Like R.L. Schreadley, I have an imprint on my life from the Vietnam War that will persist as long as I draw breath. What is surprising is the different conclusions we have drawn.
I served as an orthopedic surgeon in the Army from 1965-73. As the war wound down the bulk of my duty was caring for the wounded. Their stories reflected the course of the war. Until Tet in 1968, most believed in the mission; after Tet, not so much. In the early ’70s, there was a virtual standoff between the lower ranks and officers and sergeants.
It was clear to everyone by then that “peace with honor” was the goal; and for those in combat units, surviving 365 days was the only objective. The result was dissolution of discipline, and “fraggings” — the murder or attempted murder of strict, unpopular officers. Col. Robert Heinl noted that in the Army’s America division, fraggings occurred at the rate of one a week. Further, racial tensions and drug use were rampant.
Like Mr. Schreadley, I went to Vietnam in the early 1990s and was taken by the friendliness and lack of rancor toward Americans and by seeing that capitalism was alive and doing well. I am frankly dumbfounded that Mr. Schreadley believes the military described above could have achieved victory.
Without the draft, the general public essentially has removed itself from the decision making process regarding overseas American intervention. The results have been unproductive and long wars, constituting in some knowledgeable people’s eyes, a breach of trust.
Richard H. Gross, M.D.
Oak Marsh Drive