Tuesday, May 5, 2015

45th anniversary post

Happy Cinco De Mayo! 

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the day I stepped off the Freedom Bird at Travis Air Force Base ...

... to be welcomed home by screaming hippies, shouting "Baby killer!".

I was going to go back and tell them I didn't kill any babies,

But the MP's that were escorting us past them, wouldn't allow me to go over to the fence. Hmm, I wonder why?

After 418 days in the land of the big bivouac[i], a ton of MP's escort those of us Sp-4 and below, from the tarmac to the front door of an EM club or some sort of bar. As I recall it was conveniently located near several forms of public transportation.

My first thought was, “What do we need MP’s for? Who is going to be stupid enough to attack a planeload of soldiers fresh back from the War?”

Later I realized they weren’t there for our protection, they were there to protect the hippies.

So then I go into the EM club, order a drink and I get carded ... I am 19.

“Are you kidding[ii] me?” I shouted. “I just got home from Vietnam, and I can’t have a [iii] drink?”

The poor bartender, who probably had to put up with the same thing several times a day ... every day ... was sympathetic ... but

“Hey, I understand man,” he stated, shrugging his shoulders. “Hell, I agree with you. But, there’s nothin’ I can do about it. I don’t want to get fired.”

So, several of us who were under 21 went back outside looking for a safe place to smoke a doob. The MP’s were gone by then, so that wasn’t too hard to find.

A military bus to the airport and a quick flight down to The City,[iv] a taxi to Union Square to feed the mind & a really freaky bus trip to Salinas to visit some graves that I never managed to find. I did find myself at my ex-fiancé’s house. Not sure why I went there ... perhaps to flash my wedding ring in her face. But she wasn’t home.

I did find out that my social skills had deteriorated. I don’t know how long I sat staring at the wall. Somewhere along the line, John, her father, drove me to the Greyhound Bus depot. Probably didn’t say 5 words the whole time I was there. I never did see him again after that.

Mom was ecstatic to see me home and then sorry again to see me dash off to Kansas. My wife[v] was already there at the time. I ended up being stationed there at Ft. Riley, even though I put in for Ft. Ord ... typical.

A lot of the combat veterans with time left in the service were being sent to Riley. Their primary purpose was to fill out a Division sized ready reaction force to defend Europe in the event of heavy NATO action there, i.e. a Soviet attack.

Our unspoken mission was to train 90-day wonders before they were sent to Vietnam. We did a lot of bivouac & war games. We often taught these LT’s some hard lessons.

One time our then-current 2nd Louie was shouting orders that although technically by-the-book correct, would never be done in actual combat.

The seasoned veteran sergeants argued with him, but he insisted we would do it his way. So we marched right up the middle of this wide open valley with thick forests of trees half way down the hill on each side. About half way thru the valley we looked at each other,

“Man, if there were any real enemy[vi] around we would already be dead”.

“No kidding man."

"We are dead.”

“We should just start dropping as we walk.”

Looking around at each other, everyone began grinning ... then one by one we fell to the ground, playing dead. Next, groups of 4 or 5 fell until the entire platoon was lying there (including 3 of the Noncoms).

“Get up off the ground, you idiots,” LT screamed. “What the [vii] are you doing?”

“No can do, sir,” came an unknown voice. “We’re all dead.”


“That’s right, sir.” One of the ‘dead’ NCOs stated, as he jumped to his feet, dusting off his uniform before saluting the LT. “You walked us into an ambush, sir. We are all dead.”

One by one, then by two’s and three’s, the “dead” rise, dusting themselves off, and then sauntering off toward the platoon’s camp area.

“Form up the platoon”

“This is the platoon, sir,” Sarge said. The Platoon Sargent, sporting two stars on his CIB, rigidly controlled the corner of his mouth to prevent a laugh from slipping out. All of the NCOs standing around him fought back their own laughter, as well. “The rest of the men are all dead, sir.” The Noncoms made no attempt to form up the platoon.

I won’t explore LT’s reaction as we all went back to camp ... but the response to LT’s reaction was shouted over someone’s shoulder as the platoon walked off.

“What are you going to do, sir? Send us to Vietnam?”

[i] Well, minus a quick trip home to square away an unexpected bundle & about 2 1/2 months between a hospital in Yokohama and recovery in Camp Zama.
[ii] I don’t think “kidding” was the word I used at the time.
[iii] Expletive deleted.
[iv] San Francisco
[v] Long since ex
[vi] Derogatory name deleted
[vii] Expletive deleted

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Credibility Gap Part 3: Other Factors

Credibility Gap Part 3: Other Factors

Another factor that contributed to the credibility gap was President Kennedy’s relaxing of the “official military censorship of World War II and Korea in favor of managed news”[i]. Kennedy was concerned about negative press over censorship.

His caution backfired as a press corps that was used to a certain amount of wartime censorship got a taste of freedom, so to speak. When the Saigon government maintained the censorship that Kennedy lifted, it angered the press corps.

This was about the time when WWII correspondents were retiring and a new guard of young reporters entered the stage lacking experience with the military censorship.

I mentioned before that the old guard knew it could cost lives to reveal sensitive information so they were trusted to hear classified information and were able to comprehend and formulate informed opinions about the war in the context of the big picture.

In an attempt to get a scoop, some young reporters released enough information to get people killed. So the young guard with no tolerance for military censorship, gradually (and in some instances very rapidly) found the information gateways becoming clogged with misinformation and doubletalk.
Another communications nightmare was that the new guard was not trained in military strategy[ii]. Therefore they were confused by military jargon and often dismissed what they were being told as political doubletalk. Sometimes the doubletalk was doubletalk, and sometimes it was military or political jargon that was not understood.

The US military leaders were also aware that information that showed up on the international wire services was accessed by North Vietnam and available to the Vietcong as well.

So Kennedy’s “managing news” meant information about ongoing operations became scarce and non-committal. ... Causing the press to distrust more and write negatively about it. ... Causing the government spokespersons to tighten up even more & sometimes lie ... angering the reporters who ...

... “mistrusted the press releases, (that) while often valid, were extrapolated from ‘double check and confirm’ to reject without confirmation simply because the report came from the government[iii]

Well, you get where this is going, a circle of mistrust and bad feelings spiraling out of control.

But if that’s not bad enough, the press, failing to get information they needed from official sources, went to sources that often had one-sided or incomplete information. Skewed conclusions were drawn.

Subjective reporting and editing replaced the objectivity that is required by the social contract between the press and the people.

The reporters that were looking for the sensational stories of death and destruction, ignored the stories about the many good things that were happening:

Major General James C. Smith recalls that “a reporter followed him around for several days ... but his series was never printed because it was too complimentary”[iv]. 

The politicians made mistakes with the press as well. Cosmos states, “By deliberately understating the scale and costs of the U.S. commitment in July 1965, President Johnson made inevitable an erosion of congressional and public trust in his administration as the conflict went on”[v].

Politicians felt the press made mistakes too. “The war was reported battle by battle,” Nixon counseled. “But little or no sense of the underlying purpose of the fighting was conveyed. Eventually this contributed to the impression that we were fighting in military and moral quicksand, rather than toward an important and worthwhile objective”[vi].

An example of this is found in the coverage of Hamburger Hill. The media never bothers to mention the millions of tons of weapons and supplies that were captured and destroyed when Hamburger Hill was taken. They don't mention that the loss of these supplies delayed the next communist offensive by 7-8 months.

Nor do they mention that the deep underground 2000 lb-bomb-proof storage bunkers along with their contents were destroyed before abandoning the Hill. These bunkers could not be blown by B-52s.

They also failed to mention that destroying these underground storage bunkers & their contents was the main objective of operation. The bunkers were very labor intensive to build & rebuild. The enemy troops that were employed rebuilding the bunker had to be diverted from some other purpose. Again, significantly hindering the communist war effort.

A high enemy body count was the gravy for the operation, not the objective. The weapons supply depot had to be taken by ground pounders.

Why abandon the base once it was taken? To keep the base may have created another Khe Sanh. Strategists calculated it was less costly to abandon and retake the hill later, if it became necessary, than to spend the effort to hold the hill. It was quite possible the enemy would rebuild elsewhere land we would be holding the hill for nothing.

It is not wise to let your enemy know what your strategies are. Yet, this simple truth escaped the Vietnam press corps. They complained there was no strategy, but they could not understand that the military would not reveal their strategy to the press because they did not want it given to the enemy.

It’s Wartime Security 101. How could they not know that if the revealed critical strategic information it could cause American and Allied casualties?

The Pentagon Papers didn’t help matters much either.

So bottom line the media didn’t trust the government and the government didn’t trust the media. The problems created by the Credibility Gap have ripples that are felt even today.

Please email questions and comments to VietnamWarMyths@gmail.com

[i] Tallman, G., & McKerns, J. (2000). Press Mess: David Halberstam, the Buddhist Crisis, and U.S. Policy in Vietnam, 1963. Journalism & Communication Monographs, 2(3), 109-153. Retrieved from Communication & Mass Media Complete database, p. 116.
[ii] Lawrence, John (2002). The Cat From Hue. New York: Public Affairs, p. 51; (Even the greenest rookie in the Army would know the answer to the question he poses); p. 388 (He doesn’t understand a principle as simple as reinforcements filling the ranks of the dead in the destroyed unit. JL is one example of ignorance being a wedge in the communication process. A combination of these various wedges led to the Credibility Gap).
[iii] Tallman, G., & McKerns, J. (2000). Press Mess: David Halberstam, the Buddhist Crisis, and U.S. Policy in Vietnam, 1963. Journalism & Communication Monographs, 2(3), 109-153, p. 116.
[iv] Kinnard, D., (,2001, pp. 445-456). Vietnam Reconsidered: An attitudinal Survey of U.S. Army General Officers. Unknown periodical. Op articles > 543316generalssurveyed.pdf p. 451.
[v] Cosmos, G. A., (2006). MACV: The Joint Command in the years of escalation, 1962-1967, (United States Army in Vietnam). Washington D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, p. 245.
[vi] Nixon, R. M. (1978), The Memoirs of Richard Nixon. Grosset and Dunlap, New York, p. 350.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Nationalism Vs. Communism: A Rebuttal

I am going to break from the credibility gap today to answer the following comment posted on YouTube. Normally I hesitate to respond to commentators who fail to cite their sources, however, it is time to set the record straight.

The following was directed at me (I lined thru it so you know I did not write this:

"+@VietnamWarMyths You don't know what you are talking about.
South Vietnamese nationalism is precisely what you were fighting to crush. The Viet Minh nationalists fought the French, then the Japanese, the French again, and then the United States after the US installed its dictatorship in the South which attacked the nationalists.
It was the Vietnamese nationalists who were fighting for the liberation and independence of South Vietnam from the US and its installed military juntas.
The idea that a defenseless third world country in Indochina was going to take over the world is simply ludicrous."

I am not sure where you got the (ludicrous) idea that I said North Vietnam was trying to take over the world, but let’s clarify that right off the bat.

The Vietnam War (American War from the Vietnamese point of view) was one of dozens of “wars of liberation” the Soviet and Chinese leaders were attempting to use to take over the world[i]. As I said in my first comment, the Soviet Communists and Chinese Communists were trying to take over the world.

That clarified, I will now respond to the issues from the beginning:

“You don't know what you are talking about.”

I have spent decades studying the Vietnam War. 3 years of that time was spent in full-time graduate level academic research, studying original & secondary source documents from the North Vietnamese, the South Vietnamese, the Soviets, the Chinese, the Vietcong, the Australians, the Americans including both government, media and antiwar sources. I have hundreds of pages of notes collected from this research. The index alone for those notes is fifteen pages long. Also note that I cite my sources.

"South Vietnamese nationalism is precisely what you were fighting to crush. The Viet Minh nationalists fought the French, then the Japanese, the French again, and then the United States after the US installed its dictatorship in the South which attacked the nationalists."

You are right about the French, and about the Japanese, more or less. Your level of accuracy fails miserably after that.

It was North Vietnam that was trying to, and succeeded in crushing South Vietnamese nationalism. Note that South Vietnam no longer exists as a nation. We, Americans, did not crush it, the North Vietnamese did. We were trying to protect South Vietnam from communist aggression & forced unification under communist rule.

The peoples of North and South Vietnam were two very different peoples. The southerners did not want to be dominated by or unified with the North.

If you don’t believe that, ask these descendants of South Vietnamese nationals still lamenting the loss of their county due to communist aggression http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ff-south-vietnamese-flag-20141228-story.html 

Next, I will call your attention to the organizational documents of the National Liberation Front (NLF or political arm of the Vietcong) known as the Manifesto and Program of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam[ii]. The South Vietnamese did not create this document; the North Vietnamese created it. Observe the second paragraph opens with the statement, “Our compatriots in South Vietnam[iii]” (RVN). This is one of many indicators that show that the South Vietnamese did not create the Vietcong.

The Vietcong (VC) was a puppet organization created by the Communists in North Vietnam (DVR). After the non-communist government in the South surrendered, the Northern government took control of South Vietnam away from the Vietcong (by this time the NLF had morphed into the Provisional Revolutionary Government or PRG) leadership, systematically squeezing the Southerners out of the government until the North controlled the entire nation. Truong Nhu Tang, the Vietcong Minister of Justice, while discussing the aftermath of the fall of Saigon stated,

Truong Nhu Tang
“My administrators began claiming that they had to carry out orders from their superiors in the Northern government rather than the directives they received from us. ... My guests (Northern leaders) succeeded in conveying to me the fundamentality of the North’s resolve to control the Provisional Government ... I had no illusions about what was happening, and I knew that neither I nor my colleagues would be in office long”[iv].

Even though President Diem may have been repressive, very few South Vietnamese chose to escape to the north, because they knew Diem was less oppressive than the Ho regime. Those that did migrate north were primarily Communists.

However, when the DVR was forming in the mid 1950s, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese citizens voted against communism with their feet. They chose to leave the north because they were quite aware of the repressive controls imposed by the Communists in the north. The South Vietnamese did not want a communist government!

"The US and its installed military juntas."

A Constitutional Assembly of 118 men and women was elected by 85% of the people, in spite of the fact that “communist guerrillas attacked voters, polling places and even candidates. One of those who was elected was murdered by the Vietcong immediately after the election”[v].
Nguyen Cao Ky

Through early 1967 the South Vietnamese Constitutional Assembly and the South Vietnamese Directorate met in Saigon and drafted a constitution[vi]. This was a combined effort of their military and civilian officials, not Westmoreland, not Taylor, not Johnson.

Diem’s eventual successor, President Thieu was elected in a nationwide election where over 75% of the population turned out to vote in spite of continued Communist reprisals against anyone who voted[vii]. That’s a higher percentage turnout than any election in the history of the United States and we don’t risk death for voting. The Vietnamese people installed President Thieu, not the US.

This is evidence of two things: First, by 1967 the Vietcong did not control the hearts and minds of the people. Second, in most instances, the Vietcong did not have the capability to carry out their threats because the elections were held with large turnouts in spite of those threats. If the VC had the capability they would have closed down the polls.

Premier Ky stated, “The Vietcong positioned themselves as liberators ... (However) after Tet it was plain that the Vietcong were mistaken, that as much as people found fault with their government, they did not want to live under communism”[viii].

By the middle of 1968 the Vietcong were so unpopular among the South Vietnamese that 70% of the VC ranks were filled with Northern conscripts[ix], and many of the remaining 30% were teenagers stolen from their villages.

After returning to III Corps from the hospital in Japan, I was a guard on the Dau Tiang bridge platoon for about a month. We had daily contact with the villagers in Dau Taing. On three occasions, against regulations, we hid teenagers from the village (two of which were 12-year old boys) on the bridge because the VC were in the village drafting these kids for their army. I repeat the VC were kidnapping children to fight!

If the VC were as popular as the media claimed they were, they would have no need to draft anyone, they would have plenty of volunteers.

"It was the Vietnamese nationalists who were fighting for the liberation and independence of South Vietnam from the US."

Now, you may have gotten the mistaken idea that the VC were fighting for Vietnamese nationalism because many of the rank and file VC, who were Southerners by birth or ancestry believed the same thing. They, like you were duped by communist propaganda.

Truong Nhu Tang, the VC Minister of Justice, himself a former communist, admits, that under direction from the northern honchos, they specifically did not mention communism to the rank and file VC members because if they had, most would have deserted because they were anti-communist. This does not mean that the VC were in fact fighting for “nationalism”.

While it is true that they believed they were fighting to remove foreign invaders from their land, they were unwittingly fighting for forced unification under communist rule. The claim, that the US was a foreign invader, was, after all, a main point in the communist Dich Van propaganda program. 

Speaking of Vietcong training for the Southerners, Truong stated, "As a general rule there was no political indoctrination; Marxist subjects, for example were never touched on. ... Northern troops ... (received) a steady infusion of Marxist precepts and class analysis. Had we attempted similar indoctrination of the Southern peasant guerrillas, they would have considered it worse torture than the regime could possibly devise for them"[x]

Many of the higher echelon of the VC leadership were well aware that the organization was a communist organization, but they also took great pains to ensure that the rank and file Southerners did not know this fact[xi]. Because all the previous foreign occupiers were colonialists, it was easy to dupe Southern nationalists into believing the Americans were colonialists as well.

The Army of the Republic of South Vietnam (ARVN) were the true South Vietnamese nationalists. The VC only thought they were. All the Vietcong’s efforts only succeeded in costing them their county to communist aggression. Those that did not die in the struggle paid an unexpected price when they found their sovereignty stolen from them by the Northern invaders[xii].

[i] See Domino Theory below.
[ii] Truong Nhu Tang, Chanoff D., & Doan Van Toai (1985). A Vietcong Memoir. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, pp. 319-322.
[iii] Ibid, p. 319.
[iv] Ibid, pp. 266-267, parentheses added.
[v] Cao Ky, N., Wolf, M. J., (2002). Buddha’s Child: My fight to save Vietnam. New York: St. Martin’s Press, p. 231.
[vi] Ibid., p. 232.
[vii] Ibid., p.  
[viii] Cao Ky, N., Wolf, M. J., (2002). Buddha’s Child: My fight to save Vietnam. New York: St. Martin’s Press, pp. 283-284.
[ix] Ibid.
[x] Truong Nhu Tang, Chanoff D., & Doan Van Toai (1985). A Vietcong Memoir. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, pp. 164-166.
[xi] Ibid., p. 164.
[xii] Truong Nhu Tang, Chanoff D., & Doan Van Toai (1985). A Vietcong Memoir. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Credibility Gap Pt 2: Why the credibility gap worked both ways.

The credibility gap was a destructive communication breakdown. Both parties, the press and the government, were at fault and responsible. How did this rift come about? Lets look at the events that led to the escalating spiral of mistrust.
Courtesy National Archives

The WWII generation of reporters and government spokespersons had an unwritten agreement that they would not release information until told the reporters were told it was ok. They were informed of the plans of operations before the operations took place. When the reporters went in with or behind the troops they had a working idea of the big picture. They held onto their information until they were told it was ok to release, voluntarily for the security of the soldiers in the field and their missions.

Courtesy National Archives
In the early sixties that generation of reporters began to retire. The new reporters coming in did not have that sense of security. They felt their job was to uncover whatever they could and be the first to get it in print.

The government sources withheld information because they did not trust the media to keep secrets. In the haste for a scoop, security was breeched and people were killed or captured, instead of completing their mission.

Courtesy National Archives
Kennedy once quipped, “Castro doesn’t need any agents in the US. All he has to do is read our newspapers”[i] (Chap 8 ~22:50 on the countdown).

The press did not trust government sources because they withheld information.

The U.S. government’s spokespersons did not trust the media not to reveal information that could get men in the field killed.

Part of the rift between the press and the government may have been the result of Ambassador Nolting’s apparent failure to confront Diem about the Saigon government’s expelling of American reporters Sully and Robinson in 1962. The Diem regime was stricter with reporters than the US censors.
Courtesy Wikipedia

While the anger was aimed at the Saigon government, the lack of satisfaction from the hardened Diem/Ngo regime caused that anger to fly in the only direction that it could, at the American government and military.

In Part 3 we will look at some other factors. Thanks for reading.

[i] Berlin 1961, (audiobook) Chap 8 ~22:50 (on the countdown).

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Vietnam War, the news media and the North Vietnamese Dich Van Program

Thanks to Mark Woodruff,[i] I recently became focused on the North Vietnamese program (Dich Van) to undermine the credibility of the United States, its military and especially its involvement in the Vietnam War.

I knew the Dich Van program existed because Douglas Pike[ii], Truong Nhu Tang[iii], the North Vietnamese’s War Experiences Recapitulation Committee[iv] and others mentioned it at various places in their writings. But Mark devotes an entire section in his book to the subject, concentrating lots of data into one location.

The program was designed to make America look like a mean ogre beating up on a defenseless puppy dog while supporting a puppet government containing a cesspool of corruption. For my final project in Jee-Young Chung’s Strategic Communications class at Southern Utah University, I am writing a paper analyzing the Dich Van program from a public relations perspective.

Let's look for a minute at the aftermath of the program. Fast forward 35 years from the Fall of Saigon and look first at a misnomer and then picture posted in an article by William Kern, who claims to be "the Moderate Voice"[v] when referring to the 1975 Fall of Saigon, he states,

 “The event marked the defeat of America and its allies and a victory for the forces of Ho Chi Minh”[vi].

Whoa there!

#1: South Vietnam was defeated in the Fall of Saigon, not America. We signed a peace treaty and our troops went home over 2 years before Saigon fell.

US combat troops were not involved in the defense of Saigon or the defense of any part of Vietnam during the 1975 offensive. If we had been, Saigon would still be Saigon, not Ho Chi Minh City.

US Marines that went in had one mission, assist in the evacuation of Embassy staff, American civilians and loyal South Vietnamese. There was also reported to be a mission to extract vital materials from a nuclear power plant that was being built, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the North Vietnamese. 

American forces had specific orders not to engage Communist forces. As it turns out the Communists had orders not to engage US forces as well.

#2: America was not defeated, we are still here, and we are still a super power! It is the Communist Empire that fell in 1990.

PS: Ho Chi Minh died in 1969 so they weren’t really his forces anymore, but that technicality (while demonstrating either Kern’s ignorance or his hero worship of Uncle Ho) is not the point.

Next lets look at the picture. Note the caption says, “Misery: Women and children take cover 20 miles from Saigon during the Vietnam War, 1966. The war ended 9 years later, April 30, 1975”[vii]. If you go to the Moderate Voice website (click on the photo) look at the photo and read the first paragraph you will get the impression that this misery is America’s fault.

However, look closely at the soldiers in the background. Those helmets are American helmets, not North Vietnamese or Vietcong. The women and children are taking refuge from the communists not the Americans. They are not afraid of the GIs, if so they would not turn their backs on them. They are afraid of the Communists.

Do you see how the context of a picture that shows Vietnamese civilians that are not sympathetic to the Communists is twisted to make the US appear to be the bad guys? This attitude is at least substantially a result of the Dich Van program. A detailed look at all possible causes is beyond the scope of this blog is a good topic for future research.

You might argue that we shouldn’t have been there, so they wouldn’t have to hide from the VC therefore we caused their misery (again an attitude developed by the Dich Van program). I answer that by asking who would have protected them then?

The North Vietnamese were determined to unite Vietnam under communist rule. The war would still have happened, though arguably it may not have lasted so long.

The South Vietnamese did not want to be ruled by the communists. That is why they voted with their feet and migrated south by the hundreds of thousands when Ho Chi Minh expelled the French. They chose the South Vietnamese government even with all its flaws.

Toledo Blade May 16th 1989
It is the North Vietnamese that should not have been there!

Once I finish the paper on Dich Van, I plan a series for this forum based on the paper. Watch for it. It should be interesting reading.

For one thing, it points out why the US media denied our overwhelming victories, sensationalized even our slightest mistakes and generalized the guilt of a few criminals onto every Vietnam Veteran.

But for the next post, I return to the Credibility Gap.

[i] Woodruff, Mark W. (1999). Unheralded Victory: The Defeat of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army, 1961 – 1973. Arlington VA: Vandamere Press, pp. 197 – 246.
[ii] Pike, D. (1969). War, Peace and the Viet Cong. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The M.I.T. Press.
[iii] Truong Nhu Tang, Chanoff, David and Doan Van Toai (1985). A Vietcong Memoir: An inside account of the Vietnam War and its aftermath. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers. 
[iv] War Experiences Recapitulation Committee of the High-Level Military Institute, (1980) Joint Publications Research Service (trans.) Doc. No. 80968 (1982). Vietnam: The Anti-U.S. Resistance War for National Salvation, 1954-1975: Military Events. Hanoi: People’s Army Publishing House.
[v] http://themoderatevoice.com/70913/vietnam-celebrates-victory-over-the-greatest-imperialist-voice-of-vietnam-vietnam/
[vi] Ibid, paragraph 1

Monday, November 17, 2014

Memorial to a fallen WWI Vet

Sort of off topic I know, but I thought this is a great memorial

I don't know the original source I received it in an email from my friend Dave

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Credibility gap during the Vietnam War between the US Media and the US Government

One heavily used buzzword (buzzphrase) during the Vietnam Era was the “Credibility Gap”. It was a phrase coined by the media to draw attention to the gap between what the government was telling the reporters and what they believed to be true.

The Myth: The media was credible and the government was not.

In this next series of blogs I will put the Credibility Gap idea under a microscope.
Who’s Credible?

The US press appeared willing to take the word of the communists at face value.  Yet spokespersons of the US Government were treated as if they were not only lying, but as if they were the only liars in the world.

The attitude seemed to be that if the communists are caught lying, “It’s ok, they’re communists what do you expect.” But if a US government official lies then the world is broken. Catch one in a lie & they must all be lying. Everything they say is a lie.

There was an attitude that if the communists commit major atrocities, “It’s ok, they’re communists what do you expect.” But if a US or ARVN soldier commits an atrocity, then the world is broken. They must all be baby killers & every US & ARVN soldier must be committing atrocities.

Coverage of the Hue massacres vs. coverage of the My Lai massacre discussed in an earlier post on this blog is an example of this.

Let’s look at an example taking the communists at face value:
Arnaud de Borchgrave

Arnaud de Borchgrave interviewed Pham Van Dong in Newsweek about the ’72 Spring Offensive, Arnaud asks, “On March 30 (when the offensive began) you set out to prove that Vietnamization was a failure. Do you think that you have succeeded?”[1]

Pham’s answer sidesteps the question, “The US press has said itself it was a total failure”[2]. He refers to the US press reports rather than providing any actual evidence that Vietnamization is not working,
Pham Van Dong

De Borchgrave did not pin Pham down by asking for some solid evidence, or for any evidence at all for that matter. Journalistic integrity required him to get a better answer, but he took the Communist’s response at face value.

Why? Was it because the liked the answer he got? Was it already anti-Vietnam War enough for him?

Fact is, if Pham had any actual evidence, his own track record shows he would have presented that evidence. He had no evidence because his army was getting its tail kicked and he knew it. So his options were to cite the US press or admit Vietnamization was working well enough to defeat his own army in the 72 Spring Offensive.

So the selective reporting of evasive answers perpetuated the myth that “Vietnamization was not working”.

Part 2 explains why the credibility gap worked both ways.

Picture credits, click on the picture or link to navigate to the source website in a new tab: Nixon = http://io9.com/the-technological-decision-that-doomed-richard-nixon-1619596034 ; De Borchgrave = http://www.babelio.com/auteur/Arnaud-De-Borchgrave/162779 ; Pham Van Dong = http://vi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ph%E1%BA%A1m_V%C4%83n_%C4%90%E1%BB%93ng

[1] De Borchgrave, A. (October 30, 1972). Exclusive from Hanoi. Newsweek, p. 26.
[2] Ibid, p. 26.