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How Did the Gates of Hell Open in Vietnam?

In Around the web on January 17, 2013 at 8:26 am

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From JONATHAN SCHELL
TomDispatch

A New Book Transforms Our Understanding of What the Vietnam War Actually Was

For half a century we have been arguing about “the Vietnam War.” Is it possible that we didn’t know what we were talking about? After all that has been written (some 30,000 books and counting), it scarcely seems possible, but such, it turns out, has literally been the case.

Now, in Kill Anything that MovesNick Turse has for the first time put together a comprehensive picture, written with mastery and dignity, of what American forces actually were doing in Vietnam. The findings disclose an almost unspeakable truth.  Meticulously piecing together newly released classified information, court-martial records, Pentagon reports, and firsthand interviews in Vietnam and the United States, as well as contemporaneous press accounts and secondary literature, Turse discovers that episodes of devastation, murder, massacre, rape, and torture once considered isolated atrocities were in fact the norm, adding up to a continuous stream of atrocity, unfolding, year after year, throughout that country.

It has been Turse’s great achievement to see that, thanks to the special character of the war, its prime reality — an accurate overall picture of what physically was occurring on the ground — had never been assembled; that with imagination and years of dogged work this could be done; and that even a half-century after the beginning of the war it still should be done. Turse acknowledges that, even now, not enough is known to present this picture in statistical terms. To be sure, he offers plenty of numbers — for instance the mind-boggling estimates that during the war there were some two million civilians killed and some five million wounded, that the United States flew 3.4 million aircraft sorties, and that it expended 30 billion pounds of munitions, releasing the equivalent in explosive force of 640 Hiroshima bombs.

Yet it would not have been enough to simply accumulate anecdotal evidence of abuses. Therefore, while providing an abundance of firsthand accounts, he has supplemented this approach. Like a fabric, a social reality — a town, a university, a revolution, a war — has a pattern and a texture.  No fact is an island. Each one is rich in implications, which, so to speak, reach out toward the wider area of the surrounding facts. When some of these other facts are confirmed, they begin to reveal the pattern and texture in question.

Turse repeatedly invites us to ask what sort of larger picture each story implies. For example, he writes:

“If one man and his tiny team could claim more KIAs [killed in action] than an entire battalion without raising red flags among superiors; if a brigade commander could up the body count by picking off civilians from his helicopter with impunity; if a top general could institutionalize atrocities through the profligate use of heavy firepower in areas packed with civilians — then what could be expected down the line, especially among heavily armed young infantrymen operating in the field for weeks, angry, tired, and scared, often unable to locate the enemy and yet relentlessly pressed for kills?”

Like a tightening net, the web of stories and reports drawn from myriad sources coalesces into a convincing, inescapable portrait of this war — a portrait that, as an American, you do not wish to see; that, having seen, you wish you could forget, but that you should not forget; and that the facts force you to see and remember and take into account when you ask yourself what the United States has done and been in the last half century, and what it still is doing and still is.

Scorched Earth in I Corps

My angle of vision on these matters is a highly particular one. In early August 1967, I arrived in I Corps, the northernmost district of American military operations in what was then South Vietnam.  I was there to report for the New Yorker on the “air war.” The phrase was a misnomer.  The Vietnamese foe, of course, had no assets in the air in the South, and so there was no “war” of that description.

There was only the unilateral bombardment of the land and people by the fantastic array of aircraft assembled by the United States in Vietnam.  These ranged from the B-52, which laid down a pattern of destruction a mile long and several football fields wide; to fighter bombers capable of dropping, along with much else, 500-pound bombs and canisters of napalm; to the reconfigured DC-3 equipped with a cannon capable of firing 100 rounds per second; to the ubiquitous fleets of helicopters, large and small, that crowded the skies. All this was abetted by continuous artillery fire into “free-fire” zones and naval bombardment from ships just off the coast.

By the time I arrived, the destruction of the villages in the region and the removal of their people to squalid refugee camps was approaching completion. (However, they often returned to their blasted villages, now subject to indiscriminate artillery fire.) Only a few pockets of villages survived. I witnessed the destruction of many of these in Quang Ngai and Quang Tinh provinces from the back seat of small Cessnas called Forward Air Control planes.

As we floated overhead day after day, I would watch long lines of houses burst into flames one after another as troops moved through the area of operation.  In the meantime, the Forward Air Controllers were calling in air strikes as requested by radio from troops on the ground. In past operations, the villagers had been herded out of the area into the camps.  But this time, no evacuation had been ordered, and the population was being subjected to the full fury of a ground and air assault. A rural society was being torn to pieces before my eyes.

The broad results of American actions in I Corps were thus visible and measurable from the air. No scorched earth policy had been announced but scorched earth had been the result.  Still, a huge piece was missing from the puzzle.  I was not able to witness most of the significant operations on the ground firsthand. I sought to interview some soldiers but they would not talk, though one did hint at dark deeds.  “You wouldn’t believe it so I’m not going to tell you,” he said to me. “No one’s ever going to find out about some things, and after this war is over, and we’ve all gone home, no one is ever going to know.”

In other words, like so many reporters in Vietnam, I saw mainly one aspect of one corner of the war.  What I had seen was ghastly, but it was not enough to serve as a basis for generalizations about the conduct of the war as a whole. Just a few years later, in 1969, thanks to the determined efforts of a courageous soldier, Ron Ridenhour, and the persistence of a reporter, Seymour Hersh, one piece of the hidden truth about ground operations in I Corp came to light.

It was the My Lai massacre, in which more than 500 civilians were murdered in cold blood by Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, of the Americal Division. In subsequent years, news of other atrocities in the area filtered into the press, often many years after the fact. For example, in 2003 the Toledo Blade disclosed a campaign of torture and murder over a period of months, including the summary execution of two blind men by a “reconnaissance” squad called Tiger Force.  Still, no comprehensive picture of the generality of ground operations in the area emerged.

It has not been until the publication of Turse’s book that the everyday reality of which these atrocities were a part has been brought so fully to light. Almost immediately after the American troops arrived in I Corps, a pattern of savagery was established. My Lai, it turns out, was exceptional only in the numbers killed.

Turse offers a massacre at a village called Trieu Ai in October 1967 as a paradigm.  A marine company suffered the loss of a man to a booby trap near the village, which had in fact had been mostly burned down by other American forces a few days earlier.  Some villagers had, however, returned for their belongings. Now, the Marine company, enraged by its loss but unable to find the enemy, entered the village firing their M-16s, setting fire to any intact houses, and tossing grenades into bomb shelters.

A Marine marched a woman into a field and shot her.  Another reported that there were children in the shelters that were being blown up.  His superior replied, “Tough shit, they grow up to be VC [Vietcong].”  Five or ten people rushed out of a shelter when a grenade was thrown into it.  They were cut down in a hail of fire. Turse comments:

“In the story of Trieu Ai one can see virtually the entire war writ small.  Here was the repeated aerial bombing and artillery fire… Here was the deliberate burning of peasant homes and the relocation of villagers to refugee camps… Angry troops primed to lash out, often following losses within the unit; civilians trapped in their paths; and officers in the field issuing ambiguous or illegal orders to young men conditioned to obey — that was the basic recipe for many of the mass killings carried out by army soldiers and marines over the years.”

The savagery often extended to the utmost depravity: gratuitous torture, killing for target practice, slaughter of children and babies, gang rape.  Consider the following all-too-typical actions of Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th infantry beginning in October 1967:

“The company stumbled upon an unarmed young boy.  ‘Someone caught him up on a hill, and they brought him down and the lieutenant asked who wanted to kill him…’ medic Jamie Henry later told army investigators. A radioman and another medic volunteered for the job.  The radioman… ’kicked the boy in the stomach and the medic took him around behind a rock and I heard one magazine go off complete on automatic…’

“A few days after this incident, members of that same unit brutalized an elderly man to the point of collapse and then threw him off a cliff without even knowing whether he was dead or alive…

“A couple of days after that, they used an unarmed man for target practice…

“And less than two weeks later, members of Company B reportedly killed five unarmed women…

“Unit members rattled off a litany of other brutal acts committed by the company… [including] a living woman who had an ear cut off while her baby was thrown to the ground and stomped on…”

Pumping Up the Body Count

Turse’s findings completed the picture of the war in I Corps for me.  Whatever the policy might have been in theory, the reality, on the ground as in the air, was the scorched earth I had witnessed from the Forward Air Control planes. Whatever the United States thought it was doing in I Corps, it was actually waging systematic war against the people of the region.

And so it was, as Turse voluminously documents, throughout the country.  Details differed from area to area but the broad picture was the same as the one in I Corps. A case in point is the war in the Mekong Delta, home to some five to six million people in an area of less than 15,000 square miles laced with rivers and canals. In February 1968, General Julian Ewell, soon to be known by Vietnamese and Americans alike as “the Butcher of the Delta,” was placed in charge of the 9th Infantry Division.

In December 1968, he launched Operation Speedy Express. His specialty, amounting to obsession, was increasing “the body count,” ordained by the high command as the key measure of progress in defeating the enemy. Theoretically, only slain soldiers were to be included in that count but — as anyone, soldier or reporter, who spent a half-hour in the field quickly learned — virtually all slain Vietnamese, most of them clearly civilians, were included in the total.  The higher an officer’s body count, the more likely his promotion. Privates who turned in high counts were rewarded with mini-vacations. Ewell set out to increase the ratio of supposed enemy soldiers killed to American soldiers killed.  Pressure to do so was ratcheted up at all levels in the 9th Division. One of his chiefs of staff “went berserk,” in the words of a later chief of staff.

The means were simple: immensely increase the already staggering firepower being used and loosen the already highly permissive “rules of engagement” by, for example, ordering more night raids.  In a typical night episode, Cobra gunships strafed a herd of water buffalo and seven children tending them. All died, and the children were reported as enemy soldiers killed in action.

The kill ratios duly rose from an already suspiciously high 24 “Vietcong” for every dead American to a completely surreal 134 Vietcong per American.  The unreality, however, did not simply lie in the inflated kill numbers but in the identities of the corpses.  Overwhelmingly, they were not enemy soldiers but civilians.  A “Concerned Sergeant” who protested the operation in an anonymous letter to the high command at the time described the results as he witnessed them:

“A battalion would kill maybe 15 to 20 a day.  With 4 battalions in the Brigade that would be maybe 40 to 50 a day or 1200 a month 1500, easy. (One battalion claimed almost 1000 body counts one month!)  If I am only 10% right, and believe me its lots more, then I am trying to tell you about 120-150 murders, or a My Lay [My Lai] each month for over a year.”

This range of estimates was confirmed in later analyses. Operations in I Corp perhaps depended more on infantry attacks supported by air strikes, while Speedy Express depended more on helicopter raids and demands for high body counts, but the results were the same: indiscriminate warfare, unrestrained by calculation or humanity, on the population of South Vietnam.

Turse reminds us that off the battlefield, too, casual violence — such as the use of military trucks to run over Vietnamese on the roads, seemingly for entertainment — was widespread.  The commonest terms for Vietnamese were the racist epithets “gooks,” “dinks,” and “slopes.”  And the U.S. military machine was supplemented by an equally brutal American-South Vietnamese prison system in which torture was standard procedure and extrajudicial executions common.

How did it happen? How did a country that believes itself to be guided by principles of decency permit such savagery to break out and then allow it to continue for more than a decade?

Why, when the first Marines arrived in I Corps in early 1965, did so many of them almost immediately cast aside the rules of war as well as all ordinary scruples and sink to the lowest levels of barbarism?  What chains of cause and effect linked “the best and the brightest” of America’s top universities and corporations who were running the war with the murder of those buffalo boys in the Mekong Delta?

How did the gates of hell open? This is a different question from the often-asked one of how the United States got into the war. I cannot pretend to begin to do it justice here. The moral and cognitive seasickness that has attended the Vietnam War from the beginning afflicts us still. Yet Kill Anything that Moves permits us, finally, to at least formulate the question in light of the actual facts of the case.

Reflections would certainly seem in order for a country that, since Vietnam, has done its best to unlearn even such lessons as were learned from that debacle in preparation for other misbegotten wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here, however, are a few thoughts, offered in a spirit of thinking aloud.

The Fictitious War and the Real One

Roughly since the massacre at My Lai was revealed, people have debated whether the atrocities of the war were the product of decisions by troops on the ground or of high policy, of orders issued from above — whether they were “aberrations” or “operations.” The first school obviously lends itself to bad-apple-in-a-healthy-barrel thinking, blaming individual units for unacceptable behavior while exonerating the higher ups; the second tends to exonerate the troops while pinning the blame on their superiors.

Turse’s book shows that the barrel was rotten through and through.  It discredits the “aberration” school once and for all. Yet it does not exactly offer support for the orders-from-the-top school either. Perhaps the problem always was that these alternatives framed the situation inaccurately.  The relationship between policy and practice in Vietnam was, it turns out, far more peculiar than the two choices suggest.

It’s often said that truth is the first casualty of war. In Vietnam, however, it was not just that the United States was doing one thing while saying another (for example, destroying villages while claiming to protect them), true as that was.  Rather, from its inception the war’s structure was shaped by an attempt to superimpose a false official narrative on a reality of a wholly different character.

In the official war, the people of South Vietnam were resisting the attempts of the North Vietnamese to conquer them in the name of world communism.  The United States was simply assisting them in their patriotic resistance.  In reality, most people in South Vietnam, insofar as they were politically minded, were nationalists who sought to push out foreign conquerors: first, the French, then the Japanese, and next the Americans, along with their client state, the South Vietnamese government which was never able to develop any independent strength in a land supposedly its own.  This fictitious official narrative was not added on later to disguise unpalatable facts; it was baked into the enterprise from the outset.

Accordingly, the collision of policy and reality first took place on the ground in Trieu Ai village and its like. The American forces, including their local commanders, were confronted with a reality that the policymakers had not faced and would not face for many long years. Expecting to be welcomed as saviors, the troops found themselves in a sea of nearly universal hostility.

No manual was handed out in Washington to deal with the unexpected situation. It was left to the soldiers to decide what to do. Throughout the country, they started to improvise. To this extent, policy was indeed being made in the field. Yet it was not within the troops’ power to reverse basic policy; they could not, for instance, have withdrawn themselves from the whole misconceived exercise.  They could only respond to the unexpected circumstances in which they found themselves.

The result would combine an incomprehensible and impossible mission dictated from above (to win the “hearts and minds” of a population already overwhelmingly hostile, while pulverizing their society) and locally conceived illegal but sometimes vague orders that left plenty of room for spontaneous, rage-driven improvisation on the ground. In this gap between the fiction of high policy and the actuality of the real war was born the futile, abhorrent assault on the people of Vietnam.

The improvisatory character of all this, as Turse emphasizes, can be seen in the fact that while the abuses of civilians were pervasive they were not consistent. As he summarizes what a villager in one brutalized area told him decades later, “Sometimes U.S. troops handed out candies.  Sometimes they shot at people.  Sometimes they passed through a village hardly touching a thing.  Sometimes they burned all the homes. ‘We didn’t understand the reasons why the acted in the way they did.’”

Alongside the imaginary official war, then, there grew up the real war on the ground, the one that Turse has, for the first time, adequately described.  It is no defense of what happened to point out that, for the troops, it was not so much their orders from on high as their circumstances — what Robert J. Lifton has called “atrocity-producing situations” — that generated their degraded behavior. Neither does such an account provide escape from accountability for the war’s architects without whose blind and misguided policies these infernal situations never would have arisen.

In one further bitter irony, this real war came at a certain point to be partially codified at ever higher levels of command into policies that did translate into orders from the top. In effect, the generals gradually — if absurdly, in light of the supposed goals of the war — sanctioned and promoted the de facto war on the population.  Enter General Ewell and his body counts.

In other words, the improvising moved up the chain of command until the soldiers were following orders when they killed civilians, though, as in the case of Ewell, those orders rarely took exactly that form.  Nonetheless, the generals sometimes went quite far in formulating these new rules, even when they flagrantly contradicted official policies.

To give one example supplied by Turse, in 1965, General William Westmoreland, who was made commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam in 1964, implicitly declared war on the peasantry of South Vietnam. He said:

“Until now the war has been characterized by a substantial majority of the population remaining neutral.  In the past year we have seen an escalation to a higher intensity in the war.  This will bring about a moment of decision for the peasant farmer.  He will have to choose if he stays alive.”

Like his underlings, Westmoreland, was improvising. This new policy of, in effect, terrorizing the peasantry into submission was utterly inconsistent with the Washington narrative of winning hearts and minds, but it was fully consistent with everything his forces were actually doing and about to do in I Corps and throughout the country.

A Skyscraper of Lies

One more level of the conflict needs to be mentioned in this context.  Documents show that, as early as the mid-1960s, the key mistaken assumptions of the war — that the Vietnamese foe was a tentacle of world communism, that the war was a front in the Cold War rather than an episode in the long decolonization movement of the twentieth century, that the South Vietnamese were eager for rescue by the United States — were widely suspected to be mistaken in official Washington.  But one other assumption was not found to be mistaken: that whichever administration “lost” Vietnam would likely lose the next election.

Rightly or wrongly, presidents lived in terror of losing the war and so being politically destroyed by a movement of the kind Senator Joe McCarthy launched after the American “loss” of China in 1949.  Later, McGeorge Bundy, Lyndon Johnson’s national security advisor, would describe his understanding of the president’s frame of mind at the time this way:

“LBJ isn’t deeply concerned about who governs Laos, or who governs South Vietnam — he’s deeply concerned with what the average American voter is going to think about how he did in the ball game of the Cold War. The great Cold War championship gets played in the largest stadium in the United States and he, Lyndon Johnson, is the quarterback, and if he loses, how does he do in the next election? So don’t lose. Now that’s too simple, but it’s where he is. He’s living with his own political survival every time he looks at these questions.”

In this context, domestic political considerations trumped the substantive reasoning that, once the futility and horror of the enterprise had been revealed, might have led to an end to the war. More and more it was understood to be a murderous farce, but politics dictated that it must continue. As long as this remained the case, no news from Vietnam could lead to a reversal of the war policies.

This was the top floor of the skyscraper of lies that was the Vietnam War. Domestic politics was the largest and most fact-proof of the atrocity-producing situations.  Do we imagine that this has changed?

Jonathan Schell is a Fellow at The Nation Institute, and the peace and disarmament correspondent for the Nation magazine. Among many other works, he is the author of The Real War, a collection of his New Yorker reportage on the Vietnam War.
~~

  1. “To call war the soil of courage and virtue is like calling debauchery the soil of love.”
    ~ George Santayana~

    The Hidden Story of the Americans that Finished the Vietnam War
    http://alethonews.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/the-hidden-story-of-the-americans-that-finished-the-vietnam-war-2/

    The Soldier’s Revolt

    by Joel Geier

    Our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and noncommissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near-mutinous Conditions exist among American forces in Vietnam that have only been exceeded in this century by… the collapse of the Tsarist armies in 1916 and 1917.

    – Armed Forces Journal, June 1971

    The most neglected aspect of the Vietnam War is the soldiers’ revolt–the mass upheaval from below that unraveled the American army. It is a great reality check in an era when the U.S. touts itself as an invincible nation. For this reason, the soldiers’ revolt has been written out of official history.

    The army revolt pitted enlisted soldiers against officers who viewed them as expendable. Liberal academics have reduced the radicalism of the 1960s to middle-class concerns and activities, while ignoring military rebellion. But the militancy of the 1960s began with the Black liberation struggle, and it reached its climax with the unity of White and Black soldiers.

    A working-class army

    From 1964 to 1973, from the Gulf of Tonkin resolution to the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam, 27 million men came of draft age. A majority of them were not drafted due to college, professional, medical or National Guard deferments. Only 40 percent were drafted and saw military service. A small minority, 2.5 million men (about 10 percent of those eligible for the draft), were sent to Vietnam.

    This small minority was almost entirely working-class or rural youth. Their average age was 19. Eighty-five percent of the troops were enlisted men; 15 percent were officers. The enlisted men were drawn from the 80 percent of the armed forces with a high school education or less. At this time, college education was universal in the middle class.

    In the elite colleges, the class discrepancy was even more glaring. The upper class did none of the fighting. Of the 1,200 Harvard graduates in 1970, only 2 went to Vietnam, while working-class high schools routinely sent 20 percent, 30 percent of their graduates and more to Vietnam.

    College students who were not made officers were usually assigned to noncombat support and service units. High school dropouts were three times more likely to be sent to combat units that did the fighting and took the casualties. Combat infantry soldiers, “the grunts,” were entirely working class. They included a disproportionate number of Black working-class troops. Blacks, who formed 12 percent of the troops, were often 25 percent or more of the combat units.

    When college deferments expired, joining the National Guard was a favorite way to get out of serving in Vietnam. During the war, 80 percent of the Guard’s members described themselves as joining to avoid the draft. You needed connections to get in–which was no problem for Dan Quayle, George W. Bush and other draft evaders. In 1968, the Guard had a waiting list of more than 100,000. It had triple the percentage of college graduates that the army did. Blacks made up less than 1.5 percent of the National Guard. In Mississippi, Blacks were 42 percent of the population, but only one Black man served in a Guard of more than 10,000.

    The middle-class officers corps

    The officer corps was drawn from the 7 percent of troops who were college graduates, or the 13 percent who had one to three years of college. College was to officer as high school was to enlisted man. The officer corps was middle class in composition and managerial in outlook.

    Superfluous support officers lived far removed from danger, lounging in rear base camps in luxurious conditions. A few miles away, combat soldiers were experiencing a nightmarish hell. The contrast was too great to allow for confidence–in both the officers and the war–to survive unscathed.

    Westmoreland’s solution to the competition for combat command poured gasoline on the fire. He ordered a one-year tour of duty for enlisted men in Vietnam, but only six months for officers. The combat troops hated the class discrimination that put them at twice the risk of their commanders. They grew contemptuous of the officers, whom they saw as raw and dangerously inexperienced in battle.

    Even a majority of officers considered Westmoreland’s tour inequality as unethical. Yet they were forced to use short tours to prove themselves for promotion. They were put in situations in which their whole careers depended on what they could accomplish in a brief period, even if it meant taking shortcuts and risks at the expense of the safety of their men–a temptation many could not resist.

    The outer limit of six-month commands was often shortened due to promotion, relief, injury or other reasons. The outcome was “revolving-door” commands. As an enlisted man recalled, “During my year in-country I had five second-lieutenant platoon leaders and four company commanders. One CO was pretty good…All the rest were stupid.”

    Aggravating this was the contradiction that guaranteed opposition between officers and men in combat. Officer promotions depended on quotas of enemy dead from search-and-destroy missions. Battalion commanders who did not furnish immediate high body counts were threatened with replacement. This was no idle threat–battalion commanders had a 30 to 50 percent chance of being relieved of command. But search-and-destroy missions produced enormous casualties for the infantry soldiers. Officers corrupted by career ambitions would cynically ignore this and draw on the never-ending supply of replacements from the monthly draft quota.

    Officer corruption was rife. A Pentagon official writes, “the stench of corruption rose to unprecedented levels during William C. Westmoreland’s command of the American effort in Vietnam.” The CIA protected the poppy fields of Vietnamese officials and flew their heroin out of the country on Air America planes. Officers took notice and followed suit. The major who flew the U.S. ambassador’s private jet was caught smuggling $8 million of heroin on the plane.

    The war was fought by NLF troops and peasant auxiliaries who worked the land during the day and fought as soldiers at night. They would attack ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) and American troops and bases or set mines at night, and then disappear back into the countryside during the day. In this form of guerrilla war, there were no fixed targets, no set battlegrounds, and there was no territory to take. With that in mind, the Pentagon designed a counterinsurgency strategy called “search and destroy.” Without fixed battlegrounds, combat success was judged by the number of NLF troops killed–the body count. A somewhat more sophisticated variant was the “kill ratio”–the number of enemy troops killed compared to the number of Americans dead. This “war of attrition” strategy was the basic military plan of the American ruling class in Vietnam.

    For each enemy killed, for every body counted, soldiers got three-day passes and officers received medals and promotions. This reduced the war from fighting for “the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese” to no larger purpose than killing. Any Vietnamese killed was put in the body count as a dead enemy soldier, or as the GIs put it, “if it’s dead, it’s Charlie” (“Charlie” was GI slang for the NLF). This was an inevitable outcome of a war against a whole people. Everyone in Vietnam became the enemy–and this encouraged random slaughter. Officers further ordered their men to “kill them even if they try to surrender–we need the body count.” It was an invitation to kill indiscriminately to swell a tally sheet.

    Rather than following their officers, many more soldiers had the courage to revolt against barbarism.

    Ninety-five percent of combat units were search-and-destroy units. Their mission was to go out into the jungle, hit bases and supply areas, flush out NLF troops and engage them in battle. If the NLF fought back, helicopters would fly in to prevent retreat and unleash massive firepower–bullets, bombs, missiles. The NLF would attempt to avoid this, and battle generally only occurred if the search-and-destroy missions were ambushed. Ground troops became the live bait for the ambush and firefight. GIs referred to search and destroy as “humping the boonies by dangling the bait.”

    Without helicopters, search and destroy would not have been possible–and the helicopters were the terrain of the officers. “On board the command and control chopper rode the battalion commander, his aviation-support commander, the artillery-liaison officer, the battalion S-3 and the battalion sergeant major. They circled…high enough to escape random small-arms fire.” The officers directed their firepower on the NLF down below, but while indiscriminately spewing out bombs and napalm, they could not avoid “collateral damage”–hitting their own troops. One-quarter of the American dead in Vietnam was killed by “friendly fire” from the choppers. The officers were out of danger, the “eye in the sky,” while the troops had their “asses in the grass,” open to fire from both the NLF and the choppers.

    When the battle was over, the officers and their choppers would fly off to base camps removed from danger while their troops remained out in the field.

    Of the 543,000 American troops in Vietnam in 1968, only 14 percent (or 80,000) were combat troops. These 80,000 men took the brunt of the war. They were the weak link, and their disaffection crippled the ability of the world’s largest military to fight. In 1968, 14,592 men–18 percent of combat troops–were killed. An additional 35,000 had serious wounds that required hospitalization. Although not all of the dead and wounded were from combat units, the overwhelming majority were. The majority of combat troops in 1968 were either seriously injured or killed. The number of American casualties in Vietnam was not extreme, but as it was concentrated among the combat troops, it was a virtual massacre. Not to revolt amounted to suicide.

    Officers, high in the sky, had few deaths or casualties. The deaths of officers occurred mostly in the lower ranks among lieutenants or captains who led combat platoons or companies. The higher-ranking officers went unharmed. During a decade of war, only one general and eight full colonels died from enemy fire. As one study commissioned by the military concluded, “In Vietnam… the officer corps simply did not die in sufficient numbers or in the presence of their men often enough.”

    The slaughter of grunts went on because the officers never found it unacceptable. There was no outcry from the military or political elite, the media or their ruling-class patrons about this aspect of the war, nor is it commented on in almost any history of the war. It is ignored or accepted as a normal part of an unequal world, because the middle and upper class were not in combat in Vietnam and suffered no pain from its butchery. It never would have been tolerated had their class done the fighting. Their premeditated murder of combat troops unleashed class war in the armed forces. The revolt focused on ending search and destroy through all of the means the army had provided as training for these young workers.

    Tet–the revolt begins

    The Tet Offensive was the turning point of the Vietnam War and the start of open, active soldiers’ rebellion. At the end of January 1968, on Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, the NLF sent 100,000 troops into Saigon and 36 provincial capitals to lead a struggle for the cities. The Tet Offensive was not militarily successful, because of the savagery of the U.S. counterattack. In Saigon alone, American bombs killed 14,000 civilians. The city of Ben Tre became emblematic of the U.S. effort when the major who retook it announced that “to save the city, we had to destroy it.”

    Westmoreland and his generals claimed that they were the victors of Tet because they had inflicted so many casualties on the NLF. But to the world, it was clear that the U.S. had politically lost the war in Vietnam. Tet showed that the NLF had the overwhelming support of the Vietnamese population–millions knew of and collaborated with the NLF entry into the cities and no one warned the Americans. The ARVN had turned over whole cities without firing a shot. In some cases, ARVN troops had welcomed the NLF and turned over large weapons supplies. The official rationale for the war, that U.S. troops were there to help the Vietnamese fend off Communist aggression from the North, was no longer believed by anybody. The South Vietnamese government and military were clearly hated by the people.37

    Westmoreland’s constant claim that there was “light at the end of the tunnel,” that victory was imminent, was shown to be a lie. Search and destroy was a pipe dream. The NLF did not have to be flushed out of the jungle, it operated everywhere. No place in Vietnam was a safe base for American soldiers when the NLF so decided.

    What, then, was the point of this war? Why should American troops fight to defend a regime its own people despised? Soldiers became furious at a government and an officer corps who risked their lives for lies. Throughout the world, Tet and the confidence that American imperialism was weak and would be defeated produced a massive, radical upsurge that makes 1968 famous as the year of revolutionary hope. In the U.S. army, it became the start of the showdown with the officers.

    Mutiny

    The refusal of an order to advance into combat is an act of mutiny. In time of war, it is the gravest crime in the military code, punishable by death. In Vietnam, mutiny was rampant, the power to punish withered and discipline collapsed as search and destroy was revoked from below.

    Until 1967, open defiance of orders was rare and harshly repressed, with sentences of two to ten years for minor infractions. Hostility to search-and-destroy missions took the form of covert combat avoidance, called “sandbagging” by the grunts. A platoon sent out to “hump the boonies” might look for a safe cover from which to file fabricated reports of imaginary activity.

    But after Tet, there was a massive shift from combat avoidance to mutiny. One Pentagon official reflected that “mutiny became so common that the army was forced to disguise its frequency by talking instead of ‘combat refusal.’” Combat refusal, one commentator observed, “resembled a strike and occurred when GIs refused, disobeyed, or negotiated an order into combat.”

    Acts of mutiny took place on a scale previously only encountered in revolutions. The first mutinies in 1968 were unit and platoon-level rejections of the order to fight. The army recorded 68 such mutinies that year. By 1970, in the 1st Air Cavalry Division alone, there were 35 acts of combat refusal. One military study concluded that combat refusal was “unlike mutinous outbreaks of the past, which were usually sporadic, short-lived events. The progressive unwillingness of American soldiers to fight to the point of open disobedience took place over a four-year period between 1968-71.”

    The 1968 combat refusals of individual units expanded to involve whole companies by the next year. The first reported mass mutiny was in the 196th Light Brigade in August 1969. Company A of the 3rd Battalion, down to 60 men from its original 150, had been pushing through Songchang Valley under heavy fire for five days when it refused an order to advance down a perilous mountain slope. Word of the mutiny spread rapidly. The New York Daily News ran a banner headline, “Sir, My Men Refuse To Go.” The GI paper, The Bond, accurately noted, “It was an organized strike…A shaken brass relieved the company commander…but they did not charge the guys with anything. The Brass surrendered to the strength of the organized men.”

    This precedent–no court-martial for refusing to obey the order to fight, but the line officer relieved of his command–was the pattern for the rest of the war. Mass insubordination was not punished by an officer corps that lived in fear of its own men. Even the threat of punishment often backfired. In one famous incident, B Company of the 1st Battalion of the 12th Infantry refused an order to proceed into NLF-held territory. When they were threatened with court-martials, other platoons rallied to their support and refused orders to advance until the army backed down.

    As the fear of punishment faded, mutinies mushroomed. There were at least ten reported major mutinies, and hundreds of smaller ones. Hanoi’s Vietnam Courier documented 15 important GI rebellions in 1969. At Cu Chi, troops from the 2nd Battalion of the 27th Infantry refused battle orders. The “CBS Evening News” broadcast live a patrol from the 7th Cavalry telling their captain that his order for direct advance against the NLF was nonsense, that it would threaten casualties, and that they would not obey it. Another CBS broadcast televised the mutiny of a rifle company of the 1st Air Cavalry Division.

    When Cambodia was invaded in 1970, soldiers from Fire Base Washington conducted a sit-in. They told Up Against the Bulkhead, “We have no business there…we just sat down. Then they promised us we wouldn’t have to go to Cambodia.” Within a week, there were two additional mutinies, as men from the 4th and 8th Infantry refused to board helicopters to Cambodia.

    In the invasion of Laos in March 1971, two platoons refused to advance. To prevent the mutiny from spreading, the entire squadron was pulled out of the Laos operation. The captain was relieved of his command, but there was no discipline against the men. When a lieutenant from the 501st Infantry refused his battalion commander’s order to advance his troops, he merely received a suspended sentence.

    The decision not to punish men defying the most sacrosanct article of the military code, the disobedience of the order for combat, indicated how much the deterioration of discipline had eroded the power of the officers. The only punishment for most mutinies was to relieve the commanding officer of his duties. Consequently, many commanders would not report that they had lost control of their men. They swept news of mutiny, which would jeopardize their careers, under the rug. As they became quietly complicit, the officer corps lost any remaining moral authority to impose discipline.

    For every defiance in combat, there were hundreds of minor acts of insubordination in rear base camps. As one infantry officer reported, “You can’t give orders and expect them to be obeyed.” This democratic upsurge from below was so extensive that discipline was replaced by a new command technique called working it out. Working it out was a form of collective bargaining in which negotiations went on between officers and men to determine orders. Working it out destroyed the authority of the officer corps and gutted the ability of the army to carry out search-and-destroy missions. But the army had no alternative strategy for a guerrilla war against a national liberation movement.

    The political impact of the mutiny was felt far beyond Vietnam. As H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff, reflected, “If troops are going to mutiny, you can’t pursue an aggressive policy.” The soldiers’ revolt tied down the global reach of U.S. imperialism.

    Fragging

    The murder of American officers by their troops was an openly proclaimed goal in Vietnam. As one GI newspaper demanded, “Don’t desert. Go to Vietnam, and kill your commanding officer.” And they did. A new slang term arose to celebrate the execution of officers: fragging. The word came from the fragmentation grenade, which was the weapon of choice because the evidence was destroyed in the act.

    In every war, troops kill officers whose incompetence or recklessness threatens the lives of their men. But only in Vietnam did this become pervasive in combat situations and widespread in rear base camps. It was the most well-known aspect of the class struggle inside the army, directed not just at intolerable officers, but at “lifers” as a class. In the soldiers’ revolt, it became accepted practice to paint political slogans on helmets. A popular helmet slogan summed up this mood: “Kill a non-com for Christ.” Fragging was the ransom the ground troops extracted for being used as live bait.

    No one knows how many officers were fragged, but after Tet it became epidemic. At least 800 to 1,000 fragging attempts using explosive devices were made. The army reported 126 fraggings in 1969, 271 in 1970 and 333 in 1971, when they stopped keeping count. But in that year, just in the American Division (of My Lai fame), one fragging per week took place. Some military estimates are that fraggings occurred at five times the official rate, while officers of the Judge Advocate General Corps believed that only 10 percent of fraggings were reported. These figures do not include officers who were shot in the back by their men and listed as wounded or killed in action.

    Most fraggings resulted in injuries, although “word of the deaths of officers will bring cheers at troop movies or in bivouacs of certain units.” The army admitted that it could not account for how 1,400 officers and noncommissioned officers died. This number, plus the official list of fragging deaths, has been accepted as the unacknowledged army estimate for officers killed by their men. It suggests that 20 to 25 percent–if not more–of all officers killed during the war were killed by enlisted men, not the “enemy.” This figure has no precedent in the history of war.

    Soldiers put bounties on officers targeted for fragging. The money, usually between $100 and $1,000, was collected by subscription from among the enlisted men. It was a reward for the soldier who executed the collective decision. The highest bounty for an officer was $10,000, publicly offered by GI Says, a mimeographed bulletin put out in the 101st Airborne Division, for Col. W. Honeycutt, who had ordered the May 1969 attack on Hill 937. The hill had no strategic significance and was immediately abandoned when the battle ended. It became enshrined in GI folklore as Hamburger Hill, because of the 56 men killed and 420 wounded taking it. Despite several fragging attempts, Honeycutt escaped uninjured.

    As Vietnam GI argued after Hamburger Hill, “Brass are calling this a tremendous victory. We call it a goddam butcher shop…If you want to die so some lifer can get a promotion, go right ahead. But if you think your life is worth something, you better get yourselves together. If you don’t take care of the lifers, they might damn well take care of you.”

    Fraggings were occasionally called off. One lieutenant refused to obey an order to storm a hill during an operation in the Mekong Delta. “His first sergeant later told him that when his men heard him refuse that order, they removed a $350 bounty earlier placed on his head because they thought he was a ‘hard-liner.’”

    The motive for most fraggings was not revenge, but to change battle conduct. For this reason, officers were usually warned prior to fraggings. First, a smoke grenade would be left near their beds. Those who did not respond would find a tear-gas grenade or a grenade pin on their bed as a gentle reminder. Finally, the lethal grenade was tossed into the bed of sleeping, inflexible officers. Officers understood the warnings and usually complied, becoming captive to the demands of their men. It was the most practical means of cracking army discipline. The units whose officers responded opted out of search-and-destroy missions.

    An Army judge who presided over fragging trials called fragging “the troops’ way of controlling officers,” and added that it was “deadly effective.” He explained, “Captain Steinberg argues that once an officer is intimidated by even the threat of fragging he is useless to the military because he can no longer carry out orders essential to the functioning of the Army. Through intimidation by threats–verbal and written…virtually all officers and NCOs have to take into account the possibility of fragging before giving an order to the men under them.” The fear of fragging affected officers and NCOs far beyond those who were actually involved in fragging incidents.

    Officers who survived fragging attempts could not tell which of their men had tried to murder them, or when the men might strike again. They lived in constant fear of future attempts at fragging by unknown soldiers. In Vietnam it was a truism that “everyone was the enemy”: for the lifers, every enlisted man was the enemy. “In parts of Vietnam fragging stirs more fear among officers and NCOs than does the war with ‘Charlie.’”

    Counter-fragging by retaliating officers contributed to a war within the war. While 80 percent of fraggings were of officers and NCOs, 20 percent were of enlisted men, as officers sought to kill potential troublemakers or those whom they suspected of planning to frag them. In this civil war within the army, the military police were used to reinstate order. In October 1971, military police air assaulted the Praline mountain signal site to protect an officer who had been the target of repeated fragging attempts. The base was occupied for a week before command was restored.

    Fragging undermined the ability of the Green Machine to function as a fighting force. By 1970, “many commanders no longer trusted Blacks or radical whites with weapons except on guard duty or in combat.” In the American Division, fragmentation grenades were not given to troops. In the 440 Signal Battalion, the colonel refused to distribute all arms. As a soldier at Cu Chi told the New York Times, “The American garrisons on the larger bases are virtually disarmed. The lifers have taken the weapons from us and put them under lock and key.” The U.S. army was slowly disarming its own men to prevent the weapons from being aimed at the main enemy: the lifers.

    Peace from below–search and avoid

    Mutiny and fraggings expressed the anger and bitterness that combat soldiers felt at being used as bait to kill Communists. It forced the troops to reassess who was the real enemy.

    In a remarkable letter, 40 combat officers wrote to President Nixon in July 1970 to advise him that “the military, the leadership of this country–are perceived by many soldiers to be almost as much our enemy as the VC and the NVA.

    After the 1970 invasion of Cambodia enlarged the war, fury and the demoralizing realization that nothing could stop the warmongers swept both the antiwar movement and the troops. The most popular helmet logo became “UUUU,” which meant “the unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary, for the ungrateful.” Peace, if it were to come, would have to be made by the troops themselves, instituted by an unofficial troop withdrawal ending search-and-destroy missions.

    The form this peace from below took came to be called “search and avoid,” or “search and evade.” It became so extensive that “search and evade (meaning tacit avoidance of combat by units in the field) is now virtually a principle of war, vividly expressed by the GI phrase, ‘CYA’ (cover your ass) and get home!”

    In search and avoid, patrols sent out into the field deliberately eluded potential clashes with the NLF. Night patrols, the most dangerous, would halt and take up positions a few yards beyond the defense perimeter, where the NLF would never come. By skirting potential conflicts, they hoped to make it clear to the NLF that their unit had established its own peace treaty.

    Another frequent search-and-avoid tactic was to leave base camp, secure a safe area in the jungle and set up a perimeter-defense system in which to hole up for the time allotted for the mission. “Some units even took enemy weapons with them when they went out on such search-and-avoid missions so that upon return they could report a firefight and demonstrate evidence of enemy casualties for the body-count figures required by higher headquarters.”

    The army was forced to accommodate what began to be called “the grunts’ cease-fire.” An American soldier from Cu Chi, quoted in the New York Times, said, “They have set up separate companies for men who refuse to go out into the field. It is no big thing to refuse to go. If a man is ordered to go to such and such a place, he no longer goes through the hassle of refusing; he just packs his shirt and goes to visit some buddies at another base camp.”

    An observer at Pace, near the Cambodian front where a unilateral truce was widely enforced, reported, “The men agreed and passed the word to other platoons: nobody fires unless fired upon. As of about 1100 hours on October 10,1971, the men of Bravo Company, 11/12 First Cav Division, declared their own private cease-fire with the North Vietnamese.”

    The NLF responded to the new situation. People’s Press, a GI paper, in its June 1971 issue claimed that NLF and NVA units were ordered not to open hostilities against U.S. troops wearing red bandanas or peace signs, unless first fired upon. Two months later, the first Vietnam veteran to visit Hanoi was given a copy of “an order to North Vietnamese troops not to shoot U.S. soldiers wearing antiwar symbols or carrying their rifles pointed down.” He reports its impact on “convincing me that I was on the side of the Vietnamese now.”

    Colonel Heinl reported this:

    That ‘search-and-evade’ has not gone unnoticed by the enemy is underscored by the Viet Cong delegation’s recent statement at the Paris Peace Talks that Communist units in Indochina have been ordered not to engage American units which do not molest them. The same statement boasted–not without foundation in fact–that American defectors are in the VC ranks.

    Some officers joined, or led their men, in the unofficial cease-fire from below. A U.S. army colonel claimed:

    I had influence over an entire province. I put my men to work helping with the harvest. They put up buildings. Once the NVA understood what I was doing, they eased up. I’m talking to you about a de facto truce, you understand. The war stopped in most of the province. It’s the kind of history that doesn’t get recorded. Few people even know it happened, and no one will ever admit that it happened.

    Search and avoid, mutiny and fraggings were a brilliant success. Two years into the soldiers’ upsurge, in 1970, the number of U.S. combat deaths were down by more than 70 percent (to 3,946) from the 1968 high of more than 14,000. The revolt of the soldiers in order to survive and not to allow themselves to be victims could only succeed by a struggle prepared to use any means necessary to achieve peace from below.

    The army revolt had all of the strengths and weaknesses of the 1960s radicalization of which it was a part. It was a courageous mass struggle from below. It relied upon no one but itself to win its battles.

    The only organizing tools were the underground GI newspapers. But newspapers became a substitute for organization.

    The hidden history of the 1960s proves that the American army can be split. But that requires the long, slow patient work of explanation, of education, of organization, and of agitation and action. The Vietnam revolt shows how rank-and-file soldiers can rise to the task.

    • Great piece J. Lee. I can, from personal experience and knowledge, support every thing you say. I too have always considered the mutiny to be what ended an otherwise stalemated war of attrition. Sounds like we could trade stories, since you sound like you are speaking from experience as well.

      ybera

  2. Jonathan Schell writes “For half a century we have been arguing about “the Vietnam War.” Is it possible that we didn’t know what we were talking about?” The answer is absolutely yes. I know a lot about the depth of ignorance because I was intimately involved in that war for close to five years (’66-’70) during the worst of it, first as a civilian refugee aid worker living in one of those “squalid refugee camps” for a couple of years, then as a supervisor of other volunteers for my organization (International Voluntary Services), briefly as a staff correspondent for ABC Network News, and finally as the Field Representative for the Committee of Responsibility finding war wounded children to send to the US for restorative treatment for their grievous wounds and returning them to their families in Viet Nam at the completion of their treatment. I spoke Vietnamese fluently (still can converse) and read and wrote Vietnamese with difficulty. Many a night I listened to nearby fire fights, artillery and bombing. Many a time I had to confront being shot at with many a close call. While living in the village I had to be careful not to leave things on the small table in my primitive room lest the shaking of the earth from the nearby B52 raids would cause them to rattle across the surface and crash to the floor. I traveled extensively in areas that no other foreigner ever went. I saw first hand the violence and utter destruction meted out to the civilian population. In many ways I had a perspective that encompassed more reality than even native folks could access as I traveled easily in area controlled by both sides. Additionally my brother spent a year in combat with the US Airborne 101 Division in I Corps and he tended to be very graphic about his experiences.

    Ironically, even on my occasional visits to Viet Nam I find few who remember the war, few who are even still alive to remember it, and no one that really wants to talk about it. For most Vietnamese, it seems, the American War In Viet Nam is something to forget and move on from. It is a common commitment to a better future that sees no use in dwelling in the past. For Americans the war is not in the past at all. For lack of reliable information that war lives on in the American psyche like an infectious abscess silently and invisibly draining our energies and making us sick. The cure for an abscess is to lance and drain it. A painful experience that brings rapid relief. I encourage English speakers to take any opportunity to open up the abcess of lies about that war that festers in our minds and drain it so that reality can reassert itself in our lives before it is too late and we too become victims of the kind of horrendous, senseless violence that our country inflicted on the Vietnamese and continues to inflict on poor people around the world.

    It is also ironic that virtually never do I see Vietnamese sources referenced in English texts. It is as if the Vietnamese are considered unreliable sources on their own history. It is as if a separation wall has been constructed to hold back reality. This is a very crazy making situation. There is a great film documentary available on Netflix (National Geographic: Vietnam’s Unseen War: Pictures from the Other Side) that has some realistic and graphic coverage of the horror. Folks might want to watch that before reading the book so you can have images to correlate with the text.

    I carry deep wounds from my adventure that are only partly healed. My family still laughs when I reflexively, more than forty years later, duck under cover when I hear a helicopter coming. The sound of automatic weapons fire, especially 5.56 and 7.62 mm small arms ( the M15 and AKs usually involved in fire fights), still has the potential for transporting me into that reality and induce irrational behavior (as in diving for cover). I spent numerous nights huddled in a hole in the ground for safety listening to the din of battle approach. All this without ever holding a weapon, not even a knife because to do so would have been suicidal in that I lived without armed security and survived only by the kindness of strangers who could distinguish American friends from American foes. I lived by the grace of the angels and the basic decency of Vietnamese society that could distinguish between the good and the bad in people.

    I knew Jonathan Schell briefly. He may remember using my Hermes portable typewriter in my humble room to write the first drafts of his book The Village of Ben Suc, which is one of a very short list of books on the war that I consider reliable. Ninety nine point nine percent of everything published in English about The American War in Viet Nam is just trash, a waste of paper and ink in my informed opinion, and a nearly insurmountable barrier to those who would wish to study this history.

    It is in the nature of American Exceptionalism, that mass delusional state that affects our nation then and now, to embrace self centered ignorance. We are paying the price for this even now as atrocities, every bit as horrible as those committed in Viet Nam during the American War, continue apace around the world. I am looking forward to reading Nick Turse’s book. Maybe I will add it to my short list of truth telling books about the American War in Vietnam.

    ybera

  3. These impressive pieces, the original post and the two informative “responses”, are not only historically important, but even more, their wide dissemination is urgently needed. The banal, cliche ridden history texts shoveled at youngsters beginning with middle school, and the students’ “subtle” recruitment through required “patriotic” curricular components (obedience, team work, pledges, phony history, glorification of veterans) should be flagged with skull and cross bones. The marines, army, navy and other institutional representative agencies of our military are the carriers of toxic (lethal) messages. To be fair, it is the military institutions in the entire world that should be excised from human culture. Nonetheless, I would extirpate the whole lot of them. There is no redemption. And don’t ask something like, “Well, sir, and who will protect peace loving people from all the bad guys in this world?” The question, as put and hypothecated here, would be simplistic, and would rate right along with the NRA chief’s comment that the answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

  4. Must read book ‘Secret’s’ by Daniel Ellsberg and his heroic activist efforts to expose the truths about Vietnam and our Government’s lies, which ended up killing up to 2 million Vietnamese at the time (which few seem to want to disclose to the public or speak to)

    All at the possible cost of him being imprisoned for life….or worse, he usurped ‘national security’, released the Pentagon papers and went into hiding until he turned himself in.

    The sidebar is that he had also just fallen deeply in love with an anti-war protestor, who greatly assisted in his awakening while he was working for the Rand Corp, falsifying the war data.

    This book also brings to the stark realization that if this event were to occur today he would of been imprisoned and no action would be taken against those that caused and continue with so much death and destruction today (see Iraq WMD).

    For good DVD’s, a hollywood movie called “The Pentagon Papers’ with Alan Arkin and James Spader and ‘The Most Dangerous Man in America’ documentary, which was released just recently.

    (Fyi, Mulligan books can order a copy for you today!)
    http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Memoir-Vietnam-Pentagon-Papers/product-reviews/0142003425/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

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