Vietnam

About Vietnam, too much can be said. After all, this war, like the extremely difficult period in which it took place, completely and forever transformed America and American society. Here the important roles are played by politics, culture, growth of the “nuclear” century and the “cold war” (incl. Cuban crisis).

America has just left the Korean campaign, the race is going on into space, there is an outbreak of addiction, racism, women's rights and much more are raised - all this happened during that period. Of course, the above circumstances influenced the war, giving it unique features.

The second war, and even the Korean campaign, ended differently (Korea, in principle, was carried out by the UN, and ended in a “draw” in essence, frozen until now). The return of troops after the Second War was sharply different from the return from the Korean War, but this did not particularly affect the “prestige” of the armed forces — after all this, and especially with the beginning of the Cold War, America for the first time in its history left a huge “standing” (active) army and even began to deploy it around the world. After the Second War, the colonial powers decided to restore their possessions, including those that were captured by the Japanese: England, Holland and, of course, France. The failure of the French-Indochina War enabled the “communist” world to expand its sphere of influence. At the end of that war, France asked the United States for help, but the United States refused (not without the influence of England) and France had to leave Indochina. But America saw the undesirable advancement of communism and decided to enter into conflict with its Vietnamese ideological rivals. America at that time already considered itself a “superpower”, thought that there shouldn't be anything complicated, also considering the French not competent and not learning anything from them (we are smarter!), And there were a lot of lessons: good, bad, but same lessons.

At the same time, America did not have enough experience in “partisan” conflicts and, since this campaign was initially considered “simple”, it was politicians rather than the military who began to lead. At the same time, a lot of internal conflicts and contradictions between the “authorities” and many military men arose. Because of this, a lot of books and analytical materials have been written, and therefore I will not delve into it. Political decisions introduced many restrictions in military operations, and these restrictions were decided by people not at the front, but at headquarters and in Washington, and these restrictions and conditional criteria often changed. Ordinary soldiers and even officers did not understand this, because these games could cost them their lives.

It is important to remember that in America there was still a conscription service (contract service began with 1971 reforms for 1979 years) and the overwhelming majority of the US military were draftees, most of them were unhappy, and discontent grew even more due to the continuation of the war and changes, occurred in the country. Like our wonderful President Clinton, many even fled to Canada to avoid conscription (there were many such tricks in general). Even at the beginning of those times, most Americans still believed in their duty to their homeland, but over time, society changed and many remained “without a rudder,” and many were very unfair and wrongly abandoned by society. This left a strong imprint on many veterans, and the government was not yet aware of the post-traumatic syndrome and simply got rid of them. There were casualties and chemicals used by the United States to “clean up” the jungle (0 - the process continues to this day). Now the government is spending much more attention, money, and knowledge on such matters.

In Kent College, the protest turned into the dark side when the National Guard (reservists), which was supposed to ensure order, was confused and opened fire on the protesting students. This incident entered American history as one of the most important indicators of the problems of that time. The military began to spit; It was a shame for many to be a military man; many military people who believed in the support of their country endured such an attitude on the part of society painfully. Many veterans of the Vietnam War still rarely talk about it with outsiders, more often they have such conversations with each other (however, in fact, they are proud of their service). Many soldiers for many reasons lost confidence in their leadership. Often, since the leadership either changed the goals of tactical actions, or prohibited logical or even vital maneuvers and deprived transparency of the overall goal of the war, the soldiers began to act in their own way: to set their own goals. The trust and loyalty of many soldiers are not directed at the country, but at each other. The survival of a friend became the most important thing, everyone dreamed of living to the end of the annual term or getting a minor wound, at which the soldier was sent home.

“My first assignment after the Academy was to the secret laboratory of the Air Force, where we analyzed the Soviet“ technique ”. At the same time, our laboratory received direct information from Vietnam - and in particular, actual loss data. When I went back to the ordinary world, I saw how the government hid the data and promoted the war by using false data. For me, as an officer, this was unacceptable and I considered it my duty to be there myself, to see myself, and, perhaps, to do something.

I always endured the heat very well; when I got out of transport in Tan Son Nhut, this hot, stifling air hit like a wall and I thought that I would give my soul to God here. But used to; and I was immediately seen by a pair of Academy classmates with whom I played football on the same team - they immediately recruited me to our “national” football team: Tet was coming: the Buddhist new year and the Vietnamese called us to the game. I played when the service allowed, and in this game one of our goals scored (then it became 2-1 in our favor). I played well (semi-professionally in America), and in the second half, my tiredness seemed strange - and when the Vietnamese player wanted to slip past me, I laid him down and got a red card, but our coach caught on and noticed the time: 20 minutes after the second half . The Vietnamese did not want to finish the game while we won, but the game ended there. But, by that time I could not get up, grabbed a sunstroke, and crawled into our bus. I was taken to the nearest base and just put under a shower and left. A few hours later, I came to my senses and returned to the unit.

Fortunately, I got into a special (secret) special unit. It was the personal project of the United States Secretary of Defense: to incorporate “sensors” into field activities. After thorough preparation, we, in small teams (sometimes two), traveled to all parts of Vietnam, from the very south to the demilitarized zone in the north. I was even in the lead during our invasion of Cambodia and 100km of Cambodia, and at the same time I heard the government assure the American people that we will never enter Cambodia.

The 1970's invasion of the year was due to the fact that Vietnamese were hiding there, trained, and stored a large amount of weapons / ammunition. In one of the “repositories”, I even dug out “SKS-45” (made in China). In those years, the Soviet Union and China competed for primacy in Vietnam: weapons, instructors, equipment, etc. / etc.

Vietnam at that time was already heavily bombed, broken. Society was completely wrong. For example, at the time of the French, Saigon had a population of 200.000; in our time, more than 2's millions. People were hiding from the war, from looting and recruitment of the Viet Cong, from bombing and trying to find work from the Americans, at least some work!

When my unit entered Cambodia, Cambodia was clean, quiet, well-groomed, and I thought: “Well, that's all. We are here - you will be poor. ”

We came to the combat unit, organized training on the use of “sensors” (different technologies, depending on conditions, tactics, goals of the part, nature, etc.). Then we went on patrols and conducted “practical / applied” classes: ambushes, research / study of enemy movements, defense of a unit during patrols, defense of field camps, and much more.

In the very south (the Mekong Delta), the main patrols were conducted by naval units, including river patrols and along a multitude of channels. River patrols were conducted in various armed boats and small motor boats. The boats had machine guns (12.7mm and 7.62mm), the team consisted of five soldiers. The main river Mekong was normal (wide), it was possible to maneuver quite easily when you hit or ambush / shelling from the shore, but many canals (for irrigating rice paddies) were narrow, there was nowhere to turn. Viet Cong could install a log slightly under water (so that it was not visible), and some of our guys ran across them and shot them there. I went into the channels to install hydrosensors and, if conditions allowed, acoustic sensors. (I once listened to a reception from such a sensor with a translator (familiar Vietnamese), and I asked him: “What are they saying there?” - He said that they were discussing how to disassemble the sensor to remove the battery, because the batteries were beautiful and the Vietnamese had simple radio stations on such a battery could work for two years.)

In some places in the delta there were Vietcong tunnels - and looked in there; Seismic sensors could be installed there to track movement: time, quantity, etc. and develop attack plans. In the middle, he worked with our land units, the Republican Vietnamese Army, and the Australians. Unlike the Americans, Australians had terms from two to three years, and as a result of this, they knew their territory (the province of Vung-Tau) much better than our parts. I damaged my ear there: we sat in ambush and the 25mm-th centipede passed by my arm, I got carried away with it just as we were struck, and the machine gunner opened fire to the right, a meter away from me, right at the right ear - after which I Deaf for two months. Since then, ill hear. When I had the opportunity, in Saigon I asked the doctor what to do and he replied that my nerves were damaged and I should avoid noisy places. Like this.

In the north, along the demilitarized zone, patrols were conducted mainly by marines. They more often patrolled on armored vehicles, but this was ineffective in those mountain jungles and had to walk all the same. I didn’t like to drive: noisy, limited, too open, and the jungle patrol was an art: extreme silence, disguise; you never walk on trails or roads, never repeat a route, etc.

The jungle is a special element, and over time I got used to it and began to feel normal in it. Sometimes, making your way through the jungle, stumble upon an ancient monument or even an old Buddhist altar - it’s very romantic, beautiful. I spent some time conducting patrols from a tiny camp, away from everything, at the top of an overgrown mountain. The top was cleared, and we lived in burrows dug on the mountainside. Considering the heat, in these “dugouts” it was not so bad, but during the day the entire top was covered with black bugs (they were harmless). There, on this and other mountains, lived monkeys - masons (rock apes) - i.e. they threw stones in both attack and defense. The infantrymen warned against competition. When they first settled there, someone threw a grenade at them and got it back, with lousy consequences. They stopped doing this, but sometimes they pulled a pin, they calculated two seconds (slowly!) And then threw them - but this was evil, and they didn’t do it anymore.

Sometimes, when sensors indicated massive movements, we would cause an air strike — usually high-explosive shells (napalm). Aviation often reacted faster than artillery, partly because of the distance, but I remember some of the 175mm guns' blows - shells rushing overhead like a powerful truck. But most of all the artillery was 105mm, 155mm, and 8 inches, but these were ordinary batteries.

Then, even during the existence of the conscription system, and during the war, the call took random individuals, all, without checks, simply directly. In addition, at this time, recruits received absolutely minimal training prior to their deployment in Vietnam. There was another nuance - the nuance of racism. This question, which was still an edge in American society, has not been resolved. Vietnam has racism problems too. Many soldiers of different races did not want to live together, purely cultural problems arose. In some camps, where I was, there were cases of fights, or someone threw grenades into opposite huts. In Saigon there were places where whites did not go, and if by chance they went, they did not go back. There were many deserters among the blacks, and they founded their “places” in the cities. There were many weapons, and there was very little order in the cities, despite the curfew. Also, the black market was strongly developed and acted almost openly: there were many drugs, military goods, “share” goods (of which there were many), women, currency, and more.

Shortly after my arrival and in that position, I had frequent contact with the Vietnamese. I quickly understood one important aspect of our relationship with Vietnam and the Vietnamese. We, the majority of Americans, did not know Vietnam, did not understand and did not respect and were not interested and did not want to understand. There were many rude and degrading names for the Vietnamese. At the beginning of the war (mid-60), some soldiers made necklaces from the ears of the Vietnamese (and the like). This naturally quickly became clear and was sharply forbidden, but how significant it was! I also remember how my commander was delighted with the unit. He saw how heavily overloaded with people the Vietnamese minibus rolled over: it was extremely funny to watch people rolling along the road “like watermelons”. The American troops, despite the “alliance” with the RVN, always stayed away and never spoke positively about the troops of the RVN. Naturally, the Vietnamese knew this very well.

One of my Vietnamese acquaintances said jokingly:

“You are not bad people in principle, but the French were better in the colonial period”

From the very beginning, i.e. since the assassination of President Dziema of the CIA, and his replacement by President Thew and ce. Ki, the majority of Vietnamese did not trust the American administration or its support for the regime of their appointment. The RVN Armed Forces were also not completely loyal to this regime. Also, they were against the Communists, and so hung somewhere between. But under all these conditions, waging war is difficult and unreliable. For our part, I realized that without respect and understanding of foreign culture, we will lose - it’s too early too late, but a final victory is not possible. ”

From the memories of George Levitsky,
war veteran

Sergey Popov

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