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Kens Comments on the RVN experience:
These comments are my opinions from a man (boy) on the ground during the events from late 67 to early 69.
Since 1975 the North Vietnamese have said that they defeated the USA. Is that so?
Lets have a look at the events to see if they did defeat the USA
If you describe winning as winning battles remember there is not a single conflict from 1964 to 1973 when the US military left Vietnam that the North Vietnamese won a single battle. Although there were a few times it got pretty close. If you do it by body count then lets do the body count; the US lost 57,280 and the NVA lost 3 million this does not even work on this analysis method. The politicians had screwed the situation up so badly that by 1973 there was no chance of fixing anything and the American people were sick of losing their children for nothing. The only solution was to bring the kids home. After all it is the kids who are doing the fighting the fat old men with stars on their shoulders don't fight.
I must ask exactly at what battle did they defeat the USA? Well it was not on the battlefield that the war was lost but in the minds of public opinion and there they had a lot of assistance from people like Jane Fonda all the way to Bill Clinton. While I was there I saw a photo of Hanoi Jane standing on a T54 tank (that is one of theirs not ours) I thought to myself at the time why is she supporting the enemy?
Should we have been there? This was a civil war between two different thinking groups of people. One group was basically Capitalist and Catholic and the other was basically Communist and Buddhist. I am not comparing Buddhism to Communism as I think Buddhism as a religion has a lot of very good ideas and teachings. Myself, born a Catholic, Ill tell you that Catholicism comes with its own set of warts. This is a not about religion as much as economic principal and visions of personal liberties.
The North Vietnamese leaders often compared theirs situation with what happened during our Civil War (1860-1865) and it is a fair comparison. Even during our Civil War the French helped out the Southern states. If you are a true student of history and know exactly what the American Civil war was all about then you know the war was not about slavery as is dished out by masses. Im not all that sure the North winning the war between the states was a good thing, but that is another opinion for another time. The American Civil War was NOT about slavery but about states rights. If the American Civil War was about slavery why was it that the Emancipation Proclamation setting the slaves free did not come until the war was two years old and the North was losing? The North had conscription and deserters by the train load while the South had people standing in queues to join. Wealthy Southerners put up their own money and formed their own regiments. Personally I think slavery is an abomination against humanity and should have been abolished and must never be allowed to happen again. A good historian will not ignore the facts of history even though some history text books give it a different spin.
Should we have been there? - Yes, but not in the capacity that we were. John Kennedy had been in battle and had been shot. This gave him a true respect for combat that LBJ never had. When Kennedy sent advisors to Vietnam to train and assists the South he did what was right. Even going to send Special Forces in to augment the South but regular solders with a few months of training and little motivation was a recipe for the disaster that happened. Thanks LBJ you have your place in history now. You bumbled you way into the Presidency and then could not do the job when you got there.
What went wrong? First the plan was bad and even then it was poorly executed. This has nothing to do with the military from Colonel down as they were just given the orders to carry out. This has to do from General up. They carry the responsibility of poor leadership. If you are going to commit large numbers of troops you had better have a good plan and execute that plan with extreme force. There is no such thing as a limited war. You have to go in with enough force to overwhelm the enemy quickly. The Germans did this with their "Blitzkrieg" specifically Rommel with his Panzers Tank Divisions. If we had operated WWII with the same rules of engagement as Vietnam we could not have crossed the Rein River at Remagen. You must take the battle to the front door of the enemy and do it with great vigour. The more aggressive you are the fewer people you lose. George Patton said "It is not your job to die for your country, it is your job to make the other son-of-a-bitch die for his."
Who is to blame?
Top of the list has to be Lyndon Johnson and next on the list has to be Westmoreland and anyone who carries the responsibility of having a star on his shoulder.
Bad plan, bad execution, bad management when they found out the plan was flawed they did the wrong things to fix the plan.
How should have it been done?
Why did it start out badly?
When did it turn?
There was a wind of change happening as I arrived. It seems like up to 1968 there was a certain mood within the military that had a goal.
Can you imagine a President with no military experience sitting up nights in the basement of the White House picking bombing targets? It happened. Did he not have confidence in his military leaders to do the job that they had trained for all their lives? Apparently not. Now you have a person who has gained everything he has by kissing babies and making speeches picking bombing targets. That is like the captain of a ship going down and doing engine repairs. If that happens you know you are in deep shit-and we were.
I am no warrior but I was someone who loved his country and wanted to contribute. I just wanted a place where I could live knowing I had done my share to earn the right to live here. I did not want to go to war and did not want to kill but I felt I had a responsibility to perform a service my government asked me to do.
Earlier I mentioned Bill Clinton and it still absolutely dumfounds me how anyone with a grain of patriotism or ethics could vote for him for anything higher than a local dogcatcher. When 43 million Americans voted for him for President in 1992 the day he was elected I drove down to my workshop and took the American flag down and have never flown it again. I felt like 43 million people had just said that the 57,280 Americans people who died in Vietnam did so for nothing. Maybe if they had dodged and lived they could have become President.
I did not get a "parade" when I came home and did not want one but it would have been nice if someone would have acknowledged what I had spent the last two years of my life doing. No one cared. Worse yet were some called me names I did not deserve. I got over that. (I think) Fast forward - years later and Desert Storm happens and everyone is giving me a "Welcome Home" wow did that feel weird. Then just two years later Dodger Bill is elected President. I decide this is not a place for me and I pack my family and move to Australia. Ive given up on America; I did my service, not as much as some but a lot more than most. I owe America nothing now as I have paid in blood my debits for my birthright and decided America does not have the backbone I want in a place that I call home.
Some of my family still lives there and I go back for a visit from time to time but it is not my home and those 43 million people are still there. I wonder if they would go if they were called by the military now? Probably not and what does that say about them as citizens? What responsibility do they have for living in America none they just take and never give.
One day in 1982 when the economy was in a bad rut and interest rates were climbing into the 20% range and the future looked pretty bleak I sat at my desk and wondered if there was something I could do for my country (again). I realized then that I contributed to society in every way possible taking nothing from it. I made a product that people wanted and paid taxes and employed people to work for me. I took nothing from the government only gave and gave.
I was 42 years old when I decided to sell and pack up and move to the other side of the world. Friends of mine were planning their retirement and I am making the biggest move of my life. I look in the mirror and ask myself if I am crazy I dont think so a little nuts maybe but not crazy.
Im gone now and the giving to America is over.
Closing - If they try Taliban John Walker for treason then they must try Hanoi Jane for treason as well. Aid and comfort to the enemy is treason.