LtCol Forrest R. Lindsey USMC (ret), staff writer
I read through the New York Times this morning and since today is the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, they had several opinion pieces discussing the fallacy of America’s involvement in Vietnam, the terrible lessons of the misuse of American power, the atrocities “committed routinely” by us, etc.,etc..
May I throw the BS flag onto the field? We had an ally in trouble, we had the entire Communist Bloc supplying the Vietcong insurgents, we had the North Vietnamese Army in the south and whole world was watching to see what we’d do. If you peruse a map of the area, you’ll see that it was part of the world the Communists really wanted to control. The Straits of Malacca are close by and anyone controlling the ports in Vietnam would have the ability to choke off oil and other supplies to our other allies; Japan, South Korea, the Philippines. It wasn’t an insignificant area in geopolitics.
The young men who answered the call – or just served honorably when they were drafted – were some of the best young men we have ever fielded. We were well acquainted with the savagery of the enemy to the local villagers and it was emphasized to us over and over that the villagers were the focus of our war, the reason we were there. I distinctly remember what it was like to approach a new village that hadn’t dealt with Marines before. At first, nobody was visible and if we stopped there, eventually some kids would come out of hiding. We’d give them some of the hard tropical chocolate discs from our C-rations and maybe some other treats. Then the old people would come out and they’d see that we were playing with the kids and weren’t interested in killing their animals or taking anything from them.
The next time we’d go through that village, we’d be welcomed with smiles and sometimes even warned where the mines were. The Marine Corps even instituted a program called the Combined Action Program (CAP) where an incredibly brave squad of Marines and a Corpsman would actually live in those villages full time to train them to protect themselves.
I will always be proud of my time in Vietnam and of the men who served there with me. The war had vicious enemies to fight, nice people to protect and real reasons to be there. The New York Times writers can say what they want to, but if the United States hadn’t fought for South Vietnam for those eight long, hard years how would the world have looked at us? Sure, we lost but it was only after a long struggle that stalled and drained the Communist Bloc and in the end, there weren’t anymore “National Liberation Wars” and the Cold War came to an end soon after. We showed a steel in us that our adversaries didn’t think we had and in the end that was what the Communists saw in us when Reagan took office. Our sacrifices were not in vain. Our war was a good war, no matter what the New York Times wants to print.