August 20, 1970 – NBC Nightly News (audio edition) – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
August 20, 1970 – Front and center for this August 20th was the growing concern over drug use by the Military in Vietnam. The Pentagon had sent a task force out to see if the use of Drugs in the Military and Vietnam in particular was as bad as advertised in order to see if fighting units were so drugged they couldn’t engage the enemy. The findings were harrowing. And on this day, the head of this task force, Vice-Admiral William Mack appeared before a Senate committee and told what they found. Mack revealed that roughly 50% of units in Vietnam had been under drug influence at one point or another. When pressed whether these findings also applied to the units engaged in the My Lai massacre. Mack said there was no evidence to infer that there was, although generally, field commanders had told him the operational capabilities of soldiers had been reduced by the rampant use of drugs and this use was leading to a dramatic uptick in friendly-fire casualties and some platoons not capable of carrying out important missions. The problem was apparently not in the upper ranks but mainly with foot soldiers and lower ranking officers. Adding to the concern was the number of draftees who already had issues with drugs before entering the military. It was not a problem destined to do away anytime soon.
In other news – In Cambodia the North Vietnamese made their strongest attempt yet to capture Phnom Penh. Cambodian forces were said to be badly outnumbered but were holding on. And from Saigon, reports that 69 Americans were killed the previous week and 615 were wounded.
And The Paris Peace talks went on for almost three hours before breaking off – it was the shortest session so far. David Bruce, a negotiator sent by President Nixon, worked in his office instead of taking part in the talks, which amounted to a boycott.
And that’s just a small part of the news that happened on this August 20, 1970 as presented by NBC News.