Reminiscences of a Foggy War


Credit: SoundtrackCollectors.com/Oliver Stone

“Which of these brave young men dying in the rice paddies of Vietnam might have written a symphony?  Which of them might have written a beautiful poem or might have cured cancer? Which of them might have played in the World Series or given us the gift of laughter from a stage, or help build a bridge or a university? Which of them might have taught a small child to read? It is our responsibility to let those men live.”Robert F. Kennedy

The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that took place in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from November 1, 1955 to the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.

The U.S. government viewed American involvement in the war as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam. This was part of their wider strategy of containment, which aimed to stop the spread of communism. The North Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong were fighting to reunify Vietnam under communist rule. They viewed the conflict as a colonial war, fought initially against France, then against America as France was backed by the U.S., and later against South Vietnam, which it regarded as a U.S. puppet state.

The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities.  Estimates of the number of Vietnamese service members and civilians killed vary from 800,000 to 3.1 million. Some 200,000–300,000 Cambodians, 20,000–200,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members died in the conflict.  Their names are embedded in a large black national memorial in Washington, D.C.  It honors U.S. service members of the U.S. armed forces who fought in the Vietnam War, service members who died in service in Vietnam/South East Asia, and those service members who were unaccounted for (Missing In Action) during the War.

 Stone for the wall came from Bangalore, Karnataka, India, and was deliberately chosen because of its reflective quality. Stone cutting and fabrication was done in Barre, Vermont. Stones were then shipped to Memphis, Tennessee where the names were etched.

The Vietnam war started during the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower and continued during the administrations of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and Gerald Ford.  It was a long, bitter, unpopular, costly, and deadly war.  Let us not forget the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice during this irrational and worthless confrontation on both sides of the conflict. 

The fifty-eight thousand names etched on the wall are a reminder of the terrible cost of war. Good Day.

10 thoughts on “Reminiscences of a Foggy War”

  1. Hi Omar,
    Platoon was a heavy and well made movie with good actors. I give it a 5 star.
    My father-in-law is a retired Colonel in US Army. In the few times he has talked about Vietnam, he mentioned that Veterans were told they were better off not wearing their uniforms in airports when coming home after the war. I feel so sad about that time. How ridiculous to blame the Veterans who were not calling the shots and were trying to follow their orders. After the Vietnam war, I thought the US would never get involved in a senseless war again especially an unprovoked war like US invading Iraq under Bush #2. At least in our current war efforts, the US citizens support our Veterans and blame the “deciders” appropriately. War can be a necessary evil, but should only be the very last, last resort.
    Regards,
    Dee

  2. Hello Dee:

    I’ve seen the film Platoon about four or five times, and it always breaks my heart. It’s such an emotional movie about a cruel and irrational conflict. Near the end of the war, the American people were fed up and wanted to forget the whole mess. It had gone too far, and too many young men were being brought back in plastic bags.

    I fully agree with your claim that wars should be the very last option, after everything else fails. There are no winners in wars.

    Plato once wrote, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Sad but true. Just take a look at the current events in Egypt even as we speak. When will we ever learn?

    Best Regards,

    Omar.-

    1. Egypt is an interesting paradox. I can see both sides of the story. The elected get overthrown by a coup, but the coup is protecting their future voting rights and freedoms from narrowly focused elected fundamentalists. It seems so cyclical.

      1. Hi Dee:

        I’m afraid reality is not clearly defined in black and white colors. There’s an infinite range of grays in between. Trying to understand this complexity is a challenge to our current and future leaders.

        Bye,

        Omar.-

  3. I am rereading Colin Powell’s autobiography, “My American Journey”, and one of the constant themes that Gen. Powell pressed on the politicians is that war is the very last option. When that option is used, there must be clear objectives and the end of the fighting must be defined. One wonders where the US would be if we had persuaded him to run for president?
    jim

  4. Hi Jim and Nena:

    That is Dee’s position and I’m all for it. Trigger-happy people are dangerous and should be carefully monitored. JFK gave us an eloquent demonstration of restraint when his Joint Chiefs of Staff wanted to invade Cuba and start a nuclear war with the USSR in October 1962.

    I liked Collin Powell. In his book, “In My Time”. Dick Cheney wasn’t too kind with General Collin Powell when he held the position of Secretary of State.
    Cheney wrote in his book, “The leaker had been Deputy Secretary of State Rich Armitage, Collin Powell sat silent even though he knew who the leaker was.”

    It was the public exposure of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. She was the wife of former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson,IV. This incident was known as “Plamegate.” As a result of the leak, Ms. Plame had to resign and high-ranking Bush Administration official, Lewis Libby, was indicted. Dick Cheney was furious about the downfall of his special assistant, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

    On July 2, 2007, President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s sentence, removing the jail term but leaving in place the fine and probation, calling the sentence “excessive.”

    In my opinion, Powell was a very balanced person with high skills of leadership and public charisma. He would have been a great world leader.

    Yes, war should be the last option on the table. It’s an extremely delicate issue.

    Warm Regards,

    Omar

    1. In My Time is the next one on my list. I currently have zero respect for Cheney during his VP time. He obviously forgot the lessons of war from Powell once he became VP. Bush W, although a good guy, was too weak willed to stop Cheney from steamrolling him into a pointless war.

      Perhaps after reading Cheney’s slant on events, my opinion may change.

      Jim

      1. Hi Jim and Nena:

        I read Cheney because I wanted to have an inside look at the circumferences surrounding the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.

        After reading the book, I was disappointed on Cheney’s inaccurate narrations about both conflicts. He was outright making incorrect statements about what really happened there.

        His boss, George W. Bush, left office as one of the most unpopular presidents in history, his poll numbers weighed down by public discontent over his handling of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and worries about an economy in shambles.

        Even as we speak, the spiraling conflict in Syria has provided a sanctuary for leaders of Al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate who are orchestrating attacks in Baghdad and other cities, posing a fresh challenge for efforts to maintain security there, American officials said yesterday.

        So much to read, so little time. BTW, I purchased this morning a new e-book, (e.g., “Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson” authored by Robert A. Caro. Plan to cuddle up tonight and start turning the digital pages of my Kindle Fire and start learning about his agitated administration.

        Regards,

        Omar.-

  5. I am one of the luckiest among American males my age. I never had to worry one way or the other about Viet Nam. I received my discharge from the U.S. Navy a little less than four months before the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed which really put the U.S. in the deep doo doo. I’d done my service, though I have to say the scariest part of it was being on an anti-submarine warfare aircraft carrier (USS Lake Champlain CVS 39) off the coast of Cuba when the world was on the brink of nuclear war. I do know this, though: without exception, every single person I know that came back from ‘Nam came back f***ed up in one way or another.

  6. Hello Richard:

    Yep, you are indeed a lucky man. Vietnam was a horrible war, and after all these years it has not been forgotten by those who were there and returned to a hostile homeland.

    I just read a book about JFK and his contribution in avoiding a thermonuclear war. We were on the brink of being wiped out of the surface of the planet during those unfortunate thirteen days of October 1962.

    The films “Platoon” and “Full Metal Jacket” fully depicted the horrors of Vietnam. It was crazy, irrational and surreal. It cost LJB his reelection, and later his life, due to excessive drinking.

    Regards,

    Omar.-

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