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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
The Meaning Of Company A
President Nixon is sitting on a powder keg. That was the inescapable conclusion August 24 when the troops of Company A of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, refused to repeat their experience of the preceding five days by risking their lives again in a senseless attempt to reach a downed helicopter.
This is not the first time such an incident has occurred. James Sterba in the August 29 New York Times reported, "Several of the marines and infantryman here (in Vietnam) said they had seen incidents in which soldiers, temporarily refused to continue. Generally, they said, the reluctant troops, like those of Company A, go back into battle after pep talks."
The significance of the event lies not in the specific action taken by the weary troops of Company A, but in what that action reveals about the state of mind of the American troops in Vietnam. It shows that American GIs know they are risking their lives in a cause that simply is not worth it.
James Reston wrote in his column August 27: "Battles for bunkers in the Songchang Valley are tactical moves in the President's strategy of retreat. He is asking Company A to fight for time to negotiate a settlement with Hanoi that will save his face but may very well lose their lives. He is also carrying on the battle in the belief, or pretense, that the South Vietnamese will really be able to defend their country and our democratic objectives (sic) when we withdraw, and even his own generals don't believe the South Vietnamese will do it. It is a typical political strategy and the really surprising thing is that there have been so few men, like the tattered remnants of company A, who have refused to die for it.
"At some point, the President is going to have to recognize that there is a fundamental difference between his policy of withdrawing gracefully from the war, and ending the war. The difference between what is graceful and what is decisive in ending the war is a great many lives of young men like the men in Company A.
It would be difficult to put the matter more clearly. Nixon is sacrificing American lives for the sake of "saving face," and is doing so only because he thinks he can get away with it.
GI Press Service, vol. 1, no. 7