The Gift Of Heroism Remembered
“The peace in Southeast Asia which demonstrators demanded and our 94th Congress enacted caused millions of deaths. More were killed in just the first year of peace than during the preceding decade of war.” Bruce Herschensohn from An American Amnesia p. 63
It’s a distressing journey I have chosen to take; to investigate the wrongs that occurred as a result of political and anti-war pressures during the waning years of the Vietnam War. But I am making the attempt because in order to convey through children’s literature the events and conditions of that era, I must understand the atrocities that came, not from our servicemen in Vietnam, but from the American Press, revolutionary protesters, and politicians in the highest offices of our government. This is the back painting of what will be a decade-long effort on my part; to write a series of books for children titled ”The Heroes of the Vietnam War.”
My motivations for writing the first ever historical non-fiction books for young children about the Vietnam War are twofold: first is my objective to open the door of awareness to both parents and children about an era in the near past that has been all but blotted from the collective American memory. Second is the necessity to absolve the men who served in the armed forces during that era of any responsibility for the treacherous loss of the war. The Vietnam War was a military victory, and a devastating and shameful political failure.
The Paris Peace Accords of 1973 negotiated by the North Vietnamese government, its South Vietnamese surrogate the Viet Cong, the United States, and the South Vietnamese government, was widely hailed as the end of American involvement in the conflicts of Southeast Asia. The terms of the Peace Accords gave South Vietnam the right to decide its own future government through free and democratic elections. The Viet Cong, which represented the Communist faction in South Vietnam, also agreed to the terms of the Accords.
Despite proclamations that “The Vietnam War is over!” the Soviet Union continued to supply the Communists in North Vietnam and the Viet Cong with troops and equipment beyond the levels agreed upon in the Paris Peace Accords. Communist attacks in South Vietnam continued and penetrated into Cambodia and Laos. Despite the invalidation of the Peace Accords by the Communists, the 93th Congress moved to stop the United States Military from giving any aid to the beleaguered South Vietnamese government. This was counter to the agreement in the Peace Accords that the U.S. would provide proportional support to the anti-Communist South Vietnamese so their government might have some means to fight the Communist insurgency themselves. The Democrat majority in Congress asserted that since American forces had withdrawn under the terms of the Paris Peace Accords, that they had no obligation to aid the South Vietnamese, despite the fact that the Communists had violated the most important terms of the pact.
The elections of 1974 handed immense victories to the Democrats, and the 94th Congress would dig in their anti-war heels even deeper. President Ford pleaded in behalf of the South Vietnamese and Cambodians for relatively modest supplies and military support to aid their besieged nations. The 94th Congress asserted that American intervention in Southeast Asia would serve only to prolong the war and the suffering of the people. With the refusal to fund the war effort the American Military was forced to withdraw. It’s final task would be to evacuate any remaining Prisoners of War, American civilians and Embassy personnel, and as many South Vietnamese allies as could be rescued in the final, dark days of April, 1975.
Years of anti-war protests, campus revolutions, and pro-Communist sentiment had saturated the minds of the majority party in Congress. The American Media had become a propaganda arm for the North Vietnamese, broadcasting the horrors of the war supposedly caused by American involvement, and simultaneously whitewashing the barbarities of the Communist regimes. The American Left, lead by the Media, the Democrats in the 94th Congress, and outspoken anti-war protesters, many of whom had Communist ties, succeeding in terminating American aid to the anti-Communist factions in South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. And the Vietnam War was effectively ended for Americans. But for our allies in Southeast Asia, a savage war against humanity perpetrated by the Communist North Vietnamese, the Viet Cong, the Khmer Rouge, and the Pathet Lao would continue unchallenged and unabated for years, costing millions of innocent lives.
One of the greatest injustices of that era was the disdain flaunted by the 94th Congress for our allies in Southeast Asia; governments who depended upon our help, people who had trusted that we would protect them from the Communists, civilians and warriors alike whose only hope was in the sheltering presence of the American Military.
I was a young girl when my family was drawn into the national trauma of the Vietnam War. In1970 my oldest brother, a Swift Boat machine gunner, was killed during a firefight with the Viet Cong on the Dam Doi River. I remember how the American psyche had been so battered by the personal losses of the war, and the relentless, horrific depictions by the Press of our military efforts. Even patriotic people like me and my family, who knew that fighting the Communists was the right thing to do, suffered sheer outrage and heartbreak at the coverage of the war. The anti-war protesters, the Press, and the 94th Congress, with their unctuous assertion that “the best thing America could do for the people of Southeast Asia is to leave,” broke the American spirit. When proclamations that “the war is ended” blasted over airwaves and television sets, most Americans felt a sense of relief, not because we had decisively freed millions of people from the terror and death of Communism, but because the disgusting, warped, and cruel depictions of our Military by the American Press would finally come to an end.
When America washed her hands of the Vietnam War, she also left behind countless stories of valor and goodness. The American Military served well in Indochina, with some of the most heroic tales coming at the end of the Vietnam War. These stories are held in the hearts of Vietnam Veterans and, support personnel, and others who served with them. They are chronicled in the pages of memoirs, and are available on Internet web pages of organizations that collect and preserve these invaluable histories. But, save for those who were personally connected to the Vietnam War in some way, the stories of that era have been glossed over or ignored in history texts, and are virtually extinct in the orbit of children’s literature.
My series of children’s books, ”The Heroes of the Vietnam War,” is designed to correct, in a small way, the omission of stories of the courage, virtue, and compassion of American servicemen who fought in Vietnam. The 37th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War approaches, and if decades after the fall of Saigon, Operation Frequent Wind, and Operation Babylift, I can bring these stories to light in the minds of post-Vietnam War generations of children, then perhaps some of the injustices heaped by the Press, politicians, and anti-war protesters upon our servicemen, will be replaced with the truths of their good works, sacrifice, and heroism during that era. My hope is that every Vietnam Veteran in the country who wants to teach his friends, children, and grandchildren that America is good, America has always been good, and fighting for America was the right thing to do during the Vietnam War, will have one of my story books. I am writing these books so that Vietnam Veterans can set their grand children on their knees and open the pages to an era, not of shame or failure, but of heroism, goodness, and military valor and victory, during the Vietnam War.