2. Wallace Terry, a black war correspondent for Time, described seeing "thousands of Americans who found their common humanity on the front, where they shared the last drop of water, where they gave their lives for each other. But mostly what they did was walk. Le Carre's books grappled with betrayal, moral compromise and the psychological toll of a secret life. The 1980s was a time to tell the stories of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War killed more than 58,000 Americans. Soldiers who landed mechanical or logistical support roles had a much different experience in the war than those in combat zones. The building at 727 Tran Hung Dao in Ho Chi Minh City – also known as Saigon – was a building that housed American service members for much of the Vietnam War. Places like the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Thailand were popular among the younger crowd who wanted to have less family-friendly fun. SOLDIERS TELL TRUE STORIES OF THEIR WAR. Now I was fighting 24 hours a day, seven days a week.". The use of pharmaceuticals to artificially suppress combat trauma may have contributed to the explosion of post-traumatic stress disorder cases among Vietnam veterans after the war. A gay soldier’s story of Vietnam and after Mar 13, 2020 | 0 Larry Sanders writes about serving in the army, where he could have been arrested for being gay during a very unpopular war I had a rude awakening. I also traveled with a long bamboo pole. The refugees had reached Australia. Ehrhart, left, in October 1967 near Quang Tri, Vietnam, and today. By Staff Writer Last Updated Mar 25, 2020 7:28:07 AM ET American soldiers stationed in Vietnam were met with an unexpectedly horrific experience. They walked with heavy rucksacks, carrying everything they would need to survive in the difficult terrain. Neas went on a recent tour of Vietnam, including a visit to Huế in March as part of an educational trip sponsored by College of the Ozarks in Missouri. But many others were poor or working-class teenagers who enlisted or were drafted into the military right out of high school. Vietnam War Veterans share a common bond. "I quit high school at 16, and on my birthday in 1966, I enlisted. There were booze and drugs if they could get them, but for the most part, the hours ticked by, only breeding more anxiety. In a war where morale was already weakened by unclear objectives and uncertain outcomes, unfriendly encounters with the Vietnamese civilians they were ostensibly liberating only made matters worse. Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen’s new book, South Vietnamese Soldiers: Memories of the Vietnam War and After, is a contribution to this process. We look forward to meeting you. The form this memory takes is linked to the present and helps frame the boundaries and content of political discourse today. They carried the fear that at any moment, a surprise attack could kill them. "I had seen a documentary about the war in 1983, and a man who was about my age talked about how beautiful Vietnam was, how vivid the colors were, how they seemed to vibrate," he said. Three Vietnam War Veterans Share Their Stories, Special Forces Vet Brad Taylor Takes on China in Latest Novel 'American Traitor', Enjoy Discounted Military Movies from Vudu and Stay Home This 2020 Holiday Season, The USO's 2020 Holiday Tour Is Going Virtual, and You're Invited, Novelist John le Carre, Who Probed Murky World of Spies, Dies at 89, Barack Obama's Memoir Offers Insights Into Administration Military Policy, A Decade Later, this Afghanistan Special Operations Story is Finally Coming to the Screen, Memoir by Iraq War Vet Sen. Tammy Duckworth Coming Out March 30, Here Are the 10 Best Military Movies of 2020, 6 Urban Legends About Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, How the Air Force Went All-In on End-of-the-World Thriller 'Greenland', 5 Best/Worst Christmas Movies With Questionable Military Plotlines. HANOI, VIETNAM—Forty years ago, on April 30, 1975, Nguyen Dang Phat experienced the happiest day of his life. Nowhere is the heaviness of the presidency clearer than in Obama's descriptions of deciding to authorize military action. "It was such a waste of life on both sides, such a waste of youth. The veterans had returned. Repressing the negative mental effects of combat only worsened their impact when they finally surfaced. Nominal Rolls. American troops, with their vastly superior firepower, had the upper hand face to face, but the Viet Cong deliberately avoided large-scale conflicts where they could be outgunned. Although the official goal of the war was to prevent communism from spreading into South Vietnam, American soldiers felt they had reason to mistrust everyone, North and South Vietnamese alike. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 30% of soldiers who saw combat in Vietnam experienced PTSD in their lifetime. For the Americans, every casualty, every dollar spent, and every anti-war protest back home chipped away at the conviction that this could ever be a winnable war. A FilmReference.com article noted that American filmmakers "appeared more confident to put Vietnam combat on screen for the first time" during that era. These men had access to all the luxuries of home, including getting to sleep in a bed, eating hot meals, drinking at bars, and shopping at a well-stocked commissary. Drug use had taken its toll on troops. In 1969, doctoral student David Stodolsky recognized the problem and sued the government. They carried food rations, flak jackets, rifles and ammunition. The best books written by Vietnam War veterans offer insight into the war and first hand accounts of their experiences. That morning, as communist troops swept into … However, infantrymen whose successes were determined by enemy body count were untrained and ill-equipped to make the cultural advances that would win people over. Civilian casualties were common, and many local villages were disrupted, if not outright destroyed, by the arrival of U.S. soldiers, so it's no surprise that locals often viewed American soldiers with distrust and hostility. After returning home, Vietnam War veterans experienced PTSD in record numbers. Ehrhart teaches literature at the Haverford School. The draft wasn't the only problem. But in Vietnam, it was the most sought-after goal of every soldier, the beacon of light at the Soul Shaking Experience It was August 1968, and I had been in Viet Nam less than 20 days with no idea how quickly my life was going to change. Our focus is on friendly, helpful advice and great service for every customer. On the military's dime, soldiers could fly to any number of exotic locales in search of beaches, bars, and a good time. Marijuana and Heroin Use During the Vietnam War . In 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C., inscribed with the names of 57,939 members of U.S. armed forces who had died or were missing as a result of the war. But that's the only way you had a hot meal.". Soldier Recalls Vietnam War Battle Experiences U.S. veteran Caesar Smith gives a first hand account of the fighting conditions in Vietnam. I had never really been to Vietnam the country. ", Neas was shot in the back. Although the research from various historians is necessary for Americans to understand the events of the war, we must also take time to appreciate the complicated experiences of those who participated in Vietnam. Home / History / Modern History / Vietnam War / What Was Daily Life Like for Soldiers in the Vietnam War? If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate in asking or come over to r/AskHistorians , which is … According to the New York Times, African Americans were drafted at a disproportionately higher rate than whites, representing more than 16% of all draftees and 23% of all combat troops, despite being only 11% of the civilian population in 1967. They had their own jobs to do. Three Vietnam War Veterans Share Their Stories W.D. LRPs were freeze-dried, dehydrated field rations that came in waterproof bags and were much lighter than the bulky cans soldiers had previously carried. Medical professionals could also declare someone "unfit for service" for medical conditions ranging from ulcers to anemia. Their book, “Last Draftees,” was released last month. Overlooked because of 'medal quotas' 50 years ago, the courage of three young men who saved the lives of Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War has finally been recognised. "We were each teamed up with a student studying history," he said. Vietnam veterans were more likely to have begun using heroin during their military service, and they were more likely to say that their service experiences had affected their use of drugs, usually citing relief of fear and tensions of war. NT: You grew up in the shadow of World War II and served in Vietnam. " he said. "It was as if I got to see it like a real country, to see the real people. The most common loophole was the college student deferment policy, which excused any man enrolled in college or graduate school. Ehrhart, the son of a Protestant minister, joined the Marines at 17, and while he had no strong political reasons, he felt passionately that he ought to do his bit. Rations were dismal. We look forward to meeting you.  In June 1970, a group of American soldiers stationed in Vietnam huddled together to write a letter to an antiwar newspaper in Berkeley, California, called the Ally. That's not to say the drugs deserved all the blame for the difficulty veterans faced after returning home. Officially, their goal was to take back South Vietnam from the communists, find and eradicate the Viet Cong, and secure the hearts and minds of the locals. The American Soldier in VietnamMore than 2.5 million American men served in Vietnam during the war. But many others were poor or working-class teenagers who enlisted or were drafted into the military right out of high school. That’s a lot of people and a lot of heartache. They had to bear the dual burden of guilt for the brutal atrocities that had been committed and shame for the failure to bring home an American victory after such a drawn-out war. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The average age of a U.S. soldier dropped from 26 in World War II to just 19, not even old enough to vote at the time. Bucks County poet Bill Ehrhart, 68, recounts his experiences in Vietnam in several poems as well as his 1983 memoir, Vietnam Perkasie. We may have been shooting at each other. The refugees had reached Australia. These Vietnam War photos are a key part of understanding soldiers' experiences during the conflict and provide insight into operational specifics that were unknown to the press. It helped them mellow out, it helped them continue fighting. Contact Us Contact Us The average age of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, nineteen, was three years lower than for American men during World War II and Korea. The Viet Cong were frequently one step ahead, hiding in the trees or blending in with the locals, so the villages were never really secured, and the locations of the guerrilla fighters remained uncertain. Nov. 12, 2006 Updated: Jan. 11, 2012 3:23 a.m. ... in Vietnam that he got to see in our … But many faced challenges back home, and some still do today. I was 17, so I couldn't go over there for another year.". On a day … Neas, 68, who lives in Rahway in Union County, recently retired after running his own telecommunications company. When you see someone shot, whether it's your buddy or whether it's the enemy, it's a life-changing moment. “Bill” Ehrhart joined the U.S. Marines when he was 17. Trish Wood. Black soldiers complained they were unfairly assigned worse details and that they received more frequent punishments and fewer promotions than their white counterparts. In contrast to World War II, American soldiers in Vietnam served individualized tours of duty rather than remaining attached to their units throughout the war. B: John William Baber War: World War, 1939-1945 Branch: Army Air Forces/Corps Service Location: European Theater Theme: First, Serve: Athletes in Uniform Joe Baca War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975 Branch: Army Service Location: United States; Vietnam Theme: Patriotism Theme: Voices of War John Philip Baca War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975 Branch: Army Service Location: Phuoc Long Province, Vietnam The taste, however, left a lot to be desired. They walked until they got jungle rot, infected skin lesions that came from "humping the boonies" too long without adequate footwear. He served as an infantryman with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in Chu Lia, Vietnam in 1965. "I wanted to be a Marine for all my life," he said. The U.S. military has estimated that between 200,000 and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died in the war. During the war in Vietnam, soldiers faced intensely extreme conditions, including hunger, disease, and of course, having to see close friends and other soldiers die. But the success was short-lived. ... An Oral History of the Iraq War by the Soldiers Who Fought It Show More Show Less 6 of 7 ONE-TIME USE ONLY ... in Vietnam … Caesar Smith was a career military officer who served two tours in Vietnam. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 30% of soldiers who saw combat in Vietnam experienced PTSD in their lifetime. That morning, as communist troops swept into … But so were the swarms of mosquitoes that spread dengue fever throughout camps, and with the 30 different kinds of venomous snakes whose bites would prove to be fatal. While the symptoms of trauma were suppressed in the short term, the effect was something like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg. Morale was understandably low during monsoon season, for example, when heavy rains would drench the soldiers and flood the rice paddies for the better part of six months. Australian military history overview: Vietnam War 1962-1975. Still, tensions between black and white soldiers were low at the onset of the war. The rations were commonly compared to wet dog food, and the only way to heat them up in the field was by resorting to potentially dangerous explosives. "The bullet hit the top of my helmet, and it shattered into fragments," he said. Both the government that had drafted them and the public that resented their participation in Vietnam abandoned the men who had served their country, leaving them few options to cope with the aftermath of all the trauma they had experienced and caused. All three were interviewed for Bowden's book. But this was the first city we were fighting in. Today, he is surprised at his sophisticated response. But many faced challenges back home, and some still do today. Instead of being stationed on the front lines, they might be assigned a support detail on one of the rear bases. By 1971, 10-15% of lower-ranking troops were returning home as addicts, and over 1,000 were returning as criminals, having been charged with heroin-related crimes. Here's what life was like for U.S. soldiers in the Vietnam War. Soldiers knew there would be another surprise attack, they just didn't know when, and the not-knowing could drive them crazy. ", He met a former North Vietnamese soldier. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Vietnam War helped shape a generation of Americans, none more than the 2.7 million who served in Southeast Asia. Usually, it was in the jungle, where you had to look for ambushes. The veterans had returned. African American Sergeant Lewis B. Larry … It took their mind off what the war was about and helped if they didn'tt necessarily believe in the cause for which they fought. The Vietnam War was I stood on the spot where I had been shot, but it's so different now. "I wanted to go to Vietnam, but for my own reason," he said. The American Soldier in VietnamMore than 2.5 million American men served in Vietnam during the war. For Cohasset, Mass., 1969 held the worst eight months of the Vietnam War, when 5 of the town’s soldiers were killed in action. Yes, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army were trying to kill them. The 1980s was a time to tell the stories of the Vietnam War. He said his first return visit in 1985 changed his perspective on Vietnam. His name is etched on Panel 13E, Line 123 on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. What Life Was Like As A Soldier In The Vietnam War, paraded around the base at Cam Ranh Bay in KKK robes, deliberately avoided large-scale conflicts, could fly to any number of exotic locales, "the Army's last great tragedy in Vietnam. He had been to that very same battle [at Huế]. The ways we remember the Vietnam War concern more than just the past. Thompson’s Hill (April 9-10, 1968), by Richard Dieterle. (There are well-documented stories of gay soldiers in the U.S. armed forces going back to George Washington’s army, and the Newport sex scandal of 1919 occurred two … They were a bunch of jungle-fighting guerrilla warriors who killed American boys via night-time ambushes and terrifying traps. For "Huế 1968: A Turning Point of the American War In Vietnam," Mark Bowden interviewed more than 100 men and women from both sides of the fighting. Reported cases of mental breakdowns among troops dropped to just 1% during the Vietnam War compared to 10% during World War II. ‘Last Draftees’ details experiences of Vietnam War veterans Three Vietnam War veterans from Las Vegas say the draft should be abolished. They hid landmines and booby traps to inflict casualties and heighten the fear American GIs felt with every step. "It was incredible. However, because of the way the draft was set up, men assigned the lowest numbers were more likely to be drafted than those with higher numbers. ... Veterans Memorial is names — more than 58,000 names of men and women who were killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War. Most grunts passed through the rear bases on their way into or out of the field, but they didn't stay long. Retired Trenton ironworker Carl Dileo, 69, was 18 when he was drafted in 1966. John "Chick" Donohue in 1967, on his way to Vietnam (inset). ". Viet Cong were adept at blending in, sometimes taking cover in villages. Troops were supplied with so-called "pep pills," their nickname for Dexedrine, an amphetamine that was double the strength of the stimulants the military had prescribed in previous wars. The influx of American tourists was a catalyst for Bangkok's massive growth in the 1960s, as the construction, finance, air, retail, and hotel industries boomed to accommodate the influx of soldiers looking for a good time. So the grunts kept walking. Somewhat pejoratively called REMFs ("Rear Echelon Mother F*ckers") these soldiers had a comparatively cushy experience in Vietnam. Regardless of race, some men chose to enlist in the Vietnam War before their numbers came up, knowing they would be assigned better details if they went voluntarily. When the grunts weren't walking or being shot at or eyeing the locals with suspicion, they were waiting around for something to happen. They walked for days and weeks at a time, patrolling the land for Viet Cong guerrilla fighters or members of the North Vietnamese Army. My brothers were both in college, they were doing their thing, and I felt this was my own thing to do.". For most this ethos seems not to have changed. The New York Times described heroin addiction as "the Army's last great tragedy in Vietnam." According to James Fallows, these loopholes "were designed to allot American talent in productive way," but resulted in "the starkest class division in American military service since the days of purchased draft deferments in the Civil War.". Via Cat-uxo.com. Soldier's Stories. After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, there was an increase in American films that were more "raw", containing actual battle footage. It’s an experience that changes soldiers, and those changes last a lifetime. I was overwhelmed to be back. The whole city had been leveled [in 1968], and it has been totally rebuilt.". 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