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++ THE BATTLE OF DIEN BIEN PHU ++

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Guest imported_Tesseract

THE BATTLE OF DIEN-BIEN-PHU

 

Following the withdrawal of Japan from Vietnam in August 1945, Ho-Chi-Minh proclaimed the independence of the country on September 2 of the same year. During the same month France, with the help of the British, occupied Saigon and the delta of the Mecong River in an attempt to recover its pre-war territories in the region. After a series of negotiations and agreements with the Vietminh revolutionary government, France went back on its word and bombed the harbour of Hai Phong in the delta of the Red River on November 23, 1946. According to the Vietnamese 20.000 people were killed, whereas French sources claimed "only" 6.000 civilians died. Thus began the French War in Vietnam, one of the longest and most bloody wars of the 20th century. To get an idea of what happened there at the time from 1946 to 1954 - it suffices, I think, to say that 172.000 French lost their lives, disappeared or were severely injured.

On November 23, 1946 the war of the French began in the northern part of Vietnam and on November 26, 1953 the military occupation of Dien-Bien-Phu was launched from the air in the campaign known as "Operation Castor". The overwhelming defeat of the French army there a few months later put a definitive end to the French presence in Vietnam.

 

++ Summary of the military situation in North Vietnam prior

to the occupation of Dien-Bien-Phu ++

 

1. With the bombardment of Hai Phong and the occupation of the delta of the Red River, the French army prevailed in the urban centers of the delta, resulting in the withdrawal of the revolutionary army to the countryside and its deployment among the mountain villages of North Vietnam. In spite of their efforts to expand their area of control through several battles, the French ultimately failed to reverse the established situation. At the same time, the Vietminh deployed their army very successfully creating especially strong bases in the countryside, aided by widespread practical assistance from the population. 2. The situation changes radically after the victory of Mao Tse Tung in China. The Sino- Vietnamese borders become safe for the Vietminh, whereas the French lose the access to the north they had held until then.

3. The rapid development, the organization and the support of the revolutionary army of the people made the situation very awkward for the 450.000 strong French forces. The many minor attacks of the Vietminh at various points of the French occupied area, forced them to scatter their forces, losing the strategic initiative to the Vietnamese. To regain their power, the French were forced to concentrate their forces, with a consequent loss of territory.

4. The popular reaction in France to the continuation of the bloody war compounded the impasse with which the French were faced. The recognition of the Revolutionary Government of Vietnam by the Soviet Union, China, and even by Tito of Yugoslavia added one more factor to this war which by now far exceeded the political endurance of the 4th French Republic. In the autumn of 1953, the Vietminh held nearly the entire country and the principal roads. In military terms, France was at a dead end.

This was the situation when General Henri Navarre decided to carry out Operation Castor in the remote small plain' of Dien-Bien-Phu.

 

++ The question ++

 

Dien-Bien-Phu is a village situated in a plain bearing the same name in west Tomkin of North Vietnam. The plain does not exceed 15 kilometers along the north-south axis and 6 kilometers along the east-west axis and has little strategic significance, its only advantage being its proximity to the Laos border which facilitates control of communications between the two countries. It still seems incomprehensible why Dien-Bien-Phu was chosen by the French as the place where a relatively large force would assemble to clash there with the Vietminh. This little plain, this little place, totally cut off from all road systems and exposed to the suffocating embrace of the mountains encircling it, looks indeed like a trap for anyone attempting to defend it by military force. There are many theories about this decision by the French. But because of the disastrous consequences for French imperialism brought on by Operation Castor, all generals responsible have denied paternity of the idea, and their American advisers in turn have denied that they ever approved the operation. What, then, was the rationale that led General Navarre to instigate the great conflict with the Vietminh in this unlikely place, in the trap of Dien-Bien-Phu?

 

++ The choice ++

 

a) The political choice

 

1. Everybody realized that this indescribable war had to come to an end.

 

2. In the negotiations that would follow, France must have the upperhand, in order to negotiate from a position of power.

 

3. To achieve this, France had to weaken, practically to defeat, the Vietminh, even though, unavoidably, some guerrilla bands would remain in the mountains. In other words, the French needed a sweeping victory in a big central battle in the areas controlled by the Vietminh. In this way, they would recover the strategic initiative. To ensure this, their victory had to be certain in advance.

All this, naturally, had to happen within a certain time frame. In fact, it had to precede the international negotiations about the war in Indo-China scheduled to open in Geneva in the first months of 1954.

These three points made up the political dimension of the problem.

 

B) The military choice

Dien-Bien-Phu, an isolated place, far removed from any roadways, deprived of any access to China, should represent an enormous problem of resupplying the Vietnamese troops which would normally camp on the mountains girding the little plain. This problem ought to be so critical and insurmountable that General Giap, soon after the massive, powerful assault in waves that he would undoubtedly attempt - qn assault that the French stronghold would normally be able to repel during the first stage - would find himself without ammunition between the French army of Dien-Bien-Phu, the French air force and the Napalm bombs. The non-existence of a Vietnamese air force would indeed make this tight encirclement even more suffocating.

On the other hand, the French were convinced that their own supplies could be ensured by air, since the anti-aircraft capability of the Vietminh was inadequate and, anyway, their air defense would be faced with the same problem of reprovisioning as the rest of their army.

 

++ Operation Castor ++

 

The French occupied the plain of Dien-Bien-Phu from the air on November 20, 1953. An airlift consisting of 64 transport aircraft forming a 7 -mile long line and using paratroopers succeeded in establishing an entrenched camp. The final concentration of forces included 17 infantry battalions (paratroopers in their majority), three artillery battalions, one sabotage battalion, a company of tanks, 200 trucks, a squad of 14 planes, 4.150 mm guns and 24.105 mm guns - a total of 16.000 men.

This entrenched camp was supported by smaller strongholds installed on the hills around the plain. Internal communications were provided by subterranean galleries and trenches. The strongholds were christened by the camp commander Colonel De Castries with feminine names, such as Beatrice, Dominique, Ugette, Claudine, Eliane, etc. Two runways on which the whole operation depended were maintained in good repair, and a hospital was set up as well as two brothels with 17 girls: 11 Algerians and 6 Vietnamese. Thus a powerful, large stronghold was established (and OK'd by the Americans) in Dien-Bien-Phu, at least 300 kilometers from Hanoi.

 

++ The mistake ++

 

What the French generals - and a few years later their American colleagues were unable to understand, is the nature of the people's army.

The Vietminh had overwhelmingly strong and massive support in the mountain villages ofTomkin, whose inhabitants were, for all practical purposes, a second army at the disposal of General Giap.

Hundreds of thousands of people repaired trails, constructed passages and galleries beneath rivers, opened new passages through jungle mountains; often, they would bind tree tops together and build roads invisible from the air. In all, they built 800 kilometers of road on extremely difficult terrain, in a period of three months. Human chains hundreds of kilometers long moved like snakes through the jungle. Seventy-five thousand people in a sort of relay race (with changes every 15 to 20 kilometers) using Peugeot bicycles fixed so that they could carry loads of up to 200 kilo each, carts, cattle, and sometimes, when possible, trucks, moved a total of 8.286 tones of ammunition, food and other supplies through 800 kilometers of jungle and fully covered resupplying demands. To understand what this means, note that French headquarters estimated that owing to provisioning problems, the capability of the Vietnamese artillery would amount to 25.000 rounds for the entire duration of the battle. As it turned out, this figure ranged from 250.000 to 350.000 depending on varying French estimates. So the provisioning of the 45.000 men who laid siege on DienBien-Phu, from being a great problem for General Giap as the French reckoned, became rather a great problem for the French.

The Vietminh were able to secure sufficient quantities of rice using the organisations they had in the delta of the Red River, where the French army had complete control. The number of persons who participated in this operation reached 300.000.

The frequent air raids using Napalm bombs proved ineffectual. Vietminh soldiers perched on tree tops, surveyed the area and gave warning. Damage to the road network was quickly repaired. The French were very surprised when they looked at the air photographs the following day. Everything had been set to rights. The anti-aircraft systems of the Vietminh proved not so primitive after all. By the end of the battle, the Vietminh had shot down 62 airplanes in the plain, had destroyed 14 on the ground and had hit a further 167. At the end of the battle, the French counted 137 dead or missing pilots. We may never learn the number of Vietnamese killed by Napalm bombs. But we do know that the French were unable to break the provisioning chain. The role and the superiority of the air force in this kind of war does not appear to be a decisive factor - a circumstance dearly paid for by the French in 1954 and by the Americans a few years later.

 

++ The battle ++

 

The French expected General Giap to move as the North Koreans did in the Korean war: massively, quickly, by waves. But the general chose different tactics which he imposed - not without difficulty - on his comrades.

Knowing that he had solved the problem of supplies, he attacked steadily and methodically. abandoning the idea" (of a massive rapid assault in waves a few hours before the signal was given and despite pressures by the Chinese advisers on the dawn of January 25, 1954) "we strictly followed the basic principle of any revolutionary people's war: strike for victory, strike only when victory is certain, otherwise do not strike." So the siege of Dien-Bien-Phu, instead of the great assault anticipated, turned into "a series of encircling operations against positions in the plain, an operation of long duration, whereby we gained the advantage of breaking the enemy, stronghold by stronghold, until the final occupation of the entire camp."

The great assault expected by the French turned out to be a slow strangulation which began not on January 25, 1954, but on March 13 and ended on May 7 of that same year.

 

++ The end ++

 

The French lost the Battle of Dien- Bien- Phu and the war in Indo-China because, as we said, they were unable to understand the essential difference between a people's army and a colonial army. The failure to realize the capabilities of the Vietminh is not the result of low acumen, deficient knowledge or human error. It begins with the underestimation of the enemy and underestimation originates in the profoundly racist theories and relations fostered by European colonialists against the populations who lived in their territories.

America, a country without old colonies that nonetheless evolved in the context of its own racism, in its turn also underestimated the enemy and this is why its defeat in Vietnam assumed the moral dimensions that it did. The political wager of the French in Indo-China was lost on May 8, when the French camp commander General De Castries (who is believed to have suffered from depression from a certain point onwards) surrendered the completely devastated and horrifying sight of the stronghold of Dien-Bien-Phu. The date was no coincidence. It demonstrates to what extent General Giap was in control of the situation. The famous international conference on Indo-China in Geneva, which the French wanted to attend as victors, was scheduled to begin on May 8. The general captured Dien- Bien- Phu on May 7, in order not to allow a moment for France to rebuild its political and military morale. Everybody says that France in those days was a dumb country.

The defeat of the French in the hell of the little plain instituted a new era: the era in which American imperialism prevailed over a Europe that had become unable to secure its possessions. And, ironically, succeeded it in the very place where, not wanting to learn from the errors of the Old World, it was destined to receive its own most severe military and moral blow.

 

G.H.

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Guest imported_Tesseract

The Vietnam subject was brought up many times in here, so this is a thread about it...Kabar this is mostly for you,

 

Originally posted by KaBar

Tesseract---Every time somebody disagrees with you, you say that they are "ignorant" and "sound like a facsist." I don't buy that. I protested the war in Vietnam for YEARS. I wanted our soldiers the hell out of there. I hated LBJ, and I hated Nixon even more, but that does not change a thing about why the U.S. did not win the war in Vietnam. The Vietnamese weren't one tenth as formidable an adversary as were the Nazis, and the Allies obliterated the Nazis altogether. The American people simply did not support the war in Vietnam. But if they had supported it, we would have conquered the Vietnamese. The problem is, NOBODY WANTED VIETNAM. All those half-baked ideas about oil in the South China Sea and all that were a bunch of hooey. We got sucked into Vietnam through the efforts of the CIA during Eisenhower's administration, and then Jack Kennedy inherited that, and LBJ re-started the war that Kennedy was trying to wind down, and said that he was simply carrying on Kennedy's policies. If there had been any legitimate reason for the U.S. to be in Vietnam, the American people would have supported it. But there was an enormous widespread feeling among everybody except the ultra-left-wing political extremist do-gooders that there was not a thing in Vietnam worth a SINGLE American boy's life. THAT'S why the American people did not support the war, not because we were in the slightest bit worried that we would lose. Everybody knew we could win if we were willing to kill them all. Nobody was willing to have their son killed over a piece of shit country like Vietnam. Hell, if it had been Britain, or France, or any place that we cared about as a people, maybe we would have been WILLING to go there and fight. But frankly, the people were NOT WILLING. It may piss you off, but that doesn't matter. I did not know one single person who willingly volunteered to fight except my brother-in-law. And he only went because the Marine Corps sent him there. It doesn't make me "ignorant" because I didn't give a fuck about Vietnam. I mourn all those kids that went there and died, trying to do what the government asked them to do. It was a complete waste, in my opinion. But for you to say that the United States was "defeated" by the Vietnamese is ridiculous. We just packed up our shit and (finally) flew back to the Land of the Big P.X. Basically, it just wasn't worth it. Not to me, and not to anybody else. In the words of the times "Fuck Vietnam."

 

Want to argue about Columbia? It's "batter up" time in South America, and I've got a feeling we are soon to be hip deep in the narco-wars within five years. Not to mention the fact that Filipino forces are hunting al-Quaida terrorists in the Phillipine Islands, and before long, probably in Indonesia. There will be plenty of little wars to protest for years to come. People will make a vocation of it, like we did back in the '60s.

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i was going to post my flag up here, but so far, the places only have the North flag :heated:

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Guest imported_Tesseract

Bumped...

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i would read that if i didnt have to scroll to the right to read every line.

 

the pic you posted stretched the screen.

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Guest imported_Tesseract

You're right, i fixed it.

I didnt realised cause my screen resolution is kinda big and it could all fit on the window, thanx for pointing it out.

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Good Post

 

Well written, although from a pretty predictably leftist viewpoint. You should include the next phase of history, which included the implacable opposition by the Catholic South to occupation and domination by the Buddhist North, the intractable opposition to power-sharing by the Vietnamese Communist Party, and the division of the country into North Vietnam (Communist) and South Vietnam. It was the refusal of the Communist Party in the north to accept the country divided, and their insistance that only the Communist party would rule, that led to a state of war between the two countries and civil war within South Vietnam. Of course, there was no opposition to the Communists in the north. Those that weren't slaughtered fled to the South and prepared to defend themselves against the war that everybody knew was coming. The United States sent (substantially more) advisors in 1961, I believe, and after Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the military-industrial complex started running 24-7, shipping ton after ton of war materiale to Vietnam.

 

I recommend "The Ten-Thousand Day War" by Michael Maclear, 1981, Avon Books, New York. (If you can stand reading a book published by the Hearst Corporation, LOL.) It begins with the first American soldier to have been actually assigned to Vietnam, Major Archimedes Patti of the OSS, meeting Ho Chi Minh in a teashop to discuss harrassing the Japanese forces occupying Vietnam and the systematic rescue of any American or Allied pilots shot down by the Japanese in "French Indo-China." They met on April 30, 1945. Exactly thirty years later, on April 30, 1975, the last American forces left Vietnam.

 

The book ends with a story about Bardstown, Kentucky. Out of a town of 5,800, they lost fifteen sons in the Vietnam War, arguably the highest casualty-per-capita ratio in the U.S.

 

'I felt like I had been cheated,' says a young Bardstown widow, whose daughter was only five days old when the government sent it's telegram of regrets. 'And I felt like she had been cheated out of a father--and I was scared.' Says a second mother, 'They were done wrong, all the boys.' Says a third, ' It just doesn't happen--but it happened.'

 

'I was there, you know, for a year,' says one Bardstown veteran, 'and I never developed a love for those people. And maybe I should have, and this is something that I need to search for. But I love this country, and my country asked me to go. And that's the reason I went. And willingly. And I may have to do it again, some place else. Who knows?'

 

Exactly.

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Guest imported_Tesseract

Hahaha, i think you've classified me wrongly...i have no problem reading anything written by anyone, as long as it has to do with actual facts, i can easily ignore terms and ideas that indicate the political view of the author. Same goes for this one, This is not written by me...i used it just beacause its written very good and sums up a lot of things. In my opinion its all true and very accurate and the point being made is this,

 

The French lost the Battle of Dien- Bien- Phu and the war in Indo-China because, as we said, they were unable to understand the essential difference between a people's army and a colonial army. The failure to realize the capabilities of the Vietminh is not the result of low acumen, deficient knowledge or human error. It begins with the underestimation of the enemy and underestimation originates in the profoundly racist theories and relations fostered by European colonialists against the populations who lived in their territories. America, a country without old colonies that nonetheless evolved in the context of its own racism, in its turn also underestimated the enemy and this is why its defeat in Vietnam assumed the moral dimensions that it did.

 

I think that it hits the nail hard. The different tactics that were used by the US in the wars to come somehow indicate that.

 

I wouldnt label my self as leftist or pretty much anything, i live in Europe, in a socialist country and socialism as applied today has alot to do with capitalism...its just human nature i guess. What interests me is rationalism and a sense of justice and thats how i judge things.

 

To add some more, here are a few books mentioned by the author of the piece above, they might interest you or some people.

 

Currey, Cecil B., Victory at any cost.

Washington: Brassey's 1997

 

Doyle, Edward., Passing the torch.

Boston: Boston publishing company, 1981

 

Fall, Bernard., Hell in a very small place.

New York : Da capo paperback, 1985

 

Karnow, Stanley, Vietman: A history.

London: Penguin, 1984

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Guest NoamChomsky

Thanks for posting the reading list,Tesseract.

 

Did you say awhile back you used to be in a special forces unit?Im not sure where i remember you saying that,but if you did,do you mind posting your thoughts about your experiences. Im joining the army pretty soon to be a Special Forces medic.De Oppreso Liber! Or something like that.

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U.S. Special Forces

 

I could be wrong on this, because all of my military experience was in the Marine Corps, except for attending a U.S. Army technical school at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, in Maryland, but my understanding is that one cannot actually enlist in the Special Forces. First, you go to basic training, then infantry school, or whatever your MOS school is (Medic school) and once you are serving and excelling in your chosen field of endevor and dazzling your commander with your personal brilliance, one may APPLY for a Special Forces billet, IF ONE IS OPEN. The recruiter will tell you all manner of things to get your signature on that dotted line, but once you raise your hand and swear in, your ass belongs to Uncle Sam, and you will go wherever the man sends you.

 

I have a personal story about the Marine Corps that illustrates this pretty well. I was re-enlisting into the regular Corps from the Reserves, in Houston, in 1977. My reserve unit, 1/23, was a great outfit, but I wanted to go regular and get my six year committment over with in three. Besides, I wanted to be a Fleet Marine, and the only way to do that is to go to a Marine Division that serves the Fleet.

I was down at the AFEES station getting my paperwork processed, and there was a sort of recreation room there for poolees, with a pool table, Coke machines, candy machines and so on. I was a corporal (an NCO) and wearing my uniform. Kids were going in and out of the room as their names were called by recruiters of various services, Army, Navy, etc. This one guy was shooting pool.

 

"So you're in the Marines, huh?"

"Yeah."

"Me too."

"Really?"

"Yeah, I'm going to be a computer specialist."

 

(In 1977, this was like saying "I'm going to be an astronaut.")

 

'No shit? Wow. You must be really smart. Did you graduate early?" (This kid looked very young, maybe 17 or so.)

"Nah. I dropped out."

"You dropped out?"

"Yeah. School sucked."

"Well, are you like a computer genius or what?"

"Not really. I like computer games and shit like that."

I thought about this for a second. A.) The kid dropped out. This was not good. B.) The Navy trains Marine Corps computer jocks. Their schools are hard as shit. C.) This kid seemed dumb as a rock.

 

"Did you get a guaranteed contract?"

"Nah. The gunny said to just go open contract, and he would put a seal on me getting to take the school entrance exam."

I thought some more. My internal alarms were all ringing big time SHUT UP, SHUT UP, DON'T SAY ANOTHER WORD TO THIS IDIOT, HE'S A DUMBASS---LEAVE HIM TO HIS FATE, SHUT THE FUCK UP!

 

"Uh, what happens if you fail the test?"

 

Computer Boy stopped right in the middle of lining up a shot, like this thought had never crossed his mind.

"Jeeze. I donno. I guess I just get out."

 

Now my alarms were screaming SHUT THE FUCK UP, SHUT THE FUCK UP, DON'T SAY ANOTHER WORD!

 

"Uh, I don't think so. Usually in the Marine Corps, if you wash out of MOS School, you go to the infantry." YOU IDIOT! WHY DID YOU TELL HIM THAT? YOU BOUNDLESS DUMBASS. YOU'RE IN THE SHIT NOW.

 

The kid dropped his stick like he'd been stuck with a cattle prod. "The Infantry! Oh no way! I'm not going to no infantry!"

 

SEE! SEE! WHAT DID I TELL YOU, YOU FUCKING CHERRY! NEVER VOLUNTEER! The kid took off like a shot for the Gy Sgt's office. A couple of minutes later, as I sat there trying to shrink, the door slammed open.

"WHERE THE HELL is this goddammed corporal!!?"

I got up, resigned to my ass chewing.

He slammed the door shut behind me and fairly shouted "WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, telling that kid he's going to the infantry?"

"Gunny, you know that kid will never pass the MOS test for computer school! He's going to wind up being another pissed-off shitbird rifleman in the middle of our Corps, hating the Corps and worthless to everybody."

"DON'T YOU TELL ME HOW TO RECRUIT, CORPORAL. That kid's best chance at computer school is open contract."

"That's the same thing as saying "no chance."

"I want you to take your sorry ass and your flapping jibs (lips) back out onto that ready bench, and don't you say

another fucking word to any of my poolees. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?"

"Yes, Gunny."

"You damned well better."

 

I went back and sat down. The Computer Kid was shooting pool again, smirking at me. "Tole ya."

 

I just smiled a thin smile. Welcome to the grunts, "new guy." Boy, will you be sorry.

 

When I got my orders, they were sealed. "Don't open them til you report to the First Marine Division, Camp Pendleton."

When I got to Camp Pendleton, I was missing both my pay records and my shot records. I didn't get paid for two months, but twenty bucks slipped to a Navy hospital corpsman unfucked my shot records straight away. This is why Marines love Navy corpsmen. "We take care of the Doc, 'cause the Doc takes care of us." They will defend a Navy corpsman anywhere, any time. Recruiters suck dick, though. Sorry ass buddy fuckers.

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interesting story kabar. i enjoyed it. kinda reminds me of mapo story of how he was joininh the Army to get in a tank division. but when he showed up they didn't have enough tanks, so he had to be infantry.

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Originally posted by NoamChomsky

Did you say awhile back you used to be in a special forces unit?Im not sure where i remember you saying that,

 

Naw man... i havent been in any special forces..yet. You probably remember me saying that Army is obligatory here...everyone goes throught it for a year and a half...If i had an option i wouldnt go at all, luckily i got better things going than this, but since the situation is like that and i got no intention of avoiding it, i might as well go to Special Forces.

The reason? I prefer learning stuff and being trained hard instead of sitting on my ass with a bunch of dumbasses from all over the country...its a good usage of time issue for me.

However, its a more serious desicion than i present it, joining the special forces is above all a political move...either you're aware of that or not it doesnt change the fact that you're the first to call when things go wrong...and there aint no backing up in this one.

So i'll have to think about it more until then, i graduate from college in 2 years, so after that i'm in.

It works the same way here, as Kabar said, you first go on the Basic training (thats 3 months here) and then you apply for special forces and IF you're able to cope with it for a period of time that is concidered 'test' you move on...no easy stuff though...if you're kicked out, you return back with the regular folks and you're being laughed at for the rest of your stay...heh

To make a long story short, when the time comes i'll make my move...we'll see.

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Sorry guys,I phrased it badly.Kabar explained the process perfectly.In most cases you have to be in the military for at least two years and be a corporal to even be considered for special forces selection.I joined the army to go there but I have years before I even reach selection.Most medics dont want to join fighting units;they want to work in Military hospitals and mundane shit like that.I got a near perfect score on my aptitude test so I am guaranteed medic school which is like 17 weeks long from there if I pass,I will apply to join the 75th Ranger regiment and basically work my way up from there.I respect every step I have to take along the way to reach my goal.It's weird, I dont really like my government's policy decisions and what not but I want to join their most lethal "tool".It's hard to explain.And it's not that I want to be some Rambo-like badass.Because,I realize it's nothing like that in real life. Ninja hiyah.

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This thread was extremely interesting, regardless of whether or not I have been involved in the conversation that preceded its posting. Please continue it, as intelligent conversation is often hard to come by on 12 oz.

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Guest imported_Tesseract

Bumped!

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NoamChomsky

 

As it happens, I understand exactly what you mean when you say that although you don't always agree with our Government's actions, you want to be part of it's most elite force. This is a complicated feeling, and for me, it went something like this:

I was opposed to the Vietnam War, and like any other 18-year-old kid, I was definately not to eager to get my balls shot off fighting for a cause in which I did not believe. (To quote "Full Metal Jacket"'s Animal Mother--"If I'm gonna get my balls shot off for a cause, my cause is p-o-o-o-n-tang.") Plus, I felt like my opposition to the war was just as honorable as some other guy, who supported it, going into the Army. I didn't run off to Canada, I stayed here and told my Draft Board "You can send me to prison, but you can't send me to Vietnam, because I won't go." (What a fucking idiot.) They mercifully sent me to work as a conscientious objector for two years. While I was doing my two years of "alternative service", I also was eyeball deep in the anti-war movement. And the more I learned, the less I liked it. For one thing, I was really disillusioned to realize that much of the Movement leadership was, in fact, just as the conservatives said, members of Communist organizations. The local head of the Farm Worker's Organizing Committee was a member of YPSL (Young People's Socialist League: the youth wing of Communist Party USA.) The leaders of the local Peace Now! organization were members of the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist (Communist) organization. Many of the seemingly "liberal" respectable citizens who allowed their names to be associated with anti-war demonstrations turned out to be Communists, former Communists, ex-members of old 1920's and 1930's organizations like the Communist Workers Party (it's defunct now) and so on and so forth. The only people I could find who weren't commies, were anarchists! And I was astounded to hear them curse and insult the communists. In San Franscico, I saw several wonderful brawls between Communists and anarchists. The anarchists had a lot of guts, and they despised Communists. So I started hanging out with them, and the IWW (a lot of whom were anarchists or anarcho-syndicalists) and eventually, after a zillion hours of drunken coffee shop arguments, I found myself agreeing with them. After eight years of anarchist militantcy, though, it was starting to wear pretty thin. Too much blab, not enough action. Too many excuses about things like fathering kids and not supporting them. Too much talk about revolution from people who knew nothing about combat.

And, secretly, I was still kind of patriotic, and it began to come out in odd ways. I got a feeling of pride when I saw Old Glory waving in the breeze.

When I was 26, and almost too old to join, I quit college, and enlisted in the Marine Corps, very worried that the Government would "find out" I had been an anarchist, and boot me out.

They most likely knew from the very first second.

Another thing was that I felt like my stance against the war lacked currency. Being a Marine (or a former Marine) would add legitimacy to my opinion. In short, I began to feel like I had pussed out during the Vietnam War. So I enlisted and insisted upon infantry, but the Corps apparently had enough riflemen, because they sent me to Armory School, and then to an infantry battalion. It changed my entire life. I have never been the same guy since Boot Camp.

Thank God for that! LOL. I had wanted to be First to Fight, and I did my best, but during my Marine Corps service we were in a long, protracted withdrawal and there were no fights to fight. For which I am grateful.

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Guest NoamChomsky

I find anarchism pretty interesting,I just started getting into it a few months ago.What do you guys think of Daniel Guerin and Mickel Bakunin?When Vietnam comes up in conversation most people seem to express the point that Vietnam was wrong because we lost,and now everything is fine because technology has improved so much.Or they say we went in with good intentions but we got in over our heads.I think they've missed the point entirely.

Kabar,I share some of your feelings about why you enlisted,but I kind of view myself as a mercenary because i'm just going in to see if i can hang with,and live and fight with the best warriors in the world,damn the politics of it.When I was younger I took these psych tests that supposedly said I had a moral "gray area" or something like that.I dont really remember alot about it because it was years ago.But i'm wondering if I really dont care about other people's suffering.I'm not sure I want to find out I actually like killing.

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Guest im not witty

hooray, an intelligent thread on 12oz. few and far between. and even better there are mentions of anarchism. double trouble. im in the library and im supposed to be studying for a english exam but this is too good to pass up.

 

noam, i dont know if this really applies to your joining the military and at the same time being at least "interested" in anarchy, but i read in howard zinns declarations of independance:deconstructing american idealogy( a wondeful read by the way) about some socialist anti war activists who signed up for combat in WW2 simply to get inside and try and spread their message, they felt they could be more effective as they were so close to the source. zinn goes on to talk about one of these men engaging him in discussions about subjects hed never thought of, planting seeds of discontent which would effect zinns life forvever as a historian and activist (see also a peoples history of the united states) weeks after meeting the man, zinn learns he is killed in battle. imagine, men fighting and dying in a war they dont believe in simply to try and "spread the word."

and as always......

more stories from kabar! more stories from kabar!

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In the present-day armed forces of the United States, there is a broad cross-section of people and opinions. The armed forces were, at one time, a major reservoir of ultra-conservative opinion. But, at the same time, they also encompass many individuals who wound up in uniform because they did not fit in well in civilian life, or because they were running from something. The Marines, in particular, have a lot of individuals who appear to be the picture-postcard conformists, but who are/were misfits in regular civilian life. When I was in (1977-1981) it was even more like this, because recruiting was at an extremely low ebb, and the Marines, in particular, were having a difficult time of attracting recruits. The Vietnam War had only been over two years, and there were millions of Americans who had very bitter feelings about it, and often they focused their negative feelings on the men in uniform, rather than the politicians that sent them to war. "Courtroom enlistments" were still possible (this is no longer done) and my boot camp platoon had a sizeable group of boys straight from the California Youth Authority.

A lot of these guys had never had a supportive family, had never really had a decent male role model, and were often failures at every normal adolescent endeavor. We had lots of high school drop-outs, or probably more likely, kick-outs. We lost six guys after the first few days, dropped to Academic Proficiency Platoon (APP) because they were functionally illiterate. The Marine Corps gave them a four-week crash-course high-school education, and they rejoined our platoon before we graduated, and they graduated with us. They were greeted as long-lost brothers when they showed up again. They could read, write, do math, and knew a modicum of civics, history and economics, but in the version of history that is taught in Boot Camp, the entire history of the world more-or-less turns on the axis of the United States Marines.

We lost some recruits to Motivational Platoon--these were the guys who decided they had made a mistake and that if they just dogged it long enough the Corps would kick them out. Wrong. It costs the Marine Corps several thousand dollars to attract a recruit. The Corps hates wasting money. Instead of kicking them out, they put them through Boot Camp Hell until they wised up and requested to return to their platoon, or were recycled to a new platoon. Recruits in Motivational Platoon theoretically have no graduation date. I suppose one could spend a year there, doing endless push-ups, mountain-climbers and field-daying the head, over and over and over, never ever getting it quite right.

We lost two recruits to Correctional Custody Platoon. One of them lost his temper and swung on a Drill Instructor. When he got out of sick bay, the MP's marched him straight to CCP for two weeks. The other one was caught smoking an unauthorized cigarette while on fire watch duty at night. He got twenty days CCP. CCP duty starts at 0330 in the morning, when they get up, don their concrete-dust coated utilities and double-time in formation to the chow hall. We usually got up at 0430, cleaned up the Squad Bay, made a head call and then marched to chow. We stood in silent ranks by platoon, hundreds of us, in the dark, and watched the CCP privates in the brightly-lit chow hall, eating breakfast as fast as they could shovel it in, being screamed at by the biggest, meanest-ass Drill Instructors I ever saw. We were not permitted to be in the chow hall with CCP. It was a platoon in disgrace. We could not talk to them or acknowledge their presence. When the Drill Instructors thought that they had had enough time to eat, they ordered them into formation, screaming and shouting. The CCP boys ate on the run. The mess duty privates cleaned the tables they used and swabbed the decks before we were allowed to enter for chow. CCP were the "untouchables." We saw them occasionally in their twelve-hour punishment labor shift, breaking up a concrete seaplane runway on the edge of Mission Bay. It was performed chain-gang style, in the hot weather, with every private dressed in utilities, a helmet, a field jacket, unbloused trousers (this is a punishment,) boots, and a flack jacket, every button buttoned, and chin strap on the helmet fastened. The D.I. blew a whistle blast, and the platoon raised their bright-red sledgehammers in unison "ONE, sir!" Tweet! Down came the hammers, Whoom! "TWO, sir!" Tweet! "One, sir!" Tweet! "TWO, sir!" For twelve hours a day. The CCP boys were gray, from head to toe, with concrete dust. Every half hour, the D.I. would blow a double whistle blast--Tweet-tweet! The platoon would sound off in unison, loudly "SIR! Permission to recover, sir!" "RE-COVER!" They dropped their sledgehammers and ran back a few steps to get two steel buckets, painted red. They then began to fill the buckets with chunks of concrete. Four privates on "light duty" then rolled a sort of cart-like, red wheelbarrow along the line, and each man poured his buckets of concrete chips onto the cart, replaced his buckets, picked up his red hammer and assumed the position of "port, hammers" facing the runway. This was the rest period. Tweet! "ONE, sir!" Hammers up.

 

After seeing this spectacle one time, I resolved never, EVER, to break a single rule while in Boot Camp, and as far as I am aware, I didn't. When we received a private back from CCP, he would not answer a single question about it. "Leave me the fuck alone. I'm not supposed to talk about it. If I do, they'll send me back, so fuck off." I never met a former CCP recruit who was not a fanatically loyal Marine, and usually built like a power lifter. They also are usually extremely motivated to make rank and become an NCO, and obsessively fastidious about the appearance of their uniforms. I immediately understood that CCP did not exist for their rehabilitation. It was there for the rest of us. Each of us was thinking "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

 

CCP no longer exists in the Marine Corps, along with a lot of other Marine Corps traditions, like "red-line" brigs, and blanket parties for barracks thieves.

 

Marines consider themselves to be sort of quasi-mercenaries, up to a point. Not in that they fight for pay, but that they are sort of professional killers for the United States Government. They make macabre jokes about it--"U.S.M.C.--Uncle Sam's Motorcycle Club" or "U.S.M.C.--Uncle Sam's Misguided Children.", "Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out." "Hey, diddle-diddle, straight up the middle."

 

I would think it was a sort of phony bravado, except I saw young Marines risk their lives several times DURING TRAINING, for no other reason other than that they are crazy-ass, charge-towards-the-sound-of-the-guns-motherfuckers. A good friend of mine was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal TWICE, (the highest medal anyone in the Naval Service can receive during peacetime), once for rescuing a fellow Marine during a rappelling accident (my friend was dragged all over a landing deck of marsden matting by a hovering helicopter, while belaying a rappelling line with an unconcious Marine suspended about fifty feet from the deck--if he had let go, the other man would have plummetted to his death) and another time, at Mount Fuji, Japan, he and his fire team of riflemen and a Navy hospital corpsman attempted to rescue fellow Marines from a helicopter that crashed during a training exercise and began to burn. The CH-47 was down, on fire, and on it's side, with the jet engines screaming and the rotors still turning and beating the ground, cutting down brush and kicking up dirt and debris. The load of ammunition and equipment had crashed forward when the chopper hit, and the injured men were crushed and entangled in cases of ammo, machineguns, rifles, packs and other military supplies. My friend and his men dropped their rifles and gear and ran into the burning chopper. They brought out all their friends and the helicopter crew except the pilot, who was impaled on the control stick, and they could not pull him off of it. The first man they rescued was still alive, but had burns and broken arms and legs. The Navy corpsman assessed his injuries, and after acertaining that they were not life threatening, he left him under a nearby tree, and ran back to the burning chopper to see if anyone else survived. At that moment, the helicopter rotor blades disintegrated, and blades (still turning) flew through the air. One of them passed over the head of the Doc, and hit the injured Marine under the tree, killing him. When help arrived, they found my friend and his fire team guarding the dead bodies of their fellow Marines and chasing Japanese news photographers away from the burning chopper at bayonet point. All the men on the helicopter died. When my friend told me this story, he told me "We tried. We did our best. But god dammit, we still failed to complete our mission." His uniform was partially burnt right off his body from the heat of the burning helicopter. He and his men had to be ordered to stand down from trying to complete the training exercise afterwards.

 

This same man, by then a sergeant, was struck by a spent .50 caliber machinegun bullet during a live fire exercise at 29 Palms, CA. He and his men were awaiting the order to "attack" a large pile of old tires that was being shelled by artillery, bombed by mortars and shot at by tanks and APC's. At the moment they got the radio call to attack, he stood up in the ravine, and shouted, "Third Squad, FOLLOW ME!" WHAM, the spent round struck the visor of his helmet, knocking him unconcious. His first fire team leader reached down and felt that he still had a pulse, and shouted, "LET'S GO!" The squad rushed out of the ravine, and across open ground where spent .50 bullets from a tank about 350 meters away were striking the ground and bouncing and richocheting down the ravine. Later, an officer incredulously asked them, "What in the hell were you thinking?" the corporal answered, "Sir, we got the order to attack. We are training for COMBAT, sir." And that pretty much sums it up.

 

Peacetime Marine Corps. The grunts call it "skate duty." (This term comes from a commonly heard complaint that NCO's and officers get an easy berth--"If you rate, you skate." This is an exaggeration, and the troops actually know this when they say it, but every Marine has the right to bitch, and they exercise it frequently, and vocally.) Most of the time, military life is boring as hell. I pretty much hate helicopters, even today. They are dangerous as shit, but fun to fly in, and fun to rappell out of. The average Marine never even so much as suffers a scratch. And then somebody gets blown to pieces in an accident, or killed in a chopper crash. When you see some seventeen-year-old kid in a Marine Corps uniform, you are looking at one of America's warriors. They ain't pussy. They are hard chargers--all-weather, teenaged American riflemen, and they will go where they are sent and and they will do their duty. Don't think for one second that they won't. We don't give them nearly enough credit. They serve, and the rest of us benefit.

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Guest im not witty

BUMP you ungrateful bums. read, write, save me from boredom!

ten-hut!

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Yeah, I agree. That last post was excessive. It's hard to write about a subject and really convey information and still keep it "internet short."

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