I truly appreciate the respect and honor that has been given to Vietnam veterans in recent years in our country, and especially in your newspaper. The Sedalia Democrat has been very kind and extremely considerate to all veterans.
But I wish to take issue with a news article printed in the October 5-6, 2013, newspaper, titled “Vietnam’s Gen. Giap Dead At 102.” The AP story says the following:
“Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the brilliant and ruthless commander who led a ragtag army of guerrillas to victory in Vietnam over first the French and then the Americans, died Friday.”
Giap was far worse than ruthless — he was a butcher and a mass murderer, plus he was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. He is certainly not deserving of a favorable eulogy by our media.
My question to you, to everyone who agrees with this article, and to the media in general, is this:
How did the American soldiers lose the Vietnam War? The AP article states Giap led his army to victory over the Americans. On what evidence is this conclusion based, that American soldiers lost the Vietnam War?
I spent 20 months fighting in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, from summer 1968 to spring 1970. I was in the 4th Infantry Division, and I was a scout dog handler. My job was to walk point on infantry patrols with my scout dog, as a kind of walking radar, to keep the soldiers behind me from walking into an ambush, booby-traps, or sniper fire. Our scout dog teams were not attached to infantry units; instead we were called in to walk point when enemy contact was highly probable on a patrol. Thus, for nearly two years, I worked with many different combat units all over the Two Corp area of South Vietnam, and I was in combat many times and in many places.
I saw no “ragtag army of guerrillas,” nor did I ever fight against soldiers of a “ragtag army of guerrillas.” I fought against well equipped hard-core NVA, and they were tough and disciplined and well trained. The NVA had at least a year of intensive training, while we Americans only had four months. The North Vietnamese Army also had a superior assault weapon with the AK-47, over the early M-16 rifles we were forced to use. And they were very well equipped with Chinese and Soviet military supplies.
The Viet Cong forces were almost completely destroyed in the 1968 Tet Offensive, led by Giap. The enemy forces were soundly defeated during the 1968 Tet, in a totally lopsided military victory by U.S. forces. Yet the American media instead gave North Vietnam the victory in the press, which was a great propaganda victory for the North Vietnamese, that ultimately prolonged the war, resulting in many more American lives being lost.
The Vietnam War was a political war, run by politicians with political goals. Vietnam was not a war of held territory. It was a war of disgusting body counts. We were told repeatedly in our advanced infantry training we were being sent to Vietnam to kill the enemy. Period. Win through attrition. So we fought under those guidelines. And we succeeded.
Giap was quoted as saying, “You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours. But even at these odds you will lose and I will win.” Well, the odds were much more than that. Nearly 1.5 million of the enemy died in Vietnam. For every American soldier who died at the hands of North Vietnam, more than 20 of their soldiers died in the war. Therefore, we won the politician’s disgusting war of the body count, and we won it most decisively.
We did not fight for territory and then hold it, as in other wars. No, we won hard fought ground, and then we gave it back to the enemy, over and over again. The territory we were told to hold, we held. Every time. So we did not lose the war of held territory.
We Vietnam War soldiers were called many things that were not complimentary or true. We were called losers and were accused of being poorly motivated. We were called incompetent uninspired soldiers who didn’t want to fight. And when it was over, we were told we lost the war. That we were losers of the first war the U.S. ever lost. That has been a very heavy mantle to carry, especially when we Vietnam veterans knew it was not true.
I would like to point out that in reality, the American forces in the Vietnam War were some of the finest military forces ever to defend our country. How can I say that? Because of the adverse conditions in which we had to fight, and because we succeeded in every task given to us, in spite of those highly unfavorable conditions. I will use a comparison of Vietnam and World War II soldiers to illustrate my point.
The average age of a soldier in Vietnam was 19, the average age in WWII was 26. Per year, the soldier in WWII averaged 40 days of combat, while the Vietnam soldier averaged 240 days. In Vietnam there were no battle lines, no rear areas of relative safety, no held territory, as in WWII. The Vietnam soldier went to war as an individual, alone, compared to the WWII soldier who was trained and lived together in a close-knit unit, and went to war as a unit.
The military establishment despised the Vietnam War draftees, and they treated them as being an unlimited supply of worthless, disposable soldiers. Plus the turnover rate because of 12-month long tours of duty, and the length of the war, resulted in most of the lower ranking leadership in the war being new and inexperienced.
Our country was totally behind the soldier and the war effort inWWII, but our country protested against the Vietnam War and the American soldier. The country unified behind the WWII soldier, it split behind the soldiers of the Vietnam War.
The soldiers of WWII returned as a unit to welcome home parades and a celebrating country. The American soldiers of the Vietnam War came home alone, to protesters, insults, and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. There was no welcome home waiting for them, no celebration. And they were shunned to the outside of society, and looked upon by many as being incompetent losers and failures. They were not allowed to take pride in their service to their country, or allowed to feel they had accomplished anything at all during their service.
The American media was constantly against the American soldiers in Vietnam. The civilian Vietnamese people were against us, and hid the enemy and enemy supplies. The terrain was rice paddies, incredibly thick jungle, or steep rainforest covered mountains. Streams and creeks and rivers had to be crossed constantly, and there were almost no roads in the country. The weather was a tremendous adversary, with oppressive heat and humidity that almost prevented breathing, or rain in torrential downpours that brought all travel to a halt.
Yet through all of the adversities and injustices, and the lack of support back home, the American soldiers in Vietnam did what they were trained to do, and did what they were told to do. And they succeeded in every military task given to them.
We killed the enemy, and we won the battles, and we took whatever ground we were ordered to take. If we had been ordered to march north and take Hanoi, we would have taken it too. And we were just kids, because America sent its children to fight the Vietnam War.
I had hoped to see in my lifetime the truth told about the Vietnam War and its veterans. I hoped my grandchildren and their grandchildren would be told the truth by the media and by history books. And I hoped to be able to take pride in my service in the Vietnam War. But obviously, that is not going to happen.
My final trip to “The Wall” in Washington, D.C., about 15 years ago, I honestly forgave the many issues and the many people involved in the Vietnam War. All of it. And all of them, including my former Vietnamese enemies, through much prayer and many tears, and with the support of my fallen brothers. I even forgave the POW issue.
But it is still most difficult for me to continue to see insulting things said or printed, such as the AP article on Gen. Giap’s death, and his defeating the American forces with “a ragtag army of guerrillas.”
The Vietnam War was not won or lost, because it was never about winning or losing, it was about politics and money. But if you measure the success of those who did the actual fighting on both sides, the American soldiers decisively won the war on the battlefields of Vietnam. If the Vietnam War was lost, then it was lost by the Washington politicians and bureaucrats, on the battlefields of the national and international media. It was not lost by American soldiers.
So I ask you again, just how is it we American soldiers lost the Vietnam War? The answer is, we didn’t. But most of the media, and the historians, and many of our citizens, refuse to accept that fact. And we continue to see distasteful, insulting, and inaccurate articles published, like the AP story in your newspaper on Oct. 5-6, 2013.
Walter Moodie, of Sedalia, is a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Army from 1966-70.