Department of the Army Historical Summary: FY 1969
While the Vietnam War remained the dominant factor in Army affairs during fiscal year 1969, the closing month of the year brought a milestone in the conflict when President Richard M. Nixon, meeting with the Republic of Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu on Midway Island in the Pacific, announced on June 8 that 25,000 American troops would be withdrawn from the war zone by the end of August 1969.
This first redeployment of American forcesmade possible by an extended U.S. effort to arm, equip, and train Republic of Vietnam forces to assume an expanding role on the battlefieldwill include Army and other service elements heavily weighted with combat troops and roughly equivalent to a division force. The first major Army units to be pulled out will be two brigades of the 9th Infantry Division.
The reduction follows a year during which strength in Vietnam remained relatively constant at about 350,000 of the Army's million-and-a-half personnel. Unit deployment was also stable, with 8 1/3 of the Army's 19 2/3 division force equivalents (18 numbered divisions plus 5 independent brigades comprising a 1 2/3 division force equivalent) still on station in the combat theater.
Active and relatively sustained operations throughout the year produced high casualties. Of the 11,338 American battle deaths in the 12-month period, the Army lost 7,653. Of the 77,391 Americans wounded by hostile action in the period, 53,034 were Army personnel, of whom more than 30,000 were returned to duty without requiring hospital care. On the last day of March 1969, the number of American battle deaths surpassed the losses (33,629) sustained in the Korean War. The Vietnam War thus became the fourth costliestafter the Civil War and the two World Warsin our history. Over the full course of our involvement, from January 1961 through June 1969, 36,954 Americans have died and 237,024 were wounded as a result of hostile action.
During fiscal year 1969 the Army reached its highest strength since the Korean War and operated on its highest budget since World War II. An average of 30,000 men were trained and shipped to Vietnam each month, while sizable forces in Europe and Korea were sustained and the Strategic Reserve in the United States was maintained in a state of readiness despite the turbulent conditions generated by oversea requirements.
The extent of this achievement is revealed in some of the details of the Army's personnel situation in fiscal year 1969. Of the more than 1.5 million men and women in the Army, about 700,000 were serving overseas, many in short tour areas. Close to a complete replacement was required for the more than 350,000 in Vietnam. Not all of the approximately 800,000 Army members in the United States could be applied to the rotation base; 197,000 were trainees not ready for assignment. The problem was to balance grades and skills worldwide and administer short and long tour schedules equitably with 10 1/3 division forces in short tour areas and 9 1/3 in long tour areas. The difficulty of maintaining balance, achieving stability, insuring readiness, and preserving equity is readily apparent. Understandably, the monumental demands led to some deterioration in readiness, imbalances in the distribution of skills, involuntary personnel assignments, and dislocation of rotational patterns. Yet it is unlikely that any service of any nation ever structured such an equitable system and came as close to carrying it out. That it was accomplished is a tribute to efficient and effective management and control at all levels throughout the Army.
Military management has become increasingly formal, technical, and universal in recent years. The Army has taken advantage of new technology and techniques in the management field to insure that those who make decisions and those who carry them out have the comprehensive, accurate, and timely information that is required to administer a military service in modern times. Over the past several years Army management procedures and controls have been strengthened; management organizational patterns have been simplified and streamlined; the use of computer technology has been expanded; new management systems and techniques have been introduced; and the total management effort has been centralized at the top levels of the departmental staff. In the past year the Computer Systems Command was established to integrate the automatic data processing effort and insure its responsiveness to the Army's worldwide needs. The Army Authorization Documents System was completed in the fall of 1968, providing a data bank to record equipment and personnel requirements for each of 20,000 units identified under the Force Accounting System, which has been operating since mid-1967. All of these management innovations and refinements made it possible for the Army to meet more effectively such diverse national responsibilities as fighting a war in Asia, coping with civil disturbances at home, and developing a ballistic missile defense system against possible future need.
Some of the problems associated with these responsibilities are beyond the scope of military management and transcended the realm of military control, while at the same time they have had a broad impact on military
operation. The Vietnam War, civil rights, and weapons systems development have created social unrest of concern to the Army as well as to other institutions and activities in American society. The agitationsome of it evolutionary, some revolutionaryhas ranged from disagreement and resistance to disobedience and confrontation, and all of it has had a bearing on military interests, responsibilities, and operations.
Since American participation in the Vietnam War has been founded on an ideological premise rather than on territorial threat, and has required only selective manpower levies and partial mobilization, the conscription process has been marred by draft evasion and card burning. A fugitive colony in Canada, the occasional public destruction of an official document, and attempts to disrupt recruiting activities have been widely reported, along with some in-service dissent by several antiwar groups and individuals and the defection to Sweden of a small band of dissidents. Inescapably, these activities affect the acquisition of manpower, the development of effective forces, and the maintenance of morale both on and off the battlefield. It has been suggested that these problems could be eliminated by the creation of an all-volunteer Army. Whether such a force would be practicable and attainable is being studied by the Army as well as by a presidential commission.
The recently developed campus opposition to the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program is another area of Army concern. A primary source of commissioned leaders for the active Army, the ROTC program produced over 16,000 officers in fiscal year 1969. The importance of the program is illustrated by a few examples. At one point in the year there were 155 Army general officers on active duty who started their careers as ROTC cadets. At other points during the year the Deputy Commanding General, both Field Force commanders, and five division commanders in Vietnam were officers commissioned through ROTC. The same was also true of the Army's Assistant Vice Chief of Staff and the principal military adviser to our negotiating team in Paris. The scope of military service today is broad, and the ROTC program permits the matriculation of educated Americans from all backgrounds and regions in the land, to the obvious benefit of the institution and the nation they will serve. It is clearly in the national interest that the ROTC program be continued.
The advancement of civil rights and the development of weapons systems are also national concerns that involve social, political, and military considerations and heavy Army commitment. In the field of civil rights the military services have long set standards of equal treatment and opportunity for all personnel, and while on the home front we still have
a long way to go to match, for example, the celebrated racial compatibility of the battlefield, progress is being made. In the last year there was notable advance in the active program to insure equal opportunity for minority groups in off-post housing.
It has not been possible for all of the Army's efforts to be along such productive lines. Unfortunately, the impulse for further civil rights progress has led, in its most acute form, to civil disturbances requiring the use of troops to support civil authorities, the development of an organizational structure and plans to deal with emergencies, the institution of riot control training for troop units, the regional positioning of emergency equipment against need, and the diversion of military manpower and funds from other purposes. As long as there is a need (and there has been at various times and for various reasons throughout our history), just so long will the Army have to be prepared to act in controlling civil disturbances.
In modern times the development of strategic weapons systems, both offensive and defensive, is influenced by such considerations as national defense, the international balance of power, the state of the art, the availability of funds, national priorities, and the consent of both the Congress and the governed. As in all areas of human affairs, there is little likelihood of complete agreement on the social, political, and military factors involved in such a highly technical and complex field. The nation's experience with an antiballistic missile system is a case in point.
The Army's Sentinel ballistic missile defense system, an evolution from the NIKE-X, was conceived as a limited one that would provide area protection of U.S. population centers against a Chinese attack, and offer an option to counter a larger Soviet threat should that develop. Initial survey work near some major cities produced opposition by local groups toward the end of 1968. President Nixon, shortly after taking office early in 1969, designated the system as Safeguard and redefined its objectives; it was to be a purely defensive measure against a threat to our retaliatory forces, a threat from Red China in the next decade, or an accidental or irrational attack from any source. Despite this redirection, the Safeguard system was the center of active debate in and out of government up to the close of the fiscal year, the differences revolving around feasibility, cost, and arms race considerations. The outcome will proceed from congressional action on the program in the coming fiscal year.
From the foregoing it is evident that there have been problems as well as accomplishments connected with the Army's operation over the past year. Despite the appearances of dissent, facing the problems has revealed the readiness of the vast majority of citizens and soldiers to accept civic responsibility and meet the obligations of service. Where
performance of duty is concerned, the American soldier today is proving himself equal if not superior to his predecessor of any generation. The quality of Army personnelcivilian and military, at home and abroad, in or out of combatis reflected in the worldwide efficiency and effectiveness of the Army during the report period. Further highlights and details of the year's operation are set forth in the following pages.
Return to Table of Contents
Last updated 9 August 2004