For my undergraduate thesis I wrote a lengthy paper about the Vietnam War, specifically, what soldiers felt about the war as they were fighting it. I will serialize this thesis on my blog in an attempt to shed some light on what I feel is an important topic. Here now is part one.
Ever since the United States was formed in the late 18th Century, there have been wars that this nation has had to fight, some internal and some external. In the 20th Century the nature of war changed, and it became more deadly and costly than ever before. The two World Wars altered the course of history, with the United States emerging as the largest of the world’s powers. Following the end of World War II, the U.S. took on the role of peacekeeper and watchdog for the world, and had only one challenger for supremacy, the communist Soviet Union. Communism, and everything that the Soviets stood for was contrary to the American ideals of freedom and democracy, but unlike the Nazis whose ideology was rooted in Germany, communism was not limited to Russia.
The fact that many nations succumbed to communism following World War II (China in 1949, Cuba in 1958 and the North Koreans in the 1940’s) showed the U.S. that there was not one enemy to fight, but many. While most in the U.S. during the early Cold War believed the international communist conspiracy came directly from the Kremlin, an all out war with the U.S.S.R. was not an option. Vietnam, therefore, became the American battlefield against communism, and the supposed beginning of the end for the Russians.
It was, however, not that simple, and in 1965 U.S. troops began fighting a war that they could not win, in spite of efforts made by the government earlier. Did these men who volunteered or that were drafted know that they were fighting an unwinnable war? Were they aware that this war was different from the ones their fathers and older brothers had fought in before? Did they know that no matter how many times we beat the Viet Cong in battle that the enemy would never give up? In these blog entries, the feelings of the everyday soldier will be explored to figure out what they felt and knew as they fought against an ideology as opposed to a more conventional enemy.
Said U.S. Army Officer John K. Walker, “This isn’t a war for territory, it’s a war for the hearts and minds of the people.”