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Vietnam War The Vietnam War

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Vietnam War - The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War is truly one of the most unique wars ever fought by the Unites States of by any country. It was never officially declared a war (Knowll, 3). It had no official beginning nor an official end. It was fought over 10,000 miles away in a virtually unknown country. The enemy and the allies looked exactly the alike, and may by day be a friend but by night become an enemy (Aaseng 113). It matched the tried and true tactics of World War Two against a hide, run, and shoot technique known as "Guerrilla Warfare." It matched some of the best trained soldiers in the world against largely an untrained militia of untrained farmers. The United States' soldiers had at least a meal to look forward to unlike the Communist Vietnamese soldiers who considered a fine cuisine to be cold rice and, if lucky, rat meat. The Vietnam War matched the most technically advanced country with one of the least advanced, and the lesser advanced not only beat but humiliated the strongest military in the world (Aaseng, 111). When the war was finally showing signs of end, the Vietnamese returned to a newly unified communist country while the United Stated soldiers returned to be called "baby killers", and were often spat upon. With the complexities of war already long overdrawn because of the length of the war it is no wonder the returning solders often left home confused and returned home insane. Through an examination of the Vietnam War, in particular an event know as the My Lai Massacre, and the people involved with both, it can be proven that when the threshold for violence of a person is met or exceeded, the resulting psychological scarring becomes the most prominent reason for war being hell.

Although officially, the Vietnam Conflict had neither a beginning nor an end, for the purpose of this paper it can be best examined through the decade the United States was involved: February 6, 1965 - August 30, 1975. During World War Two the French had been a major ally to the United States in the defeat of Adolph Hitler and the Axis Powers. France occupied and claimed the small coastline country of Vietnam in Indochina. In this region there had been recent Communist uprisings funded by the USSR The Vietnamese were willing to accept Communism in return for what they had been fighting for over 2000 years: self rule. In 1950 the United States, owing a debt of gratitude towards France, sent several advisors to aid French control in Vietnam. Over the next decade and a half, the United States would send an entire Army and Navy to aid the French in maintaining control in South Vietnam, which had separated from the Communist North Vietnam by treaty in 1954. In early August of 1964 a small Vietcong (term used to identify South Vietnamese in favor of communism and unification) patrol boat had an encounter with a United States war ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. Gunfire was exchanged, and, in the end, President Johnson agreed to allow aggressive retaliation. On February 6, 1965, the United States began the bombing of North Vietnamese cities, marking the unofficial start of the Vietnam War (Winthrop, 853-861).

In the years of the war to follow, the media began to play a role. Photo-journalists would accompany platoons on missions and, through the aid of cameras and video equipment, relate the stories to the American at home. Every night for the length of the war news programs were saturated with reports of the happenings in Vietnam and death tolls for the day. Grossly eggzrated enemy casualty numbers were reported, giving the public a false view of happenings of the war. Suddenly on January 30, 1968 a Vietcong uprising, now commonly known as the Tet Offensive, took place. Tet is the Vietnamese new year and is commonly accepted as a cease-fire. With a cease-fire in effect, most major cities' defensives were less tight. As if all at once, more than one hundred South Vietnamese cities were being shelled with Vietcong gunfire. Included in the cities were Saigon, capital of South Vietnam and home to the United States Embassy. At first the Tet Offensive appeared a failure for North Vietnam. A large portion of Vietcong troops were killed, and major Vietcong outposts were discovered. Most of the overtaken cities, including Saigon, had been regained. Unfortunately for the United States the timing of the Tet Offensive couldn't have been worse. For the past three years the Americans at home had been promised a swift defeat of the (so called) nearly destroyed Communists, which, after the retreating of the French, had become the main goal of the United States. Worst of all, election year was approaching, and the incumbent Richard Nixon was promising a swift plan of "Vietmenization" in which the war was supposed to be placed in the hands of the South Vietnamese and allow for the retreat of American soldiers. Johnson was so unconfident he didn't run for reelection. Finally, in 1972 the last United States foot soldiers were removed from Vietnam, and in 1975 the North Vietnamese over took Saigon, renaming it Ho Chi Mien City after their brilliant military leader. At this time the United States Embassy was surrendered, marking the end of the war (Winthrop, 861-865).

As the soldiers returned home they had to adapt from a war in which over one million people were killed. There were no banners or celebrations, and as the news of events such as the My Lai Massacre spread, they were seen as ruthless killers. When these soldiers risked their lives every minute for a reason they were not told and seemingly was purposeless, and then returned to a country that despised them for what they did negative effects are emanate(Winthrop, 861-865). During the war many soldiers realized their maximum threshold for violence. When, as was the case for many soldiers, this limit was reached and even exceeded, psychological scarring is going to take place. This, combined with the return to a country that hated you for doing what you were told to do, leads to a very defective psychological behavior.

March 16, 1968 is truly a date remembered for one of the most horrendous acts ever committed by the United States. On this day, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, under the leadership of twenty-four year old 2nd Lt. William L. Calley Jr. became responsible for the execution of over 300 Vietnamese civilians, mostly old men, women, and children. This atrocity, now known as the My Lai Massacre, opened the eyes of many to the realities of war. The infantry men of this battalion were ordered to systematically murder every inhabitant in this small South Vietnamese hamlet for suspicion of the harboring of Vietcong Soldiers. In this village no signs of Vietcong inhabitants were found. Neither a single uniform nor a gun was found anywhere (Hersh, 11-44) . This leads one to wonder about the motives involved. Was the massacre necessarily, or was it simply an outlet for built up anger and frustration towards the very idea of the Vietnamese (Knowll, 104-110)? It is well known that the majority of United States troops didn't want to be in Vietnam. A lesser known fact is that the majority of South Vietnamese didn't want United States troops there either. Infantry men in the army were usually at the lesser end of intelligence scale because more intelligent soldiers were used more as medics or as officers. In fact, thirteen of the 130 men in Charlie Company had failed the army's basic intelligence test, which should have stopped them from even being in Vietnam (Knowll, 18). This intelligence limit means the soldiers had less comprehension skill and probably had a lower threshold for violence. Also, by this time soldiers in Vietnam had became aware of the treatment they would receive when they returned home. "Doves" (a generic term for anti-war demonstrators) were well known for acts such as waiting for a solider to return home so they could harass him with questions like "How many babies did you kill today?" (Winthrop, 861-865). As if the war itself wasn't traumatic enough, ...

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Keywords: vietnam war vietnam war, vietnam-war/vietnam-war-history, why is the vietnam war called the vietnam war, how is the vietnam war taught in vietnam, how did the vietnam war affect vietnam, what did the vietnam war do to vietnam, how does vietnam teach the vietnam war

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