Beating Plowshares Into Swords: An Alternate History of the Vietnam War

Free Beating Plowshares Into Swords: An Alternate History of the Vietnam War by F. C. Schaefer

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Authors: F. C. Schaefer
they made fulsome noises about “nuclear terrorism” and there were reports in TASS of young Communists volunteering to go and fight with their socialist brothers in North Vietnam, but that was about it. Their real reaction wouldn’t come until later in the year.
    We took the heat because we were monitoring the situation on the ground in North Vietnam from the first Neutron attack. The last series of Neutron attacks on June 4-6 were directed at targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong area, the most heavily populated section of the country. When the reports began coming in about the roads north of Hanoi being choked with fleeing refugees, desperate to get to safety in China, Secretary Nixon was finally able to say out loud that the war was all but over. The North was swept by a sudden fear of radiation sickness and in the face of this, even the hardest Communist discipline crumbled.
    With their nation falling apart internally, the North came crawling to the negotiating table; on June 13, they formally asked the French to mediate and delegations were requested to come to Paris. President Johnson immediately accepted this offer and named his old Washington crony, Clark Clifford, to represent the United States in the these negotiations; on the same day, as a gesture of our good intentions, the President grounded the B-52’s and halted all bombing of North Vietnam. I can state for a fact that Secretary Nixon was opposed to not only the appointment of Clifford, whom everybody in the Pentagon felt was there to represent the President’s political interests over the country’s, but also the bombing halt because it was letting up on the enemy right at the time when we should have been ratcheting up the pressure. The Secretary also felt that we should have pressed for even tougher terms, but the President insisted that Clifford stick to the three basics: an immediate cease-fire, withdrawal of all North Vietnamese forces from the South, and an end to all support for the Viet Cong. Overnight the Secretary’s elation over the success of his gamble with the Neutrons evaporated and was replaced with concern that the President would be so eager for the war to be over that he would sign any agreement. Overshadowing the Peace talks in Paris was the Six Day War in the Mid East and even more ominously, intelligence reports that Army units in southern China had been put on alert.
    In the end our fears proved to be premature; on the afternoon of July 6, I was at the White House where I stood in a group that included most of the National Security Council and watched as President Johnson announced to the nation that a cease-fire agreement in Vietnam had been signed in Paris earlier that day and would go into effect at midnight local time on July 8. I must admit to a feeling of great satisfaction when I heard the President say “The struggle for freedom in South Vietnam has been won. All Americans should be proud of our brave boys who beat back the voracious beast of Communist aggression.” After the speech everybody retired to the East Room for an impromptu reception, where the President personally thanked us all for what we had done. He looked more relieved than triumphant; the war had aged him 10 years. The most exultant man in the room was the Secretary, “I showed those sons of bitches” he said to me at one point, “They wanted us to lose, they cheered for the Communists and spit on the flag, they said Nixon was finished. Well who’s finished now?” How right he was.
    One thing I have never apologized for was our use of the Neutron Bomb in Vietnam despite all of the criticism it has generated over the years, I believe it was the right and honorable thing to do under the circumstances-it saved the lives of American servicemen and ended the conflict and if anyone wants to disagree, I’ll be glad to give them an argument. I categorically reject the contention that because we set the precedent of using battlefield nuclear weapons, we are

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