Vietnam War Symposium at Atlanta History Center on Nov 2, 2019

– I’m Alan Gravel, I’m the Board Chairman of the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association Foundation And we welcome you here today, appreciate you coming As is our custom with AVVBA events, we want to start today with the Pledge of Allegiance So if y’all will stand I pledge allegiance, – [All] To the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all – Thank you, be seated You didn’t come to hear me talk, so we’ll keep this short But I do have a few things I need to say One is that early on in putting this together, we were able to believe in the possibility of it because the Atlanta History Center stepped up and made this venue available for us, and we thank them very much The second person who, second organization that stepped up and gave us a green light to head forward was Synovus They generously contributed to allow us to hold this symposium without utilizing any of our funds that are earmarked for memorials or for scholarships for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans So we appreciate their participation (audience applauding) Corporate values of Chick-Fil-A are so well known that I doubt any of you are surprised that they’re furnishing lunch today (audience laughing) Not reluctantly or begrudgingly, but generously and with revealing a deep commitment to the values that made this country great (audience applauding) We wouldn’t be here today without the help of our speakers and our moderator, RJ Del Vecchio with the Vietnam Veterans for Factual History, and the speakers Bob Turner, Michael Kort, and Mark Moyar No amount of money or coercion or persuasion could get these men to travel as they have to come here unless they were deeply committed to the accuracy of history and to helping to correct some of the myths about the Vietnam War We thank them very much And lastly, many members of AVVBA have helped to put this thing together and other organizations, and I can’t name all of you, but I have to name a few people And first of all, Jim Dickson and Rob Knowles, John Butler, Bob Hopkins, those have participated (audience applauding) They worked hard for four or five months putting this together So without further ado, I wanna introduce our moderator, RJ Del Vecchio with the Vietnam Veterans for Factual History and he will run the show for us today, thank you (audience applauding) – Thank you, Alan Actually, I wanted to talk for a moment I’m at the age where finding myself standing amongst a bunch of people who’ll stand up and say the pledge of allegiance is still heart warming And it reminded me of something I do a lot of high school lectures, and last fall I was at a high school and we were saying the pledge of allegiance, and one student did not stand up in the front row, but just sat there And I looked at her and didn’t say anything Later she came up to me because she wanted to assure me she didn’t mean to disrespect me And I said thank you very much, but why would you not stand and say it? She said, “Well, because I’m not a hypocrite.” And I said, how is it hypocritical She said, “Well, we don’t have perfect liberty “and justice for all.” And I thought for a second and I said, well of course you’re exactly right We didn’t have perfect liberty and justice for all in 1776, we didn’t have it yesterday, we don’t have it today, and we won’t have it tomorrow By the way, what nation anywhere at any time ever has? We are human beings, we are fallible If your criteria for what’s okay is perfection,

you’re going to be disappointed What’s important is what is good And this country is good When we say the pledge of allegiance, it’s not an arrogant claim of our perfection, it’s a statement of our ideals, of what we work towards, what we have always worked towards and made progress for, for the last 200 some odd years, and we’re still making progress towards it And I said, there is so much more in our history that we should look at And acknowledging our flaws and faults and mistakes and imperfections, there’s so much more to look at that we can take pride in rather than shame And this country is worthy of our respect, our affection, and for some of us even, our love And therefore, I’d ask you to reconsider it next time you wanna hear about the pledge of allegiance (audience applauding) Okay, ladies, gentlemen, fellow veterans, welcome guests, all gentle beings, good morning Kính Chaò Quí Vị́ (speaking foreign language) (audience applauding) We are here as guests of the AVVBA Foundation as part of continued service to the nation A lot of us veterans remember that we took an oath to support the country, our nation, and we’re still involved in doing that, and probably will be until they put us in a box and stow us away some place They wanna provide well founded inputs on the history of the Vietnam War Every major human event ends up with being described in later times across a range of ways And after all, huge events like wars have layers of complexities So different people will examine different aspects often from different viewpoints Perceptions and biases will affect what is thought and written Sometimes there’s room to see the same event in different ways, even when good people consider the same set of facts But there’s always the possibility of misperceptions, biases, incomplete information, and inaccuracies entering into the accounts that are drawn up And arguments arise about what is the truest version of history? The most significant event of the 20th Century was World War II, a war of perhaps the simplest and clearest moral imperative ever known Yet there has been a bitter dispute among historians, of a few, over the use of atomic bombs to end a specific war in which some type of rules are necessary and the worst war crime ever, and that Harry Truman was a terrible war criminal This was eventually effectively rebutted by the facts as shown not in allied records, but in the record of the Japanese Imperial Council But it was interesting that debate went on for a while In fact, there are still some people who still hang onto it even though the data from the Japanese is perfectly clear The conflict with Vietnam certainly has complexities and has been reported and written about by a large host of people with a very wide range of viewpoints Often for those who have strong emotional positions on what they perceived, sometimes from those who have been very active in their opposition to, or support of the war The strong emotions of the time, which was also a time when other major cultural changes were taking place in the nation, were inflamed by dramatic images of all sorts Men executed in the streets, monks burning themselves up, little girls running naked and burned by napalm, all kinds of destruction, POWs signaling torture with their eyes, a war brought right to everyone’s living room How to make sense of all of this now? The only answer, even acknowledging that people can interpret the same text differently, is to try to go to the most solid, verifiable facts that you can find Forget all the things that everyone knows Put aside the dramatic images and look for the facts as best they can be found Examine how those who have done, the careful research and who appear to be reasoning as objectively as possible with their analysis Today you will hear from three of the most qualified professional historians there are in the field As they speak, you may have questions that come to your mind that you would like to have them answer Please fill out the question cards that are available We only need your name and which presenter, if you pick one, that you wish to question After the lunch break, we will reconvene and go through the questions and answers and provide responses For some of the comments we not only have the three distinguished historians who will be presenting today here, we have a number of other historians here, both American born and Vietnamese born So some questions you may bring up later this afternoon might be answered by someone else who is even closer to that subject Also, I think it’s important to understand, this was not our war

This was the war between South Vietnam and North Vietnam, in which the south had no designs on the north, but the north was determined to conquer the south under the banner of communism We were allied to the south, and while 58,000 Americans died in the conflict, over 250,000 South Vietnamese military died Many more were wounded, and tens of thousands civilians were assassinated as part of the terror campaigns We only have a few books from South Vietnamese authors which present their own view of events, and they certainly deserve to be considered, as well With that, I will thank you for coming, and all of the AVVBA groups for having the initiative to set this up and all the work your members have done to make this a reality Your first speaker, Dr. Robert Turner, who has truly a unique set of experiences and qualifications He published his first commentary on the Vietnam War as a Letter to the Editor in the Paris Edition of the New York Times in August, 1964 We’re talking way back, okay? He wrote a 450 page undergraduate honors thesis on the war in 1966, ’67 He was the director of research for the National Student Committee for Victory in Vietnam He took part in more than 100 debates, teach-ins and panels He doesn’t take part in many of them anymore because nobody on the other side is willing to get anywhere near him in a debate He spent five different periods in Vietnam between ’68 and ’75, right to the end Served twice there as an Army Lieutenant and a Captain on detail from MACV to North Vietnamese/ Viet Cong Affairs division of the American Embassy He’s written several books on the war, many articles, presentations, and again, nobody wants to argue with him We had a conference held by VVFH a couple years ago in DC We invited all kinds of famous antiwar people to participate, and we heard back — [Pause] (audience laughing) We’re still waiting to hear back (audience laughing) With that, I will turn you over to Dr. Robert Turner (audience applauding) – First of all, to all the Vietnam veterans in the group, thanks for your service and welcome home (audience applauding) I have an unusual perspective on Vietnam, having spent years in the early days of the war traveling around the country and debating professors and leaders of SDS and other organizations I was involved in over 100 debates and similar programs Every time I heard the same litany of arguments, all of which were false save for the argument that war is a horrible thing and good people get killed in war Nobody likes war, but if you don’t stand up to aggression, we learned in Munich that the cost can be far greater once you empower the aggressors There was a big debate in the 1960s over whether we were protecting South Vietnam from foreign aggression, or interfering in a civil war and propping up a dictator and so forth The good news is, that’s no longer debatable After Hanoi published its official history of the war, translated into English by a member of Vietnam Veterans for Factual History, there cannot be any question They documented in tremendous detail that on May 19, 1959, Ho Chi Minh’s birthday, Hanoi made a decision to open the Ho Chi Minh Trail and start pouring troops, supplies, and equipment and weapons down through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam down the Ho Chi Minh Trail This was as much aggression as any other war we have ever fought, even though it was covertly, a covert aggression It was not until five years later on August 7, 1964, that Congress enacted the equivalent to a Declaration of War, what we today call an authorization for the use of military force, empowering the President to use armed force as he did deem necessary to protect the protocol states of the 1955 SEATO Treaty Those states were the state of Vietnam, which we knew as South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia That’s right, Congress authorized the use of force in Cambodia at the time it did Vietnam, despite that fact the critics complained when we sent troops into Cambodia, which helped us win the war Some people tried to argue, wait a minute, Vietnam was only temporarily divided at the Geneva Conference,

and so it was perfectly permissible for one zone to use force reunite the country See that doesn’t do very wall when we recall the Korean War on June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea The United Nations Security Council met, denounced it as an international aggression, and empowered the United States to lead an international force under the UN flag to protect South Korea You cannot make a credible legal case that the Vietnam War was either unconstitutional or illegal And if you have doubts about that, our center hosted a conference on April 29, 2000, on the 25th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, and we decided we would repeat the old Vietnam debates And so we contacted the very best international law and constitutional law scholars who had opposed the war back in the ’60s, and said, hey let’s get together and re-argue those issues But in light of the evidence we now have, what the Hanoi has provided us, we went more than six deep in each area before anybody would touch it They can’t make the case We did finally find two very lightweight people to debate it, and this book has the transcript of those debates I debated the constitutional law issues, my opponent made an opening statement, and when his time for rebuttal came, he basically said that’s all I’ve got It’s just the idea that it was an illegal war is absolutely wrong Now another major point, we did not lose the Vietnam War on the battlefields of Vietnam We did not lose a single major battle during the war This is less a commentary of the lack of courage and ability of our opponents than it was the fact that we had superior air power, and any time they decided to stay and fight, we clobbered ’em and we destroyed them But by 1968, the National Liberation Front slash Vietcong, which had been a creature of Hanoi from the beginning, virtually ceased to exist They had been destroyed by the Tet Offensive in the May 1968 offensive And old, late friend of mine, Harry Summers, wrote a book called On Strategy and in the beginning he opens with this exchange “You know you never defeated us on the battlefield,” the American colonel said And that colonel was Harry Summers, by the way The North Vietnamese colonel responded, “That may be so, but it’s also irrelevant.” And both men were right I worked in the North Vietnam Vietcong Affairs division of the embassy during my two military tours They created a job called, Assisted Special Projects Officer for me, and Douglas Pike worked in that same office Three times, we alternated between the two of us And Doug wrote, “I believe future historians will say “not only could the war have been won, “but that we had it won.” Bill Colby, and old and dear friend, while he was a CIA station chief in Saigon in the late 1950s came back and he was a number three civilian in Vietnam throughout much of the war, went on to be the director of Central Intelligence, the head of the CIA He wrote a wonderful book called Lost Victory and he used to come down every year to speak at my Vietnam War seminar at UVA Law School And he noted that the big test was the Spring ’72 offensive, also known as the Easter Offensive, although not by the North Vietnamese They didn’t care much about Easter But Bill Colby says, “On the ground in South Vietnam, “the war had been won.” I think he is exactly right That’s a photo of Bill and my colleague, John Norton Moore who is the leading international law scholar supporting the war Another old friend of mine, Robert Elegant, wrote a fascinating article called “How to Lose a War”, you can find it if you Google that title, it’s been copied and put on the internet And he says, “South Vietnam and American forces “actually won the limited military struggle.” John Lewis Gaddis is a professor of history at Yale He wrote a two part series for foreign affairs, and he said, “Historians now acknowledge “American counter-insurgency operations in Vietnam “were succeeding during the final years of the war.” Sadly, we lost the support of the American people,

and that was not enough John Gaddis is often referred to as the Dean of American Diplomatic Historians After the war ended, Hanoi admitted it had lost more than a million troops in the war, nearly four times the total lost of the South Vietnamese, American, and ally forces combined Now why was it important to go to war and protect South Vietnam from communist aggression? After World War II, General Eisenhower was concerned that the American people would not tolerate spending large sums of money on military And he decided to cut back our ground forces, but we were already overwhelmingly overpowered by the Soviet Empire They had far, several times more tanks than we had, more artillery pieces, more divisions, but Ike said after Korea, “We don’t wanna match China man for man “in a land war in China “What we want to do is deter war, “and we’re going to do that by responding “to future aggression at a time “and manner of our own choice “And Mr. Khrushchev, in case you’re not listening, “look around Moscow and see what you wanna’ see glowing “for the half-life of Uranium 235 “Don’t mess with us.” And it worked with Khrushchev He backed down, he said, “Now is not the time “for armed struggle.” But that’s where our friend Mao Zedong comes in An also the other thing that came in is Eisenhower’s strategy worked great when we had an overwhelming preponderance of nuclear power, but the communists, they had a few nuclear weapons, but nothing that could match us But as Moscow’s arsenal increased, then the issue became, is America really going to trade New York and Chicago and Atlanta to save Saigon? And that was very dubious But Mao came along and said, yes, in appearance the imperialists are very fierce, but we are going to use people’s warfare, what Moscow called Wars of Mass Liberation We are going to send in advisors and money and weapons to train guerillas who will then fight among the people, they would live among the people, work among the people, and when appropriate, take up arms and fight So if you decide to use nuclear weapons for every guerilla you kill, you’re going to kill hundreds of totally innocent people The Americans are not that foolish, and their allies are not that foolish They would never tolerate that, and thus Mao said, nuclear weapons are irrelevant And Vietnam became a test case of this Indeed, Lin Biao, the Vice Chair of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist party wrote a very important, gave a very important speech that was published in a document called “Long Live the Victory of People’s Wars” in which he said, “The future of the world revolution “will be determined on the battlefields of Vietnam.” He said once the Vietnamese have proven that American counter-insurgency techniques will not work, then we will have many Vietnams all over the third world Che Guevara, Fidel Castro’s top military advisor, said, “The future of the revolutionary struggle “in the Americas will be decided “on the battlefields of Vietnam.” Moscow and Beijing had a big feud going on at this point And one of the issues was whether it was appropriate to move to armed struggle Khrushchev said no, Mao said yes Had we walked away from Vietnam in 1964 and 1965, we would have proven that Mao was right, that we did not have an answer to these kinds of threats, and we might actually have seen the reunification of the communist empire with Moscow saying, okay, you don’t have to worry about American intervention Throughout the third world, there were dissident groups who wanted power If they saw that by siding with the communists they could get power, they would think, okay, we’ll get their money and their guns and their training, and then when we get power, we’ll throw them out Never happened that way because the communists always made sure they got the key ministries, like the Defense Ministry and the Treasury The Interior, of course, in this country, the Interior Department takes care of our national parks In most of the world, it’s the internal police And there’s not a single case where a group accepted the aid of communists and the communists did not come out on top after victory Now another point I’m not going to dwell on, but very important, we fought most of the Vietnam War with one hand tied behind our backs And that totally undermined deterrence, it encouraged Hanoi,

it demoralized the hell out of our troops, and it turned many Americans against the war In 1968 in the New Hampshire primary, McCarthy almost got a majority of the votes It shocked everyone and it led LBJ to decide not to run for reelection And it later turned out that a majority of the people who voted for McCarthy went on to vote for George Wallace and Curtis LeMay They were superhawks casting protest votes over our no-win policies in Indochina Another old friend of mine, Bob Elegant, and Bob and I were on a panel at the Texas Tech Vietnam Center that Steve Sherman put together, I think, two years ago, talking about the media in Vietnam And Bob wrote an excellent article called “How to Lose a War” If you Google that title in quotes, you’ll find it’s been put on the internet by at least two groups, and it is a damnation of the role of the media and undermining public support for the war And candidly, I shared that view There were some outstanding journalists in Vietnam, but there also were an awful lot of hacks that had no idea what was going on and there were a number of people who went there because they thought the war was a horrible thing We can discuss this more during Q&A Now it’s important to understand Hanoi strategy They understood they could not defeat the United States military in a war and they never intended to They had a multi-faceted struggle See, Americans tend to think that, if you’ve got a military problem you go to the Pentagon, an economic problem you go to treasury or commerce The communists understood that struggle is like an orchestra You’ve got your percussion and your strings and your horns and so forth, you play them all together And they understood that in addition to the military struggle, there is also the political struggle, which was critical in Vietnam When they went to war against France in 1947, the Viet Minh had a very effective propaganda campaign inside France telling the French people to oppose the war, to block troop trains, and so forth And they defeated the French, they won the battle of Dien Bien Phu in the sense that they overran it But they suffered several time more fatalities than the French did, even counting the French troops who died on the forced march back to Hanoi To say that Dien Bien Phu was in any meaningful sense a military victory for the Viet Minh is simply not true But it was an incredible political defeat It brought down the Laniel Government in Paris The Chinese advise is, the whole game here was logistics Everybody knew, Dien Bien Phu was surrounded by mountains, but it was all triple canopy jungle and so forth, there’s no way you could get artillery in there And thus, small arms fire was not going to have an effect on the base It might occasionally pick someone off, but you’re shooting at a mile away or so But Giap organized tens of thousands of laborers, they built roads, they took apart artillery pieces and strapped them onto bicycles and so forth, and it was a brilliant logistics move They put the artillery the Chinese had given them after China fell to Mao, and they put it on a direct fire mode firing straight down the mountain into the air field Dien Bien Phu was totally dependent upon aviation for resupply Once you put a few big craters in that airfield, nobody’s gonna land there more than once, let’s put it that way And so the Viet Minh dug tunnels to right outside the French perimeter, and when the French dropped, parachuted in supplies, as often as not it missed the target and a hand went up and dragged it down, and the Viet Minh had dinner for two weeks The game was over Le jeux sont faits, as the French say And then the Chinese military advisors say, hold it, yep, hold it We will tell you when to take the camp And the French and European newspapers day after day, front page stories, Dien Bien Phu still holds on And the day before the Geneva Conference, which had been discussing Korea, took up Indochina, they overran Dien Bien Phu Banner headline, Dien Bien Phu falls

The Laniel Government fails Pierre Mendes France a socialist worked with the communists and set up a coalition after promising to bring peace in Indochina within 30 days or he would resign his position The reason they beat the French was because of political warfare Now I talk about this in my 1975 book, Vietnamese Communism If you can find a copy of that, you’re luckier than I am There’s not a lot of copies out there, but it has a lot of information on this whole history They did the same thing to us They used propaganda Moscow, Beijing, Havana all helped in And I heard these same arguments in virtually every debate and program The US first got involved to restore French-colonial rule after World War II Absolutely not true, we actually prohibited American merchant ships from carrying troops or supplies from France to Vietnam We favored liberation, or the freedom, the end of colonial rule They said that we violated the Geneva Accords Not true at all, we didn’t sign anything at Geneva, nor did South Vietnam, on the issue of the so-called reunification elections in 1956 Our positions spelled out very clearly was that we would only support elections if they were supervised by the United Nations to ensure that they were conducted fairly You have to remember that North Vietnam had a majority of the population Molotov, the head the Soviet Delegation and co-chair of the Geneva Conference, said that would be interfering in the internal affairs of the Vietnamese people to have supervision Ho actually had some bogus elections in the north where there were soldiers at the voting booths to help people mark their ballots He never got below 99.98% of the vote No senior party leader got below 98% of the vote The idea, as the New York Times said in 1956 in an editorial, to subject the South Vietnamese to a communist controlled election would be monstrous I spent five years starting in ’74 working in the Senate as National Security Advisor to a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and I saw firsthand the delegations that visited us protesting the war and so forth and how opinions turned I wanna talk to you very briefly about a few of the myths We were told Ho Chi Minh was the George Washington of Vietnam On September 2, 1945, he issued a declaration of independence that began, “All men are created equal, “and they were endowed by their creator “to certain inalienable rights, “among which are life, liberty, “and the pursuit of happiness.” I come from Thomas Jefferson’s University, so all of our people know the Declaration of Independence And it was very effective in confusing a lot of Americans But the reality is, Ho was an old Stalinist with a long history of working as an agent of a communist international He spent 30 years, he left Vietnam in 1911 and did not return until May of 1941, when the Comintern sent him back to set up the Viet Minh front Here’s actually a photograph of him known as Nguyễn Ái Quốc
(speaking foreign language) Gave a speech in favor of joining the Third International, the Comintern, the Communist International It was said Ho was a potential Tito, which is absolutely absurd Viet Minh radio in 1949 denounced Tito as a spy for American Imperialism When Ho in January of 1950 asked the world to recognize Vietnam, he would love to have had American recognition But Tito was perhaps the first country to respond positively, Yugoslavia Hanoi took note of their offer of recognition and did not establish diplomatic relations Now scholars on the other side said, well hell, he wanted his country to be free, he had to have some patron soviets Stalin and Tito were in a feud, of course he was going to side with Stalin, the guy that could help him out with the weapons he needed to free his country The problem with that is, even after Stalin died and Moscow made peace with Yugoslavia and Tito, Khrushchev actually went to Belgrade and hugged Tito

North Vietnam continued to denounce Yugoslavia, Tito, and revisionists At a Third Party Congress in 1960, May of 1960, First Secretary Le Duan noted, “Modern revisionism remains the main danger “for the international communist movement.” And he said that “the revisionists represented “by the Tito clique in Yugoslavia were the great threat “If we want to lay bare the aggressive “and bellicose nature of imperialism, “the communist parties must necessarily direct “their main blow against revisionism.” The Pentagon Papers I actually did a pamphlet in 1972, I think it was, called “Myths of the Vietnam War: “The Pentagon Papers Reconsidered” And I used the Pentagon Papers to shoot down every one of the arguments the antiwar movement was making The Pentagon Papers say Ho Chi Minh was an old Stalinist trained in Russia in the early ’20s, and for three decades a leading exponent of the Marxist-Leninist The Comintern sent himm all over the world to do their bidding, he was a Comintern agent He was not a Nationalist The NLF was a total puppet of North Vietnam, but they did a brilliant job of convincing American College Students that it was an independent movement that just wanted freedom and an end to colonial and foreign rule George Kahin and Lewis, I knew Lewis, we were both at Stanford in the early ’70s, they say the NLF was not Hanoi’s creature And abundant data have been available for Washington to invalidate any argument that revival of the war was precipitated by aggression from the North Again, going back to the Third Party Congress in May of 1960 they passed a resolution to ensure the complete success of the revolutionary struggle in South Vietnam, “our people there must strive to bring into being “a broad National United Front.” That’s the Vietcong, the National Front for Liberation Here’s a photo of Chairman Ho on the right and Le Duan, who succeeded him, on the left at the Third Party Congress And then Hanoi announced the creation of the National Liberation Front By some resistance fighters in Ben Tre in South Vietnam This was totally bogus The NLF never was independent of Hanoi I’ve got a number of slides I’m gonna cut through because of time, but the point is, Hanoi repeatedly acknowledged that the NLF was their creature And Colonel Bui Tin, who was the Deputy Editor of, I think it was Nhân Dân (speaking a foreign language), or maybe it was Nhân Dân (speaking a foreign language), one of the top Newspapers in North Vietnam said the NLF was set up by the communist party to carry out a decision made at the Third Party Congress In May of 1984, “Vietnam Courier” bragged about the decision to open the Ho Chi Minh Trail and to start sending troops and supplies through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam But again, the official party history totally destroys any idea that the NLF was other than a North Vietnamese puppet So the international law debate is over We have tried time and again to get someone to defend the position the antiwar movement took in the ’60s No one will do it The Vietnam Veterans for Factual History rented a room at the National Press Club the day before the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, we wrote more than two dozen of the surviving antiwar leaders from around the country and said, come join us, let’s debate the arguments that you all used to turn the public against the war We wrote Tom Hayden, Daniel Ellsberg, we even included Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden in case they wanted to join us Nobody agreed to do it Most of them ignored us One professor at Clemson who had been antiwar in his youth wrote us, and we actually listed the arguments “Nobody believes that stuff anymore.” Again, in 2000, our center tried to redo these debates We could not find any serious person to debate us Did we violate the Geneva Conference? Absolutely not First of all, we didn’t agree to anything at Geneva

There were two documents, the Cease Fire Agreement negotiated only between the French and the Viet Minh, the South Vietnamese and everybody else was excluded And by the way, when that was negotiated, it was after Paris had already given right to control foreign relations to the State of Vietnam So Paris had no power to commit South Vietnam to anything But again, the key at Geneva is, we and the South Vietnamese said any reunification elections must be supervised by the United Nations One of the most popular bits of evidence against the war was a quotation from Eisenhower’s Mandate for Change It wasn’t even a full sentence They quoted Ike as saying that he had not spoken to anyone knowledgeable about Inodochinese affairs who did not agree that had an election been held at the time of the fighting, which was no later than ’54, Ho Chi Minh would have received 80% of the vote And that’s where they stop the quote, but Ike went on to say over Bao Dai, which explained the feeling prevalent among many Vietnamese they had nothing to fight for Bao Dai was a French puppet living under Rivera The French gave him a casino to run, they gave him a Ferrari to drive around, and he signed whatever they put in front of him He totally betrayed Vietnam We could have run Mickey Mouse against him and gotten 98% of the vote So, that’s simply wrong Between 1954 and 1956, North Vietnam went through a very strained period of communist reforms trying to destroy religion, collectivize land, and so forth It actually led to a peasant uprising in Ho Chi Minh’s home province Truong Chinh, the Secretary General of the party had to resign and make a self-criticism and say we made errors They did not make errors They intended to murder tens if not hundreds of thousands of land owners And we know that because they used Chinese advisors, and the Chinese had killed perhaps millions in their land reform They embraced the Chinese slogans, but once they had gotten rid of the people they wanted to get rid of, they then said, oh this was all a mistake, we’re sorry What about freedom of the press in South Vietnam? We were told it was a total dictatorship and so forth This is a quote from an article by an old friend of mine, Dan Sutherland, who appeared with me on the panel at Texas Tech two years ago Dan was a distinguished journalist and was the Bureau Chief of “Christian Science Monitor” in 1970 and he notes that under its new press law, South Vietnam had one of the freest presses in Southeast Asia Which is true Some of you who made it in the Saigon I’m sure you saw the little mama-sans, which were sitting out on the corner in the street and set out a few copies of 10 or 20 newspapers And people would go by and say, let me have one of those, and they would give them a paper then When I left in 1971, there were 43 daily newspapers in Saigon, many of them very hostile to the government Just one quote from July 1970, Tin Sang, the most popular anti-government newspaper “The Vietnamese people have been fed up “with this senseless war “It’s high time that all foreign influences be withdrawn “to let the Vietnamese decide their own fate.” Now that last part was right of Hanoi’s playbook “Let the Vietnamese decide their own fate.” There were book stalls all over Saigon, with an incredible array of English language, as well as other books Among the books I found on sale, Che Guevara, you remember him? Castro’s right hand man, or left hand man, however you want to put it How about Vo Nguyen Giap’s, People’s War People’s Army, “The Official Insurrection Manual for the National Lberation Front,” sorry, for the Viet Minh, openly on sale in Saigon Nobody lived in fear of censorship What about the Tiger Cages? Perhaps you heard about these tiny little underground tiger cages that were so short the Vietnamese prisoners could not stand up, and ultimately they lost the use of their legs? Well I actually visited the Tiger Cages in May of 1974 They were not subterranean at all They were two story facilities This is me standing up with a, I had a yard stick or a measuring device with me, and the tiny little cages were three meters long,

a meter and a half wide, three meters tall I’m a fairly big guy, but I didn’t have to squat to go inside of it What we’re talking about here is just under 10 feet long and 10 feet high Mythology, but it was widely accepted by the American people By 1972, the enemy was on the ropes The VC, almost a non-entity, Nixon authorized the Chairman of the Joint-Chiefs to use effective military force for the first time Linebacker II bombing, 12 days of bombing over North Vietnam, including hitting Hanoi at high value military targets Hanoi’s will was broken If you read Admiral Stockdale’s book, he talks about how the POWs were cheering the bombing, and he said the attitude of every Vietnamese guard changed overnight “All of a sudden they would bring us coffee “and they were very attentive to our needs “They knew they were finally in a way with a superpower.” Hanoi ran out of SAM two missiles We still had lots of B-52s And they pleaded for us to go back to the peace talks, and they signed an agreement on January 27, 1963 And Nixon and Kissinger thought they could keep the peace by using the carrot and stick If you cooperate and do not engage in further aggression, we will help rebuild your country just as we did Germany and Japan after World War II If you wanna play games, we’ve still got B-52s and we’ll play games and we’ll hit you harder It had, I think, a reasonable chance of success despite some flaws with the Paris Agreements But, Congress came in and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, they threw in the towel Under pressure from the Peace Movement, they passed a law in May of 1973 saying no funds may be obligated or expended to finance directly or indirectly combat activities by US forces anywhere in Indochina In the air, on the ground, off the shore At that point, the game was over The Americans had betrayed their promises, and Pham Van Dong, the Premier of North Vietnam responded, “The Americans won’t come back now “even if we offer them candy.” We had totally bartered away or frittered away our credibility Hanoi kept only the 325th division to protect the capital city and sent the rest of its army behind columns of Soviet-made tanks into Laos, Cambodia, and primarily South Vietnam Those tanks would have been shooting fish in a barrel to our aircraft had we been allowed to respond You can take an AK-47 and wrap it up in a cloth and drop it in a rice field and pick it up a month later and it’ll fire with the first shot Doesn’t work with T-60 Tanks You can’t hide them But Congress had made it illegal, and I would argue that this statute, by the way, was illegal, as well, but that’s another issue and that’s the core of my work I’m a Nation Security Lawyer I’ve written multiple books on the War Powers Resolution and for decades I’ve taught a course on war and peace looking at where wars come from And so anyway, on the 30th of April, a Soviet-made tank crashed through the Presidential Palace gates and accepted the surrender from Big Minh And notice, they’re flying the Vietcong flag, keeping up the facade even though this was North Vietnamese armor The Vietcong didn’t have any armor This is a photo I took as I evacuated Saigon with a bunch of refugees Let’s talk briefly about the human costs We do not have precise figures on everyone who died in Vietnam during the war But there is a good chance that in the first three to four years, quote “after liberation,” more people were killed by the communists in Indochina than died in the previous 14 years of war, it’s close Millions, clearly, died in South Vietnam and Cambodia and Laos Tens of millions of others were consigned

to a Stalinist tyranny that remains among the worst human rights violators in the world My late friend Rudy Rummel estimated that 400,000 boat people died while trying to flee communist Vietnam Maybe it’s only 300,000, maybe it’s 600,000 It was a very large number These people just got on unseaworthy boats and sailed away praying they would find land and a chance at freedom Lewis Sorley, one of the leading scholars on the war, Johns Hopkins PhD, Vietnam veteran, estimated that as many as 250,000 former army of the Republic of Vietnam and South Vietnamese officials died in reeducation camps around the country where many were kept for over a decade Another 1.5 million were forced to move to new economic zones to basically clear land and set up new villages, where many died of starvation, disease, and abuse I’ve seen estimates that approach 50,000 I don’t think anyone has really good figures on that Tremendously important was Cambodia In 1974, I went to Cambodia as a Senate staff member and flew on a Porter, you may remember the old prop winged that could land in about 100 feet and take off in about 100 feet And we would go town to town, dropping off mail and supplies and we literally, we’d just corkscrew down from right over the town and land on the dirt road in the middle of the town because the communists had 51 caliber machine guns that were in range of the airport It’s a beautiful country, wonderful people And Pol Pot and his friends slaughtered too many of them Yale University did a major study and their estimate was that approximately 1.7 million Cambodians lost their lives under Pol Pot That’s more than 20% of the entire population of Cambodia One of the worst human rights tragedies of the last century Rummel says it was the worst per capita per man Genocide in the 20th Century National Geographic today ran a story on the Killing Fields It noted, “bullets were too precious to use for executions, “so axes, knives, and bamboo sticks were far more common.” I was challenged to a debate by former Senator Mike Gravel, the guy who leaked the Pentagon Papers and was running for President back some years ago And I had said something negative about him in a very late-night email, and the next morning I woke up, there was a challenge to debate me from Gravel, And he came down to UVA and we had a debate Now let’s just say I haven’t gotten a Christmas card from him since then (audience laughing) I went back and I photocopied from the Congressional Record He was the first one to move to cut aid to South Vietnam No, I’m sorry, to Cambodia And he said, “I don’t care if they kill each other “with knives and axes, “but it will not be with American bullets.” And then I put up some of these quotes that they did, in face, kill each other, or kill the innocent people of Cambodia with knives and axes and so forth The same National Geographic article noted, “As for children, their murderers simply battered them “against trees until they stopped quivering.” That’s what the antiwar movement did, a direct result, did not have to happen Well we didn’t stop the killing, surely our abandoning of South Vietnam helped in the human rights area? Freedom House was set up in the early days of World War II, co-chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady, and Wendell Willkie the Republican who had lost to the President during the war Every year they’d publish a book called Freedom in the World, and in 1978 here’s their conclusion about the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, communist Vietnam “Comparatively, Vietnam is as free as Korea, North, “less free than China.” Doesn’t get much worse than that The success of people’s wars, our surrender, our abandonment encouraged the communists to become more aggressive The Soviets moved roughly 50,000 Cuban troops into Angola That led to a major civil war that cost

at least half a million lives, and Congress used the same language to cut off funds to try to help the non-communists in Angola I worked in the Senate at the time I actually wrote the Griffin Amendment that tried to keep aid alive, but we just didn’t have the votes The Soviets invaded Afghanistan, brought in the puppet from Moscow Another estimate 1.3 million died in addition to creating the Taliban, and a guy named Bin Laden, and others They unleashed communist movements in Latin America since the Nineteen Teens, the Latin American parties were told do not use armed struggle, you’re too close to the United States They won’t tolerate it, nor will your government After we bugged out of Vietnam, they changed that and said go for it And that led to major revolutions in El Salvador and Nicaragua Nicaragua quickly fell to the communists, and the Soviets provided them through Cuba with vast amounts of weapons, include M-16 rifles we left behind in Vietnam Schafik Handal, the president of the FMLN in El Salvador, the communist group, went to Moscow and we intercepted some of the communications and he wanted western weapons He said, if we have AK-47s they’ll say we’re communist guerrillas And Moscow said we don’t have a supply of western weapons, but our friends in Vietnam do, and we’ll pay your way there and if they agree to provide them, we will ship those weapons from Vietnam to Cuba where they can be smuggled into Nicaragua and then out to the guerrillas And many of the M-16s used by the guerrillas in El Salvador were weapons we left behind in Vietnam Indeed, at one point they captured an 18-wheeler with a false top to it that held hundreds of M-16s, of ammo, of grenades, all sorts of other weapons that was going from Nicaragua into Honduras on its way to El Salvador Iran seized the American Embassy in Tehran I do not think that would have happened had we not frittered away our credibility in Vietnam This is one that’s very close to me because the commander of the American marines in Beirut, was a dear friend of mine, he’d been a neighbor, Jim Garriety When President Reagan agreed to work with Great Britain, France, and Italy to send in a peace keeping force just to keep things peaceful so the various factions could try and negotiate an agreement in Lebanon Everybody welcomed this that had any interest in it, the neighboring states and the groups But Congress said, this comes under the War Powers Resolution, you must announce publicly that you are sending these troops into combat, which would have totally undermined the mission, and get Congressional approval to continue it Two Democrats voted with President Reagan to allow the Marines to stay for 18 months As soon as the debate ended, Chuck Percy, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and Republican, announced if there are any more casualties, we can reconsider this vote at any time The bad guys heard about that, and on Friday the 21st of October, US News went to press with the issue that was gonna come out on Monday, and that issue had an article, it was just a little blurb, US Intelligence has intercepted a message between two Muslim militia groups, “If we kill 15 Marines, the rest will leave.” Sunday morning, the 23rd at daybreak, a Mercedes truck filled with a very sophisticated weapon, a sheet of marble on the bottom to make a shaped charge directed upwards, very high-tech explosives wrapped around canisters of oxygen to increase the explosion They blew up the Battalion Landing Team Headquarters in Beirut killing 241 Marines President Reagan, to his credit, said, “We’re not leaving”, and a few weeks later of course we left under tremendous pressure from Congress Vietnam also led to a number of unconstitutional laws, including the War Powers Resolution, which I’ve written two books on, one with a forward by John Tower, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, the other one forward by Jerry Ford, the President, former president Were our efforts worth it? I think the answer is yes, because Vietnam was seen as a test case by too many people In ’64, Thailand and Indonesia were basket cases,

ripe for revolution, and China was funding guerrillas in both countries Indeed, China was funding guerrillas and training them and supplying them throughout Southeast Asia and as far away as Mozambique in Africa By holding on for a decade, we bought time for Thailand and Indonesia to become stronger and for the PRC to turn inward during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution during which Lin Biao crashed in a helicopter, they tell us, and by the time that ended, they were no longer exporting revolution Had we abandoned Indochina in ’64, my guess is we would have soon had the option of using nuclear weapons, the only way we could possibly have dealt with several Vietnams, they’re just too expensive, or losing the Cold War one country at a time If you have any doubts about the evil nature of communism, “The Black Book of Communism” was written by some of very left-wing European intellectuals, many of whom had been active communists, and would realize what an evil system it was And their conclusion was that during the 20th Century, 80 to 100 million people died as a direct result of communism We have repeatedly extended an invitation to anyone on the left who wants to debate the morality, the legality, the policy wisdom of our war in Indochina Nobody has accepted, not a single one The offer remains open For those of you who served in Vietnam, thank you for your service, welcome home (audience applauding) And let me stop there I do look forward to questions after lunch – Let’s check on one detail that would be nice to know Just out of curiosity, would everybody who is a Vietnam veteran please stand up? (audience applauding) And just out of curiosity, do we have any other veterans here? All right (audience applauding) ‘Cause there were people after us (audience laughing) (man yelling indistinctly) Thank god for them Just out of curiosity, who came the furthest to get here? There’s some people from California Anybody from any place further than California? – [Man] It’s further than California – I don’t see anybody Okay, I guess the California guys have got it Where’s the Australia guy? I don’t see him (audience laughing) All right, the next speaker is Dr. Michael Kort, who is from up in Boston area who has got an interesting background and that originally he was part of what we call the Orthodox school, but he has this terrible problem He hasn’t adjusted to academia; he’s kept an open mind (audience laughing) One can only sympathize So he eventually started reading other materials, and he read Dr. Moyar’s Book, and that started him reading other stuff And he has since kind of come to a different kind of reasoning about the history of the war His book is one of the best new books ever on the war The Vietnam War Reexamined There’s a copy on the table out there And if anybody wanted to get one, there’s a lot of fairly good books on the war, but his is one that I particularly liked personally I have to say it’s well worth acquiring and going through It packs a lot and it’s pretty readable and it’s just really an outstanding piece of work And with that, I will turn it over to Dr. Kort (audience applauding) – Excuse me if I stare down a little bit for this, ’cause I have to deal with that light in my face It’s a great honor for me to be invited to this symposium by those of you who fought this war and especially by those of you who continued in the decades since then to try to set the record straight Thank you for inviting me My task today is to give an overview,

a summary of the debate over the war, especially as it goes between the so-called orthodox and revisionist schools I can’t cover the whole thing, obviously So what I’m going to try to do is the following First, give a very quick overview of the debate, then outline quickly the orthodox view and the revisionist view, then turn to the revisionist view and cover some key premises of that view And then having done that, I wanna focus on a few things, can’t focus on everything and you’ve already heard a brilliant exposition of the revisionist view But I wanna look a little at the American military effort in Vietnam as a whole, talk about Rolling Thunder and why it failed, talk a little about the ground war, especially between ’65 and ’68, and disagreements about that And then last talk about the situation as it existed in 1972 between what is called the Lost Victory, Colby’s term, and Black April, the end of the war The debate over Vietnam is multifaceted It goes in many different places, but I think it comes down to two basic questions The first, was it in America’s national interest? Was it in America’s national interest and correct for the United States to get involved in Vietnam and ultimately, with its own military forces, in order to save South Vietnam, to apply the American Cold War policy of containment of Southeast Asia to stop the spread of communist influence, and of course, Soviet influence? Secondly, once we got involved in that war, was it winnable? And specifically when one talks about that, was it winnable at a price much less than was paid in defeat? The orthodox view was called that because it got there first, in part because of many of the journalists who covered the war, like David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan and others And then because it was picked up in Academia and so many of this, most really of the scholarly books initially were written by academics following Halberstam, Karnow, and the others And very importantly, they wrote the textbooks, too The orthodox view answers both questions in the negative and this became, as we know, the accepted view or the conventional wisdom, as one historian has called it, both in the country as a whole and even more so in academia where the primary version was the war was a mistake, it was a tragedy, and it was unwinnable Because of the textbooks that are out there, and most of the people who teach the war, anybody who goes to college today is unlikely to encounter anything else but this view And one other thing is that over time, in academia especially, an intolerance developed towards challenges to this Nothing could better illustrate that than when Mark Moyar’s book came out, his brilliant book Triumph Forsaken And the abuse that he faced after publishing it The revisionist view answers both of the questions I just outlined positively The argument is that the United States, first question, that the United States got involved in Vietnam for a good reason in the context of the Cold War I’ll talk more about that And the second premise, which essentially tends to explain what went wrong, is that we did so without a real strategy for victory, and therefore we forfeited chances at various points that would have brought victory at a cost far less than was paid in defeat Both orthodox and the revisionist camps are very large, and so there are disagreements between them And I’m actually going to talk about one of them within the revisionist narrative which concerns the argument that the United States, revisionists will argue that the United States did have different options, different military options it could have used to win the war One of the problems is that they don’t always agree on what those options were, and in dealing with that what for me was supposed to be an 18 month project

turned into more than three years to get finished Let me now talk and turn to the orthodox view and try to summarize it very quickly The war, of course, was a mistake We shouldn’t have done it, and once we got into it, it was unwinnable It’s based on a couple of premises, some of which you’ve heard about already, and heard them debunked already One is that Ho Chi Minh and his comrades represented the only legitimate view of Vietnamese Nationalism And the second crucial premise is that the war in the south, although it ultimately was directed and controlled from Hanoi, began as a response to the injustices and inequalities of the Diem Regime The first premise has remained relatively consistent over time, although since Mark Moyar’s book in particular and others, Diem is now given more credit as a Nationalist The second premise has not done as well Initially it was, of course, the war began as rebellion in the South under Southern leadership and not as a result of Hanoi, and in fact, even for a time against Hanoi’s wishes After the war it became impossible to maintain something like that, and we got different versions of this, one of which coming from one of the leading biographers of Ho Chi Minh, we get something like this; “It was a genuine revolt based in the South, “but organized and directed from the North.” Which if you listen to that, (audience laughing) I don’t have to continue on that point It’s kind of like saying in the Korean War, it was a genuinely based in the South but organized and directed from North Korea It’s obviously an oxymoron and I’m glad you all saw that right away (audience laughing) This view, just to go on a little bit, prevails in the textbooks I just wanna mention two textbooks that are, I think, are the two leading textbooks But the first one I know is the best seller, it’s by George Herring It’s called America Longest War And if you read that, what you learn is this, “The American effort,” and these are quotations, “is doomed from the start “The only hope for stability in Vietnam “was revolutionary change,” and containment, our policy since 1947, “was misplaced, “and that pretty much is clear without debate.” Another book by a guy named George Donaldson It’s called Vietnam, America’s Ordeal And I’ll be referring to a lot of people during the course of this talk, says that “the effort to South Vietnam “was doomed to fail from the outset “South Vietnam,” and this is a key point that I’m gonna come back to and end with, actually ‘Cause I think it’s at the heart of the orthodox case “Could never become a viable nation state, “only communist triumph could bring peace to South Vietnam, “and,” of course, “containment was misplaced.” Ho Chi Minh in this narrative is a nationalist first, as well as a communist One of the latest things I read on that was that he was a communist because he was a nationalist You’ve already heard some about that Indochina was not strategically important in the Cold War, it did not merit American intervention There’s a rejection of the Domino Theory, and you’ve already heard about that from Bob Turner, that it was invalid that the fall of one communist state wouldn’t necessarily lead to another, and you’ve already heard the criticism of that And it’s something Mark Moyar also does in his book Further, the United States did not appreciate the strength and determination of North Vietnam We hear a lot about that, or the communist guerrillas in the South, or that the Marxist program that they had had strong nationalist content, and therefore was very popular Further, we didn’t appreciate the weaknesses of our allies, or clients, as the word goes in Vietnam, beginning with Diem and his successors, and therefore did not grasp their vulnerability to an insurgency that, at its core, was provoked by inequalities in South Vietnam Again, I mention this ’cause it’s so important, South Vietnam was an American creation and lacked legitimacy and viability, and beyond that the United States should have understood the limits of its power In terms of the 1968 to ’73, and again,

I’m gonna summarize real quickly, the United States, especially from ’65 to ’68 and even after that, fought a destructive war of attrition that could only lead to stalemate and there’s never really a consideration of were there any options? The bombing of South Vietnam could not break that stalemate and simply added to the destruction In that area, if you look at least at what some revisionists say, there are people who will agree with that in terms of how a bombing should have been done Especially when we talk to North Vietnam, the bombing of North Vietnam could not, and I’ll get into this a little bit more, could not convince the North Vietnamese to stop their effort to conquer South Vietnam, why? Because they were so determined and nothing was going to stop them In terms of Tet, and I’m not gonna talk about this, I’m sure most of you know a great deal about it, what did it demonstrate? Because of the 100 attacks, it demonstrated the futility of the American effort, communist losses, despite the fact that the loss they suffered so severely were replaceable And from 1968 to 1972, yes there was some improvement in the military situation, but basically the flaws with South Vietnam could not be corrected And that basically is the orthodox perspective Let me turn now to the revisionist perspective, and I wanna begin by a few basic premises First of all, you gotta look at it within the context of the Cold War Containment was a valid and necessary response to the communist threat and Vietnam was one of several fronts in which the Cold War took place in which containment had to be applied This goes back, the argument is nothing new I won’t mention, I’m gonna mention a couple of writers The first is Guenther Lewy who wrote the book, America in Vietnam, and he pointed this out He says, “The fear of communism in the ’50s and ’60s “was not irrational, the threat to Western Europe “in the 1940s, right after the war, “and 1947 brought forth the policy of containment.” And then as a result of one, the communist victory in China in ’49, the Sino- Soviet Alliance in 1950, and of course the Korean War in 1950, containment was extended to Asia “It’s true”, says Lewy, “that Vietnam “was not strategically vital, “but its importance becomes clear when you look at it “within the context of the Cold War.” And not just a war, what was the Cold War? Let’s define it for a second And the person I’m gonna use is somebody who didn’t write a word about Vietnam His name’s Martin Mailia, he was an absolutely brilliant historian of Russia and the Soviet Union, which is my basic field And this is what he said, he’s just a great writer “The Cold War was the third World War “that never took place, but the stakes were just as high “as in the two World Wars.” Michael Lind who wrote “Vietnam, a Necessary War”, goes a little bit further than that and he says, “The Cold War was the third World War of the 20th Century.” On one level, a struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union for military supremacy, but more important that its core level, a struggle between communist totalitarianism led by the Soviet Union, and Western democratic capitalism led by the United States It was at its core an ideological struggle That said, it differed from the two World Wars that followed, mainly militarily The weapons that were available, of course, by after World War II were nuclear weapons, but first of all, you could not fight this struggle in the main front which was Europe, because in Europe if you did it, it would lead to nuclear war And one thing both sides understood, even when Stalin was alive, was that you cannot fight a nuclear war So that meant that the struggle was shifted to peripheral areas, and especially in Asia Mao Zedong who knew something about this, pointed out that there were three fronts in Asia, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam And then what Michael Lind has described in a very nice, pithy little quote, “These areas,” he said, “were,” let me just grab it down there “These areas,” he said, “were not contested

“because they were important, “but they were important because they were contested.” And why were they important in this context? And for that we’ve gotta go back to something Bob Turner mentioned, which is Munich The conference in 1938 where the French and the British caved in to Hitler and essentially sacrificed Czechoslovakia which at the time was non-strategic Yet it was sacrificed in the hope that this would appease Hitler and war could be avoided As everybody in this room knows, the Munich Settlement led directly to war, and that is the lesson of Munich The lesson of Munich is, you have to stand up to aggression before you get to general war That is what President Truman did in 1947 in Greece He did it again having to send American combat troops, as we all know, in Korea in 1950 And so that was the lesson of Munich that is essentially a part of the revisionist narrative The Domino Theory is valid, at least in certain cases We’ve heard about that already today Further, we’ve heard a lot about this already today Ho Chi Minh was really not a nationalist, at least not in the generally understood sense of that word He was a loyal agent of the Comintern, the communist international from the 1920s through basically his entire career until he returned to Vietnam in 1941 and took over that struggle directly The second thing is, is really he was not a nationalist, a communist because he was a nationalist When he became a communist, he essentially abandoned nationalism, started killing Vietnamese nationalists, from the very beginning and has the blood of thousands, tens of thousands of them on his hands That’s not much of a nationalist In this narrative and the narrative, the revisionist narrative, Diem is much better than advertised Again, this is Mark Moyar did about as much as anybody to make that clear His book was revelation, certainly to me And so are people like Nguyun Van Thieu later on I want now, let me just get this, to go a little deeper on this point, and this is really about the validity of nationalism beyond what Ho Chi Minh represented And I want to point something out that, what essentially I think you can say, Diem represented If you look at the first map over here, it shows you, and I’m really now talking about some things that were pointed out very well by a historian at Cornell named Keith Taylor The Vietnamese expanded southward over several centuries, then we get to the South There are all the way to the South into 1757, and the point that’s been made about this by people who have looked at it is that, as the Vietnamese expanded south, those who moved south became different than people who lived in the North They moved south, they lived under different conditions, and what Taylor says is, “The War of 1954 to 1975 reflects two different visions “of the future of the country “that have deep historical roots.” So what you’ve got is the people moving south, getting further away from their original homeland, living under different conditions, and developing a new outlook on life This was intensified, people talk about Vietnam as always been united, by the defacto existence of two separate states for about two centuries from the late 1500s into the 1700s, officially there was a dynasty, but you really had two separate states You look at the map, oddly enough, divided at the 17th parallel And this existence of these two states intensified the differences The people in the south over time became more individualistic, less passive, more self-reliant, and open to new ideas Ultimately Western ideas and ideas of democracy So really, and this was an important part of the narrative, is that you certainly had alternate versions of legitimate nationalism and I would argue, far more legitimate than the communist one

Let me turn now to the American military effort and give an overview of that In the revisionist narrative, it’s not a matter of a hopeless war, but how the United States government managed the war, and the limits it placed on the military it assigned to fight this war, which I think a lot of you in the audience know a lot about This grew out of the concept of limited war, an idea that certainly made sense in the nuclear age What did limited war at initially meant, if you would have asked General Matthew Ridgeway Who commanded our troops in Korea after McArthur is removed, it meant a non-nuclear war But there was no contradiction between limited war and using decisive military force to achieve an objective, to achieve your objective The contrast is, is when certain theorists, mainly civilian ones, got ahold of this And what you had instead of using decisive military force was using means less than a specific level, and a decisive military victory was not gonna be achieved or even sought These folks drew on what is called systems analysis, which in turn draws on what is called cost-benefit analysis And when applying this to war, you got what was called the rationalist approach, which of the main exponent of that in the American government was Robert McNamara The Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson And let me now just go over what this means The actors in a military conflict, we’re told, act rationally, therefore the United States should apply pressure, if it applies pressure carefully on North Vietnam and in a calibrated way, we could show them, and this was the thinking, that the war was not in their interest This in turn allowed the United States to apply maximum pressure at minimum risks, the term was graduated pressure Then Hanoi would calculate and stop supporting the Vietcong in the South The rationalist approach assumed that communists in Hanoi thought like the bureaucrats in Washington, DC (audience laughing) And that graduated pressure, initially by air power, and then eventually when that didn’t work by sending troops became the way that we, became basically our approach And although, again, air power was the primary there Let me, just have a sip of water Let me tell you what H. R. McMaster, who many of you heard of He was for a while, as you may know, the National Security Advisor to President Trump This is what McMaster said about this, “McNamara and his colleagues were convinced “that the traditional military methods and force “were unsuited to the current realities that they faced.” McMaster points out that JFK’s basic idea of flexible response, his basic foreign policy, assumed was different than graduated pressure Flexible response meant applying military force at the necessary and appropriate level Graduated pressure, what we did, meant starting low and gradually increasing pressure McMaster points out that doing this in 1964 to 1965 led to the introduction of American combat troops, and as he puts it, precisely what it was designed to avoid In terms of South Vietnam, we in the most familiar term that we hear is, gradual escalation What do some revisionists commentators think about this? I wanna begin with Colonel Harry Summers, author of On Strategy And as Summers put it, it had a devastating effect on the United States military effort Admiral U. S. Grant Sharpe, who was the over-Commander of US forces in the Pacific during the mid-’60s, put it this way, “It turned American pressure bombing on North Vietnam,” as he puts it, “into a series of nibbles “that permitted then the North Vietnamese “to build their defenses and anticipate every move we made.” General Philip Davidson who was a top aide

to General Westmoreland then wrote Vietnam at War said, “the gradual escalation played into the hands “of General Giap, who wanted to fight a long, drawn out war And that “the signals we were sending,” you’re supposed to send signals with graduated pressure, “were signs of American weakness.” And of course as the war dragged on, as we all know, support for it went down The best summary of it comes from a gentleman named Lieutenant Colonel Robert E Morris This is what he said about the American effort, because of graduated pressure, “It wasn’t even gradual escalation, “that is the gradual increase of force, “but rather escalation and deescalation “On-again, off-again, knee-jerk reactions “that varied with the intuitive whims “of Lyndon Johnson And his advisors “It was,” says Admiral Sharpe, “a Strategy for Defeat.” And so the whole, the basic American approach was problematic because of what went on in Washington What I wanna do now is cover, I wanna move on and I wanna cover several things First I wanna talk about Rolling Thunder Then the ground war, and then again from lost victory to Black April I’ll begin with Rolling Thunder Everybody agrees that it failed, revisionists and orthodox both They don’t agree on why According to the orthodox analysis, North Vietnam was not suitable to strategic bombing inherited from World War II It had an agricultural economy, supplies came from outside, and so its ability to wage war could not be limited and crippled and damaged as it was, of course, when we bombed industrialized countries like Germany and Japan Intervention was futile The guerrillas in the South at least initially didn’t need the supplies from the North, although most orthodox historians will admit that after this was only at the very beginning By 1965 the Ho Chi Minh Trail was important, and by 1970 or ’71, it was vital Also in terms of the bombing, we hear this all the time, the North Vietnamese were just too determined to be discouraged What’s the revisionist response? First of all, North Vietnam was vulnerable, and second, what I’ll spend most of my time on, the response is an effort to explain the real reasons that this failed Dale Walton, Who wrote The Myth of Inevitable U.S. Defeat in Vietnam, does a real good job of turning the whole orthodox statement position on its head He points out that North Vietnam was very vulnerable to bombing, it had to import all of its materials, all of its raw materials basically, from either the Soviet Union or China Had we, we had the means to do this, closed down the port of Haiphong And other ports, we could have almost crippled the Soviet Union’s ability to supply North Vietnam Attacks on the railroads, on the highways, and the mining internal waterways, properly done, could have seriously limited communist China’s supplying, as well And attacks done on infrastructure beyond what we did, but really the whole infrastructure of North Vietnam, according to Walton, and I think he’s right, could have crippled North Vietnam’s ability to wage war Explaining the failure is more complicated Let me begin with a message, graduated pressure was designed to deliver a message that the North Vietnam can’t win the war and it’s not in their interest due to careful calibration Well one of the things that did, especially with the pauses that took place, is that it had the opposite effect It strengthened North Vietnam’s determination What they saw in it was American weakness, so that was the first thing Graduated pressure also allowed the North Vietnamese to prepare They knew where we started, and again, if you look here you can see on this how we gradually moved north and the dates are there So well, you didn’t have to be a genius to know what was coming and when we were going to be coming

So it allowed them to prepare, it allowed them to disperse their resources, and allowed them to get ready for the next attack And perhaps worst of all, graduated response, graduated pressure let the North Vietnamese build a very effective and modern and up-to-date air defense system What were called rules of engagement made all of this worse and compounded the problems, and they were of two types, operational, geographic and operational You can see it on the map, and I actually wanna use this one, it’s a little bit better But we can start here First of all, geographically, at least initially and you can see it from the map here, right there, key areas were out of bounds And initially the 19th parallel Nothing above that, then the 20th parallel Even when these restrictions were removed, certain areas were restricted and prohibited And you see it clearly here by looking at the doughnuts These maps are both pretty much the same, but even then, even when the restrictions geographically were removed, you have these other restrictions, as well Operationally, targets that the military wanted to hit were not permitted by Washington Usually because they were designated civilians, at least by Washington Other military targets near civilian areas, they were restricted too or they couldn’t be hit at all The rules of engagement were often changed, they were complicated, and sometimes it was hard for our pilots to know exactly what they were Above all doing this, or maybe not above all, but also doing this, what this did was prevent the implementation of air force doctrine, which called for damaging enemy forces and infrastructure by hitting vital targets in their heartland You could not do this For the rules of engagement violated two key military principles, security, never give your enemy an advantage, and obviously surprise It was very easy to know what was going on All of this was done against military advice and it became, and if you read the memoirs, a very, very sore point with senior military advisor officers General John McConnell, who was the Air Force Chief of Staff during part of this time, wrote that the Rolling Thunder failed because of restrictions placed on the Air Force I’m gonna cite two analysts, two colonels who analyzed this later One was a guy named Joseph Cerami, And he wrote that, “The slow squeeze succeeded “only in preventing the obtainment “of American strategic objectives.” And I wanna read one more from that I cited in my book, said rather well, this man’s name was Ellsworth, Colonel Ellsworth, and he said this, “President Johnson showed he did not understand “the inherent nature of air power as an offensive weapon “Bombing halts and cease fires hindered a continuous “and concentrated strategic bombing campaign “They allowed the North Vietnamese to “reconstitute their forces, reestablish their line “for supply, and generally outlast the American effort.” Again, perhaps worst of all, it allowed the building of the air defense network And how this could be done, why we would allow such a thing might escape most of you, and it’s really tough to explain, but apparently it had to do, at least in part, with the signals we were sending Back in 1965, back when they started building these things, Westmoreland wanted to bomb ’em And he had a meeting with one of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, McNaughton And McNaughton said to him, No, you can’t do it They’re not gonna be used Soviets are just trying to pacify the North Vietnamese And this was reflected in a memo that McNaughton wrote to McNamara, which I assume McNamara agreed with This is what he wrote “We won’t bomb the sites,

“and that will be signal to North Vietnam “not to use that.” (audience laughing) Two orthodox historians who wrote the, Leslie Gelb and Richard Betts Who wrote the book, The Irony of Vietnam, they were orthodox historians, but as they wrote kind of simply, McNaughton turned out to be wrong (audience laughing) The ROEs did other things We weren’t, our pilots weren’t allowed to attack under all sorts of different circumstances, and one incident where Navy Pilots came across more than 100 SAMs being transported by railroad cars They were not allowed to hit them, they couldn’t fire on SAM bases until they were wired upon themselves As one pilot put it, “We had to fight them all,” this 111 SAMs I think it was, “one at a time.” Making matters worse, and you can see it again from these maps I have behind me, the SAMs, many of the SAMs were located less than 10 miles from Hanoi In that case they were safe, they’re within that doughnut there, but they had a range of 27 miles Which meant obviously our planes attacking targets there were exposed And I wanna read what General William Momyer has said He was the head of the Seventh Air Force from 1966 to 1968, and I have a couple of quotes from him, but this is the first As he put it, “The SAMs could hit us whenever we came “after one of the significant targets near Hanoi, “but our rules of engagement prevented us “in most cases from hitting back.” Couldn’t attack the main MiG Base, 20 miles from Hanoi until 1967, all of this was from Momyer And not until 1966 was he allowed to attack the whole air defense system, the radars, the anti-aircraft, the SAMs, the MIGs Systematically, but even then he couldn’t attack the whole thing As he put it, “I was never allowed to attack “the entire system.” One of the reasons for this is that Johnson apparently feared that this might bring China into the war or even the Soviet Union But a number of revisionist historians who have written about this, and Mark is one of them, have pointed out that the chances for this were very, very low and were knowable at the time And other historians, and there are two Chinese historians I’ve read on this, not gonna mispronounce the names for you, have said essentially the same thing So we outsmarted ourselves, it seems All of this of course interdiction, you know keeping the stuff from going down the Ho Chi Minh Trail was very, very difficult I’ll go back to Momyer and there he is with Johnson and there’s the famous quote about the outhouses Momyer wanted, as he put it, he wanted to bomb, he wanted to close the Port of Haiphong, to bomb the railraods, to really stop it all But the Navy was not allowed under Johnson to attack Haiphong, and the Air Force while allowed to bomb at least some of the railroads, was not allowed to bomb the largest bridges crossing the Red River, crucial river, because of the fear of civilian casualties And this is how Momyer sums it up and I certainly can’t do it any better Effective, oh yeah here it is “Waiting until the enemy has disseminated his supplies “among thousands of trucks, sand pans, rafts, bicycles, “and then to send our multimillion dollar aircraft “after these individual vehicles, “this is how to maximize our cost, not his.” And that’s what, (audience applauding) I just wanna sum up Rolling Thunder now The fact that we hit, in the end, almost every target that was originally JCS Listed, 94 targets, in the end and did massive destruction, really is in many ways irrelevant And Walton points this out “Johnson did not allow the most lucrative targets “to be hit, the key industrial infrastructure, “the Port of Haiphong,” of course, “key bridges, “and for that matter the seat of government.” The bombs and here I’m following a book

called Gradual Failure by Jacob Van Staaveren Which I think is the definitive book on 1965 Rolling Thunder, “The bombs fell on less important targets “Our combat pilots took risks over and over again “by striking relatively unimportant targets.” You’ve heard a little about Mr. Pike Who was our leading expert on the Vietcong, and in 1983 he was at a conference, and I think some of the people in this room might have been there, where Pike was asked about this and he said, “You know if we’d have done what we did “with the Christmas bombing in 1965, “there’s a good chance we could have ended the war in 1965.” Bui Tin, who has been mentioned, the Vietnamese colonel, the North Vietnamese colonel who accepted the surrender in Saigon in ’75, and then eventually defected, he wrote and he wrote this “Expanding in slow stages didn’t worry us “We had plenty of time to prepare, it wasn’t a problem.” And John Correll, who the Air Force Association, he’s a leading member of that, put it this way, I think it’s the best epitaph that I can come up with “Rolling Thunder was not built to succeed, and it didn’t.” (audience laughing) Let me turn now to the ground war, search and destroy And here, really I’m gonna spend most of my time talking about the disagreement among revisionists, because it is significant The debate among revisionists is over the importance of the guerrilla insurgency versus the assertion that what the United States faced was a standard invasion, a conventional war In other words, what kind of war was North Vietnam fighting to conquer South Vietnam? I wanna stress here that the revisionists who talk about guerrilla insurgency and drawing its strength from peasant discontent are not making the same argument as the orthodox historians, who essentially argue that we had no alternative Yes we fought this ground war as we did between ’65 and ’68, but there was no alternative The revisionists are revisionists precisely because they argue that we did have options The ones who will argue for counterinsurgency and emphasize counterinsurgency argue that we did have options Basically what they are, are critics of search and destroy and General Westmoreland And this was centered, for those of you who are in the Marines, although you have Army people who criticized it, too Anyhow there are two poles in this debate, as I see it, both by Army colonels One is represented by Andrew Krepinevich, who wrote The Army in Vietnam, and the other was Colonel Harry Summers, who wrote On Strategy And let me try to go through it as quickly as I can How am I doing time wise, okay? The argument for focusing on counterinsurgency among revisionists goes back to the beginning Colonel Lansdale who was an Advisor to Diem, John Paul Vann, who many of you have heard of, and later David Hackworth What Krepinevich blames is what he calls the Army Concept, the idea of conventional war using massive firepower inherited from World War II and the Cold War And he argues the United States should have focused first and foremost on the internal threat, the guerrilla insurgency Not just on main force large guerrilla units, but on the smaller ones and on the political infrastructure He argues that this caused us to miss the opportunity, to miss opportunities, to do counterinsurgency, and had we done this, we could have done this at a cost low enough to permit a continued presence in Vietnam Others who have argues something similar to this are Guenter Lewy, in his book that came out in ’78, Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl, who wrote a book called Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife“, in which he blamed what he called “the institutional “culture of the Army” and the use of what he called “the hammer of firepower and divisions?” And I think it’s fair to say, Lewis Sorley Who pointed out that General Abrams, Creighton Abrams learned from these mistakes and did much better The other pole is from Colonel Summers And what he writes is this He writes, “The United States responded “as if it was an insurgency and made a mistake.” and he calls search and destroy “an intense form of counterinsurgency.”

“We turned our attention,” he says, because of sources in the North, “To the symptom or the screen.” The source with North Vietnam, we should have isolated the battlefield, we should have cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail with American and ARVN troops at the 17th parallel And also, he says, we should have at least used the threat of invasion to deter the offensive and force the North Vietnamese to keep their armies on their side of the border The flaw in what we did, he argued, was we allowed the North Vietnamese to control the war This put us on the strategic defensive waiting on events Now, here’s something I think, at least that I found interesting Isolating the battlefield, of course, is not a new idea General Westmoreland drew up plans in 1964 the JCS, Joint Chiefs of Staff supported this in 1965, and what emerges, I think in this, is that the idea of isolating the battlefield, it’s not an either-or debate between people like Krepinevich and people like Summers And in fact, it brings them together And my example of this is, and there he is, Colonel Victor Krulak, the Marine leader, very famous person, very interesting guy, who was a strong critic of Westmoreland And search and destroy He told Averell Harriman, the Assistant Secretary of Far Eastern Affairs early on, and the quote is up there Harriman says, “What do I do?” “Mine and destroy the port of Haiphong, “destroy the rail lines, destroy the power, “fuel, and heavy industry.” This is again from somebody who is talking about counterinsurgency The well know PROVN Study, P-R-O-V-N Study, which also advocated more attention to counterinsurgency, also, as Andrew Birdle, an expert on counterinsurgency has pointed out, recommended that the bulk of American forces should go against the base areas, as he put it, and the lines of communication Meaning base areas, the safe-zones in Laos and Cambodia, where the communists could always retreat to when they had to, and lines of communication, obviously the Ho Chi Minh Trail Bui Tin, always useful, said Hanoi was thinking about this And as Bui Tin wrote, “The greatest fear in Hanoi “was that we would cut just a small part “of the Ho Chi Minh trail.” He quotes one person telling him, “I’m scared to death they’re gonna do this.” And that guy was the general in charge of the Ho Chi Minh Trail It gets a little more complicated, actually, when you look at this, when you look at the thinking of some other military historians And I wanna talk about a man named Dale Andrade Who I found very interesting and I wanna talk a little about what he said And what this does is it muddies the waters a little bit, a distinction between counterinsurgency and conventional warfare What Andrade writes, and I think convincingly, is that what we faced is not simply a guerrilla war or a conventional war, but as he calls it, “simultaneous guerrilla and main force war “And to ignore one or the other,” he says, “was doomed to failure.” That’s why he defends what General Westmoreland did after he got there in June of ’64 He said, [unclear], says Andrade, “Westmoreland had to respond to the main force units “he faced in 1964 when he took over “What he faced,” says Andrade, “was a perfect insurgency “A guerrilla war, “supported by troops and supplies, “as we know, from North Vietnam.” This, of course, is critical of Krepinevich, but it’s also critical of Summers who criticizes Westmoreland for doing too much counterinsurgency with search and destroy Says Andrade, “Westmoreland had to do it “given the military situation “Yes, it was attrition, and yes it couldn’t bring victory.” But now we come to the key point that I started with earlier, what’s the roots of this? “The roots of this”, he says, “were in Washington.” They on what Andrade calls the strategic limits that our military was faced with, “They could not go into Cambodia,

“they could not go into Laos, “and North Vietnam,” at least in terms of any kind of ground action, “was off limits, as well.” A political scientist named Christopher Gacek, who studied this calls then search and destroy the residual strategy That is what was left Says Andrade, “All this,” the restrictions from Washington, “gave the North Vietnamese an unbeatable advantage.” And then he ups it further And then he says, when you add in the support from China and from the Soviet Union, you had an unprecedented advantage The North Vietnamese, as I think everyone in this room knows, could attack South Vietnamese and our soldiers over and over without the threat of significant retaliation That said, it can be argued, and I think there’s something to this, that all of it worked anyhow And why is that? I think that comes when you look at the reason for the Tet Offensive, which essentially was a change in the strategy of North Vietnam And you don’t change strategies if things are going your way Basically by 1966, ’67, Hanoi was frustrated and worried And among the people who have written about this, in some detail historians are James Wirtz, Colonel James Willbanks has written a number of books on Vietnam General Davidson, and interestingly, another historian, Colonel Gregory Gaddis Who basically supports the orthodox position And even he writes that by 1966, Hanoi had lost the initiative in South Vietnam Bui Tin, always again, always come back to him, writes that “by 1967,” in Hanoi they felt, “that something really spectacular had to be done.” Therefore we get the Tet Offensive, a huge gamble, and as Bob Turner has pointed out, and published as well, a gamble that failed I’m not gonna discuss Tet You’ve already heard a lot about it What I wanna do now and the last major thing I’m going to cover is to turn to what I call going from lost victory, so it was during Colby’s term, to Black April, The Fall of South Vietnam And what I wanna look at is what was achieved very briefly between 1968 and 1972, and what we can learn from the Easter Offensive And again, even among revisionists, there’s no unanimity here There are some differences of views The orthodox, however, say this The reason for, and so one is the reason for the 1972 Spring Offensive And what that is, just to review, it was, and you can see it there, a three-pronged invasion, strictly conventional, no different than what happened in Korea Northern troops hitting from the north, then the middle, and the south, and attack on South Vietnam, strictly conventional with modern weapons, tanks, artillery, the whole bit Why did they do this? The fulcrum for balancing the debate on what was achieved anyhow is the reason that they launched this offensive The orthodox give external reasons They say North Vietnam, because of the American Nixon’s policy of Detente now improving relations with Russia primarily, but also with China, in 1972, they were worried that they might lose support as Detente developed, in other words external They assume the internal situation really hadn’t improved in any significant way Revisionists see significant improvement, but don’t always agree on precisely how much Echoing people like John Paul Vann and Sir Robert Thompson, the British expert from that time, Lewis Sorley, William Colby, Rufus Philips, and others see great and significant improvement in Vietnamization Turning over the war, pacification, rooting out the Vietcong infrastructure in the countryside And there are other who can talk me out, Mark can certainly could talk more about this General Davidson is a little less, is somewhat less optimistic,

and there are others who see it the same way I think that the case for significant improvement, for dramatic improvement, is strengthened when you look at the North Vietnamese decision to launch the invasion of 1972 And again, this was a real change in strategy, and you don’t change strategy unless your old strategy isn’t working And I wanna cite several supporters of this, the first is Robert Thompson, who was the British expert who defeated the communists in Malaya, way before Vietnam And he said right after the invasion took place, this was a result of the success of Vietnamization and pacification causing the North Vietnamese to invade William Colby, in his book he writes about a trip he took with actually John Paul Vann, And they drove across the whole Mekong Delta on motorcycles, they had somebody up above just to make sure But they said it was a different world You could cross the whole Mekong Delta now and you could be safe and it was peaceful, and it was to get rid of that different world that the North Vietnamese launched their invasion Third, and this is an orthodox historian, his name is William Turley, but he’s better than some of the others, I think And he quotes Le Duc Tho, who was the chief negotiator at palace for years, on the North Vietnamese side And the memo right before the invasion saying that this was to defeat Vietnamization Sorley quotes more from him, and describing the situation in 1969 and 1970, and this is what Le Duc Tho said “Our bases were weakened, our position shrank, “our main forces,” get this, “decimated.” That’s from an Orthodox Well, that’s from Lewis Sorley And fifth, somebody was start studied this in great detail, Colonel Willbanks, and he informs us that in the debates in Hanoi, some people wanted to wait for us to leave It would, the Americans are going, why don’t we just wait? Others were worried about Vietnamization, about the increasing strength of the ARVN, the South Vietnamese army, and the success of pacification One of them was the boss by now, Le Duan, and he argued that waiting, despite the fact the Americans were leaving will make it more difficult to conquer South Vietnam If the situation was dramatically better in 1972, what can we learn from the Easter Offensive? And again, there is some disagreement even within the revisionist camp First of all, the orthodox, they write you needed American support to defeat this invasion Which we did at just enormous cost to the North Vietnamese They had 100,000 casualties, greater part of their very modern force that they sent in But still, the orthodox argument goes, what this shows if you needed American support, the situation was hopeless, it hadn’t been approved enough, that’s that Among the revisionists, you get these comments, and they vary one from another Summers called it disastrous for North Vietnam, as it was, but then he writes, and a lot as he has with Tet, a tactical defeat for them militarily, but a strategic success because it undermined American will I’m not going through this again Davidson sees pluses and minuses, but he writes this was a very severe test that they passed Although he said the real test would come later Dale Andrade writes this, and it kind of brings things together He said, “Yes, the ARVN needed American fire power “There’s no question about that.” Colby and Sorley are the most positive Both use a variation of the phrase the war is won What they mean by that, and I’m gonna now be talking about Sorley What they mean by that is that with a proper American support, the war was won The South Vietnamese could have held out,

and what he does to strengthen this argument, and I think it’s pretty compelling He says, look at the other two countries that were divided by the Cold War, West Germany and South Korea And our support for them never ended In fact, we kept 300,000 troops in West Germany ’cause West Germany couldn’t defend itself And we kept 50,000 troops in South Korea, then gradually somewhat less We didn’t end our support for them, even with American troops What are we expecting South Vietnam to carry on without American support? And he’s very scathing about this Of course, as everybody in this room knows, that support was not forthcoming Not just in terms of American forces leaving, but because American aid decreased And that brings me to the last major issue I’m going to talk about, which is the causes or blame for Black April, what happened in 1975 And if you’ll look at the two maps, the strategy is basically the same except in ’75 they succeeded What do the Orthodox say about the reason? They don’t deny that to some extent the, to paraphrase Colonel Willbanks’ Book, that we abandoned Vietnam, to some extend we did Even Orthodox historians will accept that, some of them But the main problem, they say, was that South Vietnam was hopeless If problems hadn’t been fixed, it was still not viable Revisionists, for the most part, reject this And those who assign more blame to the South Vietnamese generally say this is because of things we have done before or failed to do before In other words, by 1975, our failures up ’til then made the situation untenable What I wanna do is just focus on one thing, on one thing I wanna focus on the question of aid and what happened And the relative aid given by the United States and the Chinese and the Soviet Union, but especially the Soviet Union Orthodox Historians will say this, one of them says both sides were famished ’cause aid decreased Another, and this is Turley actually, he’s saying while you can’t fully compare the money numbers and value There’s no doubt, as he puts it, about American generosity as compared to the Soviet Union and China I think there are enormous problems with this And what I wanna do is again, just focus on the question and the numbers Because it’s not just a matter of how much you gave, it’s a matter of need What did each side need after 1973? Soviet aid did decrease in 1973 and into ’74, when at the end of the year it spiked Well, there’s good reason for that, North Vietnam needed much less aid The Americans were no longer in the war, there was no air war to be fought And fully, a third of all the aid North Vietnam got from the Soviet Union was the sophisticated equipment to maintain their air defenses Once, and it’s more than a third if you count all the ammunition, the air defense ammunition Once the North Vietnamese didn’t have to fight that, they didn’t need all that aid, and what they were able to do in 1975 is send a lot of these anti aircraft stuff down south where they took a heavy toll on the South Vietnamese air force So they needed much less The person who does the most thorough job of this was gentleman Colonel William LeGro Who wrote a book called Vietnam from Cease Fire to Capitulation And he points out something else in terms of needs North Vietnam he said was on the offensive It could accomplish its objectives with much less ammunition and equipment than the south because it could focus, it could concentrate on selective targets The South Vietnamese, and you can look at the border, had to protect a huge area and now without the Americans, populated areas, bridges, roads,

and this 800 mile flank exposed to the North Vietnamese its western border there an 800 mile flank which was, it had a lot of mountains and very heavy vegetation Meaning that the South Vietnamese further that, the Ho Chi Minh Trail gave the North Vietnamese interior lines The South Vietnamese had to move their troops very quickly, unlike the North, and for that they required expensive equipment that was very difficult to maintain Helicopters, planes, and the rest That’s why George Veith, who wrote the book Black April, that covers this in great detail, writes, I think trying to be polite, that making money comparisons between the aid we gave and the aid the Soviet gave, and everybody else we decreased our aid and inflation ate away at a lot of it, to make money comparisons, as he put it, is disingenuous Go beyond that, after 1973 we no longer could have advisors to the South Vietnamese army, but before the 1975 offensive, North Vietnam’s leading generals went to the Soviet Union with a study, how to combine and work together with infantry, armor, and artillery, a flaw that they had demonstrated in the 1972 offensive The American aid cut further and was based on a cease fire that never materialized, I think as everybody knows Instead we had what one French expert called, “the most murderous truce,” continued fighting And result of the cuts, as General Davidson put it, was devastating That the ARVN collapsed in 1975 is hardly a surprise against this background George Veith’ book, which really deserves reading, is interesting because he argues that the South Vietnamese did a lot better than they’re usually given credit for, even by revisionists, and his book therefore makes very interesting reading Certainly it did to me I have one more point, and then I’m done You’ve heard this already from Bob Turner The regime that took over Vietnam in 1960, 1975, especially when you look at Cambodia and everything else, and what it did and what it was like, its inefficiencies, its brutalities, and all the rest, is often used by revisionists, as it should be, in the debates to discredit the orthodox case I wanna go a little bit further, though, to what I consider the heart of the orthodox case And that is, again, that North Vietnam had legitimacy because of all the stuff I talked about before, and that South Vietnam, and now I’m quoting these folks, or one of them in particular wrote a textbook on it, was a pseudo-nation, a counterfeit creation Is this true? Well, all these years later, if you look at a map today, you’re gonna find a lot of countries like South Vietnam You’re gonna find countries with bigger problems than South Vietnam What are they doing there if South Vietnam was not viable? Was an American creation? What about communism? Well back in 1975, communist countries, and I mean countries with communist systems, economic systems, governed or ruled about a third of the world’s population What do they rule today? Real communist systems, you’ve got two countries left You’ve got Cuba and you have the dystopian North Vietnam, oh excuse me, North Korea Not the rest, where’s the Soviet Union? It is defunct, it is as one of its two founders, Leon Trotsky put it in denouncing others, it has been consigned to the dust bin of history Communist China is on the map They called it The People’s Republic of China, but there’s no socialism there anymore, there’s no communism, they have what we would call, I think, state capitalism I teach a lot of students from China and there are a lot of ’em in America these days, and when you talk about socialism in China they just kinda smile, they know They’re not supposed to say anything, but no one tells you, these are very wealthy kids, you know (audience laughing) And by the way, they all speak perfect, unaccented, colloquial English They’ve spent large parts of their lives outside of China

It’s really interesting They call it the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, but as we know, at about the time they junked socialism in China or communism in China in the 1980s, they did the same in Vietnam You don’t have it anymore, it’s gone They can call themselves that, but there is no communism there It was swept away in Eastern Europe, in Laos they say they’re socialist, but they’re not Cambodia’s a monarchy again What happened? Well it turns out, I think at least, that it was communism that was not viable It collapsed on its own because it could not provide for its citizens a sufficient way of life, and acceptable way of life, at least when compared to capitalism And people in these countries found out about this How this is relevant to the orthodox and revisionist debate, I can’t necessarily say But I can say this, if Ho Chi Minh and his comrades won the battle for Vietnam, they lost the battle to establish communism there, and that at least for me is one of the primary reasons to reexamine the Vietnam War Thank you very much (audience applauding) – We’re gonna go right to the next speaker, Dr. Mark Moyar Dr. Moyar already is the youngest historian here And even though, by our standards, he’s a punk kid, (audience laughing) he’s been doing a great job on this history, and inspired a lot of other people, including Dr. Kort And his main book only takes Vietnam up to 1965, there’s a copy of it you can see out on the table there He’s finishing up the next chapter, or the next major volume on this Gonna be finished within the next year? Finished with in the next year, and we’re all looking forward to that And it’s gotten him tremendous attention, I think that he’s probably been slammed by more historians than any other historian we know It’s interesting, they have a meeting in which people talked about his book There’s a whole book about the meeting, which is interesting in which a number of other historians comment about his book, some of them very favorably, some of them unfavorably And it’s interesting to look at the unfavorable ones I’ve read it and the favorable ones are all very well written, the unfavorable ones, they pick on stupid minor stuff and he rebuts them very nicely So he’s a real historian, he’s done really well, and we’re looking forward to more work with him And I’m gonna shut up and let him talk himself (audience applauding) – Thank you, Del, for that introduction I also wanna thank the VVFH, Vietnam Veterans for Factual History, for helping organize this and the AVVBA, as well as Synovus And Chik-fil-A So thank you all for bringing this group together And some of the things I was gonna say gave been well covered by other speakers, so I’ll skip past some of it Gonna start off just talking about a couple of general issues So people sometimes ask me, they say, “How did you get interested in Vietnam?” So for me it started off with a high school teacher named Peter Scott who was my English teacher And he was extremely thoughtful, articulate, virtuous, the model of someone you’d look up to And my generation, most of what we knew about Vietnam was from “Apocalypse Now” or “The Deer Hunter.” (audience laughing) Or we saw sort of TV stories with you know the disheveled veteran who is homeless and just eventually commits suicide And so this to me just really struck me as there was an incongruity there I then took a course in college on the Vietnam War, and it was incredibly one-sided, which to me also raised a lot of questions University is supposed to be a place where you hear competing opinions

(audience laughing) So then I started to do my own research on it, and realized that a lot of this one-sided research coming out was deeply flawed And I’ll also point out to you, a lot of you probably now have grandkids who are in high school or college I actually have two high schoolers and a college student Chances are very good they’re not gonna get the right, they may not get any information about Vietnam, and if they do it’s probably gonna be pretty flawed And so I don’t rely on those folks, don’t rely on our educational system, ’cause unfortunately it is not going to give them what they need to So try to find, the books out on the table are great resources you can offer to those So also just a bit more about, so Triumph Forsaken, the book that was mentioned, I originally planned to write a history of the whole war, from ’54 to ’75 and over a five year period But as I got into it, historians, if you’re gonna do something that big, you typically do more of what we call a synthesis where you will rely heavily on books other people have written on more narrow topics ’cause you can’t necessarily look at all the data for everything But as I started getting into it, and then I realized so much of the other literature out there was flawed or is missing information that I decided to basically do all the primary research myself But that meant far more work than I had anticipated So the first volume, Triumph Forsaken, which only goes up to ’65 took seven years to write This next one goes through ’68, and I’ve gotten pulled in lots of directions, but it’s been on and off for about 13 years But I think that’s what you have to do if you want to really get to the heart of the matter ‘Cause there’s so many people with axes to grind, and there’s also just a lot of information that has been found You don’t, I think, need to, an explanation about the partisanship that goes on in the study of the Vietnam War A lot of it does concern big political issues, foreign policy questions, and you’ve heard about those already I’m gonna go into more depth on military side of things, and you’ve heard some about that, but I’m gonna go a bit more detail on some of these things Which its less obvious perhaps, what the bias might be there, but there is a general tendency on the orthodox side, I think, to portray the conduct of the ground war as essentially foolish, reflecting that this was just the biggest disaster And I certainly do not buy that I do tend to be closer to the position that was mentioned of Dale Andrade, where it’s not an either-or between was this conventional war, was this counterinsurgency, it was both and it changed over time One of the big problems that I think you encounter with studying the Vietnam War and your average person who knows something about it, the tendency to think it was basically the same kind of was for 15 years, 1960 through ’75 In fact, it starts off as a guerrilla war, that’s what a lot of people think, but it becomes increasingly conventional over time And becomes by the end almost entirely conventional I’ll mention, too, so one of the most important developments in studying the history of the Vietnam War has been the translation of history as from the other side And you’ve seen a couple mentioned already, but Merle Pribbenow, former CIA translator, has been instrumental for me and a lot of other historians, in providing sources from the other side, which in many cases are quite candid Now officially during the war, the North Vietnamese, you know every battle was a glorious victory for them, but in these subsequent accounts, we see actually a fair amount of candor Not always, but sometimes And you really actually see that they had enormous problems on many fronts, a lot of what they were trying to do did not succeed And so we now know that when Westmoreland was talking about his success, he wasn’t some crazy fool who didn’t know anything, but in fact there was a real basis for what he was saying We’re gonna run through a little bit, to understand the controversy over how the war was fought, I think its worth going back a little bit to the start of the war, the end of the previous war in 1954

and the development during that relative period of peace from ’54 to ’59, because during this time, this is when South Vietnam starts developing its security forces And at the time, people are thinking more about the Korean War model The South Vietnamese with our assistance formed seven conventional divisions and they would come under attack for failing to anticipate this guerrilla war Because guerrilla war you would prefer to have lightly armed militia units that can secure the population I disagree with that The argument that wad made initially, which I think holds true throughout, is that your country cannot lose a war to guerrillas It’s gonna lose to conventional forces And Mao himself talks about this very clearly Guerrillas who have AK-47s are not going to conquer a city of a million people that is defended by machine guns and artillery And so you have to be prepared for that eventuality If you just build a militia force, your enemy will have capitalize on that It’s also I think a fallacy that conventional forces cannot fight in small unit patrolling And probably a lot of you actually did a lot of small unit patrolling and know that big battalions can also break down into small units and do militia type operations The President Diem at the time, he understood the dual nature of this threat and he also asked the US to support militias And at the time, the US Ambassador, Durbrow who is not very sympathetic, he says actually the Vietcong aren’t a big threat to you, so we don’t really need to fund these militia units I also think the bigger problem, we get caught up a lot of times in organization, fundamentally, and I’ve done other work on this and it goes across all conflicts, the biggest question or biggest challenge you have in fighting this type of conflict is getting the human capital and getting the leadership Because South Vietnamese units, without exception, throughout the war, fundamentally their quality was a reflection of the quality of their leadership And when President Diem takes charge in 1954, he inherits a pretty small pool of good human capital The French didn’t build a large and capable officer corps, it was somewhat large, not necessarily capable And so Diem actually goes through a process of building a new generation, but that’s a period, that’s gonna take him about seven years before it starts to bear fruit Even so, the late ’50s, communists have not yet resorted to armed insurrection For the most part they are relying on political subversion They think Diem is weak It turns out Diem is stronger than they bargained for, and so that leads to the decision in 1960 to start an armed insurgency, which is based on the model that Mao used in the Chinese Civil War And as you heard alluded to, there was a lot of misperception in the west that this was sort of spontaneously grown from the ground But we now know, again, partly from the North Vietnamese accounts, that it was led by several thousand communists who infiltrated from the North back into the South, and they provided that leadership, which on their side, as well, was critical I will say, too, I think their successes were more about leadership and organization than about ideology And for many of them they didn’t really understand Marxist ideology necessarily, and certainly when they went to the South, they didn’t preach that to the peasants They preached to them something that was very contrary to socialism, which is that we’re fighting for you to own your land We’re here for that purpose, and then of course after the war they take the land But at the time, that’s what they’re saying So initially the militias in 1960 are weak, they’re unfunded, so South Vietnamese Army has to come into the war to start doing some of the counter-guerrilla operations ’60 to ’61, the war is going pretty well for the Vietcong ’62 there’s a stunning turn around, and I’ve documented it some It’s something that gets overlooked, especially because there’s people who have a lot of reasons to dislike the President Diem and the American effort But communists themselves admit that there was a massive turn around

A lot of it has to do with this new generation of leaders coming in, strategic hamlet program was actually quite successful in cutting off the VC’s access to the population Now if you look, and if you’ve seen the Ken Burns series, this is the only thing really they show from this period, the one battle that the Vietcong did pretty well, which was the Battle of Ap Bac, which was featured heavily in Neil Sheehan’s book, The Bright Shining Lie And in that book, Sheehan relies basically on John Paul Vann’s Account that it was the South Vietnamese who screwed this up And despite his best advice, now I went back and the Triumph Forsaken has a whole chapter on this battle A lot of the big mistakes that were made there were actually committed by John Paul himself, and he lied to the press to try to push the blame off onto the South Vietnamese And so Vietcong do pretty well, there’s various mishaps In any war, you’re not gonna win every battle, and if you look through most of ’62, ’63, it’s actually going pretty well for the South Vietnamese As things are going well militarily, we suddenly have the Buddhist crisis in the middle of 1963, which I think was certainly abetted by the communists There was a big dispute within the US government, should we support this or not? I won’t go into all the details here, but there is General Harkins, the Senior US Military commander keeps making the point that the war is going pretty well, there’s some in the press are questioning that But really it’s, at the time it’s portrayed we need to overthrow the government because it’s becoming unpopular over this Buddhist issue Now later on, much later after the coup, it becomes this huge disaster People will try to claim, oh well the war wasn’t going well, but in fact I don’t think that is really the case So coup happens November of ’63 Contrary to predictions of this great new era, the coup leaders end up purging many of the best people from the government in South Vietnam They disarmed strategic hamlet militias, and then the war goes south very quickly We then have, moving into 1964 you have Lyndon Johnson talking about how he’s the peace candidate and he’s not gonna send Americans to South Vietnam We have the Tonkin Gulf incident where there were two attacks, well certainly one attack, maybe two And this goes back to some of the academic theories that Dr. Kort was mentioning in his excellent talk There was a this idea, we just needed to do one little strike and we will send a message to the North Vietnamese, and they will say, ah-ha, the Americans mean business ’cause they did this one little strike But it turns out we know now the North Vietnamese saw that as weakness If you were gonna hit us, why didn’t you use all your power? So the combination of that, Johnson’s statements, and this decline in the South Vietnamese government will then lead in the end of 1964, just after Johnson’s reelected, to a decision in Hanoi to undertake a conventional invasion with first entire North Vietnamese Army division And they’re counting on the Americans basically sitting on their hands based on what they’re seeing Now of course, we know after the election, Johnson decides he does need to fight for Vietnam I do think for the right reasons He believed in the Domino Theory and couldn’t let it go But that period in early 1965, there are a large number of conventional battles that kind of get overlooked And this, I think, gets the question of was it a conventional war? By early 1965 it’s very much a conventional war And you’ve got 2,000 North Vietnamese attacking one location You’re not going to defeat that with light infantry So you need the South Vietnamese conventional army They start taking heavy losses, which is then what compels the United States to intervene June of ’65, Westmoreland says basically they’re going to lose this war to the conventional forces of the enemy if we don’t intervene The US does come in Initially we’re basically backstopping the South Vietnamese, but August of ’65, Westmoreland decides that US units need to get in, in a bigger way First real big battle is Operation Starlight, which I know we have at least one veteran of Operation Starlight here Is any Operation Starlight veterans wanna stand? I knew we got Phil, yeah So thank you (audience applauding)

Okay and so a lot of people think the Ia Drang Valley Battle was the first big one, ’cause they’ve got the movie and the book and all that, but Starlight, there are several others early on where, and people really weren’t quite sure how things were gonna work out And I think the Americans were pretty confident, but a lot of people has seen the North Vietnamese just winning one battle after another, and they thought well maybe the Americans are going to take the hit here But in fact, the Americans do inflict heavy losses, and this will be a recurring theme of the war So by ’65, you have a big debate over what should the United States strategy be Westmoreland says we’re gonna have to fight a war of attrition, essentially And this then gets back to the point that was made earlier that there are not other good options out there, you can’t go outside the country I do tend to think it was the best of rather limited options Basically his thinking was, we will through this strategy of attrition, we will wear down the communists and buy time for South Vietnam to get back on its feet And to do that, we’re gonna use search and destroy operations, which we’re gonna send our big units out to look for the enemy wherever we can find them North Vietnamese also pursued a strategy of attrition, but their objective is basically to erode America’s will so that eventually the United States will get tired of casualties, just like the French got tired and they want to go Now initially, there’s actually a fair amount of criticism from the US Marine Corps of Westmoreland’s search and destroy strategy The Marines are up in I Corps, and at the time I Corps is actually not the hot bed that it will become They wanna focus on the coastal areas They don’t see a need to go out into, to go after the big enemy units And there’s this idea that the combined action program, which would put a Marine squad with a popular Force platoon, can actually win the war because you’re just focusing on the population What often gets lost is that by early ’66, the Marines change and they suddenly, it’s all of a sudden big NVA Units coming to I Corps They start to recognize that they can’t just sit in their coastal enclaves And so General Walt, the Senior Marine commander, in fact starts sending out his battalions to go get the North Vietnamese before they can get to the population ‘Cause once they get into the population, then your ability to fire power is going to be much reduced and they’re also going to be able to fight you where and when they want to And Westmoreland also made the argument, which I think was largely valid, that the pacification was best left largely to South Vietnamese forces, because they had the linguistic skills, they had ties to the villages, and so there was, I think, a logic to say we’re going to let the Americans do most of the fighting out in the more remote areas, and the South Vietnamese to do pacification There’s also a lot of mythology about the effectiveness of search and destroy operations So the book I’m completing now, I’ve gone through a huge number of these battles to see exactly what happened And an overwhelming majority of cases, the Americans inflict far greater losses on the North Vietnamese A lot of this has to do with the fact that America has this great air and artillery capability they can bring down But we even see in a lot of cases where air and artillery wasn’t used, the Americans are usually quite effective, and they take measures to ensure that they’re not vulnerable to the North Vietnamese Now in the Ken Burns documentary, which I’m guessing a lot of you have seen, there is the period on ’66 and ’67, which I happened to be working on when this was coming out and I wrote some things about it But he basically looks at all hundreds of battles, let me find the six ones where the Americans take the most losses, and then we’re gonna throw those out and make it look like that is the representative sample, which I thought was very dishonest But even in these battles, the Americans do better than the North Vietnamese But people make mistakes, so sometimes accidents happened, sometimes things go awry Like it’s, I think, worth noting how just one-sided that is Something else, too, I would mention

that a lot of Westmoreland and others took a lot of heat for the so called body count where progress was measured based on the number of enemy casualties and a lot of critics would say, well this was a people’s war and it’s not a big deal how many of the enemy you kill And I’d say that’s more true in a guerrilla war, though it’s not totally true then But it’s certainly not true when you get to a conventional war If you have 50,000 troops, you’re gonna do a lot more in conventional war than if you’ve been knocked down to 25,000 troops through attrition Move on to, so you’ve already heard a lot of the discussion between the civilian and military leadership on strategy The Joint Chiefs and Westmoreland from the very beginning are pushing for other options that they see as a way to achieve success much more quickly Invasion of the North is one option that’s floated Going into Laos and Cambodia are also frequently mentioned And as you heard, there was a fear of Chinese intervention, which was largely unfounded There was also at the time, for a long time there were disputes over how much help was really coming through Laos and Cambodia And for a long time, CIA was maintaining there wasn’t much coming through Cambodia And finally that was resolved in 1970, in the invasion of Cambodia and suddenly realized massive supplies that were actually coming in through Sihanoukville There is, on the question of Rolling Thunder, that’s also from the beginning, the Joint Chiefs and others pushing to reduce the restrictions Also, one thing I found very interesting is President Eisenhower was very forthcoming, former President Eisenhower We have a lot of records of him saying you need to unshackle the bombing campaign, you need to do other things And you know this is the former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe talking to President Johnson and Secretary McNamara, who don’t really have a military background, and it is a bit surprising how little heed they paid to him But even, and despite all these problems, search and destroy inflicts very heavy losses on the enemy And then one of the myths about the war is that Hanoi was infinitely patient and they were gonna wait us out Well, it’s pretty clear now from their side, by the middle of ’67, they had become very impatient and they see that they are taking these heavy losses and not getting much in return So this is what leads them to the idea for the Tet Offensive They are going to go into the cities People are gonna rise up in support of them, and that’s gonna force the United States to leave Of course that’s not how Tet works out The people don’t rise up, the South Vietnamese rally, the North Vietnamese take very heavy losses One thing that’s not as well known is that there’s two subsequent offenses in May and August which are called, sometimes referred to as mini-Tet, but they were also very large in scale And they were actually, one of the Vietnamese communist commanders advised against it, but Le Duan was still convinced that this would work So those also end in stunning defeat So by October of ’68, North Vietnam is really in very bad shape militarily So this will then set the stage for improvements and pacification In November of ’68, the accelerated pacification program starts and they find that already at the beginning the enemy is much weakened At the same time, the South Vietnamese government is making a lot of headway President Thieu is pretty vigorous in trying to fix some of the internal problems, leadership problems But I think he’s also another person who gets the raw deal from history There is a quote from one American diplomat that when Thieu came to power that he was the bottom of the barrel, along with someone else And that’s kind of what gets thrown in, but in fact the record at the time says almost all the Americans thought Thieu was highly effective, he was really the right person for the job As this is happening, General Creighton Abrams comes in to replace General Westmoreland Some of my friends, especially my friend Bob Sorley viewed this as a crucial turning point I tend to think it’s not as big a deal because Abrams comes into a situation very different in that communists have just lost these massive numbers of casualties,

and they themselves decided to shift strategy But Abrams certainly does a good job on that Del, how we doing on time here? – [Del] Okay – Okay, all right Well I will, yeah a lot of this has been covered, so I’ll just a couple points I wanted to make on the question of the Easter Offensive, you heard about So it’s true they got a lot of help from American air power, but our own forces could not have succeeded without American air power So given the nature, and you’ve heard about this massive exposed flank that South Vietnam had, you can’t defend that without the mobility that air power gave you, or allow you to strike the enemy at will when you need to Let me just skip forward I wanted to make a plug for VVFH Publications, there’s a new one that I was fortunate enough to contribute to, and talking about the question of polarization of our society coming out of Vietnam I do think that much of the polarization that we continue to see in this country goes back to Vietnam And if you look at up until 1967, the war was pretty popular on college campuses, and then when the drafty deferments ended, at that point you see this sudden rise in opposition to the war And people like Michael Medved and Jim Webb and others have made the point, I think correctly, that it wasn’t that people were against the war and that’s why they were against the draft They were against the war because they didn’t wanna get drafted And I think ever since then you’ve seen, not everybody in that category, but certainly within academia, a lot of people who didn’t go to Vietnam then had a reason to say it was a bad war because, if it was a bad war, then it was okay that I didn’t go So anyway, I cover that subject in there There’s more to read I just wrap up reiterating something Del mentioned early on is that, Vietnam remains a critical part of our history And I think how we think about Vietnam says a lot about how we think of ourselves as a people And I think it supports, if you understand the Vietnam War, how it was done, it was not this huge blunder It wasn’t contrary to our national interests, I think it was in our interests Unfortunately, we didn’t fight the way we wanted to But I think it supports the idea that, in fact, there’s something special about the United States It’s something that Americans should feel proud of, and something that should make our younger generations believe that it’s a country worth fighting for And so that’s why I think it’s so important that we’re having this discussion today So I will stop there and will look forward to your questions after lunch (audience applauding) – Well now we know who the brave people are who came back Congratulations I want to start off with a comment by a special guest One thing that I think not everybody understands, I know not everybody understands, but I’ll mention it, I have met and know a lot of veterans from people who were there from ’63 to people who were there in ’75 And a lot of people there in the early years came out with a fairly negative impression of ARVN There as a point in time in which a lot of the Southeast military were not heavily competent And there was selling of commissions and there was corruption, et cetera They always had some good units The ARVN Marines, the ARVN special forces, the ARVN rangers, et cetera, the First Division They were always really good units And at one point, you might have said early in the war that there was probably 30% really good units and maybe 40% mediocre units and maybe 30% not so good units Well Vietnamization really worked Well of course the biggest thing was Tet Most people don’t understand that Tet changed a lot of stuff in South Vietnam A lot of people there had been kind of

a little bit on the fence, like maybe it won’t be so bad if we’re under Ho or whatever And what happened during Tet, especially the massacres in Hue, took everybody off the fence The ARVN did not have to draft anybody for the next eight months because there were so many volunteers who joined And everything started changing, the training changing, things got better By the early ’70s, Vietnamization was really working, the units had gotten much better Here’s a little known fact, the government distributed several hundred thousand weapons to the local villages, to the PF, the Popular Forces, and Village Forces And it’s like, wait a second The government’s giving weapons to the people in the villages, what does that tell you about how things are working? And it’s fact in the battle of ’72, some of the PF and the forces actually beat the hell out of some of the NVA forces Okay, so things changed a lot, they got a lot more competent I do charity work in Vietnam, and one of the tragedies is that, of the disabled veterans I see, a lot of them are old Vietnamese Marines who were badly crippled before the war ended Because there are hardly any Vietnam Marines left alive who were fighting at the time of the end of the war Because most of them fought to the death up in I Corps They just fought in the mountains until they were all dead So for those people who didn’t fully appreciate the fact that the South Vietnamese did have really good soldiers, they were good allies, and they fought hard and died for their country, they did Whatever negative impressions we have from earlier parts of the war, some of the confusion, it’s something to be put aside and remember the way things really worked out On that note, we have some Vietnamese guests here who would like to say a few words, so I’m inviting them up – Del, as they come up, let me just add to that I’m so glad you said that If you look at the American Revolutionary Army in the first couple of years, they weren’t really impressive If you look at the South Korean Army in the first couple of years, some of you probably dealt with South Koreans in Vietnam, and they were incredibly good soldiers The South Vietnamese military, the big issue was leadership Bad political leadership, they didn’t perform as well That’s also true of US troops You get good leaders, you get good troops But I have the greatest respect for the ARVN and various other elements of the South Vietnam forces, and we betrayed them And I think we owe them our thanks and our appreciation So thanks for making that point (audience applauding) – I’m so emotional to stand up here I don’t know what to say My name is Hai Cao I am a Vietnamese-American, so first of all, I would like to thank you, the organizers, and the speakers, the panel, the speakers, Professor Turner, author Michael Kort, and author Moyar, and especially Al, the moderator who allows us a moment to say what I’m about to say Ironically, today we have a group of Vietnamese people attended here, but they represent the three generations I am Hai Cao, I was about the late teens during the war, after 1965 when the war ended But sitting in here there were people who were adult working involved in the war, like Mrs. Yung Krall that’s very well known to you guys here, she’s an author Mrs. Yung Krall (audience applauding) And then in the same generation with Mrs. Yung Krall, was a former professor in Vietnam, Mr. Ky Vu Mr. Ky, please you stand up (audience applauding) And of course, like I said, I was just a student at the time but there was particularly one person in our group today, she wasn’t even born during the Vietnam War (audience laughing) She was like a, were born after the end of Saigon, Vietnam War, she was born six, seven, months after that And she’s here today to represent not only us, the three different generations,

but also represent the Vietnamese-American community of Georgia, and the USA So we just wanted to be here, and oh by the way, I forgot to introduce her Dai Mei, her name is Dai Mei, please stand up (audience applauding) We, I have the privilege to represent the three generations of Vietnam and to tell all of you, the Vietnam War Vets of America, that we, unlike all of the things you heard or you say or people say and you saw the Vietnam War movie of Ken Burns, we really, genuinely, all of us appreciate for your sacrifice, your family’s sacrifice to participate in the war to help us And that’s why we are here today to express again our deep, sincere appreciation for all the things you did for Vietnam and for the people of Vietnam, thank you very much (audience applauding) – Well we asked for questions, and dammit we got questions (audience laughing) I tried to sort through them, and wow I’m going to do the best we can to get through some of these I said there were other historian experts here, and we’re gonna defer to one of them right now “What about the Soviet financing through cutouts “of peace movement, the America-France Committee, “resistance movements that exist internationally, “what about what happened with that? “Was there, in fact, support from overseas “for the antiwar people?” And Dr. Roger Canfield Is uniquely qualified to answer that question – [Roger] That was my question – Yes, come on up here and hopefully you do well (audience laughing) (Roger mumbling) – Through a great deal of money laundering, the short answer is yes We had Agent Solo, who was an FBI double who carried all the money for the communist party We had the Orthodox Church in Russia, which had money that was passed out We had the Soviet support of the conference on Vietnam and a whole bunch of other conferences There was a Russian, a couple of Russian people, about three different ones, and I’m bad at Russia and I’ve got 7,000 footnotes I don’t remember the details, but one of them said that they spent more money on the political side than they did on the military I think that’s a little exaggerated, but it was a big number (audience applauding) – And let me say this, I have known a lot of people back then and since then who are antiwar people Many of them were, in fact, very sincere people I have met Quakers that I swear to god you could kill their children in front of them and they would just pray for you Not me, but okay (audience laughing) However, what’s important is it didn’t matter how many of the troops, in a sense, were so sincere Much of the leadership of the antiwar movement were not antiwar, they were pro-Hanoi, they were pro-communist Tom, what’s his name? I remember, yeah, went to Paris and took his orders from a woman colonel I think, I forgot her name, and came back and said I got my orders from the people over there who represent the NLF, okay? So the people at the top were in fact, I hate to use the word treasonous, but I can’t think of a better one Yeah, yeah, close enough But on the other hand, I sought to respect the fact there were and are sincere antiwar people But they were what Lenin used to love to call useful idiots And it’s hard to believe, but you know we still have some of those today (audience laughing) – Hey Del, can I make a comment? So well first thing, the antiwar movement I would say, for one thing, it actually may have strengthened support for the war because it alienated so many people

But on the Soviet side I think what’s even more interesting is 1968, they are actually trying to influence our presidential election Which you know, sometimes we think, oh no that’s something new that a foreign power would try to influence our election And it Anatoly Dobrynin in his memoirs said they had offered Humphrey to finance his campaign because they viewed Humphrey as better than Nixon, and Humphrey apparently said no thanks, I don’t need your money But that shows you the extent to which they went You know there’s also a lot of suspicion, I don’t know that it’s ever been fully confirmed, but when there’s this move towards peace before the election a lot of people think the Soviets, well we know the Soviets are encouraging this to have a bombing halt right before the ’68 election because it’ll help Humphrey, and it gets short circuited because President Thieu sees through it It’s not because of Anna Chennault was, I think it was out from under him, but President Thieu saw that there was this last minute effort to throw the ’68 election to Humphrey by starting a bombing pause four days before the election, but Thieu, again, was able to push back and Nixon ends up winning But again I think that’s one of the most fascinating Soviet stories to me – I would just add the story of Jane Fonda, who keeps getting arrested everyday But Jane Fonda went to Hanoi, she made broadcast over radio Hanoi directed at American sailors in the Tonkin Gulf telling them that they should refuse to follow orders because the bombs they’re being ordered to load are really loaded with poison gas and that under the Nuremberg Principles, if you load the bombs you may be tried after the war and executed If that’s not treason, the word has no meaning (audience applauding) One other example being of Vietnam Veterans Against the War that John Kerry made famous, John Kerry made famous, the executive director of that, and somebody has to remind me of his name He was a Black Panther – [Man] Al Hubbard – Hubbard, Al Hubbard Al Hubbard portrayed himself as an Air Force captain, medically retired pilot who had a bad scar on his back from having been wounded while landing at De Nang Actually he was an enlisted E5 He had gotten the scar on his back from a soccer injury, and FBI records revealed that when he went to Hanoi and to Paris, the communist party of the United States picked up the tab I don’t know any more about it than that, but they don’t usually do that just as a charity effort So when he was exposed as a total fraud, as far as I can tell he vanished But he was sitting next to Kerry on “Face the Nation” or “Meet The Press” in April of ’71 And there were a lot of anti-Vietnam War people were as patriotic as anyone in this room They had been told that our government was propping up a dictator and blocking free elections, and there was no reason to be there And they didn’t want their government to be doing bad things, and I think our government failed by not responding to them There were a small number of us going around responding to them, but for the most part, the State Department used a request for a State Department spokesman on campuses as a way of punishing people who had screwed up They would take somebody who was disfavored and make them go out to Iowa or Kansas or somewhere They were not experts on Vietnam and they did a horrible job And it was really tragic because the people of Vietnam paid the price, and the sacrifices of our brothers, and a small number of sisters, were I won’t say in vain because I believe very good things came out of lasting 10 years, but we had the war won at the end if Congress had not thrown in the towel I don’t have any doubt that Hanoi would have had to back off basically Because both Beijing and Moscow were pressuring them They had bigger fish to fry with America, and they were talking about pulling back and waiting And the correlation of forces in South Vietnam, people in South Vietnam about the time of the Tet Offensive realized they didn’t wanna live under communism They heard the stories about the mass graves in Hue I was up in Hue in ’71 when they were digging up mass graves and that got the attention of a lot of Vietnamese The Vietcong used an awful lot of terror to get support, and the people didn’t want that So I think everything was really going our way until Congress threw in the towel

(audience applauding) – As an additional comment to the stuff that was said already this morning, I lived in Singapore in 1980 And the Singaporeans had no doubt, we had conversations, they had no doubt that we had saved them They basically said, they would have gone across Laos, Cambodia, they would have taken Thailand, they would have come down Malaysia, and we’d all be communists by now But you blunted the drive of that whole thing, which is true I mean the North Vietnam lost 1.4 million men in the war They lost more going to Cambodia, they lost more in that little war with China And they were so exhausted, nobody was going anywhere after that So the whole thing fizzled out, but the people who live there, they really were quite sure that if we had not stopped them in Vietnam, if we had not exhausted them, they would have kept on going Next question that came up, this was marked for you, Dr. Turner How might the balance of power with China be different today if South Vietnam had remained a sovereign western allied nation, like South Korea? – It’s a good question I will start off by saying, had we won, you know McNamara in his memoir said he wished he had favored abandoning Vietnam in ’64, not responding to the Tonkin Resolution and so forth Had that been the case, I think the world would have changed tremendously China, at that point, was funding supporting training, arming revolutionary forces in South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and again as far away as Mozambique Had we given up in Vietnam, they would have taken Vietnam and I think we would have found ourselves facing a dozen or more Vietnams We could not possibly have won a dozen Vietnams Financially it’s just too expensive, short of using nuclear weapons So we would have basically faced the choice, do we use nukes and try to protect these countries, or do we allow the communists to take over the world one country at a time? I think it is tremendously important, and an awful lot of third world countries did not want communism, they wanted power Most of them were not democrats really, but they would support us if they thought we would protect them But once they saw us abandon South Vietnam, all of their incentives were to cut the best deal they could with the communists, hopefully survive, and maybe even share power for a few years So I think the world would have gone to hell in a handbasket very quickly had we walked away from Vietnam I think we could have easily lost the Cold War or had to fight a nuclear war over it So obviously had we prevailed, and South Vietnam become a free and independent democratic state, the Chinese wouldn’t have liked that They didn’t like much of what happened anyway, as it turned out They also underestimated the Vietnamese and they got their nose bloodied But I think strategically this was an incredibly important war Those who said there was no reason to be there I think are just fools It’s just this was the test case, all the senior communists said that And once we gave up in Vietnam, who would listen to us? And then the question is, do we go it alone? Do we use nukes? I don’t see a good outcome I would go as far as to say when Jimmy Carter was defeated in the 1980 election, that also might have kept us from losing the Cold War, because we were losing all over the world under Carter And Reagan came in and stood firm, and turned things around, and before he left town, there was no Soviet empire And it didn’t have to happen that way – If I could add, so until recently I served in the Trump Administration and one of the biggest things that’s happened in the– (audience applauding) I think one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in foreign policy, probably the biggest, is a shift in policy towards China And I think belatedly our country has realized the threat that China poses on the national security world We’ve seen a major shift away from the Middle East and terrorism towards competition with China And what happened in Vietnam, I think, has a lot of relevance still today If you think of if Indonesia or Malaysia had looked like North Korea today,

what that competition would be like or if we’d even be competing? And one of the things, if you’ve been following the news, as we have been putting tariffs on China because of their unfair trade practices, we’re shifting that production to other countries in Southeast Asia, so they’re a big asset for us They are also themselves organizing, many of them, to resist China, which is a huge threat, I mean China has become very sophisticated in using non-military power And if you think of the fact that even our own basketball officials are afraid to criticize China, I think that shows you how And you think I you’re living in Asia that much closer, there’s tremendous pressure And so I think it’s gonna be a struggle that’s with us for a long time, and one we have to be vigilant about – Which we pick up and something actually was said earlier, I think by Professor Kort, about how Vietnam has become more capitalist and so forth The Pew Research Foundation does polls every year all over the world And one of the recent polls, they asked people all over the world what they thought if the United States As you might imagine, we’re hated in Russia, we’re hated in Iran, and a lot of other countries You know what country gave the United States the most powerful recommendation, or applause if you will, of any country in the world? Vietnam, Vietnam So whether you say we had it won and threw it away or you say we lost the war, in the end, I think we’ve won I think the Vietnamese people love the United States and I could see them being an ally at some point not too far off from now Which I think would be great Just because I feel, my dad fought in World War II and now the Japanese and Germans are close friends I think that’s wonderful, so I would love to see Vietnam Vietnam is a wonderful opportunity for a George Washington to lead that country to human freedom And I would love to see that happen I’d love to see it happen in my lifetime – [Man] A real George Washington – Yes, exactly – [Man] Not a fake one – Somebody who would lead them to a free, independent country where people have rights and I think it would be a wonderful thing – There’s two questions up here that I actually am in a position to answer fairly well They’re about the industry and resources and riches of Vietnam and how important it was to us or to the French The French were classic colonialists, imperialists They were not enlightened They were not as good occupiers as the British were, in some ways, okay? They did bring some benefits to Vietnamese society We owe the written Vietnamese language to a Catholic Priest who made it up We know the ao dai, we owe the ao dai to French fashion, actually, which is oddly enough They did have, Michelin has a whole bunch of rubber plantations there They had some mining interests there And none of that meant a damn thing to us We had no economic interest in Vietnam Malaysia was the largest producer of natural rubber, which happens to be my field of specialty in the world Now the second largest, Thailand surpassed them We could buy all the natural rubber we wanted form Malaysia for a lot less money than it would have taken to get it out of Vietnam, and the French wanted it in any case So we had no economic interest in going to Vietnam That was never part of it In fact, while we were there, again one of the things that doesn’t seem to get covered very well by, oh I don’t know Burns or anybody else, I forget how many hundred schools we built, dental clinics, medical calls, improvements, dug wells, paved roads We invested millions and millions of dollars and a lot of our people’s energy in helping the Vietnamese southern society in lots and lots of ways, that people still remember to this day there Actually what’s funny, having traveled there and having friends travel North Vietnam, we are much more popular in South Vietnam than we are in North Vietnam (audience laughing) That’s partially because people of the south can resist the brainwashing to some extent In the North, brainwashing is even more complete I have friends who go there as tourists, and I always tell people it’s a great country to go to as a tourist stop, it’s a good place Okay, just be a tourist like you were a tourist in Germany in 1934 whew you wouldn’t ask to visit that little place up in Dachau, you know? And you wouldn’t want to bother them with, can I see a synagogue? You’d leave it alone

But if you go to Vietnam and you’re a tourist, everything’s fine If you say one word about politics or anything like that, things become less friendly Having personally been busted by the chief or police of the entire province in Hue for the terribly illegal act, by his standards, of giving money to people he doesn’t like, crippled old army veterans, I can tell you that it’s not quite a free society You wanna stay above that But my friends say, well you go there and you see all these kids going to school and they’re all so pretty, they have these little red scarves on Isn’t that nice? And I said yes, there’s a reason If you don’t show up in school with a little red scarf, you don’t go in It’s not complicated, it’s simple, okay? And you will not advance in your grades if you can’t recite the poems of Ho Chi Minh, if you can’t sing the songs of the communist party You get brainwashed until right through high school and into college I have met Vietnamese kids who have moved here when they were 13, and they told me when they were 16 that it took them two years to start getting the crap out of their heads that got pushed into it, okay? So it’s there, but we are more popular in the South than the North Because up North still are, some of the Marines I know are married to Vietnamese, and the ones who are married to Vietnamese from the North don’t enjoy going to visit the relatives (audience laughing) Okay, next question In any case, that takes care of that one Let’s see Here’s a good one “Search and destroy was a failed strategy, somewhat, “what do you think the outcome would be “if we had launched an offensive against North Vietnam?” Or in my case, I would say even if we threatened an invasion of North Vietnam? Mark? – So, the one thing to keep, I would say two, search and destroy were tactics that we used in pursuit of an attrition strategy, which was limited by the parameters on it There’s a famous saying by Napoleon, “If all you ever do is play defense, “you’re eventually going to lose.” And so I do think we could and should have gone into North Vietnam So one of the points I make, the French didn’t have an easy war there, but at the peak of the French war they only had 100,000 troops in all of Vietnam And if you actually went into the war, North Vietnamese could flee to the hills or China or some place and fight you from there, but they lose their ports, they lose their railroads, they lose access to most of the population And so if you went in and were able to control those things, it’s a much better, it’s a much easier, much, much easier war to fight You’re not fighting 500,000 conventionally armed troops – And the next question is also addressed for you, Mark “An NVA commie me and told me in 1970 “the two biggest mistakes the US made “were killing Diem and not cutting the Ho Chi Minh Trail.” What do you think? – I agree on both those points The coup that overthrew Diem was unmitigated disaster and as I said, the war was actually going pretty well ’til that event took place It was immediately followed by these massive purges, including some of the best people got pushed to the side and it took years to recover from that And as far as Laos, yeah I agree And Michael I know mentions the comments we’ve seen from the North Vietnamese side that they were terrified of this option, and that would have really undone everything they were trying to do And one of the things, too, I point out, there’s several different sources from different sides that all, in about ’64, ’65, they all said three or five American divisions could block the Ho Chi Minh Trail Later when you get to Operation El Paso in 1968, planners said you could do it with two divisions, just the First Calvary and the ARVN airborne So it was certainly feasible Again, maybe not ended the war, but it certainly would have allowed us to fight under very different conditions that would be advantageous to us – Let me just add something on Diem Because he was hated by many Americans who thought he was just an American puppet If you read the Pentagon Papers you find out he was nowhere near a puppet He stood up to the Americans We said you’re gonna face a Korean-style invasion over the 17th Parallel, so you need a big American-style army And Diem said, no I’m gonna face a guerrilla war, I need a smaller, more elite counter-guerrilla force We said, if you want money you’re gonna do it our way

So he had to give in to us on that, but he was not an American puppet But the most interesting experience, I talked about Diem, I had dinner with Tran Van Do, who was the State of Vietnam representative at the ’54 Geneva Conference and Vietnam’s foreign minister under Diem for a while He and Diem had fought together, they fought against each other politically, but he had the greatest respect for him And that’s what I found for most of the South Vietnamese that I met who had known him But I was driving back from My Tho to Saigon in one evening with Bui Cong Tuong, sitting next to me in the front seat of my Chevy suburban that belonged to the embassy And just out of curiosity I asked him, what did you think of Diem? Bui Cong Tuong was, in my view probably the most important political defector in the entire war He was the head of education and cultural, propaganda and training for what they called Ben Tre province, we called it Thuan Hoa Province That’s where the revolution allegedly began And he said, “When we heard on the radio “that Diem had been killed, “we thought it must be some sort of a trick, “for surely the Americans would not be foolish enough “to allow anything to happen to Ngo Dinh Diem.” He said, “We senior communist party members “viewed him in the same camp as we did Ho Chi Minh, “as a great Vietnamese patriot “But because he would not accept the party’s leadership, “we had to use our propaganda apparatus “to denounce him as a puppet,” and so forth, but in fact he said, he was very respected Not in the least corrupt, although his brother was, and a real patriot Was not a Jeffersonian democrat He was a little bit weirder in some ways He did hire his relatives John Kennedy hired his relatives But he was a genuine patriot who was respected, and even the leading French scholars during their period there, wrote about him for his competence, his integrity So he was a good guy, and when part of our problem was the Brahman Henry Cabot Lodge, US ambassador from Boston could not stand the idea that this local president somehow thought he was superior to the American Proconsul who was used to giving orders for Asians to follow And the fact that Diem stood up and said, “I appreciate your advice, I appreciate your help, “but I am the President of the Republic of Vietnam, “and I will decide what we do and what we need.” Lodge could not stand that and they plotted to overthrow him And it was, in my view, and Bill Colby shared this with me I talked to him and he said it was perhaps the most serious blunder of the entire war – There have been a couple of questions about whether this presentation will be available, or whether the slides will be available There is going to be produced a video of this morning’s presentations, then that’s up to AVVBA So someone there can talk about it later, perhaps, but it will become available at some point in time – We’ll told them we’ll have it posted up on YouTube or something But if there’s enough interest, we can make it available – Yeah, its even condensing it down with the breaks and everything, you’re talking about two and a half hours of talking, and you’re not gonna put two and a half hours up on a YouTube thing It would have to be in sections I’m hoping to get a really nice DVD out of it that could be distributed to schools and maybe get used, if we can get it to anywhere We would send it to some colleges, but then they would probably trash it, of course (audience laughing) So that’s that one Okay – The slides themselves can be put up Yeah, on a website somewhere, if somebody wants to do that, I certainly have no objection and I’ll give ’em a copy – Yeah, Dr. Turner’s slides are on the VVFH website So if you go to WWW.VVFH, Victor Victor Foxtrot Hotel, I still remember (audience laughing) ORG, you can find your way to that stuff Question for Dr. Kort, when the B-52s went into the North in December, were they subject to kinds of restrictions that the other aircraft had been subject to? I think we know the answer to that, but– – Yeah, President Nixon removed most of the restrictions And so in the words of one of the two, there are two generals named Palmer who wrote books on Vietnam I’m trying to remember which was which,

as one of them said, Linebacker II wasn’t Rolling Thunder, it was war (audience laughing) And I think, and as we end, and there’s one other thing I might say It’s not part of the question Linebacker II suffered from accusations that it was indiscriminate bombing that killed many civilians, et cetera, et cetera But if you go to one of the people I cited in my talk this morning, Mr. Turley, who again was an orthodox historian, he will tell you that it wasn’t that at all That every effort was made to hit the military targets that were important and that given the scale of the bombing and everything else, it took extraordinarily few civilian casualties And I think its important to be aware of that, that the effort to avoid civilian casualties continued even when the restrictions that made things so difficult in having an effective bombing campaign were finally removed – Let me comment on that The actual number given by the authorities in Hanoi of civilians killed during the bombing between Hanoi and Haiphong was something like 1,500 – There were antiwar people in Hanoi at the time from American who tried to talk them into claiming tens of thousands of fatalities In fact, it was an incredibly low number of fatalities, 1,400 and some odd by their official count And not all of those were the result of American bombing Every time you fire a SAM missile in the air and miss, something called gravity plays a role, and it comes down to the ground and blows up, and people can be killed But we really went out of our way, ’cause every military operation has restrictions on it There’s something called the Law of Armed Conflict, you cannot intentionally target civilian targets, for example And we tried very hard to avoid that in both North and South Vietnam Indeed, the Saigon representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross sent a letter to General Westmoreland in 1966, after Westmoreland had said we were going to give the full protections of the third Geneva POW convention to all Vietcong members, other than those captured while committing acts of terrorism We were gonna give them the full protection of the conventions, which they did not even arguably qualify for And the Saigon rep of the ICRC said never in the history of warfare has a country gone to greater efforts to protect the rights of their enemies So all this crap about we were routinely committing war crimes and bombing civilians and so forth, it’s BS Now one reason the casualties were so low, is Hanoi had a pretty good air defense system They had little spider holes in the sidewalk, basically, and when the siren went off, you crawled down in them and pulled the cover over you, and if it’s not a direct hit, you walk free an hour later But we really tried very hard to comply with all the laws of Armed Conflict And My Lai was worse than you read about, but it was really an exception There were some war crimes Anytime you take 2.7 million people and take ’em to a foreign country where Grandma’s not there to grab ’em by the ear if they misbehave, you’re gonna get some people who misbehave You’re gonna get some rapists, you’re gonna get some people who just gratuitously murder people And we court marshaled a number of people for such crimes, but it was never our policy to cover up war crimes or not to comply fully with the Law of Armed Conflict – Just for interesting statistics, we hit a town in Germany, – [Man] Dresden – Dresden, with a quarter of the tonnage we dropped on Hanoi and Haiphong and killed over 30,000 people That was carpet bombing, okay? What went on in Hanoi and Haiphong was the direct opposite, of taking enormous pains What was interesting was they were trying to sell some French journalist how terrible the bombing was, and they drove them down to show them a destroyed military installation Across the street from it was a bunch of apartment buildings They had their windows blown out, but they were untouched And the French were like, wait a second,

we’ve seen bombing damage in France from World War II, this doesn’t look anything like that The tour got cut short right after that Another question, let’s see Oh, this is one for Dr. Kort again “Your book, Vietnam War Reexamined “has high intellectual honesty and balance “How has it been received in today’s academic community?” (audience laughing) – There’ve been a, I haven’t yet encountered the vitriol that Mark did, but that’s because I don’t think the book contains any of the revelations that Mark presented when he wrote his book But one review, quite uncivil Another that at least was civil, disagreeing And largely for other places, what they do is largely just ignore it So that’s basically been the reception in academia – There is a question that was for anybody, which I think I can probably answer “In your knowledge and opinion, “do you believe the US is doing well “in the humanitarian mission of recovering personnel “in Vietnam, why or why not?” I’m involved in this because I know a number of POWs who have been involved in this, and we’ve talked about it at length If the question is, did we get all of our POWs back at the end of the war? The answer is absolutely not, we did not get everybody back, there’s no question The question is, how many did we not get back? There are people who say there’s 1,200 and I’m afraid that’s nonsense There’s not 1,200 people that were alive and left behind There were certainly some number between 40 and maybe 80 or 90 or 100 that we didn’t get back We know of, during the Linebacker bombing, one of the B-52s came down and the entire crew was captured, and they showed up at one of the POW camps where one of the POWs I know saw them He saw the entire crew, which is like 12 or 13 guys And the next day they were gone, and they were never heard from again, they were never listed as being captured And what everybody believes is they were sent to Russia someplace where they would interrogate them about how B-52s worked So we didn’t get everybody back Interestingly enough, we didn’t get everybody back in Korea, most people knew that, and the Korean POW Family Association, when the negotiations were going on, tried to tell our negotiators, whatever you do, don’t just take these people at their word, bargain much more carefully and get lists of names and who is really there and all this good stuff And they were ignored because everybody was in a hurry to get it over and done with So they accepted what Hanoi told them, and they took the people that we got, and I’m glad we got them all back But there’s no question we didn’t get everybody back And at this point in time, we’re never gonna know the full truth, at least not that I can tell We have been getting the bodies back more and more, they cooperated with that Of course they cooperated with that because they basically sell them back to us Because I knew guys who were on the teams going in to look at the stuff and they do these things like, you have to hire a bunch of Vietnamese laborers to help you You pay them $50 a day The government pays them $5 a day You have to rent Soviet helicopters to take your people some place You pay thousands of dollars for the Soviet helicopter to take your guys some place that are part of the background cost of the government Okay, so it’s a money raising scheme for them, but we have been getting more and more remains back And a lot of stuff was lies There were people that they said they hadn’t captured One of my classmates who had disappeared, they said they hadn’t captured him Later on they got his body back and he had been processed and embalmed by the North Vietnamese They had him the whole time, and just didn’t admit that they ever had him until they gave his body back So no, we haven’t got everybody back We’ve tried fairly hard Not hard enough I think it’s kind of scandalous that both two of our senators, who I will not name right now, were part of, I said I wasn’t gonna name ’em, I’m glad you did (audience laughing) Were part of legislation that said, we’re gonna close the books on this stuff and not go anywhere with it So the sad news is, we didn’t get all our guys back and it pains me to think of, whether it was 40 or 80 Americans who, I believe by now are long dead, who suffered total despair and died in Russia or Cuba or somewhere else

But that’s just the way it is, and it’s a tragedy, okay Trying to find something that’s current Here is a question that I’m not sure who should answer “How corrupt was RVN government, “was that part of the problem “of their not being able to survive? “And secondarily, did we use the Vietnamese traditional “fear of China effectively?” Who wants to field one of those? – I can comment on both of those So on the corruption issue, as Bob mentioned, Diem was widely viewed as being not-corrupt Part of his appeal was that this notion of being an aesthetic father figure, he also didn’t marry, and that supported that Ho Chi Minh cultivated that, and we have sensed learned he actually had a couple wives that he tried to keep secret But it was a premium in Vietnamese society for having that appearance of somebody who is not rewarding themselves through public funds Now there are different views in Vietnam, as in much of the world, what we view as corruption isn’t necessarily quite the same People also like point out, Lyndon Johnson was a pretty corrupt fellow himself So we sometimes overlook the corruption in our own society There were certainly others, and I think to some extent it’s inevitable whenever the US pours huge amounts of money into another country, there’s gonna be corruption There was, now one thing that’s interesting to point out, too Some of the Vietnamese who were corrupt, were also very good fighters, but some of them were not They did clean up their act, I think, towards the end as our presence declined One thing, too, I wanna mention and this came up to some degree earlier, but in terms of the quality of the ARVN and their leadership, there was, there were several coups, a series of coups in Vietnam thereafter, if you were the Chief of State, you had to think about who was gonna be loyal to you in a coup, and that would sometimes undermine efficiency What I would point out, too, and I’m guessing there’s some Civil War buffs here, but if you look at our own Civil War This is more on the northern side, so I’m not sure if this resonates as much in Georgia, but in the North one of the things you always hear complaints about is the political generals Lincoln was appointing these politicians who were not good generals to leadership positions And he did that to get support from the states So it’s also something inherent in a civil war One other point I wanna make about ARVN, since it came up So by 1968, they had lowered the draft age in South Vietnam If you look on a per capita basis, the South Vietnamese Armed Forces in 1968 are equal to US Armed Forces at 18 million troops, which is one and a half times what we put together in World War II So they certainly went all the way forward in terms of mobilizing their country In the China-Vietnam part, one of the points I make in Triumph Forsaken is that, we have exaggerated the historical animosity between China and Vietnam And if you look back in history, for 1,000 years prior to the Vietnam War, there’s only three wars between China and Vietnam And those were basically instigated by the Vietnamese And for the most part, there’s actually a lot of agreement and cooperation And when the French come in, in the late 19th Century, they actually appeal to China for help because they are a vassal of China, and China comes in and fights the French and then loses But if you look at Ho Chi Minh’s early career, he’s also very close to the Chinese And I think the falling out between China and Vietnam has a lot to do with the Vietnam War, because as we intensified the war, that the Vietnamese had to rely increasingly on the Soviets ’cause they had the advanced anti aircraft weaponry, among other things And so you see a falling out starting in the late ’60s But I think we shouldn’t assume that this is an inevitable fact Right now this is a big issue, too, because I think there’s a lot of people counting on us using Vietnam as a counterweight to China

I’m not sure we can count on that, especially as you mentioned, Vietnam is not a free society They’re not South Korea or Indonesia, and so we need to be careful And I think it’s certainly possible that they could turn depending on who is in charge Ho Chi Minh throughout his life was pro-Chinese, but he dies in ’69, and he, Le Duan by this time has taken over and he’s much less amenable to China So again, China right now is very aggressive in cultivating the elites of Southeast Asia They’re doing a lot of what we used to do more of, which is bring those people to China on scholarships to increase their sympathy for China So we have to be, now hopefully we can get Vietnam to be a bulwark against China, but I don’t think we can assume it’s inevitable – I have a question from one of our Vietnamese guests I’m gonna throw this out to all three of you “Did the US purposefully abandon South Vietnam “and let the Vietcong take over the country? “Why withdraw and give up at the last minute? “Would the outcome have been different “if the US had stayed a lot longer?” I have some opinions about that– – I hate to sound like Bill Clinton and say it depends on the definition of US (audience laughing) But I think Nixon deserves praise for his efforts to save South Vietnam There was a time when a lot of American officials felt like the effort was lost And so we should cut our losses There were a number of people who, for reasons of moral courage, said no to that, and Richard Nixon was one of them Another one was Graham, US Ambassador to Saigon, Graham Martin who was a good friend of mine I was actually in the embassy in the final days when Graham came out of his office and saw I was out there and said come in for a minute And for about 45 minutes he unloaded me on all the pressure he was under to abandon South Vietnam Now Graham had lost a son in Vietnam, and he cared about it But he was also a very moral, he was a Southern gentleman He was from South Carolina, I believe And he was not going to abandon South Vietnam He delayed the evacuation of Americans and took great criticism for it because he felt that when he did that, it would seal the fate of the South Vietnamese He wanted to give them some chance to try to negotiate some sort of deal I have Vietnamese and American veteran friends who feel like Nixon totally betrayed Thieu He didn’t have any choice, Congress controls the purse strings Congress, the election of 1972 brought to power a lot of people that might not have been able to spell Vietnam or find it on an outlined map of the world, but they knew it was evil and we wanted to cut our ties with it and bring our boys home, and so forth And they ultimately had the votes They cut the aid back dramatically, they prohibited the use of any US troops Now my professional field for the last 32 years has been National Security Law I have written multiple books about the War Powers Resolution And I wrote a 1,700 page doctoral thesis on national security and the Constitution And it goes back to the early debates on this I don’t think Congress had the power to do what they did They had every right to deny new funds, but to pass a law saying you can’t use funds we’ve already appropriated, that interferes with the command, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly said belongs exclusively to the Commander in Chief, to the President But I think there were some great people at the end who with courage stood up and tried to prevent what happened from happening But there were also a lot of people who said, hey the orders have changed, salute, and screw the Vietnamese I hate to use that language, but that’s essentially what it was and it was tragic I was there at the end, I watched Americans make promises and then go to the airport and fly back to the states My Vietnamese interpreter, Nguyen Van Qui, was dying of cancer in their what used to be Third Field Hospital, you all remember, was the Seventh Day Adventist hospital, (speaking foreign language) and I went in to see him one day, and the doctors came and they said, well we’ll see you in the morning And he went to the airport and flew home Everywhere I turned, some Americans were betraying Vietnamese who had relied upon us USIA told their Vietnamese employees to assemble at a certain park in Saigon

where rescue helicopters would be there to take them to ships Instead, the Americans went to a different park and were evacuated So I think the final days were, call it Black Sunday or Black April or whatever you want, it was one of the few times in my life when I felt shame to be an American And I think that story needs to be told, but I think a lot of people tried very hard to carry out our promises to the Vietnamese And there were some people who served very bravely at the end trying to get out everybody they could I brought out the wife of a friend of mine, who was the Public Affairs Officer for the embassy, and a Vietnamese woman I had worked with who had a Masters Degree from Michigan State and I knew she’d do fine And I said she was my fiancee And as soon as I got to a refugee camp, I pulled up my US Senate ID card, and I said I need to go back to Saigon I was gonna bring another fiancee out I figured, my government was betraying, (audience laughing) my government was betraying its word, I was gonna betray mine, too And they told me, “Sir, they’re evacuating the last people “by helicopters as we speak “Nobody’s going back.” And I still feel guilty that I couldn’t do more I tried hard I went back during the orphan lift, because the governor of Michigan, I was working for a Michigan senator, and the governor of Michigan declared an open door policy and said, “Any orphans “you can bring back from Indochina, “we will find homes for.” And I talked to Graham Martin and I said, look, we’ve got flights full of rice going into Phnom Penh every morning Let me go in there and fill them up with orphans and bring them back And I found a group of stewardesses, cabin attendants they call ’em today, who knew how to change diapers and feed formula, and they said, “We will go with you “and take care of the babies and the kids to do that.” And I still have a telegram the embassy sent to Phnom Penh saying “Robert Turner Staff Aid to Senator Griffin “wants to come to Phnom Penh to explore possibility “of rescuing orphans.” I also have a hand written note from George Jacobson saying, “Mr. Turner, not possible to travel “to Phnom Penh at this time “Will explain later.” I immediately walked over to the embassy and as I turned the corner, there was a Saigon Post, you know one of those little mama-san stands with all the newspapers Banner headline, Phnom Penh Falls Two days later, Khmer Rouge begins the Killing Fields And I still have trouble when I go to graduation and an Asian student walks across the stage, and I think about the hundreds of kids we might have gotten out of Cambodia that might be doing that in the United States today It breaks my heart (audience applauding) But you know, lot of bad things happened at the end I wasn’t smart enough soon enough But anyway, a lot of people fought hard at the end to save South Vietnam I think Jerry Ford was one of ’em I think Nixon was one of ’em I think Graham Martin was one of ’em And these people will always be heroes to me, despite the faults they had Nobody’s perfect, but there were people who just said hey, we have marching orders Yeah, screw the Vietnamese, let’s go home And to their credit, there were a good number of people who wouldn’t buy that, and I’m proud of ’em – Well Del gave me the stage, so I am gonna preemptively make you guys a promise We’ve only got a half hour left for questions and there’s no way we can get through them all So I will promise you that I will put all the rest of the questions up on our website And the answers, too, of course (audience laughing) Here’s an interesting one for you guys I don’t know if you can answer this or not “What can any of the speakers tell us “about Operation Popeye seeding clouds “to make it remain more to hamper NVA VC operations?” – So I can talk about that This is part of the debate over the Ho Chi Minh Trail The military had been repeatedly pushing to put US ground forces into Laos, and every time they tried to do that, the US Ambassador in Laos, William Sullivan started screaming bloody murder and coming up with every reason under the sun

why we shouldn’t do that Yeah, we had this neutralization agreement, which the North Vietnamese never respected We pulled our troops out in ’62 They were supposed to pull theirs, they didn’t So this drove the military crazy, justifiably Never fully comprehended why Sullivan actually did this He claimed that there was benefit to having the Laotian government on our side I don’t really think that’s true, ’cause their armed forces were almost nonexistent I mean the good fighters were working for the CIA at the time So anyway, this came up during one of the iterations of the Joint Chiefs calling for heightened bomb, or for excuse me ground operations in Laos Sullivan came back, there was Popeye and the other one was, I think, Commando Lava And together these chemicals would, they’d induce rain and then they’d turn the roads to mud, and he said, if we do this we’re gonna gum up the Ho Chi Minh trail We don’t need to put force in because we have these chemicals And I think at the end of his telegram when he talks about this, he says, “Make mud, not war.” So anyway, so those programs were, they were used to some extent but they never achieved that purpose of stopping traffic on the Ho Chi Minh Trail The North Vietnamese had built all-weather roads because they’d always had problems with the rainy season and mud So it was a gimmick that did not achieve a strategic purpose – Just as a reference, by the end of the war, I know that Hoi Tran was one of the pilots we knew, who a Southeast pilot, and they were bombing Ho Chi Minh Trail and they would find convoys of 200 trucks at a time going down the trail And there were photographs of a truck park in North Vietnam that had 5,000 trucks in it People think that we spent way too much money in Vietnam The Russians and the Chinese spent a great deal of money in Vietnam And whether you measure it by dollars or not, if you measure it against their gross national products, they may have spent more money than we did But they supplied thousands of trucks, 1,500 tanks at least, many hundred pieces of artillery, better than anything we got the South Vietnamese Oceans of fuel, millions of uniforms, millions of AK-47s Just incredibly amounts of supply, more than we ever left to the South So they invested well, and as Bob Sorley once said, in a sense the bad news was that the Russians were more consistent, faithful allies than we were Question here, “Has any research shown “that JFK wanted to avoid putting more troops in Vietnam “and was opposed by the State Department, “in particular his ambassador?” – On the periphery of that, we have the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, which is a center that does a lot of oral histories on presidents and so forth They have an interview with Bobby Kennedy, the attorney general, shortly, and Kennedy’s closest advisor, shortly before his death And they asked him, it has been said that President Kennedy was planning on pulling US Troops out of Vietnam after the election, is that true? Response, no I think if Kennedy had been secretly planning to abandon his commitment, his brother would have known about it And so there are a lot of pro-Kennedy people who came up with this line, this fantasy, oh Kennedy wasn’t gonna allow Vietnam to go on If he had lived he would have ended it all And I don’t see any reason to believe that’s true Kennedy was dedicated to Vietnam Kennedy as a Senator in 1956 had given a major speech to the American friends of Vietnam talking about Vietnam basically being the keystone to the Archway or something The finger in dyke, if you will, and it was imperative for us to stand up against communism in Vietnam And I just can’t imagine that he would have abandoned that view The assassination if you will of Ngo Dinh Diem was mostly engineered by some rather low level people in the State Department, Roger Hilsman and a few others They went to Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State, and said the President has already approved this And that’s how they got Acheson to sign off They went to the President and basically said, Acheson is recommending this,

and he went along with it And when the coup took place, and Kennedy was briefed, was told in the Oval Office Diem has been killed, people said his face turned red and he had to leave the room I was never a big Kennedy fan, but I think he was a decent man who understood the threat of communism He knew Diem, both were of course Catholics He had been introduced to Diem by it was Cardinal Spellman And he wanted to see South Vietnam safe To his credit, Kennedy understood that we were going to face an unconventional warfare challenge and he beefed up the special forces My last army assignment before I went to Vietnam was working directly for Lieutenant General Billy Yarborough William Yarborough, who had created its special forces under Kennedy, and we spent a lot of time talking about Vietnam and other things He was the only flag officer I ever met who I thought really understood unconventional warfare We remained lifelong friends ’til he died in 2005 But I think Kennedy basically was right on this I think he had some people around him who resented the face that this little guy thought he was the President of Vietnam instead of the subordinate to the American Proconsul And I think I blame Henry Cabot Lodge for a lot of things that went wrong The ambassador before Lodge, Fritz Nolting, was a colleague of mine when I taught in the UVA was now the politics department, and we were good friends And he was totally cut out of the loop because he was too pro-Diem He had the greatest respect for Diem, and then they brought in Lodge and the young Turks in the State Department said, “Let’s get rid of Diem,” and that almost lost us the war – Can I comment on that? So I’d say two things, one, Kennedy, when he comes into office there’s less than 1,000 Americans there He increases that number to 16,000 and he talks repeatedly of why Vietnam is so important And he specifically says he screwed up the Bay of Pigs, he screwed up Laos, he needs a success somewhere So he is definitely committed on those grounds The other thing I’d say is, if you fast forward to 1965 and what Kennedy would have faced, there is enormous pressure from other countries in Asia for American intervention This is something that often gets lost, but you have pretty much every country in Southeast Asia saying, if you leave Vietnam, the whole region is going You even have the US Ambassador to Japan is saying Japan is gonna go So I can’t imagine Kennedy just pulling out in ’65 – “There’s an interesting rumor that the Unites States “rejected a communist Vietnamese surrender “during the 1972 Haiphong Port blockade “Is that a myth?” My best guess is, but I’ll let one of you answer – [Robert] Never heard of it – Pardon me? – [Robert] I’ve never heard of it – Yeah, I’ve never heard of it either But second question is, “Was Watergate the main cause “that democratic control of Congress passed the law “to force the US to stop aiding South Vietnam.” – [Mark] Dr. Kort hasn’t answered anything for a long time – Okay no, Congress hated Richard Nixon He was not part of the in-crowd, he almost always needed a shave, and he was determined to defend South Vietnam They, many in Congress wanted to see South Vietnam go down I mean it was sad I admit I spent five years working in the Senate, including the last two years of the war, and in the Reagan Administration I was the acting Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Spent a lot of time up on the hill dealing with senators and so forth They did not understand at all what Vietnam was about They were visited left and right by antiwar groups They would go home and give speeches and some hippie would stand up and say, “Why are you killing babies?” And they just wanted to get rid of it They didn’t understand it, they had no love for Nixon, and the reason they were, you may have heard in the last months that Nixon was impeached It’s not true, the House was preparing to impeach him when Nixon resigned Ironically, my boss, Senator Griffin played the, I think a decisive role in Nixon’s decision I was in the office on Saturday for my own reasons, and a woman, one of the typists,

was exchanging faxes with the senator who was back in Michigan And she came running into my office and said, “Look at this.” And the text said, “It’s my opinion “that the President will be impeached by the House.” And he had put a little caret under just before that and said, “If he does not choose to resign, “the House will impeach him.” And the Monday morning or Monday afternoon, Washington Star had a banner headline, Griffin to Nixon: Resign Now I didn’t see anybody mention the fact that my boss Bob Griffin and Vice President Jerry Ford were best friends They had been neighboring congressman for years, and I have often wondered if Griffin was motivated by the fact that let’s replace Nixon with my best friend But at any rate, (audience laughing) had there been no Vietnam War, I don’t think Nixon would have been impeached They were angry at him for not letting them control the war, for continuing the war when they thought we should abandon the Vietnamese And again, I think Nixon was not perfect, he used some bad language Not nearly as much as LBJ did, but I think he was a man of honor who felt it was important not to allow the communists to win, and he fought very hard and in the process he really offended members of Congress And they wanted his scalp So I don’t think that what Watergate did, and by the way, I knew a guy who was a senior player in the Nixon Whitehouse who told me that they had information that Cuba was providing funds to the Democratic National Committee And the reason they broke into the Watergate headquarters was to try to find evidence of that And they bungled it, and the alarm went off, a cop found an unlocked door, and that led to the whole Watergate Scandal I never saw a bit of evidence that Nixon approved of it, authorized it, or anything else, but he did cover it up He did try to protect his people He thought that Eisenhower had been wrong when he, one of Ike’s aids, except that it was called a Vicuna coat, some sort of a fur coat Sherman was his name, I think Sherman Adams, and Nixon felt that Ike should have protected him And he tried to protect his staff from the plumbers, and that’s what was going to lead to his impeachment There’s no question, the votes were in the House to impeach him, but the House never voted because he resigned first But Watergate was a convenient excuse to go after him, but the real underlying reason they were outraged over his efforts in Vietnam when they were trying to abandon Vietnam And his secret bombing, the Presidents have conducted bombings for years without telling Congress Not one person in Congress was told, we’re going in on D-Day, which was why we won at D-Day (audience laughing) But anyway, I’m sorry go ahead There was a second part to that – [Del] No the first part was that legend, which we did not believe – [Robert] Oh no, I’ve never heard of it – Simple question, “Are there any female authors “of books on Vietnam?’ There’s only one I know if, a nurse? – [Robert] Frankie Fitzgerald, she wrote Fire in the Lake – Yeah, there’s Fire in the Lake by some person which we don’t care for And there was a nurse, [Lynda Van] Daventor? – [Man] Ms. Hang – Yeah, I was gonna say, she was not a, she was too young to be in the war, but yes Lien-Hang, the book “Hanoi’s War” is quite good Is there something else you wanted? – Yeah, there’s not many war books by women – Going back to the ’60s in terms of reporters there, there was a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, Marguerite Higgins, and yes Very, very good book She died very young and her book’s been forgotten, and that’s very unfortunate It makes very good reading – Yeah, and also Ellen Hammer, “Death in November”, yes, is also an excellent book on the coup – Yeah Ellen Hammer did at least two – “Death in November” – “Our Vietnam Nightmare” – Yeah, yeah, and she was great She was really a, I’m trying to find a nice way to say what I’m thinking, but she was more manly than a lot of the guys over there (audience laughing) She would go anywhere, she was gutsy, she stood up She was pursuing the truth and in the best tradition,

I think she was one of the best journalists we had in Vietnam in the entire war – I bet if you did a search for quote female authors and unquote, Vietnam, names would start coming up Here’s a question, and we were just talking about the other night, “When military advisors “ignored by Johnson, why didn’t the military Joint Chiefs “have the courage to resign in protest?” Well we’ve had a long discussion about that because a lot of us thought they should have, and other people have written books saying they should have And the answer is apparently that they thought about it and decided that they would do more good if they tried to stay in their jobs and maybe talk LBJ into being more sensible, which didn’t work out well at all Personally, as I voiced my opinion last night, it takes a lot of nerve to sit there and say I’m a General or a Joint Chief of Staff and I’m resigning now and ending my career And I think they were partially just too chicken to do it I wish they had, they might have done some good – Yeah, I talked to Charlie Cooper Charlie was, I think he retired as a three star, but at least a two star Marine – [Man] Three star! – I thought so, but as a Major, he was an aide to General Wheeler, The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and they had been insisting on meeting with the President They went over, Charlie’s job was to carry a map of Vietnam on a plywood board and put it on an easel that was supposed to be in the Oval Office He got in the Oval Office, there was no easel LBJ said, you can stand over there and hold the map So he was a fly on the wall And he claims that LBJ very cordially greeted all of the Chiefs, said “What can I do for you?” and the Chairman said, “Mr. President, “we feel strongly we are totally “mishandling the Vietnam War “We need to be more firm,” so forth and so on McNamara’s cutting everything back And he said LBJ then said, “Well Wallace Greene, “the Commandant of the Marine Corps, “Now, General do you agree with this?” And he went to the others And then he turned his back on them for several seconds, and he turned around and exploded in profanity, saying they were trying to cause World War III and they could get out of his blanking office, and just he was a famous bully But he bullied these guys, and as they rode back in the car to the Pentagon, they discussed resigning, and they finally decided if we resign, he will appoint yes-men, and our ability to change things will, it would be cowardice for us to abandon this position now and let him turn it over to yes-men And so they decided to stay I don’t know if that was the right decision or not I’ve studied this I wrote, sorry, Charlie Cooper gave me a copy of a letter he had received from Admiral McDonald, the Chief of Naval Operations one of the Joint Chiefs And it said, “I read your article, “you got it exactly right, thanks for telling it.” I sent a letter to Wallace Greene, the Commandant of the Marine Corps I got a very shaky letter back on my letter responding and he said, “Forgive my bad handwriting, “I’ve recently had a stroke “But I was there, and everything he says “in this article is true.” And Wallace Greene had a tremendous reputation as a man of integrity I talked to HR McMaster when he was a major, and he said I can’t prove it, but I believe it happened And one last thing, Drew Pearson or Jack Anderson, had a column later that month saying the Joint Chiefs had tried to pressure the President into starting World War III So to me the Whitehouse certainly leaked the story Nobody can document the meeting, but I think it happened – Here’s a comment, we talked about the other day “There’s been a legend going around that “Dean Rusk or someone was always telling the Swedes “or the Swiss, depending on which legend you’ve heard, “about the oncoming bombing plans “so that they could pass it on to Hanoi “so that they would avoid civilian casualties.” And that come under the heading of bull puckey, I think Or something along those lines We had a long discussion about that, I don’t know if anyone wants to comment But the bottom line is, none of us believe that Good, trying to get through some more (audience laughing) We’re running out of time here, so I’m just trying to get through a few more questions while we can Let’s see

This one I think has been answered, “Was the Gulf of Tonkin Incident really happened “or was it, what was the truth?” There is no question that the Maddox was attacked There’s no question whatsoever There were bullet holes, there were recordings And for that matter, in the War Museum in Hanoi, there was for a period of time a torpedo tube displayed I’ve seen pictures of it, with pictures of the Naval officers above it who got medals for attacking the Maddox – Yeah, that’s absolutely clear and when McNamara went to Hanoi, I think it was in ’99, General Vo Nguyen Giap confirmed the first attack occurred The second attack, there was strong evidence it occurred My current view is it probably did not occur, but I have spoken to people who were on the Turner Joy who have sworn to me it happened And I don’t question their sincerity at all The question is, it was relatively primitive sonar, so they could have been interpreting wake from the other American destroyer as being from a boat, and it was a high phosphorus content that I’ve been in the North Sea And you see trails, like almost a luminescence that might easily be seen to be torpedo trails And so I don’t know if the second one occurred But one thing that is absolutely certain is it was reported to Washington as if it had occurred, and we also know that when the first attack was reported, LBJ’s response was let’s not over-react Maybe this was just a freelancing skipper We don’t wanna, you know? And when the second one occurred, he says, “We have to act.” And so they bombed But the most important thing is, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution had very little to do with those minor exchanged in the Gulf of Tonkin It had to do with an effort that Hanoi started May 19, 1959 to overthrow its neighbor by force If you read The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, it talks about this long campaign to overthrow South Vietnam We went to war in South Vietnam for the same reason we went to war in Korea, to stop communist aggression And whether or not, neither or both attacks occurred, there’s no evidence that they were staged There is considerable proof that at one point NSA realized that one of their interpreters had mistranslated an intercepted document and a major and somebody below him decided to cover it up They didn’t want to get in trouble for it That’s not some government scheme to lie to the people or anything like that So we didn’t need that attack to justify going to the aid of South Vietnam They were being attacked regularly December 24th of that same year, of ’64, they blew up much of the Brinks, was it Brinks BOQ? A VC dressed as a South Vietnamese officer drove into the Brinks compound with a car bomb, said he was looking for major something or other, who they happened to know had just rotated and gone back to the States They said, oh, we don’t see, he didn’t answer You know, whatever, told him to park it and they’d lead him out It blew up, it killed a bunch of people There were front page photographs of bloodied Americans If we needed an excuse, the blowing up of American plays There were all sorts of incidents, if we needed that straw that broke the camel’s back But the Gulf of Tonkin was not a major part of the Vietnam War, it was just one incident – Separate question, “How open has the existing government “in Vietnam been in providing history about the war “or access to their archives?” We know that there’s been some access and you could talk about that – They’ve allowed very limited access to the Western researchers that have gone in I have seen very little to come out that would be of strategic interest But most, they have published quite a bit They published something called Party Documents that has a lot of information about their strategic decision making They have pushed a lot of unit histories, division histories, other battle histories And in varying degrees of usefulness, but in terms of actual documents, like if you think of our foreign relations series it has meetings of National Security Council and memos between the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense I don’t think anything of that sort really

has come out and I don’t know that we’ll see it for quite a long time – By the way, related to that just real quickly, there was a brief period where the Russians allowed Western scholars into the archives to get KGB materials, and you know who the scholar is The man at Hopkins – [Mark] Steven Morris – Yeah, Steven Morris, who was originally, I think, an Australian, got access to a lot of that And it’s fascinating, but then they tightened it up – And the Chinese let some things out A lot of them can be viewed on the Cold War International History Project website I don’t know that anyone has actually written the story of that, but my sense is they published those to make the Vietnamese look bad Because most of it is meetings between the Vietnamese and the Chinese So I think they’ve been trying to shape the history of that – By the way, quickie, one of the questions was “How did that girl react when I talked to her “about the Pledge of Allegiance?” And the answer was, she said, “Thank you very much, “but I’m sticking to my convictions.” There’s a Biblical quote that goes, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” I did my best However, other kids in the room heard my discussion So it did some good, it got spread around a little bit Next, we’re running out of time here Next question for Dr. Kort, “Can you elaborate on the revisionist thinking “that a blockade of North Vietnam “would not have caused the Soviets “or Chinese to enter the war?” Yeah Can we justify the idea that blockading North Vietnam would not have caused the Chinese or Russians to enter the war – One thing I can cite is an interview, I F Stone had an article interviewing Mao And Mao repeatedly said that he was not, that China was not going to get involved in fighting like this unless the United Stated invaded China and attacked China So there is also the matter of, Mark has written about this, as well, and so have other people that for China, they didn’t wanna get entangled with the United States They wanted to keep things limited Some of the Asian scholars, which I didn’t mentioned their names, report that Mao, the Chinese told the Vietnamese unless China is attacked, you guys are going to have to deal with this without our troops So there seems to be, again, there was always that possibility and you always had to consider it, but as a number of people have said, the risk seems to have been quite low – We also did experiment with it December of ’72, we shut down Haiphong Harbor with mines And the Chinese did nothing and the Russians did nothing except not let their ships go there So pretty good answer – We’re out of time One last question that anybody can comment on What do we think about the fact that Cam Ranh Bay is now a US Navy Port of Call? (audience laughing) – [Man] That’s true! – I don’t see any down side to it at all It gives us access, we need access It promotes a better relationship with the Vietnamese I’m all for that – It is important to note that the official position is that they will never allow Cam Ranh Bay to be an official base of any outside nation I think we’re out of time We have a few more questions left, but I think it’s been a fairly good exchange And thank you everyone for coming, and thanks to the speakers (audience applauding) – We appreciate everybody coming We promised the History Center we’d turn lose of the room at 2:30 ’cause they have a wedding tonight So thank you very much, appreciate your attendance (light electronic music) (radio tuning)