Tag Archive: Dan Doyle

Ken Burns’ Documentary On Vietnam

Ken Burns’ Documentary On Vietnam

Some thoughts from VFW Post Chaplain Dan Doyle 

Recently, on the Veterans Site by Greater Good, where he is a regular contributor, Chaplain Doyle wrote a lengthy analysis of Ken Burns latest documentary series on the Vietnam War. We thought it a bit too lengthy to reprint here in its entirety, and so have taken the liberty of summarizing Dan’s piece. We encourage you to visit the site to read the entire essay, the spirit of which we hope we have captured. 

Ken Burns’ (documentary) series on the Vietnam War has drawn a lot of attention. There has been much talk about it. I have to admit that I have very mixed feelings about watching it. 

Burns’ Civil War documentary is the best thing I’ve ever seen on television. It was thoughtful, sensitively handled, well written and a beautifully produced. One of its greatest strengths was in not judging the characters with current bias. It simply told the story. 

When Burns produced the Civil War documentary, it was already a century and a quarter in the past; all of those involved were long since gone. That historical distance shaped Burns’ ability to simply tell the story without prejudice. This, I fear, is not the case with this new documentary on the Vietnam War. It is only 50 years in the past, in historical terms, still too “fresh.” There are still millions alive today who lived it. The Vietnam War is still alive in the hearts and souls of those who fought it those who fought against it. I am concerned that Vietnam veterans will come out on the dirty end of the stick again. 

Ken Burns has given us some of the most thoughtful television in the history of TV, but without the historical distance that he had with the Civil War, and being a part of the Vietnam generation, can he really be as objective as he was with the Civil War documentary? 

I think that Burns’ intentions are good. He seems to want to bring about some healing around the still open wounds of the Vietnam War through this documentary. If he can break through, or somehow ignore his own prejudices, feelings, and experiences from that time, it might be a good thing. 

Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic. I do not know. I have not yet decided whether I will, or will not watch it. But I am not without hope. 

Memories of our Youth

Memories of our Youth

This photo of our Post Chaplain, Dan Doyle, shown with his parents, was taken in his guise as a Navy Corpsman attached to the Fleet Marine Force. Dan served with the Marines at Ke Sahn and for those familiar with the action around the time of the Tet offensive, little more need be said. 

Your editor would very much like others of you to share photos of yourself and your comrades during your active service to make this a regular feature of our newsletter. 

The Warrior’s Code

Do You Think You Could Spare These Pilots The Way This Man Did?




Since the beginning of civilization itself, there has been among those who have gone to war, an unspoken, unwritten code. This code has often been recognized in the annals of war. It is called, the “Warrior Code.” The great irony of this code is that it is designed to protect the victor and the vanquished. It prevents those who are called upon to fight wars from becoming monsters.

Those who have lived by this code have come to realize that there is something worse than death…and that is to lose one’s humanity. In our natural hatred of war we often paint the warriors who are sent off to fight our wars in a dark fashion that no long reflects that code. Vietnam veterans know what that is like intimately. The following story is an example of both the Warrior’s Code and the strange bond that sometimes happens between warriors who were once blood enemies.




On December 20, 1943, Charles Brown was a 21 year old B17 pilot flying his first combat mission. His plane had been shot to pieces by German fighters. Half of his crew were dead or wounded. It was a miracle that the plane was still flying. Suddenly, to pilot Charlie Brown and his copilot’s horror, a German fighter flew up alongside the B17, piloted by 2nd Lt. Franz Stigler, an Ace, needing one more kill to receive the Knight’s Cross. Stigler had lifted off that day in pursuit of revenge for his brother, another pilot, lost to the Americans. but he but was struck by the fact that none of the B17’s guns were firing at him.

He pulled alongside and could see through the skin of the B17. He saw that every one of its guns were inoperable. Crew members were tending their wounded colleagues. He pulled ahead and looked over at the pilot of the B17. Stigler could see the shock and horror in Charlie Brown’s eyes. At that moment, by the strength of his own faith and conscience, he honored the Warrior’s Code. He flew in formation with the big B17 until they were over the North Sea. Then he looked at the pilot of the bomber, nodded, saluted, and peeled off to head back to Germany.

What makes this a real act of moral courage, in accord with the Warrior’s Code, was that Franz Stigler could have been executed for this action. Why did he do it? Stigler says that at that moment when he looked into the B17 pilot’s eyes, he remembered his flight commander’s earlier words to him: “You follow the rules of war (the Warrior Code) for you, not your enemy. You fight by the rules to keep your humanity.”

(Ed. note: There is more to this story and you can find it on Doyle’s blog at: http://blog.theveteranssite.com/ brown-stigler/)

Remains Of 132 American Marines Found on Tarawa

by Dan Doyle

Remains Of 132 American Marines Found on Tarawa

Painting depicting the Tarawa landings

This is one of those stories that are weighted down with melancholy. It has equal parts of sadness, joy, and closure in it. It began 72 years ago on the sandy beaches of the small South Pacific atoll of Tarawa. Over a period of only three days (November 20-23, 1943) the battle for that tiny atoll would become one of the bloodiest battles of WWII.

The small atoll of Tarawa had a garrison of 4,500 Japanese soldiers. They had dug in and heavily fortified the island against such an attack and would put up a fierce defense of it when the Marines began to land. 18,000 Marines and Navy Corpsmen were sent ashore to take the island on November 20th. As with so many military endeavors, things happened that were not prepared for.

It was low tide when the Navy landing craft approached the beach and, they became grounded on the reefs off shore. The Japanese raked them with heavy machine-gun fire. (My uncle was a Navy driver on one of those landing craft.) The Marines waded ashore through hundreds of yards of chest deep waters and withering machine-gun fire, to be met on the beach with brutal hand-to-hand combat.

In the course of those three days, 990 Marines and 30 Navy Corpsman and LCI drivers were killed in action, but the Marines were able to take the island. 520 were listed as MIA. A private group called History Flight, based out of Marathon, Florida, has used ground penetrating radar to find the remains of some 139 missing Marines. On July 26, 2015, History Flight brought 36 of them on the first leg of their return home to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The identification process continues under the auspices of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. When the identifications are completed, the Marine Corps will return the remains to their families. A military ceremony was held there to mark their return on Sunday, July 28th, 2015.


The Chaplain’s Corner

Coming Home From Vietnam, 47 Years Later

By Dan Doyle

Forty seven years ago I was serving as a Fleet Marine Corpsman with Bravo Co., 3rd Recon Bn., 3rd Marine Division. When my generation came home it was to a nation that was severely divided over the war and we often found ourselves rejected by former friends, belittled, even despised by many because of our service in Vietnam. Those who were vehemently against the war either could not, or would not, separate the warriors from the politics of the war.

We, of course, had our own issues, suffering, as so many of us were, from the various symptoms of what would later be recognized as PTSD. Our families, too, struggled to understand our angers, our silences, our restlessness. As a result, we learned to keep all of that “stuff” inside, shoving it into the background as best we could. In time, most of us just found ways to go on and to succeed in our lives.

As a result of that time in our country’s history, we never felt the important psychological experience of being “welcomed home.” Vietnam veterans, on meeting each other for the first time, even these many years after the war, will often say “welcome home” to one another. It means that much. It is that important. 

Our service, which was honorable and done with great courage and skill, was never recognized, or respected in the way it had been for veterans from other wars. Time, though, and the terrible events of September 11, 2001, brought about a change in the general attitude of society toward the men and women of the modern all-volunteer military. Now, even if people disagree with the wars, they have been able (for the most part) to separate the warriors from the war and to give them the honor and the respect they are due. We Vietnam veterans are profoundly happy to see these men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan coming home to warm welcomes and getting positive coverage by the media. In a strange sort of way this new attitude toward the toward the warriors coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan has come to encompass the warriors of my generation too.

I experienced a personal example of this change in attitude this past April 28th, in Spokane, Washington, forty seven years after I came home from Vietnam. I was a veteran chosen to be honored at Washington Secondary School Athletic Administrators Association (WASSAAA) annual conference in Spokane in 2015. The conference also invited my siblings to be in attendance and to participate in this event. For the past five years, the WASSAAA conference has included the honoring of a military veteran in their program. It has become an important part of their annual conference. The people involved with WASSAAA are hard working and dedicated to the daily struggle of molding young student athletes in middle schools and secondary schools all across the state of Washington. Having met them, I can tell you that they do it with love, joy, and good humor as well.

Coming Home From Vietnam, 47 Years Later

Dan, with his brothers and sister

The welcome and the respect that these folks have for our military veterans is both genuine and warm. When I was introduced at the conference dinner event, a nine minute film interview done with me last year by U.S.A. Military Medals (USAMM) was shown, after which I was overwhelmed by the standing ovation I was given. It moved me very deeply. In fact I can say that now I know what it feels like to be “welcomed Dan, with his brothers and sister home.”

Meet Our New Chaplain

VFW 8870 New Chaplain Dan DoyleDan Doyle, recently elected Post Chaplain and a Vietnam combat veteran, was a Navy Corpsman attached to the Marine Corps. Dan was with the Marines at Khe Sahn.

As you should all know, the Chaplain position in our post is one of considerable responsibility and Dan has hit the ground running. You will no doubt see his name mentioned frequently in connection with various Post projects and events. Dan is dedicated to his religion and the care of veterans and is quite serious about his chaplain role. You can get some idea of that dedication by taking a glimpse at his web site and blog, for which links follow.