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  • Boonierats, boonierats, scared but not alone...

    THE BOONIERATS SONG:




    John Del Vecchio's The 13th Valley has been republished by the Warriors Publishing Group for the 30th anniversary, don't miss it if you haven't read it yet.


  • #2
    One of my favorite novels. I first read it in the mid - '80s. I've read it several times since then. The last time was about two years ago.

    I've read several good accounts of various 101st actions in Vietnam. Hamburger Hill by Samuel Zaffiri was a good non-fiction read. But the accounts I've found are all about 101st infantry or LRRP units. I've not found anything published about the division's cav squadron.

    I wish a veteran of 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry would tell the 2/17 Cav story the same way Matthew Brennan told the 1/9 Cav story.
    Last edited by KRJ; 07 Sep 12, 00:20.
    "Shoot for the epaulets, boys! Shoot for the epaulets!" - Daniel Morgan

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    • #3
      Mine too KRJ. Ending was a bummer tho.
      SPORTS FREAK/ PANZERBLITZ COMMANDER/ CC2 COMMANDER

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      • #4
        Originally posted by KRJ View Post
        One of my favorite novels. I first read it in the mid - '80s. I've read it several times since then. The last time was about two years ago.

        I've read several good accounts of various 101st actions in Vietnam. Hamburger Hill by Samuel Zaffiri was a good non-fiction read. But the accounts I've found are all about 101st infantry or LRRP units. I've not found anything published about the division's cav squadron.

        I wish a veteran of 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry would tell the 2/17 Cav story the same way Matthew Brennan told the 1/9 Cav story.
        I remember B 2/17 from the Lamar Plain operation in May-August 1969. I was in 1/46th Infantry of the Americal. 2/17 came in as well as 1/501 and 1/502 after a major offensive in Quang Tin Province.
        No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends John 15:13

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        • #5
          I've only read this novel once, after it came out in paperback. My copy has a print date of 1983 so that's how long ago it was. The only two things that stick in my mind about the story is that there was this really tall tree in the middle of the valley, and that some of the American soldiers were having homosexual dreams while they were in the field. Other than these two points, I really don't remember anything.

          So, after reading Stéphane's opening post, I decided to read it again now that I know much more about the war than I did then, and much more about life in general. I've been reading this tome for three weeks now and have only reached page 400 out of the 600 pages it takes to tell this story. Which brings me to my first point; it is a ponderous read. Ponderous. I remember a quote made by a literary critic about Margaret Mitchell and her opus, Gone With the Wind. The critic wrote something to the effect that a book that takes 10 years to write will also seem like it will take 10 years to read. In the author's bio in my copy of The 13th Valley it's reported that Del Vecchio took 10 years to write his novel. It feels like it's taking me 10 years to read it. For example, the first day of the story takes just under 200 pages to finish. The second day the following 100 pages more or less. So if you're thinking of taking it on, be prepared to dedicate a lot of your spare time to it. Lots of couch and bathroom time.

          As I'm plowing my way through the valley following the exploits of the Skyhawks of 'A' Company (and as God is my witness I will finish this book) it got me thinking about the strategy of the American and allied forces during the War. Early in the book the protagonists attend a briefing on the upcoming operation overseen by the brigade commander who is known as, because it's his call sign, the Old Fox. The Old Fox gives a brief history of the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) in I CTZ. He states that when the division first arrived they were conducting operations right outside of their wire. Now, two years later (1970), they have to travel to the Laotian border to find the enemy. The coastal lowlands and cultivated areas have been pacified.

          Now I don't think Del Vecchio would have included this in his book if it wasn't true as it would have been trashed by for its inaccuracies by literary critics and historians alike. So assuming the strategic gains by the 101st AB are correct, it got me to thinking that this was the exact same position the Allied forces were in during 1967. This was the year of the border campaigns during which the allied forces had forced the NVA back to the border regions of Cambodia and Laos. Their efforts, however, were foiled by the Tet Offensive which, for political reasons, forced the allied Divisions to relocate from the borders to the towns and cities under siege.

          Question: Am I correct in my understanding of what happened during '67 and '68, and that perhaps the Tet Offensive was a success after all? Did it force the focus of operations away from the NVA and the borders allowing them to regroup and then re-infiltrate back into SVN? Did this cause the allied forces to have to re-start their 1968 operations against the NVA from the starting line as it existed in 1965 or '66? Which brings us, or the reader of the novel, to August, 1970, and the 101st AB fighting the NVA on the Laotian border. And now the big question that came to me if all of this (my understanding of the strategic situation) is true. Why, if the NVA had been defeated a second time by 1970, did the war not end in 1971?

          Now I realize my view of the above is rather simplistic, and that there are probably more things going on during this time that I have not taken into consideration (like Vietnamization for example) but still, if the NVA was on its knees in 1970 why was there not a victory a year later? Or is the view of the war as it is presented in this novel just so much [email protected]?

          By the way, speaking of Vietnamization, the characters in this novel do not denigrate the ARVN and live in fear of the NVA. There is a Kit Carson Scout character in the book who hates both the Communists and the Americans and is very vocal about it. In spite of this he has several very close American friends. The book also mentions that the ARVN 1st Division was twinned with the 101st AB and the two Divisions conducted their operations in tandem. In fact the ARVNs play a role in the operation being depicted in the novel.

          I think I'm going to time out on the site due to the length of this post so I'll end it now, and spend another few hours of my life that I'll never get back plowing through the valley with the Skyhawks.

          Cheers,
          Dan.

          Last edited by Dan M; 30 Sep 12, 15:24. Reason: Correction to the spelling of Del Vecchio.
          So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable.

          Aldous Huxley: Ends and Means (1937)

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          • #6
            Here is an earlier thread on the Khe Ta Laou Valley Campaign. Someone who was there at the time made a couple of posts.

            In the book the battalion CSM is named Zarnochuk but is known as Zarno. The attached thread identifies the actual CSM as Sabalauski known as Sabo.

            http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...ght=texas+star

            Cheers,
            Dan.
            So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable.

            Aldous Huxley: Ends and Means (1937)

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            • #7
              Which brings us, or the reader of the novel, to August, 1970, and the 101st AB fighting the NVA on the Laotian border. And now the big question that came to me if all of this (my understanding of the strategic situation) is true. Why, if the NVA had been defeated a second time by 1970, did the war not end in 1971?
              Dan the war did not end in 1971, or at any other time NVA offensives were defeated, because they could always pull the survivors out, train up next year's batch of soldiers using the lessons learned from previous campaigns, and return fresh forces to the field. Unlike the French in WWI, who had to defend their national territory and reconquer lost land, or the German's in WWII, who minds became focused on the defense of the German heartland after 6 June 1944, the Northern Vietnamese leadership only had bombing raids to worry about, and those were being directed to specific military related targets as opposed to breaking the will of the North Vietnamese people themselves, the mass of whom were viewed (probably incorrectly) as prisoners of their government. In other words, there was no serious threat to that portion of their national territory that they governed. The Vietnam War had no Dresdens, Hiroshimas, or Nagasakis.
              dit: Lirelou

              Phong trần mài một lưỡi gươm, Những loài giá áo túi cơm sá ǵ!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by lirelou View Post
                Dan the war did not end in 1971, or at any other time NVA offensives were defeated, because they could always pull the survivors out, train up next year's batch of soldiers using the lessons learned from previous campaigns, and return fresh forces to the field.
                True, but the gist of it was that the only 'field' to which the NVA could take, in SVN, would be along the border areas. The SVN population centres would have remained relatively safe from any NVA threat.

                I do see your point, however, about how defeating the NVA in the South would not, in and of itself, bring about the end of the war. Pushing the enemy's army into their border sanctuaries does not destroy them nor keep your enemy from aggressively pursuing the war by other means.

                Are we talking about Vietnam here or Afghanistan? But I digress.

                So what we are talking about in this post concerns an enemy that could and would always be defeated in the field, but could and would always regroup and return. And a force of allies that could and would always defeat their enemy but were working to a political timetable that could and would eventually see all but the ARVN withdraw.

                In short the enemy could lose a thousand times and still not be permanently defeated. Once the allied coalition had withdrawn however, the ARVN had to perform indefinitely to the level of the coalition in order to maintain the status quo, which was keeping the NVA at bay but without any chance of ending the war. Based on this interpretation there could only have been one outcome to the land war in the south.

                And, as the South could not pursue a total war without allied help (the South was incapable of mounting a bombing campaign against Hanoi or mining the harbours of Haiphong), there could only have been one outcome to the war itself.

                Hmmmm, my interpretation seems to have changed. Any thoughts, anyone?

                Cheers,
                Dan.
                So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable.

                Aldous Huxley: Ends and Means (1937)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dan M View Post
                  True, but the gist of it was that the only 'field' to which the NVA could take, in SVN, would be along the border areas. The SVN population centres would have remained relatively safe from any NVA threat.

                  I do see your point, however, about how defeating the NVA in the South would not, in and of itself, bring about the end of the war. Pushing the enemy's army into their border sanctuaries does not destroy them nor keep your enemy from aggressively pursuing the war by other means.

                  Are we talking about Vietnam here or Afghanistan? But I digress.

                  So what we are talking about in this post concerns an enemy that could and would always be defeated in the field, but could and would always regroup and return. And a force of allies that could and would always defeat their enemy but were working to a political timetable that could and would eventually see all but the ARVN withdraw.

                  In short the enemy could lose a thousand times and still not be permanently defeated. Once the allied coalition had withdrawn however, the ARVN had to perform indefinitely to the level of the coalition in order to maintain the status quo, which was keeping the NVA at bay but without any chance of ending the war. Based on this interpretation there could only have been one outcome to the land war in the south.

                  And, as the South could not pursue a total war without allied help (the South was incapable of mounting a bombing campaign against Hanoi or mining the harbours of Haiphong), there could only have been one outcome to the war itself.

                  Hmmmm, my interpretation seems to have changed. Any thoughts, anyone?

                  Cheers,
                  Dan.
                  maybe a loose analogy is Dunkirk.The Germans,for all intents and purposes thought they had defeated the british.They had. In the battle for france,but not the war.
                  Four years later Germany was defeated.There are different intrepretations for "defeated"............Germany was ACTUALLY DEFEATED.Their country had lost all power to resist.We never brought that kind of "defeat" upon the NVA,or north Vietnam

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jeffdoorgunnr View Post
                    maybe a loose analogy is Dunkirk.The Germans,for all intents and purposes thought they had defeated the british.They had. In the battle for france,but not the war.
                    Four years later Germany was defeated.There are different intrepretations for "defeated"............Germany was ACTUALLY DEFEATED.Their country had lost all power to resist.We never brought that kind of "defeat" upon the NVA,or north Vietnam
                    Yes, I think there is merit to your analogy. The BEF of the British Army was defeated in the Battle for France but the British military was not destroyed nor was the country's ability to continue the war.

                    The German armed forces were annihilated by 1945 and the country's ability to make war was destroyed.

                    In SVN, defeating the NVA and driving it back to its sanctuaries in Cambodia and Laos does not destroy the NVA or the remainder of the North's military nor does it destroy that country's capacity to continue the war.

                    This means that all of the land victories made by the allied forces, while important to the safety of the SVN population and the country's infrastructure, was not going to be a factor in ending the war. The war could only be won by destroying North Vietnam or enough of it until they decided to call it a day. And none of the allies (in this case it would have had to have been the Americans because they were the only military capable of delivering such a blow) were prepared to take that step.

                    I wish I had some kind of pithy comment to make to end this post, but it just makes me sad to think that all of the land combat really was for naught.

                    Dan.
                    So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable.

                    Aldous Huxley: Ends and Means (1937)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Dan M View Post
                      Yes, I think there is merit to your analogy. The BEF of the British Army was defeated in the Battle for France but the British military was not destroyed nor was the country's ability to continue the war.

                      The German armed forces were annihilated by 1945 and the country's ability to make war was destroyed.

                      In SVN, defeating the NVA and driving it back to its sanctuaries in Cambodia and Laos does not destroy the NVA or the remainder of the North's military nor does it destroy that country's capacity to continue the war.

                      This means that all of the land victories made by the allied forces, while important to the safety of the SVN population and the country's infrastructure, was not going to be a factor in ending the war. The war could only be won by destroying North Vietnam or enough of it until they decided to call it a day. And none of the allies (in this case it would have had to have been the Americans because they were the only military capable of delivering such a blow) were prepared to take that step.

                      I wish I had some kind of pithy comment to make to end this post, but it just makes me sad to think that all of the land combat really was for naught.

                      Dan.
                      What was really sad was to be in Vietnam as a young man and realize that all of the land combat was for naught. Which of course, if a young SP-4 could figure this out what the F was going on at the General's house.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dan M View Post
                        Yes, I think there is merit to your analogy. The BEF of the British Army was defeated in the Battle for France but the British military was not destroyed nor was the country's ability to continue the war.

                        The German armed forces were annihilated by 1945 and the country's ability to make war was destroyed.

                        In SVN, defeating the NVA and driving it back to its sanctuaries in Cambodia and Laos does not destroy the NVA or the remainder of the North's military nor does it destroy that country's capacity to continue the war.

                        This means that all of the land victories made by the allied forces, while important to the safety of the SVN population and the country's infrastructure, was not going to be a factor in ending the war. The war could only be won by destroying North Vietnam or enough of it until they decided to call it a day. And none of the allies (in this case it would have had to have been the Americans because they were the only military capable of delivering such a blow) were prepared to take that step.

                        I wish I had some kind of pithy comment to make to end this post, but it just makes me sad to think that all of the land combat really was for naught.

                        Dan.
                        and that is hindsight.wonderful thing.........if you always know your right.
                        I think it was always we were hoping they cannot hold out much longer..........but we underestimated their resolve.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jeffdoorgunnr View Post
                          and that is hindsight.wonderful thing.........if you always know your right.
                          I think it was always we were hoping they cannot hold out much longer..........but we underestimated their resolve.
                          Secretary of defense Robert McNamara knew not winnable in 1966. He wrote a book about it. Seems to me he said Sin Loy GI.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mark45y View Post
                            Secretary of defense Robert McNamara knew not winnable in 1966. He wrote a book about it. Seems to me he said Sin Loy GI.
                            Funny........I don't remember that press release in 1966.........

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jeffdoorgunnr View Post
                              Funny........I don't remember that press release in 1966.........
                              He kept quiet about it at that time. Also in the years following his resignation/sacking. However, his later writings reveal that that was indeed his conclusion during that time.


                              Philip
                              "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."— Bertrand Russell

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