FOR A FORMER UNITED STATES MARINE, Daniel J. Flynn makes a surprising error in the November issue (“The Battle of Gangjal,” TAS, November 2012). Reviewing his fellow Marine Dakota Meyer’s new book Into the Fire, Mr. Flynn writes that at a crucial moment in combat in Afghanistan, Corporal Meyer’s M203 (an M16 rifle with a grenade launcher mounted below the barrel) failed to function. This was due, Mr. Flynn speculates, to “dud” ammunition, causing a 40mm grenade round to bounce harmlessly off the chest of a charging enemy only “two feet” away from Corporal Meyer.
While one would be tempted in such a situation to curse hungover munitions factory workers back home, Mr. Flynn—being a proud former Leatherneck—should know that there is a more likely explanation.
Having carried the M203 during my Army service with Apache Troop of the 1/104th Cavalry in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2002–2003 (which makes me, presumably, a “former Grenadier,”) I know that the M203 is an indirect fire weapon, lobbed at an angle toward an enemy, rather than fired in a straight line like a conventional rifle. Thus, to prevent accidents at such a close range as Corporal Meyer describes, the M203 rounds must leave the weapon and fly a safe distance before the grenade’s priming mechanism activates in the air, causing it to explode near the enemy rather than next to the firer.
Thankfully, because this intentional safety mechanism functioned, we can honor Corporal Meyer’s courage as the first living Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipient in decades.
Out of respect for Mr. Flynn’s service to our country, we can forgive his error. Hopefully he will accept a gentle jibe from an old Army Cavalry Trooper; consider this a case of the Cavalry to the rescue.
Christian M. DeJohn
Daniel Flynn replies:
WHO KNEW THE GRENADE I believed a dud was really a stud? Having fired the M203 just a few times during my service (I was mainly a gunner in a Light Armored Vehicle), I was unaware of the safety feature described in the above letter. Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer, who carried the weapon, was apparently unaware of it too. As he writes of his harrowing hand-to-hand combat: “At any second, I figured, the grenade would explode and the both of us could stop worrying about any of this.” The grenade fired from the M203 didn’t, enabling Meyer to beat the stunned Taliban fighter to death with a rock (the most primitive weapons have a very low malfunction rate). I thank the writer for his enlightenment on the M203 but can’t help but wonder why he doesn’t offer his “gentle jibe” to Dakota Meyer, too. It takes only brains to correct me. Telling Mr. Meyer he’s wrong takes guts.
IN WRITING ABOUT THE INFLUENTIAL ROLES played by Cardinal Martini and Archbishop Williams in their respective flocks (“Religious Stirrers,” TAS, November 2012), Jonathan Aitken quotes Martini as calling for a radical transformation of the Catholic Church. He says the cardinal was a “modernizer” who believed the Church must become more flexible lest people ignore her teachings; that perhaps condoms are a lesser evil than HIV/AIDS. Williams, for his part, has already brought many “modern” changes to the Anglican church, almost destroying it in the process. Implementation of Martini’s “modern” ideas in the Roman Catholic Church would have had similar results.
Mr. Aitken uses the term “conservative Catholics” in the article, and refers to Cardinal Martini as “almost a leader of the opposition.” These political terms do not apply when referring to the faithful. Either one accepts the teachings of the Church and is orthodox, or one rejects one or more of the teachings of the Church and thereby cannot properly be called a Catholic. Finally, Mr. Aitken states that Martini refused artificial feeding before he died “in contravention of Church policy.” Church policy does not forbid one from refusing artificial feeding at the end of life, only the withholding of such feeding by another.
Francis D. O’Brien
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