CARL RICHARD WENZEL
PFC - E2 - Marine Corps - Regular
20 year old Single, Caucasian, Male
Birth date Jun 19, 1944
Home of Record ALLEGANY, NEW YORK
Length of service 1 year.
Casualty was on Apr 25, 1965 in THUA THIEN, SOUTH VIETNAM
HOSTILE, GROUND CASUALTY
GUN, SMALL ARMS FIRE
Body was recovered
Panel 01E - - Line 109
But Steve Carlson, a Marine who had fought in Vietnam, and a good friend, a fellow Marine who served with him, are standing quietly at the Wall. They are looking at the names of friends whom they served with and who died. Carlson's friend, who works for the government and lives near the Capitol, comes here often. For Carlson, this is his first time.
It does not take them long to find the names of their two friends: Randy Campbell and Carl Wenzel. At the time, there were 58,130 names on the Wall. The names are in exact chronological order, depending on when the person died. Campbell and Wenzel died in the earliest days of the war. So their names are on the first stone. And because they died together, at the same time, the names of Randy Campbell and Carl Wenzel are right next to each other. During the debate in the Senate, which I watched from the gallery, supporters of the war resolution talked of minimal casualties, a quick victory, and a 'short war.' Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who won a Silver Star and Bronze Star in Vietnam, only to come home to oppose that war, implored his colleagues:
'There has been a lot of talk on this floor about treaties, resolutions, principles... and all the strategic reasons for going to war... But sometimes... in the words we lose sight of the personal stakes...
'Our VA hospitals are already full of several generations of veterans who carry or wear daily reminders of the costs of war... They cannot care for those already needing help. So, are we ready to spend the money on a new generation of patients?'
The Kerry addressing the Senate that day was a very different man from the one who a decade later would vote for a war resolution with Iraq for reasons of political expedience and his own presidential ambitions. But on this occasion, he was speaking from the heart.
Then Sen. Mark Hatfield, of Oregon, one of the few Republicans to vote against the war resolution, rose to address a near empty chamber: 'We have all heard the President's promise: `This will not be another Vietnam'... 'Even the words are neat and tidy--body bags are not body bags anymore. Now body bags are `human remains pouches'. There, America, does that make you feel better? Your sons and daughters and mothers and fathers will have their faces blown off--their limbs ripped open, but they will not come home in body bags. They will come home in neat and tidy human remains pouches.'
Hatfield once again pleaded to a near empty chamber that his fellow Senators not 'avert your eyes.' But to no avail. The Senate and House voted authorizations of war. A short time later, I am talking to Steve Carlson and his friend about the two friends they have lost:
'Randy Campbell was a kind of golden boy. He was smart. He was sort of the all-American boy except he wasn't really American. He was a Canadian who joined the U.S. Marine Corps out of a sense of adventure.
'He was intelligent. He could outrun everyone. He could probably beat up everyone in the entire platoon.... He was real statuesque, blond hair, blue eyes.'
Carlson and his friend are unsure how old Randy Campbell was when he was killed. He might have been seventeen or eighteen. Some in their platoon believed that he fudged on his age when he enlisted.
Carl Wenzel was a 'quiet guy, kind of an obedient guy,' by contrast. 'He did what he was told. . . and that is why he died. He was told not to load his gun. We were under orders not to load our weapons until we were shot at. Carl got shot directly between his eyes before his weapon was loaded.'
About ten or twelve of them had been on patrol, on a reconnaissance mission, looking for Viet Cong. They were radioed by a spotter plane and told there was a high concentration of enemy in the area and instructed to go atop a nearby hill, to settle into a defensive position. 'Randy didn't want to wait for them to come up the hill and get him. He didn't have that type of personality. So he went down to set up some booby traps as an early warning system.'
Carlson, his friend, and other Marines they served with are unsure what happened next. That they don't really know how and why their friends died still causes them considerable pain--even more than twenty years later. Some of them believe that Randy Campbell may have accidentally detonated his own booby trap: 'He was stringing the wire across the trail, kind of like tripwire. We think what he did was that he hooked it to the grenade pin first and then tried to string his wire and thought [the pin] came out and it did. He wasn't sure and so he went back and grabbed the grenade and that's when it went off.' Seeing the explosion, the Viet Cong commenced firing, killing Carl Wenzel as well. But others there that day believe that the Viet Cong simply spotted Randy and opened up on him when he still had the grenade in his hand. And when he was hit, the grenade exploded.
'Whatever the case, the grenade went off that he was holding in his hand. And he was blown to pieces. 'He no longer had any body. His hands were gone. His arms were gone. His chest was gone. Part of his legs were gone. Still, it took him two full minutes to die.'
I have seen too much of this grief in my years of journalism, interviewing too many families who have lost loved ones under the worst of circumstances. I have spent time with the families of murder victims. I once had to interview in a short time more than a dozen families of mentally retarded wards of the District of Columbia who had died because of abuse and neglect. I spent time in Palm Beach, Florida, interviewing the families of loved ones who died of cancer because they received substandard medical care from a corrupt HMO--kept in business over the objections of federal regulators because the owner of the HMO bribed and bought influence to keep operating...
WIP--work in progress... the reason for the guardian angel analogy will be forthcoming....
© 2010 3D Divine Deadbeat Dad ( - 5/26/13