Why the Communists are Winning as of 1976...
The snafu of Vietnam will stand as an epic disaster caused by a political system that thought it could micro-managea war from Washington, D.C.
Just read and wonder....
GETTING BOGGED DOWN IN VIETNAM
After the collapse of the Japanese in World War II and their retreat from the countries they had overrun in the Far East, European colonial powers of that area of the world faced the problem of regaining their territories. The war had awakened within those countries the spirit of intense nationalism and a determination to be independent.
For France, the problem was to regain control of the three little countries of Indochina - Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia - which the French had governed, and exploited, for nearly four-score years.
Vietnam was the focal point of the contest. There the struggle for independence was led by a wily, determined Marxist, Ho Chi Minh. His army was commanded by a tough fighter, General Giap, a man thoroughly trained in guerrilla “jungle” warfare. Ho Chi Minh and his associates gave every indication that if they were successful in expelling the French they would immediately take their country into the Communist orbit.
In a conversation with President Truman of December 17, 1949, I urged the President, with all the persuasion I would muster, never to get involved in a land war in Asia. I pointed out that the French, since the close of World War II, had thrown about half a million troops into Vietnam and still were far from victory. I argued that the half million French soldiers were facing a type of warfare they had never mastered. It was warfare the American soldiers also had never learned. It was guerrilla warfare.
Not only were the combat tactics vastly different from those traditionally taught the European and American land armies. Guerrilla warfare also pitted our highly paid young man against masses of peasants who could live on a few ounces of rice and vegetables and fight their type of combat almost at their convenience.
I expressed the opinion that the Communist leaders might test our will for defense of free nations, to see how far they could go to challenge us. I said that the likely place for the test would be in Korea, and within twelve months from that day. I begged President Truman, should such an event occur, to let free Asians do the fighting by land, while our country supplied the materiel and the air and naval power.
Six months after that conversation, on June 25, 1950, the Red regime of North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea at the South. We have noted the stalemated result. And as I contemplated the efforts of the French in Indochina I could see them becoming bogged down in a land war they could not win.
The United States, having given in to the many demands of the Russians during the war, had been shoring up the strength of the non-communist countries of Europe and Japan by the “Marshall plan”. Next important move was the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, composed of the United States, Canada, Great Britain and nine Western European nations. This treaty, ratified by the United States Senate on July 21, 1949, had as its purpose to block further expansion of Communist Russia beyond the Eastern European countries, “from the Baltic to the Balkans,” as Winston Churchill had said, designated as a permanent “sphere of influence” for the Soviet Union.
Upon the formation of NATO General Dwight D. Eisenhower resigned his position as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and took command of the military arm of the alliance, called the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, or SHAPE. Seat of NATO was in a suburb of Paris.
Because of the very location of France in the European community, the participation and support of that country appeared essential to the success of NATO. France had pledged twelve divisions of troops and supporting air and naval units as its contribution to the common defense of the North Atlantic nations. However, by 1951 France was sinking deeper and deeper in the war in Indochina.
At a meeting of several U.S. representatives in Paris in November 1951 the U.S. spokesmen pledged $100 million “budgetary aid” to France. In return, France confirmed its pledge to furnish the twelve divisions and supporting units.
The ninth session of the North Atlantic Council was set to begin on February 16, 1952, in Lisbon, Portugal. The delegation appointed by President Truman to attend this session included Secretary of State Dean Acheson, Secretary of the Treasury John Snyder, Secretary of Defense Robert A. Lovett, Mutual Security Director W. Averell Harriman, and William Foster, an official of the Mutual Security Agency. My friend, Bob Lovett, asked me to take time out from my work on the French air bases to join the delegation as his aide, with approval of the President.
Just before the Conference opened, we had a rude surprise. The French told Acheson:
“We must inform you Americans that we cannot carry out our promise to support the NATO alliance with our twelve divisions and supporting units unless we are granted an additional $100 million in order to continue our war in Vietnam.”
They went on to explain that they were finding the struggle more difficult than they had anticipated. In fact they said, without the additional $100 million they might lose Indochina altogether.
Dismayed and somewhat angered by this turn of events, we discussed the demand of the French ministers. We agreed that the French government was acting arbitrarily to pressure us into the additional gift of budgetary aid, but we could not agree on what to do about it.
Our next move was to call the White House. First, Secretary Acheson had a long discussion with the President. He declared it would be a disaster if France refused to make good on its promise to support NATO, and that in his opinion we had better furnish the money the French wanted. Secretary Snyder next took the phone, and argued emphatically that the French ministers should have let us know far in advance if they planned to demand the additional funds for their war in Vietnam. Secretary Lovett next had his say, asserting that “this action by the French is like putting a gun to our faces to back their demands.”
Truman agreed that the French were acting unfairly, but that nothing should interfere with our support for the NATO alliance. He instructed Acheson and Snyder to inform the French representatives that France would be given the extra $100 million, from a total of $478,160,000 Mutual Security Agency military funds for Britain, France, Greece, Turkey and Yugoslavia.
So $200 million of good American money was paid to France to help support a losing cause in Indochina. History has recorded that the French troops in Vietnam fought gallantly, European style, against General Giap’s Vietnamese experts at fighting guerrilla style. In May 1954, at Dien Bien Phu the French units were surrounded and cut to pieces. They surrendered to Giap.
Ironically, France had never supplied the twelve divisions and supporting units for the use of the common NATO defense. In the course of a few years, in a fit of national pride and international arrogance France demanded the removal from its boundaries of all American military presence. All the eight air bases we had set up in that country, our line of communication from the French coast to Germany, and all our installations and buildings, were taken over by the French. NATO headquarters were moved to Brussels, Belgium. The Red leaders in the Kremlin must have watched all this with fascinated interest and high satisfaction!
The whole sad affair proved that the recommendations I made at Ike’s headquarters in SHAPE to place a substantial part of our European military investment in Spain, rather than in France, was wise and would have resulted in far greater benefits to the North Atlantic alliance.
Having learned nothing from our no-win war in Korea, our leaders, such as the bellwether champions of futility, Secretary of Defense McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Presidential Adviser Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and others who lolled in the soft beds of ignorance as to the true nature of the world-wide Communist conspiracy and wistful thinking as to what should be done about it, proceeded to march us into the war - and defeat - in Vietnam.
The outcome is history. Surely one of the saddest pictures produced during the 200 years of our country’s independent existence appeared on the front pages of our newspapers on April 27-28, 1975. It showed our Ambassador Graham Martin, having lowered the American flag over the Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam, carrying that flag on his arm as he hurriedly left his office. He was on the way to a waiting vehicle that would take him to the safety of flight from the Communist aggressors closing in upon the city in a final and victorious battle.
It was the picture of a once proud and invincible country, the United States of America, running out on a pledge we made to defend the people of the Republic of Vietnam against their Red enemies.
Mr. Martin’s departure with the flag was not his personal fault. It was notice to the world that we had finally snatched defeat from the victory our military forces would have won within 30 days if permitted to do so by our Washington appeasement-minded officials.
Why talk about the tragedy of Vietnam at this time, or even in the future? President Ford has urged that there be no “recriminations” over the loss of Vietnam. The “liberal” press, the radicals who howled so loudly that we pull out of the war regardless of consequences to the people we were trying to protect from Red aggression, even some members of Congress who sensed that it would be the popular thing to “end the war” have been saying:
“Don’t blame me! Blame the Vietnamese. They lost the will to fight.” Or, “Blame the military. We sent more than half a million soldiers over there, and they could not win the war.” Or, “We were merely supporting a corrupt Thieu regime in Vietnam.”
All such statements are not only false. They are cruel as well. The South Vietnamese lost their will to fight when we told them plainly that we were leaving them to their fate. The more than half a million men, sent needlessly to Vietnam, did not lose the war. We would not permit them to win it. As to the corrupt regime, most regimes outside the United States are corrupt by strict Internal Revenue standards, and who are we to throw rocks from our glass house?
The war in Vietnam was America’s longest war. It extended for more than eight tragic years. There is only one reason to take a hard look at the causes for our defeat:
“Those who cannot learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.”
The lessons of the Vietnam war are clear and plain. In all the future history of the United States of America, the mistakes that lost us the war must not be made again.
It will be remembered that we did not go boldly into the war as we did into World War I, nor were we thrust into it by a rash act such as the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor. After the defeat of the French in 1954, a peace conference held in Geneva divided Vietnam, with Ho Chi Minh and his Communist regime controlling the northern part, secure in his belief that another section of the peace treaty would permit him to seize all of Vietnam in a short time. That section provided that a “free election” would be held to unify the country not later than in 1956.
An anti-communist leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, educated in Paris, was able to bring together various elements of the people in South Vietnam to form the Republic of Vietnam. The Geneva treaty was signed only by the French and the North Vietnam Reds.
Knowing full well that by coercion and terror Ho Chi Minh would seize all of Vietnam, Diem did not agree to an election.
At least 120,000 North Vietnamese, anxious not to be caught in the Red tyranny of the Ho Chi Minh regime, fled to the South. During the next two years more than a million people from the North came in as refugees to South Vietnam. They “voted with their feet” to live in freedom rather than under Communist control. The U.S. government assisted the Republic of Vietnam to absorb them.
In a humanitarian spirit, the United States began to send both civilian and military advisers to the Republic of Vietnam. Saigon, the capital, became host to many American teachers, technicians, and economists. The military advisers assisted in setting up and training units of the South Vietnam army and air force. By 1960 the military advisers numbered around 3,000.
President Kennedy stepped up the number and increased the amount and power of the American military aid. When this help proved inadequate to overcome the infiltration and actual military aggression from the North, in March 1963 the President committed 16,000 ground troops for combat in Vietnam. About half of these were Marines.
We were in the ground war in Asia. President Kennedy, who less than a year before had curtly told me that he would not spill one drop of American blood to drive a Red dictator from Cuba 90 miles from our shores, had pledged the blood and the lives of 16,000 men in one presidential order, and send them to an area where the French, after controlling the country for 80 years, had failed.
Soon U.S. air power was added, and the Seventh U.S. Fleet, mightiest naval unit in existence at the time, was drawn closer to the scene of the war. Tragically, neither of these powerful military arms were to be used effectively during the war.
Let it be recognized first and foremost that our greatest mistake in the Vietnam war, once we were committed to assist Asians to repel Red aggression and remain free, was in our failure to let free Asians do their fighting by land while we supplied them with the sinews of war and defeated their enemy aggressors by our air and naval power.
In this connection, I should mention that approximately 50,000 military personnel from the Republic of Korea took part in the Vietnam contest. They matched our own and the South Vietnamese troops in bravery and endurance. They were intensely anti-Communist, and were respected and feared by the North Vietnam and Viet Cong soldiers.
On November 22, 1963, came the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as his motorcade moved along a street in Dallas, Texas. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became President, and proceeded to follow the lead of the late Chief Executive with respect to the war in Vietnam.
Johnson retained Dean Rusk as Secretary of State and for three years Robert S. McNamara as Secretary of Defense - the two misguided men most responsible for the restrictions placed upon military action of our fighting forces in Vietnam. President Johnson not only embraced the no-win policy of his predecessor. He compounded the ghastly mistake by an even bigger one:
The second colossal mistake of our involvement in Vietnam was to restrict the conflict to a “limited war for limited objectives”.
What were those restrictions, and what were the limited objectives” we shall notice them in some detail.
Meanwhile, the presidential election campaign of 1964 got underway. The shrewd Texas politician in the White House played down his plans to throw more and more manpower into the land war in Vietnam. From the summer of that year to the election in November, while steadily plotting to step up the numbers of men to be engaged in the war, Johnson accused his opponent, Senator Barry Goldwater, of policies that would escalate the fighting. The President inferred that he would do nothing of the kind.
With LBJ’s victory in that election, the wraps really came off.
“Draft more men! Draft ‘em, and send ‘em to fight in Vietnam!” was the order of the day.
The draft boards (known officially as “selective service committees” because the term sounded better) worked overtime to fill the quotas. At the peak of the farcical “war” with personnel in every branch of the service fighting under rules that effectively tied their hands, LBJ had slightly more than 550,000 American service men and women bogged down in Vietnam, as I had predicted they would be.
Even if the more than half million in American uniforms had done nothing but KP duties, the war could have been won promptly by an intelligent and vigorous use of air and naval power, as we shall see.
It was the “limited war for limited objectives” that made victory for our forces in Vietnam impossible and defeat inevitable. This fact was clearly brought out in hearings before the Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee of the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate (90th Congress) on the conduct of the Vietnam war, in August 1967. Questions were being asked by so many concerned citizens as to why we were not winning that war, that the lawmakers decided to try to get some answers. The committee called in Secretary of Defense McNamara for his voluminous testimony.
The committee heard also from most of the “big brass” of our military, including Admiral Ulysses G. Sharp, U.S. Navy, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific area; General Earle G. Wheeler, U.S. Army, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Lieutenant General William W. Momyer, U.S. Air Force, commander of the Air Force; General Harold K. Johnson, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army; General William M. Greene, Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps; and Major General Gilbert L. Meyers, U.S. Air Force (Retired).
The investigation centered upon these three important questions: What is our objective in the Vietnam War? Are we reaching that objective, after four years of combat activity, and if not, why not? Why are so many restrictions by way of “regulations for engagement” placed upon the military personnel of all branches and grades, including air and naval power?
In the Senate hearings, the no-win policy of our government was spelled out in many statements by both the civilian and the military leaders involved - the civilian, because they planned it that way; the military, because the sterile, stupid policy was forced upon them.
Secretary McNamara testified on the purpose of the war: “We hope to make clear to the North Vietnamese political leadership that so long as they continue their aggression against the South, they would have to pay a price in the North.”
Note his words “pay a price”. This infers that the Communists were not willing to pay a price above a certain figure. And yet they were obviously willing to pay any price, just so they had the assurance that the United States did not intend to let her fighting men win the war.
Hear now that the top military men said:
General William C. Westmoreland: “Our strategic goal was to break the enemy’s will by denying him victory in the South.” But it was known that General Westmoreland, a splendid Army commander, wanted not only to deny the Reds a victory in the South, but to guarantee our armies a victory in the North - something he was not allowed to do.
Admiral Sharp: “Our Government has repeatedly made it clear that our objectives in the Vietnam conflict are limited. We are not out to destroy the Hanoi regime, or to compel the people of North Vietnam to adopt another form of government, nor are we out to devastate North Vietnam. We simply want North Vietnam to cease its direction and support of the Vietcong insurgency in the South and take its forces home. Our strategy for the conduct of the war reflects these limited objectives.”
General Wheeler: “The political objectives of the war established by our government are limited, and do not include overthrow of the Hanoi regime or conquest of North Vietnam ... as you know, strikes against the major port areas are currently prohibited.”
The policy makers obviously considered that if they contained the Red aggressors for a time they would become discouraged and quit their aggression. In the light of all they should have learned about the aims and methods of Communist leaders in any area of the world, to assume that Communist aggressors could be stopped by discouragement was so fantastically stupid as to insult the intelligence of informed people. The truth is that all Communist leaders engaged in the conspiracy to subvert and take over the governments and peoples of the world never become discouraged. They see the tremendous gains they have made since WW II, and they see the erosion of purpose and courage of the governments and peoples of the democracies, and they know that time is on their side. They believe Lenin’s words: “The victory of the proletariat is inevitable!”
The utter futility of allowing “Washington”-the State Department or Secretary McNamara, or both, select what amounted to a “target of the day”, for the world’s most powerful Air Force to bomb, was well spoken by an Air Force pilot who told Senator Symington of Missouri: “I am a regular. Nobody drafted me and I expect to risk my life for my country, but I’ll be darned if I like to do it in a multi million dollar airplane a couple of times a week bombing an empty barracks or a bus.”
Senator Symington closely questioned General Meyers on the matter of forcing our pilots to bomb only those targets selected for them, even though other targets more important might loom squarely before them. The General testified: “We could not attack the SAM (missile) sites until we had verified the fact that there were missiles on the site. This caused a great deal of concern, because to verify that they were there, we had to take a photograph of the area. By the time you brought the photograph back, processed it, the photo interpreter looked at it, determined there were missiles in the site, the photos were sent to the strike base, because they needed them to find the targets. There was a total elapsed time of about twelve hours. We knew, on the other hand, that the enemy could move the site in four hours.”
Senator Thurmond asked: “are you telling us that, although we knew where the sites were, you could not strike unless you knew the missiles were there?”
General Meyers: “That is right. Unless we had confirmation that they were there, and this was photographic confirmation, we could not strike.”
For our fighting men, sent over to do a job they were not permitted to do because of the restrictions from the top, the order to maintain “sanctuaries” - safe haven - for the enemy forces where they would not be bothered with attacks, was an operation in damnable appeasement.
There were sanctuaries for miles to protect Hanoi, capital of the Red regime, and Haiphong, the principle harbor. There were sanctuaries along certain “demilitarized zones”. And occasionally someone in the State Department would look at the Vietnamese calendar and find a religious feast or holiday, which, of course, we had to honor with a bombing halt, in spite of the fact that we were losing thousands of men monthly.
General Westmoreland has written: “The enemy’s obvious use of Cambodia as a sanctuary, and the refusal of Washington to do anything about it, was frustrating.” It is known that the Reds had numerous base camps at the edge of Cambodia, which they used as staging areas and as safe havens with impunity.
Another notorious sanctuary was in Laos. We know that the Communist aggressors considered the war as a war of action for “liberation” (meaning in our language enslavement) of all Indochina and that they considered Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as an entity. On the contrary, the United States confined our military action only to Vietnam, and that to discourage the Communists until they stopped their aggression. As though that policy had not reached the depths of insanity, we restricted action in Vietnam so that there was no possibility of reaching even the “limited objective”.
In the Senate Hearings, Senator Thurmond pressed Secretary McNamara on the big lie that the Vietnam conflict was not a war in the true sense, and therefore our government could not permit the fighting men to conduct it.
Senator Thurmond: “if you consider the fighting in Vietnam now as a war, then isn’t it incumbent upon us to shut off the goods that supply the enemy from whatever source they originate?”
Secretary McNamara: “I don’t think it is a legal problem. It is a practical problem, and it is incumbent upon us to take such military action as will achieve our objective at the lowest cost in American lives and the lowest risk to this Nation.”
Senator Thurmond: “Mr. Secretary, I am terribly disappointed with your statement. I think it is a statement of placating the Communists. It is a statement of appeasing the Communists. It is a statement of no-win. It seems to me that if we follow what you have recommended, we ought to get out of Vietnam at once, because we have no chance to win, and I deeply regret that a man in your position is taking that position today.”
And so the war dragged on, with our men bogged down in the land war in Asia and hog-tied by the McNamara-Rusk restrictions. I am certain that in almost any community where our veterans of that war now live their neighbors can hear expressions such as these:
“We could not fire until fired upon.”
“We had to wait each day for orders from Washington before we could advance.”
“We could not cross the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) to attack, even if we knew the Vietcong were massing just across the line to attack us.”
“I was a Marine, and our unit was issued only one clip for our guns, in many engagements, for fear we might shoot at the enemy without authorization.”
“If we chased the enemy to the Ho Chi Minh sanctuary, we could not cross into Laos, for that was off limits for American military.”
Lieutenant General Joseph H. Moore, who as a captain had shot down the first Japanese Zero plane from the air on the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese turned upon Clark Field in the Philippines, and who went on to win high honors in both the European and the Far East theaters, commanded the Third Air Force in Vietnam for three years, 19654-1968. He relates:
“We could not follow any logical plan of campaign for defeating the enemy. In fact, we were not supposed to defeat the enemy, but simply to discourage him. I had to wait for orders from Washington, before I could issue orders to bomb a bridge or truck.
“If one of our airmen caught an enemy plane, even over our territory, he could not shoot him down unless the enemy plane shot at him first. This was sheer madness, as applied to combat. We could have ended the war in from 30 to 90 days any time Washington would have let us - but we were refused.”
General Moore proposed his own plan for victory with the approval of his fellow townsman from Spartanburg, S.C., General Westmoreland, U.S. ground forces commander during the last four years of the Vietnam war. The plan called for an agreed policy for all the military services. Here were the three major steps proposed, in the words of General Moore:
“First, to cut off all imports of enemy war materiel into Vietnam. That meant a complete embargo at the harbor of Haiphong - the principal port for North Vietnam. It was painful to watch that parade of Russian and other Communist- country vessels steam right in, loaded to the decks with all the equipment needed by our enemies to kill our own troops and those of the South Viets and our allies.
“The Navy was ready to cooperate with us in stopping this insane policy. Our ships could have sat out in that harbor and stopped any vessel trying to enter. They could have warned such ships that if they brought in material of war and attempted to unload, they would be sunk. But we were absolutely forbidden to make any such moves. One of our airmen did let go a bomb near the harbor. Some of the shrapnel hit the deck of a Russian ship. The Soviet Union demanded an apology for such an insult to their glorious ‘people’s’ vessel - and our State Department complied with the apology and a promise it would not happen again.
“The second move would have been to wipe out the sanctuaries. They never should have been approved in the first place. They were the equivalent of a police department informing a criminal that it was wrong to steal and murder but if he could get to an agreed sanctuary, say a refuge just behind the jail, he would not be bothered for his crime.
“Worst of the sanctuaries was the Ho Chi Minh trail down Laos. That was a crying disgrace. The Communist trucks rambled down that trail with complete impunity.
“Third, we advocated lumping all military targets in North Vietnam, and hitting them with power enough to eliminate them completely. We would have notified the enemy that we would strike any place, at any time, to destroy his war-making power.
“It was not necessary for us to be told what targets to strike. We knew where every target worthwhile to the enemy was located. We could have given warning that they were all to be destroyed, starting at a certain hour, and that civilians should keep away from them until we brought the war to a close.”
Not one of these major suggestions for defeating the enemy was adopted by either Johnson or Nixon, until in 1972 when Nixon allowed the mining of Haiphong harbor and hitting targets near Hanoi. Later, Nixon permitted blasting the Reds out of their Cambodia sanctuary. These were the actions which brought the Red aggressor at long last to negotiate in earnest. But even then, we snatched defeat from victory.
|Previous Chapter||Next Chapter|