Mule: When bravery was abundant
James Earl Parker Jr., code name Mule was born October 25th, 1942 in Rockingham, North Carolina. He passed on October 9th, 2018. He was a friend and one of my favorite storytellers. A fellow member of China Post 1, he was the official historian of history in general. We often discussed someone from the past that had an impact on the world as we know it, perhaps the heroics of some who fought and died honorably for what they believed in, and several people we both knew or worked near over the years. Not only did he contribute to the field of intelligence, but he was also a teacher of history and had that rare ability to help one measure the impact that one small operation or person had on much larger conflicts. Our local groups, both formal and informal will miss Mule.
The following is from his blog which is has been a refuge for me to retreat to over the years, “Muleorations” http://www.muleorations.com/about-the-author.html. Jim wrote of his experiences in Vietnam, Laos and other areas of the world he experienced from his travels, people he worked with or knew, and his service in the U.S. Army and CIA.
“When Jim was 15 years old he ran away from home, ending up in Havana, Cuba. His parents were not amused and not long after he returned he was enrolled in the Oak Ridge Military Academy for an attitude adjustment.
There he learned discipline but he was still driven by a-rambling', rambunctious curiosity; summers he worked as a Myrtle Beach lifeguard. He went on to UNC/Chapel Hill, played lacrosse, flunked out, went with a couple of buddies down to Managua, Nicaragua but was chased out by what would become the Sandinistas. He flew to Florida, worked at a Miami hotel, returned to college for one more semester before dropping out to join the US Army.
THE VIETNAM WAR ITS OWNSELF 2nd edition chronicles his Vietnam War experiences; Parker was among the first in as a 22-year-old Second Lieutenant Platoon Leader in 1965 and he was the last to leave in 1975. In between, he married, graduated UNC and joined the Central Intelligence Agency. His first CIA assignment was upcountry Laos where he led Hmong hills tribe guerrillas against two divisions of North Vietnamese mainline soldiers. His detailed account of this top secret activity was published in hardback by the Naval Institute Press, titled CODENAME MULE - reprinted in paperback by St Martin's Press as COVERT OPS. His LAST MAN OUT also reports on his Vietnam experiences.
After para-military chores in Laos/Vietnam, Parker went on to serve undercover as a case handler in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, retiring in 1992.
He's been places and done things.
In the military, he received the Bronze Star with "V" and the Purple Heart. In the CIA, he received two Certificates of Outstanding Service, a Certificate of Distinction and the Intelligence Medal.
He went back to work for the CIA after 9/11, but re-retired to Las Vegas, Nevada.”
KESSLER'S COUNTRY HOMILIES is Parker's collection of funny stories he's picked up around the world."
Mule was to be awarded a lifetime achievement award in October 2018. In addition to combat service in Southeast Asia, he has worked with the CIA in Africa, Central, and South America, and into our more recent conflict areas. His field experiences positioned him well to improve security and to assist in recruiting new CIA HUMINT Case Officers.
The first 140 pages of the Vietnam War Its Ownself is titled Prelude and I believe is one of the best historical accounts I have read on the First and Second Indo-China Wars and those events between including World Wars and Korea. To anyone with an interest in how we - America - became involved in Vietnam needs to read and understand this history.
Mule was a walking encyclopedia with special chapters on our history, operations, intelligence, conflicts, personalities, and their impact on all of us. Over the years, when reading of something that didn't quite sound right or register, I would ask him for his opinion and always received a reply and once in a while, enlightenment. An example was his appreciation for the local nationals he worked with.
From his time in the First Infantry Division to a tour as a guerrilla leader among the Hmong in Laos, to when he was assigned to Vietnam in the latter war years; as well as he later assignments, he saw the desires of the local people to live free. He spent most of his time in Vietnam in the Mekong Delta, in perhaps the least secure of any province there, Chuong Thien. He worked daily with heroic Vietnamese military in those latter days when support was minimal but bravery was abundant.
He dedicated his book to Vietnamese Army Generals he worked with - Tran Van Hai and Le Van Hung, heroes to the last. His thoughts on the legacy of the Vietnam War - those who answered the call, served and sacrificed during difficult times demonstrated the principles of duty and country and the spirit of the Warrior.
All of my service in Vietnam was with the local people and forces. His book brought me clarity around some unusual missions and a feeling that this was but a costly battle lost in a larger war waged for a better world. From his days of combat with the First Infantry Division in 1965 to 2 May 1975 as the last man out of Vietnam with the CIA, there are few that knew this AO as he did.
Any Southeast Asia hand should read his book. You will not be sorry for that. You will meet a man of honor. A Warrior.
“Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world. A Veteran doesn’t have that problem” Ronald Reagan
Lou CSM Lou Rothenstein, US Army (Ret) Life Member China Post 1