Vietnam Poetry Essay, Research Paper
Two Stories of Vietnam
My essay is a comparison of a song and a poem about the Vietnam war. The song is “Goodnight Saigon” written by Billy Joel and the poem is “No Word Spoken” by Edward J. Domaleski. These two are very different but revolve around one main point; the American soldiers experience in the Vietnam war. Joel writes about the whole war experience while Domaleski writes just about one solitary battle. Domaleski is also more detailed than Joel in his writing.
Domaleski?s lines of poetry discreetly describe the scenes of a battle, while Joel?s generally describe the hardships of the American soldiers during the war. “No Word Spoken” stars off by describes some soldiers marching through a forest. They hear something, not knowing what it is they “spread out” to investigate. Monkeys begin moving around and it is now raining, the soldiers are told silently to be “quiet” they “don?t breathe”.
They see four of the enemy, silently ordered to begin the fight, “grenades fly” and “clips empty”. Once the battle is over and there are “no more screams” silent orders are given to get up and search the bodies for anything valuable that can be used on their awaiting journey. Before the soldier leaves he looks around and notices the “smell of death”, but he is silently told to go “forward”.
Through this whole battle there was not a single verbal order given, it was all by hand. The use of hand signals instead of words makes the soldiers feel lonely and distraught. It makes a bad situation even worse.
Billy Joel?s lyrics speak of Parris Island, a place where the soldiers fought a battle. He talks about the Americans preparation by saying that they where “sharp as knives”. This goes hand in hand with the “gung-ho” attitude of the new troops, they felt they were ready to defend their country.
“Tamelesss horses” describes how they went in to battle and “in plastic as numbered corpses” says how they left. They went into to battle in a state of craziness, but were dead at the end of it.
Joel also speaks of how few possessions the Americans could have; such as a luxury item like “soft soap”. They had “no homefront” meaning they where never in one place for a long period of time. But the government gave them “Playboy” magazine and appearances by Bob Hope to keep the their morale up during the war. The soldiers had believe in themselves and had to have faith in “Jesus Christ”. These two things would separate the causalities from the survivors.
The soldiers “had no cameras to shoot the landscape” which was probably for the best, so not to remember some of the horrors. They “passed the hash pipe” and listened to the “Doors” just for an escape from the hell that they were in. The soldiers were also frightened by the “dark at night” because they did not know what was out there.
The lines “remember Charlie remember Baker” are about lost soldiers who “left their childhood on every acre” and were to young to die. The Americans ruled “the day” because they could see what was happening around them, but the Vietnamese had control over “the night” because it was their environment that the war was going on in.
The Americans spent “six weeks on Parris Island” fighting the Vietnamese. The Americans fought from “the coastline” trying to take “the highland” away from them, but they did not know that their enemy was “as sharp” as
they were, if not even sharper. The Vietnamese “heard the hum of our motors .. counted the rotors”; they were waiting and ready for the American reinforcements. Which is proven in the outcome of the war in which the Vietnamese won.
Billy Joel closes with “we will all go down together”.
This is why the Americans survived as long as they did. They stuck together, “like brother to brother”. I admire the soldiers of this war more than any other war for three reasons. First, the war may have been the hardest because they didn?t know who they were fighting. Secondly, these American soldiers were not much older than I am now, I don?t know if I could do what they had to. Lastly, they did not have the full backing of their country that they were sacrificing their lives to defend, but they dove in head first anyway.
This poem and this song are memories of a traumatic yet important time in American history. For those who experienced it, it helps them remember that time in their lives. For those who are too young to remember it makes the past more like reality.