General Ridgeway noted in a 1956 interview that he had “seen whole sections of railroad bombed into scrap iron by aircraft and yet the enemy rebuilt the tracks in a single night and the trains ran the next day.” While inflicting serious damage on Chinese forces supporting the North Koreans, bombing did not “halt their offensive, nor materially diminish their strength. Like the Vietnamese, the Chinese traveled light, with each man carrying his arms, his food and his weapon on his back.
In the aftermath of My Lai, more atrocity stories came to light, many told by GIs and veterans themselves. To limit the damage, the Pentagon assembled a secret Vietnam War Crimes Working Group that gathered more than 300 criminal investigation reports, testimonies, and allegations of atrocities, including massacres, murders, rapes, torture, assaults, mutilations, and the execution of prisoners. The purpose of the working group was not to administer justice but to bury the evidence in top-secret classification. The Pentagon framed My Lai as an “isolated incident,” the product of a few “bad apples,” and kept the lid on information and reports regarding other atrocities, including the massacre at My Khe that same day. It refused to investigate many of the allegations by GIs and vets in the interest of keeping the extent of atrocities under wraps. This went beyond public image making, as the generals themselves could be charged with war crimes under international law (in the tradition of the Nuremberg Trials) should a consistent pattern of atrocities and cover-ups be proven.
Ronald Reagan, as a presidential candidate speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Chicago on August 18, 1980, was more adamant in asserting American righteousness, twisting history into conformity:
If the legacy of the Vietnam War is to offer any guidance, we need to complete the moral and political reckoning it awakened. And if our nation’s future is to be less militarized, our empire of foreign military bases scaled back, and our pattern of endless military interventions ended, a necessary first step is to reject – fully and finally – the stubborn insistence that our nation has been a unique and unrivaled force for good in the world. Only an honest accounting of our history will allow us to chart a new path in the world. The past is always speaking to us, if we only listen.
John Kerry, 27, former navy lieutenant who was wounded three times in Vietnam, testified in Senate Foreign Relations Committee on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, April 22, 1971 (AP photo by Henry Griffin)
I consider veterans to be of the highest quality of role models. Veterans encourage me to love my country. They fill me with great respect for them. And finally, veterans inspire me to live a life dedicated to the things I believe to be right.
What if anything, does society owe our veterans?
• Research to be presented in a PowerPoint format, and should include:
a) Brief history of how our military is cared for?
b) What departments are responsible for soldiers after their service ends?
c) Size of the budget for Veteran Affairs?
d) Soldier’s personal story; motivation/purpose for joining the military.
e) Build a case for or against whether joining military service is a political act.
f) Determine whether an American citizen/resident should be obliged to provide military service
to his/her country.
Methodology: Interview Process
Interviews military personnel from three periods;
a) World War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq war.
b) One or two military persons can presently be active military personnel.
c) Interview persons from Army, Navy, Air Force, as well as different ranks.
You may consider the following areas and questions to be explored;
• Capturmg the personal story of the soldier.
U.S. actions to permanently divide the country and establish a foreign-backed government in the south provoked strong resistance. In an interview with the American historian Christian Appy, General Vo Nguyen Giap, the military architect of victories over the French and the Americans, explained why Vietnamese resistance fighters fought and prevailed:
Aidan Stehman, son of Molly and Joseph Stehman of Columbia, received second place in the Catholic War Veterans (CWV) National Patriotic Essay Contest. The recent eighth-grade graduate of Our Lady of the Angels School in Columbia entered the contest writing about "What America Means to Me."
A veteran spurs me to have reverence. Whether they know it or not, veterans have positively affected me. Without their sacrifice, the world I know may have been drastically changed. Veterans were prepared to die for their cause. Many witnessed terrible things and endured incredibly strenuous situations. All veterans and especially the honorable persons that do not remain with us today have paid in full the high price for freedom and the life we all know in America. Considering the enormity of what veterans have accomplished brings me to greatly appreciate and admire them.
Aidan Stehman (right) won second place in the Catholic War Veterans National Patriotic Essay Contest. The citation was presented by third vice commander Joseph Weiss.
During the siege, Paris urgently appealed to Washington for U.S. warplanes to bomb Viet Minh positions. President Eisenhower was prepared to militarily intervene, but lack of international and domestic support persuaded him otherwise. British leader Winston Churchill, who had warned in 1946 of an “iron curtain” being drawn across Europe, now advised the American president to let the French colony go, recognizing that historical conditions had changed (the British reluctantly gave up India, the crown of the empire, in 1947).