Vietnam remembered: 50 years later
When the order came to withdraw from Cambodia, we were in our 57th day of literally decimating the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) under Rules of Engagement (ROE) denied to us in South Vietnam. And, oddly enough, we Grunts had always been forbidden to attack the North Vietnamese Army in its homeland. How strange that President Johnson (LBJ) ordered Navy and USAF pilots to drop more bombs in the homeland of our ally than in the homeland of our enemy.
But then, LBJ and Secretary of State Dean Rusk were repeatedly telling President Ho Chi Minh that his job was safe because, unlike the victors of previous wars, we had no plans to invade North Vietnam. Our allies, the South Vietnamese, would have to suffer the inevitable collateral damage that attends bombing and strafing of the enemy.
We GIs, during my two years with the 1st Air Cavalry Division, went far out of our way to protect "our little allied brothers," for whom we held a wary affection. Wary because the NVA sometimes had its spys hidden in their ranks.
Most South Vietnamese just wanted to be left alone. But the over two million North Vietnamese Roman Catholics who fled south rather than be killed by the atheist Ho Chi Minh and his fellow communists wanted us to "win" and, thereby, allow them to go back home.
Such a convoluted geopolitical mess was the work of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, of his "whiz kids," and the work of a corrupt politician who, by the blast of an assassinís bullet, was thrust into a Commander-in-Chiefís role for which he was totally unsuited. On March 31,1968, LBJ admitted as much, throwing in his presidential towel.
While the passage of 50 years makes these realities abundantly clear today, the statesmen who stumbled our Armed Forces into the Vietnam War did not possess the wisdom of General von Clausewitz, or Sun Tsu or that of Sir Halford John MacKinder, the founder of geopolitics. We GIs and the South Vietnamese were to suffer for that.
Nevertheless, we who had sworn an oath to protect and defend the United States and to obey the orders of those appointed over us, went off to do our duty in a war that lasted for ten years. History records we did our duty exceedingly well.
In 1975, when the Democrat-controlled Congress pulled the rug out from under the South Vietnamese, the "boat people" fled toward those who had fought beside them. Thatís us. Ironically, we GIs ended up generally beloved by our former allies and hated by the mostly upper-class elites and a few Bubbas like Bill Clinton who dodged military service.
It took this veteran 50 years to mull over the Vietnam/Cambodia experience and put it down on paper. Because the proceeds from this book go to disabled veterans, I do not shy away from citing it here: War During Peace: A Strategy for Defeat. The title says it all: Trying to be at war and at peace at the same time is a strategy for defeat. Either win or stay home because the consequences of an unwinnable strategy are the internal strife and discord from which our nation has yet to recover.
Suggested reading: War During Peace: A Strategy for Defeat, by William Hamilton, Ph.D., 2021. https://www.amazon.com/WAR-DURING-PEACE-Strategy-Defeat-ebook/dp/B09C1LRPGY/ref=sr_
©2023. William Hamilton. "Central View" free to you at: www.central-view.com