August 23, 2010 Rotogram

The Mississippi Armed Forces Museum is the topic for Chad Daniels, director of the museum located at Camp Shelby south of Hattiesburg.

Anna Follett, Starkville High School senior, will share her experiences as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in northern Italy last year.

Invocation and Pledge: Bryce Griffis
Attendance: 49.6%
Present — 98 (36 exempt)
Absent — 91 (16 exempt, 12 honorary)
Guests and visitors: Member guests were Buddy Bayliss and George Verrell of Rodney Foil, Carmen Haynes of Bo Haynes, Fred Davis of Andy Gaston, Marc McGee of Trey Breckenridge, Martin Harpole of Sandra Harpole, Robin McCorkick and Mike Vance of Stu Vance, and Don Trotter, Patricia Faver and Richard Hilton of Tommy Tomlinson.

“Get Swept Up!” the annual community clean-up before the first MSU home football game is September 1. If you can help, contact Lynne Richardson, Community Service chair, at

The Club will host 18-year-old Fang-Wei Hsu from Taipei, Taiwan for the 2010-2011 school year. She goes by her American first name “Jessie.”

Her host family will be Randy and Melissa Follett, parents of Anna Catherine, our RYE student in Italy this past year. The committee is seeking two more host families for Jessie’s year with us.

Her father Chun-Yi Hsu (who goes by the American name, Chris) is a member of the Rotary Club of Taipei Yenping (District 3480).

Because it is the “high” season for travel in Taiwan, Jessie has had difficulty scheduling her travel. Tentatively scheduled to arrive August 31, she is on the wait list for an earlier flight.

Although she has graduated from high school in Taiwan, she will enroll as a senior at Starkville High School.

The second annual Rotary Classic Golf Tournament will be October 11. The beneficiary is the East Mississippi Community College tuition guarantee for eligible Oktibbeha County students.

Officers of our youth leadership club presented Mississippi State University international exchange students with back-to-school bags at the “Welcome to America” dinner last Thursday evening on campus. Alli Noffsinger, MSU Coordinator of International Education, had recruited the club to help with the event.

Interact members gathered at Lynne Richardson’s home a couple of weeks ago and packed 85 bags. Over the summer they collected supplies and goodies from area businesses.

President Tommy says “Bring a guest/prospect and let them experience the fellowship of our Rotary meetings and an opportunity to learn more about the history and activities of the greatest SERVICE club in the world!”

Invited to tell of his Vietnam War experience, Gene Smith, U.S. Air Force veteran and former manager of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, chose to take us through the never-ending warfare of the past century.

Dubbing his talk “The Ramblings of an Old Man about Wars I’ve Loved and Hated,” he said he didn’t want to just focus on personal experience.

With this year’s observance of the 65th anniversary of Allied victories in Europe and Japan, Smith began his commentary noting that World War II galvanized the nation as it has not been since.

“Like many of you, I remember exactly where I was on Aug. 15, 1945,” he said. “Playing with my buddies in Tunica, when one of our teachers came out of the house next door and said, ‘We have great news—Japan has surrendered.’”

Two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki a week earlier had hastened the war’s end. Smith said the action may always be debated, but, in his view, it saved more lives than it took. In fact, he felt so strongly that, as president of Air Force Association, he successfully challenged the planned Smithsonian exhibit commemorating the events 50th anniversary.

Contrasting World War II with all wars since then, he quoted Gordon Hazard saying, “We knew who the enemy was; most of them wore uniforms. Today they don’t.”

More than 60 million people died in that war. Russia lost 20 million. Germany lost four to five million in the military and eight to nine million civilians. The U.S. lost between 500 and 600 thousand troops.

Smith credits the Russian pressure on the eastern front for hastening the end. However, its down side came as prisoner of war camps were liberated. Of America’s 125,000 POWs as many as 60 thousand didn’t return after Russia’s victory.

“It was a horrible war, but we’ve always felt good that the nation was united,” he said. “We knew our objectives and knew who we were fighting. It hasn’t happened since.”

The Potsdam Agreement set the stage for the United States’ next conflict when the Korean peninsula was divided at the 38th parallel. With China aligned with North Korea, the U.S. began troop withdrawals in 1947. However, in June, 1950, the Republic of Korea and China invaded the south.

When the United Nations was called on to intervene, it was really America that got drawn into the “Forgotten War.”

“It took three years where we didn’t know what we were doing,” said Smith. “There were no clear cut objectives. Marked by the McArthur-Truman conflict, the command authority and military leadership were at odds.”

About 35,000 U.S. soldiers were killed. About 8,000 POWs were taken and only about half came back.

“We withdrew and licked our wounds,” he said. “There were no ticker tape parades like World War II. The country didn’t realize we had been there.”

By the mid–50s, President Eisenhower had voiced the Domino Theory of one nation’s fall to Communism leading to a series of falls. Action in Vietnam started just three to four years after the Korean armistice with American advisors in place.

“Vietnam was a horrible war with no clear cut purpose,” Smith said. “You tell me what the objective was. I fought in it and don’t know. The battle plan was a joke and the news media were as much of a detriment as anything going.”

“My war came to a halt on Oct 25, 1967,” said Smith. “I was having great time doing what I had been trained to do when I was shot down and floated into Hanoi to a bunch of really mad people whose city I had just bombed.”

Although the country was torn apart by that war, Smith believes the return of POWs had a galvanizing effect. He was freed in 1973.

Since then, Smith observed that the U.S. has been in perpetual war with the focus shifting to Middle Eastern terrorism within a few years of the end of the Vietnam conflict. In fact, he said, there have been five wars since 1996, not including Afghanistan and Iraq.

In closing, he said that, as he passes Arlington Cemetery, he never fails to think of all the families represented by the thousands of tombstones.

“They represent the soldiers who have written a blank check to the United States for an amount up to and including my life,” said Smith.

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