On this day in history, 1973, the last U.S. combat troops left South Vietnam as Hanoi freed the remaining American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam. In 1961, after two decades of indirect military aid, President John F. Kennedy sent the first large force of U.S. military personnel to Vietnam to bolster the ineffective regime of South Vietnam against the communist North. Three years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered limited bombing raids on North Vietnam and Congress authorized the use of U.S. troops. By 1965, Johnson jumped troop levels to more than 300,000 as U.S. air forces commenced the largest bombing campaign in history. Finally, in January 1973, representatives of the United States, North and South Vietnam, and the Vietcong signed a peace agreement ending direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam. Its key provisions included a cease-fire throughout Vietnam, the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the release of prisoners of war, and the reunification of North and South Vietnam through peaceful means.
Throughout history there have been thousands of wars. The bloodiest war in American history was not Vietnam. Nor was it WWI or WWII. It was the Civil War. Much like the war of Vietnam, the Civil War pitted brother against brother. It’s interesting that when we went to war with a foreign enemy, as we have done many times, we lost fewer lives. It was when we fought against ourselves that we lost more soldiers than any other time in American history.
That’s a good lesson for America today . . . but one we seem slow to learn.