The Mayaguez recapture was not ‘successful’
August 14, 2020 at 5:12 p.m. EDT
Regarding the Aug. 8 front-page obituary “Cold War to Gulf War, key adviser to 2 presidents”:
Brent Scowcroft was certainly the model of a fair-minded and judicious national security adviser, but it was wrong to say that the military recapture of the American merchant ship Mayaguez in 1975 was “successful.” Forty-one service members lost their lives in storming Koh Tang Island, where the Pentagon wrongly believed 39 crew members were being held.
Moreover, the crew was released as the rescue operation was underway, and all were safely recovered. The CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service informed the White House of the crew’s release in time for the operation to be halted, but national security adviser Henry Kissinger wanted to send a signal to Vietnam and North Korea in view of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. Then-Defense Secretary James Schlesinger blocked aspects of the operation, which saved the lives of the crew and reduced casualties among the Marine rescue team. Nevertheless, then-President Gerald Ford wrongly fired Schlesinger for insubordination. Many lessons were learned from a miserable operation managed by the National Security Council.
Melvin A. Goodman, Bethesda
The writer, a former CIA intelligence analyst, is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy.