Vietnam Essay, Research Paper
American intervention in Vietnam began with a
generation of boys born to the veterans of the second
World War. Boys who lived in the afterglow and dreamed
of the glory. Patriotism was thick in a country who
came out of the second great war stronger than it had
entered. We were unbeatable. America had survived to
continue it?s fight against injustice and for liberty.
The new fight was against communism.
The war might never have taken place had the
United States aided Ho Chi Minh in the fight to
liberate Vietnam from the French, a fight the Americans
had experienced themselves not all that long ago. In
light of France being an ally the United Stated did not
see their way clear to assist a colony from French
Philip Caputo?s book, ?A Rumor of War? is full of
painful honesty about the fighting in the jungles of
Vietnam. The boys from working class families were
doing the fighting and the dying in a land ten thousand
miles from home. Caputo speaks of a nation divided in
it?s opinion on the war and the soldiers who fought in
Born on the Fourth of July tells the story of the
return of a Vietnam veteran. The country the veterans
returned to was one that wasn?t proud of it?s soldiers,
nor was it grateful for the sacrifice they made. They
came back to a community that was largely disgusted
with their behavior.
Taken together, the book and the film tell a great
deal about the impact the war had on Americans.
Considering that hindsight is 20/20, the reasons seem
obvious now. On one hand, the military is creating a
favorable report from the field to make it appear as if
the war will soon be over, the newsmedia is flooding
television with images of burning villas and dead
civilians and the politicians keep insisting they are
reducing US involvement and that the war is soon to
end. It doesn?t end. Not for ten years, and
fifty-eight thousand American lives.
For the returning soldiers, the country didn?t
want to hear the war stories, their painful memories.
?People didn?t want to know about the tumults of the
warrior?s heart, to hear the cries that came howling
straight out of the heart of darkness, the belly of the
beast.? (Caputo,349) Instead they were pushed aside
and not given the respect due them for having given
their lives, bodies and souls to the cause in Vietnam.
These men didn?t create the situation, they served
their country and were ridiculed for their behavior.
It was in the embarrassment and in the
indifference that Americans found reason to blame the
men who fought the war. America never rallied behind
the war. The protesters protested, the enlisted men
fought and died, and the rest didn?t pay much
attention. The best illustration of this point is the
scene in Born on the Fourth of July when Kovic?s mother
is in front of the television and there is a news
report on about the protesters in Washington and she
changes the channel to watch Laugh-In. It is a subtle
illustration, yet represents an important faucet of
America?s indifference to the war.
Initial support for the war quickly waned as it
became apparent the war was unwinnable. Even so, the
United States could not back out and loose face. The
leading nation in the world could not back out of a
conflict it had custom created simply because it had
backfired. Without the nations support, major
escalation was avoided and thus defeat was eminent.
The US military was defeated in a third world
America?s image of itself and its role in the
world after Vietnam were forever changed. The nation
had gone into the war a super-power and had failed.
For the first time in it?s history, the United States
failed to achieve it?s stated war aims: to preserve a
separate, independent, noncommunist government in South
Vietnam. Americans were embarrassed. ?Our self-image
as a progressive, virtuous, and triumphant people
exempt from the burdens and tragedies of history came
apart in Vietnam…? (Caputo, 353)
The book and the film both reach the same
conclusion: A nation that is finally ready to listen to
and hear what these men have to say. The people are
ready to lift the blame from the soldiers shoulders and
give them the respect they deserve.
There are still differing opinions about US
involvement in Vietnam and there always will be. The
issue that remains is whether or not politicians
learned anything. Only time will tell.
Caputo, Philip. A Rumor of War. Henry Holt and Co,Inc.
New York, New York. 1977,1996
Born on the Fourth of July, Universal Pictures. 1980