Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - November 22, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta
THE IETHBRID6E HERALD Wednesday, Novomber 11, VIETNAM WAS DIFFERENT In the autumn of '65... By TOSI TIEDE NEW YORK (NEA) Henry Kissinger was a college re- searcher. Madame Nguyen Thi Binh a housewife, Le Due Tho generally unknown and Rich- ard Nixon praclicetl law in Manhattan. In the autumn of 19C5, when the United States be- gan in earnest to go to war again, all was different in Viet- nam. It was a new experiment. "Conceived in as the planners put it. The facts were clear: America was helping a friend. The autumn of '65. U.S. in- volvement in Southeast Asia was already 15 years old. troop strength in Vietnam alone was more than some 25-30 names were recorded on the weekly casualty lists but only a few back home wonder- ed why. ft was a different day. a dif- ferent world. Those who pro- tested always wore sandals and needed their toenails cut. The idea, alter all, was to defend democracy. Arid Americans set about it with patriotic unity, if not much actual interest. Six trips 1 made the first ol six trips to KICK-OFF TIME Footballs new Hall of Fame in Hamilton, Ontario, is due to open next week. For a sneak peek ol what it's like, ready Andy O'Brien's article this Saturday IN YOUR IETHBRIDGE HERALD WEEKEND MAGAZINE the combat zone in the autumn of 19B5. I remember Milton Olive, as example. "A nice lad, 18 years old, from Chicago. Carried a "II'U l.n.l 1 UIU, IIU1II a -Where are you going' a he an3 read it. One day on patrol with a unit of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, he and several others had clustered in a group during a firefighl. A hand grenade was tossed in be- tween them. Everybody scat- tered except Milt Olive. He grabbed the grenade and pulled it into his stomach. He was never to read the Bible again. And nobody who was there, no- body who knew him, could have anything except condemnation [or the side that committed the friend asked. T replied. "What "The irar." "Lucky you. 1 sure would like to travel." But if the homefolks were naive, so were many of us, newsmen and GI's, at the front. There was no front, but we had to say the front in the autumn of '65, because that's the way past wars had been described and too Few of us had the per- ception to view tliis much dif- ferently. It was, no doubt, World War II all over. Right vs. wrong. Good vs. evil. "I am explained 21- year-old Pfc. Harold Pruitt, of Salem, in October of that year, "to contain the enemy. I think sometimes the American people forget that. But if we don't stop them here, we'll be fighting them next in Califor- nia or New York." He said it proudly. I wrote it the same. Within two months more than 50.000 readers responded with letters, to "Any GT in Vietnam." asserting that a believing Am- erica hadn't really forgotten. Difficult Indeed, it was difficult to think otherwise but patriotical- ly then. Especially for those on the scene. In war. even debat- able war. it's Us vs. Them, [or the participants. When friends die, whoever does the killing is the enemy and never mind the philosphica] arguments. murder. Hundreds There were, of course, hun- dreds of other Mill Olives in the autumn of And regard- less of one's views on the mor- ality of the situation, there can be no denying those people had a special fortitude fighting as they were in the unpopular con- flict, forgotten as they were by most everybody but their own family Again, not many slopped to consider who the sol- diers (mostly) were. Eighteen-, IS-. 20-year-old kids from mid- le class down. Kids who didn't have the money to buy their way out of the war via college. Kids so woven into the fabric of their nation that they did not, at the time, have the cheek to object. Kids. That's something else ridiculous. We called them kids, or boys. Like hell they were. They were young men. And I shall always believe they deserved better than they >ot. SIMPSONS bears COMPLETE NURSERY ENSEMBLE FOR UNDER 100 Set Is of hordwood construction. Deluxe White non-loxic enamel finish. Safety-lock hardware on crib, steel springs, teething rail, Chest, 30x17x32" high, has centre-guided drawers. Nursery chest for Toys. Vinyl covered coil spring mafrress and marching half length bumper pad. NOW ONLY 99 Complete holiday outfits or pretty, I arty dress-ups ut one low price! NOW 100% Turbn acrylic bonded lunle lop and flare pan (5. 65% poly- cot Ion blend blouse. 3-pc. oulfii. Sizei 4-S-6-6x. Chooid from a----Red Plaid, front-butloned lunic. Pants have elajticiiod back waist. Whife, lono-sleeve blouse with pointed collar. Chocked y o k o- fronl tunic and matching pants. Cuf- fed, lonq sleeve Brown blouia with smorl, conlrashng stilching. Plaid, paich-poclol tunic ond pants. back-butloned, oil-collar hlouio. Dainty flockt-d voilr and dolled ss porly drosses in a polyeitsr and coiton blond. Each in matehod- up with o iwishy, rnyon toff eta, oce-odgod Yummy, confec- ionnry colours in emorled holiday irinti. Chttdrort'i Wftnr JTORt HOURS; Opnn Doily 9 p.m. In J 30 p.m. Thimrloy ond Friday 9 n.m If, p.m. Conlrn Villngn Tnl.phono There was the one from Cleveland, who had his legs blown off by a land mine, and who died before he received UIB Dear John letter from a girl who did nol want a cripple. There was Terly Hinson, from Texas, who joined the Army at 16, killed his firsl man al 17, then became part of Ihe reason for an age limil requirement in So V'teast Asia. There was Ev- erett Goias. San Francisco, a jolly sort who friends said didn't have any enemy in the world, except one the lellow wlin shot him seven times one No- vember afternoon and killed him. And there was Ihe man, I don't know if he was ever iden- tified, whom we found one time propped up against an anthill, cooking in the sun; all the flesh had been stripped from the up- per part of his body, all his teeth had been knocked out. all his lingernails cut off; there were no bullet holes in the corpse and speculation was it took him days to expire. Seeing these men, dead like that. T suppose, was an argu- ment supporting Ihe ethical ap- alhy of the lime. Seeing them nightly, in newspapers, on tele- vision, it is no wonder the pub- lic did not protest when escal- ation after escalation was an- nounced in the autumn of '65. The original war purpose, help- ing a friend, was already giving way to the ultimate cause, pro- tecting our people. Rare thing And this in turn gave rise lo a rare phenomenon in Ihe pur- suil of combal: the United Slates began lo blame the Soulh Vietnamese for the predica- ment, the obviously deepening dilemma, and in time began to hate its allies as much or more than its enemy. Soldiers arriv- ing in Saigon, lale in 1965, had learned from the soldiers who had gone before that the na- lion consisted of whores, grafl- ers, and shrimp soldiers who slept on guard duly. Rare was Ihe man in American uniform here who had anything but con- tempt for the "gooks." Some of this contempt, lo be sure, was legilimale. By late 1965, most South Vietnamese ci- ties of any size were havens for draft dodgers (estimates go up to a quarter mili- tary deserters (al one period in Ihe war South Vielnam- ese soldiers ran away from Iheir units each and crooked merchants. In Cu Chi, for instance, GI's from the 25th Division used to pay for a sure case of TO, for taxi rides that formerly cosl a few pennies, and 10 times Ihe pro- per amount for ice blocks that invariably melted in hall by the time they were carried lo camp. VIETNAM: THE HUMAN COST (1961-1972) American; KiHd Wounded Died of NonTnlal wounds Missing Died while mining Hemmed Captured Died while raplured Rcllirncd 1 Current cnphired Deaths From nil craft diMiallics not resulting from hostile nctioa Ciitrent Dentlis from aircraft accidentslincidcnU Dcnihs Irnm other cnuie Total deaths Grand lolal Jraths South Vietnameso Kined Wounded Dosi not inchfa February 1968 Tri }0.000 Lilian hi! Ibtir dVtj, in- eluding the Hue majiac.it o! won than by Menu Dept, DOM nol incfWg liyurti. US. reporls all Buried, South Viet. IrpOfl on If IflOM of whisky for the first one to chop off a Viet Cong head. Protested Nguyen Van Phuoc, n student leader of the time, was one of the few Vietnamese who pro- tested the GI disgraces. He pub- lished a newspaper at the Uni- versity, and was formally cen- sored by Saigon authorities for advocating U.S.-South Vietnam- Cheated Often, the soldiers were more than cheated by the allies, they were victimized, loo. When the First Air Cavrn'y set up shop outside An Khe, in September of 1965, troopers were forbidden entrance into the village. "We've found things like ground up glass in the explain- ed a Division officer. That wasn't all they found.. In An Khe and other places GI's were too often exposed to booby- trapped children, Viet Cong as- sassins (who had working ar- rangements with local and, in many memorable in- stances, bars that specialized in luring new customers for their heroin trade. So It was that Americans came to hate their friends. And even in the autumn of '65 with My Lai more than a year olf, the contempt was going beyond civilities. A GI trucker (25th In- fantry) ran down a child, laugh- ing. A Long Range Reconnais- sance Patrol (273rd Airhorne Brigade) was adept at bringing back dead enemy ears and sell- ing them. Whc'n bored, some sol- diers would get their jollies hy shooting down farm animals and carving their initials in the hide. One battalion com- mander offered his men a case ese peace "How co u 1 d you bring he was asked "The best "The best way." "I'd shoot every American as he got off the boat." All was not total bitterness between the allies, of course. It was still 1965, remember, and people were still seeing tights at the end of the tunnel, and charity lived. U.S. physicians volunteered time from their ca- reers to work, without pay, in what passed for Vietnamese hospitals (in the Can Tho civ- ilian hospital an American doc- tor estimated that 40 per cent of the patients GI's collected food and money for otherwise friendless orph- an. I remember a French nurse on the northern side of Tay Ninh city asking: "What would we do wihtout the She ran s leper colony, Her 400 patients were outcasts. The grounds were littered with erod- ing flesh and dying human be- ings. Yet: "The Americans give us everything. It makes the pa- comfortable. That is a very great favor for us." Healing up And so it was, in the autumn ol 1965. The war was just heat- ing up. But all the heroics and horrors of it were already in evidence. James Wright of Dal- las, Id, wondering in a hospital bed whether or not his bomb- mangled face could ever be made right. Craig Smith, a Mexican American, vomitting at the sight of his first dead body. Dr. Buck Harper, an Army captain, saving the legs of a Vietnamese infant in a crude Army tent. There was en- ergy, enthusiasm, even optim- ism as the United States "on the side of as one chap- lain said, began to let blood. "If I had to guess." said a top general, "I'd say it'll all be over in-side a year." There were a lot of us caught i up in that enthusiasm and op- timism of the autumn of I9fi5. Not only generals and .soldiers, but newsmen, politicians and private citizens. Remember? We all, most of us, applauded then. And now, two-and-a-halt-mil- h'on Americans in Vietnam lat- er, 56 thousand GI's have lost their lives, 80 per cent under hostile conditions. More than others have been wound- ed, hah" of whom have been hos- pitalized and three per cent to- tally disabled. Nearly one mil- lion Vietnamese soldiers, on both sides, have perished. Per- haps a million civilians In South Vietnam have been killed or wounded, 100.000 women have lost their husbands, and children have become war or- phans. Now we al! look back and, loo late, finally wonder why. (Newspaper Enterprise Assn.) Serve up the pancakes ROGERS' Pancake Syrup Pour on the Rogers'! 1 ROGERS'PANCAKE SYRUP wilh Iho golden flavor ol cnnn-Riirjar syrupl also take homo ROGERS' GOLDEN SYRUP In Iho lln handy pinsllc conlnlnnr. For a Iron ROGERS' BOOK, wrila: B.C. Sugar Rolniiriq Co. Ltd., Rogors Streol, Vancouvor, B.C.