Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it”. And repeat it we did. In this case, it was Iraq and the politicians who voided the sacrifice of over 4000 men and women who fought to stabilize that country because they (the politicians) would not see it through to its fruition. Now we have to deal with ISIS and an enlarged state sponsored terrorism threat. In both cases, the military won the war– only to have the politician surrender the peace.

How many times must we repeat the same mistake before we learn?

JWV Post 126: Commander’s Installation Speech 06/07/2015

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am honored to accept the position of commander of Jewish War Veterans Post 126. First, I wish to thank Sam Podietz, the past commander, and other members of the board who helped me prepare for this position. As your commander, I will do my best to lead this group into a daunting future filled with problems which we as Americans, veterans and Jews must confront. The world around us is changing rapidly and so must we if we are to remain relevant in the upcoming years. What I want to cover today is the following: First I will relate some of my own personal background; Then some of the concerns that I perceive which are bubbling just beneath the surface; and finally, how I hope that we as a group cope with these problems.

I know some of our members are Marines. Notice I did not say former Marines because once you are a Marine you are always a Marine. I know this quite well because I am Spectre or in common parlance, a member of the 16th Special Operations Squadron. Like a Marine, once you are Spectre you’re always Spectre. The brand is an indelible mark upon your psyche, your self-image and even upon your very your soul. I flew over 160 sorties in the year that I served as a fire control officer aboard the AC-130 gunship otherwise known as Spectre. I was privileged to be a part of one of the most decorated units that fought in the Vietnam War. In the year that I flew combat, my squadron lost 40 men and numerous others were injured. I was on one of those doomed flights, and in my particular case, 12 of the 15 men aboard were killed. I survived although I came very close to being captured by the enemy. That was 43 years ago and I am still battling my way through posttraumatic stress or otherwise known as PTS.

That is some of my background. Now about some of my concerns. Recently, I attended a breakfast meeting of statewide and national Jewish war veteran groups. I was sitting next to Col. Nelson Mellitz, a member of our post, and Col. Towne who is the vice base commander of McGuire Air Force Base. I listened as both men discussed the diminishing membership of all veterans groups, regardless of how they were organized. Both men were unsure of how we can attract recent veterans to join groups formed whose very purpose is to aid these same veterans. Listening to them made me think of my own situation and how hard it was for me to finally join and participate in such an organization.

Many of these returning vets suffer from PTS as I did and still do. I was lucky because I met and married my wife Betsy whose support was instrumental in whatever recovery I have achieved. I still get counseling as I have done so for the last 30 years from the Veterans Administration. The way I relate this problem to others is as if your psyche is placed in a “box” which is always closed and locked. This box is the past. When one suffers PTS, he or she is always looking backwards. I saw this with my friends as well as myself. It took a lot of years for Betsy and the VA counselors to get me out of that box in order to live in the present while also giving a glance toward the future. When you’re in the box, you look for others who share the same confinement, the same past and the same general experiences. They understand how you feel while most others will never truly
appreciate the effects of what combat does to an individual.

Our job is to help these returning vets climb out of that box. So as a group, we should focus our attention on providing this kind of aid to those combat veterans who are most in need. I know from talking with my counselor at the Wilmington VA Medical Center, that they are overwhelmed by the returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The other concern that bothers me both as an American and as a Jew is the rising tide of anti-Semitism. We see it now in a virulent form in Europe which is not dissipating, but continues to metastasize. We see it on American soil and in particular, on college campuses where it is disguised as anti-Zionism. Just a cursory view beneath the surface shows these efforts to be what they really are which is another form of anti-Semitism. We as Jews and as veterans, must be alert to the danger and fight it in every way possible.

These two problems, the difficulty in recruiting new members and the rising tide of anti-Semitism, can be addressed by our post supporting institutions who aid the recent returning veterans and who fight anti-Semitism. One such organization is “Heroes to Heroes”. This group takes American combat veterans who suffer greatly from PTS and sends them over to Israel where they bond with the IDF (Israeli Defense forces). Almost all of these veterans are members of American minority groups, mostly black and Latino. They suffer from PTS and other maladies which interferes with their ability to be a functioning society member. The results are amazing and border on miraculous. These men come back and most if not all are able to bond with their families and resume their proper role in society.

This is a win-win situation. First, it helps a combat veteran remake his life. Secondly, it fights anti-Semitism with the strongest means available… The truth of what we are as Jews. These veterans are members of minority communities with little or no experience dealing with Jewish people. By spending several weeks in Israel and forming tight bonds with IDF veterans who also suffer from PTS, they return home with a true and positive view of Jews in general and Israelis in particular. They can and do spread the knowledge that they accumulated overseas in Israel and pass it along to members of their own communities. Think of it as a sort of vaccine against the disease of anti-Semitism.

My last concern is one of brotherhood, especially within our own group. I would like to see us more bonded together both socially and as an effective force for change within our own community. One way we can accomplish this goal is to do things together. A perfect example of what I’m talking about is the upcoming trip that the board is planning for September 20, 2015. We will depart this area on a bus and visit the Washington DC area. The itinerary will include a trip to the national Jewish war Museum, Arlington Cemetery and the Vietnam Wall. We tried doing this two months ago, but we were unsuccessful due to lack of sufficient participation. Part of the problem was not giving our membership a sufficient amount of time to plan to attend this trip. Now there are no excuses. Shortly you will receive an email with all the details, but keep that date in mind. Again, that is September 20, 2015.

With your help I hope to have a successful stint as your commander. May G-d protect and bless our post, Israel and our country. Thank you very much.

Veteran’s Day Speech 11/11/2014

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am here as a representative of the Jewish War Veterans, Cherry Hill Post 126, in order to offer a few words regarding Veterans Day and what it means to me.
My particular war was the Vietnam conflict in which I served the last year of combat. There is a wall in Washington with the names of more than 58,000 servicemen etched on its face dedicated to the memory of the men and women who lost their lives during this terrible war. I cannot find the words to encompass the enormity of such a loss. What I can tell you about is one of those names. Multiply that loss by 58,000 and you have an idea of what that conflict cost us as a nation.
On June 18, 1972, my crew, Spectre 11, was ordered into the A Shau Valley on an interdiction mission of finding and destroying enemy trucking. Those that fought in Vietnam called the A Shau appropriately, “the Valley of Death” in a clear reference to the 23rd Psalm, because outside of Hanoi and Haiphong, it was the most dangerous place in all of Vietnam. This was first “frag” and we were ordered to be on station no later than 8:30 that evening local time. We were on time, and 20 minutes after being on station, we were attacked by an enemy missile, which hit our number three engine. My pilot was Capt. Paul F. Gilbert. The aircraft that we were flying was the AC-130A Gunship. I was the Fire Control Officer and my duty station was in the booth which sat in the middle of the aircraft. There were four of us in the booth. Two men left the booth right after we were hit. Two of us stayed in our seats until Paul rang the alarm bell and ordered us to abandon ship. I was one of the two who listened, obeyed our pilot, and survived. The others did not. Three out of 15 crewmembers aboard survived; the rest did not.
Now let me tell you something about Capt. Paul Gilbert and the man that he was. Paul was my hooch mate and my friend. He was quiet in the sense that he only talked when he had something definitively to say. He was engaged to be married to Miss Georgiana Burke of Texas whose picture graced his desk in his quarters. There were many pretty Thai women running around our base, yet Paul never gave any of them a second look. He was completely and totally faithful to his fiancée. In fact, Paul was a man who kept faith with his crewmates, his service, the woman he loved, his country and the G-d that made him. He was awarded posthumously both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. After I was recovered from the floor of the A Shau Valley, I wrote Paul’s family and one of the responses I received was from his fiancée, Ms. Georgiana Burke. I would now like to quote in part from her letter to me:

“That I love Paul more than I am capable of expressing cannot be denied. To consider spending the rest of my life without him is sometimes most unendurable. But most of all, the beauty of the things we experienced together, and the joy we shared will live forever. I pray that you will also live with a vestige of him in your heart, as I know the love Paul possessed for his friends and associates was great. Thank you again for your most kind and thoughtful letter. We will always remember your graciousness. I remain, Georgiana Burke”

I want you to know that I have not forgotten my friend and that he remains in my heart. My son Joshua Paul Bocher bears his name. I also want you to know that when Paul went to heaven, the Almighty received a great pilot and an even better person. Whenever I say the Kaddish, the Jewish Prayer for the dead, Paul is always in my thoughts. May G-d rest his soul.
Thank you.

Need a Speaker?

GORDON L. BOCHER, Author of Ghostrider in the Sky

Major Bocher served 11 1/2 years in the U.S. Air Force where he flew 127 combat missions as a Fire Control Officer (FCO) aboard the AC-130A Gunship and he also served as a rescue navigator for three years. He taught celestial navigation for four years as a platform instructor. His last major active duty mission was the abortive attempt to rescue the 53 hostages held in Iran. Bocher was awarded two Distinguished Flying Cross medals including one for valor, eight Air Medals, the Purple Heart, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Conspicuous Service Award from Gov. Mario Cuomo (NY). In addition, he received two nominations for The Silver Star. The VFW Monthly Magazine listed the 10 most dangerous missions of the last three years of the Viet Nam War…he flew in three of them. His personal story was chronicled in Newsday, People Magazine, the Colorado Star, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine and The Book of Man (pp. 417-424) written by William J. Bennett. His book, Ghostrider in the Sky, provides an accurate history of the end stages of the Viet Nam War and why our attempt to rescue our hostages in Iran failed so miserably. Bocher also worked as an Air Traffic Control Specialist for 24 years and he worked for Lockheed-Martin as a Quality Assurance Engineer for three years before fully retiring.
POWER POINT SUBJECTS
• My unique story
• What really occurred in the last year of the Viet Nam War (one hour presentation)
• The factual account of what really happened in the 1980 failed attempt to rescue hostages from Iran (35 minute presentation)
• A true “Miracle” rescue (30 minute presentation)
• Life after Cancer
• Any combination of the above

CONTACT INFORMATION:
gbocher@aol.com
Home phone: 856-334-5075
Cell: 540-303-1914

ORDER YOUR PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY

If you wish to get a personally autographed copy of either the hardback ($43.00) or soft covered version ($28.00)of GHOSTRIDER IN THE SKY, please send a check, cash or a money order to the following address:              Gordon Bocher, 7 Washington Drive, Marlton NJ 08053.  The prices quoted above also include shipping.  If  you wish the book dedicated to an individual then put the necessary information in your request for the book.  GHOSTRIDER IN THE SKY makes a great gift for father’s day or Christmas.

 

 

Recent Book Evaluation

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars
Making every moment of your life count

June 10, 2013

By Dennis

Format:Kindle Edition
Ghostrider is a captivating story of a 60’s Generation member who successfully matures.  The protagonist, Blakeman, learns that in life as with all relationships, making emotional connection, being open, and making responsible choices brings meaning and sustenance.  Learning to love liberty is not a destination, but an exodus through life.  Particularly in his friendships, loves, and war time experiences, Blakeman gains the insight of what Churchill called, “failure is rarely fatal, and success is never final.”  The worst decision a man can make is to give up.
The writing style is crisp and gripping.  A few examples suffice.  The description of his Vietnam War role as Weapons Control Officer on a A-130 Gunship is at times heart pounding but proud and patriotic.  The description of training and air battles are terrific.  The description of the debacle of the President Carter directed and led attempted Iran Hostage Rescue Air operation is worth alone the price of the book.  I have read numerous historical reviews of that Air Rescue Operation, and none is so searing as Ghostrider author’s quotation from the Operations General upon his return.  It will leave you squirming in your seat with relevance to today’s military sequestration and doctrine of leading from behind in the war on terror.
Finally, the description of his best college friend’s success and tragedy is compelling.  Unfortunately, narcissism played a significant, negative role for the 60’s Generation and for our Nation from which we still strive to regain our footing.
In short, Ghostrider in the Sky is an unqualified success.

Email From Crewmember

—–Original Message—–
From: HATFLA <HATFLA@aol.com>
To: gbocher <gbocher@aol.com>
Sent: Tue, Apr 30, 2013 1:45 am
        Box, I acquired several copies of the book & passed them out to friends who enjoyed the read, but seemed to think that you were a “tad” cocky & bragged a lot on yourself, to which I replied “IT ISN’T BRAGGING IF YOU CAN DO IT” & you could definitely do it ! ! ! Once the distinction between fact & fiction was made & understood the reader has this pleasant sense of, when is the other shoe going to drop i e how does the child fit in. I think a few more snippets / references to the mystery child should have been made along the way & not “all” saved to the very end. Overall you created an interesting scenario & handled it very well. As far as the “facts” go, you can’t argue with them as I can attest to & it was definitely one heck of an adventure.

 

        To say I enjoyed the read is an understatement, I relived 12 months in South East Asia. I wish that Conrad & Brother Dave (Gordon) could have read it also. The book was an honest depiction of what actually went on & embellished what didn’t make the book. Like what ! ! ! —————— “ Hey Conrad / Brother Dave we had better get on over to the officer’s club & sit on that little shit before he alienates all those other crews by telling them they aren’t as good as Crew # 1″. By the way we all thought you were as good as you thought you were. Conrad / Brother Dave & I logged a lot of time bass fishing together over in one of our many swamps & you can bet we talked about you a lot.

 

        I remember one flight when the bad guys were really watering our eyes & we were herking & jerking all over the sky. I looked over @ you & you took off your brain bucket & reached into your helmet bag & got your BAR MITZVAH beany & put it on under your helmet. I thought OH s–t, The Box is getting ready to meet his maker ! ! ! I don’t know if this incident was on that flight or a similar one, but I looked over @ Brother Dave & he had a lit cigarette in his mouth, another lit cigarette in his hand & a third lit cigarette in the ash tray, “Hey Brother Dave got a cigarette?” !

 

Stay out of harm’s way,

 

                    Hat Trique

Afghanistan Policy Suggestion

The purpose of this letter is to present to you a different outlook and a potential problem solving idea that may help our position in Afghanistan. This latest travesty of an American soldier killing 16 civilians, including nine children, reminds me of what occurred in My Lai, Vietnam. In both instances, I believe that soldiers fighting a nondescript enemy with burdensome rules of engagement (ROEs) create the environment that allows psychological pathologies to develop. This problem is exacerbated by soldiers being forced into multiple deployments in an unwinnable war. The question is how to reduce the threat the Taliban without a large and continuous military presence in Afghanistan.

My answer is to do the following:

1. Remove all regular force ground troops from the entire country as quickly as safety considerations will allow.

2. Embed special forces personnel who possess forward air control training with the Northern tribes who populate those areas close to the northern boundaries of Afghanistan and share the same ethnicity as their neighbors to the north. In particular, tribes that are populated by Kazaks, Uzbeks and Tajiks. They are the natural enemy of the Pashtuns who provide the majority of the Taliban and are ethically close to the Pakistanis.

3. Station AC-130 gunships in bases located in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. These gunships would work with the embedded American Special Forces personnel to provide airpower for the tribes forces in which they are embedded.

4. Allow the tribes that are we are supporting militarily to determine the rules of engagement.

The advantages of doing the above are as follows:

1. Our footprint in Afghanistan is reduced to a very small contingent of special forces. That would almost totally reduce the number of casualties suffered to near zero.

2. The cost to our treasury to maintain the special forces and the gunships is significantly less than what we are paying now.
3. The mineral wealth of Afghanistan is in those areas controlled by the northern tribes. In supporting them militarily, we would have some influence on how that mineral wealth is developed and distributed.

4. Our impact on their culture and the way they live their lives would be almost nonexistent. That single fact would reduce a great deal of the animosity that we now face.

5. What we are doing now (nation building) simply does not work. Given the backwardness of Afghani culture, it will never work. My suggestion is militarily plausible and has a strong chance of working.

My own personal history leads me to believe this. I was an AC-130 Fire Control Officer (FCO) from February 1972 to February 1973. I flew many sorties in the second Tet Offensive which occurred in April of 1972. That offensive, orchestrated by the North Vietnamese, was demolished in their attempt to overtake the city of An Loc. The enemy gathered their forces both north and south of the city. We found them and proceeded to destroy them. The ground forces we supported were South Vietnamese Rangers who were greatly outnumbered and whose armament was vastly inferior to what the enemy possessed. We worked with three forward air controllers in An Loc and the nearby vicinity. The gunships gave South Vietnamese Rangers the upper hand and the offensive was literary obliterated at that location. For the next two years, the gunship were stationed in Eastern Thailand which made it impossible for the North to gather its forces in strength and invade the South. Gunships make large ground forces a target rather than a capability. On December 15, 1974, the last of the gunships left Southeast Asia. The Congress of the United States decided they would no longer fund their presence in the area. Five months later, to the day, South Vietnam fell. Two months later, Cambodia was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and Hmong tribesmen were defeated by the Pathet Lao. The resulting slaughter in the three countries exceeded 3 million human beings. Gunships kept the peace and their absence resulted in chaos and slaughter.

Fighting a war with intrusive ROEs is not only a way not to win a war, but to cause terrible psychological damage to the men and women were charged with fighting that war within the parameters set by the ROEs. I’ve seen it in Vietnam and those who were lucky enough to return from that war. I am starting to see the same damage to those coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq. It must be obvious to everybody that we’re going down the wrong path. It is time to change direction. That’s why a spending the time writing this letter.

Respectfully,

GORDON L. BOCHER
Major USAF Retired
gbocher11@gmail.com

 

ARGO Review

This past weekend, my wife and I viewed the movie, Argo. This movie was well written, directed and acted. I believe it to be a fairly accurate representation of what really occurred. It was painful for me to relive those years because our great country was so humiliated. The fact is that we tolerated a literal act of war against our diplomats and our country. I personally believe that such a weak response led directly and eventually to the events which occurred on 9/11 three decades later.
I personally was involved in the aborted rescue attempt of the hostages held by Iran for more than a year and which ended upon the inauguration of Pres. Reagan on January 20, 1981. Although my book, Ghostrider in the Sky, is a work of fiction, the section dealing with this part of American history is absolutely true. This book will give the reader an absolutely true overview of that tragic attempt to save our hostages.
In the movie, the CIA agent’s attempt to save six refugees from capture by the Iranian authorities is almost aborted because the rescue attempt was to occur shortly. The movie makes only one quick reference to that attempt. What actually happened was that President Carter, against military advice, delayed that attempt for another three or four month. He also ordered that rescue attempt of the six to be terminated. It was only the brave action of that CIA agent who refused to follow that order because it was morally reprehensible which allowed that successful raid to occur.
Much of the history of that period was classified. This was done not to preserve national secrets, but to protect the politicians, the orders they gave and the unintended consequences of what those orders wrought. My book will shed at least some light upon that period of time.