|Reviewing stand and main parade ground, site of graduation exercises, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 15 June 1962. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)|
|Major General Harold K. Johnson, Commandant, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 1962. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)|
|President John F. Kennedy, 1962. (Photo courtesy John F. Kennedy Library)|
Kennedy already determined that civil war in Vietnam represented America's vital interests in that summer of 1962. He created the US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) in February and during the year, nearly quadrupled the number of US troops in South Vietnam from 3,200 to 11,300. The war in Vietnam then seemed like an exotic adventure to many of the combat arms officers among the graduates. Army officers who advised South Vietnamese military units experienced combat and danger but did little of the dying. Less than twenty US advisers had been killed in Vietnam thus far.
Leavenworth represented more than just a link to the Army's historic past; it also conferred present and future prestige on him. A CGSC diploma meant Clark could look forward to early promotion to lieutenant colonel, preferential duty assignments, and potential selection to the Army War College or other senior service schools that represented gateways to still higher rank. The prestige had a name---Clark and his classmates referred to it as a ticket punch---and it was as tangible as the diplomas they received.
The most recurrent theme in the diary was Clark’s growing disillusionment with the Army officer corps culture and its failure in Vietnam. He tried to do his best and persevered under trying circumstances, but he soon concluded that American military intervention was doomed. Seldom was he a detached witness. Sometimes, living in the moment, he swept away on an emotional wave. As the diary opens in the summer of 1965, we find Colonel Clark venting his frustration and predicting ultimate American military defeat:
Clark wrote to express introspection as well as frustration. In November 1965, he remembered an incident fifteen years earlier when a private in his airborne infantry platoon was so desperate to hear popular music that he braved North Korean machine gun fire and stole an Army shortwave unit from an abandoned American tank. The story continued:
The diary also revealed the culture of American military occupation in South Vietnam, particularly US soldiers’ bipolar manner when they interacted with the Vietnamese people. Then as now, Americans displayed the best and worst of human behavior. Clark and his fellow officers saw Vietnamese children and peasants as innocent victims of the war and treated them with compassion. As part of “Operation Harelip”,
Clark and his contemporaries were more ambivalent about the adult Vietnamese population. MACV encouraged soldiers to suspect all Vietnamese civilians as potential enemy threats.
The diary documented problematic relationships that developed between American soldiers and Vietnamese women.
Clark soon learned that Dughi was but one of many Westerners who became involved with Vietnamese women. One of his roommates in the bachelor officers’ quarters (BOQ) in
Both Americans and Vietnamese in intercultural relationships ran considerable risks. Some GIs were unwittingly kidnapped, imprisoned, or murdered by Viet Cong insurgents after “girlfriends” used sex to lure them into capture. Other Americans contracted sexually transmitted diseases from Vietnamese girls who kept their “boyfriends” unaware of other sexual partners. Servicemen faced social and professional consequences when they sought treatment in military clinics. MACV doctors provided the command with the names of infected personnel, who faced mandatory court-martial proceedings in such cases. Vietnamese women who had American boyfriends or mothered an Amerasian child faced societal rejection and disapproval from their families and the larger society of
In the situation
|Major General Robert W. Grow. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)|
The Army ordered Major General Maxwell D. Taylor, then the deputy chief of staff for operations and administration, and Major General Alexander Bolling, assistant chief of staff for intelligence, to investigate the case. After the Army hierarchy reviewed Taylor’s and Bolling’s findings, they gave Grow two options: voluntary retirement or court-martial on charges that he compromised classified security information by failing to adequately secure his personal diary. Grow believed he was innocent of the charges. He argued that The Road to War was a clumsy Soviet attempt to discredit him and obtain his relief from the American embassy because he succeeded in obtaining intelligence on Russian military plans. Grow chose court-martial proceedings in order to clear his name and continue his military career.
Grow made a personally disastrous decision. He gave the Army control over all aspects of the case. Chief of Staff Omar Bradley ordered Grow not to make any public statements refuting Squires’ book. The Army classified Grow’s court-martial proceedings as “secret,” and barred the press from covering the July1952 trial. General Hubert Hoover, the presiding judge, denied a defense motion to introduce key documents that might have helped Grow’s case, including the diary. Hoover also refused defense requests to cross-examine Bolling and Taylor.
The court-martial board deliberated for less than an hour before it found Grow guilty of two counts of dereliction of duty and two counts of security infractions. The court ordered the Army to place a letter of reprimand in Grow’s personnel file and suspend him from command for six months. Grow appealed the case until it reached the commander-in-chief, fellow diarist Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1957. The president sustained the court’s findings but remitted its sentence.
The Grow court-martial chilled any remaining enthusiasm Cold War-era Army officers may have felt about recording their personal feelings for posterity. Clark recognized that there was no secure place to store his journal in Saigon. Vietnamese civilians worked in every facet of the American war effort, from hotel rooms to headquarters, and some of them proved to be Viet Cong operatives. He decided to mail his daily diary entries home with the personal letters he sent his family.
Because so few Vietnam-era Army officers of
The diary is valuable because it is a reliable primary source. It is written by a man who befriended, argued with, or came into contact with, most of the major figures of the Vietnam War. Unlike memoirs or oral histories, the diary is a contemporaneous record of events and impressions. When we read the diary, we are with a thirty-seven year-old lieutenant colonel in
Hopefully, the reader is now prepared to accompany Major Clark on his journey to
|Military Air Transport Service travel authorization to Saigon, South Vietnam, for Clark, 8 June 1965. (Document courtesy Richard P. Clark, Jr. Collection)|
-J.R. Clark, 16 January 2011