Pentagon Papers: A most difficult lie

Finally stumbled through one of the larger hidden lies in Volume IV C5 of the Pentagon Papers.  During discussions regarding initial deployment of American troops to Vietnam, President Johnson, General Westmoreland along with military and White House policy advisers discussed how to salvage honor if the war was lost. It was a truly sobering read. How did they get to a point where discussions danced around losing Vietnam before we actually became engaged by deploying initial troops to South Vietnam?

Pentagon PapersI feel that more reports documenting a losing effort will continue to surface as I make my way through all 7,000+ pages of the study. On the surface it should shock Americans today to read the reports and both military and diplomatic cables that show President Johnson, General Westmoreland & their aides planed how to deal with losing the war in Vietnam in mid 1965. Regrettably if you read previous volumes of the Pentagon Papers its very clear America had absolutely no reason to back Diem and the South in its war against the communist North….other than the domino theory that was gripping global politics.  They knew well before ’65 that South Vietnam would fall to the communists. Continue reading “Pentagon Papers: A most difficult lie”

2011 Book of the Year: Pentagon Papers

My 2011 Book of the Year: Pentagon Papers. I’m actually still reading the study known as  “United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense” or as history refers has always called it — The Pentagon Papers.

The study is a 47 volume, 7,000+ page report regarding the US involvement in Vietnam’s long civil war.  This is a long deeply engaging read of organizational failure at the highest levels of the military and government.  So many American lives were lost for a policy that was doomed from the beginning.  This book will painfully show that the brightest and smartest RAND analysts knew it, senior military and policy advisors knew it and so did the White House.

The study was commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1967.  And for “newly released” material (in 2011) it provides the most horrific, fascinating and astounding read of our policy and warfare strategy under a total of four Presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. However the war continued through both Johnson and Nixon administrations finally ending under President Gerald Ford in 1975.

The Vietnam War was the longest 20th century war in American history.  The study covers a 25-year military engagement in Vietnam while US political interests and efforts actually developed before the end of World War II and continued until the fall of Saigon in 1975.  Take a step back and realize it was a 30 year losing commitment.

Even today in 2012 its amazing to learn multiple volumes of this 1967 study remained classified for exactly 40 years until released (fully redacted) by the National Archives in June 2011.

As important as this study is for understanding our role in the world over a generation, it will regrettably open old wounds. We finally have full access to read the carelessness of our decision makers (both military and Presidential) that cost the lives of over 53,000 American soldiers.  How horrific would these numbers be viewed today?

So why isn’t this “book” listed with any 2011 best sellers?  It was sure greeted with much fanfare and press coverage the day the US National Archives released the study.

IMHO today’s twitter-focused society cannot read a 7,000+ page study. Sorry to be so blunt. American culture today — we are a nation of ‘skimmers’ due to the vast amounts of data available and our busy lifestyle, we simply do not have the time to read such lengthly books.  We only seek to quickly skim headlines in print, online and while mobile.

And regarding war, I’m afraid here (yet again) is where the lessons of history are lost.

40 years also makes another amazing difference — my ability to hold all 47 volumes on an iPad. As of January I’m just past page 3,500.

Photoshop the Pentagon Papers scanned memorandums

I have been having some difficulty reading a few memorandums attached to the Pentagon Papers study in digital format.  The National Archives did an absolutely wonderful job of making the entire text of the Pentagon Papers ‘selectable’ in Adobe PDF format.

My highest compliments to an amazingly professional effort to move the Papers, printed over 40 years ago into an easily copy/paste format for educators, students and historians.

May I suggest photoshopping the faded lines of text in attached memorandums?

By simply modifying the brightness level of the image’s histogram (using the Levels tool in Photoshop) it would benefit many readers who like me, find focusing and recognizing faded text somewhat difficult to read.

The example here took less than one minute to produce a deeper, darker text that makes character recognition much easier to comprehend.

BTW: Its wonderful to color hilight sections of any volume of the study on an iPad.  And carrying around this entire 7,000+ page, 47 volume study is just remarkable.

Pentagon Papers Marine combat units to Da Nang

Reaching page 1,758 of the Pentagon Papers (Part IV-C4 Evolution of the War Marine Combat Units Go to Da Nang, March 1965) provides a growing stream of reports and studies that the war in South Vietnam was “lost” as early as 1960.  Yet both Kennedy and Johnson decided to ignore those studies and marched America into Vietnam.

Pentagon PapersAs Part IV-C.4. reveals research, studies & politics all concluded that South Vietnamese armed forces were on the brink of collapse against the Viet Cong.  The document provides the data that should have not only questioned the decision to deploy US forces but the questioned the role of the US in Vietnam vs Laos.

It was just one terrible decision by the White House after 20 years of continued support for the South Vietnamese.  The “no surprise at the time of deployment” was an existing 20,000 American force of military and policy advisers supporting the South Vietnamese air force and government.
Continue reading “Pentagon Papers Marine combat units to Da Nang”