, Research Paper
Gardens of Stone
Francis Ford Coppola s Gardens of Stone provides three different perspectives on the Vietnam War. There were young men such as the character Jackie Willow who believed that it was their duty to serve their country. This soldier wanted to serve on the front lines because he believed that a soldier in the right place at the right time could make a difference. Other characters in the film, Sgt. Clell Hazard and Sgt. Major Goody Nelson, argued a different position. Although they did not seem to mind fighting for their country, these men saw the Vietnam War as political and unnecessary. Clell said that nobody hates this war more than those who have to fight it. Journalist Samantha Davis played by Angelica Huston represents the majority of American citizens in the 1960 s and 70 s who opposed the war in every sense. Public opinion in the U.S. seemed to be that the war was a complete loss. I have to agree.
Vietnam was never our war in the first place. France wanted to maintain control of Vietnam as a colony but was surrounded by Vietnamese Nationalist troops which led to the Geneva Peace Accords. The U.S. believed that this actually granted too much power to the Communist Party of Vietnam. Afraid of a Communist domino effect, the U.S. supported the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization of which a separate republic was formed in South Vietnam under the leadership of Ngo Dingh Diem. Providing the help of military, political and economic aid, the U.S. was now very much involved in this civil conflict. Diem began imprisoning anyone who he believed supported Communist ideals. Soon, The Party began using force to try to overturn Diem s corrupt rule. Opposition in the South led to the forming of the National Liberation Front or the Viet Cong. Vietnam was now in an all out civil war. This was no business of the U.S. government.
In 1961, President Kennedy s advisors were split on whether or not the U.S. should increase their aid to Diem command or simply withdraw altogether. Instead, Kennedy decided to find middle ground by aiding the South Vietnamese with more machines and more advisors but would not commit to supplying U.S. troops. Back home in the U.S. and across the world, there was great discern when Diem s Catholic Moral Laws resulted in the protesting and self-mutilation by Buddhist monks on the streets of Saigon. Diem was soon captured and assassinated but three weeks later, President Kennedy was also assassinated. This led to the appointment of President Lyndon B. Johnson. The president gained war powers from Congress once two American ships were fired upon in the Gulf of Tonkin. In March of 1965, Johson sent over combat troops to Vietnam. The Party believed that it could beat the U.S. in a military war due to conditions favorable to the Vietnamese. The U.S. seemed to have no clearly defined objectives in Vietnam. The Party also knew that the large majority of Vietnamese people supported the Party. The U.S. seemed to be as confused about their objectives in Vietnam as they did about their combat power. Willow stated in the film that the U.S. could win the war with fire power. He said that U.S. helicopters showed signs that archaic bows and arrows were being used by the Vietnamese. Clell told him that this was na ve in that Vietnamese farmers could survive one-hundred days on no food or water. This was difficult terrain in a jungle that U.S. troops were unfamiliar with. The war was a lost cause in terms of the United States physical obstacles in Vietnam terrain. The only way the U.S. could improve their chances were to up their kill power.
Back home in the U.S., the number of young men volunteering for the army was decreasing so a national draft was instituted. Two hundred of these troops were sent into the unarmed village of My Lai and five hundred villagers were massacred. Our country did not know who it was fighting and who it was protecting. With the political success of the Party in the Tet Offensive and the public opinion against the My Lai Massacre, Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election when it became increasingly apparent that the majority of U.S. citizens already felt that we were losing the war.
Republican Richard Nixon was elected and instituted his Vietnamization policy. U.S. troops were being withdrawn while the air war is increased. At home, however, outcries against the war by university students was becoming intense and rightfully so. Riots and protest were resulting in violence when they were controlled by National Guardsmen. Ironically, young men and women were dying on the front lines overseas but many began losing their lives right here in their own country as they fought for peace.
The Paris Peace Accounts in 1973 ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Soon after, in 1975, the war was ended as Communist forces captured the presidential palace in Saigon. The Vietnam War has never been forgotten in our country, however. It greatly impacted several generations of U.S. citizens. Officially, the war spanned across three decades. However, many families still carry the memories of lost loved ones and the harsh realities of the painful nightmares suffered by thousands of Vietnam troops. In all, over 150,000 troops were injured and nearly 60,000 American lives were lost. This war was never ours to fight in the first place. This was a civil war which should have been settled within its own borders and without the aid of outside troops. This was not our war to fight.