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Vietnam War

1959–1975 armed conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia between North Vietnam and South Vietnam
The enemy had achieved in South Vietnam neither military nor psychological victory. For the South Vietnamese the Tet offensive served as a unifying catalyst, a Pearl Harbor. Had it been the same for the American people, had President Johnson discerned the same support behind him that Thieu did behind him, and had he acted with forcefulness, the enemy could have been induced to engage in serious and meaningful negotiations. Unfortunately, the enemy scored in the United States the psychological victory that eluded him in Vietnam, so influencing President Johnson and his civilian advisors that they ignored the maxim that when the enemy is hurting, you don't diminish the pressure, you increase it. ~ General William Westmoreland
Soldiers laying down covering fire with an M60 machine gun - Vietnam 1966
A map of the 1968 Tet Offensive.

The Vietnam War, also known as the American War (by the Vietnamese) or the Second Indochina War, was a Cold War-era proxy war that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from approximately 1 November 1955 (accounts differ) to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975.

This war followed the First Indochina War (1946–54) and was fought between North Vietnam—supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies—and the government of South Vietnam—supported by the United States and other anti-communist allies. The Viet Cong (also known as the National Liberation Front, or NLF), a South Vietnamese communist common front aided by the North, fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The People's Army of Vietnam (also known as the North Vietnamese Army) engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units to battle. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (see Vietnam War casualties). Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 800,000 to 3.1 million. Some 200,000–300,000 Cambodians, 20,000–200,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict.

Arranged alphabetically by author or source:
A · B · C · D · E · F · G · H · I · J · K · L · M · N · O · P · Q · R · S · T · U · V · W · X · Y · Z · See also · External links

AEdit

  • Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.
  • The AK-47 went head-to-head with the M-16, and emerged on the winning side.
    • Narration to the Top Ten Rifles presentation by the Military Channel (renamed American Heroes Channel in 2014), part of their Top Ten series which began in 2005.

BEdit

  • 1968- This is when it began to dawn on me that there was a serious competition going on in America to see who could be the biggest group of assholes: the right-wing assholes who thought that the Vietnam War was a god thing, as long as they personally did not have to go over to Vietnam and get shot at; or the left-wing assholes who thought that what we really needed was for more people to shoot each other here at home. It seemed as if both sets of assholes were winning in 1968. The King assassination did, in fact, result in terrible riots; and the Vietnam War, despite its growing unpopularity, became the longest in American history, with more U.S. troops over there than ever, and more men being drafted, and no end in sight.
  • The antiwar protests led to pro-war- or more accurately, anti-anti-war- protests, including a big one in Manhattan in which thousands of people, many of them construction workers, marched through the streets. I went out and watched that one during my lunch hour. My main memory is of two men, both about my age: One was a crew-cut protestor, wearing a tool belt; the other was a long-haired guy on the sidewalk. The long-haired guy started yelling "STOP THE WAR! STOP THE WAR!" The crew-cut guy ran over to him and, stopping just short of making physical contact, began yelling "BETTER DEAD THAN RED! BETTER DEAD THAN RED!" The two of them stood there, close enough to exchange spittle, screaming slogans at each other. That was political discourse in 1970.
  • 1973- This was the year that the war finally ended. Nixon called it "peace with honor," although he surely knew that the Communists would take over, just the same as if we had never gotten involved over there in the first place- except of course for the hundreds of thousands of people who got hurt or killed. So you tell me why the whole thing was not a terrible, criminal waste. You tell me why Henry Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize, instead of being required- along with all the other "leaders" who kept sending Americans over there long after they knew the war was pointless- to get down on his knees and beg the forgiveness of the American veterans, and their families, and the Vietnamese people. Everybody knew that "peace with honor" was bullshit, but nobody cared at that point. Everybody just wanted it to be over. When it finally was, there was no joy, only relief.
    • Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns 50 (1998), p. 151. NOTE: The Vietnam War did not end in 1973, but in 1975. 1973 was the year the United States officially withdrew from the conflict and removed the last of its combat personnel from South Vietnam.
  • A few years ago I got into a heated argument with the 18-year-old son of a friend of mine. Actually, it wasn't so much an argument as it was me getting angry at him for something he said. What he said, basically, was that he wished there was a war like Vietnam going on right then, so that the members of his generation would have something big, something exciting, in their lives. I told him that this was a reprehensible thing to say; I told him he should not want people to die to keep his generation amused. But in retrospect- although I obviously don't want another Vietnam- I see what he meant. He didn't want people to die; he wanted there to be something to give his life significance, something to mark his formative era that would be more meaningful than whatever TV sitcoms were popular at the time. We Boomers had that; we had a lot going on, maybe too much.
  • We cannot remain silent on Viet Nam. We should remember that whatever victory there may be possible, it will have a racial stigma…. It will always be the case of a predominantly white power killing an Asian nation. We are interested in peace, not just for Christians but for the whole of humanity.
    • Eugene Carson Blake, remarks at a World Council of Churches meeting, Geneva, Switzerland (February 12, 1966); reported in The Sunday Star, Washington, D.C. (February 13, 1966), p. A–5.

CEdit

  • The war is simply an obscenity, a depraved act by weak and miserable men, including all of us who have allowed it to go on and on with endless fury and destruction – all of us who would have remained silent had stability and order been secured. It is not pleasant to say such words, but candor permits no less.
    • Noam Chomsky, in American Power and the New Mandarins (1969), Introduction.
  • There were only two types of people when I came home- those who were against what we did and those who said nothing. I spent the next 17 years saying nothing. I had no one to talk to.
    • Jack Coughlin, as quoted in Homecoming: When the Soldiers Returned From Vietnam (1989), by Bob Greene, p. 184
  • To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, if unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy and did the best they could.
    • Walter Cronkite, CBS TV news anchor, on "Report from Vietnam," aired February 27, 1968.

DEdit

  • Tens of thousands of American servicemen enjoyed their first exotic port of call, too, this time at Olongapo City. The 20 or so R&R sites in the late 1950's had swelled to 1,567 in Olongapo and another 615 in Angeles city by the late 1980's.
    Hawaii and the Philippines were only two of the many places where military sexism found its logical expression. Soldiers viewed girls and women there through lenses of compliant Asian femininity but referred to them derogatorily as “slant eyes”. The “little brown sex machines” referred to T-shirts in Okinawa, Japan, morphed quickly into “little brown fucking machines powered by rice” in displays of militarized misogyny. Following six months of service, soldiers tired of drinking and playing billiards and video games could fly cheaply to Thailand, Hong Kong, Okinawa, or South Korea for more of the same, where structurally similar R&R venues had been set up for them. The 500,000 American soldiers in and near Saigon during the Vietnam war were matched in number by women and girls in prostitution, many in a kind of licensing system approved by the U.S. military.

EEdit

  • I am convinced that the French could not win the war because the internal political situation in Vietnam, weak and confused, badly weakened their military position. I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader rather than Chief of State Bao Dai. Indeed, the lack of leadership and drive on the part of Bao Dai was a factor in the feeling prevalent among Vietnamese that they had nothing to fight for. As one Frenchman said to me, "What Vietnam needs is another Syngman Rhee, regardless of all the difficulties the presence of such a personality would entail".
  • With 450,000 U.S. troops now in Vietnam, it is time that Congress decided whether or not to declare a state of war exists with North Vietnam. Previous congressional resolutions of support provide only limited authority. Although Congress may decide that the previously approved resolution on Vietnam given President Johnson is sufficient, the issue of a declaration of war should at least be put before the Congress for decision.
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, remarks to Republican congressmen, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (July 15, 1967), published in a paraphrased form in The Washington Post (July 22, 1967), p. 1.

FEdit

  • I don't want these fucking medals, man! The Silver Star--the third highest medal in the country--it doesn't mean anything! Bob Smeal died for these medals; Lieutenant Panamaroff died so I got a medal; Sergeant Johns died so I got a medal; I got a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, Army Commendation medal, eight air medals, national defense, and the rest of this garbage--it doesn't mean a thing!
    • Ron Ferrizzi, former helicopter crew chief and member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), before hurling his medals onto the Capitol steps during a VVAW protest on April 23, 1971. Quoted in The Vietnam War: An Intimate History by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns (2017), p. 481.
  • I figured if this medal is so important let's make it important. Here it is. You can have it back. End the war in Vietnam. What else is there? There was nothing else. I wouldn't put them on the wall for my son. That was the last thing in the world I would ever want my son to revere.
    • Ron Ferrizzi quoted in The Vietnam War: An Intimate History by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns (2017), p. 481-3, recalling his participation in the above protest over 40 years later.
  • The Soviet Union hastened to endorse the Bandung principles, and the United States began to ease its hostility toward nonalignment (which Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had denounced as "morally bankrupt"), acknowledge the diminishing appeal of its security pacts, and court independent Third World governments. Vietnam was an exception. The Eisenhower administration, which had refused to sign the Geneva Accords, feared a communist victory in the national elections and a domino effect throughout Southeast Asia. After the French withdrawal, the United States proceeded to build up a client state in the south, allowing President Ngô Đình Diệm to cancel the 1956 elections and to clamp down on his opponents. Contrary to the Geneva Accords, which forbade the Vietnamese from entering foreign alliances or allowing foreign troops into Vietnam, Dulles mobilized the US-led Southeast Asia Treaty Organization to agree to protect South Vietnam against communist aggression. When a popular insurgency, which Diệm contemptuously labeled Viet Cong (Vietnamese communists) erupted in the south two years later and received support from the north, Eisenhower expanded US economic and military aid and personnel on the ground. Between 1955 and 1961 the United States poured more than $1 billion in economic and military aid into the Diệm regime, and by the time Eisenhower left office there were approximately one thousand US military advisers in South Vietnam.
    • Carole C. Fink, Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 96-97
  • The US intervention in Vietnam was not inevitable. It evolved from the vacuum left by the collapse of Japan's Asian Empire, followed by the communists' victory in China, the Korean stalemate, and France's defeat in 1954. But it also grew out of the Cold War decisions of three US presidents: Truman's to move away from Roosevelt's anticolonialism and back the French, Eisenhower's to block the Vietnamese national elections in 1956 and prop up the Diệm regime, and Kennedy's to increase the number of US military advisers, Special Forces, and CIA agents in South Vietnam. All three intended to transform Vietnam into a "proving ground for democracy in Asia."
    • Carole C. Fink, Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 124
  • Three months before the presidential election Johnson had already obtained his justification for going to war. From the beginning of 1964 the US military had taken over direction of the CIA/South Vietnamese covert commando attacks against North Vietnam as well as naval intelligence gathering in the coastal areas (known as DESOTO patrols). On August 1, 1964, shortly after a South Vietnamese commando attack on two islands, the destroyer Maddox entered the Gulf of Tonkin for the purpose of collecting electronic intelligence. The next day, as it approached the island of Hon Me, it encountered three North Vietnamese torpedo boats whose signals had been intercepted. The Maddox fired, damaging only one of them. Two days later, the Maddox, now joined by a second intelligence vessel, C. Turner Joy, again fired on what appeared to be approaching enemy ships, although no evidence has ever been found of a second North Vietnamese interception.
    • Carole C. Fink, Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 126
  • Although neither US ship had been hit and there were no casualties, Johnson immediately ordered a retaliatory bombing raid against North Vietnamese naval bases. Evoking America's dread of surprise assaults, Johnson appealed for public support against an "unprovoked attack" in international waters. After Defense Secretary Robert McNamara assured Congress that the US Navy had "played absolutely no part in, was not associated with, was not aware of any South Vietnamese actions, if there were any," Johnson on August 7, 1964 won near-unanimous Senate approval for a resolution authorizing him to use US military force to defend the freedom of South Vietnam, a measure his administration had prepared earlier in the spring. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution enabled Johnson to spurn proposals that fall for another Geneva conference to achieve a negotiated settlement over Vietnam.
    • Carole C. Fink, Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 126
  • Shortly after his overwhelming electoral victory, Johnson moved quickly to rescue South Vietnam from an imminent collapse. In 1965 he launched Operation Rolling Thunder, a massive bombing campaign against North Vietnam, and by the end of the year he had dispatched 180,000 combat troops as well. Although this dramatic escalation contained several cautious elements, Johnson had transformed South Vietnam into a Cold War struggle and one of the longest and most divisive wars in US history.
    • Carole C. Fink, Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 127
  • In selecting bombing targets, Johnson avoided destroying North Vietnamese dams and ports and thereby provoking a Chinese intervention although the Ho Ch Minh Trail was bombed, Johnson made no moves to invade Laos or attack the Viet Cong sanctuaries in Cambodia; and US forces confined themselves to search-and-destroy operations against enemy units and largely refrained from involvement in local politics.
    • Carole C. Fink, Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 127
  • The US involvement in Vietnam had a major effect on global politics. Antiwar movements developed rapidly in America, with young people burning their draft cards, fleeing the country, or serving jail sentences rather than go to Vietnam. By October 1965 protest demonstrations in forty American cities had spread to Europe and Asia. Critics of the war condemned America's atrocities against the civilian population- North and South- and its use of chemical weapons, and they called for an immediate US withdrawal. Antiwar activists derided Washington's claim of battling Chinese communism to save Asians from tyranny, and deplored America's opposition to the third World's struggle for independence. To the generation raised after World War II and the Holocaust, America's claim to defend freedom against a tiny, tenacious people, and its support of a corrupt and repressive puppet government, rang increasingly hollow.
    • Carole C. Fink, Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 129
  • The conclusion of the Vietnam War underscored the paradox of US-Soviet détente that had been complicated by the emerging US-Sino-Soviet triangle. Although the Superpowers had committed substantial resources to the struggle in Southeast Asia, neither had fully controlled its clients. Both had expected the other to be more accommodating than either was willing to be, or even capable of being. To be sure, Hanoi's victory in 1975 created more diplomatic and economic problems for Moscow as well as for Beijing, while America's defeat- although a severe political and psychological blow- had left its triangular diplomacy unimpaired. Nonetheless, America's war in Vietnam had reinforced the nation's growing conviction that the struggle against global communism must no longer be fought solely by US soldiers.
    • Carole C. Fink, Cold War: An International History (2017), p. 162-163
  • The Communist leaders in Moscow, Peking and Hanoi must fully understand that the United States considers the freedom of South Viet Nam vital to our interests. And they must know that we are not bluffing in our determination to defend those interests.
    • Gerald R. Ford, "U.S. Foreign Policy: New Myths and Old Realities", address to the National Press Club, Washington, D.C. (July 21, 1965); in Michael V. Doyle, ed., Gerald R. Ford, Selected Speeches (1973), p. 199.

GEdit

  • You know, we get involved in these wars and we don't know a damn thing about those countries, the culture, the history, the politics, people on top and even down below. And, my heavens, these are not wars like World War II and World War I, where you have battalions fighting battalions. These are wars that depend on knowledge of who the people are, with the culture is like. And we jumped into them without knowing. That’s the damned essential message of the Pentagon Papers.
    • Les Gelb interviewed on On the Media[1]

HEdit

We underestimated the willingness of these peasants to pay the price. We won every set piece battle. Westy believes that he never lost a battle. We had absolute military superiority, and they had absolute political superiority, which meant that we would kill 200 and they would replenish them the next day. We were fighting the birth rate of a nation. ~David Halberstam
  • We underestimated the willingness of these peasants to pay the price. We won every set piece battle. Westy believes that he never lost a battle. We had absolute military superiority, and they had absolute political superiority, which meant that we would kill 200 and they would replenish them the next day. We were fighting the birth rate of a nation.
    • David Halberstam, as quoted in Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam (2011) by Lewis Sorley, p. 96.
  • George, without doubt, the Army will be blamed for any failures in the Vietnam War.
    • General Paul D. Harkins made this remark to then-Major George S. Patton, IV, son of the famous World War II general, while Harkins was the first head of Military Assistance Command Vietnam in early 1963. As quoted in The Fighting Pattons (1997) by Brian M. Sobel, p. 120.
  • Vietnam was what we had instead of happy childhoods.
    • Michael Herr, in Dispatches (1977), "Colleagues", section 3.

JEdit

  • In Asia we face an ambitious and aggressive China, but we have the will and we have the strength to help our Asian friends resist that ambition. Sometimes our folks get a little impatient. Sometimes they rattle their rockets some, and they bluff about their bombs. But we are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.
    • Lyndon B. Johnson, remarks at Akron University, Akron, Ohio (October 21, 1964); in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, book 2, p. 1390–91.
  • As I sat in my office last evening, waiting to speak, I thought of the many times each week when television brings the war into the American home. No one can say exactly what effect those vivid scenes have on American opinion. Historians must only guess at the effect that television would have had during earlier conflicts on the future of this Nation during the Korean war, for example, at that time when our forces were pushed back there to Pusan or World War II, the Battle of the Bulge, or when our men were slugging it our in Europe or when most of our Air Force was shot down that day in June 1942 off Australia.

KEdit

  • It must be very hard for Americans to fully understand the significance of the Hiroshima bombings to the Japanese. The closest parallel in American history of that lasting fissure in the national psyche resulting from a military defeat would be the Vietnam War. Americans still have not healed those wounds, and perhaps it is presumptuous to expect that the Japanese would be any different.
    • David Kalat (2010), A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series, McFarland, p. 214
  • I don't think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Viet-Nam, against the Communists.
    • John F. Kennedy, televised interview with Walter Cronkite (September 2, 1963); in The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 652.
  • The war the soldiers tried to stop.
    • John Kerry, commenting on how Vietnam would be known to future generations, at rally of antiwar demonstrators, west front of the Capitol (April 24, 1971), as reported by The Evening Star, Washington, D.C. (April 26, 1971), p. A–7.
  • As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.
Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be — are — are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls "enemy," for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers [...] I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy" [...] Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak of the — for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam.

LEdit

  • Look at Vietnam, look at Lebanon. Whenever soldiers start coming home in body bags, Americans panic and retreat. Such a country needs only to be confronted with two or three sharp blows, then it will flee in panic, as it always has.
  • In the Vietnam War, the leaders of the White House claimed at the time that it was a necessary and crucial war, and during it, Donald Rumsfeld and his aides murdered two million villagers. And when Kennedy took over the presidency and deviated from the general line of policy drawn up for the White House and wanted to stop this unjust war, that angered the owners of the major corporations who were benefiting from its continuation. And so Kennedy was killed, and al-Qaida wasn't present at that time, but rather, those corporations were the primary beneficiary from his killing. And the war continued after that for approximately one decade. But after it became clear to you that it was an unjust and unnecessary war, you made one of your greatest mistakes, in that you neither brought to account nor punished those who waged this war, not even the most violent of its murderers, Rumsfeld.
  • All we are saying is give peace a chance.
    • John Lennon, song "Give Peace a Chance" (1969); common chant in rallies against the Vietnam War.

MEdit

  • When I entered West Point, some Americans still believed the Vietnam War might end honorably. By the time I graduated, South Vietnam did not exist. As cadets, we watched the war teeter and implode, and the historical sweep was not lost on us.
  • It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.
    • Attributed to an unnamed United States major, referring to the bombing of Ben Tre, South Vietnam; reported by AP correspondent Peter Arnett, "Major Describes Move", New York Times (February 8, 1968), p. 14.
    • Often misquoted in a variety of ways, notably: In order to save the village, we had to destroy it. or "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."
      • John McGuffin, Internment (1973), Anvil Books, page 26 (early misquote); Ralph Keyes, The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When (2006), ISBN 978-0-312-34004-9.
  • What, then, had we learned with our sacrifices in the Ia Drang Valley? We had learned something about fighting the North Vietnamese regulars- and something important about ourselves. We could stand against the finest light infantry troops in the world and hold our ground. General Westmoreland thought he had found the answer to the question of how to win this war: He would trade one American life for ten or twelve North Vietnamese lives, day after day, until Ho Chi Minh cried uncle. Westmoreland would learn, too late, that he was wrong; that the American people didn't see a kill ratio of 10-1 or even 20-1 as any kind of bargain.
    • Lieutenant General Harold G. "Hal" Moore, co-author of We Were Soldiers Once.. And Young (1992), p. 345
  • But we had validated both the principle and the practice of airmobile warfare. A million American soldiers would ride to battle in Huey helicopters in the next eight years, and the familiar "whup, whup, whup" of their rotors would be the enduring soundtrack if this war. Finally- even though it took ten years, cost the lives of 58,000 young Americans and inflicted humiliating defeat on a nation that had never before lost a war- some of us learned that Clausewitz had it right 150 years earlier when he wrote these words: "No one starts a war- or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so- without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it."
    • Lieutenant General Harold G. "Hal" Moore, co-author of We Were Soldiers Once.. And Young (1992), p. 345
  • We'd originally intended to put our medals in a body bag and have them delivered to Congress. But the Nixon administration erected this big wire and wood fence on the steps of our Capitol to keep us out--keep out the young men and women who were fighting that war. And all that did was piss us off and give us the greatest photo opportunity that we could ever have had.
    • John Musgrave, Marine veteran and member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), on the April 1971 protest in which veterans hurled their medals onto the Capitol steps. Quoted in The Vietnam War: An Intimate History by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns (2017), p. 481.

NEdit

  • But also out here in this dreary, difficult war, I think history will record that this may have been one of America's finest hours, because we took a difficult task and we succeeded.
    • Richard Nixon, remarks to American troops of the First Infantry Division, Di An, Vietnam (July 30, 1969); in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1969, p. 588.
  • Tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support.
    • Richard Nixon, Appeal to the nation (3 November 1969) for support in the Vietnam War, as reported in Chambers Dictionary of Quotations (1997), p. 730.

PEdit

Many scores of senior American officials, civilian and military, including the author, contributed to our Vietnam mistakes, most of which have been so judged in hindsight. The real "blame", of course, must be laid squarely on the Hanoi regime and the North Vietnamese people, who demonstrated to the world that they had the will to prevail. Although it is a small comfort to Westmoreland, history is replete with the examples of one native son's being singled out, rightly or wrongly, as the person responsible for a national disaster. ~Bruce Palmer
The Vietnamese claim that 4 million people were exposed to Agent Orange and 3 million of its people suffer from medical conditions that were caused by the exposure from the Vietnam War. Despite the efforts to decontaminate the soil, the U.S. vehemently denies that the number of Agent Orange illnesses are that high, which according to the Vietnamese includes children of men and women who were exposed to the dioxin following the war. ~ Beatrice Peterson
  • I have often reflected that General Abrams, who had worked so hard to make the South Vietnamese armed forces capable of defending their country, at least had been spared the agony of seeing the death of the Republic of Vietnam. Westmoreland, on the other hand, was not spared that trauma, but seems over the years since the war to have become a national scapegoat, blamed for everything that went wrong in Vietnam, large or small, regardless of whether he had even a remote connection with the matter. It is a singularly fair and unsupported judgement. Many scores of senior American officials, civilian and military, including the author, contributed to our Vietnam mistakes, most of which have been so judged in hindsight. The real "blame", of course, must be laid squarely on the Hanoi regime and the North Vietnamese people, who demonstrated to the world that they had the will to prevail. Although it is a small comfort to Westmoreland, history is replete with the examples of one native son's being singled out, rightly or wrongly, as the person responsible for a national disaster.
    • General Bruce Palmer, Jr., in his book The 25-Year War: America's Military Role in Vietnam (1984), p. 133-144
I: The nine classic principles of war as explained and demonstrated by Clausewitz definitely apply in this type of conflict. One principle should be added and that would be the principal of cultural understanding or familiarization.
II: Operations should be guided by good intelligence "now," as opposed to refined intelligence, for example, two hours from now.
III: Fully understand the form of warfare in a Vietnam type of conflict- call it counterinsurgency or whatever term is being used to characterize the so-called meeting engagement. Go within the training base and develop doctrine at all levels which supports this form of combat.
IV: When contact with an enemy unit is either present or expected, the commander must always hold a unit close in hand and in reserve to commit upon hostile contact. This reinforcement capability is absolutely critical in guerrilla warfare.
V: A commander may talk all day and most of the night on the subject of preventative maintenance in the field. However, it is simply not well done on the battlefield as there are far too many distractions, interruptions and poor facilities. As a result of my experience, I believe the best procedure is periodic withdrawal of armored units to a safe rear area where higher echelon maintenance personnel can provide valid assistance. Although those who would oppose that procedure would oppose it all the way, I found that armored vehicle capability, especially tanks, increased in the long term.
  • Major General George S. Patton, IV, stating his "Five Principles for Counterinsurgency Warfare", developed after thirty-three months total spent in Vietnam. As quoted in The Fighting Pattons (1997) by Brian M. Sobel, p. 159
The trouble is that the goal was never clear. It changed under the Johnson administration from time to time. Our overall goal was pacification, but it didn't work because of lack of strategic direction from the United States. I want to make sure you understand this. The national leadership, the President, did not bring the country into the total scene of the war. There was a lack of unification of the American people. A manifestation of that lack was the failure to mobilize the National Guard and Reserves. In my opinion, one of the great criticisms that will be placed against the leadership will be that failure to mobilize. The point is, when you mobilize the Guard and Reserves, you also act toward mobilizing the people, because some guy gets called out of a drug store and called to active duty, so the burden is not just placed on the career services, who were stretched to the breaking point.
Do you see what I'm getting at? You can do all kinds of things to this testimony and make me look like a goddamn nut. But I'm talking about strategic direction plus violation of the fundamental principles of war- of which there are nine. We could have won by more correct adherence to those principles, such as the principle of objective, the principle of unity of command, the principle of surprise and security, all of which were violated. The United States can never afford again to allow itself to be at such a vast strategic disadvantage as we were in Vietnam. I sincerely hope we've learned. We were defeated by an eighth-rate power.
  • Major General George S. Patton, IV, as quoted in The Bad War: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Kim Willenson (1987), p. 78-79
  • George Patton, the Army needs someone like you right now. You can't quit.
    • Joanne H. Patton, to her husband, George S. Patton, IV, as quoted in as quoted in The Fighting Pattons (1997) by Brian M. Sobel, p. 188
  • The VA recognized over a dozen medical conditions for children of women who served in of Vietnam. However, for the children of the men who served in Vietnam, only Spina Bifida is recognized as being directly connected to Agent Orange exposure.
  • The Vietnamese claim that 4 million people were exposed to Agent Orange and 3 million of its people suffer from medical conditions that were caused by the exposure from the Vietnam War. Despite the efforts to decontaminate the soil, the U.S. vehemently denies that the number of Agent Orange illnesses are that high, which according to the Vietnamese includes children of men and women who were exposed to the dioxin following the war.
  • Johnson was equally determined to prevent the expansion of communism in Southeast Asia, but the price the United States had to pay in lives and money to do so would be much higher than in Latin America. Between November 1963 and July 1965, Johnson transformed Kennedy's program of limited U.S. assistance to South Vietnam into an open-ended commitment to defend that country. By 1968 the United States would have over 500,000 troops in Vietnam. Johnson believed, probably correctly, that South Vietnam would collapse if the United States did not expand its participation in the war. Remembering the conservative backlash against the Truman administration after the communist takeover of China, Johnson believed he could not abandon South Vietnam and remain in the White House. Shortly after assuming the presidency, Johnson said privately, "I am not going to lose Vietnam. I am not going to be the president who saw Southeast Asia go the way China went. If the United States pulled out of Vietnam, Johnson warned on one occasion, "it might as well give up everywhere else- pull out of Berlin, Japan, South America."
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 155
  • Although Johnson consulted with congressional leaders before he committed combat units to Vietnam, he did not request another congressional resolution authorizing him to do so. He felt that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution already provided sufficient authorization. Moreover, he did not want to put the country on a war footing, because he feared a public backlash against U.S. involvement in the conflict; he also wanted to maintain congressional and public support for his Great Society reform program, which he feared might be set aside if the war were given priority status. Johnson believed that he could wage war and implement a major reform program simultaneously, something no other president had ever attempted. Ultimately, Johnson's decision to expand the U.S. military commitment in Vietnam would force him to withdraw from the presidential campaign of 1968. The Republican victory in the election that November would mean the end of Johnson's Great Society program as well as the inauguration of a new Vietnam policy.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 156-157
  • One reason for the failure of Johnson's Vietnam policy was the inherent unworkability of U.S. military strategy. The gradual escalation of the U.S. bombing campaign allowed the North Vietnamese sufficient time to disperse their population and resources and to develop an air defense system that would destroy a large number of U.S. aircraft. Moreover, the U.S. Army never developed a consistent strategy for stopping the infiltrations of regular North Vietnamese units and supplies into the South. General Westmoreland's search-and-destroy strategy was designed primarily to protect the cities of South Vietnam while killing as many Vietcong as possible. Westmoreland grossly miscalculated North Vietnam's willingness to suffer huge losses in manpower as well as its capacity to replace those losses. An estimated 200,000 North Vietnamese males reached draft age each year, far more than U.S. forces could kill. North Vietnam was able to sustain its war effort by drawing on both Soviet and Chinese military and economic assistance. With the Sino-Soviet split deeper than ever, even after Krushchev's demise, both communist powers tried to outdo each other in helping North Vietnam. Their combined assistance between 1965 and 1968 exceeded $2 billion, an amount that more than offset the losses North Vietnam suffered from U.S. bombing. In addition, between 1962 and 1968 approximately 300,000 Chinese soldiers went to North Vietnam, 4,000 of whom were killed. Though not participating in ground combat, they helped operate antiaircraft weapons and communications facilities.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 157
  • Without question, the presence of the Chinese military in North Vietnam was largely intended to deter a U.S. invasion, and, clearly, it was successful in doing so. Fearing that an expansion of the ground war into North Vietnam would again bring Chinese soldiers into conflict with U.S. troops, as had happened in the Korean War, the administration refrained from taking that step. Unwilling to fight an all-out war with North Vietnam, Johnson ensured that the conflict would become a war of attrition. In such a war the communists were bound to win because they were willing to accept much higher casualties than were the American people.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 157
  • With no prospect of either a military or diplomatic end to the war, the carnage inevitably grew. By late 1967 the number of U.S. military personnel killed in action reached 13,500. Many Americans were wondering if the war was worth the mounting deaths that were so vividly displayed on the nightly news. Slowly, American public opinion turned against the administration. College students in particular became bitter opponents of the war. But the opposition to the conflict also increased in Congress, with Senators William Fulbright (Dem.-Ark.) and Wayne Morse (Rep.-Ore.) leading the attack, bringing to a standstill legislative progress on Johnson's cherished great society program. By 1967 growing demonstrations against the war and vicious personal criticism of the president had made Johnson a virtual prisoner in the White House. The increasing unpopularity of the war, however, did not sway Johnson from his goal of preserving a noncommunist South Vietnam. For the president in 1967, there was no acceptable alternative but a continuation of the war. Accordingly, in August 1967 he approved General Westmoreland's request for an additional 45,000-50,000 troops, but he imposed a new ceiling of 525,000 military personnel, a level that was not surpassed for the remainder of the war. In November 1967 Westmoreland assured Johnson that the United States was "turning the corner" in Vietnam.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 160
  • Then, much to the surprise of U.S. intelligence, the supposedly nearly beaten North Vietnamese and their Vietcong allies launched a major offensive against the cities of South Vietnam in February 1968. Coinciding with the Vietnamese Tet holiday, the communist forces attacked more than 100 towns and cities, including Saigon, where the grounds of the U.S. Embassy were penetrated, and Huế, the ancient capital of Vietnam, which the communists held for more than a month before they were driven out. While American and South Vietnamese forces were able to repel the communist onslaught, and inflict enormous losses on the enemy in the process, they also suffered heavy casualties. The Tet offensive was a significant military victory for the United States, but it was also a stunning psychological defeat. To most Americans, who had been subjected to repeated administration claims that the war was being won, it seemed incredible that the communists could mount such an impressive offensive.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 160-161
  • After Tet, with no end to the war in sight, a Gallup poll in March 1968 reported that a clear majority of "Middle America" had turned against the administration. The same poll showed that Johnson's approval rating had reached a new low of 30 percent. General Westmoreland seemed oblivious to the growing hostility of the American people and Congress toward the war. He insisted that the communists had been dealt a crippling blow during Tet and that the war could be won by launching new ground offensives against their bases in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam, and by intensifying and expanding the bombing campaign, especially around Hanoi and Haiphong. To implement this strategy, Westmoreland requested an additional 206,000 troops.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998), p. 161

REdit

  • As for the peace that we would preserve, I wonder who among us would like to approach the wife or mother whose husband or son has died in South Vietnam and ask them if they think this is a peace that should be maintained indefinitely. Do they mean peace, or do they mean we just want to be left in peace? There can be no real peace while one American is dying some place in the world for the rest of us. We're at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it's been said that if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well I think it's time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.

SEdit

  • By late 1967, there were 485,600 American troops in South Vietnam; over the course of the war, nearly 2.6 million American service members would serve in country. While much of the historical discussion around the American military effort has focused on the immense firepower and destruction it entailed, an equally awe-inspiring aspect of the war has been overlooked: logistics.
    Moving more than two million people — along with their weapons, aircraft, food and medical supplies — in and out of the country was an almost unfathomable challenge. Early in the war, South Vietnam, which even after a century of French rule remained a largely rural nation, simply did not have the seaports and airfields required to receive this level of manpower and sustain military operations. America would have to build those facilities, and much more, from scratch. It would be, in the words of The New York Times correspondent Hanson W. Baldwin, “probably the most massive construction effort ever organized and put into the field in so short a time and the ‘largest military construction contract in history.’”
  • By the end of the war, American forces had constructed six new major airports, with 10,000-foot concrete runways, at Bien Hoa, Cam Ranh Bay, Chu Lai, Phan Rang, Tuy Hoa and Phu Cat, and enlarged the two French-built airfields at Da Nang and Saigon; six new airports were also built in Thailand. Some 100 smaller airfields were built around South Vietnam to accommodate helicopters and supply aircraft.
    To care for the growing number of American and Vietnamese service members, Americans built 26 hospitals with 8,280 beds. To receive and hold the millions of tons of supplies shipped over, contractors built 10.4 million square feet of covered storage, as well as 5.5 million square feet of ammunition storage and enough tanker farms to hold 3.1 million barrels of petroleum products. Finally, the military built 26 major base camps around Vietnam, some with shopping malls and movie theaters, as well as hundreds of smaller combat firebases.
  • Patton asked him to go aboard a chopper equipped with a loudspeaker and order his men to surrender. The prisoner quickly refused, and Patton said to him, "If you don't go up in the chopper with me and ask them to surrender you have personally signed their death warrants, because I will be forced to obliterate this position." The NVA captain again declined, and Patton's frustration was evident. He glowered at the man, and said, "Goddamn it, who is winning this war?" "You are," was the reply. "Then in that case," Patton shouted, "why don't we save the lives of your soldiers and let us take them out and feed them and medicate them?" "Sir," he said, "you didn't ask who would win this war." "Well, who is going to win this war?" Patton snorted. "We will," the prisoner said forcefully, "because you will tire of it before we do."
    • Brian M. Sobel, quoting an exchange between George S. Patton, IV and a North Vietnamese Army officer in December 1968, in his book The Fighting Pattons (1997), p. 167-168.
"Well, who is going to win this war?" Patton snorted. "We will," the prisoner said forcefully, "because you will tire of it before we do." ~Brian M. Sobel
  • Only a few days after the Ia Drang, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, was back at the division base camp at An Khe on a cold and rainy Thanksgiving. Lieutenant Colonel Robert McDade, the battalion commander, met a visiting Westmoreland near the mess hall and told him that everyone was just about ready to eat their Thanksgiving dinners. But Westmoreland told him, "Get them all together and let me talk to them." The troops had been issued a hot meal, real coffee instead of the powdered stuff that came with C-Rations, turkey, and the trimmings. They were walking back to their squad tents to enjoy this special repast when the order was given to assemble. "There stood General Westmoreland himself," said Sergeant John Setelin. "He made a speech there in the rain and while he talked we watched the rain turn that hot dinner into cold Mulligan stew. Who knew what the hell the man said? Who cared?"
    • Lewis Sorley, in his book Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam (2011), p. 96.
  • The American government and the American press have kept the full truth about the Tonkin Bay incidents from the American public.
  • What the world (and particularly the White House) needs to remember is that aggression is unleashed and escalated when one party to a dispute decides for itself who is guilty and how he is to be punished. This is what is happening in Cyprus, where we have been begging Greeks and Turks to desist from the murderous escalation of reprisal and counter reprisal. Johnson practices in Southeast Asia what he deplores in the Mediterranean.... The U.S. now seems to operate on the principle that invasion of other people's skies is our right, and efforts to interfere with it (at least by weaker powers) punishable by reprisal. This is pure "might is right" doctrine...
  • Even in wartime, reprisals are supposed to be kept within narrow limits. Hackworth's Digest, the State Department's huge Talmud of international law, quotes an old War Department manual, Rules of Land Warfare... says reprisals are never to be taken "merely for revenge" but "only as an unavoidable last resort" to "enforce the recognized rules of civilized warfare." Even then reprisals "should not be excessive or exceed the degree of violence committed by the enemy." These were the principles we applied at the Nuremberg trials. Our reprisal raids on North Vietnam hardly conformed to these standards. By our own account, in self-defense, we had already sunk three or four attacking torpedo boats in two incidents. In neither were our ships damaged nor any of our men hurt; indeed, one bullet imbedded in one destroyer hull is the only proof we have been able to muster that the second of the attacks even took place. To fly sixty-four bombing sorties in reprisal over four North Vietnamese bases and an oil depot, destroying or damaging twenty-five North Vietnamese PT boats, a major part of that tiny navy, was hardly punishment to fit the crime....
  • Morse revealed that U.S. warships were on patrol in Tonkin Bay nearby during the shelling of two islands off the North Vietnamese coast on Friday, July 31, by South Vietnamese vessels. Morse said our warships were within three to eleven miles of North Vietnamese territory, at the time, although North Vietnam claims a twelve-mile limit. Morse declared that the U.S. "knew that the bombing was going to take place...[and] charged that the presence of our warships was "bound to be looked upon by our enemies as an act of provocation."
  • The press, which dropped an Iron Curtain weeks ago on the anti-war speeches of Morse and Gruening, ignored this one, too.

TEdit

  • I have been among the officers who have said that a large land war in Asia is the last thing we should undertake. Most of us, when we use that term, are thinking about getting into a land war against Red China. That's the only power in Asia which would require us to use forces in very large numbers. I was slow in joining with those who recommended the introduction of ground forces in South Vietnam. But it became perfectly clear that because of the rate of infiltration from North Vietnam to South Vietnam something had to be done.
    • General Maxwell D. Taylor, interview, "Top Authority Looks at Vietnam War and Its Future", U.S. News & World Report (February 21, 1966), p. 42.
  • The acceptance of the legitimacy of the overt use of power comes hard in some segments of our citizenship. In some of the expressions of concern over our behavior in Vietnam, we are seeing curious aspects of our national character in this regard. They often contain a note of reluctance or of regret over the use of the vast power represented by the resources of the United States at home and abroad. In some quarters there seems to even be what amounts to a certain feeling of guilt arising from our possession of this power and an uneasiness about the morality of our conduct. One consequence of this attitude in the Vietnam situation is that our government must constantly defend its actions to critics and, in so doing, is often obliged to disclose its plans and purposes to a degree which must be vastly helpful to our opponents. Inevitably in a situation such as Vietnam, where we are using limited means to gain limited ends, it is essential to keep the adversary in doubt with regard to the full scope of our intentions.
  • Elements of the information media contributed to prolonging the war by their manner of reporting the news. It required only selective reporting, not deliberate fabrication, to create the impression that we Americans were the prime aggressors bent on expanding the war to avoid impending defeat, and that our alleged successes were really defeats which officials were trying to hide from the American public. Biased reporters found no good to say about our Vietnamese allies, whom they held up to scorn in a way which led the American people to believe that our allies were not worth the sacrifices we were making in their behalf. Such selective and slanted reporting spread defeatism among the tender-minded at home and provided enormous encouragement for Hanoi to hold fast and concede nothing.
  • Of course, the media did not have to manufacture dissent and antiwar feeling in the United States; there was enough of the real article to provide them with legitimate subject matter. Every war critic capable of producing a headline contributed, in proportion to his eminence, some comfort if not aid to the enemy. Unfortunately, from 1967 onward there was no shortage of eminent figures among the opponents of the war willing to make this contribution.
  • We are carrying into the next decade many unresolved problems raised by Vietnam. How can a democracy such as ours defend its interests at acceptable cost and continue to enjoy the freedom of speech and behavior to which we are accustomed in time of peace? To a Communist enemy the Cold War is a total, unending conflict with the United States and its allies- without formal military hostilities, to be sure- but conducted with the same discipline and determination as a formal war. Unless we can learn to exercise some degree of self-discipline, to accept and enforce some reasonable standard of responsible civic conduct, and to remove the many self-created obstacles to the use of our power, we will be unable to meet the hard competition waiting for us in the decade of the 1970s.
  • We all have a share in it, and none of it is good. There are no heroes, just bums. I include myself in that.
    • General Maxwell D. Taylor, commenting on the fall of Saigon and with it the collapse of the Republic of Vietnam, speaking in a UPI interview in May 1975. Quoted from General Maxwell Taylor: The Sword and the Pen (1989), p. 366
  • First, we didn't know ourselves. We thought we were going into another Korean war, but this was a different country. Secondly, we didn't know our South Vietnamese allies. We never understood them, and that was another surprise. And we knew even 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 dirty kind of business. It's very dangerous.
    • General Maxwell D. Taylor, quoted in The Certain Trumpet: Maxwell Taylor and the American Experience in Vietnam (1991) by Douglas Kinnard, p. 198

WEdit

So immense had been the sacrifices made through so many long years that the South Vietnamese deserved an end- if it had to come to that- with more dignity to it. ~William Westmoreland
Yet Giap persisted nevertheless in a big-unit war in which his losses were appalling, as evidenced by his admission to the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci that he had by early 1969 lost half a million men killed. Ruthless disregard for losses is seldom seen as military genius. A Western commander absorbing losses on the scale of Giap's would have hardly lasted in command more than a few weeks. ~William Westmoreland
How could anyone genuinely believe that the South Vietnamese people had no desire to forestall the march of totalitarianism, to maintain their freedom- however imperfect- when for years upon years they bore incredible hardships and their soldiers fought with courage and determination to do just that? ~William Westmoreland
  • The Vietnamese struggle is the most significant political event of our generation. Understanding the history of the Vietnam war is a key to understand the present world situation, the present US governmental crisis, the present possibilities for the revolutionary movement here, and a correct anti-imperialist perspective.
  • I was a junior in high school in 1968, during the Tet Offensive. The disaster of Tet marked the beginning of the end of American public support for the war, as was apparent even in the small private high school I attended. Although most of my peers were the children of well-heeled, conservative civilians, they were rapidly shedding their willingness to automatically rubber-stamp those values. I, however, was a steadfast Teenage Republican, and gave a speech for Richard Nixon in our school's mock elections that fall. Later the same year I passionately defended the Vietnam War before my speech class, keenly aware that my classmates, most of them apolitical or liberal, could not have seen me as more alien if I'd leaped off a Huey (helicopter gunship) into their midst.
    • Mary Edwards Wertsch, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress (1991), p. 323
  • In the fall of 1969, barely a month after I arrived on campus for my freshman year, word spread of a huge peace demonstration planned in Washington, D.C., just a few hours away. The night before the demonstration, one of my civilian friends spotted me on campus and shouted, "Come on! We've got a van going to D.C. and there's just enough room for you! Hurry up!" To my friend's consternation, I refused. "Why not?" he asked in disbelief, stopping in his tracks. I had told no one of the conflict that tormented me. Yes I was against the war, but no I was not antimilitary. Yes I wanted to protest, but no I didn't want to condemn country and military wholesale. What would it mean to lend my presence to a huge, historic demonstration that would only be read one way? My friend searched my face for an answer. "I can't go," I finally told him, "because armbands only come in black, not in shades of gray." He stared at me blankly, then shook his head and ran off to join the caravan.
    • Mary Edwards Wertsch, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress (1991), p. 324
  • Military brats during the Vietnam War covered the whole spectrum of opinion, from those wholly supporting the war, to those wholly condemning it, to those who declined to take a position. What I believe all had in common, however, was a sensitivity to the real human beings serving in the military who were swept into the hell that was Vietnam. The children of warriors did not find it easy to swallow the caricature of the military as a monolithic, inhuman juggernaut thriving on death and destruction. We all knew someone who had served there, someone who had died there. For us the warriors were not faceless and inhuman: They were our fathers, our brothers, our cousins. We could not condemn them. And that point alone was enough to divide us from our many civilian peers.
    • Mary Edwards Wertsch, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress (1991), p. 325-326
  • One thing I believe all of us children of the Fortress sensed in our gut: The opposition to the war was too simplistic. It condemned too broadly, too blackly. Where it should have focused clearly on national policy and those who shaped it, the movement blindly condemned those charged to carry out the war, who had little freedom to refuse. It is true that there were individuals in the military who did refuse, and who accepted the consequences. Where these acts were morally driven, it is possible to say those individuals were courageously obeying a higher law. But it was and is unrealistic to imagine an entire armed force laying down its weapons in mutiny against an unpalatable foreign policy. And it is purely fanciful to imagine that soldiers should pick and choose the wars they wish to fight; that's the last thing any country would want, for nation-states depend absolutely on their warriors to do as they are commanded without question or hesitation. Therefore to condemn wholesale hundreds of thousands of soldiers who did not desert or mutiny but went, as ordered, into the nightmare of the Vietnam War, is not only to misplace the blame, but to lack compassion. On this point military brats of both Right and Left stand united.
    • Mary Edwards Wertsch, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress (1991), p. 327
  • After 10,000 North Vietnamese soldiers slipped into the poorly guarded city of Hue in February of 1968, it took a month of intense fighting, principally by American Marines, to root them out. One reason was gross negligence by the high command in estimating the enemy’s strength. A deeper reason was the physical reality of urban density, trapped civilians, stout houses, and massive stonewalls. There was no avoiding house-to-house fighting to force back a determined enemy. In terms of total fatalities among friendly and enemy troops and civilians, the result was, to quote Bowden, “well over ten thousand, making it by far the bloodiest [battle] of the Vietnam War.”
  • The enemy had achieved in South Vietnam neither military nor psychological victory. For the South Vietnamese the Tet offensive served as a unifying catalyst, a Pearl Harbor. Had it been the same for the American people, had President Johnson discerned the same support behind him that Thieu did behind him, and had he acted with forcefulness, the enemy could have been induced to engage in serious and meaningful negotiations. Unfortunately, the enemy scored in the United States the psychological victory that eluded him in Vietnam, so influencing President Johnson and his civilian advisors that they ignored the maxim that when the enemy is hurting, you don't diminish the pressure, you increase it.
  • The enemy had achieved in South Vietnam neither military nor psychological victory. For the South Vietnamese the Tet offensive served as a unifying catalyst, a Pearl Harbor. Had it been the same for the American people, had President Johnson discerned the same support behind him that Thieu did behind him, and had he acted with forcefulness, the enemy could have been induced to engage in serious and meaningful negotiations. Unfortunately, the enemy scored in the United States the psychological victory that eluded him in Vietnam, so influencing President Johnson and his civilian advisors that they ignored the maxim that when the enemy is hurting, you don't diminish the pressure, you increase it.
  • As any television viewer or newspaper reader could discern the end in South Vietnam, in April 1975, came with incredible suddenness, amid scenes of unmitigated misery and shame. Utter defeat, panic, and rout have produced similar demoralizing tableaux through the centuries; yet to those of us who had worked so hard and long to try to keep it from ending that way, who had been so markedly conscious of the deaths and wounds of thousands of Americans and the soldiers of other countries, who had so long stood in awe of the stamina of the South Vietnamese soldier and civilian under the mantle of hardship, it was depressingly sad that so much misery should be a part of it. So immense had been the sacrifices made through so many long years that the South Vietnamese deserved an end- if it had to come to that- with more dignity to it.
  • In the renewed war in South Vietnam beginning in the late 1950s, the considerable success that Giap and the Viet Cong enjoyed was cut short by the introduction of American troops. In the face of American airpower, helicopter mobility, and fire support, there was no way Giap could win on the battlefield. Given the restrictions they had imposed on themselves, neither was there much chance that the Americans and South Vietnamese could win a conventional victory; but so long as American troops were involved, Giap could point to few battlefield successes more spectacular or meaningful than the occasional overrunning of a fire-support base. Yet Giap persisted nevertheless in a big-unit war in which his losses were appalling, as evidenced by his admission to the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci that he had by early 1969 lost half a million men killed. Ruthless disregard for losses is seldom seen as military genius. A Western commander absorbing losses on the scale of Giap's would have hardly lasted in command more than a few weeks.
  • Forced in January 1973 by American pressure to to accept a cease-fire agreement that left well over 100,000 North Vietnamese troops inside South Vietnam and free access for tens of thousands more, South Vietnamese leaders surely had reason to believe that if their enemy seriously violated the agreement, the United States would interfere. Yet that was not to be. In the face of that grave psychological blow for the South Vietnamese, it required no military genius to assure South Vietnam's eventual military defeat.
  • Ironically, the North Vietnamese victory could have come much sooner. In view of the increasing commitment of American troops in the mid- and late 1960s, General Giap would have been well advised to abandon the big-unit war, pull in his horns to take away the visible threat to South Vietnam's survival, and thereby delude the Americans that they had already achieved their goal of making the South Vietnamese self-sufficient. President Johnson had given Giap that chance at the Manila conference of 1966 when he had announced that once "the level of violence subsides," American and other foreign troops would withdraw within six months. That would have been eight years before the eventual South Vietnamese defeat, long before the South Vietnamese armed forces would have had any claim to self-sufficiency. Making that offer at the Manila conference may well have been an effort by President Johnson to rid himself of the albatross of South Vietnam, whatever the long-range consequences. For once the United States had pulled out under those circumstances and Giap had come back, what American President would have dared risk the political pitfalls involved in putting American troops back in?
  • Dating from the days of the Geneva Accords of 1954, the refugees always flowed south, not north, and even those Americans who long maintained that the refugees were not fleeing the enemy but American shelling and bombing would have to admit that even after American shelling and bombing stopped, the flow was still always southward. So it was until the final deplorable end. How could anyone genuinely believe that the South Vietnamese people had no desire to forestall the march of totalitarianism, to maintain their freedom- however imperfect- when for years upon years they bore incredible hardships and their soldiers fought with courage and determination to do just that? They carried on the fight under a government that many Americans labeled unrepresentative, repressive, and corrupt. No people could have pursued such a grim defensive fight for so long without a deep underlying yearning for freedom.

XEdit

  • You put the government on the spot when you even mention Vietnam. They feel embarrassed — you notice that?... It's just a trap that they let themselves get into. … But they're trapped, they can't get out. You notice I said 'they.' They are trapped, They can't get out. If they pour more men in, they'll get deeper. If they pull the men out, it's a defeat. And they should have known that in the first place. France had about 200,000 Frenchmen over there, and the most highly mechanized modern army sitting on this earth. And those little rice farmers ate them up, and their tanks, and everything else. Yes, they did, and France was deeply entrenched, had been there a hundred or more years. Now, if she couldn't stay there and was entrenched, why, you are out of your mind if you think Sam can get in over there. But we're not supposed to say that. If we say that, we're anti-American, or we're seditious, or we're subversive…. They put Diem over there. Diem took all their money, all their war equipment and everything else, and got them trapped. Then they killed him. Yes, they killed him, murdered him in cold blood, him and his brother, Madame Nhu's husband, because they were embarrassed. They found out that they had made him strong and he was turning against them…. You know, when the puppet starts talking back to the puppeteer, the puppeteer is in bad shape….
    • Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements edited by George Breitman, January 1965, p. 217

DialogueEdit

Lyndon B. Johnson Telephone Call With Senator Richard Russell (May 27, 1964)Edit

As quoted in "The Vietnam War Transcript Trump Needs to Read" Politico Magazine, Jeff Green Field, September 27, 2017
  • Johnson: What do you think about this Vietnam thing? I’d like to hear you talk a little bit.
Russell: Well, frankly, Mr. President, it’s the damn worse mess that I ever saw, and I don’t like to brag and I never have been right many times in my life, but I knew that we were going to get into this sort of mess when we went in there. And I don’t see how we’re ever going to get out of it without fighting a major war with the Chinese and all of them down there in those rice paddies and jungles. I just don’t see it. I just don’t know what to do.
Johnson: Well, that’s the way I have been feeling for six months.
Russell: Our position is deteriorating and it looks like the more we try to do for them, the less they are willing to do for themselves. It is a mess and it’s going to get worse, and I don’t know how or what to do. I don’t think the American people are quite ready for us to send our troops in there to do the fighting. If I was going to get out, I’d get the same crowd that got rid of old Diem [the Vietnamese prime minister who was overthrown and assassinated in 1963] to get rid of these people and to get some fellow in there that said we wish to hell we would get out. That would give us a good excuse for getting out.
Johnson: How important is it to us?
Russell: It isn’t important a damn bit for all this new missile stuff.
Johnson: I guess it is important.
Russell: From a psychological standpoint. Other than the question of our word and saving face, that’s the reason that I said that I don’t think that anybody would expect us to stay in there. It’s going to be a headache to anybody that tries to fool with it. You’ve got all the brains in the country, Mr. President—you better get ahold of them. I don’t know what to do about this. I saw it all coming on, but that don’t do any good now, that’s water over the dam and under the bridge. And we are there.
  • Johnson: Well, they’d impeach a president, though, that would run out, wouldn’t they?
Russell: I don’t think they would. I don’t know how in hell you’re going to get out, unless they [the South Vietnamese government] tell you to get out.
Johnson: Wouldn’t that pretty well fix us in the eyes of the world and make us look mighty bad?
Russell: Well, I don’t know, we don’t look too good right now, going in there with all the troops, sending them all in there, I’ll tell you it'll be the most expensive adventure this country ever went into.

External linksEdit

Wikipedia has an article about:
  1. Gelb, Les and Gladstone, Brooke (January 12, 2018). What the Press and "The Post" Missed. W:On The Media.