After thinking about all the things we would learn this year in Americanhistory I decided to do my project on the experiences of Vietnam Warveterans. There is a lot of controversy as to whether or not the VietnamWar veterans are given enough recognition for what they went through. I haveheard horrible stories of US soldiers dying from US bombs, shell shock, andsoldiers returning to America and not being able to function as activemembers of society due to the horrors of the war. All I really know aboutthe war is what I have seen on television.
I wanted to learn about the warthrough the firsthand accounts of those who were there. The Vietnam War was a military struggle fought in Vietnam from1959 to 1975. It began as an attempt by Communist guerrillas (or Vietcong)in the South, backed by Communist North Vietnam, to overthrow thegovernment of South Vietnam. The struggle grew into a war between SouthVietnam and North Vietnam and ultimately into an international conflict.
TheUnited States and some 40 other countries supported South Vietnam bysupplying troops and munitions, and the USSR and the People’s Republicof China furnished munitions to North Vietnam and the Vietcong. On bothsides, however, the burden of the war fell mainly on the civilians. 1On January 27, in Paris, delegations representing the United States,South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Provisional RevolutionaryCommunist Government of South Vietnam signed an Agreement on Endingthe War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam. The cease-fire officially went intoeffect on January 28. Both the US and North Vietnam asserted that therewere no secret peace terms. 2All the US fighting forces had withdrawn from Vietnam by March1973, but not without major losses on both sides.
Two million Vietnamesewere killed and 3 million were wounded. The extensive use of napalm anddefoliants (such as Agent Orange) left many people badly burned, anddestroyed the ecology of a country that was mainly agricultural. This is an important part of US history because it was the first war inwhich there was no clear winner. 57,685 US soldiers were killed, and triplethat amount were wounded. Even those who returned to the United stateswithout physical damage suffered from depression, and had to live withmemories of the carnage and destruction that they saw. What bothers meabout the war is that even though these men risked their lives to fight awar that had nothing to do with them only because their country wasanti-Communist, they have been seemingly forgotten by their country.
Many,especially those who suffered physical trauma, have no jobs and are forcedto beg for food on street corners and live under bridges. The first book I read was Bouncing Back. It was a collection of theexperiences of a group of Air Force pilots who were gunned down and takenas prisoners of war. The post-POW lives of the Air Force pilots I readabout contrasted greatly with those of the Marines I read about in The War In ICorps.
The Marines lived dirty lived in the Jungles of Vietnam. One of thebest things about The War In I Corps was its great descriptions of thethings the Marines had to go through. As Richard A. Guidry put it : “In a drivingrain, laden with heavy packs, our platoon lumbered toward its place in the longline of men sprawled in the thick sticky mud.
. . . The rain added a slimy qualityto the crust of dirt and fungus that encased my body. Running my fingersacross my arm was like following the tracks of a snail.
”3 It really gave mea feel for what they were going through. It made me wonder how they didn’tjust not fight. The war wasn’t theirs, but due to bad luck they were stuckin 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 withTheir families. Under the same conditions I think I would sit under a tree andwait it out.
While finishing the book, I remembered a discussion we had in classabout whether or not the soldiers were considered as individuals. Guidryexplained how military thought of them:“ To them we were just parts of the machine, nodifferent from cannons or jeeps. We were superfluous;they were there to fill their clipboards. Apparently,nobody wanted to stop the .