Historian, author, editor, educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, others who believe in learning from and making history. Thousands of articles and posts and a free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.
—"The best works by living writers on the heart of New Orleans." Miz' Remy is the author of Annie.
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Bernie Sanders Can Win | Why TPP is not good for us | Bill Bell: No Man Left Behind | Protest Against Military Sexual Assault | Would you like to learn another language...no charge? | Review Ann Jones: They Were Soldiers | IN COUNTRY Free showing 6 p.m.Tues, August 19th, Vashon Theatre | Mysterious Viet Nam Memorial | Never too old to get drafted! | Moyers & Compay Celebrate the Revolution And Keep it Going.
by Remy Benoit
by Remy Benoit
From Hazel Sheffield, The Independent at Reader Supported News
Trade Agreements Like TPP Will Force Countries to Surrender Sovereignty and Exacerbate Inequality.
by Remy Benoit
Subject: Leave No man Behind: Introduction by George "Jay" Veith
Attention Veterans, POW/MIA families and Concerned Citizens: Bill Bell’s book “Leave No man Behind” has been reduced 50%. For only $10 you now have a wonderful opportunity to emphasize the importance of a full accounting for our nation’s missing personnel by presenting both your Senators and Representatives a copy of this iconic book. Election day is fast approaching and National POW/MIA Recognition Day is Friday, September 19, 2014, act now!
Many people have asked me over the years why I became involved in the POW/MIA issue. I wanted to help the families was my answer, which was true then and remains true today. Anyone who spends even an hour with a family would have a hard time not wanting to help. Not only is their pain still palpable, the sheer frustration of not knowing what happened to their father, son, brother, or husband, and worse, being so powerless to solve the mystery , resonates a particular helplessness that any listener would want to comfort. Still, after many meetings and long hours spent studying and researching the issue, it dawned on me that there was another, more subtle, reason that drove me beyond mere outrage at what had happened to many American families. It is the sense of meeting a national commitment, an awareness of honoring those who came before us and who sacrificed everything.
That sense of national honor is personified in Garnett “Bill” Bell, a man who, as the U.S. Government’s top POW/MIA field investigator in Southeast Asia for many years, doggedly pursued the answers to the fate of over twenty-five hundred Americans missing from the Vietnam War. It was his ability to articulate precisely why this quest was so important that compelled me to continue to seek answers. That is why we wrote this book---to help the American people truly grasp the evolution of the POW/MIA issue, and to show whom the real culprits are---the cold hearted rulers of Hanoi. During Bell’s career some three hundred and fifty Americans were recovered and identified; this detailed account of the many trials and tribulations encountered attempting to identify those missing men, as well as the events that ultimately caused him to seek retirement and abandon his official involvement in this noble effort, will help the American people understand the history of the issue, the possible fate of some MIAs, and why this matter continues unresolved.
I first met Bill Bell at the annual National League of POW/MIA Families meeting in July 1994. I was just beginning to work on what later became my first book, Codename Bright Light: the Untold Story of U.S. POW rescue Efforts During the Vietnam War. I had called him shortly after he had retired and moved back to Arkansas from Thailand. After I introduced myself and asked to interview him at the meeting, he graciously accepted and then rather unexpectedly told me to “come on down to Ft. Smith” and stay a few days with him. Surprised by his spontaneous gesture, I politely declined due to work reasons, but inside I was stunned at his desire to help a complete stranger, which was light years from the suspicious activists I had met as I first tried to learn the issue.
Our talk that day eventually grew into a close friendship and close working relationship. In speaking with Bill, over time I developed a fascination with the nuances of a subject on the surface so simple yet so breathtakingly complex. For me, learning the full history of the POW/MIA issue (which in Bell’s view ---beyond the moral component---was a matter of national security), was akin to peering behind the curtain, like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, and discovering unseen powers at work.
Over the years the issue devolved into three camps: a small group of families and activists hardened by frustration and convinced that successive administrations were covering up a horrendous crime---the abandonment of hundreds of American prisoners to the Communists; a larger group of families less suspicious of the accounting effort but desperately wanting an answer, and a bureaucracy often trying to do the right thing , but hamstrung by national policies ill suited to a democratic society’s demands for results. Despite the best intentions, however, often it appeared that some in the bureaucracy sought to control the issue for their own personal agenda, responding in a knee-jerk fashion to the slightest whiff of criticism, some of it justified, some not. At the other end of the spectrum, for a few other Americans, the issue became their Holy Grail, and as with most fanatics, reason and truth played no part in their worldview, only embellished tales and the spun fantasies of con men. The attention of the American public, unable to follow the intricacies, ebbed and flowed like the tide. As time passed or each new hot revelation was explained away, the nation slowly developed “compassion fatigue” and turned away from the anguish.
Bell is in the middle, seeing neither some vast conspiracy to abandon hundreds of American soldiers nor understanding why the truth could be so difficult to accept, that most likely some Americans were kept prisoner by the North Vietnamese after the war, or that they could rapidly account for many missing Americans if they made the political decision to do so.
No doubt this book will rankle some current and former government POW/MIA bureaucrats along with many activists. Both groups want the public to see the issue from their perspective, and they manipulate the data to achieve that context. Much of the still on-going debate revolves around the “live-prisoner” issue. To be clear there is little doubt that most men died in their incident or shortly thereafter. For about half the missing men, witnesses saw the deaths, and battlefield emergencies prevented their compatriots from recovering their remains. Nevertheless, for many others major questions, and when placed within the framework of the well-known Communist Vietnamese efforts to to exploit American POWs for diplomatic concessions, or their remains and personal effects for financial rewards , these questions become deeply disturbing. “Only Hanoi knows,” claimed the bumper sticker from years ago, a phrase more apt than the vast majority of Americans comprehended then or today.
What is most difficult for the newcomer reading this book and listening to the various commentators to understand is that much of the intelligence on the missing men is not black or white, but multiple shades of gray, which in combination with a seemingly implacable foe who controlled the old battlefields and who was determined to use this leverage to extract concessions from from its imperialist enemy, created questions seemingly impervious to American efforts to answer. This “grayness” enables certain people to slant their analysis on the POW/MIA perspective a particular way, claiming selected facts reveal the truth, which of course, is the truth as they want to see it. Plus, a cottage industry peculiar to Southeast Asia of bone hunters seeking rewards and working in a culture where embroidered hearsay is far more prevalent than a Westernized version of truthfulness, have led to years of wild tales and dead-ends. This book is designed to help the American public see through the smoke and mirrors, to understand precisely what occurred and understand the missteps that were made.
This chronicle details the many events surrounding the career of Bill Bell, from his time as a young infantryman going to war in 1965 to his retirement in 1993. It is his memoirs, not an in-depth examination of the POW/MIA issue from a policy level. While the book recounts most of the major actions and organizational changes that influenced the U.S. Government’s handling of the issue, it is written solely from his perspective as a witness to these historical proceedings. His account is designed to amplify the record, to provide one insider’s account, to the extent memory and documentation are able, so that future generations may know and understand his role in the monumental task of recovering our soldiers and civilians who went missing from the conflagration known as the Vietnam War. Without a doubt many other people served with distinction and honor. Their omission reflects not any overarching role by Bell, but are simply far too numerous to mention.
One might reasonably ask, then, who is Bill Bell and why is he significant? What makes his voice unique, his experiences fascinating, his knowledge vital, and his analysis of the issue and the Vietnamese Communist plans so critical? The answer is simply this: for all the people who have worked or toiled in the U.S. Government’s efforts to account for the nation’s missing men in Southeast Asia, Bill Bell is the only government official who has been directly involved in every aspect of the complex issue at each stage of the events that unfolded over the years. Only someone with Bell’s dogged perseverance and his encyclopedic knowledge of the Vietnamese Communists , combined with his fluency in the various regional languages, could hope to penetrate the system the Communists had created to essentially milk a humanitarian effort for revenue to support themselves. Patience and persistence, traits more often associated with Asian mentality than the go-getting Americans, along with Sun Tzu’s famous dictum to know one’s enemy, allowed Bill Bell the opportunity to get close to the heart of the mystery. In particular, Bell’s candor and unflinching honesty won him an extraordinary trust among the families, a rarity for a government official working in the issue. While the family organizations to protect their interests, as a government official in a politically sensitive position, it was a trait that did not always endear him to his superiors.
Perhaps to give the reader a sense of the families’ anguish, to comprehend a man like Bell to sacrifice so much is an almost Don Quixoteesque pursuit of the truth, let me provide what was for me what was an epiphany into the families’ sorrow. On the day I was to meet Bell at the hotel where the National League of Families was holding their annual get-together, I dropped off my bags in my room. Realizing I left my notebook in my car in the basement-parking garage, I rode the elevator back down to retrieve it . On the way back up, the car stopped at the lobby. As the door opened, an elderly couple tried to enter. Seeing they were straining with a large suitcase, I offered to assist them, which the lady quietly accepted. They walked inside, each taking a spot on opposite sides of me. As the door closed on the three of us, I spotted a badge on the woman’s jacket. Not clearly reading the text, I asked her “what brings you here?” The woman said nothing. She looked away from me, her gaze drifting down to the floor. In a soft voice from the other side of the car, her husband’s voice answered: “Our son.”
As I turned to look at him, it was then that I could clearly read the badge on his shirt---“National League of POW/MIA Families.” I could hear the strain in his voice, an emotion that clipped off further words, as if he wanted to say something more, but was unable to explain to a complete stranger thirty years of anguish over a missing child, to make me understand why they kept coming to a POW/MIA Family meeting, desperate for answers, when surely there was no hope of their son being alive. Nothing more was said. The car went up five and they got off. I felt foolish for asking a seemingly innocent question: I wish I could have said something, but like them, I, too, was helpless. I saw them at subsequent meetings, but I never spoke to them again. I doubt they would even remember me, but I never forgot them.
Bill Bell tried desperately, as hard as any man can over a period of many years, to find the answer to what happened to the son of those grieving parents, and the sons and brothers and husbands of many other American families. From his days as a young infantryman on covert missions into enemy areas in the Central Highlands, to receiving the American POWs as part of “Operation Homecoming,” to assisting with the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon until the morning of April 30, 1975, one of the last Americans to get into a waiting helicopter as the North Vietnamese Army tanks rolled into the defeated city, to slogging his way for almost a decade visiting forlorn, malaria-ridden camps to interview hapless refugees, to his return as the first U.S. Government representative assigned to Vietnam as Chief of the U.S. POW/MIA office, to his televised testimony in front of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs where Bell told Congress, as the government’s top POW/MIA expert , that he believed the Communists had held man prisoner after the formal release, Bell saw it all.
In human terns, however, despite his incredible experiences, for him it was not without cost. He learned first-hand the pain of those families, in a way none of us ever want to experience, when he lost his own wife and son in the crash of an American plane evacuating Vietnamese orphans and American dependents on April 4, 1975. No doubt his personality unconsciously reflects the struggles and suffering of over 25 years of dealing with a cunning and ruthless enemy, who, despite today’s fashionable rhetoric about healing the past, remain committed to monopolizing Vietnam’s political power. Still, despite his loss and the almost insurmountable difficulties of trying to get answers from a foe determined not to provide them, Bell persevered, not only for the POW/MIA families, but also for America. In a sense, it was for all our families, but the cost of persistence is high, and Bill Bell has paid a full measure.
This is his story.
Bad news Bill! I received your book today, and, already, I can't put it down. Of course, that could be considered as good news, in some ways. Thank you for writing it.
“There is much more to the POW/MIA issue than riding around on a bike, wearing black leather and shouting “Bring ‘em home”! Bill Bell’s book “Leave No Man Behind” is the “first step” any American should take in fully understanding the nuances, the heretofore hidden incidents and complex situations of the long American War in Vietnam, and the plight of thousands of America’s still-unreturned veterans. There are many books available but this is the first priority for vets. Read it and pass it on to as many other vets as possible in order to lay bare the facts and let the facts speak for themselves. How we got there in the first place, why we stayed so long and whether or not we vets were able to accomplish our mission. Do yourself a favor, order this great book. You will soon agree that having done so is one of the wisest moves you ever made. For researchers, this book should be considered “PTSD 101”. Concerning research in compiling this great book you will be amazed when you visit the Vietnam Center Archives, Texas Tech University, Bill Bell Collection. Virtual Archives. This is one of the nation’s premier collections on the American War in Vietnam and graciously donated by Bill”.
Mike DePaulo, Vietnam vet, USMC, National Service Officer, Rolling Thunder Inc.
5.0 out of 5 stars Americans in Vietnam, February 7, 2007
This review is from: Leave No Man Behind: Bill Bell and the Search for American POW/MIAs from the Vietnam 5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely necessary, April 27, 2013
This review is from: Leave No Man Behind: Bill Bell and the Search for American POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War (Semihardback)
Very simply, if you have not read this book, even if you spent years in Vietnam as I did, you don't know anything about the Vietnam War. Buy it, read it, give it to everyone you know who gives a damn about truth. Should be required reading for every college and university.
Just took a week off to Thailand and finished your book on the beach. Sorry it took so long. Great read, amazing book, even more amazing story, truly one for the ages… Thanks so much for all you did and gave to the country and the missing. Your service is truly humbling… Just seeing all the work you guys were doing, your grasp of the situation on the ground, the games the communists were playing, how you were able to give it back to them and how they let it all unravel, the hash house harrier incident, the “fun” comment, the shredding of those files… I wanted to cry… I was on the flight back last night literally almost jumping out of me seat I was so hopping mad. It looks as though not much has changed unfortunately. I hear the same things about them when in Cambodia and elsewhere doing stories. I have more stuff in the works. I’d love to chat with you about it all sometime. Again, thanks so much for reaching out to me all those months ago and sending me your book. You filled in a lot of blanks for me and I feel like I “get it” now. I am going to Vietnam later this year. I feel a lot more prepared. Thanks so much Bill, for everything. Much respect.
Matthew M. Burke
Stars and Stripes
Sasebo and Iwakuni (Japan) Bureau
I have began reading your book. It is amazing. I thought I'd read enough to be kind of proficient in the POW/MIA issue, but in just reading the first couple of chapters I realize I don't know jack. But I have talked to the parents of several of those still unaccounted, and looked into their eyes. And I do know one thing - I will do what I can to give them some type of closure, and let them know that they are not alone in missing their loved ones!
Your book is very educational, maybe a little to technical for the casual reader but should be required reading for anyone interested in this issue.
I thank you for the book, and I especially thank you for all you do and have done. You are a true American hero in my eyes! THANK YOU BILL!!!
President-VVA Texarkana, TX;
On Monday, January 20, 2014 8:55 AM, Zippo Smith wrote:
There is no American on earth who knows the official side of the POW/MIA issue better than Bill Bell.
In the eyes of those who use the POW issue for political advantage and then cast it aside like some old campaign placard Bill committed an unforgivable bureaucratic sin much to their horror; HE TOLD THE TRUTH!!!!
Read Bill Bell's book and heed his words on how a great nation can undermine it's moral underpinnings by assigning the least of warriors to decide life and death and unobserved,the mental/physical state, of those suffering in enemy hands,from an air-conditioned office in the USA.
LEAVE THE FATE OF AMERICAN FIGHTING-MEN IN THE HANDS OF THE WARRIOR AND NOT THE SHOE-CLERK.
Major Mark A. Smith,USA,Retired
It amazes me the attention to detail and the "recall" of names, incidents, etc that you have. This book is sure eye-opening for the lay person!
My hubby has mentioned several skirmishes from the war, but not in the detail you've outlined in your book! I hate putting it down!
Available for $10.00.
Leave No Man Behind.
or from: Ebay at
Leave No Man Behind. (Note: Effective immediately: Until supplies are depleted, special 50% discount to all Veterans and POW/MIA family members)
by Remy Benoit
From Lakewood, WA, Eric Wilkinson, Lake 5 News Military Sexual Assault.
A must read on this topic, see my review here or at Amazon of Sarah Blum's Women Under Fire Abuse in the Military.
by Remy Benoit
Then this is the place to go! I am having so much fun with it. Duolingo"
by Remy Benoit
When they were children, we wrapped bumpers about the inside edges of their cribs;
put locks on doors and cabinets and blocked stairways; we bought car seats, and endlessly held small hands. The years passed—we prayed when they started driving; we stayed up late nights waiting for them to come home safely. If they were lucky; if we could be there for them; if we chose to be there for them. If they were raised in places where fear, poverty, neglect were not their “invisible” but constant and too often too visible non-friends.
And then, and then we sent them to war, both our young men and our young women.
Was it their choice to sign up? Maybe, and maybe it was for economic opportunity, for promised education, for a hundred others reasons and yes, promises of recruiters.
Then the training came—the shaved head, the programming, the no thinking for yourself, follow orders—do what you are told without question for the good of the uniform, for the good of the unit, for the good of the country.
Yet no one, no training, no ideal of glory can train anyone for reality of war; for the constant on fear, unknown lurking threat of annihilation, powerlessness with bombs, dead comrades in arms splattered about or on you. It has been training to kill or be killed. It undoes all previous training in the reality of kill or be killed. Horrors happen; massacres happen; atrocities happen on both sides and the soldiers who remain alive have to live with them. They may come home whole in body; they may come home without arms/legs/arms and legs; personal body parts; traumatic brain injury; spinal injury; mental, spiritual, psychological injury.
They get battlefield care for injury; they are airlifted to hospitals for often multiple surgeries; they come back to VA facilities, families trying to help them, ill equipped to help them. They come back to long, long waiting lists for the VA.
They come home to nightmares, to not being able to relate to loved ones who have no idea of what they have known, of what they live with.
They come from a misogynist organization where rape of both sexes is swept under paperwork, bureaucracy, and basic keep it quiet for the good of the unit attitudes.
They come home changed forever, traumatized. While in service there is the “band of brothers” dependency, even though it does not apply to military rape by those who should have your back. When they come home, that band is disbursed; that stay alive support is not there, and those who have not been there, those who don't know, are not equipped to help.
Who are these soldiers? Why are they in the military? Ms. Jones points out with brutal clarity that many are from impoverished families; from areas where drive by shootings are the norm; from areas where the young know no hope of “getting out” without joining the military. They are also from families where generations have served; who grow up with the idea of service. And yet, when one young person says he felt he had a better chance of not getting killed in Afghanistan than he did in his own neighborhood, you know we have a problem at a time when our public schools are declining, funding cuts, leaving less chance of a decent life. At a time when Congressman Waxman called the corporate profits from these wars “the largest war profiteering in history”; while third country nationals are imported into virtual slavery to do the chores of supporting an army, we have a serious problem as soldiers with low pay are surrounded by the ill-defined responsibilities of private contractors making much bigger pay checks.
The Army also lowered qualifications for joining to fill in the ranks and those inductees include many with serious criminal records. They go to find a future in the throes of death and destruction. These are the members of the band of brothers and sisters who serve—who come home in transport containers which we used to call less euphemistically body bags; who come home minus arms, legs, personal parts; who come home with TBI; who come home with spinal injuries; who come home with ruptured hearts, minds, and souls.
Ms. Jones tells you their real story from the front lines—sharing their time on forward bases, on foreign soil, in wars they are told are endless. These are their stories and you need, as a citizen of this country, as a citizen of the world, and you need to face their reality—up close and personal with compassion, and deep, deep thought about alternatives. Too long have we refused to face the truths she so intensely spells out for us.
Is there a solution to all this? Yes, facing reality; facing the horrid, ugly, destructive force of war and choosing otherwise. There is choosing to find another way that builds lives, respects life and the planet; a way that eliminates from our cliched use of words, 'shall not have died in vain' and replaces it with 'led a full, joyful, and productive life.'
There is choosing to love our young enough to not send them into the evil jaws of the insatiable gods of war.
As always, all is in the choices.
by Remy Benoit
Awarded major grants from Sundance (Film Festival) Institute and DOK Incubator, this highly acclaimed documentary film links veterans of all the wars from Vietnam to Iraq/Afghanistan and takes the audience on a dramatic journey of discovery. Co-Director/Producer Mike Attie will attend to introduce his film and take questions after the show. IN COUNTRY is from the young award winning team of Mike Attie, Meghan O’Hara (Academy Award Nominee) and Lindsay Utz (editor of award winning “BULLY”). This is an important event for the Vashon community and for Veterans of all wars and their families. This screening is a GreenTech Night*, hosted by Island GreenTech and the Vashon Theatre and sponsored by American Legion Post 159, Vashon.
*GreenTech Nights are hosted by Island GreenTech and Vashon Theatre for the education, benefit and enjoyment of the Vashon community. Neither GreenTech nor Vashon Theatre have approved, authorized or sponsored the program content and are not associated or affiliated with the sponsoring organization.
Thank you for your support.
Sgt. Christopher Gaynor
by Remy Benoit
Thanks to Sgt. Michael Pectol for sharing this.
Mysterious Viet Nam Memorial.
by Remy Benoit
A major SNAFU! Draft notices sent to men born 1800's!
by Remy Benoit
From Bill Moyers and Company Celebrate the Revolution - And Keep It Going. at RSN.
Tom Paine Common Sense. from Archiving Early America.
Continue to Archive
Rhea and Jordan Devereaux had it all: undying devotion, a tender love, and a grand passion. And then the Vietnam War separated them. Follow the course of their love across time and space. Journey with them through the steaming jungle; dance with the Mardi Gras revelers while revolution unseats Louis XVI and protestors on the Washington Mall scream, Hell, NO. We won't Go. Sail with Laffite's pirates into Devil's Isle and rejoice as an unconditional and timeless love emerges victorious.
Purchase a signed first edition of Loving for $20 including S&H: