February 05, 2003
Crass Ignorance In 'Hesiod'

Poor 'Hesiod' thinks -- or rather opines -- that a congressman (Howard Coble of North Carolina) can't be a Coast Guard veteran and a legitimate member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars:

Incidentally, according to Coble's Bio he's a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, but curiously, the only active duty "military experience" he lists is 5-1/2 years with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Doesn't service in the Coast Guard, by definition, preclude you being a member of the VFW?

Simple answer: no. 'Hesiod' seems to assume that the Coast Guard only guards the U.S. coast and therefore "by definition" never participates in foreign wars. A Google search would have shown that this is not true. So would just following the news, for instance this week-old story in the Virginian Pilot (note the first sentence):

PORTSMOUTH -- For the first time since the Vietnam War, the Coast Guard will send a large force of ships overseas as part of the U.S. military buildup for a possible war with Iraq.

The Coast Guard is expected to deploy eight of its 110-foot cutters and more than 600 personnel to the Persian Gulf region, where they are expected to conduct surveillance and provide force protection for U.S. ships and troops.

The patrol boats, the first of which were quietly brought to Hampton Roads just before Thanksgiving, are being loaded aboard a Military Sealift Command cargo ship in Norfolk to be "piggy-backed'' to the Persian Gulf. Their crews, which have been undergoing training here, will be flown to the region.

The rest of the story is well worth reading. Personally, I'm impressed that they have the cranes and deck space to put eight fairly large ocean-going ships on one cargo vessel.

Turning back to 'Hesiod', I don't know whether Congressman Coble's 5 1/2 years of active duty service in the Coast Guard included any time in a war zone (he doesn't give the dates on his web-site), but they are likely to have overlapped with the Korean War or the Viet Nam War or both. (He was born in 1931 and also served 18 years in the Coast Guard reserves.) It's going to take a lot more than a verbal definition to show that the congressman is a fraud. In his post, 'Hesiod' links to one rather confusing VFW page that could be misread as implying that Coast Guard veterans are not eligible. However, the VFW Mail-in Membership-at-Large Application is quite clear, listing Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, in that order.

I generally don't link to 'Hesiod', but have made an exception this time, mostly to see if he's willing to correct his error.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at February 05, 2003 08:45 PM

Perhaps a better example can be found within the pages of the US Naval Institute Proceedings. Most issues carry one or more articles on the Coast Guard in its naval service role. During the past year there have been several articles on the USCG role in Vietnam.
Also, the CG fleet is included in Jane's Fighting Ships.


Posted by: J.M. Heinrichs on February 5, 2003 09:26 PM

I recall reading about USCG & Navy 'riverine' Vietnam operations in the Proceedings.

Posted by: steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve) on February 5, 2003 10:46 PM

One of the things the Coast Guard did in Vietnam was to service aids to navigation in Vietnamese waters. They sent a buoy tender over thereamong other craft, and Coasties operated it, then trained a crew of SVN Navy to carry on the task.

The Coast Guard has served as part of the Navy in every war we have fought, certainly from the War of 1812 onward.

Posted by: Michael Lonie on February 6, 2003 02:06 AM

I believe that, in addition to those four branches of service, you'll find that members of the merchant marine are also eligible.

Posted by: Ray Fleckles on February 6, 2003 07:05 AM

Let's clear a few things up:

1. Coble served on Active duty in the Coast Guard from 1952 to 1956, and again in 1977-1978.

2. According to the U.S. Coast Guard's website it says the following:

"During the Korean War (1950-53), the Coast Guard performed a variety of tasks. The Service established air detachments throughout the Pacific. These detachments, located at Sangley Point in the Philippines, Guam, Wake, Midway, Adak, and Barbers Point in the Hawaiian Islands conducted search and rescue to safeguard the tens of thousands of United Nations troops that were being airlifted across the Pacific. In January 1953 a PBM flying from Sangley landed in 12-foot seas in an attempt to rescue a Navy P2V crew. The Coast Guard amphibian crashed on takeoff when an engine failed. Five Coast Guard and four Navy men lost their lives. Additional weather station sites were established in the Pacific to help guard the flow of troops and supplies to Korea. Twelve destroyer escorts were transferred from the Navy to the Coast Guard to help carry out this duty. Also, a team of about 50 Coast Guardsmen were stationed in Korea, helping establish the Korean Coast Guard, which has since evolved into that country’s Navy. The Coast Guard also provided communications and meteorological services plus assured port security and proper ammunition handling."

So. Coble COULD have served in one of the above capacities during that period. Of course, the eligibility requirements list I provided from the VFW's website only lists the "Korean Service Medal" for the Army, Navy and Airforce. No mention of the Coast Guard.

And, Coble was in the reserves during the Vietnam war.

So, while I have no problem correcting my generalization that veterans of the Coast Guard can be eligible for membership in the VFW, there's absolutely ZERO evidence that Coble is one of them.

In fact, as Coble himself said about his service:

"Rep. Howard Coble's first active duty assignment in the Coast Guard was as a member of the garbage truck detail. "I wasn't even the garbage truck driver," quipped Shipmate Coble, but he's made the remarkable journey from garbage collector to congressman.

He enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1952 and served on active duty through 1956. While he was attending law school, he joined the Greensboro, N.C., Reserve unit, serving from 1960 to 1981. Counting his Reserve time on active duty, Coble estimates he's spent almost five and a half years on active duty, and still recalls with pride his role in rescuing people at sea. "I was never involved with a heroic rescue, but rescuing people in distress – the gratitude that showed on their faces when they were assisted aboard – those are the best memories I have [of my Coast Guard days]. That's what the Coast Guard is all about."

While I give Rep. Coble credit for serving his country, I'm not I don't see any evidence that he deserves membership in the VFW.

Posted by: Hesiod on February 6, 2003 09:41 AM

Once again, Hesiod's ignorance is all the evidence he needs.

Posted by: Robin Roberts on February 6, 2003 11:57 AM

Hesiod, you make no sense. He showed that he was inthe Coast Guard during the Korean war.. why couldn't he have been active during it? Because his FIRST active duty assignment was as garbage man. You don't think, perhaps, just maybe, he managed to move beyond garbage man during the next FOUR years?

Posted by: amy on February 6, 2003 11:59 AM

Regardless of his assigned duty, serving during the period is enough. The same holds true for a US army serviceman during the Korean conflcit who never left the states. The fact that you are in means that you could be assigned anywhere. The VFW understands this and does not care about where you did your duty, just that you did it.

Posted by: Gary on February 6, 2003 12:22 PM

I can't believe Hesiod would stoop so low as to attack a man who served this country in time of war. He's spitting on the valuable contributions Coble made to this country, splitting hairs over where and how that service was performed.

Wait. No. I CAN believe Hesiod would stoop that low. It fits with the rest of his "work".

Posted by: Robert Crawford on February 6, 2003 02:50 PM

Almost all of this is moot. You can't get into the VFW unless you provide proof of service (a copy of your orders or service record) during conflicts the VFW has considered elegible for membership. It's not like you send out for a hat and declare, "I'm in the VFW!" You have to apply with proof and be accepted for membership.

Unless, of course, he belongs to some rogue VFW post that hands out pre-formatted membership cards as drink coasters.

Posted by: Paul on February 6, 2003 04:04 PM

Apart from the "Korean Service Medal" granting eligibility, there's also (at the bottom of their list), "Korea Duty" for (in essence), any significant presence on the Peninsula sie 1949. Now, the question is, was Coble stationed on the Peninsula (or its waters) fro more than 30 days, at any point? (Or even one day, from 1950-1954, for the KSM?)

It's difficult to find Rep. Coble's service details online, but given that he was active duty from '52 to the end of the Korean War, and mentions being involved in sea rescues, his first assignment being "garbage man" hardly enters into things, and it's perfectly likely that he is qualified for VFW membership. Certainly the VFW doesn't appear to be complaining.

Perhaps if Rep. Coble knew that there was doubt about his "qualifications" to be in the VFW he might give details of his service history, but then that would imply he cared what Hesiod thought about it.

If anyone cares enough, Rep. Coble's office phone is 202-225-3065, and a phone call would doubtless end all questions (unless, of course, you were lied to to protect the horrible secret that Rep. Coble is Not Really Qualified to be in the VFW!!!), or write howard.coble@mail.house.gov.

I mean, if anyone actually doubts his word on this, and thinks the VFW is being duped or covering for him, and cares that much anyway. Does anyone?

Posted by: Sigivald on February 6, 2003 04:33 PM

Bottom line...Coble is a bigot.

You all can continue to obfuscate the point by debating whether or not he's eligible to be in the VFW.

It's what you do best.

Posted by: Hesiod on February 6, 2003 04:57 PM

I was invited to join the VFW and was assured by them that I was qualified, but I declined because I didn't feel that I was a veteran of any war, much less a foreign one. I was drafted in 1971 and did a tour of duty in Alaska, which was indeed foreign to me, but not foreign in any other sense of the word. I don't care for a lot of their peripheral politics, but if you're a veteran and ever in need, you have no better friend possible. All that aside, I found Rep. Coble's comments about Japanese internment disturbing.

Posted by: rlbtzero on February 6, 2003 06:20 PM

My My Hesoid, what a little bitch you turn into when it was made obviously clear that you were talking out of your ass. Can anyone be much more of a sore loser?

Posted by: Nick M. on February 6, 2003 06:48 PM

Umm, is that your standard debating technique, when you're losing, change the subject?

Who'd you study under, Noam Chomsky?

Posted by: MonkeyPants on February 6, 2003 06:53 PM

MonkeyPants: Unlikely that he studied under Chomsky, since (as moronic as he may be) Chomsky doesn't march with (or make excuses for those who march with) Stalinists. Too bad Hesiod can't say the same.

That aside, I've never been a big fan of Coble. He takes plenty of payola from Hollywood, and is one of the prime movers behind the recent erosion of fair use rights.

However, making unjustified slurs about the service record of someone who (by all the evidence posted here) honorably served his country in time of war is pretty damned sleazy, even for Hesiod.

Posted by: Niccolo Machiavelli on February 7, 2003 12:02 AM

My uncle served in the Coast Guard during World War II. His line was if he had known they meant the coast of Japan, he'd have signed up elsewhere. His unit crewed landing craft at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Posted by: Brett on February 7, 2003 10:31 AM

This thread is a classic.

Posted by: Paul on February 7, 2003 01:49 PM

Gee, Hesiod, I don't recall Coble's "bigot" standing being even mentioned anywhere in this thread, let alone being debated (Hell, I didn't even remember that he was the one who was being an idiot re. Japanese Internment in WW2, until just a few minutes ago when I saw it mentioned over on Volokh Conspiracy).

On the other hand, if Coble is genuine in his (false) belief that internment's actual goal was to protect Japanese-Americans (hyphenated terminiolgoy used because "Americans of Japanese Descent" is too long, "Japanese" is plain wrong, and "Americans" doesn't specify well enough the ethnic group in question. I hate hyphenated-american talk in general, but sometimes it's the best choice) from harm, then he's not being bigoted... just ignorant or stupid.

In fact, looking over articles on it, I don't see that even the Japanese-American advocacy groups are accusing him of being bigoted, rather than wrong and ignorant.

Posted by: Sigivald on February 7, 2003 06:24 PM

No, Hesiod, the bottom line remains that you are nothing but a cheap slanderer.

Posted by: Robin Roberts on February 10, 2003 06:01 PM