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Remembering the Gulf of Tonkin: A First Hand Account

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Lt. j.g. Forrest "Zeke" Zetterberg disembarking from E-1B Vietnam mission. Forrest Zetterberg Photo

Lt. j.g. Forrest “Zeke” Zetterberg disembarking from E-1B Vietnam mission. Forrest Zetterberg Photo

The following is a first person account of the events over the Gulf of Tonkin on Aug. 4, 1964. Another view of the Gulf of Tonkin incident can be found in the August, 2010 issue of Proceedings

At approximately 0355 on the morning of Aug. 4, 1964 in the South China Sea, the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CVA-64), was steaming toward the Gulf of Tonkin at as high a speed as she could without losing her accompanying destroyers. Despite an attack by North Vietnamese PT boats two days earlier, the U.S. government had decided to send the destroyers USS Maddox (DD-731) and Turner Joy (DD-951), on a route similar to the one where that attack had occurred.

The carrier USS Ticonderoga was already operating in the area and Constellation, though still about 200 miles away, was rapidly moving into position to provide support.

For four hours now, since midnight, my crew of four (including our radar intercept officer controller, Lt. (j.g.) Al Drum) had been on the catapult, strapped into our respective seats in the E-1B, awaiting the order to launch. There were about 30 knots of wind whistling over the open overhead escape hatch. The sky was black as ink.

It was my second cruise to Vietnam. I was 23 years old, a lieutenant (j.g.), and plane commander of the radar E-1B aircraft, affectionately known as the “Willie Fudd.” We were assigned to the Constellation as a part of the VAW-11 four-plane detachment, based at NAS, North Island, San Diego.

The E-1B was not one of the Constellation’s sleek jets, like the F-4 Phantom or the A-4 Skyhawk.

It was propeller-driven, and with its big mushroom-shaped radar dome sitting right on top, we weren’t going to win any beauty pageants. But we did have a job to do. Because of the earth’s curvature, the Constellation’s radar horizon could not detect low-flying aircraft much farther out than about 30 miles. Our role was to extend the range of the ship’s radar, and to intercept unidentified aircraft operating beneath her radar horizon.

The day before, the flight crews had been assembled and briefed on the upcoming operation.

The Mission

USS Constellation (CVA-64) on Yankee Station. Photo Courtesy Forrest Zetterberg

USS Constellation (CVA-64) on Yankee Station. Photo Courtesy Forrest Zetterberg

At midnight, the carrier went to flight quarters and to Condition One Cap, which required that the aircraft be manned and spotted on their respective catapult—100 percent combat ready and prepared for an immediate launch. I was assigned to the first four-hour watch, starting at midnight, and was spotted on the number two catapult. F-4 Phantoms were manned and on standby for launch along with the A-1Hs and the A-4s.

We were advised that we would be heading into an area saturated with severe weather of high seas and high winds with the possibility of thunderstorms. I knew the weather would be a factor, not only in flying the aircraft, but also in completing our orders, which were to locate the destroyers, which might already be under attack, and to provide positive control of the jet fighters that would be supporting the destroyers. If we could sight any North Vietnamese PT boats, that would be icing on the cake.

The main purpose for the E-1B was its radar. The radar of a fellow E-1B pilot had been able to pick up a five-gallon tin of cooking oil, for example. But radar in severe weather and high seas was a different matter. The sea “return” (the high waves) could saturate the radarscope by capturing the radar’s energy and reflecting it back as potential targets. That resulted in our getting “ghost” signals on our radar, and could make it impossible to definitively “paint” anything, even something very large — such as a destroyer — let alone a PT boat.

There was a way to minimize some sea-return, but in this weather, it would be a risky maneuver, requiring taking the plane down extremely close to the water—100 feet—and then tilting the radar antenna so it could look up, over the tops of the waves. It would be too hazardous to try on a night with near-zero visibility and turbulent water.

Besides, this maneuver created another problem—that of not being able to detect small vessels such as PT boats behind the sea return on the scope.
After four hours of sitting, strapped into our seats, waiting, we finally decided the order to launch was not coming. The next crew to take over the E-B would be in the ship’s island by now, ready to walk out to the aircraft as we left it. Our engines were shut down and quiet.

‘Launch the Fudd’

Lt. j.g. Forest "Zeke" Zetterberg in E-IB cockpit. Photo Courtesy Forrest Zetterberg

Lt. j.g. Forest “Zeke” Zetterberg in E-IB cockpit. Photo Courtesy Forrest Zetterberg

I shrugged myself out of my parachute harness and unhooked the leg straps, then unstrapped the buckle of the six-point seat belt. Next, I unsnapped my kneeboard with my briefing material from its place around my thigh. Finally, I pulled off my helmet and stuffed it into its bag. Relieved that we were standing down, I pulled myself up out of my seat to follow the first officer, who had already made his way to the exit door at the back of the plane.

Suddenly, the ship’s 1MC intercom crackled to life, and the order barked out over the flight deck:“Launch the Fudd!”

The order caught me unprepared, just as I was half-rising from my seat and turning to leave. For a moment, I froze. Now? Are they serious?But there was no mistake. We were going to be launched. And in a matter of seconds.

At that moment, our crew was relaxing and letting down as they secured the aircraft. Suddenly—in a split second—they had to be totally gearing up again, all physical and mental systems going into hyper-alert for the critical launch mode. Not only that, we were headed into a combat zone, at night, and in foul weather. At a time like that, blood pressure goes up; hearts beat faster, breathing becomes rapid, and anxiety levels leap.

We jumped to our seats, scrambling to complete as much as possible before imminent launch: re-fastening seat belts, hooking up parachute harnesses and leg straps, re-fastening kneeboards and jamming our helmets back on our heads. What we didn’t complete now would have to be done after launching.

I switched on the ignition, moved the mixture to rich, heard the whine of the starters turning the engines over, counted six blades, pushed the master switch on, then flipped the right magneto switch to “Both” and hoped the engine would start. It caught and roared back to life. Quickly, as I repeated the process for the left engine, I checked the cat officer, who was already making the overhead circling motion, to bring both engines to full takeoff power.

I checked my engines for full power and signaled with my running lights that I was ready. With that the catapult flung my crew and me off the deck and out into the void of the night sky.

But I wasn’t looking at the sky . . . or the sea either. My eyes locked onto the attitude gyro, to position the aircraft in a five-degree climb.
I cleared the ship’s bow with a quick turn to the left, and then resumed the heading of the ship.

I checked in with Combat Information Center (CIC) to get our range and heading, the current situation, and the last known position of the Maddox and Turner Joy.

I had no way of knowing that hours later, based on reports of alleged North Vietnamese attacks that night on the Maddox and Turner Joy—combined with the reports of the confirmed attacks two days earlier—President Lyndon Johnson would order 64 aircraft from the U.S. carriers Constellation and Ticonderoga to make retaliatory bombings against selected North Vietnam bases.

I didn’t realize I would be involved in happenings that would lead our nation, ultimately, into the Vietnam War.

Over the Gulf

An E-1B in air, seen from above, rendezvousing for formation flight. Photo Courtesy Forrest Zetterberg

An E-1B in air, seen from above, rendezvousing for formation flight. Photo Courtesy Forrest Zetterberg

It took us about an hour to get to the general operating area, and during that time, I reviewed our orders: We were to provide overhead air cover for the Maddox and Turner Joy. Ordinarily that would have meant locating the destroyers and providing direction for the aircraft operating in the area.
But there were more surprises in store that night.

While still en route to the station, we soon realized, by listening to CIC, that there were no jets coming from the “Connie,” at least not at that time. I assumed it had something to do with the weather, but never knew for sure.

That significantly changed our situation. Without the Constellation’s jets, what would our role be?

We still had the task of locating the destroyers and the PT boats, but with the poor visibility and high seas creating false readings, would we be able to find them?

About eight to twelve jets from Ticonderoga were milling about in the area. There was confusion and we were hearing a lot of chatter. Ordinarily, under those circumstances, Ticonderoga’s jets would have been under the control of the destroyer Maddox, or Ticonderoga’s E-1B radar plane.

But neither of these options would work that day.

We learned from Ticonderoga’s E-1B that it was at her ship for recovery.

It was clear Ticonderoga’s aircraft were without direction. The thought was troubling. Without control from that ship’s E-1B, there was a risk of aircraft colliding, unless the Maddox was filling that role.

Then we heard from the Maddox on our radio: “Overpass. This is Maddox. Our radar is down.

Can you take over the control of the Ticonderoga’s aircraft?”

‘We Have To Get Control Of These Airplanes’

Two E-1B's in formation. Photo Courtesy Forrest Zetterberg

Two E-1B’s in formation. Photo Courtesy Forrest Zetterberg

I quickly realized the grave danger inherent in the situation. With less than ideal flying conditions and the lack of Maddox control, the situation was a mess, and a very hazardous one.

The last thing I wanted to see was our jets strafing our own destroyers or colliding with each other. I talked with Al, our radar-intercept operator. “Before we can attempt to vector anyone over any target, we have to get control of these airplanes.”
Al agreed and suggested a plan. It sounded like it would work, and I said, “Let’s do it.”

With that, Al got on the radio and addressed the Ticonderoga jets. “Everyone, listen up. This is Overpass 010. I am assuming control. First, stop all this chatter. Section leaders, assemble your aircraft. I will be putting you all in holding. I will need one aircraft to search for the PT Boats.

As nearly as I can remember his exchange with the jets went something like this:

“Overpass 010. This is Screaming Eagle 01. I’m senior pilot out here . I’m your bloodhound.”

“Eagle 05. This is Eagle 01. You are now section leader of our flight. Assemble your chicks.

Overpass 010 is your control. Report to him when your chicks are mustered.”

“Eagle 01. This is Overpass 010. Turn right to 020 degrees. Your spook is 22 miles. Descend to

1,000 feet. Report level, weapons safe. If we find a spook, I’ll vector you for a re-attack. We’ll go weapons hot at that time.
“Roger, 010. Eagle 01 copies. I’ll report level angels 1. Weapons safe.”

“Roger, Eagle 01. Anticipate dropping flare one mile short of spook.”

“Roger. Eagle 01 is under my control; and 05 is mother hen. 05, stand by for holding instructions. Return this frequency when finished assembling your chicks.”

“Roger. Eagle 05 copies.”

In this way, by assigning aircraft to sections, Lt.j.g. Drum took a scene of chaos and restored order. He continued searching for the PT boats, using the Ticonderoga’s aircraft, and vectoring them over several possible targets, but each time the results were same—negative contact. During our entire time on station, there appeared to be no serious threat to the Maddox or the Turner Joy.

The initial confusion from the reported attack eventually ended, as did the evasive maneuvering of the destroyers. An uneasy calm settled over the area, and the Ticonderoga recalled her aircraft back to the carrier. We had not seen any PT boats, nor had the aircraft from the Ticonderoga seen any. Since our time on station was up, we headed back to the Constellation for recovery.

After trapping aboard, and having an initial debrief, I immediately went to my quarters and crashed. When I awoke several of hours later, the Connie’s aircraft that had carried out the strike on the North Vietnamese bases had already returned. I went to our Ready Room for a briefing and learned that the Connie had suffered two losses.

Lt. Richard Sather’s A-1H aircraft was shot down and Sather was killed while attacking a PT boat base. The second loss was Lt. (j.g.) Everett Alvarez, Jr.who was captured and spent the entire war as a prisoner of war.

During my tour of duty aboard the Constellation, I was also the Intelligence officer for our detachment. As such, I saw urgent messages from President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to the area commanders, directing them . . . in what seemed to be something between an order and a plea . . . to find proof—pieces of metal or wood—anything that would verify that there had had been an attack by the North Vietnamese that night.

Reflecting on my own experience and observations as a part of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, and because of the lack of any evidence of an attack, it seems likely that the Vietnam War was a war that was declared based on an attack that may not have occurred.

A very sobering thought.

  • Dr G

    In fact as I understand it, President Johnson was heard to remark that “those Navy boys were probably shooting at whales.” It cost a lot of lives to turn a couple of whales into “another Pearl Harbor.”

  • Secundius

    I heard that the whole was staged, under the supervised direction of Secretary of State Robert Strange McNamara. Too create an incident with North Vietnam, and start a war. As a side note, the book Dr. Strangelove. Is based on Secretary of State Robert Strange McNamara.

    • 5thMech

      Nice of you to promote Robert McNamara to Secretary of STATE. You, sir, have a profound knowledge of history.

      • Secundius

        @ 5thMech.

        My BAD. Your right, I actually thought he was Secretary of State. Experiencing another SENIOR MOMENT, I’ll try not to let it happen again. But, everything else is TRUE THOUGH!

    • OLD GUY

      YEA, if you read his book, he ALMOST admits it. At the time, I, waggishly wrote a parody of “McNamara’s Band” that went:
      “Oh, my name is McNamara, I’m the leader of the DOD,
      and ‘though I think I’m clever, I am really just a clod.
      When people criticize me, boy that really makes me sore,
      and when I want some glory, I just start another war.”

      • Lynn Batterman

        Love it… here’s another, from the Denver post:

        McNamara’s War

        To the tune of McNamara’s Band

        Oh, my name is McNamara, I’m the leader of the war.
        I helped my boss LBJ tell lies in ‘Sixty-Four.
        When Barry tried to tell the truth, we all made fun of him.
        LBJ will keep the peace we promised to kith and kin.
        But as soon as we counted all the votes in 1964
        I sent the bombers to Hanoi in McNamara’s war.

        Oh my name is McNamara, I’m the leader of the war.
        I’m the very best and the brightest kind of whore.
        I drafted all the kids of working stiffs like you
        And sent them off to fight a war we couldn’t win, I knew.

        Oh I’m Robert McNamara, and my middle name is Strange.
        I built a wall in Washington and covered it with names.
        Every man and woman on that wall had put faith in me
        To lead them into battle and then on to victory.

        But in my heart I knew that Goldwater, he was right.
        Lyndon didn’t want to win, he only wanted to fight.
        So now I wake up every night and then I pace the floor,
        Haunted by the lives I lost in McNamara’s war.

        Bob Ewegen, Denver Post, May 1, 1995

  • Waldez

    This account meshes with E. Alverez’s account in his book Chained Eagle. I was convinced then and only further convinced now the incident was staged to justify military action against N. Vietnam which the public would accept.Interestingly Alverez never mentioned McCain in his account of his years as POW despite mentioning nearly every single POW either in a positive or what he perceived as a justifiably negative manner. Those individuals who Alverez did not relate to in an individual reference are listed respectfully as a group, with McCain’s name ominously and deliberately missing. I thoroughly question the Media’s portrayal of McCain’s heroics as a POW, none of which existed in print prior to his run for the Presidency, just as much as I doubt the official account of Tonkin. Captain I appreciate your article and your honesty, and I am sure it will a relevent source for future historians.

    • Secundius

      @ Waldez.

      I think because you hit a nerve. McCain, portrays himself as some kind of demigod, above it all, do no evil, invincible, larger-than-life personna, superman. He not, He’s human just like the rest of us, but doesn’t want to admit it. By all accounting’s of the Hao Lo Prison (aka, The Hanoi Hilton), everybody broke by the third day, and I mean everybody. Including McCain. Its just McCain stupid and foolish pride won’t let himself admit it, to anybody, including himself. When or if he does, maybe, just maybe, the other will accept him back into the fold. Of the Hanoi Hilton fellowship, as been just one of them, and not somebody other.

  • Brodie Riner

    I have talked to a sailor who was aboard the Maddox at time of attack and a Chief who on board one the destroyers who came to assist. The attack did happen!

  • ed2291

    The writings of Jim Stockdale (POW and leader of the Naval War College) should also be read. He has a lot of credibility both as an eye witness and an honorable brave man. They agree with the author that the attack never happened. Whether it is a false attack or a false humanitarian crisis or false weapons of mass destruction, the United States does not have a lot of credibility in this area.

  • REJohnston

    My first ship as a fresh caught Ensign was USS TURNER JOY (DD-951). I was aware of TJ’s place in history when I joined TJ in January 1975, 10+ years after the Tonkin Gulf Incident. Of course after that amount of time there was no one left onboard from that fateful night in August, 1964. One of my collateral duties during my 3 year tour onboard TJ was to put together a slide presentation of the ship’s history to use when we had visitors. In preparing that presentation the Operations Officer said that he had something that I should read. In his safe was the original Combat Information Center (CIC) log from night of 3/4 August, 1964. Sitting in his stateroom, I can still remember how the log entries, and the manner in which they were written, made me feel the pressure, confusion and excitement that must have filled CIC that night. There was at least one hastily scribbled entry of “Torpedo reported off XX bow.” Ranges and bearings to possible PT boats and to MADDOX and gun engagements were recorded in similarly hurriedly written script.
    Did the events of 3/4 August, 1964 actually occur? I don’t know and I doubt if the world will ever really know. After reading that CIC log in TJ’s Ops Officer’s stateroom almost 40 years, what I can say is that I believe that TJ’s crew believed that they were under attack and that they responded in ways perfectly consistent with that belief. I went on to serve 26+ years as a Surface Warfare Officer with all of my sea time being spent in the Pacific. I sailed through the Gulf of Tonkin and adjacent waters more times than I can count. I can personally vouch for the propensity for that area to conjure up radar ghosts (a common explanation for the PT boat reports that TJ and MADDOX both reported). The conspiracy theorists will believe that it was all an elaborately staged hoax to get the US into an active combat role in Vietnam. To think that such a ruse could be so perfectly planned and that the scores of people that would then have been knowledgeable of that conspiracy would have then kept silent for 50 years is beyond credulity.

    • Secundius

      @ REJohnston.

      I heard about the story back in late 1988/89. And that was just 25-years after the incident.

    • Ed_Moise

      The relevant pages of Turner Joy’s CIC Log are in the Naval Historical Center in Washington. They indeed show a clear belief that the ship was under attack. And when I interviewed some of the people involved, years later, I indeed found that a great majority of Turner Joy’s personnel had believed themselves under attack (Chief Sonarman Joseph Schaperjahn was an exception).

      Incidentally, the incident was on the night of August 4/5, not the night of August 3/4.

  • publius_maximus_III

    But wasn’t there an earlier incident involving Vietnamese PT boats where the weather was not a factor? If so, it is understandable why everyone was straining their detection abilities to prevent loss of a Naval vessel to an enemy already on the hunt.

  • Ed_Moise

    There is a serious problem with the timing in this account. Captain Zetterberg describes the incident as having occurred in the early morning hours of August 4, 1964. He says he, along with some A-1H and A-4 pilots, had been waiting from midnight until about 0400, ready to launch from Constellation and head toward the destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy if an incident occurred. He says he launched at about 0400, and took about an hour to reach the destroyers, so he would have arrived at about 0500.

    The problem is that the incident was on the evening of August 4, not in the early morning hours. Captain Zetterberg should be using Hotel Time (-8), the time that Constellation was using during the incident. Maddox went to General Quarters, in anticipation of possible attack, at 2058H. The period when the destroyers believed themselves under attack by North Vietnamese torpedo boats was from 2234H on August 4 until about 0048H on August 5. At that point the situation calmed down and the two destroyers left the Gulf of Tonkin.

    I cannot think of any other time referent, instead of the one Constellation was using, that Captain Zetterberg could have been using.

    Also he says that for some reason Constellation did not launch the A-1H and A-4 aircraft. His description of the incident mentions only his Fudd and eight to twelve aircraft from Ticonderoga over the two destroyers. The problem with this is that all the records of the incident show multiple aircraft from Constellation over the destroyers during the later part of the incident, from about 0015H onward. Constellation’s deck log says that eight aircraft were launched between 2305H and 2328H. Two of Constellation’s A-4 pilots, Everett Alvarez and John Nicholson, have published accounts of what they did and saw while over the destroyers during the incident.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Some media sources were questioning the 2nd GOT incident from the get-go. “60 Minutes” had a segment in 1971 about it that had as its conclusion that it never happened. Of course, what gave credibility to the 2nd incident was the first one. There was an actual attack by the North Vietnamese on Aug. 2, 1964. But the retaliatory air strikes ordered by LBJ were based on the 2nd one, which we now know didn’t take place. It’s not the first time this country entered a war on flawed premises. “Remember The Maine”?

  • jimstockdale

    Just for general consideration, my original comment was not posted by USNI.

    Guess I was a little too straightforward. Let’s take another stab at the truth.

    The criminality of behavior by McNamara, both Bundys, Rostow, Rusk, elders like Harriman & Acheson, and other advisers is/was beyond the pale. They and LBJ saw the war as inevitable and necessary. They were willing to concoct just about any rationale in order to light the fuse. As he worked on his (unfinished) memoir later in life, Mac Bundy was asked about the upshot of the incident. With the disquieting, poised cool that characterized all of his summarizations, Bundy replied, “Looking back, I think that we could and perhaps should have been tried as war criminals.”
    Thanks for the afterthought, Mac. It’s what you, your brother, and all the rest of your colleagues excelled at – acknowledgement without the apology you owed the American military and the American people.

    A cadre of military officers in the years yet to come who knew the truth – but saluted the official version for the sake of (we can only guess) careerism – should also contemplate the implications of such a decision. (It is not ‘duty’ if you know it’s a lie.) Some of those directly involved in the incident (and their families – who knew as well) became “indisposed” as the time for ‘speaking up’ came and went.

    It is sad to watch otherwise forthright people dance around the carnage and collateral damage done to American morale, families, and culture by a war that was initiated under false pretenses. These technocrats pursued an abstract agenda with incredibly narcissistic assumptions about their own knowledge and skill. Their later response was, “Well – there was going to be a war there, anyway.”
    You bet there was. The amount of American firepower in the region made it a certainty that sooner or later someone was going to metaphorically “strike a match too close to the dynamite shack.” And when that did not happen soon enough to suit those in charge, they just went ahead and bombed anyway.

    They lived in a sterile world of their own making. The military was held under siege by a database/spreadsheet businessman and the diplomats struggled to justify their actions from an almost ancient (at that point) Eurocentric Cold War viewpoint.
    Did it not occur to any of these outlandishly wealthy, worldly men of government that there was something fundamentally wrong with asking (or, in the end, drafting) over half a million young men to lay their lives on the line absent ANY moral leverage or indignation? Did they think these men were the help – and that all they had to do was ring the bell from the parlor to start one of the longest, saddest episodes in American history?

    That may be as accurate as the ultimate condensed version of the whole thing:

    Nothing happened. They lied.
    Then, without any provocation, they sent the bombs in, anyway.

    Jim Stockdale

    • Secundius

      @jimstockdale.

      I agree, they had a little too much Douglas MacArthur, in them.

  • OLD GUY

    A naval officer by the name of Dempster Jackson comes to mind.

  • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

    “Reflecting on my own experience and observations as a part of the
    Gulf of Tonkin Incident, and because of the lack of any evidence of an
    attack, it seems likely that the Vietnam War was a war that was declared
    based on an attack that may not have occurred.”

    Not really wanting to flagellate a moribund equine, but when you add up all the “conditionals” and “weasel words” in that sentence, it still comes out to “We really didn’t know if there was an attack, we were pretty sure there wasn’t but that didn’t line up with what we wanted to have happened, so we acted like there was one. It was an ‘Ooopsie’.”

    “A very sobering thought.”

    Exactly how is “A country that wants to start a war is going to find an excuse for one.” surprising.

    Place the 211,454 American casualties (total of dead and wounded) in the context of the US government not wanting the Vietnamese people to have an open, honest, and democratic election to decide the future of Vietnam because the outcome of that election was almost certain to be the election of Ho Chi Minh as the President of Vietnam if you want a sobering thought. If you REALLY want a sobering thought place that rationale for a war in the context of over 2,000,000 dead (after all, you should count the Vietnamese casualties in the Vietnam War – shouldn’t you).

    • Secundius

      @ The_Universal_Curnudgeon.

      The problem with Robert Strange McNamara, was. He like Alexander Meigs Haig, Jr. and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, IV. Thought they could win war’s by sheer force of their personality alone, they were wrong. And this country of our payed dearly for their demigod-like blunders. The problem is they may have faded into obscurity. But what the others, that are still out there, hiding in the shadows. Waiting to make a name for themselves, at the expense of other people’s lives. Hummmm. What do we do then!!!

      • The_Universal_Curmudgeon

        “The problem with Robert Strange McNamara, was. He like Alexander Meigs
        Haig, Jr. and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, IV. Thought they
        could win war’s by sheer force of their personality alone, they were
        wrong.”

        No they weren’t.

        However they forgot to add “… provided that my personality is stronger than the personality of the person(s) I am going to be fighting the war against.” to the calculation.

        For some reason the US government overlooked the fact that the Vietnamese people had been fighting a war to free themselves from an overseas colonial master for decades before “THE Vietnam War” was started. (Strangely, the US government overlooked the fact that the Vietnamese has already won the war and expelled their overseas colonial masters – the Japanese – when the US government agreed to assist Vietnam’s FORMER overseas colonial masters – the French – to retake control of Vietnam [even more strangely, the US government overlooked the fact that the Vietnamese had just finished defeating the overseas colonial masters that the US government had put back in control of Vietnam – that would be the French again – when the US government finally decided that it had had enough of “all this ‘democracy’ stuff” in Vietnam and installed its own puppet government in {South}Vietnam as the “national” government of Vietnam.)

        • Secundius

          @ The_Univsal_Curmudgeon.

          MacArthur, took over where the Imperial Japanese left off in Korea and Haig and MacNamara, to over where the French left off. In both cases they all thought this was going to be a Sure Thing, A Cake Walk, Easy As Pie. They were all WRONG.