Any and every organisation or institution has its share of competent and not-so-competent personnel. History clearly acknowledges that the military is not exempt from this range of characteristics (e.g. ‘stuff-ups’ relating to Gallipoli and Kokoda to mention but two). To believe otherwise would be rather naïve.                               

            “His eight rows of ribbons and badges made quite a display ... [Later] many
             officers and senior NCOs [could be seen with] row upon row of ribbons,
             with badges below and badges above, stretching from clavicle to navel.
             He was the first among peacocks [but] far from the last!”    

                            -  G. Perrett (referring to General Douglas MacArthur) in Old Soldiers Never Die

            “Vietnam Muon Nam!” shouted Robert McNamara to a crowd in the market place as
                        he toured the countryside in 1964 with some S. Vietnamese generals.
           “Long Live Vietnam!” he had intended to  say. Sniggering in the crowd arose since
         his tonal mispronunciation was interpreted as: “The southern duck wants to lie down!”

                                                                           - from The Living and the Dead by Paul Handrickson, 1996.

Circus  Quota  of  Clowns 

Main driving force,
Are ribbon bars of course,
Pretty colours pinned on uniforms;
For some soldiers’ egos,
Or promotion each knows,
Medals distinguish them from the ‘Norms’. 

Many returned,
With such symbols hard earned,
Most ’twere deservedly handed out;
Yet ‘pals’ at controls,
In commendation roles,
So perceived, some open to doubt? 

From what we saw,
During that Asian war,
When we were young men over there,
These token rewards,
Were in accords,
With all the rules and usually fair. 

Yet, this relation,
In that equation,
Conflicted, with at least some strange decisions;
Citation awards,
To some unit ‘lords’,
No (or minor) roles played in those missions! 

Much danger faced,
Often at risk lives placed,
A ‘grunt’s’ blood sometimes changed a story;
For their career sakes,
Odd ‘High Brass’ mistakes,
Covered up and turned into glory. 

With no time to waste,
Setting up that base,
Nui Dat could be soon overrun;
No fence out front,
Early troops wore full brunt,
Platoon protection ’twas a solitary gun! 

And we know not why,
Up on Nui Thi Vai,
With an NVA camp well surrounded,
An ordered full retreat,
Morale’s partial defeat,
High Command left all astounded. 

Long Tan ’twas another,
When our ‘baby brother’,
Then facing a bloody rout;
With a ‘Top Brass’ decision,
Ambush or collision?
Truth disguised and never brought out! 

Lording o’er his men,
An abusive CSM,
Empowered by a crown, ’twas his seal;
So guess what some did,
In his food troops hid,
When ordered to serve him his meal? 

There’s always a core,
In a time such as war,
Odd misfits, dressed in Authority’s gowns;
And so we can suppose,
With these sorts of clothes,
Such a circus has its quota of clowns! 

Now this company chap,
Who donned a peaked cap,
Felt his time ’twas well overdue;
Never himself under fire,
Beyond the barbed wire,
Yet a ‘promotion’ to BHQ. 

A role to advise,
In his brand new guise,
Astounding everyone with this claim:
“Few enemy here!
Our surrounds are quite clear!”
To him it was like playing a game! 

Yet, widely cursed,
When those mortars burst,
With 2,000 VC, 3Ks away;
Just a company of troops,
Of composite groups,
Such poor advice in response that day. 

And that ‘Barrier Fence’,
Ignored common sense,
A blood-trail across rice paddies;
On those glory tides,
The odd leader rides,
Most were ‘goodies’, yet some were ‘baddies’! 

And a clown again,
Claimed as the New Year came,
“Binh Ba harbours hundreds of Cong!”
Although none around,
When we searched that town,
Superior ‘Intelligence’ once more wrong. 

Women and children,
And all the old men,
Within barbed wire, out under the sun;
Detained all day,
Until cleared were they,
Of Viet Cong there was not even one! 


Home later we learned,
When we returned,
In a ‘history’ of what’d been done,
Some facts were fakes,
Glossing ‘brass’ mistakes,
Any mention of those there’s clearly none. 

Today persist,
Many examples exist,
Of higher orders that seemed flawed;
A mix of white lies,
A ‘silencer’ disguise,
An odd dubious medal reward! 

Since we can’t deny,
Exceptions apply,
Every one was not a ‘bastard’;
Yet of such soldiers,
These high rank holders,
Of two types each clearly contrasted. 

Most ‘Louies’ O.K.,
As few went astray,
Though there were some with stripes or crowns;
And so I can explain,
Now how fools get to reign,
Any circus needs its quota of clowns!


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Circus  Quota  of  Clowns