A response to calumny
Calumny: A false and malicious statement designed to injure the reputation of someone or something.
By definition, writing for a newspaper makes the writer a target and fair game to anyone writing a letter to the editor, which is as it should be. Criticism goes with the territory. But I have to wonder why those who are incapable of proffering reasoned and intellectually honest arguments must resort to fabrications.
On Monday, in his letter to the editor, Mr. Jon McMaster of Vail wrote in reference to me: “It’s no surprise that a man who killed women and children in one foolish war would defend killing of more innocents in the name of “safeguarding’ America.”
In the two and one half years of writing for the Vail Daily I’ve received criticism and praise. Some comments were ill reasoned, while others were highly reasoned. But to date no one had ever resorted to smear, defamation, and misrepresentation – that is. until Mr. McMaster stooped to use those tactics in his letter.
Why Mr. McMaster didn’t offer a reasoned retort to my Feb. 5 commentary, as I suggested in the last paragraph of that commentary, is subject to speculation. But my guess is that he was unable to order his thoughts in a fashion supported by facts.
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So for the record, Mr. McMaster, I did not kill women and children in Vietnam. In fact, I never fired rifle, threw a grenade, launched a rocket or dropped a bomb during my tour. I was a helicopter pilot who flew medical evacuation and rescue missions. My air crews and I were tasked with the mission of rescuing wounded and injured men, women and children. Unless there’s an M.D. after your name, Mr. McMaster, I sincerely doubt that you have saved as many lives as we did.
Your absurd comments about me “killing women and children” immediately brought to mind one particular mission that took place in February of 1970. The Viet Cong were committing atrocities in hamlets around DaNang, and our mission was to evacuate the civilians of one particular village. The CH-46 helicopter I flew normally carried up to 20 Marines, plus our aircrew and defensive armament. But on this day there were 80-plus civilians waiting to be evacuated by one helicopter with the Viet Cong less than a kilometer away.
We were aware that we had to evacuate 80 people in an aircraft designed to carry 20. We also knew that we would not be able to take off at that weight. So we landed in a rice paddy next to the village (theoretically the Ch-46 was designed to float) and loaded the women and children while semi-hovering in the water. We then “water-taxied” until we gained enough airspeed to lift off. We never rose above 300 feet off the ground because of our weight (the service ceiling of an empty CH-46D was about 18,000 feet). Nevertheless, we made it to DaNang safely and 80-plus women and children were spared the ravages of the Viet Cong.
I am far, far from a hero. Situations like these were routine occurrences in Vietnam. But I felt compelled to relate this story because a man who knows nothing about me maliciously attacked my character and service in Vietnam.
It’s been said that distortions, lies and fabrications are the tools of a weak intellect. I know nothing of Mr. McMaster’s intellect, but I do know that he distorted, lied and fabricated – you do the math.
A man of integrity would publicly retract a statement as scurrilous as his, and a man of courage would apologize. Let’s see what Mr. McMaster chooses to do.
Butch Mazzuca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org