RANGER AGAINST WAR: The Disillusionment of Ranger <

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Disillusionment of Ranger

--Tell-Tale Heart, Harry Clarke

What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give?
--Alfie, Hal David

I won't take all that they hand me down,
And make out a smile, though I wear a frown,

And I won't take it all lying down,

'cause once I get started I go to town
--I'm Not Like Everybody Else
, The Kinks

The entire economy of the Western world

is built on things that cause cancer


This is a story of how Ranger came to his views of the military, and why he has decided there is nothing worth dying for in the U.S Army.

It is a small chip off a large granite mountain. Most long-term soldiers end up in the flakes lying about the base of the mountain that we all tried to scale. That mountain was the U.S. Army, and many young men put their lives, health and minds into that endeavor.

We all thought that what we did or failed to do was meaningful and necessary to our national polity and welfare. As a result, we made a whore's bargain, totally oblivious to that fact. We believe that we are important and we pay our dues while the whore smiles, takes our money and never delivers on her promise. We are taken on a ride, but not the one we signed up for.

The whore has a pimp called the U.S. government, and nobody beats that combination. The higher one rises in the Army, the more indebted one is to the pimp.

Our enemies only do what they are supposed to do. They try to kill us, and we reciprocate or initiate. The problem arises when the U.S. enters battles with hatred as a basis for its actions. All wars are based in this emotion, and soldiers are taught to hate Gooks, Zips, Nips, Nazis, the Boche, Communists and Terrorists as they are evil, and deserve whatever democracy reigns down upon their heads. Philosopher Marcel described this as the depersonalization of war.

This hatred consumes us as a society, as well. Society can be analogized to the U.S. government as it also functions as a controlling body for its constituents.

Ranger's personal history illustrates his perspective. ROTC - RA commission - guaranteed choice of branch. Chose Infantry. All the normal Ft. Benning schools and off to the 8th Infantry Division. First duty assignment a disaster -- career-killing OER.

This was all less than a year after graduating as a Distinguished Military Grad, top 3% of the ROTC graduates. Ranger goes to Special Forces
thinking to pull his nuts out of the fire, but already they were singed beyond redemption. However, young soldiers know naught of these things. We do what soldiers do; we persevere and drive on.

Ranger now moves on to B53/5th Special Forces Group Airborne and sees the Army in action in a real direct action Special Forces war. Ranger stresses that his exposure was light and limited, but it afforded a view of the war from a clear vantage point.

As a strap-hangar/training observer Ranger accompanied a Hatchet Force Unit on a training mission to the edges of war Zone C outside of Ba Rhia. On this mission the troops were inserted using trucks because HELO assets were not available due to restricted usage as the U.S. part of the war was winding down.

Gunships were unavailable and we were not in anybody's Artillery fans, but nonetheless we were inserted to look for enemy contact. Precisely what we would do if we found it was questionable.

On the first day we found a village full of people. The intel brief told us there were no friendlies in the area and we were cleared to kill all life forms. So much for intel -- "What do you do now, Lieutenant?"

We bypassed the village went off into the jungle to set up an ambush on a well-used trail, since this was Hatchet and not Reconnaissance work. In recon, you snoop and avoid contact, whereas in hatchet you look for contact, or so the story goes.

After set-up a large main-force element actually walked through the ambush kill zone, but we did not engage for to do so would have been suicidal. Ranger still marvels at seeing enemy soldiers actually walking down a trail in an administrative movement.
This episode was one of two incidents in which Ranger actually eyeballed NVA soldiers at pistol-range. He carries this memory as a point of pride, as most American soldiers in RVN only saw but shadows and muzzle flashes. This was December 1970.

If we had engaged we did not have an escape route since the area was saturated with North Vietnamese Army (probably 274th NVA Regiment) and we had no artillery or gunship support. Whatever we were to have achieved escapes Ranger, this after 38+ years of contemplation.

Why were we even out there? To what military purpose?

The above story is prologue for another story that would seal Ranger's disillusionment. That story happened 20/21 Jan 71, in which members of MACVSOG 38/Camp Long Thanh/B 53 engaged a strong enemy force and were severely and roughly handled. During that encounter, Ranger's friend, SSG Ken Lovelace, was killed along with some One Zero Recon students.

This story repeats the earlier one: U.S. SF assets put in to do a job that they could not possibly complete successfully, and good men died. The real tragedy was that SF leaders made the decision to engage, and not conventional types -- people who knew better, but did not act better.

Although there were credible reasons for this response, the outcome was predictable. In effect, a team was put into a suicidal insertion with the predictable outcome all but certain. We call this heroism, but Ranger calls it insanity. Men should kill and die only for an achievable purpose.

So Ranger learned a few more things when a young man. The Army will kill you is you give it a chance. He further learned to fend for himself and those around him and damn the Army to hell.

It was a small event in the larger scheme, but after 21 Jan 71 Ranger never again believed the "mission" the Army preached as sacred doctrine; it was but another word for unreasoned death and destruction.

Further down the road, Officers Advanced Course confirmed this belief when the stakes became much larger. Nuclear weapons employment doctrine was based on a fantasy that we would fight the Russians on the plains of Europe using both tactical and strategic nukes. This was equivalent to inserting into an Area of Operations with trucks -- it was unsustainable.

The point is, the people promoted believed the concept of fighting wars with tactical nukes. This terrain was nonnegotiable and contorted Ranger's powers of conception. To accept Army doctrine is to accept insanity. Doctrine is the nice word for death and destruction.

Lisa's friend, Vietnam fighter pilot Forrest Fenn, expressed his awakening this way:

All of the frailties of humankind had manifested themselves in that beautiful place and that terrible situation. Lyndon Johnson had summed it up under the heading of “Saving South Vietnam and all of Southeast Asia from Communist aggression.” I bought into that pretty good. All the pilots did. The endless hours of classroom training and sorties flown on the gunnery ranges around the world, had bred us to it. It was almost umbilical. How faint it seems to me now and how dreadful it must still be for so many others.

After all of the bullets and rockets and bombs had finished flying through the trees and across the skies, there was nothing left for us but the memory of 58,266 Americans whose names have been etched, chronologically by time of death, on that shiny black wall, which is constantly being washed clean by the tears of a million visitors. Another generation or so and most of those names will be but an asterisk in the history of a forgotten war; a curiosity to wonder at, like the Lincoln Memorial. How unfortunate it is that world leaders are constantly bringing war and death to those of us who are relegated to follow.

The afterthoughts of later elected officials all ask the same question and supply the same answer. Why, and never again. Of course they don’t know why, and there will be yet another again.

Many of us have awoken, and though the circumstances differ, the upshot is the same. There is more that completes Ranger's tale, for another day, perhaps. But the action which killed Ken Lovelace was adequate to secure his disillusionment. The enemy could only kill us, but the Army destroyed our lives.

Ranger writes this knowing the Ooh-rah readers will see this as so much sniveling. So be it.

The fact is, soldiers and veterans are disposable and inconvenient facts after the mission.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thank the cosmos that I was able to reach your conclusion without having the horrific experiences that you suffered. I sincerely thank you for your service, Sir, and wish you peace, with all respect.

Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 12:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous tw said...

Ranger, I’ve pissed lots of people off by using that whore pimp analogy. We were whores to be used, abused and cast away.

Although I had many unanswered questions while in country, my disillusionment came when coming home in 69 to the all too common attitude, oh you had to go to VN, sorry. I had been sent off to war in 68 with a pat on the back and a go get um attitude and came home to an unpopular war and all the questions my involvement in it brought. I moved to Canada in 74 where the main question I faced was “what do you think of the draft dodgers?” The war was put on the backburner for years until the 1st Gulf War happen.
I came home and turned on the TV and discovered that the bombing had begun. I searched the satellites for direct feeds and as I sat there mesmerized, tears began to flow freely. All I could think was those poor bastards, on both sides and the horror they were going thorough. All the cannon fodder that had to pay the ultimate price. Pawns, whores, the little people ……. On that day I crossed over and became an active anti war activist.


Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 1:26:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Ghost Dansing said...

the US in Vietnam.....

Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 8:21:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Range, you said it all when you mention "disillusionment". That speaks volumes--the young and sometimes old servicepeople are not shown the truth, but only illusions.

Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 11:45:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

The 1st GW really rattled my cage also. I was sent orders to report for a mandatory Enter Active Duty physical at Moody AFB. At that time I was in Group Sessions for PTSD and we were all against the war except for the Group Leader and one member. But that's all I can discuss.
I passed the physical but made them annotate it with the note that the service member would not go if recalled. I did not get orders-if I had I would've reported but that's all they would've got, a body.
I would never in my wildest dreams ever thought that I'd wear an anti-war hat. But here I am!
I wish I could cry but there are no tears in me.

Sunday, August 2, 2009 at 8:46:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

My experiences were not horrific, they were every day facts for Special Forces troops in country.
I stress that I was lucky and very fortunate to be placed in a general training camp and as such was insulated from heavy ground combat. The people we trained faced a very dicey future when we sent them back to their C & C's.
Being a soldier is like being a pilot-99% normal duty and 1% total terror. When things go bad they go bad in very uncontrollable ways.
Imagine a light team going in to secure a downed helo and doing so in a area controlled and ably defended by a NVA regiment. When all the dust cleared Ken Lovelace was not even nominated or recommended for something as simple as a Silver Star. His body went home without any Valor award. I'll never forget what the Major said to me when I proposed this action. He said-"all he did was get killed!" And that was exactly my point-just going out on this mission fulfilled my definition of conspicuous gallantry in the face of the enemy. Their helo was shot out of the sky before they could insert.
All the men on that bird were heroes .
I'm glad you didn't have to see these things to reach where you are at. But in my case it was necessary or i would've believed the crap for the rest of my life.

Sunday, August 2, 2009 at 9:15:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Powerful post that will stick in my memory ... must have been VERY dfficult to write ...

Best regards and thanks,


Sunday, August 2, 2009 at 4:55:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your follow-up. The mind-set of the major you mentioned further supports my belief that the military has problems with rational thought - even though I'm sure he believed that his position was correct.

I would gently insist, that to me, you went through some horrific experiences. I have known a few combat vets and notice that most of the good, steady troops and the recognized heroes seem to always disparage the value of their personal actions in combat, while resolutely stating that it was some of the others involved in action who were the "real" heroes.

An ex-brother-in-law who I went to high school with was a Marine in Nam in the very early days when they were "advisory" only. He didn't talk about his time there - but one night when it had gotten pretty damp in our immediate area he suddenly said, "You know the weirdest sounds I've every heard?" I said no, and he said " I was packing the radio one day outside of (I can't remember where he said) and we were crossing this big rice paddy when they started shooting. I lay there in the muck and water and when I would duck under trying to avoid getting shot, the sounds I heard as that gd radio was shot off my back were really weird - reminded me of one of those really ancient pianos and a drummer too - tinkles and thumps . . ." Said he was in the water for hours, and that they shot that big radio completely off his back . . . He never repeated the story or any other combat story. I felt then, and still do, that he deserved recognition just for being there - very much like your Ken Lovelace - just for going.

Sorry for the verbiage. Just wanted to acknowledge your response and that I admire your writing. Take care.

Monday, August 3, 2009 at 6:42:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

One concept that always saw me through was that guys like Lovelace were professionals and knew the score. Lovelace unlike myself spent multiple tours and was a hardened MACSOG type. This was easier to deal with than seeing young draftees killed or hurt. In SF we all elected to be there so ultimately we had no bitch. Someday I hope to write more extensively on this.
It's difficult to discuss these events because my memories are so out of tune with what is posted on the rah rah sites. I'm totally out of step and this causes a lot of introspection which is something i failed to do in the past.
The Majors name was Passalaigue and I still hate that backstabbing ass kissing fucker. He was a blight and lacked any basic human attributes. That's my viewpoint.
It's my belief that Ken knew something was gonna happen to him which makes his actions more heroic.
I was simply a tabbed up REMF.

Monday, August 3, 2009 at 1:27:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

As you know I avoid writing anything about RVN and only do so with trepidation. But it's time.

Monday, August 3, 2009 at 1:44:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ranger said, "I'm totally out of step..."

I know your meaning, Jim, but turn the coin around and, in truth, you're totally in step -- your critics only see the veil...even after you have pulled it away.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 9:22:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I'm so far out of step that only changing the cadence will change this fact.
The price of being in step is grater than I'm willing to pay.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009 at 12:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Sherry Pasquarello said...

i'm glad you wrote this. thank you.

Thursday, August 6, 2009 at 1:28:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous RangerHazen said...

Great Post Jim,

I won't say I am disillusioned nor cynical I just grew up and matured into something beyond fascism...

I am beginning to wonder if having such a huge professional armed forces is dangerous to our democracy...Considering how most of our peers feel about the current President and that fact that he's trying to move us beyond the past eight years It makes me wonder if it is not time to return our Armed Services back into the kind of Army our founding fathers envisioned...True Citizen Soldiers

William Ranger Hazen

Sunday, August 9, 2009 at 12:01:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Ranger H,
The military related industry has replaced GM as the center of our economy. We produce and export violence rather than consumer goods.

Sunday, August 9, 2009 at 12:59:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

To all,
After rereading this essay today the comments by Col Fenn brought back indirect memories of my young child hood.
In downtown Cleveland is a grand memorial to the Ohio vets of the CW. This was designed by St Guadens ,i believe. On the inside of the monument all the dead are listed by Volunteer Regimental order, this was long before we arrived at black holes in the ground listing our dead.
I just wanted to share this memory.

Sunday, August 9, 2009 at 2:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Ranger,
My family all served, From WWI-to present.some were KIA, and the last young man to return has to bear the same disillusionment. In my exhausting search for assistance to this young man I have found the biggest secret the gov. wants to keep secret is that no one is really willing to help these young men who had their eggs scrambled, or as others put it their bells wrung so many times.
If I don't put a cork in it....conful atoryac -
So add to the list. Disillusionment of our veteran families that have to also be silenced.

Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 1:47:00 PM GMT-5  

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