If they weren't miserably wet or miserably hot, they were miserable hacking through the jungle brush and elephant grass with leaves so dense and so sharp they drew blood. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The NVVM is exploring an oral history project to record Veteran stories. The belief that the antiwar movement was antagonistic toward Vietnam-era soldiers still has a deep grip on popular memory and political culture. By Staff Writer Last Updated Mar 25, 2020 7:28:07 AM ET American soldiers stationed in Vietnam were met with an unexpectedly horrific experience. SOLDIERS TELL TRUE STORIES OF THEIR WAR. But many faced challenges back home, and some still do today. And they were young men. Regardless of what you thought about the Vietnam war, the fact is 2,709,918 Americans served in Vietnam, representing almost 10% of their (very large) generation. SOLDIERS TELL TRUE STORIES OF THEIR WAR. That’s a lot of people and a lot of heartache. Regarding your father's viewpoint of American soldiers, I have written a post about the truth vs. reality of popular depictions of Vietnam War era American soldiers. However, because of the way the draft was set up, men assigned the lowest numbers were more likely to be drafted than those with higher numbers. I wanted to go for the adventure. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. Soldiers on both sides faced many difficulties and challenges during the Vietnam War – including climate, terrain, the complex political situation and unclear military objectives. Neas, 68, who lives in Rahway in Union County, recently retired after running his own telecommunications company. I also traveled with a long bamboo pole. When he told his parents, they were livid, not for any ideological reasons, but because of concern that he'd be hurt or lose his life. That morning, as communist troops swept into … The best books written by Vietnam War veterans offer insight into the war and first hand accounts of their experiences. But that's the only way you had a hot meal.". In honor of National Vietnam War Veterans Day on March 29, signed into law in 2017 by President Donald J. Trump, AARP spoke with six veterans of the war about their most vivid memories — and about what they want Americans today to know or remember. "Pieces got stuck in my skull, but they never reached the brain." Instead, they waited in the vegetation for nightfall or awful weather or other convenient moments. They carried food rations, flak jackets, rifles and ammunition. "And I realized all my memories of Vietnam were in black and white. But in the meantime, there were hours and even days where there were no Viet Cong to be found, no fights, and nothing to distract them from the monotony. I saw no eyes clouded with resentment." They described their feelings towards the war they were being made to fight: We here at the 86th Maint. Usually, it was in the jungle, where you had to look for ambushes. Drug use had taken its toll on troops. They used Agent Orange to raze the tropical foliage, destroying the environment that the Vietnamese were using against them. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. B: John William Baber War: World War, 1939-1945 Branch: Army Air Forces/Corps Service Location: European Theater Theme: First, Serve: Athletes in Uniform Joe Baca War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975 Branch: Army Service Location: United States; Vietnam Theme: Patriotism Theme: Voices of War John Philip Baca War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975 Branch: Army Service Location: Phuoc Long Province, Vietnam In honor of National Vietnam War Veterans Day on March 29, signed into law in 2017 by President Donald J. Trump, AARP spoke with six veterans of the war about their most vivid memories — and about what they want Americans today to know or remember. "It seemed the right thing to do. The Booby Trap … But after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, the racial violence that had been bubbling up in cities across America finally reached Vietnam. They fought together and returned home to build lives, families, and communities across the country. Somewhat pejoratively called REMFs ("Rear Echelon Mother F*ckers") these soldiers had a comparatively cushy experience in Vietnam. My brothers were both in college, they were doing their thing, and I felt this was my own thing to do.". But many others were poor or working-class teenagers who enlisted or were drafted into the military right out of high school. The Vietnam War was On the ground, American soldiers and diplomats confront the same moral quandary: whether to obey White House orders to evacuate U.S. citizens only–or to risk treason and save the lives of as many South Vietnamese citizens … It took their mind off what the war was about and helped if they didn'tt necessarily believe in the cause for which they fought. That idealism faded away as the war progressed, as the U.S. sent more troops, more resources, and more money overseas, as more and more young American men failed to come home in one piece. Trish Wood. As time went on, civilian casualties continued, American soldiers grew increasingly frustrated with the locals' reluctance to help, and suspicion and mistrust increased on both sides. Shortly before Dave deployed, he … We look forward to meeting you. Soldier Recalls Vietnam War Battle Experiences U.S. veteran Caesar Smith gives a first hand account of the fighting conditions in Vietnam. HANOI, VIETNAM—Forty years ago, on April 30, 1975, Nguyen Dang Phat experienced the happiest day of his life. I stood on the spot where I had been shot, but it's so different now. When you see someone shot, whether it's your buddy or whether it's the enemy, it's a life-changing moment. Men like Troyer had to deal with several frustrations particular to the war in Vietnam. Nguyen’s book draws on 54 oral history interviews with veterans of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) and their relatives. African American Sergeant Lewis B. Larry … Veterans encountered unprecedented levels of hostility from a public that had long objected to U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Learn the stories of the brave soldiers whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He said his first return visit in 1985 changed his perspective on Vietnam. “ From The Misogyny of the Vietnam War Article Sometimes the US soldiers would sneak into the villages and kidnap pretty looking Vietnamese. Marijuana was grown all over Vietnam, and many soldiers had their first experiences smoking it overseas. There were booze and drugs if they could get them, but for the most part, the hours ticked by, only breeding more anxiety. On the surface, it appeared to have worked. We weren't soldiers: growing up with Vietnam War stories on screen. The Viet Cong were frequently one step ahead, hiding in the trees or blending in with the locals, so the villages were never really secured, and the locations of the guerrilla fighters remained uncertain. Besides weapons, each of us carried an extra 30kg of personal material and food. Check it out here. "I wanted to be a Marine for all my life," he said. For most this ethos seems not to have changed. Rick Duggan (far left) and fellow soldiers from the First Air Cavalry's Bravo Division with a bottle of Rock and Rye in hand. Upon hearing the news of MLK's death, some white soldiers paraded around the base at Cam Ranh Bay in KKK robes, openly cheering the news. We've got an advance excerpt from the 15th Pike Logan novel. phase of war and young American ales intent on asserting their superiority, their potency, their manhood…raping a woman in a combat zone is something a man has to do, needs to do, has the right to do. The use of pharmaceuticals to artificially suppress combat trauma may have contributed to the explosion of post-traumatic stress disorder cases among Vietnam veterans after the war. The 52-year-old Duckworth will tell of her life from her childhood in Southeast Asia and Hawaii to her 23 years in the Army... © Copyright 2020 Philly.com. The Vietnam War helped shape a generation of Americans, none more than the 2.7 million who served in Southeast Asia. Over the course of the Vietnam War, the military prescribed more than 225 million tablets of speed to U.S. soldiers, earning itself the title of American's first "pharmacological war." But they ultimately couldn't defeat the guerrilla fighters. That's not to say the drugs deserved all the blame for the difficulty veterans faced after returning home. Neas went on a recent tour of Vietnam, including a visit to Huế in March as part of an educational trip sponsored by College of the Ozarks in Missouri. (There are well-documented stories of gay soldiers in the U.S. armed forces going back to George Washington’s army, and the Newport sex scandal of 1919 occurred two … Heroes of Vietnam: The Stories of Fallen Soldiers. In addition to speed, officials also supplied soldiers with painkillers and steroids to increase their stamina, strength, and aggression on long-range missions. The draft wasn't the only problem. The 1980s was a time to tell the stories of the Vietnam War. ... An Oral History of the Iraq War by the Soldiers Who Fought It Show More Show Less 6 of 7 ONE-TIME USE ONLY ... in Vietnam … Many young NVA soldiers died along the way before they ever got into the fight because of sickness (malaria). Our focus is on friendly, helpful advice and great service for every customer. Most grunts passed through the rear bases on their way into or out of the field, but they didn't stay long. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 30% of soldiers who saw combat in Vietnam experienced PTSD in their lifetime. So the grunts kept walking. On a day … Be the first to submit a tribute honoring a vet from the Vietnam War! But the success was short-lived. "It was as if I got to see it like a real country, to see the real people. Of course, whether they could vote or not, the U.S. government viewed these men as potential soldiers the minute they turned 18 and became eligible for the draft. If they wanted recreational drugs, most Vietnam War soldiers didn't have to go farther than their military doctor. During the war in Vietnam, soldiers faced intensely extreme conditions, including hunger, disease, and of course, having to see close friends and other soldiers die. Thompson’s Hill (April 9-10, 1968), by Richard Dieterle. And you lived through the maybe the closest thing this country had, even if only for a few short years, of being at peace. At first, there were C-rations, ready-made wet meals served in cans, but those proved to be too heavy for special operations that required long treks on foot. They were a bunch of jungle-fighting guerrilla warriors who killed American boys via night-time ambushes and terrifying traps. Vincent Gabriel, Jr returned from his tour of duty in Vietnam thirty eight years ago. Even the front lines were punctuated with periods of inaction. Viet Cong were adept at blending in, sometimes taking cover in villages. the Vietnam War, historians have found varying answers to questions about the war. The Vietnam War helped shape a generation of Americans, none more than the 2.7 million who served in Southeast Asia. By 1969, more than half a million Americans were stationed in Vietnam. He served as an infantryman with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in Chu Lia, Vietnam in 1965. Morale was understandably low during monsoon season, for example, when heavy rains would drench the soldiers and flood the rice paddies for the better part of six months. His name is etched on Panel 13E, Line 123 on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. They fought together and returned home to build lives, families, and communities across the country. Photo by Brandi Redd Few American military conflicts of the 20th century were as controversial as the Vietnam War. Although the research from various historians is necessary for Americans to understand the events of the war, we must also take time to appreciate the complicated experiences of those who participated in Vietnam. "I said to my mom, 'Is this the way you raised me, to let other sons' mothers go through this?' Upper-class men could afford to stay enrolled in university or get a doctor's note from a hometown physician to obtain a get-out-jail-free card that poorer men couldn't access. And when it wasn't raining, it was hot and humid. I had a rude awakening. “Bill” Ehrhart joined the U.S. Marines when he was 17. They had their own jobs to do. Officially, their goal was to take back South Vietnam from the communists, find and eradicate the Viet Cong, and secure the hearts and minds of the locals. The draft lottery proved to be unfair in another significant way. The next year, officials improved the randomization process by drawing birthdays and lottery numbers from different capsules, but men could still get out of serving. The whole city had been leveled [in 1968], and it has been totally rebuilt.". But many faced challenges back home, and some still do today. Overlooked because of 'medal quotas' 50 years ago, the courage of three young men who saved the lives of Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War has finally been recognised. Three Vietnam War Veterans Share Their Stories, Special Forces Vet Brad Taylor Takes on China in Latest Novel 'American Traitor', Enjoy Discounted Military Movies from Vudu and Stay Home This 2020 Holiday Season, The USO's 2020 Holiday Tour Is Going Virtual, and You're Invited, Novelist John le Carre, Who Probed Murky World of Spies, Dies at 89, Barack Obama's Memoir Offers Insights Into Administration Military Policy, A Decade Later, this Afghanistan Special Operations Story is Finally Coming to the Screen, Memoir by Iraq War Vet Sen. Tammy Duckworth Coming Out March 30, Here Are the 10 Best Military Movies of 2020, 6 Urban Legends About Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, How the Air Force Went All-In on End-of-the-World Thriller 'Greenland', 5 Best/Worst Christmas Movies With Questionable Military Plotlines. Wallace Terry, a black war correspondent for Time, described seeing "thousands of Americans who found their common humanity on the front, where they shared the last drop of water, where they gave their lives for each other. Instead of being stationed on the front lines, they might be assigned a support detail on one of the rear bases. we run into the enemy concealed and dug in — death of Thompson — we return, enemy flees — the face of death — Thompson’s body lost at Đà Nẵng — our FO shells enemy night convoy — After Action Reports. Rucksacks, carrying everything they would need to survive in the jungle where... Deserved all the blame for the men would have gotten at home, War! Were a bunch of jungle-fighting guerrilla warriors who killed American boys via night-time ambushes and terrifying traps political today! Nights of leave during their one year tour of duty of deciding to authorize military action city! Suppressed in the rice paddies members who served in Southeast Asia and much... Were unfairly assigned worse details and that they received more frequent punishments and fewer promotions than their white.! Were a bunch of jungle-fighting guerrilla warriors who killed American boys via night-time ambushes and terrifying.. Changes last a lifetime 10 % during the Vietnam War concern more than just the past wives and children up. 1975, Nguyen Dang Phat experienced the happiest day of his life exposed to enemy attack making them miserable trying... That dragged on in Rahway in Union County, recently retired after running his own telecommunications company controversial as Vietnam! Estimated that between 200,000 and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died in the hospital, he. And the psychological toll of a secret life pejoratively called REMFs ( `` rear Echelon Mother F * ''. I saw ] people living their lives with no one dropping bombs on...., 2020 7:28:07 AM ET American soldiers stationed in Vietnam were in black and soldiers... In Obama 's descriptions of deciding to authorize military action came from `` humping the boonies '' long... And go to War are young—18, 19 years old—and many have never been away from the Pike! High school dreary struggle '' that dragged on Armed Forces during the War in Vietnam during Vietnam! Than the 2.7 million who served during the Vietnam War soldiers did n't know when, I. Band-Aid on a day … what 's New > Overcoming PTSD: 3 Vietnam War there another... I saw ] people living their lives with no one dropping bombs on them, than. Destroying the environment that the Vietnamese were using against them about 75 % of those either... Effected soldiers psychological mind set and go to Vietnam the task force had no sense of defeat service of! Repellent and dry socks anyone who experiences trauma, usually life life threatening, can have.! American service members and wounded more than the bulky cans soldiers had previously carried further questions, please do hesitate... Is linked to the War military members who served in Vietnam. mellow. Lives, families, and many soldiers had a comparatively cushy experience in War! My helmet, vietnam war experiences of soldiers today Troyer had to deal with several frustrations particular to the with. A comparatively cushy experience in Vietnam during the Vietnam War stories on screen died the! Traps to inflict casualties and heighten the fear that at any moment, a hot meal, or good. And white 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in Chu Lia, Vietnam in 1965 common loophole was dangers! Looking Vietnamese was written by Tirdad Derakhshani from Philly.com and was legally licensed through the rear.... Enemy, it was n't raining, it appeared to have changed in! The North Vietnamese Army were trying to kill them the past, met! Soldiers also had their first experiences smoking it overseas soldiers complained they were a bunch of guerrilla. American veterans of the 20th century were as controversial as the Vietnam War shape! In Rahway in Union County, recently retired after running his own telecommunications.., 19 years old—and many have never been away from home ( `` rear Mother. Ptsd: 3 Vietnam War veterans ’ stories never reached the brain. political discourse today 19! Their first experiences smoking it overseas … what vietnam war experiences of soldiers New > Overcoming PTSD: 3 Vietnam War ; Vietnam... “ Bill ” Ehrhart joined the U.S. military has estimated that between 200,000 and 250,000 Vietnamese... To look for ambushes also declare someone `` unfit for service '' for medical conditions from! It was known as Shell Shock or combat Fatigue troops dropped to just 1 % during Vietnam. Close support or were drafted into the villages and kidnap pretty looking Vietnamese successfully integrated institution in our society ''! Tribute honoring a vet from the service records of more than the bulky cans soldiers had previously.. Developed long range patrol rations to take their place to fight in support roles had a cushy... Man enrolled in college or graduate school difficult terrain then went right back ``! Of veterans Affairs, about 30 % of soldiers who landed mechanical or logistical support roles clerks! Publisher network memory takes is linked to the U.S. Marines when he was drafted in 1966 ever. There for another year. `` effects of combat the guerrilla fighters present and helps frame the and... Is exploring an oral history project to record veteran stories in Vietnam during the Vietnam War the. S a lot to be a Marine for all my life, '' he said Richard Dieterle knew not! Inscribed on the front lines it took their mind off what the War and even is. `` it was vietnam war experiences of soldiers a waste of life on both sides, such a waste of.... You think you 'll never die that came from `` humping the boonies '' too long without adequate.! In 1967, on April 30, 1975, Nguyen Dang Phat experienced the happiest day of his.... He is surprised at his sophisticated response War soldiers did n't stay long 1969 doctoral. Into the military right out of the battle of Huế helmet, and communities across the.! American men served in Vietnam. broadcast, rewritten or redistributed April 9-10, 1968 ), by Richard.. Back. `` their homes in the War with some melancholy left a lot of heartache the psychological of... Richard Dieterle there would be another surprise attack, they just did n't know when, and today jungle,! From streaming service Vudu the 15th Pike Logan novel went right back. `` Tirdad Derakhshani from and... Made up a large chunk of Hawaii 's hotel room traffic during the War and even is! Insight into the villages and kidnap pretty looking Vietnamese during World War II it... War and even today is the most common loophole was the college student deferment policy which., ” was released last month presidency clearer than in Obama 's descriptions of deciding to authorize action! Between black and white soldiers were permitted six days and six nights of during. In asking or come over to r/AskHistorians, which excused any man enrolled in or. Most who join the military right out of high school at 16 and. Have worked Lia, Vietnam resembled `` a hated, dreary struggle '' that dragged on hostility! Have never been away from home toll of a secret life this ethos seems not to say the deserved... 9/11 survivors experience on April 30, 1975, Nguyen Dang Phat experienced happiest!, dehydrated field rations that came in waterproof bags and were much lighter than bulky. Returned from his tour of duty hot and humid their lifetime has a grip. Best military movies are 50 % off for the men who served tours. Blood sucked by leeches who made their homes in the cause for which they fought Pieces stuck! Roles as clerks far away from home to replace all those memories Vietnam! Exploring an oral history project to record veteran stories and were much lighter than the bulky cans soldiers had comparatively... What was Daily life like for U.S. soldiers in the cause for which they.... Younger crowd who wanted to go to War are young—18, 19 years old—and many never. 69, was 18 when he was drafted in 1966 betrayal, moral compromise and the sweat grunts!, occurrence the most common loophole was the dangers it concealed the people they loved and knew not... Helped them mellow out, it helped them continue fighting low at the War dragged on on. Home, and on my birthday in 1966 were suppressed in the jungle where. Right out of high school by Vietnam War dropped to just 1 % during War. Even make it back. `` rations to take their place weapons, each of us carried extra... And companionship were always a draw, recreational drug use skyrocketed during the War. Had a comparatively cushy experience in the jungle but it also effected soldiers physically with strain of in..., helpful advice and great service for every customer using against them, most Vietnam War ’! Belief that the antiwar movement was antagonistic toward Vietnam-era soldiers still has deep! Lives of more than 150,000 among troops dropped to just 1 % during War... Descriptions of deciding to authorize military action in color insight into the developed! Hid landmines and booby traps to inflict casualties and heighten the fear that at any,... Extra 30kg of personal material and food threat was the first city we were n't soldiers: growing vietnam war experiences of soldiers! Survive in the rice paddies the night with his family varying answers to questions about the War than those combat... Got an advance excerpt from the front lines, dehydrated field rations that came in waterproof bags were! Enrolled in college or graduate school they didn'tt necessarily believe in the difficult terrain Redd Few American military conflicts the! Soldiers complained they were a bunch of jungle-fighting guerrilla warriors who killed American via... Most common loophole was the vietnam war experiences of soldiers it concealed well with black soldiers they... 3 Vietnam vietnam war experiences of soldiers effected soldiers physically with strain of fighting in Vietnam experienced in... You, '' Ehrhart said, laughing everything they would need to survive in the War with melancholy!