Chapter 1



The Crows Fly is an historical event fictionalized into a narrative  of the My Lai Massacre on March 16, 1968 during the Vietnam Conflict and how it was eventually uncovered and was reported by the press.


In the particular tragedy of the My Lai Massacre, it will be shown that the ideals of journalism were not only abused, but what can only be defined as manipulation  and bias which translate as lies, were passed on by the media as truth.


News coming from any war often fails at accuracy and objectivity.  Also because of  eminent danger, chaos, and security while the war correspondent or imbedded reporter has limited access to all levels of operation.


The fictionalized  narrative of The Crows Fly has cited online and microfilm accounts  of contemporary newspaper articles, as well as information drawn from seven books and supporting facts from various websites.


For a news story to be credible, a journalist must be without Bias and have Substantial Completeness as an intrinsic element.


 These two terms defined are,


Bias: a distorted and unfair judgment or disposition caused by values of a reporter, photographer, editor, or institution—it is not just a distorted presentation.


Substantial Completeness: Providing the reasonable reader with enough information to make informed judgments about causes, consequences and policy alternatives regarding events and issues.


In the situation of 1968, America was in the midst of what was to be one of its darkness moments as a country and as the leading democratic nation. The lack of Substantial Completeness in the press was at the center of the problem.


Throughout 1968 events begin to turn the attitude of the American people against what was not called “war” but the Vietnam Conflict.  


As stated on a High School website,


“American involvement in the Vietnam Conflict was one of the most controversial events to take place during the late 20th century in the United States…many American lives were lost to fight the spread of communism and preserve a peoples' right to choose their leaders.


A few historic points of 1968:



January - Beginning of the siege of Khe San; beginning of the Tet offensive of 1968 which was one of the bloodiest deadly periods of American involvement in a foreign war in history.



February - General Westmoreland requests an additional 206,000 troops over current 535,000; request refused



March 16 – the My Lai massacre by U.S. troops in which initially it was reported only a handful of civilians were killed.



March 31 - President announces limited bombing halt over Northern Vietnam  which coincided with Johnson's decision not to run for president.



April 4 - Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated



October – The United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, or more usually referred to as the The Viet Cong meet in Paris for peace talks



November - Richard Nixon elected President,




This timeline is accurate but the My Lai Massacre would not be revealed to the American public until 19 months after it occurred, Sept. 5, 1969.


The Situation of 1968


It is little exaggeration to say in 1968 that the world was in turmoil.


“During the Vietnam war, the body count was served up every day on the evening news. While Americans ate dinner, they watched a graphic visual scorecard: how many Americans had died that day, how many South Vietnamese and how many Communists.” 


The body count was often expressed like scores in a football game. There was a general distortion of the war in part because of defensive patriotism and fear of Communism, known as the “Domino Theory”. 


The military and political  attitude of warfare permeated the press.


It was a fear of a Communist takeover. It was casually referred to as the “Domino Theory.” 


As defined in the encyclopedia it is,


Domino Theory: The notion that if one country becomes Communist, other nations in the region will probably follow, like dominoes falling in a line. The analogy, first applied (1954) to Southeast Asia by President Dwight Eisenhower, was adopted in the 1960s by supporters of the U.S. role in the Vietnam War.


This message of the war was passed onto the American public and the news reported from Vietnam became a presentation of partial facts as the full truth. I might at this point one could almost substitute the word terrorism for Domino. The Mi Lai massacre was the beginning of uncovering violence a few people in America would believe that our own soldiers were capable of doing and unleashed a controversy not only of war crimes by our military, but what the press should report.


It possibly may never have been known if it were not for the conscience of Ron Ridenhour, a young helicopter crewman from Phoenix who flew over the site days after the tragedy happened, and then heard rumors of it before he left the army.


After debating on what to do for nearly a year, he finally wrote a letter detailing his information, sending 30 copies to officials in the government and military.


In part Ridenhour wrote the following:


 It was late in April, 1968 that I first heard of ‘Pinkville’ and what allegedly happened there. I received that first report with some skepticism, but in the following months I was to hear similar stories from such a wide variety of people that it became impossible for me to disbelieve that something rather dark and bloody did indeed occur sometime in March, 1968...


One morning in the latter part of March, Task Force Barker moved out from its firebase headed for ‘Pinkville.’ Its mission: destroy the trouble spot and all of its inhabitants.


Ridenhour went on to detail his involvement in Vietnam and subsequently what he had been told by fellow soldiers who had taken part in a very unbelievable event.  


Ironically this was the beginning of Ridenhour applying ethics in moral issues and principles to his future career as a journalist.


It is relevant, that Ridenhour is central to the idea of this report and ethics in the press, with the definition of morality defined as:


The effort to guide one's conduct by reason--that is to do what there are the best reasons for doing, while giving equal weight to the interests of each individual who will be effected by one's conduct.


In accordance with this moral definition, Ridenhour revealed a dark secret of the Vietnam Conflict, that many professional journalists had already heard of or had personally witnessed and because of what one can only think of as dominant national and military bias, was ignored.


Ridenhour searched his conscience and with the help of his High School teacher, finally took action and wrote letters to public and military officials based on moral principals.


The Army eventually sent a colonel to interview Ridenhour, after Senator Udall from Arizona had pressured Senator Rivers from South Carolina, the Chairman of the Armed Forces Committee, to influence the Army to look into the matter. The sad note of this is that many people in the military had been aware of the tragedy within hours of its occurrence, including two army journalists and the soldiers and officers who took part, plus the commanding officers of the regiment and division.


This also may be the only reason the national press eventually got interested in the massacre because a top level scandal involving very high ranking Army officers, possibly even General Westmoreland, commander of Vietnam forces


Amongst the hundreds that knew directly, and even a larger numbers indirectly, there was only one American helicopter pilot, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson who actively tried to stop the slaughter of between 400 to 500 old men, women and children.


He reported to his commanding officers over the airwaves (that was heard at Division level and recorded) what was going on. Thompson even landed his helicopter between the American soldiers and Vietnamese to stop the killing.  Thompson thought that the soldiers would be court marshaled, and so did not seek any further action after that day



If had it not been for the persistence of Ridenhour, the My Lai Massacre  may never have been known. He would stir a hornet’s nest that the military, the government, the people of America, and even many members of the press believed should have never been touched.


Chapter Two



Amongst the hundreds that knew directly, and even a larger numbers indirectly, there was only one American helicopter pilot, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson who actively tried to stop the slaughter of between 400 to 500 old men, women and children.


He reported to his commanding officers over the airwaves heard at Division level and recorded, what was going on. Thompson even landed his helicopter between the American soldiers and Vietnamese to stop the killing.  Thompson thought that the soldiers would be court marshaled, and so did not seek any further action after that day


If had it not been for the persistence of one soldier Ridenhour, the My Lai Massacre  may never have been known. He would stir a hornet’s nest that the military, the government, the people of America, and even many members of the press believed should have never been touched.


But because of his tenacity in trying to get someone to pay attention, the word eventually got out through rumor, to a very wide body of people, and yet it was not until October 22, 1969, that one journalist finally picked up a thread of information and started to follow it on an investigative journey. His name was Seymour Hersh.


It was Hersh who would ultimately uncover the story, but it was the Fort Benning public information office that first gave a press release to the local paper, the  Ledger-Enquirer on Sept. 5, 1969.  


On that day, in newspaper offices and broadcasting studios around the United States, a small story, less than a hundred words long, clattered across the Associated Press ticker.





Several other reporters had good tips in later weeks about the case, but failed to persuade their news bureaus to take it seriously enough to mount a major inquiry. It was a Media mentality out of focus, so it was Seymour Hersh who first found the press release on Sept. 6, 1969 in The New York Times and pursued on his own.


Hersh writes in his book on the My Lai Massacre,

Officers in the Pentagon were prepared for a flood of questions that weekend from all news media-but it didn't come.


“I was amazed that it didn't get picked up, just amazed,’ said one colonel. It would appear that the press had become so accustomed to unaccountable death in Vietnam, that this small release of civilian murder was hardly news worthy.”


Five days later the news of Ltd. Calley's arrest was telecast on the Huntley-Brinkley news show and millions of viewers were told that  Ltd. Calley ‘…has been accused of premeditated murder of a number of South Vietnamese civilians. The murders are alleged to have been committed a year ago and the investigation is continuing. A growing number of such cases is coming to light and the Army doesn’t now what to do about them…”


This quite possibly was the first time the media even hinted that something was going very wrong ethically and a more politically polarized war in Vietnam.


It was only because of the dogged persistence of Hersh and his dedication to the role of a journalist that the actual truth of the event would finally be revealed. 


Hersh writes that he received a tip on October 22 that, “The Army's trying to court martial some guy in secret at Fort Benning for killing seventy-five Vietnamese civilians,” the source told him.”


In fact, the Army was still trying to keep any word about the events at My Lai  out of the newspapers. By October 29, 1969, Hersh found Ltd. Calley’s lawyer and succeeded where other reporters  had failed to dig into the press release. 


 He went to Salt Lake City to interview the lawyer, but  before leaving Washington, he had received confirmation of the essential facts of the story from a government source.


Ltd. Calley’s lawyer confirmed them, adding that: “…The thing that's important is this: why do we prosecute our own people while on a search-and-destroy mission and they kill some people, be they civilian or not. Is there a point in the chain of command at which somebody could be tried? I think not.”


On November 11, 1969 Hersh flew to Fort Benning and found Ltd. Calley for an interview and said that Ltd. Calley was apprehensive and knew what was coming and that Hersh would be the last reporter to whom he would talk with, for many months. Hersh wrote,


“He  told me, that evening, a little bit about the operation; he also told me how many people he had been accused of killing. I flew back to Washington the next day and began to write my story. I did it somewhat hesitantly, my thought being that Ltd. Calley, perhaps, was as much of a victim as those infants he and his men murdered at My Lai...”


With that, Hersh, as an investigative reporter began a series of articles that would be initially ignored by all of the major media.


“Once I had completed my research on My Lai , I tried to get it published. Life and Look magazines weren't interested. With some hesitation, I turned over my story to the Dispatch News Service, a small Washington news agency…Fifty newspapers were offered the initial Dispatch story by cable on November 12, 1969; more than thirty including many of the leading newspapers in the nation published it the next day.”


In a follow-up story on November 20, Hersh gave eyewitness accounts of soldiers involved in the massacre.  One them was Michael Terry in Utah:


He said,

“They just marched through shooting everybody ... they had them in a group
standing in front of a ditch, just like a Nazi-type thing. One officer ordered
a kid to machine gun everybody down. But the kid just couldn't do it. He threw
the machine gun down and the officer picked it up ... I don't remember seeing
many men in the ditch, mostly women and kids.”

The ramifications of the uncovering of My Lai was that Seymour Hersh would later win the Pulitzer Prize for reporting a story that many people in America did not want to read, let alone believe. The American public would even turn against those who brought out the truth. 


“Ridenhour too, felt the brunt of public anger over his disclosing the deed. At first the mail was favorable, but within a couple weeks, he was getting letters asserting, ‘I want to tell you, you are a traitor…a Hanoi agent…the shame of our society.”


It would take another five years, and nearly 30,000 more American soldiers lives and unknown hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese before the politicians and military generals finally had to bend to the public’s will and bring American troops home. But the My Lai tragedy had been exposed by reporters who acted with moral responsibility and that helped end the war in Vietnam.


Chapter 3

A Poetic Time


It was a poetic time

TAKE IT EASY she said

COME ON BABY he said

TAKE IT EASY she said


You gonna wave a DRAGON SNAKE FLAG

You know, A broken heart

Carried me

Into crystal glass rooms

Where I see images,

images of the






But INSIDE were two BROKEN old people Talking a few minutes long…

She said You know of course, I have a classical side

He said Yeah just fine, I’m CLASSICALLY BENT…


He mumbled on telling his war stories that no one else listened to…

I was a photo journalist for army…you know…I had been in Vietnam since 1964 when the first Marines were sent in, and most of them took part in what was known as the “Five O’clock Follies” where the brass conveyed the line of thought and agenda of the military to be passed on by the media.


The tragic story of Vietnam is not a tale of violent men bent upon conquest for person gain or imperial glory. It Is the story of an entire generation of leaders and an entire generation of followers so conditioned by the tension of the cold war years that they were unable to see the Communist was no longer a monolith from Russia…it was a people’s war against foreign invaders…


 When I was in the army I used to say, “Kids get killed in war…” besides, I'd never read the laws governing the conduct of war, although I had watched the war for three years in Vietnam and had written about it for five. Apparently, a lot of the men in Saigon and Washington who we directing the war didn't read those laws either, or if they did, interpreted them rather loosely.


Let's take a look at our conduct in Vietnam. For instance, The Army Field Man­ual says that it is illegal to attack hospitals. We routinely bombed and shelled the hell out of them. All that ever happened was the destruction of Viet­ Cong and North Vietnamese Army Hospitals in South Vietnam countryside was announced at the daily press briefings, the Five o'clock Follies, by American military spokes­men in Saigon.


Another thing, back in Novem­ber, 1965, I found five fishing ham­lets on the coast of Quangngai Province in central Vietnam, not far from My Lai, which had been ravaged over the previous two months by the five inch guns of United States Navy de­stroyers and by American and South Vietnamese fighter-bombers. The lo­cal Vietnamese officials told me 184 civilians had been killed. After a day of interviewing the survi­vors among the ruins, I concluded that a reasonable estimate might run as high as 600 dead…


No common-sense military purpose seemed to be served. When I wrote my story describing the agony of the fisher folk, however, it did not occur to me that I had discovered a possi­ble war crime. The thought also does not seem to have occurred to army editors or to most readers of The Times. None of the similar stories that I and other reporters wrote later on provoked any outrage, ex­cept among that minority with the field of vision to see what was hap­pening.


You know what Lieutenant Ltd. Calley told the prosecutor when he was court marshaled? No? he said, ‘It wasn't any big deal, sir”.


You know he was being tried for the murder of 109 Vietnamese women and children. That was the attitude of indiscriminate war in the American Army. It was accepted as normal policy of the Pentagon and the American press of what was going on.


A lot of People said. But these were old men, and women, and children. But I tell you: I didn’t see it. I had this mission, and I was intent upon it: I only saw, The Cong were the enemy.


 I tell you, it was the thing we called A “Free Fire Zone” That meant kill anything alive inside the zone…in other words, “Waste  em!” It was a common feature of American warfare in Vietnam at least two years before the My Lai Massacre. Hell two Army journalists present at the My Lai Massacre were not the first journalists to witness unquestionable war crimes in Vietnam.


It was a poetic time…

TAKE IT EASY she said

COME ON BABY he said

TAKE IT EASY she said



Chapter 4

Ghost Shadows


It was a poetic time

TAKE IT EASY she said

COME ON BABY he said

TAKE IT EASY she said



“You know James, this broken heart of mine has carried me into crystal glass rooms

where everything was broken…”


But Baby, I saw images, Nightmare images GHOST SHADOW’s baby, They covered me in blood, black as night…You know Baby, I’m one of LASTof a LONG LINE OF 100 LOST assassins,   yeah, I was there, back in a time when I was FLOATING AT THE SHORES OF Bombed out TEMPLES…


“Where was that Sweety?”


OUT YONDER, in your ANCIENT LAND…You know where the crows fly… not here…

Not INSIDE this warm womb of a room…But Now, us survivors, we are all BROKEN old people, baby …confessing old sins that no one cares about…


She said, “do you love me sweet James?”

He mumbled on telling his war stories that no one listened to…


The press was imbedded with us…at least that is what they call it these days…they were reporters for AP…you know, the associated press syndicate…


They had been in Vietnam since 1964 when the first Marines were sent in, and most of them took part in what we called the “Five O’clock Follies” that’s where the brass gave their  BS to be passed on by the media guys.


They told the press it was A “Free Fire Zone” That meant kill anything alive inside the zone…in other words, “Waste  em!”


I’ll tell you this baby, by 1968 that was a common feature of American warfare in Vietnam.


The truth, was it had been going for on years before the My Lai Massacre. Hell, there were two Army rag writers at the My Lai Massacre, but we weren’t the first reporters to witness war crimes in Vietnam.


 Did you ever hear of the Tiger Force Baby?


“I don’t know what you are talking about sweety.”


Of course not , no one heard of them except a secret few, the few us still alive…


“But you are still alive honey, now lay down and stop worrying your old head…I’ll make you feel good…”


James could not get March 16th, 1968 out of his mind…


It was a poetic time Baby

TAKE IT EASY she said

COME ON BABY he said

TAKE IT EASY she said


You gonna save me? me an assassin?


Thirty minutes until lunch. He could stop the whole universe in a split second. He could make a telephone call to old buddies and ask how they felt. He could book a ticket and fly away. He could stay in the bed and remember what it was like to make love to a woman. He could sit and just not think. He could feel dead.


Thirty minutes until lunch. So much could happen in thirty minutes. Hundreds of people can die. He was there and saw it all. he only felt numb.


It was that old feeling, that thing he could not shake even in his happiest times. What was it?

Vietnam still echoed in him. It was so long ago. Why could he not forget it ever happened? No one was to blame. But who did it?


Did he see what he remembered or was it just a bad dream.


It wasn’t his fault innocent people died. Or was it? Did he put the M-16 on full automatic? Did he see them all fall like metal ducks in a carnival side show? Was he an assassin?


He looked at the clock. Twenty-nine minutes until lunch. He did not stop thinking about My Lai. He picked up the journal and turned the page.…how could it happen, the massacre at My Lai,  and how could American soldiers sent to protect and defend innocent people, turn and slaughter them…


What he had came to understand was that there had been a program of conditioning that had completely taken over the ability of the soldiers to see reality as it was, and obey a blind ideology of destruction that was dictated by the Army leadership and all but ignored by the American media. he had even talked to the Army officer who first gave the press release of the My Lai operation.


the officer said, “ Yeah, sure, the action that day raised questions in my mind…this was the thing… how could the Viet Cong have carried away all their weapons from such a major engagement at close-quarters that day…you know it didn’t make much sense…”


He saw at this point many people had simply chosen to ignore signs passed on by the press  that something had gone wrong.


The New York Times reported a front page story, March 18, 1968, two days after the actual event, the American version of the assault on My Lai, as relayed by the Brass in Saigon. This is what the report said,


“The operation is another American offensive to clear enemy pockets still threatening the cities…two companies of United States soldiers moved in on the enemy force from opposite sides, heavy artillery barrages and armed helicopters were called in to pound the North Vietnamese soldiers…”


BS, total BS…


He knew history would eventually expose, the report as a lie because there were no North Vietnamese soldiers or Viet Cong produced by the military… a lie perpetuated for the next 19 months through the cooperation of the media...


He knew, what was astounding was that many reporters had already witnessed other so called “legitimate military actions” where atrocities were committed, but willingly went along with the Army’s line of perception. In many ways, reporters were amiss morally even more so than soldiers who were conditioned to obey, for Reporters were not threatened with court martial and could leave the battlefield any time they chose.


But that was paradox about this situation, because one of the people who witnessed the My Lai Massacre was both a soldier and a photojournalist. I should Know… I was there…he didn’t have the choice to leave…


But what was reported on August 1, 1968, in the weekly army newspaper The Southern Cross, was an article on My Lai, illustrated  with photographs by another soldier-photographer. I had been assigned to take photos of the Huey gun ships that day but he was the division reporter who had witnessed the truth of the tragedy wrote this about My lai:


“Operation Muscatine, the name of the My Lai battle, involved some of the largest encounters with the Viet Cong in the War's fledgling history. Troops twice encountered a Viet Cong battalion near the village of My Lai and killed a total of 196 enemy soldiers. “


Yeah, it was all a lie honey… Lies were sanctified. But you know what Baby?


“No Baby, I don’t know anything about your old wars, sweetheart…why don’t you lie down and take it easy?


Hah! Take it easy, yeah, take it easy…I will baby, as soon as I get to the corner of Winslow, Arizona…no baby…but it was a newspaper that finally spilled the beans…


“What was that sugar?”


An ironic event…Baby, a time of poetry…19 months later when a newspaper published photographs of the massacre….Photographs showed South Vietnamese civilians killed in the incident.  The photos came from a freelance combat photographer…he joined the company just before it entered the village and heard from the men it was suspected the villagers were Viet Cong sympathizers.  He said he saw men, women and children slaughtered…those photos caused the world to turn around...


 “How is that sweety?”


 It unleashed a backlash from the American public. Get this! People said the paper showed “poor taste” in publishing such “obscene” photos. Can you believe it?


“What do you mean Sweety?”


You know… nudity… its taboo baby in America’s screwed up puritanical religious right hypocrisy! Some of those corpses had the nerve to be naked as new born horrible huh…but I was there, I was there…grunts of the first platoon of Charley Company went in shooting, and didn’t  stop for nearly an hour...


“But why were they shooting Honey?”


They were convinced they were attacking Pinkville, that’s what we called the VC stronghold…BS baby!   But some of the old grunts still alive continue to believe that they killed only the Cong….


They were prepared for heavy action and large casualties. Instead, we hit the wrong village not exactly friendly but not exactly hostile too…a little error of less than two miles, and because of the mistake of us Americans, we hit My Lai where the Viet Cong had never appeared much at all…My Lai was the first to suffer that morning, and suffer in the extreme. But you want to know what the biggest irony of it all was Baby?


“No Sweety and I don’t care, now why don’t you just lie down and take it easy and I’ll go get lunch-together…”

Yeah, the irony of a name…the irony in the tragedy was meaning of the name… My LaiMy Lai, yeah the universe has a warped sense of humor…My Lai… 


What did it mean?”


It meant… The Place Where Trouble Does Not Come…


Chapter 5

The Irony of a Name


The crows were flying in circles cawing just cawing…James lifted his face to the sky and began cawing…just cawing…


Yeah, the irony of a name…the irony in the tragedy, was meaning of the name… My Lai…The Crows Fly in My Lai, yeah the universe has a warped sense of humor…My Lai…Crows, yeah the Crows fly in My Lai…crows…My Lai…crows…caw, caw, caw…. 


What did My Lai mean?”


It meant… The Place Where Trouble Does Not Come…


James looked at the words scrolled in his journal, a blank expression on his face, one that showed no emotion, like his face was cast in cement. He stopped reading and thought about what had happened and laughed at the irony of names…Right,  the place where trouble does not come…right…My Lai, My Self…yeah, the irony is my self…


Isle de Corse, France, September. 1994


James set at the table looking at the pistol. “Screw it,” he mumbled and picked up the pen and scrawled  in large letters,  A ONE-EYED SNAKE then continued writing the story that started it all…


I was in love.  I was 18.  She was 17. I called her Teen Baby. She was a small fat girl—the first girl that ran her hot little hands across my desire —  I was in love at first touch. 

She told me she loved me.  Perfect.  We were in love.  We were serious in high school and our future was right in front of us.  We were going to get married.  I was going to get a job in the local lumber mill.  We were going to buy a Corvair and then we were going to start having children.  Maybe two, maybe three.  Yes, real true love.  Life was going to be perfect. 

I should have known better, but what all do you know when you are eighteen and a one-eyed-snake is in charge?  Nothing.  Zero. Ziltch.  Mountains of BS, that is what you know. 

She suddenly got very interested in strange beliefs.  She asked me if I really believed in God.  I said maybe I did and maybe I didn’t.  That wasn’t the right answer.  Then she found other things that I couldn’t give the right answer.  Funny because for nearly a year I had all the answers and then I didn’t.  Then one day she told me an old friend was coming to town and she was going to go out with him --just because she wanted to know how he was doing, being that he was in the Marines.

“You understand don’t you?”

“Uh, yeah.”

I guess that was finally a right answer because it seemed to make her happy. It made me feel very unhappy and very weird.  In fact what it made me feel was strange.  A peculiar sensation came over me that I had never felt before.  The sensation grew until it was a monster. 

The monster was called jealousy, but being I had never encountered it before I didn’t know what it was, so I just regarded the sensation as some sort of insecurity.  She would not lie to me, would she?  I mean she loved me.  She said she loved me.  I loved her.  In a perfect world we had all that really mattered.  But somehow, some way, my perfect world didn’t seem perfect anymore. 

The night she was supposed to meet the Marine, I was completely miserable.  I picked up an old buddy and we drove around town.  We did what was called Dragging the Gut. My buddy and I used to do that before I had a serious girlfriend.  We would drive to the Tom Tom Drive Inn, which was on the north side of town, take a circle around it, check out who was in the cars or who we could see through the big plate glass windows. 

If there were any of our friends we would stop and go through the ritual of what’s going on and then head for the south side of the town where we would circle Shakey’s Pizza Parlor and go through the same process with friends there. 

That’s what we did in my small town in eastern Oregon.  By the end of the night we had usually driven over a 100 miles.  It was five miles between the two hangouts. 

So on this particular night, I am not really interested in seeing any of my old friends.  What I am really doing is checking out all the possibilities of where my true-love could be and having a snoop on her.  But I don’t see her anywhere.  All right?  All night I don’t see her anywhere.  Strange?  If she is just talking to the guy why isn’t she in one of our favorite places, like The Tom Tom or Shakey’s?  She’s not even at the Superior Cafe downtown.  Nowhere in hell she is.  Just at that point a horrible suspicion came over me.  Her parents were gone. I had to find out.  My buddy and I had been talking about her all night.

“Why don’t you just drive over to her house and see?” 

“I have more trust in her than that!”


By 1 AM my trust ran out. 


I drove my 51 Chevy along the backstreets to Maple Street that came into the street my girl lived on—about a half a block away.  I didn’t want to pass in front of her house just in case she should see me—then she would know I didn’t trust her.  When I got to the corner I could see her house clearly and into the driveway and the garage behind.  At the very back of the driveway was a strange car. I could make out from the color of the license plate it was from out-of-state. 

My heart jumped into my throat and the feeling of icy hands ran down my spine.  I could swear I heard the sound of ripping clothes—like sails being blown apart by high wind—I stopped the Chevy and backed up 30 feet from the intersection of street. I could see the side of her house and the strange car.

“What are you going to do?”


So we both set there smoking Marlboros in silence.  An hour went by.  It seemed like a year.  No lights in the house.  No one came to the car.  No movement anywhere.  The streets had grown empty. Black morning was dead quiet.


“Let’s go home, James!”

“No, we’ll wait another 30 minutes then I’ll go and see if anyone is at the house.”      

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll knock on the door,” I hollered.

“Oh man…”

The Marlboros began to taste like crap and my throat felt like it was on fire.  The minutes dragged by as I continued to smoke and cough.  My buddy set there pissed off because he had to witness me driving myself crazy.

“Come on man, it’s been an hour and 35 minutes—either go and see or let’s go home.  I’m fatigued tired man!” 

I was aware the time limit was over but I couldn’t bring myself to facing what I might find.  I was terrified.

“Come on man!”

“Screw you,” I screamed then jumped out of the car and trotted to the front of her house.  As I came to the porch I slowed to a very slow walk dropping my feet like I was deer hunting in the forest. 


When I came to the front door I heard the sound of a moaning voice accompanied by something that sounded like a grunting pig.


My stomach turned to a burnt hole.  I hesitated.  My finger hovered at the door bell. I could still hear moaning and oinking grunts.  A voice became more and more rapid like tapping a tight drum—the sound of a uh uh uh uh uh  growing louder and louder in my ears.  Suddenly the pig began to make a loud squealing  bellow. 


Then I heard a voice scream, “ oh God, Oh God, Oh God…”


Somehow I knew they were not in there praying. 


My mind went very white, like the spark from a welding torch. 


My finger  came down onto the door bell.  I heard her voice shriek and then there was a very low mumbling. After 30 seconds I heard the squeaking of floor boards as she came to the door.

“Who is it?”

“Me, James.”

She opened the door. Her blouse was buttoned but crooked. Her hair looked like it was brushed with an eggbeater.

“James, I…”

“Thanks.  Thanks a lot.”   I turned away before she could see the tears in my eyes.  I walked back to the Chevy like I had just got off a roller coaster.  The streets wobbled under my feet.


When I got to the Chevy, I don’t know what snapped, but it did and I hauled off with my right hand and smashed my fist into the door window.  Lucky for me it was safety class.  The window cracked into 500 sections radiating out from the impact of my fist.

“What the heck are you doing James?”

I got into the driver’s seat, started the engine and peeled out turning the corner. I wound the old six cylinder up so many RPM’s  that it nearly exploded before I jammed it into second gear.  Then third gear.  I drove the old car 80 miles an hour through town and back to my buddy’s house.  I screeched to a stop at his driveway and yelled, ”get out.” 


My buddy was completely white.

“James, come on man, stop this crap. You’re going to kill yourself.”

“Get out of my life.” 

I tried to smash him in the face, but he jumped out and slammed the door before I could deliver the punch.  I was yelling something, and he was yelling something at me as I peeled out nearly blowing the engine again.  I was going back to her house. I was going to do something.  I didn’t know what, but it was something terrible.


As I approached her house, I saw that strange car back out of her driveway.  I decided to ram the car, but before I could get to it, the car was going too fast to catch.  I could see a female figure sitting in the passenger seat.


I followed the car as best I could as he went through the middle of downtown.  I was just getting up on the rear end of the car when I decided I would kill them both.

I drove alongside of them and was just about to crash their car and force it into a shop window.

Suddenly he slammed on the brakes and I shot past. 

My eyes flicked down at the speedometer and I saw the needle was at 85.  I jammed on my brakes and looked into the rear view mirror. I saw his car turn onto the street that ran to the east of town.


By the time I turned onto their trail the taillights of his car were way up in front of me and getting smaller. He had a bigger engine than my old rattletrap and he was scared shitless and was breaking more traffic laws than me.  I could barely see the red lights when the car turned onto another street heading north.  It was the street of my girlfriend’s best friend, and I knew where she lived. 

When I got to the house I saw my girl running to the front door and the guy in the car was burning rubber as he sped away.  I roared up on his rear end as he slowly pulled away. 

There was no way I could keep up with his car until I saw that he was headed back into town on the Central Avenue.  I knew a shortcut that knocked off several blocks so I cut onto it and just as I came to Central, the guy was coming into my trap. 

As he crossed the intersection ignoring the red light I swung into his side and was planning on battering him into a concrete underpass he was rapidly approaching.

Suddenly he veered off into the lot of a used car agency. 

Without thinking I wheeled my car in behind him, nearly rolling the old Chevy as I slammed into the curb and bounced into the parking space right behind this jarhead. 

He had driven into a dead-end. Cars were blocking all of the exits except for the way he had come in.  He screeched to a stop nearly slamming into one of the used cars. I stomped on the brakes and slide right in behind him. 

We jumped out of our cars at the same time.



He had on a Marine dress-green suit and jumped to face me as I ran up to him.  He had a beer bottle in his right hand holding it by the neck.  He smashed it into the edge of his open door that left a jagged broken neck in his hand. 

I stopped in my tracks and looked at it for a couple of seconds.


“Okay so you’ve got a weapon man – screw you—I’m going to kill you anyway.”


I was totally insane. Even if he cut my eyes out I would smash his head to pulp in the asphalt.  I looked into his eyes and all I could feel was hatred and bloodlust.  He was going to die even if I was going to die.  I didn’t care and nothing would stop me.


What was in mind communicated to the Marine.


I took a step toward him to bring about our mutual destiny.


“Wait, this isn’t a good place to fight…”


Of all the things he could have said, he somehow managed to say the right combination of words to slip past the confusion of my insane mind.

“Oh yeah, it’s not a good place to fight…,” I was blocked in my own steps.  “…yeah, this is not a good place to fight.”


“I know a better place to fight.”

“Oh yeah, let’s fight there.” 

I was in a trance, a place to fight,  a place to fight, ran through my mind like a Buddhist mantra. “OK—where is it?”

“Just follow me and we’ll go there.”


We got into our cars. I had to back up first so he could get out.  It didn’t occur to me that he could run away again, but he backed up and then he drove very slowly down the street as I followed.  All I could think was he was going to die very soon.  There was nothing else in my mind.


When we came to the center of town where an all-night gas station was and he swung into it and stopped.  I leapt out of my car and before he could move I reached through his window and had him by his neck.


“Wait, wait…”

I started dragging him out the window.

“Wait, for what, you mo-fo?” 

“I need gas to get where we’re going to fight.”

Once again he had the words in exactly the right order.


My mind flashed a signal that it was a perfectly reasonable thing to wait for, so I dropped my hands from his throat and got back in my car with smoke coming out of my ears. I watched the service station attendant pump two bucks worth of gas into the guy’s car.  The guy handed the dollar bills out the window and started his engine and then screeched out of the gas station. 

The butthole was trying to escape again.  I laid rubber as I wheeled out of the station never taking my foot off the floorboard. I speed-shifted through the gears and was right on his ass within three blocks.

All at once the S.O.B. slammed on his brakes and turned a sharp left and began to broad-slide. He came to a dead stop right in front of the police station.  I jammed on my brakes and was out of the car even before the smoke of burning rubber had lifted from the street. 

This time I was prepared. I  picked up at 12 inch crescent wrench that was always under my seat. I ran to the guy as he was getting out of his car and caught him by the left arm. He jerked loose and turned to face me

“Look man, I didn’t even know that she had a boyfriend—man I just came home on leave from the Marines—and I didn’t mean to cause any problems man.  I’m sorry—I didn’t know…”

I looked at him with hatred and heard his words. Somehow I understood I was about to kill the wrong person, I couldn’t stop myself. He was going to die.  Someone had to die.  I didn’t care who died, including me. 

I was just about to swing the wrench when there was a loud thunder boom and a cloudburst crashed down like I had never seen in my life. 

I dropped the wrench as if I had come out of a nightmare.  I looked down on the ground at the crescent wrench.  Enormous pellets of water were exploding on the pavement.  My eyes drifted to his feet.  I slowly raised my eyes until I was looking directly in his eyes.

I couldn’t say a thing.  I just started crying, feeling the tears mixed with the rain that run down my cheeks.  The guy just stood there looking back at me.

Then the police station door opened and two cops walked out looking at us suspiciously.  “Is everything okay here?”  One of them asked.

I didn’t know what the cop meant. 

The guy, not taking his eyes from my eyes said, “Yeah sure, everything is okay.”

I could feel the clear cold wind and the rain on my face as I stood in front of the Marine.

The rain washed away the madness, but not the pain—the awful pain that would never stop.


The pain that would follow me to something worse…. to be an Assassin in only a few short years…

Yea, My Lai,  The Place Where Trouble Does Not Come…


Chapter 5

Island of Corsica,  September 2004


The crows were flying in circles cawing just cawing…they call  them Quo in Nam…kind’a sounds like crow…James lifted his face to the sky and began cawing…just cawing…then remembered, lunch in 30 minutes…



In 1990…in Paris when I was with Ho Chi for the second time, 22 years after our ten day love affair in the brothel of Saigon…her telling me her story… I had a “deja vous” experience. It happened again with the battle calls of the “Gulf war” ….


Yeah, that’s what Ho Chi used to say…”it’s the irony of a name…the irony of a the tragedy…


My Lai…The Crows Fly in My Lai, yeah the universe has  a screwed up sense of humor…My Lai…Crows, yeah but the Crows fly in My Lai…crows…My Lai…crows…caw, caw, caw…damn crows are every where... 


And what did My Lai mean? It meant… The Place Where Trouble Does Not Come…irony…what does it mean?


It was an old story, one that James had never told to his old friend Oscar who he known since his first days of living in CorsicaCorsica he chose…a sanctuary away from the world.


James, in his sixtieth year began unfolding the riddles of love and death.


Heck, someone had to show me how fickle life is—why be peeded off at anybody and why be disappointed that I am no different than anyone else?

That’s what I get for living long enough to find out what it means to be human. Screw the sentiment.

Life is infinitely layered and the observable universe doesn’t give a ratsass about anybody or anything. Stars are born and stars die. It’s all just mechanical. 

My mind is spinning. The voices I keep hearing bug me. What is there to say?


I am going through a male menopausal depression. For years, I have felt the psycho-drama like a clown jumping out of a burning circus car. What the hell does it matter? Everything is funny if you wait long enough, depending on what you see in a predicament.


A burning car filled with clowns is always funny.


Maybe at one point in My LaiVietnamMarch 16, 1968 it was funny too, but I didn’t feel it. Still there might have been a few among the mass madness of that day who walked away laughing.

It all comes back to who you are and what has happened to you if you stayed alive. For me it is not the war that keeps circling my mind, it is the women. I keep wondering why all the women I have loved left me for one reason or the other.


The other night, one of those damn broken sleepless nights, I counted my heartbreaks over the last forty years. Jesus, six. Six friggin broken hearts is just too darn much. As much as it appears I am feeling sorry for myself, I am just a man who sees what is obvious. I am a disaster.


But why feel sorry for myself? No reason.  I was innocently walking down the street and the world blew up around me, tearing off my clothes and covered me in gore.  Once the dust and doom settled, I discovered even though I was naked and stained; I didn’t have a scratch on me. Am I not blessed? Fickle frig’n fate  knows! My luck is just the random unthinking election of the universe.


Bullets, bad lovers and errant death messengers have missed me every time.


If I had only known what she was going to do.  Who am I talking about this time?  It is Ho Chi. I tried to fall in love with Dark Eyes only to get Ho Chi out of my mind. It didn’t work. I was too much in love with Ho Chi, or maybe just obsessed for over 20 years.


She was the most powerful drug in my life. Yeah, a drug.


Oh yeah, the way she would whisper in my ear early in the morning.  The way she would look at me…her sleepy-Asian eyes.  They were perfect almond shaped hypnotizers… her lips…that beautiful double curl like two little waves that ran across her mouth.  I could hardly stay away, wanting, caressing...


The way she would get out of bed in the morning, not looking at me, the sway of her hips, easy and feminine as she walked to run a bath….always was the long hashish joint hanging in her fingers, the smell of its spicy aroma drifting into my nostrils.  The clang and bangs in the streets of morning Saigon


I was drugged, hypnotized, infatuated and crazy in love with her.  She said I was only the one in life, told me I was the only one who had ever known her, had ever pleased her.  All of that was so long ago, in another world, when I was really alive…

Other people’s spirits are alive and their flesh is gone, yet my body breathes and my soul has vanished. Life is a depressing emptiness. Even so, on this morning, it is not just the vacuum of depression; there is something else. The best label I can give it is haunted.


What kind of person I am after Vietnam? All of the self-help and soul-work I have gone through has not taken off the tarnished and corrupted person I have become over the course of a murderous life.

I wonder if in the first breath I ever took, it loosened a pebble on top of a mountain that once it began to roll, sent down that entire avalanche of human betrayal on top of me.


I feel betrayed yet the betrayal is something I perpetrated on the ones I have loved.  I have the emotional complexity of a child. That is absurd.


I am racing towards my 60th year, the same way a brakeless car doing 90 runs into a 5 o’clock L.A. traffic jam on a Friday afternoon. The crash is inevitable.


Still alive, kicking and complaining. Oh yeah, I have survived war, love, disease and alcohol. All I have to survive now is the holocaust of a bitter mind.


James face was cast in cement. He stopped and thought about what had happened and laughed at the irony of names…Right,  the place where trouble does not come…right…My Lai, My Self…yeah, the irony of self… to be an Assassin…


Yea, My Lai,  The Place Where Trouble Does Not Come…



 “During the Vietnam war, the body count was served up every day on the evening news. While Americans ate dinner, they watched a graphic visual scorecard: how many Americans had died that day, how many South Vietnamese and how many Communists.”


 The body count was often expressed like scores in a football game. There was a general distortion of the war in part because of defensive patriotism and fear of Communism.  The military and political  attitude of warfare permeated the press. It was a fear of a Communist takeover and was casually referred to  as the “Domino Theory, which meant,  if one country becomes Communist, other nations in the region will probably follow, like dominoes falling in a line. This analogy was first applied in1954 to Southeast Asia by President Dwight Eisenhower, after the French colonialist were defeated at Bien Den Phiue .


This message of the war was passed onto the American public and the news reported from Vietnam became a presentation of partial facts as the full truth.


The My Lai Massacre was the beginning of an uncovering of violence that few people in America would believe that our own soldiers were capable of doing, and unleashed a controversy not only of war crimes by our military, but what the press should report.


It possibly may never have been known if it were not for the conscience of Ron young helicopter crewman from Phoenix who flew over the site days after the tragedy happened, and then heard rumors of it before he left the army. After debating on what to do for nearly a year he finally wrote a letter detailing his information, sending 30 copies to official government and military


Island of Corsica, September 1990


It was James 50th birthday when he arrived on a late evening in a mountain valley of Corsica. He had a rendezvous with Neil Rowan, his Scottish friend who had been a freelance combat photographer in Vietnam where Neil, by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, saved James’s life in 1968. They walked through the night while James told his old friend the chapters of his life after Vietnam.


In the morning near the top of a hiking trail, they set in the sun drinking strong black coffee prepared by a very old Corsican shepherd. 


James had just told Neil he had only a few months left to live…yeah man, agent Orange…our dear holy weapon continues to kill…but that’s only the beginning of another little death to come…the Universe has finally zeroed in on me Dude! Yup… there’s no place to hide…all ironic, coming from every direction man…


As the sun burned the dew off the alpine meadows and the heat began to rise, the 44 year-old granddaughter of the old shepherd brought a herd of goats down from the high country. She talked with the two men, speaking English, but with a lilting accent that was not French or Corsican.


Twenty-four hours later, the three were seen boarding a plane bound for Paris.


Valley of Basteliccaia, Corsica… 2004


James sat, scribbling notes in the manuscript he had been writing for over twenty years. 


Fourteen years had passed since James had been with Ho Chi in Paris. Thirty six years had slid by since he first met her in Saigon in April 1968. When he was more than half crazy…Ho Chi was half Vietnamese, half Corsican, taken by her French Foreign Legion father, from Vietnam as four year old toddler, after the defeat of Bien Den Phieu in 1954, and had been raised in the mountains of Corsica by her grandfather, an illiterate Corsican shepherd. In 1966 she returned as a 16 year old to find her mother in Vietnam… but became a bar girl ….a bar girl in Saigon, then every where….onto Bangkok  even Paris


The crows were flying in circles cawing just cawing…


“I didn’t know they had crows in Vietnam…”


Oh man, there’s crows every where in the world…they call  them Quo in Nam… you should remember that…kind’a sounds like crow…YOU KNOW WHAT IS EVEN MORE WEIRD?   A FAMILY  OF CROWS IS CALLED A MURDER…FUNNY HUH? A MURDER…IT WAS MURDER ALL RIGHT…James lifted his face to the sky and began cawing…just cawing…then remembered, lunch in 30 minutes…30 minutes…so much can happen in 30 minutes…


A desperate man can walk off into a mirage in 30 minutes....  I didn’t think about the Ho Chi’s odd request. She wanted me to get her a Christmas tree…Why shouldn’t I buy her Christmas tree? Christmas was only a few days away.  The season to be jolly—not an unusual request.


I went out into the streets of Paris like I was newly born.  Rain glistened on the sidewalks like satin ribbons.  The sky wasn’t gray—it was periwinkle. I disregarded the fashion-shop  snobs and only saw laughing children.  The world was beautiful again.  I was pardoned from execution.  My Ho Chi had a request and that was all that was important—all that I could think about.  I was as crazy as I had ever been –as crazy as I was in My Lai.


I saw myself bringing her the most fantastic Christmas tree in Paris.  It was decorated like a queen’s crown– perfect, symmetrical and glimmering.  The electric lights were gleaming as I was greeted by my lover.  She swept the tree out of my arms as our clothes fell off and she hungrily bit into my neck and knocked me down—her so beautiful, she says to me, “I love you.”


There was only one problem.  I was nearly broke.  Three days in Paris.  $3,000 spent in ecstasy.  I had a hundred dollar bill in my pocket—my entire estate—my total life savings.  It was four in the afternoon and it was already beginning to get dark before I found trees under a hundred bucks.  They were crippled bushes. If I had waited until Christmas I could have got a better deal.  But my Goddess of Destruction had a request.  It had to be answered not tomorrow or next week but today.


I thought about finding Neil, my friend, who had come to Paris with Ho Chi and me. I did not want him around her again.


I had to get her back.  I was screwed-up – I saw shapes green and bushy.  I thought about stealing a tree. The best tree was ninety-five bucks equivalent in Francs.  How do you shoplift a frig’n tree?  Right, steal a tree, walk down the street. I had nothing in my coat pocket but a hundred  dollar bill.


No chance of hiring a taxi with five bucks.  I picked a tree for fifty bucks. The dollar works everywhere. I walked away rationalizing Ho Chi never had a Christmas tree. How would she know a perfect tree if she saw one?  It was her first Christmas tree. It would be the best.


By the time I got to the hotel I was panting from the strain of carrying the tree and imagining the loving to come.  I keyed open the door, put the tree down next to the umbrella basket and walked into my rainbow future.


“Ho Chi,” I called out.


I heard a moan in the bathroom. I thought she was ready, waiting for me as I walked towards her sound.  I swung open the bathroom door. She lay deep, in bath bubbles, then she exploded up over the side of the tub.  Something wasn’t right. I couldn’t get the picture together.  All I could think was, Christmas tree, equals prize – I get the prize from the Goddess. 


“What is it?”  The Goddess shrieked at me.

“I’ve got it,” I said, knowing it wasn’t the way, I wanted. 

“What is it?” she screamed again.

“A tree—a Christmas tree.”


She looked at me like I was a cockroach.  Where was that hungry look, she gave me in the morning?


I retrieved the trophy at the hallway door. I came back, the bush in my arms.


Ho Chi was out of the bath… she had  put a strange T-shirt over her naked body.  Her hair was a mess. I smelled musky familiar odors. It didn’t click. I stood like the village idiot with a denuded skeleton of a Christmas tree.


“What exactly is that?”  She said.  Her eyes, wide open, staring at the tree.

“It’s a Christmas tree,” I began. 

“I don’t want a thing like that. I want a white Christmas tree! A white Christmas tree made out of plastic.  I don’t want this ugly thing!”  She screamed.

I stood there stunned.  Anger burnt over me. 

“I want that thing out of here!  I’m allergic to trees.”  Her eyes were demented. 

“You’re allergic to trees?  How did you live in the mountains?” 

“Oh don’t act like a fool.  You know I was above timberline, all the time I was there. But that’s not a tree. Get it out of here, it’s ugly.  Couldn’t you have found one that had needles on it?”  She slammed the bathroom door.


I stood there angry, getting more angry.  I considered her neck, strangling it as I made love to her for the last time  --- rape and murder—but suddenly the consequences came to me—to give up one more thing—for this woman—this woman I found in a bar in Saigon, this woman I had never understood—this woman who could turn love on and off—this woman who never once concerned herself with the results of her actions, the pain she inflicted on people, without the slightest care.  To give up my life, to go to jail, to face shame of being a monster, was unbearable.  But revenge is sometimes too sweet to stop…


There was a small axe by the ceramic fireplace– just for decoration, but it was there.  I picked it up with one hand and ran my fingers across the edge.  It was dull.  I went back to the bathroom door, swung it open, and saw a strange thing.


There, in the bubbly bath, with Ho Chi, was Neil. 


Neil naked,  leaning against the faucets. His back must have hurt.  He looked at me, the axe in my hand.  I saw the whites of his eyes as they opened into big white saucers.


“Don’t do anything foolish, James,” Neil whispered.


“Foolish.” I repeated.  “Foolish, foolish…”  I began to laugh and repeat the word like a small child‘s sing-song.  Ho Chi said nothing. The color of her skin grew very white, as white as the whites of Neil’s saucer eyes.  My laughter grew hysterical, until, without a word, I raised the axe over my head, both hands on the end of the handle, looking at their eyes.


They began screaming, “No, No, No,” which only made my laughter more crazy.


I took one step forward, they scooted their bodies under the water as if swimming to another world.  The sensation of making them terrified was completely delicious. I could feel the satisfaction of chopping them into small pieces.  I could see blood dripping off the walls.  I took one more step.


“I have only one thing to say to you Ho Chi…and it’s this: you are too soulless  to kill – besides, you have already killed what soul, you ever had.”


I turned and chopped the Christmas tree into a hundred pieces. I threw the beaten shreds over their squirming bodies in the bath.  I walked out of Ho Chi’s life and back into my own death sentence…


James closed the journal…and wondered if he would he ever be able to write the story…everything was so completely convoluted…who would ever understand you can’t run away from what you have done…yeah, there’s no place to hide…


James spoke to Shadow, the dog that was in his bed. “Sure. I am alive, kicking, have a roof over my head and family and friends who believe I am worth the time. For a lot of people in the world all of that would be a blessing and you wouldn’t hear a grumble out of them. The problem is I still have high-flying aspirations, Shadow… Unfortunately, I have to face the fact each day, not one of my dreams has materialized. I have only gone deeper into delusion…”


Shadow bent around and licked his butt, then after a good scratch he said in dog language at a thoughtful slow pace…


“You seem to be caught with the perplexity of standing in a dissolving conviction but hey, that it is no more desperate than what most you people think is real... It’s kind of like me, trying to remember where I bury my bones…”


“Oh God,” James moaned, “I got to get out of here. Now I’m talking to dogs and they’re talking back.”


War has always made careers for some of the journalists who investigated the My Lai Masscre. Yet more than notoriety came about…for a few moments in history the soul of humanity was searched and perhaps the truth revealed to posterity will be the only redeeming gift and give hope where some would believe there is none. Truth may be painful, but it is honorable.


One of the good guys in journalism was Seymour Hersh who in the New Yorker as late as , 2003, wrote about the failure of the corporate media, to report new findings of other atrocities in Vietnam done by American soldiers known as the “Tiger Force.” or launch their own investigations into the official cover-up.


But you what, his extraordinary investigation of Tiger Force, right up to this very today remains all but invisible. None of the four major television networks ever picked it up the story and most national newspapers either ignored the story or ran a small clip saying nothing more than rumors were not confirmed…of course not, do you think the Brass are going to admit they are Assassins and they are proud of it? In other words the story simply disappeared so the Tiger Force never existed…


But you know what?


There was an army chopper pilot came right down between us – in between us and the people we were slaughtering – and man, he made the butchering stop for a minute – He had his gunner turn the 50 caliber on the company and made us stop the insanity…yeah for a few minutes we stopped…until chopper flew away then the wasting was finished…not one living thing left alive except us grunts in green…no little pigs or puppies or cats or kids or grannys…all gone and it was all quiet except for those damn crows cawing and circling the killing field…caw… caw … caw…


Who was the pilot?


That pilot was Hugh Thompson. He’s the type of human being that gives meaning to morality and why journalists like Hersh, tried to emulate such courage in the profession. It’s about honor, not reward…  Yeah bloody useless reward…Thompson finally got the medal he deserved 30 years later.


It wasn’t until 1998 Thompson was recognized by the American government…. because  of pressure from reporters like Hersh …Pentagon officials feared an award would reopen old wounds and the stories that disappeared would be reborn… But Thompson and Colburn…his gunner in the helicopter… finally received medals in a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.


The stories are like a million rumors flying around like crows… the stories of the Tiger force the stories go all the way back to the evacuation of the French foreign Legion in 1954… Yeah the ugly American… We were there when the French were going out, 10 years before the first official entry of American troops into Vietnam in 1964… most of the stories ugly… Village after village burnt to the ground… no record of how many people simply disappeared… Yeah most of it so ugly even Hirsch couldn’t believe it and now it’s all gone like it never happened…like it never happened man….and if it wasn’t for those frig’n crows out there cawing, flying in circles…cawing…yeah I might forget too… yeah… the crows fly….


CHAPTER 6       …You can’t get here from there…

The stories are like a million rumors flying around like crows… the stories of the Tiger force… the stories that go all the way back to the evacuation of the French foreign Legion in 1954…


Yeah the ugly American…


We were there when the French were going out, 10 years before even the first official announcement, open to the public’s knowledge, of the entry of American troops into Vietnam in 1964…


…most of the stories are ugly… Village after village burnt to the ground… no record of how many people simply disappeared…




…most of it so ugly even I couldn’t believe it and now it’s all gone like it never happened…like it never happened man….and if it wasn’t for those frig’n crows out there cawing, flying in circles…cawing…yeah I might forget too… yeah… the crows fly….like black Huey gun ships circling and circling….


…One often hopes that there is an honor that is larger than life, and that sometimes one views a person, or feels a place, where history has shown, humans have dignity…


in the book, One Morning in the War; The Tragedy of Son My/ My lai, Richard Hammer quoted from Albert Camus’s The Rebel.


‘The triumph of the man who kills or tortures, is marred by only one shadow: he is unable to feel that he is innocent.


Thus he must create guilt in his victim so that, in a world that has no direction, universal guilt will authorize no other course of action, than the use of force, and give its blessing, to nothing but success.


When the concept of innocence disappears from the mind of the innocent victim himself, the value of power establishes a definitive rule over a world in despair.


That is why an unworthy and cruel penitence reigns over this world, where only the stones are innocent’ .


It wasn't until March 6, 1998,  30 years after the My Lai massacre, the helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson and his gunner Colborn finally received medals in a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. They had landed their helicopter between the American troops and the My Lai villagers. There had been serious internal debate among Pentagon officials.  They feared an award would reopen old wounds. Pressure from reporters brought about the silver star awards, that rightfully should have been the medal of Honor…but that would have been too big a jump for the brass who were technically, guilty of murder. 


Both of Thompson and Colborn returned to My Lai a few years later to dedicate a school and a "peace park." It was then they finally met a young man named Do Hoa, who they believe was the boy they rescued from that death-filled ditch. “Being reunited with the boy was just...I can't even describe it,” Colburn said. He was the gunner who turned his 50 caliber machine gun against the American troops to make them stop the killing, The chopper pilot who gave Colburn the order was Hugh Thompson. He was so overwhelmed, he didn’t even try to talk.


Are we all Assassins?…


CorsicaSeptember 1, 2004

When Ho Chi disappeared in 1994 with Neil, James stayed in Paris waiting for money he had hustled from old connections.


While in Paris he met a prostitute he called Dark Eyes on Rue St. Denis. She helped him forget about being made a fool by Ho Chi and betrayed by Neil. He stayed with Dark Eyes until the end of his tourist visa in March, and then returned alone to America.


In America, James went deeper down in alcohol. The thought of revenge never left his mind. Ho Chi had betrayed him more than once, ……………..


the month of December went by so very fast, the gifts, the food, friends, events and nonevents…like the Christmas paper torn, and creased, placed in boxes, to be stored… not used until another Christmas supposed to come again…


So the month became January and me in a motel room crazy by more than half – watching 30 channels of nothingness, while in my brain rot and body, I soaked in seven bottles of whiskey a week, feeling sick… disgust… lost reason… why the years of a downfall, a low winding spiral… to these mediocre mumbles… and below, beyond, still, always, the dread of death.


Not death, now, but an unwinding of all the coils in a world… the death that the television tells me about… we will have only two thirds of the present species by the time my daughter is grown, the world filled with hate, disease, pollution, a slow decrepit taking sickness that will turn all gardens to deserts and all deserts to bone radiation…


…the fear and nausea will steadily rise in us, like the ringed scum in a flophouse bathtub, and what was once youthful urgency has become middle-aged depravity, unhappy but plodding, a weary fatigue – bringing the soldier, slogging ankle-deep in jungle mud, knowing nothing, only anticipating for the unknown, a brain, a mind, that barely functions, a stunned viewpoint of sliding pictures across oil smeared pupils – a blur, a blur – but under, beyond, over into, whatever mental jump one must call out, in the mind, my mind, I am reminded of my love, of my need, and here I sit with a nervous pen, trying to dispel this evil numbness, trying to bubble something out of my tattered remnants, to come back and clean out my junk room brain, sweep out the deadness, jolt the sodden fiber with the revenge of my youth, to betray becoming ancient, betray the failed energy of the years, to become volcanic, erupt in a passion of truth, no, not truth, that is never known, but to swing an arm, that has a hand that holds a sword, that cuts the web’s, the frig’n webs of second death, cut the frig’n strings that arrest movement, and so, to come back to self, a self of contemplation, but of action.


Action that is a testament to courage and honor, not the flawed action of a sick drunk.


I am a sick drunk.


That is the truth. I look at these words and there it is, something that I have danced around the edge for years, and now, now I admit, I am no longer dancing or even walking on the edge, I am falling in head first.


But, I have at least a glimmer of courage against stupidity, still in me – some aspect of me, that shouts for the legions of my soul, some aspect, that is not mortified by this weakness, no, a loss of strength, does not always mean weakness, it means to bridge the gap between your heart and your mind…


A voice in me shouts at my flesh lying in the gutter, this gap – wake up you S.O.B.! Stand! Think! Become! Work! Love those who love you.


Try to love yourself.


Some say love God.


But how can I love God, when I cannot love man, love friends, family, or myself?


…and God, is too complex… In the context of an all-powerful goodness – it would appear God is a part-time drunk as well – a good day here, a bad one there – yes, it is far easier just to try loving people, animals, the world…maybe …even myself…



Ten years later, in the September of 2004 James returned to Corsica looking for her. He stayed with Oscar, an old friend from earlier times when he once lived on the island.  Oscar said he had seen Ho Chi and she looked older, but no other old friend knew where she was. 


Murder or suicide. It didn’t really matter either way. If he killed himself it would replace the terminal disease that was supposed to have killed him ten years before. If he murdered Ho Chi, he would be no doubt be dead,  long before he spent any time, in a jail.


He played with the possibilities but everything seemed absurd—but most of all, love. The thought kept running in his head, I am going crazy with these voices…dogs, rivers, screwed-up everything talks to me…


Daily on the farm, James wore a red sleeveless T shirt emblazoned with Che Guevara’s famous portrait, baggy olive drab shorts and cheap rainbow colored rubber flip-flops.


He smoked strong French black tobacco while sitting at a green metal table under the shade of an avocado tree. The sun cut through the Mediterranean summer haze that had only been up an hour but it was already hot on his shoulders.


James reached under his T shirt and pulled out the revolver he had tucked into his shorts. He was not ready yet. He looked at the 38 caliber pistol his father had given him when he was a boy. He put it back down on the table. He was not afraid to die, but an angry sadness stopped him from putting the gun in his mouth. Maybe for once, again, he was killing the wrong person.


How ironic it was the way things had worked out. Ho Chi had pegged him right from the very beginning.


He remembered what she said. You have an assassin’s face. 


He should have killed her the first time she betrayed him in Saigon or for sure in Paris. What the hell did it matter? Everybody was going to die anyway and as it looked; his own natural death sentence was just around the corner.


The number six kept circling his life.


Six Vietnamese villagers dying for nothing on the sixteenth day…


His pistol was a six-shooter.


The doctors said six months that seemed like sixty years ago.


That had been without the complication Lady Luck had just dealt.


The only luck he ever had, was dodging bullets, and now he was even dodging his own. Luck with women and love never had been good cards. 


Six loves gone to hell—I’m a damned weird six-card stud, he thought. Six years since he last heard of Ho Chi. Six years since his death sentence.


James thought about the cards that war and love had dealt.


He could forget the six murdered in the war. They would have probably been dead from poverty by now anyway. He didn’t give the command. He just followed orders. He was young and stupid. Waste ‘em the Captain said…


But six others he could not forget.


He got older and the faces of love’s betrayal would not disappear.


One. His first love was Teen Baby. She was his steady all through High School, they were going to get married, have kids. She ran off with a Marine before he even had a chance to stick it to her.


Two. The Stripper showed him how to make love in two dozen different kinky ways, but she had trouble leaving old men alone who had lots of money and bought her, one at a time.


Three. After Vietnam, he met a little hippy chick in the mountains of Colorado he called Gypsy. She was as good a woman he would ever find, but the problem was he was still too p’d off from the first two love wounds, and it was the time of Free Love. There was just too much koochie koo around for him to ignore. Gypsy left with the endearing shout, “You’re a dirty male chauvinist S.O.B.!”


Four. He went to Europe and there met a woman that followed him no matter how unfaithful and uncaring he was. It seemed to work. The more he did not love her the closer she stuck to him. He married her because she would not go away. She became the Wife and they had a daughter. After 20 years she could not take another day of his depression or disloyalty.


“Get out of my life,” she screamed.


He put his tail between his legs and slinked away. He knew that she had been the winning hand worth holding onto but she had been bluffed out by Ho Chi.


Five. Ho Chi like the Beatle’s song she came in through the bathroom window, that is, in 1968 she was a ten day love affair in Saigon. In 1994 she magically reappeared in Corsica.


Six. Then entered Dark Eyes who was the wild card. Dark Eyes gave him shelter but also gave him a second death sentence after he outlived the first.


Dark Eyes or Do Hoa, a young boy pulled from the ditch full of dead people by an American helicopter pilot at the site of a massacre…of who appeared at the loneliest moment of his life had disappeared back into the mean streets of Paris. For all he knew Dark Eyes was already dead from the gift she had passed to him.


But of them all, it was Ho Chi who was the hand he wished he still could hold.  James thought, this ain’t no card game, it’s a frig’n comedy…who ever heard of six-card poker.


During the Vietnam war, the press failed on a colossal scale in reporting war crimes years before My Lai was revealed.


A few  individual journalists allowed the tragedy to be finally uncovered. One of them was an American Army Combat Medic of Charlie company who had been between Captain Medina and Lt. Caley at My Lai when the slaughter began. Helicopters were circling the massacre like a murder of crows. But not all Helicopters, for one set down between the Assassins and the villagers, and the pilot had his gunner turn the 50 caliber at their own soldiers to make them stop the slaughter.


The Army eventually sent a colonel to interview the soldiers involved, after Senator Udall from Arizona had pressured Senator Rivers from South Carolina, the Chairman of the Armed Forces Committee, to influence the Army to look into the matter. The sad note of this is that many people in the military had been aware of the tragedy within hours of its occurrence, including two army journalists and the soldiers and officers who took part, plus the commanding officers of the regiment and division. This also may be the only reason the national press eventually got interested in the massacre because a top level scandal involving very high ranking Army officers, possibly even General Westmoreland, commander of Vietnam forces. Amongst the hundreds that knew directly, and even a larger numbers indirectly, there was only the one American helicopter pilot, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson who actively tried to stop the slaughter of between 400 to 500 old men, women and children. He reported to his commanding officers over the airwaves what was going on and that was heard at Division level and recorded. Thompson even landed his helicopter between the American soldiers and Vietnamese to stop the killing.  Thompson thought that the soldiers would be court marshaled, and so did not seek any further action after he flew away that day.

If had it not been for the persistence of the journalist Ridenhour who had been an army soldier in Vietnam at the time of the My Lai Massacre  we may never have been known. He would stir a hornet’s nest that the military, the government, the people of America, and even many members of the press believed should have never been touched. But because of his tenacity in trying to get someone to pay attention, the word eventually got out through rumor, to a very wide body of people, and yet it was not until October 22, 1969, that one journalist finally picked up a thread of information and started to follow it on an investigative journey. His name was Seymour Hersh.

7th chapter conclusion THE ASSASSIN


A few individuals finally helped to uncover the tragic scandal of the My Lai massacre, March 16, 1968. One of them was an American Army Combat photographer who had been between Captain Medina and Lt. Caley at My Lai when the slaughter began. American army Helicopters were circling the massacre like a murder of crows. But not all Helicopters, for one set down between the Assassins and the villagers, and the army pilot had his gunner turn the 50 caliber at their own American soldiers to make them stop the slaughter.


Isle de Corse, France, September. 1994

James looked at the letter he had received from the VA the day before. He had not opened it because he did not want to hear anything more about how soon he would die… He could make that choice himself in next 30 minutes if you wanted to… He looked at the pistol on the table and thought, why not? But irony, there was always irony. He should have already been dead for years…


James had awakened at 3 AM sweating and went outside to the picnic table to smoke a cigarette. It was always a variation of the same nightmare. He always woke up soaked in sweat, even in the cold of winter, but it was not winter. It was the beginning of summer.


The dream, always the same bit of stinking dripping jungle. Screw this damn jungle. I hate this stinking rotting piece of earth. It is not even this earth. It is a sick spoiled sore on the asshole of existence. It is full of puss and maggots. Damn it, damn it all! And always the same distance away from base camp. How do I know it is exactly 1,000 feet? It doesn’t matter it might as well be a thousand miles from nowhere. The chance of us getting out of My Lai are zilch. It is  ten of us, somehow twenty years later, Captain Medina, LT. Caley, the combat photographer, me and the six wounded village gooks. God they look so damned scared.


Nobody in the dream has aged, but Look at Lt. Caley. He’s so white and he’s the one with experience – maybe that’s it – he has been through this too many times before. What the hell do I look like? It is the first time we have got separated from Charlie company. Screw Captain Medina who sent us out. Screw the SOB. He knew we were surrounded by Ho Chi Min’s best. That stupid mofo sent us anyway. Wait a minute. Who is stupid?  My squad is the one that volunteered. Never volunteer for anything – not even a free ticket home…


The mind is a funny thing and time is even a funnier. I could almost laugh, thinking that I am actually in this time now, that is only a thought away from those days in Paris with Martina and Neil. What is the truth of what happened? I must be very careful what I tell myself what is truth, even if I only want to believe it for a moment. The imagination is real, more real than words can ever define, more real than time, because time is the biggest lie.


One is trained to believe there is time, time that is ticked off second by nanosecond in our counting mind, and yet it is only a trick of numbers that make us think we are moving someplace, when in fact we are only where we are. It is true what us mud sucking grunts used to say, “No matter where you go, there you are.”


We fall for the old game that we are traveling through the doors of time, but we are only moving from perception to perception. Sometimes we believe the one experience that surrounds us is the complete and final reality, but even when it is death itself, that too is only a temporary phenomenon that becomes something else.


Yes, one’s  imagination is more real than you sitting in a chair reading this little page of words. Soon even these words will become something more or something less into the next point of tricking you into a hall of mirrors. We are only thoughts, nothing more. We are what we think.



It was a smoke hazed beginning of a day in Corsica. The only reminder that another reality existed was the sound of the fire planes coming in for water in the bay of Ajaccio in the distance. Pyromaniacs in Corsica were trying to burn the forests to the ground. It seemed as though the whole world had gone insane. James got up from the green table under the avocado tree and walked back to the guesthouse.


He went to his bedroom and reached up on the shelf where he had placed the three journals he brought with him from America. He picked up the one that had 1990 on the binding and sat down at the desk in front of the large picture window and flipped the cover open to a worn familiar page.


James looked at the words that were scribbled in his nervous slanted hand writing. He understood them perfectly. It was a cryptic self-portrait. “He rides on crooked rails yet that is only his body, for his soul is walking on a crystal tightrope and his mind is in another country.”


James stopped reading. He had been unconsciously twirling the pistol around by the trigger guard, and every time it stopped, he brought it up to his mouth, thinking now was the moment. But now was too soon so he put the pistol down on the table.


James was sitting at the table in front of the big window in the guest house that looked out on the turquoise pool. He looked at his father’s pistol that he had smuggled through customs by hiding it deep in the checked luggage. He had changed his mind already three times and he was back to his original plan. He would kill Ho Chi and then kill himself. He wavered again.

He looked out the window. Morning was just beginning to break. The top of the mountains in the Bastellica valley were beginning to change color from a smoky mauve to amber gold. He picked up the journal and began reading his journal again…

 Paris December, 1990

I walked into the bar and there was Neil and Ho Chi. They were talking to some old American dude they had met.  They looked up at me, like they were embarrassed but asked me to sit down.

The old man didn’t interrupt the story he had been telling them. He was talking about his French ex-wife that he had met again for the first time in 10 years.

Neil across the table said, “Did you get some closure on that?” 

My ears perked up and I listened for his response. The old dude went on, “0h, I wasn’t afraid because I had all my armor—knives, guns and brass knuckles—the whole caboodle. She wasn’t going to get me this time.  Yeah, so I guess it was okay and we managed to get through it without any damage. Yeah, I got closure.”

“That’s what I need, some closure,’ I said. “I have to close the file on some old stuff.”

“Either close it or delete it,” the old dude said.

“I thought I had deleted it,” I said, “but it keeps coming back up.” I looked at Ho Chi and Neil. She looked out the window. Neil seemed to be even more uncomfortable.

“That’s what you call a Ghost File,” The old dude said. “Yeah, you think you got rid of it, but a good computer guy can dig them up again.”

I looked at the old dude and felt very weird. “A Ghost File, huh? I guess that’s what I got. I see the face. I can almost reach out and touch it—my Ghost File lover. I’ve had her inside me for years…” I stared at Ho Chi. She turned her face from the window and gave me an angry burning look.


James put the journal down for a moment. He thought about the plane journey from Corsica to the Paris. He could see and smell Ho Chi next to him. Neil sat in the seat across the passageway. They all got pleasantly smashed during the layover at Nice and two hours later they were in a five star hotel in Paris. James could not even remember Neil being around for the first week. He buried himself in Ho Chi.


“Ho Chi, you witch,” James whispered to himself. He picked up the journal and flipped through pages and continued reading entries.


It is another morning waking up with emptiness—feeling adrift and no hope. Ho Chi has been gone for three days. So has Neil.  I got up at sunrise and made coffee in this flea bitten room I’m renting. I had coffee in bed, waiting for the nervous jolt of caffeine to hit me. This morning, I thought all I needed was a woman with money who can support me while I do my art. Screw it all!


If Ho Chi can be such a slut, maybe I should be one too.  There is one woman I know who has money and a great amorous  appetite—but she doesn’t do of thing to fill up this empty hole in me…


I never knew Paris could be so depressing. I have moved from the rat-trap I was in, to a dungeon that is worse on Rue St. Denis. The street working girls do their johns in the rooms on both sides of mine. All night long, I hear water running in the sinks; beds banging the walls and the butt-holes always urinate in the stairwells on their way out.


The journal was beginning to make James feel numb. How would he ever know what a woman was about? All of the women in his life had been disasters created by his own foolish pride – that is except for the one who had been his wife, given birth to their daughter and had stuck with him when he had crap up to his nose.


But irony, always irony. He was never really in love—not passionate consuming burning love like he had for Ho Chi. Had love stabbed him in the heart or had he murdered love by arrogance? He had loved his wife as a comrade, but passion was something that never happened. Yet, his wife had always stood at his side, until he destroyed his chance to find love with haunted memories…memories of Ho Chi…


Ho Chi, the more he thought about her the more he began to realize she was her own worst enemy. Ho Chi would find her own hell soon enough. James picked up his journal and continued to read.


Then I met another Vietnamese prostitute in Paris he called Dark Eyes. She said her name was Angel, but I preferred to call her Dark Eyes. I didn’t want an Angel in my bed…she looked very much like Ho Chi and she took the pressure off with her body next to mine, and the plain old abandonment into lust swept away whatever reservation of intelligence and survival lingered. So she had AIDS, so maybe now I have AIDS along with cancer.

According to a news broadcast I heard the other night 86 percent of drug addicts are afflicted with AIDS – in other words almost everybody who sticks a needle in their arm illegally.  That is how my Dark Eyed Angel got her portion of the devil.  The night she told me she had been a junkie for 10 years of her life; I should have walked away from her and never looked back.

If I had done that, there would only be a sense of unsatisfied curiosity. That’s right, I ain’t got no Satisfaction… I would not wonder how a virus got into my body ten years later. What does it matter when I am supposed to be dead soon with cancer? This is a lunatic’s comedy -- just like a firefight at night – will I be alive in the morning?


I should ask a doctor, was it in the saliva or her juices?  Was it the air she breathed out?  Did something come out of her sweat, the sweat in the shallow cups of her slender belly?  Did it come out of the sad tears I kissed away from her eyes?  Did it only take being close just once—just one time?  Did I kill myself double by touching Dark Eyes just once or twice or three times? 


Irony…always irony…I escaped the death sentence from the battlefields of brutality and then fall from Cancer and to boot, a soft touch…Dark Eyes who kissed me with death even though I was already dead? My mind is reeling in bad memories…and still at bottom of it all is Ho Chi in Saigon, and now, still in Corsica…now the torment of double death…hey, double your demons, double your fun…


Curiosity picked at James mind. He looked at the unopened letter from the VA again – something in it seemed to nag at him – something he knew too well – death was waiting in the envelope telling him whether it’s a week or month or yesterday ... But James just stared at the letter.


The frogs in the pond were making their morning song of Whee-Whee and Rhug-Ghup. On a shoulder beyond the trees was the low drone of Oscar’s big red Russian farm tractor. Birds slipped in sharp notes chipping away at the silent spaces. There was the large cup of coffee, strong, thick and black as Africa in front of him. Its aroma mixed into the acrid smell of the manure Oscar was spreading over the newly plowed field.


He took a pencil out of the rusty tin can that also served as an ashtray and scribbled his thoughts into a cheap notebook he had brought from the guest house. He was thinking of what to do next. It was a ritual in the morning that he had done since he was a young soldier in Vietnam—sitting and pondering the maze of existence, one day at a time. No matter what event surrounded his life; each day’s content was loneliness – a faithful companion during comfort and torture.


He stubbed out the roll-up and thought about making another one but decided against it. The pistol that lay near his hand reflected a dull sun off the barrel. The second cup of coffee was growing cold. He slurped the black sludge then threw the remainder into the fallen dead leaves of the avocado tree. The coffee was doing its trick. He could feel the caffeine beginning to agitate his sleepy body. His nervous system was bump started again. I’ll kill this myself today, he thought, but he knew he never would.


Dogs were barking up on the side of the mountain and their echoes were bouncing down the Gravone Valley. Cars shushed by on the village road. The sun was growing hot.


James had been on the farm for two weeks. It was a place he often returned to trying to escape the catastrophe of his life, but more than any other reason it was because Corsica was the only place where the melodrama of life seemed just fine.


He had no idea really how much time he had left. The doctors said he should have been dead by now, but his condition was no worse. Physically, he felt as good as he ever did. It was his mind that was crumbling.  He had to do something vital with what was left of his life and he had to be in a place that had meaning.


He had returned to the farm because his friend Oscar had written that Ho Chi and Neil were back on the island and he would arrange for them to come to the farm. James felt like the elephant that walks itself to the graveyard.


He had known Oscar since his early days in Corsica when he lived with his wife and daughter Tara. After his wife had kicked him out of her life, Oscar’s farm had become his private paradise. It was only there, loneliness became sympathetic with the earth around him. Reality was just beyond the perimeter of the farm.


The river was the natural guardian at the backside of the farm. It kept intruders from arriving by the rear door. The river was an Angel spirit who chaperoned his exile.


The table under the avocado tree was only 100 steps away from his River Angel. James would move from one sacred spot to the other avoiding the minor distractions of the farm, like Oscar starting a two-cycle water pump engine that sounded like Chinese firecrackers. The sanctuary under the avocado tree would be shot full of holes so he would have to move to his River Angel and let her voice wash away the noise. It was paradise with shifting parameters.


The voice of the River Angel spoke to him. “It is all right James.”


He would often sit in the course granite sand of the river banks leaning against one of the rounded boulders letting his eyes take his mind up through the gold and emerald leaves of the oak forests that covered the shoulders of the river.


“It is all right James everything is okay,” River Angel said.


“Thank you sweetheart I knew you would be here,” he said.


James became accustomed to this short intimate greeting with the river. It never occurred to him that these words were anything more than his own crazed condition until on this day when Oscar started the noisy machine earlier than normal.  James gulped the dregs of his second cup of coffee, picked up his notebook and tobacco bag and walked to the sandbanks of the river.


It had rained heavily the night before so he had to find a place where the sun dried the sand. A shaft of light cutting through the tree limbs indicated a perfect golden circle. It was only a few feet away from the rapids where the voice of  River Angel spoke most often. James set down, rolled a cigarette, lit it and leaned into a granite rock armchair that was snuggled into the shore. He looked up through the frayed holes of leaves and saw that most of the sky was a hazy summer blue with only a few shredded clouds hanging on after the storm.


In the distant sky came the rumble of a motored aircraft, something big like a World War II bomber. James thought about that sound and how it had thrilled him as a child when he lived only a few miles from the Army Air Corps training field.  The sound triggered a mechanical reaction in him like Pavlov’s dog and bell.  When he heard the throb of the bombers he would stop what every was doing, then go to his mother‘s old upright piano, gently raise the keyboard cover and place both his hands flat-palmed down on the base notes. If he stretched his short legs he could depress the string damper pedal.


Then he would push down as many keys as his small hands could cover and create his own earthly rumble that would lace up into the air and join and the sound in the sky.


 At that moment he would have the clear sensation that he was flying and he would see beautiful billowing white clouds all around him.


When the real bomber passed and the sound in the sky stopped, it would disconnect him from the experience.


Suddenly he would just be sitting at the piano that was making a bell like ringing.  He would look up at the portrait of a dead brother that had been shot down in the Pacific, and he felt as though they were connected.


The sensation would remain within him and only leave when his mother often asked, “James what are you doing?” Nothing, he would say, then get up from the piano and go outside and play.


As the sound of the plane on this day in Corsica faded,  James watched the clear water of the river roll past him.


Sometimes he sat at the river for hours, as if it was his job, his place to be until the cool shade indicated the sun was down and his duty was over.


On this particular day the River Angel said something new.

“James it is okay - but you are not all right, are you?”

“What?” James was completely surprised. He turned around to see if someone had come down the path to the river behind him.  There was nobody.


“Did you hear me James?” The River Angel spoke softly but with a slight urgency.


James looked at the rapids and only saw the usual black and silver world passing over the rocks.


“James what is wrong this morning?” The River Angel asked in a concerned voice.


James waited a moment before he began to speak going along with a joke he thought his mind was playing on him.


“Uh, yeah, there is something wrong - you’re right.”

“What is that James?”

“I...I guess…I’m really, not lonely. No. I want a woman. I want the woman who has never stayed...I want the love I lost...I want what’s gone...”


“A woman.  When?…” do you want her James?”

“What do you mean when do I want her? I want her now, damn it!” James said angrily.


James nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt at hand on his shoulder and a delicate voice said, “Bon jour, ça va?”


James scrambled to his feet and saw the most beautiful woman he had seen in years, that is, the kind of beauty that especially appealed to him.


She had dark walnut hair, skin almost mulatto, large brown cat-like eyes, a long graceful nose slightly upturned, full sensual lips, a gorgeous neck that flowed into squared boyish shoulders. She had on a low cut pale yellow blouse that revealed firm cleavage—just short enough to show a sliver of muscled belly.  She wore faded Levi’s that fit her like a rodeo queen. The top button was undone and the belt was rolled over making her waistline very feminine and very sexy. On her feet were small but very macho looking brown hiking boots.


Shocked to be discovered talking to himself and embarrassed to be found in his private crazy space, James stumbled over his words.


“Uh, yeah, ...uh, I… oui, oui, ça va,  ça va...”


“It’s okay James, you can speak English,” the young woman said to him.


James looked at her, wary that perhaps his mind was really slipping and he was beginning to hallucinate. “How do you know me...I’m sorry, I mean, do I know you?” James said.


The young woman smiled at him for just a bit longer than a moment teasing him with her eyes that seemed to invite anything. “Your friend the farmer, Oscar, said you were down here, and I have wanted to meet you for such a long, long time.”


“Oscar? Oh yes! Oscar...of course...” James was so stunned by this sudden appearance of the young woman that Oscar might as well have been on another planet.  “Oh yes, I didn’t think he knew I was down here...”


“Yes I know. He said you may not want to be disturbed, but I couldn’t wait to see you.” She smiled almost like a little girl, but she looked in her mid 20s.


“I guess you know me, but I’m sorry I can’t seem to place...have we met to before? Forgive me what is your name?”


She laughed a delicious laugh. The sound of her voice was almost like a song that was in harmony with the rapids of the river. “You don’t remember then do you?”


“No...I’m sorry, I don’t know how I could forget you - but I don’t seem to remember you, uh...”


“I am Angel,” she said.  “You knew my little brother many years ago—but I have never forgotten you.”


James felt like he had been punched in the brain. “Angel…your name… it is Angel?” His legs seemed to quake and he could feel the spasm of nervous muscles collapse underneath him. He set down quickly on the nearest boulder.


The beautiful woman laughed again, taking delight in her taunt. She smiled and looked toward the river before she said, “What do you call it? Oh yes, my nickname. My real name is Angelica. I think it means almost the same - a little angel, yes?” She played her eyes over James’s bewildered face.


“Sounds right to me,” James said.  “Who’s your little brother? I’m really sorry—I still can’t place you...”


The young woman just smiled at him, then reached the small space between them and put her index finger on James’s open mouth. She let it slowly drop, tracing down his chin to his neck. She opened her hand and let it slide naturally until she held it over his heart. “Hello,” Angel said. She looked at him in a way that said only one thing.


James put his hand on Angel’s hand as she slowly kneeled down and set beside him. She put her other hand around his neck and gently pulled his face to hers until their eyes were only inches away. He looked into her eyes so brown and golden all at once and he could hear the voice in the river whisper, yes, yes, yes.


Without a word he let his lips come to hers as each fell into the others arms like a slow motion dance they had rehearsed for years.


Angel’s lips were full, electric and soft …her tongue lightly brushed at the edge of James’s mouth… James felt as though he was floating off into a vast dark celestial room that was filled with thousands of candles flickering light across objects of gold encrusted with glittering jewels. He was gone.


The bank of the river was suddenly the softest of satin sheets but the sheets were not cloth, but like clouds that had no form, no firmness, yet held their bodies as they sifted into each other, their separate entities becoming one living breathing being.


He was her, she was him. There was nothing left of a person that had been sitting talking to himself only minutes before. She was the river. He was the bank of the shore. They rolled together. He was the land and she was the liquid current pulling them both to the mother ocean.


It was not love-making; it was the creation of the earth and everything living and moving on it. There was no time. It was Infinity. The waters were pulled by the stars and balanced by the counter pull of gravity deep down in the folds of land.


They were lost in each other—there was no other, no self, no being alone—they were together in one. They were all things mineral, organic, liquid and stone, fire and air. There were no arms, no legs,….


There was only the back and forth ebb of time and space, where it was light and only light that created material and sound.  The light was music; the rumble that came from their center also came from every point outside of a sphere.


They were inside and outside, and all of it was moving with the sound of a celestial chorus—a symphonic orchestra of musicians that were sparkling planets that hung in the velvet black – and their world turned and rolled and burned and moaned in unending joyful falling - falling and floating in, over and around the inside center, around the sphere, in the middle of being, and being nothing and nowhere at the same moment.


There was no self, no other being. There was no world, no river, no breathing. It was a freedom beyond dreaming, beyond fantasy or thinking. There was only the sense of a sway—a dance going without hesitation changing direction—the movement was as easy as the water slipping around the boulders in the river bed.


It was the ring and the roar—the rolling of water and air. Their love-making was the mixing and billowing of cumulous clouds raising miles high, sunbeam’s breaking and penetrating long shafts of gold through a purple horizon.


No time and all of time, as though it was the first moment a creature  pulled itself from the primordial waters and by miracle of evolution , a wedge of light like a slice of pie, revealed the shores of the long white beach glittering with a diamond facet reflection from the eye of God—the sun shining down inventing the shoreline of a brand-new world, to be explored, to be colonized, to bury the eggs of one’s own re-creation along those sands, deep down in the solar heat granules—eggs in the earth at the edge of an infinite ocean—ocean sperm sea washing eggs with the water of life inventing the birth of the new day—back and forth—flowing over and around.


They moved together into the roaring music that rose like flames, flicking dream sparks that became points of light in the infinite darkness at the edge of the minds horizon… rolling… moaning… becoming one.


There was a sound. It was the river, or was it just the rumble that came from the world slowly turning. The sound was music but not from any instrument of man. It was a rasping note that became longer, then rattling; raking at a deep sleep, like a buzzer that shakes one out of a dream.


It was a black crow, high up on the top branch of tree that suddenly sprouted into a world that a moment before, or was it a century, or a millennium before that had no shape, no form.  The crow screeched again in the tree and then it was answered by the voice of another crow from an opposite point.


There were now two poles of distance in the mind of being, and light came floating over all that separation of distance - was it feet, miles or light seconds between those two points. Then another sound came.


First it was a soft low moan so completely released—a sigh of ecstasy—the sound of letting go—the moan of a soul as it relaxes into death. The sounds disappeared, then returned and began to build into a low throb and then like rippling liquid whispers of water kissing stones.


The river was singing and rolling past the banks through the deep forest. The crow called its mate across the river, then dropped down from the top branch and skimmed across the rapids and landed on a rock at the shore.


James was startled by the crow. It was only an arms length away from him. The bird suddenly looked up as though it was equally surprised. It made a shrill caw, then beat it‘s wings into the air and disappeared down the tunnel of the canopied river.


James’s eye quivered in a rapid blinking as though salt had been blown into them. He shook his head and immediately looked to the right and to the left of his shoulders as he put his hand out to touch the beautiful body that only a moment before had been in his arms. There was nobody, no one.


Panic seized James’s mind and at the same instant a blinding flash of light, like lightning that illuminates the blackest of nights for a millisecond, he saw the organic liquid chaos of the river framed by a tangle of  botanical banks and what appeared to be several hundred people clearly nude but intertwined together as the warp and waft over forest.


He closed his eyes involuntarily and screamed a terrified sound that a man would make if he fell a thousand feet. He swirled inside the horrid sound of his own voice waiting to hit the reality of the earth that was at the bottom of his fall.  The scream began to form a word in his mind. NOOOOOOO..


A sorrow more painful than anything he had ever known came into the center of his being. He could feel the wetness of tears flowing out of his eyes and stream down his cheeks. NO! NO! NO!


James cried, and then was choked into sobbing and grief. It was like the Vietnam medic-evacuation, when his body was in pieces. Grief that was both terrible and joyful. A point of consciousness, or was it a mechanical release of pressure as though a logjam on river suddenly gave into the reservoir of weight it held back. The river burst tearing and shredding the driftwood away and crashed down the corridor of its natural channel.


James felt arms around him. They were warm, comforting, kind and gentle. He felt his back being rubbed the way his buddy Neil had massaged him when he carried his broken body to the chopper as the mortar rounds came down hard and close. Joy of life came over his fear that just a split second before had been terrifying. He could hear a voice almost as if it were music.


“It’s okay James. Everything is all right.”


He opened his eyes and saw that he was sitting underneath the avocado tree—at a green table with his notepad and a very cold cup of coffee, as black as Africa. He looked down at the envelope from the VA. It was still sitting on the table and his mind was in another country… or was he insane? What had just happened to him…

Thirty minutes until lunch. He could stop the whole universe in a split second. He could be dead. Thirty minutes. So much could happen in thirty minutes. Hundreds of people can die and you took six of them. James only felt numb.

Vietnam still echoed in him. It was so long ago. Why could he not forget it ever happened? Was he an assassin?

He picked up the letter from the VA and opened it… Maybe the there was an explanation for what just happened to him… He began to read the letter and then the whole world suddenly turned white and 1 million bells began ringing in his head…


Just at that moment, Ho Chi came to the table and said, “James, what is wrong with you? You look so white… And anyway lunch is ready…. are you coming or not?”

Ho Chi looked down and saw the letter from the American Veterans Administration. “What is it? what does it say?”


James began laughing that slowly turned to a strange sound of someone trying to imitate a Crow…

Ho Chi looked puzzled. “James stop! what is it? what did they say?”

“Baby, reality is your best fiction…”

“What do you mean?”


“It’s from the hospital.  I am clean and CANCER-free.  The VA HAS JUST apologized profusely for causing me such a crisis in my life all these years…”


“I don’t understand…you don’t have cancer?”


 “No, Ho Chi, no Cancer, no AIDS…no nothing…It came down to one digit in someone’s medical records…ONE DIGIT  put on my file and vice versa. The doctors figured out the blunder LAST MONTH when the other guy’s family sued the government over his untimely death, being he had my perfect health charts…”


James began laughing again. Life is nothing but irony he thought to himself.… Yes irony… murder or suicide …and all for nothing…


How have I escaped death? …An Assassin of My Lai…Ho Chi could have got me killed by one of her pimps. Dark Eyes could have given me AIDS…cancer… I never had… and my old man’s pistol begging to shoot me… All of it a riddle…this whole damn life Is nothing but a dream…  I might dream another thirty years…



 Ron Ridenhour, an army soldier in Vietnam at the time of the My Lai massacre, first uncovered the dark secret. Although not yet a reporter, it would be the beginning of his career as an investigative reporter.


He was convinced that he had to dig into the cold ashes of My Lai, and the only way to do it would be to enlist powerful support.


He sat down and wrote a letter detailing everything he had heard about My Lai and listing in it the names of those who had told him specific events and those whom they had mentioned. James was on the list. Ridenhour made thirty copies of the letter and then sent them off to the Army and the Executive and Congressional branches of the Federal Govern­ment.


But it would be Seymour Hersh who would win the Pulitzer Prize by bringing Ridenhour’s story to the front pages of the world press. 


The third reporter, Richard Hammer, in tribute to Ron Ridenhour and Seymour Hersh, would visit My Lai two years after the tragedy and write the book that gave how and why, not only soldiers, but the press had been morally responsible in the tragedy of the Vietnam Conflict.



Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, The chopper pilot who intervened in the slaughter is the type of human being that gives meaning to the terms of ethics and morality and why people who practice journalism seek to emulate such courage in their profession. It is about honor, not reward. Hugh Thompson would not get a medal he deserved for his act of heroism until 30 years later. In 1998 Thompson was recognized by the American government.


America did not begin withdrawing troops until 1973, and the war did not stop until 1975. In the end over there were more than 50,000 American dead; South Vietnamese dead were estimated at more than 400,000, and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese at over 900,000. But that was only a rough estimate of the enemy, of the nameless and unknown soldiers of a peasant army…and as of the anniversary today, march 16, 1968,  48 years after the My Lai Massacre, American soldiers of the Vietnam era are still dying of alcoholism, drug addiction, Agent Orange and suicide.


Today is the 48th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre, March 16, 1968


The crows fly has been a fictional adaptation of an actual event. James the antihero of the story is a fictional character, although many of the original American Army C company squad members are still alive, including Lieut. Calley and Capt. Medina???.


Hugh Thompson and his helicopter gunner Colborn and the journalists in this story are real people and the story of their investigation is documented. If you would like the whole story of the crows fly plus the bibliography, go to my website… and you will find it on the homepage.


The crows fly is an adapted and abridged excerpt of the Assassin’s Angel, which is book two of the Gypsy Moon Trilogy also found at:




in the


Can be found at:







Beauchamp, Tom, L., Stephen Klaidman. The Virtuous Journalist. New York: The Oxford Press, 1987


Bilton, Michael and Kevin Sim. Four Hours in My LaiNew York: Viking, 1992.


Ltd. Calley, William L. and John Sack. Lieutenant Ltd. Calley: His Own Story. New York: Viking, 1971.


Goldstein Joseph, Burke  Marshall and Jack Schwartz. The My Lai Massacre And Its Cover-Up—Beyond the Reach of the Law: The Peers Report with a supplement and introductory essay on the limits of the law. London: The Free Press, 1976

Hammer, Richard, One Morning in the War: The Tragedy at Son My. New York: Coward-McCann, 1970.

Hersh, SeymourMy Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and its Aftermath. New York: Random House, 1970.

Rachels, James, The Elements of Moral Philosophy . New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.


Class Notes  (c/n)


c/n1a   Jour 439, March, 23 and April 6, 2004 Lecture on bias and manipulation.


c/n-1b – Jour 201. Nov. 2003, Lecture by Dodge Billingsly, imbedded journalist in Iraq.


c/n-2 -- Jour. 439. March 2004 Reasonable reader/substantial completeness.


c/n-3 – Jour. 439 March 2004




CPD//Cleveland Plain Dealer  --  CT//Chicago Tribune – LT//The Times  (London),

NYT//The New York Times --PI//The Philadelphia Inquirer

SFE//San Francisco Examiner


CPD-1 Eszterman, Joseph, “Cameraman Saw GIs Slay 100 Villagers,” Cleveland Plain Dealer 20 Nov. 1969: pg 1+


CPD-2 Braestrup, Peter, “Pinkville Massacre. Like Scandal in the Family for Ft Benning.” Cleveland Plain Dealer 1 Dec. 1969: pg 7A


CT-1 /Kamm, Henry, “GIs Leery of Massacre Reports.” Chicago Tribune 1 Dec. 1969:

pg 1+

NewpaperArticles continued


CT-2 / Currie, William, Joseph  McLaughlin, “Army Story of Pinkville “Fishy” EX-GI, Chicago Tribune 28 Nov. 1969: pg 1+


LT-1/ Hersh, Seymour, “New accounts of the My Lai massacre: Men challenge Medina, The Times 9 Dec, 1969: pg 10


LT-2/ Hersh, Seymour, “How Men Became Wild Animals,” The Times 2 Dec.1969: pg 2


NYT-1/ Hammer, Richard, “Cover-Up” New York Times Mar 26, 1972 : pg. BR3


NYT-2 /Sheehan, Neil, “Should We Have War Crime Trials?” The New York Times 28 May 1971

pg. BR1


NYT -3 /“Statements by Ziegler, Resor and Stennis.” The New York Times. Nov. 27, 1968: pg 18


PI-1  /wire service, “Flier Given Medal But Army Silent.” The Philadelphia Inquirer 29 Nov. 1969: pg 1

SFE -1/ Flynn, William, “Tens of Thousands Echo the Cry Here” July 1, 1968: pg 1


Website citations


Body Count--Chernus, Ira, “Bring Back the Body Count” 3 April,2003: .

March, 25, 2004  


Conflict--“The Vietnam Conflict” Webquest .March, 25, 2004


Damage --“Collateral Damage,” USAF INTELLIGENCE TARGETING GUIDE April 6, 2004


Dead--“Vietnam War” . April 6, 2004 . March 25, 2004


Haeberle--“25th Aviation Battalion”, . March 24, 2004  


Thompson --Boyce, Nell. “Hugh Thompson, Reviled, then honored for his actions at My Lai” . March 23, 2004 


Tiger/ Davis, Mike. “The Scalping Party” Nov. 14, 2003  April 6,204


Timeline--Copyright 2001 “Ask Asia” . March 28, 2004


Scandal--Vistica, Gregory, L. “A Quiet War Over The Past.” .

March 23, 2004


Weapons/ “Bush's jokes about weapons of mass destruction draw criticism”  Mar. 26, 04 April 6, 04