Imagine going to your grave knowing you were innocent after a lifetime of serving your country:
President Obama has officially rehabilitated a deceased Air Force general who was demoted in 1972 for allegedly ordering unauthorized bombing missions into North Vietnam, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
John D. Lavelle, who served as commander of air operations during the Vietnam War, was stripped of two of his four stars and forced to retire as a major general after Defense Department investigations concluded that he had approved the falsification of records to cover up the missions. Lavelle died in 1979, insisting on his innocence until the end.
Although high-ranking members of the military and the Nixon administration insisted that Lavelle had acted on his own in ordering pilots to bomb unauthorized targets in North Vietnam, it turns out that the green light for the missions had come from the very top: President Nixon himself, according to transcripts of Nixon's recorded conversations that were released many years later.
The transcripts and other records backing up Lavelle's version of events were unearthed in 2007 by Aloysius Casey, a retired Air Force general, and his son Patrick Casey, as they were researching the biography of a pilot who served under Lavelle.
It's long overdue, but hopefully this gives some comfort to the man's family.
The history of the Vietnam War is one of the most misunderstood subjects in American history. Few people realize that the period when General Lavelle served was one where the political situation back home had effectively tied the hands of men who knew what was at stake if American forces were withdrawn from Vietnam. Militarily, they had the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army on the ropes. They had them beaten back on nearly every front and by interdicting the flow of arms down through the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the course of the war was effectively reversed. But by 1972, you could have written the conclusion yourself--we were leaving the South Vietnamese to their fate and no one was willing to stomach the war anymore.
Whatever happened to taking away stars over serious breaches in trust? It's all well and good to give General John Lavelle his two stars back, but to have given General Stanley McChrystal a free pass to retire with a fourth star he did not earn? Outrageous.