Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A Letter from a Sailor Veteran of the Vietnam War

We received this letter today from a Vietnam Veteran of Naval Service. We think it speaks for itself.

My name is John J. Morrow. I live in Marion, Iowa and I served onboard the USS Fort Marion LSD-22 in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. Our mission was to land and retrieve landing assaults-- USMC, US SEAL teams, UDT teams, Beach Jumpers, SeaBees (and we did lots of them). My knowledge is relatively personal of AO instances because I was a navy quartermaster. My job (with a couple others) was to record all and any instances that, in my judgment, needed to be written into the official ship's log. Therefore I needed to know exactly where we were, what operation we were taking part in, who and what vessels came and went into our amphibious well deck and at what times, etc. This gave me an up close view of our missions, unlike most of the 100 or so other crew members I served with.

Those ships log records were then "scrubbed" at the end of each month of operation and some things were removed for the official records. They were then sent to Washington (they are still there, even for an old flat-bottomed tub like the one we were on). They were rewritten in personal hand written form on board our ship--all capital letters (re-done by the quartermaster with the nicest hand printing). Those were signed by the old man and sent through the chain of command to permanent record in Washington, DC. I have in my possession most of the permanent ships log records (from the 1968-1969 deployment) in copy format from the office that maintains them. These are the official Fort Marion record.

No one ever put our ship on THE "AO exposed list" my opinion that is some kind of joke. We anchored nightly in Danang harbor, had personnel in and out of in-country missions (myself included), spent nights anchored in the barrier islands of Vietnam, and were on and above the DMZ near Qua Viet, were fired upon by the artillery emplacement in Cap Lai (roughly six miles north of Cua Viet river). That event was 18 April, 1969 and did NOT remain in the ship's log....go figure!!! On another event in the barrier islands, we sent our guys at 2am to rescue a SEAL Team extraction gone very wrong -- never was left for permanent record!!??

I think "the record" is BS, but it is what it is. You simply cannot erase real fear, memory and strange events from one's mind. Those still remain. Particulars of dates and "the record" may have been cleansed of certain events for some reason or reasons but I know my fellow squids and I still have OUR memories. And those memories involved guys being in and among a lot of AO territory and waters.

Further I can remember seeing virtually all the attack boats and landing craft we loaded in and out on the beaches carried 55 gallon drums that they confiscated and painted with Olive Drab paint. Those drums, one or two on each craft, carried additional diesel fuel. Those were like having a can of gas in the trunk of your car for emergencies. Most of those drums came from locations where they were emptied of their original AO liquids (MILLIONS of gallons). When diesel fuel was loaded from those drums into the fuel tanks of those boats it burned old AO in the exhaust fumes as long as it was refilled and emptied - laced with the poison of Agent Orange. I think it is well known that some of the first incidences of AO exposure were seen in the poor babies born to brown water sailors and their wives, with birth defects. There were lots of early exposures in this manner.

I personally have had five heart attacks, five way heart by pass surgery, serious lung disorders, diabetes, neuropathy, joint disorders, skin disorders, liver disorders -- the only thing I have not had (thank God) is cancer. Also included are hearing loss and PTSD. Nobody is telling me that I don't have the scars that bear witness!!! The DVA has given me 100% coverage only because I had pictures of me "on the ground" in Vietnam. They will NOT state Agent Orange in my records...they only refer to the diseases related to Agent Orange by specific name (heart disease, diabetes, etc). Seems strange I have the EXACT stuff that is officially listed as AO symptoms! It is pure crap and my buddies with the SAME symptoms are left wanting.

I saw your article and read that you wanted email instances of AO so here it first chance to VENT. Some guys were drafted into service but many, many more volunteered to go. Myself, and others, counted ourselves as believers of injustice to Vietnam’s citizens and believers in the rights of the Constitution (virtually) to all people! To come back to the disrespect we did, and now to have this injustice exist, is so incredibly wrong. I read your articles monthly and in many cases reread them again. It is shameful that our lawmakers and government turn their heads on vets because "there are so many affected that the VA cannot afford to make things right".

There is an old saying, "Kill them all and let God sort them out!". Who could have known that to the government that included Vets and Agent Orange victims of all kinds? Vietnam Veterans are now so old that few remember what we did. Couple that with the fact that people don't seem to WANT to remember, and others yet seem to feel that we were "baby killers" in the frenzy of war and human tragedy. Our messages are the voices of "old men" and are lost in the din of today’s world.

May God have mercy on us and may those to whom we now look for assistance with our older years war wound care see clear to do right! Keep your powder dry, for the battle continues!!!

John J Morrow QM3 USN
USS Fort Marion LSD 22

Thank you John Morrow, for your Service, and for your most eloquent and touching letter.

It grows less easy every day to conjure up the memories from back then. Sometimes they are too painful, other times it is simply too far back to go. But sometimes they come back on their own. Painful or not, they belong to us, and only we can know them. We own them. They are ours alone. Each of us; and when we die, a large portion of the facts, the truth, dies with us. If you can, for the sake of all your children and grandchildren, so that they may know the truth about that war, write those memories down. Leave them with someone who will know what to do with them – to whom they should be given. It is important.

Bravo Zulu, John, Bravo Zulu.


”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you John for your service and this well written letter.
    This should be sent to DVA and your reps in Congress so they may become aware of what was and the cover up of the DVA and DoD.
    Welcome Home Brother Shipmate.