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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

450 untold stories 

The Swifties seem to be in the news again, with more moaning and whining about how Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony hurt their feelings. The question I have been asking about Kerry's testimony is this: How many US soldiers and POWs would have lived if Nixon had declared the ceasefire Kerry asked for in November, 1971, instead of waiting until January, 1973?
By my count, the answer is: at least 450.
I searched through various websites for this figure. The casualty figures aren't usually organized by date, but I was able to find some which were relevant. The Vietnam War Timeline which describes events in Vietnam during 1972, provides most of the information which follows, and I added some additional material from other websites.
December, 1971 - 157 US troops killed in action
January 1, 1972
Only 133,000 U.S. servicemen remain in South Vietnam. Two thirds of America's troops have gone in two years. The ground war is now almost exclusively the responsibility of South Vietnam, which has over 1,000,000 men enlisted in its armed forces.
March 30, 1972
Massed North Vietnamese Army artillery open a shattering barrage, targeting South Vietnamese positions across the DMZ. [NOTE: this is called the Eastertide offensive.] Upwards of 20,000 NVA troops cross the DMZ, forcing the South Vietnamese units into a retreat. The Southern defense is thrown into complete chaos. Intelligence reports had predicted a Northern attack, but no one had expected it to come on the DMZ.
April 1, 1972
North Vietnamese soldiers push toward the city of Hue, which is defended by a South Vietnamese division and a division of U.S. Marines. But by April 9, the NVA are forced to halt attacks and resupply.
April 13, 1972
In an assault spearheaded by tanks, NVA troops manage to seize control of the northern part of the city. But the 4,000 South Vietnamese men defending the city, reinforced by elite airborne units, hold their positions and launch furious counterattacks. American B-52 bombers also help with the defense. A month later, Vietcong forces withdraw.
April 27, 1972
Two weeks after the initial attack, North Vietnamese forces again battle toward Quang Tri City. The defending South Vietnamese division retreats. By April 29, the NVA takes Dong Ha, and by May 1, Quang Tri City.
Additional note: A May, 1972 report to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, to which I cannot now find the link, says 147 US troops were killed from January to May, 1972.
May 8, 1972
In response to the ongoing NVA Eastertide Offensive, President Nixon announces Operation Linebacker I, the mining of North Vietnam's harbors along with intensified bombing of roads, bridges, and oil facilities. The announcement brings international condemnation of the U.S. and ignites more anti-war protests in America. During an air strike conducted by South Vietnamese pilots, Napalm bombs are accidentally dropped on South Vietnamese civilians, including children. Filmed footage and a still photo of a badly burned nude girl fleeing the destruction of her hamlet becomes yet another enduring image of the war.
July 19, 1972
With U.S. air support, the South Vietnamese Army begins a drive to recapture Binh Dinh province and its cities. The battles last until September 15, by which time Quong Tri has been reduced to rubble. Nevertheless, the NVA retains control of the northern part of the province.
December 13, 1972
In Paris, peace talks between the North Vietnamese and the Americans breakdown.
December 18, 1972
By order of the president, a new bombing campaign starts against the North Vietnamese. Operation Linebacker Two lasts for 12 days, including a three day bombing period by up to 120 B-52s. Strategic surgical strikes are planned on fighter airfields, transport targets and supply depots in and around Hanoi and Haiphong. U.S. aircraft drop more than 20,000 tons of bombs in this operation. Twenty-six U.S. planes are lost, and 93 airmen are killed, captured or missing. North Vietnam admits to between 1,300 and 1,600 dead.
January 8, 1973
North Vietnam and the United States resume peace talks in Paris.
January 27, 1973
All warring parties in the Vietnam War sign a cease fire.
March 1973
The last American combat soldiers leave South Vietnam, though military advisors and Marines, who are protecting U.S. installations, remain. For the United States, the war is officially over. Of the more than 3 million Americans who have served in the war, almost 58,000 are dead, and over 1,000 are missing in action. Some 150,000 Americans were seriously wounded.
Additional note: This website says 561 US soldiers died in Vietnam in 1972 including 300 KIA. A total of 2,338 soldiers were MIA in Vietnam; 766 were POWs, of whom 114 died in captivity. I could not find out how many died between November, 1971 and the releases which resulted from the January, 1973 ceasefire.
So, we add together the 157 from December, 1971 with the 300 from 1972, plus an unknown number from January, 1973, plus an unknown number of POWs.
And there it is -- at least 450 young, brave men died after Kerry asked the Senate why men had to keep dying for a mistake -- men who could have come home and worked and contributed to their communities and raised their families, and be playing today with their grandchildren. These are the Vietnam veterans who CANNOT speak today to support John Kerry.
No one will ever hear their stories.

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