In Part One, I engaged writer Jack Durish in a debate over the causes and effects of Vietnam. In Part Two, another writer, Arthur Frank, challenges my assertions. (Note: I have neither edited nor proofed other writers’ comments; they appear here unvarnished, with typos and faulty grammar.)
Arthur Frank, Novelist:
“Timothy: It is not the dead that should concern you. There were 2 categories, black plastic bags, blown to bits in the theater of operations, and aluminum boxes, died later in field hospitals. One went out in a flash, the other went out over tie in great pain. They knew they were dying, it was only a matter of time.
“The ones that you should cry about are the wounded, dismembered, disoriented , permanently scarred to smaller or larger degrees. I got out of it pretty much unscathed, but not a lot of others. A friend of mine who is still screwed up all these years later used to fly medivac helicopters, He doesn’t remember much because he used to fly stoned. I asked him how he flew a chopper , which is all hands and feet, constant motion, when he was stoned. He said it was simple. If he wasn’t stoned, he was too scared shitless to fly, when he was stoned, basic instincts operated the chopper, he had little to do with it.
“If you really want to know. ask someone who was on the ground over there. If they like you , they might tell you, all these years later. Or maybe not.
It wasn’t Bell, it was Sikorsky who made the Huey.If you had a Bell, oit was on;ly good for reconnaoisance and if you were in one, you wwerre probably dead, They were easily shot down and fell out of the sky like a stone.
“It wasn’t Ling Temco Voight, it was Ling Temco Vine, which was basically a holding company . They bought out all kinds of smaller manufacturing firms, many of whom made civlian and military supplies. I used to work for LTV in Labor Relations after I got out of yhere service. They went bely up.It was a long time ago, and now we buy all kinds of stuff from people that we used to shoot at. Look in Home Depot.Go figure.
Everybody gives JFK a pass on Viet Nam. It was Jack who sent all kinds of advisors to the Arvn, shipped them all kinds of militray supplies and started drafting Americans into the Army and Navy . Ity was LBJ wjho escalated it further, and It was RMN who gave it an all time , make it or break it push. It failed and he pulled pout in response to political pressure. I was back home by then.
“I was there for every belessed minute of it.It is a brutal business, and if you can’t follow the Marine addage, “kill them all and let God sort it out.” then you shouldnt be there at all.”
“Lots of misinformation in your posts, Arthur. If you’re civil, we can discuss. Cronkite interviewed JFK on Sept. 2, 1963, the evening of the first half-hour news broadcast in history. When asked about Vietnam, JFK said, “It’s their war (meaning the South Vietnamese); they’re the ones who have to win it.” Shortly afterwards, he issued National Security Action Memo 263, calling for complete withdrawal of all advisors and military assistance by 1965. LBJ reversed this the very week he took office.
“The owner of Ling-Temco-VOUGHT was one David Harold Byrd. He is a prominent character in my book. Byrd was a wealthy Dallas businessman who hated JFK. His oil cronies were H.L. Hunt, Murchison, and Richardson. Byrd just happened to own the Texas School Book Depository building, and he was the founder of the Louisiana Civil Air Patrol. That’s right, incredibly enough, Byrd provided the first and last places of employment for Lee Harvey Oswald. This is no coincidence. Byrd, Hunt and Murchison were LBJ’s guardian angels and benefactors. As were Brown & Root and Halliburton. When LBJ ramped Vietnam, his cronies got huge defense contracts. (Bell Helicopter of Dallas/Fort Worth made a fortune off the Huey too.) Rewards for services rendered getting him to the White House.
“It is not the dead that should concern you.” Really? You’re saying it was better to die than live the rest of your life wounded? Okay. You seem to have a great deal of bitterness about the whole thing, and you resent those who did not go there and yet write about it like they were experts. Be that as it may, I knew plenty of people who were on the ground over there; some came back, some not. The ones who came back are grateful to be alive. I wrote about survivors of the Battle for Hill 875 near Dak To in the Central Highlands, November 1967. You should read it, then maybe I’ll have some cred with you. “The Barefoot Hero” appears in the anthology Writers On The Wrong Side Of The Road.
“To recap: JFK wanted out of Vietnam entirely by 1965; LBJ: massive escalation by 1965. JFK murdered in LBJ’s home state, and in city ruled by LBJ’s cronies who made a fortune off the war. If you can’t connect the dots, Arthur, well…”
“The whole Viet Nam thing is totally fubar. It goes back to the 1800;s with the French colony of French Indo China, which included territories of Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam.
After WW 2 m the Big One, the French had trouble with their colonies, as did everybody else more or less. The US didn’t have colonies, so we didn’t have the trouble.There were uprisings and the French put troops in there to contain it. They ran a poor campaign and Eisenhower started to send them help. Ike liked the French for some unknown reason. He treateed De Gaulle like the Pope. Eisenhower escalated the troop support. You didn’t see much in the papers.The French pulled out altogether, Kennedy escalated the troops to fill the vacuum. Foriegn campaigns benefit officers, especially 1 st Looies and Captains, it is the patthway to Field Grade- Light Col and Bird, maywe even Brigagier Foriegn wars kill grunts, elevate the officers.
In fact , if JFK wanted the troops out , he could have puklled them – He was the President, Even if the Pentagon got pissed at him, it would not have hurt him. He was the Golden Boy. He could do no wrong.The idea that he wanted them out is just bushwah.
Regarding the dead, any soldier will tell you that you kind of distance yourself emotioanlly from others in hot zones.because you feel like crap if your buddy buys the farm. Feeling like crap is a good way to get killed yourself. You are also tickled silly that you are glad it was somebody else amnd not you, which also makes you feel like crap, but not enough to get you killed too.. If anybody tells you different, they are either lying to you or they were a clerk, not a grunt.
The bottom line in Viet Nam is that NOBODY was determined to win it and get ouit. If they were serious, they would have pattern bombed the border for a 10 mile stretch, pulled concertina wire, set up guard posts along the border, identified the enemy, and when they caught them, hung them and let them swing in the breeze as an example to others.. The military doesn’t think that way anymore, not since Black Jack Pershing , Douglas Mac Arthur and George Patton…kill the enemy, preserve the peace.Simple.
Basically, that is the way it is, once you scrub out all the politically correct crap. War sucks. You do your best to win it, because if you lose you are screwed. You bury the dead, you do what you can for the injured and you pray that some field grade asshole who is sitting fat and happy far behind the lines doesn’t get you back into the crap you just got out of.
Winston Churchill said that ‘Total extasy is having been shot at and missed.’ The man had a point.”
Arthur: “Completely missed my point, or evaded it. The truth of Vietnam is ugly, I grant you. And it may be painful, and it may hard to face. But it is the truth nonetheless. Defense contractors, the CIA, and every other scourge of the 20th century were making barrels of cash. From p. 184 of Barry & The Boys: The CIA, the Mob and America’s Secret History: ‘Do you want to know why the Vietnam War lasted so long? Because too many people were making too much money.’ If JFK had lived, America would have been out of Vietnam in his second term. Oh, what’s the use…that’s the problem with America. Too many people believing whatever they damn well please, regardless of the facts. Bye Arthur, and bye to your peculiar version of history.”
“War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to be to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.”
–Major General Smedley Butler, USMC