Involvement in war affects us all
If you are a fan of PBS and AETN, you probably have seen at least part of the 10 part series on “The Vietnam War.”
The AETN magazine refers to it as “A film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick” and a Landmark Documentary Event. It certainly meets both criteria and much, much more for those of a generation affected by it. Whether a potential recruit for the military service, a spouse of those who went to serve their country or a parent whose sons were coming to the age of understanding war, the work proceeded to expose the flaws of our leaders decisions and character down to the actual film from the combat. It is a painful memory, but a reminder that in many ways it was the coming of age for a nation who has learned not all of Washington’s political decisions are made without some personal political goal in mind.
If you take time to research the situation as it developed it is difficult to pick a specific point at which our nation’s leaders began to fear the spread of Communism in the Far East. Communist-led North Vietnam wanted all of Vietnam under its control and world events were apparently testing our position as a super power. According to an article in the military newspaper ”Star and Stripes,” a Nov. 10, 2015, article by Robert H. Reid, President Kennedy told a New York Times reporter in 1961 that “we (America) have a problem making our power credible and Vietnam looks like the place.” Up to his decision to add more military advisors, the United States had less than 1,000 military non-combat troops stationed in South Vietnam as advisors, going back to the President Eisenhower era. According to the article, Kennedy increased the number to 16,000 noncombat advisors and things got progressively worse under Lyndon Johnson. The Burns-Novick series draws on information revealed toward the end of our involvement, much of which contributed greatly to the national movement to “end the war,” and the events that the nation’s leadership twisted through their reports which certainly affect the way we deal with the things today.
If you are of an age greatly affected by the events of World War II, your judgement might be biased by what you saw and heard about it. We were exposed to the threat of war here in America and prepared by regular air raid drills at school in the event bombs came raining down here as they did in the pictures of London and our European allies. The war news via radio and the newspaper, was a constant reminder of what might happen if — and rationing of gasoline and food items further emphasized that which our young minds absorbed. Families were disrupted by the drafting and volunteering of those going into military service.
At the end of World War II, movies, comic books and the news media were filled with war heroes and our obligation to defend our nation in the years to come. The stage was set for a generation of loyal American men to prove their loyalty in Korea or whenever the need arose.
At the close of the Korean conflict, the returning GIs were heroes and appreciated for their service. This attitude changed during the Vietnam War as the brutality of a lingering war was exposed through television reports and an endless flow of young men. Many volunteers were the sons of those exposed to World War II as children. The early recruits were themselves committed to the belief that America couldn’t be wrong if we were told by our leaders that the need for our efforts in Vietnam were real.
It was difficult in families where the views of husbands and wives differed on the need for the war and the future of the young men in the family who were approaching draft age. When one member of the household saw the war as wrong and the other spouse supported the commitment of those in actual combat, problems arose.
The 10-part documentary does a great job of telling the story of the young men who fought the war, the pain of those captured and the tragic loss of the families of those who gave their lives for what they believed and had been taught. The story of what went on behind the scenes in Washington, the human weakness and the need for personal recognition and acclaim, needed to be told much earlier in a seemingly endless war that no one won.
We are still seeing effects of events from that era being acted out in today in our violent protests in cities across our country. These are not protests over a lack of food or protests against a war, they come with complaints about police brutality and affect athletes with multi-year million dollar salaries. Some are not violent, some come with injury and even death and now we see protests affecting the world of sports.
America has survived much worse and came out of it morally changed. We will survive this current epidemic of discord and we will be tested in wars like Afghanistan and Iraq as long as we are the super power of the world. God willing, my grandsons will not be caught up in a 30year war such as Vietnam which pits family member against family member and costs so much needless loss of lives.