Tag Archives: mission creep

Where’s Mars and who are the Martians? (The Evacuation of Vietnam)

Too young to join the Army during the Vietnam war itself, I joined later and I wound up assisting in the evacuation of Vietnam in 1975. We got the very first plane full of refugees out and into Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.
There, we, several small Military Police platoons, then had to set up the “abandoned,” infrequently used “on-again-off-again,” dusty base for police operations (police station, jail, force protection, police patrol, clean guns, WW 11 jeeps to fleet cars, etc.). And, we were quickly met with an anti-war protest at the front gates, dodging a few rocks.
Army engineers quickly built a chain-link, fenced-in, refugee “quarters” which looked just like a POW camp. As a young, stupid “man-child” that I was, they all looked like Martians to me captured in a compound. (Years later I was stationed up north in South Korea and while living there in a village, I realized that I was indeed…the Martian.)
I have zero cool stories to tell about the whole “Fall of Vietnam” episode, as I was a young and foolish kid, but years later when the bestselling book was published, I devoured this Fall of Saigon book that fully described the surrounding chaos of the fall. Wow! Another one came out, different author with a much longer title and more of an overlook history than just the “Fall” itself.
I recommend both books. Perhaps there will be a similar book on Afghanistan coming out? Same sad story. As they say, history repeating itself, repeating itself.
Afghanistan, Vietnam, (and others locales) these are all complex situations, full of human error and the curse and lessons of “mission creep.” Trump should thank his lucky stars he didn’t have to “execute” his operation as he had planned to do his version. It would still have been a bit messy.  And now we have the addlepated Biden has with his ass-backwards, slipshod version. The initial “Oh, no worries” expectations of this August, 2021 Afghan pull-out was deadly idiotic. Of course the country would “fold like a cheap suit,” as many boots-on-the-ground-level predicted. The results were and are obvious.
As a combat vet Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill recently said, “name any general and he will be surrounded by 15 ass-kissing, yes men.” Career generals with…careers. REMFs (rear echelon M__F__s) leaders and detached civilian politicians live on another planet. 
Where is Mars and who are the Martians anyway?
More history and photos on this…
On again, off again? Chaffee was busy through the years. Elvis Presley was once processed in Chaffee.
This is not me on the stairs. There were many planes coming in after our first plane. This is a news photo of our MPs helping folks.
Our MP contingent (just a few platoons) did all this, and were replaced within weeks by a whole MP company from Fort Hood, Texas. We had to return to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. The relief from Ft. Hood arrived! A whole company of MPs, with gear and equipment in a long convoy. This is a news photo from there and this is also exactly how I remember their arrival.)
Through the following years, many refugees were processed though Chaffee and condition improved as they were quartered in the old Army style barracks as seen in this photo. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. From 1975 to 1976, Fort Chaffee processed 50,809 Vietnam War refugees, including Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian and Hmong people. Many were granted permanent, legal residence in the United States as political refugees. One story on this… https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/jun/20/44-years-later-refugees-revisit-1st-u-s/