tide finally was turning in Vietnam. After 11 wrenching
years, peace seemed within grasp in 1972 as more and
more U.S. units stood down and troops returned home at
America’s longest war, America’s only undeclared war,
was about to become history. By midyear, 48,000 U.S.
troops were based in Vietnam, the lowest number since
April 1965, and thousands more were exiting the combat
zone every month.
On Aug. 11, the Army’s U.S. Command announced the
pullout from field duty of the 3rd Battalion, 21st
Infantry, last of the 112 maneuver battalions in South
Vietnam. At the conflict’s peak, more than 542,000
uniformed Americans served their country.
Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird proclaimed no more
than 50,000 men would be drafted in 1972, half as many
as in 1971 and the lowest figure since before the Korean
War. President Richard M. Nixon trumped that news in
August by announcing the draft would end altogether on
July 1, 1973….
Nixon also ordered troop strength in Vietnam reduced to
39,000 by Sept. 1. On Oct. 26, Nixon’s assistant for
national security affairs Henry Kissinger announced
“peace is at hand.” By late November, 31,000 U.S. troops
remained in Vietnam….
American casualties for 1972, according to the National
Archives and Records Administration, totaled 641, the
lowest toll since 1964 when 206 troops perished.
Delaware had a single loss, Air Force Maj. Gerald
Francis Ayres of New Castle on June 18. He was 33….
In Vietnam, Delawareans’ enthusiasm for leaving the
combat zone was palpable.
“I’m finally on my way home. And is it ever a great
feeling,” wrote Army Spc. Lawrence B. Buchert of Seaford
on Feb. 29. “It’s somewhat like a dream come true. I’ve
only spent eleven months here, but that’s far too many.
I received a 30-day drop and, hopefully, if I ever
finish cleaning today, I’ll be going to the replacement
station tomorrow. Gosh, it seems like everyone’s going
home and everywhere I go there’s a line to wait in. But
being I’m coming home, I really don’t mind.”
A Voice from the War
While the troops would soon be on
their way home, their still was plenty of work to be
done. This letter from Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Phil
Jornlin of Wilmington was published in the Mailbag on
Just dropping a line from the Gulf of Tonkin, where
lately we’ve been real busy. We were pulled out of Hong
Kong early in order to make Charlie’s New Year’s
celebration otherwise known as Tet.
We were still able to contribute greatly to Hong Kong’s
economy in the five days we did stay and most, but not
all, are returning with some booty to show for their
The flight deck of the Constellation has been a hectic
place the last few months. Our planes are flying around
100 sorties a day and our workday runs 14-16 hours.
Don’t know what I’d do with a normal 8-hour day anymore,
but I expect I’d make good use of the time.
I guess the papers have covered pretty much of what
we’ve been doing so there’s no need to go into that.
Currently we will be involved over here in Nam until the
23rd or 24th of March and then we’ll start on our voyage
back to stateside with arrival in San Diego scheduled
for April 17, barring an extension over here.
I’ve received the State flag and the dependable SOS has
come through again. Really hard to express my feelings
toward those people other than to say thanks – it is
Better sign off for now, another busy day arrives
tomorrow and there’s nothing I can do about it.