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VFW HISTORY

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The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, with its Auxiliaries, includes 2.2 million members in approximately 8,100 Posts worldwide.

Its mission is to "honor the dead by helping the living" through veterans' service, community service, national security and a strong national defense.

The VFW traces its roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) founded local organizations to secure rights and benefits for their service: Many arrived home wounded or sick.  There was no medical care or veterans' pension for them, and they were left to care for themselves.

In their misery, some of these veterans banded together and formed organizations with what would become known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.  After chapters were formed in Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, the movement quickly gained momentum.  By 1915, membership grew to 5,000; by 1936, membership was almost 200,000.

Since then, the VFW's voice had been instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration, creating a GI bill for the 20th century, the development of the national cemetery system and the fight for compensation for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome.  In 2008, VFW won a long-fought victory with the passing of a GI Bill for the 21st Century, giving expanded educational benefits to America's active-duty service members, and members of the Guard and Reserves, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The VFW also has fought for improving VA medical centers services for women veterans.

Besides helping fund the creation of the Vietnam, Korean War, World War II and Women in Military Service memorials, the VFW in 2005 became the first veterans' organization to contribute to building the new Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial, which is being constructed in Washington, D.C., and is expected to open in 2010.

In 2001, VFW unveiled its tribute to service and country with its dedication of Centennial Plaza.

Annually, VFW members and its Auxiliary contribute more than 13 million hours of volunteerism in the community, including participation in Make A Difference Day and National Volunteer Week.

From providing $2.5 million in college scholarships to high school students every year, to encouraging elevation of the Veterans Administration, to the President's Cabinet, the VFW is there honoring the dead by helping the living.
 

The Beginning

Only in fairy tales do success stories begin as simply and clearly as "once upon a time." Real-life success stories are apt to be complicated by reasons and causes that make identification of a clear-cut beginning impossible. So it is with the story of the organization now known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW). The VFW was conceived in war, nurtured by time, and birthed by compassion. In this respect, it was similar to many earlier veterans' groups. But from its uncertain beginnings, the VFW has grown to be the largest, most powerful group of overseas veterans the world has ever known. This is no small distinction, considering the vast numbers of veterans who have banded together over the centuries.

History acknowledges that there were veteran's groups during the time of Caesar's Legions. Writings on the walls of caves indicate their existence, in a less formal sense, thousands of years before. Man's desire to record feats of conquest and valor and his need to communicate with others who shared these experiences led to the formation of these quasi-military associations. It would be impossible to number or name all the veteran's groups that have existed.

The Spanish American War

Historians claim this war was the result of Spain's treatment of the Cuban people. For years the Spanish rulers had tyrannized the Cubans - arresting and shooting them with little or no provocation, censoring the Cuban press, and levying ruinous excise taxes that bled the island of nearly half its annual income. Then in 1895, the Cubans revolted. In the savage struggle that followed, thousands of Cuban women and children perished outright or while in concentration camps.

Americans recoiled at the inhuman treatment of the Cubans and bewailed the loss of $100 million in trade with the island. When the Battleship Maine and 260 sailors and marines on board her blew up under mysterious circumstances in Cuba's Havana Harbor, America had an added excuse for war, a rallying point. To the incantation "Remember the Maine," the nation, feeling the righteousness of its cause, went to war in May 1898.

While the words "went to war" are technically correct, they are also a little misleading. They imply that the United States had a well-organized course of action that it was ready to put into motion, when in truth the nation fumbled, stumbled, and bungled its way to victory. Although it took the United States Army less than a year to defeat Spanish troops in both the Cuban and Philippine theaters, victory was possible only because the Spanish soldiers were hampered by even worse leadership and equipment than were the Americans. In the thirty-three years since the Civil War, a tight-fisted Congress had virtually destroyed the awesome power that had been the Union Army. Much of the Army's equipment had been sold at auction or was obsolete and in dire need of repair. Although thousands of determined, able-bodied men responded to the call of war, training was severely lacking. Besides poorly trained and equipped soldiers, other problems plagued the Army. The ships used to carry the troops to war were coastal vessels, not designed to venture any great distance from the shore. Because they were intended for short trips, they lacked adequate ventilation for those sleeping below deck and enough sanitary facilities on any level. They also had little or no area for food preparation.

Food was a problem not only for troops en route to combat, but also for soldiers in combat. Large quantities of their rations were unfit for consumption. Much of the rest was so poorly packaged that it soon spoiled and became infested with maggots. Ironically, even food which remained edible was often fated to remain on the docks. Means of transporting it to the front were seldom available.

The Army's Medical Department was also severely lacking. Most of the Army's doctors were what was known as "Contract Surgeons" - civilians in the military who had no status, authority, or recognition. The physicians were largely ignorant about the treatment of deadly tropical diseases such as yellow fever, and they were faced with a critical shortage of medications and other medical supplies.

In the end, less than one percent of the American servicemen shipped overseas died. This survival rate speaks only to the excellent condition of the men, however, not to the conduct of the campaign or the Army's care of them. Significantly, of the 2,430 American casualties in the Spanish American War, only 385 were combat deaths.

With little other than "guts" and determination, these "Boys in Blue" gave the United States its first taste of empire. At the peace treaty of December 1898 in Paris, Spain ceded Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States. A stipulation in the treaty also allowed the U.S. to purchase the Philippines for $20 million. Cuba, independent of Spain, remained under U.S. military control for three years.

When the first American troops began returning home in the later part of 1898, they were rightfully proud of the service they had given their country. They had performed the duty requested of them, even without the instruments of war that fighting men have the right to expect their countries to furnish. Overseas, out of touch with the realities of life at home, these men believed in their hearts that their nation would be grateful to them.

But they were wrong. And because they were wrong, the stage would be set for the appearance of a new kind of veteran's organization - one whose avowed purpose was that such criminal ingratitude would never again rear its head.

In time, at least the nation's future veterans would be grateful.

When Johnny came marching home after the Spanish American War, he did not receive quite the hero's welcome he expected.

Many Spanish American War veterans were mustered out of the service far from home and left to find their own transportation back. Most arrived home virtually penniless only to discover that their hero status was no help in finding employment. Often the jobs they had given up when they answered the president's call for volunteers had been taken by men who had stayed safely at home.

Treatment of veterans who were sick or wounded was especially shoddy. Even the most severely disabled veterans were denied hospital care or medications. Nor were there any government programs to help returnees rehabilitate themselves so that they could resume their places in society. They were given two months' pay ($31.20 for a private), discharged, and sent home to their families.

Many veterans were embittered by the treatment they received. They had won property in two oceans, and, in the process, new-found status as a world power for the United States. The federal government now had an annual surplus of $46 million in revenue over expenditures and surely could have spared the funds to aid its needy war veterans. And yet, all the country offered veterans in return for their services was pain, sorrow, and an early grave. The war had caused no visible damage to property inside our borders, so it was difficult for officials and citizens to see the need to spend more money on a war that was officially over.

Politicians were not the only ones to turn their backs on the Spanish American War veterans. The two major organizations for Civil War veterans also rebuffed the nation's newest veterans. Both the North's Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and the South's United Confederate Veterans (UCV) refused them a place in their ranks. This refusal to admit new blood was the same shortsightedness that brought about the demise of every previous veteran's organization.

With no organization to plead their cause, the veterans were left to protest their treatment on their own. For more than a year the cries of the lone veteran went unheeded. Then, within the space of several months, the seeds of a solution were planted in two locations - one to the east of the Mississippi River and one to the west. In both Columbus, Ohio, and Denver, Colorado, veterans began to band together to jointly attack their problems. Like the war with Spain, the veterans fight for better treatment from their government would now be conducted on two fronts.

The Cuban Front Servicemen Return Home

American troops in the Eastern theater - in Cuba - were the first to cease fighting the Spanish and return home. The 17th Infantry Regiment was one of the first troops to come home. Following its return from Cuba, the 17th spent the next few months replacing both men and equipment. Once the regiment was back up to strength, it was shipped to the Philippines to replace a unit of volunteers. First, though, men who were sick or wounded were given two months' pay and discharged. No allowances were made for medication, hospital care, food, or transportation home. Since they were of no further use to the Army or the government, the men because the problem of Columbus, Ohio, their own hometowns or their families.

Among the first to grapple with the problems of these disabled soldiers was a small group of their former comrades. Unlike most members of the 17th Infantry Regiment, these compassionate men were not career soldiers, but had been discharged upon their return to Columbus because their terms of enlistment had expired. It was their hope that they could help their less fortunate comrades by founding a veteran's organization.

Thirteen former members of the 17th Infantry Regiment combined their efforts to make this dream a reality. Of these thirteen, two men stood out as the leaders: James C. Putnam and James Romanis. Both men had been discharged as privates. They also shared a recent and firsthand knowledge of the horrors of war, a deep compassion for their fellow man, and the willingness to work to rectify what they saw as unfair treatment of veterans of the Spanish American War. Perhaps it was because Romanis and Putnam each worked toward their common goal from different perspectives that they ultimately succeeded. No veteran's organization before theirs had ever survived its generation. The rules and practices that gave their organization its longevity did not even exist at its inception. Instead, they grew out of the beliefs and determination of its founders - and out of the founders' feeling there was no equal to the bonds of loyalty forged between men in the crucible of war. Romanis and Putnam succeeded not by strengthening or changing these bonds, but by utilizing them for the common good.

On September 29, 1899, James Romanis called the first meeting. His intention was to form an association for mutual benefit in getting pensions, claims, etc., the help the men of the 17th Infantry. During the meeting, someone suggested that the association's membership should be drawn only from this regiment. But Putnam reminded them that this limiting idea has sounded the death knell for other organizations. He suggested that they find a way to make their association endure forever, so that it would be "evergreen." A motion was made to allow men who had served honorable in any overseas outfit during the Spanish American War to join. It passed without a dissenting vote. Further discussion eventually broadened the right to membership to everyone who had been awarded a Campaign Medal by our government for service in any war or conflict. The scope of this motion would allow survivors of the 1846 war with Mexico to join if they so desired. More important, its passage ensured the association's longevity by granting the right to membership to those who qualified in any future war. The association would be "evergreen."

A second meeting was scheduled for October 7, 1899. Several other decisions reached that night would greatly influence the future of the organization.

The first was that all members of the American Veterans of Foreign Service (AVFS) would be considered equals. After all, they were an organization of previous military men, with the key word being "previous." No allowance was made for special treatment of those who had help superior rank during their previous service. This decision was understandable, considering that of the original thirteen who met, only one had been an officer. Until the founding of the Vietnam Veterans of America some seventy years later, it would be the only major veteran's organization founded by enlisted men.

The second decision was to prepare for anticipated future expansion. To properly channel this hoped-for growth, a provision was made for the formation of additional units. They would be administered locally and be called "camps." The unit they had just founded in Columbus would be known as "Headquarters Camp Number One." All of the Columbus officers would hold dual positions, serving in national as well as local capacities.

The final noteworthy decision reached that night was to acquire a logo or emblem so that their deeds would not be forgotten with the passage of time. After some discussion, they settled on the Cross of Malta, the emblem which had decorated the banners of the Order of the Knights of St. John during the Crusades. The order had been famous for caring for its wounded comrades, a fact which was not lost on the American Veterans of Foreign Service.

Once the organization's foundation had been laid, its members moved rapidly to obtain national stature for their group. On the incorporation application, the principal business location of the corporation was listed as Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio. The purpose for which the corporation had been formed was given as, "For social enjoyment of the membership of said association and their families and friends. The promotion of the mutual interests of all such and more especially to preserve the reminiscences of the camps and field beyond the borders of our native land" The charger was granted on October 10, 1899, just days after the organization's second meeting. Within a few weeks, new camps were formed in Cincinnati, Hamilton, Marysville, Delaware, and Marion, Ohio; and in Sparta, Illinois, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The Philippine Front Army Soldiers Return Home

The First Colorado Voluntary Infantry Regiment returned to San Francisco, where the regiment was mustered out September 8, 1899. So proud of their soldiers were the people of Denver that they ignored the usual policy of leaving men who had "mustered out" to find their own way home from the mustering-out point. By public subscription of funds, they hired a special train to transport the men home to Denver. On September 14th, the soldiers were greeted by 75,000 citizens of their capital city. After a joyous parade and stirring speeches of appreciation for the job the First had done in the Philippines, General Irving Hale ordered his men to fall out for the last time.

Problems began almost immediately for the former members of the First. Like their eastern counterparts, many discovered that the jobs they had held before the war had been taken by others. And those who were unable to work because of disease or crippling wounds belatedly found they had no prospects of rehabilitation or financial assistance from the federal government. Veterans' employment woes were further increased by the depression that gripped the nation. Not only had their old jobs been taken by others, but new ones were almost nonexistent.

A born leader, Irving Hale was a man of tremendous energy and vision. His enthusiasm and loyalty toward his home state and the men who had served under his command made him a natural selection to lead many civic and organizational projects. After the First was disbanded, Hale kept in contact with his men. He talked to those he met on the streets and visited some of them in their homes. What he encountered touched him deeply. It seemed especially unjust to him that men who had suffered during wartime service were now destined by an uncaring government for further suffering and starvation. Hale helped many veterans from his personal funds. He soon became convinced, however, that the only way to right all the wrongs being imposed upon his returning veterans was to form an association.

On November 18th and 23rd, 1899, Hale and other former officers from the First discussed the possibility of forming a veteran's association. General Hale, acting as temporary chairman, appointed a committee to draft a constitution. Another meeting was held on December 12th. Twenty-eight men attended this meeting. The committee which was appointed to draft a constitution, Henry Lippincott, Charles H. Anderson, and Charles B. Lewis presented their report. They all reported in favor on an "immediate formation of a permanent organization of officers and enlisted men, comprising the land forces of the United States who served honorable in the distant Philippines, to sustain the honor and supremacy of our beloved flag, and having for its objects: The perpetuation of the memory of the achievements of the participants in this striking and unique epoch of our country's history; the perpetuation of the memories of our departed companions in arms, many of whom are now sleeping their last sleep under the palms of the tropics, or in the sand of the deep seas; to cement and strengthen the bonds of friendship formed in camp and bivouac, on long lonely voyages to the Orient, in the trenches and on lonely outposts, in skirmish and battle among rice ridges and swamps of the Philippine Islands; to collect and preserve the relics, records, books and other historical data relating to the Spanish-American War and maintain and foster true patriotism and love of our country and its institutions." This report was unanimously adopted and parts of were later used in other statements of the organization's philosophy.

The adoption of the committee's report was followed by the election of Hale as President and Frank Noble as Secretary. They were charged with contacting all former commanding officers or regiments that had comprised the Eighth Army to suggest they form local units. If all went according to plan, the units would be merged into a single association at the reunion in Denver the next year. The name the former men of the First chose for their new association was the "Colorado Society of the Army of the Philippines."

Former Lt. Colonel Henry Lippincott, who had served as Deputy Surgeon General of the United States Army and Chief Surgeon of the Pacific and Eighth Army Corps, maintained that the government should furnish medial care for those who needed it and provide pensions for veterans unable to support themselves and their families due to service-connected disabilities. Since their jobs had been taken by men who did not fight in America's war with Spain, they felt that those who did fight should be considered first for federal jobs. General Hale told the assembled group that he favored forming a separate association from the one they had just founded to help them press the government for assistance.

A roster of membership for the Colorado Society of the Army of the Pacific was started at this meeting. Each man signed only his name with no reference to past rank. The paper on which each man signed his name also carried the principles of the association. "We, the undersigned, agree to form an organization to be of mutual aid to our comrades and to perpetuate the memory of those who died in the service of their country and to keep alive the glorious deeds of bravery and courage performed in field of war. This organization will be non-political." (By "non-political," they meant that the organization would not favor one political party, not that it would stay out of politics entirely. They certainly did not want to rule out the possibility that their group could and would replace the Grand Army of the Republic as a political power).

While many of the initial goals of the Colorado Society of the Army of the Philippines were similar to those of the American Veterans of Foreign Service, there were two important differences between the groups. First as the name of the Army of the Philippines suggests, membership in the society was open only to veterans from one branch of service, the Army. This automatically excluded personnel of the Navy and Marine Corps. Second, it restricted eligibility to those who had served in the Philippine Theater of War and only in the Spanish American War. If these rules were left standing, the Society, like all previous veteran's organizations, would die out with its generation.

In time, the Colorado Society of the Army of the Philippines would not only adopt innovative membership rules that would assure its longevity, but it would also merge with the organization that first formulated those new rules - the American Veterans of Foreign Service. Together, these two organizations would form the nucleus of the present-day Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The Early Years 1900-1913

As could be expected, the new century started off with much activity. In the United States, the Spanish American War veterans worked on building harmony, not discord. In the space of thirteen years, the American Veterans of Foreign Service, the Colorado Society Army of the Philippines, and three newer veteran's organizations would all resolve their
differences and merge into one association. United under the name of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, these veterans would go on to jointly pursue their dream of better treatment of all American veterans.

The watchword in the creation of the VFW was one sorely lacking in European politics of the day - compromise. Before the major reorganization of five veteran's organizations into one could take place, several minor mergers and changes in organizational structure had to occur. Thousands of members of the existing organizations also had to concede that one large national organization could serve their interests better than the more specialized, but smaller ones to which they already belonged.

The Eastern Veteran's Organization

From the first meeting of the American Veterans of Foreign Service, it was evident that its founders had far more than a local society in mind. But although their enthusiasm and aspirations were great, their planning often did not keep pace with their ideas. It took the pragmatism of Jim Romanis to turn the ideas into reality.

Several weeks before the encampment of 1904, Romanis persuaded a group of Spanish American War veterans based in Pennsylvania to send a representative to the AVFS's encampment. This veterans group, which was coincidentally also known as the American Veterans of Foreign Service, had responded by sending their National Junior Vice Commander, Dr. George Metzger. When he appeared before the assembled delegates in Columbus, Metzger made an unexpected proposal. He suggested that the Columbus officers attend his group's National Encampment the following week in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, for the purpose of discussing a possible merger of the two veteran's groups. Without hesitation, the delegates voted to send their President, James Romanis, and empowered him to take any action he felt necessary to expedite the merger. The merger eventually happened in 1905.

After the 1905 merger, it was quite some time before the AVFS once again made headlines. From 1905 to 1908, the organization worked mainly on structuring and consolidating this newly merged, larger group. The group grew both in political power membership. In 1910 an AVFS membership report showed thirty-four posts in good standing with approximately 1,200 members.

The Western Veteran's Organization

General Irving Hale, president of the infant Colorado Society Army of the Philippines, dreamed of building a national veteran's organization that would rival the FAR in size and power. This was a dream he shared with Jim Romanis, co-founder of the American Veterans of Foreign Service. But unlike his Eastern Counterpart, whose dream was clouded only by minor procedural problems in getting his organization up and running, Hale needed to overcome two major obstacles - one natural, one man-made - that stood in the way of his goal.

Geographical factors presented the first stumbling block to growth of the Army of the Philippines. The East had many more towns large enough to support a camp, and veterans who lived outside of town had less distance to travel to camp meetings. To complicate matters, cowboys, sheep herders, and men who worked in the mining camps out west were continually moving about.

The second hindrance to recruitment of new members was one that the Army of the Philippines had imposed on itself: its restriction of membership to men who had served in one theater of one war.

Thanks to Hale's outreach efforts, almost one thousand Philippine veterans, representing nineteen military units of the Eighth Army, attended the reunion in Denver on August 13, 1900. They came from Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and all of the western states. In the business session, a constitution and bylaws were swiftly adopted for the national body. So too was a name for the organization: "The National Association of the Army of the Philippines." Although General Hale was the most popular and logical candidate to head the national association, he was not elected as president. Instead the honor went to General Francis V. Greene of New York City. Historians believe he was elected to help attract more veterans from the East as members. Even with an Easterner at its helm, the Society found its recruiting efforts hampered by the requirement that members must have served in the Philippines.

Many attempts were made to merge with other veterans organizations, but up till now, all were voted down. At the 1912 reunion in Lincoln, Nebraska, several representatives from the AVFS who were in attendance suggested a merger of the two organizations. The Army of the Philippines promptly invited these members to attend the next year's reunion in Denver to discuss the possibility further.

In fact, the entire AVFS National Encampment would end up meeting with the Army of the Philippines in Denver, thanks to the scheming of one man. That man, Gus Hartung, was the commander of the Denver-based John S. Stewart Camp of the Army of the Philippines. During the 1912 reunion, he proposed that the next reunion of the Army of the Philippines be held in Denver, and the delegates agreed. After the possibility of a merger was raised, Hartung contacted Robert Woodside, Commander-in-Chief of the AVFS and suggested that the AVFS, too, hold its next convention in Denver. When Woodside accepted, the way was paved for the joint meeting of 1913.

The convention opened with both groups meeting separately. Each group had a certain amount of old business to handle, and undoubtedly wanted to discuss in private what they would and would not concede in a merger. While rivalry between the groups arose in part from local pride in their unit's "feats of arms," the main dissension came over choosing a name for the new group. Because of the heated discussions and lingering resentment over issues that had passed despite objections from substantial minorities, the delegates postponed most organizational changes to a later meeting or left them to the newly elected officers to make. One major change, however, was silently approved when the Army of the Philippines agreed to merge. It was also decided that the new association would go by the name of "Army of the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico" until a referendum could be held and a name be chosen by a vote of all members and all posts. Henceforth, membership in both groups would be open not just to veterans of the Philippine Campaign, but to veterans who served honorably in any war on foreign soil.

There were many who were not satisfied with the merger. In many camps, the legality of the merger topped the list of the most discussed items. In an attempt to take charge of the situation, on September 12, 1913, Commander-in-Chief Rice Means issued General Order Number One. In it, Means appealed to the members' loyalty and patriotism in asking them to set aside their dissatisfaction with the merger. He also announced that local units would henceforth be known as "posts" rather than "camps." Several camps on both sides of the Mississippi continued to protest the merger.

In February 1914, Commander-in-Chief Rice Means sent all posts a message suggesting that they agree on a name that was so comprehensive that every veteran would realize that this new organization was not like any other previous veteran's organizations. This one would not die out with the founding generation, but would be available to veterans as long as the United States was forced to fight wars. Official approval of the selected name was later given at the 1914 Convention in Pittsburgh. This approval, coupled with the adoption of the constitution, made that convention the first annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

The Learning Years 1914-1929

For an organization to remain progressive, it must continually change with the times. It must constantly assess the needs and problems of its members and adjust its goals to address those problems. In the first fifteen years after the VFW's founding, its members did not lack for goals. But as yet, its members did not have the experience or knowledge that would enable them to successfully achieve all their goals.

During this period, the VFW's goals focused primarily on the needs of two important groups - present-day veterans and their families, and servicemen who would be the nation's future veterans. For the benefit of the first group, the VFW advocated for veterans' entitlements such as job preference, vocational rehabilitation and training, pensions for disabled veterans and families of deceased veterans, and medical care for veterans with service-connected disabilities. For the benefit of the second group, the VFW worked for reforms in military preparedness to ensure that our armed forces would never again be sent into combat as poorly trained and equipped as were the troops of the Spanish American War. No organization had ever before dared to challenge the government's stance on recruiting, training, and equipping its servicemen. And although the VFW's early cries on the subject of preparedness were largely ignored, the VFW never relinquished its goal. Eventually the VFW would make up for what it lacked in experience with stamina and determination. During these learning years, many of the victories the VFW won were small. Many of its attempts to secure what it deemed fair treatment for the nation's veterans failed. Yet in each attempt, there was a victory. The victory was learning that the VFW could influence legislation on behalf of its veterans.

Thomas Crago, United States Congressman from Pennsylvania, was elected VFW Commander-in-Chief in 1914, and was responsible for what is recognized as the greatest VFW victory of that time; the pension bill which provided for the widows of Spanish War Veterans, which he authored and defended on the floor of the House. Through Crago and others like him, the organization learned how and when to apply its influence to gain the legislation necessary to accomplish its goals. In the near future, these hard-learned lessons would serve well both the VFW and a much larger group of veterans.

In 1915, the nation's need to prepare for war was palpable to the VFW. True, President Woodrow Wilson had vowed to keep the United States out of war, but all over the world, events appeared to be drawing the United States inexorable closer to war. As if the members of the VFW needed any further evidence that a war was on the horizon, President Wilson issued a call for men to serve on the Mexican border. Because many VFW members responded, quite a few familiar faces were missing from the National Encampment in 1915. From the moment the National Encampment was gaveled to order in Detroit on August 16, much of the talk centered on the need for preparedness. According to the Detroit News Tribune, one of the first practical suggestions was offered by W.S. Voorsanger, a member from Pittsburgh. Voorsanger proposed a plan to create an "adequate veteran reserve" by "securing the enlistment in such reserve of several hundred thousand veterans of the campaigns of the last two decades." Although this suggestion was never adopted on a national level, many departments supplied their states with men who performed some of the duties a reserve corps might have provided. These men patrolled sea coasts and national boundaries and investigated and reported suspected subversive groups and saboteurs.

World War I

On April 6, 1917, at President Wilson's urging, Congress declared war on Germany. Over the next eighteen months, the VFW would prove many times over that it had meant what it said when it promised President Wilson "the united support of the members of this organization, in any crisis that may arise." America's declaration of war galvanized the VFW into action. More than 60 percent of its members decided to make the supreme contribution to their country's war efforts by going back into uniform. Those still at home channeled their efforts into four main areas: helping to win the war, fighting for entitlements for the veterans-to-be, advocating for the needs of servicemen's families, and recruiting new members. Perhaps the VFW's most valuable assistance toward winning the war was in recruiting.

Besides helping to register men for the draft, VFW posts helped with recruitment in other ways. Putting into action an idea first proposed at the 1915 National Encampment, the posts in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, organized a Veteran Reserve Corps to take over when the National Guard of that state was ordered overseas. To keep up the morale of the servicemen they had helped to recruit, many posts inaugurated a special "Vets to Vets" letter program. Through this program, posts tried to target men from their hometown who didn't receive mail from home. One last "direct support" service the VFW offered the armed forces during the war was to help the military overcome its shortcomings in equipment. Despite the VFW's continuous pleading with the federal government in past years for the maintenance of an up-to-date and well-equipped military organization, its advice had mostly fallen on deaf ears. As a result, the armed forces were thrust into another war almost as ill equipped as they had been during the Spanish American War. In 1917, the entire VFW National Encampment got into the act of raising money for much-needed equipment. The delegates and others attending the meetings sold pencils on the streets of New York City - the host city - in one of the nation's earliest street-sales fund-raisers. With the proceeds, the VFW purchased two ambulances for donation to the U.S. Army.

At the same time the members of the VFW were throwing themselves into the war effort, they were also looking ahead to the day when the troops now fighting the "War to End War" would be veterans. The veterans of 1898 knew from personal experience of the "war's over" apathy of the public; they knew they could not wait until the boys came home to secure for them the entitlements they had earned. Armed with this knowledge, they constantly reminded the government and politicians of their promises. On a national level, the VFW worked to secure some form of insurance against disability or loss of life for service members. On September 2, 1915, Congress had approved an act which covered losses or damage suffered by our Merchant Marine or commercial companies due to actions of warring European nations. This War Risk Insurance Act, however, did not extend to members of the armed forces or to naval ships and their cargo. Finally, after years of prodding from the VFW, the government expanded the act's coverage. Shortly after war was declared, Congress approved the new War Insurance Act, and in October 1917, an addition to it in the form of medical insurance for servicemen. This new system was pronounced by its originators to be "modern, scientific, complete and free from all deficits of the old Pension System." Unfortunately, the act's provisions were not handled expediently or efficiently. As a result, the act was amended eight times, then finally repealed in 1924.

If the War Insurance Act was ultimately disappointing, another entitlement the VFW succeeded in winning was not. The enactment of Public Law 178 in 1918 marked the achievement of a major VFW objective. With this act, the federal government finally conceded the need for vocational training for disabled veterans who required special training for complete rehabilitation. Before this time, the returning disabled veteran had been discharged and made to fend for himself. Even if his previous employment had been as a stevedore or steeplejack, as far as the government was concerned, the loss of one or both legs was not a problem. Under Public Law 178, he would be trained at special centers to qualify for employment where his loss would present less of an obstacle. He would be re-educated to cope in a different environment and receive financial assistance for himself and his dependents.

In June 1920, the VFW was finally awarded the Widows and Orphans Pension Bill which gave widows of veterans of the Spanish American War and the Philippine Insurrection $`12 a month plus an additional $2 for each child.

While the VFW was working on behalf of veterans' families, many of these families were themselves taking an active role in veterans' affairs. At the organizational meeting in 1914, he VFW had approved the formation of a national Ladies Auxiliary.

From the start of World War I, the VFW left no doubt that it seriously intended to become an organization for veterans of all wars, not just veterans of the Spanish American War. It worked to secure entitlements for all veterans, to obtain pensions for all veterans' families, and - most important to its future survival - to recruit veterans from all wars as members.

One of the committees established to handle claims against the War Risk Insurance Act and Vocational Training Bureau evolved into a permanent Washington office known as the National Service Bureau. With the establishment of this bureau, the VFW became the first veteran's organization to maintain a permanent office in the nation's capital.

As another result of its tremendous growth in membership, the VFW found it necessary to establish a level of leadership and authority midway between the national and local levels. At the 1920 Encampment in Washington, D.D., the delegates adopted a new set of bylaws that provided that all posts within each state be organized into a department. This department would be headed by a state commander elected by a delegate from those posts. The new arrangement would improve communication between the posts in each state and enable posts within a state to use their clout jointly when necessary.

From its inception, the VFW had taken it for granted that veterans should, by law, be entitled to certain benefits. But the federal government did not officially acknowledge this self-evident truth until the 1920's. In that decade, the government took several actions that signaled it was finally ready to take veterans' entitlements seriously. First on August 9, 1921, the government transferred administration of veterans' entitlements from the Treasury Department to a separate Veterans Bureau. This move, made after several years of pleading from the VFW, meant that for the first time there were government officials whose job was to focus full time on veterans' problems.

The second way the federal government officially recognized the needs of veterans was by forming Veterans Affairs Committees in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Retrenchment Years 1930-1940

Unlike many countries, the United States has no "military class". Its armed forces are made up of civilians who choose - or are chosen- to join one of the services, and who can elect to serve for a short period of time or a lifetime career. Once a serviceman's membership in the armed forces ends, he automatically returns to his former status as a civilian. Unless he is rich, his life will be affected by the same economic winds that affect the lives of other citizens. Hard times will be equally hard for him, and may even be harder if he sustained injuries or health problems while in the military.

Toward the end of 1929, the economic winds that had previously swept veterans and non-veterans alike into an era of unparalleled prosperity shifted their direction cruelly. Beginning in late October 1929, almost every citizen in the country had felt the deadly effects of the depression precipitated ;by the crash of the stock market.

In the early years of the depression, the VFW's overriding concern was to obtain some quick financial relief for the nation's veterans. The VFW fixed on payment of a cash bonus for wartime service as the surest means to this end. In 1924, the government had granted World War I veterans "bonus" certificates that would be redeemable for cash in twenty years. At the time, the VFW had argued that it was senseless to promise a starving man that he would get money for food two decades later. Now the VFW stepped up its efforts to persuade the government to redeem the certificates early.

In 1932, the VFW's bonus campaign suddenly took on a new urgency. Early that summer, Congress passed Public Law 212, a measure that would slash veterans' entitlements to the bone. It now appeared that unless payment of the cash bonus was authorized, most veterans would receive no government assistance whatsoever for the duration of the depression.

One factor that complicated and prolonged the campaign for the cash bonus was the lack of cohesion among the three major veteran's organizations: the VFW, the American Legion, and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Whether because of disagreements as to which organization should lead the campaign or differences in opinion about what veterans were entitled to, the three groups found it nearly impossible to agree on a course of action. Finally, in 1935, the DAV and the American legion both joined the VFW in an all-out effort to push for the passage of Congressman Wright Patman's version of the bonus bill. That year, the Patman Bill passed both houses of Congress, but was vetoed by President Roosevelt. Subsequently, the Senate failed by nine votes to override the veto.

The following session, Congress was presented with a slightly different version of the bonus bill: the Patman-Vinson-McCormack Bill. On January 27, 1936, the Senate passed the Patman-Vinson-McCormack Bill over a presidential veto. Under the new law, nearly three and a half million veterans were eligible for almost two billion dollars worth of Adjusted Service Bonds. These bonds, which were immediately redeemable, were available to World War I veterans who qualified by August 1936. On January 28th and 29th, thousands of veterans were lined up outside VFW posts to obtain and fill out the applications. Delivery of most of the bonds was completed by August 1st that year.

Although the cash bonus and the nullification of the Economy Act are remembered as two of the VFW's greatest victories, it fought other legislative battles during that same period.

For example, the VFW successfully sponsored the Disability Allowance of 1930. In 1940, their efforts were rewarded when Congress passed Public Law 868, which granted $20 million for the construction of veterans' hospitals.

Although the VFW's main priority during this period was, as always, to assist veterans and their families, the organization also threw itself into community service. Throughout the depression, posts all over the United States initiated programs to help the needy. VFW members collected and distributed food and served free meals at Post Homes..

As part of its community service, the VFW also started several youth programs. In 1937, borrowing a concept developed by the Department of Minnesota, it introduced a nationwide program to teach bicycle safety. This program was operated with the cooperation of local and state police. About the same time, the organization also received the exclusive right, from the Amateur Softball Association of America, to sponsor Junior Softball Tournaments throughout the country. In addition, the VFW established two programs for the children on its members - the Sons of the VFW, authorized by the 1934 National Encampment, and the Daughters of the VFW, authorized the following year.

In 1935, the VFW again went on record as backing peace for the United States. This time it proposed a four-point program that asked the government to: adopt a permanent neutrality, take federal control of the manufacture and sale of arms and ammunition, conscript wealth and industry as well as manpower in the time of war, and maintain an adequate defense force.

To enlist public support for staying out of war, in 1937 the VFW unveiled its "Peace for America" program. Through posters, windshield decals, newspaper publicity, public forums, and radio speeches, all posts helped popularize the VFW's position. As part of the program, in late November the VFW launched a campaign to "Keep America Out of War".

Even as the VFW deliberated as to how to preserve peace in America, events that would make neutrality untenable were rapidly unfolding in Europe. On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler unleashed his armies and air forces on Poland. Two days later, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. Shortly afterwards, Russia entered the fray on Hitler's side, helping to crush Poland from the east. By mid-summer 1940, most of Scandinavia, Holland, Belgium, and France had succumbed to Hitler's "blitzkrieg" (combined air/tank/infantry) tactics.

With Great Britain standing alone against the rampaging Germans, the U.S. quickly softened its stand on neutrality. Congress voted vast sums for rearmament, and nearly a million men were drafted into military service. Both candidates for president - two term incumbent F.D.R. and Republican challenger Wendell Wilkie - forcefully advocated helping the British in any possible. And when the VFW's National Council of Administration met in Chicago in September 1940, they too strongly endorsed an "Aid to Britain" policy.

War and Conflict 1941-1954

In 1941, Americans could look either east or west and find a shooting war in progress. Civilians in countries involved in these struggles were dying without even seeing the flash of an enemy saber or hearing the roar of his cannon. In many corners of the world, home front and battle front were becoming indistinguishable.

In the United States, the average citizen was still content to root for Great Britain, France, and the other allies from the sidelines. Although isolationists were now a distinct minority, few Americans were as yet advocating military aid to Europe or China. Congress, too, concentrated on economic rather than military assistance by approving the lend-lease bill - an act that authorized the U.S. to lend or lease weapons, raw materials, facilities, food, or other goods to the nations whose defense was deemed vital to that of the U.S.

World War II

Then on December 7, 1941, a day that President Franklin Roosevelt predicted would "live in infamy," planes from a Japanese task force struck the U.S. military installations in Hawaii. Caught unaware, the naval base at Pearl Harbor received the brunt of the assault. While sacrificing twenty-eight aircraft and three midget submarines of their own, the Japanese inflicted losses on American forces of nineteen ships, 3000 lives, and uncounted airplanes and vehicles. The following day, the U.S. Congress swiftly declared that a state of war existed between the United States and the Empire of Japan. Two days later, when Japan's allies, Germany and Italy, declared war upon the United States, Congress adopted a resolution declaring that a state of ware also existed with these two nations.

Although many members of the VFW would see action on the various battle fronts, the VFW's major contributions to the war effort took place on the home front. The VFW was by now a highly adaptable and versatile organization, and its War Service Commission made sure the organization funneled its efforts wherever they were needed most. As a result, during the early years of World War II, the VFW's programs were mainly directed toward winning the war. Priority was given to recruiting and training manpower, boosting morale, defending the U.S. against enemy attack or sabotage, and other direct support activities. From 1943 on, however, programs became increasingly concerned with obtaining benefits for returning veterans. During the war and afterwards, the VFW continued to prove that it was truly an all-wars, all-services organization.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the VFW's first official act was to dispatch Legislative Representative Omar B. Ketchum with a request that Congress provide immediate life insurance coverage to all men in the service. Because the War Risk Insurance Act of World War I had long since expired, many men, both inside the country and overseas, were not covered. Together with fellow VFW member Casey Jones, Ketchum wrote a bill that would award a $5000 life insurance policy to every serviceman and cover his dependents as well. Congressman John McCormick of Massachusetts introduced the bill into Congress, and on the day after Pearl Harbor, Congress approved it. This bill remained in effect until April 19, 1942, when the National Service Life Insurance Act went into force.

Even as Ketchum was persuading Congress to enact the insurance legislation, the VFW national organization was offering its services to the U.S. Government. They took on the job of enrolling auxiliary police and firemen. These auxiliary units replaced men who had answered their country's call to the colors, and performed normal police, fire and emergency duties. In some areas, units also provided border patrols whose primary mission was to prevent an invasion by enemy saboteurs. Members from all over the country carried on a recruiting drive and many Post Homes were turned into training centers for auxiliary volunteers.

In 1942, the Army needed fliers badly. It needed a multitude of technicians of all kinds to fill its rapidly expanding air arm. Unfortunately, thousands of recruits were being turned away because they could not pass the required exams. To salvage these would-be airmen, Lieutenant General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, commanding general of the Army Air Corps, asked for the VFW's assistance.

The VFW had already shown its support for the Air Corps by collecting $150,000 for the purchase of fifteen training planes. Now they established the Aviation Cadet program - a training program to test and drill young men eighteen to twenty-six years of age so they could qualify for the Air Corps. They prepared pamphlets, and supplied tests, aptitude screening material, application blanks, and study materials to more than 1400 Aviation Cadet Committees in forty-six states. Posts then supplied, free of charge, special classes in mathematics, physics, English, geography history, or any other subject in which a recruit was weak. All tests were continually updated to stay abreast of Air Corps requirements. During its seven months of operation, the Aviation Cadet program was extremely effective. In one subject area alone, 83 percent of those who had failed the examination n their first try passed after being tutored by VFW members. In all, the VFW successfully recruited 75,000 men for the Air Corps and 45,000 for other branches of the service. The VFW received hundreds of letters from young fliers thanking the organization for enabling them to "make the grade."

Although the Aviation Cadet program, the Americanism Department programs, and other VFW programs conducted at the national level received the most publicity, many worthwhile projects also went on in the trenches (on the local level). Throughout the war, for example, local posts selflessly pitched in to alleviate shortages of materials essential to wartime industry. They could do little about the rationing of consumer goods such as meat, sugar, coffee, canned goods, and cheese which made feeding their members' families difficult, but posts organized and led thousands of scrap drives to feed the demands of industry. Together with other groups and individuals, they helped collect 43,919 tons of fat, 255,513 tons of tin cans, 6 millions tons of waste paper, and 26 million tons of scrap iron and steel.

Local Ladies Auxiliaries also devoted themselves to the war effort. Besides assisting posts with local and national programs, Auxiliary members tried to ensure that each serviceman, no matter where he was stationed, received mail from home. Auxiliaries sent Christmas boxes filled with home-baked treats, canned goods, and knitted items. They also mailed hundreds of letters via the Post Office's newly introduced V-Mail - a weight-saving measure that transferred letters to microfilm, then reprinted them on paper upon arrival overseas. In addition, Auxiliaries visited servicemen in veterans' hospitals and sent them homemade baked goods, books, and cigarettes.

Thanks to their first-hand knowledge about the way the war was progressing, the VFW's leaders easily recognized when the time was ripe to change from a wartime program to one aimed at handling the postwar problems its veterans would encounter. That turning point came in 1943, when Allied forces went on the offensive in both the European Theater of Operations (ETO) and the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) and reclaimed areas such as Stalingrad, Rostov, and Kharkov in Russia; Tunis and Bizerte in North Africa; the Aleutian Islands; and Guadalcanal in the Pacific. Confident that the war would reach a speedy conclusion, the VFW began shifting its emphasis away from winning the war and toward securing benefits for new veterans now, before "the war's over" apathy make their attainment more difficult.

Aware that many millions now in their country's military service would have an increased need for rehabilitation, the VFW gave high priority to expanding and overhauling its Rehabilitation Service. In 1931, this Service had taken over several duties from the National Service Bureau, including the responsibilities for handling claims submitted to the government's War Risk Insurance Bureau, Bureau of Pensions, and Bureau of Vocational Training and Rehabilitation. The VFW now went about improving these programs. In 1945, the VFW Rehabilitation Service grew into what many veterans and government employees considered the "best in the world." At times, in fact, the VFW handled as many veterans' claims as all other agencies combined.

Revamping the Rehabilitation Service was not the VFW's only accomplishment during this time. In June 1944, Congress passed Public Law 346, the Service Man's Readjustment Act. The Service Man's Readjustment Act, more commonly called the G.I. Bill of Rights, provided veterans of World War II with funds to continue education that was interrupted by the war, or to obtain training or formal education that would improve their ability to secure gainful employment.

With the VFW's support, several other important veterans' bills were passed in 1944. Among these was the Mustering Out Pay Act, passed February 3, 1944. This act was intended to reduce some of the economic hardships veterans of other wars had experienced immediately upon returning home. Provisions included payment for unused leave time and transportation to the returnee's home of record, as well as a VFW-backed provision of differential payment for men with foreign service.

The final act beneficial to servicemen was the Veteran Preference Law of 1944. Thanks to this law, job preference for veterans no longer had to be granted on a war-by-war basis by regulation, directive, or presidential proclamation; it was now a matter of statue law. In addition, the new federal law allowed returnees - as a step to ease the transition back into civilian life - fifty-two weeks of unemployment compensation at $20 a week. For veterans who wanted to go into business, the government guaranteed half of a $2000 loan bearing a maximum interest charge of 4 percent. In addition, the government helped job-seeking veterans find employment.

The VFW's many efforts on behalf of veterans - on the home front, in the legislative arena, in union circles - did not go unremarked. During the war, overseas veterans joined the VFW by the thousands. Between 1940 and 1945, membership increased by more than 350 percent, growing from 201,170 to 741,310. By 1946, a year after Allied victory had been declared first in Germany, then in Japan, membership had climbed to 1,544,444 - the highest level it would reach until 1970. And by 1949, the VFW's 10,000 posts stretched from coast to coast and from Tokyo and Yokohama to Paris and Bremen. For the VFW, looking after the needs of all these new members in peacetime posed a challenge equal to any it had faced in wartime.

In the fall of 1945, the VFW Council of Administration met and endorsed a long-range housing program. They sent a telegram to President Truman urging him to make veterans' housing a priority. In May 1946, Congress obliged by passing the Veteran Emergency Housing Act of 1946 (Public Law 388). After wrestling with housing issues in the early postwar period, the VFW turned its attention to a different entitlement problem; adequate medical care for veterans. The VFW's major battle in this area occurred in 1949, following a Presidential Order curtailing VA hospital construction. As vital as the VFW's campaigns for veterans' entitlements such as pensions, medical care, and housing were, they were not the only issues that concerned the organization during this period. The organization also lent its support to broader causes - most important, to world peace. From April 25 to June 26, 1945, representatives of about fifty nations gathered in San Francisco to draw up a charter for the proposed peace organization. The VFW sent a consulting delegation to this United Nations World Conference on International Organization. At about the same time the United Nations charter was being ratified, the VFW held its own version of the United Nations by hosting a United Nations Veterans Victory Conference. At the VFW's invitation, veterans' representatives of twenty-two nations convened to present plans for outlawing future wars.

Although its support of the United Nations and its aims were unwavering, the VFW did not relax its stance on military preparedness. As it had since its founding, the organization continued to insist that the best guarantee of peace was a defense force strong enough to enforce that stand. Because of this conviction, in 1946 the VFW established the National Security Committee. The group met regularly with Army and Navy officials on matters of defense and security.

In 1950, the "Russian aggression" that the VFW and much of the free world had been condemning, abruptly escalated. At issue was the way in which the tiny Far Eastern nation of Korea had been divided at the end of World War II. The United States had been granted control of the populous, agricultural region south of the 38th parallel, while the Soviet Union had received the sparsely settled, industrial region to the north. With the help of the United Nations, the South Koreans had held elections and drawn up a democratic constitution, but the Northern Koreans remained under the Communists' heel. The Soviets adamantly resisted all attempts by the United States and the United Nations to reunite the sundered nation.

The Korean War

Then on June 25, 1950, the North Korean Army made its move. Backed by Russian tanks and planes, the Communists surged across the 38th parallel and invaded the newly formed democracy to the south. American reaction was swift. Within twenty-four hours, President Truman announced he would send the Army and Navy to the aid of South Korea.

As the war progressed, the VFW began to find some fault with the Truman administration's handling of the Korean situation. The 13,000 delegates of the August 27 through September 1, 1950 encampment were especially critical of White House policies. They called upon the President to seek out new leadership of the "Highest Integrity and Non-Political Favor" and to develop policies concerning foreign policy and national defense. The delegates passed resolutions asking Congress for: the mobilization of the National Guard; expansion of the Selective Service draft for all males between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five who had no previous military service; establishment of an adequate radar network, supported by an effective Air Force; conversion and expansion on a global scale of America's intelligence operations.

Despite the VFW's occasional differences of opinion with the Truman administration, the organization's contributions to the war effort were as unstinting as usual. Some of the VFW's earliest work was aimed at building public support of the fight against Communism by heightening appreciation of the American way of life.

While the VFW was supporting the war effort, it was, of course, also looking out for the rights of the servicemen fighting in Korea. In fact, several times during the Korean conflict, the organization had to mobilize to prevent cuts in existing benefits.

In 1951 the government attempted to weaken the Veterans Administration by slashing its budget and reassigning the oversight for certain veterans' entitlements to other federal agencies. The VFW's pressure did its job. The control of veterans' affairs remained in the province of the Administrator of Veterans Affairs. Also during this period, Truman administration leaders tried again to make large cuts in the VA budget in the area of veterans' medical care. For three weeks in April, VFW personnel testified to the need for more hospital beds. Thanks to their testimony the cuts were not made. Still, the battle was not won overnight. Both Commander-in-Chief Frank C. Hilton and his successor, James W. Cothran, found much of their time occupied with long and difficult struggles to prevent these cuts.

On June 27, 1953, a truce between North and South Korea was finally signed. The fighting had lasted three years to the day. During that period, 5,720,000 Americans had served in Korea, and the United States had sustained 157,530 casualties. Many who survived had crippling injuries and were in need of serious rehabilitation and other assistance. Others - some 500,000 by 1954 - enrolled in the nation's colleges and universities under the GI Bill. They, too, had special employment, housing, and financial needs. Fortunately, many of the programs and much of the machinery required to meet these needs was still in place from the "popular" war, World War II.

While the VFW worked to help the new veterans readjust to civilian life, it also continued its war on Communism. Its major objection to the Communist party, then as now, was that Communists advocate the overthrow, violent or otherwise, of other governments. This Communist philosophy is incompatible with the purpose of the VFW as stated in Article I of its constitution: "To maintain true allegiance to the Government of the United States of America, and fidelity to its constitution and laws; to foster true patriotism; to maintain and extend the institution of American freedom; and to preserve and defend the United States from all her enemies, whomsoever." As it had for over a quarter of a century, the VFW pressed Congress to outlaw the communist party. Finally, in 1954, Congress passed a law making the Communist party illegal in the U.S.

Recycling the Battle 1955-1973
The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of South Vietnam, supported by the United States and other anti-communist nations. The Viet Cong, a lightly armed South Vietnamese communist-controlled common front, largely fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The Vietnam People's Army (North Vietnamese Army) engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units into battle. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery and airstrikes.

The U.S. government viewed involvement in the war as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider strategy of containment. The North Vietnamese government viewed the war as a colonial war, fought initially against France, backed by the U.S., and later against South Vietnam, which it regarded as a U.S. puppet state. U.S. military advisors arrived beginning in 1950. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with U.S. troop levels tripling in 1961 and tripling again in 1962. U.S. combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Operations spanned borders, with Laos and Cambodia heavily bombed. Involvement peaked in 1968 at the time of the Tet Offensive. After this, U.S. ground forces were withdrawn as part of a policy called Vietnamization. Despite the Paris Peace Accords, signed by all parties in January 1973, fighting continued.

U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973 as a result of the CaseChurch Amendment passed by the U.S. Congress. The capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese army in April 1975 marked the end of the Vietnam War. North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (See: Vietnam War casualties). Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from less than one million to more than three million. Some 200,000300,000 Cambodians, 20,000200,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict.

Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ), as he took over the presidency after the death of Kennedy, initially did not consider Vietnam a priority and was more concerned with his "Great Society" and progressive social programs. Presidential aide Jack Valenti recalls, "Vietnam at the time was no bigger than a man's fist on the horizon. We hardly discussed it because it was not worth discussing."

On 24 November 1963, Johnson said, "the battle against communism... must be joined... with strength and determination." The pledge came at a time when Vietnam was deteriorating, especially in places like the Mekong Delta, because of the recent coup against Diem.

Johnson had reversed Kennedy's disengagement policy from Vietnam in withdrawing 1,000 troops by the end of 1963 (NSAM 263 on 11 Oct.), with his own NSAM 273 (26 Nov.) to expand the war.

The military revolutionary council, meeting in lieu of a strong South Vietnamese leader, was made up of 12 members headed by General Duong Van Minhwhom Stanley Karnow, a journalist on the ground, later recalled as "a model of lethargy." Lodge, frustrated by the end of the year, cabled home about Minh: "Will he be strong enough to get on top of things?" His regime was overthrown in January 1964 by General Nguyen Khanh. However, there was persistent instability in the military as several coupsnot all successfuloccurred in a short space of time.

On 2 August 1964, the USS Maddox, on an intelligence mission along North Vietnam's coast, allegedly fired upon and damaged several torpedo boats that had been stalking it in the Gulf of Tonkin.

A second attack was reported two days later on the USS Turner Joy and Maddox in the same area. The circumstances of the attack were murky. Lyndon Johnson commented to Undersecretary of State George Ball that "those sailors out there may have been shooting at flying fish."

The second attack led to retaliatory air strikes, prompted Congress to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and gave the president power to conduct military operations in Southeast Asia without declaring war. In the same month, Johnson pledged that he was not "... committing American boys to fighting a war that I think ought to be fought by the boys of Asia to help protect their own land."

An undated NSA publication declassified in 2005, however, revealed that there was no attack on 4 August. It had already been called into question long before this. "Gulf of Tonkin incident", writes Louise Gerdes, "is an oft-cited example of the way in which Johnson misled the American people to gain support for his foreign policy in Vietnam." George C. Herring argues, however, that McNamara and the Pentagon "did not knowingly lie about the alleged attacks, but they were obviously in a mood to retaliate and they seem to have selected from the evidence available to them those parts that confirmed what they wanted to believe."

"From a strength of approximately 5,000 at the start of 1959 the Viet Cong's ranks grew to about 100,000 at the end of 1964...Between 1961 and 1964 the Army's strength rose from about 850,000 to nearly a million men." The numbers for U.S. troops deployed to Vietnam during the same period were quite different; 2,000 in 1961, rising rapidly to 16,500 in 1964.

The National Security Council recommended a three-stage escalation of the bombing of North Vietnam. On 2 March 1965, following an attack on a U.S. Marine barracks at Pleiku, Operation Flaming Dart (initiated when Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin was at a state visit to North Vietnam), Operation Rolling Thunder and Operation Arc Light commenced. The bombing campaign, which ultimately lasted three years, was intended to force North Vietnam to cease its support for the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF) by threatening to destroy North Vietnam's air defenses and industrial infrastructure. As well, it was aimed at bolstering the morale of the South Vietnamese. Between March 1965 and November 1968, "Rolling Thunder" deluged the north with a million tons of missiles, rockets and bombs.

Bombing was not restricted to North Vietnam. Other aerial campaigns, such as Operation Commando Hunt, targeted different parts of the NLF and VPA infrastructure. These included the Ho Chi Minh trail, which ran through Laos and Cambodia. The objective of forcing North Vietnam to stop its support for the NLF, however, was never reached. As one officer noted "this is a political war and it calls for discriminate killing. The best weapon... would be a knife... The worst is an airplane." The Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force Curtis LeMay, however, had long advocated saturation bombing in Vietnam and wrote of the Communists that "we're going to bomb them back into the Stone Age".

Escalation and ground war

After several attacks upon them, it was decided that U.S. Air Force bases needed more protection. The South Vietnamese military seemed incapable of providing security. On 8 March 1965, 3,500 U.S. Marines were dispatched to South Vietnam. This marked the beginning of the American ground war. U.S. public opinion overwhelmingly supported the deployment.

In a statement similar to that made to the French almost two decades earlier, Ho Chi Minh warned that if the Americans "want to make war for twenty years then we shall make war for twenty years. If they want to make peace, we shall make peace and invite them to afternoon tea." As former First Deputy Foreign Minister Tran Quang Co has noted, the primary goal of the war was to reunify Vietnam and secure its independence. The policy of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) was not to topple other non-communist governments in South East Asia.

The Marines' assignment was defensive. The initial deployment of 3,500 in March was increased to nearly 200,000 by December. The U.S. military had long been schooled in offensive warfare. Regardless of political policies, U.S. commanders were institutionally and psychologically unsuited to a defensive mission. In December, ARVN forces suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Bình Giã, in a battle that both sides viewed as a watershed. Previously communist forces had utilized hit-and-run guerrilla tactics, however at Binh Gia they had successfully defeated a strong ARVN force in conventional warfare. Tellingly, South Vietnamese forces were again defeated in June, at the Battle of Đồng Xo i.

U.S. Soldiers Searching A Village for NLF

Desertion rates were increasing, and morale plummeted. General William Westmoreland informed Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific forces, that the situation was critical. He said, "I am convinced that U.S. troops with their energy, mobility, and firepower can successfully take the fight to the NLF [National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam]." With this recommendation, Westmoreland was advocating an aggressive departure from America's defensive posture and the sidelining of the South Vietnamese. By ignoring ARVN units, the U.S. commitment became open-ended. Westmoreland outlined a three-point plan to win the war:

Phase 1. Commitment of U.S. (and other free world) forces necessary to halt the losing trend by the end of 1965.

Phase 2. U.S. and allied forces mount major offensive actions to seize the initiative to destroy guerrilla and organized enemy forces. This phase would end when the enemy had been worn down, thrown on the defensive, and driven back from major populated areas.

Phase 3. If the enemy persisted, a period of twelve to eighteen months following Phase 2 would be required for the final destruction of enemy forces remaining in remote base areas.

The plan was approved by Johnson and marked a profound departure from the previous administration's insistence that the government of South Vietnam was responsible for defeating the guerrillas. Westmoreland predicted victory by the end of 1967. Johnson did not, however, communicate this change in strategy to the media. Instead he emphasized continuity. The change in U.S. policy depended on matching the North Vietnamese and the NLF in a contest of attrition and morale. The opponents were locked in a cycle of escalation. The idea that the government of South Vietnam could manage its own affairs was shelved.

The one-year tour of duty deprived units of experienced leadership. As one observer noted "we were not in Vietnam for 10 years, but for one year 10 times." As a result, training programs were shortened.

South Vietnam was inundated with manufactured goods. As Stanley Karnow writes, "the main PX [Post Exchange], located in the Saigon suburb of Cholon, was only slightly smaller than the New York Bloomingdale's..." The American buildup transformed the economy and had a profound impact on South Vietnamese society. A huge surge in corruption was witnessed.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail running through Laos, 1967

Washington encouraged its SEATO allies to contribute troops. Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines all agreed to send troops. Major allies, however, notably NATO nations Canada and the United Kingdom, declined Washington's troop requests. The U.S. and its allies mounted complex operations, such as operations Masher, Attleboro, Cedar Falls, and Junction City. However, the communist insurgents remained elusive and demonstrated great tactical flexibility.

Meanwhile, the political situation in South Vietnam began to stabilize with the coming to power of Prime Minister Air Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳand figurehead Chief of State, General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, in mid 1965 at the head of a military junta. This ended a series of coups that had happened more than once a year. In 1967, Thieu became president with Ky as his deputy, after rigged elections. Although they were nominally a civilian government, Ky was supposed to maintain real power through a behind-the-scenes military body. However, Thieu outmaneuvered and sidelined Ky by filling the ranks with generals from his faction. Thieu was also accused of murdering Ky loyalists through contrived military accidents. Thieu, mistrustful and indecisive, remained president until 1975, having won a one-man election in 1971.

The Johnson administration employed a "policy of minimum candor" in its dealings with the media. Military information officers sought to manage media coverage by emphasizing stories that portrayed progress in the war. Over time, this policy damaged the public trust in official pronouncements. As the media's coverage of the war and that of the Pentagon diverged, a so-called credibility gap developed.

Tet Offensive

Having lured General Westmoreland's forces into the hinterland at Khe Sanh in Quảng Trị Province, in January 1968, the NVA and NLF broke the truce that had traditionally accompanied the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday. They launched the surprise Tet Offensive in the hope of sparking a national uprising. Over 100 cities were attacked, with assaults on General Westmoreland's headquarters and the U.S. Embassy, Saigon.

Although the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces were initially taken aback by the scale of the urban offensive, they responded quickly and effectively, decimating the ranks of the NLF. In the former capital city of Huế, the combined NLF and VPA troops captured the Imperial Citadel and much of the city, which led to the Battle of Huế. Throughout the offensive, the American forces employed massive firepower; in Huế where the battle was the fiercest, that firepower left 80% of the city in ruins. During the interim between the capture of the Citadel and end of the "Battle of Huế", the communist insurgent occupying forces massacred several thousand unarmed Huế civilians (estimates vary up to a high of 6,000). After the war, North Vietnamese officials acknowledged that the Tet Offensive had, indeed, caused grave damage to NLF forces. But the offensive had another, unintended consequence.

General Westmoreland had become the public face of the war. He was featured on the cover of Time magazine three times and was named 1965's Man of the Year. Time described him as "the sinewy personification of the American fighting man... (who) directed the historic buildup, drew up the battle plans, and infused the... men under him with his own idealistic view of U.S. aims and responsibilities."

In November 1967 Westmoreland spearheaded a public relations drive for the Johnson administration to bolster flagging public support. In a speech before the National Press Club he said that a point in the war had been reached "where the end comes into view." Thus, the public was shocked and confused when Westmoreland's predictions were trumped by Tet. The American media, which had been largely supportive of U.S. efforts, rounded on the Johnson administration for what had become an increasing credibility gap. Despite its military failure, the Tet Offensive became a political victory and ended the career of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who declined to run for re-election. Johnson's approval rating slumped from 48 to 36 percent.

As James Witz noted, Tet "contradicted the claims of progress... made by the Johnson administration and the military." The Tet Offensive was the turning point in America's involvement in the Vietnam War. It had a profound impact on domestic support for the conflict. The offensive constituted an intelligence failure on the scale of Pearl Harbor. Journalist Peter Arnett quoted an unnamed officer, saying of Bến Tre (laid to rubble by U.S. firepower) that "it became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it" (though the authenticity of this quote is disputed). According to one source, this quote was attributed to Major Booris of 9th Infantry Division.

Westmoreland became Chief of Staff of the Army in March, just as all resistance was finally subdued. The move was technically a promotion. However, his position had become untenable because of the offensive and because his request for 200,000 additional troops had been leaked to the media. Westmoreland was succeeded by his deputy Creighton Abrams, a commander less inclined to public media pronouncements.

On 10 May 1968, despite low expectations, peace talks began between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Negotiations stagnated for five months, until Johnson gave orders to halt the bombing of North Vietnam. The Democratic candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, was running against Republican former vice president Richard Nixon.

As historian Robert Dallek writes, "Lyndon Johnson's escalation of the war in Vietnam divided Americans into warring camps... cost 30,000 American lives by the time he left office, (and) destroyed Johnson's presidency..." His refusal to send more U.S. troops to Vietnam was seen as Johnson's admission that the war was lost. It can be seen that the refusal was a tacit admission that the war could not be won by escalation, at least not at a cost acceptable to the American people. As Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara noted, "the dangerous illusion of victory by the United States was therefore dead."

Severe communist losses during the Tet Offensive allowed U.S. President Richard Nixon to begin troop withdrawals. His plan, called the Nixon Doctrine, was to build up the ARVN, so that they could take over the defense of South Vietnam. The policy became known as "Vietnamization". Vietnamization had much in common with the policies of the Kennedy administration. One important difference, however, remained. While Kennedy insisted that the South Vietnamese fight the war themselves, he attempted to limit the scope of the conflict.

Nixon said in an announcement, "I am tonight announcing plans for the withdrawal of an additional 150,000 American troops to be completed during the spring of next year. This will bring a total reduction of 265,500 men in our armed forces in Vietnam below the level that existed when we took office 15 months ago."

On 10 October 1969, Nixon ordered a squadron of 18 B-52s loaded with nuclear weapons to race to the border of Soviet airspace to convince the Soviet Union that he was capable of anything to end the Vietnam War.

Nixon also pursued negotiations. Theater commander Creighton Abrams shifted to smaller operations, aimed at communist logistics, with better use of firepower and more cooperation with the ARVN. Nixon also began to pursue dtente with the Soviet Union and rapprochement with the People's Republic of China. This policy helped to decrease global tensions. Dtente led to nuclear arms reduction on the part of both superpowers. But Nixon was disappointed that the PRC and the Soviet Union continued to supply the North Vietnamese with aid. In September 1969, Ho Chi Minh died at age seventy-nine.

The anti-war movement was gaining strength in the United States. Nixon appealed to the "silent majority" of Americans to support the war. But revelations of the My Lai Massacre, in which a U.S. Army platoon raped and killed civilians, and the 1969 "Green Beret Affair" where eight Special Forces soldiers, including the 5th Special Forces Group Commander were arrested for the murder of a suspected double agent provoked national and international outrage.

The civilian cost of the war was again questioned when U.S. forces concluded Operation Speedy Express with a claimed body count of 10,889 Communist guerillas with only 40 U.S. losses; Kevin Buckley writing in Newsweek estimated that perhaps 5,000 of the Vietnamese dead were civilians.

Beginning in 1970, American troops were being taken away from border areas where much more killing took place, and instead put along the coast and interior, which is one reason why casualties in 1970 were less than half of 1969's totals.

The Secret Bombing of Cambodia and Laos

Prince Norodom Sihanouk had proclaimed Cambodia neutral since 1955, but the communists used Cambodian soil as a base and Sihanouk tolerated their presence, because he wished to avoid being drawn into a wider regional conflict. Under pressure from Washington, however, he changed this policy in 1969. The Vietnamese communists were no longer welcome. President Nixon took the opportunity to launch a massive secret bombing campaign, called Operation Menu, against their sanctuaries along the Cambodia/Vietnam border.

This violated a long succession of pronouncements from Washington supporting Cambodian neutrality. Richard Nixon wrote to Prince Sihanouk in April 1969 assuring him that the United States respected "the sovereignty, neutrality and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Cambodia..." In 1970, Prince Sihanouk was deposed by his pro-American prime minister Lon Nol. The country's borders were closed, while U.S. forces and ARVN launched incursions into Cambodia to attack VPA/NLF bases and buy time for South Vietnam.

The invasion of Cambodia sparked nationwide U.S. protests. Four students were killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University during a protest in Ohio, which provoked public outrage in the United States. The reaction to the incident by the Nixon administration was seen as callous and indifferent, providing additional impetus for the anti-war movement.

In 1971 the Pentagon Papers were leaked to The New York Times. The top-secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, commissioned by the Department of Defense, detailed a long series of public deceptions. The Supreme Court ruled that its publication was legal.

The ARVN launched Operation Lam Son 719 in February 1971, aimed at cutting the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos. The ostensibly neutral Laos had long been the scene of a secret war. After meeting resistance, ARVN forces retreated in a confused rout. They fled along roads littered with their own dead. When they ran out of fuel, soldiers abandoned their vehicles and attempted to barge their way on to American helicopters sent to evacuate the wounded. Many ARVN soldiers clung to helicopter skids in a desperate attempt to save themselves. U.S. aircraft had to destroy abandoned equipment, including tanks, to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Half of the invading ARVN troops were either captured or killed. The operation was a fiasco and represented a clear failure of Vietnamization. As Karnow noted "the blunders were monumental... The (South Vietnamese) government's top officers had been tutored by the Americans for ten or fifteen years, many at training schools in the United States, yet they had learned little."

In 1971 Australia and New Zealand withdrew their soldiers. The U.S. troop count was further reduced to 196,700, with a deadline to remove another 45,000 troops by February 1972. As peace protests spread across the United States, disillusionment and ill-discipline grew in the ranks.

Vietnamization was again tested by the Easter Offensive of 1972, a massive conventional invasion of South Vietnam. The VPA and NLF quickly overran the northern provinces and in coordination with other forces attacked from Cambodia, threatening to cut the country in half. U.S. troop withdrawals continued. But American airpower came to the rescue with Operation Linebacker, and the offensive was halted. However, it became clear that without American airpower South Vietnam could not survive. The last remaining American ground troops were withdrawn in August.

1972 Election and Paris Peace Accords

The war was the central issue of the 1972 presidential election. Nixon's opponent, George McGovern, campaigned on a platform of withdrawal from Vietnam. Nixon's National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, continued secret negotiations with North Vietnam's L ức Thọ. In October 1972, they reached an agreement.

However, South Vietnamese President Thieu demanded massive changes to the peace accord. When North Vietnam went public with the agreement's details, the Nixon administration claimed that the North was attempting to embarrass the President. The negotiations became deadlocked. Hanoi demanded new changes.

To show his support for South Vietnam and force Hanoi back to the negotiating table, Nixon ordered Operation Linebacker II, a massive bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong 1829 December 1972. The offensive destroyed much of the remaining economic and industrial capacity of North Vietnam. Simultaneously Nixon pressured Thieu to accept the terms of the agreement, threatening to conclude a bilateral peace deal and cut off American aid.

On 15 January 1973, Nixon announced the suspension of offensive action against North Vietnam. The Paris Peace Accords on "Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam" were signed on 27 January 1973, officially ending direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. A cease-fire was declared across North and South Vietnam. U.S. POWs were released. The agreement guaranteed the territorial integrity of Vietnam and, like the Geneva Conference of 1954, called for national elections in the North and South. The Paris Peace Accords stipulated a sixty-day period for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces. "This article", noted Peter Church, "proved... to be the only one of the Paris Agreements which was fully carried out."

Opposition to the Vietnam War: 1962 -1975

Some advocates within the peace movement advocated a unilateral withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam. One reason given for the withdrawal is that it would contribute to a lessening of tensions in the region and thus less human bloodshed. Early opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam was centered around the Geneva conference of 1954. American support of Diem in refusing elections was thought to be thwarting the very democracy that America claimed to be supporting. John Kennedy, while Senator, opposed involvement in Vietnam.

Opposition to the Vietnam War tended to unite groups opposed to U.S. anti-communism, imperialism and colonialism and, for those involved with the New Left such as the Catholic Worker Movement, capitalism itself. Others, such as Stephen Spiro opposed the war based on the theory of Just War. Some wanted to show solidarity with the people of Vietnam, such as Norman Morrison emulating the actions of Thch Quảng Đức. Some critics of U.S. withdrawal predicted that it would not contribute to peace but rather vastly increase bloodshed. These critics advocated U.S. forces remain until all threats from the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army had been eliminated. Advocates of U.S. withdrawal were generally known as "doves", and they called their opponents "hawks", following nomenclature dating back to the War of 1812.

High-profile opposition to the Vietnam War turned to street protests in an effort to turn U.S. political opinion. On 15 October 1969, the Vietnam Moratorium attracted millions of Americans. The fatal shooting of four anti-war protesters at Kent State University led to nation-wide university protests. Riots broke out at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. After explosive news reports of American military abuses, such as the 1968 My Lai Massacre, brought new attention and support to the anti-war movement, some veterans joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Anti-war protests ended with the final withdrawal of troops after the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973. South Vietnam was left to defend itself alone when the fighting resumed. Many South Vietnamese subsequently fled to the United States.

Exit of the Americans: 1973 - 1975

The United States began drastically reducing their troop support in South Vietnam during the final years of "Vietnamization". Many U.S. troops were removed from the region, and on 5 March 1971, the United States returned the 5th Special Forces Group, which was the first American unit deployed to South Vietnam, to its former base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Under the Paris Peace Accords, between North Vietnamese Foreign Minister L ức Thọ and U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and reluctantly signed by South Vietnamese President Thiệu, U.S. military forces withdrew from South Vietnam and prisoners were exchanged. North Vietnam was allowed to continue supplying communist troops in the South, but only to the extent of replacing materials that were consumed. Later that year the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Kissinger and Thọ, but the Vietnamese negotiator declined it saying that a true peace did not yet exist.

The communist leaders had expected that the ceasefire terms would favor their side. But Saigon, bolstered by a surge of U.S. aid received just before the ceasefire went into effect, began to roll back the Vietcong. The communists responded with a new strategy hammered out in a series of meetings in Hanoi in March 1973, according to the memoirs of Trần Văn Tr.

As the Vietcong's top commander, Tr participated in several of these meetings. With U.S. bombings suspended, work on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and other logistical structures could proceed unimpeded. Logistics would be upgraded until the North was in a position to launch a massive invasion of the South, projected for the 197576 dry season. Tr calculated that this date would be Hanoi's last opportunity to strike before Saigon's army could be fully trained.

In the November 1972 Election, McGovern lost 49 of 50 states to Richard Nixon, who was re-elected U.S. president. Despite supporting Nixon over McGovern, many American voters split their tickets, returning a Democratic majority to both houses of Congress.

On 15 March 1973, U.S. President Richard Nixon implied that the United States would intervene militarily if the communist side violated the ceasefire. Public and congressional reaction to Nixon's trial balloon was unfavorable and in April Nixon appointed Graham Martin as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam. Martin was a second stringer compared to previous U.S. ambassadors and his appointment was an early signal that Washington had given up on Vietnam. During his confirmation hearings in June 1973, Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger stated that he would recommend resumption of U.S. bombing in North Vietnam if North Vietnam launched a major offensive against South Vietnam. On 4 June 1973, the U.S. Senate passed the Case-Church Amendment to prohibit such intervention.

The oil price shock of October 1973 caused significant damage to the South Vietnamese economy. The Vietcong resumed offensive operations when dry season began and by January 1974 it had recaptured the territory it lost during the previous dry season. After two clashes that left 55 South Vietnamese soldiers dead, President Thiệu announced on 4 January that the war had restarted and that the Paris Peace Accord was no longer in effect. There had been over 25,000 South Vietnamese casualties during the ceasefire period.

Gerald Ford took over as U.S. president on 9 August 1974 after President Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal. At this time, Congress cut financial aid to South Vietnam from $1 billion a year to $700 million. The U.S. midterm elections in 1974 brought in a new Congress dominated by Democrats who were even more determined to confront the president on the war. Congress immediately voted in restrictions on funding and military activities to be phased in through 1975 and to culminate in a total cutoff of funding in 1976.

The success of the 197374 dry season offensive inspired Tr to return to Hanoi in October 1974 and plead for a larger offensive in the next dry season. This time, Tr could travel on a drivable highway with regular fueling stops, a vast change from the days when the Ho Chi Minh Trail was a dangerous mountain trek. Gip, the North Vietnamese defense minister, was reluctant to approve Tr's plan. A larger offensive might provoke a U.S. reaction and interfere with the big push planned for 1976. Tr appealed over Gip's head to first secretary L Duẩn, who approved of the operation.

Tr 's plan called for a limited offensive from Cambodia into Phuoc Long Province. The strike was designed to solve local logistical problems, gauge the reaction of South Vietnamese forces, and determine whether U.S. would return to the fray.

On 13 December 1974, North Vietnamese forces attacked Route 14 in Phuoc Long Province. Phuoc Binh, the provincial capital, fell on 6 January 1975. Ford desperately asked Congress for funds to assist and re-supply the South before it was overrun. Congress refused. The fall of Phuoc Binh and the lack of an American response left the South Vietnamese elite demoralized.

The speed of this success led the Politburo to reassess its strategy. It was decided that operations in the Central Highlands would be turned over to General Văn Tiến Dũng and that Pleiku should be seized, if possible. Before he left for the South, Dũng was addressed by Lê Duẩn: "Never have we had military and political conditions so perfect or a strategic advantage as great as we have now."

At the start of 1975, the South Vietnamese had three times as much artillery and twice the number of tanks and armoured cars as the opposition. They also had 1,400 aircraft and a two-to-one numerical superiority in combat troops over their Communist enemies. However, the rising oil prices meant that much of this could not be used. They faced a well-organized, highly determined and well-funded North Vietnam. Much of the North's material and financial support came from the communist bloc. Within South Vietnam, there was increasing chaos. Their abandonment by the American military had compromised an economy dependent on U.S. financial support and the presence of a large number of U.S. troops. South Vietnam suffered from the global recession that followed the Arab oil embargo.

Campaign 275

On 10 March 1975, General Dung launched Campaign 275, a limited offensive into the Central Highlands, supported by tanks and heavy artillery. The target was Bun Ma Thuột, in Đắk Lắk Province. If the town could be taken, the provincial capital of Pleiku and the road to the coast would be exposed for a planned campaign in 1976. The ARVN proved incapable of resisting the onslaught, and its forces collapsed on 11 March. Once again, Hanoi was surprised by the speed of their success. Dung now urged the Politburo to allow him to seize Pleiku immediately and then turn his attention to Kon Tum. He argued that with two months of good weather remaining until the onset of the monsoon, it would be irresponsible to not take advantage of the situation.

President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, a former general, was fearful that his forces would be cut off in the north by the attacking communists; Thieu ordered a retreat. The president declared this to be a "lighten the top and keep the bottom" strategy. But in what appeared to be a repeat of Operation Lam Son 719, the withdrawal soon turned into a bloody rout. While the bulk of ARVN forces attempted to flee, isolated units fought desperately. ARVN General Phu abandoned Pleiku and Kon Tum and retreated toward the coast, in what became known as the "column of tears".

As the ARVN tried to disengage from the enemy, refugees mixed in with the line of retreat. The poor condition of roads and bridges, damaged by years of conflict and neglect, slowed Phu's column. As the North Vietnamese forces approached, panic set in. Often abandoned by the officers, the soldiers and civilians were shelled incessantly. The retreat degenerated into a desperate scramble for the coast. By 1 April the "column of tears" was all but annihilated.

On 20 March, Thieu reversed himself and ordered Huế, Vietnam's third-largest city, be held at all costs, and then changed his policy several times. Thieu's contradictory orders confused and demoralized his officer corps. As the North Vietnamese launched their attack, panic set in, and ARVN resistance withered. On 22 March, the VPA opened the siege of Huế. Civilians flooded the airport and the docks hoping for any mode of escape. Some even swam out to sea to reach boats and barges anchored offshore. In the confusion, routed ARVN soldiers fired on civilians to make way for their retreat.

On 25 March, after a three-day battle, Huế fell. As resistance in Huế collapsed, North Vietnamese rockets rained down on Da Nang and its airport. By 28 March, 35,000 VPA troops were poised to attack the suburbs. By 30 March 100,000 leaderless ARVN troops surrendered as the VPA marched victoriously through Da Nang. With the fall of the city, the defense of the Central Highlands and Northern provinces came to an end.

Final North Vietnamese Offensive

With the northern half of the country under their control, the Politburo ordered General Dung to launch the final offensive against Saigon. The operational plan for the Ho Chi Minh Campaign called for the capture of Saigon before 1 May. Hanoi wished to avoid the coming monsoon and prevent any redeployment of ARVN forces defending the capital. Northern forces, their morale boosted by their recent victories, rolled on, taking Nha Trang, Cam Ranh, and Da Lat.

On 7 April, three North Vietnamese divisions attacked Xuan Loc, 40 miles (64 km) east of Saigon. The North Vietnamese met fierce resistance at Xuan Loc from the ARVN 18th Division, who were outnumbered six to one. For two bloody weeks, severe fighting raged as the ARVN defenders made a last stand to try to block the North Vietnamese advance. By 21 April, however, the exhausted garrison were ordered to withdraw towards Saigon.

An embittered and tearful President Thieu resigned on the same day, declaring that the United States had betrayed South Vietnam. In a scathing attack, he suggested U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had tricked him into signing the Paris peace agreement two years ago, promising military aid that failed to materialise. Having transferred power to Tran Van Huong, he left for Taiwan on 25 April. At the same time, North Vietnamese tanks had reached Bien Hoa and turned toward Saigon, brushing aside isolated ARVN units along the way.

By the end of April, the ARVN had collapsed on all fronts except in the Mekong Delta. Thousand of refugees streamed southward, ahead of the main communist onslaught. On 27 April 100,000 North Vietnamese troops encircled Saigon. The city was defended by about 30,000 ARVN troops. To hasten a collapse and foment panic, the VPA shelled the airport and forced its closure. With the air exit closed, large numbers of civilians found that they had no way out.

Fall of Saigon

Chaos, unrest, and panic broke out as hysterical South Vietnamese officials and civilians scrambled to leave Saigon. Martial law was declared. American helicopters began evacuating South Vietnamese, U.S., and foreign nationals from various parts of the city and from the U.S. embassy compound. Operation Frequent Wind had been delayed until the last possible moment, because of U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin's belief that Saigon could be held and that a political settlement could be reached.

Schlesinger announced early in the morning of 29 April 1975 the evacuation from Saigon by helicopter of the last U.S. diplomatic, military, and civilian personnel. Frequent Wind was arguably the largest helicopter evacuation in history. It began on 29 April, in an atmosphere of desperation, as hysterical crowds of Vietnamese vied for limited space. Martin pleaded with Washington to dispatch $700 million in emergency aid to bolster the regime and help it mobilize fresh military reserves. But American public opinion had soured on this conflict.

In the United States, South Vietnam was perceived as doomed. President Gerald Ford had given a televised speech on 23 April, declaring an end to the Vietnam War and all U.S. aid. Frequent Wind continued around the clock, as North Vietnamese tanks breached defenses on the outskirts of Saigon. In the early morning hours of 30 April, the last U.S. Marines evacuated the embassy by helicopter, as civilians swamped the perimeter and poured into the grounds. Many of them had been employed by the Americans and were left to their fate.

On 30 April 1975, VPA troops overcame all resistance, quickly capturing key buildings and installations. A tank crashed through the gates of the Independence Palace, and at 11:30 a.m. local time the NLF flag was raised above it. President Duong Van Minh, who had succeeded Huong two days earlier, surrendered. His surrender marked the end of 116 years of Vietnamese involvement in conflict either alongside or against various countries, primarily France, China, Japan, Britain, and America.

Effect on the United States

In the post-war era, Americans struggled to absorb the lessons of the military intervention. As General Maxwell Taylor, one of the principal architects of the war, noted "first, we didn't know ourselves. We thought that we were going into another Korean War, but this was a different country. Secondly, we didn't know our South Vietnamese allies... And we knew less about North Vietnam. Who was Ho Chi Minh? Nobody really knew. So, until we know the enemy and know our allies and know ourselves, we'd better keep out of this kind of dirty business. It's very dangerous."

Some have suggested that "the responsibility for the ultimate failure of this policy [America's withdrawal from Vietnam] lies not with the men who fought, but with those in Congress..." Alternatively, the official history of the United States Army noted that "tactics have often seemed to exist apart from larger issues, strategies, and objectives. Yet in Vietnam the Army experienced tactical success and strategic failure... The...Vietnam War...legacy may be the lesson that unique historical, political, cultural, and social factors always impinge on the military...Success rests not only on military progress but on correctly analyzing the nature of the particular conflict, understanding the enemy's strategy, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of allies. A new humility and a new sophistication may form the best parts of a complex heritage left to the Army by the long, bitter war in Vietnam."

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in a secret memo to President Gerald Ford that "in terms of military tactics, we cannot help draw the conclusion that our armed forces are not suited to this kind of war. Even the Special Forces who had been designed for it could not prevail." Even Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara concluded that "the achievement of a military victory by U.S. forces in Vietnam was indeed a dangerous illusion."

Doubts surfaced as to the effectiveness of large-scale, sustained bombing. As Army Chief of Staff Harold Keith Johnson noted, "if anything came out of Vietnam, it was that air power couldn't do the job." Even General William Westmoreland admitted that the bombing had been ineffective. As he remarked, "I still doubt that the North Vietnamese would have relented."

The inability to bomb Hanoi to the bargaining table also illustrated another U.S. miscalculation. The North's leadership was composed of hardened communists who had been fighting for independence for thirty years. They had defeated the French, and their tenacity as both nationalists and communists was formidable. Ho Chi Minh is quoted as saying, "You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours...But even at these odds you will lose and I will win."

The Vietnam War called into question the U.S. Army doctrine. Marine Corps General Victor H. Krulak heavily criticised Westmoreland's attrition strategy, calling it "wasteful of American lives... with small likelihood of a successful outcome." As well, doubts surfaced about the ability of the military to train foreign forces.

Between 1965 and 1975, the United States spent $111 billion on the war ($686 billion in FY2008 dollars). This resulted in a large federal budget deficit.

More than 3 million Americans served in the Vietnam War, some 1.5 million of whom actually saw combat in Vietnam. James E. Westheider wrote that "At the height of American involvement in 1968, for example, there were 543,000 American military personnel in Vietnam, but only 80,000 were considered combat troops." Conscription in the United States had been controlled by the President since World War II, but ended in 1973."

By war's end, 58,220 soldiers were killed, more than 150,000 were wounded, and at least 21,000 were permanently disabled. According to Dale Kueter, "Sixty-one percent of those killed were age 21 or younger. Of those killed in combat, 86.3 percent were white, 12.5 percent were black and the remainder from other races." Approximately 830,000 Vietnam veterans suffered symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. An estimated 125,000 Americans fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft, and approximately 50,000 American servicemen deserted. In 1977, United States President Jimmy Carter granted a full, complete and unconditional pardon to all Vietnam-era Draft dodgers. The Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, concerning the fate of U.S. service personnel listed as missing in action, persisted for many years after the war's conclusion.

Chemical Defoliation

One of the most controversial aspects of the U.S. military effort in Southeast Asia was the widespread use of chemical defoliants between 1961 and 1971. They were used to defoliate large parts of the countryside. These chemicals continue to change the landscape, cause diseases and birth defects, and poison the food chain.

Early in the American military effort it was decided that since the enemy were hiding their activities under triple-canopy jungle, a useful first step might be to defoliate certain areas. This was especially true of growth surrounding bases (both large and small) in what became known as Operation Ranch Hand. Corporations like Dow Chemical Company and Monsanto were given the task of developing herbicides for this purpose.

The defoliants, which were distributed in drums marked with color-coded bands, included the "Rainbow Herbicides"Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent Purple, Agent Blue, Agent White, and, most famously, Agent Orange, which included dioxin as a by-product of its manufacture. About 12 million gallons (45,000,000 L) of Agent Orange were sprayed over Southeast Asia during the American involvement. A prime area of Ranch Hand operations was in the Mekong Delta, where the U.S. Navy patrol boats were vulnerable to attack from the undergrowth at the water's edge.

In 1961 and 1962, the Kennedy administration authorized the use of chemicals to destroy rice crops. Between 1961 and 1967, the U.S. Air Force sprayed 20 million U.S. gallons (75,700,000 L) of concentrated herbicides over 6 million acres (24,000 km2) of crops and trees, affecting an estimated 13% of South Vietnam's land. In 1965, 42% of all herbicide was sprayed over food crops. Another purpose of herbicide use was to drive civilian populations into RVN-controlled areas.

As of 2006, the Vietnamese government estimates that there are over 4,000,000 victims of dioxin poisoning in Vietnam, although the United States government denies any conclusive scientific links between Agent Orange and the Vietnamese victims of dioxin poisoning. In some areas of southern Vietnam dioxin levels remain at over 100 times the accepted international standard.

The U.S. Veterans Administration has listed prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, multiple myeloma, Diabetes mellitus type 2, B-cell lymphomas, soft-tissue sarcoma, chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, peripheral neuropathy, and spina bifida in children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Although there has been much discussion over whether the use of these defoliants constituted a violation of the laws of war, the defoliants were not considered weapons, since exposure to them did not lead to immediate death or incapacitation.

Casualties

The number of military and civilian deaths from 1955 to 1975 is debated. Some reports fail to include the members of South Vietnamese forces killed in the final campaign, or the Royal Lao Armed Forces, thousands of Laotian and Thai irregulars, or Laotian civilians who all perished in the conflict. They do not include the tens of thousands of Cambodians killed during the civil war or the estimated one and one-half to two million that perished in the genocide that followed Khmer Rouge victory, or the fate of Laotian Royals and civilians after the Pathet Lao assumed complete power in Laos.

In 1995, the Vietnamese government reported that its military forces, including the NLF, suffered 1.1 million dead and 600,000 wounded during Hanoi's conflict with the United States. Civilian deaths were put at two million in the North and South, and economic reparations were demanded. Hanoi concealed the figures during the war to avoid demoralizing the population. Estimates of civilian deaths caused by American bombing in Operation Rolling Thunder range from 52,000 to 182,000. The U.S. military has estimated that between 200,000 and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died in the war.

Not negating the sacrifices of the men and women who died in Korea, it would be fair to say that one the most severe casualties of all was the attitude of the American public. This was, after all, the first war in which the United States did not come away with a clear-cut victory. Although the war was not lost on the field of battle, but at home, it was the returnees who suffered the backlash of public opinion. As a consequence, the VFW and other veteran's organizations met considerable resistance in securing new entitlements for veterans - as well as in holding on to those already won. Resistance became even harder to overcome as the United States was gradually drawn into the most unpopular war ever; the Vietnam War. As in the First World War battle of Isonzo, the VFW would have to fight for the same territory again, and again, and again...

Given the nation's anti-veteran climate, it was vital that the VFW have leaders who were willing to fight for what they believed in. Fortunately the VFW had never lacked for fighters. From the end of the Korean War to our withdrawal from the Vietnam War, a succession of leaders with an unshakable commitment to the veteran's well-being stepped forward.

A major threat came from the Hoover Commission. This commission, headed by former President Herbert Hoover, had been established to look into possible reforms within the executive branch of the federal government. Among the reforms recommended in the commission's report, was that the government cancel all plans to construct additional VA hospitals. It also proposed selling or otherwise disposing of any VA hospital that could no longer be operated economically or effectively. Worse, the report recommended denying treatment for veterans with non-service connected disabilities who had not demonstrated the need for treatment within three years after discharge. In no cases were veterans with non-service-connected disabilities to be given treatment unless they could prove that they could not afford to pay for it. This report was to be given further weight next year when the American Medical Association (AMA) attacked the VA hospital system on the grounds that 85 percent of veterans receiving care had non-service-connected disabilities, and that most of them could not afford to pay for their own treatment.

While fighting bitterly against the report's proposal to close and sell VA hospitals that were not being run economically, the VFW went along with the suggestion of canceling any contracts for new hospitals that were not already completed or under construction. By paying frequent visits to the White House and working through Veterans Affairs Committee of the House, the VFW leadership eventually managed to soften most of the proposed changes. Finally, in 1958, the VFW's investigations prompted Congress to direct a twelve-year plan to update VA hospital facilities.

Another threat to veterans' entitlements that reared it head during Murphy's year was the appointment of the Bradley Commission, which was charged with scrutinizing other veteran's programs and pensions.

Accompanied by every Department Commander, Commander-in-Chief Holt delivered a no-nonsense message to Congress on February 5th, 1957. The VFW insisted on a stronger military, expanded care and services in VA Hospitals, and a militant opposition toward Communism. They also demanded that all U.S. prisoners of war in Communist North Korea and China be freed.

At the 1957 Encampment in Miami Beach, Texas, Commander-in-Chief Holt again took a shot at Communism. In one of his last official acts, he charged that the Russian Embassy was directing espionage and propaganda activities inside the U.S. Holt called upon the convention delegates to ask President Eisenhower to sever relations with the Soviet Union. Also at this convention, the official term "encampment" was dropped. With the approval of a national bylaw, all references were changed from "National Encampment" to "National Convention."

Into the summer of 1958, Congress continued to be more receptive to veterans' needs than usual. In July, Congress passed a precedent-shattering bill increasing pension payments to Indian Wars, Mexican War, Civil War, and Spanish American War veterans and their widows. Then in August, an eight-year-old campaign of the VFW bore fruit when President Eisenhower signed Public Law 529, making May 1st Loyalty Day. Also during this time, the so-called "new" pension law was amended, liberalizing benefits to veterans and their widows. This law raised benefits to veterans and their widows by 25 percent if the disability was due to combat action.

In 1958, the VFW became a cosponsor of the Voice of Democracy program - an annual high school speech competition of patriotic themes.

Also during this time, the VFW stepped up its Americanism program. To alert the American public to the dangers of world Communism, posts made radio spots and pre-written speeches available and distributed pamphlets to schools and other organizations. The Community Activities Program, too, was active, upgrading the Sons of the VFW organization to full program status and adding several new youth programs. In addition, the VFW Insurance Department was established to run the first insurance programs sponsored by the VFW. These included the post insurance and accidental death programs.

With VFW support, several important bills made it to the floor of Congress during 1964-65. First, after a ten-year fight to provide all "Cold War" veterans with educational and loan privileges, a permanent G.I. Bill was passed. No longer would these benefits be established on a conflict-by-conflict bases. Instead, this bill assured each returnee that he would receive entitlements of equal or greater worth than had the veterans of previous area. The second important bill was introduced into Congress by Representative Richard L. Roudebush, past Commander-in-Chief. The bill prohibited desecration of the U.S. flag and had the wholehearted support of the VFW and other veteran's organizations. The bill stipulated that anyone who knowingly cast contempt upon any flag of the United States by publicly mutilating, defacing, defiling, or trampling upon it could be subjected to a fine of up to $1000 or up to one year on jail. This federal law against flag desecration was eventually passed in 1968. It would remain on the books until June 11, 1990, when a five-to-four vote by the Supreme Court declared that it violated the First Amendment principle of free speech and was therefore unconstitutional.

The VFW also paid particular attention to the needs of all Vietnam veterans: both those who had already returned and those who would never return. The members pressed Congress for more grave sites in National Cemeteries and advocated for Veterans Assistance Centers to help veterans readjust to civilian live. Later, the VA would establish a series of "storefront" counseling centers for Vietnam veterans. The VFW also fought long and hard with the Office of Management and Budget, which was determined to cut staffing in VA hospitals.

When Commander-in-Chief Herbert R. Rainwater took office in August 1970, he took up the campaign for the release of POW/MIAs. With Ladies Auxiliary President Mary Cottone, Rainwater traveled to Paris. There they attempted to deliver a petition bearing more than two million signatures which demanded humane treatment and the release of American prisoners held by the Communist North Vietnamese forces. Rainwater and Cottone were not able to meet with Vietnam's Chief Delegate Mai Van Bo, but were instead ordered to leave. "My crusade has just begun," Rainwater announced following the refusal of the petition. He promptly ordered the VFW to begin a letter-writing campaign. The letters would be delivered to the Vietnamese Embassy in Paris. In the meantime, "Chief" Rainwater traveled to India, where he delivered the petition and discussed the POW/MIA cause with a different high-ranking North Vietnamese official. Later, returned POWs would tell Rainwater that pressure from the VFW contributed toward their better treatment.

With more public sympathy lavished on the plight of the exiled draft dodgers than on returning Vietnam veterans, the VFW faced some difficult challenges during the term of Patrick E. Carr (1972 - 1973). First, there were the usual tussles with the VA over its facilities. After continual warnings from the VFW brought no changes from the VA, the VFW joined with Congressional veterans committees in working out these stipulations. Congress would order the VA to maintain an average daily patient load of no less than 85,000 and to maintain not less than 97,500 beds in its 165 VA hospitals. President Nixon immediately signed the bill and Congress made it clear that were was to be no cut in VA Hospital care.

Commander Carr's year wound down on a positive note as the VFW successfully negotiated a 25 percent increase in the Vietnam G.I. Education Bill, and a federal court agreed with the VFW's contention that veteran's preference should be upheld in state as well as federal jobs. These and other advances gained since the Korean War would be increasingly important in the months and years ahead. There were, after all, six million veterans of the Vietnam War - many of them seriously scarred, both physically and emotionally. As they swelled the ranks of the nation's veterans, they would undoubtedly tax the services already in place and arouse a need for more and better services and benefits. More than ever before, America's veterans would need a strong and experienced veteran's advocate like the Veterans of Foreign Wars to plead their cause.

Evergreen 1973-1990

By mid-1973, there were approximately 29 million veterans in the United States. Together with their families, these one-time members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard accounted for about one hundred million citizens, or one-half the population of the United States. These veterans, of course, were not all members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, or even veterans of foreign wars themselves. But that made little difference to the 1.7 million veterans who did belong to the VFW. As charged by its Congressional Charter, for nearly three-quarters of a century the VFW had fought for the rights of all veterans, whether they were members or not. It had no intention of changing its policy now.

As in years past, the VFW would conduct its battles on two fronts. Following the mandate of its farsighted founders, it would continue to fight first of all for our nation's veterans. The struggle for increases in pensions, job rights, educational benefits, and improved medical care for veterans would continue unabated. The VFW would also wage war in service to our nation. Once again, it would turn its attention to community projects, Americanism, and youth programs, as well as to Communism and other threats to the country's defense.

In September of 1974, President Ford issued a Presidential Clemency Order allowing all Vietnam-era draft dodgers who had gone to Canada to freely return to the United States. They would initially be given an undesirable discharge. But upon completion of a period of alternative service in VA hospitals, this discharge could be upgraded to a clemency discharge. They would not be eligible for the G.I. Bill or other veterans' entitlements. Still, the VFW was adamantly opposed to both the Clemency Order and the alternate service in VA hospitals. Commander-in-Chief Stang wrote to VA Administrator Roudebush complaining that it was ridiculous to give these draft dodgers and deserters jobs in VA facilities when thousands of Vietnam veterans were unemployed. In the end, few, if any, draft dodgers performed alternate service in VA hospitals.

As a backdrop to all the other activities of Stang's term were the projects sponsored by posts, districts and departments across the country in honor of the nation's upcoming 200th birthday. These projects varied widely from post to post - and there were more than 10,000 posts - but each had an underlying patriotic theme. Many posts made costumes for children to wear in parades or distributed posters and coloring books to help them learn about America's heritage. Adults, too, entered costumed marching units and patriotic loats in parades. Other popular projects included writing articles or sponsoring radio and TV spots with a patriotic theme.

Amidst all the Bicentennial festivities, the VFW paused to give serious concern to world events that could threaten America's two centuries of freedom. The spread of communism in South America, in particular, became an important issue. To get a firsthand look at the situation to the south, Commander-in-Chief Walker embarked on a tour. In Chile, he discussed his concerns about Communism with General Augusto Pinochet, Chile's ruler. Pinochet assured him of his strong opposition to Communism.

A Senate committee was formed to pare down the number of standing committees in the Senate by 50 percent. This committee, chaired by Illinois Senator Adlai Stevenson, had targeted the Veterans Affairs Committee for dismantling. This was a committee that the VFW had labored for years to get and was not about to relinquish without a fight. Fortunately, some senators were opposed to dismantling the Veterans Affairs Committee. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, for instance, stated that the committee was authorized as a separate committee, and advised a hands-off policy. The VFW moved quickly to consolidate and build upon this support. While other veteran's organizations paid little if any attention to the proposed dissolution, VFW Past Commanders-in-Chief, Council Members, and just plain members traveled to Washington to urge senators to retain the committee. In addition, VFW and Ladies Auxiliary members made thousands of phone calls to senators' offices, and Commander Smith brought the Commander or Quartermaster from each state to lobby their senators personally. (This was the first time the VFW had ever brought its members to Washington, D.C. to lobby.) Thanks to these efforts, the number of senators in favor of keeping the committee doubled.

Other gains recorded in Smith's year included a 6 percent increase in veterans' pensions and compensation and an increase in the VA budget. A new veteran's employment program was also begun. Called "HIRE" (Help through Industry Retraining and Employment), this program trained or secured employment for more than 100,000 veterans. In addition, the Director of the Veteran's Employment Service received a new title and loftier position: Special Assistant to the Secretary of Labor. (This position is now called Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans Employment and Training Services).

Despite the VFW's many victories during Smith's year, it failed completely to block an unprecedented move by new elected President Carter. On the first day of his administration, President Carter issued a "blanket" pardon to everyone who had refused to serve in the Vietnam War. In March 1976, "Bulldog" expressed his - and the VFW's - outrage at Carter's pardon. "It is an insult to every man who has ever fought and died for his country and to all the men who have served honorably in our nation's Armed Forces." He went on to explain that the reason the VFW opposed any hasty, mass upgrading of less-than-honorable discharges was because "the speeding up of this process prevents close scrutiny and study of each case with the final result being the upgrading of all less-than-honorable discharges" The VFW's objections fell on deaf ears.

VFW Working for Political Action for Veterans The VFW-PAC

After many years of working to influence federal legislation on behalf of the veterans it represented, in 1979 the VFW established a political action committee (VFW-PAC). A political action committee is the only legal way that the VFW, as a group, can take an active role in federal elections. Through the PAC, members can express support for, contribute to, or spend money on behalf of candidates for election to the offices of President of the United States, United States Senator, and United States Representative. Funding is entirely by voluntary personal contributions sent directly to the PAC or through VFW posts and auxiliaries.

Through its role in federal elections, the VFW-PAC strived to accomplish two goals: 1) the defense and promotion of veterans' entitlements; and 2) support of national defense issues. Because of its special concerns about these issues, the PAC has been labeled a "special interest" group. Many consider special interest groups to be unethical or even illegal. The VFW-PAC is neither. All PACs are under constant scrutiny by the Federal Election Commission, and their activities and contributions are closely monitored. Violations of election laws are quickly and severely acted upon.

Some prospective PAC members worried that the PAC was engaging in "vote buying." But contributions went only to legislators who had already proven that they supported the PAC's positions. When a candidate had no voting record to indicate his position on the issues, the PAC asked for a written position statement from the candidate. Financial support and endorsement was then based upon his or her response.

Iran Hostage Crisis

The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic crisis between Iran and the United States where 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981, after a group of Islamist students and militants took over the American Embassy in support of the Iranian Revolution.

The episode reached a climax when, after failed attempts to negotiate a release, the United States military attempted a rescue operation, Operation Eagle Claw, on April 24, 1980, which resulted in a failed mission, the destruction of two helicopters and the deaths of eight American servicemen and one Iranian civilian. It ended with the signing of the Algiers Accords in Algeria on January 19, 1981. The hostages were formally released into United States custody the following day, just minutes after the new American president Ronald Reagan was sworn in.

The crisis has been described as an entanglement of "vengeance and mutual incomprehension." In Iran, the hostage taking was widely seen as a blow against the U.S, and its influence in Iran, its perceived attempts to undermine the Iranian Revolution, and its long-standing support of the Shah of Iran, recently overthrown by the revolution. The Shah had been restored to power in a 1953 coup against a democratically-elected nationalist Iranian government organized by the CIA at the American Embassy, and had recently been allowed into the United States for medical treatment. In the United States, the hostage-taking was seen as an outrage violating a centuries-old principle of international law granting diplomats immunity from arrest and diplomatic compounds sovereignty in their embassies.

The crisis has been described as an entanglement of "vengeance and mutual incomprehension." In Iran, the hostage taking was widely seen as a blow against the U.S, and its influence in Iran, its perceived attempts to undermine the Iranian Revolution, and its long-standing support of the Shah of Iran, recently overthrown by the revolution. The Shah had been restored to power in a 1953 coup against a democratically-elected nationalist Iranian government organized by the CIA at the American Embassy, and had recently been allowed into the United States for medical treatment. In the United States, the hostage-taking was seen as an outrage violating a centuries-old principle of international law granting diplomats immunity from arrest and diplomatic compounds sovereignty in their embassies.

In 1983, following a resolution passed by the 83rd National Convention, the VFW concluded a new agreement of cooperation with the American Red Cross. This statement of understanding replaced a Cooperative Disaster Plan adopted by the 1950 National Convention in Chicago. The statement allows the Red Cross to use VFW facilities for feeding and shelter during times of disaster and offers the voluntary assistance of VFW and Ladies Auxiliary members.

The year 1983 also saw the end of a year-long challenge to the VFW's tax-exempt status. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had questioned whether an organization that engaged in lobbying could maintain its tax-exempt status. On May 23, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an organization may lobby Congress without losing its tax-exempt status.

While the VFW's concerns about Communism in Central America were growing, the organization was able to relax its vigilance somewhat in Europe. One November 1, 1987, the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. was signed. At the urging of Commander Stock and others, the Senate approved the treaty. The VFW supported this treaty because it contained provisions for verifying compliance as called for by VFW resolutions.

In summing up the accomplishments of his year at the 89th National Convention in Chicago, Commander Stock singled out one perpetual problem area still unresolved: the plight of the POW/MIAs in Southeast Asia. He pointed out that much work still needed to be done, "even though in dribs and drabs the Vietnamese are returning home sets of remains of American servicemen killed there during the war. You may be certain that every influential personage in Washington has been thoroughly advised on our position on the POW/MIA issue, and of course, I am certain that my successor also will continue the campaign for a resolution of this most heart-rending problem."

The man preordained to succeed Stock was a Vietnam veteran named Larry Rivers. Upon his election, Rivers told the 1988 convention, "Our theme for this, our 90th year, is a simple one: We Remember.' So beautiful in its simplicity, yet so powerful in the message it conveys. As we celebrate ninety years of faithful service to America and her veterans, we do indeed remember. We remember the many challenges we have faced, the many obstacles we have overcome, and the impressive list of accomplishments that we, together, have compiled". And it went without saying that the VFW remembered the POW/MIAs.

To keep the POW/MIA issue in the forefront of everyone's consciousness, the VFW worked to carry out a number of resolutions previously passed by the organization. Resolution 401 of this 89th National Convention demanded that the issue remain one of the government's highest priorities; No. 402, that the government vigorously pursue negotiations with Laos to allow us to investigate aircraft crash sites for remains and to follow up on reported sightings of live POWs; No. 421, that Congressional appropriations to international lending agencies be contingent on those countries' cooperation in the search for U.S. POW/MIAs of past wars; No. 438, that Congress pass a law requiring the POW/MIA flag to be flown on every government installation in the world; No's. 444 and 445, that the president appoint a permanent POW/MIA affairs advisor on the embassy staff in Vientiane, and that maximum economic and diplomatic pressures be brought on the North Korean government to account for the 8,000 U.S. servicemen still missing from that war.

New Fronts
1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing

On October 23rd, 1983 during the Lebanese Civil War, two truck bombs struck separate buildings housing United States and French military forcesmembers of the Multinational Force in Lebanonkilling 299 American and French servicemen. The organization Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Suicide bombers detonated each of the truck bombs. In the attack on the American Marines barracks, the death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel and three Army soldiers, along with sixty Americans injured, representing the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima of World War II, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the first day of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, and the deadliest single attack on Americans overseas since World War II. In addition, the elderly Lebanese custodian of the Marines' building was killed in the first blast. The explosives used were equivalent to 5,400 kg (12,000 pounds) of TNT.

In the attack on the French barracks, the eight-story 'Drakkar' building, two minutes after the Marine attack, 58 paratroopers from the 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment were killed and 15 injured, in the single worst military loss for France since the end of the Algerian War. The wife and four children of a Lebanese janitor at the French building were also killed.

The blasts led to the withdrawal of the international peacekeeping force from Lebanon, where they had been stationed since the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organization following the Israeli 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Operation Urgent Fury

The Invasion of Grenada was a 1983 US-led invasion of Grenada, a Caribbean island nation with a population of just over 100,000 located 100 miles (160 km) north of Venezuela. It was triggered by a military coup which ousted a brief revolutionary government. The successful invasion led to a change of government but was controversial due to charges of American imperialism, Cold War politics, the involvement of Cuba, the unstable state of the Grenadian government, and Grenada's status as a Commonwealth realm with Elizabeth II as the monarch. Grenada gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1974, and Leftist rebels seized power in a coup in 1979. After a 1983 internal power struggle ended with the deposition and murder of revolutionary Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, the invasion began on 25 October 1983. A combined force of about 7,600 troops from the United States, Jamaica, and members of the Regional Security System (RSS)[3] defeated Grenadian resistance and the military government of Hudson Austin was deposed. Civilian deaths include all the residents of the island's only Mental Hospital.

While the invasion enjoyed broad public support in the United States, and received support from some sectors in Grenada from local groups who viewed the post-coup regime as illegitimate, it was criticized by the United Kingdom, Canada and the United Nations General Assembly, which condemned it as "a flagrant violation of international law". 25 October is a national holiday in Grenada, called Thanksgiving Day, to commemorate the invasion, and on 29 May 2009 the Point Salines International Airport was officially renamed in honor of the slain pre-coup leader Maurice Bishop by the Government of Grenada.

The main reason for the US invasion had little to do with the political situation on Grenada itself, there were several US citizens in imminent danger, most of which were medical students. The US initially asked those involved with the island's conflict to allow the students to leave safely. Unfortunately the students were taken hostage instead by the Cuban forces. The reaction from the US was swift and decisive. The Invasion Force was sent in with the main objective of locating, freeing and returning the hostages to US soil safely. Despite the UN's charges the US made it clear that when US citizens are being held hostage that the US Military will be used, when deemed necessary, to rescue them. The secondary objective was indeed to stop the Cuban invaders from taking control on Grenada. However, once both objectives were achieved the US did not interfere with Grenada's politics beyond rendering financial aid.

Operation Earnest Will

Operation Earnest Will (24 July 1987 26 September 1988) was the U.S. military protection of Kuwaiti owned tankers from Iranian attacks in 1987 and 1988, three years into the Tanker War phase of the IranIraq War. It was the largest naval convoy operation since World War II.

The U.S. Navy warships that escorted the tankers, part of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, were the most visible part of the operation, but U.S. Air Force AWACS radar planes provided surveillance and Army special operations helicopters hunted for possible attackers.

Other U.S. Navy vessels participated in Operation Ernest Will. They were then under the command of the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet which had primary responsibility for combat operations in the Persian Gulf region. The numerous ships used in Operation Ernest Will mostly consisted of Battleship Battle Groups, Carrier Battle Groups, Surface Action Groups and ships from the Pacific's Third and Seventh fleets and the Mediterranean-based Sixth fleet. They generally operated in and near the Gulf for parts of their normal six-month deployments.

This was the USSOCOM's first tactical operation involving SEALs, Special Boat Teams (SBT), and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) ("Nightstalkers") aviators working together.

Earnest Will Begins

The USS Crommelin (FFG-37), USS Copeland (FFG-25), USS Kidd (DDG-993), and USS Fox (CG-33) were the first U.S. Navy ships assigned to escort the Kuwaiti oil tankers. On the very first escort mission, on 24 July 1987, the Kuwaiti oil tanker al-Rekkah, re-flagged as the U.S. tanker Bridgeton, struck an Iranian mine damaging the ship, but causing no injuries. The Bridgeton proceeded under her own power to Kuwait, with the thin-skinned U.S. Navy escorts following behind to avoid mines.

Operation Prime Chance

Earnest Will overlapped with Operation Prime Chance, a largely secret effort to stop Iranian forces from attacking Persian Gulf shipping.

Despite the protection offered by U.S. naval vessels, Iran used mines and small boats to harass the convoys steaming to and from Kuwait, at the time a principal ally of Iraq. In late July 1987, Rear Admiral Harold J. Bernsen, commander of the Middle East Force, requested Naval Special Warfare assets. Special Boat Teams deployed with six Mark III Patrol Boats and two SEAL platoons in August.[6] The Middle East Force decided to convert two oil servicing barges, Hercules and Wimbrown VII, into mobile sea bases. These were moored in the northern Persian Gulf, allowing special operations forces to thwart clandestine Iranian mining and small boat attacks. On 21 September, Nightstalkers flying MH-6 and AH-6 Little Birds took off from the frigate USS Jarrett to track an Iranian ship, the Iran Ajr. The Nightstalkers watched the Iran Ajr turn off its lights and begin laying mines. After receiving permission to attack, the helicopters fired guns and rockets, stopping the ship. The Iran Ajrs crew continued to push mines over the side, and the helicopters resumed firing until the crew abandoned ship. At first light, a SEAL team, assisted by Special Boat Teams, boarded the vessel and discovered nine mines on the vessels deck, as well as a logbook revealing areas where previous mines had been laid. EOD technicians from EOD Mobile Unit 5 scuttled the vessel the following day.[citation needed] The logbook implicated Iran in mining international waters.[6] Within a few days, the Special Operations forces had determined the Iranian pattern of activity: the Iranians hid during the day near oil and gas platforms in Iranian waters and at night they headed toward the Middle Shoals Buoy, a navigation aid for tankers. With this knowledge, special operations forces launched three Little Bird helicopters and two patrol craft to the buoy. The Little Bird helicopters arrived first and were fired upon by three Iranian boats anchored near the buoy. After a short but intense firefight, the helicopters sank all three boats. Because of Earnest Will operational requirements, USSOCOM would acquire new weapons systems: the patrol coastal ships and the Mark V Special Operations Craft.

Operation Nimble Archer

On 15 October, the reflagged U.S. tanker Sea Isle City was struck by an Iranian Silkworm missile while at anchor near the oil terminal outside Kuwait City. Seventeen crewmen and the American captain were injured in the missile attack. On 18 Oct., the U.S. Navy responded with Operation Nimble Archer. Four destroyers shelled two oil platforms in the Rostam oil field. After the shelling, a SEAL platoon and a demolition unit planted explosives on one of the platforms to destroy it. The SEALs next boarded and searched a third platform two miles away. Documents and radios were taken for intelligence.

Operation Praying Mantis

Operation Praying Mantis was an attack by U.S. Naval Forces on April 18 1988 against Iran in retaliation for the Iranian mining of the Persian Gulf during the Iran Iraq war and the subsequent damage to an American warship.

On 14 April, the guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) struck a mine while deployed in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Earnest Will, the 198788 convoy missions in which U.S. warships escorted reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers to protect them from Iranian attacks. The explosion opened a 25-foot hole in the Roberts's hull and nearly sank it. The crew saved their ship with no loss of life, and Roberts was towed to Dubai on 16 April.

After the mining, U.S. Navy divers recovered other mines in the area. When the serial numbers were found to match those of mines seized along with the Iran Ajr the previous September, U.S. military officials planned a retaliatory operation against Iranian targets in the Persian Gulf.

This battle was the largest of the five major U.S. Naval surface engagements since the Second World War, which also include the Battle of Chumonchin Chan during the Korean War, the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the Battle of Dong Hoi during the Vietnam War and the Action in the Gulf of Sidra in 1986. It also marked the U.S. Navy's first exchange of anti-ship missiles by ships.

The attack by the U.S. helped pressure Iran to agree to a ceasefire with Iraq later that summer, ending the eight-year conflict between the Persian Gulf neighbors.

Sailors and Marines and a handful from other military branches who participated in this battle were the first to receive the Combat Action Ribbon since the Vietnam War.

Endgame

Thereafter, Iranian attacks on neutral ships dropped drastically. On 3 July 1988, USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655, an Airbus A300B2, over the Strait of Hormuz after allegedly mistaking it for an Iranian F-14. The attack resulted in the deaths of 290 passengers and crew, including 66 children.

The two side effects of Earnest Will Praying Mantis and the downing of the airliner helped convince Iran to agree to a ceasefire on 18 July and a permanent end to hostilities on 20 August 1988, ending its eight-year war with Iraq. On 26 September 1988, USS Vandegrift escorted the last tanker of the operation to Kuwait. The remaining SEALs, patrol boats, and helicopters then returned to the United States.

Operation Just Cause

On December 15, 1989, Panama's notorious drug-dealing dictator, Manual Noriega, declared that a state of war existed between Panama and the United States. On December 20, 1989, the U.S. military launched Operation Just Cause. From the land, sea, and air, 27,000 U.S. soldiers, marines, and air crewman struck Panama. Shortly after Operation Just Cause ended, it was announced that all armed forces personnel who had participated in the invasion would be awarded the Armed Forced Expeditionary Medal. This medal would, of course, entitle these service men and women to join the VFW. And once again, the wisdom of the founders' "evergreen" policy was proven.

The End of A Century 1990 - 2000
VFW-PAC Endorsement Policy, 1990

PACs in general, and the VFW-PAC in particular, often revealed a legislator's true stand on an issue by monitoring every vote taken in Congress. Based on roll call, or recorded votes (some are taken by voice only), the VFW-PAC rated every senator or representative on his or her record pertaining to veterans' benefits and national defense issues. Releases containing the information about each legislator's vote were then distributed throughout the entire VFW network. Endorsements were made according to the following policy:

Members of Congress must show support of both: (a) Veterans Legislation and (b) strong National Security. The procedure for scoring shall be based on roll call votes in the respective houses of Congress. Abstentions shall be considered a vote against VFW interests unless special considerations are approved by the Board of Directors.

Members of Congress running for re-election who have a total score of 70 percent or higher in VFW-PAC endorsement scoring may receive the PAC endorsement for a given election year. This endorsement may consist of a monetary contribution to be determined by the VFW-PAC Board of Directors.

Members of Congress running for re-election who achieve a total score of 60 percent or higher in VFW-PAC endorsement scoring may be eligible for a monetary contribution to retire campaign debts and other fund raisers after the election, provided they win re-election. The total contribution to any individual in this category shall be determined by the VFW-PAC Board of Directors. Contributions will be made by the PAC Director only in response to formal solicitations.

VFW Department Commanders and VFW-PAC State Chairmen will be asked to present recommendations, in writing, to the Board of Directors as to whether or not the VFW-PAC should endorse candidates running for Congress from their respective states. Final decisions will be made by the VFW-PAC Board of Directors.

VFW Department Commanders and VFW-PAC State Chairmen may be asked for endorsement recommendations, in writing, when an incumbent member of the House of Representatives is running for the Senate or there is an open seat in either House of Congress. Final decisions will be made by the VFW-PAC Board of Directors.

Each member of Congress shall be rated based on his or her previous term in Congress (2 years for the House of Representatives and 6 years for the Senate members).

Final determinations and actions on all issues and endorsements shall be the responsibility of the VFW-PAC Board of Directors.

Legislators who score the highest on VFW issues receive an Honor Roll Endorsement. They receive a contribution from the VFW-PAC and a VFW-PAC news release timed for maximum benefit to their campaign for election. So, too, do Second Tier endorsees. Non-incumbent candidates are considered for endorsement if the congressional seat has been vacated or if the incumbent's voting record is unsatisfactory.

Other VFW-PAC Activities

Besides endorsing candidates, the VFW-PAC also encouraged other programs designed to involve VFW members and their local posts in the political process. These include:

Generating VFW attendance at senators' and representatives' "Town Hall Meetings" throughout their states and districts.

Hosting U.S. Senators and Representatives at VFW functions.

Registering the VFW community to vote.

Setting up candidate forums.

Distributing information to VFW members on voting procedures and on where the candidates stand on the issues.

Getting the VFW members involved in political action.

Providing absentee ballots to disabled members.

Getting VFW members to the polls on Election Day, whether by a reminder call or transporting them by car.

Desert Shield / Storm

Desert Shield / Storm the war in the Persian Gulf was a war of religious fervor, and cruel leadership. Desert Storm was the same type of war that had occurred in this area for many years except for one fact. In Operation Desert Storm, sophisticated technology was used to end the war in a quick and timely manner.

On August 2, 1990 Iraq's forces invaded Kuwait and in less than 4 hours he had taken Kuwait and controlled 24% of the worlds oil supplies. It seemed as if his next target was Saudi Arabia.

That triggered Desert Shield, this was where the United States entered after a call for protection by Saudi Arabia. The United States set a deadline, January 15, 1991 for all Iraq forces to be out of Kuwait, but Saddam Hussein ignored the deadline. The air war started Jan 17 at 2:38 a.m. (local time) or January 16 at 6:38PM EST due to an 8 hour time difference, with an Apache helicopter attack. starting Desert Storm, a all-out attack to free Kuwait.

It can be clearly said that due to the extreme power and sophistication of the U.S. and her allies that Saddam and his tiny nation of 17 million people stood no chance against the military might that is the United States and its Allies.

On Mar 3, 1991 Iraqi leaders formally accepted cease fire terms.

Operation Joint Guard

Task Force Eagle, comprised of 20,000 American soldiers, implemented the military elements of the Dayton Peace Accords in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. On December 20, 1996, the Implementation Force mission came to a successful conclusion and the 1st Infantry Division was selected to continue serving in Bosnia as part of the new Stabilization Force (SFOR). This decision brought to close the mission of Operation Joint Endeavor and has been the beginning for the current operation known as Operation Joint Guard.

Through careful planning and skillful execution of every mission, the soldiers' of the 1st Infantry Division and multi-national allies continued to monitor the militaries of the former warring factions and provided a climate of stability in the war-torn land of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

On October 22, 1997, the 1st Armored Division again assumed command of MND(N) and Task Force Eagle. Soldiers from America's Tank Division, familiar with the mission and Bosnia-Herzegovina, quickly adapted to the role and the challenges of establishing a secure and peaceful environment in MND(N).

The European Command's ARG/MEU(SOC) was assigned as theater reserve for NATO forces, while Naval Mobile Construction Battalions 133 and 40 constructed base camps for implementation force personnel. A Marine Corps unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) squadron, VMU-2, supports the operation with Pioneer UAV imagery both to US and multinational units.

Operation Joint Forge

n 20 June 1998 the NATO-led Stabilization Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina transitioned to a slightly smaller follow-on force. Simultaneously, Operation Joint Guard ended and Operation Joint Forge began. The United States has agreed to provide a force of approximately 6,900 U.S. Service members to help maintain the military force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. No timetable for the duration of Operation Joint Forge has been determined. The mission will be assessed periodically and the force size will be adjusted, as circumstances require. No time line for the duration of Operation Joint Forge has been established.

On 1 June 1997, the Headquarters, 16th Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW) was designated and activated at Aviano Air Base, Italy. The 16 AEW provides direction, control, support, ADCON and UCMJ authority for more than 1,300 United States Air Force personnel stationed throughout Europe in support of Operation JOINT FORGE (OJF). These units, located in Istres, France; Rimini and San Vito, Italy; Tuzla and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Zagreb, Croatia; Taszar, Hungary, and Rhein Main , Germany comprise the lion's share of the USAF contingent of NATO's Stabilization Force, or SFOR. Since its inception, 16 AEW has worked a number of high-profile initiatives in support of the SFOR mission. Among these, the relocation of KC-135 operations from Pisa, Italy to Istres, France; the installation of air navigation aid equipment at Tuzla, AB, Bosnia-Herzegovina to support Russian and SFOR partner air operations; quality-of life-improvements for U-2 crews and support personnel at Istres France, and the holiday visit of President Bill Clinton to the OJF Area of Responsibility.

On June 20, 1998 the NATO-led SFOR in Bosnia-Herzegovina transitioned to a slightly smaller follow-on force led by the 1st Cavalry Division, America's First Team, from Fort Hood, Texas. The United States agreed to provide a force of approximately 6,900 U.S. personnel to maintain a capable military force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Simultaneously, Operation Joint Guard ended, and Operation Joint Forge began. Operation Joint Forge will continue to build on the successes of Operations Joint Endeavor and Joint Guard. No time line for the duration of Operation Joint Forge has been established. The mission will be assessed periodically and the force commitment will be adjusted, as circumstances require.

On August 4, 1999, the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) assumed command of MND(N) and Task Force Eagle.

The 49th Armored Division (AD) of the Texas Army National Guard assumed control of Multinational Division-North during a Transfer of Authority ceremony held Tuesday, March 7, 2000 at Eagle Base.

The 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Georgia took control of Multinational Division-North at a Transfer of Authority ceremony held on Thursday, 5 October 2000.

Under a plan approved in 2001 by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, Chief of Staff, the Army programmed selected active and reserve forces for service in Bosnia and Kosovo through May 2005. This is a prudent measure taken to provide predictability for our soldiers and units to ensure they are given adequate time to train for the Balkans mission. The rotation plan will also provide better linkages between the active and reserve forces, mitigate the effects of high operational tempo, and better sustain the Army's overall levels of readiness for contingency operations. Under the plan, units from the active Army and reserve forces will support the Stabilization Force (SFOR) mission in Bosnia or the Kosovo Force (KFOR) for six-month periods. All units for SFOR rotations 9 - 16 will be drawn from active Army divisions, Army National Guard divisions, the Army Reserve and a mix of active/reserve units. The Army set a historical precedent when it designated the 49th Armored Division, Texas Army National Guard, as the headquarters for active and reserve forces conducting the SFOR mission March - October 2000.

On 02 December 2003, SFOR confirmed that due to the improved security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina that it would reduce to a deterrent force of approximately 7,000 multinational soldiers by June 2004. SFOR considered how to adjust the operation further, including its possible termination by the end of 2004 and a transition possibly to a new NATO military liaison and advisory mission (with NATO Headquarters in Sarajevo) and to a new EU mission. In response, Multinational Brigade (North) also transformed its future force structure to meet the requirements of the new deterrent force. Planning for that force structure was conducted by the current MNB(N) headquarters to help them prepare to execute the deterrent force mission when the 34th Infantry Division transfers authority to the 38th Infantry Division in April 2004.

At the Istanbul Summit in June 2004, NATO Heads of State and Government agreed that in light of the improved security situation in the country SFOR could be concluded at the end of the year.

A ceremony in Sarajevo on 02 December 2004 marked the conclusion of the NATO-led SFOR mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the beginning of the European Union's follow-on mission EUFOR. The NATO-led Stabilization Force was brought to a successful conclusion almost exactly nine years since NATO deployed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina in what was the Alliance's first peacekeeping operation.

The European Union deployed its own mission, EUFOR, to take on key security tasks in the country. EUFOR derived its mandate from a new UN Security Council resolution and had an initial strength of 7,000 that is equal in size to SFOR. The EUFOR mission is supported by NATO under the so-called 'Berlin Plus' arrangements that provide the framework for NATO-EU cooperation.

The successful termination of SFOR did not spell the end of NATO's engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Alliance retained a military headquarters in Bosnia and Herzegovina but the nature of NATO's engagement was very different. The NATO Headquarters, which is headed by a one-star US general with a staff of around 150, will focus on defence reform in the country, as well as counter-terrorism, apprehending war-crimes suspects and intelligence-gathering.

1991 Agent Orange Act

The VFW was instrumental in getting the Agent Orange Act passed in 1991 and has continued to lobby further to improve this act. In August of 2010 the VA expanded its definitions of the 1991 law. The VFW along with other veteran organizations is currently working to defeat a bill that would essentially overturn the 1991 Agent Orange Act. Coburn Amendment #564 to H.R. 2055

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is adamantly opposed to the amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to change the manner in which presumptive disabilities related to exposure to Agent Orange would be determined. The senator wants to require veterans to prove a positive connection between Agent Orange exposure and one or more of the 15 presumptive illnesses that the VA now recognizes. The VFW and other veteran organizations have been instrumental in showing that having to prove exposure causes undue burden upon Vietnam veterans because exposure can occur long after Agent Orange has been sprayed.

Scientific and medical studies on the chemical compounds used in the creation of Agent Orange show that these chemicals linger for years and are sill having an impact on the Vietnamese people living in or near toxified areas. The US is conducting clean up operations in Vietnam in an attempt to de-toxify many of the affected areas. Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) bill would most likely cause a major lawsuit against the US to be filed by Vietnam veterans and their affected families if the bill should pass, which would end up costing the US more money than is already being spent.

It should be noted that one of the major issues that led to the passage of the Agent Orange Act wasn't just lobbying by veteran groups but a pending lawsuit that would have cost the federal government significantly more money had they not passed the 1991 Agent Orange Act.

Effects on U.S. Veterans

Studies of veterans who served in the South during the war have increased rates of cancer, nerve, digestive, skin and respiratory disorders. Veterans from the south had higher rates of throat cancer, acute/chronic leukemia, Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, prostate cancer, lung cancer, soft tissue sarcoma and liver cancer. Other than liver cancer, these are the same conditions the US Veteran's Administration has found to be associated with exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin, and are on the list of conditions eligible for compensation and treatment.

Military personnel who loaded airplanes and helicopters used in Ranch Hand probably sustained some of the heaviest exposures. Members of the Army Chemical Corps, who stored and mixed herbicides and defoliated the perimeters of military bases, are also thought to have had some of the heaviest exposures. Others with potentially heavy exposures included members of U.S. Army Special Forces units who defoliated remote campsites, and members of U.S. Navy river units who cleared base perimeters. Military members who served on Okinawa also claim to have been exposed to the chemical.

While in Vietnam, the veterans were told not to worry, and were persuaded the chemical was harmless. After returning home, Vietnam veterans began to suspect their ill health or the instances of their wives having miscarriages or children born with birth defects may be related to Agent Orange and the other toxic herbicides to which they were exposed in Vietnam. Veterans began to file claims in 1977 to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability payments for health care for conditions they believed were associated with exposure to Agent Orange, or more specifically, dioxin, but their claims were denied unless they could prove the condition began when they were in the service or within one year of their discharge.

By April 1993, the Department of Veterans Affairs had only compensated 486 victims, although it had received disability claims from 39,419 soldiers who had been exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.

In 1991, the US Congress enacted the Agent Orange Act, giving the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to declare certain conditions 'presumptive' to exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin, making these veterans who served in Vietnam eligible to receive treatment and compensation for these conditions. The same law required the National Academy of Sciences to periodically review the science on dioxin and herbicides used in Vietnam to inform the Secretary of Veterans Affairs about the strength of the scientific evidence showing association between exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin and certain conditions.

Through this process, the list of 'presumptive' conditions has grown since 1991, and currently the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has listed prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, multiple myeloma, type II diabetes, Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma, chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, peripheral neuropathy, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and spina bifida in children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange as conditions associated with exposure to the herbicide. This list now includes B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia, Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease, these last three having been added on August 31, 2010. Several highly placed individuals in government are voicing concerns about whether some of the diseases on the list should, in fact, actually have been included.

Persian Gulf War Veterans Assistance Act

In 1991 the VFW also successfully lobbied for the passage of the Persian Gulf War Veterans Assistance Act as many of those who participated began to show early on unique and undiagnosed health issues from being in theater. This bill not only covered those who were in Desert Shield and Desert Storm as the bill was later modified to include those whom served from the mid 80's and up as well. PTSD issues from this time period were uniquely high in number and to date no determination as to the cause of this has been made. Significant health issues in service personnel returning from the Persian Gulf proved challenging as no single issue seemed to stand out but it was easily apparent that nearly all returning veterans were dealing with some major health issues that could not be explained. However, there was some commonality in some of the issues that included the following:

Depression and anxiety

Problems with short term memory

Anger control issues. (This is treatable with anger management sessions)

Socialization issues as many returning veterans simply withdrew from society

Disability Compensation

Veterans of the Persian Gulf War are entitled to disability compensation under the same conditions as other veterans, but in addition, current law allows VA to award benefits to Gulf War veterans suffering from undiagnosed illnesses. In general, a veteran is eligible for disability compensation if a diagnosed illness becomes manifest during military service or during the one-year period following discharge--the so-called presumptive period. Gulf War veterans are also eligible for the benefit if they have an undiagnosed illness, but in those cases the presumptive period lasts, under current regulations, until 2001 for illnesses that have chronic symptoms. Based on those criteria and others, VA pays disability compensation to approximately 80,000 Gulf War veterans out of the approximately 697,000 U.S. troops deployed to the Persian Gulf region during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

S. 2358 would set up a mechanism for VA to establish a list of illnesses that would be presumed to have a connection to military service for Gulf War veterans. S. 2358 would establish a presumption, unless there is conclusive evidence to the contrary, that ailing Gulf War veterans were exposed to approximately 30 different agents, hazards, and vaccines listed in the bill if VA regulations associate exposure with the illness. The bill would provide that whenever VA determines that sound medical and scientific evidence points to a positive association between those exposures and diagnosed or undiagnosed diseases, VA shall prescribe regulations presuming that the illness is connected to military service if it occurs in a veteran during a time period to be also set by regulations. In making those determinations, VA would be required to consider several factors including reports by the National Academy of Science (NAS) that the bill would require. It would also allow VA to remove existing presumptions for illnesses that VA determines are not warranted based on a NAS report. (Individuals receiving benefits based on the existing presumption would continue to receive them.)

S. 2358 would require that NAS determine whether exposure to an item on the list has statistical association with an illness, the increased risk of illness due to exposure, and the plausibility of a biological mechanism or other evidence of a causal relationship. Within 18 months of the bill's enactment, NAS would be required to identify the hazards faced by individuals who served in the theater of operations during the war and the illnesses that are manifest in such members. In addition, NAS would review potential treatment models for certain illnesses and make recommendations for additional scientific studies. NAS would also be required to conduct ongoing reviews of the evidence and data on exposures and illnesses associated with service during the Persian Gulf War.

The bill would raise spending for disability compensation because it would increase VA's authority to determine what diseases are service connected for Gulf War veterans and when the disease must become manifest before it would pay benefits. The potential costs are increased by provisions that would define the standards that VA would use and that, under certain conditions, would grant a broad presumption of exposure to the agents, hazards, and vaccines. The statistical standard under the bill could lead to benefits for veterans whose exposure falls short of that which might be found to cause disease. It is also possible that veterans could suffer those diseases from causes apart from their service in the Gulf War--for example, hazards experienced in their subsequent civilian employment--yet be eligible for compensation under the presumed linkages that could be established under the bill. Much would depend on medical research and the length of the presumptive periods determined by VA.

The budgetary impact can vary widely depending on what NAS and other researchers find and how VA would use its discretion. CBO has no basis for estimating what medical research will uncover regarding the health effects of the agents, hazards, and vaccines listed in the bill. Under current law, roughly 80,000 veterans who do not qualify based on income or diagnosed disabilities come to VA for medical care because of conditions related to service during the Gulf War. This population provides some indication of how many veterans might benefit from the bill--at least for illnesses that occur within 10 years. Some of these veterans might not qualify under the bill for disability compensation, on the other hand others who do not come to VA for medical care might qualify--especially veterans whose ailments might occur many years from now. Thus, based on the average benefit currently paid to other Gulf War veterans--about $3,500 annually--the annual costs of S. 2358 could be $300 million dollars a year or more, depending on the number of ailing veterans who seek medical care from VA. Because of the time it would take for the medical research, deliberations within VA, and manifestation of some diseases, the full budgetary impact of the bill might not be felt for 10 to 20 years. CBO estimates that these provisions of the bill would raise direct spending by about $40 million over the 1999-2003 period.

Evaluation of Health Status of Dependents of Gulf War Veterans

Section 202 would extend the Persian Gulf Spouse and Children Examination Program until December 31, 2001. This program, which expires on December 31, 1998, requires VA to provide diagnostic testing and health examinations, but not treatment, to dependents of Gulf War veterans who volunteer for testing in order to study the association between illnesses of veterans and illnesses of their family members. In addition, this bill would require VA to conduct specific outreach activities to promote the program, reimburse private-sector physicians who provide health examinations in accordance with the program, and reimburse dependents for the costs of travel.

A recent audit by the General Accounting Office found that VA has spent only $150,000 of the $2 million appropriated for the program in the 18 months that it has been operational. This spending covered the costs of 871 exams.

CBO expects that VA's spending will accelerate over the three-year extension period but still be less than $500,000 annually. VA currently has another 800 exams pending or in process. CBO expects that demand for such exams would increase as a result of the changes in reimbursement policies and outreach activities specified in this bill.

Special Eligibility for Priority Care. Under current law, veterans with compensable service-connected disabilities or income below a certain threshold have priority access to VA medical care. In addition, current law grants all veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater during the Gulf War priority for VA care until December 31, 1998. Section 201 would extend eligibility for priority care to these veterans until December 31, 2001. (Eligibility based on disability and income would remain part of permanent law.)

CBO estimates that the cost of extending priority care under this bill would be $66 million in 1999 and $306 million over the three-year extension, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. CBO estimates that about 136,000 veterans would seek priority medical care annually under this bill. This estimate is based on the number of Gulf War veterans who received outpatient care from the VA through April 30, 1998, according to an analysis of VA's Patient Treatment File. But many of these veterans would already be eligible for priority-level care based on service-connected disabilities or income. CBO assumes that 40 percent would qualify for priority care for those reasons, based on the proportion of Gulf War veterans that VA treated in 1996 who met those conditions. We estimate that the other 60 percent--roughly 80,000 veterans per year--would receive additional care costing about $1,300 per person each year.

Care for New Compensation Recipients. Veterans awarded disability compensation under S. 2358 would thereby become eligible for priority medical care from VA. Such eligibility would not begin until 2002, when compensation benefits under this bill are first expected to be awarded. CBO estimates that discretionary medical spending would increase by $3 million in 2002 and $11 million in 2003 based on assumptions similar to those described above for the extension of special eligibility of Gulf War veterans.

Other Provisions. Section 102 would require VA to contract with NAS for a review and evaluation of the available scientific evidence regarding associations between illnesses and exposures among Gulf War veterans, a review of potential treatment models, and additional reviews on an ongoing basis. CBO estimates that implementing these provisions would result in outlays of about $1 million a year over the 1999-2003 period.

Section 103 would require VA, in consultation with the Department of Defense (DoD), to develop a plan for the creation of a computerized database to collect, store, and analyze information on the health status and health care of Gulf War veterans. The plan would be reviewed by NAS within one year of the bill's enactment and implemented by VA thereafter. Based on costs of similar databases, CBO estimates that this provision would result in outlays of about $1 million in 1999 and about $15 million over the 1999-2003 period.

Section 301 would require VA to contract with NAS for recommendations on the establishment of an independent entity that would evaluate and monitor post-conflict illnesses of members of the armed forces. CBO estimates that this provision would result in $1 million in outlays in 1999, based on costs of NAS studies that are similar in scope.

Section 105 would require VA and DoD to carry out ongoing outreach programs to provide Gulf War veterans with information about the health risks associated with service and any services or benefits available to them. CBO estimates that this provision would have no significant budgetary impact because VA is undertaking similar activities under current law.

Veterans Health Care Act of 1992

In 1992 the VFW was a key lobby group in getting the Veterans Health-Care Act passed.

An Act To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve health care services for women veterans, to expand authority for health care sharing agreements between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to revise certain pay authorities that apply to Department of Veterans Affairs nurses, to improve preventive health services for veterans, to establish discounts on pharmaceuticals purchased by the Department of Veterans Affairs, to provide for a Persian Gulf War Veterans Health Registry, and to make other improvements in the delivery and administration of health care by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

1996 Veterans Health-Care Eligibility Reform Act

In October 1996, Congress passed the Veterans' Health Care Eligibility Reform Act, paving the way for the Medical Benefits Package plan, available to all enrolled veterans. The Medical Benefits Package emphasizes preventive and primary care, offering a full range of outpatient and inpatient services. The VFW was instrumental in getting this act passed.

In addition combat veterans returning from active military service may be eligible to receive free health care services and nursing home care for up to two years, beginning on the date of separation from active military service. This benefit covers all illnesses and injuries except those clearly unrelated to military service (common colds, injuries from accidents that occurred after discharge, disorders that existed before joining the military).

Veterans Millennium Health-Care and Benefits Act

The final piece of legislation that the VFW got passed before the turn of the Century was the Veterans Millennium Health-Care and Benefits Act. This was a major reform of VA medical benefits for veterans.

General provisions of this bill promise Veterans better long-term health care, new Veterans' cemeteries, immediate construction of the World War II Memorial, and several other improved benefits as listed below.

Health Care Enhancements in H.R. 2116

Improved access to long-term care for severely disabled Veterans.

VA's duty to provide alternatives to nursing home care are expanded.

The VA would be authorized to pay reasonable emergency care costs for Veterans obtaining their principal health care from the VA.

Improved specialized mental health care services for Veterans.

Authorize the VA to offer health care to TRICARE-eligible retirees and Purple Heart recipients who otherwise do not qualify for VA care.

Allow the VA greater flexibility in how it generates new income and how it can spend it to enhance Veterans' care.

Continue and expand the VA's authority to create and award grants to assist homeless Veterans.

Other Benefits Provisions of H.R. 2116

Increase the VA's authority in raising money for the American Battle Monuments Commission, thus making it possible for construction of the National World War II Memorial to begin in 2000.

Obligate Advanced Planning Funds for construction of six new national Veterans' cemeteries and a study of needs and improvements to existing national cemeteries.

Makes surviving spouses of former POWs who die with a service-related disability eligible for DIC (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation) payments.

Restores certain CHAMPVA benefits to surviving spouses following termination of a subsequent marriage.

Adds bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma, a form of lung cancer not related to tobacco use, to the list of service-related diseases for certain veterans exposed to nuclear radiation.

The housing loan program for members of the Reserves and National Guard who serve at least six years would be extended from 2003 to 2007.

Authorizes $65 million for homeless Veterans' programs during 2000 - 2003.

Require the VA to develop and implement quality assurance measures for all benefits programs.

Beginning The New Century 2000-2010

It can be stated that when the new century began The US Military had clearly handled the situations thrown at it well. Politics and Military actions were proven to be a bad combination when enacted together. The US also learned that a strong Military was necessary to ensure that when Political solutions failed and action was necessary that the men and women whom comprised the Military were capable.

Unfortunately the US was about to face a new type of enemy. One that had no national borders or ties. Diplomacy was impossible and political resources were essentially useless.

Terrorist groups like Al-Queda and the Taliban exist everywhere and are extremely capable of doing military styled attacks. They are also capable of using nearly anything as a weapon to execute them.

The Millennium Attacks

With the turn of the century Al-Queda, and other terrorist groups held a secret summit where they plotted a series of major attacks targeting the US and her allies.

Bombing of the USS Cole (DDG-67)

The first successful attack by Al-Queda was the bombing of the USS Cole.

On October 12, 2000, USS Cole, under the command of Commander Kirk Lippold, set in to Aden harbor for a routine fuel stop. Cole completed mooring at 09:30. Refueling started at 10:30. Around 11:18 local time (08:18 UTC), a small craft approached the port side of the destroyer, and an explosion occurred, putting a 40-by-40-foot gash in the ship's port side according to the memorial plate to those who lost their lives. According to former CIA intelligence officer, Robert Finke, the blast appeared to be caused by explosives molded into a shaped charge against the hull of the boat. Around 400 to 700 pounds (200–300 kg) of explosive were used. The blast hit the ship's galley, where crew were lining up for lunch. The crew fought flooding in the engineering spaces and had the damage under control by the evening. Divers inspected the hull and determined the keel was not damaged.

Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 were injured in the blast. The injured sailors were taken to the United States Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near Ramstein, Germany and later, back to the United States. The attack was the deadliest against a U.S. Naval vessel since the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark (FFG-31) on May 17, 1987.

The asymmetric warfare attack was organized and directed by Osama bin Laden's Al-Queda terrorist organization. In June 2001, an al-Queda recruitment video featuring bin Laden boasted about the attack and encouraged similar attacks.

Al-Queda had previously attempted a similar but less publicized attack on the U.S. Navy destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) while in port at Aden, Yemen, on January 3, 2000, as a part of the 2000 millennium attack plots. The plan was to load a boat full of explosives and explode near The Sullivans. However the boat was so overladen that it sank, forcing the attack to be abandoned.

Al-Queda attempted several other attacks in 2000 as well, while the attack on the USS Cole proved to be the only successful one that year there was no doubt Al-Queda wanted to do devastating damage to the US.

The failed attacks include the Jordan bombing plot and the LAX bombing plot.

9/11 The Twin Towers Fall

Before September 11, 2001 terrorists had previously targeted The World Trade Center in New York City. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing occurred on February 26, 1993, when a truck bomb was detonated below the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The 1,336 lb (606 kg) urea nitratehydrogen gas enhanced device was intended to knock the North Tower (Tower One) into the South Tower (Tower Two), bringing both towers down and killing thousands of people. It failed to do so, but did kill seven people and injured thousands.

The attack was planned by a group of conspirators including Ramzi Yousef, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammad Salameh, Nidal A. Ayyad, Abdul Rahman Yasin and Ahmad Ajaj. They received financing from Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, Yousef's uncle. In March 1994, four men were convicted of carrying out the bombing: Abouhalima, Ajaj, Ayyad and Salameh. The charges included conspiracy, explosive destruction of property and interstate transportation of explosives. In November 1997, two more were convicted: Yousef, the mastermind behind the bombings, and Eyad Ismoil, who drove the truck carrying the bomb.

The New York Port Authority had recognized since the mid 1980's that the WTC was a high profile target for terrorists. Its due to this that the 1993 bombing failed to do the damage Al-Queda expected. Among the things done prior to that bombing was massive reinforcement of beams and foundations in the underground parking lots in case of such a bombing. While fore thought and planning saved the WTC from one attack there was no possible way to plan for the attack that happened on 9/11. Such an attack at that time was not even considered as it was essentially inconceivable.

Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 hijackers took control of four commercial airliners en route to San Francisco and Los Angeles from Boston, Newark, and Washington, D.C. Planes with long flights were intentionally selected for hijacking because they would be heavily fueled. At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower. United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m.

Another group of hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. A fourth flight, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m. local time after the passengers on board engaged in a fight with the hijackers. Its ultimate target is believed to have been either the Capitol or the White House.

Flight 93's cockpit voice recorder revealed crew and passengers attempted to seize control of the plane from the hijackers after learning through phone calls that similarly hijacked planes had been crashed into buildings that morning. Once it became evident the hijackers would lose control of the plane to the passengers, one hijacker ordered another to roll the plane. Soon afterward, Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville.

Some passengers were able to make phone calls using the cabin airphone service and mobile phones, and provide details: the presence of several hijackers aboard each plane; that mace, tear gas, or pepper spray was used; that some people aboard had been stabbed. Reports indicated hijackers stabbed and killed pilots, flight attendants, and one or more passengers. The 9/11 Commission found the hijackers had recently purchased multi-function hand tools and assorted knives and blades. A flight attendant on Flight 11, a passenger on Flight 175, and passengers on Flight 93 said the hijackers had bombs, but one of the passengers also said he thought the bombs were fake. The FBI found no traces of explosives at the crash sites, and the 9/11 Commission concluded the bombs were probably fake.

Three buildings in the World Trade Center Complex collapsed due to structural failure. The south tower (2 WTC) fell at 9:59 a.m. after burning for 56 minutes in a fire caused by the impact of United Airlines Flight 175.[30] The north tower (1 WTC) collapsed at 10:28 a.m. after burning for 102 minutes.[30] When the north tower collapsed, debris fell on the nearby 7 World Trade Center building (7 WTC) damaging it and starting fires. These fires burned for hours and compromised the building's structural integrity. 7 WTC collapsed at 5:21 p.m.

All aircraft within the continental U.S. were grounded, and aircraft already in flight were told to land immediately. All international civilian aircraft were either turned back or redirected to airports in Canada or Mexico, and all international flights were banned from landing on U.S. soil for three days. The attacks created widespread confusion among news organizations and air traffic controllers. Among the unconfirmed and often contradictory news reports aired throughout the day, one of the most prevalent said a car bomb had been detonated at the U.S. State Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Another jetFlight 1989was suspected of having been hijacked, but this too turned out to be false after it responded to controllers and landed safely in Cleveland, Ohio.

In a September 2002 interview, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who are believed to have organized the attacks, said the fourth hijacked plane was heading for the United States Capitol, not for the White House. Atta thought the White House might be too tough a target and sought an assessment from fellow pilot Hani Hanjour. They also said al-Qaeda initially planned to target nuclear installations rather than the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but decided against it, fearing it could "get out of control". Final decisions on targeting, according to Mohammed, were left in the hands of the pilots.

Operation Active Endeavor

Operation Active Endeavor is a naval operation of NATO started in October 2001 in response to the September 11 attacks. It operates in the Mediterranean Sea and is designed to prevent the movement of militants or weapons of mass destruction and to enhance the security of shipping in general. The operation has also assisted Greece with its prevention of illegal immigration.

Operation Enduring Freedom

Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name used by the Bush administration for the War in Afghanistan, together with three smaller military actions, under the umbrella of the Global War on Terror. These global operations are intended to seek out and destroy any al-Qaeda fighters or affiliates.

On September 20, 2001, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, George W. Bush delivered an ultimatum to the Taliban government of Afghanistan to turn over Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda leaders operating in the country or face attack. The Taliban demanded evidence of bin Laden's link to the September 11 attacks and, if such evidence warranted a trial, they offered to handle such a trial in an Islamic Court. The US refused to provide any evidence.

Subsequently, in October 2001, US forces (with UK and coalition allies) invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime. On October 7, 2001, the official invasion began with British and US forces conducting airstrike campaigns over enemy targets. Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, fell by mid-November. The remaining al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants fell back to the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, mainly Tora Bora. In December, Coalition forces (the US and its allies) fought within that region. It is believed that Osama bin Laden escaped into Pakistan during the battle.

In March 2002, the United States and other NATO and non-NATO forces launched Operation Anaconda in the hopes that theyll destroy any remaining al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the Shah-i-Kot Valley and Arma Mountains of Afghanistan. The Taliban suffered heavy casualties and evacuated the region.

The Taliban regrouped in western Pakistan and began to unleash an insurgent-style offensive against Coalition forces in late 2002. Throughout southern and eastern Afghanistan, firefights broke out between the surging Taliban and Coalition forces. Coalition forces responded with a series of military offensives and an increase in the amount of troops in Afghanistan. In February 2010, Coalition forces launched Operation Moshtarak in southern Afghanistan along with other military offensives in the hopes that they would destroy the Taliban insurgency once and for all. Peace talks are also underway between Taliban affiliated fighters and Coalition forces.

Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines

n January 2002, the United States Special Operations Command, Pacific deployed to the Philippines to advise and assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combating Filipino Islamist groups. The operations were mainly focused on removing the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) from their stronghold on the island of Basilan. The second portion of the operation was conducted as a humanitarian program called "Operation Smiles." The goal of the program was to provide medical care and services to the region of Basilan as part of a "Hearts and Minds" program.

Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa

This extension of Operation Enduring Freedom was titled OEF-HOA. Unlike other operations contained in Operation Enduring Freedom, OEF-HOA does not have a specific organization as a target. OEF-HOA instead focuses its efforts to disrupt and detect militant activities in the region and to work with willing governments to prevent the reemergence of militant cells and activities.

In October 2002, the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) was established in Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier. It contains approximately 2,000 personnel including US military and special operations forces (SOF) and coalition force members, Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150).

Task Force 150 consists of ships from a shifting group of nations, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Pakistan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The primary goal of the coalition forces is to monitor, inspect, board and stop suspected shipments from entering the Horn of Africa region and affecting the US' Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Included in the operation is the training of selected armed forces units of the countries of Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency tactics. Humanitarian efforts conducted by CJTF-HOA include rebuilding of schools and medical clinics and providing medical services to those countries whose forces are being trained.

The program expands as part of the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative as CJTF personnel also assist in training the armed forces of Chad, Niger, Mauritania and Mali.

On July 1, 2006, a Web-posted message purportedly written by Osama bin Laden urged Somalis to build an Islamic state in the country and warned western governments that the al-Qaeda network would fight against them if they intervened there.

Somalia has been considered a "failed state" because its official central government was weak, dominated by warlords and unable to exert effective control over the country. Beginning in mid-2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), an Islamist faction campaigning on a restoration of "law and order" through Sharia law, had rapidly taken control of much of southern Somalia.

On December 14, 2006, the US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer claimed Al-Qaeda cell operatives were controlling the Islamic Courts Union, a claim denied by the ICU.

By late 2006, the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia had seen its power effectively limited to Baidoa, while the Islamic Courts Union controlled the majority of southern Somalia, including the capital of Mogadishu. On December 20, 2006, the Islamic Courts Union launched an offensive on the government stronghold of Baidoa, and saw early gains before Ethiopia intervened in favor of the government.

By December 26, the Islamic Courts Union retreated towards Mogadishu, before again retreating as TFG/Ethiopian troops neared, leaving them to take Mogadishu with no resistance. The ICU then fled to Kismayo, where they fought Ethiopian/TFG forces in the Battle of Jilib.

The Prime Minister of Somalia claimed that three "terror suspects" from the 1998 United States embassy bombings are being sheltered in Kismayo.[48] On December 30, 2006, al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called upon Muslims worldwide to fight against Ethiopia and the TFG in Somalia.

On January 8, 2007, the US launched the Battle of Ras Kamboni by bombing Ras Kamboni using AC-130 gunships.

On September 14, 2009, US Special Forces killed two men and wounded and captured two others near the Somali village of Baarawe. Witnesses claim that helicopters used for the operation launched from French-flagged warships, but that could not be confirmed. A Somali based al-Qaida affiliated group, the Al-Shabaab, has confirmed the death of "sheik commander" Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan along with an unspecified number of militants. Nabhan, a Kenyan, was wanted in connection with the 2002 Mombasa attacks.

Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara

Operation Enduring Freedom Trans Sahara (OEF-TS) is the name of the military operation conducted by the United States and partner nations in the Sahara/Sahel region of Africa, consisting of counter-terrorism efforts and policing of arms and drug trafficking across central Africa.

Iraq

Iraq had been listed as a State sponsor of international terrorism by the United States since 1990, when Saddam Hussein fell out of US favor. The regime of Saddam Hussein proved a continuing problem for the UN and Iraq’s neighbors in its use of chemical weapons against Iranians and Kurds.

Iraqi No-Fly Zones

After the Gulf War, the US, French and British militaries instituted and began patrolling Iraqi no-fly zones, to protect Iraq's Kurdish minority and Shi'a Arab populationboth of which suffered attacks from the Hussein regime before and after the Gulf Warin Iraq's northern and southern regions, respectively. US forces continued in combat zone deployments through November 1995 and launched Operation Desert Fox against Iraq in 1998 after it failed to meet US demands of "unconditional cooperation" in weapons inspections.

Prior to Operation Desert Fox, US president Bill Clinton predicted "And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them." Clinton also declared a desire to remove Hussein from power and in the same speech said, "The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world." In the aftermath of Operation Desert Fox, during December 1998, Iraq announced that it would no longer respect the no-fly zones and resumed its attempts to shoot down US aircraft.

Air strikes by the British and US against Iraqi anti-aircraft and military targets continued over the next few years. Also in 1998, Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which called for regime change in Iraq on the basis of its alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, oppression of Iraqi citizens, and attacks on other Middle Eastern countries.

The George W. Bush administration called for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to again send weapons inspectors to Iraq to find and destroy the alleged weapons of mass destruction and called for a UNSC resolution. UNSC Resolution 1441 was passed unanimously, which offered Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" or face "serious consequences."

Resolution 1441 did not authorize the use of force by member states. The Iraqi government subsequently allowed UN inspectors some access to Iraqi sites, while the US government continued to assert that Iraq was being obstructionist.

In October 2002, a large bipartisan majority in the United States Congress authorized the president to use force if necessary to disarm Iraq in order to "prosecute the war on terrorism." After failing to overcome opposition from France, Russia, and China against a UNSC resolution that would sanction the use of force against Iraq, and before the UN weapons inspectors had completed their inspections (which were claimed to be fruitless by the US because of Iraq's alleged deception), the United States assembled a "Coalition of the Willing" composed of nations who pledged support for its policy of regime change in Iraq.

Operation Iraqi Freedom

The Iraq War began in March 2003 with an air campaign, which was immediately followed by a U.S.-led ground invasion. The Bush administration stated the invasion was the "serious consequences" spoken of in the UNSC Resolution 1441. The Bush administration also stated the Iraq war was part of the War on Terror, something later questioned or contested.

Baghdad, Iraqs capital city, fell in April 2003 and Saddam Husseins government quickly dissolved. On May 1, 2003, Bush announced that major combat operations in Iraq had ended. However, an insurgency arose against the U.S.-led coalition and the newly developing Iraqi military and post-Saddam government. The insurgency, which included Al-Qaeda affiliated groups, led to far more coalition casualties than the invasion. Other elements of the insurgency were led by fugitive members of President Hussein's Ba'ath regime, which included Iraqi nationalists and pan-Arabists. Many insurgency leaders are Islamists and claim to be fighting a religious war to reestablish the Islamic Caliphate of centuries past. Iraqs former president, Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces in December 2003. He was executed in 2006.

In 2004, the insurgent forces grew stronger. The United States conducted attacks on insurgent strongholds in cities like Najaf and Fallujah.

In January 2007, President Bush presented a new strategy for Operation Iraqi Freedom based upon counter-insurgency theories and tactics developed by General David Petraeus. The Iraq War troop surge of 2007 was part of this "new way forward" and, along with US backing of Sunni groups it had previously sought to defeat, has been credited with a widely recognized dramatic decrease in violence by up to 80%.

The VFW continued its lobbying efforts and helped to pass several important pieces of legislation. Much of their efforts were in an effort to help returning veterans from the conflicts occuring in the Middle East. Medical advances were saving more men and womens lives than in previous conflicts. These returning veterans required a high degree of rehabilitation and medical assistance. The VA medical system was starting to get taxed to its limit. Much needed legislation was needed to ensure that these returning SSAMs (Soldiers, Sailora, Air Men and Marines) would get the proper medical care they not only needed but the due compensation they deserved. This time the VFW set out to ensure that our returning veterans were not abandoned by the system as those in the past had been. However, the legislation also impacted current veterans whom still needed and would continue to need assistance and compensation.

Concurrent Feceipt For Military Retirees Rated 50% Disabled Or More

Effective for payments made after January 1, 2004, the law was changed to allow certain military retirees to receive both disability pay from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and their retired pay from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). Effective January 1, 2005, those retirees rated at 100% disabled by the VA will receive their full concurrent receipt retroactive to the beginning of the year, eliminating the remaining 9-year phase-in for full benefits. This change in law will potentially affect payments to some former spouses under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA).

Concurrent Receipt means that qualified military retirees now get both their full military retirement pay and their VA disability compensation. This recently passed law phases out the VA disability offset, which means that military retirees with 20 or more years of creditable service and a 50% VA rated disability or higher, will no longer have their retired pay reduced by the amount of VA disability. The official name for Concurrent Receipt is Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP).

Prior to passage of Public Law 108-136, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (NDAA), a retiree had to “waive” a portion of his/her retired pay in order to receive disability pay from the VA. Disability pay replaced an equal amount of retired pay. Retirees had two incentives for receiving as much retired pay in the form of disability pay as possible.

Thats because disability pay is not counted as taxable income for federal income tax purposes and disability pay is not divisible as property in the event of divorce. Now, some former spouses who did not receive military payments because the retiree waived his/her retired pay to collect disability pay from the VA will now be eligible to receive payments directly from the DFAS. In all cases, the retiree must be rated at least 50 percent disabled by the VA. The military estimates that in excess of 225,000 military retirees meet this criterion required to receive both retired pay and VA disability pay. With the numbers in the Middle East still climbing, it is likely that eligibility for VA disability benefits will also continue to go higher.

Full Concurrent Receipt For Military Retirees Rated 100% Disabled

Qualified disabled military retirees will now get paid both their full military retirement pay and their VA disability compensation. This recently passed law phases out (over 9 years) the VA disability offset, which means that military retirees with 20 or more years of service and a 50% (or higher) VA rated disability will no longer have their military retirement pay reduced by the amount of their VA disability compensation.

Unlike the Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC), full concurrent receipt will be phased-in over the coming years (except as noted above). This means that if you qualify you will see your retirement pay increase by approximately ten percent each year until the phase-in is complete in 2014.

CRDP Update 1/28/2008: Those members who have been rated less than 100 percent, but rated 100 percent disabled by the VA under the unemployability code (UI), will now receive CRDP.

Concurrent Receipt Eligibility

To qualify for concurrent receipt you must:

Be a Military Retiree with 20 or more years of service, including:

Chapter 61 Medical Retirees with 20 years or more.

National Guard and Reserve with 20 or more good years. (Once they turn 60 and begin drawing a retirement check)

Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA) Retirees may also be eligible.

Have a Service Related VA disability rating of 50% or higher.

Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection Program (TSGLI)

Every member who has SGLI also has TSGLI effective December 1, 2005. This coverage applies to active duty members, reservists, National Guard members, funeral honors duty and one-day muster duty.

This benefit is also provided retroactively for members who incurred severe losses as a result of traumatic injuries incurred between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005, if the injury was incurred in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), regardless of whether they had SGLI coverage at the time of their injury.

Effective October 1, 2011, TSGLI will be payable for all qualifying injuries incurred during the period October 7, 2001 to November 30, 2005, regardless of where they occurred, and regardless of whether the member had SGLI coverage at the time of the injury. The Veterans Benefit Improvement Act of 2010 removes the requirement that injuries during this period be incurred in Operations Enduring or Iraqi Freedom.

Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act

An Act of Congress that prohibits protests within 300 feet (90 m) of the entrance of any cemetery under control of the National Cemetery Administration (a division of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs) from 60 minutes before to 60 minutes after a funeral. Penalties for violating the act are up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year imprisonment.

The Act was sponsored by Mike Rogers, a Republican congressman from Michigan. It was introduced in large part to combat the campaign by Fred Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church, of Topeka, Kansas. Phelps and his supporters regularly demonstrated at the funerals of American service members who were killed in the war in Iraq, on the grounds that the deaths are divine retribution for social tolerance of homosexuality. While protest is normally protected by the First Amendment, fighting words are not.

The Act was approved by the House via roll call vote with an overwhelming majority of 408 to 3. Ron Paul (R-TX), David Wu (D-OR) and Barney Frank (D-MA) voted against the Act, opposing it on civil liberties and constitutional grounds. Twenty-one members of the House of Representatives did not vote. Barney Frank said of the vote, "I think its very likely to be found unconstitutional. Its true that when you defend civil liberties you are typically defending people who do obnoxious things You play into their hand when you let them provoke you into overdoing it. I dont want these thugs to claim America is hypocritical."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposed the legislation, saying that the Act was unconstitutional and that it would not stand up in court. They said of a similar ban in Kentucky, "The ACLU lawsuit recognizes that Kentucky has an interest in showing respect and compassion for the deceased and for their families, but argues that sections of these laws go too far in prohibiting peaceful protests."

The Senate passed the bill unanimously. It was promptly signed into law by President George W. Bush on May 29, 2006.

In 2008 the VFW helped in getting a record VA discretionary budget approved to assist all veterans with health care and other services.

Advanced Appropriations for VA Becomes Law

On October 22, 2009 the president signed into law legislation that will enable the Department of Veterans Affairs to know its health care budget a full year in advance.

"This is a huge victory for veterans," said Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., who has been advocating for years with other leading veterans' organizations for a new budgetary process that would fund the VA in a sufficient, timely and predictable manner.

The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act will ensure that medical services, facilities and research programs are not impacted by annual Capitol Hill budget battles that have resulted in the VA being funded late in 20 of the past 23 years.

"The advanced appropriations issue has always been about doing what's right to properly care for our nation's defenders," explained Tradewell. "The VA is the only federal agency that is singularly tasked to care for America's heroes. A budget known a full year in advance will enable them to plan for the hiring of critical medical and research staff, as well as forecast equipment and facility upgrades throughout their entire nationwide network.

"The VFW is proud of our House and Senate champions, and grateful to President Obama for his support of advanced appropriations when he was a senator, and for his signature today."

Veterans Family Caregiver Legislation Signed Into Law

In May of 2010 Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) announced that a landmark veteran caregiver bill passed by Congress was signed into law. The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act provides unprecedented new benefits to veteran caregivers including training, counseling, health care and financial assistance. President Obama signed the bill into law.

This landmark legislation stands by our troops and supports those caregivers who continue to stand with them, said Congressman Cuellar.Everyday, millions of military families support men and women in uniform, making sacrifices for the sake of our country. These caregiver benefits are vitally needed and well-deserved.

The act provides support services to family and other caregivers of all veterans, including stipends for caregivers living with severely wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan . The act will also create two distinct caregiver programs within the Department of Veterans Affairs, one for all caregivers and one specifically designed for those supporting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Caregivers are defined as family members of veterans or non-family members who live with a veteran. Training, education, counseling, mental health services, lodging, financial assistance and subsistence payments for accompanying veterans on medical care visits will be provided to qualifying caregivers as a result of this legislation.

In addition, caregivers will be provided health care services through the Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA) of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This bill addresses the unique needs of todays veterans and their families, said Congressman Cuellar. With this legislation, we uphold a promise to our troops and their support systems at home. This commonsense legislation helps our brave men and women as they return home from overseas and this will continue to support those millions of veterans who have already served our great nation.

To address the unique needs of the growing number of returning women soldiers, the act also improves health care services for the nations 1.8 million female veterans and for the first time provides up to seven days of post-delivery health care to a newborn of a female veteran.

The veterans legislation also improves access to care for veterans in rural areas by improving VA transportation services to veterans living in remote regions. Servicemen and women will also have access to counseling and other mental health centers, including members of the National Guard and Reserves who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, but are no longer on active duty.

A broad coalition of veterans groups including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Wounded Warriors Project and the National Military Family Association support the landmark legislation.

Operation New Dawn

The war entered a new phase on September 1, 2010, with the official end of US combat operations. However, 50,000 US troops remain in an advise and assist role to provide support for Iraqi security forces.

The VFW-PAC Meets Its Fate

Politics being what it is and voters being what they are, the VFW-PAC quickly lost support of the VFW membership. If the VFW-PAC had listened to the voices of VFW members it was supposed to represent and if VFW members supported the program, it could have truly become a powerful force in the political scene. However, assistance or contributions dropped when members felt the PAC was no longer supporting the best interests of veterans whom it was supposed to represent. When the PAC failed to follow its own rules for candidate endorsement the VFW leadership was in a no choice situation and had to take action. Due to the laws governing PACS VFW leadership could not directly tell the PAC what to do. When the VFW-PAC refused to listen to the VFW and Ladies Auxiliary members who contributed to them and disregarded the recommendation of VFW leadership there were only two choices, break all ties to the VFW-PAC or dissolve it completely.

On October 15th of 2010 the VFW-PAC appointees were removed from their positions by National VFW leadership under direction of the VFW National Commander in Chief Richard Eubank due to conflicts of interest when PAC leaders endorsed candidates that many VFW members, and the VFW leadership in particular, felt were not supporting the best interests of veterans. This effectively shut down the VFW-PAC. Due to the fact that the PAC was starting to become partisan in its support of candidates the VFW had little choice and acted quickly before the VFW's reputation became further damaged by the PAC's actions. The PAC's dissolvency was voted on at the National Convention in Austin TX 30 August 2011. The PAC was disolved because of the candidates they chose to support. It is highly unlikely the VFW will form another PAC anytime within the near future.

Current State of the VFW

As the organization entered its 121st year, it could claim 7,644 active posts This includes fifty-five posts located in a dozen countries: Germany, France, Great Britain, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Guam, Kwajalein (a U.S. territory), Panama, and Japan, including Okinawa. There were also posts in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, as well as four posts in Mexico under the jurisdiction of the Department of Texas. Unfortunately the passing of the Old Guards of the VFW is happening at a rapid rate due to age and the health issues most VFW members have. The VFW is working to bring in qualified members from the most recent actions and while headway in this endeavor is being made the recruitment rate is still well below the numbers needed to replace our lost comrades.
 

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