Is It 1972 All Over Again?


As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I love the way browsing a 35-year-old news magazine or chatting with a nonagenarian can be a sort of trip in a time machine.

Another way to take such a trip is to visit the Reel Radio web site (subscription required) where you’ll find hundreds of hours of radio airchecks recorded in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Airchecks are the recordings DJs and/or radio stations made of what they broadcast over the air.

If, like me, you went to sleep each night in the early seventies listening to John “Records” Landecker on faraway WLS in Chicago, or Phil Jay on WHB in Kansas City, well, then you can imagine what a rush of nostalgia it is to listen to a couple of hours of the voices, music, commercials and news that came out of your bedside AM clock radio 35 years in the past.

I mention it because I was listening to an aircheck of WLS’ Larry Lujack from April 17, 1972 recently. What really caught my ear was the break for Paul Harvey News and Comment. It was classic Paul Harvey filled with items with lede lines like:

“LBJ’s heart acting up again. . .”


“Aboard Apollo 16, a red warning light. . .” 

And then there was this item, which I have transcribed in full. (hear Harvey’s signature delivery and cadence as you read):

“No more bombers over Haiphong or Hanoi. . .for now. President Nixon has suspended these attacks on far North Vietnam to see if the North Vietnamese will suspend their attacks in South Vietnam, but they haven’t yet.

“Indeed the last word from the Reds in Paris was that their offensive in South Vietnam will continue unabated. Our State Secretary Rogers says we will prevent a takeover. . .says we will not use American ground troops; will not use nuclear weapons; but will do whatever else we have to to stop ‘em.  

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . .the Fulbright Committee, has voted to cut off all money for the war in Indo-China as of the end of this year. But Defense Secretary Laird will tell the Senators today, that they are thus encouraging the enemy to hang on.” 

Do you know, as Harvey would say, “the rest of the story?”

Indulge me a short history review. . . By the Spring of 1972, most U.S. troops had already been withdrawn from South Vietnam. The pro-American government there was prepared to continue fighting the Communist invaders from North Vietnam but were heavily dependent upon continued U.S. air support and bombing to succeed. In fact they were succeeding. The Viet Cong had thrown everything they had and the kitchen sink into an invasion of the South at Easter-time the previous month. But with the assistance of U.S. bombing support, the offensive had been stopped in it tracks, and the work of pushing the Viet Cong back across the work had bravely begun. This is the setting for the Paul Harvey news item cited above.

See any parallels to today?

Of course, following the Fulbright Committee’s recommendation (cited in the Paul Harvey excerpt), the Congress ultimately did indeed vote to cut off all funding to the military effort to support the government of South Vietnam. This essentially turned an emerging victory (or at least a Korea-type stalemate) into a defeat. Years of protests, biased news media coverage, and general weariness had turned the public against the war. Even many Republicans were going wobbly (Sen. Richard Lugar, call your office.) And just as Defense Secretary Laird had warned, such votes and posturing merely encouraged the North Vietnamese to hang on and keep pressing.

The result? As many as a million South Vietnamese died or were sent to “reeducation camps.” Hundreds of thousands of others fled the country or died trying. And the sacrifices of more than 50,000 American servicemen were rendered for naught.

So will we see a repeat in 2008? Some Congressional Democrats are already pressuring Speaker Pelosi to call for a complete cutoff of funds for the war in Iraq. They even cite the Fulbright Committe as a model for the action.

If it all follows the 1972 pattern, the results will likely be even more tragic, both for the people of Iraq and the long-term interests of our nation.

“Good day.”