Concluding this story by Russian reporter Mikhail Moshkin. Where we left off yesterday, we learned of the important role played by Soviet armed forces in the Vietnam war. Soviet pilots fought dogfights in the sky against American pilots; and Soviet ground forces shot down American bomber planes. Soviet assistance to Vietnamese anti-air showed good results as early of June of 1964, when 3 American planes were shot down; and that was even before the official start of the war, from the American side. Estimates of Soviet losses in the war vary: From 7 to 16, most likely the number is 13.
Because Soviet participation was unofficial and supposed to be secret, some of these exploits had to be passed down only in legend and song. Although it might help account for the fabled wrath of the late Senator John McCain, whose plane was shot down in a bombing mission over Hanoi (1967), and who subsequently held a burning life-long grudge against all Russians! Not a man to forget and forgive, No Sir!
As mentioned, even to this day the current Russian government does not admit to the Soviet role in the Vietnam War. Although, as Moshkin points out, the official site of the Russian Defense Ministry brags, on its calendar, for April 4, 1965, how the “Soviet pilots in their MIG-17’s, entered the airfight over the skies of Vietnam, shooting down 2 American F-105’s.” See, it’s really hard sometimes to keep a secret, especially when the soldiers are bursting to tell of their own victories! And some of those victors, as we know, were not just Soviets, but also Ukrainians.
For every victor, there is a loser. On the losing side of the war, there were also Ukrainians, serving in the American armed forces. That generation consisted primarily of the children of Nazi collaborators, whose families had emigrated to the U.S. For example, there was a certain Sergeant Parachutist named Yury Leshchinsky, son of Mikhail Leshchinsky, an officer in the Nazi SS Galichina Division who had subsequently brought his family to live in the U.S. On July 5, 1970 Yury died in battle against Vietnamese soldiers, just a few days short of his demobilization.
According to Ukrainian émigré organizations, there were somewhere in the range of 200 to 500 ethnic Ukrainians serving as American soldiers and officers in Vietnam. There was even a squadron, consisting mostly of Ukrainians, who were known as the “Flying Cossacks”. One of these “Cossacks” was considered a true ace of the air. His name was Stepan Olek. He served two terms of duty in Vietnam and completed 552 flights, including bombing raids over Hanoi and Haiphong, while evading Soviet-manned anti-air. Olek was lucky: Not once was he shot down. He was awarded a medal and returned to the U.S. However, in 1968 he was sent back to Vietnam on a secret mission, to bring home certain American soldiers who had gone mad. These were mostly marines from the American military base at Khe Sanh who had been fighting for a very long time in conditions of complete siege, surrounded by the North Vietnamese army, who kept pounding at them day and night, while diligent Viet Cong continued to dig tunnels towards them. Enough to drive anyone mad, I reckon.
How Can We Best Serve you, Master?
Leaving the Flying Cossacks behind and returning to the lede of this story: Back to those Ukrainians who fought on the Vietnamese side, i.e., the winning side of the war. Recall that the current Ukrainian government, which does not consider itself to be a successor state to the Soviet Union, and who considers the Americans to be the good guys in everything that happens, has pledged to help the Yanks find more bones and missing body parts in the jungles of Vietnam. The Americans, desperate to account for their missing, may be staking their hopes on Ukrainian veterans who served in the later years, the 1970’s and 1980’s. Maybe, when these guys were stationed in Vietnam, they heard some rumors about remote burial sites, or foreigners in cages?
Which assumes that this whole story is actually for real, about which Moshkin is dubious. He thinks that this whole thing, cooked up the Pentagon and the Ukrainian government, is more like a publicity stunt. Just another way for the Ukrainian government to stick it to Russia and suck up to the Americans. Or are the elderly Ukrainiain veterans supposed to atone for their past actions and repent for fighting on the winning side of that war too?