|Vietnam Veterans of America|
In reference to Marc Leepson’s book review of The Kennedy Withdrawal in the November/December issue, I want to add a few points. For hundreds of years the Vietnamese fought for independence against occupiers, including China, France, and Japan. America financed about 80 percent of France’s bid to recolonize Vietnam after World War II.
France failed, and the Geneva Accords were signed by England and France, and the U.S. did not object. There was supposed to be a national democratic election in 1956, but President Eisenhower canceled the election because Ho Chi Minh would win.
Eisenhower was part of the deal at the end of World War II that put tens of millions of Eastern Europeans under Soviet communism, then advised President Kennedy to do everything possible to save Laos from communism. If Ike had allowed the 1954 election, no one in America would have ever heard of Vietnam; millions of Southeast Asians would not have died; and most of the 58,275 names on The Wall would have had grandchildren.
In 1952 Jack Kennedy toured Asia. In India, he was told if the West supported the status quo in Southeast Asia, the communists would prevail. As president, he decided not to involve America in the Bay of Pigs fiasco. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he avoided the advice of most of his generals who urged him to risk starting a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
LBJ knew that the war in Vietnam was a treadmill, but after accusing Barry Goldwater in his 1964 campaign of being someone who would start a nuclear war, Johnson feared that if he pulled out of Vietnam, he would be attacked as a wimp. Nixon won the 1968 election on a pledge to end the war. But historians learned later that Nixon kept the war going through the 1972 election because he knew the South Vietnamese government would collapse.
CHOICES WERE MADE
After reading Dale Ronning’s letter in the November/December issue of The Veteran, I have a response — we all had choices when the shit hit the fan.
I flunked out of college in 1965 and got my draft notice about two weeks later. I always liked airplanes since I was a kid, so I went to the Air Force recruiter, passed all the tests, and they made me a reciprocating aircraft engine mechanic.
I was an engine mechanic on AC-47 Spooky gunships in Vietnam in 68-69, and worked at night, for 12-16 hours. We also had our share of rocket and mortar attacks. I’ve seen the planes in action, and I know they saved a lot of lives — maybe even Dale’s.
We all had choices. We all raised our right hand and signed the blank check and did what we were told. But we are all brothers — Welcome Home!
Marc Leepson once again gave us a successful “Dispatches” segment with the recent interview of Jan Scruggs. It was a plus that as a journalist for Congressional Quarterly Marc covered Scruggs in the early days and witnessed the battle unfold over the design of The Wall.
I have heard Jan Scruggs speak a number of times, always to an audience, but each time I felt that there was something missing in his account. But that was not the case with your interview. Sitting in front of his home computer, Jan seemed more comfortable and more inclined to acknowledge the diverse team around him who, inspired by his tenacity, pulled together and pushed him across the goal line.
First mentioned was his wife. I have heard very good things about her and was reminded of the old maxim that behind every successful man is a woman. In my view, your interview connected Jan to an audience more effectively than he has with his own speeches. Either way, he is a great American and a central figure among Vietnam veterans.
Those of us who enjoy your ‘Dispatches” web series hope that you never run out of interviewees. Keep it going as long as you can.
Editor's note: Steve Learned is a long time U.S. Park Service Volunteer at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. You can watch the Jan Scruggs Dispatches episode by clickng on "Dispatches" on the right column.
I enjoyed reading the letters about hooch girls. And I concur with Alan Krause’s. FB Snuffy was just a forward firebase without civilian workers and certainly no “hooch girls.”
I arrived at Snuffy on my way out to the bush where I was to replace the medic in Charlie Company 1/12th on March 29, 1970, Easter Sunday. Snuffy was a small airstrip with an artillery detachment of 105mm cannons and associated support. We were there to pull guard duty on the perimeter once or twice. The brass considered that as rest time from patrolling around that area.
A few months later, Charlie Company was sent back to Snuffy to dismantle it. That was quite a mess. We had to cut up all the sandbags, dismantle the wire, and blow all the ordinance. When you blow up the .55-gallon drums of napalm half buried in the ground, you better stay low. It gave a new meaning to the heat of Vietnam.
HOOCHES & BOONIE BOYS
Reading the letters with a smile. That really brought back memories. Some guys had hooch girls and boot polish? Just a two-man tent or a bunker for me, no mess hall either. Just C-rations for many weeks or months. Always 12 meals to a case, and you got one of three cases. After a short time, you’d memorize the menu, and you learned which pack had what. You’d pick and choose your meal, dessert, and snack. Half the meals weren’t edible.
We used our old cans to heat up our food with heat capsules — if you could find them — or a small ball of C-4, or gas from your jeep.
Thanks to the Letters to the Editor, I might otherwise have forgotten some of those memories. Wish I did have a hooch girl, but they didn’t have them in the boonies.
I read the letters about Hooch girls in the last issue. I was amused to read that the Air Force guys at Tay Ninh paid them $2 a week. The girls working for the Army River Patrol Boat unit in Vung Ro Bay were paid a whopping $5 a week. I guess it was just better to work for the Army.
The letters about hooch girls have been interesting. When I first got to FSB Buttons at Song Be, I don’t recall seeing “hooch girls.”
I was kind of surprised to see a couple of Korean guys selling pizzas next to the outdoor theater where you sat on top of bomb shelters to watch a movie. When my unit transferred to Phuc Vinh, there were a lot of hooch girls who washed clothes, cleaned the hooches, and did other things. Since I was infantry, I was out in the field most of the time unless I was in the hospital. But we did come in sometimes for a bit of a rest.
I remember when we were in the field and they would bring us out hot food. Every time they brought us something good to eat, the next day they would send us on a crappy mission. One day they brought ice cream, which we had to eat real fast because it was melting. We all wondered what crappy mission they were going to send us on while we were eating it.
The next day they sent us into Cambodia.
I read Marvin J. Wolf’s letter in the September/October issue about his visit in 1966 to a G-3 tent in Vietnam where he saw a map that appeared to describe how the 1st Cavalry Division could invade North Vietnam and go all the way to Hanoi. Wolf’s comments caught my attention because I heard about these plans while attending a 1st Cavalry Division reunion in 1990.
Gen. Harry Kinnard commanded the 1st Cavalry Division when it was sent to Vietnam in the summer of 1965, and he was the principal speaker for our Saturday Night Banquet. He spoke about his plans in 1966 to invade North Vietnam and reunite the two countries as a free nation and that we would write their new constitution just as we had done with Japan.
Kinnard said that once Gen. Westmoreland got wind of his plans, he called him to a meeting. Westmoreland told him that the 1st Cav was in Vietnam for defensive purposes only. In short, Westmoreland would not allow Harry Kinnard to end the war in 5-6 months as his plan called for.
At the reunion Kinnard gave a detailed explanation of how the use of helicopters for moving troops and helicopter gunships for artillery, along with using the Navy to re-supply his troops as they moved forward, would fully support the invasion of North Vietnam. The problem seemed to be that invading North Vietnam would be seen as “expanding the war” and would ruin President Johnson’s plan to get re-elected (although in the end he decided not to run).
Harry Kinnard’s plans were never taken into account. We all know the rest of the story.
|The VVA Veteran® is a publication of Vietnam Veterans of America. ©All rights reserved.
8719 Colesville Road, Suite 100, Silver Spring, MD 20910 | www.vva.org | contact us