WWII vs. Vietnam
This article gives the thoughts of Command Sergeant Major Ballogg of JTF 6 on the 25th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
There are less than 2000 active duty military with RVN service in uniform today. All of us are senior enlisted / officers. On the eve of the anniversary of the fall of Saigon I feel impelled to talk about the soldiers who served during that conflict.
The barrage of misinformation about the war and who fought it is a national disgrace. The B.S movies- Rambo, Apocalypse Now, Deerhunter and Platoon - - Oliver Stone's rendition of guys in the same unit killing each other, smoking dope on patrol - the sad thing is Oliver knew better but wants to be one of the Hollywood insiders. Some of the things portrayed in these movies did happen - as they happen in all wars, but they are portrayed as everyday occurrences in Vietnam, as every man's experience.
Why? My guess is that those in Hollywood and the media who avoided service have this need to reinforce their decision not to serve by vilifying those who did. This continued effort to disgrace those who went saddens me and makes me furious. I am going to compare two conflicts as a vehicle to define the RVN combat soldier. My intent is not to denigrate any other veteran but to shed some light.
"The Greatest Generation" and W.W.II. This was 'The Good War', there was an evil foe bent on conquest and the destruction of the world as we knew it. Our whole society was galvanized behind the war effort. Every organization
supported the war and total victory. There was every reason to fight and no excuse not to.
The 60's generation and Vietnam. The not-so-good war. The American public initially supported the war - but it was a side bar. The reserves and National Guard were not mobilized. There was no societal effort. The goals were ambiguous and the threat undefined. The only reason to fight was a sense of service to the Nation. And yet:
W.W.II - 33% enlisted 67% drafted - - initially only
21 to 35 year-olds were to be taken but not enough volunteers came forward so the draft was lowered to 18.
RVN - (65 -73) 67% enlisted 33% drafted - and of the draftees, 10% volunteered for the draft.
W.W.II - 4 year period- 350,000 draft evaders
RVN - 8 year period- 500,000 draft evaders - developed to a fine art by some we know well.
W.W.II - Desertion "in the zone" Europe and Pacific theaters: 20,000 convicted servicemen. Prior to D-DAY the British
jails were full of US deserters that were brought to dockside in handcuffs.
RVN - Desertion in-country: 250.
W.W.II Units surrendered to the Enemy - From Bataan to Europe many units with the ability to fight surrendered without one. Platoons, Companies, and (in the case of the Battle of the Bulge) Regiments with the ability to fight chose not to.
RVN - Not one platoon in 9 years of fighting surrendered. Some were overrun but chose to fight to the death. LTG H. G. Moore, when revisiting his battlefield 20 some odd years later, was told by the North Vietnamese Officers that they were astonished at the American soldiers "Fanaticism" to fight to the end.
My unit was the 3rd squad C Company 2nd Bn 14th Infantry of the 25th Inf. Division (Tropic Lightning) or the "Electric
Strawberry" as we called it with pride. The Division fought in RVN from early 66 to late 71. The Division had a little less than 17,000 assigned. During its tour the 25th had over 5,000 killed in action and just under 25,000 wounded in action.
That's about twice the Divisions rolls. The 25th ID never lost a position to the enemy - never had a unit overrun - never had a soldier surrender under fire.
I am proud to have served as a grunt in RVN and have never served with finer men.