It has been more than two weeks since the 40th Anniversary of the fall of Saigon. In commemoration of the sad event I belatedly post two letters for those who continue to remember the historic American military defeat on 30 April, 1975. Many who were there will never forget Nam. The experience has left an indelible mark on those who participated in the war that cannot be erased in a lifetime. First my respectful reply:
Thanks for sharing this personal letter, I shall pass it on to others.
I can wholeheartedly agree and identify with your sincere and descriptive letter. My background is similar to yours. I jointed at 17 out of pure patriotism, and it took me years to wake to the fact that I, as many other young fellows, was manipulated. Unfortunately some of those chaps we grew up with became cannon fodder. Live and learn.
I indirectly correspond with a few Gung-Ho old-timers who participated in the war and I marvel a how completely some are so extraordinarily proud they were at the service of a brutal and unnecessary war fought against, at the time, one of the poorest countries in the world, and subsequently leave it worse off in smoldering ruin with several million Vietnamese men, women, and children deceased, most often belonging to the peasant class.
I’m pleased the country has recovered so well and has become kind of small economic tiger, but to go back and to walk the streets, visit restaurants and parks, old haunts, and just meeting with the people, I would personally feel disgraced should I encounter one of those worthy men and women I deliberately left behind in 1975.
The letter on the Wall from a comrade in arms:
To all my fallen brothers and sisters of the Vietnam war, greetings, you have not been forgotten although I have tried to forget Vietnam for what seems like a life time now, and what went on there.
I was young believed in what our government said about what was happening in Asia and Vietnam as truth and fact. Little did I know back then as to how things really worked and who pulled the strings to get us into such a conflict. It is sad to say that the government lied and so many of us gave up so much for nothing.
I enlisted in the Marines in September of 1965 and was stationed in Phubai/Hue on December 5th 1966 with Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, Radio Relay platoon with the rank of Corporal (E-4) but quickly received the rank of Sargent (E-5). As being in communications I did not see a lot of combat first hand, but enough to know it has to be the last resort for any reason on earth to be involved in. There has to be better ways to solve problems than going around killing people and destroying countries for stupid ideologies and differences in opinion which is basically what war comes down to.
I was TAD, Technical Adviser, to a number of outlying areas in my 12 month and 29 day stay in country and involved in three major offensives, but the most compelling memory I have is of listening to others when they came under fire while I was sitting in a communications bunker miles away and could do nothing but monitor my radio and associated channels, and making sure the Como stayed up and strong while the sounds of mortars and rockets came in, as well as small arms fire is one thing, but the terror and panic in the voices that one hears from those under attack is unnerving and calls for a medic knowing someone was hit is beyond words and helplessness. This is something not taught or explained to young recruits, and cannot be imagined by those that have not been in combat and never forgotten by those of us that lived it. Hearing calls for assistance, Meda-vacs, and fire support was some comfort, but agonizing knowing that help would be coming too late for the many and maybe too little in some cases.
I landed in Oakland, California on January 5th, 1968 and was lucky to have missed the Tet Offensive by the North Vietnam Army and Viet Cong in Hue. I found out later that the forward unites of my company were overrun, luckily with few casualties as we were starting to relocate the unit south to Da Nang just prior to my tour being over.
Growing up in the era of WWII and as a small child during Korea, the sense of patriotism was high and the young were easily misled into service. Most veterans of the past wars did not speak of their actions or thoughts to what war was about in reality. We had our heroes in movies like John Wayne, and the glory of the big screen encouraged and egged us on. Reality is all together different when you are in the middle of a combat situation. . And so now with my departure from the Vietnam Wall of honor, I say to my comrades… Rest easy as you are not forgotten.
Peace be with you.
Mr. Williams retired after 30 years with General Motors and currently resides in the state of Michigan.
Ron Miller is the author of Ten Years In Vietnam, Amazon, books, and Kindle