Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Kicking Viet Nam Veterans Again

October 17, 2007

Although I imagine it was meant well, the Associated Presses Estes Thompson continues with one of the many exaggerated claims coming out of the Viet Nam War. In an article published today, Thompson headlines the article ’Fragging’ Is Rare in Iraq, Afghanistan.

Either by intent or naiveté, the opening line of the article says, “American troops killed their own commanders so often during the Vietnam War that the crime earned its own name - "fragging."”

Speaking as a Viet Nam Veteran, that is a bunch of horse pucky! While incidents known as “fragging” did occasionally occur, they were neither frequent or so often that a new name was applied to the age-old problem of subordinates killing their Military Superiors. Many terms became updated during that time and after, it is just nature. We have seen it from the changes of shell shock to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Same problem, different name.

Thompson also makes the claim, “Between 1969 and 1971, the Army reported 600 fragging incidents that killed 82 Americans and injured 651. In 1971 alone, there were 1.8 fraggings for every 1,000 American soldiers serving in Vietnam, not including gun and knife assaults.”

Troop levels had been reduced to 156,800 in 1971, down from 475,200 in 1969.(1) Given that the Troop Level was 156,800 in 1971, the year Thompson mentions and that there were 271 “fraggings” reported,(2) including both actual and attempted, and corresponding to Thompson’s figures, another way to say it would be .17% or, less than two tenths of one percent of all the Troops in Viet Nam at the time. Hardly an astronomical number, to me.

Of course, the intent is to show that Troop discontent in Iraq and Afghanistan has not risen to the level claimed for Viet Nam as he continues with a quote from Texas A&M University history professor and Vietnam veteran Terry Anderson, "These people knew the war was pretty much lost, that they were going to be sacrificed. They just wanted to get out of Vietnam."

Mr. Anderson fails to figure in that many of those deployed to Viet Nam at that time had been subjected to years of anti-war rhetoric in the States. He also fails to realize that we all knew the war was winding down and it was widely known. At this time period, many were sent to the Army by Judges instead of being sentenced to jail for crimes committed in Civilian life, in a misguided policy of giving youthful criminals the choice of jail or the Army.

Mr. Anderson’s claim that we pretty much knew all was lost doesn’t hold water, either. In fact, not one U.S. Military Unit ever surrendered in the entire length of America’s involvement in Viet Nam, unlike World Wars One and Two. Neither was any battle ever lost by American Units in Viet Nam, right up to the end of our commitment in 1973.

Through out our involvement in Viet Nam, the Communists continually circulated leaflets encouraging U.S. Troops first to defect and second to take part in the G.I. anti-war movement. They especially appealed to Black Troops citing the injustices done to Blacks in America in history. Less than 250 Troops deserted while in Viet Nam, far less than the 20,000 convictions of American Troops in World War Two for desertion.

To my way of thinking, it would have been much easier to simply desert and with the assistance of the Communists, make your way back to Canada or elsewhere that did not extradite draft dodgers and deserters back to America, than to murder a superior and set yourself up for a Court Martial that could result in a Death Sentence. But then again, I am not a learned history Professor at Texas A&M University.

To be clear, “fraggings” did happen in Viet Nam. Although not called “fraggings,” they occurred in every war America has ever been in. Less than two tenths of one percent of the men serving there at a given time hardly constitutes the excessive frequency that the anti-war left has tried to maintain all these years.

Thompson should realize that today’s Military is all volunteer, no draft and no youthful sociopaths being given the choice of jail time or serving in the Military, as was done during the Viet Nam Era. He also should realize that far less Troops have been committed to Iraq and Afghanistan than were Viet Nam. Then again, there is even more public support expressed today than we received back then.

While I understand Thompson’s attempts at shedding a positive light on the Troops serving today, is it really necessary to stand on our backs to do it?





Roger W. Gardner said...

The lies go on and on. But hopefully people like you can help to set the record straight. You've already changed much of what I just assumed to be true about Nam.
Keep up your good work, Lew. There ARE people out there listening.
Roger G.

LewWaters said...

Thanks, Roger. It is imperative that the public somehow learn the truth of Viet Nam and we are trying to get it out.