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Daniel Marvin

World Media lack of Courage

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The following will be Chapter 19 in the book in progress "The Devious Elite - Fifty Years of Subterfuge from the mental scrapbook of LTC Daniel Marvin, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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General William C. Westmoreland

The Man and the Myth

Why has the world press refused to publish the truth?

General William C. Westmoreland, as Commander of all American Forces in South Vietnam from June of 1964 through March of 1968, aided and abetted the enemy by permitting them safe havens inside the Cambodian territory adjacent to South Vietnam and by permitting that same enemy the unrestricted use of the Mekong River as a protected waterway to transport war materiel through South Vietnam to their sanctuaries in Cambodia. It seemed obvious to me, after putting all of the facts together, that General Westmoreland considered his own position, rank and place in history more important to him than the lives of American and Vietnamese warriors and South Vietnamese civilians (men, women and children) alike or he would have demanded an end to President Lyndon Johnson’s provision of safe-havens and protected supply routes to the enemy. Lacking positive action by the President, General Westmoreland should have resigned publicly, informing the American people that he was leaving the service not wanting to be a part of the sham that was Vietnam, the sham that supported the enemy while subjecting our forces and our allies, along with the civilian population to death and destruction.

Corroborated proof of my direct knowledge of General Westmoreland’s acts to encourage and assist the enemy is contained in my book Expendable Elite – One Soldier’s Journey Into Covert Warfare, © 2003, Trine Day Publishers.

In General Westmoreland’s book A Soldier Reports © 1976, Doubleday & Company, Inc. he states rather matter-of-factly and very clearly on page 218: “The enemy’s obvious use of Cambodia as a sanctuary and refusal of Washington authorities to allow me to do anything about it was frustrating.” He went on to write, on page 219, of the proof of major shipments of arms and other supplies “reaching the VC via international shipping passing through South Vietnam up the Mekong...” It may have been “frustrating” to General Westmoreland, but his lack of action to deny the enemy sanctuaries and a protected supply route was indeed deadly to many tens of thousands of Americans who depended on him for leadership. From what I was told by officers in Saigon at the time, General Westmoreland wasn’t so frustrated that he denied himself the playful pleasures of a daily tennis routine.

Strangely enough, General Westmoreland writes at the beginning of Chapter XV (Reflections on Command) of having a quotation of Napoleon Bonaparte under a panel on my desk which states, “A commander-in-chief cannot take as an excuse for his mistakes in warfare an order by his sovereign or his minister, when the person giving the order is absent from the field of operations and is imperfectly aware or wholly unaware of the latest state of affairs. It follows that any commander-in-chief who undertakes to carry out a plan which he considers defective is at fault; he must put forward his reasons, insist on the plan being changed, and finally tender his resignation rather than be the instrument of his army’s downfall.”

The lack of strong moral leadership in this four star general is typified in his own admission, on page 220 of his book: “For long all we could do to the enemy in Cambodia was drop propaganda leaflets on our side of the border whenever the wind was right to blow them across.” And, on page 222, he states unequivocally, “My every request to inform the world press of the enemy’s use of Cambodia was denied...” Why then, inasmuch as our permitting of “the enemy’s use of Cambodia” was somewhat akin to tying our soldiers’ hands behind their back as they were ordered into battle, didn’t he take that matter forward as the sole rationale for his resignation from the military service?

In 1983, Presidio Press published LTC Charles M. Simpson’s book, Inside the Green Berets, included the account of how LTC Dick Ruble, a member of General Westmoreland’s Intelligence staff, had without the knowledge of the Special Forces Group commander, denied their access to intelligence (“code word” documents) as retribution for Special Forces’ denying MACV non-airborne personnel, who were to be disguised as Green Berets, access to Special Forces Camps (see page 181). The Special Forces Group had been excluded purposely from their distribution list and would include intelligence gathered by CIA resources. Many of those resources were highly classified and compartmentalized, according to my source, who understandably wishes to remain anonymous.

Directly related to this denial of critical combat intelligence, was a time of solemn remembrance one summer afternoon in 1988 when I stepped through the doors of the Special Warfare Museum on Smoke Bomb Hill at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, wanting to revisit my past. The Green Berets were, after all, a very special organization that would and could tackle any mission, anytime, anywhere and get the job done. No task was too dangerous, too onerous or too difficult as “the impossible just takes a little longer.”

I was enjoying the many and varied exhibits in that small, but awesome collection of unconventional warfare memorabilia until I was stopped in my tracks in front of an exhibit honoring General William C. Westmoreland. I understand fully that one should not despise another, but that singular word best describes my feeling for that military man who, by his own inaction and lack of courage before Congress and his military superiors, aided and abetted the enemy in the Vietnam conflict, the same foe that had killed my four best friends, all of them Green Berets.

My best friend Jerry, his name now engraved on THE WALL - Master Sergeant Gerard V. Parmentier - was killed in action his fifth time in combat in the Southeast Asian War Theater. Jerry, a fellow Green Beret and a number of South Vietnamese irregulars, all mortally wounded in battle by Viet Cong insurgents on 17 August 1967 near Dak To, South Vietnam, were also unsuspecting victims of a power struggle between General William C. Westmoreland’s headquarters and the Special Forces Group commander.

His son Albert, a Green Beret himself, was serving in a neighboring Special Forces camp when he got word that his father had been killed. After learning details of the battle and its aftermath from his father’s commanding officer, Albert accompanied his Father’s body back to the United States where he was interred with military honors, including a Special Forces Color Guard, at Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

After the funeral I spoke with Albert and he confirmed what I’d suspected, having learned from his father’s commanding officer that Jerry’s unit had met defeat and suffered heavy casualties, with most KIA due to faulty or withheld intelligence. The enemy force that killed Jerry was many times the strength that had been gleaned from available intelligence. That fact, in and of itself, was not uncommon in war, particularly in a counter-insurgency situation. What was unusual and unforgivable in my judgment, was the fact that the enemy order of battle was known but withheld from Special Forces. Hard to believe? Yes, I would rather it had been a lie. But those facts were told Albert by Jerry’s commander before he left Vietnam escorting his father’s body to the US. Albert told me, just a few days later and agreed it was important information for the book I was writing about Special Forces in South Vietnam. We also agreed that it would be put on the back burner until his mother was gone as it would hurt too much for her to know the truth. When Jerry’s widow, Rose, died and was buried in Providence, Rhode Island, I spoke with Albert shortly after the funeral had concluded. I told Albert of my need to obtain his signed statement telling of the facts of his father’s death so as to be evidence with which I would demand an investigation and a public disclosure of facts.

I was to learn instead that Albert had retired from the U.S. Army and was working for the “company.” Needless to say, he was then conveniently forbidden from disclosing any knowledge relating to the CIA. No sense arguing, the cards were stacked against the truth.

My book, Expendable Elite – One Soldier’s Journey Into Covert Warfare, contains much detail regarding General Westmoreland’s refusal to demand an end to the enemy’s safe-havens in Cambodia and his lack of courage when given the opportunity to go before Congress and tell them that American and Allied forces and innocent civilians were being killed and maimed by the enemy operating out of the “sanctuaries” that President Johnson had provided against the wishes of then Premier Nguyen Cao Ky. He admits to these failures in his book A Soldier Reports.

Another fact of life in South Vietnam at the time I served as a Green Beret in An Phu and Chau Doc was the absence of routine resupply of Special Forces units by General Westmoreland’s Saigon depot. This was a great cause of concern to me when stationed at the B team and responsible for logistical support of Special Forces Camps under the wing of B-42 in Chau Doc in late 1966. That lack of logistical support by the Saigon depot forced me to “borrow” a Landing Craft Utility (LCU) from the US Navy, pilot it down the Bassac River and on into the Mekong to reach the Saigon Depot. We then “borrowed” two of the depot’s trucks and drove past the fearful guards to pick what we desperately needed from shelves, bins and pallet storage, loaded everything on the trucks and then off loaded onto the LCU at the depot docking site. From there we re-traced our way back to Chau Doc and returned the LCU to where it had been tied up. Within a year of my return to the US, while attending the US Army Career Course at Fort Lee, Virginia, Colonel Pieklik, the former commander of the Saigon Depot - who had commanded it at the time we were forced to steal supplies from that same depot, was a guest lecturer and stood in front of our class at the end of his presentation and responded to questions. I was class president and got to field the first question. I was impressed with the fact that he answered unequivocally, telling our class that the reason his depot was not supplying the Special Forces needs in the IV Tactical Zone (the entire delta area) was that General Westmoreland had ordered him not to. I would learn that Westmoreland’s futile attempts to convince the Commanding General of IV Tactical Zone (Lieutenant General Quang Van Dang) of the need to permit the use of conventional American forces in the delta had angered him to the extent that he refused logistical support of all unconventional forces in the Delta area.

Is this of whom I write the General Westmoreland you have pictured in the past?

Interestingly enough, General Westmoreland’s personal Analysis of America’s Unique Experience in Vietnam, titled As I Saw it and Now See It © 1988 General William C. Westmoreland (Go to http://members.aol.com/USAHeroes/wcw2.htm) contains NO reference to the safe havens or protected shipping permitted our enemy during his watch.

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I speak only as a student of history and not as a member of any military organization. There I have no experience.

I would stop well short of accusing Westmoreland of aiding and abetting the enemy, but I am generally mystified at the lack of criticism that Westmoreland gets from the war.

Every year I show my classes a CNN video about the war. It has two quotations that disturb me about Westmoreland's character. (He, Vo Nguyen Giap, McNamara, and Clifford were all interviewed in the video.) One of the quotes was more from the time of the war (I think) and he talked about the actions as "being on a learning curve". I probably read too much into that, but it amazes me that he could be talking about American military operations as being part of a learning curve. By the time we send our troops into war, we better have a clear idea of what we are doing. A trial and error approach simply will not do.

The second quote is similar to your description of the limitations he had on him. He talked about the orders he was under from his government. No commanding general should pass the buck to his commander in chief. As posted above, if he knew the rules of engagement would lead to a defeat, he should have forced a change in the rules of engagement or resigned. He consistently responded to every setback in his strategy by confirming in his mind that he was right and asking for more troops.

In that same video he is quoted as saying that he knew what the enemy was going to do on Tet 1968 but that he "failed" in informing the public that he knew. So here again he is deflecting blame for the larger campaign for his perception of the media reaction to Tet. Tet was a military victory technically. It was a military victory in the same sense that every American search and destroy campaign was a VC/NVA victory during the entire war. It was a reverse search and destroy campaign. It was an overwhelming statement that the American plan was not working. Because after 3 years of Westmoreland's escalations and body count based search and destroy missions, the enemy remained as capable or more capable of carrying out attacks anywhere in South Vietnam.

There are a lot of political reasons for US failures in Vietnam, but that does not exonerate Westmoreland from being branded an utter failure as a commander.

We could have reacted very differently after we were fully committed. We could have stated clearly that we reserved the right to strike inside any country that aided, abetted, or sheltered communist/insurgent/NVA/VC supporters or sympathizers.

We could have used a policy of sealing the borders and making the Ho chi Minh trail a non-factor. (We did have 550K troops and the ARVN to do this with.

We could have invaded North Vietnam and taken that fight throughout the country and in this way keeping China and the USSR from having an easy way to bring supplies into the theater.

Westmoreland should have insisted on a strategy evolved with the reality of that war instead of consistently saying that the strategy was on course and he simply needed more troops. Heck the buffoon asked for 200K more troops after Tet. He is comparable to the British WWI General Haig.

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