Jack A. Smith : Reversing the Vietnam War Verdict

Demonstrators at the October 21, 1967 march on the Pentagon carry a banner that says, “Support our GIs, Bring Them Home Now.”

Reversing the Vietnam War verdict

Most of the allegations about insults directed at soldiers or vets from war opponents have been fabrications to discredit the antiwar forces.

By Jack A. Smith | The Rag Blog | June 7, 2012

The Pentagon has just launched a multi-year national public relations campaign to justify, glorify, and honor Washington’s catastrophic, aggressive, and losing war against Vietnam — America’s most controversial and unpopular military conflict.

President Barack Obama opened the militarist event, which was overwhelmingly approved by Congress four years ago, during a speech at the Vietnam Wall on Memorial Day, May 28. The entire campaign, which will consist of tens of thousands of events over the next 13 years, is ostensibly intended to “finally honor” the U.S. troops who fought in Vietnam. The last troops were evacuated nearly 40 years ago.

In reality, the unprecedented project — titled the Vietnam War Commemoration — will utilize the “pro-veteran” extravaganza to accomplish two additional and more long lasting goals:

  • The first is to legitimize and intensify a renewed warrior spirit within America as the Pentagon emerges from two counterproductive, ruinously expensive, and stalemated unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and prepares for further military adventures in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Within days of Obama’s speech, for instance, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced a big increase of U.S. Navy forces in the Pacific, a move obviously targeting China. At the same time the Obama Administration’s drone wars are accelerating as the Oval Office’s kill list expands, and the president engages in cyber sabotage against Iran.
  • The second is to dilute the memory of historic public opposition to the Vietnam war by putting forward the Pentagon’s censored account of the conflict in public meetings, parades, and educational sessions set to take place across the nation through 2025. These flag-waving, hyper-patriotic occasions will feature veterans, active duty military members, government officials, local politicians, teachers, and business leaders who will combine forces to praise those who fought in Vietnam and those on the home front who supported the war. There won’t be much — if any — attention focused on the majority of Americans who opposed this imperialist adventure, except as a footnote describing how tolerant U.S. democracy is toward dissent.

The principal theme of the president’s address was that American troops have not received sufficient laurels for their efforts to violently prevent the reunification of North and South Vietnam. He did not point out that there would have been no war had the United States permitted nationwide free elections to take place in Vietnam in 1956 as specified by the 1954 Geneva Agreement ending the French colonialism in Indochina. Washington recently decided that the war “officially” began in 1962 (although U.S. involvement dates back to the 1950s), allowing the commemoration to begin during the “50th anniversary” year.

President Obama lays a commemorative wreath during Memorial Day ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, May 28, 2012 in Arlington, Virginia. Photo by Mark Wilson / Getty Images.

President Obama told the large, cheering crowd of veterans and their families at the Vietnam Wall exactly what they — and all those who still resented the era’s large antiwar movement — wanted to hear:

One of the most painful chapters in our history was Vietnam — most particularly, how we treated our troops who served there….

You were often blamed for a war you didn’t start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor. (Applause.) You were sometimes blamed for misdeeds of a few, when the honorable service of the many should have been praised. You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened. And that’s why here today we resolve that it will not happen again. (Applause.)….

[Y]ou wrote one of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity in the annals of military history. (Applause.)…. [E]ven though some Americans turned their back on you — you never turned your back on America… And let’s remember all those Vietnam veterans who came back and served again — in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You did not stop serving. (Applause.)

So here today, it must be said — you have earned your place among the greatest generations. At this time, I would ask all our Vietnam veterans, those of you who can stand, to please stand, all those already standing, raise your hands — as we say those simple words which always greet our troops when they come home from here on out: Welcome home. (Applause.) Welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home. Thank you. We appreciate you. Welcome home. (Applause.)….

May God bless you. May God bless your families. May God bless our men and women in uniform. And may God bless these United States of America.

There was virtually no criticism in the corporate mass media about the president’s gross exaggerations concerning the “mistreatment” of Vietnam era veterans. True, there were no victory parades, but that was because the U.S. Armed Forces were defeated by a much smaller and enormously outgunned adversary — the guerrilla forces of the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front (NLF) and regular forces from North Vietnam.

Members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) hold a peaceful demonstration outside the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami. Photo by JP Laffont / Sygma / Corbis.

By the time many vets returned home the American people had turned against the war and wanted it over, as did a significant portion of active duty troops, including the many who identified with the peace movement or who mutinied or deserted. Undoubtedly some veterans were disrespected — but to a far lesser extent than Obama and pro-war forces have suggested over the years.

Whenever the U.S. conducts unpopular invasions, as in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Washington and the mass media invariably insist that it is the duty of patriotic citizens to “support the troops” even if they oppose the war. But to manifest the kind of support the government seeks inevitably implies support for the war. This is why the peace groups came up with the slogan “Support the Troops — Bring ’em home NOW!”

According to the Pentagon, which is in charge of staging the Vietnam War Commemoration, the main purpose is

To thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War… for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans. To highlight the service of the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of Federal agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the Armed Forces. To pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War…”

Thousands of community, veteran, and various nongovernmental organizations throughout the U.S. are expected to join the Commemorative Partner Program

to assist federal, state and local authorities to assist a grateful nation in thanking and honoring our Vietnam Veterans and their families. Commemorative Partners are encouraged to participate… by planning and conducting events and activities that will recognize the Vietnam Veterans and their families’ service, valor, and sacrifice.

In addition the government and its “partners” will be distributing educational materials about the war, according to the Pentagon, but it is unlikely that the Vietnamese side of the story or that of the multitude of war resisters in the U.S., civilian and military, will receive favorable attention. Many facts, including the origins of the war will undoubtedly be changed to conform to the commemoration’s main goal of minimizing Washington’s defeat and maximizing the heroism and loyalty of the troops.

Officially, the Vietnam war lasted 11 years (1962-1973), but U.S. involvement actually continued for 21 years (1954-1975). The U.S. financially supported the restoration of French colonial control of Vietnam and all of Indochina after the defeat of Japanese imperialism in 1945 (Japan earlier displaced French rule). By 1954, Washington not only supplied money and advisers but sent 352 Americans to Vietnam in a “Military Assistance Advisory group” supporting the French against liberation forces led by the Vietnamese Communist Party. The liberators defeated the French army at the historic battle of Dien Bien Phu that same year.

The Geneva Conference of 1954, facilitating impending French withdrawal, established that Vietnam would be divided temporarily into two halves until free elections were held in 1956 to determine whether the liberation forces, led by Ho Chi Minh, or Emperor Bao Dai, who had collaborated with both French and Japanese occupation forces and was a puppet of the U.S., would rule the unified state.

American soldiers carry a wounded comrade through a Vietnam Swamp. Photo by Paul Halverson, 1969. Image from The Veterans Hour.

It is doubtful that the commemoration is going to emphasize the fact that the U.S., led by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, used its power to prevent nationwide elections from taking place when it became clear that Ho Chi Minh would win 80% of the vote. Eisenhower acknowledged this in his memoirs. Instead, Washington allied itself to right wing forces in the southern sector to declare “South Vietnam” to be a separate state for the first time in history and set about financing, training and controlling a large southern military force to prevent reunification. The U.S. dominated the Saigon government throughout the following war.

When Paris withdrew remaining French troops in April 1956, according to John Prados in Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945-1975 (2009), “their departure made America South Vietnam’s big brother,” i.e., overlord and military protector against popular liberation forces in the southern half of the country.

By June 1962, 9,700 U.S. “military advisers” plus a large number of CIA agents were training and fighting to support the corrupt U.S.-backed regime in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), at which time President Kennedy’s Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, announced that “every quantitative measure shows that we’re wining the war.”

By 1968, when the number of U.S. troops attained their apogee of 535,040, Washington was obviously losing to its tenacious opponent. This is when Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson decided not to seek reelection rather than face the humiliation of defeat. Republican President Richard M. Nixon succeeded to the presidency and vastly increased the bombings while also calling for negotiations to end the war.

Facing an impending defeat and political catastrophe, American troops pulled out in 1973. The CIA and some U.S. military personnel and political advisers remained in diminished South Vietnam assisting the right wing government in Saigon until April 1975 when the entire country was liberated.

The U.S. lost 58,151 troops in the war. Between four and five million Vietnamese civilians and soldiers were killed on both sides in a catastrophe that could have been entirely avoided had Washington allowed the free elections to take place. Over a million civilians in neighboring Laos and Cambodia also were killed or wounded by U.S. firepower.

Vietnam, north and south, was pulverized by U.S. bombs and shells. The Pentagon detonated 15,500,000 tons of ground and air munitions on the three countries of Indochina, 12,000,000 tons on South Vietnam alone in a failed effort to smash the National Liberation Front backed by the North Vietnamese army. By comparison, the U.S. detonated only 6,000,000 tons of ground and air munitions throughout World War II in Europe and the Far East. All told, by the end of the war, 26,000,000 bomb craters pockmarked Indochina, overwhelmingly from U.S. weapons and bombers.

The Pentagon also dumped 18,000,000 gallons of herbicides to defoliate several million acres of farmland and forests. Millions of Vietnamese suffered illness, birth defects, and deaths from these poisonous chemicals. The AP recently reported from Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, that “More than 100,000 Vietnamese have been killed or injured by land mines or other abandoned explosives since the Vietnam War ended nearly 40 years ago, and clearing all of the country will take decades more.”

It should also be mentioned — since it will be suppressed during the commemoration — that U.S. forces, including the CIA and the Pentagon-controlled South Vietnamese military, tortured many thousands of “suspected” supporters of the liberation struggle, frequently with portable electrical current. An estimated 40,000 “Vietcong” (suspected members or supporters of the NLF) were murdered during the long-running “Operation Phoenix” assassination campaign conducted by the CIA, Special Forces, and killer units of the Saigon forces.

Iconic photo of crying Vietnamese children after an aerial napalm attack near near Trang Bang, Vietnam, June 8, 1972, Photo by Nick Ut / AP.

There were three main fronts in the Vietnam war, in this order: First, the battlefields of Indochina. Second, the massive antiwar movement within the United States and international support for Vietnam. Third, the Paris Peace Talks. Well over 60% of the American people opposed the war by the late 1960s-early ’70s. The first peace protest took place in 1962; the first very large protest took place in Washington in 1965. Subsequently there were thousands of antiwar demonstrations large and small in cities, towns, and campuses all over America.

[Disclosure; This writer was a war opponent and a conscientious objector during this period. His information about the war derives from when he functioned as the news editor, managing editor and then chief editor of the largest independent leftist paper in the U.S. at the time, the weekly Guardian. This publication thoroughly covered the war, peace movement, antiwar veterans (Vietnam Veterans Against the War [VVAW] was founded in 1967 and is still active today), the extraordinary resistance of active duty troops in Vietnam and at U.S. bases and COs in prison or in Canada and Europe throughout the period of conflict.]

Most of the allegations about insults directed at soldiers or vets from war opponents have been fabrications to discredit the antiwar forces — falsehoods Obama chose to repeat as part of the Pentagon’s campaign to reverse history’s negative verdict on the war in Vietnam. The peace movement’s targets were the warmakers in Washington and their allies abroad, not members of a largely conscript army. Perhaps the most notorious of the false accusations were frequent reports about antiwar individuals “spitting” at GIs and vets. The rumors were so wild that sociologist Jerry Lembcke wrote a book exposing the lies — The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam, New York University Press, 1998.

It’s extremely doubtful that the war commemoration will dare touch honestly upon the movement of active duty troops against the war and the hundreds of cases killing their own officers.

Historian Howard Zinn included this paragraph on the opposition to the Vietnam War by American soldiers in his People’s History of the United States:

The capacity for independent judgment among ordinary Americans is probably best shown by the swift development of antiwar feeling among American GIs — volunteers and draftees who came mostly from lower-income groups. There had been, earlier in American history, instances of soldiers’ disaffection from the war: isolated mutinies in the Revolutionary War, refusal of reenlistment in the midst of hostilities in the Mexican war, desertion and conscientious objection in World War I and World War II. But Vietnam produced opposition by soldiers and veterans on a scale, and with a fervor, never seen before.

According to the Washington Peace Center:

During the Vietnam War, the military ranks carried out mass resistance on bases and ships in Southeast Asia, the Pacific, U.S., and Europe. Military resistance was instrumental in ending the war by making the ranks politically unreliable. This history is well documented in Soldiers in Revolt by David Cortright and the recent film Sir! No Sir!

One of the key reports on GI resistance was written by Col. Robert D. Heinl Jr. and published in the Armed Forces Journal of June 7, 1971. He began:

The morale, discipline and battle worthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at anytime in this century and possibly in the history of the United States.

By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non-commissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near mutinous. Elsewhere than Vietnam, the situation is nearly as serious.

Intolerably clobbered and buffeted from without and within by social turbulence, pandemic drug addiction, race war, sedition, civilian scapegoatise, draftee recalcitrance and malevolence, barracks theft and common crime, unsupported in their travail by the general government, in Congress as well as the executive branch, distrusted, disliked, and often reviled by the public, the uniformed services today are places of agony for the loyal, silent professions who doggedly hang on and try to keep the ship afloat.

According to the 2003 book by Christian Appy, Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides, Gen. Creighton Abrams — the U.S. military commander in Vietnam — made this comment in 1971 after an investigation: “Is this a god-damned army or a mental hospital? Officers are afraid to lead their men into battle, and the men won’t follow. Jesus Christ! What happened?”

Another former Army colonel in Vietnam, Andrew J. Bacevich Sr. (now a professor of international relations at Boston University and a strong opponent of U.S. foreign/military policy) wrote a book about how the U.S. military labored for a dozen years after the defeat to revamp its war strategy and tactics. (The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, Oxford University Press, 2005.)

One major conclusion was that a conscript army may become unreliable if the war is considered unjust in nature and unpopular at home. This is why conscription was ended for good and the Pentagon now relies on better paid professional standing military supplemented by a large number of contractors and mercenaries, who perform many duties that were once handled by regular soldiers.

Vietnam Veterans Against the War at 2009 Atlanta Veterans Dav Parade. Photo by David Howell.

Veterans’ movements from the professional military of contemporary wars, such as Iraq Veterans Against the War and March Forward, as well as from the Vietnam era, are still out in the streets opposing imperialist wars, and public opinion polls reveal that over 60% of the American people oppose the Afghan adventure.

Despite the colossal damage the U.S. inflicted on Vietnam and its people during the war years, the country has emerged from the ashes and is taking steps toward becoming a relatively prosperous society led by the Communist Party. The Hanoi government has received no help from Washington. During the Paris Peace Talks of 1973, Nixon promised Prime Minister Pham Van Dong in writing that the U.S. would pay Vietnam $3.5 billion in reparations. This promise turned out to be worthless.

What strikes visitors to Vietnam in recent years, including this writer, is that the country appears to have come to terms with what it calls the American War far better than America has come to terms with the Vietnam War. Despite the hardships inflicted upon Vietnam, the government and people appear to hold no grudges against the United States.

Hanoi has several times extended the welcome mat to former antagonists, urging Americans and residents of southern Vietnam who now live abroad to “close the past and look to the future.” Wherever touring U.S. citizens — including former GIs — travel in Vietnam, they are met with the same respect as visitors from other countries.

In the U.S., the Vietnam war still evokes fighting words in some quarters. Some Americans still argue that the U.S. “could have won if it didn’t have one hand tied behind its back” (i.e., used nuclear weapons), and some continue to hate the antiwar protesters of yesteryear, just as they do demonstrators against today’s wars. And some others — in Congress, the White House and the Pentagon — still seem to continue fighting the war by organizing a massive propaganda effort to distort the history of Washington’s aggression and unspeakable brutality in Vietnam.

[Jack A. Smith was editor of the Guardian — for decades the nation’s preeminent leftist newsweekly — that closed shop in 1992. Smith now edits the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter. Read more articles by Jack A. Smith on The Rag Blog.

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32 Responses to Jack A. Smith : Reversing the Vietnam War Verdict

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great article. But why not find some full color photos to illustrate it — rather than the sepia-looking B&W?

    That would make it seem less like ancient history … & subliminally remind younger folks that many are still alive who went through it.

    Also link to some sites to set the record straight: that this was an unpopular war fought by at least two presidents in an extremely illegitimate manner (lies, etc).

  2. The reason for using the vintage pix was to document that the anti-war movement wasn’t anti-soldier, and that there was a strong anti-war movement among GIs and vets.

  3. sharletr@union.edu says:

    Just a few emendations to Jack Smith’s excellent piece on the peculiar dating and timing of the Vietnam War commemoration. Actually, US involvement in the war writ large dates back to 1950 when Truman approved military aid to the French and the CIA created Air America in Southeast Asia. Congress had mandated the Vietnam commemoration in 2006, so why are just now hearing about it in 2012.

    Could be related to the election. Obama didn’t do well with veterans in ’08, and two swing states, Virgina and North Carolina are heavy with them. If that’s a motive, then a pretext for the commemorative launch was needed. That would be a 50th anniversary, starting oddly enough in January 1962 when the president alluded to the disastrous Battle of Ap Bac.

    The result was a major Viet Cong victory despite odds of 10:1, heavy South Vietnamese army casualties, and significant US losses — nearly a dozen advisers and air crewmen killed or wounded and five choppers shot down with the rest riddled with VC bullets. An omen of what was to come?

  4. Thanks for this. It’s always amazed me that people would claim returning Viet Nam vets were badly-treated in the U.S. Hell, these guys were our friends; we all knew people who went over because they personally saw no alternative. We were on their side and we welcomed them home.

    Know who’s been making this shit up? The guys who backed the war but evaded service –– and who do nothing for veterans even now: the chickenhawks like Cheney and Rumsfeld and the AWOL Bush

  5. Jay D. Jurie says:

    On two separate occasions two columnists from the Orlando Sentinel made the assertion that troops returning from Vietnam had been spat upon. In both instances I challenged the columnists to document their assertions. Neither ever replied, but never did either ever repeat this assertion.

  6. masterspork says:

    Considering the actions of IVAW and Veterans for Peace, I do not think that you can stand on the idea that the Troops were not viewed as war criminals by the anti-war movement.

  7. Anonymous says:

    My father came home from Viet Nam in 1973. He was spat on.

    So was his kid. I guess the hippie decided that the reunion of a family wasn’t as important as the sanctity of a family reunion.

    I still remember the feeling of the saliva dripping out of my hair and into my eyes, the horrified look in my mother’s eyes, and the look of pure murder in my Dad’s.

    I never forgave the anti-war protestors.

    Fuck ’em…

  8. masterspork says:

    In reply to the comment about the treatment of Veterans during that time, I asked for stories about that time period. I would like to know your thoughts. You can read them here.

    http://thisainthell.us/blog/?p=30972

  9. Raznikov — I was passing through Dulles in 1972 in Marine uniform (we all had to travel in uniform in those days). Some half dozen or so love children passed me by & once behind me, I heard someone spit. I turned slowly because of all the chances for confrontation that were looked for in those days, but they were practically skipping away, giggling. I removed my blouse on the mens room shortly thereafter & there was something moist on the back of it.

    If that’s not good enough, how in the hell can you make such a sweeping statement like that? It never happened? Stupid.

  10. SGT Ted says:

    The Vietnam vet NCO’s who were my leaders in the early 80s confirmed being spat upon by the anti-war types. I have no reason to disbelieve them.

  11. Unknown says:

    In 1974 I was traveling through the Seattle airport in uniform. I went outside to smoke. At the doorway out of the secure area a crowd of anti-war people was waiting along both sides of the rail. They shouted “baby killer” and spit on me. Don’t say it didn’t happen because it did. Some time after that we received orders that we didn’t have to travel in uniform. Active duty people and veterans held up their right hand and swore to protect and defend the Constitution — they agreed to give their life to serve the rest of us. If you don’t appreciate and value that I do not know how you can look at yourself in the mirror.

  12. thorne dreyer said…

    I was heavily involved in the movement against the War in Vietnam from its earliest days through its duration — working primarily in Texas, but also in Northern California and New York. I helped organize and attended dozens of demonstrations and public events, including major national actions like the massive March on the Pentagon.

    I rarely saw GIs in any way disrespected and never saw a single instance of physical abuse. It was a highly-charged time and certainly there were some idiots out there, but to suggest that there was widespread disrespect towards GIs from within the peace movement is patently absurd.

    The Vietnam War became extremely unpopular among the general populace and also within the military itself. There was major opposition — and active resistance — among soldiers in Vietnam.

    GIs and returning vets were at the heart of the peace movement and we considered GIs — who were overwhelmingly draftees and many of whom were our childhood friends — to be our brothers and sisters, and to be victims of the system. They were certainly not the enemy.

    This is a terribly destructive myth and a disgraceful — and highly political — reinvention of history.

  13. masterspork says:

    Considering how the groups like IVAW, VFP, Code Pink and Answer comments and actions in the past few years, why do should people think that the anti-war groups did any different in the past?

  14. Anonymous says:

    I lived through those times. What I see now is the perpetrators actively re-writing history to erase the wrongs they committed against those who chose to serve. Soldiers were ostracized for not doing what the anti-war movement thought proper, burning their draft card and heading to Canada instead of doing the government’s evil work in SE Asia. You can try to re-write history, but we will never forget.

  15. YouGottaBeJoking says:

    Really? I think I’ll side with the many, many vets of that time who claim it DID happen rather than those who are trying to rewrite history.

    Say…what’s Bill Ayers up to these days? Let me guess, his buffoonery was “blown out of proportion”, too?

  16. TCinLA says:

    Smoth has it right that the current administration wants to cleanse history so they can continue their imperial wars. Of course they don’t want to have the history of those of us who served and saw the b.s. for what it was and came to oppose it. I was on the staff of the operational commander of the two destroyers “Maddox” and “Turner Joy” at the alleged Tonkin Gulf (non)Incident, where the biggest problem was how close the two ships came to shooting each other. The “founding fact” of the Vietnam war was a lie, as was everything else.

    In the 47 years I have been back from that war, I have yet to find a veteran who can speak first-hand about being spat on or any of the other right wing lies about how the antiwar movement treated veterans. I am sure “Masterspork,” who probably never got closer to combat (assuming he actually ever served) than the “warehouse wars” in Cam Ranh Bay over how many cartons of cigarettes were going to be “lost” for later sale on the black market, can’t tell any first-hand accounts either.

    A good antidote to the lies of the “Imperials” and the “professional idiots” (er, I mean the “professional veterans” like master baiter Mastersplork) is Rachel Maddow’s book “Drift.” I strongly recommend it.

    It’s been said that “those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.” So long as we who know the truth of Vietnam don’t keep telling it, the United States will continue down the Imperial Roman path, to a similar end.

  17. No one can account for every hippie walking through an airport. But it was the consistent policy of every antiwar group to reach out to soldiers. Why else did we found the Oleo Strutt and a dozen other GI coffee houses?

  18. PeaceVet says:

    Jack Smith, excellent article. As a Vietnam War veteran who volunteered and served honorably, I feel I was very naive when I volunteered, but slowly realized that I had been lied to and duped. When I returned I was never accosted or abused by anyone, especially not the students at the University of Texas, or while I traveled; and I never observed this happening to any Vietnam Vet. As to those who say they did, well I just do not believe it. The book mentioned above (The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam, New York University Press, 1998) researched and documented the news reports and magazines of the time and never found a report of spitting or calling “Baby Killer.” That line by Unknown (Jul 21, 2012) above, “They shouted “baby killer” and spit on me” is right out of the movie “Rambo: First Blood in 1982 ” where Sylvester Stallone delivers a monologue saying, “”It wasn’t my war. You asked me, I didn’t ask you and I did what I had to do to win, but somebody wouldn’t let us win. And I come back to the world and I see maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting, calling me baby-killer and all kinds of vile crap!” ” The only true part of that is the, “It wasn’t my war.”

    Now, Jack Smith, I would like to ask your opinion (or any historian) about the earliest beginnings of the Vietnam quagmire. My take is that France went into French Indo China in the 1870’s, at least I remember looking around some old, French gun emplacements on a hill (mountain?) north of the mouth of the Saigon and Mekong Rivers that had a date of 1872. Then in 1925 the Michelin Rubber Group established a large rubber plantation northwest of Saigon. Long Binh (near Biên Hòa). Rubber was a huge factor in WWII, with tire rationing in the USA and England.

    Because the Vietnamese guerrillas helped the Allies fight the Japanese in Vietnam, I think it was logical that Ho Chi Minh expected the French and the United Nations to help the Vietnamese to establish a free government. However, my take is that because the USA wanted Western Europe and the French back on their economic feet; and, I believe overlooked in history, we wanted Michelin back in Vietnam harvesting rubber. We did not have a good synthetic rubber until the 1960s, and the US Army was paying Michelin a royalty for every rubber tree damaged until 1965.

    I suspect this rubber issue was larger than is written about in English historical publications, perhaps in French, but not here. I am convinced that the Michelin Corporation had more to do with the evolution of Vietnam that led up to our complete involvement in the war than is admitted.

    As to Obama’s comparison of Vietnam to the current wars, especially Iraq, he is just plain wrong. Vietnam evolved out of 19th Century French Colonialism and was passed from one administration to the next until Kennedy was assassinated and LBJ started the buildup in Nam. Iraq was simply a wrong turn by a few old guys led by Cheney/Bush. The ” Bush-Cheney Doctrine: “America will act against emerging threats before they are fully formed” (George Bush). Going into Iraq that way was no different than what Japan did to the USA at Pearl Harbor, except Cheney’s and Big Oil’s goal was the oil. Vietnam was about rubber early on.

    Historians, is there any merit to my historical interpretation?

    Peace, Terry J. DuBose, 1st Lt. US Regular Army, Airborne, Vietnam 1967-68.

  19. TCinLA says:

    Terry DuBose: You are mostly right on your history. The Viet Minh were the only indigenous force in southeast Asia to fight for the allies; the rest went with the Japanese out of anti-European convictions, most prominently Sukarno in Indonesia. FDR hoped to prevent both France and Britain from regaining their lost Asian colonial empires, and would have done so had he lived. The United States gave no aid to France in that war until 1951, when France’s war got wrapped up with the US war in Korea as “opposing the expansion of communism in Asia.”

    As to the rubber plantations, it wouldn’t surprise me.

    The first time I was in the country, in early 1964, a bar girl in Saigon took me to see the statues of the Sung Sisters, who started a war of independence against the Chinese empire in 232 B.C. that lasted off and on until 939 A.D. Do the math – over a thousand years! It didn’t take a genius to figure out that any people who would fight a war for a thousand years were pretty likely to outlast us.

  20. masterspork says:

    TCinLA

    I have been in the Army over 6 years and have deployed to Iraq from April 2008 to July 2009. I was stationed with a Engineer unit (63rd Engineers based out of For Benning Georgia) as a medic on FOB Warhorse. I went out on over 165 missions in different projects such as preventing IEDs from being planted, help supported the Iraqi Army and Police. Taken part in good will projects helping the local population.

    I was not a Fobbit and was never “in the read with the Gear”.

    Also I would ask you to read the letter done by a Former Sgt Godsmith about him leaving IVAW.

    http://thisainthell.us/blog/?p=10593

    David.

    You mean like Under The Hood that was used as a gathering place for protests like this?

    PeaceVet

    I am sure with the internet and instant communication that if you ask around that you will find them to talk to them in person.

  21. M’Spork: I almost removed that comment that challenged your combat experience, as a personal attack. But I figured you could take it! Your credentials are accepted and I certainly don’t challenge your commitment. Just strongly disagree with you.

  22. I’m sorry to say as a 6 year Army veteran with two tours in Iraq, I have to say, your entire article proves that you are living in a fantasy land. First off the Anti-War groups were very violent, and intolerant of anyone in a military hair cut. It is not one or a few, but reams and reams of affidavits, that testify to this.

    I could say that you have your head up your 4th point of contact but it is clear that pointing that out would be wasted on this crowd. I just want to point out, for the record that a lot of the “veterans” of VVAW that were against the war, either never served or never set foot in Nam. There are a ton of other holes in the stories told that make the Anti-war crowd look like the victims here.

    To explain my disgust with this article would take too long and I simply don’t have the patients.

  23. masterspork says:

    Thank you for the consideration.

    But back to the topic.

    The main issue is not about the Vietnam War at all, but can the the person separate protesting the war against protesting against the Solider.

    From what we have seen from groups like the IVAW,(and other groups like Code Pink, Answer) and how their conduct, words and actions have lead us to believe that they cannot.

    Since the IVAW was a off shoot of VVAW(VFP) and that the VFP was helping IVAW then what does it saw about VFP? Also what do you know about the VVAW-AI?

  24. PeaceVet says:

    Doc Bailey, AKA: The Mad Medic said…

    “for the record that a lot of the “veterans” of VVAW that were against the war, either never served or never set foot in Nam.”

    Your statements are absolutely false. There were many of the lying, so called “Swift Boaters for Truth [sic]” and others who made the statements you did. For this reason VVAW had a strict rule that when we participated in protests we were to always carry our DD214s to prove our service in Vietnam. To this day I still carry a copy of my DD214 and my orders to report to the 5th Special Forces Group when I protest another war. When the liars, Scott Swett, Jerome Corsi, Larry Bailey, and B. G. Burkett, made those claims to me at the 5th Triennial Vietnam Symposium at The Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University, I pulled out my DD214 Burkett waved me off and said, “That doesn’t mean anything, those can be changed.” You can view and hear the SwiftBoat Liars talks here. Note at 1:12:44 Larry Bailey’s response to me when he asked for questions:
    http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/items.php?item=999VI1851
    Then you can watch the VVAW responses here:
    http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/items.php?item=999VI1855

    As to your claim, “Anti-War groups were very violent and intolerant of anyone in a military hair cut” you are painting all those who protested the Vietnam mess with the same brush. There were those who, after years of protest, became angry and may have been violent. However, most of it was overblown. And the SwiftBoat Liars tried to say that VVAW and John Kerry were violent, yet the very FBI records that the SwiftBoaters refer to stated very clearly: “The delegations from New England and the East Coast proposed activities a week before Christmas and advocated non-violent civil disobedience.” The VVAW New England and the East Coast were Kerry’s delegations to the VVAW Steering Committee, yet the SwiftBoating Liars used the violent claim against Kerry in the 2004 election, all LIES!

    It was the Texas VVAW who helped the GIs in the Oleo Strut Coffee House in Killeen. We were not “intolerant of anyone in a military hair cut,” we were there to help and support them. If you felt that way, I suspect it was your own projection that made you feel that way, because it did not come from the VVAW.

    Peace, Terry J. DuBose, 1st Lt. US Regular Army, Airborne, Vietnam 1967-68; Texas VVAW State Coordinator & National Steering Committee, 1970-1972.

  25. PeaceVet says:

    I will add that if you watch the SwiftBoat Liars video here:
    http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/items.php?item=999VI1851
    If you watch through to 1:27:50 you will hear Scott Swett and B. G. Burkett tell about the “Vietnam Veterans’ Legacy Foundation” that is supposed to be “sort of a Vietnam Veterans’ Anti-Defamation League.” This sounds exactly like the campaign to rewrite the history of the Vietnam Error and the protests which Jack Smith described in the article above.

    Peace, Terry J. DuBose, 1st Lt. US Regular Army, Airborne, Vietnam 1967-68; Texas VVAW State Coordinator & National Steering Committee, 1970-1972.

  26. masterspork says:

    PeaceVet.

    Quick question for the moment, what unit did you serve with and what is your history with the 5th Special Forces Group?

  27. Anonymous says:

    AS a young mother attending college during most of the anti-war protests, so I really did not get involved. However, because my younger brother had
    been in Vietnam and was active in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, I learned some about it.

    It was not until the 2004 election campaign when the “Swiftboaters” went after John Kerry that I began to educate myself. I listened, I researched, I
    read, I discussed and realized that the VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) were HEROES! They had been there; they KNEW and COULD SEE what was going on! It took lots of courage for people who had been trained in the
    military way of thinking to stand up and say that that war was WRONG and their brothers in arms should not continue to be sent into that war to die.

    After I saw “SIR! NO SIR!” (documentary) I realized even more that it was the soldiers, themselves, who made it impossible to allow themselves to be wrongfully sent into battles that should not be fought. Actually, that was when the ground war was changed to an air war. I strongly recommend that
    everyone see that documentary. It can be purchased through Amazon, or it may be available from your local library. It’s an eye-opener.

    Then when I read MARY’S MOSAIC I became even more convinced that the reasons for going into Vietnam were no more legitimate than the reasons for invading
    Iraq. Because of MARY’S MOSAIC. I began to make a list of references used in that book. When I read, I want to KNOW that the sources are not just
    propaganda.

    Two books that were written by Col. L. Fletcher Prouty (1917-2001) who was active in the Vietnam War AND also interacted with the CIA wrote two very
    revealing books that, according to reports, the CIA tried to stop from being published. Because of that statement, I did not want to read the re-released 2011 version (after Col Prouty died); I wanted the ORIGINAL edition.

    I looked online and with the help of friends we located a 1973 for $19.95. All other 1973 editions were in the $300 and $400 range. I am not quite finished with THE SECRET TEAM, but I have read enough to understand what he
    is saying about the “Power Elite” or “Secret Team” who seem to control what the President hears (no matter WHICH party or president is in office).

    Probably the book that explains best is the JFK: THE CIA, VIETNAM, AND THE PLOT TO ASSASINATE JOHN F. KENNEDY. I had already read LEGACY OF ASHES, and
    I was not happy to learn that the CIA has its own troops (agents) that they can send into countries without Congress’s or the President’s approval. (You
    will need to read that one, too, to understand what I’m saying here.)

    As I have read, I am reminded of President Eisenhower when he said, “Beware the Military Industrial Complex.” I believe he was talking more about the
    Pentagon and CIA than the defense corporations. Of course, he understood the influence of both, especially after the Gary Powers U2 incident made it impossible for him to carry out his peace meeting with Kruschev to outlaw
    nuclear weapons.

    Then when I read of the “Bay of Pigs” when President Kennedy’s orders were countermanded by someone with power, I was even more suspicious. Even President Truman who saw a need for good intelligence and created the CIA
    said that that agency had drifted away from the reason they were organized.

    Read or watch the following recommendations and see what you think. You, too, will better understand the Vietnam War and see what the troops who protested the war came to understand. We, as voters, need to read and educate ourselves so we can elect people who will do what they are sent to Washington to do; and elected officials need to do the same to guard against
    wrongful influence.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Recommended reading and viewing list:

    Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner (May 20, 2008) [book]

    Sir! No Sir! – The Suppressed Story of the GI Movement to End the War in Vietnam [video documentary)]

    Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace by Peter Janney and Dick Russell (Apr 2, 2012) [book]

    JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy by L. Fletcher Prouty et al (2011) [book]

    The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World (Second Edition) by L. Fletcher Prouty and Jesse Ventura (2011)(1973) [book]

    Ike: Countdown to D-Day [streaming Netflix]

  29. PeaceVet says:

    masterspork said…
    PeaceVet.

    Quick question for the moment, what unit did you serve with and what is your history with the 5th Special Forces Group?

    When I finished QM OCS, I was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam, and sent to Ft. Benning for training before reporting to Vietnam. When I finally arrived in Vietnam my assignment had been changed, as the Army is want to do. I was finally given an assignment to the 53rd General Support Group, supplying the Mekong Delta, and trying to find and straighen out the lost equipment and screwed up records.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Gosh… did anti-war protesters just hang around civilian airports all day so they could spit on returning soldiers in uniform?

    Something about that scenario seems very odd.

    I think many people FELT disrespected — 'spat upon' — when they came back from a confusing conflict, w/ no ticker tape parade, suffering PTSD w/ no help, saw many people acting uncomfortably

  31. Brian Novak says:

    On occasion a fellow Vietnam veteran will recount a story of being spat upon after returning to the U.S. I respond by saying truthfully “If anyone tried to spit on me, I would have kicked their ass or gone down swinging”. I never hear the story repeated

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