The Vietnam War started in 1945, resulting in almost 60,000 American deaths and nearly two million Vietnamese deaths, according to Mintze. Years after combat countless Vietnam veterans suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder in every aspect of their lives (Price). Posttraumatic stress disorder is an illness that can happen to anyone who has gone through a horrifying experience. It has been documented in all forms of literature and films the brutality of the war and the side effects it came with. The history of Vietnam is quite long and winding and leaves one to question its purpose (Mintze).
The Vietnam War is known as the longest battle in American history (Mintze). It is also one of the first to end in defeat for America and to be televised (Mintze). The United States became a financial backer to Vietnam and attempted to assist South Vietnam from the communist North. Bender admits copious questions arose asking if the United States had the right and resources to oversee world freedom (Bender). America became involved to prevent communism from spreading throughout Asia (14). During the war American policy was unclear and this led to soldiers with moral confusion (149).
Mintze reports The Viet Cong, a communist led guerilla group, began to fight South Vietnam in 1958. In 1965, attacks from the air became part of every day life in Vietnam. Air strikes and napalm attacks killed and scarred innocent civilians. The North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong attacked cities, towns, and military bases throughout South Vietnam in 1968. This attack called Tet Offensive made the already unpopular war become even more disfavored. Americans then realized it might not be worth winning the war (Learn about Vietnam War).
Mintze writes, in effort to through off the North Vietnamese, President Nixon led American soldiers into Cambodia to destroy communist supply bases in 1970. This act to dismantle the communist north violated the Cambodian neutrality and prompted protests nationally. There was such outrage and chaos one demonstration ended in a shooting at Kent State University killing four students. The bloodshed has left numerous Americans wondering if the war was necessary (Learn about Vietnam War).
The root of the questions regarding Vietnam War is why did so many soldiers come home from this war so drastically transformed? Coleman addresses, in the early years of the war, volunteers filled most of the ranks. As the war continued and the public became more aware of the inhumanity the government implemented a draft (Coleman 66). Statics show the poor led this war and very few wealthy were recruited (Coleman 67). Coleman claims, the average age of the soldiers who died were seventeen and twenty-one (68). She writes this certainly contributed to the psychological wounds (68).
Various reasons explain why Vietnam vets had become psychologically ill. Coleman believes it was a lack of leadership, support, and trust. Troops were trained to believe the Vietnamese were below Americans and they were just ‘gooks’ (74). One by one each veteran tells their story in the documentary “Winter Soldier,” and the same story is told in different words. In the moment of war the men were persuaded to believe what they were doing was for the good of their country (Lesser). Soldiers were left to feel as if they were sent to Vietnam to die because of the obvious racial and class inequalities (83). Evidently this demonstrates why draftees felt morally confused.
Soldiers returning from Vietnam did not receive the same welcome home as returning soldiers from World War II. The Vietnam War was criticized nationally by American society. Bender writes this was a war fought mostly by adolescents with the average age of nineteen years old. Soldiers of this age are easily imprinted and were left psychologically damaged. Young teenagers were left to experience deaths of their soldier ‘buddies’...
Cited: Bender, David L. The Vietnam War: Opposing Viewpoints. 2nd ed. Ed. William Dudley. St. Paul: Greenhaven, 1984. Print.
Coleman, Penny. Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, and the Lessons of War. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006. Print
Ehrhart, W.D. “Guerilla War.” From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam War and its Aftermath. Ed. Philip Mahoney. NY: Scribner, 1998. 61. Print.
---. “The Next Step.” From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam War and its Aftermath. Ed. Philip Mahoney. NY: Scribner, 1998. 57. Print.
Komunyakaa, Yusef. “You and I Are Disappearing.” Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems. Ed. Yusef Komunyakaa. Hanover, NH: UP New England, 1993. 142. Print.
Mintz, S. “Learn About the Vietnam War.” Digital History. 18 June 2011. Web. 18 June 2011.
Price, Jennifer. “Findings From the National Vietnam Veterans’ Readjustment Study.” United States Department of Veterans Affairs. 1 January 2007. Web. 18 June 2011.
Turco, Lewis. “Burning the News.” From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam War and its Aftermath. Ed. Philip Mahoney. NY: Scribner, 1998. 140. Print.
Weigl, Bruce. “Song of Napalm.” From Both Sides Now: The Poetry of the Vietnam War and its Aftermath. Ed. Philip Mahoney. NY: Scribner, 1998. 214-215. Print.
Winter Soldier. Dir. Michael Lesser. Perf. Rusty Sachs, Joe Bangert, and Scott Shimabukuro. Milliarium Zero,1972. Film
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