A couple of Vietnam notes ... Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Today is the 40th anniversary of the battle of Hue. While a huge victory for US forces, a huge defeat for the VC and NVA and an foretelling of the murderous nature of the Vietnamese communists, it was spun by the US media as part of an overall defeat for us in what was known as the "Tet offensive".
It is a story well worth reviewing and remembering.
The Marine Corps had not seen this kind of urban fighting since Korea and the recapture of Seoul - and back then they'd been fighting a demoralized enemy in full retreat. In Hue they faced fanatical VC and NVA embedded and fortified with mortars, rockets and heavy machine guns - foes ready to fight to the death.
The Marines had to learn on the job how to charge a house with hand grenades, then douse it room by room with M-16 fire. They discovered how a 106 mm. recoilless rifle could blow a hole through a reinforced wall, so they could storm in under cover of the dust and smoke of the backblast.
Sgt. Alfredo Gonzalez typified the Marines at Hue. Just 21, he took command of A Company when its CO was wounded. For five days, he led his men with the skill and determination that earned him the battle's only Medal of Honor - posthumously.
Others displayed similar tenacity and courage, of course - including the men of Capt. Michael Downs' F Company, Capt. Charles Meadows' G Company and Capt. George Christmas' H Company of 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, along with all the rest. Casualties were so high in 1st Battalion's D Company that all but the most seriously wounded men stayed in the fight.
Though outnumbered from start to finish, the Marines cleared the enemy from the southern and eastern sectors of Hue by Feb. 11. Then they relieved exhausted South Vietnamese troops to retake the city's historic citadel.
That might just as well be a description of the fighting that took place in Fallujah in Iraq. The point being, the Marines then were just as excellent as those we have now, despite the "drug addled murderer" image the press at the time aided and abetted. 147 Marines died in that fight, and 857 were wounded, but 5,000 VC and NVA were KIA by the outnumbered Marines. And in the aftermath, 5,000 civilians were found, teachers, doctors, nurses, businessmen, students, who had been ruthlessly murdered by VC deathsquads.
On another front, the home front, researchers have come across the Army CID investigations of the infamous "Winter Soldier Investigations" in which John Kerry was so heavily involved. They make very interesting reading, but mostly found that the tales told during those three days in Detroit were unsubstantiated by any corroborating accounts or facts.
Douglas Craig claimed at WSI that members of his battalion had fired mortar rounds each night into a local dump, intentionally killing civilians who were scavenging for food. Craig told investigators he had no direct knowledge of these events and expressed misgivings about making allegations in Detroit he could not substantiate.
Donald Donner claimed at WSI that Army personnel had murdered a Vietnamese male, intentionally wounded a 14-year-old Vietnamese girl, indiscriminately slaughtered livestock and failed to bury enemy dead. Donner admitted to the CID that his stories were actually lies, rumors and accounts of accidental events.
All of this to point out that, with the backing of the very same organization that organized the WSI travesty, - the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVWA) - a similar event is to be held from March 13-16 by the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).
Until the sensational allegations they will most assuredly claim to be true are fully investigated, I suggest you take a very skeptical attitude, the same sort of attitude with which the first attempt at this sort of propaganda should have been viewed. Just remember, Jesse McBeth was once a member of the IVAW.
I was in Vietnam last month. On the way to a factory we drove by an old American tank on the side of the road. Meanwhile, their export boom is just starting now. Imagine if they had "lost" - they’d probably be 5 times richer than they are now.
While a huge victory for US forces, a huge defeat for the VC and NVA and an foretelling of the murderous nature of the Vietnamese communists, it was spun by the US media as part of an overall defeat for us in what was known as the "Tet offensive".
It’s great to win battles, but when the US leadership is telling people all is well in Vietnam and haven’t you heard the latest good news from there, then the fact that there is a huge battle, at all, is a defeat for that narative, and its peddlers’ credibility. Winning or loosing is irrelvant if the battle convinces the people that the boss is talking through his hat.
Winning or loosing is irrelvant if the battle convinces the people that the boss is talking through his hat.
That’s kind of the point - he wasn’t talking through his hat, Tet was a decisive victory for the US (it eliminated the VC as a viable combat force) and the only reason it is now considered the way you’ve described it is because that is the way the media spun it.
Tet was a disaster for the communists. Of the 84,000 guerillas in sleeper cells in the South, all blew their cover and fewer than 10,000 escaped death or capture.
The massacre in Hué was largely unreported. In the mass grave scene in Full Metal Jacket, there are 25 bodies. The actual count in Hué and the countryside was 5,800 out of a population of 140,000. It is a great credit to the Marines who retook Hué without indirect artillery or close air support. Rather than flatten the ancient Vietnamese capital, Marines died in urban combat.
In Saigon, 35 VC battalions attacked the presidential palace, ARVN HQ, the US Embassy, Tan Son Nhut airbase and a radio station, from which they planned to call for a popular uprising. Only the radio station was taken, but the South Vietnamese cut the power. The US Embassy fight involved 2 VC officers (killed within seconds of breaching the outer wall) and 17 soldiers who died within 8 hours. None of the communist objectives were achieved.
Fighting was heavy in the Cholon, the Chinese quarter, where most of the press were housed. Of the 168 members of the media, 60 were journalists and perhaps 5 had prior military service. The press were not equipped to ensure their personal safety, much less judge the effectiveness of an infantry engagement. Their reports, with one exception, were universally inaccurate.
After the war, Peter Braestrup, the Washington Post Saigon bureau chief, wondered how the media had missed facts so completely. He collected every tape and article he could and published a book The Big Story to describe why. Braetrup was a marine who fought in Korea before becoming a war correspondent in Algeria and Vietnam. A summary of the book is available here.
The main stream media still have not changed their arrogant and inaccurate ways.
The media didn’t dream up the Success Offensive. The media didn’t go arround saying that the enemey were unable to mount a major offensive, that we’re winning and it’s all down hill from here. Unless you consider Westmoreland part of the media, the media are not the ones responsible for the effects of the Tet Offensive. Try this on for size: We’re winning now, totally winning. I know three years ago the enemy was on the rise but now we’ve got them on the run. They can’t even keep themselves supplied, we’re winning I tell you. What, what’s that? They just launched the biggest opperation of the war yet? But we beat them back, right? So we’re still totally winning. I know, I know. None of what I said in the past six months was true, but this time we’ve got them on the run for sure.
That perception on the part of the American people was not the media’s fault, but the fault of the "good news from Vietnam" brigade.