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Good afternoon. Good afternoon, first I would like to welcome my visitors and thank our esteemed war veterans for taking part in the CCA. We truly do appreciate your attendance here at Hillsdale College. My name is Saira Galerie and I am a sophomore here at Hillsdale. My hometown bears the name of Beverley Hills, Michigan that is there really is a Beverley Hills Michigan instead of swaying palms, we tend to be known for our stout oaks. Greatly I feel influenced by the quality of my freshman history classes. I planned a major in history and minor in Christian studies. Today, I am honored to introduce to you a man of great ambition and accomplishment. Lewis Sorley who received his PhD in national security policy from John Hopkins University is a writer, researcher and policy analyst. He has also studied at the naval war college and Army War College and is a trained parachutist, jump master and path finder. Dr. Sorley previously served as executive director of the association of military colleges and schools of the United States. Additionally he has worked for many years in the central intelligence agency and in the department of defense, he has taught at the US Army War College and US Military Academy and has served as a commander of the tank battalion in the US army. His numerous honors and awards include the Trefry prize and the gold medallion of the order of St. George of the United States armor association. He is a member of the Society for Military History and the National Eagle Scout Association. He is the author of many articles, chapters, essays, encyclopedia entries and reviews on military topics. He is author of five books including "A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam" Please join me in welcoming Dr. Lewis Sorley to the podium. It's not often you get introduced by someone who is charming as that and Sara I want to compliment you, you are the only person who has ever introduced me, whose gotten through the long subtitle to that book without a stumble. Thank you. I want to begin by saying I am grateful for the privilege of this forum and the for the opportunity to talk to you about a topic of continuing importance and relevance. My assigned task is to describe and analyze the end game in the war in Vietnam. I intend to do that in five chunks, two side bars and a fairly brief conclusion and I plan to leave considerable time for discussion. In thinking about the war in Vietnam, and in particular the American involvement in that conflict, it seems useful to me to consider it in terms of four fairly distinct periods. These I will characterize as the advisory period 1960 to 1965, the period of the American buildup. 1965 to 1968 the period of the American draw down. 1969 to 1973 and the final period or in terms of my assignment today 'the end game' 1973 to 1975 so that's the 15 year period as you can see I have to confess with the outset that I acknowledge myself as something of the dinosaur I have been spending the last nearly now 25 years essentially contemplating that 15 year period. I doubt a day has gone by that I haven't thought about some aspect of it and and almost no day is gone by that I haven't written something about some something to do with that. Chunk one, I am going to have to go give you some background so that when we get to the end game, we will be sort of on the same - on the same sheet of music. Chunk one then consist of a brief retrospective look at the period o f the build up. 1965 to 1968 as I - as I said before that the American involvement had consisted primarily of of advisory assistance to the south Vietnamese along with some significant help in terms of logistics, communications and intelligence then beginning in March 1965 and in much larger contingence from July of that year. The United States began introducing large ground combat elements in to the conflict, ground elements is the key here because air naval elements had been involved to some degree before. President Lyndon Johnson then our chief executive was faced with alternatives of accepting defeat of the South Vietnamese or committing US ground forces to assist him and he opted for the latter. Thus began a period of successive incremental increases in American ground forces in Vietnam that eventually lead to a peak of 543,400 troupes committed. I ask you to bear that in mind because I think it may come again in later discussion. 543,400 or well over half a million is is your way to remember that. During that period the American commander in Vietnam was General William C Westmoreland. His chosen approach to conduct to the war was conventional, a war of attrition in which the measure of merit was body count and the tactical approach was characterized by what became known as search and destroy operations. I want to emphasize that his - this was his chosen approach - the commander on the ground in Vietnam was given pretty much free rein in terms of choosing how to conduct the war and we will see that because of the much different way in which the war is conducted when his successor took office. Over the course of the next nearly three years from 1965 when we introduced the ground the ground forces General Westmoreland I have to say was successful in his own terms. By that I mean he inflicted a large number of casualties I will say a horrifying number of casualties on the enemy but the postulated result did not happen rather than losing heart and ceasing their aggression against the South Vietnamese, the enemy simply poured in more and more troops and the blood etting continued. Meanwhile, concentrating almost exclusively on combat operations and these by large formations mostly operating in the deep jungle regions adjacent to South Vietnam's western borders with Laos and with Cambodia General Westmoreland largely ignored two other crucially important tasks. First upgrading south Vietnam's own armed forces so that eventually they would be more capable of taking over their own security operations and secondly dealing with the enemies covert infrastructure in south Vietnam's hamlets and villages where the rural populace was continuously subjected to coercion, terror kidnapping and murder. This situation still pertained when at the time of the Asian New Year in late January 1968.the enemy launched countrywide attacks which we now refer to as the Tet offensive this is 1968. South Vietnamese and allied forces including American forces, inflicted severe casualties on the attacking forces. While at the same time, the enemies predictions of wide spread uprisings of the South Vietnamese in support of the enemy attackers completely failed to materialize. The result was a great victory for South Vietnam; at least on the battle field. In the World Press however, a radically different outcome was portrayed. In Washington, President Johnson was apparently more influenced by the media coverage than by reports from his own senior leadership in Vietnam. In rapid succession, dramatic consequences ensued. L B J took himself out of the reelection campaign; then relieved General Westmoreland bringing him home however to become Army Chief of Staff. And after some delay, he named General Creighton Abrams to succeed him as Commander of U.S. Forces in Vietnam. That's that's chunk one that's the background on the period 1965 to 1968. Now Chunk two, these are the events I wish to describe here some additional background, I am working my way up to my assigned topic which deals with the period of the American draw down a draw down which encompass the years 1969 through 1973 or to 1973, I should say. But much more importantly a period of a far more availing understanding of an approach to conduct of the war and the consequence successes achieved increasingly as the U.S. withdrawal continued achieved by the South Vietnamese themselves. During this period, General Creighton Abrams, Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, then in charge of the our Embassy in Vietnam which was a the time the largest in the World and Ambassador William Colby who took charge of American support for the pacification program and will be know to you as the later Director of Central Intelligence. These three men constituted what I view as a remarkable trio of public servants alike in their understanding of the war, and in their abilities, modesty and dedication. They view this as "One War", that's the term they used; "One War" in which improvement of South Vietnam's Armed forces and pacification of the Country's rural hamlets and villages the two things that I described as being ignored largely in the earlier period were now of equal importance. With combat operations combat operations which in their turn were much revised. In this approach, the objective was not destruction but control and in particular, control of the population. The measure of merit thus was no longer body count but instead population security. In fact, Abrams told his Senior Commanders, "Body count does not have much to do with the outcome of the War"; in addressing the U.S. Ambassadors from the region he went even further telling them that, "In the whole picture of the war, the battles don't really mean much." In this period, 'search and destroy' tactics were replaced by what were call, 'clear and hold' operations. And large scale forays into the deep jungle characterizing the earlier period gave way to multiple patrols and ambushes cited so as to protect the people. Much improved intelligence and a program specifically targeted on the enemies covert infrastructure progressively rid the people of the maligned enemy domination carried out for so long through relentless assassinations, kidnappings, impressments; so called taxations and indiscriminate bombing and shelling. And expansion of South Vietnam's Armed Forces continued at a rapid pace. Some think even too rapid a pace. The key element of change was that as reported by an Army liaison team sent out form Washington, U.S. Army Units are fragmenting with small unit operations replacing searches by battalions and brigades and secondly this is this is the key. Secondly we are now working with the South Vietnamese to an unprecedented degree targeting on the enemy among the population rather than forces hiding in the jungle. A component of this period of great importance was substantial expansion of what were call territorial forces, regional forces and popular forces as they were known. Now integrated into the regular armed forces and they put the hold in the 'clear and hold' approach. In the earlier 'search and destroy' approach, units would move for an area deal with the enemy as they may find them there and then move on, of course opening the area up for enemy reentry and by the way retribution against the friendly people who live there. Now, in 'clear and hold' that was no longer possible. In this latter period too, the South Vietnamese were given the modern weaponry, it had previously been denied putting it in the earlier years at a distinct battlefield disadvantage in comparison to communist forces equipped with superior modern weapons provided by their sponsors and and this was interesting because it was contrary to the advice of almost all it's advisors. President Chu established a people's self defense force that enlisted and armed some four million people including women, old men and youths who thus visibly cast their lot with the government side. by the way, this four million people were equipped with 600,000 weapons which were the older weapons that had been replaced for their regular forces and since they were four million of them and 600,000s of weapons, they took turns using them. Another key factor, affecting the people's attitude toward their government was insistences on restraint in the use of combat power when civilian lives and property were at risk. This was Abrams to senior south Vietnamese. "We cannot apply the full fire power capabilities of our military force through out the country side at will" he told them. "For to do so, would further endanger the lives and property and the governmental relationships with the very people we are all fighting to protect your own citizens of Vietnam. Hence, fire power had to be used with restraint and discrimination". During these years, comparable improvements in the capabilities of South Vietnam's government and the programs it was able to deliver made effective use of the improved security conditions. Genuine and dramatic land reform, wide spread agricultural advances to include introduction of what was called Miracle Rice and motorized tractors and expanded system of farm to market roads, improvements in rural education and health care, re establishment of village government, training local officials, resettlement of refugees, expansion of the national police and introduction of them into rural areas and drastic reduction in enemy disruption and coercion were the key elements. In fact, there came a point at which the very term pacification was discarded as no longer relevant. Also a program called, 'Chu hoy' which translates into open arms an open arms program provided for amnesty to enemy soldiers who rallied to the government side. During the year 1969, alone, as the first year of this period I am describing now, this program brought in more than 47,000 ralliers from the enemy side to the government side and - and that translates into approximately six to eight enemy divisions, think of that. Just by appealing to the other side, you diminish their forces by that level. So dramatic was the cumulative effect of these military and civilian programs that there came a point when as I have maintained elsewhere the war was won. The fighting wasn't over but the war was won and the reason it was won was that the South Vietnamese had achieved the capability, so long as that's the crucial conditional so long as the American backers kept their commitments to maintain their independence and freedom of action. Obviously and the things I have written there came a point at which the war was no longer won and I had to explain that as well and essentially that is because when it came to the crunch, the Untied States defaulted on all the three keep commitments. Thus there in - inevitably came a point at which the war was unsurprisingly no longer won and that brings me - you will be glad to know, to my assigned topic 'the end game'. So chunk three will be the first comment on that and here I would like to say something about the Paris accords the agreement that would theoretically bring peace to all of Vietnam. So called peace talks had been underway for much of the war. But without producing any substantive progress only after the South Vietnamese with crucial American air and naval elements had decisively defeated the enemies 1972 Easter offensive did the talks began to make any real head way. By January 1973 an agreement had been completed its terms were however fraught with peril for the South Vietnamese particularly with respect to the forces involved. The previous year 72 therefore Henry Kissinger, our chief negotiator had offered the North Vietnamese a new proposition, one that included unilateral unilateral withdrawal of US and other allied forces by a date certain without requiring the North Vietnamese to withdraw reciprocally. Thus allowing the North Vietnamese to maintain in place in South Vietnam the forces they had always denied were in South Vietnam to begin with. This now became part of the final agreement. The well known British counter insurgency expert Sir Robert Thompson observed that cease fire agreement restored complete security to the enemy base areas in North Vietnam, in Laos, in Cambodia and in the parts of the South Vietnam that it held and at the same time it subjected the South Vietnamese rear base again to being absolutely open to military attack. The danger in this situation was of course not lost on South Vietnamese leadership but they had little recourse. The United States was that point - by that point facing enormous pressure from domestic, political opponents of the administration and the war so much so that it in turn brought relentless pressure on the South Vietnamese to go along with the fatally flawed agreement. President Nguyen Van Thieu the South Vietnamese president and his senior advisor thus faced a devastating dilemma. If they shunned the Paris agreement it was certain not only that the Untied states would settle without them but also that the United States congress would then move swiftly to cut off further aid to South Vietnam. If on the other had they went along with the agreement hoping there by to continue receiving American aid, they would be forced to accept an outcome in which North Vietnamese troops remained menacingly within their borders. With mortal foreboding they chose the latter case only to find dismayingly that they soon had to worst of both. NVA forces in place and American support cut off and for good measure American default on promises to deal with North Vietnamese violations of the peace terms. Chunk four, given what I have just told you now I would like to say something about what took place in South Vietnam during the years 1973 and 1974 until progressive and draconian reductions in our assistance to the South Vietnamese began to have dramatic results, the South Vietnamese fought valiantly. In the two years after the January 1973 signing of the Paris accords, South Vietnamese forces suffered listen to this more than 59,000 killed in action, more in that brief period then the Americans had lost in over and over a decade of war. Considering there such loses were inflicted on a population perhaps the tenth the size of Americas, it is clear both how devastating that must have been and the intensity of that combat that produced them, the Vietnamese fought well and valiantly and took horrific losses. In July 1973 General Fred Weyand who had been the last US commander Vietnam following General Creighton Abrams in that position, returned to Vietnam on a visit to evaluate the situation. He found enemy forces in a dramatically improved situation since the cease fire, but he also found that the South Vietnamese were nevertheless holding their own. So Robert Thomson whom I mentioned a little earlier came back some months later for another look at the situation on his part and he worked with that admiration of the resilience of the Vietnamese, their courage stoicism and stamina and Admiral Pribinova, a good friend of mine who spent five years in our embassy in Saigon, examining enemy accounts of their very severe casualties during the final offensive noted tellingly that these were not the kind of losses one would expect in the total urban collapse, so called that most historians say occurred in 1975, now Pribinova's research showed that the enemy took very significant casualties the result therefore of strong resistance by the south Vietnamese. Here is the heart of the matter if you were talking about the "end game" as inducements to the south Vietnamese to go along with the Paris accords, the United States had made three key commitments, first they said if the north Vietnamese violated the terms of the agreement and renewed fighting broke out, the United States would reintroduce combat power to punish those transgressions I think here we are talking primarily or exclusively about air power especially the great B52s second commitment if there were renewed fighting the United States would as provided for in the Paris accords replace on a one for one basis south Vietnams losses of major combat systems. That means such things as tank and aircraft and artillery pieces, third commitment the United States would continue to provide South Vietnam a robust level of financial support for the foreseeable future. As it turned out the United States defaulted on all three of those key commitments. When as any who knew them could have predicted with perfect assurance the North Vietnamese almost immediately renewed their aggression in violation of the Paris accords, the Nixon administration took no action rendering worthless the multiple assurances earlier given to South Vietnamese. Soon it was no matter - no longer a matter of volition. The congress had cut off funding for all further American military activity in the war zone this - now I am quoting "not withstanding any other provision of law with what was called or known as the Fulbright-Aikin amendment on or after August 15th 1973, no funds here in or heretofore appropriated may be obligated or expended to finance directly or indirectly combat activities by United States military forces in or over of from off the shores of the North Vietnam, South Vietnam Laos or Cambodia" I think it should be clear to you that one of more lawyers had a hand in writing that language. Thus congressional distaste for the war and I will say for those who prosecuted it which was at fever pitch long before the Water Gate scandal reached the crisis stage, doomed south Vietnam's hopes for further US military assistance. The latter suggestions of President Nixon and Secretary Kissinger that it was Watergate that undermined their policy not withstanding. In their memoirs both both of those officials make that claim but examination of the record makes it very clear that the congress had decided to bail out on this endeavor well before water gate reached the crisis stage. Next the congress turned its attentions to denying South Vietnam the wherewithal even to continue its own defense. We have decided not to participate anymore this perfidy took place despite as I have said a heroic and largely affective defense mounted by south Vietnam and it's now solitary role apart for four months I view as deserving of reinforcement and reward. The only thing left for South Vietnam to be deprived of is money and the congress set about that task with a vengeance. On sixth May 1974, a legislative amendment proposed by Senator Edward Kennedy, one of those members of congress most determined to pull the plug on South Vietnam was accepted. It cut 266 million for South Vietnam from the supplementary military aid bill. Fiscal year of 1975 also brought bad news for South Vietnam. Well, one billion had been authorized. You know, the two step procedure in our form of government, we authorize and then and then we appropriate. Well, one billion had been authorized and that was down from almost one and a half billion that had been requested, that was in the appropriation process reduced to 700 million. After you took out the cost of supporting the Defense Attache Office in Saigon and shipping charges, the residual mattered in real terms to only about 654 million and that was before adjusting for inflation which is then sky rocketing due to a global energy crisis. Finally and what I view as a nakedly mean spirited act provisions were inserted in the legislation prohibiting even prohibiting, even the purchase of fertilizer for South Vietnam in fiscal year 1975. In a desperate attempt to compensate for the short false and promise support, South Vietnam's armed forces adopted some fairly drastic austerity measures. The air force reduced fire support, tactical air lift and reconnaissance by half and Helo lift helicopter lift by 70 percent, inactivated more than 200 aircrafts, cancelled the orders for upgraded fighter aircrafts, called home 400 men who were in Pilot training in United States. And this last, you must have really hurt, converted 1000 airmen trainees to infantry. The navy inactivated more than 600 boats and river craft, cutting river patrols by 72 percent. Meanwhile, the ammunition inventory was shrinking, spare parts were getting scarce and more than 4000 vehicles were dead lined for lack of parts. By late 1974, the deep slashes in US military and economic assistance to South Vietnam were reflected in the operational tempo the forces could maintain. The what's called the ammunition supply rate which means the - basically the daily allowance, for rifles was set at 1.6 rounds per man. Now, this is on average. We didn't issue, anybody 1.6 rounds. But that was the average and that was compared with 13 rounds authorized for US forces when they were still in the war. Machine guns got 10.6 rounds versus 165, mortars 1.3 rounds instead of 16.9 and 105 millimeter howitzer shells authorized per gun were 6.40, not as previously 36.5. Reported Colonel Lung South Vietnam's chief intelligence officer, stories of regional force and popular force units in poor coral regions buying grenades out of their pocket money were though incredible nonetheless truth. According to General Calvin Vian's calculations General Vian was chief of their joint general staff. His armed forces would run out of fuel by mid May 1975 and out of ammunition by June of the same year. The contrast that I am now going to describe well I think strike you is quite dramatic. While, this was going on with South Vietnamese, the enemy was enjoying unprecedented material support from its patrons. A 1994 history of the people's army of Vietnam boasted of North Vietnam's success in building up forces in the south once the Paris agreement was signed. From January until September 1973, it stated the Paris accords took effect at 27th of January 1973. So from that month, until September of that same year it's stated the amount of supplies send from North Vietnam into the south rose to 140,000 tons four times as much as in 1972. So in that nine months, four times as much as in the preceding year. That's that was only the beginning continuing the quotation. The quantity of supplies transported along the strategic transportation corridor by which they meant the Ho chi minh trail. From the beginning of 1974 until the end of April 1975 was 823,146 tons or in other words 1.6 times as much as the total transported during the entire previous 13 years. It's my view that many Americans would not like hearing, it said that the totalitarian states of China and the Soviet Union had proven to be better and more faithful allies than the democratic United States. But ladies and gentlemen that was in fact the case. Cabled Tom Polgar then chief of CIA's Saigon Station and a devastatingly concise assessment dispatch near the end. Ultimate outcome hardly in doubt because South Vietnam cannot survive without US military aid as long as North Vietnam's war making capacity is unimpaired and supported by Soviet Union and China, end cable. Chunk five, I am going to be brief now because I want to leave time for us to talk about these matters let me say that something though in chunk five about the period from the onset of the enemies final offensive in March 1975 until the fall of Saigon and end of the war on 30th April of 1975 a period of what seven or eight weeks only. To me while these are devastatingly said few weeks, they are not particularly fruitful from the standpoint of providing useful insights since as I hope I have demonstrated well before that point, the eventual outcome had already had been determined in large part by actions taken to Untied States that in the aggregate amounted to outright abandonment of the South Vietnamese and to fatally undermining their capacity for self defense both materially and in psychological terms. In early December 1974 in what amounted to a test case the North Vietnamese besieged and eventually captured South Vietnam's Dak Nong province. There was no reaction from the United States well almost none, the statement department did issue what it described as a strong protest. There by reassuring the enemy that it could at long last proceed with impunity in an all out effort to subjugate the South. Thus in March 1975 an enemy invasion force equivalent to 20 divisions launched what turned out to be the final offensive of the war. Striking first first with three divisions on 10 March at a place called Ban Me Tuit in the central highlands some 25,000 attackers against by one account 1,200 defenders the offensive overwhelmed that garrison and soon precipitated and ill advised and poorly conducted General withdrawal of South Vietnam's - of South Vietnamese forces from the highlands. Losses incurred there and massive numbers of refugees generated by the precipitated operation soon undermined the viability of positions farther North. Before long, the concatenation of the events was completely out of control, North Vietnam's forces ruling port Saigon with little but masses of terrified refugees in their path. Indecisiveness and bad judgment at the national level no doubt accelerated the pace of these events but the outcome was never the less inevitable. Valiant stands by several South Vietnamese Vietnamese units could only delay the denoument. In the final days fewer of evacuation efforts in Saigon resulted in the rescue of all Americans remaining in Vietnam and some 130,000 South Vietnamese considered to be at particular risk. The North Vietnamese so called liberators then executed or imprisoned in so called reeducation camps, large numbers of those are remained behind, many of whom subsequently perished of disease or starvation or maltreatment during seemingly endless years of incarceration up as long as 18 years in at least one case known to me. Another 1.5 million reported Seth Mydans for the New York times were forcibly resold in new economic zones in barren areas of Southern Vietnam that were ravaged by hunger and extreme poverty. In document after document through out the war, the enemy had kept predicting and calling for a popular uprising amongst the South Vietnamese, but in fact there was never any popular uprising in support of the communists in South Vietnam. To any objective observer that does not seem surprising in view of the enemy's record year after year of deliberate policy driven assassinations, kidnappings, terror bombings, imprisonments and indiscriminate shelling of population centers throughout South Vietnam. Actions hardly calculated to win the hearts and minds of the victims. The refugees who became known as the boat people constituted a final referendum on how the people of South Vietnam view their invaders and tormentors. The communist not satisfied with these conquests, soon went to war with Cambodia, then with China occasioning yet more death and destruction. former Vietnam Colonel Fam Swan Oun later described his immense disillusionment with what the communist victory had meant to Vietnam. All that talk he said about liberation twenty- thirty - forty years ago, all the plotting and all the bodies produce this this impoverished broken down country led by a gang of cruel and paternalistic half educated theorists. That concludes the chunk, now a brief conclusion, I offer these observations for your consideration first the war did not have to end as it did. Second the South Vietnamese had with our affective help in the later years attain the capacity to defend themselves against continuing communist aggression as so long as we kept our promises. Then we abandoned them the instrument of that abandonment was the United States congress. It's easy to demonstrate from contemporary documents that the American people had not given up on the South Vietnamese. Third or fourth I forget where I am, the South Vietnamese were worthy allies and last the war was fought towards a noble purpose. I promise to two side bars, so I will try to be brief so we can get to to some discussion, side bar one, the American service men who fought in Vietnam were like their predecessors of world war two's greatest generation inspiring and admirable. And it is worth noting of those who served in Vietnam, two thirds were volunteers, a dramatic contrast to world war two in which two thirds were conscripted and a remarkable two out of three of Vietnam veterans later told heralds postures "listen to this. I find this stunning, they would serve again even knowing the outcome of the war" I want to say to you if I last long enough, I will someday write a book that might be entitled 'Also Great: The Generation That Fought The Vietnam War'. Side bar two, and we are nearly finished. Finally there is the matter of south Vietnamese refugees those who fled their own country rather than live under the dominance of a brutal and oppressive communist regime, some two million amounting to more than a tenth of the nations population sought to escape many the courageous and often ill fated boat people by extremely hazardous means. In several increment, so over a period of years perhaps a million made their way to the United States where they have found freedom and a new life. In the aggregate they constitute a rich accretion to our culture and our material well being, when the incredible industry and the determination these new Americans have educated their children, nurtured their families and made full use of the opportunities this country provides. These are the same people who populated the ranks of the army, of the republic of Vietnam and for year and who for year after bloody year, fought for freedom in the country of their origin. We abandon them then and their sacrifices went forfeit but there may be some measure of atonement in our accepting them here in subsequent years. Finally looking ahead I would suggest there are lessons to be learned even today from contemplation of our unhappy involvement in Vietnam and this is disastrous especially for the South Vietnamese outcome. These lessons have to do with loyalty, cohesion persistence, dependability, conscience and character. I hope we will be alert to them as we contemplate our current and future courses of action in world affairs. Thank you very much.