To many, the Vietnam War symbolizes controversy, myth and question in America.
There are many events that made Americans wonder what reasons we had for putting
our troops and families in Vietnam. Up till that point, many other Americans had
never questioned the acts of the American government and armed forces. Issues
dealt with in the Vietnam War showed great impact on the American people,
particularly the students. American involvement started off very low key. Two
marine battalions landed in Da Nang on March 8, 1965 (Doyle, Lipsman). They were
not fighting a war yet, though a war was going on in the very country that they
were in. Their job was to merely protect an air field in Da Nang, not look for
trouble or initiate any kind of war tactics. But soon, holding off the enemy was
not so easy for the American soldiers, and more troops were sent in. This
continued on, and when May rolled around there were 46,000 American Troops in
Vietnam (Doyle, Lipsman). It was at this time when American troops were then
given the “permit to use more active defense,” and soon after, the
number soared to 82,000 American troops in Vietnam (Doyle, Lipsman). From there,
the American defense quickly turned into an offense, and transportation flights
turned in to rescue missions. This was about the time that Americans at home
began to become worried that the war in Vietnam was getting out of hand. Small
protests broke out amongst college students across America, but these began to
become very serious. On April 17, 1965 The Students for a Democratic Society
organized a national protest on the steps of the capitol in Washington D.C.
(Doyle, Lipsman). Television coverage enraged people by misleading facts and
disturbing war images of troops killing women and children. Frustration in
America grew and riots and protests got out of hand as no questions seemed to be
answered. Students protested and gathered, building rage against the war
spurring events like the Kent State Massacre. The Kent State Massacre is named
after a calm protest uprooted when guards killed and wounded students by opening
fire on a mass of students as they gathered on the Kent State campus (Encarta).
Events such as the Kent State Massacre enraged Americans more than ever causing
violent riots and outbreaks. Meanwhile, America’s position in Vietnam worsened.
More and more were sent, and more and more troops were killed. America’s great
offense was tattering down and guerrilla warfare on unfamiliar terrain hampered
soldier performance. The war then quickly switched over and put more weight on
air attacks and bomb raids. Helicopters became America’s best friend as they
were a brand new invention that had not previously seen much use. The helicopter
made landing and exiting in rough terrain easier than any other method seen
before by the United States military. Other weaponry made its debut in the
Vietnam War. Spurred from the second world war, where tanks were introduced, the
anti-tank missile launcher was a key weapon for all countries to develop. The
Vietnam War was the first war that the anti-tank missile launcher was
effectively used. Standard guns also were changing; they become lighter in
weight, more accurate, and able to function better with less maintenance and
malfunction. All of these new, and newly perfected, weapons made the Vietnam War
an unfamiliar territory for everybody as the death toll soared through the roof.
More troops were sent, more black troops. Racism raced through the veins of many
white Americans at this time, and blacks still felt discriminated against by the
government and the people of America. All of this as more black troops were
being put on the battle front to fight. Black gangs erupted and dodged the
draft, became violent, and held to one another very closely. This was the first
sign of gangs in America, as we see gangs today. Many black Americans did not
understand why they were being force to fight and die for a country that hated
them. They felt as if they were being sent in place of whites, but in fact only
12.5% of all troops in Vietnam were black, and it was merle stretched facts and
media influence that caused the black eruptions in America (Westmoreland, VHFCN).
As America boiled, the “photographers war” continued in Vietnam
(Cohen). The Vietnam War has been said on countless occasions to be the most
photographed war in history. The reason for this is the development and
improvement of the camera. The camera had become small enough and agile enough
to be carried almost anywhere. Also, with the fire burning in America, the media
was raping the troops of their dignity as the photographers followed them
everywhere. Disturbing pictures were sent back to the press and media in America
for public coverage, giving the public its first ever visual images of war.
Unable to handle these shocking of images of troops killing ruthlessly, America
continued to rage. The war rolled on through 1972 and Americans wondered if it
would ever end. An end was soon to come, as peace talks began, on January 23,
1973 president Nixon announced the end of U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam
(Cohen). America took a deep breath and let down it’s arms, but the tension was
still there along with the grieving loss of young men. The Vietnam War was very
confusing, especially as it was going on. The American public did not have
answers, and were frustrated with the constant loss of family and friends.
“No event in American history is more misunderstood that the Vietnam War.
It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now. Rarely have so many people
been so wrong about so much. Never have the consequences of their
misunderstanding been so tragic. (Nixon, VHFCN)” This quote by president
Nixon may be one of the most well said statements about the Vietnam War that I
have ever heard. The war was so chaotic that there was no time to give any
answers, or find any answers; this gave the media a big loophole to deceive the
public. Only now can we look back at the facts and correct them as we teach what
is right and give back the pride that we have taken from these veterans. The
most logical way that I can possibly confront the “facts” of the
Vietnam War is to do just that. I am going to end this report with some facts to
help fix what might be misinterpreted or confusing about the Vietnam War.
Because I believe that there are men and women, dead and alive who deserve the
gratitude of the American public to atleast know the truth. I will do this by
addressing what could be defined as myth, confusion, misreporting, and
misinterpreting, and show you the statistics that will prove these embarrassing
thought wrong, and give the veterans the hero image that they deserve. Myth:
American soldiers were addicted to drugs, and feel guilty for their actions and
role in the Vietnam War by using cruel and inhumane acts. This is not true, 91%
of all living Vietnam veterans say that they are proud that they served their
country, 74% would serve again knowing that there would be the same outcome, and
97% of them were discharged under honorable conditions (Westmoreland, VHFCN).
False: Vietnam Veterans resemble the homeless population in American and are
more likely to be in prison. This is an incorrect statement, in fact, Vietnam
veterans are less likely to be jailed and only .5% of them have been jailed for
crimes. 85% of Vietnam veterans have made a successful transition to ordinary
life (Westmoreland, VHFCN). The myth of all American troop is also incorrect.
two-thirds of all men who served in the Vietnam War were volunteers; that’s just
the opposite as W.W.II where two-thirds of the men who served were drafted
(Westmoreland, VHFCN). “Approximately seventy percent of those killed in
Vietnam were volunteers (McCaffrey, VHFCN).” Another myth is that the
suicide rate of Vietnam Veterans is higher than non Vietnam veterans, but in
fact it is not as bad as the media portrays it to be. There have been reports of
50,000 to 100,000 suicides among Vietnam Vets, when 9,000 is a more accurate
number (Houk, VHFCN). The number 100,000 is absurd. Black Americans were not a
target of the American government to be used in place of white troops. In fact,
of 541,000 men and women who served in Vietnam, 86% were Caucasians, 12.5% were
black, and 1.2% were of other races (Westmoreland, VHFCN). These may only be a
few small facts that are a grain of sand when you look at the whole war. But
these issues are those that were the heart of the fire in American youth when
the war was in action. These were the issues and answers that may have prevented
things such as the Kent State Massacre. To all of the Vietnam Veterans, the
country that they supported, their families and friends; to those who died in or
after service, to those who are still alive and carry the memories of war with
them every day, a memorial for them has been created. Its groundbreaking
ceremony was held on March 26, 1982. The memorial has 57,929 names inscribed in
it of those men and women who never came home from Vietnam (Ashabranner). A
diamond after a name means that he/she was accounted for at the end of the war,
a cross after a name means that he/she still is not accounted for. Also, the
right is reserved to put a circle around the cross of any person who becomes
accountable for, but a circle has yet to be put on the wall. The groundbreaking
ceremony was held on March 26, 1982. The memorial has 57,929 names inscribed in
Ashabranner, Brent. Always to Remember. New York: G.P Putnam’s Sons, 1989.
Cohen, Steven. Anthology and guide to a television history. New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, inc., 1983 Doyle, Edward, and Samual Lipsman. America Takes Over-The
Vietnam Experience. Boston, MA: Boston Publishing Company, 1982. Microsoft
Encarta Complete Interactive Multimedia Encyclopedia. Computer software.
Microsoft, 1995. CD-ROM. Vietnam Helicopter Flight Crew Network. www.vhfcn.org.
2000. Westmoreland, General William C. Address. Third Annual Reunion of the
Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association. Washington D.C., 5 July 1986. McCaffrey,
Lieutenant General Barry R. Address. Memorial Day. Washington D.C. May 1993.
Houk, Dr. Address. Hearing before the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Unites
States Senate one hundredth Congress second session. 14 July 1988.