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"Vietnam - why did the US send drafts and not reserves?" Topic


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redcoat20 Nov 2010 4:08 p.m. PST

Any insights here would be much appreciated.

If I understand my reading correctly, in choosing to fight in Vietnam in 1965 LBJ *rejected* (and continued to reject thereafter) the JCS's advice to activate US Army 'reserves'. He did this because he feared that activating these 'reserves' would help stir up the kind of popular 'war fever' in the USA that he believed would enable the Republicans to kill off his Great Society programme by demanding that he focus his time and national resources on the war. In short, he wanted to fight the war 'on the quiet' (as we'd say in Britain), so chose instead to obtain the military manpower he needed by employing 1-year drafts – essentially conscripting young American men to serve a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam.

My questions are these:

1. Who were these 'reserves' ('reservists'?) whom the JCS wanted to employ? Were they *civilians* who had *previously* served in the military and who could theoretically have been recalled to the colours for reasons of national security? Or were they *part-time* soldiers – 'weekend warriors' in the common parlance – much like the British Territorial Army?

2. I know of the existence of the US National Guard, but assume it has nothing to do with the 'reserves' whom the JCS wanted to call up.

3. How is it that *conscripting* (mostly unenthusiastic?) young men to fight (and die, in many cases) in Vietnam was perceived to be so much less politically controversial than activating the 'reserves'? Is the answer to this question that the US was perhaps *already* using conscription as a means of recruiting its armed forces, so any marginal changes to the existing system were deemed to be less disruptive?

Many thanks in advance for any insights proffered!

herpaderpaderp20 Nov 2010 4:31 p.m. PST

also remember that there was the Russian thing going on in the background, having a trained reserve was probably more important then then it is now.

aecurtis Fezian20 Nov 2010 4:39 p.m. PST

You might find this brief history of the USAR useful:

link

This provides a little more information to explain that there were relatively few USAR combat divisions compared to the Regular Army and National Guard, and that their structure, manning, and equipment levels really did not support their activation for the conflict:

link

However, numerous USAR combat support units were activated, and most of these deployed to Vietnam.

Allen

95thRegt20 Nov 2010 4:41 p.m. PST

. Who were these 'reserves' ('reservists'?) whom the JCS wanted to employ? Were they *civilians* who had *previously* served in the military and who could theoretically have been recalled to the colours for reasons of national security? Or were they *part-time* soldiers 'weekend warriors' in the common parlance much like the British Territorial Army?

2. I know of the existence of the US National Guard, but assume it has nothing to do with the 'reserves' whom the JCS wanted to call up.
>>
Well speaking as a former National Guardsman,I take offense to the term "weekend warrior".
The Army Reserve and the National Guard ARE the reserve forces you're talking about.They are needed here in the States for National emergencies,and also to augment regular Army units.
Todays Reserves and National Guard are highly trained and in most cases on par with regular Army units in both training and equipment,as they are liable to call up and deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bob C.

aecurtis Fezian20 Nov 2010 4:47 p.m. PST

Just keep in mind that the situation then was quite different from what it is now. 1973 was a watershed year in adjusting the roles and relationships of the active and reserve components.

Allen

Battle Phlox20 Nov 2010 5:31 p.m. PST

Another thing to consider is that National Guard units also fall under the command of their respective state governments. Calling these units to an unpopular war would bring more political unease from state governments. Furthermore there was still the "real war" agianst the Soviets in Europe that they feared.

The reluctance to send them to war led to an unfair view that National Guard units were full of those seeking to avoid military service and that thety don't see any service overseas.

That said, a few National Guard units did go to Vietnam. That is often forgotten.

Jemima Fawr20 Nov 2010 6:27 p.m. PST

In the UK Armed Forces, military personnel are retained on the 'Reserve List' for a certain amount of time after they leave the regular service. The amount of time they spend on the Reserve List usually depends on their experience and expertise, so someone with a very rare specialisation will often find themselves on the Reserve List for a long time, compared to someone who did their minimum engagement time in a low-skill role.

I would imagine that the US Reserves work in a similar manner.

aecurtis Fezian20 Nov 2010 6:52 p.m. PST

That's the function of our Individual Ready Reserve.

Allen

cfuzwuz20 Nov 2010 7:11 p.m. PST

I served 3 years active duty (1970-73) and then joined the National Guard. It was FULL of men trying to avoid actve duty(And they admiitrd it). Many were from my home town. I could only last 18 months and told them I was quitting. My service obligation was met and I hated the National Guard and most of the guys in it. What a bunch of tools! Your experiences may differ.

Sundance20 Nov 2010 7:12 p.m. PST

If it gives you any idea, the National Archives indicate about 10% of casualties (KIA or DoW) were Reserve or National Guard troops (about 100 of them NG casualties), with an overwhelming number of them being Reserve. A National Guard site states that just under 12,250 guardsmen were mobilized in 1968 and 1969, but only about 7,000 served in country, either in deployed units or as individual replacements. This is just for the Army Guard, though. A list of deployed units shows most of them to be support units or artillery, while some other support and combat arms units were activated but not deployed to Vietnam. Figuring numbers for Air Guard are more complicated because some units operated flights to Vietnam, but were never actually deployed in country. Another Guard site states that about an additional 10,000 Air Guard were deployed and that 9,500 combined Army/Air Guard served in country in 1968 and 1969. I believe there were also cases where NG units were deployed in other countries to release an active duty unit for service in Vietnam. There's a heck of a lot more National Guard and Reserve units deployed during the current problem than there were during Vietnam.

Oh, and while some or even most NG members during Vietnam might have been avoiding active duty, that isn't the case now. BTW, when I joined the first time around (1983) there were still a few guys in the unit who wore the 'Battle of Chicago' ribbon from being activated during the 1968 DNC.

Kaoschallenged20 Nov 2010 7:44 p.m. PST

I have read that during the Vietnam War about 23,000 Army and Air Guardsmen were called up for one year of active duty with some 8,700 being deployed to and serving in Vietnam. Robert

Army National Guard Units Mobilized in Vietnam War
ngef.org/tier.asp?bid=48

Major National Guard Call-ups
link

Legion 420 Nov 2010 9:09 p.m. PST

The vast majority of the troops in Vietnam were regulars … The 1st Cav, 101 Abn, 1st ID, 173d Abn, etc. were regular army formations. The USAR & NG had a few smaller units there … but nothing compared to the Regular Army … IMO that is as it should be … As far as the Draft, in the early years of the war most were not draftees. But as time went on more and units were filled with dratfees … Of course all draftees did not serve in Vietnam. The US Military had units all over the world.

doug redshirt20 Nov 2010 11:02 p.m. PST

It was really hard to get into the Guard during that time, due to the fact for some reaon all the guard units were full or overfulled. Of course if you knew someone in the state government or had political pull it was easier to get a guard post.

Also it was not true that people were reluctant to fight in Nam. Remember we were fighting the commies and were keeping America safe from the Reds. Of course this all changed as the war went on and on and on.

I had 4 uncles that went over there and fought in the war from 64 to 70. It was different sending them off. My first Uncle who went off was a Marine so he was fairly gunho and it was for the good of the country. By the time we sent off my fourth uncle, we were counting the days for his tour to end. I did get to hold onto his comic collection though.

therrisok20 Nov 2010 11:48 p.m. PST

I served both on active duty and in the Guard. Guardsmen are weekend warriors, deficient in discipline, training, and effectiveness, at least from what I saw. Both the guard units I served in were little more effective than armed boy scouts. My active duty units would have blown right through them if it had come down to it.

AndrewGPaul21 Nov 2010 2:12 a.m. PST

Who were these 'reserves' ('reservists'?) whom the JCS wanted to employ? Were they *civilians* who had *previously* served in the military and who could theoretically have been recalled to the colours for reasons of national security? Or were they *part-time* soldiers 'weekend warriors' in the common parlance much like the British Territorial Army?

2. I know of the existence of the US National Guard, but assume it has nothing to do with the 'reserves' whom the JCS wanted to call up.

The Army Reserve and the National Guard ARE the reserve forces you're talking about.

You missed the point of his question; What is the Army Reserve, and how does it differ from the NG? A question which only Allen has even hinted at answering.

Tgunner21 Nov 2010 3:42 a.m. PST

There isn't really an Army Reserve- there are actually two. You have the 'regular' Army which is similar to the National Guard, but falls totally under the control of the Federal Government. Then you have the Individual Ready Reserve or IRR.

The 'Reserve' consists mostly of support units that the army would need for a general mobilization: hq units, service support units, and other assorted specialist units. The IRR is just a 'pool' of former regulars who are wrapping up their service obligation. For example, when you enlist in the US Military your are 'signing' up for 8 (EIGHT) years of service. You pick how much of that you want to be 'active' (or with the 'colors') for and the balance you spend in your choice of the Army Reserve, the IRR, or even the National Guard. I signed up for 4 years active and when I ETS'd I served for two years in the Alabama National Guard and the remaining two years in the IRR.

Johnston shied away from calling up the reserves and the Guard because he would have to declared a 'state of emergency'. Roosevelt did that in 1940 and called up the reserves and 'federalized' the Guard. To do this he needed Congressional support (and funding too!).

Like the fellow said earlier, LBJ wanted to fight the war on the quiet and, to his defense, many of his advisors (civvie and military) said that Vietnam only needed a few divisions of troops to stabilize things so that the ARVN could be trained. Only thing was that the VC (in this case I mean the Vietnamese Communists) were fighting a TOTAL WAR and met the US soldier for soldier. LBJ could have eased this strain on the Regular Army's resources by declaring a National Emergency, but that simply wasn't politically acceptable for him.

However in 1990 George Bush had no such quams. He called up the Guard (selected units) and drew heavily on the Reserves to fill out regular units (around a quarter of my unit were IRR guys… who were rather Bleeped texted off about this too!). Bush did declare an emergency and he got congress to support him. I don't know if LBJ could have pulled that off AND got his Great Society platform through. Remember, the war wasn't what he was really working on. He had a pretty heavy socalist agenda to put through and faced fierce resistance to it. He didn't want to rock the boat more than he needed to.

redcoat21 Nov 2010 4:11 a.m. PST

Thanks so much everyone for the excellent responses.

A couple of further questions, if I may:

1. The US Army employed the draft (ie, conscription) to fill its ranks before and during the Vietnam War (but stopped doing so in 1973). What proportion of young American men were conscripted *before* the war, and was this proportion *increased* to serve the Army's needs during the Vietnam War?

2. The National Guard and Reserves *both* comprise part-time units, liable for call-up in a National Emergency. I believe that the Reserves *now* comprise combat support units (medical, etc), but this certainly wasn't always the case. Why then did the USA need to establish two *different* organisations that served more or less the same purpose?

Thanks again in advance for any assistance!

Tgunner21 Nov 2010 5:15 a.m. PST

1. The Cold War and Vietnam parts of this article will probably answer this question: link

2. I'm not sure I really get the question. Are you asking why the US has the National Guard AND an Army Reserve? If that is what you mean then I have an answer for you.

The one, big thing, that many non-Americans have a rough time getting is that the US ISN'T a 'country' in the European sense of the word. The US doesn't have just ONE supreme government. The US is a full blown Federal Republic in every sense of the word. The Federal Government is a 'prince' in the truest sense of the word- the FIRST among EQUALS. Although, these days, the Federal Government is more equal than the states. Blame that on the Civil War… :/

Anyway, we're like the old Germany in many respects. Germany, prior to WWII, was a real Federal Republic with a whole slue of small states that made it up. All of these states had their own governments, traditions, kings, armies, and everything. In many ways, that WAS the US. Heck, it is STILL the US but to a much lesser degree now. The Federal Government has a lot of power, but it still can't really order the states around. However it sure can leverage them! Thanks to the Income Tax!

However the Fed still can't just order states around, so it has to come up with structures/organizations that mirror or duplicate those that exist on the state level.

So the thing to remember is that the National Guard is a state agency (that the Federal Government CAN call up in emergencies) whereas the Army Reserve is an element of the Federal Government. The Fed can do whatever it wants with the Reserve, but it has to 'follow the rules' to use the Guard.

Oh, one last thing. The Reserve is support/service support oriented. The Guard has a lot of real combat units including full divisions making it more like the British Territorial Army. A great example is the 29th Infantry Division! This out has a long and colorful history going back to the Civil War (the 116th Infantry traces itself back to old Stonewall Brigade!) and Normandy. It's formed with regiments from Virginia, Maryland, DC, and New Jersey.

moonhippie321 Nov 2010 7:16 a.m. PST

I was just a young pup and just barely missed the draft, but I remember lot's of my older friends sitting around the TV as they pulled out birth dates like in a bingo game. The first 30 or so would most likely get drafted, with the next 20 or so being a possibility. 2 of them were picked early, and went down the next day and enlisted in the coast guard.

But make no mistake, a lot of people did want to go. That war did help to break the back of the Soviets, and the Chinese. They both poured huge amounts of resourses into the conflict. And although the history books claim that we lost the war, if you look at the big picture, which was the cold war, it was instramental in the eventual demise of the USSR, and the free trade agreement with China.

Those boys didn't die in vain. They helped alter the world, and help bring us back from the brink of total nuclear destruction.

95thRegt21 Nov 2010 7:21 a.m. PST

served both on active duty and in the Guard. Guardsmen are weekend warriors, deficient in discipline, training, and effectiveness, at least from what I saw. Both the guard units I served in were little more effective than armed boy scouts. My active duty units would have blown right through them if it had come down to it.
>>
Maybe in the 70's and 80's,but not so now. Todays Guard is WELL up to speed in training and equipment,and are very professional. They have to be,they are being deployed right alongside regular Army units.
I also served in the regular Army(101st Abn) and National Guard,in the 80's and just 4 years ago.The Guard have improved tremendously!

Bob

Legion 421 Nov 2010 7:24 a.m. PST

I'm not totally sure about the exact figures but it gives you a fairly good idea … At the beginning of the war about 25% were draftees. By '69-'72 it was more like 50% or more were draftees … Again, those figures may vary, but clearly as the war went on more and more draftees were populating many of the units in SE Asia …

Sundance21 Nov 2010 8:43 a.m. PST

Lots of good info and comments.

I was in the Illinois Guard (STARC, though most of ILNG is 33BG) from 1983 to 1991. My unit was pretty much a slacker organization going through the show to look good but pretty much incapable of anything effective. We had some Vietnam vets there and a lot of holdovers from the days when Guard drill was a drinking club putting in their 20 years. It was a mess and I hated it because it was a waste of time and didn't actually accomplish anything. And I'd never done active duty aside from basic and AIT.

I just (hesitantly) went into the Pennsylvania Guard (28ID) and was very impressed with the professionalism and ability. Currently on active duty for training (2+ years of it), I have had a lot of regular army folks (E-4s through officers) tell me they dealt with the PA Guard in Iraq and were impressed with it as well. A couple of E-6/7s said it completely changed their attitude towards the Guard.

Whether the Illinois Guard has improved, I don't know. From the higher levels of deployment and training, I would guess that it has.

archstanton7321 Nov 2010 10:00 a.m. PST

"At the beginning of the war about 25% were draftees. By '69-'72 it was more like 50% or more were draftees"…

The problem is what percentage of the fighting troops were draftees..??As only about 10% of US forces were actually engaging in the field I would reckon a very high proportion (90%+) would be conscripts..Also if someone "Volunteered " did they get better terms of service? If so then a lot of GI's probably would have signed up rather than being drafted anyway!

aecurtis Fezian21 Nov 2010 10:00 a.m. PST

"Maybe in the 70's and 80's,but not so now. Todays Guard is WELL up to speed in training and equipment,and are very professional. They have to be,they are being deployed right alongside regular Army units."

We put two of the three ARNG combat brigades activated for the First Gulf War through NTC rotations--well, extended NTC rotations, eventually scaled back to remedial small unit drill training--in 1990. Fortunately, the war was short, giving the Pentagon an excuse for cancelling the planned deployments.

That will always shade my opinion of Guard combat readiness; sorry, but it was grim. Too many stories to tell here. Oh, and some of them came back later in the '90s for round-out brigade deployments, and it wasn't any prettier.

A whole lot of lying about their "performance" went on at the highest levels, though. All sweetness and light! But NTC trainers and the OPFOR will never forget the 48th and the 155th, who were in no way ready for duty when they were called on. Apparently they've done better on more recent deployments.

Allen

Grand Duke Natokina21 Nov 2010 10:32 a.m. PST

In the days of Vietnam, you would find a lot of Air National Guard units flying C-124s [big cargo planes] to Clark in the Philippines, CCK on Taiwan, and Yokota in Japan. From there the local C-130 Wings [463rd at Clark] would carry most of the cargo into and around Nam.
My cousin did three years in the Guard in a hospital unit of the 40th Infantry Division [Mech]. And was never activated for anything more than weekends and summer camps.
My old battalion from that division [3/160 Inf]has been in Iraq.
Count Natokina.

Grand Duke Natokina21 Nov 2010 10:34 a.m. PST

Also in the period of Vietnam the US did rely on a Draft system that had been in place since WWII. The services did not go all volunteer until--help me out here, Allen--1973 or 74 IIRC.
Count NAtokina.

Jay Arnold21 Nov 2010 10:40 a.m. PST

Many of the opinions displayed here based on old experiences and older assumptions are largely a thing of the past.

That's all I'll say bout that, lest the Dawghouse beckon.

badger2221 Nov 2010 10:42 a.m. PST

Right after the first gulf war the Army started a program they called operation bold shift. What id did was assign regular Army personnel to go out with NAtional Guard units and provide feedback and insight into what they where doing wrong. Most of us that had to do it hated the idea, because we had to go out on a lot of weekends, and still had to do our regular duty the rest of the week. But, because you where always out with the same guys, you did want them to get better. We even went with them on thier 2 week summer exercise.

Now I cannot comment on how other units did, or thier level of training. But the Guard Artillery unit I worked wioth for just over a year was just about useless. Artillery is very much a team effort, and a few good troops here and there will not correct major deficiencys. And as far as Artillery task, they where basicly one major deficeincy. I could type all day and not get them all down here. Or even remember them all probably.

But, they improved. Over the years I worked with them, they made great progress. They started to figure out what to do, how to do it, and most of all developed the pride and confidence that they wanted to do it right. While there where a few in the unit that where never going to be good soldiers, most of them where basicly OK, just needed direction and training. When the Army in thier great wisdom sent me off to be a recruiter( and wasnt that just about the most funnest assignment ever) the program continued, and they kept right on improving.

I dont know when the program was fianly canccelled, but the Guard units at the end could perform thier basic tasks to be a real Artillery unit.

Owen

Legion 421 Nov 2010 11:03 a.m. PST

Well that's not neccesarily true Arch … not all draftees would be in combat units. To say that 90% were in combat units would be much too large a number. Infantry, Helicopters, Artillery and Tanks, require a alot of support. Food, water, fuel, ammo, spare parts, etc. … that required logistics, maintenance personnel, etc. So based on my experience, draftees, would be driving truck, loading suppies, working on vehicles, aircraft etc. … no way would all draftees be in combat arms … However, what is overlooked is how many actual did volunteer … And it was a good amount …

aecurtis Fezian21 Nov 2010 12:12 p.m. PST

The All Volunteer Army was 1973, Count Nakotina. Target: cease fire. You nailed it!

I'd have to go digging, but the number that sticks in my mind is that no more than 25% of those who served in Vietnam were drafted. The greater majority were indeed volunteers.

Allen

Arrigo21 Nov 2010 1:10 p.m. PST

Agree with Legion and Allen,

according to published stats from the veteran administration a bit less than 25% were draftees. Also only 38% of the ocmbat deaths were draftees thus tghe idea of 90% of draftees in combat units seems quite unsubstantiated.

Legion 421 Nov 2010 3:20 p.m. PST

Yes, agreed, Arrigo and Allen. Based on what I had read and been told in classes plus my experience as an Infantry Officer, after the war was over(Cadet '75-'79, Active Duty '79-'90, Res '91). Those figures sounds right on. 90% is way too high. I don't think that even in WWI it was ever that high. I think the media, TV, movies, etc. give many the wrong impression. Plus if you never served, you may not understand what a logistics "Tail" a modern combat unit has. Just because you are in an Infantry or Tank Bn, does not mean you are a Grunt or Tanker. Supply and Admin clerks, truck drivers, mechanics, medics, commo personnel, cooks, etc. All need to be properly filled with trained personnel for a combat unit to function.

redcoat21 Nov 2010 3:22 p.m. PST

The following webpag…
link
…gives some fascinating statistics about the war, incl. some about the issue of draftees versus volunteers:

--25% (648,500) of total forces in country were draftees. (66% of U.S. armed forces members were drafted during WWII.
--Draftees accounted for 30.4% (17,725) of combat deaths in Vietnam.
--Reservists killed: 5,977
--National Guard: 6,140 served: 101 died.
--Total draftees (1965 – 73): 1,728,344.
--Actually served in Vietnam: 38%
--Marine Corps Draft: 42,633.
--Last man drafted: June 30, 1973.

These statistics would seem to show that, overall, draftees were the minority of those who served in Vietnam. One text book I'm using suggests that 75% of the personnel in Vietnam specifically at the *end* of the war were draftees, which may or may not be correct. But it sounds odd to me.

Legion 421 Nov 2010 3:28 p.m. PST

Yes, those figure sound correct to me, redcoat. I too am not sure about the figure of 75% of troopers towards the end of the War, say '69-'72 were drafted. However, I believe, there was a higher percentage then than in the earlier years … Just as a side bar, David Drake, author of the Sci-fi military series, Hammer's Slammers. He mentioned in the back of one of his Slammers books, "Tank Lords", that he was with the 11th ACR, and in '70, almost all of the enlisted in his unit were draftees. So that is a pretty good number. But he did say he was not all over Vietnam, so he can only talk about things he saw and did …

aecurtis Fezian21 Nov 2010 4:10 p.m. PST

Yeah, David has that on his Web site, too:

david-drake.com/2009/vietnam

I find it hard to credit. I don't have the numbers to counter it, but I'd bet my Blackhorse buckle it ain't true, at least not for the regiment overall; he says nearly all the enlisted men ***with whom he served*** were draftees. Well, he *was* with an MI interrogation team…

It's weird how these myths perpetuate. I was checking to see if GEN William Wallace had anything to say: he served in Vietnam, commanded the Regiment in Fulda, and carried the colors back here for the re-flagging of the 177th Armored Brigade when he became the commanding general, NTC. (The S*B made me his G-2; I will *never* forgive him!)

He said in an interview when he was TRADOC commander, concerning the establishment of TRADOC:

"For nearly a decade, the Army had been fighting a counterinsurgency war in Vietnam with an Army composed largely of draftees." Jeebus!

Back to the Regiment. It's interesting that after the colors were cased in Vietnam, when the 14th ACR was reflagged in Fulda as the 11th in 1972, 50% of the Regiment there were draftees. That makes more sense: as a general trend, fewer draftees were sent to Vietnam, and they made up higher percentages of units in Germany and Stateside.

Allen

Legion 422 Nov 2010 6:27 a.m. PST

Once again, Good intel Allen ! evil grin Drake's perception at the time may not have been totally accurate. Which many times happens with anecdotal evidence. IIRC Arrigo mentioned something similar in another thread here about Vietnam. What may have happened in one unit or in one situation probably was not always the case overall. Wallace & Drake's statements certainly sound overstated. As I said, perceptions and anecdotals are not always accurate. As a PI I run into this on occasions. What someone believes he saw may be colored by other influences … as well as other factors. They may not be lying … it's just they way they remember it or "saw" it … You even see this in many written histories …

archstanton7322 Nov 2010 7:52 a.m. PST

"you may not understand what a logistics "Tail" a modern combat unit has. Just because you are in an Infantry or Tank Bn, does not mean you are a Grunt or Tanker. Supply and Admin clerks, truck drivers, mechanics, medics, commo personnel, cooks, etc. All need to be properly filled with trained personnel for a combat unit to function."

Unless you are on the winning side (NVA VC) ;P

Jay Arnold22 Nov 2010 7:54 a.m. PST

Unless you are on the winning side (NVA VC) ;P

So the Ho Chi Minh Trail was for nature walks?

Arrigo22 Nov 2010 7:58 a.m. PST

Actually the US Army in vietnam was in business to keep another conventional army out of the republic of vietnam so someone could have done proper COIN once again…

and conscripts or professional does not make a lot of difference, the British Army did indeed won two COIN and one guerrilla campaigns with conscripts…

badger2222 Nov 2010 3:17 p.m. PST

Drake is one of my favorite authors, but he was a specialt-4 in Vietnam. They dont always know as much aws they think they do.

That was before my time, but one of the things I had to do in a couple of units was to compile racial data. Me and the 1st SGT in one unit, and me and the Ops SGT in another had to go through and count up what race everybody in the unit was. And, there is no basis for what somebody is. If they say they are something, then thats what they are regardless of what they look like to you.

In both units i heard at different times people commenting on how many of this or that race we had. And they where always wrong, often by a lot. When somebody says "everybody" mosty of the time they mean everybdoy I hung out with, or everybdoy i remember.

Owen

archstanton7322 Nov 2010 4:09 p.m. PST

"So the Ho Chi Minh Trail was for nature walks?"


No but then NVA VC troops didn't lumber through the jungle OR have 80-90% of their in country force as "Tail"..The fact that despite half a million+ troops deployed very often US GI's in the field were outnumbered is shocking…To be able to make the most of what you have rather than being encumbered by what you can have as a maximum is the difference to catching someone in the jungle or the enemy being "elusive"….

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2010 4:14 p.m. PST

archstanton73:
The problem is what percentage of the fighting troops were draftees..??As only about 10% of US forces were actually engaging in the field I would reckon a very high proportion (90%+) would be conscripts..Also if someone "Volunteered " did they get better terms of service? If so then a lot of GI's probably would have signed up rather than being drafted anyway!

In 68, one of my older brothers had a very low draft number and enlisted instead of waiting to get drafted. It was a fairly common understanding that draftees got singled out for harsher treatment in boot camp, and it was better to 'volunteer'. I think it was pretty unlikely he would have signed up otherwise.

So yes, the reported percentage of draftees:volunteers is skewed.

Legion 422 Nov 2010 9:21 p.m. PST

Well Arch, let there be no doubt the NVA "Tail" was smaller then the US and the VC even smaller. But Arrigo, again makes a good. The US was trying to keep the NVA out and at the same time destroy the VC … And even if the US may have been out numbered on occasions, we had combat multipliers, like CAS, and even naval gunfire at times. But where I do disagree, I think today, a professional army is better than conscripts … Even though in the past it was not neccesarily true… Was glad that the draft ended in '73. Not that it mattered to me. By then I had pretty much already decided to join the Army … evil grin

Arrigo23 Nov 2010 4:01 a.m. PST

I do not know how small the NVA tail was. a lot of their percrntage was involved in transportation duty, sometime even maneuver battalions. The point was that NVA sometime (as pointed out in "A Better War" was creting the logistical infrastructure before inserting the actual combat troops. Then the combat operations were lasting only until the stock were depleted. If the FWA were able to disrupt the preparations the entire operation was cancelled. The point is also that NVA/NLF were using a ot of impressed or volunteer labor force thus freeing uniformed troops for combat role.

According to Jim Willbanks (The Battle of an Loc) the logistical support (and in the later stage of the battle even infantry replacement) was provided by conscript cambodian peasant.

The number crounching made by Arch is a bit miselading. The point was that the allied troops were forced to defend the entire country while the NVA and regular NLF were able to concentrate and usually get numerical superiority at the point of contact.

@Legion4: I do not think professional are by default better than conscripts. Even today the point is that a conscript army is much more a reflection of the society than a volunteer long term one.

One can argue that in 1965 the US Army while still relying on the draft was at his peak. Military was popular, people were volunteering anyway. In 1970 it was not anymore. Conscript armies are much more vulnerable to social tension.

The british forces in Korea had a lot of National Servicemen still both the 27th and 29th Brigades were some of the finest formation the UN had.

to be quite honest on paper the 1st Cavalary in the summer of 1950 had to crack. It was a mix of WW2 veteran, draftees lacking training by US standard a motley assortment of koreans of every source from old men to high school girls. Yet it stick togheter.

in WW2 the US army had a 66% of draftees. Still, despite the SS lover the combat performance of the US Army was quite impressive. One has just to walk in an american military cemetery in europe to realize it.

The IDF is a conscript army, still it is scary. The troops holding the golan heights in 73' were conscripts.

On the opposite today US Army while volunteer and professional is still second to none.

My take is that in the right condition a conscript army is almost unstoppable if the society as whole support it. Yet for expeditionary warfare a professional one is much more reliable.

BullDog6923 Nov 2010 4:32 a.m. PST

Arrigo

Two more examples of armies which relied on conscription but were still excellent are the Rhodesian and South Africans of the 1970s (and into 1980s in the case of the South Africans)
Not that their military prowess ultimately did them any good, of course – but that's a whole other debate.

Arrigo23 Nov 2010 7:39 a.m. PST

Yes,

anyway there is a lot od debate going on the topic. We have been feed a lot in the 80 and early 90 with the idea conscripts bad, professional good. But when i was in the military academy several officers told me the "professional" were much worse of the draftees in our army.

Lot of variables.

Legion 423 Nov 2010 9:42 a.m. PST

Good points as usual Arrigo … My thought is with the NVA and VC being mostly Infantry or Light Infantry, they would have less logistic support that a US Army or Marine Bde or Div, which is highly motorized or mechanized. Not to mention the log tail for Aviation units. Choppers require a pretty good amount of maintenance and supplies. And to a lesser extent AFVs, trucks, etc. Plus "Beans & Bullets" … On another point, I guess I am biased, always being in an all volunteer/professional Army. My thought being I'd rather lead guys that volunteered as opposed to being "forced"/conscripted/drafteed to be there. Of course the other side of that is that some join the military because they are not schooled or come from lower income parts of society. And have no other option. As opposed to a draft where you "should" get a varied slice of society. But as we saw that was not always the case in Vietnam. Many were exempt from the draft if they were going to college. If you didn't have the cash or didn't qualify to go to college, you were going to get drafted. My experiences is that what part of society one comes from does Not denote what kind of soldier you are going to be. I guess my view of a draft army is based on America society after the Vietnam war and currently. I don't see American society ever going to a draft short of an invasion of the US … IMO … That's what helps to make the IDF so effective … when your country is surrounded and attacked … conscript or volunteer I'd think most would fight for the survival of you home land. At least most would …

Arrigo23 Nov 2010 1:20 p.m. PST

Legion,

one of the point toward the supposed lightness of the NVa is that the combat units are stripped down of logistical tail (similar to sovier model). Western armies use a lot of organic supply echelon while soviet model has it "dropped from above". The regiment supplies the battalion, the division the regiment and the army or the front the division. The NVa had a lot of logistical problems in their 72 offensive with mechanized formations beacuse inadequate support echelon. "We" tried the same with the ARVN, but it was a logistical nightmare.

NVA response was to pre-build the logistical support in situ.

I got your point on the Volunteer-draftee dicothomy. The point is that in some historical situation conscriptions was not seen has negative. Case point is UK in the 50' or the US in the Kennedy era. I think Harold Moore and Joe Galloway had done a good picture of the army in the period. The Draft was seen has an important part of social life. Ehy, in the late 50' even Elvis became a tanker! It was an important part of the social contract. Tha in turn produced willing draftees and a good army. In vietnam the percentage of the different social background was, as far numbers were concerned, pretty representative of the society at large. The system collapsed in 1970 for a series of reason and I do not think the draft could have survived.

It is interesting that often I have this discussion with a friend and classmate (Lt.Col in the ROCAF) who is doing a thesis on moving from conscription to volunteer army. He tried to persuade me that the US Army moved from draft to all volunteer because vietnam and beacuse draftees were bad.

I told him that society was not anymore capable to support a draft, that the army reached its nadir with the passage to an all volunteer force (it was still unable to attract good volunteers in large numbers) and had to recover painfully as the entire society was stabilizing again.

As for volunteer versus draftee…

I pointed him that the 1st Cavalry Division in the Ia Drang valley was a product of the peacetime draft reinforced army, and the same army gone up for one week at Dong Ap Bia. One battalion against an entrenched regiment. and they took the hill.

In 1969 the US army was still good (the draft process meant that it was not affected by 1968 turmoil until late 69)

Legion 423 Nov 2010 4:45 p.m. PST

Yes, regardless the US Army's log tail is much more "robust" than anything the NVA or VC had. For good or for bad. Again for obvious reasons. And I think there will always be a "which is best" discussion of professional vs. draftee … I guess I am a bit biased. And it is true in the '50s the attitude of the general population in the US was certainly different than in the 60's and even now. I still believe it would be near impossible to start a draft today in the US …

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