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21 May 2012

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Lars

It is a valid question today, whether a general could get away with such decisions anymore in the Information Age? I suspect there would be an instant spotlight on it. I also suspect that most flag officers for quite some time now reach their ranks not by combat successes but by political skills.

Mj

And then in July 70 the 101st Airborne engaged in the battle of Firebase Ripcord where 75 troopers were killed, three Medals of Honor awarded.

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

William R. Cumming

Thanks PL and gives insights to many issues from RVN efforts by the USA. IMO of course. Reminds me of "Paths of Glory" with Kirk Douglas about WWI and French efforts.

William R. Cumming

By the way could today's ARMY launch a major airborne or helicopter assault? By TO&E and training and equipment and condition of troops?

What percentage of the NAVY and Air Force are devoted to troop movements and resupply?

Is there any existing open source ranking of numbers of helicopters available to and in the top ten world militaries?

Tyler

Sir,

You really should publish that autobiography.

turcopolier

Mj

Yup. Fire Base Ripcord. Four airborne infantry battalions against two NVA divisions. Odds? About ten to one. Four little hilltops well dug in. 23 days. No disrespect is meant to present day soldiers, but the equivalent engagements in Afghanistan have typically involved half platoons of infantry in poorly sited, poorly built little fortlets down in the bottom of some terrain hole with a couple hundred insurgents shooting down at them from above with light weapons. There were IEDs, ambushes and snipers in VN as well but we also had "foemen worthy of our steel." pl

turcopolier

wrc

We have one complete airborne division, separate airborne brigades and the ranger regiment. We have one complete airmobile division. what was the question? pl

Neil Richardson

What do you consider "major"? Company or battalion sized? 2ID has been practicing it for the last 50 years. 101AB did it flawlessly in 1991. In 2003, the Brits and the Marines grabbed Rumalia without much trouble (other than weather).

Helicopter is a major part of combined arms operations today. That's not likely going to change for some time.

VietnamVet

Colonel,

I shouldn’t be scratching old scars.

WWII was a war of armies; Vietnam was a battle of divisions and Afghanistan firefights by platoons. America fights with the Army it has. From the moment that not enough troops were inserted to encircle bin Laden at Tora Bora and the Elite declared that the Taliban were the same as al-Qaeda; the war was lost.

When the 101st Airborne did not pursue the remnants of the NVA into Laos in November 1965, that war was lost.

Lives and treasure were spent for nothing.

The War of 1812, the Secession of the Southern States, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Iraq and Afghanistan Invasions were all unwinnable because the strategic goals were unattainable with the manpower and force available. Only the war profiteers won out.

turcopolier

VV

"When the 101st Airborne did not pursue the remnants of the NVA into Laos in November 1965, that war was lost." I have no idea what you ar etalking about. The "remnants of the NVA?"

I don't agree that any of your examples were "unwinnable." pl

VietnamVet

Colonel,

The Battle of Ia Drang Valley.

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

This battle was depicted in the book and movie “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young”. The NVA suffered significant losses in the November 1965 battle but thanks to the border sanctuaries they regrouped and fought on until victory in April 1975.

To win the war of 1812 the USA would have had to defeat the British Empire and taken London.

To win the Civil War, the Southern States would have had to have taken New York; Washington DC would not have counted, or fought a trench/guerrilla war of attrition hoping that the Northerners would give up and agree to secession.

To win the Korean war the USA would have had to invade the People’s Republic of China which had the support of Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons; likewise, with North Vietnam. Nuclear weapons assured that these wars would be “police actions”.

The USA could have conquered Iraq and Afghanistan but COIN takes one soldier for every 40 Aborigines to succeed; 625,000 troops minimum in Afghanistan and another 625,000 in Iraq. This is even beyond the million troops General Westmoreland wanted and did not get in Vietnam when there was a draft.

turcopolier

VV

The units engaged at the Ia Drang were from the 1st Cavalry Division not the 101st Airborne The NVA units engaged were less than a division in size. The notoriety surroundng Moore's book makes the battle seem more significant stategically than it was. There were lots of NVA who were not engaged there. By my count there were about 10 divisions in the NVA in 1965 not counting numerous separate regiments and another whole "army" of full time VC units, and then there were the guerillas... IMO we could have won the war by cutting off infiltration of supplies and units by occupying a line from the Mekong to the sea along the cease fire line, and then fighting the isolated NVA and VC main force units in the south with our main force units. The COIN war that we fought worked quite well. As I have written endlessly it was a much larger effort than anything in the last ten years. the essential missing element was was the interruption of infiltration. Don't bring up Lamson 719. We were essentially gone by then. I leave it to someone else to argue with you over the rest of your examples. pl

Neil Richardson

VV:
"To win the Korean war the USA would have had to invade the People’s Republic of China which had the support of Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons; likewise, with North Vietnam. Nuclear weapons assured that these wars would be “police actions”.

I think you have a very narrow definition of victory or "winning" a war. What were the political and military objectives for the United States in the summer of 1950? It wasn't the unification of the peninsula, but a restoration of status quo ante bellum. Even assuming that one accepts (and I would not) MacArthur's modified objective which played right into the hands of Syngman Rhee, could the UN forces have achieved a total victory? For that to have happened, the 8th Army would've had to hold the line from either Anju-Hungnam or Nampo-Wonsan axes after the PLA intervened. There were a lot of officers (and they'd fought during the Big Bugout) who felt that the Eighth Army and X Corps senior leadership had failed miserably. For these men, one of counterfactual questions was what would've happened had Ridgway, Gavin or Van Fleet been in command (or any number of outstanding generals who were then available). As my father once told me, every man has his limit and that includes generals. GEN Walker probably had reached his before the first Chinese offensive. And I have the utmost respect for the general who had done so much under the most trying circumstances.

The PLA did not have an inexhaustible supply of manpower. The estimates of their casualties range anywhere from 700,000 to 1.1 million. And a lot of these men were the elite of the PLA who were veterans of WWII and the civil war. Ridgway and Van Fleet fought economy of force operations from 1951-53 as the United States had focused more on improving the NATO capabilities after NSC-68. The UN forces conducted attrition warfare with frightening effectiveness.

As for the Soviet Union, the post-Cold War revelations have shown us that the Sino-Soviet discord exacerbated during the war. (Remember that Mao distrusted Stalin for many good reasons) Even if the FEAF had struck the Manchurian sanctuaries, I don't believe the Soviet Union would've done more than it had as Stalin was very cautious. He believed in fighting to the last Chinese in Korea. I do not believe the defense of ROK was vital to the US national interest in 1950. But if you look at the war aims as stated by the NSC from June to August 1950, the United States did restore the status quo ante bellum by 1953.

VietnamVet

Colonel,

You are correct. I cannot trust my memory anymore. Yes, it makes sense to limit the defense to the populated Mekong delta. But, that decision would have to have been made in 1965 or earlier instead of sending 3rd Marine Division into Da Nang. A rational assessment of the situation in Saigon like you would do at the time would have to have raised the question “why send any troops at all?”

“10 divisions in the NVA in 1965 not counting numerous separate regiments and another whole "army" of full time VC units, and then there were the guerillas.” Holding the NVA back for a decade was an achievement but at grievous costs; including the current distrust and hatred of government.

Mj

Every one of us will go to our graves with a different opinion on the whole deal. I remember Rocky Bleier speaking at the 10th Anniversary of the Wall talking about "together then, together again". Nice sentiment but that's about it.

VietnamVet

NR,

I was in the third grade when we were
trooped outside to watch General
MacArthur’s motorcade upon his return
to the States from Korea. All I saw
was a black Cadillac. If a Stalemate
in Korea was the national goal, it
was unacceptable to Americans.
General Eisenhower was elected President
because they believed he would end the
war. He did.

I remember both the Korean and Vietnam
Wars as being wildly unpopular compared
to the current ones. No draft, tax cuts,
and corporate agitprop are my explanations
why it is so different in the 21st century.

It is hard to avoid the memories and
it is impossible to change beliefs that
were burned through the neurons so many
years ago.

PeterHug

I will go with the war I know the most about - the US 'won' the War of 1812 in that we ended the war with our territory intact, our control of the core of the North American continent not anymore in dispute, and our way West clear and free. We also generated a real professional army (thank you, Winfield Scott!) and a number of notable military victories (many would point to the Constitution-Guerriere fight, but I think the Battle of Lake Erie (the ONLY time an entire British fleet has been sunk or captured) and Chippawa are more significant) in the course of the war.

Winning a war doesn't necessarily mean destroying your enemy utterly. It means achieving your aims without giving up anything critical in return. That certainly was the case with the War of 1812, and also I believe with at least some of the other wars you mention.

I would accept that the biggest winner of the War of 1812 was Canada, in that the experience gave them the sense of national identity that eventually brought them to where they are now, but that should not minimize the achievements of the US and the US Army and Navy - we pretty well beat the crap out of the best the British had to offer on numerous occasions, and in doing so prevented the British from achieving any of their war aims while accomplishing most of ours. We won.

Neil Richardson

VV:

"If a Stalemate
in Korea was the national goal, it
was unacceptable to Americans.
General Eisenhower was elected President
because they believed he would end the
war. He did."

I agree that the absence of military draft has led to relative indifference among the American public at large for many years. The current public sentiment is overwhelmingly against the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, it took the majority probably a lot longer to come to that conclusion than earlier generations of Americans. That point hit home when I found out that most of my neighbors didn't know what a gold star meant.

As for an acceptable national goal, well why do you think Truman had called it a police action? He knew that it was a tough sell to the American people why Korea mattered after his decision to introduce US ground forces. Most couldn't even spot it on a map. I'd also refrain from using Ike's example on Korea. He was a noted poker player in his younger years. In 1952 and 1953, he had openly threatened to use nuclear weapons in order to end the war. Sometimes the will of the American people can be fickle and unthinking. Obviously Ike was a wise man who probably had no intention of doing so, but the American public had little trouble with that notion.

William R. Cumming

I suspect that most wars need to be 100 years ago to understand better the full consequences on the "winners" and "losers"!
The fundamental understanding of relations between the UK and the USA were permanently modified by the War of 1812 as Britain started to realize its strategic error in not moving the Throne to Philadelphia in the 1760's!

AS to Viet Nam as recently as 2004 a major party Presidential candidate could not decide whether that war was just or not. And he was a participant 4 decades earlier.

AS to Korea, the Communist leadership realized that the USA was in fact its only potential strategic rival in Asia. Given the Viet Nam War I am not sure what the USA learned from the Korean War other than conventional and airborne artillery effective against massed formations. I believe the Russians and Germans learned that somewhat earlier.

Time for totally new thinking on what the utilization of Armed Force can actually accomplish! IMO of course.

VietnamVet

WRC

Yours is the best comment period. The USA needs an effective military for no other reason than the disintegration south of the border and in Greece is contagious. Crony Capitalism and Deflation may win out in the end if the one and only choice is between privatization and outsourcing. “To protect and serve” seems to be a winning platform to me but that just may be an archaic phrase from the 1960’s and the LAPD.

Neil Richardson

WRC:

"AS to Korea, the Communist leadership realized that the USA was in fact its only potential strategic rival in Asia."

I'm not sure what this means. Was there another potential rival in Europe, Africa or Antarctica for that matter?


"Given the Viet Nam War I am not sure what the USA learned from the Korean War other than conventional and airborne artillery effective against massed formations. I believe the Russians and Germans learned that somewhat earlier."

You shortchange a lot of brave men who did come away with wisdom which was very expensive. For example, Ridgway convinced Ike not to commit US ground forces to help the French during Dien Bien Phu.

http://www.history.army.mil/books/AMH/AMH-28.htm

As the situation became critical, France asked the United States to intervene. Believing that the French position was untenable and that even massive American air attacks using small nuclear bombs would be futile, General Matthew B. Ridgway, the Army Chief of Staff, helped to convince President Dwight D. Eisenhower not to aid them. Ridgway also opposed the use of U.S. ground forces, arguing that such an effort would severely strain the Army and possibly lead to a wider war in Asia.

mj

Hey VV, if you look back at this shoot me an email at markann at gmail dot com

I saw a post from you from several years ago about you being in the Herd. I have a bunch of pictures from LZ English and I think the 3rd Batt at that time.

Lucky Eagle X ray

I question if the call sign BlackJack was ever used in Vietnam by General Melvin Zais. I was the Instructor Pilot with MG Zais throgh out his Command of 101st in 1969, and was with him most of that time.

I agree that LTC Honeycutt did use that Call sign during part of 1969

turcopolier

Lucky Eagle X ray

My memory is quite clear as to what the captain cried out. pl

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