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The Vietnam War

Old 12th Oct 2017, 10:21
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Megan - I didn't say we were immune from foreign policy errors, Iraq and Afghanistan are clear proof of that.

The 'domino theory' of all-pervading communism was a political excuse just as 'defending democracy' was and is for getting involved in other people's countries where we had no right to.
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Old 12th Oct 2017, 20:09
  #42 (permalink)  
 
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"No right to" - by present day or contemporary standards?
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Old 12th Oct 2017, 20:17
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Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
It showed how easily a change of personalities and a paranoia about communism took the US relationship with Vietnam (and Ho Chi Minh in particular) from friend (and supplier of arms) to foe. What an almighty foreign policy f*ckup.
I'm sorry, did you miss the Cold War, Harry Truman's Containment Policy, and much else in the 1950's? Viet Nam was a lesser included case of a policy that was very much NOT a f*ckup. As my dad spent some time in Berlin during the airlift, the communists had already shown their true colors, likewise in Korea. (Could Viet Nam have gone differently? Yeah. But it didn't).
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Old 12th Oct 2017, 22:12
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Lonewolf, I recommend the documentary "The Fog of War" by Errol Morris. It's a 2003 interview with Robert McNamara, and Robert McNamara's 11 lessons from Vietnam are featured in it, among other things. (McNamara is the "management" that SASless is referring to, presumably.) Quote from Wikipedia:
From Robert McNamara's 1995 book "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam".
  1. We misjudged then — and we have since — the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries … and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.
  2. We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience … We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.
  3. We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.
  4. Our misjudgments of friend and foe, alike, reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.
  5. We failed then — and have since — to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces, and doctrine. We failed, as well, to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.
  6. We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale military involvement … before we initiated the action.
  7. After the action got under way, and unanticipated events forced us off our planned course … we did not fully explain what was happening, and why we were doing what we did.
  8. We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people's or country's best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.
  9. We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action … should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international community.
  10. We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions … At times, we may have to live with an imperfect, untidy world.
  11. Underlying many of these errors lay our failure to organize the top echelons of the executive branch to deal effectively with the extraordinarily complex range of political and military issues.
These are slightly shortened versions of the text from page 321 to page 323 of his book.
I recommend the movie, because Morris has McNamara contrast it with the Cuban Missile Crisis: there, the US understood its adversary, and achieved a much better result.
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Old 12th Oct 2017, 23:07
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From Robert McNamara's 1995 book "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam"...
You could apply these virtually verbatim to the two recent UK wars.
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Old 13th Oct 2017, 10:36
  #46 (permalink)  
 
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Lonewolf - yet the US didn't act to contain communism in neighbouring Laos.

Soviet expansionism post WW2 was quite clear - my point is that the 'fear' of Communism was overblown in order to deal with that expansionism. Most US voters wouldn't have cared about minor Asian countries if they hadn't had the spectre of world communism created to give the politicians the money and power to go to war or prop up puppet governments halfway across the world.

It seems like Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist rather than a communist but only the communists would support him to get rid of the French.

Everything after that was a total disaster as McNamara seems to acknowledge.
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Old 13th Oct 2017, 14:47
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FDR wanted to see the end of European Colonialism.....Harry Truman failed to follow through and supported the French over the Vietnamese.

After the French got whipped....our political leadership saw to it we had our chance to go against a Re-unification of the two countries as a fear the corrupt and in-popular government would lose to the Northerners.

We see how all that turned out!
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 00:07
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Originally Posted by The Old Fat One View Post

And as for the 19 year olds that went out there (and their Vietnamese adversaries), I take my hat off and raise a glass to them all. Whatever the politics, them that fought, did so bravely and courageously, in many cases to the bitter end.
I had a girlfriend, years ago, who had her brother killed in Vietnam. 19yrs would have been about his age. Killed moving forward under effective fire to assist those going under. (USMC.) He was older, she looked up to him, she claimed that when he left she experienced pure fear and anxiety. He obviously was never the same again - and neither was she. Nor were her family.

On the other hand I've flown with those who had a very good SE Asian war who were actually enriched by the experience (which mirrored similar experiences in WWII). Time and Place is everything - plus a bit of luck.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 01:01
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There were Good Times....and there were Times!

Every now and then I take a seat on my Porch overlooking the water...watch the Sun go down....and contemplate those Times.

Don't let anyone fool you...being smack dab in the middle of a Game of Cop Your Whack is never "Good".

If you are a long distance spectator...perhaps it is much like watching a movie complete with Popcorn and Softies.

I don't recall any dramatic music playing in the background while the shooting was going on like it does on the Big Screen.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 01:44
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If you are a long distance spectator...perhaps it is much like watching a movie complete with Popcorn and Softies
Well, the stoush did provide entertainment to some SAS. Some years ago went to the medical centre for some forgotten reason, got talking to the Doc, and turned out he was Vietnamese from Soc Trang, right in the middle of my bailiwick. Turned out he was 12 years old during my tenure and said the local kids used to hop on their bikes to view close up any action taking place in the local area, attraction being the helos doing their thing, particularly gunships. We should have charged admission, and run a concession.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 02:19
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Visiting the place a few years back....and having conversations with former VC and NVA was very enjoyable. Once the Ice was broken....it was just old Soldiers talking about their experiences....and sometimes shared experiences.

Seeing the young folks serving today....especially some of the Ladies....Pith Helmets...green uniforms...and a AK hanging from the shoulder was interesting.

It is a beautiful country, very friendly people, and just a nice place to visit.....I could easily have retired there except for other commitments that kept me here.

Way up north next to the Chinese Border is some very pretty country....and cold in the Winter. I was surprised to see Fireplaces in some of the Restaurants and Hotels.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 03:15
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It seems like Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist rather than a communist but only the communists would support him to get rid of the French.
Absolutely! I lived in Saigon for two periods totalling ten years, since the mid 90s. I have many Vietnamese friends, I have read extensively about the history and have visited many museums and memorials, including Dien Bien Phu.

The Vietnamese are very proud and fervently nationalistic, regardless of their political persuasion. They have been kicking out invaders for two millennia.

Following the end of the American War (as it is known in Vietnam, to distinguish it from all the other wars), they invaded Cambodia in 1978 and kicked out Pol Pot. The Chinese took advantage of the situation and invaded northern Vietnam in February 1979, in support of their Cambodian allies. After three weeks of intensive fighting, the Chinese withdrew and both sides claimed victory. Serious skirmishes continued until 1990.

Like SASless, I have been up to the border country in northern Vietnam. It is cold in the winter and often snows. There is an extensive network of new roads, built in very rugged and difficult 'karst' terrain, that are obviously for military use. It is the only part of Vietnam where foreigners are still seriously monitored. One member of our party was hauled off to a police station in the middle of the night, because he didn't have his Resident's Permit with him.

It is a tragedy that the US State Department didn't follow up on the recommendations of the OSS in 1945, to support Ho Chi Minh, as they did with Tito. The disaster that befell Indochina during the next forty years, could have been avoided.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 06:20
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Once NATO was established and the Communist threat to Europe and possibly the rest of the world became the political agenda then it was impossible for the Americans not to support the French in Indo China.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 10:00
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The Americans had wanted the Freench out Indo China, the British out of Malaya and the Dutch out of Indonesia throughout WW" and actively obstructed their return

It was only after the Korean invasion they started to worry about the "advance" of th2 communist block into SE Asia - and by then Indonesia had gone nationalist and the French were a lost cause
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 11:47
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We've clashed a few times over the years on PPRuNe SASLess, but I've got nothing but respect for what you and your comrades did in Vietnam.

It's a period of history I'm too young to have any knowledge of first hand, but have read a hundred books on the subject - Chickenhawk; 100 feet over hell; Cobra pilot; Naked in Danang; and Low Level Hell to name a few. If anyone hasn't read them, I thoroughly recommend that you do.

Am really enjoying the Vietnam documentary that is the subject of this thread. I take what some veterans here have said about its accuracy, but I guess it just goes to show how people going through the exact same experience can have totally differing and often contrary memories of it.

Your experience of visitng Vietnam after the war is interesting, SASless. One wonders if the veterans of today's wars will ever be able to visit Iraq and Afghanistan as tourists one day and share stories and experiences with former enemies. I somehow doubt it, sadly.

Last edited by melmothtw; 14th Oct 2017 at 11:58.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 14:37
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It is a tragedy that the US State Department didn't follow up on the recommendations of the OSS in 1945, to support Ho Chi Minh, as they did with Tito. The disaster that befell Indochina during the next forty years, could have been avoided.

So true...the Vietnam War need never have been an "American War" at all.

What I also found very interesting is there seems to be no hatred towards Americans....but the French seem to be very much hated.

The Tour Guides (in quiet conversations over a Beer or three) would invariably talk about the harsh treatment of the Vietnamese by the French. So many of the Prisons where POW's were held were all originally French built for the incarceration of political prisoners during their time in power.
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Old 14th Oct 2017, 17:17
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Salute!

What I also found very interesting is there seems to be no hatred towards Americans...
As SAS and others have stated here, we warriors from that miserable time can meet and share a beer and even joke about "if you were a better shot I wouldn't be here!!"

Some have pointed out here that the northern Vee were much more nationalistic than communistic. So very true, and I have had a hard time over the last 45 years buying into Uncle Ho being a devout communist more than a devout patriot that wanted to kick the foreign powers out and have one country of their own.

I worked with the VNAF for almost three years helping a few dozen to become proficient in the A-37. When I went back in 1972 I had a chance to run an A-7 turnaround site at my old haunt - Bien Hoa. Hunted down some of my students, who were now in F-5's. They put on a "good" face, but I could see it in their eyes. They had lost faith in their government.

The Tampa Bay newspaper had this article some time ago, and although very emotional, it describes one of my closest friend's "closure". At the end, some of the pictures show that "bygones are bygones". I am in the "C-flight" picture. I also flew Sandy 3 for the Kansas rescue attempt, escorting and protecting the backup Jolly. Wound up escorting the wounded Jolly outta North Vietnam with the backup Jolly tagging along. That helo was shot up, folks, and finally was running on one motor.


Vietnam veteran's search for peace began with angst over image | Tampa Bay Times

Another good account of folks going back can be had with yet another fellow pilot I flew with - "Bury Us Upside Down".


As Don put it in the epilog:

"I wasn't a hero, but I flew with men who were".

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Old 15th Oct 2017, 01:30
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What I also found very interesting is there seems to be no hatred towards Americans....but the French seem to be very much hated.
SASless,

In my time in Vietnam, I have had extensive dealings with people in government departments and in state-owned companies, and the majority of these people were of your and my vintage and were war veterans.

Of all the people I met, there was only one person who was openly anti-American. Everyone else was either neutral or welcoming. After the collapse of the USSR, Vietnam was no longer receiving aid from Russia and they needed foreign investment.

I vividly remember a meeting one day, that could have become unpleasant except for the polite behaviour of our Vietnamese hosts.We had gone to Vung Tau to sign a contract for helicopter service to an offshore oil rig. After the signing, the senior managers, who were all from the north, took us out to lunch.

During lunch one of our hosts mentioned, fairly casually, that he had been with an NVA regiment in South Vietnam for seven years. A somewhat naive member of our party asked him: "How often did you get R&R?"

The response was a polite and low-key repetition: "I was in the jungle for seven years."
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Old 16th Oct 2017, 08:12
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Originally Posted by SASless View Post
What I also found very interesting is there seems to be no hatred towards Americans....but the French seem to be very much hated.
Remember whose side the French were on in the 1942-45 war.
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Old 16th Oct 2017, 09:17
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Both IIRC..................
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