Uncivil War
Stephen Roberts’ article about the Spanish Civil War [“Guernica,” May 2018] concerned me in the things he did not mention. British historian Michael Burleigh says Republican (communist) forces executed some 6,800 Catholic clergy, including nuns. Yet the world only hears about the 300 casualties (some civilian) killed at Guernica. Writers like Ernest Hemingway never acknowledged the cowardly massacre of religious noncombatants. The Republicans also looted the Bank of Spain and sent more than 500 tons of gold to Moscow. This was returned to Spain when Joseph Stalin invested heavily in his plan to bring Spain into the communist sphere.

Generalissimo Francisco Franco saved Spain from Russia and did not support Adolf Hitler in World War II.

Bart McDonnell
Former 1st Lt.
U.S. Marine Corps
Vero Beach, Fla.

[Re. “Murder in Vietnam,” by Hamilton Gregory, July 2018] Readers may be interested in what is probably the most remarkable story of a “fragging” incident to come out of Vietnam. Staff Sgt. Alan G. Cornett Jr., a Special Forces medic, spent almost seven years in Vietnam and earned the Combat Medical Badge and two Bronze Stars for valor.

But on Nov. 30, 1972, Cornett got drunk and tossed a fragmentation grenade into the bunker where Lt. Col. Donald F. Bongers was working. Bongers managed to sprint to safety and was uninjured when the grenade exploded. Cornett later told investigators Bongers had repeatedly mistreated him because he (Cornett) was married to a Vietnamese woman, and Bongers had stated more than once that most Vietnamese women were prostitutes, and he did not approve of mixed marriages between soldiers and the Vietnamese.

Cornett was prosecuted by general court-martial for attempted murder. At trial the seven officers on the court-martial heard much about Cornett’s superlative abilities as a soldier and medic. Testimony about Bongers’ leadership abilities, however, was decidedly negative. Perhaps this explains why the court-martial sentenced Cornett to one year in jail; there was no punitive discharge.

In March 1973 Pvt. Cornett (reduced to the lowest enlisted grade by the court-martial) left the Long Binh stockade for the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. But because Cornett had received not more than a year in jail and no bad discharge, he was offered the chance to go to the U.S. Army Retraining Brigade at Fort Riley, Kan. After completing retraining, Cornett was offered a choice: either an honorable discharge or return to active duty. He chose the latter. Within six months he was back to the grade of E-6, and he later made sergeant first class and then master sergeant. He retired as a 1st Sergeant with U.S. Special Operations Forces Europe.

Those who want to know more should read Cornett’s autobiography, Gone Native: An NCO’s Story.

Fred L. Borch
Regimental Historian and Archivist
U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps
Charlottesville, Va.

Your article on fraggings in Vietnam drew parallels to what I experienced in the Army. The author mentioned Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had lowered IQ standards for the military and also permitted those with felony convictions to be drafted into the Army and Marine Corps.

In 2006 our country was involved with wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Unit tours were extended from 12 to 15 months, the war in Iraq was spiraling out of control, and both the Army and Marine Corps were being stretched to their limits. As the pool of eligible recruits dwindled, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made the same mistake as McNamara had, allowing in recruits with substandard ASVAB [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] scores and certain felonies.

It’s likely some of these recruits went on to serve honorably and with distinction. But I’m a personal witness to one soldier assigned to my section during a tour in Iraq that should never have been in uniform. We like to say history repeats itself. It most certainly did in this instance.

1st Sgt. Scott Cortese
U.S. Army (Ret.)
Harrison Township, Mich.


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