An Anniversary, Of Sorts

From the Usual USAF Source:

Anniversary of US Pullout from Vietnam  Forty years ago, on March 29, 1973, the last US ground troops withdrew from Vietnam, marking the end of direct US involvement in the Vietnam War. President Nixon addressed the nation that day, saying: “For the first time in 12 years, no American military forces are in Vietnam. All of our American POWs are on their way home.” The withdrawal came two months after the United States, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam concluded the Paris peace accords. They failed to bring peace as Saigon would ultimately fall on April 30, 1975, to North Vietnamese communist forces, ending the long conflict. (C-Span webpage with video of Nixon’s address.)

For a selection of Air Force Magazine articles over the years on the Vietnam War, see:

Commissioned in Hanoi
Leaving No One Behind
The Lessons of Vietnam
Linebacker II
Return to Vietnam
Stennis Slams McNamara

We were in Vietnam for 12 years… from 1961 until 1973.  One of my very first… mayhap even THE first… war stories revolves around our involvement there and my relationship with the war.  It’s September, 1963 and I’m in the end-game o’ basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, part o’ said end-game being spending a couple o’ days on the obstacle course, or whatever they call it now.  My flight was taking a smoke break after spending a couple o’ hours running through mud, walking across logs, and climbing vertical obstacles when this fat Staff Sergeant TI (that would be Training Instructor, for you non-mil types) started barking at us.  He said something that IMMEDIATELY caught our attention, to the effect o’…

“You Ladies better gotdamned well pay ATTENTION to what we’re teaching you here, coz you’ll NEED it when we send yer asses to Veet-Nam!”

“Veet-Nam?” sez one of my fellow airmen… not me… “What’s Veet-Nam?”

“We’re fightin’ a WAR there, Boy!  So pay attention!”

We all looked at one another and silently mouthed “war?”  What war?  Who knew?  The answer is that in 1963 damned few people in these United States knew we were at war in Vietnam but we… the members of my flight and the nation as a whole… would find out soon enough.

Cross-posted at EIP.

9 Comments

Filed under Other Stuff, Vietnam

9 responses to “An Anniversary, Of Sorts

  1. Bill Brandt

    Buck, my basic training came at the other end – Sept 1972. Things I remember to this day – looking for trip wires (almost impossible to see), – marching to cadence singing about Vietnam and Charlie Cong, and getting an assignment for AIT – that’s Advanced Individual Training for you non-mil types to……Army Air Defense ? – at Ft Bliss, TX.

    I was stationed in Germany March 29th, 1973 when I read about the final pull out.

    In the years since, have been ambivalent about the War (more specifically how it was run) but not about those who served there – virtually all with honor and much bravery fighting rules set by Washington.

    I have since wondered how the war would have gone had an earlier President, Johnson, decided to mine Haiphong harbor that Nixon did towards the end.

    Came across the story of the Misties – a volunteer group of Air Force pilots flying 2 seat F100s – whose job it was to attract SAM fire – then calling in the F105s and F4s. Talk about brass….

    And those Navy pilots flying the Intruders and F4s into North Vietnam –

    Everyone.

    So many did all that was asked ….

    • Buck

      that’s Advanced Individual Training for you non-mil types

      I learn sumthin’ every day. I thought AIT stood for Advanced Infantry Training. I was in the Air Defense bid’niz, too, Bill… I spent 16 years as an AC&W (aircraft control and warning) radar tech, among other things. While my AF contemporaries were lounging around on bona-fide bases I was off on a damned mountain top somewhere, and nearly always NOT somewhere nice. 😉

    • Bill Brandt

      Buck – before the Army stuck me where they stuck me, I didn’t even know that was part of their business. But, as I learned, it is the last vestige of the old Army Air Force – the part that they didn’t split off in 1947-48 to the new USAF.

      Every other Air Force in the world is responsible for their own ground to air defense.

      But as a general rule any Army Air Defense battery works under the command of an Air Force unit. They don’t want any misunderstandings 😉

      When it comes to Vietnam they did send some Hawk batteries up near the DMZ, I think. The Hawk was a mobile missile that both the Marines and Army used.

      When it comes to my service I have been humbled for 40 years because so many of my contemporaries had it a lot worse than being stationed in Germany – My hat is off to those like Snake, Jimmy, who endured a lot worse things than I had in the 70s, in the middle of Europe.

  2. Paul L. Quandt

    The U.S. involvment in Viet Nam started on 26 June 1950. 1961 was when the first combat units were sent in.

    Paul

  3. Jimmy J.

    Thanks for this one. The articles are all of great interest to me. Especially General Millton’s article on lessons learned. I agree with him 100%.

    I was in Vietnam flying A-1s from 1964-1965. First attached to the Air Force at Tan Son Nhut then on the Hancock at Yankee Station.

    I went back in 2010. Never thought I would, but I did. It was gratifying to see that the Vietnamese were doing well for the most part. The southerners still hate the government in Hanoi.

    I lost six good friends there and knew three Navy pilots that spent seven years in the Hanoi Hilton. I’ve never quite gotten over those losses and the way we quit and abandoned the South. I’ll carry that anger to my grave.

    • SteveC

      Jimmy J: thank you for representing us and doing your duty under terrible circumstances. As for your anger – I agree. I’ve often marveled that our military continued to do the job that they did despite the way our government mismanaged the war and hindered you guys, and the way a large percentage of the civilian population ultimately refused to support you. It was, all of it, shameful and worse.
      In retrospect I wonder that our military, either starting with the leadership, or with the grunts, did not just stop allowing the government to waste them and their efforts by refusing to go along any longer with the folly.

    • Buck

      I understand the anger, Jimmy J, albeit not nearly as well as you do. I lost two friends in that war and agree with what you’ve said completely.

  4. Hogday

    Respect to you sir. Respect to all of you grizzly old warriors.

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