Friday, October 19, 2001

Vietnam vets can relate to this war

But they didn't enjoy the support

By Earnest Winston and Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Vietnam veterans can understand what it's like to go to war in a strange, remote land like Afghanistan.

        What is different, some Tristate vets said, is the enthusiastic support U.S. forces enjoy.

[photo] Thomas Bosse holds a photo of his homecoming from Vietnam in 1969 with parents Edward and Loraine.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        “Having the support of the country is a real big thing,” said Thomas Bosse, 56, of Mount Airy, who served as an engineer in Vietnam.

        “I think we're a lot more unified (today). Back then, you had the unrest at the universities.”

        Interviews with Tristate veterans of Vietnam, Korea, World War II and Desert Storm found that they are following the U.S. military action closely, while often comparing this war with their own.

        Tim Riker, 53, of Pleasant Ridge, a retired Coast Guard Reserve rear admiral who was called to active duty during Operation Desert Storm, said this war and the one a decade ago are similar “in the sense that the war, the conflict with terrorism in Desert Storm ... is the same threat now. It didn't go away simply because cease-fire was declared.”

        However, Mr. Riker said, a large segment of the public believes that Desert Storm is different from today's war because they thought the mission was clear in the Persian Gulf — remove the enemy from Kuwait and return home.

        “But those of us who were assigned to the task of such things as port security in Desert Storm, we never stopped doing our job once the cease-fire was declared because the threat of terrorism was just as strong at the end of Desert Storm as it was at the beginning,” Mr. Riker said.

        Like Vietnam's, Afghanistan's terrain will be difficult for U.S. ground troops, Mr. Bosse said.

        “(Ground attacks) are going to be necessary because they're kind of dug into caves,” he said. “It's a whole lot like Vietnam was. They had a cave system, too. I think they actually had a hospital underground in Vietnam. You've got to smoke them out.”

        Ralph Grothjan, 75, of West Chester was an infantryman in Korea. He said the Afghanistan conflict so far has been different from the U.S. “police action” in Korea.

        “But when we go in with ground troops, it's not going to be much different from Korea,” he said.

        “Of course, there are better weapons today. But to get to them, there may be no other way than the foot soldier.”

        Mr. Grothjan said confidence in the U.S. role in Korea helped only so much.

        “There was confidence at home, unlike Vietnam, where you had so many against the war,” he said. “But when they're firing guns and throwing grenades at you, it's war. I see confidence today and we will succeed.”

        Added Mr. Richardson: “I just hope this time they don't back away like (they did in) the Gulf War, and they go all the way and get him.”

        World War II veterans and their wives at Maple Knoll Village in Springdale said Americans must prepare themselves for casualties.

        “That will have the greatest impact,” said Frank Zang, 84, a Navy aviation machinist in Hawaii after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

        “We are going to see American lives lost. There will be other sacrifices. We already are seeing an impact in our economy.”

        But, he said, “our attention to terrorism is going to unify the civilized world, and while World War II and World War I were very different with defined enemies, the mission today (to defeat evil) is the same.”

        Also different, veterans said, is the number of American civilian victims in this conflict.

        Julius Price, whose grandparents were slaves in Georgia, served in an Army guard squadron protecting facilities along the East Coast during World War II. He said Americans must hold onto their faith in the days ahead.

        “My grandfather, grandmother and mother were all born into slavery, and they taught us children to believe in almighty God,” the 96-year-old said.

        “And we knew sacrifice. We need that today ... There are going to be taxing concerns. Our sons and daughters will be away from home in a bad place and some will not return.

        “Children will be raised without fathers. We have to be prepared for those sacrifices.

        “We'll do it,” Mr. Price said. “We've done it before.”

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