The Vietnam War: Sacrifice for Nothing (2)

What did we get in exchange for those killed during the Vietnam war? Nothing. The communist North Vietnamese won the war and today rule all of Vietnam.

As regular readers of the blog know, I was in Vietnam for the better part of thirteen years. My job was signals intelligence support of U.S. troops in combat, both army and Marine Corps, all over South Vietnam. After the withdrawal of U.S. military forces in 1973, I headed the covert National Security Agency (NSA) operation in Vietnam and escaped under fire when Saigon fell in April 1975—as I have just detailed here in a series of blog posts under the rubric “The Sad Month of April.”

I will always be grateful that I was never wounded during my years in combat, during the fall of Saigon, or in any of my assignments after 1975 (still classified). Granted, coincident with my escape from Saigon, I came down with amoebic dysentery and pneumonia. Worse, I developed a malady we didn’t have a name for back then, Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). That’s a sickness that is never cured. The sufferer must learn to cope with the flashbacks, nightmares, irrational rages, panic attacks, and depression.

I wish I could look back in pride at what my sacrifice during the Vietnam war bought for our nation, but I can’t. We gained nothing and lost much. In the process, the war we engaged in caused well over a million deaths. The American people considered it a shameful war. And we behaved shamefully at its end, abandoning allies who had fought by our side.

Did we learn by our mistake? Not as far as I can tell. Following our military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, we forsook our allies and withdrew, leaving the men who were our partners to their fate at the hands of our enemies. Our sacrifice and theirs were far greater than any benefit gained.

So our wars have cost us greatly and achieved little. When will we ever learn?

2 thoughts on “The Vietnam War: Sacrifice for Nothing (2)”

  1. Tom,
    Yours is an honest reflection. I believe that some Americans have learned. We hear from them during debates, in carefully penned essays, during protests in all kinds of weather, on the Senate floor. Those who are thoughtful, take note of the past and learn the lessons. And at times, the USA has made the right choice after considering the past, which is to say not always the easy choice.

    It is easier to take the simple solution, to leap to action without playing out the longer consequences that reflect on history. I hope and pray we all reflect on history before we cast our ballots this November. As we have lived out these four years all too painfully, elections have consequences.


    1. As always, Rose, thank you so much for your words. I’m growing more hopeful that we Americans see where our country has gone wrong and needs to change—not just in military actions but in policies that put the good of the people ahead of parochial interests. The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times daily offer editorials on how we need to change. The New York Times has begun a series of editorials on major changes our country need to pursue. And on 10 May, Robert Reich sent a long email laying out ways we are inferior to all other major democracies and where we need to head. I’ll be posting Reich’s words in blog. Please do comment. Maybe we can get a dialogue going involving lots of people.


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