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Thread: Vietnam Veterans

  1. #31
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    Re: Vietnam Veterans

    Quote Originally Posted by joko104 View Post
    The war in Vietnam demonstrated the problem when troops are 1.) drafted and 2.) for a war that is not a matter of national security with huge opposition at home. While combat messes up some people in general, Vietnam seems to have been a very special - and negative - experience.
    I've always felt like a lot of PTSD may be caused by the lack of total certainty and commitment of preemptive wars like Vietnam and Iraq. When a young person goes into a precarious situation with orders to kill and they're not totally sure who or why, then it seems obvious that one would struggle mentally with that. I'm sure there are cases of PTSD from WW2, I just rarely hear about them and have wondered if it's because we knew who they were and it was totally certain that we had to destroy them.

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    Re: Vietnam Veterans

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoreau72 View Post
    I visited Saigon several times in my year there. It was just an hour north in a helicopter, and I had an Army buddy that was stationed there so I always had a place to stay if I wanted.

    Even then, 70 and 71, the part of town called Tu Do (not sure of spelling) was beautiful, almost like a street in Paris. Some of the young Vietnamese with whom I spoke were curious about the US, and knew more little trivial details about the country than I knew.
    I think youre talking about Dhong Khoi- it was renamed after the war. That's where the opera house is and is a vibrant, hipster place full of restaurants, malls and hotels.

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    Re: Vietnam Veterans

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoreau72 View Post
    I visited Saigon several times in my year there. It was just an hour north in a helicopter, and I had an Army buddy that was stationed there so I always had a place to stay if I wanted.

    Even then, 70 and 71, the part of town called Tu Do (not sure of spelling) was beautiful, almost like a street in Paris. Some of the young Vietnamese with whom I spoke were curious about the US, and knew more little trivial details about the country than I knew.
    Tu Do was a street dead ending into the waterfront in Saigon. In the late 60's it was full of bars with bands for GI's, and pretty much any bar girl in those joints could be had for anywhere from $2 to $10. They preferred that a guy buy them a "Saigon Tea" (colored water or tea) for 200 Piasters (about $2 US) first, but it wasn't etched in stone. The soul brothers had a line of bars further up the waterfront leading to the double bridge and the road to Nha Be. Nha Be would get their oil storage tanks blown up about twice a year and it would be a mess. I was in one of those bars with another GI drinking beer when a Korean soldier starts shouting and pulls the pin on a grenade. Come to find out a mama san had stolen his lighter and it was a tense five minutes before it was returned to him, ending the situation. You had to really watch yourself in Saigon. They had gangs of teenage thugs called "Cowboys" who would rob you blind and tear your watch off your wrist while riding on the back of a motorcycle. Or they would just shoot an officer riding shotgun in a jeep and speed off. Before the military put bars on the windows, VC guerrillas would pitch a grenade or a bomb through an open window on a bus, killing our troops. Some bars were even blown up, and it wasn't unusual for a 122mm rocket or three to come screaming into the city blowing stuff up. Cholon was where the US PX was. Lots of Viet Cong in the area living under the radar. During the Tet Offensive of 68 a good part of Cholon was leveled by gunships and F100's. I was in Saigon the morning the VC hit the American Embassy and other installations picking up a Lt.Col. whose BOQ had just been hit. The VC also took over the race track so American troops couldn't be flown in. That battle lasted about a week or so. My neighbor in Columbus, GA years later was either the CO or the exec in that ensuing battle, and he said they took their time wiping out those VC but they got them. There was always something nasty going on in Saigon - a rancid-smelling city overrun by refugees and amputees and all manner of bad guys.
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  4. #34
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    Re: Vietnam Veterans

    Quote Originally Posted by JC Callender View Post
    I've always felt like a lot of PTSD may be caused by the lack of total certainty and commitment of preemptive wars like Vietnam and Iraq. When a young person goes into a precarious situation with orders to kill and they're not totally sure who or why, then it seems obvious that one would struggle mentally with that. I'm sure there are cases of PTSD from WW2, I just rarely hear about them and have wondered if it's because we knew who they were and it was totally certain that we had to destroy them.
    Twenty-five percent of US armed forces personnel needed professional counseling during World War 2. For the US the big war was not a long war as wars go but the longer it continued the more the counseling was needed. Americans are not built for a long war no matter the nature of the war, i.e., total war or limited war.

    In the post 9/11 time period the AVF and the ongoing seemingly eternal "small wars" of the 4th generation warfare (terrorists; insurgencies) has suffered its own toll of PTSD, suicides, counseling and so on. It's quite the problem as we have recognized for some considerable time -- ineffectively.

    Terrorist elements and insurgents on the other hand can seemingly go on forever even as they get killed off year after year. Also, the much discredited Vietnam approach of the body count of the enemy accomplished nothing to include trying to lift US combatants spirit and capacity to press on. The body count approach only aggravated the opposition to the war back home besides and failed to impress the public who ate dinner to it each night on tv.

    Americans have too much business to do in their everyday 'normal' life at home to go off to fight a long war of any nature for any extended period of time. While this can be found to be a common factor of populations of democracies in general, it seems especially so for Americans. We like instead to get down to business and close things out then move on to the next challenge. And so on.
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    Re: Vietnam Veterans

    Quote Originally Posted by RooseveltTruman View Post
    I'm going to have to disagree here. The primary reason the United States and its allies are thought are of as the bad guys in the Vietnam War is because they lost. Look at the somewhat similar Korean War (I know the conflicts weren't identical, with Korea being a conventional war and Vietnam being an unconventional/guerrilla one, but bear with me). The South Korean government was a dictatorship at the time of 1950-1953, but the United States and its allies managed to keep it independent, and now it's a prosperous liberal democracy. Imagine how we would view the Vietnam War if we had won it. South Vietnam would still be independent. While it, too, was a dictatorship in c.1956-1975, the odds are good that it, too, would have evolved into a prosperous liberal democracy, like South Korea or Taiwan. It's true that atrocities were committed by the American-led coalition in South Vietnam (like the My Lai Massacre), but these incidents don't invalidate the righteousness of the mission anymore than the brutal firebombing of Tokyo during World War II does. The Vietnam War was a necessary war to stem the tide of communism (although it was probably fought the wrong way, with not enough attention given to "hearts and minds"). The United States and its allies had to put up a fight there, or where else would they? Like I said earlier, the United States is only viewed as the "bad guy" in that war, because we lost and never got to see what South Vietnam could potentially blossom into. It was unpleasant war for sure, but aren't they all?
    Very interesting point on how the war would have been viewed if we had won. You are likely right, to at least some degree.

    That said, I'm not sure I can go along with your notion that we had to fight or that that war was necessary. Counter-factuals always run the risk of getting too far into conjecture, but hear me out. I'm not questioning that we had to stand up to communism, as we chose to at various places like Berlin, Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, Grenada, etc. But we also chose not to in some places - Czechoslovakia and Hungary both come to mind and we certainly could have done more to fight in China in aid of the Nationalists. You can even add Cuba on here, as we might have stood up to the missiles, but accepted Castro. So to me, it looks like we had various choices that have worked out to the timeline we are in, but I can't say for sure that any one of them was in and of itself necessary.

    It occurs to me that we may well have been better off recognizing the difficult terrain (both historically and physically) we were choosing to stand in and passing on Vietnam. I don't mythologize Vietnam as some kind of noble nation or anything, so don't mistake me, but they had been fighting for independence from the French, Japanese, and French again for quite some time before we decided it was worth the (to that point) longest war in our history. Hindsight is 20/20, but obviously not the most fertile ground for allies of the French to come in and keep fighting against them.

    Again, who is to say how a counterfactual works out? If we hadn't fought there, perhaps WWIII happens and humanity loses. Perhaps the Communists push on and we spend 20 years fighting in Thailand. But perhaps not. Perhaps Vietnam comes out no worse than Romania (not saying that is good, mind you) did. Perhaps we're in a better place now without the history of an unpopular war waged in an unpopular way.

    To close though, thanks for the perspective of potential victory shaping our view of the war. We typically think in terms of winning vs. losing, but I hadn't really thought about the parallels to a free S. Korea developing well.

  6. #36
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    Re: Vietnam Veterans

    Quote Originally Posted by Journeyman View Post
    Very interesting point on how the war would have been viewed if we had won. You are likely right, to at least some degree.

    That said, I'm not sure I can go along with your notion that we had to fight or that that war was necessary. Counter-factuals always run the risk of getting too far into conjecture, but hear me out. I'm not questioning that we had to stand up to communism, as we chose to at various places like Berlin, Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, Grenada, etc. But we also chose not to in some places - Czechoslovakia and Hungary both come to mind and we certainly could have done more to fight in China in aid of the Nationalists. You can even add Cuba on here, as we might have stood up to the missiles, but accepted Castro. So to me, it looks like we had various choices that have worked out to the timeline we are in, but I can't say for sure that any one of them was in and of itself necessary.

    It occurs to me that we may well have been better off recognizing the difficult terrain (both historically and physically) we were choosing to stand in and passing on Vietnam. I don't mythologize Vietnam as some kind of noble nation or anything, so don't mistake me, but they had been fighting for independence from the French, Japanese, and French again for quite some time before we decided it was worth the (to that point) longest war in our history. Hindsight is 20/20, but obviously not the most fertile ground for allies of the French to come in and keep fighting against them.

    Again, who is to say how a counterfactual works out? If we hadn't fought there, perhaps WWIII happens and humanity loses. Perhaps the Communists push on and we spend 20 years fighting in Thailand. But perhaps not. Perhaps Vietnam comes out no worse than Romania (not saying that is good, mind you) did. Perhaps we're in a better place now without the history of an unpopular war waged in an unpopular way.

    To close though, thanks for the perspective of potential victory shaping our view of the war. We typically think in terms of winning vs. losing, but I hadn't really thought about the parallels to a free S. Korea developing well.
    Thank you for the intelligent, thoughtful response. I also think it's worth pointing out that around 365,000 people died (from execution, death in imprisonment, or while trying to flee on boats) in Vietnam after the war (source). These murders and "de facto murders" may have been prevented by a South Vietnamese/American victory in the conflict.

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