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Book Review: Mercenaries and Lyndon Johnson's "More Flags" (Robert M. Blackburn) : VN

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: August 12, 2001 
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Mercenaries and Lyndon Johnson's "More Flags," by Robert M.Blackburn, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, N.C., $28.50.

A significant portion of the allied presence in Vietnam came from the "Free World Military Forces," military units out of Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. Vietnam veteran Robert M. Blackburn, now an assistant professor of history at Texas College in Tyler, Texas, analyzes how that allied contribution came about.

He begins with an examination of President Lyndon B. Johnson's "more flags" program, which began in the spring of 1964 to "serve as a visible symbol of free world support for his Vietnam policies." The original objective of pursuing only noncombat related aid for South Vietnam soon expanded, however, "to allow for the procurement of free world troops to fight, and die, in Southeast Asia."

With the exception of the Australian and New Zealand forces, which "accepted no payment from the United States for their service in Vietnam," Blackburn labels the remainder of these Free World Military Forces as "mercenaries" who had "full knowledge of its strong, even inflammatory implications." Separate chapters explore the Korean commitment (which totaled some 50,000 soldiers at its height), the Philippine commitment and the Thai commitment, laying out the price paid for the "hiring" of these troops.

It is well to remember, however, that it was "the politicians who made the deals that sold the collective services of their soldiers" who deserve the stigma attached to mercenary. The Korean, Filipino and Thai soldiers themselves "shared the same dangers, the same hardships, the same fears as any Americans there," and 5,241 of these brave men died as a result.

Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr.





2 Responses to “Book Review: Mercenaries and Lyndon Johnson's "More Flags" (Robert M. Blackburn) : VN”


  1. 1
    Bernie Weisz says:

    This is one of the most critical, revealing books of the Vietnam War. It is an unexposed fact that L.B.J. without consenting the U.S. public, hired mercenary soldiers to die in place of our troops. ?While on the surface a humanitarian cause, the way he went about doing it was devious and unethical. The U.S. taxpayer paid dearly for these soldiers, as aside from Australia and New Zealand, the nations of South Korea, Thailand and the Phillipines managed to get President Johnson to foot the entire bill…and then some! Any student of America's role in S.E . Asia cannot miss reading this book. See my review onAmazon.cim

  2. 2
    Bernie Weisz says:

    Written By Bernie Weisz June 5th, 2009 Pembroke Pines, Florida e mail:Bernwei1@aol.com see all my reviews at amazon.com Title of Review: "L.B.J.'s Hired Guns at the U.S. Taxpayer's Expense"

    Prior to reading Robert Blackburn's book, I had very little knowledge of the extent L.B.J. went to sell the Vietnam War to the reluctant ears of the "Free World". After reading this book, it was apparent that he would go to any lengths to sell his cause. Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973 When you consider any accounting of this war, it is usually the 58,000 Americans that lost their lives there. Where They Lay: Searching for America's Lost Soldiers Rarely, does anyone discuss the 5,241 troops killed from other free world countries that fought alongside Americans form 1962-1973. Allies and Mates: An American Soldier with the Australians and New Zealanders in Vietnam, 1966-67 Notwithstanding halting the spread of communism, the true bottom line is that these men fought and died in Vietnam do American soldiers wouldn't have to. Aside form Australia and New Zealand troops, they served as paid mercenaries, in service to the U.S. Unequal partners: Philippine and Thai relations with the United States, 1965-75The free world countries which sent ground troops to South Vietnam and their totals killed were as follows: Republic of Korea, 4,407 dead, Australia and New Zealand 475 dead, Thailand 3510 dead and the Phillipines 9 dead. The name of the program the U.S. State Dept. used for obtaining allied aid for the war was called "More Flags". Blackburn points out that regardless of what what eventually transpired in the war, America's closest allies (Great Britian, Canada, Mexico and West Germany) all said no to sending ground troops to South Vietnam. This book is about how L.B.J. using a 1950's cold war scare tactic called the "Domino theory" went about doing this:he rapped the U.S. taxpayer. Blackburn proves this by starting with S. Korea, who at it's height in 1968 had 50,003 combat troops risking their lives in place of U.S. servicemen. Korea: The First War We Lost While L.B.J. went out of his way to present to the free world the fiction that Korea was in Vietnam on it's own volition and was self-financing the military venture, the truth was the U.S. was paying 100% of the costs using a covert program called the "PL480 Foodstuffs". With this, the U.S. "donated" massive agricultural commodities given at taxpayer expense to South Korea to sell, with the proceeds being used to foot the entire South Korean military bill. While L.B.J instructed Korean President Chung Hee Park to assert that the Korean commitment was the result of gratitude for American assistance in the Korean War of 1950-1953 as well as to help a sister Asian nation defend itself against communism, the truth was that this "mercenary force" would have never materialized without U.S. payment, which Blackburn postulated at $107 million. MERCS: True Stories of Mercenaries in Action With the Phillipine contingent, called "PHILCAG" (Phillipine Civic Action Group), which numbered 2,061 mercenary soldiers at it's height in 1966, "PL-480" cost U.S. taxpayers 9.13 million a year from 1964-1972. With the Thai commitment (at it's peak numbered 11,586 troops in 1970) the U.S. taxpayer was taken for $3 billion dollars between 1962-1972. However, besides Thai troops, the U.S. received Thai air bases that the majority of B-52 bombers flew out of for the duration of the war. Sideshow, Revised Edition: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia In the Australian and New Zealand contribution, clearly not mercenary in nature and there for the entire war, top troop levels reached 7,672 Australians and 552 New Zealanders in 1969. Australia's Vietnam War (Texas a & M University Military History Series) Neither country accepted payment for their service in Vietnam. Australian Military Operations in Vietnam (Australian Army Campaigns) So why did L.B.J keep his methods secret from the American public? Blackburn points out that like most school children are taught that England's use of German "Hessian" mercenaries during the Revolutionary War was an evil act of oppression, most Americans would feel that the use of mercenary troops was equally disreputable. A Hessian Diary of the American Revolution Blackburn concluded that with L.B.J's shroud of secrecy, he denied the U.S. citizenry the chance to air their opinions as to how their tax dollars were used. However, in fairness to L.B.J., by using mercenary armies to fight the Vietnam war, it enabled American boys to stay at home. This is a book about the Vietnam War that has information you will rarely, if at all, find in any accounting of this conflict!



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