As we see it: Vietnam '68; Gen. Maxwell Taylor
Mark are becoming more and more expert. I'm always impressed by the period of study required seems to be diminishing rather than increasing national educational radio presents as we see it. Vietnam 68 a series of appearances of noted spokesman presenting their various views on the war in Vietnam. As we see it Vietnam 68 was conducted over a period of five weeks last spring on the campus of Miami University in Oxford Ohio. Under the sponsorship of the Miami University Student Senate because of the time period that has elapsed between the time these discussions were presented and the president these speeches should be taken to represent the views of the speakers at that time. Nevertheless even with current events concerning the South-East Asian area these speeches represent a valuable background on the Vietnam situation. The speakers for this program are General Maxwell Taylor and Mr. Roger Hill xmen General Maxwell Taylor is former chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former ambassador to South Vietnam. We now present General Taylor A. I've got a very good president driver. I ladies and gentlemen. I'm very grateful to the student senate for inviting me here today and to the University of Miami even and even though I used to discuss that perennial talk topic which occupied our. Country and fills the forums of our nation with debates whether that form of the Congress or the breakfast
table in our home. I was very much interested to hear the description of this series of lectures which you're conducting on Vietnam. I'm a very much impressed by your willingness to take the time to concentrate this series on a single topic I think is well justified because this certainly is the foreign players issue which most preoccupied our leaders and our entire nation. And furthermore it shows a willingness to study of very difficult and complex thing for relatively a prolonged period. Our country is becoming filled more and more with Vietnam experts. I'm always impressed by the fact that the period of study required seems to be diminishing rather than increasing. So I'm very glad that you are indeed willing to have several speakers come bringing different points of view and thereby affording the time for reflection and the taking of a serious position on a very serious subject. I stress the need
of hearing several voices on the subject because of my own experience of the difficulty of interpret events and even being sure for oneself. Whether or not the interpretation that one reaches is the right but. I can recall very vividly rather famous cabinet meeting in one night in the fall of 1963 under the presidency of President Kennedy two senior officers were reporting to the cabinet on the Vietnam situation which then was terribly confused because of the Buddhist unrest. One was a military officer the other was an experienced State Department officer and in turn they reported a situation in Vietnam when they had finished President Kennedy very politely said gentleman. Are you sure you were both in the same country. It was a very valid question because the military man was reporting on the military situation the military situation would reasonably favor.
The political represented able reporting on the political situation and it was it was going downhill very very fast indeed so that neither was an accurate reporter or non truthful reporter or a mislead deliberately misleading reporter but certainly both had to be listened together before one could formulate a reasonably fair impression of the situation at the moment. As I go about the country speaking on the subject of Vietnam it seems to me the preponderant attitude of our citizen is not being against what we're doing but being unsure of why we're doing it in other words a state of confusion over what is taking place and the assent. Of these events. And again I would defend the reporters on the who have been reporting this situation because it's not on the crudest say that there's not a single one situation in Vietnam but rather 44 different situations one corresponding to each one of the forty four problems.
Of this war turning away and show that indeed one is justified and it is essential indeed to hear many voices many reporters in order to form a composite. Which reasonably correspond with the true situation. I've taken him as my topic today the realities of the Vietnam stuff. I don't propose to deal with this subject in the following way. First I would like to describe the significance as I see them of the recent events. Beginning at the end of January the rather dramatic change in the temple of the earth. Then I'd like to give my own views as to why or. How the other side has embarked upon this new course of action. Then discuss the adjustment which we will have to make I would believe to this change. And then finally talk about the problem of the determination.
First then what are we seeing in Vietnam. Let me go back to fundamentals if you will permit for a moment. I would say that in the broadest terms what we are seeing is a clash of national and international objectives. Objectives which are on our side are represented by our resolution not to allow North Vietnam to oppose a communist regime on South Vietnam against the will. Of the vast majority of the inhabitants. Now that is the simple and direct statement. It is one which has been made in the famous and given only slightly differing word by three presidents President Eisenhower President Kennedy and I President Johnson. But if that is the basic purpose it is not the only purpose because if indeed we are successful in this objective we will accomplish at least two other very important Im the first is we will have rejected and resisted successfully the so-called
war of national liberation which is the technique which has been described and proclaimed by Hanoi and by Peking and by Moscow. As the favorite technique of the future for the expansion of militant communism. Not only in Asia but in Latin America. And Africa as well. These leaders have said very openly that is the testing ground of the efficacy of the war of liberation and they expect to prove that indeed it is. It is the formula which would that should be used elsewhere. Hence if we succeed in preventing the imposition of a communist state in the south we will have indeed defeated and rejected the war of liberation as a technique for the future. And then finally in so doing we also all will have defeated war by proxy conducted by Red China. One would hope that our success would remind the future leaders of Red China who
may emerge from the present turbulence that indeed the use of military force or war by proxy is not a successful mean of expanding Chinese frontier. By the same token the other side. Also. Has important national and international objectives. The first mention the direct object of a lot of the of the imposition of an Tahmina state on the south and eventual unification of north and south. The single communist state. The second is to justify the efficacy of the war of liberation and then finally to evict the United States and United and United States influence from Southeast Asia. That then is a clash of purposes which we're seeing take place. In Southeast Asia. Both sides are pursuing a quite clear and definable strategy. Our strategy has been to use a graduated military force in order to
repel a military element of the Vietcong of the South Vietnam and the tactical units of the North Vietnamese forces and pressed them back. To the front tier behind the security afforded by these military action. Then we attempt. Working with the South Vietnamese supporting the South in the in trying to build a nation on the provinces that have been devastated by this long war. Their strategy up to now up until the 1st of February has been this so-called protracted war waged at three different levels. The level of what I would call the big war. The conflict of the tactical units which is almost conventional warfare the battle of the battalion the regiment and the divisions. The little war which I would hate that term I applied to the local guerrilla activity
got into the province's disrupting prevention alive. And inside the little war there is what there is another form of conflict which Cabot Lodge I think is well named in the criminal war. This is the war of assassination of kidnapping and of terror. Tactics which the other side deliberately used and for which they trained troops in the same sense. We train artillery men or engineers at these three levels of war they have been conned. They have been trying to inflict. Losses on our side to the point that we would be discouraged and tried to protect themselves into far as possible by operating from the so-called sanctuaries just over the front here into Laos and Cambodia and the demilitarized zone they have been using in the little war on terror to disrupt to go the element of the government of South Vietnam particularly in the province and in combination. As I indicated to
discourage the United States to play upon the divisions here at home hoping that thereby they can wear down our determination. I'm changes from our purpose. Not then with the situation I would say in broad terms as of the 30th of January. At that time we saw a very sharp and very dramatic change on the part of the other side and a change of strategy. I would guess that the decision to make that change took place last summer. We can now reconstitute events and have a fairly clear idea. Of the temporal scenario. We first saw the evidence of implementation in October in November. When several shark fights took place in the highland area. By troops operating from the sanctuary of Cambodia. And
then we saw many logistic activities a tremendous increase in the truck activity coming down the whole human trail and November and December and we began to get the capturing prisoners and capturing documents. Which build up a fairly clear picture of what was about to take place. Why did the other side change the strategy and abandon apparently. Dependence upon protracted warfare. I can only guess but I think the yeses are. Reasonably plausible. The first is that they aren't sustaining very severe losses in 1966 and 67 in the fighting with the South Vietnamese and ourselves. The estimate is that as many as two hundred and fifty thousand men either lost their lives or series were seriously incapacitated or defected to our side and those losses are very heavy in comparable terms that would mean 12 times that number. Multiply that by 12 and then that would be
comparable law for the United States in the same period or up on a percentage basis. So the losses had been heavy. And furthermore the losses had been not only military but political as well because in spite of the efforts of the guerrillas to disrupt political life and to prevent a general election. Vietnam had conducted five general election in which an average with an average of 67 percent of the people took part in registration and 80 percent of that number voted. So they must have been growing not. Political turbulence could not be countable in the future to favor the cause of Hanoi. This loss of population a lot of influence on the population must have been another factor an indicator when I was ambassador in Vietnam we estimated only about 50 percent of the population was reasonably secure and
had. A reasonably loyal to the central government. About 25 percent we thought was under communist control and the other 20 25 percent. I'm committed. The elections prove over that and that fully two thirds of the population was oriented toward the government and indicated that very important progress from our point of view had been made in 1966 and 1967. And then finally the air war against North Vietnam. Is clearly hurting them very badly. The greatest testimonial to the effect you know is a lot of war the fact that they for the last year and a half the entire communist world has conducted a propaganda campaign trying to drive the United States off that course of action by every divided political and psychological. They have been the errors of the world that of the United States with the bombing of the north. Perhaps some peaceful settlement might be possible. So the combination then
of their milk their military losses the advances and political advances made in South Vietnam. The shifting of the population to the cause of Saigon the bombing of the north those four factors must've weighed very heavily in the decision to change the course of action. And in the background of course is the fact this is the 14th year of war for North Vietnam just as the fourth of the 42 year war for South Korea. And if we Americans sometimes talk as if we were getting tired of this war just think of what this little Asian people what they have endured in this conflict. So both sides I would think have every right to do seek some kind of solution in a fairly short period of time. Those then are some of the causes I think which explain what we saw as a beginning at the beginning in February with the attack on the cities. I think you know the right the record as well as I do. Within two days some 34
cities had been attacked by the varying sizes. I don't believe any were any larger than about 2000 man but they were done extremely well. They took advantage of the camp holiday in order to join the holiday crowd ship where the population shifts back and forth. As people return to their home they must've built up a reserve of ammunition in some of the cities you know advance of the Tet holiday. But in all events they put on a very fine show from their point of view in those first two days while our side would knew something was coming. I know of no one who predicted specifically or gave the impression of the extent of these attacks nor indeed they the timing of the fact that for the first time. They were able to do to execute a number of attacks. In the same day. Now the purpose of the attack on the cities
I would say again we can we can only speculate but at a minimum it was to disrupt urban life. The city had been virtually untouched by the war up to this point. It was to draw in the troops of South Vietnam and our own troops to defend the cities and hence to leave open the countryside. It was to expose the weakness of the South Vietnamese government and show the people in the south that they could not be protected by their own officials. And in so doing to demonstrate we're all going to be straight I think certainly those objectives at a minimum musta been on the list. But again from the interrogation of prisoners one gets a strong feeling that there was an optimum and a maximum they hoped for and that was that they would actually create a popular uprising. As they entered the city. That would be a rallying of the population to their side. And that hence they would be able to stay
in some of these cities and set set up local communist government. That I I would say it was probably the object. Now what has actually happened. Well it happened so frequently the case in Vietnam one can it. It's neither black nor white it's gray or something in between. Certainly from their point of view they didn't score by partial success. In that they did impress people they certainly impressed me with their effectiveness in organizing these attacks which were on a scale that I personally would never have predicted. They certainly displayed the inability of the South Vietnamese government to give complete protection to the city. But beyond that I would say they fail and they failed rather dramatically and perhaps from their point of view dismally first these attacks were extremely costly and they estimated they estimate of the kill. On the other side vary from
thirty to thirty dollars. Now we all suspect figures like that. I do not recall people trying to mislead us but it's simply hard to get the facts. But whether there's a plus or minus 20 percent that's a very heavy loss indeed. Presumably the losses fell upon some of their best units commando types who had been picked for the attack on the city. And then finally there were certainly no popular uprising. Absolutely no indication of anyone in the cities rallying their support although there must have been some collusion in the build up of the suppliant and some of the cities. But insofar as getting the people who are not committed in some way to the Vietcong previous to that instead of a rallying there with the tremendous tremendous revulsion of feeling against the perpetrators of these acts of violence the destruction would inevitably have grown out of the requirement to root out these armies and from the heart. So they are urban The Urban Urban Urban population.
So that's where we stand today with God attack on the city. This is not ended. There are enough reserves I'm quite sure on their side to continue attacking the city. However they have lost the benefit of the pride. They have suffered as head because I believe that I would doubt. That we will see again an attack on the scale of that of those of January 30 and January 31. You want to dish an early talk on a cell in the cities we know that again from a planet we have captured that there will be a spring winter spring offensive. We interpret that to mean that there will be attacks made by units which we now see forming up. In the vicinity of the demilitarized zone probably against some of the northern cities such as quantum theory attacks probably on one case on that remote outpost which makes discussed so much in the press probably again in the Highlands and
directed toward the plate who in Cancun and possibly again on a rather major attack against Saigon. Although I would doubt that it would be a result of the penetration of the city but it is likely to take the form of bombing the use of long range rockets and other kind of fire attack on the city. So that is the second part of the new strategy. The first part with the attack on the cities hoping to get the popular uprising. Now the offensive against key points. Utilizing the sanctuaries to jump out quickly strike. And then if necessary to go back again. Now the hope is that it that these two kinds of action one against the cities one against the large units along the frontier in a combination will create a situation favorable to negotiations and at the end possibly under terms of a cease fire. Or very hopefully under terms of no bombing of the North that the South Vietnamese and
ourselves would sit down at a negotiation table and negotiate on the outcome of that negotiation would be a coalition government in Saigon which would be the first step toward the political takeover by the Communists. Now I think what I've told you is not. Just personal speculation it's rare rather clear from the documents kept period and has been verified to a point at least by the events which we've been watching of course after that after the coalition government then the final objective as a minister of state at the outset would be to get the Americans out and to remove their influence from this part of Asia. Now this shift of strategy of course presents us with problems on our side in a sense it's highly favorable it's favorable because it was our success of 66 and 67 which made the other side change the game. But having changed the game they have indeed
presented new problems to us while eliminating some of the Old World. Our first problem and of course is the military want to repel and these attacks on the cities and cleaning out the vestiges of the small bands which remain as of today the cities are are clear or apparently clear. I gathered from the last reports close down in the last 24 hours. I don't doubt that there are however individuals who have been absorbed into the city populations under still are physically present in some of these cities. So I would not suggest that the trouble in the city is over. However it has been brought under control as of this moment. The next problem is that and this is largely a General Westmoreland the general view on the general. Problem is to create reserves. Clearly we're going to have some hard fight along the front here and a fight.
One let's concentrate. One must have reserves in order to take or take back the initiative. Unfortunately the requirement to have reserves and to fight the big battles runs contrary to the requirement for securing the countryside the so-called pacification because for that kind of operation you have to break up your forces into small bands in order to be back in order to control the maximum amount of terrain. So our commanders over there are going to have to reconcile the requirement for creating reserves to fight the big war vs. the requirement to disperse in order to be effective in the little war. Furthermore that means setting priorities do it. First things first not trying to do all things at the same time and it only that way can we expect to regain the initiative which we've temporarily lost. Beginning with the attack on the city. Now there's only one thing in common and it seemed to me between the objectives of the two sides.
If my analysis is correct or reasonably so on both sides would like to have negotiations. But of course both sides would like to have a negotiation under terms favorable to them. In the case of the other side they have an option. If the situation is not favorable for negotiation they might decide to terminate. This war. By the so-called subsidence method. It's been called going back into the woodwork. In other words without formal political settlement without a formal conference gradually to withdraw and to fade away and a different period and thereby allow Hanoi to say what they've always said officially we never were there in the first place. This was all a figment of the imagination that we ever invaded. You know. This was just a popular uprising throughout. This subsiding solution has certain advantages I would think from our point of view.
One is simplicity the fact that it avoids so many of the problems of a formal negotiations which I will mention shortly but it has a very serious disadvantage is that it be so hard to determine when the war really will have they simply gone back into the jungle and dug a hole and crawl into it ready to come back again and buy the house later on or not. How can we ever Vero that indeed the tactical forces of North Vietnam have been withdrawn. These are very tough problems and hence would work against any preference for a subsidence. The way to terminate the situation. So let us put that to one side for a moment not saying it's not impossible it may not happen that way but I think it's more interesting for our purposes to talk for a moment about the problem of negotiation. Let's assume that both sides for reasons we won't specify I conclude it is to their common interest
to come to the negotiation table. What does that mean. Well first and foremost it doesn't mean that peace is just around the corner. I had a bitter experience of commanding the Eighth Army in Korea in the last month of the shooting war and then into the almost into the post armistice period and saw how cleverly at Panmunjom. Our communist counter negotiators would stall day after day while they were mounting attacks against my army in the south. Playing for last minute advantages knowing that we were trying to conserve our manpower feeling that the war was about over. Hence Let's say you are a man if we possibly can. This kind of thing went on for over two years before we actually got a signature on the one on the armistice in Panmunjom and I would remind you that we lost. Our sorrow that we Americans lost some 45000 casualties in that period and our lives lost about one hundred fifty five. So let's not feel
- As we see it: Vietnam '68
- Gen. Maxwell Taylor
- Producing Organization
- Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Other Description
- For series info, see Item 3509. This prog.: Gen. Maxwell Taylor. Former chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; Ambassador to South Vietnam; Special Advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
- War and Conflict
- Media type
Producing Organization: WMUB
Producing Organization: Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-28-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “As we see it: Vietnam '68; Gen. Maxwell Taylor,” 1968-07-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 17, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-bz619c91.
- MLA: “As we see it: Vietnam '68; Gen. Maxwell Taylor.” 1968-07-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 17, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-bz619c91>.
- APA: As we see it: Vietnam '68; Gen. Maxwell Taylor. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-bz619c91