The Ugliness of Fragging - Vietnam 1970-1971

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Day-Tripper, Apr 12, 2018.

  1. Day-Tripper

    Day-Tripper Member

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    This is tough stuff. But shouldn't be ignored or forgotten. Same time as this, we had MLK & Bobby Kennedy assassinated, Charles Manson in Calif, racial tensions breaking the boiling point, drugs, gangs, etc. And ongoing Cold War. Makes today seem mild by comparison.

    http://www.historynet.com/the-hard-truth-about-fragging.htm

    On the evening of October 22, 1970, Company L of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment was engaged in anti-infiltration operations in the “Rocket Belt,” an area of more than 500 square kilometers ringing the Da Nang Airbase. The company was set up in bunkers at an outpost on Hill 190, to the west of Da Nang. Assigned to guard duty that night, Private Gary A. Hendricks settled into his position on the perimeter and made himself comfortable. Too comfortable, it turned out. A bit later, when Sergeant Richard L. Tate, the sergeant of the guard, discovered Hendricks sleeping on post, he gave the private a tongue lashing, but took no further action. Shortly after midnight the next day, Hendricks tossed a fragmentation grenade into the air vent of Sergeant Tate’s bunker. The grenade landed on Tate’s stomach and the subsequent blast blew his legs off, killing the father of three from Asheville, North Carolina, who had only three weeks left on his tour of duty. The explosion injured two other sergeants who were in the bunker.

    Hendricks was charged with murder. He confessed and was convicted by general court-martial. His death sentence was reduced to life in prison.

    The manner in which Hendricks murdered Tate, using a fragmentation grenade in the dark of night, will be forever linked to Vietnam as an iconic symbolization of an unpopular war gone horribly awry. Ironically, perhaps the first use of the word “fragging” in a prominent newspaper appeared in a January 1971 Washington Post opinion piece about troop withdrawals and the winding down of the war by columnist Chalmers Roberts. “U.S. forces, now knowing they are on the way out but not knowing just when, have developed an enclave mentality and a philosophy of ‘Why take the risks in a war that’s winding down?’ Recent reports from Vietnam talk of demoralization and of draftees ‘fragging’ gung-ho officers; that is tossing hand grenades at them to put a stop to aggressiveness.”

    In 1970, in addition to Tate’s murder, the U.S. Army reported 209 cases of fragging.

    Journalist Eugene Linden, in a 1972 Saturday Review article, described the practice of “bounty hunting” whereby enlisted men pooled their money to be paid out to a soldier who killed an officer or sergeant they considered dangerous. One well-known example of bounty hunting came out of the infamous Battle of Dong Ap Bai, aka Hamburger Hill, in May 1969. After suffering more than 400 casualties over 10 merciless days of attacks to take the hill, the 101st Airborne Division soldiers were ordered to withdraw about a week later. Shortly thereafter, the army underground newspaper in Vietnam, GI Says, reportedly offered a $10,000 bounty on the very aggressive officer who led the attacks, Lt. Col. Weldon Honeycutt. Several unsuccessful attempts were reported to have been made on the colonel’s life. After Hamburger Hill, an Army major was quoted as saying another hard-fought, high-casualty infantry assault like Hamburger Hill, “is definitely out.”

    There are no official Pentagon fragging statistics before 1969, the year U.S. troop strength in Vietnam both hit its peak and significant combat troop pullouts began. When it became widely evident that the United States was no longer pursuing a military victory in Vietnam, many soldiers became less aggressive, not wanting to be the last to die in a war that would not be won. With this heightened sense of fruitlessness, fragging and the threat of fragging were seen by many enlisted men as the most effective way to discourage their superiors from showing enthusiasm for combat.

    Marine Colonel Robert D. Heinl Jr., in his seminal article “The Collapse of the Armed Forces” published in the June 1971 Armed Forces Journal, claimed the morale, discipline and battle worthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam were probably worse during this period than at any time in the 20th century—possibly in the history of the United States. An unnamed officer was quoted in a January 1971 Newsweek article as saying, “Vietnam has become a poison in the veins of the U.S. Army.”

    Despite more troop withdrawals, the number of fraggings grew, and more were taking place in secure rear areas. Of the 209 fraggings in 1970, 34 resulted in deaths. This was more than double the 96 incidents reported in 1969, which killed 37 officers.

    In the first 11 months of 1971, some 215 incidents resulted in 12 more deaths. As of July 1972, when the last American soldiers were leaving Vietnam, there had been 551 reported fragging incidents, killing 86 and injuring more than 700.
     
  2. AF6872

    AF6872 10-Year Member

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  3. BTCS/USN

    BTCS/USN Member

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    Day-Tripper, What's your fixation on the Vietnam War and those who served over there? It's obvious that you don't think much of the troops but for some reason I never read any negative information from your posts about the politicians driving that conflict. As bad as you seem to think it was, just a reminder that most of the people I talk to that were there would tell you. We were winning when I left.
     
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  4. Day-Tripper

    Day-Tripper Member

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    If you could point out any factually incorrect material I've posted on the Vietnam War I've love to read it. If you can't, then you shouldn't accuse me of attacking the troops who served there, as you just did. If reading the truth makes you uncomfortable, just don't read it. Keep your head in the sand. Believe the myths, rather than the truth.

    "We were winning when I left."

    Perhaps I agree with you more than you believe. Maybe you should read my earlier post, referenced below, before resorting to personal attacks:

    https://www.serviceacademyforums.co...advisor-h-r-mcmaster.60370/page-2#post-601131
     
  5. Day-Tripper

    Day-Tripper Member

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    How so? What's BS?
     
  6. AF6872

    AF6872 10-Year Member

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    Bull Sh*t. I was there and if you weren't Don't tell me how it was. I don't know how old you are but you might not know how it was then. No personal attacks and you are just misinformed by reading and posting reports from 1989 and 1988. Everything you posted was garbage.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018 at 6:45 PM
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  7. C76706340

    C76706340 VMI Class of 2019+3, AROTC Scholarship Winner

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    I learned about this too. Don't worry Day-Tripper.

    I doubt there would be political bias in Simple History's content.
     
  8. AROTC-dad

    AROTC-dad Moderator

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    There is a difference between personal attacks and honest debate. There is more latitude granted on the off topic forum.

    Keep it civil and we won't have problems.
     
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  9. Skipper07

    Skipper07 Member

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    AF6872,

    Was drug use in Vietnam as prominent as many books and movies make it seem? As Tim O’Brien would argue, many war stories are to be read with healthy skepticism. However, marijuana and opium seem to be in every Vietnam book I have read.

    Thank you for your service.
     
  10. Day-Tripper

    Day-Tripper Member

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    Other than "You're wrong" can you refute some of the sources I've referenced? Like the US military itself?

    http://www.historynet.com/the-hard-truth-about-fragging.htm

    "In 1970, in addition to Tate’s murder, the U.S. Army reported 209 cases of fragging."

    "Marine Colonel Robert D. Heinl Jr., in his seminal article “The Collapse of the Armed Forces” published in the June 1971 Armed Forces Journal, claimed the morale, discipline and battle worthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam were probably worse during this period than at any time in the 20th century—possibly in the history of the United States. An unnamed officer was quoted in a January 1971 Newsweek article as saying, “Vietnam has become a poison in the veins of the U.S. Army.”

    "In September 1971, during House of Representatives hearings on Defense Department appropriations for 1972, Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations Congressman George Mahon of Texas called upon Army generals to testify about the problems of the deteriorating morale and discipline in the Army. Vice Chief of Staff General Bruce Palmer Jr. acknowledged that the Army’s problems, including fragging, could no longer be minimized. Palmer noted some of the Army’s then current problems had also occurred in previous wars, but that fragging and widespread drug use were new phenomena."

    "Army Secretary Stanley Resor said more soldiers were coming forward with evidence of fraggings, and more prospective victims were being tipped off. He added that there was also an active effort by military authorities to get away from using the word “fragging” and use “attempted murder” instead, so as not to minimize the crime."

    Maybe those officers and the Secretary of the Army were lying, spewing "BS". But I can't imagine why. The author of the article itself was a US Marine Corps veteran who served in the Quang Tri province.

    Oh, for the record, I was born in 1964, whatever that has to do with anything. I'd ask how old you are, but it's not relevant.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018 at 7:07 PM
  11. AF6872

    AF6872 10-Year Member

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    If you were born in 1964 you were not there. Enlist and find your own War to complain about.
     
  12. Day-Tripper

    Day-Tripper Member

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    So we can only comment on wars we've served in? Might make a WW2 or Civil War discussion kinda quiet.

    And I think the horrible fragging trend in the Vietnam War would be something we should all like to "complain about". It was pretty bad.

    I again ask if you can refute anything at all n the article I originally posted for discussion? Other than citing "BS", of course.
     
  13. Day-Tripper

    Day-Tripper Member

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    The reference of rotating of junior officers after six month tours was a horrible policy. As was the rotation of enlisted men after a year-long tour (13 months for Marines). This was adopted during World War Two in Europe, when keeping a division in the line regardless of casualties might have been easier than, say, keeping a division in South Vietnam for five years, just with a constant changing of personnel. For example, the 1st Infantry Division ("Big Red One") was in Vietnam from 1965 to 1970, but none of the officers & troops from 1965 were still there in 1970. Most weren't even in the Army anymore.

    Still, in the much more popular WW2 there was great difficulty in integrating the maligned, green "replacements" into units where they replaced respected veterans who'd been killed or sounded.

    Thankfully, this rotation policy was abandoned after Vietnam. A unit goes into combat and comes out of combat as the same unit, same people, same officers.
     
  14. BTCS/USN

    BTCS/USN Member

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    I don't read where I attacked or accused you in anyway. My question was merely why only negative posts on the events of the time. If you are going to cite negative aspects of an event then why not include all the areas of concern? Granted, there was a lot of things wrong, but I didn't witness any rampant and systemic narcotic usage to the scale that these articles imply.

    I "vacationed" there a couple of times during the period and with the exception of a very few individuals, the majority of the people I worked with were focused, serious and did their jobs professionally the entire time. Did they want to be there? No, but other than complaining, went, worked and left when they could, and did it without Big Pharma's assistance, (legal or otherwise). The ones that couldn't manage to stay straight were weeded out or didn't manage to last long in any event. A firefight is not an event you want to be participating in with a bunch of guys that are stoned. That also applies to the offshore contingent that was doing NGFS and logistic operations.

    But if you feel that I am attacking you in anyway, then know that you're in good company. I didn't think much of Ken Burn's 18 hour long cratique either.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 at 8:25 AM
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  15. BTCS/USN

    BTCS/USN Member

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    The above should have been posted in the other thread concerning the supposed rampant drug usage at the time but I couldn't let the concern of attacking / accusing you go unnoticed. Related to this thread, I did hear of fragging incidents but like the drug usage, I believe the degree of incidents are highly overstated as written in these articles also. Occasionally, possibly. Rampant, highly doubtful.
     
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  16. Wishful

    Wishful "Land of the free, because of the brave..." 5-Year Member

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    Looking back as I think about it, my recollections are that anything negative about the war was well publicized. There were only the regular news channels and newspapers for information then.
     
  17. AF6872

    AF6872 10-Year Member

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    Iglo White and BUFF strikes where never publicized. When my father picked me up at the airport the big news was we were expanding the war into Laos and Cambodia. We had been doing it for years and the Secret War was not secret for the thousands of troops there. They missed that one for years and only would concentrate on casualty reports. The regular news channels had an agenda. Commander's Call with Gun Camera video was a highlight of the month along the Trail. Ben-Hur was one of my favorite movies!
     
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  18. AF6872

    AF6872 10-Year Member

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    Sky Raiders, Spookies, Shadows, OV-1s and 2s with Jolly Greens over the Mekong and Karst every day. 105 Thunder Thuds flying low and slow. F4's hooking up with anchor flights before a strike. Write what you know about not a historical reference and article from "Rolling Stone". You can comment back to Alexander The Great but make it historical with more references and with a grain of salt. I still wear my Secret War Cap.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018 at 9:14 PM