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That Napalm Story


I wish the Pentagon would quit playing these silly word games. Despite what a DoD spokesman, excuse me, spokesperson, may say, we are now fighting a guerrilla war in Iraq, and what Marine aviators dropped on enemy formations, as described in this article, was napalm.

Now, ever since Robert Duvall’s character in Apocalypse Now said
“I love napalm in the morning. It’s the smell of victory,” and papers
around the world published the photo of the Vietnamese girl running from
her village, on which napalm mistakenly had been dropped by a South
Vietnamese pilot, napalm has had a very bad press. But it is not an
illegal weapon. The main reason its use has declined is that there are
often better alternatives.

Does anyone remember the MOAB? I wrote a short NRO piece about
this highly-publicized weapon. It is a weapon that kills by fire, blast,
and overpressure. I don’t think anyone, other than the usual suspects,
argued that there was anything wrong with the MOAB. Indeed, I can almost
guarantee that the SacBee had a puff piece on MOAB.

The article claims that napalm was used in Vietnam against
villages and people. That is false. It was never used on purpose against
civilians, although as the photo I mentioned above illustrates,
accidents did happen. Napalm was used in Vietnam the same way the
Marines apparently used it in Iraq: against enemy troops, either dug in
or in the open. If anyone saw We Were Soldiers Once, you can understand
how effective it can be against attacking formations. Hal Moore wrote in
the book upon which Mel Gibson’s movie was based that for about 18
hours, the only thing that stood between his outnumbered command and
complete destruction at the hands of the PAVN was a wall of fire.

I will tell you that as a young lieutenant leading a Marine
rifle platoon in Vietnam, nothing made me happier than to see a couple
of napalm canisters tumbling from an A-4 onto a trench line or bunker
complex that my unit had been ordered to take. My view of things as a
lowly “grunt” was, to paraphrase Paul Fussell’s attitude about the
dropping of the atom bomb on Japan, “thank God for napalm.”

Before people get all riled up about this, I would like to point
out that the 9/11 attackers killed 3000 Americans essentially using
cruise missiles and un-gelled napalm.