Tag Archives: Vietnam

The 10,000 Day War and Ken Burns’ Vietnam War PBS Series

by Rick Bretz

Before analyzing these two documentaries, it is important to note the definition of a documentary.

From the Oxford English Dictionary–Documentary: Using pictures and interviews with people involved in real events to provide a factual report on a particular subject.

Documentaries strive to be objective but their reliance on human beings makes that goal honorable but a little out of reach. People have their own views and biases as witnesses to history and those who write their first draft of history are subjective.  Documentaries are the truth according to who produces them. In the end, documentaries can be a source for information but just like all forms of research, a scholar must seek other sources and make his or her own conclusions.

Vietnam War (1)

Many Vietnam War documentaries have been produced but two stand out.  One was done more than 30 years ago while the other aired recently on PBS.   One was produced by a Canadian journalist and narrated by Richard Basehart while the other was produced by the noted documentary producer Ken Burns and narrated by actor Peter Coyote, airing recently on PBS.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-16568035

http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/timelines/vietnam_timeline.htm

 

The Vietnam story goes back centuries before the United States became a nation. The people of  Vietnam were conquered and abused by the Chinese and French before the American government and military were major players in the Vietnamese struggle for independence.  Ho Chi Minh wanted to speak with Woodrow Wilson after World War II in Paris.  However, politics and diplomacy married with class defined government protocols can be complicated.  Not seeing then how Ho Chi Minh could be a leader is understandable.  What is not excusable is how the United States could ignore the Vietnamese leader after working with him during World War II to defeat the Japanese.  It’s only because they believed France’s Charles de Gaulle when he suggested the communist ideology would be taking a foothold in Western Europe.   Leaders saw the dominoes falling and became worried about the Red Menace.  This was also the time that the United States government thought that communism was infiltrating American society from Hollywood to the local unions.  The Korean War and the influence of Communist China was also dominating foreign policy strategy during the early 1950s.

12th_Inf,_4th_Inf_Div,_Vietnam_War_Hill_530

They documentaries interview key players or use interviews recorded years ago.   The 10,000 Day War is less passionate and more forensically produced.  It tries to stay away from making judgments and conclusions.  The recent Ken Burns documentary uses more editorial language and interviews veterans and other key players to illicit an emotional response.  Both of them use archival news footage and photographs.

They were both ambitious in their attempt to explain why the world, an especially the United States, became entangled in a war many people thought we had no business waging.  They both make the point that our commitments to our allies like France’s Charles de Gaulle and the strict following of the Truman Doctrine led to sending advisers that eventually led to more than a half million servicemen fighting there in the 1960s.

In both documentaries, the Presidential Administrations that were a part of the Vietnam problem don’t look good.  The early administrations, Eisenhower and Kennedy, look better than others because they were wary of the South Vietnamese leadership in the early stages.  In addition,  the US wasn’t fully committed yet and the early administrations conclusions were that “this is their war and the South Vietnamese were going to have to win it.”

The one criticism of The 10, 000 Day War is that it is a US dominated production and doesn’t give any other country’s diplomatic view, and that it doesn’t take to task the French Government’s insistence in occupying Vietnam after World War II when France was liberated themselves from Nazi rule.  The Ken Burns’ series points out that the only reason France wanted to control Vietnam was national pride and the economic exploitation of its resources.  The PBS series points out that the French occupiers treatment of the local population gave rise to Ho Chi Minh’s recruitment efforts.  The Burn’s PBS series also makes a better attempt to explain the North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese points of view.

Ho Chi Minh for is part couldn’t understand why the Americans couldn’t see his side of wanting to gain his country’s freedom from colonial rule.  He reasoned the United States was in the same position 200 hundred years ago so they must be able to relate to his struggle.  He didn’t count on America’s fear of communism and the spread of it across the globe. What is fascinating to know from the PBS series is that Ho Chi Minh’s influence in the decision making process was diminished late in his life.

The 10,000 Day War documentary is called that because it lasted that long.  Scholars might say the United States is still fighting the war by the decisions they make concerning other wars and because they are trying to make up for the ill-treatment of the Vietnam veterans after they came back.  The PBS series does a good job of telling the veterans story and their experiences there.

Vietnam veterans are looked upon wrongly as fighters who went over, lost the war, were there to do drugs and commit war atrocities.  As with many events, negative headlines become the perception and finally the reality.  The movies from Hollywood never helped the perception.  This is far from the truth.  The majority of Vietnam veterans were honorable and went over there to do a job and come back alive. They were put in a situation they had little, if no control, over. They made the trip, they didn’t skip out or make excuses.  Some of them came back alive but 58, 220 didn’t make it.  That’s a high price to pay for a generation.

Both documentaries are worth watching but they are both just additional sources. Do your own research and make your own conclusions.  You walk away from both of them shaking your head and wondering why decisions were made and why opportunities were not explored, especially after World War II.

Notable Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam:_The_Ten_Thousand_Day_War

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvo3yeTYvNc

https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/vietnam-ten-thousand-day-war/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0174323/

https://undertheradar.military.com/2013/04/revisiting-the-ten-thousand-day-war/

http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the-vietnam-war/watch/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vietnam_War_(TV_series)

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/ken-burnss-vietnam-war-is-no-profile-in-courage/

http://kenburns.com/films/vietnam/

 

 

History on the Water

The USS Orleck Naval Museum docked serving the community at Lake Charles, LA.
The USS Orleck Naval Museum docked at Lake Charles, LA.

by Rick Bretz

When a Navy ship stops serving the United States in defense of the nation, the next step can be the scrap metal yard, sold to another country or in the case of 164 other ships, become an interesting, floating museum.

A view from the bridge of the USS Orleck.
A view from the bridge of the USS Orleck.

The US Naval Ships Association states there are 164 Naval Museums throughout the United States.  There are many more throughout the world from other countries. The site below gives a synopsis of the museum ships travelers can find while touring.

http://www.hnsa.org/

The USS Orleck is just one of those ships.  However, the journey from the initial launch to where it floats today at a dock in Lake Charles, La., is an interesting story that involves two wars, another country, a hurricane and a few determined individuals.

Instrumentation on the bridge.
Instrumentation on the bridge.

She was named after Lt. Joseph Orleck, commander of the USS Nauset, and a World War II hero killed in action in the Gulf of Salerno when his ship took fire from German aircraft September 9, 1943. Lt. Orleck died while trying to save all of his crew as the ship went down.  He was awarded the Navy Cross.

Lt. Joseph Orleck
Lt. Joseph Orleck

The Gearing Class destroyer was launched on May 12, 1945 by Mrs. Joseph Orleck. She served in the Korean War and then underwent an upgrade as part of what the Navy called the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization program in 1962. After that she served with distinction in the Vietnam War by providing Naval gunfire support missions as well as search and rescue and reconnaissance efforts.

USS Orleck at sea
USS Orleck at sea

From there in 1982, the history gets interesting as she was transferred to the Turkish Navy and renamed the TCN Yucetepe where she served the Turkish Navy until 2000.

IMG_0601
Turkish labels still dot the ship from her days in that country’s Navy.

 

In 2000, the Turkish Navy transferred the ship to the Southeast Texas War Memorial and Heritage Foundation where she was a Naval Museum to serve as a museum and memorial and it might stayed there at Ochiltree-Inman Park on the Southeast Texas coast but for Hurricane Rita in 2005.  The hurricane damaged her during the storm and after receiving repairs the City of Orange voted to not let her return.

After several years docked and relocated from one place to another, the Lake Charles City Council voted to let her dock on their shores and on May 20, 2010, she was moved to the city where she rests today.

The big guns are at the ready but are rendered inactive as part of an agreement with the government.
The big guns are at the ready but are rendered inactive as part of an agreement with the government.

 

Notable Links:

http://www.hnsa.org/

http://news.usni.org/2015/05/22/the-naval-history-and-hnsa-guide-to-u-s-museum-ships

http://orleck.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Orleck_(DD-886)

http://www.ussorleck.com/

 

 

Eight Songs About History That Move You

Lyndon_Johnson_signing_Civil_Rights_Act,_July_2,_1964

 

by Rick Bretz

The Way It Is-Bruce Hornsby and the Range, 1986

Notable Links:

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=5494

http://www.congresslink.org/print_basics_histmats_civilrights64text.htm

http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/short-history-snap

A song that references the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 and specifically the formation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to “Give those who ain’t got a little more” as Bruce Hornsby sings.  The also refers to the Food Stamp Act of 1964 to help those people who need an assist to boost themselves up the economic ladder.  Best remembered words of the song:   That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change.  That’s just the way it is.  Ah-but don’t you believe them.

 

We Didn’t Start The Fire-Billy Joel, 1989

Notable Links:

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1581

http://music-mix.ew.com/2014/09/27/we-didnt-start-the-fire-billy-joel-25th/

http://www.billyjoel.com/music/storm-front/we-didnt-start-fire

 

Billy Joel has stated that he doesn’t like singing this song in concert because he has to remember a string names and events from history. Indeed, he’s on record as saying he didn’t think the song was “that great to begin with.”   Song criticisms aside, the song does a good job of listing several famous people and historical events while rhyming at the same time.

Here’s one of the best:

“Rosenbergs, H Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom Brando, The King And I, and The Catcher In The Rye

Eisenhower, Vaccine, England’s got a new queen Maciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye”

SS Edmund Fitzgerald

 

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald-Gordon Lightfoot, 1976

Notable Links:

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2192

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgI8bta-7aw

http://gordonlightfoot.com/wreckoftheedmundfitzgerald.shtml

Gordon Lightfoot researched the tragedy of the Edmund Fitzgerald  and put the events leading up to the freighter sinking into a song that is classic still being heard today.  The SS Edmund Fitzgerald Great Lakes Freighter surrendered to the cold waters of Lake Superior on November 10, 1975 during a heavy storm and with it took the lives of its crew of 29 souls on board.  It’s a perfect blend of words and haunting music.

 

Dirty Laundry-Don Henley, 1982

Notable Links:

http://www.lyricsfreak.com/d/don+henley/dirty+laundry_20042033.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNC4FHR4XLA

I know this doesn’t reference history but it refers to the people who write the first draft. This is an amusing song to listen to but it is so true. He wrote this song in 1982 but it is relevant as ever today. He’s turns the microscope on media but he’s really scolding us, the audience, for liking it way too much. Lines like “People love it when you lose” throughout the song disrobe the media so the listener can see the king, the media, without their clothes while simultaneously scolding the audience for giving the media the power to continue their wicked ways.

 

Bloody Sunday

Sunday Bloody Sunday-U2, 1983

Notable Links:

http://terrific-top10.com/2013/01/09/top-10-songs-based-on-historical-events/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQZLPV6xcHI

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=890

Considered one of the best call to action songs of all time. Bono tells the listener he’s tired of the violence. It’s non-partisan song but he is clear from the lyrics that he wants the killing to stop.   The militaristic drum beat in the beginning sets the tone for the words and music U2 brings to the song.  Lead singer Bono sings, “I can’t believe the news today.  Oh, I can’t close my eyes and make it go away.”   Later, he asks “How long must we sing this song.” From their “War” album, the song concentrates on the “Bloody Sunday” incident in Derry, Northern Ireland in the Bogside area on January 30, 1972 when 13 protestors died from injuries from battling British forces during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association March.

 

Abraham, Martin and John-Dion, 1968

Notable Links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5hFMy4pTrs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mobZZRcrCHA

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2724

 

This is a song that has been covered by many singers and is about three significant people in the fight for civil rights. The words, “Has anybody here seen by old friend Abraham” and repeated for Martin and John are poignant throughout the rendition. A song about what might have been.

memorial for day the music died

American Pie-Don McLean, 1971

Notable Links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAsV5-Hv-7U

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Pie_(song)

http://understandingamericanpie.com/

 

A song about a terrible plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3, 1959 that killed everyone on board including Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

On the surface this masterpiece of writing is about that plane crash but has several references and meanings in the lyrics left to interpretation of the listener. The interpretation is left to the audience because Don McLean refuses to say what he had in mind when writing the lyrics. This has left several people to create websites to fill the void about what the song means.

 Vietnam

“19”-Paul Hardcastle, 1985

Notable Links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8JlTIo–CQ

http://lyrics.wikia.com/Paul_Hardcastle:19

This song is about the Vietnam War and how it affected soldiers after they came back to the United States.  It is a song that is relevant to every soldier coming home  from every country involved in a conflict, As the song title states, the average age of the Vietnam soldier was 19 years old.  An age significantly lower than the Korean War and World War II.

 

 Honorable Mentions: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down-Joan Baez; Strange Fruit-Billie Holiday; Pride (In The Name In Love)-U2; Zombie-The Cranberries; Ohio-Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

When War Invades Your Personal Universe

tanks rolling through town

 

by Rick Bretz

“The Gate of Hell has opened and shrapnel came through the windows,” a Gaza resident said today. The Gaza resident’s statement could apply to any war throughout history.  One hard truth remains: Once the gate of hell opens it is difficult to close.

When people can’t settle their differences through diplomacy, civilians inevitably see the failed results at their front door step. History has proven that leaders and generals believe adversaries surrender when spears and arrows find their way to a civilian’s living space. News channel broadcasters describe horrific tragedies from current events daily.  It happened in Persian Gulf and Afghanistan Wars, the Vietnam War, Korean War, World War II, World War I all the way back to the first earthly disagreement over territorial rights.

It’s happening now in the Ukraine and in the Middle East while Hamas and Israel fire rockets at each other. For most non-combatant civilians, it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. Some civilians even pick a side until they see at what a cause costs. What matters then is the smell of death has entered their universe and they want it to stop.

The First Battle of Manassas Battlefield
The First Battle of Manassas Battlefield

July 21st marks the anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas or the First Battle of Bull Run as the Union Government called it. The battle marked the first major fight between the Armies of Virginia. If there is one truth other than death inside the universe of battle and that is the fight will always involve civilians on the battlefield. Such is the case at the Battle of First Manassas or Bull Run depending on your loyalties during the Civil War.  The Confederates refer to the battle as Manassas while the Union called it Bull Run.  The signs leading to the battlefield today read “Manassas” as you travel down Interstate 66 in Virginia just outside Clifton and Centreville, Va.

Judith Henry's grave site along with her children.
Judith Henry’s grave site along with her children.

A key part of the Manassas battle occurred on Henry Hill around the Henry House. Judith Carter Henry, 84 or 85 years old, stubbornly refused to leave her upstairs bedroom while the battle continued around her house. Judith Henry was killed by a Union cannon shell meant for the snipers who were using her house. She was the first civilian killed at First Battle of Manassas, July 21, 1861. The house had been in the family for a number of years and grave markers remain on the battlefield in front of the house rebuilt in1870.

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's monument.
General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s monument.

The battlefield is a place where you can get a sense of the “Universe of Battle.”  This is where armies and governments from both sides may have formulated the idea that this war would be over later than sooner as General Tecumseh Sherman predicted at the beginning.  Another dynamic general,  General Thomas Jackson got his name that would go down in history when General Bernard Bee yelled, “There is Jackson standing there like a stone wall.”  So it was General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson as the name remained throughout history. Some accounts have claimed that the statement was meant as a criticism of Jackson’s refusal to move and help his fellow units. However, history proves that Jackson’s unit suffered many casualties during the battle.

When walking most battlefields including this one, the observer gets the sense that communication must have been difficult. They used flag signal codes and runners for communication. Command and control as well as integrating battle elements such as cannon units, cavalry and infantry must have been difficult. Today’s satellite communications and almost instant intelligence data from the field gives today’s commanders more time to make decisions.

The phrase “Universe of Battle” suggests different meanings to a person’s point of view. It can represent the horrors of war invading a civilian’s universe as in the case of the recent downing of Malaysian  Flight MH17 or the conflicts in the Middle East between Hamas and the Israeli defense forces.

The universe of battle could also mean the particular space you’re living in when fighting in a battle. The kind of universe where all your senses reach a new level  from hearing every audio wave,  and smelling the cannon’s gunpowder to seeing the blood on wounded soldiers and civilians.  It’s a bubble atmosphere until it’s all over.

IMG_3295

I choose to visit battlefields to honor those who find themselves, through the accidental fate or personal choice, in a situation where they have to fight or die for a cause, defense of a country, for the elimination of a social system,  for a particular religion or for the continuance of mankind’s maturity.  Maybe there will be a time when people will cease creating new battlefield parks.  Imagine.

 

Notable Links:

http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/bullrun.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Battle_of_Bull_Run

http://www.nps.gov/mana/historyculture/first-manassas.htm

http://civilwarwiki.net/wiki/Henry_House_(Manassas)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_A._Haskell

http://www.stonewalljackson.org/

 

 

 

 

The Generations

by Rick Bretz

Classifying people into generations and marking them with cultural characteristics is an entertaining exercise for sociologists and academics.  However, putting a particular generation into a certain box is only informative when analyzing the different world events that influenced the collective personality characteristics of people growing up in that era. The classification of generations begs the question: Is one generation better than another? Did one generation endure hardships?  Did another have it easier? It’s an intellectual exercise that can generate a discussion. Since Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation” was published, most of the reading public have stated that people who grew up to fight WWII and endure the Great Depression were part of the “Greatest Generation.”  Is there such a title-“The Greatest Generation”–One group of people who have shone brighter than any other  in history.

I prefer to think that each generation has had their own challenges and issues with their own solutions.  Can you say that one generation is better than another because they helped achieve a WWII victory while another fought in Vietnam and landed on the moon?  Another way to view the issue is: without one generation developing a particular technology the other wouldn’t have been able to achieve their significant achievements.

Members of the military are attempting to keep...
Members of the military are attempting to keep Vietnam War protesters under control. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scholars possess different views pertaining to the yearly division between generations, usually a few years separate one list from the other. Here is a list generations with significant (but not all) events occurring during their formative years compared across generations.

G.I./GREATEST

BORN:   1901-1928

SILENT

BORN:   1928-1945

BOOMERS

BORN:   1946-1964

GENERATION   X

BORN:   1965-1980

MILLENIALS

BORN:1981-2004

World   War I Stock   Market Crashes Marshall   Plan Vietnam   War Protests Chernobyl   Nuclear Accident
Spanish   Flu Great   Depression Yeager   breaks sound barrier Watergate   Hearings Soviet   Glasnost
Titanic   Sunk FDR   Elected NASA   formed Nixon   Resigns Fall   of Berlin Wall
Silent   Movie Era WWII   Begins Korean   War Vietnam   War Ends Disintegration   of Soviet Union
Roaring   20s WWII   Ends Cold   War Race   Riots Apple   and Microsoft
Ford   Model T and Assembly Line Atomic   Bomb used to defeat Japan JFK   Assassinated Civil   Unrest Hubble   Telescope
Russian   Revolution 1933-First   Concentration Camp McCarthy   hearings RFK   and MLK Assassinated 9/11
Prohibition The   Dust Bowl Cuban   Missile Crisis Armstrong,   Aldrin, Collins land on the moon War   on Terrorism
Lindbergh Flies solo   across Atlantic Japan attack on Pearl   Harbor DNA discovered Palestinian Terrorism Operation   Desert Storm
Penicillin Discovered United Nations Founded Vietnam War Roe vs Wade Internet   and Social Media

 

I

Alternate Listing for Generational Names from the Population Reference Bureau

1983-2001 – New Boomers
1965-1982 – Generation X
1946-1964 – Baby Boomers
1929-1945 – Lucky Few
1909-1928 – Good Warriors
1890-1908 – Hard Timers
1871-1889 – New Worlders

 

English: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989. Th...
English: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989. The photo shows a part of a public photo documentation wall at Former Check Point Charlie, Berlin. The photo documentation is permanently placed in the public. Türkçe: Berlin Duvarı, 1989 sonbaharı (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The above alternate generations list takes note of two generations that are usually overlooked, the Hard Timers and the New Worlders.  These are the generations that ushered in the industrial revolution, built railroads and began to introduce people to technology that would save their lives such as electricity and the light bulb.

If you look at history’s 20th Century Timeline, there are many events that could be listed that have influenced generations.  These are some of the ones I think are significant. I welcome any other events that you think I have missed or could be included.

Notable Links:

http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2011/05/living/infographic.boomer/index.html

http://www.prb.org/Publications/PopulationBulletins/2009/20thcenturyusgenerations.aspx

http://www.pewresearch.org/

http://history1900s.about.com/od/timelines/tp/timeline.htm

A Vietnam and Afghanistan Analysis

By Rick Bretz

The human toll these countries have paid due to both of them being a political football throughout the last century into the current one is staggering.  The estimated death toll for the Vietnam Wars just from 1959-1975 is 58,000 US troops, 1.1 million of the North Vietnamese Army, and one-half to 2 million civilian deaths.  If estimates include Cambodia and Laos, the death toll rises to more than five million.  Afghanistan’s death toll numbers from 1979-2001 have been estimated from one-and-a-half million to more that two million.  After 2001 to the present, the cost in lives for US forces is more than 1500 with an additional 20 to 50 thousand civilian casualties due to terrorist activity and the consequences of using modern warfare weaponry.  These numbers are always being revised upward and in the case of Vietnam, the numbers don’t include the casualties that were inflicted during World War II and afterwards with Ho Chi Minh’s rebellious war with the French supported by the Soviet’s and Chinese communist governments.

US-Map of Soviet Invasion in Afghanistan
US-Map of Soviet Invasion in Afghanistan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Comparisons between Vietnam and Afghanistan are easy to understand.  After all, the Soviet Union military leadership was discussing ways to get out of Afghanistan as early as 1980 due to tribal disputes, the difficulty and lack of mountain warfare training, and the strong Mujahideen force combating against the Soviet occupation.  However, like the United States in Vietnam twenty years before, the muddy politics and refusal to understand the local culture thought process prevented them from acting on that understanding quickly.

In an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski with the French Le Nouvel Observateur, he stated that… “on July 3, 1979 US President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul…We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would. The day the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War…”

The sad history about the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan and the 30 years since is that women in the country were enjoying more freedoms and educational opportunities before 1979.  Since the invasion, the civil war, and the Taliban control, those freedoms were stripped away and in its place abusive restrictions became normal procedure until the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.  Since the invasion, the progress toward more freedom for women has been slow but noticeable.

What is interesting to note in the timelines below is that Vietnam was unstable and volatile early in the last century but is now is relatively steady with economic opportunities. Afghanistan is just the opposite.  The country was relatively sound early in the last century but was thrown into turmoil later on and into the current age.

English: From George L. MacGarrigle, The Unite...
English: From George L. MacGarrigle, The United States Army in Vietnam: Combat Operations, Taking the Offensive, October 1966-October 1967. Washington DC: Center of Military History, 1998. Category:Vietnam War (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another commonality with both wars was the formation of resistance fighters.  One fought against Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, the Mujahideen, while the other, The Viet Cong, the communist organization in Vietnam, waged war against US and other NATO forces.  Both civilian populations played a part in accepting or covertly disrupting operations.  Both wars, especially before 2001, were proxy wars funded by superpower money and weapons, sometimes masked and filtered through their allies. The initial social and tribal readings by intelligence analysts underestimated local politics and influence by local leaders in both wars.  The Soviets misread the conviction of the Mujahideen and the influence of Islam throughout the nation.  In addition, the PDPA, the communist leadership, was never as unified as the Soviet Politburo leaders were led to believe before invading on the request of Afghanistan PM Amin.  As with Vietnam, the diplomatic and government phenomenon of mission creep occurred for the Soviet military, the Soviet army initially occupied the country to protect cities and installations.  Over time, the army, composed of reservists and regulars, began to engage in combat missions that expanded.  Like the US in Vietnam, the Soviet Army had to fight a guerilla war they were not prepared to prosecute in the beginning.  They were fighting against rebels who knew their own terrain.

There are differences between the present Afghanistan War and the Soviet Union invasion. The US war in Afghanistan is retaliation against aggression from elements inside the country on September 11th, 2001.  The US force went in knowing the units had to fight in addition to securing cities and installations. Military leaders also had studied Afghanistan terrain, the climate, and tribal politics in addition to the lessons learned from the Soviet occupation.  The US leadership didn’t say this at the time of the invasion, but the fight on terrorism was a long-term commitment to Afghanistan. That meant,  if necessary, they were willing to stay past 10 years in the country to secure the region.

I can write for days concerning this topic.  If you have any comments or notes, please post them.  I am looking forward to reading other ideas about this topic.

 

Notable Links:

http://www.e-ir.info/2010/01/03/the-soviet-union%E2%80%99s-last-war/

http://www.guidetorussia.com/russia-afghanistan.asp

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB57/soviet.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_war_in_Afghanistan

http://english.pravda.ru/history/28-12-2011/120105-ussr_afghanistan-0/

http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/history/vietnam-war-us-involvement.html

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_people_died_in_the_Vietnam_War

Afghanistan -Comparison Timeline

1913-1920 1919-Afghanistan regains independence from British occupying forces.
1933-1945 1933-Zahir Shah becomes King and Afghanistan remains a monarchy for the next four decades.
1945-1953 1953-General Mohammed Daud becomes prime minister with King Shah a figure-head and implements many social reforms.  Gen. Daud asks for help from the Soviet government.
1954-1961 1956-Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev agrees to aid Afghanistan and the countries become allies.    Daud’s reforms include women attending university and working.
1960-1963 1963-Daoud’s social reforms continue agitating the conservative religious community.
1964-1968 1965-The Afghan communist party forms.
1969-1975 1973-The former PM Daud seizes power in a coup, deposes King Shah and declares a republic
1976-1979 1978-PM Daud is overthrown and killed by the leftist People’s Democratic Party during a coup. Hufizullah Amin wins a power struggle, becomes president. The People’s Democratic Party (PDPA) struggle for power.  1979-The Soviet Union occupies country at the request of Afghanistan’s communist party leaders.
1979-2001 1980-With occupying Soviet troops supplying power, Party Leader Babrak Kamal becomes the countries leader.

Other Significant Dates

1979-2001

1980-Afghan Army soldiers defect to Mujahideen rebel force, led by Ahmad Massoud.

1980-US   and other nations supply rebel forces.

1986-US supplies stinger missiles to rebels to shoot down   Soviet air power.

1988-Last of   the Soviet troops leave Afghanistan.

1996-Taliban  seize control of Afghanistan and carry out harsh Islamic doctrine controls.

2001-Present

9-9-2001-Massoud assassinated by suicide bombing

9-11-2001-Terrorist  attacks on US Soil.

2001-US   and Great Britain launch invasion of country after it refuses to hand-over  Osama Bin Laden, the master mind of the 9/11 attacks on US soil.

2001-Taliban ousted from power.

2004-Democratic  elections held in country, electing Hamid Karzai as President.

2012– Continued US and NATO presence in the region.  Karzai still in power. Taliban force strength reduced but still launches attacks from mountainous region bordering Pakistan.

   Vietnam Timeline-Comparison Timeline

1913-1920 1919-Ho Chi Minh emerges after WW I and tries to petition Woodrow Wilson for Self Determination
1933-1945 1940-Japan invades   Vietnam.  1941-Ho Chi Minh   organizes pro independence league.  1945-Japan surrenders.  Minh declares independence and unites all French colonial provinces to form Vietnam.

 

1945-1953 1946-National Chinese, French, and Viet Minh struggle   for control of the Viet Territory.  1946-Beginning   of First Vietnam War between French and Viet Minh.  China and USSR back Viet   Minh. US back French to stop the spread of communism.
1954-1961 1954-Viet Minh defeat French at Dien Bien Phu, leading to Geneva negotiations diving   Vietnam at the 17th Parallel.

1955-1956-Emperor Bao Dai is forced from power by Ngo Dinh Diem. He declares himself president and gains support from US. US sends advisors

1960-1963 1960-National Liberation Front  (Viet Cong) forms to fight against US   Forces and President Diem.  1963-US supports military Coup against President Diem. Diem’s murder during the coup leads to a number of successive leaders.
1964-1968 1964-Gulf of Tonkin Resolution give President Johnson   war powers.  1965-US Combat   Troops arrive in Vietnam (Second Vietnam War).  1968-Tet offensive launched by Ho Chi Minh and Viet Cong.
1969-1975 1969– Ho Chi Minh dies.  1973-Nixon and Kissinger negotiate peace treaty. US   withdraws a majority of troops.  1974-President Ford balks at sustaining aid to South Vietnam Forces.  1975-Viet Nam unified under   communist rule after taking Saigon, which they rename Ho Chi Minh City.
1976-1979 1978-Vietnam invades Cambodia, trying to take over from the Khmer Rouge. Tensions with China increase.
1979-2001 1986-Vietnam revises strategy and commits to social and market reforms.  1995-Diplomatic relations normalized between US and Vietnam.
2001-Present 2010/2011-Academic year-More than 14,800 students studies at US colleges and universities.  2012– Trade between US and Vietnam continue to increase.
   

 

 

Top Eight Military Memorials

Since Memorial Day is a few days away I wanted to give a list of memorials in remembrance of American service members..  The nation owes them a debt of gratitude for defending the United States  and its values. Choosing the top eight military memorials is a tough task.  I think all of them honor the veterans with splendor and reverence. Throughout history, leaders and politicians from America’s adversaries have underestimated the spirit of our fighting men and women.  Arguably, when given a mission and left alone, they have achieved success time after time.  American servicemen aren’t politicians so they have no control over decisions made by the government.  The military is an essential position for diplomacy. It’s President Teddy Roosevelt‘s analagous “Big Stick.” Politics aside, they have achieved success in every war, conflict, police action and peace-keeping mission given to them—and that means every mission.  These memorials are a testament to the widely held belief that servicemen would rather have peace because they know more than any other citizen the price to be paid for war.

1.  USS  Arizona-dedicated in 1962

2. Vietnam Memorial-Accepted by the President of the US in 1984

Vietnam war memorial
Vietnam war memorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3.  Marine Corps War MemorialDedicated November 10, 1954 (179th Birthday of the Corps)

United States Marine Corps War Memorial by Fel...
United States Marine Corps War Memorial by Felix de Weldon at night. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4.  US Air Force Memorial-Dedicated in 2006

5. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier-Patrolled continuously 24/7 since 1930

Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unkno...
Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
                                                                                            6.  Korea War Memorial-Dedicated in 1995
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial (Photo

        7.  Women  in the Military Service Memorial-Dedicated in 1997

The Women in Military Service for America Memo...
The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is the nation’s first major national memorial honoring women who served in the armed forces during all eras and in all services. Image shows a panorama of the monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8.  Arlington  National Cemetery-Began with the confiscation of the Mary Anna Custis Lee  property in 1864

Soldiers from the 3d Infantry Regiment carry N...

Other Notables: Normandy American Center and Memorial (D-Day); Missing Man Formation; Empty Boots, Rifle and Helmet; Gettysburg National Park; Taps on the Bugle; and any resting place for an American serviceman and family member.