Written by Randy Bullock
editing by Robert Porter
Dong Ba Thin
No Front Lines
Most Americans thought the U.S. bases in the Vietnam War were “behind the lines.” It was a misconception that was derived from World War II where the fighting truly was almost entirely confined to the front lines. In addition, those of us who knew better often did not correct that misconception. Our superiors told us to not write home letters that would worry our loved ones and when we got home most of us did not talk much about Vietnam. It is certainly true that our infantry and other direct combat troops were in more danger than the 75% of soldiers who were at the bases, however considerable fighting was brought to us. It has been reported that nearly half of the Purple Hearts were awarded to soldiers in the support positions. There were no front lines in the Vietnam War. Marc Leepson, a Vietnam veteran and well known author of several books and articles about the Vietnam War wrote an interesting essay that touches upon this still sensitive subject. https://www.historynet.com/what-did-you-do-in-vietnam.htm
If North Vietnam had demonstrated they could invade a base and kill a General and 52 other officers and many enlisted men, the American public would then have realized that even the bases were not as safe as they thought. The millions of Americans who had husbands and sons and a few thousand daughters at the bases would quickly have realized that there were no front lines in Vietnam. The already intense political pressure to end the war would have increased dramatically. It would have been a disaster that very well may have triggered President Nixon to order Operation Duck Hook.
We were good soldiers. And we were lucky. The attack against us failed and ended as only one of the tens of thousands of minor skirmishes of the Vietnam War – not even a footnote. However, it was meant by our enemy to be a devastating attack and it happened at a moment in the War that was extremely pivotal. If it would have been successful, it could have been THE emphatic exclamation point, the beginning of the end, to the entire War. It would have interfered with President Nixon’s Draft Lottery, and it would have disrupted the Paris Peace Talks. It would have strengthened the influence of the Anti-war movement and that would have increased the American public’s demand to somehow end the war.
A successful attack may have resulted in President Nixon bowing to increased political pressure and softening his position in Paris and that might have ended the War sooner. More likely, President Nixon would have responded by increasing our attacks against North Vietnam. If President Nixon would have ordered Operation Duck Hook to commence or, God help us, used nuclear weapons against North Vietnam, the Vietnam War would have concluded in a hurry. It would have ended in a way few of us, in retrospect, may have wanted.
The Vietnam War did not end for another five and a half years.
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