The United States Army has met an unusually complex challenge in Southeast Asia. In conjunction with the other services, the Army has fought in support of a national policy of assisting an emerging nation to develop governmental processes of its own choosing, free of outside coercion. In addition to the usual problems of waging armed conflict, the assignment in Southeast Asia has required superimposing the immensely sophisticated tasks of a modem army upon an underdeveloped environment and adapting them to demands covering a wide spectrum, These involved helping to fulfill the basic needs of, an, agrarian population, dealing with the frustrations of antiguerrilla operations, and conducting conventional campaigns against well-trained and determined regular units.
As this assignment nears an end, the US Army must prepare for other challenges that may lie ahead. While cognizant that history never repeats, itself exactly and that no army ever profited from trying to meet a new challenge in terms of the old one, the Army nevertheless stands to benefit immensely from a study of its experience, its shortcomings no less than its achievements.
Aware that some years must elapse before, the official histories will provide a detailed and objective analysis of the experience in Southeast Asia, we have sought a forum whereby some of the more salient aspects of that experience can be made available now. At the request of the Chief of Staff, a representative group of senior officers who served in important posts in Vietnam and who still carry a heavy burden of day-to-day responsibilities has prepared a series of monographs. These studies should be of great value in helping the Army develop future operational concepts while at the same time contributing to the historical record and providing the, American public with an interim, report on the performance of men and officers who have responded, as others have through our history, to exacting and trying demands.
All monographs in the series are based primarily on official records, with additional material from published and unpublished secondary works, from debriefing reports and interviews with key participants, and from the personal experience of the author. To facilitate security clearance, annotation and detailed bibliography have, been omitted from the published version: a fully documented account with bibliography is filed with the Office of the Chief of Military History.
Major General Spurgeon Neel is especially qualified to write a study of the Medical Department support of the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Not only is General Neel one of the most decorated Medical Corps officers, presently on active duty, but he is also a specialist in a variety of military medical disciplines. A Senior Flight Surgeon, Senior Parachutist, and Senior Gliderist, he is the Army's leading authority on Aviation Medicine. This, coupled with his clinical expertise in the specialty of Preventive Medicine, and his broad and varied command and staff experience, place him in the forefront of those who can write authoritatively of the Medical, Department's role in Vietnam.
General Neel has served two tours of duty in Vietnam, in positions of extreme responsibility, which enabled him to participate in the major decisions regarding medical support of the Allied Forces, From 1966 to 1,967, he was the, USMACV Surgeon and Senior Adviser to General Westmoreland. Later, 1968 to 1969, he returned to Vietnam and served initially as CG, 44th Medical Brigade, and Surgeon, USARV, and subsequently, as Surgeon, USMACV, and principal medical adviser to General Abrams, Upon his return to CONUS, General Neel was nominated Deputy Surgeon General, Department of the Army, the position in which he has served since 1 October 1969.
In addition to this study, General Neel is the author of some 33 articles which have been published in leading professional journals in this country and abroad, His present work constitutes a candidly expressed authentic overview of the Medical Department's experiences in Vietnam which should be of considerable interest and benefit to all students of this period in our history.
15 August 1972
VERNE L. BOWERS
Major General, USA
The Adjutant General