Tag Archives: Hamlet Evaluation System

Saigon fell 40 years ago today

BN-ID971_TURNER_M_20150429150249

Most of my OCS classmates still consider the American war in Vietnam to have been a misguided intervention in a civil war. For my part I saw both confirmations and contradictions of American policy and practice, making me an outlier even among my peers. Let alone with scumbags like John Kerry, single-handed author in 1973 1971 of the baby-killer myth that still dogs some of us.

This photo goes with a WSJ opinion piece backing the still-disputed policy position that we were helping our South Vietnamese allies fight aggression from North Vietnam. You could, of course, call that a civil war, as well, since they were cousins. Although the war’s persistent critics tend to see the civil war in terms of the black-pajamaed Viet Cong, who were mainly Southerners.

My South Vietnamese militia companies in the northern part of South Vietnam in 1969, however, rarely fought the VC. Most of the time we were in contact with small units of uniformed North Vietnamese Army soldiers who generally inflicted more casualties on us than we did on them.

The WSJ piece also resurrects the idea that “historians generally agree” we were winning the war in its last years of our involvement before the Democrat congress (with the acquiescence of a Republican president) decided to bow to the anti-war protesters (people like Kerry and our probable next president Hillary Clinton) and cut and run.

I presume these historians base their conclusions on Pentagon statistics, some of whom were collected by young lieutenants like me in what was called the Hamlet Evaluation System. The monthly HES reports were supposed to measure civilian loyalty to the Saigon regime which was taken to be a metric of who was winning. My own reports were deemed too negative by my superior and were rewritten to reflect command optimism though only I had visited the hamlets in question. So I discount the claims of winning, at least in 1969, while agreeing that we were fighting aggression more than we were a civil war.

Does it matter after forty years? The WSJ author (a two-tour Army officer who went back as a civilian to help evacuate South Vietnamese orphans) says it does because it’s weakened U.S. standing in the world. It’s hard to see how it could be any weaker with our Little Barry as president. But we may not have had him at all without the cut-n-run four decades ago. We certainly would not have Mr. Baby-Killer himself for a U.S. Secretary of State.

As for us alleged baby-killers, we all became eligible for a shiny new medal in the early 1990s. The citation says that by countering Communist agression (North Vietnamese, VC, Russian, take your pick) we helped win the Cold War. How’s that for irony?