October 2015 Newsletter
Vol 2, Issue 10
When booking your reunion for 2016 and beyond let a professional guide you to a reunion-friendly hotel at no cost to your group. With Armed Forces Reunions’ bargaining power we’ll get you a great room rate with lots of concessions, and even give your group a chance to earn money. AFR has nationwide specials for groups large and small. For groups under 50 rooms we have hotel partners coast to coast offering a great promotion. Visit BookMyReunion.com to learn more. Groups larger than 50 rooms may participate in AFR’s Reunion Rebate program, with the opportunity to earn anywhere from $100 to $2,000. Having booked reunions in 150 cities for 28 years we know how to steer you to savings and reunion-friendly hotels.
In this month’s Veteran Interview we meet Larry James, president of the 4/9 Infantry Manchu Association. This year’s annual reunion was in our hometown of Norfolk. The group paid tribute to fellow infantryman and posthumous Medal of Honor recipient 1st Lt. Rupert L. Sargent, laying a wreath at his grave in Hampton National Cemetery. The Norfolk/Va. Beach area was one of the top reunion destinations this year. We hosted the 94th Infantry Division, 4/9 Manchu Infantry, 5th Marine Division, USS Glacier, and USS Flying Fish. The Americal Division reunion is coming up the last week of this month in Norfolk. Other popular destinations this year were San Antonio, Charleston, DC, San Diego, New Orleans, Nashville, Orlando, and Branson. Give us a call or send an email and we’ll be happy to discuss the options available to your group.
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MEET OUR FEATURED VETERAN: LARRY JAMES
In what was one of the most deadly single firefights of the Vietnam War. 49 U.S. soldiers were killed and 24 wounded in an ambush on March 2, 1968 at Quoi Xuan village near Saigon. Larry James arrived for duty two months after the carnage and was assigned to D Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, also known as the Manchus; a nickname describing an early-1900s American Expeditionary Force in China that wore long mustaches similar to 17th century Manchurians that invaded Asia. As a platoon leader, 1st Lt. James saw plenty of action in Vietnam, conducting combat sweeps in engagements with Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army at locations from the Iron Triangle to HoBo Woods to Mole City, a mile from the Cambodian border. But it was stories from surviving C Company Manchus at the Quoi Xuan ambush (also called Hoc Mon for the canal and bridge where it took place) that stuck with James, during and long after his tour of duty.
“At base camps and on the move, the guys kept recounting how devastating and horrific the ambush was, the sights and smells, and I assumed that someone would write about it. But no one did, and if the story wasn’t told it would be like it never happened, and I couldn’t let that happen. Soldiers in combat feel they owe each other, especially to those fallen. I wanted to make sure those C Company Manchus were remembered.”
After the war James went onto a successful career in journalism, working for the Voice of America. During that time he began his search for surviving soldiers, family members and friends of those killed in the ambush, writing letters, making calls, following leads across the country and going on the web. In 1998 he joined the 4/9 Infantry Manchu Association, which also helped in finding information for his book. James traveled to Vietnam in 2000 and 2004, where he found two Viet Cong who took part in the ambush.
“I wanted to get their perspective and feelings about Hoc Man and the war. Our battalion had turned the tables on them a few days after the attack, catching their unit out in the open and destroying them. I met Nguyen Van Phil, the intelligence officer of the battalion that carried it out. He was later captured by the South Vietnamese Army and switched sides instead of going to prison. He said he was just happy the war was long over. I also met Nguyen Ngoc Nham, who commanded a company during the attack. He said he had no ill will toward anyone, and then I asked him about the young Americans: ‘It was war, they were the enemy and I tried to kill as many as I could, he said.’”
After years of work, James had found what he needed for Unfortunate Sons, published in 2005. “There were few survivors from the ambush, so it was a lot of research, but I wanted to identify all the dead and let people know what happened on the bridge that day,” said James, who lives in Washington D.C. with his wife Sonja. “It was a very rewarding experience and continues to be. My hope is that it has brought a lot of souls and hearts together in remembrance and some closure.”
James remains very connected to the war as president of the 4/9 Infantry Manchu Association for more than 16 years. Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. has managed the group’s reunions since 2006. More than 200 members met last month in Norfolk, VA and while there went to Hampton, VA to hold a commemoration for posthumous Medal of Honor recipient 1st Lt. Rupert L. Sargent, laying a wreath at his grave in Hampton National Cemetery. In B Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division and a fellow Manchu, Sargent died in March of 1967 in Vietnam when he threw himself on two enemy grenades and saved the lives of the platoon sergeant, forward observer and shielded several other soldiers. A Hampton native, the city’s Memorial Administration Building bears Sargent’s name. James was onsite when the structure was dedicated in 2002.
“I was a lucky fellow in Vietnam, I never really got hurt, but many, many soldiers and their families were not lucky. We cannot forget them, their names, their service, their short, incomplete lives, and the ultimate sacrifice they made,” James said.
Scott McCaskey is a contributing writer for BMR.com; Account Director at Goldman & Associates Public Relations and former staff writer for the Virginian-Pilot newspaper