Vietnam: The True Victory
By O.M. Eather
With release of the film 'We Were Soldiers', based on the Battle of Ia Drang, the reality of the Vietnam War is finally given a reasonable and unbiased depiction. This is far removed from the patent, defeatist fantasies of films such as "Platoon" and "Apocalypse Now". It also leads to examination of the persistent myth that America and her Allies were "defeated" in the Vietnam War, a myth peddled continuously by journalists, academics and other commentators with a vested interest in convincing all that it is reality. The 'Big Lie" of military defeat that, said often and long enough, becomes the 'reality".
News organizations such as the BBC, the ABC, the 'New York Times' and the 'Washington Post' are among those most strident in the relentless peddling of this falsehood. It is bias and inaccuracy of the highest order, at odds with the supposed impartiality and high standards of these renowned news institutions, but it powerfully imbeds the myth in the mainstream of accepted truths. To argue against the American 'defeat' now automatically brings a conditioned response of disbelief and condescension, so pervasive has this campaign been.
One of the most persistent and recognizable motifs of this longstanding perspective is the continuous and excessive use of footage of the helicopter evacuation of US citizens from the US Saigon Embassy, a completely non military activity. It gives the impression US Forces were driven out of the country in 1975 - all presumably exiting from the roof of the Embassy. This is invariably accompanied by dialogue using the words "defeat" and "tragedy" and other emotive and fact-less commentary to complete the quite shameless distortion.
Most recently, the 'Sydney Morning Herald' reported on the opening of an Australian memorial in Phuoc Tuy Province for the Battle of Long Tan. The reporter exhibited all the results of thirty years of misinformation. Firstly calling the Australian campaign 'ill fated', he went on to describe the battle as an 'ambush' of the Australian force, finishing by only mentioning Viet Cong and North Vietnamese casualties, not the Australian twenty dead. By some convoluted logic he managed to imply that Australians were militarily inept by being ambushed, but were also callous and brutal in daring to proceed to slaughter the enemy once engaged, while suffering no casualties ourselves.
The facts of the Battle of Long Tan are well known, particularly that it was an encounter battle, not an ambush. It was far from a blundering disaster. In fact, it unbalanced a determined and numerically superior attempt to destroy the newly established Australian Task Force at Nui Dat, precisely what large, armed fighting patrols are intended to do. It also, irrevocably, wrested the initiative from the Viet Cong and the People's Army of Vietnam in Phouc Tuy Province. So much so that, eighteen months later during one of the most dangerous periods of the entire war (the 68 TET Offensive) 1 ATF was able to commit two thirds of its strength outside the province to assist the Americans. However, such factual analysis escaped the 'Herald's reporter completely.
The Tet Offensive is often offered as an example of how American and Allied forces were completely outclassed by the Viet Cong and PAVN, the Siege of Khe Sanh being one of the key 'tragedies' of the Tet Offensive. The facts are that, for North Vietnam, the Tet Offensive was an unmitigated and wildly overestimated disaster. There was no mass, popular uprising and all that was achieved was the exposure of both Viet Cong and Main Force units to the withering destruction of American and Allied firepower. The Viet Cong in South Vietnam were effectively wiped out and ceased to play any effective role in the war from then on. The North Vietnamese mounted an undeniable invasion of South Vietnam through neutral Laos and Cambodia; an act of military amorality equal to Pearl Harbor and the two invasions of Belgium by the German Army in 1914 and 1940. Virtually all their first line combat units were decimated, suffering over forty thousand killed and half that number wounded.
None - absolutely none - of the military aims of the Communist forces were achieved and it was called off by Vo Nguyen Giap when its failure became obvious. It was a military defeat of the order the French Army in 1940 or the Gallipoli Campaign. Yet, 'conventional wisdom' by the apologists and mythmakers hold the TET offensive up as a shining victory for the North.
At Khe Sanh, particularly, an outnumbered US Marine garrison inflicted a huge defeat on the Communist forces. There, a combination of fighting spirit and technology beat the four NVA divisions arrayed against them and foiled Giap's aim to repeat Dien Bien Phu. This also destabilized overall Communist strategy for the Tet Offensive, tying down valuable forces in the North, hardly a display of the alleged superior military thought of this 'master' strategist and his political master, Ho Chi Minh. The Tet Offensive was a military miscalculation of the most callous and egregious kind, a complete waste of the military resources deployed by the North.
In Phouc Tuy, the Australian Army never lost a battle, no thanks to the absence of our other SEATO ally, Great Britain, perhaps the underlying cause of the BBC's anti Americanism and its particular attempts to rewrite the results of the Vietnam War. In fact, all American and Allied forces had left South Vietnam by January, 1973, over eighteen months before the fall of Saigon. A peace treaty, the Paris Accords, had been signed by all parties as, to all intents, North Vietnam had been well and truly defeated militarily in the field, despite what years of misinformation would have us believe.
Concurrently, and most germane, was the fragmenting and emasculation of Communist aggression in Asia from the resolute example of America and Australia in Vietnam. The "dominoes" of South East Asia were given a priceless five years to cement their fragile economies and begin to deliver benefits to the people that evaporated the former appeal of Communism. No less an authority than Lee Kuan Yew has confirmed this crucial fact - Vietnam bought the rest of South East Asia the time needed to implement economic and political reform. This was the main game, the defeat of Communist expansion in South East Asia, and we well and truly won it.
Saigon fell because the North Vietnamese broke the Paris Accords, with deliberate and cold-blooded aggression, waiting long enough after Allied forces had left. The Communists attacked with four Armored divisions across the DMZ in a style reminiscent of Hitler's Blitzkrieg. In this new war, the NVA most certainly defeated the numerically inferior South Vietnamese but this was not the American fictional defeat posited by revisionist journalists - the Americans weren't there! If President Nixon had not been emasculated by the 'Watergate' scandal, US Airpower would have been committed to the defense of South Vietnam, however it was withheld by a hostile US Congress.
Finally, another myth is the defeat of US technological might by a bare foot army. The small part played by the Viet Cong against the consistent activities of the every well equipped and numerically superior PAVN forces dismisses the 'barefoot' fallacy. If there was any defeat in the Vietnam War, it was that of the political dimension. This was completely ignored, yet any elementary student (or reporter) of war theory knows, as Klauswitz enjoined, "war is an extension of policy by other means". To focus on technology as the cause of any negative result in that war is a fatal flaw in any argument trying to deduce future directions in warfare.
In the Vietnam War, technology was the equalizer for our forces against a more numerous and well equipped enemy. Helicopters gave flexibility to move less numerous maneuver forces rapidly and productively. Air and artillery support gave them a firepower equalizer when they met these larger enemy numbers. This crucial dynamic of operations in South Vietnam, the technology "equalizer", rarely gets a mention - except as a means of contrasting the combatants in an attempt to reap sympathy for the enemy.
So, when we see the balance bought, at long last, to the realities of the Vietnam War by "We Were Soldiers', the reality of our own military victory, and its long lasting effect on the peace of South East Asia, should also be a part of that balance.
7 June 2002
Facts to remember:
* There was once a doctrine called Communism. The aim of the Communist Party as openly elaborated by Moscow was to bring the "benefits of Communism to all nations by worldwide armed revolution."
* Khrushchev once threatened to destroy all non-Communist nations by using nuclear weapons.
* During Stalin's reign his enforcement of Communism in Russia and the remainder of the Soviet Union is estimated to have killed more than fifteen million people. Millions more were imprisoned for speaking out against the denial of human rights by the same regime.
* Subsequent to Stalin, more than ten million Soviet citizens died in political purges.
* In China, during Mao's cultural revolution of the sixties fifteen million died in a purge intended to correct the thinking of those who dared speak out against the abuses and denials of human rights under the communist regime.
* Pohl Pott's Communist rule of Cambodia resulted in three million deaths and countless numbers jailed, tortured and "re-educated".
* The Berlin Wall was erected in the early sixties to keep Soviet Citizens in so they could enjoy the benefits of communism.
* The Malayan Emergency of the fifties/early sixties was caused by Communist insurgents funded and armed by Moscow and Peking.
* Indonesia was armed by the Soviet Union during the late fifties and early sixties, and encouraged by Moscow to take over Malaya, Singapore and Borneo by armed force.
* The reasons why Australia, the USA and other nations resisted Communism was because of the recognition of the above facts and more.
Many thanks to;
Owen Eather and FOURAYS Australian Army Aviation Association:
For allowing us post this article.