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Vietnam-era general, wronged by Nixon, is vindicated by Obama

President Obama has officially rehabilitated a deceased Air Force general who was demoted in 1972 for allegedly ordering unauthorized bombing missions into North Vietnam, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.

John D. Lavelle, who served as commander of air operations during the Vietnam War, was stripped of two of his four stars and forced to retire as a major general after Defense Department investigations concluded that he had approved the falsification of records to cover up the missions. Lavelle died in 1979, insisting on his innocence until the end.

Although high-ranking members of the military and the Nixon administration insisted that Lavelle had acted on his own in ordering pilots to bomb unauthorized targets in North Vietnam, it turns out that the green light for the missions had come from the very top: President Nixon himself, according to transcripts of Nixon's recorded conversations that were released many years later.

The transcripts and other records backing up Lavelle's version of events were unearthed in 2007 by Aloysius Casey, a retired Air Force general, and his son Patrick Casey, as they were researching the biography of a pilot who served under Lavelle. They published an article about the Lavelle case in the February 2007 edition of Air Force magazine, an online journal of the Air Force Association.

The findings prompted a review by the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records, which recommended that Lavelle be posthumously restored to the rank of four-star general.

By Craig Whitlock  | August 4, 2010; 3:29 PM ET
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Posted by: jckdoors | August 4, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully his family will now receive his 4 star pay that was taken away from him so many years ago.

Posted by: OHREALLYNOW | August 4, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

All politicians lie, but Nixon really took the cake. Here is is, 40 years later, and we still choke on the stench.

Posted by: Ladyrantsalot | August 4, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

That's to bad for the general. Same thing happened to the admiral on the USS Indianapolis except he commited suicide before he was reenstated.

Posted by: nabel126 | August 4, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

That's to bad for the general. Same thing happened to the admiral on the USS Indianapolis except he commited suicide before he was reenstated.

Posted by: nabel126 | August 4, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I hang out with a lot of old retired USAF types here in COLO SPGS and most of them hate Obama.

This story shows how wrong they are.

Posted by: 809212876 | August 4, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

No wonder we called him Tricky Dick.

Posted by: spro | August 4, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

There is no honor in politics.
None of them can be trusted with the truth.

Posted by: garys_opinion | August 4, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, between Nixon and Obama, I'd take Nixon, every time. Every time.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | August 4, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Nixon is such a complex President when viewed through the lens of history. Villainy and dishonesty... but diplomacy abroad with China. He signed into being the EPA and did a lot of other good for the environment. definitely not a man who left a bland mark in the history books when it comes to "President."

The happy news here is that the general has finally been vindicated, which should at least be a comfort to his family given Gen. Lavelle died 31 years ago.

Posted by: exerda | August 4, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Nemo24601 wrote: "Frankly, between Nixon and Obama, I'd take Nixon, every time. Every time."

Nixon knew the truth and lied about Gen. Lavelle. OBama did the honorable and correct thing and reinstated him. This does not say much about you Nemo.

Posted by: ericwashdc | August 4, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse


You'd take a lying traitor over a decent human being. Nixon scapegoated a US serviceman and you defend him. You are sh*t.

US Army Veteran.

Posted by: bflorhodes | August 4, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, between Nixon and Obama, I'd take Nixon, every time. Every time.

Posted by: Nemo24601
let's see, Nixon orders bombing, then claims a general did it, and destroys him to cover up his own lie. Obama sticks up for the general decades later and clears his name. and you trash Obama.

I think I get the picture.

Nixon did some good stuff, China and all that, but at least go with Obama on this one before you bash him for something else

Posted by: JoeT1 | August 4, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Nixon would have sold his mother's soul to the devil to cover his own arse. He was a paranoid POS that was determined to take everyone around him down with him.

Posted by: sleastacks | August 4, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Nixon is who taught Cheney and Rumsfeld the ropes (key figures in Watergate). No wonder we went to sh*t during the last administration.

Posted by: truthbeknown | August 4, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Nixon was the kind of guy that knew where the buck stopped. And it wasn't anywhere near the Oval Office.

I was tempted to put my fist through a wall a number of years ago when the National Archives released some of Kissinger's paper. Two years before the war ended, Kissinger told Chou En Lai that the US did not intend to defeat the North Vietnamese and it would be fine if they took South Vietnam after the US left. Kissinger just didn't want them to do it right away and make it look bad.

You release this stuff 40 years later and no one cares. I'm not sure the majority of the population even knows Nixon was POTUS.

Posted by: James10 | August 4, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Chalk up another embarrassment to this country compliments of Tricky Dick...

Posted by: tsenacommacah | August 4, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Nixon did some good things and some bad things. His treatment of this General was deplorable and should be condemned.

Obama has done some good things and some bad things. His treatment of this deceased General should be praised.

Posted by: vrytix | August 4, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Nixon forced wage and price controls on the economy to fight inflation ... or whatever reason he did it.

No matter how many of you republicans call Obama a communist, he never once has done something like that. Just how communistic can you be?

Reagan cut and ran in Lebanon, and you call the democrats wusses?

Oh, I forget, you can't remember more than a year a half ago.

Posted by: jontomus | August 4, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Just another partisan move by the Obama administration to villify republicans. And leave it to Woodward and Berstein's WaPo to tout an anti-Nixon story.

Posted by: urrecording | August 4, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Nixon turned on a subordinate, left him to take the blame and shame for HIS actions, and lied to protect himself.

This keeps with his organizing a secret security service to spy and accuse his political rivals. We called it "Watergate."

American history should duly note the demonic nature of this man, our leader.

Place your ear to the earth and listen deeply. You can hear the muted sounds of, "I am not a crook. I am not a crook."

Posted by: afshome | August 4, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

The higher truth is that 100% if the airstrikes against the Vietnamese people were immoral and illegal. Don't let the government and its puppet-masters... the media giants... trick you into thinking that there is decent value in bombing innocent civilians.

Show me ONE US president who wasn't a criminal. Obama commits war crimes everyday of the week as a matter of policy... Google "unmanned drones" and "indefinite detention"!

Posted by: jewishmother | August 4, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them:

By Al franken no less.

Let's hope the General didn't lie either. Of course if you are going to play in that arena, and survive, you can't count on integrity being the bottom line.

Too many military guys don't get the fact that the Republicans don't give two hoots about them; it's all about posturing and perceptions.

Posted by: danbrook | August 4, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Nixon was a true Republican - lie, cheat and steal - then blame the other guy.

Posted by: beenthere3 | August 4, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Nixon lied?! Rain is wet, snow cold, the sun hot.

Posted by: jimsteinberg1 | August 4, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Nixon was not a moron
but he was a typical REPBULICAN AH!

Posted by: nwerle | August 4, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

what happened to honor and integrity that the military so often speaks of? (in reference to the other officers) who obviously lied about a fellow officer... just goes to show what lies the federal government can commit against its own... what other lies will be "discovered" years from now?

Posted by: shaisdadraw1 | August 4, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Surprise Surprise Nixon lied, the real story would be if he ever told the truth. I feel sorry for the General but much worse about all the folks that died.

Posted by: Woodstocknative | August 4, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Surprise Surprise Nixon lied, the real story would be if he ever told the truth. I feel sorry for the General but much worse about all the folks that died.

Posted by: Woodstocknative | August 4, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Nemo24601 wrote:

Frankly, between Nixon and Obama, I'd take Nixon, every time. Every time.



It's Wednesday evening. Isn't it time for your Klan meeting????? When you get home, go check out Tricky Dick and his wage and price controls, etc. (For the small-brains, those controls mandated just what the terms imply.)

...President Nixon Imposes Wage and Price Controls...

.......August 15, 1971. In a move widely applauded by the public and a fair number of (but by no means all) economists, President Nixon imposed wage and price controls........

Point being that in many ways, Nixon of 1971 was every bit (if not more) the interventionist than is Obama in 2010. That being the case, the only other thing that could possibly trigger your statement is the color of Obama's skin.

Posted by: loulor | August 4, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it clear that Nixon, perhaps even Laird, was perfectly willing to let Lavelle retire with four stars, but that the Senate would not confirm his retirement at that rank. Nixon had no legal control over his rank--only the Senate had that control.

Posted by: caldey | August 4, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

It looks clear to me that Nixon could have cleared the general by telling the truth. I have nothing against Nixon, but the facts are against him in this case.

Bringing up Obama is irrelevant. If Obama has done something good or bad, that has nothing to do with Nixon's actions.

Posted by: geneven | August 4, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Only that other Dick will ever out do Nixon.

Posted by: walker1 | August 4, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Someone Wrote: "All politicians lie, but Nixon really took the cake. Here is is, 40 years later, and we still choke on the stench."

That ain't nothing compared to the stench we'll choke on 40 yrs hence. Won't even come close. And you know it.

Posted by: jato11 | August 4, 2010 8:41 PM | Report abuse

did nixon also have the navy waste money by flying him onto to a carrier to declare victory as troops were still being killed in a malignant misadventure?

Posted by: george32 | August 4, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

In addition to his diplomatic accomplishments in China and the Soviet Union, Richard Nixon accomplished much for the long term good of this country and its people: The Clean Air Act of 1970 that created the EPA: He accomplished more for the environment than any president before or since. He created OSHA and gave it real enforcement capability (which was whittled away by subsequent administrations): Workplace safety was taken seriously and given respectability. He created the all volunteer military, gave 18 year olds the right to vote, re-organized the US Postal Service into a self sustaining, non subsidized entity, re-organized the DEA, made the Federal government honor its treaties with Native Americans. Along with Attorney General John Mitchell, he vigorously enforsed the desegregation laws (signed into law by LBJ) and non violently desegregated the public school systems in the South. He even pardoned 1LT William Calley for his role in the My Lai massacres. In short, he did a lot for people who were politically weak, but had just causes. It therefore seems somewhat out of character for him to burn an otherwise good general for political purposes. If he did knowingly do this,; however, I would consider this a more serious offense than Watergate.

Posted by: jtsmd | August 4, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Good for Obama, Nixon could hardly move his lips without lying and the GOP has largely continued in that tradition.

Posted by: rkerg1 | August 4, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

There are two issues here and they're separate ones.

1. Lavelle was treated shamefully by the leadership of his era. And that included President Nixon. Yes, Nixon did many good things during his time. He also contemplated fire-bombing the Brookings Institute. He order the break-in and theft of records of a pyschiatrists office. He used the power of his office to order that the IRS audit his political enemies (certain democrats and members of the press). You can argue he was a good President, I'm not taking a stance of how he was on-balance. But to deny that he did immoral things is undeniable.

2. President Obama acted responsibly even though there was no real reason for him to do so. In some ways, it's like pardoning an individual who's dead. This isn't going to win him any votes, it doesn't help him in an election, doesn't sway a particular constituency, doesn't address a key issue right now. It just rights a wrong. That doesn't make Obama a great guy. It just means that in this instance he did the right thing. And it's shameful that some people are so deep into their hatred and partisanship that they can't recognize that.

You can claim Nixon was a great President and still conclude he did something shameful in this case. You can like or dislike Obama and still acknowledge he did the honorable thing in this case.

Posted by: JoeW1 | August 4, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

rkerg1 - You could say that same sentence about this administration also.

Posted by: madmike272 | August 4, 2010 9:49 PM | Report abuse

809212876 : how does this make them wrong?

Posted by: madmike272 | August 4, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

"I'm the One" was his running slogan. Richard "I'm Not a Crook" Nixon sure was. And a no good liar I might add.

Posted by: glenglish | August 5, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Everyday I'm grateful McCain isn't president.

Posted by: smileyzjohn | August 5, 2010 12:08 AM | Report abuse

I remember very well the "Lavell Raids". I flew some of them as an F-4 Phantom backseater out of Danang AB. It is imperative to note that enemy SAM sites had moved farther south than ever before,an obvious move presaging the Easter invasion by the North. We did a great job, eliminating 14 SA-2 sites. Led by fast FACs (single ship F-4s) who scouted, led us in,& marked the target.It was great use of TACair. Thanks, General we owe you more than can be paid. God bless you & your family.

Posted by: martialbroussard | August 5, 2010 2:34 AM | Report abuse

As a former military officer, I am shocked and dismayed that the Commander in Chief would sacrifice a subordinate's reputation and honour to protect his own interests. Very dishonourable and disgraceful. But given Nixon's history, such actions are fully in context. The C-in-C's name is not worthy of mention.

Posted by: Finntag | August 5, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Oh wow, I never really thought about it that way before.


Posted by: clermontpc | August 6, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

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