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Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs
The image of the drug-addicted American soldier—disheveled, glassy-eyed, his uniform adorned with slogans of antiwar dissent—has long been associated with the Vietnam War. More specifically, it has persisted as an explanation for the U.S. defeat, the symbol of a demoralized army incapable of carrying out its military mission. Yet as Jeremy Kuzmarov documents in this deeply researched book, popular assumptions about drug use in Vietnam are based more on myth than fact. Not only was alcohol the intoxicant of choice for most GIs, but the prevalence of other drugs varied enormously. Although marijuana use among troops increased over the course of the war, for the most part it remained confined to rear areas, and the use of highly addictive drugs like heroin was never as widespread as many imagined. Like other cultural myths that emerged from the war, the concept of an addicted army was first advanced by war hawks seeking a scapegoat for the failure of U.S. policies in Vietnam, in this case one that could be linked to “permissive” liberal social policies and the excesses of the counterculture. But conservatives were not alone. Ironically, Kuzmarov shows, elements of the antiwar movement also promoted the myth, largely because of a presumed alliance between Asian drug traffickers and the Central Intelligence Agency. While this claim was not without foundation, as new archival evidence confirms, the left exaggerated the scope of addiction for its own political purposes. Exploiting bipartisan concern over the perceived “drug crisis,” the Nixon administration in the early 1970s launched a bold new program of federal antidrug measures, especially in the international realm. Initially, the “War on Drugs” helped divert attention away from the failed quest for “peace with honor” in Southeast Asia. But once institutionalized, it continued to influence political discourse as well as U.S. drug policy in the decades that followed.
Memoirs of a Victim Turned Soldier
This extraordinary memoir tells the story of one man's experience of the wars of Viet Nam from the time he was old enough to be aware of war in the 1940s until his departure for America 15 years after the collapse of South Viet Nam in 1975. Nguyen Cong Luan was born and raised in small villages near Ha Noi. He grew up knowing war at the hands of the Japanese, the French, and the Viet Minh. Living with wars of conquest, colonialism, and revolution led him finally to move south and take up the cause of the Republic of Viet Nam, exchanging a life of victimhood for one of a soldier. His stories of village life in the north are every bit as compelling as his stories of combat and the tragedies of war. This honest and impassioned account is filled with the everyday heroism of the common people of his generation.
A Brother's Journey to Wartime Vietnam
Tom Reilly idolized his older brother, Ron. After their parentsÆ unexpected early deaths, Ron protected his younger brother and taught him the ways of the world. Ron was a charismatic and worldly career soldier, and his kid brother thought of him as a mentor and hero. In July 1970, Ron died halfway around the world in Vietnam. When the Army provided no explanation except that RonÆs death was not due to combat, the nineteen-year-old author set off on an incredible journey to war-torn South Vietnam to find answers, to seek revenge if necessary, and to come to terms with his loss.
Next of Kin begins in small-town Wisconsin, where TomÆs peaceful childhood is shattered by the deaths of his parents. Later, Tom makes it on his own as a runaway, has unforgettable adventures with his brother in a seedy Mexican border town, and is nearly paralyzed with grief when he learns of RonÆs death. On his singular journey to Southeast Asia, Tom evades the police in Bangkok, is smuggled across the enemy-controlled Ho Chi Minh Trail into South Vietnam, fends for himself in Saigon, and survives a mortar attack and a bout with malaria all to find out the truth about his brotherÆs death. Next of Kin is a touching story of sibling love and family tragedy that will appeal even to those without any connection to the Vietnam War.
The Home Front and the Aftermath in American Narratives of the Vietnam War
The lingering aftereffects of the Vietnam War resonate to this day throughout American society: in foreign policy, in attitudes about the military and war generally, and in the contemporary lives of members of the so-called baby boom generation who came of age during the 1960s and early 1970s. While the best-known personal accounts of the war tend to center on the experience of combat, Maureen Ryan’s The Other Side of Grief examines the often overlooked narratives—novels, short stories, memoirs, and films—that document the war’s impact on the home front. In analyzing the accounts of Vietnam veterans, women as well as men, Ryan focuses on the process of readjustment, on how the war continued to insinuate itself into their lives, their families, and their communities long after they returned home. She looks at the writings of women whose husbands, lovers, brothers, and sons served in Vietnam and whose own lives were transformed as a result. She also appraises the experiences of the POWs who came to be embraced as the war’s only heroes; the ordeal of Vietnamese refugees who fled their “American War” to new lives in the United States; and the influential movement created by those who committed themselves to protesting the war. The end result of Ryan’s investigations is a cogent synthesis of the vast narrative literature generated by the Vietnam War and its aftermath. Together those stories powerfully demonstrate how deeply the legacies of the war penetrated American culture and continue to reverberate still.
Major Richard J. Meadows of the U.S. Army Special Forces
Major Richard J. “Dick” Meadows is renowned in military circles as a key figure in the development of the U.S. Army Special Operations. A highly decorated war veteran of the engagements in Korea and Vietnam, Meadows was instrumental in the founding of the U.S. Delta Force and hostage rescue force. Although he officially retired in 1977, Meadows could never leave the army behind, and he went undercover in the clandestine operations to free American hostages from Iran in 1980. The Quiet Professional: Major Richard J. Meadows of the U.S. Army Special Forces is the only biography of this exemplary soldier’s life. Military historian Alan Hoe offers unique insight into Meadows, having served alongside him in 1960. The Quiet Professional is an insider’s account that gives a human face to U.S. military strategy during the cold war. Major Meadows often claimed that he never achieved anything significant; The Quiet Professional proves otherwise, showcasing one of the great military minds of twentieth-century America.
Operation Lam Son 719 and Vietnamization in Laos
A Vietnam Helicopter Pilot's War Story
Rattler One-Seven puts you in the helicopter seat, to see the war in Vietnam through the eyes of an inexperienced pilot as he transforms himself into a seasoned combat veteran. When Chuck Gross left for Vietnam in 1970, he was a nineteen-year-old Army helicopter pilot fresh out of flight school. He spent his entire Vietnam tour with the 71st Assault Helicopter Company flying UH-1 Huey helicopters. Soon after the war he wrote down his adventures, while his memory was still fresh with the events. Rattler One-Seven (his call sign) is written as Gross experienced it, using these notes along with letters written home to accurately preserve the mindset he had while in Vietnam. During his tour Gross flew Special Operations for the MACV-SOG, inserting secret teams into Laos. He notes that Americans were left behind alive in Laos, when official policy at home stated that U.S. forces were never there. He also participated in Lam Son 719, a misbegotten attempt by the ARVN to assault and cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail with U.S. Army helicopter support. It was the largest airmobile campaign of the war and marked the first time that the helicopter was used in mid-intensity combat, with disastrous results. Pilots in their early twenties, with young gunners and a Huey full of ARVN soldiers, took on experienced North Vietnamese antiaircraft artillery gunners, with no meaningful intelligence briefings or a rational plan on how to cut the Trail. More than one hundred helicopters were lost and more than six hundred aircraft sustained combat damage. Gross himself was shot down and left in the field during one assault. Rattler One-Seven will appeal to those interested in the Vietnam War and to all armed forces, especially aviators, who have served for their country.
The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam
Using recently released archival materials from the United States and Europe, Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam explains how and why the United States came to assume control as the dominant western power in Vietnam during the 1950s. Acting on their conviction that American methods had a better chance of building a stable, noncommunist South Vietnamese nation, Eisenhower administration officials systematically ejected French military, economic, political, bureaucratic, and cultural institutions from Vietnam. Kathryn C. Statler examines diplomatic maneuvers in Paris, Washington, London, and Saigon to detail how Western alliance members sought to transform South Vietnam into a modern, westernized, and democratic ally but ultimately failed to counter the Communist threat. Abetted by South Vietnamese prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem, Americans in Washington, D.C., and Saigon undermined their French counterparts at every turn, resulting in the disappearance of a French presence by the time Kennedy assumed office. Although the United States ultimately replaced France in South Vietnam, efforts to build South Vietnam into a nation failed. Instead, it became a dependent client state that was unable to withstand increasing Communist aggression from the North. Replacing France is a fundamental reassessment of the origins of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that explains how Franco-American conflict led the United States to pursue a unilateral and ultimately imperialist policy in Vietnam.
American Culture and the Vietnam War
At the height of the Vietnam War, American society was so severely fragmented that it seemed that Americans may never again share common concerns. The media and other commentators represented the impact of the war through a variety of rhetorical devices, most notably the emotionally charged metaphor of "the wound that will not heal." References in various contexts to veterans' attempts to find a "voice," and to bring the war "home" were also common. Gradually, an assured and resilient American self-image and powerful impressions of cultural collectivity transformed the Vietnam war into a device for maintaining national unity. Today, the war is portrayed as a healed wound, the once "silenced" veteran has found a voice, and the American home has accommodated the effects of Vietnam. The scar has healed, binding Americans into a union that denies the divisions, diversities, and differences exposed by the war. In this way, America is now "over" Vietnam.
In The Scar That Binds, Keith Beattie examines the central metaphors of the Vietnam war and their manifestations in American culture and life. Blending history and cultural criticism in a lucid style, this provocative book discusses an ideology of unity that has emerged through widespread rhetorical and cultural references to the war. A critique of this ideology reveals three dominant themes structured in a range of texts: the "wound," "the voice" of the Vietnam veteran, and "home." The analysis of each theme draws on a range of sources, including film, memoir, poetry, written and oral history, journalism, and political speeches. In contrast to studies concerned with representations of the war as a combat experience, The Scar That Binds opens and examines an unexplored critical space through a focus on the effects of the Vietnam War on American culture. The result is a highly original and compelling interpretation of the development of an ideology of unity in our culture.