Wednesday, September 11, 2013

MACV and How To Fix History

MACV Shoulder Patch
Regular readers of this blog know that I have a fascination with the history of military units. To date I've written forty-two summary histories of military units that have been posted on the Military Vet Shop website. I think of them as "the story behind the shoulder patch," and as such, most of them are about army units. However, I've done a few marine and navy articles as well. Yesterday we put up a history of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, which is more commonly referred to as MACV (pronounced "mac-vee" for those who haven't heard the term before).

If you like, and I would be grateful, you can read this short article at this link: MACV History. But if you're pressed for time, I'll give you the gist of it. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) was the equivalent to the theater headquarters for the Vietnam War. Although it was dominated by the Army and commanded by a succession of Army generals, it was a joint services command that was responsible for any and all army, navy, marine, and air force assets that were "boots on the ground" in Vietnam. In existence from 1962 to 1973, MACV was commanded by a succession of only four generals, two of which were quite famous in their association with the United States Army's involvement in Vietnam: William Westmoreland and Creighton Abrams. (Okay, I can't help it, I have to throw in that "it's a small world thing": Westmoreland was my dad's regimental commander in Korea - 187th Airborne, and Abrams' son John was my regimental commander in Germany - 11th ACR) Since MACV was created before regular combat forces arrived in South Vietnam, and was disbanded not quite sixty days after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, the history behind the MACV shoulder patch is in a way the history of the Vietnam War.

Now, why did I title this post How To Fix History? I have an acquaintance that writes for a regional newspaper and occasionally does a feature on an area veteran. As part of that he writes a short history of the combat events that the veteran was involved in. My friend shared with me an email he received in response to one of his articles that was, quite frankly, a flamer. The point of contention was the impact a particular event had for the course of military history, not that it really matters, because this individual was so incredibly rude, not to mention incoherent. I told my friend, "Hey! I get those too!" And there I was prior to this thinking I was the only one. So I thought I'd address this phenomenon here.

Napoleon supposedly said that "history is a set of lies agreed upon." Well, sometimes we don't agree and we need to debate the issues a bit. I get that. Sometimes writers make mistakes. Sometimes the references that writers use are in conflict with other references. Sometimes you were there and just know it didn't happen that way. But why do so many fans of history, passionate they may be, just run into the ring and start swinging? There's rules in polite society, don't you know? Are you drunk emailing? Here's what I'm asking you to do: 

By all means if you dispute a fact in one of my histories, then send me an email. If you want to be taken seriously and have any action considered you must be civil, you need to identify yourself, state what the issue is, and give me a reference for your correction. Easy, right? If you will do that, I will reply to you and I will sincerely consider your argument. Crazy, ranting, angry emails get deleted, no action taken. By the same token, if you have a positive comment to make on a blog posting, then please feel free to leave a comment. Positive doesn't mean that you can't disagree with me. But hateful comments or gibberish gets removed immediately.

There, I feel better already. Don't you?


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