Monday, December 10, 2007

1954 Deferment

I recently challenged a prominent radio whiner to come clean on his military record. In the spirit of not being a hypocrite, and with the optimistic thought that someone is interested, I have decided to do the same.
I have what I call a 1954 deferment. I didn't get a lottery number until the winter of 1973, after the Paris accords had been signed. My number was 160 (I think), which a few years earlier might have gotten me a haircut and green uniform.
I think the minimum age to sign up in those days was 17. If I had been gung ho to stop
communism , I could have signed up in 1971, and pushed to be shipped to 'Nam.
The thing is, by 1971 the war was essentially over. We were trying something called "Vietnamization", which meant we were bringing the combat troops home. Mr. Kissinger was working day and night to secure an acceptable treaty, which Mr. Nixon called Peace with Honor. A few weeks before the 1972 election, the announcement was made that "Peace is at hand".
What this treaty meant was that we got our P.O.W.s back, and withdrew the last of the combat troops. Whether we got all the P.O.W.s back is a subject of controversy, with rampant speculation that some of them were kept in Asia.
The North Vietnamese troops were not required to withdraw. After a while, with Mr. Nixon distracted by Watergate and the American Public in no mood to help, "Charlie" finished the conquest of South Vietnam.
I graduated from High School in June 1972. This was in between the death of J. Edgar Hoover and the arrest of the Watergate Burglars.
The protests over the war hit a peak during the Moratorium of Autumn 1969. There was a last surge in May 1970,after the incursion into Cambodia.During this time we had the killings at Kent State, and suddenly protest didn't seem like as much fun. That combined with Vietnamization served to quiet the antiwar movement.

So I didn't go. Another fair question would be, what if I had been a few years older? The truth is, I don't know. You really don't know what you would do until you have to. Probably, I would have gone the student deferment route, or something else non confrontational to stay in North America.
In 1965, some people still believed the government when they heard we needed to stop
communism . There was a draft then. The spirit of patriotism from World War II was still strong, and when a young man got a draft notice, many assumed it was their duty to help out. An estimated 88% of the fatalities in Vietnam were conscripted troops.
In the early stages of the War I supported it. In the winter of 1966, I attended a rally at Atlanta Stadium called "Affirmation Vietnam". At that time, the war protesters were seen as weirdos. It wasn't for a few more years when people realized the government was lying, and got tired of the bloodshed.
There is a lot of revisionist history about Vietnam, to the point to where I wonder if people are talking about the same conflict. (I think it is safe to assume that most wars in History are this full of confusion and wishful memory.)

Could we have won? IMO, we lost that war the day we entered. I know that by the time I was old enough to participate, it was a lost cause
Spell check suggestions for this feature:
vietnamization-vitalization, virtualization
kissinger- kissing, cosigner.

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