VIETNAM – What does that name mean to you?
If you were born after 1975, like half of our population, it probably has little or no meaning. For the other half who witnessed the war in Southeast Asia, it may still conjure up mixed emotions or it has simply faded from memory. But for those involved firsthand, it still has significant meaning, one not reduced to catch all words like ‘quagmire.’ Why is that?
My soon to be published fictional historical narrative, Recall, could serve as a primer on that controversial period of history and may answer that question. Presented from the perspective of my characters, who served with nine million others in that conflict over the decade, I hope to provide some insight into the contentious nature of that war.
It was a war based on the geopolitical pretext of ‘Domino Theory’. The premise proposed that communism would spread in the region and if Vietnam should fall, others would topple. JFK followed Eisenhower’s mindset that America could not allow communism to flourish in Southeast Asia as it was perceived to present a national threat. Thus, we became military advisors and bankrollers in 1961 to South Vietnam.
Actions have consequences, some unintentional and unfortunate. After JFK’s assassination in 1963, LBJ became president and his decisions compounded the ill-fated war effort. CIA intelligence estimates from that period were declassified in the 1980’s, and document his misguided policies. Self imposed restrictions on the military are self-defeating. Goals and victory must be defined. And, above all, the public should not be deceived. LBJ was guilty on all charges of deception. Rather than being dedicated to winning the war, he was dedicated not to lose it.
Vietnam brings up negative connotations based on many misconceptions.Vietnam was not a military failure, but a foreign policy failure. It represented an era of lessons unlearned or ignored from prior history.
It turned out that war divided the country and polarized political thought for the following decades. And perhaps Vietnam’s outcome may explain the political rancor pervading American society to this day. Civil discourse is in shambles.
The 50th anniversary of the 1968 North Vietnamese Tet offensive comes up next January. Although no major South Vietnam cities were lost in battle and the kill ratio was fifteen to one in America’s favor, there were still 4,000 American body bags. These body bags became pivotal in the anti-war protests and American opinion became the first domino to fall. The war was not lost militarily, but on U.S.streets and campuses and in the hamlets of South Vietnam.
The novel traces these historical events against the background of the cultural revolution that evolved in the 1960’s seen through the eyes of the protagonists. Their story may give you a different perspective of that era. I certainly hope the reader gains some understanding of Vietnam from those who served there half a century ago. Many authoritative accounts have been written for reference, but this novel attempts to personalize the Vietnam experience.