LZ CORK–19 JANUARY 1969–THE DAY AFTER


Cracker_Jack_bagI received a call yesterday from my secret VA weapon at Representative Derek Kilmer’s office. The news was confusing as well as disheartening.  Nick Carr informed me that the Army REMFs are requiring more proof of Butch Long’s bravery under fire and some talisman that proved he had engaged in combat with an enemy of the United States before they would even consider awarding him his Combat Infantryman’s Badge. By way of explanation, the first two letters of REMF stand for Rear and Echelon.   It was suggested Butch contact fellow Veterans with whom he served for confirmation and verification of this event before any discussion about a CIB was going to be forthcoming. They strongly implied they don’t just hand these out like Crackerjacks toys.

Let’s analyze this:

LZ Cork circa November 1968

LZ Cork circa November 1968

Butch’s Tactical Operations Center (TOC), in what would normally be the most heavily defended portion of LZ Cork, was attacked as mentioned by “three gernades [sic] at doors of TOC”. This indicates the Viet Cong had already penetrated “inside the wire”. VC hand grenades were our old rehabilitated “pineapple grenades” left over from WW2. Mounted on top of them were a wooden dowel and a champagne cork nestled inside with a newer prussic acid fuse. One out of five blew up when you pulled the pin. As you can imagine, they were a really big hit with the Gooks. You can throw them about 25 yards if you are an NFL quarterback. The VC were smaller in stature and were even more distance-challenged. This can only mean the Viet Cong penetrated the perimeter where Butch was and attacked the TOC. They also made their retreat by the same path.  “Possible satchel charges” indicates an explosion much louder than a grenade in keeping with the Viet Cong’s habit of using satchel charges to breach the perimeter concertina wire to gain ingress. As there was only one area of the perimeter that was attacked with eight casualties and two killed, Occam’s razor argues for the simplest explanation of all. The Viet Cong or NVA regulars came through the perimeter following the mortar barrage and steamrollered over Butch’s A company platoon. Butch confirmed this to me but the Army Ouija Board Corps considers that “lay testimony unsubstantiated by the written record”.

Butch’s A Company had two Killed In Action (KIA or KHA (killed by Hostile Action)) on the report) and eight Wounded In Action (WIA or WHA on the report). 2nd Lt. Barry Kelendel was his Platoon Commander however they misspelled his name. It’s Kellenbenz. He was KIA and his military record is available on the Virtual Wall. The second was PFC David Balzarini. He, too, was KHA on the 19th of January 1969 according to the Virtual Wall. You will notice that on both pages the Combat Infantryman’s Badge is prominently displayed as an award-undoubtedly posthumously. I firmly believe Lt. Kellenbenz and Balzarini qualify as “fellow Veterans that he served with” who can plead his cause. Sometimes voices from the grave speak more loudly as they are asked to here.

kellbalz

I  also suggest that Congressman Kilmer give SECDEF Chuck Hagel a call and ask for special consideration due to the Army’s unconscionable delay of 45 years in the awarding of Butch’s medals. Butch meets all the criteria for a CIB as defined by Wikipedia. He is service connected for his injuries since discharge. Furthermore, he meets the definition of “combat Veteran” as defined by Congress in 38 USC 1154(b).   Most importantly, his comrades he served with that night were awarded their CIBs. Why the Army REMFs can’t put this one together will remain one of the enduring mysteries like the Riddle of the Sphinx.

My Uncle Jay got a Bronze Star for being captured at Bataan in January 1942 prior to  running the 67-Klic Bataan Fun Run. He also caught a bullet from a machine gun through his ankle, but that is beside the point. He got a second one just for being a POW for three years and 4 months.  If Butch and his platoon got steamrollered by a mortar/satchel charge breach, I’d say a Bronze Star was in order. I’ve seen them handed out to REMFs for far less. Butch didn’t cut and run. He took the brunt of it and they walked over, through and around him and his fellow wounded and dead soldiers. Say what you want to about Butterbars and Ninety Day Wonders but 2nd Lt. Kellenbenz paid his dues. I’d say a posthumous promotion to O-2 (First Lieutenant) and his own Bronze Star is overdue but there is no one to advocate for him…yet. Same for PFC David Balzarini. But that’s a story for another day.

Lastly, the evidence of the TOC attack provokes a “benefit of the doubt” argument. I do not see any reports of another ingress inside the wire at LZ Cork that night so A Company and PFC Leslie Long’s platoon were quite obviously elected to be the WalMart Greeters. They paid dearly. Time for the REMFs to put down their iPhones and FacePlacing to man up and take care of business.

LZ Cork November 1968

LZ Cork November 1968

This would make a fine present for Veterans Day next month. Additionally, knowing Butch will not be awarded the Vietnam Campaign Medal nor the Cross of Gallantry with Palm, our East Coast distributor of the Independent Living Program, Bruce McCartney, a four-tour Dustoff Combat Medic from 1968 to 1972 has graciously offered to give Butch his which are contemporary and were awarded when they were supposed to be back when the war was still a work in progress. He and his fellows in the Dustoff Association are also researching their records for Medics who may have flown that mission in 1969. What a wonderful reunion that would be.

We’re one big, happy family that continues to shrink like a dollar. Last I heard, we’re down to 855,000-give or take a few hundred. Seems like a good a time as any to take care of old, unfinished business.

LZ Cork

LZ Cork

LZ Cork Bunker

LZ Cork Bunker

Here’s a Utube video of LZ Cork I found

LZ Cork is a Multipart Series

Here is the next installment

About asknod

VA claims blogger
This entry was posted in Inspirational Veterans, Vietnam War history and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to LZ CORK–19 JANUARY 1969–THE DAY AFTER

  1. mike greer says:

    my name is mike greer I was on l z cork in nov.1968.i was first in alpha co.out in the bush.someone discovered that my mos was 36k20.so after a few weeks out there I was sent to HHC 1/20 INF.COMMO.I WAS AT L Z cork until feb.of 69.from that point on I was all over ,mostly at l z liz or back at l z bronco.i was there all together 18months in country.

  2. Bob Lockett says:

    asknod – Bob Lockett here. I was mentioned in this chain as one of the WIA on Jan 18th. I received my PH the next day in the 312th EVAC as did the others in the ward I was placed. Why Butch did not get it right away is a mystery to me.I knew Butch (not well, but I did know him) – I can assure you he was there, was in A Co 3/21 and a 11B and was definitely wounded that night. There were 2 dustoffs that night and I don’t remember if Butch was on the same chopper as I was or not, but I did see him the next day at the 312th in Chu Lai. I also have pictures that I took on LZ Cork on Jan 16th or Jan 17. We has a USO visit that day and the celebrity was Gypsy Rose Lee.. There are shots of Dennis Johnstonbaugh, David Balzarini, Sgt. Plummer and me. There are other shots where Butch may be in the background. I am going to shoot you an email and attach some of the shots. Post them or use them to assist you in any way.

  3. Steven Alexander says:

    I was on lz cork late November 1968 until about 15 April 1969. Then went to lz san juan.

    • asknod says:

      Dear Steve, If you would, shoot me an email at asknod@gmail.com. Obviously you were there when Cork got hit on the 18th. I know it gets harder with time to fill in the history of Vietnam. We try to help those who were there get legitimate relief from VA for diseases/injuries incurred in service. Thanks for your input. What are the odds 45 years later you would find this? Butch is getting his CIB/ PH next Saturday (Dec. 6) from Congressman Kilmer. I only hope he holds together long enough for me to get him his 100% and protect his wife’s DIC entitlement.

      • asknod says:

        Butch couldn’t make the December 6th date. He just got out of the Hospital from a nasty viral pneumonia and is in recuperation mode. We are hoping to have a New Year’s presentation and will publish a date.

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