In 1961, President Kennedy committed U.S. Advisors to train South Vietnamese forces how to fight their war against the Communists led by Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Cong insurgency. For Americans and our abandoned South Vietnamese allies, the war ended in 1975 as the last U.S. helicopter, with people literally clawing to get aboard, lifted off the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, and now known as Communist Ho Chi Minh City.
It was 14 years of war for American Armed Forces. Fourteen years of rotational combat tours as the force grew from a few hundred Special Forces advisors in 1961 to 389,000 members of the U.S. Armed forces by the end of 1966. By the end of 1967, troop strength had grown to 463,000. By the end of 1968, it was 495, 000. In 2003, when we opened the second front in our war against an ideology supported by religious radicals, corrupt governments and a practically illiterate populace, our total Active Army Strength was 494,000.
In 1969 we started Vietnamization of the war. We were to equip, build up, and train the South Vietnamese Armed forces so they could defend themselves from the Communist north and the Viet Cong insurgency. By the end of 1969, our troop strength in Vietnam reduced by 115,000. Pol Pot and friends reared their murderous heads around this time.
In 1970, Lieutenant Calley went on trial for the massacre of Vietnamese civilians at Mi Lai. Henry Kissinger started secret peace talks with the North Vietnamese. At the end of the year our troop strength was down to 280,000. The force was riddled with indiscipline that showed itself not only in the form of Mi Lai, but also with drug abuse, fraggings and racial unrest. All, signs of a tired force ready for stand down and regeneration.
In 1971, Calley was found guilty of killing 22 civilians at Mi Lai. John Kerry and his Vietnam Veterans against the War led protests. Kerry tossed some medals, not his, over the Whitehouse fence. Daniel Ellsburg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times – probably because there was no Internet or Wiki-leaks. Indiscipline continued to show as some troops refused combat missions. By the end of the year, troop strength was down to 156,800.
Beginning 1972, President Nixon announced a peace plan based on Kissinger’s secret talks, to which the North Vietnamese thumbed their nose and promptly mounted a massive offensive that was ultimately halted by U.S. airpower. Hanoi Jane Fonda made her anti-war broadcast over Radio Hanoi. Hollywood communist, what else was one to expect. Kissinger kept talking and by November American forces were gone except for some remaining advisors. North Vietnam quit the peace talks after which we nearly bombed Hanoi into oblivion. Then they returned to the talks. The Watergate burglars were busted.
Beginning 1973, Nixon announced the “end of the war and peace with honor.” Hard to tell who surrendered, but we know who the ultimate loser was. Also in 1973, the last U.S. combat casualty came. The last of the American advisors left and our POWs were returned. Also, in 1973, the U.S. Congress passed the Case-Church Amendment that forbade any further U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia. Vice President Agnew resigned. Congress cut military aid to the South to such an extent that it left them vulnerable to attack. That is the polite way of saying that many Americans died in Vietnam at the whims of inept politicians sitting in air conditioned digs in Washington and who held no qualms about walking away from their sacrifice and heading out for cocktails.
In 1974, Nixon resigned behind Watergate. Gerald Ford, who replaced resigning Agnew, became the President and announced clemency for draft dodgers and deserters if they would take an oath of allegiance and perform 2 years of community service. Some did, but not many. Jimmy Carter would take care of the remainder later. The North Vietnamese hatched their plan for conquest.
In April 1975, following the desertion by the U.S. Congress, the South Vietnamese Army collapsed and the place where too many Americans died now belonged to the communists, and Jane Fonda, John Kerry….
U.S. casualties from the Vietnam were 58,193 killed and 304,000 wounded. The numbers of them dealing with ailments nor physically visible, such as posttraumatic stress disorder cannot be counted except for those who have sought treatment for a disability that was not even recognized until much later. Many are ravaged by the diseases related to their exposure to Agent Orange herbicides. They are still fighting their war.
After Vietnam, our military was worn out from years of repeated combat tours, inept politicians and what appeared to them then as a wholly ungrateful public. And all of it brought to them and the rest of Americans by a lying and antagonistic news media.
What is left of that generation of Warriors is leaving us. As we look at Iraq and Afghanistan, the toll that those wars have taken on our military, the corrupt governments it is asked to defend and support, the civil and political discourse that we see each day in America, we can only conclude that the liberals have fulfilled yet another of their self-fulfilling prophesies. Making this just another Vietnam.