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When a War got its Stride

By       Message Eric Dietrich-Berryman       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   70 comments

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We left on a wet, windswept September morning. A Military Police Company, the first to be sent to Vietnam, scattered to postings throughout the country and with our South Vietnamese Quan Cahn opposites.

At Fort Hood, rumors buzzed non-stop. At the pre-departure briefing our officers self-consciously hemmed and hawed about what to expect at destination. At last, one of them took stage center and said we were going to war. Not everyone in the room would come back. His colleagues looked at him askance.

Twenty-two years old, of trifling rank and corresponding responsibilities, a trained doorstop like privates in any army anywhere in every age. Our purpose for going? To bolster a struggling democracy by inserting American military organization, equipment and assistance into a bitter civil war. In my time, helping South Vietnam meant ferrying their combat troops by helicopter directly into battle, evacuating the wounded, and serving alongside ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) soldiery.

From flickr.com: Vietnam War 1968 - Operation Jeb Stuart III, south of Quang Tri {MID-339687}
Vietnam War 1968 - Operation Jeb Stuart III, south of Quang Tri
(Image by manhhai)
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It never occurred to me to do anything else but go when told. We have a duty to obey our country's lawful commands. There was an oath to live up to. Loathing Communism was incidental. But I never went anyplace more reluctantly. My marriage was scarcely two months old, thus orders for an involuntary and totally unanticipated departure provoked something close to disintegration of the spirit as our time together vanished by degrees under the pressure of a force that could not be slowed, never mind stopped. Feelings about what was happening to my life were in a turmoil for which there are no words, even after fifty-six years.

A dense group of people pressed tightly together when Sergeant Cau drove us into Saigon city center. We came from Tan Sahn Nhut to shop for cigarettes (Vietnamese liked them mentholated) and perfume for Cau's wife at the U.S. military PX, downtown. The crowd's back was against us. They made no noise. None.

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We blended in somewhat because we wore the same ARVN paratrooper camouflage uniform topped with a spiffy red beret, and our jeep was not American. Most likely none of that would have made any difference because the moment was not about the war. This was about anti-Buddhist prejudice by the Catholic majority government. "Let's have a look," I said to a reluctant Cau.

We got to the outer edge of the crowd just when the Buddhist monk, Thích Quảng Đức, sitting cross-legged at an Esso station lit a match. Instantly, his body was enveloped in a burst of dense smoke and flames. With one voice the crowd let out a deep, prolonged moan. We turned away and moved back through the thicket of people all now staring at the blackened, shapeless form of what moments ago had been a man.

In a remote Mekong Delta airstrip built by Japanese occupiers in World War II, I became a helicopter door gunner with weapons of World War II vintage. We dropped Vietnamese troops in the thick of battle. A line of H-21 Shawnee "flying banana" helicopters just a few feet above the ground, jumping huts and hedgerows, panicking animals, careening over astonished, gawping people. Sending epileptics into seizure. Viet Cong firing back from concealed holes in the ground. My place was at the front, just behind the pilots. A .30-caliber, belt-fed, air-cooled Browning spat tracers at targets a few feet below. We hovered inches above the ground long enough to debark our infantry quickly, peppering their exit with bursts of covering fire. Hot, spent brass casings hit our departing soldiers, their cue that we were now in the Drop Zone. That things had turned serious.

Extreme roller-coaster rides in rickety airframes with mostly hope and the optimism of youth for a shield. Actual physical protection was medieval. The motor pool cut half-inch steel plates that the pilots balanced on their laps to cover the chest area, groin to neck. I wore a flak jacket; I declined a set of armored diapers. "Apocalypse Now" uses Huey helicopters that were faster and more maneuverable than our clumsy giants, but the sights and sounds are spot-on. Our CO was no Robert Duvall with a love of "napalm in the morning," but the scene captures every bit of the energy, the noise, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and the blood-lust that came over us sitting in an open door behind a machine gun.

ARVN did not grouse. There were times (med-evacs) when men died in my arms. Quietly, acutely conscious of what was happening, our eyes locked together. I knew the instant a soul departed. The effect is like those soundless, invisible earthquakes in New Mexico when the ground ripples so quickly underfoot that you wonder for a moment if it wasn't an illusion. Real and ephemeral, all at once.

I came home in late summer 1963, deafened and migrained, the effects of an explosion and of being knocked about inside the fuselage, attached to a safety harness during a couple of controlled crashes. There had been 120 missions, two Air Medals, a Purple Heart and an ARVN pin that the ever-resourceful Cau masterminded for my brief stint serving with him and his boys. By then it was called the Vietnam War. The Vietnam Service medal arrived when I was in graduate school. A single bronze star on the ribbon signified the "Advisory Campaign."

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With 50-plus years of hindsight, most in-country Vietnam vets - those who fought, particularly - internalized a few truths. All of us can say, "We were winning when I left." Most of us might add, "The good guys didn't win." Global perspectives can interject with, "American civilian leadership betrayed a wobbly democracy. Just as it had betrayed a divided Korea 20 years earlier, and as it is doing today in Syria."

 

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German-born (1940) immigrant (1958). US Army 1958-1964. Vietnam 1962-1963. USN 1969-1993. Hofstra University BA 1966; University of New Mexico MA (1968), PhD (1971). Fully retired. Married. Five children, three grandchildren. Resident in (more...)
 

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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When we go to the bother of fueling a war we are honor-bound to see it to a recognizably satisfactory completion. Mismanagement, social ennui, surrender of purpose or any other excuse to pack it in and go home is defeat by breach of trust.

Submitted on Sunday, Dec 30, 2018 at 6:51:30 PM

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j dial

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Eric, it seems you're saying that to stop short of "reasonably satisfactory completion" of any war, no matter how falsely it was packaged or how futile its pursuit, is "defeat by breach of trust".

Currently the US is involved or complicit in wars in five countries (disregarding stalemates and unconfessed incursions). For the US in fact--and not apparently--to retreat from any of these war zones would be to breach the trust of whom? We were not invited to any of those places. Does anyone believe that those whose families are being collaterally slaughtered would feel betrayed by the invader's departure?

I'm pretty sure that any who might feel betrayed by US endless-war withdrawal would be limited to CEOs and shareholders of military/industrial/political/corporate and media persuasion.

If all wars were truly defensive, we wouldn't have to concoct reason for withdrawal because we'd be home.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 31, 2018 at 2:27:13 AM

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The merits of American military involvement are not the article's aim. That said, I do not see the United States as an aggressor nation.

The war in Korea ought to have concluded with a united country, not divided between a democractic south and a demonstratively belligerant north. Vietnam ought at a minimum to have a non-Communist south.

I believe Kennedy's intentions were on the level when he provided Saigon with assistance. The war was horribly mismanaged and then we walked away. Currently, the Kurds proved themselves to be staunch allies but now face being abandoned by yet another feckless American political decision.

That is my point: if we decide to throw people and treasure into a conflict we think can't be dealt with in any other fashion, we must stick it out to a finish that conforms to American interests.

Collateral damage has become a deeply cynical strategy. It had been weaponized and exploited by terror groups who muster in schools, hospitals and the heart of civilian neighborhoods.

There are people, nations, theocracies that want to kill us, the "Great Satan." I don't see how we can avoid war.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 31, 2018 at 4:23:32 AM

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You don't see the US as an aggressor nation? Iraq never attacked us. Libya never attacked us. Syria never attacked us. Iran hasn't, either, but I fear it's in our crosshairs. And if other people and nations consider us the "Great Satan", I can understand why.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 2:02:06 AM

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Must we wait for a nation to attack before we react?

Libya attacked our ships.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 7:46:30 AM

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Must we wait for a nation to attack before we react?

Libya attacked our ships.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 7:49:13 AM

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My gut reaction to your question is yes, primarily because any country with the gall to do that would be, in effect, signing their own death certificate. The events that have led us into war, were known about ahead of time. We 'allowed' them to justify our going to war. Why? War is profitable which just underscores the Biblical truth that "money is the root of all evil" and I think the US is the Poster Child for that quote in direct conflict of our claim that America is a force for peace in the world.


Check out themilleniumreport.com/2015/06/the-truth-about-gaddafis-libya-natos-bombing-and-the-benghazi-consulate-attack/


From bing.com/videos I find videos of 3 ships being attacked by Libya. They were all Turkish ships. And on youtube you can find "All America's Wars Begin with False Flags (and WWlll Will Too)

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 2:22:13 PM

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What Turkish ships? Where are you looking?

Your comprehensive litany of America's wars need detail, one at a time. This isn't the forum for that. But start with Libya:

The Gulf of Sidra incidents in 1986. Libya announced ownership of the entire gulf and drew a "line of death" to stop anyone from entering without permission. Thus, denying freedom of navigation in international waters far beyond the conventional territorial limits, usually about a dozen miles.

Libya launched missiles and fighter aircraft. USS Ticonderoga battle group responded.

Similar defiance of nationalistic imperialism is in play again with China's construction of artificial islands in the Spratleys, with customary bellicose claims of ownership of vast areas of ocean.

Of course, the international community could always cede to China. In time, we wouldn't be allowed to enter the Chesapeake Bay without Beijing's say-so.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 3:38:09 PM

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?????

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 3:41:38 AM

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Great comment!

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 8:37:47 PM

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Trust was broken by our leaders. I cannot even count the ways we have been misled. Only by agreeing to set down the weapons of war and build a peaceful economy can we grow and move on.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 31, 2018 at 4:01:49 AM

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Pacifism is an unobtainable nobility in a world that has never been at peace with itself. War and readiness for war is our fate if we want to protect and survive.

Submitted on Monday, Dec 31, 2018 at 9:53:23 AM

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Spend many trillions of dollars in illegal wars based on lies to kill and maim millions of men, women and children ... including unborn fetuses too.


We need to stay at war and remain ready for war so we can continue to do more of the same. It is too bad those countries have people that don't look like us and too bad they are so close to our borders being only half way around the world. It is too bad it was us and not them who brought the towers down. That is why we need to stay at war and remain ready for war and continue our terror. We need to protect ourselves to survive.


Yes, that is what you believe. Be proud of yourself. It feels good, doesn't it....

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 4:33:05 AM

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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David, what are you responding to? I told my story. No soapbox oratory. Just a biographical bit about being a soldier half a century ago.

Not in any way a defense of the VN war. Or of war in general. Of being 22 years old and completely unprepared for what came.

Yes, it was hair-raising and adrenalin-pumping stuff to do my job. How else could it be? And I conclude the essay in today's context. That's it.

Not to your liking? OK. You have something to say about yourself in the 1960s? Say it. I'll read with interest and sympathy.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 1:23:04 PM

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Eric, I was not commenting on your article. I was responding to a couple of your comments. They hit me the wrong way. I just said it like I see it.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 8:11:24 PM

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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Which ones? My writing speed is indistinguishable from catatonia. I fret over the structure and sense of each sentence. But I can't satisfy everyone. Got to finish sometime.

Our lives are not easily parsed. There are always regrets. Elsewhere among the comments is a line about doing stuff that let us come back from VN with our heads held high. I never felt a whimper of shame for going.

Soviet Communism was the enemy I pushed back on until it collapsed in 1989, after which my attitude to continue serving went south. 32 years had passed by then. Communism was what I and the rest of us fought. Don't agree? Vaudeville-level naive? OK.

Neither of us are speaking ex cathedra, infallibly from the throne. John Re elsewhere in these pages, has a sharply contrasting view. I respect that, enjoy his fundamental decency. Don't agree with his - probably not your - view of the United States in its present circumstance. But if you talked nice I'd let you buy me a beer.

Communism was and remains an enemy of man. That's what I fought in 1962-63. I believed in the honest intentions of the authority that sent me. Those who hollered "Hell No! We won't Go" had a much clearer moral compass or a herd mentality. Or both.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 9:56:10 PM

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Apparently, we've been in dire straights for our entire history. To protect and survive, we have been in military conflict 93% of the time (222 out of 239 years).


That article was printed, however, in 2015. Guess we should change the record to 225 out of 242 years....

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 2:30:01 PM

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OK. Thanks.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 3:14:53 PM

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This country IS war.


Copyrighted Image? DMCA

Submitted on Tuesday, Jan 1, 2019 at 5:03:26 PM

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Because - and for whatever reason - people are at war with us. The Spanish-American War stands out as manufactured in the U.S. alone. USS Maine blew up in Havana harbor because the bunkered coal combusted, setting off nearby stored munitions. Reaction was a blizzard of bellicose jingoism.

The first World War was entirely avoidable. America had no cause to embroil itself in Europe's mess. All other conflicts were either unavoidable or launched for reasons of national self-interest, more or less.

Caution applies to use of "war." The word needs parsing. Invading Grenada was a rescue/punitive expedition. Liberation of Kuwait was punitive on steroids, as was the invasion of Iraq.

Not an intelligence entity on the planet cast doubt on the fear that Sadam owned weapons of mass destruction. Not one.

Easy for critics to holler that the invasion was wrong. People who have never made a command decision in their life suddenly got self-rightious and condemnatory.

What manner of leadership would dare gamble the life of a nation on 'Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. No evidence to the contrary, I'll go with doesn't.'

222 conflicts in the life of our Republic? Not at all clear to me what that figure is trying to say.

Submitted on Tuesday, Jan 1, 2019 at 6:09:22 PM

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Yes, "punitive on steroids, as was the invasion of Iraq" ("Fraudulent Justification" - Article II Bush Impeachment Articles).

Our own intelligence agencies had prepared a "White Paper" (at 2:08 minutes) for congress, that Bugliosi refers to, that indicate that Hussein was "not an imminent threat" to the United States but W Bush "decided on his own" to attack, destroy, and occupy Iraq and depose their sovereign government.

Surely a repeat of #NurembergCrimes "on steroids" at the "Dawn of the 21st Century" - #EndlessWars #AllWarsAreBankersWars #AmericaNeedsWar #EndTheFed #investigate911 #PrePlantedExplosives "used at the WTC" #GrandJuryPetition on Page 12 #USAttorney.

Submitted on Tuesday, Jan 1, 2019 at 7:00:37 PM

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Reply to Lance Ciepiela:   New Content

Thanks much, Lance. We come at this as generational peers with contrasting views. I don't come down as hard on government because I still have some residual faith that overall intentions are more positive than not.

The blinkered, patriotic side of an immigrant, perhaps. Though there's no denying we suffer scoundrels among our leadership.

My words reflect the shape of how I see my past as played out by one of the bit players. We diverge in our understanding. Your history is more black and white. I move about in shades of grey. Not a bad thing.

Submitted on Tuesday, Jan 1, 2019 at 7:43:46 PM

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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Reply to Lance Ciepiela:   New Content

Thanks much, Lance. We come at this as generational peers with contrasting views. I don't come down as hard on government because I still have some residual faith that overall intentions are more positive than not.

The blinkered, patriotic side of an immigrant, perhaps. Though there's no denying we suffer scoundrels among our leadership.

My words reflect the shape of how I see my past as played out by one of the bit players. We diverge in our understanding. Your history is more black and white. I move about in shades of grey. Not a bad thing.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jan 2, 2019 at 12:20:46 AM

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Reply to Eric Dietrich-Berryman:   New Content

Are you kidding me?

'Because - and for whatever reason - people are at war with us.'

U.S. military interventions just in my lifetime based on LIES that were/are complete disasters:

Vietnam

Panama

Iraq v1.0

Afghanistan

Iraq v2.0

Libya

And who knows what atrocities the U.S. is committing in Africa and elsewhere that we will never hear about.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jan 2, 2019 at 4:17:56 PM

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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No response of mine can resonate with anyone who believes - as you do apparently, reading your litany of supporting "evidence" - that the WTC collapse on 9/11 was a government plot. We inhabit polar-opposite realities.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jan 2, 2019 at 6:16:07 PM

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Denying reality does not change the truth...

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Reply to Eric Dietrich-Berryman:   New Content

Eric, perhaps I get what you're saying - Kill 'em all and let God sort it out. Maybe

that expresses what many VietNam veterans had to say in order to survive and

come home upright.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 2:43:37 PM

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Never said that. Never implied it. Never would say that. Nelson, you didn't get that from me.

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This country IS war.


Copyrighted Image? DMCA

Submitted on Tuesday, Jan 1, 2019 at 5:07:19 PM

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John Lawrence Ré

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There is ABSOLUTELY NO HONOR in completing a dishonorable war, Berriman. Apparently the hysteria over Trump's anouncement that spending taxpayer money killing people instead of repairing our crumbling infrastructure has allowed war mongering sewage like this article to back up into daylight once again. Carefully sequestered in a maudlin appeal to honor the noble warrior, this tripe is just neocon agitprop. The fact that it is now 2019, and there are still those attempting to infuse a justified morality into one of the greatest experiments in genocide in human history is frightening.

I and thousands of other vets who didn't have the balls or maturity to resist the draft, spent countless hours in group sessions at VVAW and elsewhere attempting to overcome our disgust that we were part of it. So here's some unsolicited advice: get off your high horse and and admit that you left your wife and life at home for nothing. Chalk it up to being young and ignorant...whatever works. But your contention that communism is bad and therefore justified intervention to prevent a nation from self-determination is backward and deplorable. And just because you were there means jackshit in relativistic terms...it's just more neocon sophistry to gain sympathy for a wekness you can't acknowledge. There are those of us who know too much now and won't be fooled again.

Submitted on Friday, Jan 4, 2019 at 2:44:28 AM

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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Reply to John Lawrence Ré:   New Content

I call it as I see it. So do you.

I'm just not as angry. Some detail needs clarification: no children yet. My VN came a month after the wedding.

VN does not bear the word "genocide" which is pretty narrowly focused in policy aims and industrial deed to eradication of a specific group. Jews. Armenians. Tutsis. That was not the case in VN, whatever your politics.

Pushing 80 I'll accept "maudlin". Much too old for corrosive rage and invective. Happy to get you animated. Regret you hate yourself so much.

Submitted on Friday, Jan 4, 2019 at 6:34:59 AM

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John Lawrence Ré

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Reply to Eric Dietrich-Berryman:   New Content

I wrote "experiment" in genocide. And that's exactly what we were involved in. The constructive "genocide" ended when the experiment was completed. You can cite all the official and unofficial motives for it from domoino theory to roadblocking Soviet hegemony but your calling Vietnam a "war" improperly dignifies what it truly was: nothing more than an aggressive invasion to provide a chance for the military to test the economic profit margins of the newly minted war economy while experimenting in counterrevolution.

But whatever you call it, it was planned before WWII had even ended when the massive US military machine that was created during that war was eager to test for itself the evolving technologies that the Axis powers had been developing before their defeat for the control of developing nations - particularly those intent on self-determination and guerrilla resistance.

Here are some excerpts form an aticle I wrote a while ago:

The Vietnam experiment began in earnest long before troops were committed when the following steps and events began taking shape:

the relocation to Bethesda and Aberdeen of various key members of the Third Reich and the scientists who ran the infamous Japanese torture center, Unit 731;

the Pentagon's designing the "electronic battlefield" strategies for efficient carpet bombing of infrastructure;

massive testing of bio-defoliants, "rainbow herbicides" and chemical weapons by Dow, Monsanto and others leading up to Operation Ranch Hand where the chemicals, like dioxin, were sprayed directly on millions of Vietnamese civilians to test mortality thresholds;

drafting plans for sabotaging rice paddies and dams to force mass starvation through crop destruction and flooding to test human endurance;

forced mass relocation campaigns to subvert all sense of cultural identity and ancestral tradition; and

new interrogation, humiliation and torture techniques along with creation of programs like the State Department's Phoenix Program designed to destroy all will in the hearts and minds of the peasants who resist complete subjugation.

Race was a most critical factor in gaining approval in government funding for the atrocities, yet overlooked or downplayed by revisionist "historians." In his book "Vietnam Inc," the great war photo journalist, the late Philip Jones Griffiths, quotes a US officer reviewing the effectiveness of napalm on site in Vietnam in language that reveals the deep racist undercurrent of the US military.

"We sure are pleased with those backroom boys at Dow. The original product wasn't so hot if the gooks were quick they could scrape it off. So the boys started adding polystyrene now it sticks like sh*t to a blanket. But if the gooks jumped under water it stopped burning, so they started adding Willie Peter (white phosphorus) so's to make it burn better. And just one drop is enough, it'll keep on burning right down to the bone so they die anyway from phosphorus poisoning."

You know that once I accepted how I had wasted a period of my life for naught, I learned to love again. You should try it and give up the ridiculous fanatasy that you were there to do good and were more than just a tool. if you do, I'll bet you might love yourself again, too. Hopefully, this exchange will nudge you in that direction. It's never too late.

Submitted on Friday, Jan 4, 2019 at 8:26:13 AM

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Reply to John Lawrence Ré:   New Content

We are united by one thing, for sure: insomnia.


Thanks much, John. Your spirited writing made the night interesting and short. Happy New Year.

Submitted on Friday, Jan 4, 2019 at 11:15:51 AM

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John Lawrence Ré

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Reply to Eric Dietrich-Berryman:   New Content

Ha ha. Yep, I did the one thing you should never do: I slept all day yesterday upon arriving back home to MA from LA. So of course I was up all night and cranky.

Thanks for your good natured reply and best wishes that in 2019 all's well with you and you can separate yourself from that shameful legacy of Vietnam that was forced on us the youth of this country by greedy old bastards who risked nothing.

Submitted on Friday, Jan 4, 2019 at 7:23:48 PM

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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Reply to John Lawrence Ré:   New Content

Maybe I ought to preface my response to serious issues with a note that my perspective is likely skewed because I'm an immigrant.

61 years as of May, '18. Unaccompanied, age 17 after years of near-desperate yearning to come to America. From Berlin, Germany. Starting around the time I stood with my Wehrmacht nurse mother, our hands glued to our head, when a US infantryman came over and told me to take down my hands, and his buds plied me with crackers laden with butter and jam.

My gratitude for being let in is about on par with my faith in the, strength, resilience and boundless future of this country.

As sketched in the article, I never balked at my VN orders because my faith was anchored in the essential good of the government that sent me.

Naive. Stupid. Call it that and more, but my esteem for America really had - and has - no limits. Scandalous and incompetent inhabitants of the WH notwithstanding. Another 36 years in the USN and federal civil service did not diminished either my respect or sense of obligation to pay back a collosal, unpayable debt.

Immigrants are like that. We lack the free-wheeling birth-right luxury of unfettered criticism that you and my children were born to.

Looking back there is a touch of Wagnerian gloom that comes out sounding maudlin, you're right about that. Hindsight now is to try and make sense of it all. It comes with encroaching age.

I would never have volunteered for VN. No apologies for going, however. I faced my ration of combat and never cowered. I survived. It's enough.

Submitted on Friday, Jan 4, 2019 at 9:28:03 PM

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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Reply to John Lawrence Ré:   New Content

Maybe I ought to preface my response to serious issues with a note that my perspective is likely skewed because I'm an immigrant.

61 years as of May, '18. Unaccompanied, age 17 after years of near-desperate yearning to come to America. From Berlin, Germany. Starting around the time I stood with my Wehrmacht nurse mother, our hands glued to our head, when a US infantryman came over and told me to take down my hands, and his buds plied me with crackers laden with butter and jam.

My gratitude for being let in is about on par with my faith in the, strength, resilience and boundless future of this country.

As sketched in the article, I never balked at my VN orders because my faith was anchored in the essential good of the government that sent me.

Naive. Stupid. Call it that and more, but my esteem for America really had - and has - no limits. Scandalous and incompetent inhabitants of the WH notwithstanding. Another 36 years in the USN and federal civil service did not diminished either my respect or sense of obligation to pay back a collosal, unpayable debt.

Immigrants are like that. We lack the free-wheeling birth-right luxury of unfettered criticism that you and my children were born to.

Looking back there is a touch of Wagnerian gloom that comes out sounding maudlin, you're right about that. Hindsight now is to try and make sense of it all. It comes with encroaching age.

I would never have volunteered for VN. No apologies for going, however. I faced my ration of combat and never cowered. I survived. It's enough.

Submitted on Friday, Jan 4, 2019 at 9:43:30 PM

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John Lawrence Ré

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Reply to Eric Dietrich-Berryman:   New Content

Not all immigrants share such a feel-good reverie. My girlfriend is a German immigrant, too... from Dusseldorf. Her mom also came face to face with some american GIs at the end of the war. Didn't have the same cheery ending, though. She got more than crakcers with jam... suffers from PTSD to this day at 95 y/o.

So your esteem is just that - yours. A personal tonic that glazed over what goes on in the parallel, true reality where the american empire is waist deep in its avarice and spiritual miasma. I like to say that as an Italian, I don't see Schopenhauer's half empty glass, but Bruno's glass half full. Except when it comes to my country, then all I see is a cracked glass lying on its side.

But this life is mostly illusion anyway as we say in the film biz. Good luck, Eric.

Submitted on Friday, Jan 4, 2019 at 11:08:11 PM

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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Reply to John Lawrence Ré:   New Content

Thanks, John. Back at you.


My Italian friends - some go back to US Army days - are cheerful optimists. There's German DNA in you, someplace. And don't knock the impression made on a 5-year old by loads of crackers, butter and jam. Dusseldorf, eine interessante stadt. Leider nicht die schoenste.

Submitted on Friday, Jan 4, 2019 at 11:44:24 PM

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John Lawrence Ré

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Ausser fur die Frauen!

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John Lawrence Ré

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I might add that I do love Berlin, have a longtime German gf, drive a 911S cabriolet in summer and a Macan GTS in winter and as an undergeraduate philosophy major, was deeply influenced by Heidegger's Being and Time. Also, I respect the Germans for having the grace to proscribe holoaust denial. If only the spineless frauds that run this nation had the basic human decency to repay the US war debt to Vietnam. They should at least make it a crime to deny how we subjected that nation to 30 years of terror.

None of this changes the fact that I have no German blood, but perhpas it makes me a Teutonophile of sorts! ;-)

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 1:17:29 AM

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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Teotonophile, indeed! Nifty transport, also.


My marinade is Prout's "remembrance of things past." Heidegger is tough to embrace (as is Schopenhauer) but helps explain your Teutonic shadows. You mention film business. Thought occurred that you probably screened too much Ingmar Bergman. Heavy doses of death in monochrome. Ask me, and I'd blurt that Italians invented art, food, and literature. And in their 'hairy helmet' phase, straight roads and an ordered society for yokels who painted themselves in blue dye.


We're in Berlin in October. Staying at the Adlon. A never-regretted extravagance.


Very much enjoyed our exchanges, John.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 1:48:36 AM

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Of course I watched all of Bergman's films in film school at Columbia. Even put up his son Daniel in my appartment for a few days in Cannes one year. I was also best man at the wedding of the other Bergman's stepson, the late Gil Rossellini.

"Ask me, and I'd blurt that Italians invented art, food, and literature." Now that is something I can fully agree on with you. My father's oldest brother was knighted by the Italian government and my stepmother was a diva who performed with Toscanini in San Francisco. And though I may like some things German and Nordic, I absolutely love all things Italian. Especially Italian cinema - wide ranging across the decades from Visconti's, Death in Venice to Risi's, Il Sorpasso to Sorentino's Le Conseguenze dell'amore. I've even distributed a few good Italian films here in the US before I swtiched back from distribution to production.

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John, I've grown to love you better than a brother. This response from you explains

how we've each grown, matured(?) and accepted the fact that we have been, and

still are, used like cheap, disposable 'tools'. My hope is that our examples will aid

an old comrade who seems still to justify one's evil misuse. As you probably have

surmised, I served II & Korea and am able to salvage no pride for my ignorant use.

I note that you have employed some thought and coniderable research to be that

person you've become. Keep turning more furrows.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 3:05:41 PM

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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As an American soldier you feel "used" for participating in WWII? Define yourself as a fellow troop and "comrade"? On whose side?

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Eric if I may paraphrase Nelson: he is saying that all wars are class wars"including WWII. And as I do not get the impression from your notes and education that you are a member of the ruling class, it's not difficult to deduce that as a soldier, you served as its tool.

I realize that many still hold serving in WWII sacrosanct vis a vis the horrors committed in its duration, but you need to dig deeper and expose the roots. Today we should be asking who created the refugee crisis, who created the emulsification of the middle class into a debtor class, who created these wars? In the case of WWII, had the arch bigot Woodrow Wilson not involved the US in WWI, there may not have been a WWII. Surely not a holocaust as we know it today. It was the success of the US military that inspired the ruling class here to pull the rug from under the Weimar Republic and dedicate finances and arms to create the enormous potential a second world war would present. Without an enemy there is no war. The stronger the enemy, the longer and more profitable the war. In my mother's family's village in Piemonte, they raise pheasants. All summer they name them, feed them, fatten them. Then in October they hunt and shoot them.

It's probably time to kick the tin drum and toy gun of your boyhood to the curb and realize that war is not gallant or inevitable, but just an insult to human society and participation in it ergo imparts a strict liability of guilt. I know it's a tough pill to swallow for a career military man, but as I've mentioned before, it's never too late.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 10:15:38 PM

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Presumptious but sadly not far from the truth, the last paragraph especially. That is also why there is confession and atonement. It will do.

Submitted on Sunday, Jan 6, 2019 at 4:31:45 AM

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Guns and uniforms, loud noise, bright lights, being shaken awake time and again, enduring hunger and loss of family infused my early years, as they did for all kriegskinder of my generation. A lifetime tic came of it.


But in our Catholic/Jewish clan it is being born German at that moment in history that was so much more desperately hard to accommodate and not die of self-loathing.

Submitted on Sunday, Jan 6, 2019 at 4:45:46 AM

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John Lawrence Ré

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Yes, well said. I read a letter you wrote, Eric, that ended with the line: " Let them in with a smile and with open arms. Wash their feet. Wash their faces," and was quite moved. I can certainly see why OEN invited you to write articles. Bravo.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 2:48:23 AM

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In a memoir there's a snapshot of me and some other boys - all of us in a kriegskinderheim, evacuees from the bombing - playing soldier in WWII. I'm shaking my finger at the camera. The editor and publisher, my reporting senior in the Pleistocene, wrote in the caption, "The Lost Patrol. Upper Silesia, circa 1943. The hero in shoes and socks had something to say, a trait he carried through life with mixed success." Explains most everything, including failure to make make captain.

One of my girls is keeping count of the viral response: counting R. Reich's followers there are 100,000 shares, about 2,700 comments - most of them sane. Letters are still arriving in the post, and phone calls to my landline. Bewildering response.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 6:33:25 AM

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Eric, In 2002 I distrinbuted the film All My Loved Ones to theaters in the US. It's centered on one family's experience during the Kindertransport in Czechoslovakia. I really think you will enjoy it! It should be able to be streamed online at this point.

.imdb.com/title/tt0218705/

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 7:45:35 AM

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I'll make this my last reply of the night. Gotta brew tea and coffee for the Sainted Mother, my bride. Just an anecdote.

My minder in the kriegskinderheim was "Mutti" Weil, an ethnic German. Her daughter was the braided Ludmila of Perpetual Adoration.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 10:35:24 AM

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ich wurde es geniessen, Eric, dich mehr zu kennen.


My family (wife mit 6 kinder) have spent weeks in Deutschland and Italia, not with Vittorio Emannuel, John.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 11:44:55 PM

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Eric Dietrich-Berryman

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My pleasure, Nelson. The last thing I expected was to make friends when OpEd News invited me to contribute articles.


We have 5 children and 3 grandchildren. We love the children and shamelessly dote on the grandchildren. The oldest just graduated with TWO degrees at the magna cum laude level: BA in economics and a BA in German.


My wife is all-America Irish/Swedish. We absolutely love Italy.



Submitted on Sunday, Jan 6, 2019 at 4:22:24 AM

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Thanks, Nelson. As a person raised with privilege I do my best to follow that BPP philosophy that if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Or in practical terms, if our actions do not survive the occam's razor in supporting life, they are not correct actions.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 10:20:46 PM

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John Lawrence (and may I include Eric? Wie gehts dir, freund) You both have

offered a real commentary that I hesitated to interrupt. I include you as friends

who have furnished me insight into this insane world. Thank you, Grazie, tutte due.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 11:16:36 PM

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Es geht super, danke dir. Ja, du - bistimmt als freund. How very kind of you to say that. Ein ganz unerwartetes geschenck.

Submitted on Sunday, Jan 6, 2019 at 4:13:15 AM

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Danke nochmal, Opa.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 10:29:46 PM

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If we don't do it, somebody else will.

This is the fear that drives the psychos who rule nations.

Dr. John - Such a Night - YouTube


Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 7:46:15 PM

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Exactly, Kenneth. I do not share that fear-based, parochial philosophy that if we don't control the world someone else will. That has been the mantra of right wingers going all the way back to Joe McCarthy. Embarrassing to see it is now a torch being carried by educated liberals.

All wars are class wars.

Submitted on Saturday, Jan 5, 2019 at 10:25:32 PM

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It's late. I'm on my routine post-cardiac hiccup nocturnal prowl, around the house, but John I do not understand 'all wars are class wars'.


Class, as in high, middle and blue collar? Class as in Star Chamber sinister secrecy? Conspiracy? Military-Industrial plotting class?


Can the history of war on our planet be truly summarized by such? Sounds too pat. In any case, these pages are insufficient to handle the matter. Pity we live so far apart.

Submitted on Sunday, Jan 6, 2019 at 4:08:39 AM

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Eric, what I mean by that shorthand is that the class that rules benefits, while the classes who are ruled pay the cost. Eagerness for war is not a human instinct or proclivity, but rather - as eons of history demonstrates - is inimical to the desire of the overwhelming majority. It is the minority, sometimes just a single individual, who beat the war drum. Always for their or their class's own gain.

Once upon a time war was declared by royal fiat. Then it was waged by creating fear through false flag events (Gulf of Tonkin, WMD). As Goring pointed out 80 years ago: "[T]he people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

Today it is the dazed and confused liberals, soft soaped by the likes of neocon psychos like Samatha Power and Hilary Clinton, who prod the public to accept the endless war goals of PNAC by presenting a new "humanitarian concern" casus belli. Just as Nixon sowed confusion by using the old "V" for victory sign to thwart the impact of the peace sign, so has our contemporary establishment found ways to neutralize the normal human instinct to resist war among the citizenry - whether by inaccurate, twisted documentaries justifying war on public television or by tugging at do-gooders' heartstrings with the aforementioned altruistic casus belli.

So, as Smedley Butler pointed out, when untangling a racket just follow the money and you'll see that it's the ruling class's two-headed MIC/corporate Orthrus who gets paid. And it's the powerless who get screwed. Of course without a lumpen class to do its bidding by enlisting in the scam, it doesn't work, hence, my unsolicited advice above. All the reasons and justifications are in the end just plain bullshit, because war is only a racket to benefit those in power.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 2:43:50 AM

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Regarding the American mindset which has been created by propaganda so pervasive that it is recognized as 'normal'. Consider this:

A teacher is not one who 'serves his country'.

He need not be recognized, as are the 'bucket-list heroes' who are serving and have served, although many enlist solely because the military offers the only national jobs program.

Sure as hell, an unarmed teacher is not one we can count on to 'keep us safe'.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 3:34:12 AM

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I have a gigantic "Apple For The Teacher" but if I look twice it sometimes appears

to be a rutabaga. Have a great year, Kenneth.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 10:40:12 PM

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Reply to John Lawrence Ré:   New Content

Mostly persuasive. Entirely coherent. Rational. I still can't make the attack on Pearl Harbor or 9/11 fit the (literally) bottom line. Are we expected to shake it off? Pick up where we left off but exercise better watch-keeping skills?

It isn't all jingoism, jockeying for power, Machiavellian.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 5:58:58 AM

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Reply to Eric Dietrich-Berryman:   New Content

Grazie mille. I apologize if it wasn't clear that I was not referring to self-defense but to waging wars of aggression, regime change, furthering imperialist interests and preventing the oppressed from gaining independence from colonial rule. The question then comes down to was it really self-defense or as you say a Machiavellian calculation as in the film Avatar when the crippled marine rebukes the colonel who was ordering an attack on the peace loving inhabitants of Pandora: "[I see, so] this is how it's done. When people are sitting on stuff that you want, you make 'em your enemy. Then you justify taking it." In WWII as I wrote earlier, we incubated the war making our involvement and reaping its mind numbing profits inevitable. The classic foreplay of class war.

PS It's interesting that you brought up Pearl Harbor. I had always maintained that FDR knew about the attack and let it happen to gain the support of the war weary public. But logic suggests otherwise. If he knew of the attack, why would he not have been prepared? Allowing Japan to destroy much of the US Pacific fleet made no sense, since the attack per se would have been persuasive enough. I had asked my father who had spent some time stationed in the white house with army intelligence during the war. He claimed Roosevelt knew nothing. Then a few years ago, I got my definitive answer: I had been staying at a castle in Mougin France during the Cannes Festival. The castle had belonged to my friend Marco's father, the late double agent Dusko Popov who wrote the best seller, Spy Counterspy, recounting his experiences during the war. Marco had asked his father the same question at one point, and Dusko - who had learned of the Japanese attack plans earlier in Italy - had expalined how he had been prevented from having a meeting with Roosevelt by FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover who had him confined in a hotel literally under house arrest until after the attack. Marco gave me a copy of the book where the entire episode plays out in absolutely believable detail.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 7:24:17 AM

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Well, a bazillion thanks to you too. I'll dive into this. The chief joy of being professionally unemployed is owning (used loosely) time.

And I wanted to comment on your brief description of family. How fascinating to have a diva for a mother. Music. A boatload of eccentricities, no doubt. But all Italian. Jeez! The thought of it. Thank you for the glimpse. Someplace else you discuss social class. After 1948 I grew up in England where. Maybe it's eased now but at the time an iron application of social caste defined the entire social system. Among the chief reasons I left. At 17 boys are hormones in collison, but I detested being type-caste in their system.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 10:07:50 AM

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Wanted to give you 10 thumbs up to your above comment (5 comments above this) Thanks, John. You nailed it.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 4:04:42 PM

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Thank you, Leslie. It was just one exchange in a series. I hope you get a chance to read the rest. Regards for 2019.

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 8:09:27 PM

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Pollice in alto, due volte, John

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 10:56:11 PM

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Thanks... and best regards, Nelson, for a better 2019!

Submitted on Monday, Jan 7, 2019 at 11:33:19 PM

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