February 1, 2006  

Don’t blame Air Force

I wish to rebut the statement made by Loren Thompson in “Finesse trumps firepower” in the December issue. Mr. Thompson asserted that “America still suffered the greatest military defeat in its history. And so there was a second turning point in Air Force history, as air power theorists assimilated the limits of overkill.”

This is a very misleading assertion to any lay reader who may not understand that the Air Force had barely begun to fight before being suppressed by Washington. Vietnam was not a military defeat, but a political one.

Every service, and especially the Air Force, suffered as a result of being fully restrained by a micromanaged political machine that directed the war from Washington. Officials in Washington ran the war in Vietnam without any clear, independent and militarily decisive objectives to accomplish in support of clear and decisive political objectives. Once the political leadership changed and allowed a modest unshackling of the Air Force in Operation Linebacker I and again in Linebacker II, a great political gain was achieved in Geneva. Unfortunately, the modest success afforded to the Air Force in combat operations was again stifled and fully restrained by a micromanaging political machine that directed the war from Washington once again.

The Washington-centralized control of the military in Vietnam, and especially the Air Force, culminated in a propagandized defeat of the military by cultural pundits in an elitist media. This veteran rejects the statement that the military — and specifically the Air Force — was defeated in Vietnam as a result of overkill.

Stanley Puckett

Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii