The Vietnam War was a conflict that took place in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The war had begun in 1955, but American presence was not established until 1965. The war was one of the most-deadliest wars in history. The human costs of the conflict were harsh for all those involved. It is stated that around 2 million Vietnamese civilians on both sides and, around 1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters died. The U.S. military lost around 58,000 troops, and they estimate that around 200,000 to 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died in the war.
A Rumor of War, Phil Caputo. Phil Caputo enlisted in the Vietnam War when he was twenty years old. He went to war in hopes to escape living in a small mid-west suburban town in Illinois. Caputo was entering the war with the hopes that after he entered, the war would be over in a few short weeks, and he would return home a hero, and people would ask him about his war adventures. Caputo has a rude awakening in store for him.
Caputo, like many other young men at the time, wanted to prove themselves as a man. During his time at Loyola College, Caputo enlists with the marines ROTC program, where he learns about military history, battle tactics, ad weaponry. This was not enough for Caputo, as he wanted to get out there in the thick of it, and see action, in hopes that he would return home a man.
In 1965, Caputo finally gets his chance. He is sent to Okinawa, Japan as an officer, with the men in the men in the 3rd marine division. Although currently, all he experiences is false alarms, and delays. It’s not until three months later, Caputo’s company is assigned to war. Caputo arrives in Vietnam, and he expects to be fighting Vietcong right off the plane, but only ends up fighting mosquitoes. Caputo’s turning point comes about when another company is attacked by Vietcong soldiers. Caputo and his men get themselves into the thick of the war, Vietcong battles, sniper gunfire, diseases, etc. While Caputo and his company hardly slept, had to eat cold food, and had to make their ways through the thick jungle, psychological effects start to take place. Caputo is sent to Japan to receive training as an assistant adjutant. Caputo becomes frustrated with the rules that are on paper for the soldiers, but that don’t really apply to them in the actual war. Caputo also receives the duty of reporting the casualties from the war, and as he sees the death totals keep rising, he begins to question why America is in Vietnam.
During his time at his office position, Caputo starts to become depressed while hearing about the deaths of some of his men, and all he wants to do is get back out there. Caputo returns to Vietnam, but he quickly starts to fall apart and lose his sanity. Every time he considers deserting or leaving, he pulls himself right back into it. During the harsh conditions of the jungle, Caputo and his men are losing grips with their sanity. They burned down an entire village, find and captured and executed two Vietcong. Caputo and his men are spiraling away from their sanity. Caputo finds himself in front of a jury about, two boys that he had executed. He has a hard time understanding the trial, because his job was to kill. He is found not guilty, and ultimately honorably discharged. All Caputo wanted at this point was to go home.
A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath, David Chanoff and Doan Van Toai. Truong Nhu Tang lived a protective life. Tang’s father wanted both Tang, and his older brother to become doctors. Tang was forced by his father to study to be a pharmacist. Tang’s father controlled what all his sons studied, and what he wanted them to be in life, the older two doctors, one banker, and the rest engineers. Although Tang did not want to study pharmacy, he also did not want to go against his father.
Tang travels to Paris, France, where he ultimately meets Ho Chi Minh. Tang becomes impressed with Ho Chi Minh’s ideas and methods. Tang then begins to spend all his free time studying politics. Tang then drops out of pharmacy, to study politics full-time. As the military of the opposing forces begin to clash, Tang is kept in the country near Saigon. His father makes him stay there until he feels like it is safe enough for him to return to Paris.
During Tang’s stay in the country, he meets and falls in love with a girl. Tang’s father approves of the girl, because he feels that the she can sway his interest in politics, and the pair become married. Despite his dad’s wants, Tang continues his support of the political endeavors of the National Liberation Front. Tang’s intelligence combined with his master’s degree in political science, makes him a prime candidate for positions within the new government.
Over time, Tang continues his work with the National Liberation Front, although at one point, he is arrested and held at a National Police secret prison where and tortured. Tang’s is forced to give up his wife, by his parents. His father contacts him with news that their family businesses are struggling, Tang immediately comes home to help aide his five brothers who are all still in school.
Tang is then immediately drafted, and he volunteers for a teaching position at a remote area to keep from having to serve in a combat capacity. Tang continues to send money home to his family. When the National Liberation Front is at its peak, Tang and other associates are forced into hiding. Tang endures the hardships of having to live in the jungle for years, returning as Saigon collapses, after the United States’ decision to pull out military its backup.
Tang soon becomes let down by the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, which he believed did not give equal standing to southern supporters. Making matters worse was the imprisonment of two of his brothers in North Vietnamese reeducation camps. After spending time in exile in the Vietnamese countryside, Tang sees no other way. he and his wife escape by boat, landing on an Indonesian oil drilling tanker.
The Killing Zone: My Life in the Vietnam War, Frederick Downs. Frederick Downs is a Lieutenant in the American military. Downs arrived in Vietnam in 1967, and he learns he is going to the 4th Division, based in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam, where there is plenty of fighting going on. Downs is then flown on a C-130 plane to the headquarters of the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Division, where his base camp is on a Mountain. Downs currently, is an observer to some of the fighting going on in the jungle. His first command post is to defend three bridges on the Coastal Highway. Downs is in charge of leading a number of actions and patrols. Downs realizes that there is a lot of friendly fire, and triggered U.S. mines are as deadly as enemy fire. Downs learns how to lead a unit, and learns how to depend on key men, like his radioman, RTO Man, and his Acting Sergeant. Downs states that the area is deceptively peaceful and can fool men.
Downs and his unit are then moved into the interior jungle. The squad sets up on a mountaintop, and Downs’ and his men are sent into the surrounding jungle. A large Vietcong force is hiding in the jungle, which results in a lot of fighting. Soon after, Downs unit is ambushed, and he is almost killed, but manages to survive intact. After a couple of months in the jungle, the squad dismantles their base and moves on. Downs becomes frustrated by this, because he doesn’t understand why they want to move. For a short time, the platoon is moved back to defend a bridge near the place Downs was originally guarding.
After, his platoon is moved further north. The area that Downs is moved to is closer to North Vietnam and is largely inhabited by the Vietcong. Downs’ platoon lands by helicopter and they are immediately attacked by enemy snipers. This area is announced by the United States Army as a free-fire zone, meaning that all people not United States Army, or the soldiers of the Republic of Vietnam, can be killed. The area is full of tunnels and bunkers and is riddled with mines and traps. Downs becomes under fire and he tries to fight off the Vietcong. Downs ultimately steps on a Bouncing Betty land-mine and is gravely wounded. Downs ends up losing his arm, but he leaves Vietnam alive.
Last Night I Dreamed of Peace, The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram. Dang Thuy Tram was a North Vietnamese doctor during the time of the Vietnam war. In her diary, Tram discusses different things that she had to go through and see during her time as a doctor. She had to treat many wounded Vietnamese soldiers, often at times, sitting by their bedsides comforting them, as there was no saving them. Tram oversaw the medical clinic, and because they were often short staffed, she also had to take care of the majority of the injured and teach classes.
Tram often criticizes the Communist Party for its unwillingness to accept her as a member, because she is a woman. Tram also frequently proclaims her hatred for the war, and the “American Devils”, that she believes are coming in and killing her people with no remorse. She often states how much she hates the conflict and would just wish that the Americans would just leave the country.
Tram witnessed firsthand the destruction that was taking place in the jungle. She worked on a mobile medical clinic, that was located in the jungle. Though her hospital was a civilian clinic, she treated mainly soldiers. Sometimes she even had to walk for miles through the rugged jungle to care for wounded soldiers. Tram’s diary entries fluctuate. Some days her messages would be very hopeful and thinking that the war was coming to an end, but more times than not, her entries were full of despair, as she was witnessing the atrocities that were taking place.
Tram’s last diary entry reads, “No, I am no longer a child. I have grown up. I have passed trials of peril, but somehow, at this moment, I yearn deeply for Mom’s caring hand. Even the hand of a dear one or that of an acquaintance would be enough. Come to me, squeeze my hand, know my loneliness, and give me the love, the strength to prevail on the perilous road before me.” Tram was killed two days after writing that entry. She was caught in the amidst of gunfire between the North Vietnamese soldiers and American troops. Tram was shot in the head and killed by an American Solider. Tram did not want to be a part of the war, and her life was taken.
There are many different perspectives of the war, from different sides. Many did not want to be involved at all, and others wish that they had never joined in the first place. Everyone has their own thoughts on what happened, some thought the war was a good thing, some were left disillusioned and traumatized, and others were left dead.
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