Easter Offensive-A Parable from the Vietnam War

A buzzer sounds in my head every time I use the term ‘Vietnam war’.  That terrible forty-year

Map of Southeast Asia war

Map of Southeast Asia war

conflict savaged almost every part of Southeast Asia and many in the military refer to it as SEA or the ‘Southeast Asia war’.  In my youth I received a graphic correction to my misconception and I have been stuck with the buzzer that results in the conscious use of the term ‘Vietnam war’.   The Easter Offensive is definitely a Vietnam war story.

A General Giáp special, the Easter Offensive caught both the South Vietnamese and the American commands unprepared.  The plan very nearly worked. John Malch, an historian, archivist of this era, and in-country during the offensive, writes that a military officer told him “had it not been for the vast number of

Map of the Easter Offensive

Map of the Easter Offensive

U.S. Military combat troops and the massive capability of strategic bombing by air assets from Guam and Thailand, the battle would have turned in favor for the North Vietnamese Army (NVA).”  The troop strength in April 1972 was 158,000; many, many boots on the ground.

The Adversary

Võ Nguyên Giáp was an old-style Communist revolutionary and the best NVA general of the

General Võ Nguyên Giáp

General Võ Nguyên Giáp

Vietnam war era.   General Giáp was colorful, engaging and effective.  His campaigns drove France out of Vietnam.  For good measure, he fought the United States to a stalemate before ousting it as well.  Giáp was a merciless, albeit respected, adversary willing to take huge losses of life to achieve his objectives.  When he died in October 2013, the New York Times pointed out that in spite of his 102 years, “…he had not faded away. He was regarded as an elder statesman whose hard-line views had softened with the cessation of the war that unified Vietnam. He supported economic reform and closer relations with the United States while publicly warning of the spread of Chinese influence and the environmental costs of industrialization.”[1] Never forget that no matter how harmless the old man looked, General Giáp was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of American service personnel and millions of Vietnamese. Continue reading

The Central Intelligence Agency – Eisenhower and Asia’s Back Door

This is the second in a series of articles that explores the iconic CIA and its use as a tactical weapon by the presidents of the Cold War (1947-1991). The first of the series was The Central Intelligence Agency – In the Beginning

In the late 1940s, the CIA grew quickly as it acquired the political turf and added the expert

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) 34th President of the United States (1953-1961)

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) 34th President of the United States (1953-1961)

staff required to keep the president informed on who was doing what to whom around the globe. The National Security Act of 1947 added covert operations coupled with ‘plausible deniability’ to the mix of collecting and analyzing data. Covert operations weaponized the agency. Now, not only could the CIA convert data into information it could, at the behest of the president through the State Department, act on it with impunity; the CIA had become a tactical weapon.

Presidential elections tend to return with grueling regularity in the U.S. and by 1952 it was time, once again, for Americans to choose a leader through the Electoral College.  Truman, who announced he would not run again, took an historic step when he required the CIA to brief the presidential candidates so they would know what-in-the-world was happening. In Chapter 2 of the CIA Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952-1992, John L. Helgerson states, “Mindful of how useful the weekly briefings were to him, Truman determined that intelligence information should be provided to the candidates in the 1952 election as soon as they were selected. In the summer of 1952, the President raised this idea with Smith. He indicated he wanted the Agency to brief Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and Governor Adlai Stevenson, remarking at the time, “There were so many things I did not know when I became President.” Smith suggested to Truman that Davidson might be the proper individual to brief both Eisenhower and Stevenson to ensure they were receiving the same information.[1] It was an unprecedented step based on Truman’s early experience in office and the beginning of a tradition that is still respected. Continue reading