The history of Southeast Asia is another story altogether. “France, in order to keep pace with the British and their imperial ambitions, began its conquest of Indochina in the late 1850s, and completed pacification by 1893. The 1884 Treaty of Huế formed the basis for French colonial rule in Vietnam for the next seven decades. In spite of military resistance, most notably by the Cần Vương of Phan Đình Phùng (Phan Đình Phùng (1847-95) was a poet and a leader of the uprising Huong Khe (1885-96) in the Cần Vương movement against the French in the late 19th Century.) By 1888, the area of the current-day nations of Cambodia and Vietnam was made into the colony of French Indochina (Laos was later added to the colony).
Various Vietnamese opposition movements to French rule existed during this period, such as the Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng who staged the failed Yên Bái mutiny in 1930, but none were ultimately as successful as the Việt Minh common front, which was founded in 1941, controlled by the Indochinese Communist Party, and surprisingly funded by the U.S. and the Chinese Nationalist Party in its fight against Japanese occupation.
On August 22,1945, following the Japanese surrender, OSS(the forerunner of the CIA) agents Archimedes Patti and Carleton B. Swift, Jr. arrived in Hanoi on a mercy mission to liberate allied POWs and were accompanied by Jean Sainteny, a French government official. The Japanese forces informally surrendered (the official surrender took place on September 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay) but, being the only force capable of maintaining law and order, the Japanese Imperial Army remained in power while keeping French colonial troops and Sainteny detained.
During August the Japanese forces remained inactive as the Việt Minh and other nationalist groups took over public buildings and weapons, which began the “August Revolution”. OSS officers met repeatedly with nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh and other Việt Minh officers during this period and on September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh declared the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam before a crowd of 500,000 in Hanoi. [Ho’s meaning for “Democratic” is decidedly different from America’s, as we shall see.]
In an overture to the Americans, he began his speech by paraphrasing the United States Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal. The Creator has given us certain inviolable Rights: the right to Life, the right to be Free, and the right to achieve Happiness.”
According to author Gabriel Kolko, the Việt Minh enjoyed large popular support, although author Arthur J. Dommen cautions against a “romanticized view” of their success: “The Việt Minh use of terror was systematic….the party had drawn up a list of those to be liquidated without delay.” After their defeat in the war, the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) gave weapons to the Vietnamese, and kept Vichy French officials and military officers imprisoned for a month after the surrender. By that time, the Việt Minh had recruited more than 600 Japanese soldiers and given them roles to train or command Vietnamese soldiers.
However, the major allied victors of World War II, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union, all agreed the area belonged to the French. As the French did not have the means to immediately retake Vietnam, the major powers came to an agreement that British troops would occupy the south while Nationalist Chinese forces would move in from the north. Nationalist Chinese troops entered the country to disarm Japanese troops north of the 16th parallel on September 14, 1945. When the British landed in the south, they rearmed the interned French forces as well as parts of the surrendered Japanese forces to aid them in retaking southern Vietnam, as they did not have enough troops to do this themselves.
[Although American forces were available in the Western Pacific region and could have been used to assist in the pacification of Southeast Asia, the clamor to disarm and “bring the troops home” overrode all common sense, which then necessitated the use of Japanese troops and Nationalist Chinese troops. This strategic shortsightedness resulted in an armed communist Vietnam and a Communist movement in China that was not adequately contained, resulting in today’s Communist China.]
At the urging of the Soviet Union, Ho Chi Minh initially attempted to negotiate with the French, who were slowly re-establishing their control across the area. In January 1946, the Việt Minh won questionable elections across central and northern Vietnam [more fallout from America’s decision not to participate in Southeast Asia].
On March 6, 1946, Ho signed an agreement allowing French forces to replace Nationalist Chinese forces, in exchange for French recognition of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as a “free” republic within the French Union, with the specifics of such recognition to be determined by future negotiation. The French [properly] were not agreeable to Ho’s [dubious] request.”
Globally, by this time, the Cold War had begun in earnest, which meant that the rapprochement that existed between the Western powers and the Soviet Union during World War II disintegrated. A worldwide struggle for the hearts and minds of all the world’s peoples, between Western Civilization and International Communism, had begun.
The French landed in Hanoi by March 1946 and in November of that year they ousted the Việt Minh from the city. British forces departed on March 26, 1946, leaving Vietnam in the hands of the French. Soon thereafter, the Japanese equipped Việt Minh began a guerilla war against the French Union forces, beginning the First Indochina War. The war spread to Laos and Cambodia, where communists organized the Pathet Lao and the Khmer Serei, both of which were modeled on the Việt Minh.
The Việt Minh fight was hampered by a lack of replacement weapons and ammunition; this situation changed by 1949 when the Chinese Communists had largely won the Chinese Civil War and, as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), were free to provide arms to their Vietnamese allies. The Việt Minh received crucial support from both the Soviet Union and PRC. PRC support in the Border Campaign of 1950 [as the Korean War began] allowed supplies to come from the PRC into Vietnam. Throughout the conflict, U.S. intelligence estimates remained skeptical of French chances of success and of American ability to support their wartime ally.
The Battle of Điện Biên Phủ in the far northwest corner of North Vietnam marked the end of French involvement in Indochina. North Vietnam’s General Giap’s Việt Minh forces handed the French a stunning military defeat and, on May 7, 1954, the French garrison surrendered. Only 3,000 of the 12,000 French taken prisoner survived.
At the Geneva Conference, the French negotiated a ceasefire agreement with the Việt Minh, and independence was granted to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Once again, the age-old maxim from the Epoch of Conquest had been proven – it isn’t really yours unless you can hold on to it. France could not hold French Indochina.
The South meanwhile, constituted the State of Vietnam, with Bảo Đại as Emperor and Ngô Đình Diệm (appointed in July 1954) as his prime minister. Neither the United States government nor Ngô Đình Diệm’s State of Vietnam signed anything at the 1954 Geneva Conference. With respect to the question of reunification, the non-communist Vietnamese delegation objected strenuously to any division of Vietnam, but lost out when the French accepted the proposal of Việt Minh delegate Phạm Văn Đồng, who proposed that Vietnam eventually be united by elections under the supervision of “local commissions”.
The United States countered with what became known as the “American Plan”, with the support of South Vietnam and the United Kingdom. It provided for unification elections under the supervision of the United Nations, but this was rejected by the Soviet delegation. The United States said, “With respect to the statement made by the representative of the State of Vietnam, the United States reiterates its traditional position that peoples are entitled to determine their own future and that it will not join in any arrangement which would hinder this”. This became the moral justification for U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
President Eisenhower wrote in 1954, “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 eighty percent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader rather than Chief of State Bảo Đại.”
Indeed, the lack of leadership and drive on the part of Bảo Đại was a factor in the feeling prevalent among Vietnamese that they had nothing to fight for according to the Pentagon Papers (officially titled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, was a classified US Department of Defense history of the United States’ politico-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967).
[The Pentagon Papers were photocopied without official permission (in other words – stolen) in October 1969 and released by one Daniel Ellsberg, a Harvard educated, disenchanted, anti-Vietnam War activist and darling of the progressive/liberal left – much like Alger Hiss – who had worked on the project and first brought them to the attention of the public on the front page of The New York Times in 1971 – thereby criminally violating his agreement with the federal government that granted him access to classified information. Neither he nor the Times was never punished for their actions.]
Again, according to Eisenhower, from 1954 to 1956, “Ngô Đình Diệm really did accomplish miracles …” in South Vietnam: It is almost certain that by 1956 the proportion which might have voted for Ho – in a free election against Diệm – would have been much smaller than eighty percent.”
In 1957, independent observers from India, Poland, and Canada representing the International Control Commission (ICC) stated that fair, unbiased elections were not possible, with the ICC reporting that neither South nor North Vietnam had honored the armistice agreement.
From April to June 1955, Diệm eliminated any political opposition in the South by launching military operations against two religious groups: the Cao Đài and Hòa Hảo of Ba Cụt. The campaign also focused on the Bình Xuyên organized crime group which was allied with members of the communist party secret police and had some military elements. As broad-based opposition to his harsh tactics mounted, Diệm increasingly sought to blame the communists – and not without reason.
In a referendum on the future of the State of Vietnam on October 23, 1955, Diệm rigged the poll supervised by his brother Ngô Đình Nhu and was credited with 98.2 percent of the vote, including 133% in Saigon. His American advisors had recommended a more modest winning margin of “60 to 70 percent.” Diệm, however, viewed the election as a test of authority. Three days later, he declared South Vietnam to be an independent state under the name Republic of Vietnam (ROV), with himself as president.
[This, of course was the same process that, Ho Chi Minh (and other communist officials around the world) employed and he always won at least 99% of the vote in North Vietnamese “elections”.]
The “domino theory”, which argued that if one country fell to communism, then all of the surrounding countries would follow – a simple but accurate belief based on self-proclaimed worldwide communist intentions and actions since the end of World War II – was first proposed as policy by the Eisenhower administration.
John F. Kennedy, then a U.S. Senator, said in a speech to the American Friends of Vietnam: “Burma, Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines and obviously Laos and Cambodia are among those whose security would be threatened if the Red Tide of Communism overflowed into Vietnam.”
Beginning in the summer of 1955, Diệm launched the “Denounce the Communists” campaign, during which communists and other anti-government elements were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, or executed. He instituted the death penalty against any activity deemed communist in August 1956. According to historian Gabriel Kolko, about 12,000 suspected opponents of Diệm were killed between 1955 and 1957 and by the end of 1958 an estimated 40,000 political prisoners had been jailed.
The North Vietnamese Communist Party approved a “people’s war” in the South at a session in January 1959 and in May, Group 559 was established to maintain and upgrade the Ho Chi Minh trail, at this time a six-month mountain trek through Laos. About 500 of the “regroupees” of 1954 were sent south on the trail during its first year of operation. The first arms delivery via the trail was completed in August 1959.
North Vietnam invaded Laos in 1959, and used 30,000 men to build invasion routes through Laos and Cambodia by 1961. About 40,000 communist soldiers infiltrated into the South from 1961–63. North Vietnam sent 10,000 troops of the North Vietnamese Army to attack the south in 1964, and this figure had increased to 100,000 in 1965.
President Kennedy’s policy toward South Vietnam rested on the assumption that Diệm and his forces had to ultimately defeat the guerrillas on their own – the Acheson belief that had proven catastrophic in June 1950 [in Korea]. He was against the deployment of American combat troops and observed that “to introduce U.S. forces in large numbers there today, while it might have an initially favorable military impact, would almost certainly lead to adverse political and, in the long run, adverse military consequences.” [How prescient.] But, by November 1963, there were 16,000 American military personnel in South Vietnam, up from Eisenhower’s 900 advisors.
As historian James Gibson summed up the situation: “Strategic hamlets had failed…. The feckless South Vietnamese regime was incapable of winning the peasantry because of its class-base among landlords. Indeed, there was no longer a ‘regime’ in the sense of a relatively stable political alliance and functioning bureaucracy. Instead, civil government and military operations had virtually ceased. The National Liberation Front had made great progress and was close to declaring provisional revolutionary governments in large areas.”
[The “strategic hamlet” program involved creating “safe-zones” around important regional population centers. The Army program failed for the same reason the Army itself failed (see below) but a similar US Marine program under General Victor H. (Brute) Krulak was very successful on a smaller scale. Scaled up, it might have turned the tide of the war. Unfortunately, there were simply not enough Marines to do that.]
Numerous coup plans had been explored by the South Vietnamese army before, but the plotters intensified their activities with increased confidence after the administration of U.S. President Kennedy authorized the U.S. embassy to explore the possibility of a leadership change. The arrest and assassination of Ngô Đình Diệm, the president of South Vietnam, marked the culmination of a successful CIA-backed coup d’état led by General Dương Văn Minh (“Big Minh”) in early November 1963.
On November 2, 1963, Diệm and his adviser, his younger brother Ngô Đình Nhu, were arrested after the Army of the Republic of Vietman (ARVN) had been successful in a bloody overnight siege on Gia Long Palace in Saigon, the South Vietnamese capitol. The Ngô brothers soon agreed to surrender and were promised safe exile. After being arrested, they were instead executed in the back of an armored personnel carrier by ARVN officers on the journey back to military headquarters at Tân Sơn Nhứt Air Base.
When word of the assassination reached Washington, according to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Maxwell Taylor, “Kennedy leaped to his feet and rushed from the room with a look of shock and dismay on his face which I had never seen before.” Some believed that he should not have supported the coup and that as coups were uncontrollable, assassination was always a possibility. Kennedy himself was assassinated less than three weeks later in Dallas, TX on November 22, 1963. The two events were not related.
Kennedy’s successor, Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson also subscribed to the Domino Theory in Vietnam and to a containment policy that required America to make a serious effort to stop all Communist expansion. At Kennedy’s death, there were 16,000 American military personnel in Vietnam. Johnson immediately reversed Kennedy’s order to withdraw 1,000 military personnel by the end of 1963. He expanded the numbers and roles of the American military following the Gulf of Tonkin incident soon after the Republican National Convention of 1964, which nominated Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for President.
In August 1964, allegations arose from the Pentagon that two US destroyers had been attacked by some North Vietnamese torpedo boats in international waters 40 miles from the Vietnamese coast in the Gulf of Tonkin; naval communications and reports of the attack were confusing at best, contradictory at worst.
Although Johnson very much wanted to keep discussions about Vietnam out of the 1964 election campaign, he felt forced to respond to the supposed aggression by the Vietnamese, so he sought and obtained from the Congress the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 7, 1964.
Johnson, determined to embolden his image on foreign policy, also wanted to prevent criticism such as Truman had received in Korea by proceeding without Congressional endorsement of military action; a response to the purported attack as well as blunting any presidential campaign criticism of weakness from the uber-hawkish Barry Goldwater camp. The resolution gave Congressional approval for use of military force by the Commander-in-Chief to repel future attacks and also to assist allied members requesting assistance.
Johnson, later in the campaign, expressed assurance that the primary US goal remained the preservation of South Vietnamese independence through material and advice, as opposed to any US offensive posture. The public’s reaction to the resolution at the time was positive – 48% favored stronger measures in Vietnam and only 14% wanted to negotiate a settlement and leave.
In the 1964 presidential campaign, Johnson restated his determination to provide measured support for Vietnam while avoiding another Korea; but privately he had a sense of foreboding about Vietnam – a feeling that, no matter what he did, things would end badly. Indeed, his heart was on his Great Society agenda, and he even felt that his political opponents favored greater intervention in Vietnam in order to divert attention and resources away from his war – the “War on Poverty”.
The situation on the ground was aggravated in the fall of 1964 by additional Viet Minh attacks on US ships in the Tonkin Gulf, as well as an attack on Bien Hoa airbase in South Vietnam. Johnson decided against retaliatory action at the time after consultation with the Joint Chiefs and also after pollster Lou Harris confirmed that his decision would not detrimentally affect him at the polls. By the end of 1964, there were approximately 23,000 military personnel in South Vietnam. U.S. casualties for 1964 totaled 1,278.
In the winter of 1964-65 Johnson was pressured by the military to begin a bombing campaign to forcefully resist a communist takeover in South Vietnam; moreover, a plurality in the polls at the time were in favor of military action against the communists, with only 26 to 30% opposed. Johnson revised his priorities, and a new preference for stronger action came at the end of January with yet another change of government in Saigon.
He then agreed with National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that the continued passive role would only lead to defeat and withdrawal in humiliation. Johnson said, “Stable government or no stable government in Saigon, we will do what we ought to do. I’m prepared to do that; we will move strongly. General Nguyen Khanh (head of the new government) is our boy”.
After a conference of advisors in Honolulu in April 1965, by the middle of June the total US ground forces in Vietnam were increased by 150% to 82,000. On May 2, 1965 Johnson told congressional leaders that he wanted an additional $700 million for Vietnam and the Dominican Republic saying “each member of Congress who supports this request is voting to continue our effort to try to hold communist aggression”. The request was approved by the House 408 to 7 and by the Senate 88 to 3.
In June, famed Army General and now Ambassador Maxwell Taylor reported that the bombing offensive against North Vietnam had been ineffective, and that the South Vietnamese army was outclassed and in danger of collapse. Gen. William Westmoreland shortly thereafter recommended the President further increase ground troops from 82,000 to 175,000. After consulting with his principals, Johnson, desirous of a low profile, chose to announce at a press conference an increase to 125,000 troops, with additional forces to be sent later upon request.
By the middle of 1967 nearly 7,000 Americans had been killed or wounded in the war. In July, Johnson sent McNamara, [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle] Wheeler and other officials to meet with Westmoreland and reach agreement on plans for the immediate future. At that time the war was being commonly described by the press and others as a “stalemate”. Westmoreland said such a description was pure fiction, and that “we are winning slowly but steadily and the pace can excel if we reinforce our successes”.
Though Westmoreland sought many more, Johnson agreed to an increase of 55,000 troops – he eventually would bring the total to 525,000. A Gallup poll in July showed 52% of the country disapproving of the president’s handling of the war and only 34% thought progress was being made.
On January 30, 1968 came the Vietcong and North Vietnamese “Tet” offensive against South Vietnam’s five largest cities, including Saigon and the US embassy there and other government installations. As a result of the fighting, the U.S. lost about 550 troops, South Vietnam lost about 14,000 and the North Vietnamese forces lost more than 45,000 men – a horrendous casualty rate three times higher than the US and its allies. No ground was taken and held by the North Vietnamese forces. [Militarily, this was an overwhelming victory – one the Army had been waiting for where it could engage large numbers of the enemy and destroy them. Politically, it became a disaster!]
Somehow, based on the American press reporting from the field, while the North Vietnamese Tet offensive failed militarily, because of inexplicably erroneous American press reporting, it became a psychological victory for the North, definitively turning American public opinion against the war effort. This reporting was complete fabrication.
The legendary radio and television reporter, Walter Cronkite – a celebrated war correspondent who reported objectively from London during the Nazi Blitz of 1940 – certainly a time when he could have been excused for letting pessimism and doubt creep into his commentary, now the civilian host of the CBS Evening News show – safely reporting from New York City, voted the nation’s “most trusted person” in February, irresponsibly expressed his subjective opinion, on the air, as fact – that the conflict was deadlocked and that additional fighting would change nothing. Who told him that? What military expert? Apparently, no one!
On March 31 Johnson spoke to the nation of “Steps to Limit the War in Vietnam”. He then announced an immediate unilateral halt to the bombing of North Vietnam and announced his intention to seek out peace talks anywhere at any time. At the close of his speech he also announced, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President”, leaving it to his successor to clean up the mess he had made. That turned out to be Alger Hiss’ nemesis and Eisenhower’s Vice-President, Richard Nixon.
By the late 1960’s, the U.S. Army faced a broad range of challenges which came from external sources as well as from within. In the executive branch, President Richard Nixon promulgated the “Nixon Doctrine” and a new national security strategy of “realistic deterrence” with important implications for the Army’s future. The Nixon Doctrine [was Achesonian in that it] emphasized burden-sharing and reduced involvement in helping other states provide for their own security as the Nixon administration focused on reducing government spending and inflation and ending the war in Vietnam, a process begun by Johnson in 1968.
Under realistic deterrence, [America] had to be prepared to fight one and one-half wars at a time (a major war as well as a contingency operation elsewhere) rather than the previous two and one-half wars’ requirement. As interpreted by Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor, the Nixon Doctrine and strategy of realistic deterrence meant that the Army would be smaller and receive fewer resources. The Army would need to strike a new balance between continued forward presence in places such as Europe and Korea and an increased emphasis on allies contributing more to their own defense – a dubious proposition at best and one that still plagues American foreign policy.
Even more important in terms of its impact on the Army [in the long-term, it produced the world’s best Army] was Nixon’s decision to move to an all-volunteer force. His first statements of intent were in the 1968 campaign; by 1971 this significant change had been expressed in legislation by Congress. The Army’s environment was also shaped by Congress’ reassertion of its powers relative to the executive branch. Congressional resurgence meant that the Army would have to respond to two sets of political superiors who could not be presumed to [always] agree.
Finally, the domestic environment was characterized by sometimes violent social turbulence [much of it orchestrated by a small number of trained, dedicated and seemingly omnipresent dissidents on the political left], to include urban riots, demonstrations spurred by unresolved issues of race discrimination and [so called] equal rights, and an active anti-war movement.
By the late 1960s, the Army also faced great internal challenges as the Vietnam War had placed great strain on the entire force. The political decision made early on by Johnson and his braintrust – many holdovers from the Kennedy administration – to fight the war using only the active Army meant that the Army had to become much larger.
Between early 1965 and mid-1968, the Army expanded from a size of 973,000 soldiers and 17 divisions to 1,570,000 soldiers and 20 divisions. By July 1968, the equivalent of nine divisions, approximately 355,000 soldiers, had been sent to Vietnam and the commitment was still growing.
Because of the need for more leaders, commissioned and non-commissioned officer (NCO) promotions were accelerated and average experience levels decreased. The decision not to mobilize the reserves [where much experience resided] also interacted with the decisions to give Vietnam top priority in resources and to restrict hardship tours by creating skill mismatches and personnel turbulence that reached an annual turnover that “approximated 100 percent – 80 percent in units stationed in Europe, but 120 percent in those in the United States.”
This turbulence degraded the ability of leaders to create cohesive units – both in Vietnam and throughout the rest of the Army. Finally, the Army’s equipment procurement was limited to what would be needed in a post-Vietnam Army. This had ripple effects throughout the force, as the forces in Vietnam received equipment from the rest of the Army and were the priority for new acquisitions. In combination, personnel challenges and equipment shortfalls severely degraded the Army’s motivation and capabilities.
By the 1968 election season, in large part because of the fabricated reporting of a great North Vietnamese Army defeat in the Tet Offensive in January, signs of GI unrest were being carried on TV and in newspapers around the country and Vietnam vets were speaking at anti-war demonstrations. And, why wouldn’t they?
The press had turned a hard-won victory – almost a slaughter of the enemy – into a defeat in order to feed the progressive/liberal narrative back home. But word of the GI resistance in Vietnam itself trickled back more slowly – the soldiers flashing peace signs and Black Power salutes, the group refusals to fight, anti-war petitions and demonstrations, and even the fragging of officers – murdered by their own men.
Several stories from the time tell in vivid terms two incidents of GI revolts – the shooting of a top sergeant and the mutiny of Bravo Company at Firebase Pace near Cambodia. They are taken from Richard Boyle’s book Flower of the Dragon — The Breakdown of the U.S. Army in Vietnam (Ramparts Press, 1972). Boyle spent three tours in Vietnam from 1965 through 1971 as a war correspondent, and was on hand personally to record many of these events as they happened.
Not all the stories of GI resistance told in Boyle’s book are as dramatic as the story of Doc Hampton or the mutiny at Firebase Pace. Boyle could only cover a few of the thousands of [rebellious] GIs in Vietnam. Many of these … were private affairs by GI’s who were strung out on dope, or scared, or angry at being ordered to risk their lives to capture a useless piece of real estate. But as the war dragged on, an increasing number of GI’s – like the men at Firebase Pace – felt they shouldn’t be in Vietnam in the first place, and turned to organized resistance.
Resentment was especially high among African-American and other minority GI’s, who were concentrated in [less technically demanding] combat units all out of proportion to their numbers in the general population [when the potential for technical expertise generated by standard aptitude testing is ignored] and were faced with continual racial harassment due to a paucity of African-American commissioned officers.
(The draft had been activated in the middle of the decade and used a public selection of draftees by birth date drawn at random from a rotating drum but this was before Supreme Court mandated access to equal educational opportunities for African-American students had been implemented – see Brown v. board of Ed. (1954)).
One popular method of avoiding service was to enter college and get a deferment. Since most students prepared to go to college were white (since college had not become a common path for the African-American community at that time due to the inadequacy of inner-city public schools), the ratio of African-Americans in the draft was considerably higher than in the general population.
The result of these policies and decisions by both Johnson and Nixon was devastating for the military. By 1969 the morale and discipline of the U.S. Army ground forces in Indochina had so broken down that it was no longer a reliable fighting force. The nation had sent its Army into the field – a political decision – and the politicians of both parties then abandoned it there.
There is no more shameful act in the history of the United States than this one! This fact was one of the major causes for the change in U.S. strategy. The U.S. government had no choice but to withdraw American troops. Nixon may have called the Vietnam settlement “peace with honor”, but his alternative was to fight a war without an army” – a dishonorable situation of his and Johnson’s own making.
Next time: Abandoning Vietnam: the shame continues.