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Monday, October 21, 2013

My Vietnam Experience

My Vietnam Experience

          Now I want to present a very controversial idea with regards to the Vietnam conflict. I do so with the knowledge that I run the risk of alienating even my fellow Vietnam veterans. My views were formed within two months of my arrival in that place and 41 years after Vietnam I have only strengthened my condemnation of America's role in that war. Yes, even condemnation of the soldiers.

          After all these years Viet Nam support troops have not learned anything from their experience because support troops in Vietnam did not suffer sufficiently to become humble. The biggest talkers, the most boisterous braggers from the Vietnam conflict are those who did not experience Infantry combat.

          I was Army Infantry. Specifically, I was a member of the 4th Bn., 9th U.S. Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. I was a Squad Leader in the 3rd Platoon, Delta Company. I arrived in Vietnam August, 1967 and left in September, 1968. My MOS was 11B10, Rifleman. I experienced the very height of that war. At the time, casualties averaged over 300 dead per week and sometimes as many as 500 dead in a single week during my tour.

      My Battalion had 525 troops in the field but we were seldom at full strength. In just over a year my Battalion suffered 323 dead and over 1200 wounded for a 300% casualty rate. Those combat death and injury figures gave me an entirely different point of view regarding war then someone who served in the Air Force or Navy during the same period of time.

          That experience defines why I think the way I do today. I learned some very profound lessons during my year in Viet Nam. Different lessons than 90% of all who served in Vietnam but did not suffer as my Battalion did. My thinking with regards to war is much more associated with WWII and Korean Infantry veterans. I have little in common with anyone in the present day military because no American unit has suffered casualties as my Battalion did since that war. I do not brag and boast or glorify the war the way present day members of the military do today.

          Every soldier in the Vietnam era, Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy received exactly the same brain washing prior to going over there. Like everyone else, I was told that the Viet Cong were nothing more than murdering criminals and the North Vietnamese were Godless Communists intent on conquering the South and enslaving its people. The South Vietnamese government are good guys and all of the people in South Viet Nam wanted us there. As it turned out, my government and the military lied to me.

          Within two months of my arrival it dawned on me that I was part of an invading army. We did not speak their language. We were not of their race. We did not worship their God. Yes, there were many Catholics among the Vietnamese but even they were different from our Catholics. No one in Viet Nam wanted us there.

          Vietnamese both North and South are very proud of their heritage and have for more than 2000 years protected their race from all outsiders. The entire area of Southeast Asia behaves exactly in the same way. Cambodians do not marry Vietnamese, Thai do not marry Laotians. All those nations in that area of the world protect their race from all outsiders and no foreigner has stayed long in any of those countries.

          Enter the Americans. Suddenly American soldiers were boom booming South Vietnamese girls. Nothing could have infuriated the Vietnamese male more then this indiscretion. In America we still have problems with interracial breeding but our problem pales in comparison to the feelings Vietnamese men have regarding this practice.

          American soldiers were on their land and we were dishonoring their women. During the Tet Offensive the North Vietnamese Army went into Saigon and the first place they went was to the Cholon Sector of Saigon. The Chinese sector. In combination with their hatred for the Chinese and their disgust with women boom booming the Americans they rounded up over 2000 prostitutes and executed them. How did the North Vietnamese Army know who they were? The prostitutes own neighbors turned them in to the NVA.

          The war had nothing to do with Communism or Ho Chi Minh. The Vietnamese have known for centuries that no one rules the Vietnamese. Communism was yet another temporary form of government that will in time fade away as all other forms of government have. Foreigners were on their land and we were making babies with their women. That is what they fought for in the end. In retrospect, I could understand their view.

          My turning point occurred about two months into my tour. We had captured a North Vietnamese soldier and while we waited for someone from the South Vietnamese government to pick him up and torture or murder him, I had the opportunity to talk to him thru an interpreter. I asked him, “why do you fight against us? We are here to help you”. I will never forget his words or his pride when he told me, “TO DEFEND OUR LAND AND OUR HONOR”. That was his reason for fighting. Nothing else mattered. By the way, I heard those exact words from an Iraqi insurgent defending his country from a foreign invader about two years ago. A real eye opener for me anyway.

          While there, it was a common feeling among us in the Infantry that we were fighting for the wrong side. We did not respect the South Vietnamese Army. They would not fight. However, the NVA did fight and sacrificed everything defending their land and their honor. We knew their death had more honor than our deaths. Their cause was more just and righteous than ours. Respect and honor to the North Vietnamese Army.

          I left Vietnam with shame and disgust. I am not proud. I do not seek any ones thanks for my service. Thanking me only compounds my guilt. There is no honor in war unless you are defending your land and your honor. Invading other countries and killing people who do not want you there is devoid of honor. No matter what, you never glorify war or brag of all the people you killed. This is a lesson our current military has not learned because they have not suffered sufficiently to be humble. I returned to America and helped stop a war. I am very proud of that.

          I am also proud of the Flower Children. The children who grew up in the age of Aquarius. Today the chicken hawks scorn and chastise the Flower Children for their part in ending the war. The Neocons give no credit to the notion that the Flower Children bled to death on the battlefields of Vietnam and died without a cause. They died for nothing. They died because lovers of war could not stop. Honor and respect to the Flower Children. Shame and disgust for glorifiers of the military. The humble shall inherit the earth.
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