A great man has passed. Roy Innis was the most famous National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) a civil rights organization founded in 1942.
He was a U.S. Army veteran and Chemist.
Innis drafted the Community Self-Determination Act of 1968 and garnered bipartisan sponsorship of this bill by one-third of the U.S. Senate and over 50 congressmen. This was the first time in U.S. history that a bill drafted by a black organization was introduced into the United States Congress.
Innis routinely met with world leaders and was a confidant of several U.S. Presidents.
He lost two sons to criminals with guns. I met him once in DC and that conversation had a great impact on my life.
More than 300 Marines have earned the Medal of Honor since award’s inception in 1861. But missing from that list is perhaps the most legendary Marine, whose memory still looms large in the lore of the Corps: Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller.
The image of Puller’s iconic frown and his memorable quips about combat have come to define what it means to be a Marine for generations. Puller once told his troops, when surrounded by enemy fighters in Korea: “All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us … they can’t get away this time.”
Puller earned five Navy crosses, the nation’s second-highest honor for valor. At least two serious attempts have been made to get one of Puller’s awards upgraded to the Medal of Honor, but they failed. Even today, Marine veterans and devotees still grumbled that Puller deserves to be recognized with the nation’s highest honor and the book has not been closed on the matter.
“Marines still today in boot camp chant his name. They all still do know about him and they should keep his spirit alive,” said Kim Van Note, president of the Basilone Memorial Foundation, a charity named for one Marine Medal of Honor recipient who served under Puller’s command at Guadalcanal, Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone.
“I definitely believe he should have been awarded the Medal of Honor,” Van Note said.
The Pentagon has recently begun to acknowledged publicly for the first time that bestowing military honors and medals for valor is an imperfect bureaucratic process – critics say it can seem arbitrary.
A force-wide review of combat medals that began last year is confirming that dozens, potentially hundreds, of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were not properly recognized for their bravery on the battlefield and will have their honors upgraded. Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has recommended that two Navy Cross recipients have their awards elevated to the Medal of Honor.
While the review is officially limited to the post-9/11 wars, questions persist about whether Puller and other past warriors have been appropriately recognized.
Puller, a Virginia native, enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War One and attended boot camp at Parris Island. He was soon commissioned as a second lieutenant a year later, setting in motion a career that would stretch more than three decades.
Whether serving in Nicaragua, the Pacific or Korea, Puller was routinely on or near the front lines, often exposed to the same risks as his men, said retired Marine Col. Jon Hoffman, who wrote the biography “Chesty: The Story of Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, USMC.”
“In Nicaragua in particular, he led the charges against the enemy himself rather than telling his men to charge while he held back,” Hoffman told Marine Corps Times. “It is a style of leadership common across the history of warfare, but one which he continued up through a relatively high level of command.”
Puller earned his first Navy Cross as a first lieutenant. Puller led several successful attacks against Nicaraguan bandits between February and August 1930, despite being outnumbered, according to his Navy Cross citation.
“By his intelligent and forceful leadership without thought of his own personal safety, by great physical exertion and by suffering many hardships, Lieutenant Puller surmounted all obstacles and dealt five successive and severe blows against organized banditry in the Republic of Nicaragua,” the award citation says.
During World War II, Puller temporarily took command of a Marine battalion at the Battle of Cape Gloucester after both the battalion commander and executive officer were wounded, the citation for his third Navy Cross says.
“Lieutenant Colonel Puller unhesitatingly exposed himself to rifle, machine-gun and mortar fire from strongly entrenched Japanese positions to move from company to company in his front lines, reorganizing and maintaining a critical position along a fire-swept ridge,” the citation says.
“His forceful leadership and gallant fighting spirit under the most hazardous conditions were contributing factors in the defeat of the enemy during this campaign and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Puller’s awards primarily recognize his leadership rather than the danger he placed himself in during battles, said Hoffman. One aspect of his leadership style was putting his Marines first.
“What endeared him to his men was not just that demonstrated bravery, but also the way he bonded with them and looked out for them, in a way that many other equally brave officers of the time did not,” Hoffman said.
In his book, Hoffman wrote how after one battle at Guadalcanal, Puller spent the night bucking up his Marines after an attack against Japanese troops had failed.
“A squad leader who had experienced the ‘terrible feeling being under fire the first time’ thought that the colonel’s display of courage and calm during the fight ‘really raised our morale,’” Hoffman wrote.
As a battlefield commander, Puller did not wait for orders when things went wrong. He took initiative and responded aggressively and quickly.
One example of this is in September 1942, when Puller, on his own authority, led a mission to rescue nearly 400 Marines trapped behind enemy lines. “While others dithered, Puller acted,” Hoffman said.
Puller was leading one of three units in an operation to cross the Matanikau River. The Marines only expected to encounter a few hundred enemy troops, but the Japanese had amassed roughly 4,000 in the area, Hoffman wrote.
The plan to cross the river quickly fell apart, but the 1st Marine Division ordered the attack to continue.
When a small group of Marines launched an amphibious landing behind enemy lines, they were surrounded by the Japanese and cut off from the sea. Outnumbered by Japanese troops, the unit “was on the verge of reenacting Custer’s Last Stand,” Hoffman wrote.
Puller was leading a battalion elsewhere on Guadalcanal. He realized that time was running out for the trapped Marines. He became enraged that his superiors had not come up with a plan to save them.
“He used his initiative to figure out what to do and then make it happen, while others were preoccupied with other issues or simply unable to come up with a solution to this difficult problem of a battalion surrounded behind enemy lines,” Hoffman said.
Puller boarded the destroyer Monssen and worked with the ship’s captain and gunnery officer to come up with a plan to shell the Japanese troops and allow the trapped Marines time and space to withdraw, Hoffman wrote.
The first landing craft to approach the beach where the Marines had gathered came under fire, forcing some to back off, Hoffman wrote.
“Chesty had already boarded one of the small craft,” Hoffman wrote. “He ordered it into shore and shouted at others to follow him. The battalion laid down additional covering fire and the landing boats finally came in at both locations. The Marines carried their wounded out into the surf, but had to leave their dead behind.”
Puller had gone far outside his normal authority, but saved many Marines who might have otherwise been killed. None of his superiors had authorized him to work with the Monssen’s captain, but the skipper agreed to help rescue the Marines.
“That’s what makes this operation so special in my eyes – Puller responding to the situation, figuring out what to do, and then making it happen, all in a very short space of time,” Hoffman said.
“It was all about rescuing his men, when no one else seemed sufficiently concerned about them.”
Puller’s service record shows he was never recommended for the Medal of Honor, according to the Marine Corps History Division. Still, some people have unsuccessfully campaigned for one of Puller’s awards to be upgraded, including Medal of Honor recipient Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington.
In February 1952, Boyington wrote directly to President Truman, calling Puller “the greatest soldier of any service that has ever existed.”
“I had the honor and pleasure of serving under General Puller when he was a captain in the Marine Corps,” Boyington wrote. “I never served under General Puller in combat, however, I know his record from A to Z. I would like better than anything in the world to have you look into his record. General Puller is entitled to the Congressional Medal of Honor more than any living person in the United States.”
But Truman may have never seen Boyington’s letter, said Jim Armistead, an archives specialist at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
“Much of his incoming mail was filtered and referred to other more appropriate offices,” Armistead said. “For example, if a mother who wrote to President Truman wanted an early discharge for her son so he could come home to work on the farm, her request would be forwarded to the Department of the Army.”
In this case, Boyington’s letter was sent to Truman’s naval aide, Adm. Robert Lee Dennison, Armistead said. That April, Dennison received a response from the commandant’s office saying that Puller had never been recommended for the Medal of Honor, according to the History Division.
Another attempt to get President Kennedy to award Puller the Medal of Honor was referred to the Marine Corps, which determined Puller was no longer legally eligible to be considered for the nation’s highest award for military valor, Hoffman wrote.
In recent years, there have not been any serious campaigns to upgrade one of Puller’s awards. Hoffman said.
“Usually a service would need substantial new information (lost recommendations or witness reports, or new witness reports provided by surviving veterans),” Hoffman said. “None of that came forward in Puller’s case – the people pushing for it were simply asking that his case be re-evaluated.”
States in the American West are marking the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that forced 120,000 Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans into internment camps.
Most were from Oregon, California and Washington state. Adults, including the elderly, and children could only bring what they could carry and were transported by bus and train, often with blacked-out windows, They were sent, ostensibly to avoid sabotage and spying, to camps in California, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona and other states as far away as Arkansas.
Oregon, California and Washington are not only marking Sunday’s anniversary, but politicians and activists say America must learn from this dark chapter of history.
Here’s a look at what states are doing to recognize the mass incarceration of Japanese-Americans:
The Oregon Legislature is considering a bill to recognize a Day of Remembrance of the mass incarceration.
Carol Suzuki’s father and grandparents were forced to relocate from their home in Oregon’s Hood River Valley to detention camps in California and Idaho. After President Donald Trump recently signed immigration executive orders, her 9-year-old daughter asked if she, too, would be put away.
“Sometimes the words of an innocent child are the ones that affect you the most,” Suzuki testified Monday before the Oregon Senate committee considering the Day of Remembrance bill.
Suzuki blinked away tears as she described the conversation with her daughter, who “should never be afraid of her own government.”
George Nakata, 83, of Portland, told the committee about his firsthand experience with a “dark chapter in American history … not found in many school textbooks.”
He recalled being sent with thousands of other Japanese-Americans to a former livestock exhibition center in Portland, where the families were confined until rural detention camps were built. “I can never forget, upon entering the building, the smell of livestock urine, the pungent odor of manure underneath the wooden floors.”
At the Minidoka relocation center in Idaho, Nakata as a young boy recited the Pledge of Allegiance as he looked out at barbed wire and guard towers from tar-papered barracks.
The committee unanimously endorsed the bill. The House is scheduled to take it up on Monday.
Washington state began recognizing Feb. 19 as an annual Day of Remembrance 14 years ago.
Vigils, a taiko drum concert and other events are planned in Seattle to mark the anniversary Sunday.
Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted that “this anniversary should serve as an all too real reminder of what can happen when America acts out of fear.” Inslee also met with former detainees.
In California, the Legislature has passed resolutions proclaiming Feb. 19 as the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066 and recognizing a Day of Remembrance.
California lawmaker Al Muratsuchi, who sponsored one of the resolutions, said that with Trump focusing on Muslims in his immigration order, Americans must ensure no one is targeted because of national origin or faith.
“Now, more than ever, every American needs to remember the unjust incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II,” Muratsuchi said.
More than 2,000 people of Japanese ancestry were detained at camps on the islands or on the mainland. In marking the anniversary, Honolulu businessman and poet Suikei Furuya will share his story at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.
In Idaho, Lt. Gov. Brad Little will sign a proclamation Sunday honoring interned Japanese-Americans.
By ANDREW SELSKY | Associated Press | Published: February 19, 2017
To hear the media tell it, America is in the grip of an unprecedented crime wave, an orgy of wanton murder in which heavily armed thugs randomly gun down innocent unarmed people, some of them teens, just for sport.
Except that these homicidal goons are wearing the blues and badges of American police departments.
It’s the narrative that’s given rise to the protest movement Black Lives Matter and to a growing public mistrust of the police in general. From Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., to the recent shooting of a middle-aged woman and a teen in Chicago, the body count seemingly keeps rising, exacerbating racial tensions and keeping the nation on edge. And each incident is breathlessly reported by a media determined to show that America remains deeply, irredeemably racist.
White cops shooting unarmed black men accounted for less than 4 percent of fatal police shootings.
In three-quarters of the incidents, cops were either under attack themselves or defending civilians. In other words, doing their jobs.
The majority of those killed were brandishing weapons, suicidal or mentally troubled or bolted when ordered to surrender.
Nearly a third of police shootings resulted from car chases that began with a minor traffic stop.
The moral of this story is: Don’t point a gun at the cops and don’t run when they tell you stop, and you’re likely to survive. Since the population of the US is about 318 million people, a thousand deaths at the hands of police works out to 1 in 318,000. You have a better chance of being killed in a violent storm (1 in 68,000) or slipping in the tub (1 in 11,500) than being shot by a cop, no matter what color you are.
But even these figures are deceptive. On those 965 killed, only 90 were unarmed, and the majority of those were white. (And that doesn’t take into account other extenuating circumstances besides a weapon that would have caused a police officer to fire.)
Still, the “killer cop” narrative refuses to die, and the Washington Post decided to throw fuel on the racial fire with context-free statements like these: “Although black men make up only 6 percent of the US population, they account for 40 percent of the unarmed men shot to death by police this year.”
This certainly does not excuse cases of police misconduct. Bad cops should be investigated and tried. The death of Walter Scott in South Carolina last spring — shot in the back while fleeing a white police officer after a routine traffic stop — resulted in the indictment of the cop, who is now awaiting trial. And the killing of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones in Chicago on Dec. 26, after the troubled LeGrier allegedly became “combative” with officers, cries out for further investigation.
But these incidents don’t prove that the “real problem” is cops. This isn’t an “epidemic.” And it isn’t racist to suggest that some perspective is warranted here.
Yet, encouraged by liberal politicians, the rhetoric of protesters has become more heated, poisoning relations between local police and the folks they serve. Most tragically, it’s resulted in the murders of police officers, such as NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, killed in a Brooklyn ambush just over a year ago.
Against the numbers cited by the Washington Post, what about this one: The worst neighborhoods in Chicago — say, West Garfield Park, where gangs run rampant — have a higher murder rate (116.7 per 100,000) than world murder capitals like Honduras (90.4).
But no, best not to mention. That only distracts from the real problem — the cops trying to stop it.
On Jan. 24, 2017, PBS aired a two-hour special on Rachel Carson, the mother of the environmental movement. Although the program crossed the line from biography to hagiography, in Carson’s case, the unbridled praise was well deserved—with one exception.
Rachel Carson was an American hero. In the early 1960s, she was the first to warn that a pesticide called DDT could accumulate in the environment, the first to show that it could harm fish, birds, and other wildlife, the first to warn that its overuse would render it ineffective, and the first to predict that more natural means of pest control—like bacteria that killed mosquito larvae—should be used instead.
Unfortunately, the PBS documentary neglected to mention that in her groundbreaking book, Silent Spring, Carson had made one critical mistake—and it cost millions of people their lives.
On Nov. 1, 1941, Rachel Carson published her first book, Under the Sea-Wind. Although written for adults, the book had a child-like sense of wonder. Under the Sea-Wind told the story of Silverbar, a sanderling that migrated from the Arctic Circle to Argentina; Scomber, a mackerel that traveled from New England to the Continental Shelf; and Anguilla, an American eel that journeyed to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. “There is poetry here,” wrote one reviewer.
On July 2, 1951, Carson published her second book, The Sea Around Us. Two months later, The Sea Around Us was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, where it remained for 39 weeks: a record. When the dust settled, The Sea Around Us had sold more than 1.3 million copies, been translated into 32 languages, won the National Book Award, and been made into a movie. Editors of the country’s leading newspapers voted Rachel Carson “Woman of the Year.”
In October 1955, Carson published her third book, The Edge of the Sea, a tour guide for the casual adventurer. The New Yorker serialized it, critics praised it and the public loved it: more than 70,000 copies were sold as it rocketed to #4 on the New York Times bestseller list.
Today, most people under the age of 40 have probably never heard of Rachel Carson. But in the early 1960s, almost every American knew her name.
On Sept. 27, 1962, Rachel Carson changed her tone. Her next book, Silent Spring, which she called her “poison book,” was an angry, no-holds-barred polemic against pesticides: especially DDT.
The first chapter of Silent Spring, titled “A Fable for Tomorrow,” was almost biblical, appealing to our sense that we had sinned against our Creator. “There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings. Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change… the cattle and sheep sickened and died… streams were lifeless… everywhere there was the shadow of death.” Birds, especially, had fallen victim to this strange evil. In a town that had once “throbbed with scores of bird voices there was now no sound, only silence.” A silent spring. Birds weren’t alone in their suffering. According to Carson, children suffered sudden death, aplastic anemia, birth defects, liver disease, chromosomal abnormalities, and leukemia—all caused by DDT. And women suffered infertility and uterine cancer.
Carson made it clear that she wasn’t talking about something that might happen—she was talking about something that had happened. Our war against nature had become a war against ourselves.
In May 1963, Rachel Carson appeared before the Department of Commerce and asked for a “Pesticide Commission” to regulate the untethered use of DDT. Ten years later, Carson’s “Pesticide Commission” became the Environmental Protection Agency, which immediately banned DDT. Following America’s lead, support for international use of DDT quickly dried up.
Although DDT soon became synonymous with poison, the pesticide was an effective weapon in the fight against an infection that has killed—and continues to kill—more people than any other: malaria. By 1960, due largely to DDT, malaria had been eliminated from eleven countries, including the United States. As malaria rates went down, life expectancies went up; as did crop production, land values, and relative wealth. Probably no country benefited from DDT more than Nepal, where spraying began in 1960. At the time, more than two million Nepalese, mostly children, suffered from malaria. By 1968, the number was reduced to 2,500; and life expectancy increased from 28 to 42 years.
After DDT was banned, malaria reemerged across the globe:
In India, between 1952 and 1962, DDT caused a decrease in annual malaria cases from 100 million to 60,000. By the late 1970s, no longer able to use DDT, the number of cases increased to 6 million.
In Sri Lanka, before the use of DDT, 2.8 million people suffered from malaria. When the spraying stopped, only 17 people suffered from the disease. Then, no longer able to use DDT, Sri Lanka suffered a massive malaria epidemic: 1.5 million people were infected by the parasite.
In South Africa, after DDT became unavailable, the number of malaria cases increased from 8,500 to 42,000 and malaria deaths from 22 to 320.
Since the mid 1970s, when DDT was eliminated from global eradication efforts, tens of millions of people have died from malaria unnecessarily: most have been children less than five years old. While it was reasonable to have banned DDT for agricultural use, it was unreasonable to have eliminated it from public health use.
Environmentalists have argued that when it came to DDT, it was pick your poison. If DDT was banned, more people would die from malaria. But if DDT wasn’t banned, people would suffer and die from a variety of other diseases, not the least of which was cancer. However, studies in Europe, Canada, and the United States have since shown that DDT didn’t cause the human diseases Carson had claimed. Indeed, the only type of cancer that had increased in the United States during the DDT era was lung cancer, which was caused by cigarette smoking. DDT was arguably one of the safer insect repellents ever invented—far safer than many of the pesticides that have taken its place.
Carson’s supporters argued that, had she lived longer, she would never have promoted a ban on DDT for the control of malaria. Indeed, in Silent Spring, Carson wrote, “It is not my contention that chemical pesticides never be used.” But it was her contention that DDT caused leukemia, liver disease, birth defects, premature births, and a whole range of chronic illnesses. An influential author can’t, on the one hand, claim that DDT causes leukemia (which, in 1962, was a death sentence) and then, on the other hand, expect that anything less than that a total ban of the chemical would result.
In 2006, the World Health Organization reinstated DDT as part of its effort to eradicate malaria. But not before millions of people had died needlessly from the disease.
Paul A. Offit, MD is a professor of pediatrics and director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the author of the forthcoming book Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong (National Geographic, April 2017).
By publicly insisting that we’ll build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it, President Trump has guaranteed that Mexico won’t pony up a single peso. No Mexican president or political party could do so and survive.
At a time when US citizens don’t know our own history, it may seem absurd to ask them to understand how past relations shape Mexico’s identity. But resolving international problems demands that we view the world from the other side: History is fate.
How would we feel if, a few decades after our War of Independence, a neighboring power had seized over half of our territory?
The Mexican-American War of 1846-48 did just that to Mexico, adding not only the Southwest and California to the United States, but today’s Nevada, Utah and even a bite of Wyoming. As a junior officer in that war, Ulysses S. Grant — who would become our greatest general and then president — believed the conflict was shamefully unjust.
Trump’s apparent “joke,” made over the phone Wednesday to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto about sending troops over the border to fight Mexican gangs, was not well-received, for this and other reasons.
But weren’t we avenging the Alamo and defending Texan freedom? Well . . .
Mexico initially welcomed “Texican” settlers from US territory, but after winning its freedom from Spain, Mexico had outlawed slavery. US arrivals in Texas brought along their slaves and meant to keep them. Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and the Alamo’s other martyrs weren’t defending universal freedom.
Because of our burgeoning wealth and power, we remained a factor with which Mexico had to reckon. At times, we were just a bully. The last Mexican president before the grim Revolution of 1910 famously said, “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”
In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson seized the port of Veracruz to protect American interests. We held it for almost a year. In 1916, the US Army mounted a “punitive expedition” into northern Mexico, an invasion in pursuit of Pancho Villa (we didn’t catch him).
History doesn’t matter to us. It’s over, dead — except when activists can distort it to serve their own agendas. But to the rest of the world, from Mexico to China, Iran and Russia, history, to borrow from William Faulkner, “isn’t even past.”
If you were Mexican, how eager would you be to pay for that wall?
The point here isn’t to side with Mexico. Mexico remains a woefully corrupt state with gross internal abuses. Officials — as I learned first-hand — betray their own government and people. But Mexico has made progress. President Peña Nieto took on the mafia-like teachers’ unions, despite violent resistance (something our own pols lack the guts to do). He moved to break the corrupting state monopoly on energy.
And the government’s gotten much tougher on the drug cartels. Over the past quarter-century, Mexico became a true multi-party democracy.
As for NAFTA, it has benefited both sides. Border trade has boomed in both directions. Mexico’s our third-largest trading partner. And our southern neighbor’s developed a vibrant middle class, the social tier that presses for better government.
Our problems with illegals and gang violence now are largely with Central Americans, not Mexicans. Could Mexico do more to help stop the flow?
Absolutely. But cooperation had improved until the wall squabble erupted. And by the way: A tariff on Mexican products to pay for the wall means that US consumers foot the bill, not Mexico.
As for that wall, there are long stretches of the border where more fencing and surveillance are required. But the barrier we really need is a wall of sound laws that are firmly enforced. It’s unfair to blame Mexico when our domestic non-enforcement encourages illegal entry.
“Sanctuary cities” do graver damage than shrugged shoulders in Mexico.
We’d do better bargaining hard for NAFTA improvements than by scapegoating Mexico for our feckless immigration policies. And our corporate-tax codes drive out more jobs than free trade.
Mexico may always frustrate us, but we’re at least equally frustrating to Mexico. And nobody’s going to tow us away from each other.
So we have a choice: We can grow stronger, safer and richer together, or we can squabble and undercut each other, hurting both economies and wasting energies we should reserve for mortal threats and outright enemies.
The other guy’s story matters.
Ralph Peters is a retired United States Army lieutenant colonel, author, and media commentator.
Despite today’s outrage over President Donald Trump’s refugee executive order, many liberals in 1975 were part of a chorus of big name Democrats who refused to accept any Vietnamese refugees when millions were trying to escape South Vietnam as it fell to the communists.
They even opposed orphans.
The group, led by California’s Gov. Jerry Brown, included such liberal luminaries as Delaware’s Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, former presidential “peace candidate” George McGovern, and New York Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman.
The Los Angeles Times reported Brown even attempted to prevent planes carrying Vietnamese refugees from landing at Travis Air Force Base outside San Francisco. About 500 people were arriving each day and eventually 131,000 arrived in the United States between 1975 and 1977.
These people arrived despite protests from liberal Democrats. In 2015, the Los Angeles Times recounted Brown’s ugly attitude, reporting, “Brown has his own checkered history of demagoguery about refugees.”
Back in 1975, millions of South Vietnamese who worked for or supported the U.S. found themselves trapped behind the lines when the communists took over the country. Vietnamese emigre Tung Vu, writing in Northwest Asian Weekly, recalled the hardships the Vietnamese faced in 1975 as they tried to escape the communists.
“After the fall of Saigon, many Vietnamese chose to leave by any means possible, often in small boats. Those who managed to escape pirates, typhoons, and starvation sought safety and a new life in refugee camps,” Tung wrote.
Ironically, Republicans led by former President Gerald Ford were the political figures who fought for the refugees to enter the United States.
Julia Taft, who in 1975 headed up Ford’s Inter-agency Task Force on Indochinese refugee resettlement, told author Larry Engelmann in his book, “Tears Before the Rain: An Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam,” “The new governor of California, Jerry Brown, was very concerned about refugees settling in his state.”
National Public Radio host Debbie Elliott retraced Brown’s refusal to accept any refugees in a January 2007 interview with Taft. According to a transcript, which was aired on its flagship program, “All Things Considered,” Taft said, “our biggest problem came from California due to Brown.” She called his rejection of Vietnamese refugees “a moral blow.”
“I remember at the time we had thousands and thousands of requests from military families in San Diego, for instance, who had worked in Vietnam, who knew some of these people,” she told NPR.
Taft recalled another dark reason the liberals opposed the refugees: “They said they had too many Hispanics, too many people on welfare, they didn’t want these people.”
“They didn’t want any of these refugees, because they had also unemployment,” she told NPR. “They had already a large number of foreign-born people there. They had – they said they had too many Hispanics, too many people on welfare, they didn’t want these people.”
Brown echoed his isolationist theme throughout his first term. As recounted by author Larry Clinton Thompson in his book, “Refugee Workers in the Indochina Exodus,” Brown said, “We can’t be looking 5,000 miles away and at the same time neglecting people who live here.”
At the same time as Brown was fighting Washington, Democrats waged an anti-refugee campaign inside the nation’s capital.
Ford appealed to Congress to quickly help the refugees, who included thousands of Cambodians fleeing a genocidal campaign perpetrated by the communist Cambodian Pol Pot regime.
But in Washington, Ford found himself thwarted by many high-profile Democrats.
A review of the congressional debate at the time and recounted by CQ Almanac shows New York’s Elizabeth Holtzman – who was one of the House’s most visible liberal congresswomen — opposed helping the refugees. Like Brown, she tried to pit her constituents against the refugees. She said, according to CQ Almanac, “some of her constituents felt that the same assistance and compassion was not being shown to the elderly, unemployed and poor in this country.”
Rep. Donald Riegle, a liberal representative from Michigan who later would serve as its senator, offered an amendment that would have barred funds for the refugees unless similar assistance was given to Americans. The amendment was rejected by the House, 346 to 71, according to the Almanac.
Another House Democrat even tried to slow down the airlift of Vietnamese orphans. The Almanac reported that Rep. Joshua Eilberg, the Democratic chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and International Law, accused the Ford administration of having acted “with unnecessary haste” in the evacuation of the orphans.
The emergency rescue mission, called “Operation Babylift,” was activated by the United States, Australia, France and Canada after urgent appeals were issued by humanitarian relief organizations in Vietnam. The evacuation faced tragedy on its maiden flight when a C-5A cargo plane carrying the orphans crashed after takeoff, killing 78 children along with 35 U.S. government workers and diplomats.
The Library of Congress also reported liberal congressmen tried to stall the refugee legislation, indicating “they would rather wait for the administration to formulate a plan for the care and evacuation of refugees before approving the humanitarian aid.”
Then-Sen. Joe Biden tried to slow down the refugee bill in the Senate, complaining that he needed more details about the quickly unfolding refugee problem before he would support it. He said the White House “had not informed Congress adequately about the number of refugees,” according to the Library of Congress history of the legislation.
Quang X. Pham, who was born in Saigon and later served as a Marine pilot in the Persian Gulf War, later criticized Biden in an op-ed published by the Washington Post on December 30, 2006. Quang wrote, Biden “charged that the [Ford] Administration had not informed Congress adequately about the number of refugees — as if anyone actually knew during the chaotic evacuation.”
Peace candidate Sen. George McGovern, who had lost in a landslide to former President Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, appeared the most heartless senator when he introduced a bill to assist those who wished to return to South Vietnam.
McGovern said he thought 90 percent of the Vietnamese arrivals “would be better off going back to their own land,” according to the Library of Congress. His amendment died in a House-Senate conference.
In the end, most of the Democrat complaints appeared to center on the fact that the refugees were escaping communism, which many liberals did not find that objectionable.
“One of the justifications that Ford gave was related to communism. He said these people are all fleeing communism, which was the same criteria that had been used for the Cubans, the Hungarians, other refugee groups that had been processed in the past,” Taft explained.
In recent months we’ve seen news about a range of medical and health issues occurring aboard commercial airline flights. The baby born in the skies between Philadelphia and Orlando on Southwest Airlines. The airborne medical emergency and subsequent death of Carrie Fisher. And the ongoing saga of American Airlines’ new flight attendant uniforms, with up to 2,000 employees claiming they cause rashes, headaches and other health hazards when worn in pressurized cabins.
Because 39,000 feet is a terrible location for a serious or life-threatening medical event, regulators and airline organizations have sought improvements. But challenges remain: MedAire, a company offering medical and travel safety services, published a 2011 white paper noting annual numbers of such events keep steadily increasing, due in part to longer life expectancies. Neurological events are by far the most common.
Many passengers might be surprised to learn in-flight deaths due to medical causes occur more frequently than accident-related deaths, this despite MedAire’s estimate that medical professionals are onboard 50%-60% of commercial flights. The best solution — when possible — is to avoid the likelihood of such occurrences, by consulting with your doctor in advance of flying. Here are some of the conditions for which fliers should pay special attention.
After Carrie Fisher’s in-flight emergency, some health and travel blogs demanded domestic airlines carry defibrillators for heart patients. In fact, they do. In 2001 the FAA regulated all U.S. commercial aircraft weighing more than 7,500 pounds and having at least one flight attendant must carry automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and enhanced emergency medical kits (EMKs); this rule was later updated in 2006.
An FAA spokesperson confirmed these rules still apply for all U.S. domestic and international flights, with no exemptions in place. Regulations dictate this equipment should only be accessed by trained crewmembers, or other qualified and trained professionals. The FAA states: “It would be preferable for flight attendants to check the credentials of passengers holding themselves out as medical specialists.”
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) advises certain post-op patients should not fly, particularly after gastro-intestinal surgery; abdominal trauma; and certain facial, eye and brain operations.
For those who require constant medication or assistance in-flight, it’s important to learn about a specific airline’s policies, which are available on their sites. The U.S. Department of Transportation provides details about the Air Carrier Access Act online, including provisions explaining the rights of passengers needing assistance and/or using Portable Oxygen Concentrators, mobility aids and assistive devices. The Transportation Security Administration’s site also details policies on devices and medications.
Flying while pregnant
For many years, researchers have attempted to determine if flight attendants suffer higher-than-average miscarriage rates. In 2015 the Centers for Disease Control and other government agencies undertook a comprehensive analysis of 840 pregnancies among flight attendants and found chronic sleep disturbance is a key factor for pregnant women who fly during “normal sleep hours” and across time zones. Those who flew more than 15 hours during normal sleep hours in the first trimester were at increased risk for miscarriage.
The report also addressed pregnancy risks for women whose flights travel through solar particle events, an occurrence that may seem rare for even frequent fliers. Yet a 2001 report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists noted: “For most air travelers, exposure to cosmic radiation are negligible. For pregnant aircrew members and other frequent flyers, this exposure may be higher.” For those worried about such risks, the Federal Aviation Administration offers an interactive tool that lets you estimate potential galactic radiation for a specific flight on a specific date.
When is it safe for newborns to fly? The answer: It depends, and in ALL cases you should consult your doctor first. In addition, airline policies vary, with some carriers requiring a physician’s letter during the first few weeks, so check the airline’s site.
MedAire recently issued guidelines for traveling with babies and noted: “The most common in-flight ailments for infants and children were gastrointestinal and respiratory related.” Parents and caregivers are advised to keep TSA-approved doses of “common medications” such as analgesics, antihistamines and anti-emetics in their carry-ons; ask if you’re unsure.
As for specific issues such as ear pain and infant pain relievers, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers a “Flying with Baby” page. KidsTravelDoc.com, created by pediatric travel expert Dr. Karl Neumann, likewise offers detailed advice on such issues. Also, it’s critical to remember what I’ve written about so frequently here: The SAFEST way for children under 2 to fly is in an approved child restraint.
The question arises, if spending so much time in pressurized tubes at high altitudes affects the health of crewmembers, what effects are felt by passengers, particularly frequent fliers?
Who shouldn’t fly?
IATA, the industry’s global trade organization, offers health tips for passengers and advises that — in addition to newborn infants, some pregnant women and certain post-op patients — those who may not be safe for flying could include anyone with the following conditions:
• recent myocardial infarction or stroke
• uncontrolled extreme hypertension
• angina pectoris
• certain severe chronic respiratory conditions
• infections of the ear, nose or sinuses
• recent psychiatric illness
As always, a medical profession should make the final determination — PRIOR TO BOOKING.