By: Lou Rothenstein
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 story tellers. 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, he was 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.
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 in his blog, “Muleorations”, http://www.muleorations.com/about-the-author.html. That has has been a refuge for me to retreat to over the years.
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 his book, ‘The Vietnam War Its Ownself’ 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 guerilla 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.
Any Southeast Asia hand should read his book. You will not be sorry for that.