Ten years after the end of the Vietnam war, three of the people in charge during that time and two legislators affected by the conflict look back at the lessons they learned from the conflict.
Dean Rusk, Secretary of State during the Kennedy/Johnson years, addressed the call for "no more Vietnams" in the United States' military future.
"We'll have to be careful about the lessons we draw from the Vietnam experience. After Korea, many people were saying no more Koreas. And of course there are now a lot of people saying no more Vietnams," Rusk said. "[I]f that is a part of a general trend back toward that combination of slippage, of pacifism, of isolation, of indifference which led my generation of students into World War II, I would have grave concerns about the future."
Former National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy said the government underestimated the tenacity of the North Vietnamese.
"I think that, looking back on it, we can see now what too few of us saw at the time -- that the extraordinary determination and skill and dedication of Hanoi," Bundy said, "and its intent, its determination to take over the whole of what it always regarded as one country, constituted a force vastly greater in enduring effectiveness than we were ever able to find or to encourage in our friends in South Vietnam..."
Clark Clifford, Secretary of Defense from 1968 - 1969, said he thought another government mistake came from the domino theory -- the idea that Communism would spread throughout the globe, country-by-country, if it was not stopped.
"As we look back on it now, it seems to me that there was a serious miscalculation. We mis-evaluated what was taking place there. The domino theory turned out not to have validity," Clifford said. "So the main lesson that I have learned is, do not send American troops into any area unless the national security of the United States is involved."
Two current members of the U.S. Congress who served in the war also weighed in on the topic. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) served as a Navy officer and then-Rep. John McCain (R-AZ) was a Navy pilot who became a prisoner of war during the conflict.
McCain said one of Vietnam's lessons was that the government should make sure the American people know about and understand such massive military operations.
"[W]whatever commitment we make must be readily explainable to the man in the street in one or two sentences, because ... even if our national security interests have been involved, which we're having trouble defining ... it's got to be explainable to the American public if we expect any sustained support for that effort," McCain said.
Kerry agreed, adding that personal lessons from the war also arrived as each soldier returned home.
"[T]here are probably as many lessons from this war as there are individuals who would have a perception about it, and those lessons begin with when we went there," Kerry said. "They carry on to how we fought. They carry on to how soldiers returned to this country. And for every episode of the war, there's probably a different series of lessons."