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Not All Successful Military Actions End With Parades, Part I
In fact, most don't...
CK ‘73 50th Reunion Update
The reunion website, https://www.eventcreate.com/e/ck7350, is still up and will have more lasting copy without the stuff I pound out every week, and completely without the book ads.
Bill says he’s working on the choral arrangements for the class gift. For those just tuning in, we’re donating digital recordings of choral renditions of the school songs, which they can do with what they want, including sell copies.
Successful Military Actions Without Victory Parades?
This month marks the 58th anniversary of the largest US ground operation in Vietnam, called Cedar Falls, from 8 to 26 January 1967. The campaign in the Iron Triangle (between the Saigon River on the west and the Tinh River on the east and bordering Route 13 about 25 miles (40 km) north of Saigon) ejected the Viet Cong briefly, but mostly the VC evaded the American forces. Many historians point to Cedar Falls as a symbol of American misunderstanding of the Southeast Asia conflict.
It can also point to “scholarly” misunderstanding of the American presence in Vietnam, and to the critics who shout that the United States "lost" the conflict there.
Interestingly enough, most critics cannot point to what direct failure of American forces led to this purported "defeat." The oft-stated but never documented purpose of the American military there was to prop up the Saigon regime (which was too corrupt for its own good). However, this was never an officially stated mission: indeed, no Letter of Instruction was ever written for the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), the overall commanding agency for the Americans there. Thus, was there a "war" there to "win?"
Nor, since the last American combat units left the region in 1972 and Saigon fell in 1975, can we can attribute any battlefield loss to US arms.
The too-long Southeast Asia war also points up some uncomfortable truths about military action, as has been shown through history, but became plain in the 1970s. Not all conflict ends in "victory," but most end in a simple winding down of combat operations. Not all of a nation's enemies are "officially defeated" and forced to sign treaties in rail cars or on battleship decks.
And there was that conversation in Paris…
We are all aware of the conversation between a Vietnamese and an American during the peace talks that ended in 1973, after the last Americans had left. The American said, “you never beat us in the field,” and the Vietnamese replied, “we didn’t have to.” While most leave the veracity of this exchange unchallenged, I can’t. While the sentiments are true, I have to wonder why it had to take place. The Americans were extricating themselves from the conflict that had been going on for years between the North and the South. There was no true “peace;” only a brief cease-fire. Military supremacy wasn’t the point of the conflict. If it had been, the US would have destroyed North Vietnam very early. But the Korean conflict two decades before made the Americans wary of Chinese intervention near their borders.
Few wars even begin with a declaration of war.
While many who read this will become let's say incensed at the idea because conventional wisdom says that the US "lost" Vietnam, we must ask: by what measure? Might we also consider that, in Tet 1968, while the body count was rising and attention was fixed on both Vietnam and North Korea's seizure of USS Pueblo on 23 January of the same year, the Soviet Union could not take advantage of the paper army that USAEUR had become and launch an offensive to “reunite” Germany. January-February 1968 would have been the best last chance the Soviets would have had to do this.
They didn't even try.
Their invasion of Czechoslovakia in the spring, and their subsequent harvest failure, showed their weaknesses, as well. So, what does this say? Perhaps it says that ultimately Southeast Asia was a sacrificed pawn in the global power game between the US and the Soviet Union, that American military action was, deliberately or not, intended to bait the Soviets into doing something...anything...stupid. Maybe we should look at the American “failure” in Vietnam as just one more Cold War skirmish.
Just as, in 1992, we saw another Soviet pawn—Iraq—sacrificed in its gambit over Kuwait.
Not all military action leads to victory, or even success. And often, we cannot know for generations what it was all for. We can only guess, looking back, and examining the record in the evening's cool rather than the heat of the day. This is one more example of my contention that we write the best histories after the last participant dies.
Crop Duster: A Novel of World War Two, Second Edition
Those of you who’ve read my deathless prose in the First Edition might tell all your friends that it’s soon to be available in a new, physically smaller edition. I have to admit that I kinda rushed CD to press the first time because I wanted very much for my mother to see it. However, she passed before it got as far as distribution. That imperfect manuscript and my business disputes with my first publisher compelled me to move the book and try again. The result will be the second edition. The text is unchanged from its first, but cleaned up the typos my publisher was supposed to clean up. Look for the new edition by May.
Modern Emperors of Japan
Historical Failure Analysis
On 7 January:
1789: The United States held its first presidential election under the new Constitution, electing George Washington as the first chief executive. There was very little “campaigning” in the modern sense, because the Founders believed that the office sought the candidate, rather than the other way around.
1989: The Showa Emperor, Michinomiya Hirohito, died in Tokyo, Japan. He was Japan’s longest-reigning “modern” emperor (one for whom we have reliable evidence), and the last WWII national leader. His fifth child and eldest son, the Heisei Emperor Michinomiya Akihito, succeeded him.
And today is NATIONAL BOBBLEHEAD DAY. The things have been around since the early 1700s in China, but were first introduced to the West in the 1760s. They made the first sports bobbleheads in 1924, of a generic basketball player. The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum is here in Milwaukee…a good excuse to stop by.