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Student Questions & Answers on Vietnam

 

Before I get into the questions on the Vietnam War I would like to express some opinions, which I believe to be true. They come from a book “Why Vietnam Still Matters, The war and the wall” compiled by Jan Scruggs

 

Myth:   The Vietnam War was a civil war.

Fact:    It was a war of conquest that was planned, directed, financed, and trained by the leadership in Hanoi, in violation of the 1954 Geneva Treaty. It was, fortunately, the LAST great communist war of conquest.

 

Myth:   The 1968 Tet offensive was a surprise to U.S. forces.

Fact:    The books author served in intelligence during Vietnam. We knew exactly which units would be involved and roughly where they’d be coming from. By the time the first rockets hit Long Binh around 2 or 3 in the morning, the main question most of us had was, “Where are they? Did they forget it’s the Tet holiday?”

 

Myth:   The Tet Offensive was a great communist victory.

Fact:    Tet was one of the most lop-sided defeats ever inflicted on a foe by U.S. forces. Assaults were launched on scores of provincial capitals, with almost all being repelled. The attack on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon was a suicide mission, which was bound to fail. Only in the imperial city of Hue was there a communist occupation of any length. Tet virtually destroyed the Viet Cong. From that point on, almost all of the large-unit fighting was conducted by North Vietnamese regular army units.

 

Myth:   The Vietnam War was unwinnable.

Fact:    The U.S. could have won the war any time it wanted to, and within a matter of weeks. You may debate all you want about whether or not we should have applied the necessary force, but there is absolutely no question of our capabilities. We simply lacked the will to bring those resources to bear.

(This above is unqualified statements by Jim Bohannon, talk show host, Westwood One Radio, and SP5, 199th Brigade, April 67-68 which I believe to be true also, B W Milne Sgt. E-5, 25th Inf Division, 68-69)

 

Statement:     “Everybody was wounded in Vietnam……..everybody.”

(John C. Dibble served in Vietnam as officer-in-charge of U.S. Navy swift Boat and as commanding officer and senior advisor at operating Base Kien An in the U Minh Forrest)

 

The following lines could well be spoken by any one of the loved ones whose name is forever engraved on the Vietnam Memorial, and always in our hearts:

 

When you’re lonely and sick at heart,

Go to the friends we know,

And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds,

MISS ME….But let me go.

                                                            Author unknown

(Violet C. Long is the Dept. and Chapter Officer, and Past National President of the American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.)

 

I have been asked some questions on the Vietnam War, in the past, which may be used for future student projects or papers.

If you have more or other specific questions please email me and I will try and respond quickly.

Please Note: I do not answer obscure/offensive questions such as “How did you feel about being a baby killer?”

Please do not ask such questions!

 

 

1)       Have you or any of your close friends suffered from PTSD?

 

Yes, I am currently rated at 30% PTSD and have a new evaluation pending which, I believe, will increase the rating to 60-70%. I also have many friends and relatives with PTSD due to Vietnam.

The VA can take years to evaluate veteran’s claims and in may cases the veterans die before the claim is approved.

 

2)       One Vietnam combat veteran said, "The U.S. Army [in Vietnam] was like a mother who sold out her kids to be raped by [their] father to protect her own interests."  Do you agree with that?

 

Some may have seen it this way. In some cases it may have been true. I believe the army, in general, was trying to do it's job. We went to war at an unfortunate time. The US government was not willing to engage in war but called it a POLICE ACTION, for many civilians back home they did not even know the police action was going on and didn't even care. The public and our own government did not back us up like our brothers from WWII. Unfortunately we were in a similar category as the KOREAN conflict.

 

3)       Many soldiers had problems with the newly issued M-16, did you experience any?

 

NO, However in the early years of the war (1964-66) the M-16 was new and the soldiers were not use to it. It had some flaws, like many new weapons, (1965-66).

The flaws were worked out and it became a valuable weapon and is still being used today. The weapon could be temperamental and just wanted to be cleaned to operate properly. I was trained on the weapon in late 1968, fired Expert with it, and became a weapons armorer/repairman. I encountered few problems with the weapon, however by 1969 it had went through a few upgrades and most of the problems were fixed. The major problem was that it had to be kept somewhat clean to function properly and this was a hard task for the infantryman.

 

4)       Do you feel that this is at all true or over exaggerated?: "[By 1969] it was an Army in which men escaped into marijuana and heroin and other men died because their comrades were "stoned" on these drugs...It was an Army whose units in the field were on the edge of mutiny, whose soldiers rebelled against the senselessness of their sacrifice by assassinating officers and noncoms in "accidental" shootings and "fraggings" with grenades."

 

Granted there were incidents that caused many men to die and for no reason however the majority of units had minimal drug problems, not any more than the problems encountered back home. You have to remember the attitude and moral of the United States at the time of the conflict. It was one of a promiscuous society and many drugs were being experimented with by the young people. Many of these young people were drafted and brought this attitude into the military.

I was in an artillery battery and we had some dope smoking problems but we fired our missions without error and were awarded a presidential unit citation for our battle scars in combat.

The soldiers I knew were courageous and brave during combat and not the typical news media druggie as depicted by the media.

 

5)       Were booby traps an everyday common thing?  Were many men victims of them?

 

No, being in the artillery I only had one patrol that I participated in and never encountered any booby traps.

 

6)       Do you feel that war was profoundly political because it is about power?  Have you always felt that way?

 

The war was a political thing and lost a lot of brave young men and women for the big political jerks running the country.

I wish they were there with us and things might have changed.

The politicians needed to make up their minds on whether they wanted to commit to a war or get out.

 

7)       Did you feel that you needed your friends-in-arms in order to survive?

 

Our brothers in combat have then and today always been the most physiological bond that I have ever encountered.

The military always trained us to work as a team and this is still happening among many of us in our fight for our benefits and problems with PTSD.

 

8)       Can you remember the names or faces of anyone with whom you served after a close friend or a particular person was killed?

 

Yes, I can, some are listed on my web site with photos. I was lucky, being in an artillery battery that had No on killed during my 14 months in country. Once I returned to the states and started training troops I did have friends which were sent to Vietnam and became POW/MIAs which took a toll on me. Today I have friend that have died at an early age because of the problems caused by the spraying of the AGENT ORANGE defoliants used to kill the jungle. It is killing us off now!

 

9)       Were you taught that to care for the well-being of an individual person is to be vulnerable to pain and grief?

 

No, that is something that just comes to you. In some cases you must harden yourself to combat. This was done a lot with the guys in the infantry or in the field. They did not want to make friends because it would only break your heart when their friend died.

Pain, grief, happiness and joy are something we all will go through in our lifetime, some will just get a bunch more than others, unfortunately. Establishing friendships is good for the soul no mater whether that friendship ends in pain or death. I believe the more friendships or hearts you touch in life is and can only be a positive force in your life.

 

10)   Do you feel that you died in Vietnam?

 

No, I did not die in Vietnam but left a few pieces of my heart there, both for my friends and for some of the local people.

 

11)   Did you ever expect to return home alive?  Did you want to?

 

I did not expect to live through the war, then called a Police Action. I always want to come home to the ones I love.

 

12)   Were there many racially motivated killings and riots within the troops?

 

Some hostilities in other units but none with our artillery battery.

 

13)   Did you go over to Vietnam with the unit you had trained with? Did you return to "the world" with it?

 

No, I was sent as an individual soldier and assigned to a unit once in Vietnam. I came home as and individual soldier also.

 

14)   Did you feel that to weep was to lose one's dignity among fellow American soldiers

 

No, you must be able to show your emotions among friends who knew what you were going through.

 

15)   Was mourning dreaded, delayed, mocked, devalued, minimized, or disregarded?

 

A normal reaction and must be tolerated among soldiers. I didn’t think much about mourning, I guess I was too young and there were no deaths in my artillery battery.

 

16)   Have you ever contemplated suicide?  Have any of your close friends?

 

.           I thought about it but that was as far as it goes. Many of my friends talk openly and we get through our problems via the net or a VA Psychologist.

 

17)   Did you often find yourself thinking that "it should have been me" when men around you died?

 

Yes the “Why did I come home” syndrome is experienced quite often, especially as I get older.

 

18)   When a veteran says he "lost it," what exactly did he lose?  Do they feel its their humanity?

 

Usually was an expression of going temporarily insane. Went crazy or over the edge, lost his sanity for a period of time.

 

19)   When you look back at your life, when you were in Vietnam, are you disappointed in what you were and what you did?

 

NO, Not at all, we went to war just like the troops of W.W.II but never had the backing of our government or people.

This was not our fault. We were there to do our duty for our country! Not like others who ran and evaded the draft.

 

20)   Was napalm often used?  What qualifications had to be met in order to use it? Would you say that it was best used as revenge?

 

We used WP or White Phosphorus rounds when required. You used what you had to stay alive during an attack and what was requested when firing support.

 

21)   Did you look upon the enemy as less then human?

 

No, we looked at the enemy as a cunning, relentless pursuer out to kill us and we would do the same to him if and when the time arose.

 

22)   Was there a reason that the Vietnamese enemy was called Charlie?

 

It was because the call sign for the VC was Victor Charlie hence the short abbreviation to Charlie.

AKA (also Known as); dink and gook.

 

23)   You know, they said we were fighting Communism, that they were peasants [who used] pitchforks and homemade weapons, Were you told this before you went to Vietnam?

 

No not really, we knew of the NVA being uniformed troops with AK-47s and battle hardened along with the VC gorillas. All of these troops were armed with some form of communist weapon or weapons stolen from US troops they had killed.

 

24)   Did you believe in God before you went to war? How about during the war?  After the war?

 

I have always believed in GOD and carried my Bible in my helmet. I still believe in GOD!

 

25)   Did many soldiers mutilate the bodies of the enemy? 

 

I have heard of this and I believe it was true but not in the Artillery.

 

26)   Was friendly fire a common thing?

 

We only fired out of our grid once in the 14 months I was there, and it killed a NVA Sniper so we were lucky. No other incidents that I am aware of. I believe it happened more than once and probably killed many of our troops. It seems it is something that happens in war, unfortunately.

 

27)   Were you more afraid of being KIA, POW, or an MIA?

 

Didn't think of it too much, we were young and dumb. The lesser out of the three would have been POW because they would know you were alive where KIA is Dead and MIA was missing in action but usually dead also.

 

28)   Do you regard the men who died as the lucky ones?

 

NOT AT ALL! They were many of the heroes though.

 

29)   Did you feel as though you were nothing more then a political prisoner?

 

No, I believed we were doing our job.

 

30)   Which of the following did you frequently experience:

       a. Terror and helplessness

       b. Loss of communication with all others outside combat

       c. Inconsistent, unpredictable, and violent enforcement of rules

       d. Threats to close comrades

       e. Debilitation by sleep deprivation, starvation, exposure, drugs, alcohol

       f. Participation in sacrifice or victimization of others

       g. Violation of one's own moral principles

       h. Participation in immoral, disgusting, or illegal practices

 

I have a, b, c & e

 

31)   When a soldier is broken by combat, what breaks?

 

Hard to answer, each individual is different. Many just lost it and went temporarily insane.

 

32)   Do you often re-experience past traumatic events?

 

Yes, occasionally.

 

33)   Do you feel that God kept you alive to torture you and that if he had loved you he would have let you die in Vietnam?

 

NO, there is a reason for everything that happens to you, I believe.

 

34)   Did your training have any relevance to the enemy you had to face?

 

The basics were taught to us but there is nothing like on the job training and experience.

 

 

History of Police Actions (Korea & Vietnam)

 

There are many things/incidents that happened during a war or so called Police Action.

The answers I have given were from my encounters during my tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam 1968-1969.

I was a light weapons repair armorer for a 105mm howitzer artillery battery.

The 25th infantry Division, A Battery 7/11 Field Artillery, Tay Ninh, Vietnam.

Our engagements with the enemy were from behind the big guns (105mm howitzers) and did not include anything like the Infantry, Calvary troops or those who were POW/MIAs.

I can ONLY speak from my point of view and do not speak for those who were in horrific battles.

I am sure you will receive different answers from all who answer your questions.

 

If you have more questions you would like to ask please email me by clicking HERE

 

A "MUST SEE" for those interested in the true history of the Vietnam War!

"A LONG WAY HOME"



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