The Plight of American Soldiers in Vietnam War

Published: 2021-07-07
1991 words
8 pages
17 min to read
George Washington University
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In the 1950s communism had become a threat to the existence of democracy in the United States. As a result, Senator Joseph McCarthy began to launch a hunt for communists who were believed to have infiltrated the United States. Senator McCarthy believed that there were a number of paid communist spies and agents who had infiltrated the U.S. government and agencies. From his analysis, Senator McCarthy feared that the communist's spies did not only offer a threat to accessing the blueprints of our weapons but were also permitted the enemy the chance to guide the process of foreign policy formation in our country. The US troops who were sent to fight communism faced numerous challenges arising from different quotas and the challenge of fighting in a new environment.

The United States had chosen to engage in war for the acts of treason that had been perpetrated against it. One of the explanations behind the countrys inactivity was the emotional hang-over and the disregard for moral values which war had on the people. It was also perceived that war caused apathy among the citizens as a result of getting exposed to the tremendous acts of evil which come with war. Those were the profound effects that war had on a population and due to that, it was necessary for the government to adopt other channels of dealing with communism threat without engaging in war. However, Senator McCarthy noted that the emotions of the people had not been destroyed, but all it called for was a spark to rekindle it (224).

The United States then engaged at war with Vietnam at a period where there had been a consensus to end the cold war. At first, the war had gone unnoticed, but by the mid-1960s it had become a major discussion issue in the political and public domain in the United States (273). There a constant debate on the reasons for American involvement in the Vietnam War. This concern came as a result of the very many issues that had been noted about the war and the huge loss of life by American soldiers who had been sent to take part in the war. Evidently, it became a daunting task to maintain military discipline given the conditions in which the war took place and all the factors which affected the well-being of U.S. troops in Vietnam.

To give an assurance to the public concern, President Kennedy tried to give an explanation to the American public as to why the country was engaging in the Vietnam War. In his assessment. President Kennedy notes the continuous communist threats that were experienced in Vietnam was equally a threat to the United States. Communism posed a threat to democracy which was held in high regard in the United States. For this reason, it was important to advocate for democratic establishments in other parts of the world with the knowledge that such establishment would translate to the well-being of the American people. Bobbie Lou Pendergrass gave an account of the events that led to the demise of his brother in the Vietnam War. Their family begged for an answer on why American involvement was so important in the Vietnam War. In a way, the sought the Presidents assurance that the life of their sibling was never in vain and was fighting for the greater good of the American well-being. I believe if you can see this as he must have seen it, you will believe as he must have believed that he did not die in vain (275). From this response, the President gave the assurance that the war was worth it because it advocated and fought for Americas interest.

The Vietnam War carried great significance to the policy makers, and as a result, they sought to influence the activities of the military in Vietnam directly. In 1966, the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara gave an assessment of the Vietnam War. His findings establish that the military action by the United States had, by and large, derailed the military operations of the communists in Vietnam (276). McNamara noted that the military operations in Vietnam had significantly affected the operations of the communist rebels and met the primary goal which the United States projected to achieve. The situation was, however, attracting pessimism because the U.S. military action did not break the enemy morale. The rebels intended to maintain a low profile as they waited for the U.S. Army to become complacent upon which they would pounce and launch a revenge action on the U.S. troops. Due to that, it was becoming imperative for establishing a long-term plan that would end the communist advances and allow a smooth exit for the U.S. troops.

McNamara noted that there has been a large number of enemy killed-in-action resulting from large military operations (277). Evidently, this served as a substantial gain which had been made in regards to combating Communism in North Vietnam. This enormous number allowed the United States to make an exaggeration of the effects that their military action had on the communists hence justifying their presence and war on the communist organizations.

McNamara gave an outline of the recommended actions that needed to be taken to handle the issue of growing communist activities in Vietnam appropriately. As part of the recommended actions, McNamara states that we should limit the increase in U.S. forces (277). This is one strategy that was thought to stabilize the Us troops in Vietnam effectively. The vast number of troops who were already present in Vietnam were seen to be enough to neutralize the threats of the communist forces while interrupting their pacification activities. The communist forces had shown a tendency of waiting out the U.S. troops which resulted in the need to have a long-term plan that would allow the troops to remain in constant pursuit of the communists. According to McNamara, a stabilized U.S. force level would be part of such a long-term program.(278)

Perhaps another way of handling the issue of the insurgent communist forces was to install a barrier. According to McNamara, 10, 000 to 20, 000 of the U.S. troop should have been devoted to the construction and maintenance of an infiltration barrier. (278). It was argued that the construction of the wall would reduce the number of communists agents to the southern section of Vietnam which did not engage in communist practices. McNamara also noted that stabilizing the rolling thunder initiative against the rebellious Northern side of Vietnam. The communist rebels heavily relied on trucks, spares, and petroleum. Therefore cutting off the supply of these materials would gradually cripple the activities of the communist groups in northern Vietnam.

McNamara also proposed that the revolutionary programs which had stalled to be revived and pursued vigorously. Success in pacification depends on the interrelated functions of providing physical security, destroying the Viet Cong apparatus, motivating the people to cooperate and establishing a responsive local government. (279). According to McNamara, it was imperative to ensure that the forces provided physical security to the people who had denounced the communism while at the same time launching attacks on the Viet Cong forces as a way of limiting the ability to carry out attacks. According to McNamara, engaging in negotiations was also one of the ways that the United States troops and the government would have handled the communist uprisings in Vietnam. Analysis of communists statements and actions indicate that they firmly believe that American leadership does not want the fighting to stop (280). However, to reach a long-term solution, it was important for the American leadership to change that perception by offering to engage in constructive negotiations.

As part of the prognosis, McNamara notes that communism would not be solved through military action and neither will negotiations give a long-term solution. He recommends that a pursuit of both these objectives are likely to give the U.S. government desired outcome of ending communism and establishing a stable local government in Vietnam.

The war on communism had been affected by several factors which included a lapse in the military discipline in a war that had little approval from the home country. Soldiers in Vietnam knew that they were fighting in a controversial war (281). Robert D. Heinl Jr. gave an account of how military discipline had collapsed among the troops taking part in the Vietnam War. Robert stated that the moral, discipline levels and ability to take part in a battle had plummeted to lower levels possibly never witnessed in the United States history. The effects of the war were having a tolling effect on the soldiers that they had started to refuse to engage in combats as well as refusing to obey direct orders from their superiors.

Common crime, drug addiction, and the social turbulence within the camp contributed heavily to the deteriorating levels of discipline in the military camps in Vietnam. Henl states that to understand the tremendous collapse of the military operations in Vietnam, it is imperative to understand the psychological environment which Vietnam Presented to the US soldiers. It was heavily taxing for the military personnel to witness the mass killings that were taking place in a war that the U.S. citizens did not approve. It then appeared to them that the war was not worth taking part as it would end in vain with a massive loss of lives as one of the grave consequences.

Indiscipline cases had risen so high to the extent that soldiers openly refused to engage at combats. Instead, they would pick some of their belongings and move to other camps to visit their friends. Many guys do not even put shirts on anymore (282). This is just but an indication of the high levels of indiscipline which had started taking root among the U.S troops. The frontier of Laos also witnessed the same cases where officers refused to take part in combat. According to Henl, this is one of the grave crimes that can be committed by a soldier. However, that did not matter to the U.S. troops as they felt that they were participating in a war that did not have approval back at home.

It is a truism that national armies closely reflect societies from which they have been raised (283). According to Henl, many officers had been alluded to have participated in some criminal violations. For this reason, Henl stated that the utter display of lack of discipline among the military offers was a reflection of the very social issues that affected the United States as a country. From the statistics from the Armed Forces, Henl states that it is a clear indication of the drug pandemic issues and erosion of moral values which are currently being witnessed in the United States.

Communism did not only prove to have an enormous impact on the countrys foreign policy making but also had a significant influence on the personal lives of soldiers who had taken part in the communist war in the Vietnam War. Arthur E. Woodley Jr. gave an oral interview of his experience in the Vietnam War and how the experience has impacted his life after coming back. I thought communism was spreading, and as an American citizen, it was my part to as much as I could to defeat the communist from coming here (285).Arthur was brought up with the notion that the United States as right in all its undertakings. As a result, they were about capturing prisoners, burning down villages or killing certain groups of individuals because it was necessary for the process. He never questioned the orders which he was given, but he proceeded to do as his seniors instructed him. I put my M-16 next to his head. Next to his temple (286). These words indicate just how much the agony the soldiers went through in the battlefields to the extent of cutting the colleagues life jus to end their pain and suffering.

All these events had a huge impact on their...

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