From 1959 to april 30th 1975 there was a war going on, the Vietnam War to be exact. It was an attempt from the Americans to stop the communists forever. They strongly believed in the ‘domino theory’, stating that if one country falls to a communist regime, neighbouring countries would follow. Now, Vietnam was already in war years before the Vietnam War started. Before the Americans entered the country, there were the French. They had occupied Vietnam for nearly six decades. Then, in 1940 the Japanese claimed regions of the land as well. You can imagine it wouldn’t take long before a Vietnamese would come to make an end to the madness and claim the land that is rightfully theirs. In 1941 Ho Chi Min returned to his Vietnam after being away for thirty years. He wanted to get rid of the French and Japanese, so he started the Viet Minh. It even lead to the establishment of an independent Vietnam with a new government called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 2, 1945. However, the French were not so keen on giving up their colony, so they began to fight back.
The United States started to mingle in the war, much to the dismay of Ho Chi Min. In 1950 American military aid was on its way to support the French in this bloody war. Four years after the Americans started to support the French, the French backed out of the war. There still had to be decided how they could withdraw from this war peacefully. This was decided during the Geneva Accords: a cease fire and the country would be split in half. The communist North and the non-communist South. In 1956 they wanted to create a union of these halves and an election was held. The USA, still fearing the domino-theory, disagreed to the election, in fear of a communist victory. Their refusal did lead to an election, but only in the non-communist South. Ngo Dinh Diem was to be their new leader. His leadership however, wasn’t as it should be. He was killed in 1963. His horrible leadership had led to the sympathizing of the South Vietnamese with the North Vietnamese. They joined the Viet Cong, the guerrilla groups that wanted to eliminate the South Vietnamese.
Then the Gulf of Tonkin accident happened. Because the Viet Cong were still fighting the South Vietnamese, the USA sent more advisers to the area. On August the 2nd 1964 the North Vietnamese fired directly upon to ships from the USA on international waters. As an answer, the congress gave the president full authority to mingle in the war and to send US troops. And so it happened.
What they probably didn’t see coming, is that the war was to be fought in the jungle. An area unknown to the Americans, but what was like a playground to the Viet Cong. The Americans felt like there was no other option than to play it dirty. Agent Orange was used to make the leaves fall of the trees, in order to get a closer look at their enemy. The poison still has effects on the landscape to this day. It meant that 1,034,300 hectares of forest was no longer the beautiful jungle it once was.
It was a bloody war and to most of the word population, a useless one. Many singers and songwriters used their creativity to speak out against this horror. R.E.M. wrote a song about the use of Agent Orange, titled “Orange Crush”.
“Our wheels in slush and orange crush, in pocket and all this here county
Hell any county it’s just like Heaven here and I was remembering and I
Was just in a different county and all then this whirlybird that I
Headed for I had my goggles pulled off I knew it all I knew every back Road and every truck stop.”
Nowadays people sing about war in general, or just about evil things people do each other. But all the statements that were made during this war, is quite unusual.
If you look at the ending of this war, the Americans didn’t really go out with a bang. They didn’t succeed at stopping the ‘domino-theory’. Saigon, the capital city was seized by the communist forces by 1975. The country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in the following year.
But for the Vietnamese, the war wasn’t over yet. Many of the things that happened during those nearly twenty years still have their impact today. Throwing bombs was a popular thing to do by the American and British forces. However, not all bombs exploded at the moment they were dropped, meaning there were still active bombs lying around, exploding at random times. The Americans also dropped plastic/metal mines from their planes. Thousands at a time. It could cause serious injuries on anyone who was unlucky enough to take the wrong step. These people still have those injuries today. It’s not over for them. Many of the things happened during this war were set aside as ‘things that happen during warfare’. But does that make it okay? Isn’t it still absurd what has happened? How cruel people can be, how a war can drive people to complete and utter madness?
And this war is not the only war that has occurred. War has been here since humans set foot on this planet. It’s an illusion to think it will ever stop. In 1915, Sigmund Freud wrote an essay on ‘The Disillusionment of War’. The following quote reflects on the first World War, but I think it is still very accurate and true for any war we have faced and the wars still to come. Especially the Vietnam War.
“Then the war in which we had refused to believe broke out, and it brought – disillusionment. Not only is it more bloody and more destructive than any war of other days, because of the enormously increased perfection of weapons of attack and defence; it is at least as cruel, as embittered, as implacable as any that has preceded it. It disregards all the restrictions known as International Law, which in peace-time the states had bound themselves to observe; it ignores the prerogatives of the wounded and the medical service, the distinction between civil and military sections of the population, the claims of private property. It tramples in blind fury on all that comes in its way as though there were to be no future and no peace among men after it is over. It cuts all the common bonds between the contending peoples, and threatens to leave a legacy of embitterment that will make any renewal of those bonds impossible for a long time to come.”
Written by Roeliene Bos