NAME: - - - - - - - - Guy E. Cornwell
COVER: - - - - - - - American Warrior
MISSION: - - - - - - To rescue the captured with spontaneity.
There is a school of thought in which it is argued that intelligence, its rate of increase, is related not so much to the complexity of the nervous system (though that is important) as it is to the size of the heart. In other words, to courage, to the willingness of the individual to stand and confront his fear. To be born with this knowledge, with this willingness to confront fear; that is, to be born with a big heart, is to be born smart. G. E. Cornwell was born smart.
His military career was a varied and distinguished one. In 1964, he was sent to the Dominican Republic. From there, for three years, he served in Viet Nam; after that, China, Africa, Central America. For most of this time he was a Marine, Special Forces, first in his class, nominated twice for the Medal of Honor. When John Wayne came to Viet Nam, Sgt. Cornwell was made his escort--five weeks--a reward for doing successfully what no one should be asked to do.
"Combat wakes you up," he wrote, "it blows your inhibition away. And afterwards, you have no taste for the superficial. That's why so many men go mad when they return to friends and family who have no idea of the extremes to which the combat veteran has been exposed. One minute you're the Grim Reaper, the next minute you're flipping a coin on Rodeo Drive. The contrast is maddening. There is, however, a redeeming side. If the combat veteran survives the extremes to which he has been exposed, survives them with his faculties intact, then he is in a position to identify the true whereabouts of the enemy. Having searched everywhere, he is free to conclude that the enemy does not reside in the outer world (as he had been told) but rather, that he resides within, that his name is forgetfulness or slumber or scapegoat or greed. To do battle with this enemy, the real enemy, is the opportunity to which the combat veteran has awakened."
The publication of G. E. Cornwell's autobiography, entitled Out of the Bunker, from which the above paragraph is taken, marked a turning point in his life. The book climbed to the best seller list while the movie rights sold to Paramount for an undisclosed amount. This left Dr. Cornwell free to pursue his creative play. The key to it all was the tack he took in his book, his focus on the inner life, on the search for what he called "the fortune of the spirit." His theme was reminiscent of the occult notion of a secret order of men pledged to raise themselves to physical and spiritual heights. The difference was that Dr. Cornwell set this notion against a backdrop of contemporary American life, arguing that such a pursuit was now the only real alternative to the madness of our time.
At the party following the premier of the film based on his book, the spirits were flowing. Friends from thirty years of hard living came for the celebration and mingled with the cast and crew. Four continents were represented and from each continent, or so it seemed, someone had a story of Sgt. Cornwell's adventures. "I heard he was in Watts in '68, . . . " "And what was that arrest in Canada about? . . ." "Yeah, news of the Christmas Eve Ambush was broadcast by all three networks. . . ." "You're kidding, Mayor of Okinawa's Four Corners District! . . ."
When the guests sat down for their midnight dinner, Dr. Cornwell was asked, as the guest of honor, if there was a particular toast he preferred. "Tout le monde." he said. "To everyone in the world."
" . . . the only thing the hero will be able to bring back from (his) expedition is what can be carried by the heart and mind - "
FROM INTERVIEWS WITH SGT. CORNWELL:
Prior to battle, certain Indian tribes sent their warriors into the field to impress the enemy with their superior bravery. Their ploy was to maneuver the enemy in such a way so as to tap him on the shoulder, thereby extending insult without injury. When successful, it was for all involved a feat of the most profound psychological significance. They called it "counting coup."
"It was midnight before we got back to the tunnel. We found medical supplies, food, some ammunition. From there we followed a trail to a small village, entering one sleeping hooch after another. In one we found a party of fifteen; grandmothers, children, VC in black pajamas. They sat frozen as we ate from their table and drank from their well. We interrogated them and then left, telling them we would see them in the morning."
"Wharton was a gangling farm boy, dependable, our tail-end charley. When contact came he was the one most likely to get cut off. We were on day patrol, seven of us, in a swampy area called 'the hook,' knee-deep when the contact came. As soon as they fired we formed a line and charged, firing low as we swept the ground in front of us. All of us, that is, except Wharton. He had been knocked down by a near-miss RPG. 'Sarge, I've lost my teeth!' While two men provided cover, the rest of us searched for Wharton's teeth. For ten minutes we were under fire from an entire company of North Vietnamese Regulars. When at last we found them, Wharton slipped them in and we attacked, killing nine, picking up four automatic weapons, and capturing the RPG rocket launcher that had knocked out Wharton's teeth in the first place."
"Our mission was to set up a defensive ambush at the base of Charley Ridge, a mountain range providing cover from the Ho Chi Minh Trail to a group of villages called the Dai Loc Chain. It was Christmas Eve, 1967. We were there should the enemy violate the cease fire and move during the night. Potter had taken Obesitol, a powerful and outlawed French diuretic, and had begun jabbering to himself while scanning the trail with the starlight scope. I crawled to his side. Already down the mountain and nearly upon us were over 100 North Vietnamese Regulars, a third of whom were armed while the rest carried empty packs to be filled with food and supplies. I quieted Potter and passed the word. In unison we fired two claymore mines, an M-60 machine gun, and hand-held pop-up flares. There were nine of us. We killed thirty-seven as the rest retreated. Three wire services carried news of the event and NBC reported it--the Christmas Eve Ambush. What they didn't report, however, is this: all nine of us moved forward with automatic weapons watching every fifth round trace its way through a night illuminated in milk-white light. We moved on line yelling holiday greetings and scream-singing Christmas carols, and Potter, who himself would be dead in a matter of hours, sang 'Silent Night' as we counted and stacked the dead."
G. E. Cornwell lives with his beautiful wife and their beautiful daughters in the proud State of Iowa. He sells Cadillacs.
Copyright © D. Thomas, 1999 - Comments to: email@example.com