Part Twelve

Part Twelve

Written by 
The Unconventional Warrior
by LTC Daniel Marvin, USASF (ret)

A  R  C  H  I  V  E  S

© 2002 Daniel Marvin

Part 12:

President’s Fantasy is a Soldier’s Curse

October 28, 2002

General William C. Westmoreland, in his ©1976 book, A Soldier Reports, (Doubleday & Company New York) tells the reader, “Under a panel of glass on my desk from the time I assumed command in Saigon I kept a quotation from Napoleon Bonaparte: ‘A commander-in-chief cannot take as an excuse for his mistakes in warfare an order given by his sovereign or his minister, when the person giving the order is absent from the field of operations and is imperfectly aware or wholly unaware of the latest state of affairs. It follows that any commander-in-chief who undertakes to carry out a plan which he considers defective is at fault; he must put forward his reasons, insist on the plan being changed, and finally tender his resignation rather than be the instrument of his army’s downfall.’”

In that same book, he writes, “The enemy’s obvious use of Cambodia as a sanctuary and the refusal of Washington authorities to allow me to do anything about it was frustrating.” For me that was General Westmoreland’s personal admission of what I consider cowardly behavior. Not only General Westmoreland, but every general or admiral between him and the White House who refused to stand up to those who would deny our fighting men and those of the allies a fair chance on the battlefield. Why wasn’t there a torrent of resignations when those who led our forces in battle recognized that the President and the Congress were aiding and abetting the enemy?

There is no other way to look at it. When the enemy is given a place to attack from and return to with immunity by the very leaders who send their men to fight and die in battle, those leaders are guilty of aiding and abetting the enemy.

We were fortunate in 1965 in South Vietnam when a real man of courage stepped forward to protect his people, the 64,000 Hoa Haos who called An Phu District their home. He carried a demand to the IV Corps Commander, Lieutenant General Quang Van Dang, that he be allowed to lead his men against the Communist forces, to follow them in hot pursuit into Cambodia and to effectively deny the enemy sanctuary within mortar range of irregular forces. These brave fighters were all of the Hoa Hao Sect of the Buddhist religion. That leader was Major Phoi Van Le, my counterpart when I was sent in to An Phu to command the first top secret irregular force operations against the enemy inside their Cambodian sanctuaries.

President Johnson, perhaps unaware of what Major Le had achieved in the way of “special permission” to actually take the war to the enemy, maintained his tough and unequivocal policy of permitting the enemy safe-havens, a point well proven during an early August, 1966 briefing of Army Chief of Staff General Harold K. Johnson by Lieutenant Colonel Brewer, commander of Special Forces Team B-42 in Chau Doc, South Vietnam.

As Colonel Brewer was briefing General Johnson, with all of Brewer’s staff and A team commanders present, General Johnson interrupted and demanded to know what the yellow highlighted areas inside Cambodia represented. “The yellow represents known VC sanctuaries” Brewer responded.

In an angry tone and directing as ridiculous an order as any of us in that room could imagine, being each one of us had faced enemy who attacked our areas from those very same sanctuaries, General Johnson interrupted again, “Remove them from the map, Colonel. The President of the United States has told the American people that Cambodia does not permit its territory to be used by the enemy.”

An uneasy stillness followed. Colonel Brewer was stunned. Looking directly at the General, he said, “The sanctuaries are real, General, and what you see here is based on good intelligence.” He went on to explain that the officers sitting behind him, of whom I was one, could verify the sanctuary existence in those areas.

General Johnson, whom we all knew despised those of us who wore the Green Beret, ignoring the truth, again told Colonel Brewer to remove the sanctuaries from his operations map, concluding, “The President of the United States has told the American People that Cambodia has not allowed its territory to be used by the enemy.” Then, as if to add some sort of verbal “encouragement” (I believe a threat) General Johnson rose from his chair, walked over to Colonel Brewer and whispered in his ear.

Sanctuaries were removed from the map and I was then convinced in my mind that from the White House down to General Westmoreland, there stood a bunch of weak-kneed officers unable to exercise honorable judgment. They were directly responsible in my judgment for the majority of those South Vietnamese, Americans and other allies who gave their lives or were wounded in action and also caused the nation of South Vietnam to vanish from the face of the earth. Shame on each and every one!

More detail regarding this tragedy is to be found in my book Expendable Elite. Preview it (and pre-order it to get an autographed copy) through the links in the left column of this page and watch for it in your bookstore or library this winter.

[Edited by Jeanne Calabretta & staff]


Next Week – Part 13: The Dog Lab at Fort Bragg