----- Original Message -----
From: Calvin Sloan
To: Frenchy Gibeault
Sent: Sunday, November 21, 1999 1:27 PM
Subject: The battle of Ap Cho:
I just wanted to tell you that everyday that goes by I feel more and
more stronger. I haven't for the first time in 31 years had a
nightmare, since 11-11-99. And I was due for one at that time you
told me the truth, of that day in February 1968.
I'm so grateful to you Frenchy for setting the record straight, and
I'm not sure of the spelling, but I will never forget "Brelin"
"You will remain in my heart forever" Frenchy.
For 31 years I lived with the nightmare that I killed fighting men
of the 25th infantry division. And all the garble over the head set that
we were "killing our own men and to stop firing", has got to be
the worse sounds anyone could ever hear. Especially when your 18 years old
wanting to do your best in assisting the grunts on the ground in battle.
For 31 long years I feared that I killed so many of our own men.
Everyday since, I would just think about it and break down and cry. "Every-night" before going to bed and falling asleep, I would
start thinking of what I did "A secret that I thought was only
mine", and know one else knew but me. No-one but me Frenchy
met you. I know you are an honorable man and just wouldn't say what you did
to put my mind at ease. I will be forever grateful to you for setting
my mind at rest Frenchy.
"For 31 years" I lived in my mind over and over and over
again the "Battle of Ap Cho." One bloody day, or 11 days "if my memory is correct"
(What a laugh that is:) All it seems that I remember is refueling
re-arming and going back, day in day out. Wake up at 4:30 am and coming
back to the base camp at 9:30 pm, after fighting all day, going over to
Berlin's hooch and getting stoned out of my mind, just to release the
high anxiety of just that day of fighting, and then going back to the hooch
only to awake to incoming rounds at 1-2 am every morning and
running back to the flight line, and starting all over again.
I don't remember when or why I quite flying, but assume that I was
just fed up, with the killing or being a target.
But in regards to that day, it will still live with me now, but only
as you said how it happened, not as I thought.
My wife and the rest of my family including my doctors, can already
see the difference in the way I hold my head, no longer in
"Shame" but holding it up as a proud man who served his country,
instead of a shameful man that killed his own. Now I wake up in the
morning feeling a lot better about myself Frenchy, that I did not kill our
own, and I can enjoy my day without the thought and the horror of killing
my own men in combat. That was a very-very heavy burden I carried for
"31 years" and I will always be grateful to you Frenchy, for
taking that burden from me. I haven't told my daughters yet of that day,
I'm waiting for the right moment, but I'm sure it will explain the father
they never had, only a father figure.
I often wonder if I had succeeded in my 7 suicide attempts to rid
myself of the nightmares and horror of that battle and the thought of
killing my own, what would have become of my wife and children if they had
ever found out the real truth of that battle. And where would have my soul
have gone if the last attempt was successful.
Frenchy, that Florida trip meant so much to me and for my family and
friends, I will never be able to repay you for setting the record
straight, on Frank Drinkwine's porch. The only thing I can do, is to do as
you asked of me, and that was to help someone else, but I don't feel that
is a fare exchange after living in shame for 31 years and then being set
free. But I will do as you asked, "only if", you will not
hesitate to ask something of me when you want help for some reason or
another, I will always be there for you, please count on that Frenchy for
any reason at all, I'll be there.
"Thank You Frenchy for my life",
** Response from Robert "Frenchy" Gibeault..
letter is a powerful testament to your character. Someone said,
'that does not kill us makes us stronger'. I can't tell how happy I
am that you are finally free of the stigma and shame of killing the men
you were laying your life on the line, trying to save. I know, I was
happened to me as well. Chuck and I were talking about the chicken
shit C&C commander that day. That bastard got relieved the next
day. I believe it was him that planted that poison seed of 'killing
his men on the ground that day'. That LIE that stole so many years
of our lives. I'll tell you more of
the story as you get stronger.
I talked to 'Charlie' Company commander, then Lt. Chuck
Boyle. He and his troops were on the ground for those two weeks, and
he was the one in deep shit on the fifth. He is absolutely delighted
to find another fighting brother of the battle of 'Bloody Ap Cho'.
He is sending you a autographed
copy of his book the 'Absolution', along with a letter that help you a
little further down the road, home. Trust me here, the truth will set you
*** Message from Chuck Boyle. Former ground commander at Ap Cho. One
of the men that were in the real bad stuff....
It is an honor to be able to send you an e-mail tonight, 31 years after
you and your brave men flew into the face of one of the most horrendous
battles in Vietnam ... a place called Ap Cho.
This is not "purple prose" I am writing to you, Buddy. I have
some things I wish to share with you.
Frenchy Gibeault, our mutual friend, told me about you and your recent
meeting in Florida. He had the good sense; wisdom--to forward to me, your
most recent e-mail to him, for my consideration.
My name is Chuck Boyle. I was the company commander on the ground for
Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry, from the 1st of February
1968, until we leveled that place, 14 days later.
On the 5th of February, 1968, we were heavily engaged with the enemy. You
know the scene. They were dug in good and I now know that we were facing
two battalions. We had four men killed that day in my company, almost 100
wounded. They were assaulting an enemy machine gun position. You guys flew
right off the ground, laying down that hot steel so that we could
advance. I can never thank you enough. The dead men would thank you
today. I know.
Take this to the bank. You, nor any of your courageous pilots and
door gunners ever hit any of us. ...bet your ass, it was close.
Thanks. It had to be. I do recall a platoon leader, shouting that they
"are killing us." Hell, everybody was shouting
something. The chaos of battle is a phenomena that is impossible to
describe. It wasn't helped any by that dimwit Battalion Commander we had
in the C & C ship either. He panicked and might have implied
such a thing.
When the bullets are flying, people tend to exaggerate. Someone
probably did put that seed in your mind, that you guys were shooting us.
Of all the casualties we had that day and the following days, none of them
were caused by friendly fire. We had 8 killed in my company, overall. The
other units suffered similar casualties. It might have been 80 KIA, or all
of us for that matter, if you hadn't done your job.
I don't think you could get this from a more reliable source. I am
not accustomed to boasting, so don't take it that way. But, I was
the principle ground commander for the entire operation. I could march
every company commander, every platoon leader, and every grunt who still
survives, and was in Ap Cho, in front of you right now and they'd all tell
you the same thing.
If you need more verification, I will put you in touch with dozens of
other grunts who were there. One of them, James Asher, is copied on this
e-mail. Your story is private and it is special, so we won't be
broadcasting. James is special. He stood up in the middle of
that heat and guided a dustoff in. He drove a loaded truck loaded
with white phosphorus ammo out of a ditch just north of Ap Cho and
brought it safely into Cui Chi, depriving the enemy of it. He
is authentic, real and his memory is superb. He took pictures too. Geeze!
Tonight, I called him about you, explaining what you have believed for 31
years. James immediately and without equivocation said "No
Way!" He asked to be copied on this message. Call or write to him.
Now, my good friend, what can we say to you to erase the nightmare that
has haunted you for 31 years? Not too much, I guess, except to tell you
that you performed heroically. You did what was asked of you and you
did it well.
We have a large organization of Charlie Company Vietnam Veterans. I
write a newsletter for them. In every issue, we make it a point to
recognize and honor those wonderful men in those choppers, that took us
in, hot or cold. They brought us out, one way or the other. No one
on this earth has more respect for you and your fellow aviators than me
and the men of Charlie Company.
So... Put it to bed. Hasten now, to your wife and children. Tell them what
I am sending you a book about it. I have your address. My treat!
And, hey, that Frenchy is quite a guy, eh? If he ever told a lie his
tongue would break.
I'll write some more when I have totally digested this story.
I will hold you in my thoughts and prayers in perpetuity.
Welcome Home, Brother!