Thanks, it was worth reading. I first went to RVN in ‘63 and in ‘64 on temporary duty on various staff assignments from the parent Marine forces in Japan and Okinawa which oversaw the forces we had committed at the time. I was just a captain with a couple months “in country” at the time, but my judgment then was that the advisory role was about right, the tactics and technology being provided to the RVN was appropriate, and that in the long run all we had to do was stick to it, slowly upgrade the technology, steadily improve the training, and the RVN would eventually prevail. I was also appalled when the coups started, and personally was suspicious of the Kennedy Administration on that count.
My big tour was in ‘67-’68. After Tet, the First Marine Regiment went with the First Air Cav on Operation Pegasus, as the relief of the siege of Khe Sanh was called. The First Marines stayed in Khe Sanh after that, relieving the 26th Marine Regiment which had been there for seven or eight months. At the time, we were issued maps of North Vietnam. We had a Marine Division and two thirds of another one up on the DMZ, along with the First Air Cavalry Division and the 82d Airborne Division, and other forces mobilized up there. These were the most mobile major units in the US order of battle, and we could have taken half of North Vietnam in three or four days. We didn’t get the order to go. Instead, my regiment got orders to destroy Khe Sanh before the summer monsoon, which we did.
My last involvement with Vietnam was from Okinawa during the fall of Saigon. I was on the III MAF headquarters staff. Many of us were hoping that the orders would come to send a few brigades back in to shore up the ARVN and reassure them that the US hadn’t written the little guys off. Unfortunately, the orders we got were the pitiful ones that lead to the evacuation of the embassy in Saigon, and all that went with that.
Kennedy and Johnson, and their incompetent SecDef, and the leadership at the top level botched the Vietnam opportunity just the way they botched the Bay of Pigs. I thought that the only competence in the national leadership element in those years was that of Senator Sam Nunn, and of Secretary of State Rusk. The rest of them were feather merchants.
Just think the money we could have made back then if we had stocked up on copies of John Kerry's book back in the day, and sold them back to him in '04.
But who could have believed that he would be nominated for PoTUS, and come within a few thousand votes of actually winning?
Johnson's vaunted ability to build consensus in congress hit the wall and congress hated nixon about as much as they admired 'agrarian reformers'.
The military held pretty firm despite the huge handicaps within it and in the society it drew upon.
I got out in '73 but felt sorry for all the guys I'd known who stayed in from then until well into the eighties. (Of course, now they all pull down two retirement checks for my one...)
Rather's Ruin and the Rise of the Pajamahadeen
is a chapter from the book To Set the Record Straight. The book is dedicated "to the American veterans of the Vietnam War, who served with courage and honor."