Term Paper: Vietnam

Pages: 7 (3123 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] When he worked behind the lines, one of his duties was as officer in change of reporting casualties, which were not nearly as high as they became in 1967 and 1968 when the war reached maximum escalation. When he returned to his old unit once after a leave, they were cold as distant with him, and he wondered whether this was because he had been transferred to the rear echelon. Then he learned that a friend of his named Sullivan had been killed by a sniper when out filling the canteens by a river, and that the sniper was a very good shot and had "plowed one helluva hole right through him" (Caputo 158). Another man had been shot through the spine and probably would never walk again, and the unit had also been fired on by American helicopters by mistake. Caputo then realized that these were the first combat deaths they had experienced in Vietnam, since this was still very early in the war. These men had all joined the Marines in peacetime and had expected to serve out their tours with the same group. Later on, when the casualties became very heavy, "a loss meant only a gap in the line that needed filling" (Caputo 163). At this point, Caputo also realized that as a young, American male born in the most prosperous era in the nation's history "I had been incapable of imagining myself sick or old, let alone dead" (Caputo 162). In common with young men in every war, this initial realization that death was everywhere and might come unexpectedly at any moment proved to be a great shock.

2) In the conclusion of her book Winners and Losers Gloria Emerson focuses on three Americans- Ambassador Graham Martin, Fred Branfman and Don Luce (pp 339-358). Briefly summarize these intertwined stories. What do you think the author is trying to convey by telling these stories? Do you think these are important stories to tell? Why?

Fred Branfman and Don Luce had nothing in common with Graham Martin, the last U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, while Gloria Emerson despised him and all other civilian and military officials who led the war effort there. They simply appeared together at the same Congressional subcommittee hearing in 1976, at which Martin lied and obfuscated about his role during the time when Saigon fell in April 1975. This had been Martin's first public appearance since the end of the war, and like most other officials associated with it he kept a very low profile. Branfman, on the other hand, was an outspoken critic of the war. He had worked as an English teacher in Laos and observed first hand the bombing that destroyed the country, which he wrote about in his 1969 book Voices from the Plain of Jars. Very few Americans were even aware of this 'other war' in Laos, which had been going on for as long as the fighting in South Vietnam but was fought mostly by the CIA and by heavy bombing. Emerson knew Branfman well and reviewed his book favorably in 1972, noting that he was one of the few Americans who even spoke the language and understood the ancient culture of that country (Emerson 339-41).

Don Luce was the director of the International Volunteer Service in South Vietnam in 1961-67, when he resigned after writing an outraged letter to Lyndon Johnson, demanding an end to the war. He met Emerson was he was back in Vietnam as a correspondent for the Ecumenical Press Service, and revealed the story of the tiger cages on Con Son Island -- an old French penal colony. Tom Harkin, who later became a Congressman and Senator from Iowa, was with Luce and two other Representatives when they saw these cages, in which political opponents of the Thieu regime in South Vietanm were handcuffed and chained three or four together in spaces of five-by-nine feet, beaten, starved and denied medical attention. Emerson covered this story in the New York Times in July 1970, which was highly upsetting to the Nixon and Thieu regimes (Emerson 348-49). In 1976, he was part on an ACLU lawsuit against the CIA, including former directors Richard Helms and William Colby, because of their role in Operation CHAOS, a CIA surveillance program against thousands of antiwar individuals and organizations.

Branfman and Luce started the Indochina Resource Center and participated in the antiwar movement, and we there at the 1976 hearings of Lee Hamilton's subcommittee, at which former ambassador Graham Martin also appeared. Martin denied that there was any flaw within South Vietnam or its war effort, which he blamed entirely on the Congress for cutting off funds and air support. Nor did he find any fault in his own actions or those of Henry Kissinger in stalling and delaying the evacuation of Saigon until the last minute in the belief that the war could still be won or that the French would broker a ceasefire agreement that would allow the old regime to stay in power as part of a coalition government with the Communists. Only at the last minute was there a desperate scramble by Americans and Vietnamese to escape any way they could (Emerson 356-58). Martin came across as bewildered and confused by all these vents, and also seemed more concerned with finding his daughter's pet and recovering his wife's possessions than he did with the plight of the South Vietnamese. For Emerson, the war was an atrocity from start to finish, and the fact that it ended in confusion and defeat was no different than the way it had been fought all along. Nor was she shocked at this late date when officials like Martin turned out to be deceptive, even lying to Congress, in order to cover up their own failures and deceit.

3) Daniel Ellsberg became so disillusioned by the Vietnam War that he decided to break the law and release top secret documents. Drawing on the film The Most Dangerous Man in America and some chapters from his memoirs, can you explain why he leaked the Pentagon Papers?

When Daniel Ellsberg first began copying the Pentagon Papers in October 1969, he assumed that he would spend the rest of his life in prison for leaking this Top Secret history of the war. Had he not done so, it may well never have seen the light of day but remained classified for decades -- or perhaps even been shredded at some point. Had the Nixon Plumbers not broken into his psychiatrist's office looking for compromising information, he may very well have been convicted of violating the Espionage Act but instead the judge dismissed the charges. He had turned against the war several years before this, going back to the time when he visited South Vietnam with the famed covert operator Edward Lansdale. As early as 1961, Lansdale had tried to persuade Robert McNamara that the Communist guerillas would be able to defeat a U.S.-trained and equipped army because the war was essentially political and economic in nature, not military or technological. McNamara never understood this, nor did William Westmoreland, while the Saigon regime feared evolutionary change, much less the revolutionary variety (Ellsberg 105-06). Lansdale insisted that only land reform and an elected government with real popular support would offer South Vietnam any chance for survival. Ellsberg found that only a minority of Americans ever really knew or cared much about the Vietnamese, however, while the embassy staff spent most of its time with the Saigon elites (Ellsberg 111).

Ellsberg knew that almost all of the civilian and military officials who worked on the Pentagon Papers study favored complete withdrawal from Vietnam by 1967. This was even before that Tet Offensive changed public opinion in the U.S., yet the bombing continued more intensely than ever before, even though it was by carried out by people from Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford "who believed it served no national purpose whatever" (Ellsberg 216). In 1968, Ellsberg was an enthusiastic supporter of Robert Kennedy, the only politician he ever really liked or trusted, in the belief that he would be most likely to end the war very quickly. When Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968, he wrote that "it was the only time I ever wanted to beat my head against a wall" (Ellsberg 220). He did not trust Hubert Humphrey at all, and sensed deception in Nixon's Secret Plan to end the war, although the new president "successfully concealed his intentions" of stepping up the bombing and invading Laos and Cambodia (Ellsberg 224). In August 1970, he also met Henry Kissinger at San Clemente and attempted to interest him in reading the Pentagon Papers, a copy of which was at the White House. Kissinger never read it, however, and showed little interest in the history until Ellsberg leaked it the press in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Vietnam."  Essaytown.com.  May 14, 2011.  Accessed April 19, 2019.
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