Monday, August 22, 2011

China, Length of Wars

AFA members, Congressional staff members, civic leaders, DOCA members, on a note last week, my fingers got too fast for me. I called the TACC the Tactical Airlift Control Center – when it is really the Tanker Airlift Control Center. Several of you pointed this out … but, thankfully, Generals McNabb and Johns held their fire. See:

Vice President Biden has just left the People’s Republic of China. While there, he told the Chinese not to worry about the US paying its debts to the country -- their investments in the US were safe. I was struck with the fact that the PRC, however, does not pay its debts to the US. Several decades ago, China sold sovereign bonds worldwide to investors in many nations. They sold tens of thousands of these bonds on U.S. soil to American citizens on the recommendation of our government, indicating it was a solid investment. Over the last sixty years, China has refused to pay to these bondholders either the principal or interest on these full faith and credit sovereign bonds. In 1987, threatened with being kept out of the British financial markets, China acknowledged the debt by paying British citizens who owned these same bonds. By paying the British bondholders, but no other owners worldwide (including U.S. bondholders), China “selectively defaulted” on these bonds. Currently, the People's Republic of China owes a debt of over $750 billion to American citizens who are holding full faith and credit sovereign bonds sold to them by the Republic of China. Worldwide, the debt China owes to all bondholders is estimated to be several trillion dollars. It seems to me that something could be done about the debt held by US citizens. For more information on this, see: and

Earlier this year, the USA Today headlined that Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan was now the longest war in US history. The paper said it surpassed the length of the Viet Nam War. Leaving aside the fact that the Cold War (which DOD recognizes as a war) and the Korean War (which is still underway, despite the Armistice Agreement) were both longer, I wondered about the length of the Viet Nam War. Thanks to articles in the VFW magazine, the end date is generally assumed to be 29 Mar 73 – when the last US troops left Viet Nam. However, the start date considered by USA Today was assumed to be the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on 29 Mar 64. Others list it as 14 Feb 62 (when US troops were officially authorized to return fire). The Army and Navy lists 15 Mar 62 as the official start date (the day the Advisory Campaign officially began). Air Force uses 15 Nov 61 as a start day. “It was essentially an advisers and aviators war in the early years, but a war nonetheless.” According to Richard Kolb and Kelly Von Lunen. In fact, the first US aircraft downed by enemy fire in South Vietnam was on 2 Feb 62 when a C-123 was shot down between Bien Hoa and Vung Tao, killing three. Checking the Viet Nam Memorial produces an even earlier … and later set of dates. According to the Memorial, the first American soldier killed in the Vietnam War was Air Force T-Sgt. Richard B. Fitzgibbon Jr. He is listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having a casualty date of June 8, 1956. His name was added to the Wall on Memorial Day 1999. First battlefield fatality was Specialist 4 James T. Davis who was killed on December 22, 1961.

The last American soldier killed in the Vietnam War was Kelton Rena Turner, an 18-year old Marine. He was killed in action on May 15, 1975, two weeks after the evacuation of Saigon, in what became known as the Mayaguez incident. Others list Gary L. Hall, Joseph N. Hargrove and Danny G. Marshall as the last to die in Vietnam. These three US Marines Corps veterans were mistakenly left behind on Koh Tang Island during the Mayaguez incident. They were last seen together but unfortunately to date, their fate is unknown. They are located on the wall on panel 1W, lines 130 - 131.

So it turns out OEF is not our longest war … and even the proclamation that the VN War is the “longest war” in US history is off base. As Richard Kolb points out in the VFW Magazine, “Far and away, the longest American war was … fought between American Indians and combined forces of English colonists, American settlers and US soldiers, extending from April 26, 1607 to Oct 5, 1898: 291 years. (The Apache campaigns alone last more than 25 years.)”

This brings us to today – when many are proclaiming Operation Unified Protector in Libya is over. While there is reason for optimism, I believe this operation … and this war has many months left to run. And … if one assumes the purpose of war is a better state of peace, then it may be years before a government and the necessary legal, financial, and other institutions are formed in Libya to bring it to that better state.

For your consideration.


Michael M. Dunn
Air Force Association


Robert Radlein said...

Regarding your article on the length of the Vietnam War, for me it started in 1962 when our neighbor, Capt. Kenneth Goode, US Army, was KIA in South vietnam.We were living in Ewa Beach,Hawaii and I was 13. The Staff car stopped at our house first and they took my mother with them to comfort the widow.
Robert Radlein
Air Force BRAT and USAF Sgt. 1968-1972

Anonymous said...

Interesting perceptions, General Dunn. I always value your information and comments and, amazingly rarely disagree. Keep up the very valuable, valid and reliable work. Thanks.


Jim in Texas said...

Regarding the PRC debt to U. S. citizens, I have sent e-mails to my Representative, both of my Senators and President Obama. I don't expect it will do any good. If we are afraid to sell F-16s to Taiwan, I doubt we will ask the PRC to pay their debt. Thanks for the heads up though.

Bill Gavitt, Col., USAF (Ret) said...

Your survey left out an important question: Are the prices for AFA meetings and events reasonable? My answer is NO. You are catering solely to contractors who can write off the meetings and events. Active duty and retired cannot affort the prices you charge for the conventions, meetings and events. AFA has become a lobby for big business. Your AF Magazine is your best face to the world for the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

I personally enjoy reading every
email you send. However, I think
the organization may be overlooking
the fact that some members are aging to the point that perhaps a
life membership is ill advised.

However, the USAF is an important part of that persons history and
continued support of various USAF
issues is always beneficial.



JW, Colorado said...

I wish you had mentioned in your NPR interview that America's Air Force is also America's space force. Space capabilities have allowed us to monitor activity across a very large country for the past 6 months (and before). They were there on Day 1 providing mission enabling comm and GPS infrastructure to air and ground forces (allied as well as U.S.) without the cost of new deployments or the potentially higher price of putting additional people in harm's way. When Libya sortied a Scud, U.S. airmen knew it instantly and spread the alarm. Today, as traditional airpower's role in OUP continues to decline, three USAF Space Wings - the 21st, 50th, and 460th - continue to participate as they have from the beginning.

Anonymous said...

What is more amazing it the perversion of the original UN charter for Libya, which was to "protect" non-combatants. There apparently was never any consideration that such non-combatants were BOTH on the rebel side as well as on government's side.

While Qhadaffy (or Khadaffy) is a bad actor, this Administration (Obama) began the "war" and then backed out turning activities over to NATO, which is primarily funded by the U.S. The net result of which prolonged the war adding substantially to casualties on both sides. We should not be proud either of our "limited" aggression in Libya while just ignoring other similar -- and, yes, more difficult conflicts such as in Syria.

While the president chided Bush of involving the U.S. in two wars, Obama is involved in three.

P. Bishop
Capatin, USN (Ret.) and AF Brat (1942-1965)