Vietnam veterans have been reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The war was a turning point in American history, and it is still being felt today.
Vietnam Veterans Reflect 50 Years Later is a book written by a Vietnam veteran. The author reflects on the war and its effects on his life. Read more in detail here: vietnam veteran.
In Echoes of Our War: Vietnam Veterans Reflect 50 Years Later, Marine vets from all previous wars gather for lunch once a month at a restaurant in Denver to reflect on their combat duty and the war itself. “It is time to examine and reevaluate precisely what happened to them and the many thousands who served honorably in a confusing war that was anything but honorable,” writes retired Marine Col. Bob Fischer, a 1955 Naval Academy graduate who served as an adviser to a South Vietnamese marine battalion in 1966-68.
Mark Hardcastle, an Air Force Academy alumnus who participated in the 1990-91 Gulf War, assisted Fischer in editing the book. He also got editing help from two Marines whose experiences are recounted in the book: Dan Guenther, a novelist and poet, and Grady Birdsong, a writer whose entry is almost 60 pages long.
Guenther devised a set of ten questions for the veterans to answer when they wrote their submissions. The first one, “Describe your function, including the length and location of your Vietnam tour, as well as some key incidents that you believe are indicative of that experience,” received the most attention.
Former Pfc. Bill Purcell, who fought with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment in Vietnam from September 1967 to February 1968, recounts his 13 days of street fighting during the communists’ Tet Offensive in Hue in 1968. Purcell’s service was cut short when a mortar round landed in the midst of his unit, causing him to “be catapulted up in the air, crash down onto the pavement, and knocked out cold.” Purcell was medevaced out after suffering serious injuries.
Guenther, a lieutenant with the 3rd Amphibious Tractor Battalion and subsequently with the 1st Motor Transport Battalion at the 1st Marine Division headquarters, served in Vietnam for 19 months with the 1st Marine Division’s Fleet Marine Force. Guenther’s entry, like the others, includes in-country photographs as well as a list of his accolades.
From February 1968 until November 1969, Birdsong served as a corporal in the 1st and 3rd Marine divisions. To Guenther’s inquiry, “As you look back, what are some of the thoughts and emotions you have about the war?” he responds in detail. His response is eerily similar to that of almost every Marine in the book. He blames Gen. William Westmoreland, as well as other “high-ranking generals” and “politicians at the highest echelons of government,” for mismanaging the war.
He writes, “Militarily, we had the battle won.” “We may have been able to complete the job….” We just went away, cleaned our hands, and let [the South Vietnamese] suffer.”
“Was the Vietnam War a waste?” the veterans were also questioned. “A terrible waste,” Purcell said. In answer to a follow-up inquiry on whether the Vietnam War was ethically wrong, he agreed with other Marines in the book. Purcell said, “I strongly think what we were doing was correct.” “To be sure, there have been instances of immoral behavior, some of which have been recorded and others which have not. However, it was a war.”
He went on to say that the “true immorality” was “our elected officials in D.C. attempting to prescribe how the war should be waged.” He described Westmoreland as a “pompous showboat and an idiot.” V
There are affiliate links in this post. If you make a purchase via our site, we may get a commission.
Subscribe to Vietnam magazine and follow us on Facebook for more stories:
- who fought in the vietnam war
- vietnam memorial
- vietnam war map