Vietnam: Looking Back - At The Facts

Updated – 9 May 04 © By: K. G. Sears, Ph.D. - mrken

Information presented here was excerpted from Dr. Sears' dissertation and related research materials.


The reason America’s agonizing perception of “Vietnam” will not go away, is because that perception is wrong. It’s out of place in the American psyche, and it continues to fester in much the same way battle wounds fester when shrapnel or other foreign matter is left in the body. It is not normal behavior for Americans to idolize mass murdering communist despots, to champion the cause of human oppression, to abandon friends and allies, or to cut and run in the face of adversity. Why then, did so many Americans engage in, or openly support these types of activities during the country’s “Vietnam” experience?


That the American experience in Vietnam was painful and ended in long lasting (albeit self-inflicted) grief and misery can not be disputed. However, the reasons behind that grief and misery are not even remotely understood – by either the American people or their government. Contrary to popular belief, and a whole lot of wishful thinking by a crowd tens of millions strong that’s made up of mostly draft dodgers and their antiwar cronies, along with their families / supporters, it was not a military defeat that brought misfortune to the American effort in Vietnam.


The United States military in Vietnam was the best educated, best trained, best disciplined and most successful force ever fielded in the history of American arms. Why then, did they get such bad press, and, why is the public’s opinion of them so twisted? The answer is simple. But first, a few relevant comparisons.


During the Civil War, at the Battle of Bull Run, the Union Army panicked and fled the battlefield. Nothing even remotely resembling that debacle ever occurred in Vietnam.

In WW II at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, elements of the US Army were overrun by the Germans. In the course of that battle, Hitler’s General Rommel (The Desert Fox) inflicted 3,100 US Casualties, took 3,700 prisoners and captured or destroyed 198 American tanks. In Vietnam there were no US Military units overrun nor were any US infantry or tank outfits ever captured.


WW II again. In the Philippines, US Army Generals Jonathan Wainwright and Edward King surrendered themselves and their troops to the Japanese. In Vietnam, no US general, or any military unit ever surrendered.


Before the Normandy invasion (“D” Day 1944) the US Army1 in England filled its own jails with American soldiers and airmen who refused to fight and then had to rent jail space from the British to handle the overflow. The US Army in Vietnam never had to rent jail space from the Vietnamese to incarcerate American soldiers who refused to fight.

Desertion. Only about 5,000 men assigned to Vietnam deserted, and just 249 of those deserted while in Vietnam. During WW II, in the European theater alone, over 20,000 US Military men were convicted of desertion. On a comparable basis, the overall WW II desertion rate was 55 percent higher than in Vietnam.


During the WW II Battle of the Bulge in Europe, two regiments of the US Army’s 106th Division surrendered to the Germans. Again: In Vietnam no US Army unit, of any size, much less a regiment, ever surrendered.


The highest ranking American soldier killed in WW II was Lt. (three star) General Leslie J. McNair. He died when American war planes accidentally bombed his position during the invasion of Europe. In Vietnam there were no American generals killed by American bombers.


As for brutality: During WW II the US Army executed nearly 300 of its own men. Again, in the European Theater, the US Army sentenced 443 American soldiers to death. Most of the sentences were for the rape and murder of civilians.

In the Korean War, Major General William F. Dean, commander of the 24th Infantry Division, was taken prisoner of war (POW). In Vietnam there were never any US generals, much less division commanders, ever taken prisoner.


During the Korean War, the US Army was forced into the longest retreat in its history. A catastrophic 275 mile withdrawal from the Yalu River all the way to Pyontaek, 45 miles south of Seoul. In the process they lost the capitol city of Seoul. The US Military in Vietnam was never compelled into a major retreat, nor, did it ever abandon Saigon to the enemy.


The 1st US Marine Division was driven from the Chosin Reservoir and forced into an emergency evacuation from the Korean port of Hungnam. There they were joined by other US Army and South Korean soldiers and the US Navy eventually evacuated 105,000 allied troops from that port. In Vietnam there were never any mass evacuations of US Marine, South Vietnamese or allied troop units.


Other items: Only 25 percent of the US Military who served in Vietnam were draftees. During WW II 66 percent of the troops were draftees. On a percentage basis, the Vietnam force contained three times as many college graduated as did the WW II force. The average education level of the enlisted man in Vietnam was 13 years, equivalent to one year of college. Of those who voluntarily enlisted, 79 percent had high school diplomas. This at a time when only 65 percent of the American military age males in the general population were high school graduates.


The average age of the US Military men who died in Vietnam was 22.8 years old. Of the one hundred and one (101) 18 year old draftees who died in Vietnam, seven were black. Blacks accounted for 11.2 percent of combat deaths in Vietnam. At that time black males of military age constituted 13.5 percent of the US population. It should also be distinctly noted that volunteers suffered 77 percent of the casualties and accounted for 73 percent of Vietnam deaths.


The charge that the “poor” died in disproportionate numbers is also a myth. An MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) study of Vietnam death rates, conducted by Professor Arnold Barnett, revealed that servicemen from the richest 10 percent of the nations communities had the same distribution of deaths as the rest of the nation. In fact his study showed that the death rate in the upper income communities of Beverly Hills, Belmont, Chevy Chase and Great Neck exceeded the national average in three out of four, and, when the four were added together and averaged, that number also exceeded the national average.


On the issue of psychological health: Mental problems attributed to service in Vietnam are referred to as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Civil War veterans suffered “Soldiers heart.” The WW I term was “Shell shock.” During WW II and Korea it was “Battle fatigue.” US Military records reflect Civil War psychological casualties averaged twenty six per thousand men. In WW II some units experienced over 100 psychiatric casualties per 1,000 troops; In Korea nearly one quarter of all battlefield evacuations were due to mental stress. That works out to about 50 per 1,000 troops. In Vietnam the comparable average was five per 1,000 troops.




To put Vietnam in its proper perspective it is essential to understand that the US Military was not defeated in Vietnam and that the South Vietnamese government did not collapse due to mismanagement or corruption. Nor, was it overthrown by revolutionary guerrillas running around in rubber tire sandals, wearing black pajamas and carrying home made weapons. There was no “general uprising” or “revolt” by the southern population. South Vietnam was overrun by a conventional army made up of seventeen conventional divisions and supported by a host of regular army logistical support units. This totally conventional force (armed, equipped, trained and supplied by Red China and the Soviet Union), spearheaded by 700 Soviet tanks, launched a cross border, frontal attack on South Vietnam and conquered it in the same manner as Hitler conquered most of Europe in WW II.

A quick synopsis of America’s “Vietnam” experience will clarify and summarize the Vietnam scenario:


Prior to 1965; US Advisors and AID only


1965 – 1967; Buildup of US Forces and logistical support bases, plus heavy fighting to counter North Vietnamese Communist invasion.


1968 – 1970; Communist invasion halted, and the so-called Communist “insurgency” destroyed, to the point where over 90 percent of the towns and villages in South Vietnam were free from communist domination. As an example: In 1970 the South Vietnamese government held a bicycle race that ran from the Demilitarized Zone (The official boundary between North and South Vietnam) to Ca Mau near the southern tip of the Mekong Delta. Ca Mau was South Vietnam’s southern most city. The race course was over South Vietnam’s public highways. The participants were unmolested and the event took place with no, zero, interference from the communists. Why? Because they did not control any of the territory which the race course ran through. By 1971 throughout the entire, heavily populated Mekong Delta, the monthly rate of Communist insurgency action dropped to an average of 3 incidents per 100,000 population (Most US cities would envy a crime rate that low). In 1969 Nixon started US troop withdrawals that were essentially complete by late 1971.


December 1972; Paris Peace Agreements negotiated by North Vietnam, South Vietnam, the Southern Communists, (i.e., composed of the VC, NLF / PRG, etc.2) and the United States.


January 1973; Paris Peace Agreements officially signed by all four Parties.


March 1973; Last POW released from the Hanoi Hilton, and in accordance with the Paris Agreements, the last American G.I. leaves South Vietnam (Those few remaining US Military personnel were assigned to the Defense Attaché Office and in fact began performing as diplomatic administrative staff).


August 1973; US Congress passes the Case – Church Amendment which forbids, US naval forces from sailing on the seas surrounding, US ground forces from operating on the land of, and US air forces from flying in the air over, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Case – Church was in effect an unconditional guarantee, by the US Congress to the North Vietnamese communists, that the United States would no longer oppose their efforts to conquer South Vietnam. This Act effectively nullified the Paris Peace Agreements. The communists had won on the floors of the US Congress, what they could not possibly have won on the battlefields of Vietnam.


Congress took this action3 at a time when America had drawn its Cold War battle lines, and as a result, had the US Navy protecting Taiwan, 50,000 US troops in South Korea, and over 300,000 troops in Western Europe (which had a land area, economy and population comparable to that of the United States). Along with those military commitments, were ironclad guarantees that if communist forces should cross any of those Cold War lines or Soviet armor should roll across either the DMZ in Korea or the Iron Curtain in Europe, there would be an unlimited response by the armed forces of the United States, to include if necessary, the use of nuclear weapons. Conversely, in 1975 when Soviet armor rolled across the international borders of South Vietnam, the US military response was nothing. In addition, Congress cut off all AID to the South Vietnamese and would not provide them with as much as a single dollar or a single bullet. In contrast, from the beginning of 1974 (after the Paris Peace Accords had been signed), up through the end of April 1975, the Soviet Union and Red China supplied over 823,000 tons of war materials to the Hanoi regime.


In spite of this Case – Church 1973 Congressional guarantee, the North Vietnamese were very leery of President Nixon. They viewed him as an incredibly tough leader who was also dangerously unpredictable. He had, in 1972, for the first time in the War, mined Hai Phong Harbor and sent the B-52 bombers against the North to force them into signing the Paris Peace Agreements. Previously the B-52s had been used only against Communist troop concentrations in remote regions of Vietnam and occasionally against carefully selected sanctuaries in Cambodia, plus against both sanctuaries and supply lines in Laos.


August 1974; Nixon resigns.


September 1974; North Vietnamese communists hold special meeting to evaluate Nixon’s resignation and decide to test implications.


December 1974; North Vietnamese invade South Vietnamese province of Phouc Binh located north of Saigon on Cambodian border.


January 1975: North Vietnamese capture Phouc Long, provincial capitol of Phouc Binh. Sit and wait for US reaction. No reaction.


March 1975; North Vietnam mounts full scale invasion. Seventeen North Vietnamese conventional divisions (more divisions than the US Army has had on active duty since WW II) were formed into four conventional army corps (This was the entire North Vietnamese army. Because the US Congress had unconditionally guaranteed no military action against North Vietnam, there was no need for them to keep forces in reserve to protect their home bases, flanks or supply lines), and launched a wholly conventional cross-border, frontal-attack. This attack was spearheaded by 700 Russian tanks, that were burning Soviet fuel and firing Soviet ammunition. Then, using the age old tactics of mass and maneuver, they defeated the South Vietnamese army in detail.


A complete description of this North Vietnamese Army (NVA) classical military victory is best expressed in the words of the NVA general who commanded it. Recommended reading: Great Spring Victory by General Tien Van Dung, NVA Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Volume I, 7 June 1976 and Volume II, 7 July 1976. General Dung’s account of the final battles for South Vietnam reads like it was taken right out of a US Army manual on offensive military operations. His descriptions of the mass and maneuver were extraordinary. His selection of South Vietnam’s army as the “center of gravity” could have been written by General Carl von Clausewitz4 himself. General Dung’s account goes into graphic detail on his battle moves aimed at destroying South Vietnam’s armed forces and their war materials. He never mentions revolutionary warfare or guerrilla tactics contributing in any way to his Great Spring Victory.


Other Aspects


US Military battle deaths by year:

                 - Prior to 1966 – 3,078 (Total up through 31 December 1965)

                 - 1966 – 5,008

                 - 1967 – 9,378

                 - 1968 – 14,589 (Total while JFK & LBJ were on watch – 32,053)

                 - 1969 – 9,414

                 - 1970 – 4,221

                 - 1971 – 1,381

                 - 1972 – 300 (Total while Nixon was on watch – 15,316)


Source of these numbers is the Southeast Asia Statistical Summary, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, and were provided to the author by the US Army War College Library, Carlisle Barracks, PA 17023. Numbers are battle deaths only and do not include ordinary accidents, heart attacks, murder victims, those who died in knife fights in barroom brawls, suicides, etc. For those who think these numbers represent “heavy fighting” and some of the “bloodiest battles” in US history should consider that the Allied Forces lost 9,758 men killed just storming the Normandy Beaches; 6,603 were Americans. The US Marines, in the 25 days between 19 February and 16 March 1945, lost nearly 7,000 men killed in their battle for the tiny island of Iwo Jima.


The single bloodiest day for the Americans in Vietnam was 17 November 1965, when elements of the 7th Cav (Custer’s old outfit) lost 155 men killed in a battle with elements of two North Vietnamese regular army regiments (33rd & 66th) near the Cambodian border southwest of Pleiku.


Comparative POW (Prisoner of War) Statistics

                - Americans taken POW during WW II 130,201 (The Greatest Generation)

                - Americans taken POW during the Korean War 7,140

                - Americans taken POW in Vietnam 771


These Vietnamese American POW numbers raise the obvious question. If the Vietnamese communist military were such a superb, uncanny, divinely lead fighting force, that always outfoxed the Americans, how come they didn’t take more prisoners? It’s because the communists were defeated on the field of battle in every single major engagement of the War. In order for the communists to have taken significant numbers of prisoners, they would first have to win battles and overrun American positions.


The majority of those 771 captured in Vietnam were airmen shot down over North Vietnam. Less than 200 of these men were captured on the ground, inside of South Vietnam. These figures alone, totally dispel the notion that somehow the US soldiers in Vietnam were not on a par with those who served in earlier wars. They also rubbish the notion that the US Military in Vietnam were a group of unmotivated, hapless souls who were poorly trained and commanded by inept leaders


This is not to say that these troops did not experience a lot of hard fighting. In Vietnam, the US Marines lost five times as many killed as they did in WW I, three times as many killed as they did in Korea and suffered more killed and wounded in Vietnam than during all of WW II.


The following is from a speech by the US Army’s 25th Infantry Division’s command sergeant major on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Republic of Vietnam:


“The 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lighting) fought in Vietnam from early 1966 to late 1971.

The Division had a little less than 17,000 men assigned.5 During its tour, the Division never lost a position to the enemy, never had a unit overrun, and never had a soldier surrender under fire.”


Quite a record for a force that was supposedly made up of uneducated, inadequately trained, drug addicted, bumbling draftees, who were poorly motivated, led by officers who were less than competent and continually being outsmarted by their enemies. That these Soldiers and Marines get little, if any, credit for their sacrifices and achievements is another story. One that is inextricably meshed into the fabric of that huge “anti-war” / draft dodging majority that still comprises the bulk of America’s media market.


Parallel Point


During its Normandy battles in 1944 the US 90th Infantry Division (roughly15,000+ men), had to replace 150% of its officers and more than 100% of its men. The 173rd Airborne Brigade (normally there are 3 Brigades to a division) served in Vietnam for a total of 2,301 days, and holds the record for the longest continuous service under fire of any American unit, ever. During that (6 year, 3+ month) period the 173rd lost 1,601 (about 31%) of its men killed in action.


Casualty Statistics


Again, the US Army War College Library provides the numbers. The former South Vietnam was made up of 44 provinces. The province that claimed the most American lives was Quang Tri, which bordered on both North Vietnam and Laos. Fifty three percent of Americans killed in Vietnam were killed in the four northernmost provinces, which in addition to Quang Tri were Thua Thien, Quang Nam and Quan Tin. All three shared borders with Laos. An additional six provinces accounted for another 26% of the Americans killed in action (KIA). These six provinces all shared borders with either Laos or Cambodia, or, had contiguous borders with provinces that did share borders with those two countries. The 15 southernmost provinces (Designated as IV Corps), which was home to 40% of South Vietnam’s population, accounted for just under 5% of US KIA. The remaining 19 provinces accounted for16% of US KIA. These statistics are sufficient to dismiss the popular American belief that South Vietnam was a flaming inferno of violent revolutionary dissent. The overwhelming majority of Americans killed in Vietnam, died in border battles against regular NVA units. The policies established by Johnson and McNamara prevented the American soldiers from crossing those borders and destroying their enemies. Expressed in WW II terms, those policies were the functional equivalent of having sent American soldiers to fight in Europe during WW II, but restricting them to France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, etc., and not letting them cross the borders into Germany, the source of the problem. General Curtis LeMay aptly defined Johnson’s war policy in Vietnam by saying that “We are swatting flies in the South when we should be going after the manure pile in Hanoi.”


Looking back it is now clear that the American military role in “Vietnam” was, in essence, one of defending international borders against a conventional cross-border communist invasion. Exactly as they had done in Korea. Contrary to popular belief, they turned in an outstanding performance. Again: The US military was not driven from Vietnam. They left under the terms of the Paris Peace Agreements. They were then barred from returning by the US Congress. This same Congress then turned around and abandoned America’s former ally, South Vietnam. Should America feel shame? Yes! Why? For kowtowing to the wishes of those craven anti-war / draft dodging voting hoards, and for bugging out and abandoning an ally that America had promised to protect.


Johnson’s Fatal Mistakes


Johnson made two colossal “Vietnam” blunders. First he failed to get a formal Declaration of War, which he could have easily had. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which LBJ regarded as the “Functional equivalent of a formal Declaration of War.” was passed unanimously by the House and there were only two dissenting votes cast in the Senate. A formal Declaration of War would have altered the judicial state of the nation, exactly as the Founding Fathers had intended.


The Constitution begins with the words “We the people of the United States…” and it spells out what government is, and what it should do and cannot do. The Founding Fathers were mostly all veterans of the Revolutionary War, and fully understood how difficult it is to maintain public support during wartime. At one point 80% of the “American” people were against their war. Intentionally, the Framers of our Constitution crafted the requirement for a Congressional Declaration of War, in a manner which makes it a double-edged tool. It was designed to insure that America will not go to War without at least the initial support of the People’s Representatives, and through the Treason provision, it also creates impediments to public dissent once the battles are joined. The Constitution makes it perfectly clear that Congress shall have the “Power to declare War…” It then specifies that “Treason against these United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or, adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” It makes a last reference to this issue by stating “The Congress shall have the power to declare the Punishment for Treason…”


Much modern thinking assumes the Constitution is all about law and government. Not totally. It was written for “We the People…” The government does not fight wars. The People’s Representatives, authorize War, and, the appropriate entities of government to plan, staff, organize, direct, control and finance them. But, “We the People” do the fighting. And, when those of us “We” types are engaged on the field of battle, then “We” are entitled to every bit of protection that is provided for in Our Constitution.


A formal Declaration of War is an act which alters the judicial state of the nation. It not only provides measures for control of the press, but also to handle public dissent and deal effectively with traitors. Declaring War does not mean we have to impose martial law, reinstate universal conscription or launch the nukes. Control of the press in wartime is not for protection of the government. It’s for the protection of our soldiers. Control of the press does not mean absolute control. Only their reporting from the War zone, and their treatment of our enemies. The Constitution guarantees a free press, but not a responsible press. During WW II all news dispatches from the battlefields (in fact not only news dispatches but personal letters from the soldiers as well) were censored, and, the US media was not allowed to publish the picture of a single dead American GI, until after the Normandy invasion (D-Day, 1944) was successful.


Johnson’s second blunder was to grant blanket draft deferments to college students. This draft exemption loophole soon became a system of super loop highways, and the nation’s campuses quickly filled to overflowing with students evading the draft. The overwhelming majority of these men knew they were acting in a cowardly manner. Subsequently, they took to appeasing their consciences by convincing themselves the war was somehow immoral. Once this “immoral” concept emerged and became creditable, it spread like wildfire across the nation’s college campuses. In turn these campuses became boiling cauldrons of violent raging anti-war descent that swiftly overflowed onto the main streets of America. Anti-war protests and violent demonstrations became the accepted norm. Miraculously, acts of cowardice were transformed into respectable acts of defiance. However, when one goes back and scrutinizes those anti-war demonstrations, one promptly finds they were not really against the war. They were only against the side fighting the communists! This of course turns out to be the side which had the army from which the dodgers were dodging. Hmmmm!




The following is not meant as an outright criticism of the media (neither is it intended to excuse their reprehensible behavior). In spite all the hullabaloo the US media puts out about freedom of speech and the public’s right to know, US media’s main motivation is profits. Period. The US media is first and foremost a business. The people who own and manage the nation’s television and radio networks, electronic forums, its newspapers and the other print media publications are in the business of making money. The US media understands only too well what Americans want to see, hear, and perhaps more importantly, feel. Those same media folks also very clearly comprehend, that the American people, in general, are not driven by intellect, but by emotions.


Once the draft dodging anti-war crowds’ numbers started climbing up into the tens of millions, the media and then the politicians started pandering to those numbers (with media it is either circulation numbers or Nielsen ratings. With politicians it’s votes). Media, unrestrained by a formal Declaration of War, quickly moved to the forefront of the anti-Vietnam crusade. Multi-million dollar salaries are not paid to people for reporting the news, in any form, be it written, audio or video. Multi-million dollar salaries (e.g., Cronkite) are paid to entertainers. Stars and super stars. One does not get to be, much less continue to be, a superstar unless one gives one’s audience what it wants. At the point where those draft dodging anti-war audience numbers reached critical mass, the media had no choice but pander to the wants of those mushrooming masses.


An excellent example of this number pandering can be found in a 1969 Life magazine feature article in which Life’s editors published the portraits of 250 men that were killed in Vietnam during one “routine week.” This was supposedly done to demonstrate Life’s concern for the sanctity of human life; American human life. And furthermore, to starkly illustrate the Vietnam tragedy with a dramatic reminder (i.e., the faces staring out of those pages), that those anonymous causality numbers were in fact the sons, brothers and husbands of neighbors. In 1969 the weekly average death toll from highway accidents in the United States was 1,082. If indeed Life’s concern was for the sanctity of American lives, why not publish the 1,082 portraits of folks who were killed in one “routine week” on the nation’s highways. Then they could have shown not only the sons, brothers and husbands of neighbors, but could have depicted dead daughter, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, babies, cripples, fools and draft dodgers as well. No Way! Life knew full well where its “numbers” were.


Another excellent illustration is media’s portrayal of the infamous “Siege” of Khe Sanh. According to Peter Braestrup, a 1968 Newsweek story on the battle of Khe Sanh displayed 29 photographs. Eighteen of these photos showed US Marines huddled under fire, wounded or dead. “None of the photos showed the Marines firing back, in spite of the fact that marine artillery fired ten rounds at the enemy for every one Khe Sanh received.” So biased was the news coverage that, even today Khe Sanh is perceived as a horrendous experience for the United States. This gloomy image persists, notwithstanding the fact that, when the fighting was over, the US Marines had lost a total of 205 men killed as opposed to in excess of 15,000 NVA killed.6


For those interested in a detailed, unbiased, factual account of the US Military’s performance in Vietnam, Unheralded Victory (HarperCollinsPublishers) by Mark W. Woodruff, provides exceptional insight.




Quote from Newsweek (10 Oct 83) “At a certain point television became more important that the war itself. That point was the Tet Offensive 1968.” Vietnam was America’s first television war and the nation didn’t handle it very well. Early on in Vietnam, the media recognized the amazing potential for television to exploit war’s sensationalism. Unrestrained by a formal Declaration of War, and mesmerized by the power they possessed, media quickly spun out of control. Media’s influence exerted power far beyond description, and, eventually altered the War’s outcome in favor of the communists. Conventional wisdom has it that the Tet Offensive was the “turning point” where the American people lost faith in the war. Television’s coverage of this event had convinced them that the War was unwinnable. The singular most important incident in shaping this “turning event, was the “news dispatch” by Peter Arnett that the communists had captured the US Embassy in Saigon. This was a totally fictitious report.


The facts: In the early morning hours of 1 Feb 68, communist sappers blew a small hole in the outer wall of the US Embassy in Saigon, entered the embassy grounds and engaged in a brief firefight with embassy guards. They never entered the embassy, and all were doomed. Later, an investigation revealed that these sappers had no mission other than to enter the embassy grounds and make a psychological gesture for the benefit of American television. It was a suicide mission aimed at the American psyche. It was a total success. Astounded viewers back in America were being told that the Communist had captured the US Embassy in Saigon. This was a false report, and it mattered not that this false report was later corrected. In the words of General Dave Palmer, though the communists were to suffer “…thirty thousand dead in the first ten days of the Tet offensive—none would achieve as much as the twenty who blew a hole in the embassy wall and survived inside for four hours.”


As one US observer noted “The Americans might not understand the power of television propaganda, but the enemy sure as hell did.”


Peter Arnett7 also filed the infamous report supposedly quoting the US officer in the Mekong Delta as saying “We had to destroy the town in order to save it.” This was another sensational fabrication. The full story of Arnett’s deceptive reporting of this incident is covered in depth by B. G. Burkett in his book Stolen Valor.


Media & Dodgers: More Than a Double Whammy


When I asked a well known American reporter, who had covered the war extensively, why they never reported on this outside communist support, his answer was essentially that the North Vietnamese would not let the reporters into North Vietnam and because “We had no access to the North during the war…meant there were huge gaps in accurately conveying what was happening north of the DMZ.”


At the peak of the war there were 545,000 US Military personnel in Vietnam. However, most of them were logistical / support types. On the best day ever, there were 43,500 ground troops actually engaged in offensive combat operations, i.e., out in the boondocks, looking for, or actually in contact with, the enemy. This ratio of support to offensive line troops is also comparable to other wars, and helps dispel the notion that every troop in Vietnam was engaged in mortal combat on a daily basis.


The Reason it all, Hangs Like a Pall


There always has been, and always will be, American opposition to war. The Revolutionary War had the highest, (estimated at 80 percent) and that was because it was fought on home soil. Opposition to WW I was 64 percent. During WW II it peaked at 32 percent. The number for Korea was 62 percent, and 65% opposed Vietnam. What makes Vietnam so different is the dodging anti-war disaster. Of the 2,594,000 who served in Vietnam, only about 25 percent, or, 648,000+ were drafted. Compare that to the 16,000,000+ who dodged and it works out to 25 dodgers for every draftee who went.


Today, America’s crocks are crammed chock-a-block full of dodgers, with crocks in the fields of media, entertainment and academia being more fully crammed than most. America’s schools, colleges and universities are overloaded with faculty who either dodged or were members of the anti-war crowd. To this day the dodgers have a need to rationalize away their acts of cowardice and a compulsion to malign and belittle the very source of that guilt, Vietnam. Consequently, many of them devote inordinate amounts of time and energy to either giving classroom lectures and or speeches, writing articles, position papers or in some cases books, or otherwise carrying on about the tragic and foolish mistakes made by those who actually served in Vietnam.


The anti-war movement was akin to a national temper tantrum that eventually engulfed and the afflicted the entire nation with its warped rational. This group, fueled and led by dodgers and their cohorts, were responsible for poisoning the American public’s mind on the subject of Vietnam. Eventually those dodging hoards, and their cronies in the US media, influenced the body politic to elect a Congress that stripped the soldiers who fought in Vietnam of their victories, and voted to cut and run in the face of adversity. To this very day, academia, the media, the politicians, talking heads, and the draft dodging multitudes continuously feed off one another with their preposterous and deceptive hallucinations about “Vietnam.” This is done at small expense. Only a very small minority of Vietnam Veterans bear the brunt of their vicious absurdities.


The reason “Vietnam” will not go away is because the story the dodging masses and their supporters are perpetuating is not true, and it sticks in the craw of the non-dodging population. Especially the young. If a teacher wrote 1 + 1 = 2 on a blackboard, kids going by would take one look and forget it. However, if 1 + 1 = 6 were there, a certain portion of them would stop and question it. Same with Vietnam. The supposed “facts” being taught or presented just don’t add up.


Recently, a young man asked me “How come North Vietnam, which had a land area smaller than the state of Missouri and a population of less than one tenth the size of America’s could defeat the modern armed forces of the United States?” I answered “Son, they didn’t.” He came back with “Then why did my teachers tell me that?” My answer was “Son, they are mostly either draft dodgers or wannabes (as in wanted to be a dodger but were too young, too old, the wrong sex, or?) or their descendents, or kin of, or otherwise truck with, the dodgers. Take this article, go show it to your teachers, and then ask for a detailed description of that American military defeat.”


Today they cast sinister shadows over Iraq & Afghanistan. In WW II, movie actors, sports stars and politicians all readily volunteered for military service. During Vietnam the dodging anti-war and anti-military multitudes eventually led to their stars and politicians taking decisively anti-war, anti military and anti-American positions. As noted earlier, one does not get to be, much less continue to be a star or superstar unless one gives one’s audience what it wants. This spawned a new era in American life. Stars and superstars grabbed their anti-war anti-American banners and, in doing so, reached new and enthralling heights of adulation. The fundamental problem with this was, that the American public tends to look up to, and bestow credence on their stars. Subsequently stars who are merely actors, and in many cases have no real life experience or training, outside of acting or pretending, become looked up to as leaders. Public confusion results in actors becoming anointed as leaders who then can exert tremendous influence. During WW II, if movie stars had dodged the draft and openly championed the causes of Hitler and Tojo, their careers would have been obliterated, and they would have formerly been charged with treason. Today, actors who are anti-American and in many instances, pro Islamic terrorist, are held in high esteem and quoted and re-quoted over and over again.

War is a very serious undertaking. But starting with Vietnam and up through today, it is being treated as a new form of video entertainment, intended to create new big name, news mongers, enhance the images of existing celebrity reporters, generate billions of dollars in advertising revenues for the US media, and provide unique, but safe, enjoyable, exciting titillation for its viewing audience. In Iraq today, when a gang of two-bit thugs kidnap an ordinary citizen and threatens to execute him, the media immediately confers world class status on the thugs. These thugs are miraculously transformed and presented by media as equals with legitimate world leaders. These thugs then can bring pressure (at least perceived pressure) on democratic governments. A hand full of thugs and the life of an ordinary citizen are not world class issues, and should never be viewed as such.


More Misconceptions


The idea that “There were no front lines” and “The enemy was everywhere all the time” makes good press, and, feeds the reprehensible needs of a large majority of those 16,000,000 plus Americans who dodged the draft8 during the Vietnam War. Add either a mother or a father (only one, not both) and throw in another sympathizer or two in the form of either a relative or a friend and you are looking at a group that’s something in excess of 50-million Americans. During the entire period of the US involvement in “Vietnam” only 2,594,000 US Military actually served inside that country. Compare this number with the 50-million plus figure, and you have the answer to why the American view of its Vietnam experience is so skewed. The bulk of America’s draft dodging multitudes share a common emotion. Guilt. This guilt thing was aptly summarized in a Washington Post article, dated April 6, 1980. Arthur T. Hadley wrote “Those who avoided Vietnam through loopholes (or more correctly, loop-highways) in the draft, being in the main honorable men, now feel guilty. They relieve these feelings either by venomous attacks on all things military, including the draft: or become 200 percent American, and make Attila the Hun sound like Mother Goose.”


The most glaring example of the dodger’s guilt syndrome can be found in a statement made by the ranking head dodger himself. When asked for his reaction to McNamara’s book In Retrospect, Clinton’s spontaneous response was “I feel vindicated.” Clinton is a lawyer and understands the English language only too well. For one to “feel” vindicated, as opposed to “being” vindicated, one must first have been, by definition, “feeling” guilty.

This is also the reason no one writes gushy, romantic, nostalgic ridden, historically emotional books such as Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation (a best seller featuring WW II veterans) about Vietnam veterans and their war.


The Government of South Vietnam


Its official name for this government was the Government of the Republic of Vietnam (GRVN). Another series of endlessly repeated myths portray the GRVN as an illegitimate creation of foreigners that was tyrannically oppressive, incompetent, hopelessly corrupt and plagued by military coups that were practically the order of the day. None of these illusions are true. These never ending contemptuous stories of the GRVN were filed by reporters who were in South Vietnam on visas (i.e., written permission to be there) issued by the very government they were so loudly criticizing.


The GRVN came into being as a result of the 1954 Geneva Accords, which legally established both North and South Vietnam as independent countries. Neither the United States nor South Vietnam signed those accords (Their failure to sign the Geneva Accords, succinctly dispels the notion that South Vietnam was somehow a creation of the United States). The first president of the GRVN was Ngo Dinh Diem. He was overthrown and murdered in November of 1963. The next nineteen months saw a series of military coups and leadership changes but the government of the GRVN stabilized in June 1965, with Nguyen Cao Ky9 as prime minister. Elections were held in 1967. Nguyen Van Thieu became president with Nguyen Cao Ky as his vice president. Thieu was elected in a democratic election in which nine political parties fielded candidates. Thieu won this election with only thirty five percent of the vote. He was then immediately and very loudly condemned by the majority of the US media for “rigging” the election (For the record, I’ve witnessed rigged elections staged by Asian dictators and the idea of “rigging” a thirty five percent win, is just plain silly).


From the beginning the government in Saigon had much greater legitimacy and international recognition than the communist government in Hanoi. In the words of Dr. Bernard Fall “In various test votes in the United Nations on admission of either one or both Viet-Nams, South Vietnam always led its northern neighbor by a sizable margin, and garnered more votes than South Korea when the latter’s admission was put to the test.” Eventually South Vietnam sat “As a full fledged member in every United Nations agency from which it cannot be barred by Soviet veto.” In 1957 the UN Security Council voted 8 to 1 (the Soviet Union cast the dissenting vote) and the General Assembly voted 49 to 9 to admit South Vietnam. Various UN members (excluding the United Sates) sent 39,000 troops to fight the communists in South Korea. At the height of the war in Vietnam, various United Nations members (again, excluding the United States) had over 60,000 troops10 in South Vietnam to aid them in their fight against the communists. In all, forty five countries sent men, money or supplies to help South Vietnam defend itself.


The GRVN allowed a free press and literally thousands of reporters traveled to South Vietnam, and once they arrived, they traveled freely around inside the country. When South Vietnam fell, the South Vietnamese media consisted of 28 Vietnamese daily language newspapers and 11 others printed in Chinese, English and French. In addition there were weekly, biweekly and monthly publications covering the full range of topics to include politics. This was supplemented by 24 radio stations and three television stations, plus a number of book publishing houses, and all were competing in a free market. There was also a free flow of foreign publications available at newsstands and bookstores throughout the country. The idea of a brutally repressive, corrupt, all powerful dictatorship operating under the merciless and constant surveillance of an unconstrained media, is just plain fantasy. Perhaps the best illustration would be to ask “If the GRVN was such a contemptible, despicable government,11 why didn’t the South Vietnamese people simply flee to the north or escape in Boats?” The fact is, it took North Vietnamese communist totalitarian domination to drive the Vietnamese people from their ancestral homelands.


The South Vietnamese Military


There are many loudly touted, absurd misperceptions about both the willingness and the ability of the South Vietnamese to fight. Between January 1965 and October 1972, the South Vietnamese Army lost 183,528 killed and another 499,026 wounded. Simply stated, during the period when the United States lost roughly 58,000 men, the South Vietnamese suffered 183,000+ battle deaths. This, out of a population base averaging fewer than 16,000,000, which is less than 10% of the average US population during that period. If America had bled its population at the same rate South Vietnam bled its population, America would have to have sustained 271,000 battle deaths and 730,000+ wounded every year for the entire seven year period that US combat troops were committed in Vietnam. That would have meant 1,875,000 American dead in Vietnam, along with 5,122,000 wounded.


The Americans who actually served in Combat with the South Vietnamese have a different view. US Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf says it most authoritatively. During his first tour of duty in Vietnam, Schwarzkopf was questioned by a rear echelon American officer about staying in the field with the South Vietnamese troops. Of that encounter Schwarzkopf writes he responded by saying “I was confident staying with the airborne because I had no doubt about their ability to fight or their concern for my well being.”

Another item: By the early 1970s the South Vietnamese military was capturing such an enormous amount of material and weapons from the North Vietnamese Army, that in conjunction with various regional US Military Assistance programs, Russian made AK-47s captured from the NVA by the South Vietnamese were being issued to other allied nations in Southeast Asia.


The US media, politicians, dodgers from academia and assorted talking heads (still playing to those huge draft dodging anti-war numbers) dearly love to pour scorn on and ridicule the South Vietnamese military.


 They are continually implying that somehow the South Vietnamese just could not, and would not, defend their own country. During the Cold War period, the South Koreans, the Taiwanese and the Western Europeans, all depended on the military might of the United States to preserve their freedom. That US military shield was deliberately withdrawn from South Vietnam by the United States Congress.


The Battle of Xuan Loc; Mar 17 – Apr 17, 1975 & The End


Xuan Loc was the last major battle for South Vietnam. This town sits astride Q. L. (National Road) #1, some 40 odd miles to the northeast of Saigon (on the road to Phan Thiet) and was the capitol of South Vietnam’s Long Khanh province. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) attack fell on the Army Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 18th Division.12


On March 17th, 1975 the NVA 6th & 7th Divisions attacked Xuan Loc but were repulsed by the ARVN 18th. On April 9th the NVA 341st Division joined the attack. After a four thousand round artillery bombardment, these three divisions massed, and spearheaded by Russian tanks and other armored vehicles, mounted a second assault on Xuan Loc. But again, the ARVN 18th held its ground. The NVA reinforced with their 325th Division and began moving their 10th & 304th Divisions into position. Eventually, in a classic example of the art of “Mass and Maneuver” the NVA massed 40,000 men and overran Xuan Loc.


During this fight, the ARVN 18th had 5,000 men at Xuan Loc. These men managed to virtually destroy 3 NVA divisions, but on April 17th, 1975 they were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and the weight of the “Mass.” Before overrunning Xuan Loc the NVA had committed six full divisions, plus a host of various support troops.

In the Sorrow of War, author and NVA veteran Bao Ninh writes of this battle “Remember when we chased Division 18 southern soldiers all over Xuan Loc? My tank tracks were choked up with skin and hair and blood. And the bloody maggots. And the fucking flies. Had to drive through a river to get the stuff out of my tracks.” He also writes “After a while I could tell the difference between mud and bodies, logs and bodies. They were like sacks of water. They’d pop open when I ran over them. Pop! Pop!”


The Communist Government of North Vietnam


There are various versions of a widely held belief (which resonates particularly well with those draft dodging anti-war hoards) that the communist government of North Vietnam was popular, perhaps even revered. The 1954 Geneva Accords, that legally brought into being both the North and the South Vietnamese governments, called for free elections to be held in 1956. Conventional wisdom has it that if the South Vietnamese and their American ally had agreed to those country-wide free elections in 1956, then the South Vietnamese people would have overwhelmingly elected to Join Ho’s communist government. This is pure nonsense. To this day (May 2004) the Vietnamese communists have never held a truly free and fair election. In 1956 Ho and his communist government were in the midst of their land reforms and in the process were murdering tens of thousands of their own people. Even peasant farmers with as little as one acre of land were being executed for having a “Landlord mentality.” According to historian Edgar O’Ballance, in 1956, these mass killings stirred such resentment in the North Vietnamese that it triggered a “real crisis” for Ho’s government. “Anxiously, Ho stepped in to prevent a national insurrection.” Over Radio Hanoi, Ho read out an apologetic letter to the people, released some 12,000 people who were waiting to be executed and declared the 50,000 people that had been killed resisting land reform to have been “executed by mistake” and proclaimed “national heroes” of the revolution.13 Anybody who, in fact, believes that free elections could have been carried out simultaneously with mass executions, is simply not playing with a full deck.


The North Vietnamese Military


This organization officially came into being on 22 December 1944 as an armed propaganda unit! Its main priority has always been, first and foremost, propaganda. Initially, this propaganda was directed primarily towards the soldiers themselves in the form of indoctrination. For example: “The collective masses are opposed to individualism and its role in history. The individual soldier is a worthless as a grain of sand, and to be crushed underfoot.” A quote from General Giap,14 speaking of his own soldiers, offers insight into this communist canon: “Every minute, hundreds of thousands of people die on this earth. The life or death of a hundred, a thousand, tens of thousands of human beings, even our compatriots, means little.” (Quote from Stanley Karnow’s VIETNAM a History)


Secondly, this propaganda effort was focused on the Vietnamese population both North and South. And last but most importantly, it was directed toward the world at large, and in particular on its American audience.


Recommended Reading


Works by Bao Ninh, the author of The Sorrow of War. He tells of being drafted in the North Vietnamese Army in 1968 and fighting for nearly seven years. His unit lost over 80% of its men, to battle deaths, sickness and desertion. On the later he wrote “Desertion was rife throughout the regiment, as though soldiers were being vomited out, emptying the insides of whole platoons.”


Dien Bien Phu; More Myth


The Chinese account of Dien Bien Phu dispels more Vietnamese communist myths surrounding General Giap. Research on Chinese Communist Party achieves, conducted by Qiang Zhai, a China-born American scholar, provides interesting insight. According to these records, when the French decided to fortify and expand their base at Dien Bien Phu, Chinese General Wei Guoqing was quick to recognize this as an exceptional opportunity. “This was the blunder General Guoqing, Chinese ‘advisor’ to the Vietminh, had been patiently waiting for. Giap, the titular Vietnamese commander, wanted to attack the French in the Red River delta, a plan with no hope of success. Wei overruled Giap with the support of Mao himself.” The Chinese then committed “An army of laborers, a thousand trucks and, most important the updated 17th-century siege tactics they had perfected in Korea.” to the battle for Dien Bien Phu.


The Irony


It’s ironic that in spite of all the media hype and hullabaloo about the “Viet Cong” and the “American Soldiers” both were absent from the final battles for South Vietnam. During the “Tet” battles of 1968, the so-called “Viet Cong” had been literally bludgeoned to death on the streets of the cities, towns, and hamlets of South Vietnam. The Americans had left under the terms of the Paris Peace Agreements, and were then barred by the US Congress, from ever returning. The end came in the form of a cross border invasion. Two conventional armies fought it out using strategies and tactics as old as warfare itself.


A brief word about the South Vietnamese government lacking support from the people, and the supposed “popular support” for the communists. During the 1968 Tet Offensive the communists attacked 155 cities, towns and hamlets in South Vietnam. In not one instance did the people rise up to support the communists. The people did rise, but in revulsion and resistance to the invaders. The general uprising, envisioned by the communists, was a complete illusion. At the end of thirty days, not one single communist flag was flying over any of those 155 cities, towns and hamlets. The citizens of South Vietnam, no matter how apathetic they may have appeared toward their own government, turned out to be overwhelmingly anti-communist. In the end they had to be conquered by conventional divisions, supported by conventional tanks and artillery that was being maneuvered in accordance with the ancient principles of warfare. But then, as with mathematics, certain rules apply in war, and military victories are not won by violating military principles.




General Dung’s Great Spring Victory was spearheaded by a total of 700 (maneuverable) Soviet tanks, i.e., Soviet tanks, burning Soviet fuel and firing Soviet ammunition. By comparison, the South Vietnamese had only 352 US supplied tanks and they were committed to guarding the entire country’s borders with Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam. However, because of US Congressional action, the ARVN were critically short of fuel, ammunition and spare parts with which to maintain and support these tanks.


Vietnam: Divided by a wall in the 1630s


Another widely held myth is that Vietnam was really one country but had been artificially divided by blundering foreign governments. Fact: Shortly after ousting the Chinese in the fifteenth century, the southern Nguyen and the northern Trinh became engaged in a series of bitter bloody struggles that lasted for nearly 200 years. In the 1630s, the southern Nguyen officially divided Vietnam into two countries by constructing two huge walls (not unlike the Great Wall of China) across the narrow waist of Vietnam near Dong Ha (In approximately the same location as the boundary between North and South Vietnam, established by the 1954 Geneva Accords), and the Northern and Southern Vietnamese continued to battle on for the next 150 years. It is true that there are language similarities between the North and South Vietnamese. However, this does not give the North the right to rule the South, any more than the English language gives Canada the right to rule the United States.


After the Communist Takeover


The facts speak clearly. If things were so bad for the South Vietnamese people when the South Vietnamese government was in power and the Americans were supporting them, how come no one fled, i.e., there were no “boat people”? But, as soon as the communist takeover was complete the Vietnamese fled by the millions, a first in the 4,000 year history of the country.15 Once the communist grip on the Vietnamese people was complete, they showed their true colors and conditions got so bad that not only the people from the south fled by the millions, but they were soon joined by northerners who fled as well. No one ever says that the South Koreans would like to be ruled by the communist North Koreans, or the Taiwanese would like to be ruled by the mainland communists, or the West Germans would have liked to have been ruled by the communist East Germans or that Western Europe would like to have been ruled by the communist Soviet Union. However, for some strange reason, almost every western writer who addresses this subject, along with politicians and the great majority of media’s talking heads seem to actually believe that the South Vietnamese really wanted to be ruled by the communist North Vietnamese.


Related Comments


Vietnam was another battle in the Cold War. This war officially started (Its actual origins date back to 1917 when the communists came to power in Russia) on 9 Feb 1946 when Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin declared “War” on the West. This definitively divided the world into two main opponents. The Free World led by the United States and the Communist World led by the Soviets. The worldwide Cold War lasted until the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989. It was by far the longest and most costly War the US has ever engaged in. Definitively speaking, this war is not well recognized, and it’s even less clearly understood. Mainly because of the length of time, the areas covered, the extraordinary diversity of the participants, plus the ever changing nature and locations of the battles. In brief; the Cold War16 death toll far exceeded that of WW II. Exact figures are not available. Reliable estimates put the number of dead well above 80,000,000 (The vast majority of the dead were killed by the communists and were citizens of the country in which they were killed). Costs are also difficult to calculate. A good place to start would be to add up the US defense budgets for the years from 1946 through 1990. The bulk of those expenditures were directly related to the Cold War.


The early “official” Cold War battles were in Europe. Fighting in Greece, the Berlin Blockade, etc. The first big bloody battle was Korea. The US encouraged the Korean War in much the same way it later encouraged Vietnam. In January 1950,17 Dean Acheson, President Truman’s Secretary of State, gave a speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D. C., declaring that Korea was outside America’s sphere of interest. Five months later, in June 1950, the communist response to this speech was an all out armed invasion of South Korea. A conventional cross-border, frontal attack. The Truman Administration’s unfortunate choice of words, had led to the US becoming involved in the Korean War in much the same manner that, 14 years later, President Johnson’s irresponsible campaign rhetoric would result in America having to commit combat troops in Vietnam. Contrary to popular myth, the situation in South Vietnam during the early 1960s was not going well for the communists. By early 1964 communist kidnappings were wide spread. Heavy handed tax collection techniques, brutal recruiting methods, along with widespread and often indiscriminate assassination campaigns, against not only village officials, but also teachers, civil servants and ordinary citizens, had pretty much soured a considerable portion of the population on communism. Years of struggle had exacted its toll on the ranks of the southern communist cadre. People who had been taken north, indoctrinated, trained and infiltrated back into South Vietnam. Deaths through combat and natural attrition, along with the further loss of men through disease and desertion, had thinned the communist ranks to alarmingly low levels.


Campaigning in 1964, Johnson pledged over and over again that he would “Not send American boys to do what Asian boys should do for themselves.18 Unfortunately, this message was not lost on the North Vietnamese communists. They took Johnson at his word and in late 1964 began their military invasion of South Vietnam In the words of US Army General Dave Palmer “Just as the North Koreans, listening to American pronouncements in 1950, had become convinced that the United States would not make a stand in Korea, so was North Vietnam convinced fourteen years later that America would not fight in Vietnam. Of such miscalculations are wars made.”


Communist North Vietnam itself had come into being as a direct result of the Cold War and the worldwide communist movement. After the communist take over of China19 in 1949, they had offered the North Vietnamese sanctuaries, weapons, war materials and training. The communist victory at Dien Bien Phu was made possible by the ending of hostilities on the Korean peninsular in June 1953. The end of the Korean War made it possible for the communists to start shipping enormous amounts of weapons and other war materials to the communist forces in Vietnam. By late 1953 (Dien Bien Phu fell on 7 May 54) the flow of communist war materials (both Soviet and Chinese) into Vietnam reached upwards of 6,000 tons per month. This support included 220 heavy artillery pieces (including Soviet made heavy rocket launchers) which fired in excess of 210,000 rounds into the French positions. In addition, as both a threat and a military distraction to the French, the Chinese communists massed a 225,000 man army on Vietnam’s borders in the areas near Dein Binh Phu. That this battle is still portrayed to the world as a Vietnamese guerrilla victory over the French, is yet another tribute to their formidable propaganda skills.20


For those who still believe Vietnam was strictly a civil war, the following should be of interest. With the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union, along with the opening up of China, records are now becoming available on the type and amount of support North Vietnam received from China21 and the Soviet Block. For example:


China has opened its records (at least partially) on the number of uninformed Chinese troops sent to aid their communist friends in Hanoi. In all, China sent 327,000 uniformed troops, and several hundred thousand “expert workers” to North Vietnam. Chinese historian Chen Jian wrote “Although Beijing’s support may have fallen short of Hanoi’s expectations, without the support, the history, even the outcome, of the Vietnam War might have been different.” A quote on the Chinese advisory effort, from NVA Colonel Bui Tin, provides illumination. He explains that as outside communist support grew “Larger numbers of Chinese advisors arrived and were attached to every unit at all levels.”

In addition, at the height of the War, the Soviet Union had some 55,000 “Advisors” in North Vietnam. They were installing air defense systems, building, operating and maintaining SAM (Surface to Air Missiles) 22 sites, plus they provided training and logistical support for the North Vietnamese military


When I asked a well known American reporter, who had covered the war extensively, why they never reported on this outside communist support, his answer was essentially that the North Vietnamese would not let the reporters into North Vietnam and because “We had no access to the North during the war…meant there were huge gaps in accurately conveying what was happening north of the DMZ.”


At the peak of the war there were 545,000 US Military personnel in Vietnam. However, most of them were logistical / support types. On the best day ever, there were 43,500 ground troops actually engaged in offensive combat operations, i.e., out in the boondocks, looking for, or actually in contact with, the enemy. This ratio of support to offensive line troops is also comparable to other wars, and helps dispel the notion that every troop in Vietnam was engaged in mortal combat on a daily basis.


1 In WW II the US Army included the US Army Air Corps which today has become the US Airforce.


2 These so-called “Southern communist” organization fronts were created by Hanoi. They were not legitimate vehicles of popular dissent, and after Northern Communist conquest of South Vietnam, none of them had any subsequent representative role in Vietnam’s communist government.


3 This Act gives real meaning to that old Maine Yankee saying “No man’s Life or Property is safe when the Congress is in session.”


4 General von Clausewitz (German military officer, 1780 – 1831) is the author of On War which is considered a, if not the, classical textbook on all aspects of War. He is said to have distilled Napoleon into theory. An analogy has further been made that Clausewitz is to War what Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations) is to economics, or, what Machiavelli (The Prince) is to politics.


5 Assuming one year tours for the men, over a five and a half year period, approximately 90,000+ men would have served with this Division.


6 Another interesting point: All during “Vietnam” the US media again and again accused the US military of overestimating and over reporting enemy casualties. Today, the North Vietnamese openly admit to losing many more men than was reported by the American military. The fact is, the military being conservative by nature, consistently underreported enemy casualties.


7 Arnett was later fired by CNN for false reporting of the Tailwind incident in which he purported that the US military in Vietnam supposedly gassed their own men. After that, in 2003, he was fired by both NBC and National Geographic for his Anti-American and prejudiced coverage of the US Military operations in Iraq.


8 From first hand experience I know there are civilizations on this planet where such acts as begging, thievery, rape, sodomy, murder, head hunting and even cannibalism (some time ago I spent three years in the virgin jungles of West Irian Jaya, which was formerly Dutch New Guinea) are considered praiseworthy pursuits. The are however, two human traits which are universally despised; treason and cowardice. During Vietnam, 16-million-plus American men dodged the draft. The term “dodged” includes avoided, ducked, bobbed, weaved & wiggled, sneaked away, cut out, ran away from, and or got deferments from the draft. This 16-million-plus number covers the full array of dodgers, from those who sought student deferments, to those who faked egg allergies, showed up for their draft physicals with panty hose on, to those who fled the country. At the end of the day, draft dodging is an act of cowardice, and no man worth his salt is proud of being a coward. Those dodgers, whose grandfathers had marched off to WW I, whose fathers had won WW II, and whose younger uncles and older brothers had fought in Korea, when their turn came, they took to hiding out on campus, in Canada, Sweden, under their mommy’s bed or wherever. They were all acting cowardly and many committed acts of treason by marching around on campus or down the main streets of America under enemy flags. A good portion of these folks also took to idolizing the likes of Jane Fonda, and using words like “love” and “peace” to obscure their cowardice.


9 Ky is not only originally from North Vietnam, but a Buddhist as well. So much for the myth about the South Vietnamese government being completely dominated by Catholics.


10 Note: Unlike Korea, the UN member troops were not under the UN flag.


11 I lived in Vietnam, as a civilian, amongst the Vietnamese people from May 1965 through April 1975, and can attest to the fact that the GRVN was not a totalitarian government. And, contrary to popular belief (at least among those who did not live there) it was neither brutal, oppressive, evil nor excessively corrupt.


12 At one time I served (as a civilian engineer) with MACV (US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) Advisory Team #87; which provided advisors to this Division. During the 1972 Eastertide Offensive when 12 NVA divisions attacked An Loc, Kontum & Quang Tri (Note: the NVA lost all three battles and over 100,000 men in these engagements), the 18th was sent to An Loc (up Q.L. 13 near the Cambodian Border) and they drove the NVA out of An Loc and back into their sanctuaries in the Cambodian border areas.


13 Even those popular American writers who pay great homage to Ho’s image (They make huge profits from writing bad things about the South Vietnamese and the Americans, but saying great things about the North Vietnamese communists in general and Ho in particular), acknowledge these murders. For example; in his book After the War was Over Neil Sheehan admits that “thousands died” during the communist land reforms, but goes on to offer an excuse for Ho’s atrocities by writing “Ho apologized for the crimes, abolished the tribunals and ordered the release of thousands who had been imprisoned.” Sheehan’s use of the words “thousands died” is in itself despicably misleading. He is pandering to his readers wants. The fact is those “Thousands” didn’t just “die” they were murdered in cold blood.


14 In the US and international media, Giap is widely held to be a military genius. Determined yes. Genius no. The North Vietnamese now openly admit they suffered close to 1,300,000 military deaths in their fight for South Vietnam. In terms of percentages of population (Based on figures from the United Nations Demographic Yearbook 1974) this is the equivalent of the Americans losing over 12,000,000 men killed in Vietnam. If any American general had lost over 12,000,000 of his men killed, he would most certainly not be considered a genius.


15 Crucial question: Not long after the communist takeover, starving, wretched, Vietnamese refugees, from both North and South Vietnam, were washing up on shores everywhere in Asia from Japan to Indonesia. What was their number one destination choice for resettlement? The United States of America. If the Vietnamese had been oppressed, maltreated, maimed and indiscriminately murdered by the Americans, why would their number one choice of a new homeland be the USA?


16 The Cold War and the worldwide communist movement were inextricably entwined.


17 At a conference in Moscow, on 16 Dec 1949, Ho had sought Stalin’s formal approval of, and increased communist military support for, intensifying the war against France in Vietnam. At a later conference meeting, on the evening of 14 Feb 1950, Stalin, Mao Zedong and Ho formalized the agreement for this support, and Stalin directed Mao to increase support for Ho. The communist victory in China, the previous year, had cleared the way for aggressive communist expansion in Asia. However, Dean Acheson’s unexpected January speech triggered the communist invasion of South Korea and full communist support for the war in Vietnam was delayed until the cessation of hostilities on the Korean peninsular in Jun 1953.


18 Barbara Tuchman in her book The March of Folly writes of Johnson “Long accustomed to normal political lying, he forgot that his office made a difference.”


19 China shared common borders with both the Soviet Union and Vietnam, which in effect turned both countries in to large strategic military and logistical support bases for North Vietnam


20 Tom Wolfe once summed up the ignorance and gullibility of the US media types covering Vietnam with a comment about Harrison Salisbury of the New York Times.…it seemed as if the North Vietnamese were playing Harrison Salisbury of the New York Times like an ocarina, as if they were blowing smoke up his pipe and the finger work was just right and the song was coming forth better than they could have played it themselves.”


21 North Vietnamese Colonel Bui Tin speaks to this Chinese support for the NVA and the effectiveness of the communist propaganda “But I have to admit that all my equipment from top to bottom, from my solar topee to my rubber sandals, even my underpants—in fact everything I was equipped with was made in China. We were quick to condemn the regime in the South for relying on the Americans as foreign interventionists. What we did not realize in the North was that the Chinese and Soviets were also foreigners. We always considered them as fraternal comrades helping us in the spirit of goodwill. All we could see was a puppet regime in the South relying on imperialist support whereas we in the North regarded ourselves as fully sovereign and independent in concert with the progressive world trend.”


22 This opens up another interesting aspect of the much touted “horrors” of the 1972 Christmas bombing of Hanoi. In response to this bombing, the North Vietnamese and their Soviet “advisors” fired 1,242 Soviet made SAMs at the American war planes. Twenty six American planes were hit by SAMs. The other 1,216 SAMs, with warheads in tact, fell back to earth in the HanoiHai Phong area. Has anyone ever heard of, seen or read a report that describes the damage and deaths caused by these self-inflicted missile strikes?


Reprint with permission of Ron Leonard – 25th Aviation Battalion -