One of the biggest questions about American history is how the world’s most powerful military could “lose” a war. In Vietnam, the U.S. Army had everything it needed, except freedom from others meddling in wartime decisions. The incongruousness of Bob McNamara directing the war, from basically an academic perch, is surely one of the most surreal happenings in all our history.
So it is that author Phillip Jennings has done us all a great service by tackling this complex subject and using Regnery’s juggernaut series to do it. “The Politically Incorrect Guide to The Vietnam War” is simply fantastic. It answers a whole range of questions, and puts to rest some old myths.
And Jennings knows whereof he speaks. A Vietnam vet, he served with the Marines – and as a helicopter pilot to boot. In fact, his colorful career includes a stint as a pilot for Air America.
One of my very favorite sections of the book involves Jennings’ data that shows Vietnam vets “are better off – financially, psychologically and educationally – than their peers who didn’t serve.” This puts the lie to the assertion that guys who served in Vietnam are zombie sociopaths who drive taxis and talk to themselves standing in front of a mirror.
I’ve known scores of mentally and emotionally robust, successful vets from that miserable war, and Jennings’ deserves special applause for addressing this offensive slight.
I simply love the fact that Jennings simply states, “We still won the war.”
He never participated in a losing battle, and yes, America lost 58,000 wonderful guys, but in cold casualty numbers – numbers all military planners analyze, North Vietnam lost over 1.1 million! Further, years later, Jennings says that the Vietnamese people themselves are very pro-American.
Early on in the book, Jennings recounts the utterly fascinating fact that Vietnam was occupied – by permission from the Vichy French – by the Japanese, and a team of American OSS officers (Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA) parachuted into the region to recover American POWs and help the Communists fight the Rising Sun. So it was that U.S. involvement began.
Later, as “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War” recounts, a young President Kennedy insisted that the Soviets stop their mischief in Laos. Obviously, the Russians were going to ignore that, but the Kennedy administration’s vaunted “best and brightest” laid the foundation for failure by their astonishing arrogance – thinking they knew best how to the Vietnamese should handle their affairs.
Later, it was revealed that a whole host of mischief-makers attempted to torpedo American successes in Vietnam. In a book review, it’s impossible to give away all the nuggets Jennings unearths in this fantastic book, but among the most golden: Soviet propaganda was wildly successful in shaping public opinion about the war.
Russian spy Ion Mihai Pacepa, a defector, admitted, “As a spy chief and a general in the former Soviet satellite of Romania, I produced the very same [anti-war] vitriol [anti-war veteran and future senator John] Kerry repeated to the U.S. Congress almost word-for-word and planted it in leftist movements throughout Europe.”
KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov later called it the group’s biggest success.
This book is further enhanced, as if it needed it, by interviews with guys who served and who provided front-row testimony that the American military effort was stellar.
Finally, as the book details, American “defeat” was helped along immensely by liberals such as Walter Cronkite, whose February 27, 1968, telecast glumly reported that the war couldn’t be won. Ironically, as Jennings points out, this was on the heels of the disastrous Tet Offensive … disastrous for the Viet Cong. They lost almost 80,000 men! It defies common decency that media puppets like Cronkite would report what can only be called “opposite reality.”
Well, all that to say, do yourself and friends and family a favor and get a copy of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War.” That will go a long way in restoring pride in what has falsely been described as America’s greatest failure. As Phillip Jennings has superbly recorded, literally nothing could be further from the truth.