The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War had several stages. From 1957-1965 the war was fought in Vietnam a small country in Southeast Asia.It consisted of a struggle between the South Vietnamese army and Communist-trained South Vietnamese rebels (also known as Viet Cong). From 1965-1969 the United States and North Vietnam did most of the fighting. By 1969, the U.S. had about 540,000 troops in South Vietnam. However, the Vietnam war seemed endless and the U.S. slowly began to withdraw its forces in 1969.
During this first stage the Vietnamese fought France for control over Vietnam. At this time, Vietnam belonged to the colony of French Indochina. The Vietnamese won and was then divided into North and South Vietnam. Harry S. Truman had a policy that the United States must help any nation threatened by Communists. This is why the United States aided France and South Vietnam. Truman's policy was also adopted by the next three presidents. They thought that if one Southeast nation surrendered to the communists, then one after another they would fall "like a row of dominoes." The second stage was the war itself.
About 58,000 Americans died in the war. South Vietnamese deaths totaled over a million, and North Vietnamese lost between 500,000 and 1 million. Vietnam's economy was ruined because of the war.
The Vietnam war had many effects on the United States. This war was the first foreign war in which the U.S.combat forces failed to accomplish their goals. This hurt the pride of a lot of Americans and left painful memories.
Then in March 29, 1973 the last U.S. ground troops left Vietnam. Then on April 30,1975, South Vietnam surrendered to North Vietnam.
Above is a picture of an Army camp in Laos in 1969.
Cyber-Visitors' Memories of this Event:
During the Vietnam War, one of the ways to show support for the many
Prisoners of War was to wear a stainless steel bracelet with the name,
rank, and date of capture of the POW. I, like all of my friends, had
one--we felt like very patriotic adolescents!! I was in the ninth grade
when they began to release the POW's, and the newspapers published
lists of these men as they began to come home. Some of my friends
found the names of their POW's early and sent their bracelets to them
with notes if they had their address, or broke the bracelet in half if they
had no way to contact them. I was reading the paper one day and found
the name of my POW not in one of the many lists, but in an article in
which the family of the POW had been quoted. It gave the hometown
of the POW, so my mom said, "Why don't we try to call them?" And we did!
It was just a matter of calling information! In talking to the brother of the
POW, we found out that his best friend in the Air Force was from our
town!! And even more incredible than that we knew him!! (He was on the
school board; my parents were educators.) We immediately called our
friend and went on and on about what a small world it is.
That in itself is a special memory, but it gets better!! Our friend was
invited to the homecoming parade in the POW's hometown. He was
gracious enough to invite me to come with them since it was about a 3
hour drive away. I will never forget how special that day was. I thought
he was the bravest man in the world! It was at that time that I truly
knew what a hero was. And I'm sure he felt like one too! The whole
town--a small town, I might add-- turned out for the event. We went
back to his brother's house for a backyard picnic after the parade, and I
thought I'd just DIE when he took my bracelet from me and gave me a kiss
on the cheek--as he did everyone else who gave him a bracelet. I was
walking on clouds for weeks after that. After his life settled down a bit,
he sent a form letter and pictures of himself when he was in Vietnam
out to everyone. I still have it in my scrapbook.
In August 1965 just before my senior year in college, President
Lyndon B. Johnson announced over national television that after
midnight that night any young man who was married would be just as
eligible for the draft as unmarried men. Many couples we knew
(including my sweetheart and I) rushed to find a justice of the peace
to marry us before midnight. We had a church wedding planned two
weeks away, but we were married at 8 in the evening in our tshirts
and jeans in the jp's living room. We were all three barefoot.
I had friends from high school and college who served in Viet Nam. A
few volunteered but most were drafted. There was a great fear to
serve in a war where so many were confused about the issues and our
involvement. We didn't mind risking our lives for our country and
our families, but is that what we were fighting for in this particular war?
I was in San Franciso seeing a friend off to Viet Nam.
A young soldier on the plane broke down and wept and lost control
before the plane took off. He was so frightened to be sent to Viet
Nam. He had to be held down by his buddies until the plane took off.
I often wondered what happened to him. We knew acquaintances and
friends who didn't return or who returned "stoned" all the time. I
had a high school friend who graduated from Annapolis and was a
"frogman." He came back highly honored. I asked him how he could do
what he did in good conscious? I have regretted asking him that ever
since. He died of a heart attack a few years ago and I miss him. I had a
friend who was honored as an air force pilot for the missions he flew.
I could never understand how men could be so kind and good, yet kill in
wartime. But now that I am older I believe I do understand. And it is even
scarier to me.
After the end of WWII and seeing the effects of the "Cold" War and
technologies developed that could blow us all to Kingdom Come, there
was not an overwhelming support for war activities. The Sixties promoted
"peace" on every corner and going back to nature--cooperative living and farming and a disillusionment with society that we felt our well-meaning but misguided
parents had created without asking us. We were young. We even liked bell
bottom pants. Our war was against war and inhumanity. My friends who came
back war heroes were admired with ambiguity...proud of their bravery,
but asking ourselves for what? And whose fathers did they kill to earn their medals?
Viet Nam holds more of a historic meaning now and what I know of the war I
learned from books and movies and documentaries. But it "flavored"
the times of my teens and twenties and made me think very hard
about the precious commodity of life. While we rushed to get married
to offer my husband some protection from the draft, we knew he could
still be sent eventually. I remember the day he had to appear before
the draft board. He had just celebrated this 24th birthday. We had
been married four years and I was expecting a child. We were so
afraid and preparing ourselves for his becoming a soldier. But his
asthma saved him. I guess we would be considered very unpatriotic
today. And I believe if he had been drafted or enlisted as a soldier
to serve in Desert Storm, we would not have been quite so reluctant.
War had never been so well covered by the media before Viet Nam and
our systems had not accepted the shock of what we saw--just as we
were shocked into reality when Martin Luther King had to March and
hold sit-ins to wake up the world to how African Americans were being
treated. All this kind of violent exposure in the news was a good
thing, because it shattered our rose colored glasses and opened up
and cut deep wounds of awareness in our souls....a necessary but
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