The Vietnam War

The United States made the right decision in joining the war efforts of the

South Vietnamese. The only mistake was that the U.S. should have done everything

in its power to win the war as quickly as possible. The U.S. was obligated by the

Truman Doctrine to contain communism. Truly the best way to contain it would be

to defeat it.

This war was a person changing experience. With all the horrible pain and

gore the soldiers had to see and endure, they could never be the people they once

were. Supporters and protesters back in the U.S. were causing chaos. The Doves

and the Hawks, the Doves against the war and the Hawks supporting the war,

divided a country. In the face of death, the brave men of the military of the United

States fought on to make the world a little better for everyone.

The United States had a clear advantage. Their military, weaponry, and

combat skills were superior. If not for the North Vietnamese knowledge of the

terrain and guerrilla tactics, the war would have possibly been a short one.

However, the U.S. government only sent what they felt to be adequate manpower to

contain communism, not to defeat it. They wanted to keep the loss of lives down, and

keep the Doves as happy as possible. If only they had sent a massive force into

enemy territory, they could have bombed the North Vietnamese thoroughly and

invaded their country with extreme force. This would have the potential to end the

war more quickly and save American lives, and the success of the victory.

The Truman Doctrine was first set forth by United States President Harry S.

Truman in 1947. The immediate objective of the policy was to send U.S. aid to

anti-Communist forces in Greece and Turkey, but it was later expanded to justify

support for any nation that the United States government believed was threatened

by Communism during the Cold War period, in this case, the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War took its toll on the American soldiers. When they returned

home, they were different people. They didn?t look the same, they didn?t act the

same, they weren?t the same. Some could not hold on to their sanity in light of what

they had seen and been through. In order to take the soldiers minds off the horrors

all around them the U.S. command brought in boatloads of toys for the men to play

with, everything from go-carts to violins. There was surfing, sailing, and miniature

golfing. Almost everyone got a chance to spend a day or two at the beach pretending

that he wasn?t in Vietnam. Large bases had Olympic size swimming pools and

air-conditioned libraries, softball fields, and basketball courts. Even the toughest of

bases had a net and a volleyball.1

The men also tried their best to keep their minds off the war. A soldier could

requisition from Special Services enough musical instruments to form a band or

maybe the army band would entertain. If they were too far out in the boonies, with

a little ingenuity and a few raw materials a man could rig up a washtub bass and

make his own music. In the earlier days of the war, U.S. military personnel on leave

in Saigon could put on civilian clothes and play tourist. Even after the 1968 Tet

1 Combat Photographer p. 61

attacks it was possible to enjoy sightseeing, shopping, and carousing in Saigon, but

the city was a much more tense place.

In the early day it was also fairly common for American serviceman to live in

civilian housing, often with a Vietnamese girlfriend. After the Tet Offensive, (the

attack on Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, and some provincial capitals by

Communist troops on January 30, 1968.) this was largely prohibited, but some

servicemen managed to continue the arrangement with the tacit approval of their

superiors. Near the big Tan Son Nhut air base there was a street known as ?Soul

Alley? where a number of black soldiers lived with Vietnamese women and

commuted to their jobs on the base.

The war was taking so long because the U.S. was only trying to contain the

enemy, the soldiers needed something to improve moral. One of the major American

imports to Vietnam was the visiting celebrity. The stars would be fitted with jungle

fatigues, briefed by the brass, and flown all around the country to visit firebases and

hospitals where they would shake hands, sign autographs, and pose for pictures, all

in the interest of boosting morale. Often a military photographer would be assigned

to cover the celebrity?s visit, and the star would get to keep the