Yes It’s True: Reflections on another troop withdrawal


The news about the U.S. soon withdrawing from Afghanistan prompted memories of America’s leaving South Vietnam on April 30, 1975.

I know, there often are posts on Facebook that assert something to the effect: “Today is the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. pullout from Vietnam and there is no mention in the media.” So I have to post in response the actual date of the withdrawal, once again calling out fake news.

But there was something else about that fateful day. Please bear with me.

Long ago and far away, the Albion Evening Recorder, where I toiled as editor, hired Vietnamese native Ngo Trung Dung (pronounced “Yoong”) of Ann Arbor to do repairs on our computer system whenever it would take a crap, which was too often.

Yoong intimidated everybody on the Recorder staff because his broken English was spoken poorly and often he would be misunderstood. So I began to engage in the same practice I did years before with hearing impaired Allen Armintrout at Wayland High School by studying speech patterns and imitating him.

I can already hear the complaints that I was being cruel and mistreating our Vietnamese contracted employee, but using the Amintrout Principles, I was able to pick up enough to become a Yoong interpreter and when he came to Albion he would always ask to talk to me.

I found out early that Yoong could not pronounced the letter “b.” He always referred to the AP Wire Board as “AB Wia Boa.” He called the key punch, “The Bunch.”

But there was an upside. After completing his repair tasks, he would suggest we go “Over There,” pointing to Cascarelli’s Tavern across the street for a stirring round of draft beers and pizza. Yes, he couldn’t pronounce “Cascarelli’s,” but he always picked up the tab.

During such reveries, with glass in hand and monocle at ease, he told me stories about himself. I was surprised he was a huge fan of Richard Nixon, but noted he was a male chauvinist pig.

Yoong was a major in the South Vietnamese Air Force, and on that fateful day of April 30, 1975, he helicoptered an endangered group of people from the top of a building in Saigon and flew to safety, barely eluding a group of Viet Cong.

So Yoong had a personal birds-eye view of that day that continues to live in infamy — the day these colors had to run away. It was a serious admission that we lost that war. Two years earlier, Nixon withdrew U.S. troops and left the South Vietnamese to fend for themselves.

They say history repeats itself, but it doesn’t have to. We essentially did the same thing in Vietnam that we did years later  in Iraq and Afghanistan, we invaded a sovereign country that regarded us as unwelcome intruders. As bad as Saddam Hussein, Ho Chi Minh, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban were and are, we instead were seen as the bad guys everywhere except the U.S., where corrupt and lazy politicians were whipping us into patriotic frenzy to justify the conflict and pay homage to the Military-Industrial Complex.

I have long maintained my theory of history of wars in which the more powerful parent nation engages what is viewed as colonialism, but eventually loses because it doesn’t live there and is too far away to keep the peace in the weaker country.

The irony is that this country was born on the principle. A bunch or rag-tag colonists were able to expel the most powerful military in the world in 1781, Great Britain, because those Brits didn’t live here, they were an ocean away.

There have been many examples since, such as the British in India, the Spanish in Mexico, the French in Algeria and in Vietnam, the Soviets in Afghanistan and there are many more.

I could quote Georges Santayana yet again, but this time I’ll go with Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and the Kingston Trio singing in 1962, “When will they ever learn?

1 Comment

  • Reflections on withdrawal clearly outlined the pattern, but didn’t note the possible outcomes. US totally defeated Germany and and Japan in WWII but instead of creating colonies, set up conditions for prosperous nations. Similar attempts in Central America did not result in stable governments, just as has been the results in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can lead a nation to democracy, but we cannot make them be honestly democratic.

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