Post-War Effect on the United States

In the post-war era, Americans struggled to absorb the lessons of the military intervention.  As General Maxwell Taylor, one of the principal architects of the war noted “first, we didn’t know ourselves.  We thought that we were going into another Korean War, but this was a different country. Secondly, we didn’t know our South Vietnamese allies… And we knew less about North Vietnam.  Who was Ho Chi Minh?  Nobody really knew.  So, until we know the enemy and know our allies and know ourselves, we’d better keep out of this kind of dirty business. It’s very dangerous.”

Some have suggested that “the responsibility for the ultimate failure of this policy [America’s withdrawal from Vietnam] lies not with the men who fought, but with those in Congress…”  Alternatively, the official history of the United States Army noted that “tactics have often seemed to exist apart from larger issues, strategies, and objectives.  Yet in Vietnam the Army experienced tactical success and strategic failure… The…Vietnam War…legacy may be the lesson that unique historical, political, cultural, and social factors always impinge on the military…Success rests not only on military progress but on correctly analyzing the nature of the particular conflict, understanding the enemy’s strategy, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of allies.  A new humility and a new sophistication may form the best parts of a complex heritage left to the Army by the long, bitter war in Vietnam.”

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in a secret memo to President Gerald Ford that “in terms of military tactics, we cannot help draw the conclusion that our armed forces are not suited to this kind of war.  Even the Special Forces who had been designed for it could not prevail.”  Even Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara concluded that “the achievement of a military victory by U.S. forces in Vietnam was indeed a dangerous illusion.”

Doubts surfaced as to the effectiveness of large-scale, sustained bombing.  As Army Chief of Staff Harold Keith Johnson noted, “If anything came out of Vietnam, it was that air power couldn’t do the job.”  Even General William Westmoreland admitted that the bombing had been ineffective.  As he remarked, “I still doubt that the North Vietnamese would have relented.”

The inability to bomb Hanoi to the bargaining table also illustrated another U.S. miscalculation. The North’s leadership was composed of hardened communists who had been fighting for independence for thirty years.  They had defeated the French, and their tenacity as both nationalists and communists was formidable. Ho Chi Minh is quoted as saying, “You can kill ten of my men for everyone I kill of yours…But even at these odds you will lose and I will win.”

The Vietnam War called into question the U.S. Army doctrine.  Marine Corps General Victor H. Krulak heavily criticized Westmoreland’s attrition strategy, calling it “wasteful of American lives… with small likelihood of a successful outcome.”  As well, doubts surfaced about the ability of the military to train foreign forces.

Between 1965 and 1975, the United States spent $111 billion on the war ($686 billion in FY2008 dollars). This resulted in a large federal budget deficit.

More than 3 million Americans served in the Vietnam War, some 1.5 million of whom actually saw combat in Vietnam.  James E. Westheider wrote that “At the height of American involvement in 1968, for example, there were 543,000 American military personnel in Vietnam, but only 80,000 were considered combat troops.”  Conscription in the United States had been controlled by the President since World War II, but ended in 1973.”

By war’s end, 58,220 soldiers were killed, more than 150,000 were wounded, and at least 21,000 were permanently disabled.  According to Dale Kueter, “Sixty-one percent of those killed were age 21 or younger.  Of those killed in combat, 86.3 percent were white, 12.5 percent were black and the remainder from other races.”  The youngest American KIA in the war was PFC Dan Bullock, who had falsified his birth certificate and enlisted in the US Marines at age 14 and who was killed in combat at age 15.  Approximately 830,000 Vietnam veterans suffered symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.  An estimated 125,000 Americans fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft, and approximately 50,000 American servicemen deserted.  In 1977, United States President Jimmy Carter granted a full, complete and unconditional pardon to all Vietnam-era Draft dodgers.  The Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, concerning the fate of U.S. service personnel listed as missing in action, persisted for many years after the war’s conclusion.

MOH Recipients Who Were Combat Medics

I have always and publically stated that the true heroes serving with Charlie Company were our medics.  The infantryman is trained to take cover and return fire.  The medic is trained to provide aid to the wounded and mostly there is no cover while they are providing aid. The medics of Charlie Company did no less than the Vietnam Medal of Honor Recipients who were combat medics.

The Medal of Honor is the Nation’s highest award for valor.  Fifteen Army medics received the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

MOH Medics

Click here to read the citations given to the medics who were MOH Recipients to learn of their heroic actions.

What is a Firebase?

The nonsoldier doesn’t know what a firebase is and to explain it I went to the internet to get some information.  So here is the story:

fire support base (FSBfirebase or FB) is a military encampment designed to provide indirect fire artillery fire support to infantry operating in areas beyond the normal range of direct fire support from their own base camps.

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An FSB was normally a permanent encampment, though many were dismantled when the units that they supported moved. Their main components varied by size: small bases usually had a battery of six 105 millimeter or 155mm howitzers, a platoon of engineers permanently on station, a Landing Zone (LZ), a Tactical Operations Center (TOC), an aid station staffed with medics, a communications bunker, and a company of infantry. Large FSBs might also have two artillery batteries, and an infantry battalion. Continue reading

Donut Dollies

During the Vietnam War, Red Cross workers provided services to U.S. military personnel and assisted Vietnamese refugees (1962-1974).  In 1962, the American Red Cross sent its first paid field staff to Vietnam to assist the growing number of servicemen at various bases and hospitals.  At the height of its involvement in 1968, 480 field directors, hospital personnel, and recreation assistants served throughout Southeast Asia.  Red Cross workers, who provided 1.9 million services to U.S. military personnel, shared the hardships and privations of war with the soldiers.  Five Red Cross staff members gave their lives, and many others were injured as they helped servicemen resolve personal problems or get home when emergency leave was granted due to death or serious illness in their immediate family. Continue reading

Vietnam War Stories : Documentary

Vietnam War veterans recount their experiences and reflect on their memories of the conflict from five decades ago. For many service members, these experiences still feel like they happened yesterday.

This is not the story of the Vietnam War, but of the men and women who went to Southeast Asia to serve their country. In the voices of a few resonate the stories — each unique, each profound — of the three million who served, the ones who didn’t return and those who passed away before their stories could be told.