The Marines and Me

As readers of this blog know, I have a long history with the U.S. Marines Corps. I first worked with Marines in 1962 during my initial trip to Vietnam. As the war grew and expanded, I supported troops on the battlefield with intelligence derived from intercepting and exploiting North Vietnamese radio communications. I worked with the Marines less often than with the army simply because there were fewer Marines in country.

During the thirteen years I spent more time in Vietnam than I did in the U.S., I sometimes ran into a situation that I coined a term for, the Cassandra Effect. That was when the unit I was working with didn’t believe and act on the intelligence I was providing. One of the worst examples was during the battle of Dak To in 1967. I warned the U.S. 4th Infantry Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade that a large North Vietnamese force was in the hills along the Cambodian and Laotian border preparing to attack us. They didn’t believe me and didn’t prepare. The result was one of the bloodiest battles of the war which ended without any territory changing hands.

But I never encountered that problem with the Marines. They invariably took my information seriously and acted on it. That resulted in some remarkable victories.

One of the reasons the Marines always exploited signals intelligence was that one of their leaders, an officer named Al Gray, had worked in signals intelligence early in his career. When I first met Al in the early 1960s, he was a captain commanding units engaged in combat. Over the years, as I supported troops on the battlefield in Vietnam, I kept running into Al. Then, when Saigon fell in 1975 and I escaped under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets, it was Al Gray, by then a colonel, who rescued me. Al continued to rise in the ranks until he became Commandant of the Marine Corps. Nearly every Marine I have ever met knows who Al Gray is. He’s one of their heroes. Despite his renown, General Gray is a humble man. And he has continued to stay in touch with me over the years.

So to this day, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the Marines. That is why I always capitalize their name.  

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