Vietnam Ghosts

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez entered the Army as a new lieutenant in the wake of the Vietnam War, when the terms "hollow force" and "broken Army" meant rampant drug use, race riots, and serious violence in the ranks. Sanchez describes these things on page 29 of his book as he tells of his arrival at Fort Bragg, N.C., as a new lieutenant in October 1973. He also gives us a glimpse into his beliefs about the Army, Vietnam and civil-military relations:

We had discipline problems, leadership problems, racial problems, alcohol problems, and drug addiction problems. It was common for us to hold surprise health and welfare inspections in the barracks and find all kinds of illegal drugs. It was all very disturbing for a young, idealistic officer like me.

I eventually came to realize that I was seeing what we would later refer to as the "broken Army" in the wake of Vietnam. By this time, we had stopped reinforcing our troops in Southeast Asia, which is why I had not been deployed. But the long-term effect of that campaign proved absolutely catastrophic for the military. What caused it? For starters, civilian leaders in the White House micromanaged many aspects of the Vietnam War. They did not allow the U.S. armed forces to utilize the full extent of its resources to achieve victory. Instead, the military was forced to fight incremental battles that led to a never-ending conflict. And the Army itself descended into a dark cloud almost totally focused on Southeast Asia. That, in turn, resulted in it being overextended in virtually every area that one could imagine.

Ah yes, the "stabbed in the back narrative."

This narrative is popular among American military officers of a certain age, who believe if only they'd had gutsy political leadership, support from the homefront, and a willingness to steamroll North Vietnam with overwhelming force, we might have won the war.

It's a good story, but it's wrong. No amount of America firepower could have crushed the North Vietnamese people's will. It's true that we made many missteps in waging the Vietnam War, and that we might have achieved a better outcome in the short term had we backed better South Vietnamese leaders, implemented smarter counterinsurgency strategies sooner, and pursued Vietnamization earlier. But the ultimate outcome was ordained long before 1973, and probably long before American combat troops arrived in 1965. Most of the histories I've read suggest the die was cast sometime around when the French surrender at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. We didn't lose the Vietnam War because of any "stab in the back." We lost because we failed to see the strategic environment correctly, and we chose a war of a time, place and manner that we could not win.

This narrative came to mean a great deal to the cohort of American military officers who shepherded the services through the post-Vietnam years. They vowed to never again fight a war like Vietnam. These generals embraced the Weinberger-Powell doctrine prescribing when, how and why they would fight. They rejected counterinsurgency efforts and small wars, choosing instead conventional wars with defined objectives and familiar features. And they rebuilt the Army with capabilities to fight these wars, marginalizing those who thought about small wars and pushing them into the special forces, civil affairs, military police and intelligence communities. Even during the 1990s, when the Army deployed for peacekeeping operations around the world, these missions remained peripheral.

On the very next page, Sanchez criticizes the decision to send "unprepared and improperly trained soldiers" into the "guerilla warfighting conditions" of Vietnam. He appears to miss the connection, however, between his misunderstanding of the Vietnam war and the Army's lack of preparedness for Iraq, which flowed from that deeply flawed view.

By Phillip Carter |  May 10, 2008; 2:03 PM ET  | Category:  Wiser in Battle
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Procurement, procurement, procurement. Big weapon systems mean big contract dollars, and jobs for the home front, as well as 6-figure salaries, working for superiors, after 20 and out. Problem is, as you know, the insurgent enemy is a rather inconvenient bastard who chooses not to expose himself to our massive firepower and big weapon systems. Used ordinance and throwaway cell phones are still working for him, despite all our expensive gadgets, widgets and gizmos. Not to mention his obvious home field advantage. Iraq? And so it goes ... procurement...

Posted by: CivilianVu | May 10, 2008 4:49 PM

If I recall my history correctly, during the Vietnam era, there were also the eighty bazillion motorized rifle and tank divisions of the Soviet Union that required deterring. I think that was also a mission for US ground forces at the time. Just saying.

Posted by: Mark Lewis | May 10, 2008 5:44 PM

Great point Mark. That perspective shines through in the next section of the book, when he describes his experience growing up in the Cold War-era military.

Posted by: Phillip Carter | May 10, 2008 6:00 PM

Back in June, 1971, I was at Ft. Benning, attending Infantry Officer Basic. I'm talking to the assignments officer and I ask about Special Forces school. He tells me, don't bother. Special Forces' day is over. It would be a dead end career path.

Posted by: Carl | May 10, 2008 9:53 PM

Another alternate historical thread would have been us recognizing the Viet Minh off the bat in 1945, as per the OSS guys in Hanoi. For better or worse, strategic considerations took the front seat, and we backed France on a losing struggle, mostly with an eye to restoring them as a European and global power, particularly after the Korean war.

It is pretty lame for the progenitors of "Stab in the Back" to put off the negative result on the politicians, without even considering the effects of the massive firepower used there with free fire zones. I take it Sanchez never read "Bright and Shining Lie." Historically (caveat--am by no means saying US Army are nazi, I respect the army and just want it to be smart) I find a parallel with the blame game played by German officers after WW2 with regard to the East Front. They always claimed they could have beat the Soviet Army if it hadn't been for the snow and mud. This covers their failing (hubris) in not being able to predict the Sovs strategic depth, and ability to reconstitute massive armies, as well as the Germs very shallow logistics and the bad decision not to mobilize industry for total war until 1944.

That may be off tangent, but I wanted to throw in another case of historic denial. Great organizations must take a sober look at their failings, and learn not to repeat them.

Posted by: Gus | May 11, 2008 12:38 AM

Having lived through the Vietnam era as an impressionable youth, I distinctly recall that by 1968 the governed were seriously up in arms about the fight in Vietnam, doing everything they could to bring the government (their public servants) back under control as the vast majority of the people had come to the conclusion that we couldn't win in Vietnam at a reasonable cost.

In that light, Sanchez deciding in 1973 that the politicians hadn't gone far enough in Vietnam and had stabbed the Army in the back is madness. We also need to remember that the Army in 1973 was about as broken as possible because of things that happened in the US such as the economic fall-out from the "guns and butter" era of the 60's, Nixon's fall from power, and the expectation that the draft was going to end very soon.

Come to think about military history a little longer and I can see certain parallels.
1. MacArther reaches the Yalu river in December 1950 and pronounces the war is nearly over. Result: a million Chinese sneak over the border and we're fighting for another two years before we can get a stalemate.

2. Westmoreland observes a slowly dwindling series of Vietcong attacks in 1967 and pronounces the war is nearly over. Result: the Tet offensive surprises the US and shreds our illusions of a short war.

3. Bush notes the complete collapse of all authority and formal use of military force in Iraq and pronounces "mission accomplished." Result: a long stubborn insurgency that will be the only lasting legacy of the Bush administration.

4. Gen. Petraeus notes a long slow decline of insurgent attacks and pronounces that the insurgency is nearly at an end. Result: unknown but recent fighting in Basra and Sadr City with militias easily holding their own against the Iraqi army suggest that this is premature at best.

When will we learn?

Posted by: pluto | May 11, 2008 9:26 AM

I wonder how, or if, the stabbed in the back narrative will change when, or if, the Iraq war ends.

Certainly the part about blaming the politicians is worth a fresh look.

Posted by: Bullsmith | May 11, 2008 9:27 AM

I entered the Army in January, 1973, and was stationed at Ft. Bragg in the 18th Abn. Corps. Arty. We were told all about those bazillion Russian brigades ready to rush the border and overwhelm Western Europe. The part about the BMPs being about to fight while buttoned up in CBR contaminated
environments was the scariest part.

I went to Germany to 7th Corp. Arty. and the CBR stuff became a bigger deal. We trained in our masks a lot.

I got out of the Army and worked around Pershings for several years as a civilian monitor on the launch pads. I had access to a bit of classified info and the weight of the Russian divisions looked so overwhelming. Hackett wrote "The Third World War" and it read like some of the classified war gaming I had seen. It made some brutal assumptions.

After coming back to the States in 1981, Andrew Cockburn published an article in Harper's about how unprepared the USSR divisions were for battle. Look it up. "Ivan the Terrible Soldier", March, 1983.

It was an eye opener.

I think that sometimes, people treat truth like a zero sum game. They find a truth that makes everything else add up. The problem is that they haven't weighed everything correctly.

Posted by: dan robinson | May 11, 2008 10:34 AM

It's amazing. How can you detach the original rationale(s) for getting into Vietnam plus all the ongoing happy-talk that accompanied it -- from the eventual outcome?

You might as well say the British could've won the War of Independence if only they had tried harder.

Posted by: leo klein | May 11, 2008 11:29 AM

Pluto said:

"Westmoreland observes a slowly dwindling series of Vietcong attacks in 1967 and pronounces the war is nearly over. Result: the Tet offensive surprises the US and shreds our illusions of a short war."

The only way Westhisface could have observed those goings on in 1967 is if one of his man servants had spiked his lifer juice with LSD. All facets of the war spiked up in 67 from 66. He basically spiked all Intel reports that threatened the rosy predictions he fed LBJ. The rest is history.

Posted by: Eduardo, El Galgo Rebelde | May 11, 2008 1:32 PM

Recall, too, that the apologists for Viet Nam continue to insist that we had the war won in 1968, after inflicting a massive defeat on the NVA and VC during the Tet Offensive. It was only the hippies and those pansies in the press who kept us from reaping the fruits of victory.

But Tet, while a military setback for North Viet Nam, did not diminish its capacity to wage war against the U.S. Army and Marine Corps and the ARVN. Dai Do, the largest single engagement of the war, took place three months after the offensive. Ferocious battles raged throughout 1968, and into 1969-70. While line units in the Army and Marine Corps performed pretty well for the most part post-Tet, the support services in the rear echelons (supply, MPs, etc.) decayed rapidly during this time and in some quarters teetered on the brink of collapse. The rear is where most of the problems we associate with Viet Nam - drug use, fragging, insubordination, racial conflicts, rioting - festered, grew out of control, and ultimately led to the "hollow Army".

Posted by: A.B. | May 11, 2008 9:56 PM

"No amount of America firepower could have crushed the North Vietnamese people's will."

It would be more accurate to say that no amount of American firepower could have crushed the North Vietnamese leadership's will -- a leadership that was willing to sacrifice scores of thousands of the North Vietnamese people to achieve its vision. That we weren't willing to make the same sacrifice is, perhaps, a virtue.

It was a bad idea for us to get involved there militarily, but given the aftermath it was also bad that we didn't prevail. The Vietnamese people I've had the privilege of meeting and speaking at length with will tell you that nobody won.

Posted by: John Marlin | May 12, 2008 7:14 AM

I have always resisted making historical comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq, given the vast differences between those two situations. The most meaningful similarity is the peripheral quality of both places where American interests are concerned; for the United States to have spent as much on fighting Communism in what was then an isolated backwater as it did standing up to the Soviets in Europe made little more sense than plowing lives and money into one, mid-sized Arab country does today.

This comparison, though, refers to the decisions made about Vietnam in the early 1960s. By the late 1960s the commitment had been made, and the question was whether and how it could be made good -- specifically, whether an American ally should be left to be defeated and overrun by a Soviet client using Soviet arms. Counterinsurgency doctrine, ironically, gives clear direction as to what needed to be done: isolate the battlefield, deny sanctuary to the enemy, prevent his resupply. The Nixon administration attempted to apply several elements of such a strategy piecemeal: airstrikes on Cambodian sanctuaries in 1969, ground attacks on them the next year, a spoiling attack on North Vietnamese bases and supply lines in Laos after that, and finally air strikes in the Hanoi area and a blockade of Haiphong in 1972.

The idea of doing all these things at once was evidently considered early in the Nixon administration and rejected, as too aggressive at a time when Americans were demanding the war be wound down. North Vietnam was thereby allowed to maintain sanctuaries for its troops to refit and train, and allowed also access to an ever-expanding flow of Soviet weapons. These included the most advanced anti-aircraft missiles along with the tanks and other armor that would form the backbone of the North Vietnamese army that finally overran the South in 1975.

At the core of the Nixon administration's thinking (as was also the case in Johnson's) was the memory of the cold autumn and winter 19 years before, when the American military command in Japan had guessed about whether one of the major Communist powers would fight for North Korea, and guessed wrong. Nixon didn't want to risk war with China or Russia over Vietnam any more than Truman had wanted war with China or Russia over Korea. What we found out later was that Vietnam was not Korea; the Russians gave way when Nixon finally decided to mine Haiphong (well after most of the American troops had left Vietnam), and the Chinese were deeply suspicious both of the Vietnamese and of their Soviet patrons.

The American error was geopolitical as well as strictly military; it lay as much in mistaken assumptions about how Vietnam was seen in Beijing and Moscow as in flawed assessments of what was happening in Indochina itself. What is noteworthy with respect to the argument Sanchez appears to be making is that it was an error made at the highest levels. The American military command in Vietnam did not seriously question assumptions in Washington about where the lines were that might trigger Chinese or Soviet intervention; it sometimes advocated adjustments in tactics (particularly in the air war against the North) but never proposed a strategy for isolating the North Vietnamese from their armorers.

Such a strategy would, indeed, have involved some considerations that military leaders then would have considered "above their pay grade." And here perhaps may be another similarity between Vietnam and Iraq, for today as well the military is focused on tactics in the immediate combat area. The broader geopolitical questions -- and specifically the question of whether Iraq deserves its position at the center of American foreign policy in the world -- have to date gone largely unaddressed by American military leaders. It is tempting to fault them for this, but in perfect fairness these questions haven't really been addressed by the major national politicians either. Even politicians who disagree with President Bush's Iraq policy disagree mostly about means, not ends. Bush sees his policy as leading to a more peaceful Iraq, and his opponents think a more peaceful Iraq is more likely with a different policy. Why is a more peaceful Iraq worth what the pursuit of this objective is costing us? This question seems to be above everybody's pay grade.

Posted by: Zathras | May 12, 2008 3:49 PM

Mr. Carter has it right when he says "No amount of America firepower could have crushed the North Vietnamese people's will."

The Vietnamese people had a long history of fighting powerful invaders and occupiers, whether they be Chinese, Mongol, French, Japanese, or American. It was not just their leaders that were willing to make sacrifices; the Vietnamese people themselves did not want to be occupied or conquered, either. That shouldn't be all that surprising. Most people just do not want to be subjugated by foreigners. That was true in Vietnam, and it's true now in Iraq.

Posted by: Dr Rick | May 12, 2008 4:08 PM

Zathras offers generally lucid comments. I'll give him a pass on the question of whether or not Nixon-era tactics could really have achieved sufficient isolation to clear the insurgent grounds in S Vietnam, and note that he left out the Strategic Hamlets attempt to separate the insurgency from the population.

He's entirely right the raise "specifically the question of whether Iraq deserves its position at the center of American foreign policy in the world" but too hasty in concluding "Even politicians who disagree with President Bush's Iraq policy disagree mostly about means, not ends."

This may be a reasonable assessment of the tactical side, but fundamentally Bush intended to destabilize the Middle East, thinking he could foster a grand reorganization in which Arab states would become very much like us. His critics seem to wish to re-attain the stability Bush destroyed. And that opens up many options the Bush administration has forgone.

Posted by: LowHangingMissles | May 12, 2008 4:46 PM

I left out Strategic Hamlets deliberately, because the real strategic center of that war by the early 1970s was Hanoi, not anywhere in the South.

I regard explanations of what President Bush was trying to do in invading Iraq with some ambivalence. A number of people, who worked for him and who were far more articulate than he is, have advanced theories about remaking the Middle East -- not an unworthy objective, if it could be practicably done. These theories might be used to justify the Iraq invasion, but I doubt they accurately reflect Bush's reasons for pushing it so hard.

My personal view is admittedly colored by my low regard for Bush. A man with a really impressive capacity for belief in what he thinks ought to be true, Bush is also a creature of the permanent campaign; the aftermath of 9/11 left him with tremendous advantages in campaign politics, and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein promised to extend these. I don't think he sought to "destabilize" the Middle East -- he would have seen Iraq's Baathist government as a source of instability (historically, this view had some evidence behind it), and the overthrow of this tyranny as an opportunity for nations of the region to move away from autocratic governments. Most of these were, and remain, fairly unpleasant. I don't think that, in Bush's mind, being free and democratic necessarily means that Arab countries will become just like us (of course, I also regard that as a moot point, since I don't regard Arab countries as being able to sustain democracy in any form we recognize). I don't believe he thought about the question that deeply; he believed Saddam Hussein was evil, that his overthrow would be welcomed, and that the downfall of tyranny in Iraq would make tyranny elsewhere less attractive. But would he have pressed forward in invading Iraq had this idea been strongly unpopular at home? From my observation of the man, no.

Posted by: Zathras | May 12, 2008 7:15 PM

Many members of the military absolutely MUST perpetuate the "stabbed in the back" canard simply because the truth is too hard to bear.

WRT Vietnam, senior military officers violated two bedrock principles which they routinely proclaim as demonstrating the innate superiority of the U.S. military as an institution. These are: moral and ethical sense and tactical/technical competency. These are, so they say, what differentiate us from those weak foreign devils. "We're Americans," they say, "and we're different."

Not so different as it turned out. The generals, lacking the moral fiber to tell the truth to power, were order-takers for the politicians, just like any Soviet or banana republic general. And then, on the ground, they proved to be every bit as slow to understand the operational environment as any third-world general. In a word, incompetent.

This is the dirty little secret the U.S. military has been holding all these years. We weren't as good as our press clippings.

As has been pointed out, the mediocre performance of the military probably didn't make much difference, although a little truth-telling might have saved a lot of lives. We were doomed from the time we rejected Ho and decided to play the French game.

Sanchez learned all of the wrong lessons and turned out to be just like a lot of generals I saw in Vietnam. Bereft of a moral/ethical compass and incompetent. Too bad he's not an isolated case.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 13, 2008 12:51 AM

That last post was from me. Hit the button too fast.

Posted by: Publius | May 13, 2008 12:52 AM

The Dolchstosslegende was the same narrative used by the Nazis to manipulate the population, suffering from the post Versaille malaise of the Weimar Republic. It is not an accident that our military and its complex of well paid contracting firms and provisioners are preparing this same psychological seed for the Iraq war. It is an attractive narrative for the ignorant mass on the right that demands national superiority in all things, even wrong things. Vietnam provided the same push for the ratlined Nazis our own CIA rescued and placed into positions of power, who provided the backing philosophy for the current GOP following the defeat of Goldwater, and indeed provide many of the terms Bush pere et fil have used (New World Order, Homeland Security).
The central point is that we have become what we once fought, much as Nietsche, Emerson, and the Clash have phrased in their own unique ways. Having failed at being imperialistic thieves in the Middle East, we will use the same stories that we used to explain our imperial failures in the Far East, for the same clients (oil). Since WWII, it seems our government has taken more opportunities to not only not tell the citizenry the truth, but to construct a fantasyland of lies to support a Potemkin empire.
Larry DiRita, recently shown in Glenn Greenwald's blog as deeply conflicted if not delusional, presents a deeply contradictory set of emails outlining the behavior of people who believe they will not only never face consequences for the evil they have done, they further believe that their actions were not evil. Like Yoo and Addington's torture fetish, it is only bad if someone else does it. When they wish to do something universally recognized as abhorrent and illegal by international law, it is not only acceptable and appropriate but indeed virtuous for flabby academic sociopaths to pursue evil not only as practice but as policy. This appears to define us as a nation today: flubbery sociopaths and their willing army of perverts, thugs, and stooges, ensconced in remote fortress-dungeons realizing Kafka's nightmares.

Posted by: Cpl. Schweijk | May 13, 2008 1:53 AM

The "stab in the back" syndrome is all the reasons Mc100yearsCain should not be allowed anywhere near the WH. He belongs in that generation of see-nothing-learn-nothing.

Posted by: Bud | May 13, 2008 10:16 AM

WRT Zathra's posts, the one thing that I would fervently disagree with in your discussion of tactics used in Vietnam is your discarding of the "strategic hamlets" program. The failure to realize that the center of gravity before Tet in 1968 was the people was the ultimate failure of the venture. While there were many other critical factors in our failure, our inability to provide security to the population of South Vietnam ensured that the population would not commit to the support of the government there. In effect, the population would remain relatively passive. After Tet, any tactical, operational, or strategic changes we made were too little, too late. We had already lost the people.

At the outset, the thinking of the military was conventional: the thought was that we could wage a conventional campaign against an unconventional enemy using our superior firepower and technology. We were honest-to-goodness by-god Americans and we would not lose to some group of little Asian fellows in pajamas using slings and arrows.

The military failed in Vietnam because it couldn't recognize the political environment it was operating in, blinded as it was as an institution by its success in the non-political environment of World Wars I and II. For a military, it is much simpler to think in purely military terms, ignoring the fact that armed conflict is at its core an exercise in politics. In WWII, the US had acheived an unconditional victory, and at the operational and tactical levels, and even for the most part, at the strategic level, there was no real need to consider the political environment. It was, after all, an existential struggle.

But that experience created the model by which the US military viewed war. In Vietnam, it was trying to fit this square peg into a round hole. The problem was that the operating environment was inherently political at every level. Every action had political implications. Thus, providing security to the populations in the countryside, providing necessary services to the people, and ultimately working to foster the belief in the competence of the government of South Vietnam became of primary importance. The military developed some limited techniques for acheiving some of these objectives: the Civilian Internal Defense Groups (CIDGs) and the Marine's Combined Action Platoons. However, the military leadership could not understand that these programs furthered thier goal of defeating the enemy on the battlefield. They could not conceive of a battlefield that consisted of setting up medical clinics and training local defense forces. Battles, they believed, were won, through the use of superior firepower, and through means of fire and maneuver, closing with and destroying the enemy (a familiar line to some--I learned something like it while at IOBC in the late 90s).

After Tet, none of the Nixon adminstrations ideas that you outlined, even if applied with perfect efficiency and all at once, constantly for years, would have changed the ultimate outcome. We, and the South Vietnamese government, had lost the people, and with them, any hope of acheiving success.

The Army chose not to learn the lessons so obvious in its experience. The officers who remained and became its core, such as Sanchez, never thought to consider the possibility that the Army might not actually be able to chose the type of war it might fight in the future. They never imagined that either politician might actually require the Army to conduct operations other than the big conventional fight for which it had prepared, nor that even if they got a fight that might fit into the narrow vision that they had constructed, that the enemy might actually stray from the script.

The Army leadership was most at fault for our failure in Vietnam, and is most at fault for much of the difficulty we currently face in Iraq. The political leadership faces the ultimate responsibility for getting us into the conflicts in the first place. However, the generals are most responsible for having such a narrow vision of what war should be that they failed to prepare an army able to fight something other than that which they had imagined.

Shame on them, and shame on Sanchez for trying to pass the buck. The Army as an institution is responsible for training its soldiers for future conflicts, not the politicians. The Army provides the force on which politicians rely to execute policy. The fact that the Army failed in both cases is not the fault of the politicians. It is the fault of the generals.

Posted by: DM Inf | May 14, 2008 5:40 PM

"...we chose a war of a time, place and manner that we could not win"

Phillip Carter cannot possibly know whether that is true. He is guessing. The game of "Alternative History" is very tempting but there is no way to generate that level of certainty.

By the time the US left Vietnam, the VC (the National Liberation Front, or NLF) of South Vietnam was destroyed and the North Vietnamese were both taking their place and trying to rebuild the NLF. With the NLF virtually gone, there are lots of good reasons to believe the US could have suppressed the NVA (North Vietnamese Army).

The NV/NLF had an advantage that al-Queda of Iraq does not have; That is, the backing of both China and the Soviet Union, with a border to China that permitted the import of large amounts of war material.

Other advantages that the NV/NLF had was that of better terrain knowledge than the US, support of the populace, and decades of warfighting experience. The insurgency in Iraq does not have these advantages.

Millions of purple-fingered Iraqis risked their lives to vote for a democratic central government. A few thousand insurgents say no. Whose side are you on?

Posted by: Fred | May 15, 2008 3:53 PM

Fred Seddd:

"With the NLF virtually gone, there are lots of good reasons to believe the US could have suppressed the NVA (North Vietnamese Army)."

If you surmise that the Cong were rendered inoperative post Spring 68 (after the last post Tet...Tet junior hiccup) they would have had one year to pull off your suggested Rollback. In May 69, the 101 was involved in the taking of Ap Bia Mountain (Hill 937...Hamburger Hill). No biggie, it was just a regimental sized op, no records were set for US kia's, just another uphill walk in the sun. However this little set-to was to set into motion the US taking a defensive stance until US troop departure in January 30 1973...almost 4 years...only interrupted by the NVA Easter offensive in the spring of 72'.

Why?????? Troopie morale sucked by then (even in the 101 and the Cav...best Army units)Hippie effects like drugs took hold. After the battle, 101 Troops put a bounty on the head of the divisional commander. The hill, like all other temporary Key terrain (temporary because of lack if WWII like humanoid resources to hold same), was abandoned within days, just like Khe Sanh, just like every other bit of NVA captured key terrain until post the Burger. Like ground hog day, if you, as a Grunt, felt that you needed to sharpen your skills at taking a hill infested with mutually supported bunker systems and pre-registered enemy indirect fire avenues acting as your pathways, stick around, you'll be tackling another one soon, until post Burger.

Congress and an ever expanding slice of the American people began to see the light and started politicking against this sort of activity. In June of that year (1969), President Nixon read General Abrams the Riot Act by informing him that all military activities, henceforth, were to be conducted in a manner as to minimize US casualties. And the rest is Un-revisionist history written by non-combatant Neocon Maggots.

Let me know if you want links on this stuff. So, solly Fled, no cigar... Rollback Bo Doi, No can do G.I.! As a consolation, you want Boom Boom Water Boo?

Posted by: Eduardo, El Galgo Rebelde | May 15, 2008 8:34 PM

One point of comparison between the war in Vietnam and the one in Iraq, and illustrative of just how far down the rat hole we are there, is to compare the two quisling governments. If the government of South Vietnam were any thing like the one in Baghdad, they would have been Menshevicks to North Vietnam's Bolsheviks. And every time a crisis would erupt, the MP's in the South would all get on a plane to Hanoi to negotiate a settlement with General Giap.

Posted by: anna missed | May 20, 2008 9:46 PM

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