I get a bang out of listening to some of the younger generation of America, civilian and former military alike, who have a discombobulated perception of what happened in the Vietnam War and why. I also fear that what my father told me of Bob McNamara’s shenanigans during that era may soon be repackaged and marginalized- or simply deleted for posterity. We all know from reports of the contemporary fighter pilots’ that by January 1968, just prior to the big Tet offensive, we were down to 250 lb. MK 82s and were buying 1000 and 500 pounders back from Germany for $900/$500 a pop. We sold them to the Krauts for about $10 each in the early fifties as we rearmed them after WW2. Mac had an idea he could run it like Ford. X number of bullets and X bombs needed to kill X number of zipperheads = war over. Simple math.
Grand Poohbahs are now celebrating the fifty-year remembrance of Vietnam which will run the entire time from 1964(?)-75 meaning from 2014 to 2025. The memorable Air America Fun Run to the Rooftop was April 29th, 1975 and the final leg occurred over at the US Embassy on Thong Nhut Boulevard a week later on May 7th. Our involvement, however, goes back much further than 1964. The medal I use for my logo and the one struck for us by our allies has the “60-device” on it and even that ignores reality. My father was sent over by Eisenhower and his cronies just before the French bought it at Diên Biên Phú in 1954. They wanted advice on how to deliver better close-in tactical air support for their ground troops. At that point, they had none or little that was effective. Tactical Air Combat Control was simply not in their lexicon then-or now. Army FACs communicated with their HQs and they passed it on to the French AF. In an eerie prelude to May 7th, 1975, one should note the French were overrun and surrendered May 7th, 1954. So much for lucky sevens.
Few also will remember we were down to a two-week supply in country of 5.56X45 mm ammo for our shiny new M-16s in late 1965. We were robbing our Army and our allies over in South Korea and elsewhere to keep our troops supplied. Perhaps that explains why member WGM says he trotted around in Korea with an empty gun for his whole deployment. Hell, even M-26 hand grenades and 40 Mike Mike HE thumper rounds were pretty skinny. The only things in vast supply were antique C-rations and 7.62X51mm ammo for M 60s because we overbought for years to provide for the M-14s we decided not to use. These events, too, are part and parcel of that war but I see no mention.
The article on the historical perspective needs more work and a George Santayana revision to better enunciate our escapades in Laos and Cambodia during that era. It is one thing to catalogue the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat in RVN proper and quite another to ignore the exploits of our “other” Air Force in the adjacent countries. The lessons we learned fifty years ago there closely echo what is afoot in Iraq today. Seems our little nine-year rescue mission is falling apart less than two years after our departure (again).
Some will never hear of the sapper attacks that occurred in Thailand in the sixties and seventies. It’s not on this timeline. I suppose that wasn’t “war” in the true Vietnam context and most certainly not in the lexicon of the VFW. Their definition is much narrower-or was until recently when their membership numbers began to plummet. Boy Howdy-now it’s “Welcome Home and come on down, The first month’s bar tab ( house beer only) is on us for a paid membership of one year!” My response to their recent conversion is simple. “Tell that to all the parents and wives of the 58,494 who came home in a glad bag. Or worse, the many like Captain Park Bunker who were KIA/BNR in Laos who had an empty coffin Memorial Service.
Vietnam was a horribly divisive war (or conflict) as many can attest to. It divided families along political lines and changed us forever. Never had we come in third place in a war. It was like coming home from the Olympics empty handed or with a fistful of bronze and no gold. Many said we should never have gone there. That same sentiment reared its ugly head in 2001 and 2003. Hiding your head in the sand and praying it will all blow over doesn’t work. The bad guys get the impression you’re girliemen. Besides, we should be proud of our heritage in helping the downtrodden of the world when their hour of need arises. How else are we going to earn all those fancy medals?
Ollie-Ollie income free. You can finally come out of the closet and admit you’re a V-Vet, apparently.