February 17 – Happy Birthday Richard Mancini

2213450North Vietnam’s unlikely success fighting against the United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War was in large part made possible by Ho Chi Minh’s willingness to ignore the territorial integrity of the Southeast Asian countries neighboring his war-torn nation. US air and naval forces had completely shut off any and all supply routes between Hanoi and its forces fighting in the south that had existed inside the country so the North used Cambodia and Laos as their alternative supply corridor. Nicknamed the Ho Chi Minh Trail by US Intelligence, by 1965 the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces were receiving as much as 80% of the reinforcements, munitions, fuel and provisions their military efforts in the South required via this infamous pathway.

US President Lyndon Johnson was determined to shut down this vital enemy supply route and he permitted his Generals to utilize everything in the US arsenal short of nuclear weapons to do so. This included massive US bombing and covert tactical attacks by US ground troops plus some rather unorthodox initiatives like trying to induce torrential rains with cloud seedings in the hope that such deluges would wash portions of the trail away. The continued ability of the invading enemy forces’ to carry out successful attacks in the south despite these counter measures made it clear the US needed to come up with a smarter strategy. It was called Operation Igloo White. US forces literally bugged the Trail with listening devices and motion detectors so that enemy movements up and down it could be constantly monitored and much more precisely attacked by air. The only way to get many of these monitoring devices in place was by dropping them from the air into the tops of trees bordering the trail. It was while on just such a mission that today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant lost his life.

A Neptune OP-2E gunship from the Vietnam War era
A Neptune OP-2E gunship from the Vietnam War era

Richard Michael Mancini was born in Amsterdam, NY on February 17, 1937. He graduated from Wilbur Lynch High School in 1955 and joined the Navy in 1958. By 1968, he had married a Gloversville girl named Rosemarie Sweeney, become a father, advanced to the rank of Petty Officer and was serving in Vietnam as a crew member on a Neptune OP-2E  gunship, an overland reconnaissance and sensor deployment aircraft. On January 11 of that year, his crew and plane were taking part in Operation Igloo White …

I’ve already started work on the second volume of “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays” and Richard Mancini’s complete story will be featured in it. I will be sharing the complete posts of some of the Volume II birthday celebrants in future issues of the Amsterdam Birthday Blog Newsletter. If you are not yet a newsletter subscriber, you can sign up for free here.

This former owner of one of Amsterdam’s most popular night spots was also born on February 17.


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