It appears the story is still going on.. I have sent a response to the church and hope fully some of you will find it in your heart to send your own comments.. See below..This lie has got to stop now!!!
Two Words to Freedom(THE LIE GOES ON)
If you remember any photographs from the Vietnam war, you probably remember the picture seen on the cover of Life magazine. A 9 yr. old Vietnamese girl, her clothes burned off by napalm, is fleeing from an American lead assault on her village. She is running toward the camera,her mouth open wide in terror and pain.
For John Plummer, that picture is forever etched in his mind. He was the American chopper pilot responsible for raining fire on that Vietnamese village. The next day when that picture hit the front pages, John Plummer was devastated by it. For 24 years he carried the image of that burned girl in his mind.
Three marriages, two divorces, a severe drinking problem-and then the TV news that night, that showed that picture again-and then showed that same girl today, now living in Toronto. That was the first time John Plummer even knew the girl who had haunted his conscience for so long was still alive. He learned her name was Kim Phuc, now 33 years old. He watched and saw the thick white scars the splashing napalm had left on her neck and back. He also learned that Kim had undergone 17 operations but still lives with much pain.
Not long before, John's struggle led him to surrender his life to God. Now John wanted to face Kim. He soon got the opportunity at a Veterans Day observance at the Vietnam War Memorial. Kim was the speaker. When she finished, John Plummer fought his way through the crowd to reach her. This time, there was no news camera-but it was an unforgettable moment.
John told Kim who he was... and she just opened her arms to him. He fell into her arms sobbing. All he could say was, "I'm so sorry. I'm just so sorry." And the woman with the scars from what he had done patted his back and said these words, "It's all right. I forgive. I forgive."
Those two words can break the chains of bondage and set you free! When I read that story, I was struck with this simple truth: Many, many people live in bondage for lack of forgiveness. And yet freedom from that bondage is so easily attained! You can be free.
In Matthew 6:7-15 Jesus teaches us how to pray. The problem is we often neglect the truth of verse 14. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
I recently read a powerful statement: "Unforgiveness is the seed that germinates every time, causing the root of bitterness to grow strong." As Christians, we are commanded to forgive. It's not an option!
If you want to live in freedom-it's not an option. If you call yourself a follower of Christ-it's not an option. No matter what scars you bare, no matter what wounds you nurse, if you want victory-if you want joy-You must first forgive. FATHER FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO!
NEW UPDATE AS OF 8/6/98
Memorandum From_: Mario Burdick (JOHN PLUMMER'S BOSS) Re_: Trang Bang events
In May 1998, I was contacted by Ron Timberlake who asked me if I was familiar with the events that took place on June 6, 7, 8 of 1972 at Trang Bang. He also asked if I knew John Plummer and if I was aware of his claim to have been instrumental in coordinating the air strikes that caused the burning of the young Vietnamese girl in the "famous photograph."
I replied that I was vaguely familiar with the events at Trang Bang, had known John Plummer well, was unaware of any claims or controversy and like everyone else I remembered the photograph. Timberlake then asked me if I was aware of a ceremony that took place at the Vietnam Veterans' memorial in 1996 in which John Plummer asked Kim Phuc (the young girl in the photograph) to forgive him because he had ordered/coordinated the air strike that caused her burns.
I told Timberlake that I remembered seeing TV news accounts of the ceremony but had not associated John Plummer with the event. Timberlake then asked if he could forward newspaper articles, correspondence, comments by third parties, his own opinions and requested that I review the lot and provide my thoughts and comments on the possibility that John Plummer had, in fact, coordinated the air strike that injured Kim Phuc.
As I reviewed the extensive material and the many exchanged comments on the net, it became evident to me that an impression has been created that Third Regional Advisory/Assistance Command (TRAC)'s air operations were some sort of slipshod, half-baked undertaking where B52 strikes could go to the wrong target because someone wrote the wrong coordinates and where junior officers could allocate tactical air sorties.
Nothing could be further from the truth, to allow that impression to continue, dishonors the professionals from all services who gave up their lives in the "Battle of An Loc" and subsequent related actions. To dispel that impression is my primary motivation; the John Plummer issue is secondary although I will address it.
I will provide some personal information and describe the TRAC command structure as I remember it. I will describe the process for targeting, allocating and diverting B52 strikes and discuss their 36 to 48-hour time cycle. I will describe how tactical air was allocated and controlled and finally I will discuss the John Plummer issue. Please remember that these recollections date back 26 years and that inevitably there will be some fact and time inaccuracies.
I assure you they are not intentional. Since most of the people who will read this are military and Vietnam vets I will use the standard acronyms used at the time.
During my first tour in Vietnam, as a Captain, I was the Battalion Advisor to the 38th Vietnamese Ranger Battalion from September 1967 to August 1968. During this time we operated primarily in the periphery of Saigon as part of the Vietnamese 5th Ranger Group. During the Tet offensive the Battalion moved into Saigon and remained in the Saigon area through the May offensive and until my departure in August 68.
During this period my primary function was to coordinate US TAC Air and helicopter gun ship support. Standard operational procedure was that US advisors would control and direct US air support through US FACS and the Vietnamese would coordinate and direct VNAF air support through VNAF FACS. I mention this because this general procedure was still being followed in 72-73. That is not say that there were not exceptions.
I arrived at TRAC in late March 1972 and was designated to succeed Major Bob Munch as G3 Air/Arclight Coordinator. I understudied Bob for two or three weeks and took over upon his departure.
MG James Hollingsworth (Danger 79r as he was universally referred to) was the TRAC Commander. BG McGiffert was his deputy; he was later selected to run the MACV B52 program and departed TRAC in May. He was replaced by MG Tallman who was later killed at An Loc. Col William Humphrey, a close personal friend, had been the TRAC Chief of Staff and would soon depart.
Col. Niles Fulwyler was the G3; he departed mid to late May and was replaced by my close friend Major Peter M. Bentson who was later killed at An Loc along with Tallman and others. Capt. Russ Russell was 79r's Aide. Cpt. Hank Robertson and SP5 Garry Smith were assigned to TRAC G2 and ran the Combined Targets and Planning (CTAP) office. Cpt. John Plummer was assigned as Assistant G3 air but was detailed to the CTAP.office.
Pete Bentson's memory is the primary reason I am writing this account, besides being a very close friend (I am his son's godfather) he was a truly outstanding officer. He did such a superb job of running the TRAC's Tactical Operations Center (TOC) and controlling the flow of TAC Air to An Loc, that upon Fulwyler's departure, Hollingsworth made him his G3.
He was selected over several more senior Majors and Lt. Colonels in TRAC; it is testimony of the high esteem in which he was held that his selection was universally applauded including those who outranked him. I recall Hollingsworth and McGiffert commenting that Bentson would some day be Chief of Staff of the Army.
I remained the G3 Air/Arclight Coordinator until 1 Jan 73 when the Cease Fire went into effect. From January, 73 to late March, 73 I was assigned as Joint Region V, US delegation's Liaison Officer to the International Control Commission. Col Walter Ulmer was the senior US delegate.
B52 (ARCLIGHT) CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES_
General Hollingsworth kept a very tight rein on the control and allocation of the Arclight Strikes in MRIII.
As his Arclight coordinator, I was on call 24 hours a day and was authorized direct access to him at any time. Normally, the G3 would attend scheduled Arclight briefings and occasionally, so would BG McGiffert.
Everyone at TRAC knew better than to interfere in Arclight matters once Danger 79r had made his decisions.
The normal sequence began at the morning classified briefing. Based on special intelligence and the tactical situation in MRIII, Hollingsworth would give general guidance as to what area he wanted to hit with Arclights.
The CTAP people (Cpt. Robertson, SP5 Smith and Plummer while detailed there) would spend the morning searching their data banks, in the area designated by Hollingsworth, for known bunker positions, previously reported intelligence, CIA reports and previously reported special intelligence.
When combined with current special intelligence this would provide the basis for proposed Arclight target boxes and their justification. CTAP would provide their proposals and justification to me and I would plot them on a briefing map.
Sometime in the late afternoon I would brief Hollingsworth on the proposed targets, he would accept them or make changes but always he would place them in order of priority. Once target priorities had been established, they would be nominated and forwarded to MACV to arrive no later than 2400.
The following morning COMUS MACV would be briefed on all the target nominations made by the four Military Regions. Based on the tactical situation in Vietnam, he would allocate the available Arclight strikes.
Once the allocations had been made, the Air Force would take over and schedule the strikes. If MRIII had been allocated four strikes, our top four priorities would be scheduled. Usually by 1200 we would receive a message indicating how many targets had been selected and the scheduled times on target(TOT).
Usually TOT's were 12 to 24 hours from receipt of the 1200 MACV message. Once the targets had been approved, they would be plotted on maps and briefed to Hollingsworth at the late afternoon briefing, along with the Arclight nominations for the following day.
This process was repeated each day as long as Danger 79r was TRAC CG.
DIVERTING B52 (ARCLIGHT) STRIKES AND SECONDARY TARGETS
Once MACV had allocated the Arclight strikes, they became the "property" of the Regional Assistance Command.
Arclight strikes TOT's were usually as much as 24 hours from the time of notification; however, they could be diverted up to two hours prior to the scheduled TOT.
Again, Hollingsworth kept tight control and it was made very clear to all and to me that he was the only person who could divert a scheduled Arclight.
I was the individual who would call in the diversion to MACV (via secure phone); these procedures were followed until January of 1973.
Each scheduled Arclight would have a secondary target. In the event of bad weather, fuel shortage, etc. the original target would be aborted and the secondary target would be struck.
As the "Battle of An Loc" developed, Arclight strikes became a tactical rather than a strategic weapon.
I recall that during some critical 24-hour period 36-Arclight strikes were delivered in the periphery of An Loc.
General Hollingsworth must be given credit for developing the concept of using B52's as a very effective tactical weapon.
He pushed the US Air Force to its operational limits; at his insistence, time between Arclight deliveries was significantly narrowed and procedures were developed so that TAC Air could be delivered East or West of Highway 13 while Arclight strikes were going in on the opposite side.
I want to emphasize that there were stringent rules of engagement covering the employment of Arclights; target boxes had to be from one to three kilometers away (depending on the target box axis) from known civilian structures, known civilian locations or friendly forces.
If there were any doubts, visual recon was performed to confirm the absence of civilians.TRAC and MACV policy was clear; if there was even a remote possibility of civilian or friendly presence within the safety zone of a target box, the Arclight strike was not scheduled.
It should be evident to all that read this account that the targeting of B52 strikes in MRIII was a very structured, formalized procedure.
The idea that Arclight strikes could go in the wrong place because someone wrote the wrong coordinates or that anyone other than Hollingsworth or his successor could direct their employment is preposterous.
TACTICAL AIR SUPPORT IN MR III
Up until early April 72, the routine allocation of US TAC Air in MRIII was handled by the G3 Air/Arclight Coordinator with guidance from the G3 and the CG.
Most of these sorties were directed against preplanned targets provided by the CTAP Office under the supervision of the G2. Once the "Battle of An Loc" began, the G3 Air went out of the TAC Air business. From early April 72 until the Cease Fire in December, the G3 Air shop dealt almost exclusively with Arclight coordination.
From early April 72 on, US and most VNAF TAC Air support in MRIII were routed through a joint Vietnamese/US TOC/DASC (I believe DASC stands for Direct Air Support Center). In fact, General Hollingsworth and the TRAC staff took over the air war and the Vietnamese had little or nothing to say on TAC Air allocation including their own VNAF sorties dedicated to An Loc.
Major Pete Bentson became the "de facto" TOC Operations Officer/Commander. He was in constant communication with the CG, US Air Force, VNAF, FACS and the US Navy when carrier aircraft were used.
Bentson was the TAC Air coordinator and was always in the TOC when Hollingsworth was flying, which was most of the day. All TAC Air was allocated through Bentson _but he strictly followed the CG's guidance and direction.
This procedure was continued after Bentson became the G3. He designated his successor as primary TAC Air coordinator ( I do not recall his name ) and continued to supervise TOC/DASC operations on a daily basis.
On many occasions, after he became the G3, Bentson would step in and would act as his own TAC Air coordinator. This would happen if the situation at An Loc heated up or if Danger 79r became "testy" with whoever was on the TOC desk coordinating air support. During the Trang Bang battles of 6, 7, 8, June, 72, Bentson was still alive, he was the TRAC G3 and An Loc was still hot.
COMMENTS ON JOHN PLUMMER
I do not have a clear recollection of John Plummer upon my arrival at TRAC. As I remember, he was assigned as my assistant and detailed to the CTAP and the G2 section; perhaps he was TDY, or detailed to one of the air cav.units.
I do know that after Bob Munch departed and the volume of Arclights increased, my work load became quite heavy. When Pete Bentson became the G3,I insisted that John Plummer come back to the G3 Air section and he obliged.
I personally and professionally liked John Plummer. The "plum," as we called him, was energetic, likeable, intelligent and a good officer. He had a tendency to "shoot from the hip" but part of that was age and part was being Cav. ( I mean this as a compliment, because the Air Cav. was highly respected and sorely missed after their departure).
I do not recall how I rated him, or even if I did, but my guess is that it was "outstanding."
Nevertheless, I must take issue with John Plummer's assertions regarding his role in the Trang Bang events of June 72 and his other comments.
John's statement in his 10/06/97 E-mail message to Ron Timberlake, quote "For example, every day, as the Assistant G3 Air, I had anywhere from 5 - 10 sorties allocated to me. They were at my disposal. They weren't on any air mission order, but were for my use wherever I saw fit to use them. It was those aircraft that I sent to Trang Bang after the VNAF had already expended their allocated daily resources on the morning of June 8.
Since that was the only spot in the Corps that day not covered by pre-planned strikes, I elected to send them to assist the unit that was pinned down" end of quotation.
This statement by John is simply not true, but more to the point_, _it could not have happened! No one individual at TRAC had 5 -10 sorties at their daily disposal; _ _no U.S. officer (or Vietnamese for that matter) could have committed any aircraft through the joint TOC/DASC without Hollingsworth's or Bentson's approval.
I vaguely recall a sense of relief at TRAC after the Kim Phuc photos appeared in Star & Stripes and MACV inquiries began about US involvement. There was relief because no one at TRAC ( including Plummer) had been involved.
The question begs itself. If General Hollingsworth and TRAC controlled TAC Air allocations in MRIII, how did those VNAF sorties that burned Kim Phuc get there? The answer is that TRAC controlled all "joint" US/Vietnamese Air Operations and ran the "joint" TOC/DASC; in June of 72 all "joint" air operations were focused on An Loc.
TRAC had no control of VNAF Air Operations that used VNAF FACS in support of Vietnamese units which by this time had no US advisors at Battalion level. As described in June, 72 articles in Stars & Stripes, the Trang Bang battles were strictly a Vietnamese affair.
That Plummer, as a junior officer on the TRAC staff, could have ordered/coordinated VNAF sorties to a battle in which there was no US involvement while at the same time bypassing the joint TOC/DASC (and done all this without my knowledge) was not feasible then, nor is it believable now.
In fairness to John Plummer I would like to address some comments that have been made over the net. On two occasions John Plummer was the acting G3 Air while I was absent from TRAC. The first time was while I escorted Major Bentson's remains back to the US in July 72 and represented TRAC at his burial. The second time was when I deployed to Lai Khe as part of a TRAC forward CP to support the 5th ARVN Division sometime in August 72.
I am certain Plummer briefed General Hollingsworth on a daily basis in my absence.
Is it possible that John Plummer talked to the Distric/Province Advisor with jurisdiction over Trang Bang and suggested the use of the VNAF reserve at Ton Son Nhut? Yes it is possible. Would an American Advisor at any level call the Assistant G3 Air to request TAC Air support?
No, he would have normally called the joint TOC/DASC; all Advisory teams in MRIII were tied in by radio to the TOC/DASC.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I bear John Plummer no ill will; as I said before, he was a good officer and I personally enjoyed his wit and his company.
Perhaps he got carried away by the moment at the Vietnam Memorial or perhaps, as we all tend to do after many years, he remembers his role as more involved than it really was. My only motivation in writing this account is to set the record straight.