In 1972, I was a young Air Force pilot (with Hollywood good looks) and a distinct "pilot swagger," thinking I could win the war... That sounds delusional given the opinion that the war was “unwinnable." I learned it was true (an opinion shamed by most Vietnam veterans)..
The Vietnam moniker among the GI's is; "All gave some, some gave all". The result was the catastrophe in April 1975, when the North Vietnamese army invaded South Vietnam, producing the indelible images of helicopter evacuations from the roof of the U.S. embassy, plus the accompanying tragedy of Vietnamese refugees drowning at sea as they tried to escape. Domestically, Vietnam poisoned the political atmosphere, created a cynical press, and fostered a loss of confidence in elected leaders.
As a Vietnam veteran, contemplating Vietnam Veterans Day, brings the lingering sense of loss is because of my personal experience as a pilot who flew the amazing F-4 on many missions over North Vietnam with restrictions on bombing northern targets. It was foolishness that caused a horrendous loss of our pilots. My holier-than-thou "swagger" was replaced with a sullen attitude of resignation, fear and anguish.
My anger returns now because of the needless death of 60,000 Americans (including my 2 friends there), thousands wounded and those who still suffer PTSD. Domestically, Vietnam poisoned the population's attitude. CBS TV newsman, Walter Cronkite showed film of battles with the bloodied wounded and dead GI's brought in color to my parents living room each evening. Can you imagine my mother's anguish...?
Later, Cronkite announced that America had lost the war when North Vietnam forces invaded the south that led to unrestricted bombing of North Vietnam that included me.
What are the lessons of Vietnam?
All gave some, some gave all.