1st MIBARS In Vietnam!

Every Name On The Wall Touches Someone

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Three 1st MIBARS Troopers
A USAF FAC Carrying A Trooper As Observer
 An Acquaintance Who Fell To Friendly Fire 

SGT Paul Brian Benoit, US Army
SSGT Alderman Carroway West, US Army
SFC Carmen Muscara,  US Army
MAJ Morrison Cotner,  US Air Force
1LT Darvin Flanders, US Army 
On the Strength of the Human Spirit

"For years, I had nightmares.  I was sour on life -- by turns angry, cynical, and alienated.  Then one day I looked afresh at my scars, marveling not at the frailty of human flesh, but at the indomitable strength of the human spirit.  I began to put the personal hurt behind me.

Ten years ago, with ten other Ia Drang veterans, I traveled back to the jungle in the Central Highlands, and for several days walked the battlefield.  What stuck me was the overwhelming peacefulness of the place, even in the clearing where I fought.  I broke down several times.  I wanted to bring back some shell casings -- some physical evidence of the battle -- to lay at the foot of The Wall in Washington.  The forces of nature had erased all remnants of the carnage.  Where grass had once been slippery with blood, now flowers bloomed.  So I pressed some and brought them [emphasis added] back."

Henri Huet and Jack Smith, Under Fire: Great Photographers and Writers in Vietnam, Catherine Leroy, (Ed.), 2005, Random House, New York NewYork.

A Vietnam Veteran Volunteers To Help Veterans, Surviving Family Members and Visitors At The Wall

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo Credit: MIV

Above:  This is Richard, a Vietnam War veteran, former U.S. Navy SeaBee, and volunteer for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, who works with the National Park Service to assist visitors at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Richard will provide information, help you find a name on The Wall and/or make a pencil rubbing of the name of your choice.   In the photo at right, he rubs the name of Carmen Muscara.

Richard served with the Navy in DaNang during 1969-1970, most of his time being spent in the Navy/Marine Corps complex near Freedom Hill, just west of DaNang Main Air Base.   He remembers the elliptical road around the runways and the military mortuary located at one end of the airfield.  He also remembers the pallets of stacked casket-like, aluminum shipping containers for casualties that were often seen outdoors near the mortuary building.  It is an enduring memory for those who were there. 

"Bless 'Em All . . . "

Photo and Graphic: Don Skinner, "B" Detachment, Reproduction Section, 1968-1970, and Ron Berryman, "B" Detachment and HQ, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1969-1970

Section 15 West Row 003:  Sergeant Paul Brian Benoit, "B" Detachment, 1st MIBARS, United States Army.  "I remember Paul. I served with him in DaNang, Vietnam. I remember the short blonde hair, the baby face, the pug nose, the infectious smile. He was a good friend. I remember the day he was killed. I sent him out to the fuel depot to get gas in the 1st Sergeant's jeep. I followed shortly there after in the CO's jeep. I remember finding his jeep by the road next to a Vietnamese Village. No Paul though. I remember asking the Villagers what happened. They didn't speak much English and I didn't speak much Vietnamese. I understood there was a shooting. That was all. I flagged down the XO who had followed behind me with his jeep. I sent him to the China Beach MASH [Mobile Army Surgical Hospital] Unit to look for Paul. I stayed behind to wait for the MP's. When the MP's came, we searched the Village. I remember finding a very young, very scared looking Marine. [NOTE: the assailant was later identified as a member of a U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps unit who was declared mentally unfit to stand courts martial proceedings for the shooting.]  I gave him a cigarette. The MP's took him into custody and drove him away. I never saw him again or even knew his name. They said he shot Paul. They didn't know why. We found out later that Paul died. We never saw him again either. We all cried. I think of Paul often; very, very often. I still cry for Paul, even now."  Posted on The Virtual Wall by David A. Thompson on May 31, 2000.  Photo and rubbing courtesy of Don Skinner and Ron Berryman.

Photo Credit: Mitch Alvins, HQ and "B" Detachment, 1967-1968

Section 49 West Row 27:  Staff Sergeant Alderman Carroway West, Jr., "B" Detachment, 1st MIBARS, United States Army.  From Fayetteville, North Carolina, SSGT "AC" West was fatally injured on August 8, 1968, while on duty in the "B" Detachment operations area of the I Corps Compound.  AC was participating in the destruction of classified aerial imagery, a task routinely carried out by the Imagery Interpretation Section using a 55-gallon drum in 1967 and, by 1968, an enclosed metal furnace.  He was injured when an explosion of fire accelerant blew the door off of the furnace which struck him in the chest.  "B" Detachment personnel rushed AC across the Han River Bridge to a military hospital near the Marble Mountain Air Base, but medical personnel were unable to save his life.  SSGT West was an Imagery Analyst (Military Occupational Specialty 96D40) who began his tour in Vietnam on December 16, 1967.  From Gene Zwarycz and No-Quarter.Org.  Photo courtesy of Mitch Alvins.

And Another Tribute . . .

His name was one of over 1 million names on a microchip that was on NASA’s Stardust spacecraft that visited Comet Wild 2 in 2004.

Gene Pianka, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1967-1968

Photo Credit: Virtual Vietnam Wall of Faces, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Section 18 East Row 110:  Sergeant First Class Carmen Muscara, "D" Detachment, 1st MIBARS, United States Army.  This 16-year Army veteran from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was a photographer and photo lab specialist.  He was sent to Vietnam in August 1966 and died on April 28, 1967, at the age of 33 (see information on Major Morrison Auther Cotner, below).  SFC Muscara was survived by his wife, three sons and two daughters.  From The Philadelphia Daily News, posted by: Robert Greer on VVMF.org.

Photo Credit: Virtual Vietnam Wall of Faces, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Section 18 East Row 106:  Major Morrison Auther Cotner, United States Air Force.  From Booneville, Arkansas, MAJ Cotner was killed in action on April 28, 1967.  He was a Cutie [radio call sign] Forward Air Controller assigned to the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron at Nha Trang.  He was piloting a Cessna O-1G Bird Dog spotter aircraft 20 miles south of Tuy Hoa, in Phu Yen Province, when he crashed just offshore, suspected of having been hit by ground fire.  MAJ Cotner had 20 years of service and had served 246 days in combat.  Army SFC Carmen Muscara also died in the crash.  MAJ Cotner was 41 and married when he died.  From www.fac-assoc.org.

Photo Credit: Virtual Vietnam Wall of Faces, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Section 08 East Row 056:  1st Lieutenant Leon Darvin Flanders, United States Army.  Darvin was killed in action on June 17, 1966, by friendly fire. A helicopter pilot, he was on an "ash and trash" [non-combat supply flight] mission to the Special Forces Camp in Ban Me Thuot.  Darvin and his co-pilot were drinking coffee in the camp mess when a perimeter guard set off alarms and began firing.  As they moved toward a bunker, one of the camp mortars fired a round that fell short.  Darvin was hit by a shell fragment in the neck and died in the camp.  No one else was injured.  From Kevin Murphy, March 2000, Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association.


Photo Credit: MIV

Above:  On this cold winter morning, February 17, 2007, the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial.  Its walkways covered in raggedly-melting snow, two people far off in the distance, walking separately and briskly by, probably on their way to work at nearby government offices, and red-ribboned Christmas wreaths left at some time previously by visitors beneath the panels with the names of those who were remembered.  The scene a wistful reminder of one of the sad realities of passing time -- the stilled and fading echoes of treasured voices from Christmases past.

Dealing With Reality

'"The military is a very dangerous profession, even in peacetime.  Young troops working around dangerous machines can often  result in horrendous accidents that maim or kill.  Add to that reality the facts of war (the rush to execute missions, the need to get the machines back on the road or in the air as quickly as possible) and one has a formula for disaster.  If one accepts the official death tally for the war, nearly eleven thousand of the deaths of the roughly fifty-eight thousand names on the Wall occurred in a non-hostile manner.  Many of those were those were the results of accidents. . . . Accidents and suicides, along with drug overdoses, took most of the young lives in the deaths that I investigated while at Chu Lai.  But a number of deaths also occurred at the hands of other GIs.  In combat, the military calls killing its own "friendly fire."  I found that in a non-combat environment, such deaths are the result of "not so friendly fire."'

Gary E. Skogen, Not All Heroes: An Unapologetic Memoir of the Vietnam War 1971-1972, The Dakota Institute Press, Washburn, North Dakota, 2013.

A Summing Up

"There are two schools of thought on the war.  One says it was a waste and one says we succeeded because if we hadn't been in Vietnam the Communists would have taken over other countries.  I'd like to think the latter idea is true because I don't want to think it was a waste."

Bobbie Keith, secretary, U.S. Agency for International Development, and "Bobbie the Weathergirl" for Armed Forces Television, Vietnam, 1967-1969, as quoted in Appy, Christian G., Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides, The Penguin Group, 2003.

Read more on the World Wide Web at "Bobbie the Weathergirl -- AFVN TV Saigon":


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