After thinking about all the things we would learn this year in American
history I decided to do my project on the experiences of Vietnam War
veterans. There is a lot of controversy as to whether or not the Vietnam
War veterans are given enough recognition for what they went through. I have
heard horrible stories of US soldiers dying from US bombs, shell shock, and
soldiers returning to America and not being able to function as active
members of society due to the horrors of the war. All I really know about
the war is what I have seen on television. I wanted to learn about the war
through the firsthand accounts of those who were there.
The Vietnam War was a military struggle fought in Vietnam from
1959 to 1975. It began as an attempt by Communist guerrillas (or Vietcong)
in the South, backed by Communist North Vietnam, to overthrow the
government of South Vietnam. The struggle grew into a war between South
Vietnam and North Vietnam and ultimately into an international conflict. The
United States and some 40 other countries supported South Vietnam by
supplying troops and munitions, and the USSR and the People’s Republic
of China furnished munitions to North Vietnam and the Vietcong. On both
sides, however, the burden of the war fell mainly on the civilians.1
On January 27, in Paris, delegations representing the United States,
South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Provisional Revolutionary
Communist Government of South Vietnam signed an Agreement on Ending
the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam.
The cease-fire officially went into
effect on January 28. Both the US and North Vietnam asserted that there
were no secret peace terms.2
All the US fighting forces had withdrawn from Vietnam by March
1973, but not without major losses on both sides. Two million Vietnamese
were killed and 3 million were wounded. The extensive use of napalm and
defoliants (such as Agent Orange) left many people badly burned, and
destroyed the ecology of a country that was mainly agricultural.
This is an important part of US history because it was the first war in
which there was no clear winner.
57,685 US soldiers were killed, and triple
that amount were wounded. Even those who returned to the United states
without physical damage suffered from depression, and had to live with
memories of the carnage and destruction that they saw. What bothers me
about the war is that even though these men risked their lives to fight a
war that had nothing to do with them only because their country was
anti-Communist, they have been seemingly forgotten by their country. Many,
especially those who suffered physical trauma, have no jobs and are forced
to beg for food on street corners and live under bridges.
The first book I read was Bouncing Back. It was a collection of the
experiences of a group of Air Force pilots who were gunned down and taken
as prisoners of war.
The post-POW lives of the Air Force pilots I read
about contrasted greatly with those of the Marines I read about in The War In I
The Marines lived dirty lived in the Jungles of Vietnam. One of the
best things about The War In I Corps was its great descriptions of the
things the Marines had to go through. As Richard A. Guidry put it : “In a driving
rain, laden with heavy packs, our platoon lumbered toward its place in the long
line of men sprawled in the thick sticky mud..
.. The rain added a slimy quality
to the crust of dirt and fungus that encased my body. Running my fingers
across my arm was like following the tracks of a snail.”3 It really gave me
a feel for what they were going through. It made me wonder how they didn’t
just not fight.
The war wasn’t theirs, but due to bad luck they were stuck
in this horrible jungle forced to fight an enemy they had no reason to hate.
Living like animals with practically no food and little or no contact with
Their families. Under the same conditions I think I would sit under a tree and
wait it out.
While finishing the book, I remembered a discussion we had in class
about whether or not the soldiers were considered as individuals. Guidry
explained how military thought of them:
“ To them we were just parts of the machine, no
different from cannons or jeeps. We were superfluous;
they were there to fill their clipboards.
nobody wanted to stop the .