Capture the Moment

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  1. Jim Young says:

    Regarding the failure of the “General Offensive,” there was an even bigger failure of the “General Uprising,” especially in Saigon (from what the few of us saw), but also seemingly far less successful everywhere else they expected it to support the General Offensive.

    Our little group of 7 or so non-combatants was one of two small groups that went into Saigon during Tet 68 (to pick up our own guys stuck in town) and was led by an Air Force SSgt that had been a Marine serving in Cyprus (and Lebanon) in the late 50s or early 60s. He had us watching the reactions of the locals, and pointed out that those terrified people that would peek out of the windows were all afraid of us, but weren’t looking anywhere else but at us. A good sign he said, that it was unlikely for VC to be in the immediate area. He said the main thing we had to do was avoid getting between the VC trying to get out and reform. We were minimally armed, equipped, trained, or experienced enough to risk forcing even small groups of more experienced and desperate VC to fight us in an attempt to escape.

    Our priority was getting our guy back to the air base, and we grew very confident even on the way in, more so on the way out. The former Marine SSgt probably had a better sense of what was going on and how to interpret information he could gather informally from Intel and USAID contacts he seemed to cultivate. I don’t remember if I heard the specific term, “General Uprising,” from him at that time, but his evaluation of the people they expected to join them failing to do so that day has withstood all tests of time for me.

    Points I haven’t tested as much:

    I believe the Communist hard liners were worse than all the Imperialist Capitalist hard liners on our side. Both tried to force their versions of ideal governments on the people stuck in the middle (though both made poor choices, Le Duan for the most powerful leader in the north, and Diem in the south, when Uncle Ho was the real people’s most moderate choice).

    I do believe our far less than perfect efforts did at least result in us being among the most welcome nationalities in Vietnam once the dust settled a decade after the war ended, and that all of the major countries became more moderate, though not as moderate as many of us would still like. I had traveled around 60,000 miles, all over Vietnam and Thailand to 61 bases and camps that I could recall, and used to ask Vietnamese what they thought every chance I got. One family I had helped by stopping a drunk soldier chasing one of the daughters, gave me a Mot Dong note, the paper version of one Piaster, worth 1/87,000th of a penny last time I checked. Our Intel guys told me it was used as a secret form of recognition by VC, but a USAID worker (with 7 years in country) told me it was really more of a safe conduct pass for people trusted by most of the people stuck in the middle though nominally on one side or the other.

    I like to think I sensed some of what I think Doug Ramsey learned after he was captured.

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