The truth is that the nation lost its will

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

In There Will Be War Volume II, Jerry Pournelle introduces Eric Vinicoff’s “‘Caster” with a short essay about Vietnam:

Just under 50,000 died in the entire Vietnam War: about one year’s traffic fatalities.


Battle deaths in 1961-1964 were negligible (except to those killed): a total of 267 for all four years. Compare this to the 12,000 per year who died of accidents and suicides in that same period.

By 1965, though, battle deaths had reached 1,369, and the number rose steadily until it peaked at 14,589 in 1968. At that time we had 500,000 soldiers in Southeast Asia, so that the death rate among young men in Vietnam was about 27 times that of the population as a whole; definitely frightening for those involved.

On the other hand, the war did no more than double the death rate among young men as a class, even in that peak year. In 1968, young men had about equal chances of being killed by being in Southeast Asia, or while driving on the highways in the United States.

By 1969, battle deaths had fallen to 9,414. This is a large number, but by that time, the civilian violent death rate had risen to 130 per hundred thousand, so that nearly 24,000 young men died in the United States that year. After 1969 the battle deaths fell off rapidly; civilian accidental and homicide death rates continued to rise.

Thus: if the War “devastated a generation”, then we continue to devastate each generation through accidental deaths; and if the Vietnam War served no useful purpose—and perhaps, given that we eventually abandoned those we had sworn to protect, it did not—neither do the accidental deaths and suicides.


Vietnam fell in 1975, and it fell to four army corps of regulars, employing more armor than the Wehrmacht sent into France in 1940.

When the North invaded in 1975, the Democratic Congress of the US refused any assistance to South Vietnam. After spending billions on the war, our military aid to South Vietnam was cut to $700 million.


The truth is that the nation lost its will. The United States withdrew, the dominoes fell, and the blood baths began. It is no good our telling ourselves anything different.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Do we have to go over this again? Viet Nam was a pointless, unwinnable war, even though we had an ally in the South Vietnamese government that controlled all the cities, most of the countryside, and put an army of one million men in the field. The South Vietnamese Army did most of the fighting and dying.

    It changed nothing. It killed a couple of million or so North and South Vietnamese. And we know the Gulf of Tonkin Incident was a total fraud.

    Viet Nam began the pervasive corruption of the American military and intelligence services. They cannot be trusted. They will happily shoot down any patriots they come across.

    The US has degenerated into a rogue terrorist state. We are the primary source of death and destruction in the modern world. We are the bad guys. No doubt the Waffen SS thought they were doing good, Jews and Gypsys and crippled and retarded were evils to be removed, threats to the good people of Germany.

    Go over to Fred Reed’s blog and prove him wrong. He was there, in ‘Nam, as a young Marine.

  2. Hoyos says:

    At the risk of being an asshole…

    Just being on the ground in Vietnam doesn’t mean he understands the why the war was fought. A lot of men were there, and they definitely don’t all agree, so I can’t just take his word for it.

    Compared to the Vietnamese Communists? Yes, we were the good guys; hard to believe that has to be said. They were insane. We don’t know the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a fraud; we know some people say it was.

    Unwinnable though? Now that’s total bullshit. I don’t know where we get the idea that guerrillas are some magical unstoppable force. As late relative to the Vietnam War as the Malay Emergency teaching back into history, guerrilla movements lose all the time.

  3. Wilson says:

    Not a very thorough comparison with highway casualties if non-fatal injuries aren’t also compared. Anyway it’s the future now so we can see what the USA lost by not investing more in the war. “the dominoes fell, and the blood baths began” is just a typical day on the highway right?

  4. Harry Jones says:

    “Unwinnable” can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    But… what’s the deal in Afghanistan?

  5. Adar says:

    “Vietnam fell in 1975, and it fell to four army corps of regulars, employing more armor than the Wehrmacht sent into France in 1940.”

    Correct and even understated. Tank divisions of the North Vietnamese and massed tank divisions. Artillery divisions and massed artillery divisions. Massed tank divisions combined with massed artillery divisions. The South Vietnamese never stood a chance.

  6. TRX says:

    “unwinnable war”

    After they yanked Westmoreland out and turned it over to a bunch of swivel-chair generals in the Pentagon, yeah.

  7. CVLR says:

    “No doubt the Waffen SS thought they were doing good, Jews and Gypsys and crippled and retarded were evils to be removed, threats to the good people of Germany.”

    This moralistic stuff doesn’t do us much good if we’re to observe the reality: the Second World War was a proxy battle betwixt the Protestant engineer-industrialists and their partners-cum-mortal-enemies, the Jewish central bankers.

    So why did the Viet Cong have jeeps, anyway?

  8. Kirk says:


    They did well enough in ’73 against similar odds. The difference was that in ’73, the US held up its treaty obligations and provided sufficient military aid to enable a defense of South Vietnam. In ’75, they did not, mostly due to the machinations of the Communist sympathizers in our Congress like Teddy Kennedy.

    South Vietnam would likely have survived, and gotten its shit together much like South Korea did, had we fulfilled just the minimum of our treaty obligations. At most, the Soviet/Chinese Communist consortium that was financing it all would have been able to do it one more time, and then the whole thing would have had to be either abandoned or it would have bankrupted them. In ’73, the North Vietnamese lost enough military equipment that it drastically affected the Soviet economy, sucking considerable wealth out of it. The apparatchiks didn’t even know it, but if we’d done that a second time…? The end of the Cold War would have come even more quickly than it did. That was the “opportunity cost” of giving up on Vietnam, and the slimy Democrats in Congress pissed that away.

    Of course, nobody in our hierarchy really grasped that point, and damn few in the Soviet Union had a handle on it. There’s an interesting book out there, written by one of the Soviet economic wonks that describes the effect on the hothouse Soviet economy created by the military-industrial system siphoning off all that wealth to support Vietnam, which was really a major vanity project for the regime. Reality was that, while the US could afford Vietnam, they couldn’t. Had we had the wit and wisdom to crush the second invasion in ’75 the way we did in ’73, that would have been like the Star Wars project taking the wind out of the Soviet sails twenty years early. Instead, we resigned from the chessboard, and condemned millions of Southeast Asians to life under the Communists for generations to come.

    Teddy Kennedy and the rest of those scumbags are no doubt broiling nicely somewhere in Hell for that, and the 50,000 lives that JFK and RFK cost us by getting involved in the first damn place. Vietnam was won when the military left in ’73; the defeat actually took place in Congress when the Communist/Democrats refused to fulfill the promises we’d made to the South Vietnamese people.

    There’s really no telling what South Vietnam would have looked like, by now, had it survived. With any luck, they’d be another South Korea. Unfortunately, Teddy-boy decided to piss on the graves of the 50,000 American fighting men that his brothers got killed, and we got what we got.

  9. Lucklucky says:

    I don’t think Vietnam was won in 1973 but obviously was not lost either. I think there would have been another round until 1975. Would have ended in stalemate like Korea.

    Since 60′s the left in US hates its own country, and things only got worse. I am always reminded by this text where the Russian revolutionaries had nobility support or were the nobles themselves destroying the country:

  10. Bruce says:

    I think everything Pournelle says is true, but he doesn’t mention the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which had been under construction for twenty-five years by 1971; we would have taken a lot of casualties digging. Not unwinnable, but a hundred thousand or so dead Americans going into the trails and bunkers.

    And he doesn’t mention the US artillery and aerial massacres that killed even more innocent people than the evil left national socialism we were fighting. Which was a high bar.

  11. CVLR says:



    Maybe this should be general-industrialists.

    Both military-industrialism and cultural-financialism are monstrous systems. Military-industrialism was thoroughly subjugated by cultural-financialism. I wonder what will put the latter out of its misery, if ever.

  12. Kirk says:

    Bruce, the Ho Chi Minh trail was a non-issue, once you cut it off from support where it started in North Vietnam. You mine the harbors in Haiphong where the materials came in, you destroy the North Vietnamese economy, and then there’s nothing to ship down that supply route. Hell, if we’d have done what military common sense required, most of the troops along that corridor would have been faced with either starvation or surrender as options, once we cut it off at the roots.

    The trouble was, we did not do the things that made sense until Nixon came in, and once he did that, he got the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table. Frankly, after Tet, the VC/NVA in the South were a dead issue; that ill-advised campaign killed most of them off, and turned the general opinion in the South against them, after all the massacres.

    One would do well to look long and hard at the “conventional wisdom”, which is actually the result of long-term propaganda. Most people don’t know about the ’73 battles, or that South Vietnam fell to a conventional invasion from the North–All they remember is the lie that we lost to a virtuous guerrilla force, which is pretty much a bald-faced fraud.

  13. Bruce says:

    Kirk, China could have sent inland supplies by land to North Vietnam and by extension the Trail, and we could have fought a war with China with a real risk of WW III or backed down. I agree we should have mined all the North Vietnamese harbors from just after the Gulf of Tonkin; might have worked to back Hanoi down, or they might have doubled down.

    You are right about the twaddle about virtuous Viet Cong guerillas.

    The US aerial and artillery massacres remain the best case against the US effort in Vietnam.

  14. Kirk says:

    Bruce, you need to look at a map with terrain on it. Shipping anything in quantity through that region is a non-starter, especially with the non-existent road network.

    You also have to recognize that the Ho Chi Minh Trail was a major logistics effort; abandoning it and building a new one would have only exacerbated the entire problem, and hastened the demise of both the Communist Chinese and the Soviets.

    Frankly, I have to evaluate the whole thing as a lost opportunity; we might have managed to bankrupt them both, with entirely unknowable consequences down the road. Imagine the Berlin Wall coming down in the late 1970s, vice 1989. The world would have been so much better off.

    And, thank a Democrat for that result. We expended 50,000-odd American lives, and got only a fraction of the benefit we could have from those sacrifices.

    Had the US simply adhered to the treaty obligations, and then demanded that North Vietnam did the same, so many millions would have had better lives in that alternate future. Certainly, all the human talent we skimmed off the top of the Vietnam boat people exodus would have been there in Vietnam, working for the benefit of that entire country. Whole thing is just an epic lost opportunity–The Communist interregnum could have been drastically shortened, and without the tradeoff we made with the Chinese Communists. Had we suckered them into coming into the death ground, and then destroyed all that they sent…? Bankruptcy would have drastically shortened their reign.

  15. Bruce says:

    -entirely unknowable consequences-

    Yes, and WWIII might have been one. Or maybe South Vietnam would be as free and prosperous today as South Korea. Beats me.

    I don’t think Hanoi would have abandoned the Trail, but with the harbors mined and weapons only coming down the Red River to Hanoi and smuggling through the Mekong, chunks of it would have moved, other chunks dug in and forted up.

  16. Sam J. says:

    Bob Sykes says,”…Viet Nam was a pointless, unwinnable war…”

    This is completely and utterly clueless.

    From Pournelle

    “And in Viet Nam the North sent 150,000 men south with as much armor as the Wehrmacht had in many WW II engagements. That was in 1973, and of that 150,000 fewer than 50,000 men and no armor returned to the North, at a cost of under 1,000 American casualties. Most would count that an outstanding victory. (Alas, in 1975 North Viet Nam had another army of over 100,000 and sent it South; the Democratic Congress voted our South Vietnamese 20 cartridges and 2 hand grenades per man, but refused naval and air support; Saigon predictably became Ho Chi Minh city as we pushed helicopters off the decks of out carriers in our frantic evacuation; but that is hardly the fault of the US military)…”

    The Democrat party said the war was unwinnable and when they got in power they made damn sure it fell. They cut off, for all practicable purposes, all military aid to the South while it was under a massive, massive attack with tanks and massive troops and trucks from the North.

    What is left unsaid is the wider area WINS due to the Vietnam war. While fighting the commies in Vietnam insurgent warfare was going on all over Asia. The US held them off in Vietnam while many of these were squashed. The Vietnam war was a great victory for many countries in South East Asia that did NOT end up like Cambodia. The Vietnam war was a huge success and a win over all for the free world.

    As for the rest of what Bob Sykes says he’s absolutely right. The Jews run this country and they will use our military down to the last Man and machine to defend their interest and pocketbooks.

  17. Ezra says:

    “Saigon predictably became Ho Chi Minh city as we pushed helicopters off the decks of out carriers in our frantic evacuation; but that is hardly the fault of the US military”

    Evacuation a great success rather than what is portrayed by the media. Goal was to evacuate 5,000 persons at most but 150K were gotten out. Remarkable process, from the land to the sea and under pressure.

  18. Behind Enemy Lines says:

    Kirk’s right.

    It’s all immaterial, though. I just came back from a few weeks in ‘Nam. Not my first trip either. Trust me, the US won. The war was winnable and we won it. You can argue tactics all day long, but the strategic victory is certain.

    Every Viet Nam era vet should hop a plane to Hanoi and see what I mean.

  19. Harry Jones says:

    The lesson of Vietnam is that domestic politics is relevant to war.

    Never fight a war you’re not willing to see through to victory.

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