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Articles about Khe Sanh and the fight in Khe Sanh Village

In recent weeks we have posted an entire series of articles on the events leading up to the siege of the Khe Sanh Combat Base (KSCB).  If one sews the articles together he will have much of the story leading up to the siege.  This article provides a road map for those who want to catch up on what happened 50 years ago January 21, 1968.

Visit the 29 minute video of Nhi and I talking about Khe Sanh.

 Was America Duped at Khe Sanh—debunks an article in the New York Times about North Vietnamese strategy leading up to Khe Sanh

 General Westmoreland and the Vietnam War Strategy—continues the discussion of the false items in the previously mentioned New York Times article.  It presents the dueling strategies of the two sides.

 Limited War and Rules of Engagement—presents a discussion of the problems with limited war concepts and how they related to Rules of Engagement.

 Khe Sanh—the intelligence build up—explains the origins of the title Expendable Warriors.

 Command and Control in the Khe Sanh Area of Operations (AO)—explains the quagmire that was the local command and control situation.  Lack of unity of command lead to a lack of unity of effort.

 The march towards the opening of the siege of the Khe Sanh Combat Base—explains the North Vietnamese Army approach towards the village of Khe Sanh.

 1968 Advisory Team 4 Newsletter—how the battle around the village was originally explained in a newsletter published by Advisory Team 4 headquarters in Quang Tri.

 The village fight 2—further explains what happened during the defense of the District Headquarters

 Air Support for Khe Sanh Village—explains the various forms of air support that were used to support the defenders of the District Headquarters and how they were coordinated for.

 The Battle of Khe Sanh Village is Over—the Advisory Team the district forces withdraw after the Marines are withdrawn and further artillery support is denied.

Each of these articles can be found on https://brucebgclarke.com/

January 21 & 22, 1968, Battle of Khe Sanh Ville

My friend and fellow Khe Sanh district headquarters warrior wrote the following as a tribute to all  of the warriors involved in the defense of the District headquarters.  I should note that john earned the silver star for his bravery during this fight,  I share very deeply John’s admiration for all of the warriors involved.

14 Marines, 24 BRU PF’s, 4 Army advisors, 131 Vietnamese Regional Forces – a total of 173 warriors

  • Over a thousand NVA were killed, unknown how many were wounded
  • Over two hundred KIA’s can be credited to our ground forces

What we did as a team is hard to match in combat history when we review all the facts:

  • No American lives were lost, and none were severely wounded
  • Our ground forces were fighting as a composite larger group, some as independent small two-man teams
  • We were never over run by NVA or anyone else
  • Our BRU fought as hard and long as any of us
  • Our battle was in daylight
  • NVA were as close to us as thirty feet
  • Most of our kills were done between fifty to thirty feet from us

Regional Forces took the largest attack and held their positions

  • They received our highest losses of the 36-hour battle

Men to be acknowledged:

  • , Bruce Clarke, credited for at least 800 KIA NVA by calling in:
    • Over 1,000 VT rounds of artillery
    • Over 30 air strikes
  • Nin, commanded 133 Vietnamese Regional Forces
  • Sgt Jim Perry, dealt with many of our wounded comrades
  • Russell, Cpl. Verner R., and his BRU PF are credited with at least 40 plus KIA NVA
  • McKinnis, and Still, LCpl. C.E. (Butch) took positions of leadership and kept that position throughout the battle, are credited with too many to count KIA NVA.
  • All fighting warriors did more than their share to make the attacking regiment combat ineffective

LISTING:

US Advisory Team  Khe Sanh Ville

Clarke, Capt. Bruce B G

Perry, SFC. James

Kasper, SFC

King, SFC

 

Nhi, Capt. (District Chief)

915th RF Co.-Two Platoons – (131 warriors)

 

CAC – OSCAR Company

Stamper, Lt. Thomas B.

Boyda, SSgt. Robert (Gunny)

 

OSCAR – 1

Bru Popular Forces

Balanco, Sgt. John J.

Russell, Cpl. Verner R.

Loshelder, Cpl. John (Lou)

Dilley, Cpl.

Breedlove, LCpl.

Dahler, LCpl.

Mc McKinnis, LCpl. Howard

Ramos, LCpl. Jose

Reyes, LCpl. Ulysses

Still, LCpl. C.E. (Butch)

Vera, LCpl. Antonio

Whiting, LCpl.

 

If any fighting force can match our performance, I have not read, heard, or have knowledge of during any part of any combat in the entire history of Khe Sanh (1962 – 1975).  Our job was to kill the enemy, with the least amount of losses.  That is how we win wars!

Gentlemen you are the Best!  I am so proud to have served with all of you!

Without the following men and units, the battle would have been doomed to complete failure with all of us being killed or captured:

OSCAR – 2  — Also simultaneously fighting heroically for their lives and killing a substantial amount of NVA

Bru Popular Forces

Harper, Sgt. Roy

Sullivan, Cpl. Dan

Harper, Cpl.

Harding, Cpl.

Batchman, LCpl. Frank

Tyson, LCpl.

Gullickson, Pfc.

Biddle, Pfc.

Matonias, Pfc. Daniel

Roberts, Corpsman John

Artillery Support – 13th Marines, 1st Battalion, Battery C

Forward Air Controllers (FAC)

– Britt, Capt.  (ordering in 30 ea. fast mover air strikes in and near our defensive wire)

– Cooper, Capt.  ; Flying – L-19 observation plane

Quang Tri Province Advisors

– Brewer, Robert  – Senior Advisor (CIA)

– Seymoe, Lt.Col. Joseph  –  Deputy Advisor (Army) (KIA)

282nd Assault Helicopter Company

– Stiner, Capt. Tommy

– McKinsey, WO (KIA)

– Howlington, Spec.-4 (KIA)

– Elliott, Pvt. (MIA)

– Hill, Sgt. (KIA)

– Williams, SP5 Danny (KIA)

– Thirteen American pilots (KIA)

– Fourteen American crew members (KIA)

256th Regional Forces Company, ARVN 1st Division (most – KIA}

– Seventy-four RF soldiers (KIA or missing)

Army–Navy (and USMC) roles and missions vice system conflict

As we previously reported on 20 October, “the Army is looking at extending the range of its Precision Strike Missile to 800 KM.  This come following the dissolution of the INF Treaty which had limited ground based missile ranges to 500 KM.  The Army’s Precision Fires Cross-functional team will ill conduct its first flight tests from two competitor companies before the end of the year.  After the tests the Army will talk to the competitors about pursuing the extended ranges.”

This range extension is specifically oriented towards the ability to conduct operations in the Pacific from land based sites.  Recently Jane’s has reported that the Navy and the USMC are looking at developing shore based Naval Strike Missiles.  The concept is to take an existing sea based system and develop it so that it could be deployed on the land in support of USMC operations.

Inherent in the above are several inter-service conflicts.

  • Do the naval strike missiles have the same capability as the Precision Strike Missiles that the Army is developing? If so are we seeing a duplication of effort and waste of resources?
  • Is the island defense and land based missiles to assist in this an Army or USMC role and mission?

Presently the USMC does not contain any long range missile units while the Army does.  It would thus appear that this is an Army mission—not a USMC mission. BUT

It would also appear the Naval Strike Missile could at least provide a start point for the Army Precision Strike Missile.

We would hope that the secretary of Defense will have these conflicts in roles and systems examined to save resources.

War power limitations on the president—putting the recent House resolution in perspective

The War Powers Resolution was passed in 1973 by both Houses of Congress, overriding the veto of President Nixon. It was passed to reassert Congressional authority over the decision to send American troops to war.  After President Nixon ordered the bombing of Cambodia without Congress’s consent, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution of 1973, intended to limit the president’s authority to conduct war.

At the time, President Richard Nixon vetoed the bill on constitutional grounds, arguing that the measure would define presidential war powers “in ways which would strictly limit his constitutional authority.” Nonetheless, a two-thirds majority in each congressional chamber overrode the veto.

The War Powers Resolution requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30-day withdrawal period, without a congressional authorization for use of military force or a declaration of war by the United States.

There have been several instances when the President has not notified Congress within the required 48 hours.  In the case of the attack on General Soleimani the Trump administration made such a notification.  However it would be easy to argue that Congress has already authorized military activities in Iraq and therefore that such a notification was not required.

Yesterday Congressional Democrats, seemed  blissfully unaware of then-President Barack Obama’s rather expansive interpretation of the War Powers Resolution of 1973 during his strategically disastrous 2011 operation to oust Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi, suddenly seemed to care an awful lot about constitutional norms and separation of powers principles. Intellectual hypocrisy again.

Specifically, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House of Representatives debated whether to Congressionally impose War Powers Resolution limitations upon President Trump’s unilateral ability to ratchet up militancy actions with the Islamic Republic of Iran. In their crusade to hamstring the president’s conduct of his foreign policy vis-à-vis the Iranian regime, House Democrats even found several libertarian-leaning Republican allies.

In my opinion this exercise was misguided, because the War Powers Resolution is, and always has been, unconstitutional.  It has never been challenged in the courts.  This most recent effort was really an attempt by the Democrats to embarrass the president.

The Constitution divides foreign affairs powers between the legislative and executive branches. Among other enumerated powers in Article I, Section 8, Congress has the ability to “declare War,” “raise and support Armies,” “provide and maintain a Navy,” “make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces,” “provide for calling forth the Militia,” and “provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia.”

On the other hand, Article II of the Constitution provides that “[t]he President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.” The very first clause of Article II also vests the president with “[t]he executive Power” — meaning a “residual” foreign affairs power that encompasses all those powers not expressly delegated to Congress in Article I, Section 8.

Many legal scholars have conducted a careful, line-by-line overview of Congress’s enumerated powers and have concluded that the constitution does not provide a legislative means that could feasibly justify the War Powers Resolution. The most likely candidate is the Declare War Clause, but that provision happens to be woefully misunderstood by many lawyers and politicians across the ideological spectrum.

Congress can intervene to halt a president if it views a reckless warmonger is using the manifold tools it has at its disposal:

  • Decreasing the size of the Pentagon’s budget by going line item-by-line item and removing various offensive-oriented materiel from the Department of Defense’s arsenal, or using its more general power of the purse to defund a war effort in its entirety
    • This was what eventually happened in the Vietnam War case.

This interpretation of the Declare War Clause should not be nearly as controversial as it is. At the 1787 constitutional convention, the Framers actually conscientiously substituted out “make War” with “declare War.” In so doing, James Madison explained that it was imperative to leave to the president the “power to repel sudden attacks.” This ought to make a great deal of sense; as Alexander Hamilton would explain only six months after the constitutional convention in The Federalist No. 70, “[d]ecision, activity, secrecy, and despatch will generally characterize the proceedings of one man in a much more eminent degree than the proceedings of any greater number.”

Finally, in Article I, Section 10, the Constitution precludes a state from “engag[ing] in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.” The Framers were therefore aware of multiple verbs — “make” and “engage” — that could have clearly conveyed the meaning of an initiation of hostilities. But they didn’t use those words, and they didn’t use them for a reason. The Framers understood that there was great merit to leaving decisions such as the commencement of hostilities to one man, and not to a fractious Congress.

Congress already has a number of tools at its disposal to push back against a crusading commander-in-chief. As Andrew McCarthy wrote this week at Fox News, “No statute is needed to provide Congress with the power to frustrate unauthorized presidential war-making. The Constitution empowers the legislature to do so by simply refusing to appropriate funds for military action.” But the Declare War Clause means something fundamentally different than what many believe it does.

No president, to date, has abided by the war powers act!  Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, Libya being cases in point. They have avoided a legal show down by advising Congress after the fact of military action.  President Obama in 2016 wrote: “I am providing this supplemental consolidated report, prepared by my Administration and consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148), as part of my efforts to keep the Congress informed about deployments of U.S. Armed Forces equipped for combat.”  The term “consistent with” has been used by multiple presidents.  They were saying that their notification was not “as required” by the resolution, but “consistent with” it..  This wording was used to avoid a legal challenge to the requirements for notification of Congress for fear of the president losing to a liberal judiciary and thus a resulting limitation on presidential power.

The debate over the war powers of the Congress versus the President will continue and in most cases it will be highlighted when a house of Congress is controlled by a political party that does not control the White House.  This is what we have just observed.

The strategic question is highlighted by the preemptive attack versus defensive reaction.  If the War Powers goal of the House Democrats was to take away the president’s ability to preempt an Iranian attack it is both a strategic mistake and inconsistent with the war powers resolution.  This is precisely what the Democrats sought: The resolution “requires the president to consult with Congress in every possible instanced before introducing United States Armed Forces in hostilities.” As a perceived new limitation on the ability of the president to use the military to protect US interests it would be tantamount to strategic surrender to the Iranians by denying the president multiple strategic options.  This action thus must surely be nothing more than the Democrats expressing their angst against a successful presidential action.

The debate over war powers will most likely continue and will most likely never been  finalized because the extreme answers available are strategic mistakes and such is realized by most clear thinking personnel.

Where are we going

One thing about getting older is that my personal data base has gotten much larger, however through all of the political battles and discussions of war and peace that I have observed and participated in I have never seen a political party that through its hypocrisy, lies and lack of constitutional grounding do so much to destroy our republic and divide the country.  I am going to list some activities and then focus on the international situation in the post-Soleimani era.  The Democrats have:

  • Weaponized impeachment such that every future president who is opposed by the other party in the House of Representatives is an odds on favorite to be impeached for looking cross-eyed during the state-of-the-union.
    • Now we hear that the House Intelligence Committee may consider the Soleimani attack as ground for another article of impeachment. (This could be an event filled with hypocrisy as all of Obama’s drone strikes are discussed.)
  • The Speaker of the House is now seeking to micro-manage the President by proposing legislation that would limit the President’s authority in the current dust-up over the death of General Soleiman. The result would be to contribute to the overall lessening of presidential power that the Democrats seek given their lack of competitive candidates for the 2020 election.
  • The left and their media allies are treating General Soleimani as a hero, not the butcher that he was. Of course they couldn’t congratulate the President for exploiting intelligence and attacking General Soleimani before he could launch his next terrorist attack.
    • These critiques include questioning every military move made by the administration. The current media frenzy suggests that Saddam Hussein was correct when he determined that the US center of gravity was/is the body bag.  Unfortunately, military operations are dangerous events and there will be casualties.  But preemptive actions are designed to limit civilian and other casualties.
    • By being afraid to suffer casualties (or even to appear that way) we are emboldening our enemies to try and inflict casualties. Thus, we should blame the Democrats and their media cohorts for every soldier, sailor airman or Marine who may become a casualty.  My liberal friends will challenge this logic only because they know that it is correct and that hurts.  Deterrence is about perceptions and the media and the Democrats are providing the wrong perceptions. 
      • Deterrence can include bluster. They have 35 targets and we have 52.  Have they tried to hit 2 of their targets with their attack in Kenya and the cyber-attack against the national library?  If so then we should expect several reactions in the coming days.  The management of these targets will tell us a lot—whether there is an attempt to manage escalation or not.
      • The composition of targets will also tell us a lot—casualty producing targets versus infrastructure/war fighting capabilities.

So where are we going?  The Iranians are most likely emboldened by all of the political noise coming from the Democrats.  This in ways seems like Deja vue all over again.  The North Vietnamese could never defeat the United States on the battlefield but they undermined the political will to finish the fight.  The current messages that our opponents are seeing is that the political will to fight has again been undermined—not by the acts of the Iranians or any of their proxies but by the desire of the left and the media to destroy this President and our current form of government.

We can only hope that people with reason will step forward as new leaders of the Democratic Party.

Attack kills Quds Force leader

As was to be expected after the US attack on General Qassem Soleimani the media speculation, comparisons with the Clinton impeachment and scare mongering has dominated the “news” media.

First we should establish the known facts:

  • A US strike[i] killed General Qassem Soleimani, the powerful head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in Baghdad
    • The Quds have been responsible for the death of hundreds of US personnel in Iraq.
    • The attack unfolded early on Friday local time in a precision strike on two cars that were carrying Soleimani
    • Soleimani had just arrived in Baghdad on a flight from Syria and was leaving the airport when he was hit
  • The attack also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of Iranian militias in Iraq which led the attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad.
  • Both the US Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State have stated unequivocally that the Iranians, using their proxies such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the militias in Iraq were plotting attacks against US personnel and interests in the region.[ii]
    • The attack has therefore been categorized as a deterrent or preemptive attack.[iii]

The media hype has focused on the unrest that this attack is going to create.  The speculation includes:

  • Terrorist activities in the middle-east against US military and other targets
  • Attacks by “sleeper” cells in the US
  • Efforts by Iran to close the Straits of Hormuz
  • Attacks against Israel by Iranian proxies
  • Cyber-attacks anywhere in the world

The media has even gone so far in at least one case to refer to the attack as an assassination.  Of course this is an attempt to create another article of impeachment as assassination is against a US avowed practice as outlined in an Executive Order signed by Ronald Reagan.  This attempt is far fetched, but shows how desperate some “pundits” are.  The General was a military combatant on a battlefield and had just been responsible for an attack on a US embassy.  End of the assassination impeachment idea!

Each of the above attacks by Iran is possible.  One can be sure that US, Israeli and Saudi forces are watching for any and all such attacks.  One can also expect that any indicator of the possibility of a given type of attack could cause another pre-preemptive effort.

What if this attack, when coupled with the effect of the embargoes against Iran, is the tipping point that causes Iran to truly seek accommodation by pledging to withdraw its support of proxy forces throughout the region and agreement to adhere to a realistic regime of inspections and limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of the embargo.  Most will find this unlikely.  It does clearly define the US goal vis-à-vis Iran.

A possible scenario is that Iran does seek revenge by one of the above types of attacks and it is soundly stopped or pre-empted.  How many such rebuffs can Iran tolerate before internal domestic pressures cause political change?

Finally. Might this attack convince the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that he is also at risk and be another cause of an Iranian reversal of policy?  Only time will tell, but all of the gloom and doom punditry is most likely just irresponsible punditry.

A follow up attack today killed another Quds Force leader.

 

As this gets posted the media is full of reportedly inflamed rhetoric from Iran and its proxies. Reportedly Iran has at least 35 targets on its target list, which could include US bases, ships, etc. and Saudi and Israeli targets.  We will follow such engagements, preemptions and reactions and report again in coming days.[iv]

[i] 1.  The speculation also abounds on the nature of the attack.  In one article the attack is described as an airstrike, a drone attack and a helicopter attack.  For sure it was one of these.  Each could launch precision munitions that could track and engage the two vehicle convoy.  The exact platform from which the munitions were launched may never be released.

2 ‘General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,’ the Pentagon statement said.

3..  Obviously, there was an ongoing surveillance of Soleimani using multiple means.  The New York Times reported that Friday’s attack drew upon a combination of highly classified information from informants, electronic intercepts, reconnaissance aircraft and other surveillance techniques. This shows how important the General’s activities were.

4. John Bolton is even reported as hoping that this will be the beginning of efforts to cause regime change in Iran. We will see.

Draining the swamp

The swamp is not a new phenomenon—it is just a new name for a reality that started in the Roosevelt administration.  When government began growing at a rapid rate political appointees hired civil servants who shared their vision of what a new policy to be implemented would bring.  This large number of oriented civil service grew over time.

Throughout the years as political leaders changed they tried to change the civil service as new positions were created and older bureaucrats retired.  I can remember during the Nixon administration a long debate about how to neutralize Kennedy/Johnson liberal bureaucrats. During the Reagan administration a bureaucrat who opposed his arms control policy was given a closet sized office with no phone or computer.  He hung on until Clinton became president and sought to get even with policy prescriptions during the Clinton years.

This hangover of bureaucrats thus is not a new thing.  What is new is how emboldened some of these bureaucrats have become.  NSC staffers personally talking with Presidents of foreign countries and advising them how to “deal” with President Trump.  Such bureaucrats are coming out of the woodwork in their attempt to impeach President Trump.  These hangovers from the Obama years are risking much—pensions and promotions.  This suggests that someone outside of government is offering them a safety net—employment, etc.  Some have gone to CNN and MSNBC, but others are not in poverty as the swamp supporters step up to their aid.

Conversely, one hears little of such behavior in the United Kingdom.  The UK is known for its politically neutral civil servants who serve their political masters devotedly.  The critical difference is one of political culture.  Do US political appointees demand more from civil service appointees than they should?  Does advancement depend upon political orientation?

I have not performed a statistical analysis but given the “drain the swamp” orientation of President Trump one can believe that the administration is finally getting around to “liberal” bureaucrats.  Their cries for support have not been heard by the liberal press as it focuses on impeachment.

Some months ago I argued that behind the smoke screen of Trump’s tweets and other statements the transformation of government was occurring. This related to policy but probably also should be applied to the realignment of civil servants.

The Intelligence Community seems to be a special case.  In observing the activities of members of this group of self-declared elites I am reminded of the Pakistani Intelligence Service (IIS).  The IIS is the power behind the throne and the country.  It has its tentacles throughout Pakistan and has changed the political leadership several times.  Is this the power that the US intelligence community seeks?

What do you think?