Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Body Count.

This is coolbert:

"Long Tan - - What Happened?"

"a heroic victory at the Long Tan rubber plantation made headlines across Australia and America. A newspaper editorial even said:"

"it ranks with some of the great stands in military history."

"The Americans subsequently awarded the company the Presidential Unit Citation for 'extraordinary heroism in operations against an opposing armed force.'"

"The Battle of Long Tan is arguably the most famous battle fought by the Australian Army during the Vietnam War. August 18–19, 1966."

Australian forces in Vietnam, engaging a much superior enemy force, emerging victorious, inflicting very heavy losses on the NVA/VC, with minimal loss to themselves. The type of engagement that makes headlines and for which medals are awarded.

"Even though newspaper editors and military chiefs were very impressed with the Diggers, exactly what happened at Long Tan is an issue of contention . . . 108 Diggers were able to defeat 2500 Viet Cong. [???]"

That the Aussies fought with great courage is undeniable. That they were awarded the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation and were worthy of same is also undeniable. THE NUMBER OF ENEMY KILLED IS WHAT IS AT QUESTION. BODY COUNT!!

"The action occurred when D Company of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR) . . . encountered the Viet Cong (VC) 275 Regiment and elements of the D445 Local Forces Battalion."

"There have been accusations that the Australians exaggerated VC and NVA casualties . . . The official Australian count is 245 Communist dead and 150 wounded. The number of NVA/VC killed and wounded was about twice the initial radio report of 188 killed or wounded from Lieutenant-Colonel Colin Townsend. (War Diary) . . . US forces later claimed to have captured documents indicating 800 killed and 1,000 wounded"

The claim has been made, ever since the height of the Vietnam War, that the U.S. military, and presumably the Australians as well, exaggerated, embellished, falsified, and downright lied about the number of enemy killed on the battlefield.

Is this so??!!

Many years ago now [over thirty years], I spoke to a discharged U.S. Army infantry officer [Michael K.] whose task [among many] was to determine enemy body count in the aftermath of a battlefield clash with North Vietnamese/Viet Cong [NVA/VC] units.

An American officer, cruising the battlefield, in the aftermath of a combat action, counting, and trying to determine, as best he could, HOW MANY ENEMY SOLDIERS HAD BEEN KILLED!!

There WAS a certain specific, well-thought-out protocol to determine enemy body count in Vietnam. THIS WAS NOT a helter-skelter, willy-nilly procedure that tended to inflate, deliberately or otherwise, the numbers of enemy soldiers killed. A protocol that went as follows:

* Each enemy dead body found on the battlefield counted as one killed-in-action [KIA]. [DOES THIS REQUIRE ANY FURTHER ELABORATION!!??]

* Each large blood smear counted as one enemy killed-in-action [KIA]. The inability of the NVA/VC to provide quick and appropriate medical care for their wounded meant that such a large loss of blood more or less meant death, even with the absence of a body!

[there was a certain significance to finding a large blood smear on the Vietnam ` battlefield.]

"During the Vietnam War, soldiers reported that shooting an enemy soldier with the M-16 did not kill as quickly as the old 30 caliber weapons. Instead soldiers would follow a massive trail a blood a few feet away from where the enemy soldier had been hit to find him dead from massive blood loss."

* Each large body part found on the battlefield counted as an individual enemy soldier killed-in-action [KIA]. Each foot, hand, leg, arm, or head found counted as a separate enemy dead. Again, the inadequate medical care available to NVA/VC personnel probably meant death for any individual losing a hand, foot, leg, or arm. As for the head taken off, you decide for yourself.

At this point, I interjected, “how do you know that finding a hand, foot, leg, arm and head on the battlefield is not five enemy killed-in-action but is rather the same individual blow into smithereens??”

"smith·er·eens - - pl.n. - - Informal - - Fragments or splintered pieces; bits"

The answer [from Mike K.] was - - “well, you don’t’ know, but in lieu of a better way to determine things, that is what you go with!!”

Can anyone fault this protocol?

Well, someone has. See the comments of an Australian Vietnam veteran [and veteran of Long Tan.], Terry Burstall:

"When I returned to the battlefield the day after the battle, there were bodies lying all through the area ... Would a shell-shocked digger count an arm, a trunk and a leg scattered over several metres as one body or three bodies? Nobody knew or cared at the time, and certainly not the people doing the counting ... Looking back I don't really think that I would have seen more than 50 bodies and I spent three days in the area."

But, from the web site of Ray Smith, read this:

"on April 3rd, 1995, on the 20th anniversary of the end of the Second Indochina War, the North Vietnamese Communists finally admitted their true casualties. While the U.S. Command had officially stated that we killed about 750,000 NVA and VC, the Communists declared, in an official press release to Agence France, that we had actually killed 1.1 million NVA soldiers."

"a practice of adding estimates of the number of 'probables' (i.e., "probably killed, no body recovered") to the count of 'confirmed' killed. While it is certainly possible that some commanders choose to report the sum of these two numbers rather than separate figures, I doubt whether this was a systemic practice based on personal experience."

[a confirmed would be an actual body. A probable would be a large blood smear or a major body part found!!]

"There was a standard formula for estimating enemy wounded, based on statistics gathered from World Wars One and Two that basically said that two men were wounded for every one killed."

[Actual figure for American troops in Vietnam and Soviet troops in Afghan was roughly about 350 wounded for each 100 dead - - Bert.]

This particular item within the wiki entry of course immediately caught my attention:

"The reverse slope that D Company [the Australians] used to defend their position meant that the VC found it difficult to use their heavy calibre weapons effectively; the VC could only engage the Australians at close range."

The use of the reverse slope defense again. The preferred means to establish a defense. From both WW1 and WW2, the experience of all combatants was that a defense using the reverse slope was the most effective. You would kill more of the enemy in this situation than under any other circumstance. I hope that they still teach this technique at the U.S. Infantry School??!!

Body count in Vietnam! Was it all a lie? Certainly the official records of the communists would seem to suggest - - NO!!

You decide!


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