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History, Geography, & Military Discuss Vietnam-Era General Cleared After 38 Years at the Political Forums; WASHINGTON (Aug. 4) -- More than 38 years after being removed from command and demoted for allowing unauthorized bombing, a ...

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Old 08-05-2010, 07:14 PM
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Default Vietnam-Era General Cleared After 38 Years

WASHINGTON (Aug. 4) -- More than 38 years after being removed from command and demoted for allowing unauthorized bombing, a U.S. Air Force general has been cleared of wrongdoing and had his rank posthumously reinstated.

Air Force Gen. John Lavelle was blamed for allowing unauthorized strikes in North Vietnam and for allegedly falsifying reports related to the strikes. He was removed from command and demoted two ranks in 1972 after an inspector general investigation concluded the rules of engagement had been violated.
General John D. Lavelle as he assumes command of the 7th Air Force, shown during a ceremony at Tan Son Nhut airport in Vietnam, 1972.
Bettmann / Corbis

At issue was a dispute over whether strikes that Lavelle ordered against North Vietnam were in line with the military's rules of engagement. In 1972, those rules only allowed Air Force assets to strike targets in North Vietnam if they were responding to fire, or if they were targeted by the radar of a surface-to-air-missile system.

It has since come to light, however, that President Richard M. Nixon ordered the Air Force leadership to allow so-called "protection reaction" strikes against North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile sites, based on the threat they could pose to U.S. aircraft.
A decision announced today by the Pentagon clears Lavelle and nominates him posthumously to the rank of general. "[T]he Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records found no evidence Lavelle caused, either directly or indirectly, the falsification of records, or that he was even aware of their existence," the Pentagon said in a statement released today. "Once he learned of the reports, Lavelle took action to ensure the practice was discontinued."
Because of the retirement rules in effect at the time, Lavelle did not lose any pay from his demotion, so the Air Force will not have to pay any retroactive retirement benefits, Beth Gosselin, an Air Force spokeswoman, told AOL News. Gosselin also confirmed that the inquiry into clearing Lavelle was prompted by a 2008 request from his family.

The primary evidence clearing Lavelle came from tapes of Nixon that were released in 2007.
"Let me ask you about Lavelle. I was, I had it on my list this morning. I just don't want him to be made a goat. We all know what protective reaction is," Nixon is heard telling then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger shortly after Lavelle was demoted.

Nixon goes on to make repeated references to Lavelle, expressing remorse that he was punished for doing something that was authorized. In public, however, Nixon condemned Lavelle's actions.
...Vietnam-Era Gen. John Lavelle Cleared After Nearly 40 Years

Lavelle, always denied wrongdoing. "I did what was right," he said, as part of an oral history interview quoted in Air Force Magazine. "I did what was authorized."
Too bad his name wasn't cleared while he was still alive.
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