Incident at Thanh Giang Dong Dao: Chapter 5 – The Penitent

Trial Day – Holding Cell Ft. Leavenworth, January 1980

Martin sat on the shitty metal bed starting across at the bare wall. He could smell the Army breakfast of shitty powdered eggs, sausage and S.O.S. It actually was good, the Army food. He missed the paper plates he ate off of for 365 days on each tour in Vietnam. He remembered standing is a heavy rain that soaked his food, but he ate it anyway, and it was still good. He remembered the feeling of the super-thick World War II-Era rain-jackets. He loved the Army, he even loved being at Leavenworth in an odd way. Part of him hoped he could be re-nstated, but he figured that was impossible.

Emmaeus stood at the window to his left, scanning the incongruous golf course and the cemetery with the row after row of simple white military tombstones. He thought of his uncle Schlomo whom he never met, but served with his father in Europe in WWII. In the summer of ’45 Schlomo died in the Pacific on some muddy, shitty Island that no-one cared about as he served with some National Guard unit that followed on the Marines in a forgotten afterthought in the history books.

“Emmanuel, did you ever read Torah?”

“Sure Martin, I was Bar Mitzvah.”

Martin recalled his studies: “‘And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses’…Leviticus 16:34. What if you can’t make atonement? What if there are sins so great that there is no atonement.”

Emmaeus looked out the window, almost in a trance. “Hosea 6:6, ‘For I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ You can’t sacrifice yourself to atone for your sins. God will judge us all in the end. I have to be here Martin. You told the truth about me. I came here for my own self-aggrandizement. I wanted the epic case. Now I see it’s just about people. I think the honest truth will carry the day. I never had any doubts before about what I was doing. I’ve never lost a case. Now I don’t know.”

“Emmaeus, you see, it doesn’t matter. Chicken was right. It don’t mean shee-it. Everything that was me was destroyed…I destroyed myself because I didn’t have the courage to say no. What did it all matter anyway? If we scrubbed the mission no-one would have cared. The girl would be OK and Chicken would still be alive. Win, lose all the same. I can’t run from myself. I can never be free and I can never be vindicated.


“Oyez, Oyez, Oyez, all ye please rise!”

Martin was in his dress greens. He had all of his ribbons on. Vietnam Service two campaign stars. NDSM, Good Conduct, Overseas Service Ribbon with 2 device, AAM, ARCOM, MSM, Purple Heart, Bronze Star with ‘V’ Device, jump wings, Air medal, a 1st Cav combat patch and so on. So few soldiers had ‘the patch’ that he was held in awe by the soldiers who had joined since about ’71. He sensed that the officers on the panel knew what the patch meant.

The Judge rattled on about administrative matters. Martin wasn’t really paying attention.

He read off a witness list. Everyone would be there: the girl, Charlie Cong, Martin, both Air Force Pilots, the Colonel and an electrical engineer from Motorola who had designed the hand mike. Martin realized something, the lawyer was good. Really good. But what did it all matter?

Vanh Minh Yi People’s Liberation Army of Vietnam, Los Angeles, California

Col. Bill Masterson Nebraska Air National Guard, Beatrice, Nebraska

Col. Dave Peterson US Air Force Reserve, Bangor, Maine

Ngong Phuong Yi Villager of Thian Giang Dao Dao, Manhattan, Kansas

Dr. Rob Mandrake Motorola Corporation, Chicago, Illinois

Martin Lebensraum, Cadet ROTC West Virginia University, Morgantown

Jim ‘Kodak’ Miller, Reporter, UPI Pulitzer Prize 1974

Major General ‘Ace’ Freighley, Commander, Parsberg Missile Base, Bavaria, Federal Republic of Germany, US Army Europe, Stamford, CT

The prosecution’s case opened with the testimony of General Freighley. He explained the mission in detail. He wasn’t clear why Martin was at fault. He felt bad about losing the Chicken.

Tennboim asked no questions on the cross.

The Air Force pilots testified that they had received a call for tactical napalm airstrikes from ‘The Chicken’ as part of a planned mission to destroy coastal hamlets and they never got a check fire call. They did mention that they did get a rhythmic breaking of squelch from a radio on the USAF fire direction net, but they couldn’t make it out if it was even morse code.

There was no cross.

“If it may please the court, I call James Patrick Miller to the stand.”

Said the lead prosecutor, Major William Karlsson, United States Army JAG Corps, Big Red One, Ft. Riley, Kansas.

Jim Miller, older, tall, very thin, wearing an ill-fitted tweed jacket and slacks, he sauntered, nervously up to the stand and he plopped into the witness chair.

“Please state your name, and personal information.”

“James Patrick Miller, born Eugene, Oregon, educated Gonzaga, Journalism, served US Army 3rd Public Affairs Platoon, Staff Sergeant, I Corps anywhere in Korea 1950-52. War Correspondent UPI Lebanon, 1958, Vietnam on and off 1964-1972, you dig, baby?”

“Where were you on May 8th, 1972?”

“I was in Vietnam, man, Chin Chin Dao Dao, man, with UPI, you dig? You’ve all seen my shots in Life Magazine.”

“By you dig, you mean do I understand?”

“Hey man, I dig your scene, baby, but listen, cat, I was in the real sh.. the real thing in Korea, I wore the uniform for six years, baby, 48-54. Pusan, Inchon, The Yalu, real stuff man.”

“What happened on May 8th, 1972?”

He testified that he did not see Chicken get killed and that he did not see Martin on the radio after he disappeared into the jungle. Jim stated that he had circled out to the highway to watch the airstrikes and he didn’t see Martin again until the napalm hit the civilians. He did see Martin try to help the girl.

There was no cross.

Emmanuel Tennboim rose after the prosecution rested.

“May it please the could, this prosecution has not proved a single element of any of the three counts. I move for summary judgment of acquittal n favor of my client.”

“Motion denied. The defense may present their case at 0900 tomorrow morning, Court is adjourned until such time.”


It was morning. The snow fell. The streets were filthy and filled with slush. Business men hurried to work, the unemployed went in for their checks and to sign up for work pools. Cabbies raced down the street. Trolleys clanked by.

Protestors stood around in an angry huddle. Veterans, Gold Star Mothers, Millworkers, Allegheny Valley Unemployed Committee, Whitaker Labor Soup Kitchen, Women’s Socialist Labor Unemployed Committee of Millvale and more.

They had protest signs: against the government, supporting Barry Commoner or John Anderson for President, Free Martin, Justice for Lebensraum, Tell the Truth! Stop the Cover-up!, Martin is a scapegoat for government war crimes.

“End the farce! Tell the truth! End the farce! Tell the truth!

An angry woman was on a bullhorn. It was Martin’s little sister: “Free Martin Lebensraum! End the farce! End the government cover-up! Tell the Truth!”


Ngong Phuong Yi looked out the window at the desert. She was leaving California behind to study divinity at Kansas State. Everything she owned was in two huge valises underneath the bus. Manhattan Kansas. She had only ever heard of Manhattan, New York.

The people on the bus were a mixed bag. Vacationers, soldiers, travelers, elderly people other returning students. She didn’t know what to expect. Every day was new. Her preaching gave her enough money to get started. She found a church in Kansas that needed a preacher. Mark 16:15 “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”


“What’s with this Lebensraum? I got a call from a Ben Lebensraum, he was in World War II with my dad.” Cohen pointed to a portrait. “My dad was a JAG with 28th Division. He was at Wiltz Castle. Ben Lebensraum got him out of there alive. It’s a family legend.”

“His son is in trouble with the Army, something that went down in Vietnam. Very high profile.” Steinberger took a long roak on a shitty Honduran cigar. “They don’t have much money though. They’re like mill-town working class Jews.”

Cohen crossed his arms. “We’ll charge him the minimum. It’s a debt we all owe to Ben Lebensraum. It has to be paid. The publicity alone will be worth millions. We’ll stick Emmanuel on it. Schmuelly, is your son up to this?”

Schmuel Tennboim looked up from his desk. “Emmanuel is good. He’s under the radar. He does his homework. I’ve seen the file. He can win this. He’s over at Livingston Street right now on some goddamned debt case. He needs to get into a real fight again.”

“It’s too goddamned Jewy though. It’s all fucking Hebes and Kikes. It’s out in the Midwest, the Army, they see some bearded Yid, Sheeney from New York, and this Martin kid is as good as shot by firing squad.” Said Cohen.

“The Army isn’t going to want this kid found guilty. The case is shaky. It’s like low liability high damage case. The politicians want to fry this kid, the Army is stuck prosecuting, but they don’t want any part of it and with the current political climate some character like Reagan will be all over this. He’s already all over this…”

Tennboim held up the New York Daily Post Headline: ‘LEBENSRAUM INNOCENT, REAGAN DECLARES”

“We could have a field day with this shit. We will be on the front pages of every major Newspaper for a year. I’ll send my boy out there. He’s a crusader. He’ll win this fucking thing.”

“I’ve got a P.I. Former Philadelphia Detective, Marquise Blount. He’s like a goddamned bloodhound. He’s a WWII Vet, Redball Express. He’s a Schwartzer, obviously. People love him though. He can find any witness.”




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