Vietnam II: A War Novel Episode 2 (V2) (3 page)

BOOK: Vietnam II: A War Novel Episode 2 (V2)
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                             BUILD UP

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Adams

State Department

Washington D.C.


America’s first move was to hurt the Vietnamese economically.  U.S. seapower moved into the Gulf of Tonkin to deny Vietnam access to the resources he needed to maintain their own forces.  The United Nations imposed an embargo, which was enforced by an international force of destroyers and frigates in the Gulf of Tonkin.  They blocked arms shipments.  Until the moment the embargo began, Vietnam had spent very little on spare parts and ammunition; famously, they had depended on the Soviet Union for maintenance and resupply.  Now the Soviet Union was no more and outliers like Vietnam and Cuba were scrambling to find their way.  Their only other major supplier had been China, but their wartime ally had become their wartime enemy by the early eighties. 

Vietnam was effectively alone.

Like all embargoes, this one could not be foolproof, but it was effective.  Blocking Vietnam’s resupply had important wartime consequences.  Without arms and ammunition they would not be able to sustain combat.  That meant that every day they would grow weaker as the U.S. military remained at the same level.  This was important as the last months of 1990 came to a close Vietnam had the fifth largest army in the world.  America’s army was not even in the top twenty.

Theoretically the embargo would hurt them as they would not be able to reconstruct or replace their wartime losses.  On a long enough timeline it got real scientific.  Of course with Congress and the American public there was no guarantee that we would have all the time we needed.

Other measures would have to be taken to find the POWs other than a full frontal assault.

The embargo was only made possible by a ship-tracking system that had been developed for tracking the Soviet fleet.  It had only completed its tests and brought into service a month before the crisis began.

In addition shipping was unopposed.  Vietnam lacked friends along the routes the ships took. 

The embargo also had the virtue of giving American forces something to do.  Had negotiations been the only tool for civilian lawmakers then there would have been more pressure not to fight.  As it was the buildup of forces meant to pressure the Vietnamese would also become an overwhelming force demanding a consensus for military action.  The next test would be for the Vietnamese government to pass.  Would they give up the POWs peacefully or would force be necessary.

In the meantime Americans deployed a holding force which would double as the embargo enforces.  Behind them the army of personnel and mountain of material would flow into the Pacific theater and ready for battle.




Senior Airman Bobby Sherman

Airborne Radio Operator

Command Solo

Voice of the Gulf


I hated flying.  I threw up every time no matter how smooth the air was at altitude.  It made me feel bad.  There were guys coming through basic all the time begging for a flying job and here one was wasted on me.

I was an electronic communication systems operator on Command Solo.  The Command Solo was a specially modified Hercules C-130 transport.  We conducted Military Information Support Operation (MISO) and civil affairs broadcasts in AM, FM, HF, TV as well as military communications bands.

“Do you want to practice it again?”  I asked Airman First Class Barber.  Her voice was about to be broadcast to millions of people.  If she was nervous it didn’t show.

“No.  I’m ready.  Let’s roll.”  She said looking confident as she reread the script for the final time.

We had forward deployed to Thailand a week ago and we had just gotten the word that we were going to start broadcasting.  We flew alone.  A typical mission consists of an orbit offset from the desired target audience.  In this case we were able to cover a wide swath of the country of Vietnam and never leave Thai airspace.

“Alright,” I pointed at her and gave her thumbs up.  I pressed the transmitter and we were live.  “You’re on.”

“Good Morning Vietnam!” Barber said into the headset.  “This is the United States Air Force.  We want our countrymen returned.  We do not want conflict.  We just want our servicemen back.” 

We broadcast on unused civilian frequencies for now.  Anyone with an AM or FM radio should be able to pick us up.  We were working on a video to broadcast on television as well, but we had not gotten the go ahead on that yet.  The only thing we did not do was jam their frequencies.  That was considered an act of war.

“Implore your leaders to return our countrymen.  Let’s continue to live in peace together.”  Airman Barber said in her best newscaster voice.


Lieutenant Colonel Carol Madison

U.S. Air Force Intelligence Officer

Defense Intelligence Agency


We got the word that they were standing up an Air Operations Center at Hickam to oversee the embargo.  The requirement came down the next week for a member from our flight.  I took a look at the usual suspects.  Carter’s wife was having a baby in January.  James’ wife was having a baby in February.  Johnson was a good choice, but he was a cross trainee from Supply and had not completed his training.  That left Luciano and myself and Luciano was on the verge of a divorce.  So it looked like I was going to spend six months in Hawaii. 

At least it was a nice location.

I told my family I would probably be home around Christmas and I really thought so. 

The staff gave me a farewell like I was being sent to the Fulda Gap.  It was sweet.  I took my Best Boss Ever coffee cup with me when I left that Saturday morning.

When I arrived at Hickam things were jumping.  They were putting the operations center together from the ground up.  I followed the JX lead and tried to insert myself.

“Air Force is here.”

“A lieutenant colonel?  We’re going to put you in charge of air intel.”

“What are we looking at for air intercept?”

“That is already ticking.  We are getting in the weeds with tanker slots, but it is all coming together.  What we need is a solid bombing plan.  High value targets, infrastructure…we want to hit them where it will hurt the most.”

They gave me briefing slides to look over for the next stage.  I stopped halfway through them.

“This looks like an invasion.”

“That’s it exactly.  You’re up to speed.  We want to know all the targets that are vital to the air defense system.”

“In which region of the country?  There are multiple air defense systems.”  Most countries had multiple defensive systems in order to eliminate a single point of failure.  Vietnam was no exception.

“All of them.  We want to strike everywhere at once and gain air superiority within the first day, if not preferably the first hours of an escalation.”

I was taken aback.  That had never been done before.

Escalation was a word that I heard a lot over the next few days.  No one wanted to call it war or an invasion. 

The operation did not even have a name yet.  Officers floated different names around and it went upstairs to be blessed.  Some of the operation name front runners included Absolute Freedom, Homeward Bound, and Lightning Strikes.  Acronyms were a little different.  Acronyms took on a life of their own.  For example, even in those first few weeks when the embargo was in its infant stages and the air war was in its genesis I was starting to hear two other acronyms that would become part of the American experience.  The first Vietnam War was referred to sometimes as VW1, but more often or not just V1.  What we were planning for then and what I still had not accepted was going to happen at that point was V2.



Lieutenant Colonel Paul Adams

State Department

Washington D.C.


So far it was an all Navy show.  Of course they would have the lead since they were the only service that could effectively execute a sea embargo.

For the Navy, the second Vietnam War was their first introduction to the post-Cold War world.  It was the first major joint air operation since Goldwater Nichols and the services’ defeat in the first Vietnam War, and it again involved extensive tactical ground attack.  New weapons, some developed from the lessons learned from the last conflict, would see combat for the first time.  The debut of the non-nuclear version of the Tomahawk land attack missile was at hand.  Vietnam II would call for littoral operations as well, including mine countermeasures and blue water combat against small Vietnamese missile attack boats, which were more likely to be featured in future Third World conflicts rather than the large capital ships like battleships and carriers the United States employed.  All of these changes in hardware required new tactics.

With an iron clad endorsement from the United Nations the embargo began.  It was directed against Vietnamese sea traffic.  The entire country of Vietnam was a coastline so Vietnamese shipping could approach the Gulf anywhere over a very wide arc, and even with the navy’s best efforts there few frigates, destroyers and combat vessels available to enforce it.  The Vietnamese, moreover, were well aware that any errors in enforcing the embargo would fall squarely on the shoulders of the United States and might prove embarrassing enough to bring about its suspension.  With that in mind the Vietnamese concealed contraband weapons among baby food onboard a freighter.  To add to an already risky situation public relations wise, the ship was crewed by Vietnamese women. The hope was that they could film burly Marines roughing up women up onboard an innocent ship carrying humanitarian aid.  In reality the US Navy knew exactly what was in every container onboard that ship and that was not by accident.

The embargo was made possible by a sophisticated ship-tracking system devised to target missile attacks against the Cold War Soviet fleet.  The ship-tracking system was called JOTS (Joint Operational Tactical System), and it’s had passed its acceptance test that summer and onboard US warships that fall.  It turned out to be one of the most valuable tools of the embargo.  The system employed shore-based data fusion centers that communicated via satellite with computers aboard ships at sea.  The computers collected the massive information and collated it ashore and then used satellites to carry a near time picture of shipping identities and movements.

The beauty of the system was that it depended mainly on computer software, not specialized hardware.  This particular software ran on any standard commercial computer.  Up until then the philosophy of the military had been a special tool for a special job.  Now there would be one tool for every job with specialized software.  The computer revolution had reached the Navy.  Earlier military systems, which could never be made in great numbers to begin with, and which took years to field, was dramatic. 

Of course the navy would not be alone for long. 

Help was on the way.


Captain William Bell

F-15 Driver

FL220 Over the Western Pacific


When the United States launched Operation Jungle Shield on Aug. 6, 1990, days after the release of the 1405 Document the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing was one of the first units to be deployed.  It was a long way from the Langley Air Force Base, Virginia to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.  We began flying our F-15C Eagles with only a few hours’ notice.  It was something we were trained for, but I don’t think anyone was ready for.  Forty-eight Eagles made the longest fighter deployment in history on that day, flying 18-hours nonstop from Langley to Clark, with six to eight air refuelings per aircraft enroute.

The flight was the worst experience of my life.

I thought it was an exercise so all I brought to eat was one stick of beef jerky and a pack of gum.

By the eighth hour I was losing feeling in my legs from a pinched nerve in my back.

At the ten hour point my piss tube either malfunctioned or the tank was full.  The system coughed up a load of wet, cold liquid all over me.  I could not even say that it was all my own pee. 

I’m hungry and tired to begin with and now my balls were wet.  I was ready to take on the Vietnamese Air Force with the Soviets and the Chinese right behind them just for a chance to get shot down and eject from that fucking fighter. 

The Philippines could not get here soon enough.


Major Wesley Clinton

B-52 Aircraft Commander

FL300 Over the Southern Pacific Ocean


Two days after C-Day, I picked up the phone on a Saturday afternoon.  On the other end of the line my squadron commander said "Be here in 2 hours with your bags packed.  We’re going away indefinitely."

Four days later my crew along with the rest of the squadron found ourselves flying to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.  We would be integrated into the 4301st Bomb Wing upon arrival.  The unit was a hodge podge made up of B-52s and crews from all over the states including Castle, Loring, Griffiss and Barksdale.

We were tasked to make high altitude runs against major industrial and military targets as well as low altitude runs against Vietnamese armor columns if a ground invasion moved forward.  No one was using that language at that point.  It was all a lot of rumor and hearsay at that point.  The only thing we knew was that something was going to happen.

I knew Guam was not an exciting place to deploy, but fortunately we had a lot to occupy ourselves with.  We would spend the next five months training for what was coming next.  The training became much more serious when it was about to get real.

All we had to do was get there.


BOOK: Vietnam II: A War Novel Episode 2 (V2)
8.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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