The Vietnam War
The kingdoms of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia were ruled by China for 1,000 years. In the 1860s, France ejected the Chinese and began to rule the kingdoms under the name French Indochina.
In 1942, Japan conquered Vietnam and imprisoned the French rulers and soldiers. A Vietnamese resistance group was formed by Ho Chi Minh ("He who enlightens") called Vietminh (Viet Men). The United States trained the best of Ho's men to resist the Japanese; in return Ho provided the U.S. with intelligence on Japanese troop movements.
The Japanese confiscated much of the rice in Vietnam, which caused death by starvation for 2 million Vietnamese. In 1945, World War Two ended when Japan surrendered to the United States. Japan turned Vietnam over to Ho Chi Minh—who refused to release the imprisoned French citizens and formed a Communist government in Hanoi.
In order to handle the surrender of Japanese troops and their arms, a line was drawn across the middle of Vietnam with the Chinese in charge of the North and the British in the South.
France wanted Vietnam back, primarily because of the valuable tin mines it had built there. Ho Chi Minh made a deal with the French that they could reestablish control over Vietnam if they persuaded the hated Chinese to leave. China agreed and pulled out its 200,000 soldiers. The British left as well, and the French military moved in.
Ho Chi Minh had maneuvered adroitly. He knew he could not beat China—right next door to Vietnam. But once China withdrew, he made war on the much weaker French troops. By 1946, the French Army had taken control of Vietnam, driven the Communists into the jungle, and reinstalled former Emperor Bao Dai.
Ho Chi Minh was hiding, but the Russian and Chinese governments recognized him as the legitimate ruler of all of Vietnam. Ho was a Communist, and they were planning for Communism to rule the world, one country at a time. Russia and China sent immense amounts of armaments and ammunition to Ho to make guerrilla war against the French.
France was dead broke after World War Two. France sought and received financial help from the United States, which increased year by year. By 1954 America was paying 67 percent of France's costs to defend Vietnam against Communist guerrillas.
The French suffered from ambushes and night attacks waged by Ho Chi Minh. The French controlled both the day and the cities; the Communists controlled the night and the countryside. The longer it went on the less popular it became in France. The Red Chinese under Chairman Mao Tse Dung were now supplying heavy weaponry to the Communists.
The Vietminh were brave and excellent fighting men. They were extremely well led by General Vo Nguyen Giap, and accustomed to rough terrain. The physically tough Vietminh could traipse twenty miles a day through mountainous jungle. Their primitive footwear, rubber sandals cut from tires, made their feet as tough as iron. They used peasants on bicycles to bring up to 500 pounds a day of supplies to their lines.
Then the French made a terrible mistake. They built a huge fortress in a valley that had no strategic value whatsoever. It was hard to supply and surrounded by mountains. The Vietminh drew a tight circle around this base, on the high ground, of 50,000 fighters—four times the French force. The place was called Dien Bien Phu.
The Vietminh laid siege and began to shell the fort with Chinese artillery. They destroyed the only airfield, and thus the fort ran low on water, food, and medical supplies. The French government begged the United States to bomb the Vietminh with its Air Force, but their request was denied. Surrender was the only option.
Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh was a founding member of the French Communist Party in 1920. He had studied under the masters of Marxism in Moscow.
Ho Chi Minh promoted the usual Marxist ideology: the Atheistic Communists against the most successful members of the community—landowners— 8,000 of which were executed by the Vietminh.
Ho's guerrilla forces grew to 335,000 men and gradually took control of most of North Vietnam by 1954. The French maintained 200,000 troops in Vietnam, and had armed 300,000 Vietnamese who pledged to assist them against the Communists.
The French lost 100,000 lives in their eight-year struggle in Indochina, and they spent $8 billion of French Treasury in the effort.
In 1954, a treaty was signed in which the United States, France, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines pledged to defend South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia against Communist aggressors.
North Vietnam had a population of 16 million; South Vietnam 14 million. The North had chronic food shortages, while the South always had a huge surplus of rice. Thus, the South was a target for Communist aggression to get at their food supply.
In 1959, Ho Chi Minh decided to "liberate" South Vietnam. His agents, the Vietcong, attacked teachers, doctors, and ambulances in the south to make villagers so miserable they would welcome "liberation."
When Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, his final words were: "I am going to see Lenin." And so he was.
Red China wanted to surround itself with subordinate Communist satellite states, as Stalin had done with Eastern Europe, by imposing Communism in backward ex-colonial lands through arming and promoting revolution among peasants. As in Red China and the Soviet Union, the enemy was any person who had risen above peasantry by becoming educated and achieving some modicum of success.
Particularly despised were Christians since a Marxist state by nature is Atheistic. The majority religion of the people in South Vietnam was Catholicism. 800,000 North Vietnamese Catholics left their ancestral homes and fled to the South to escape persecution by the Atheists. They were rightly terrified of coming atrocities by the Atheistic regime of Ho Chi Minh. Many Catholics were brutalized. A favorite trick of the Atheist Communists was to pound nails into their heads simulating the Crown of Thorns.
China intended to establish Communist regimes in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma—with an eye on its ultimate prize: India. China directed Ho Chi Minh to infiltrate South Vietnam with guerrillas, later called Vietcong, to terrorize the peasants. They would attack rural villages without warning to torture and kill any villagers who would not swear allegiance to Communism. Thousands of peasant homes and entire villages were wantonly destroyed by the Vietcong.
The French suffered a massive defeat at the hands of Ho Chi Minh's Communist forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, which prompted a cease-fire agreement. This agreement divided the country at the 17th Parallel (a line of latitude). The North was given to the Communists backed by the Red Chinese and Soviets; the South to anti-Communists backed by France. The United States was not a party to the agreement, nor were the South Vietnamese. The Agreement was between Ho Chi Minh, the French, the Soviets, and the Chinese.
America committed to stop the spread of Communism under the Truman Doctrine. President Eisenhower sent 2,000 military advisors to train the South Vietnamese Army, and the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) got involved as well.
President Eisenhower came up with the "Domino Theory." He acknowledged the publicly stated aim of the Soviets—to promote Communist revolutions worldwide—and felt the United States must help stop these revolutions or countries would fall like dominos to Communist uprisings backed by Soviet and Red Chinese armaments, training, food, and financing.
President Eisenhower said: "I cannot conceive of a greater tragedy for America than to get heavily involved now in all-out war in any of these regions." Eisenhower had been a great general and he recognized from long experience that the object of war is to destroy your enemy as quickly as possible with all means at your disposal. If he had sent the American Army to Vietnam, he would have won the war there.
In 1961, North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh planned to make a single Communist country out Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
President John F. Kennedy approved a plan "to prevent Communist domination of South Vietnam." He upped the number of American "advisors" to Vietnam to 16,000 in order to secure the U.S. air base there. General Charles de Gaulle of France warned Kennedy about getting involved: "I predict you will sink step by step into a bottomless military and political quagmire."
Psychologically, a big part of the tough stance taken by President Kennedy, and later President Johnson, was because the Democratic Party had been shown to be the home to many Communists—and even Soviet spies—in the 1930s and 1940s. Johnson lamented that the Democrats had tolerated and even encouraged domestic subversion; FDR had lost half of Europe to Communism; President Truman had lost China to Communists. Politically, these Democrat presidents felt they had to "prove" they were not soft on Communism. Democrats were not going to lose another country to the Soviets on their watch.
President Kennedy had been publicly dressed down by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev; had done nothing to prevent the Berlin Wall from being built to imprison tens of millions of people under Communist oppression; and had launched the Bay of Pigs fiasco. He drew the line at Vietnam. Communists could have the North, but they had to leave the South alone.
The Communists had unified the North by force—coercion, torture, and murder to all opposition that did not leave. But the South, being free, naturally split into several competing factions. One of the factions were the Communists who, under no physical threat to life and property, remained in the South as agents for Ho Chi Minh. They fomented unrest until Ngo Dinh Diem took over as president of South Vietnam (in a rigged election).
The South Vietnamese Army was weak and cowardly. The Vietcong were fearless peasants who had been recruited by the Marxist dream: after we win you won't be a peasant anymore!
Ngo Dinh Diem formed a secret police unit to seek out the Communists in the South, who went underground. The Vietcong assassinated 500 South Vietnamese bureaucrats in 1962.
In 1963, President Ngo Dinh Diem,a Roman Catholic, was murdered, along with much of his family, in a military coup—with CIA approval. The coup was prompted because a number of Buddhists immolated themselves in public to protest the government of Diem. It turns out that many of these "Buddhists" were actually Communists wearing Buddhist garb.
The Communists are masters at manipulating Western Media. A telling example is that these "Buddhists" carried signs written in English for American television. The Vietnamese couldn't read them. Of course, the Communists have no free press for the West to manipulate, since all media is owned and operated by the State as an organ of propaganda.
A new government was formed in the South with a Buddhist premier, in the hopes that the Vietcong was cease their terrorist activities (Buddhism being an Atheistic religion more compatible with Marxism than any other). It did not help a bit.
Three weeks later, President Kennedy was murdered by a Communist. 47 Americans had been killed in combat in Vietnam as 1963 drew to a close.
With Kennedy and Diem dead, the South was in chaos. The Vietcong took control of 40 percent of the rural areas. China and Russia were determined to make all of Asia Communist. They would take advantage of the way the West valued human life.
To Communists, people are disposable. They were perfectly willing to see all 30 million of the Vietnamese people killed if it meant a victory for Communism. They knew they could "outstomach" the West.
The main road from North to South was dubbed the Ho Chi Minh Trail, as it was used to transport men and weapons into the South. Sabotage became common in the South.
In 1964, North Vietnam attacked American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. The ships were there to conduct electronic surveillance for South Vietnam. The United States Congress responded with the "Tonkin Gulf Resolution." This authorized President Johnson to do whatever he deemed necessary to protect American assets in Vietnam and "prevent further aggression."
President Johnson did nothing in Vietnam until after he won the 1964 presidential election—in which he campaigned as the "peace" candidate. He promised he would not send American troops into combat in Vietnam, which he described as a "raggedy-assed fourth rate country" not worthy American blood and money. Here he followed in the footsteps of his idols Woodrow Wilson and FDR, both of whom won elections with promises to keep America out of war.
In 1965, the Vietcong launched attacks on an American helicopter base and on U.S. barracks, killing 31 Americans, wounding 109, and destroying 18 U. S. aircraft. They also launched terrorist bombings against the Brinks Hotel (where Americans commonly stayed), and even the American Embassy. There were many deaths and hundreds injured.
President Johnson bombed North Vietnam in retaliation and ordered 75,000 American troops to South Vietnam. Johnson stopped the bombing after five days and made an offer to Ho Chi Minh: the United States would provide capital to develop all of Vietnam into a modern nation if Ho could bring himself to live in peace with his neighbors. Private notes show that Johnson fully expected a positive answer to this olive branch. Instead, he was flatly refused.
Months later, 43,000 more troops were sent. At first they were ordered to defend only. But soon they were unleashed to attack Communist positions on "search and destroy" missions. By the end of 1965, 184,000 American soldiers were in Vietnam.
The war changed after 1965, when the majority of U.S. soldiers were volunteers. In 1966, those volunteer soldiers were replaced with mostly conscripts. The courageous Vietcong respected American weapons but did not think the GIs were good fighters and they were very slow—weighed down with 60 pound backpacks. The South was by now full of saboteurs, forgers, and spies.
The American military advised Johnson that what needed to be done was to bomb North Vietnam quickly, heavily, and without restraint; and then to occupy the North with the American Army. The military advised Johnson they would need 850,000 men in theatre for seven years to produce a total victory. Johnson thought this too expensive because he had plans to spend trillions of dollars of his Great Society programs. He wanted a cheap win and so went at the Vietnam War quarter-heartedly.
Curtis LeMay, commander of the Strategic Air Command, said the best thing would be to flatten North Vietnam, to "bomb it back to the Stone Age." Johnson thought this too harsh and instead commanded limited, sporadic bombing of political targets. Apparently, he thought the Communists would give up. Instead, Johnson gave them time to build an immense network of shelters and tunnels.
The slow bombing idea also gave the Soviets time to ship tons of ground-to-air missiles to North Vietnam to shoot down U.S. planes. American bombers were forbidden by Johnson to bomb these missile sites while they were under construction, since Soviet technicians were building them.
Sixteen times Johnson ordered a pause to the bombings. He extended peace initiatives to the Communists 72 times. No response. Ho Chi Minh was determined to dominate the entire area at any cost. Casualties suffered along the road to this domination were shrugged off as simply the price to be paid.
"The sight of 60 helicopters flying in formation and zooming into Ben Suc at treetop level was one which none who witnessed will even forget." Lt. General Bernard Rogers
In 1967 the new Cobra—the first helicopter specifically designed as a gunship—entered the war in Vietnam, to replace the Huey as the main attack helicopter. On many days, 2,000 Hueys were in the air.
Using Chinook transport helicopters, an entire battalion could be flown in to the point of battle.
"Rolling Thunder" was an air campaign against North Vietnamese military and industrial infrastructure conducted from 1965 to 1968 by the United States. Bombing was targeted not to kill people but only to destroy war materiel. It was designed to make the Communists accept a divided Vietnam, as they had in Korea a decade earlier. Instead, it united the North Vietnamese as never before. And it failed to stop the flow of men and supplies into the South.
President Johnson declared entire areas off limits, including the major cities and a broad swath near the Chinese border. Port facilities and air defense systems—obvious targets in any war—were given sanctuary by Johnson.
Rolling Thunder was an interdiction program aimed at bridges, roads, and supply dumps—to stop the flow of Communist soldiers and their supplies into South Vietnam. It was carried out by F-4s, F-100s, and F-105s.
Rolling Thunder failed because Johnson mistakenly believed the Communists would respond rationally to the immense losses—50,000 soldiers—they suffered. Instead of weakening the Communists' will, they reacted with the gut emotion of defiance.
The tight restrictions placed on the Air Force as "rules of engagement" put American pilots at risk to avoid civilian casualties. In spite of this humanitarian method of waging war, the United States was criticized around the world by the same liberal press that remained silent about vicious shelling of South Vietnamese cities by Communist artillery.
America lost 938 aircraft during Rolling Thunder, all but 56 to anti-aircraft missiles Johnson had allowed the Soviets to install. Those 56 aircraft were lost in air-to-air dogfights against Soviet MiG fighter jets that Johnson refused to allow the Air Force to destroy on the ground. U.S. fighter jets downed 118 MiGs.
The American F-4 Phantom II was designed to shoot down MiGs beyond visual range with radar-guided Sparrow missiles and heat-seeking Sidewinders—but President Johnson prohibited this. He forced American fighter jets not to shoot until visual contact was made with the MiGs, which did not have this beyond-visual-range capability. This gave the MiGs a clear advantage because they were designed for close combat; they had superior maneuverability as well as guns and cannon. The F-4 had no guns for eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations.
Johnson's strategy of fighting a political war instead of a military war—with himself deciding the timing and level of operations rather than the military—was thought by Eisenhower to be doomed to failure. Johnson never waged it as a war. If he had the outcome would have been very different. Even the bombing targets were selected not as per military tactics or strategy but as political targets.
Admiral Sharp said: "We could have flattened every war-making facility in North Vietnam. But the hand-wringers had center stage . . . The most powerful country in the world did not have the willpower to meet the situation. "
Johnson's advisors broke into two camps. Half said "just blow North Vietnam off the map and be done with it." After all, if we can beat the Nazi War Machine, we can surely beat a bunch of peasants in sandals. The other half said "Just give up and bring our boys home." Johnson choose the worst possible path: the middle—a limited engagement with no exit strategy.
The restraint shown by President Johnson was interpreted by the Communists not as humane but as weak-willed. The American public strongly felt Johnson was doing too little—not too much.
Johnson gradually increased the troop levels in Vietnam to 550,000. But he never planned to win the war, only to prevent the Communists from winning. The purpose of all U.S. actions in Vietnam was to make the Communists quit. Johnson never understood that casualties meant nothing to Communists. But they had a great effect on the will of the American press and public.
The restrictions placed on bombing by President Johnson—to protect civilian lives and property—are what rendered it ineffective. Eventually there were 150,000 Communist fighters in South Vietnam. The Soviets and Red Chinese shipped in massive amounts of food to keep the Communists fed. Interdiction—the aim of Rolling Thunder—had failed.
Ho Chi Minh prepared three regiments to attack American troops head on for the first time. LBJ said: "There is still madness in this world."
American Prisoners of War
Because President Johnson prohibited Air Force use of its clear technological advantages, hundreds of U.S. airmen were killed and hundreds more made prisoners of war by the Communists—who treated them with savage cruelty.
Naval airman Everett Alvarez was the first American Prisoner of War and the longest held in captivity. He was brutally beaten and tortured for eight years.
The Communist put American POWs on parade through towns in the North, where villagers would throw things at them. The POWs were routinely tortured. Those who "broke" and issued anti-American statements for the Communists to distribute to Western Media on film, suffered immense shame on top of physical horror.
Atrocities in Vietnam War
There can be no doubt as to the atrocities carried out by the Atheist Communists. But a group of Western Socialists, headed by Bertrand Russell —advised by Ho Chi Minh—held a mock trial in Stockholm in 1967, accusing America of war crimes. These charges had no basis in fact.
American troops faced constant danger from mines and snipers. They began to notice that the Vietnamese villagers never stepped on mines. Communist propaganda had convinced many poor peasants that Americans were there to colonize them, as had the French and the Chinese before them. Women, children, and the elderly were recruited by the Vietcong to kill Americans.
U.S. soldiers suffered from leeches and foot rot. It was often over 100 degrees and extremely humid. The Vietcong hid in miles of bobby-trapped trenches and tunnels.
By 1967, U.S. soldiers started to sense that what was going on over there was crazy. The troops began to suspect that the government was taking advantage of their bravery—their lives. They sensed that the enemy was all around them—often they were fired upon from all sides at once. It seemed that half of the people the GIs were trying to protect were in fact aligned with the enemy. Since they all dress alike, there was no clear way to tell who was who. One soldier said it dawned on him that "We are the Redcoats."
American GIs were sometimes pinned down all day and all night, under constant fire, in constant rain. There were times when 2/3 of a company was lost but helicopters could not get in to remove the wounded—some of whom begged their friends to shoot them because of the pain. Men lacked food, water, and were sleep deprived. So, they would order in artillery to flatten the village where the fire was coming from. If civilians—even Vietcong dressed as civilians—were killed, it was broadcast around the world, bringing forth condemnation on "heartless" Americans.
Vietcong villages were sometimes burnt to the ground. Napalm and Phosphorus bombs were used. Perhaps the worst mistake was the use of Agent Orange to defoliate the jungle. The Communists hid in the jungle where they couldn't be seen. If it was known that Agent Orange caused human disease and birth defects, it never would have been used. After all, it was used in American National Parks until 1978.
45 percent of the dead from the Vietnam War were civilians, tragically about average for twentieth-century wars—no more no less.
The Anti-War Movement
A group of American Radical Socialists that became known as the New Left opposed the Vietnam War as "an adventure in American Imperialism." Of course, that is not true because America never coveted one inch of the soil in Vietnam.
The New Left began to agitate on college campuses around America, in particular targeting universities that had ties to the military. But it was not just the Vietnam War the New Left hated—they hated America herself. To quote its leaders: "I learned to despise my countrymen, my government and the entire English speaking world, with its history of genocide and international conquest." Another said, "America . . . I hate what it is."
At some campus protests, Leftist students shouted together the name of their hero: "Ho Chi Minh!!!" Another hero idolized on posters and T-shirts was the murderer Che Guevara. The demonstrators sought an end to Capitalism—the very economic system that had built the beautiful college campuses they tormented; produced the unprecedented prosperity and freedom they were privileged to enjoy; subsidized their education at the expense of hard-working taxpayers.
The New Left was the most disloyal, ungrateful group of Americans ever born. To them the American university was an oppressive institution in an oppressive society.
It should be pointed out that most of the agitators were not students at all. Those from the SDS, Students for a Democratic Society,—an odd name for Communists—carried out violent beatings of counter demonstrators who loved their country.
Protest peaked in 1970 causing hundreds of American colleges to close. Many normal people joined the protests simply because they were a "happening" for young people. To protest was to be "good." Protests were also made against weapons manufacturers.
In 1967, 500,000 anti-war protestors converged on Central Park in Manhattan. They chanted: "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"
When 250,000 protestors marched in Washington in 1969, it was broadcast on North Vietnamese television—as were most all student protests and anti-war speeches.
In 1971, a group of a few thousand "Vietnam Vets Against the War" protested on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and about fifty of them, including John Kerry, flung away their medals and decorations.
In 1972, American actress Jane Fonda visited Hanoi as a guest of the Communists. She made ten propaganda radio broadcasts in which she denounced American military leaders as "war criminals." When cases of torture began to emerge among POWs returning to the United States, Fonda called the returning POWs "hypocrites and liars." She added, "These were not men who had been tortured." Fonda further stated that the POWs were "military careerists and professional killers" who are "trying to make themselves look self-righteous, but they are war criminals."
Even as President Nixon was rapidly bringing the boys home, protestors carried signs of Nixon with swastikas. American radicals were Communists who worshipped Chinese Chairman Mao—that killer of 50 million human beings. They waved around Mao's Little Red Book and pictures of their other hero, Ho Chi Minh. Many waved North Vietnamese flags on American college campuses. The Communists rightly considered them part of their war effort. Films of the protests were shown to American POWs.
The American Media Turns Against the Vietnam War
The American media supported the Vietnam War at first. But in 1967, the Eastern Media Establishment turned against the war with a vengeance. It began to twist and distort the news from the war to consistently show American efforts in a negative light. The Communists manipulated the American Media—full of journalists who were socialists themselves—with staged events, phony news releases, and "confessions" obtained through torture.
The media helped drum up resentment against the Selective Service, or draft, by reporting how unfair the draft was since it was easily evaded by the rich (by going to and staying in college). While this was true, it has been true of every war ever fought. It was presented as some kind of novelty. Only 2 percent of college students went to fight in the war.
Actually 77 percent of the American Armed Forces that served in Vietnam were volunteers, though conscripts made up 45 percent of the Infantry. Blacks came to resent the draft because 15 percent of the draftees were black, who represented 11 percent of the U.S. population.
The Media underplayed or failed to report American victories, of which there were plenty. They sensationalized any setback and focused on the "body bags" coming back home.
The Vietnam War was dubbed "the living room war" as it marked the first time in history that the nightly news featured actual combat—and film of wounded and dead soldiers and civilians.
Vietnam War Photographer Eddie Adams won a Pulitzer Prize for his picture of a South Vietnamese general shooting a Vietcong terrorist—who had executed 34 civilians in the previous few days. Adams later said he regretted the impact the photograph had. The image became an anti-war icon. Adams wrote in Time magazine: "The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths ... What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers? The guy was a hero."
The other famous Vietnam War photograph that was used by the anti-war movement—including the American Liberal Press—was of a little girl running after being burned by napalm. The South Vietnamese Air Force accidentally dropped napalm on civilians. The photograph was portrayed in the Liberal Press as Americans dropping napalm purposefully on civilians.
Napalm was first used in World War Two. The U.S. military employed it as a very effective weapon against Communist soldiers hiding in tunnels. The United States faced an elusive enemy and controversially resorted to napalm bombs against guerrillas who were dug into concealed positions.
The French took glee from American troubles in Vietnam. The French Press turned vehemently anti-American.
The draft was dramatically expanded in 1965. Eventually, 137,000 American boys refused to report for duty—a first in American history. 22,500 were indicted; 6,800 convicted of draft-dodging; and 4,000 sent to prison for the offense.
The Supreme Court expanded the meaning of "conscientious objection" to serving in the military from religious grounds only to any grounds at all. As a result, 43 percent of those drafted in 1971 claimed to be conscientious objectors—an unprecedented development. 170,000 got out of serving in this way. In the Korean War, there had been only 7,000 conscientious objectors.
563,000 GIs received less-than-honorable discharges from the service. Another 570,000 evaded the draft illegally by hiding from the authorities, 40,000 of which fled into Canada. Eventually they were pardoned by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.
All of this made those who did serve in Vietnam quite angry.
The Tet Offensive
The Communists launched their largest attack of the Vietnam War in January, 1968, with the "Tet Offensive." Tet is the lunar New Year holiday, which had always been observed by all sides as a time of truce. The Communist hoped their invasion would spark a massive peasant uprising in the South, which never materialized.
The Communists attacked at 55 locations at once. It was a major defeat for the Communist forces, who suffered massive casualties: 40,000 of their elite troops lay dead. But the Liberal American Media—with violent offense to the truth—portrayed it as victory for the Communist invaders.
The Communists did catch South Vietnam and their American allies completely off guard and thus had early victories. They overran the old imperial capital of Hue where they promptly massacred 5,000 civilians—mostly bureaucrats and their wives and children. The United States had 221 men killed but took the city back in short order by killing over 10,000 Communist combatants.
5,000 Marines found themselves besieged by Communist forces at Khe Sanh during the Tet Offensive. Lockheed C-130 and Fairchild C-123 transports flew in supplies day and night under mortar and artillery fire. Transport helicopters escorted by helicopter gunships—the new "air cavalry"— hazarded hostile territory to carry out the wounded. Ground attack aircraft hammered the Communist soldiers. The men in Khe Sanh were saved by air power.
The Tet Offensive proved to be the decisive engagement of the Vietnam War—not on the battlefield but in the living rooms of America. Before these battles 56 percent of Americans supported the war while 28 percent opposed. A month later, polls show a 40-40 split. Millions had changed their minds. America was divided more by the Vietnam War than any event since the Civil War.
Time and Newsweek ran anti-war editorials urging America to withdraw. Walter Cronkite, the dean of American television journalists told his viewers the war was not winnable. Civil Rights leaders turned loudly against the war because they saw it siphoning off funds they wanted given to their constituents instead.
The Vietnam War ruined Johnson's presidency. He decided not to run again in the 1968 elections. It must be understood that the American People did not as much oppose being in the war at this juncture as they did Johnson's half-assed methods of waging it.
LBJ died a broken man in 1973. His heir apparent to the American presidency, Bobby Kennedy, was killed by a Communist as had been his much-worshiped brother.
The quest to win the War in Vietnam was over, though American troops would maintain a presence there for five more years. The question was how to get out and save face. 200 Americans were killed and 800 wounded every week of 1969 in the Vietnam War.
President Richard Nixon, as promised, gradually cut the armed force in Vietnam from 550,000 to 24,000 from 1969 to 1973; and reduced spending on the war from $25 billion to $3 billion per year. By 1969, the United States had spent $100 billion in Vietnam.
President Nixon sought to make the draft more equitable through a lottery system in 1969. Only nineteen-year-olds with low lottery numbers would have to go. In 1973, President Nixon eliminated the draft and made the military an all-volunteer force, which it has remained. That was the year before my number would have been called.
As the withdrawal of troops proceeded, morale of those in the war plummeted. Nobody wants to be the last guy killed in a war that we already know we won't win. Many of the replacement troops were anti-war and forced to go to Vietnam against their will. They knew they would return home not to a parade to honor their valor but to be called "baby killers" by Leftist protestors. In two years there were 730 "fragging" incidents—efforts by soldiers to kill their own officers with grenades. Drug abuse skyrocketed.
Tons of American supplies were stolen by GIs to be sold and bartered to South Vietnamese. A box of tide would bring 200 marijuana cigarettes soaked in opium. A vial of pure heroin could be had for $10. Speed, acid, and prostitutes were everywhere. 30,000 Americans came home hooked on heroin.
The GIs became racially polarized and racial violence increased dramatically as black soldiers walked around touting the Marxist revolutionary ideas of Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver, the latter who promoted the serial rape of white women as "an act of insurrection."
South Vietnam wanted democracy and feared atrocities if overran by the Communists, since atrocities are part and parcel of socialist ideology. Three million refugees had by then fled South to escape the Communist North.
In 1972, the Communists launched another massive offensive and took the northern province of South Vietnam. Civilians fled on the only road south, which was dubbed "The Highway of Horror" because the Communists shelled the fleeing civilians—with everything they owned on their backs and their children in tow—with tanks and artillery.
There came one week in 1972 when no American soldier died in Vietnam—for the first time in seven years. 5,000 South Vietnamese died that week.
Nixon was active at pursuing peace, first reaching an agreement with the Red Chinese in regard to Vietnam. Paris Peace talks dragged on for years. It took five months to get the Communists to agree on the shape of the negotiating table.
The Communists were inflexible, insisting on control of all of Vietnam, until President Nixon ordered intense bombing by B-52s of Hanoi and the northern port city of Haiphong on Christmas Day, 1972. For this America was excoriated worldwide in the Liberal Press. Only military targets were approved. Unfortunately bombing was not foolproof in those days. Bombers hit one hospital, some homes, and other non-military buildings by mistake. Three weeks later, the Communists agreed to terms.
To show how careful the American bombers were, only 1,318 people were killed in eleven days of massive bombing. Surely if the aim was to kill civilians the U.S. could have killed ALL of them. The Liberal Press acted like it was Hiroshima.
In 1973 a final peace treaty was signed with these terms: All fighting to come to a complete stop. South Vietnam to control its future through democratic free elections. Any future unification of Vietnam would come by peaceful means not by force. American ground forces would leave Vietnam. America would keep naval and air power in the area to enforce the treaty. And of course, Prisoners of War and the remains of the dead would be exchanged. 600 American airmen were released from the "Hanoi Hilton."
1972 Bombing Campaign
The most powerful attack force used in Vietnam was the B-52 bomber. Until the very end of the war, they were not used in North Vietnam. The B-52 was used to carpet bomb Communist troop formations in the South, as well as their base camps and supply routes—in particular the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Collateral damage to noncombatants, which inevitably made the nightly news, embarrassed the United States and weakened support for the war.
After the Communists reneged on agreements they made during the Paris Peace talks, by launching a major offensive against the South in 1972, President Nixon unleashed the Air Force. Air strikes through dense cloud cover from seven miles high by B-52s inflicted heavy punishment on North Vietnamese forces inside South Vietnam. In the North, fuel depots, roads, bridges, and railroads were destroyed. The Communists realized they could not win against American air power—even with U.S. troops withdrawn—and decided to agree to a peace.
The final American bombing assault was against Hanoi and Haiphong. The goal was to eliminate Communist airfields, missile sites, army barracks, and power stations. 15 B-52s were shot down but the Christmas Day bombing was quickly followed by an agreement that allowed the final withdrawal of American military forces from Vietnam.
The Vietnam War
President Johnson feared that if U.S. soldiers invaded North Vietnam, either Red China or the Soviet Union would send ground troops to defend it—thereby ignited World War Three. So his only goal was to prevent the Communists from taking over the South.
Two million Americans fought in the Vietnam War. 47,244 were killed in combat (57,597 dead altogether); 304,000 were wounded—100,000 with missing limbs; 2,483 are still listed as Missing In Action. 150,000 combat veterans from the Vietnam War suffered from drug addiction or severe psychological disorders.
The South Vietnamese forces had 224,000 killed and 570,600 wounded in action. The Communists suffered 660,000 killed in combat. 365,000 civilians were killed during the War—80 percent of those in South Vietnam.
The Vietnam War cost American taxpayers $150 billion. American boys, even those who went on to live well-adjusted lives, suffered from the stigma of a "lost war." They were not treated as heroes as had the boys who fought in World War Two and all previous wars.
The last American killed in Vietnam was Lt. Colonel William Noldy.
After seeing what became of Russians and Eastern Europeans after the Iron Curtain fell—tens of millions murdered or starved to death on purpose—the United States thought it should protect further peoples from such a fate. Utter oppression had befallen hundreds of millions of human beings already.
Atheistic Communism was the worst cancer ever known to man. In fifty years it spread from 17 crazy men to enslave 25 percent of the surface of the earth and 40 percent of all living human beings.
After the Vietnam War
Eight months after Richard Nixon left the White House, Saigon fell to 100,000 Communist invaders who had been equipped for this last push by the Soviet Union. The United States Congress had cut off all aid to the South Vietnamese. The Communists were not welcomed as liberators by any stretch. The South Vietnamese were gripped by mortal fear and mass hysteria.
America had been militarily and politically castrated. The Soviet Union began to spread radical revolutions around the world through subversion and violence. When America abandoned its naval bases in Vietnam, they became Soviet naval bases.
The North Vietnamese broke the Paris Peace Accords in January, 1975, by invading South Vietnam. The North had built up an army twice the size of the South's. One million people fled Central Vietnam on foot with what little possessions they could carry to escape the inevitable atrocities that accompany socialist rule.
When the Communists overran South Vietnam in 1975, the United States did nothing. The last use of American aircraft in Vietnam was to fly people off the roof of the besieged U.S. Embassy in Saigon as Communist tanks entered the city.
The Communists overran South Vietnam and embarked on a program of "total social revolution" by "psychologically reconstructing individual members of society by stripping away, through terror and other means, the traditional bases, structures and forces which have shaped and guided an individual's life and then rebuilding him according to party doctrines by substituting a new series of values."
The goal of all Communists was to obliterate all bourgeois customs, behavior, and language with cruelty and inhumanity. The New Left in America supported this goal and longed to see it accomplished in America and around the world.
1.5 million Vietnamese fled their country in fear of the Communists in small craft, becoming known as the Boat People. Over half a million of them ended up settling in the United States. The same people who endured colonial rule by China, colonization by France, occupation by Japan, and 15 years of civil war, decided that the one thing they could not live through was Communism.
The claims of the New Left—that a Communist Vietnam would bring a new age of peace and social justice—went up in smoke. The smoke included millions of slaughtered Cambodians that gave us the phrase "The Killing Fields."
The Image of the Vietnam War in America
The 1978 film The Deer Hunter and the 1980 book America in Vietnam changed the way Americans saw the Vietnam War.
The Deer Hunter lovingly portrayed images of average American soldiers home from the conflict, who at the film's end movingly sing "God Bless America." It also depicts the brutal treatment American boys suffered when taken prisoner by the Communists that were so beloved by the New Left and Jane Fonda. The American prisoners lived in jungle cages where they were starved, beaten, tortured.
America in Vietnam dismantled the mythology of the New Left about the war, particularly its lying claims of widespread American atrocities put forth by its Winter Soldiers that featured future presidential candidate John Kerry.
Americans began to rethink the horrible treatment its young men had received when they came home from the war. Even some Liberals would regret spitting on these boys. The aggressors all through the war in Vietnam had been the Communists, after all.
Did we have no business being there? Was the sacrifice of the GIs worthless?
The POW/MIA flag became the widespread patriotic symbol it is today. In 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was unveiled in Washington, D.C. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed a new message to the New Left: "ours was, in truth, a noble cause."
Vietnam is a beautiful and intensely colorful country.
My sources include the documentary film Vietnam: A Television History (produced by PBS); and the following books: A History of America by Paul Johnson; Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time by Carroll Quigley; Decade of Nightmares by Philip Jenkins; The Fifties by David Halberstam; Flight: The Complete History by R.G. Grant: The Seventies by Bruce Schulman; The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Thomas Woods; and America: A Narrative History by George Brown Tindall and David E. Shi.