HIST2110 Essay 4 Vietnam War Experience Latest 2022

History 2110, Essay 3

American soldiers who served in Vietnam were overwhelmed when they returned to America—their country had changed as much as they had. Stewart O’Nan claims that, “The Vietnam era witnessed the most sweeping and rapid social change in American history” (Stewart O’Nan, The Vietnam Reader, 1998, p. 4).

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1.            In Essay 3 I want you to do two things: 1. consider what it was like to be in Vietnam, and 2. reflect on how the Vietnam experience fueled social movements at home—and vice versa. In other words, you are examining how the war served as a feedback mechanism creating a chain reaction of cause and effect.

2.            There are several items to read, look at, and listen to. IF YOU CHOOSE A SONG AS ONE OF YOUR SOURCES, YOU NEED TO DISCUSS THE MUSIC—LISTEN TO THE SONG; DO NOT JUST USE THE WORDS. THE LYRICS AND MUSIC WORK TOGETHER.

From each source you need to consider a. point of view; b. concrete detail; c. the power of language and image, sound, and vision.

3.            Finally, choose three of the sources to analyze using the items above (2. a, b, c).

For instance, you might write: In Source 2 the point of view is that of a protestor/soldier/politician, etc. You see that the soldier is in the jungle where he encounters ___, ___, and ___. Words like “Whoopie—we’re all gonna die!” represent an ironic approach to how young men dealt with leaving a comfortable life in America to fight in the jungles of Vietnam.

In Source 10 . . . . . (use same categories as above to comment on source)

4.            You should write this as a formal essay with a. an Introduction; b. three separate paragraphs (In source 2 . . .; In source 10 . . .) AND c. add a final paragraph (a Conclusion) that ties together your impressions about what it was like to be in Vietnam and how America changed as a result of the war. (Look back at #1 above).

You will earn points for how carefully and seriously you a. analyze the sources and b. for your final impressions about how the war in Vietnam, the protests and social changes at home, radically and swiftly changed American society.

Remember to double-space.

 

Source 1: “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” Country Joe McDonald (This is a song; look it up on YouTube)

Well, come on all of you, big strong men

Uncle Sam needs your help again

He’s got himself in a terrible jam

Way down yonder in Vietnam

So put down your books and pick up a gun

We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun

 

And it’s one, two, three

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn

Next stop is Vietnam

And it’s five, six, seven

Open up the pearly gates

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why

Whoopee! we’re all gonna die

 

Well, come on generals, let’s move fast

Your big chance has come at last

Now you can go out and get those reds

‘Cause the only good commie is the one that’s dead

And you know that peace can only be won

When we’ve blown ’em all to kingdom come

 

And it’s one, two, three

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn

Next stop is Vietnam

And it’s five, six, seven

Open up the pearly gates

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why

Whoopee! we’re all gonna die

 

Come on Wall Street, don’t be slow

Why man, this is war au-go-go

There’s plenty good money to be made

By supplying the Army with the tools of its trade

But just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb

They drop it on the Viet Cong

 

And it’s one, two, three

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn

Next stop is Vietnam

And it’s five, six, seven

Open up the pearly gates

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why

Whoopee! we’re all gonna die

 

Come on mothers throughout the land

Pack your boys off to Vietnam

Come on fathers, and don’t hesitate

To send your sons off before it’s too late

And you can be the first ones in your block

To have your boy come home in a box

 

And it’s one, two, three

What are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn

Next stop is Vietnam

And it’s five, six, seven

Open up the pearly gates

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why

Whoopee! we’re all gonna die

 

Source 2: “The Ballad of the Green Berets” Barry Sadler and Robin Moore (1966)

Fighting soldiers from the sky

Fearless men who jump and die

Men who mean just what they say

The brave men of the Green Beret

 

Silver wings upon their chest

These are men, America’s best

One hundred men will test today

But only three win the Green Beret

 

Trained to live off nature’s land

Trained in combat, hand-to-hand

Men who fight by night and day

Courage peak from the Green Berets

Silver wings upon their chest

These are men, America’s best

One hundred men will test today

But only three win the Green Beret

Back at home a young wife waits

Her Green Beret has met his fate

He has died for those oppressed

Leaving her his last request

 

Put silver wings on my son’s chest

Make him one of America’s best

He’ll be a man they’ll test one day

Have him win the Green Beret.

Source 3: Letter from Captain Rodney R. Chastant, from Mobile, Alabama who served with Marine Air Group 13, 1st Marine Air Wing, based at Da Nang. He was 25 years old.

Hue-Phu Bai

29 June 68

Mom,

Today I received your letter in reply to my extension letter. You replied as I knew you would—always the mother who tries to put her son’s wishes before her own, even when she is not sure it is best for his welfare. It made me sad. I want so much to make you proud. I want so much to make you happy. At the same time I have my life to lead with my own dreams, goals, and outlook. And I know all these things cannot be compatible—particularly over the short run.

But understand that I love my family more than anyone or anything in the world. March 1969 is not so very far away. I have been in Vietnam more than 11 months. I have only eight more months in the country. My chances of coming away unhurt improve every month because I know so much more than I did as a beginner. I know much better when to take a chance and when not to. Please trust my judgment. Try to understand that you raised a son who likes the excitement and challenge he finds here, and these qualities will see him through the opportunities he will face in the 1970s.

Know that I dream of that day when I return home to you and Dad, and hold you in my arms again. Sometimes I get lonely. Sometimes I want nothing more than to sit down at the dinner table, see before me roast beef, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, bow my head for the blessing, and look up and see my mother—pretty and smiling—searching for any way she can [to] make her son more comfortable. Know that it is hard to turn your back on these things.

It is not easy to say I opt for six more months of heat, sand, and shooting. I know there will [be] the nights that I suffer the loss of another friend. And nothing can make a man feel so alien or alone as [a] walk by the seashore as he tries to adjust to the loss of another friend in this godforsaken country. But that is part of the draw, the attraction, the challenge. Here there is a job to be done. There are moral decisions made almost every day. My experience is invaluable. This job requires a man of conscience. The group of men that do this job must have a leader with a conscience. In the men that do this job must have a leader with a conscience. In the last three weeks we killed more than 1,500 men on a single operation. That reflects a lot of responsibility. I am needed here, Mom. Not that I am essential or indispensable. But my degree of proficiency is now undisputed as the best in 1st Marine Division. The young men coming in need the leadership of an older hand. I am that hand. I relish the opportunity.

 

I am sorry I have hurt you. But if I thought I was needed at home more than here, I would come home. Things are going well at home. So where do I belong? This is an unusual time in our nation’s history. The unrest around the world is paralleled only a handful of times in history. Young men are asking questions—hard questions. Much of the focus of the entire world is on Vietnam. The incompetency and the wrongs committed in Vietnam are staggering. But through it all I see a little light. Some men choose to fight on the streets. Some choose to fight in the universities. Some choose to fight in the parliaments. My choice is between two options—fight in Vietnam or shut up. I choose Vietnam. If I am to contribute, it must be Vietnam. And when I get home, you too will see that little light.

Your son,

Rod

Source 4: “One Man’s View,” Marc Leepson in NAM: The Vietnam Experience 1965-75

Twenty years have elapsed since I was drafted into the US Army and found myself undergoing the ultimate male rite of passage: being thrust out of a comfortable life at home and into a war zone. . .

My ignorance about what was happening Vietnam hadn’t stopped me from supporting the war. I figured that if my country was involved the cause must be just. I soon learned otherwise. My feeling that I was serving my country in a good cause vanished within six weeks after I landed in Vietnam on 13 December 1967. . .

Our camp was attacked only once, by sappers during the Tet holiday on 30 January 1968. . . . The Tet Offensive was a shattering military defeat for the communists, but they won an important psychological victory. Up until Tet, American officials had been confidently predicting that the war was being won. But Tet caused American public opinion to turn against the war for the first time. . . The Tet Offensive affected me similarly. In my first six weeks in Vietnam I’d seen firsthand and learned from others that the massive American troop commitment (more than 500,000 men at the time) seemed to be the only thing keeping the communists from taking over South Vietnam. I remember very clearly agreeing with my buddies that had the Americans somehow disappeared, the communists would take over in a matter of hours—days at most. The South Vietnamese Army to be riddled with corruption and incompetence, as was the South Vietnamese government.

I didn’t know any GIs in Vietnam who were zealous anti-communists. Most of us just wanted to put in our time and get home alive. . . We lived for the day when we would get back to what we called ‘the World.’

The day I left Vietnam was the happiest day of my life. But soon after I returned home the happiness changed. I wasn’t jeered at and called a baby killer as others were. But I soon got the message from friends, family and strangers that Vietnam was a taboo subject. It was an embarrassment. I—being someone who took part in the war—was an embarrassment. Let most vets, I simply shut up about the war and went about my business.

Source 5: In the cartoon below, the dead soldier represents France (who colonized Indochina—Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) from the 19th century until 1954. In 1954, America took over the responsibility to keep communism from spreading throughout this region. The Americans (represented by the soldier) should have learned something from the French experience. What “way” is America trying to find? And why is the dead soldier “laughing”?

Source 6: Images of Vietnamese villages during the war

Source 7: American prisoners of war

Source 8: “Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation,” Tom Paxton (1965) [Check out YouTube—this is one of my favorites.]

I got a letter from L.B.J

It said, “This is your lucky day”

It’s time to put your khaki trousers on

Though it may seem very queer

We’ve got no jobs to give you here

So we are sending you to Vietnam

Lyndon Johnson told the nation

Have no fear of escalation

I am trying everyone to please

Though it isn’t really war

We’re sending fifty thousand more

To help save Vietnam from the Vietnamese

I jumped off the old troop ship

And sank in mud up to my hips

I cussed until the captain called me down

Never mind how hard it’s raining

Think of all the ground we’re gaining

Just don’t take one step outside of town

Lyndon Johnson told the nation

Have no fear of escalation

I am trying everyone to please

Though it isn’t really war

We’re sending fifty thousand more

To help save Vietnam from the Vietnamese

Every night the local gentry

Slip out past the sleeping sentry

They go to join the old V C

In their nightly little dramas

They put on their black pajamas

And come lobbing mortar shells at me

When Lyndon Johnson told the nation

Have no fear of escalation

I am trying everyone to please

Though it isn’t really war

We’re sending fifty thousand more

To help save Vietnam from the Vietnamese

We go round in helicopters

Like a bunch of big grasshoppers

Searching for the Viet Cong in vain

They left a note that they had gone

They had to get down to Saigon

Their government positions to maintain

And Lyndon Johnson told the nation

Have no fear of escalation

I am trying everyone to please

Though it isn’t really war

We’re sending fifty thousand more

To help save Vietnam from the Vietnamese

Well, here I sit in this rice paddy

Wondering about Big Daddy

And I know that Lyndon loves me so

Yet how sadly I remember

Way back yonder in November

When he said I’d never have to go

And Lyndon Johnson told the nation

Have no fear of escalation

I am trying everyone to please

Though it isn’t really war

We’re sending fifty thousand more

To help save Vietnam from the Vietnamese

Source 9: Anti-war protests at Kent State University resulted in 4 deaths (1970)

Source 10: Two reflections about war in Vietnam, the American character, and memories of war.

Philip Caputo, A Rumor of War (In The Vietnam Reader, 150-57)

Most American soldiers in Vietnam—at least the ones I knew—could not be divided into good men and bad. Each possessed roughly equal measures of both qualities. I saw men who behaved with great compassion toward the Vietnamese one day and then burned down a village the next. They were . . . neither saints [nor blackguards]. . . That may be why Americans reacted with such horror to the disclosures of U.S. atrocities while ignoring those of the other side: the American soldier was a reflection of themselves.

Wallace Terry, Bloods (The Vietnam Reader, 334-337) Terry joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam from 1965-66. He became involved in the Black Panther movement when he returned to the States.

For me the thought of being killed in the Black Panther Party by the police and the thought of being killed by Vietnamese was just a qualitative difference. I had left one war and came back and got into another one. Most of the Panthers then were veterans. We figured if we had been over in Vietnam fighting for our country, which at that point wasn’t serving us properly, it was only proper that we had to go out and fight for our own cause. We had already fought for the white man in Vietnam. It was clearly his war. . . . I used to think that I wasn’t affected by Vietnam, but I been livin’ with Vietnam ever since I left. You just can’t get rid of it. . . It’s a persistent memory.

I remember one time when three of our people got killed by a sniper from this village. We went over to burn the village down. I was afraid that there was going to be shootin’ people that day, so I just kind of dealt with the animals. You know, shoot the chickens. I mean I just couldn’t shoot no people.

 

 

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