Benghazi; Leave No Man Behind

Bill Bell

I recall that in 1960, the Soviets shot down and captured Gary Powers, CPT, USAF, in the U-2 incident.  At the time, my unit, the 327th Airborne Battle Group, 101st ABN DIV, was on “first-ready” alert status. The Soviets moved CPT Powers to Moscow where they announced plans to charge him as a war criminal prior to his implied execution. In order to dissuade the Soviets from implementing their arrogant plan, and to make sure we were perceived as being serious about CPT Powers’ situation, the 327th ABG (Above-the-rest/No Slack) moved by air from Fort Campbell, KY to Goose Bay, Labrador, and then on to the Azores Islands.  After arriving in Libya, we established a Forward Operating Base (FOB) at a small airfield called “Wheelus Field”, located in the Libyan desert.  After rigging for heavy-drop we loaded C-124 Globemasters and parachuted into the border area between Turkey and Russia near a village called “Uzunkopru”.  We then continued on to the border of Greece. This was at a time when the Cuban Missile Crisis was emerging and our parachute operation on the border between Russia and Turkey most likely put a proverbial burr under the saddle blanket of the Soviets.

The recent debacle in Benghazi, Libya has been hotly debated.  I have watched several talk-shows that continue to raise the issue of timeliness in failing to rescue the four Americans trapped in an American Embassy annex in Benghazi. One important factor mentioned is the distance involved.  Apparently, the closet air assets were located in Italy, several hours away.  Back when I was in Libya I was told that the location of our FOB, Wheelus Field, was built by American taxpayer dollars.  Thus far in the uproar over Benghazi I have heard no mention of Wheelus Field.  Why is this?  Am I mistaken concerning the name or location of  Wheelus Field?  Was the airbase built with U.S. Taxpayer dollars?  Is Wheelus Field still operable today?  If it is operational, whose forces occupy it today?

Our parachute operations in Turkey occurred prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis.  This was at a time when the Soviets were dictating an ultimatum to U.S. Negotiators to the effect that they would not remove their missiles from Cuba unless we removed our missiles from Turkey.  This is important from a historical standpoint, because the image made by U.S. Public Affairs at the time portrayed  President JFK as being a sharp, intensive negotiator who would not yield, but to the contrary would stand his ground.  In reality, however, President Kennedy simply accepted the demands of the Soviets wherein we agreed to remove our missiles from Turkey, which we did implement shortly thereafter.  Accordingly, after we pledged to remove our missiles from Turkey the Soviets removed their missiles from Cuba.  The only issue remaining was how much extortion we would be required to pay the Communist Party of Cuba in order to retrieve the hundreds of POWs captured by them during the “Bay of Pigs” fiasco.  I recall that the U.S. Government was bullied into giving considerable aid to Cuba, primarily in the form of expensive heavy equipment, such as “Bulldozers” and the like.

All of this transpired not too long before our CIA controlled seaborne commando raids (OP 34, 34A, 35) from the Son Tra Peninsula, Danang launched into North Vietnam provoked the North into attacking U.S. Navy ships at sea, although according to the North Vietnamese view “counter-attacking” U.S. Navy ships in the South China Sea off the coast of Central Vietnam . This situation resulted in the “Maddox (DD-731) and Turner Joy (DD-951) incidents”.  Based on these “unprovoked attacks”,  the Tonkin Gulf Resolution was passed and the United States was involved in an Asian land war once again.

We are all extremely interested in the investigation into the Benghazi debacle.  This was one of the most clear examples of  failing to keep our sacred oath among warriors to: ” Leave No man Behind”.

Bill Bell
former Chief, U.S. Office for POW/MIA Affairs, Vietnam

Urban Magazine, July 2013

I received your book today, and, already, I can’t put it down. Of course, that could be considered as good news, in some ways. Thank you for writing it.

“There is much more to the POW/MIA issue than riding around on a bike, wearing black leather and shouting “Bring ‘em home”!  Bill Bell’s book “Leave No Man Behind” is the “first step” any American should take in fully understanding the nuances, the heretofore hidden incidents and complex situations of the long American War in Vietnam, and the plight of thousands of America’s still-unreturned veterans.  There are many books available but this is the first priority for vets.  Read it and pass it on to as many other vets as possible in order to lay bare the facts and let the facts speak for themselves.  How we got there in the first place, why we stayed so long and whether or not we vets were able to accomplish our mission.  Do yourself a favor, order this great book.  You will soon agree that having done so is one of the wisest moves you ever made. For researchers, this book should be considered “PTSD 101”.  Concerning research in compiling this great book you will be amazed when you visit the Vietnam Center Archives, Texas Tech University, Bill Bell Collection. This is one of the nation’s premier collections on the American War in Vietnam and graciously donated by Bill”.

Mike DePaulo, Vietnam vet, USMC, National Service Officer, Rolling Thunder Inc.
5.0 out of 5 stars   Americans in Vietnam, February 7, 2007

This review is from: Leave No Man Behind: Bill Bell and the Search for American POW/MIAs from the Vietnam
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely necessary, April 27, 2013


This review is from: Leave No Man Behind: Bill Bell and the Search for American POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War (Semihardback)

Very simply, if you have not read this book, even if you spent years in Vietnam as I did, you don’t know anything about the Vietnam War. Buy it, read it, give it to everyone you know who gives a damn about truth. Should be required reading for every college and university.