U.S. Combat Advisers in Vietnam Knew the Score and Got Ignored by James A. Warren - The Daily Beast
While attending the Armed Forces Staff College in late 1964, just as the U.S. Army was gearing up to deploy its own combat forces to Vietnam, Col. Volney F. Warner attended a speech by the Marine commandant, Gen. Wallace Greene. Before he began his talk, Gen. Greene asked his audience of a hundred 100 majors and colonels a pointed question: “How many of you think that U.S. forces should be sent to fight in Vietnam and draw the line against communism there?”
Virtually everyone in the audience raised their hands enthusiastically. Then Greene, a decidedly hawkish member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asked a second question: “How many think we should stay out of Vietnam?” Six officers raised their hands … hesitantly. Warner was among them.
“There are a few cowards in every bunch,” quipped the commandant.
But those six officers weren’t cowards. They were soldiers and Marines who had recently returned stateside from tours of duty as advisers to South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) combat units. They knew from firsthand experience what the senior leadership of the American armed forces did not: That the ARVN officer corps, like the government it served, was riven by nepotism, corruption, and indifferent to the plight of the peasantry it was supposed to protect. Moreover, the ARVN was fighting a decidedly unconventional, “people’s war” against small units of guerrillas with tactics and doctrine developed by the U.S. Army for conventional conflicts between regular armies. Not surprisingly, it was losing.
And finally, the advisers had come to understand, much to their dismay, that the top generals and admirals in Saigon and Washington clung tenaciously to this conventional way of war, despite paying lip service to the counterinsurgency training and doctrine that the war in Vietnam seemed to require…