Myths, Facts Of The Vietnam War

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - April 28, 2005
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San Francisco Airport: I scanned the “Departures” monitor for details of my Honolulu flight. But I really didn’t get that far, because my scan became riveted on the listing right above “Honolulu”: “Ho Chi Minh City, United No. 869, Gate 120, 12:10 p.m., On Time.”

Ho Chi Minh City! How ironic! This week marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, South Vietnam, and the birth of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I mentioned that in my “Coffee Break” column just two weeks ago as I tried to provide some perspective — for those who are too young to know or too old to remember (!) — on the anti- Vietnam War activities of Jane Fonda; much on the talk-show circuit recently touting her new book.

You regular MidWeek readers know from “Letters to the Editor” my columns frequently inspire — how should I say it? — “emotional” feedback, all of which, when reasoned and rational, I take seriously. Some unreasonable and irrational feedback comes to the paper, but the least reasoned and rational I usually get by e-mail and unsigned, and are characterized diversely by “racist,” “bigot,” “idiot,” “… your blond, bubbleheaded wife …” and “I’ll bet you squealed like a piggy when those commies tortured you!”

So you can imagine my warmfuzzy feeling upon receipt by email the letter from Ms. Phuong Ball, which I shared with MidWeek editor Don Chapman who, with her permission, chose to include it in this edition’s “Letters” section. I truly wish everyone, at one time or another, could experience the profound satisfaction of having one’s impressions validated by an eminently qualified and credible eye witness.

Phuong’s testimony serves to further invalidate the irrational antiwar thrust of the liberal media during those years, and the liberal elite who cheered for our enemy and hoped for our defeat. Of that, there could be no better characterization than the words of George McGovern, the anti-war senator and presidential candidate who ran against President Richard Nixon in 1972: “What you don’t understand is that I didn’t want us to win that war.” (American Enterprise Magazine, May/June 1997)

Phuong also punctures other “media myths” about that war:

• Myth: The Vietnam war was really a civil war. Phuong: “I appreciated your effort in recognizing our long struggling to fight the communist from the North to preserve our freedom.”

• Myth: Ho Chi Minh (“Uncle Ho”) was a benevolent Nationalist. Phuong: Her high -ranking uncle in the communist party: “take your family and go South, even with my position I cannot protect you and your family from being prosecuted by the party.”

• Myth: The South Vietnam government and army were all corrupt and ineffective, and wouldn’t fight. Phuong:“We have many heroes in the South Vietnamese government (and army). The press only wrote about the bad, the corruption.”

• Myth: After the U.S. withdrawal, the South Vietnamese lost the war militarily because they were inept and wouldn’t fight.

Phuong: “You’re right, we were left high and dry, betrayed by a faithless U.S. Congress (which cut off all the promised aid and support to the South Vietnamese military because they, too, “were so gullible to believe such person like Jane Fonda.”

• Myth: The Vietnam War was a lost cause, a waste of American lives and treasure.

Phuong: “You’re not like most Americans who think the war in Vietnam was “no cause” and a waste of lives. It was not!

The media has done little to dissuade the American public of the impressions it fashioned for us: that a majority of Vietnam vets came home drugged out and disillusioned, alcoholic misfits with high divorce rates and low success in reintegrating into society. The fact is, the vast majority came home proud of their Vietnam service, got educated, got married and had normal families, started businesses and generally became productive citizens. In fact, 97 percent of Vietnam vets were honorably discharged. 91 percent were “proud to have served their country,” 66 percent “would serve again if called” and 77 percent of the public holds Vietnam vets “in high esteem.”

And as for Phuong and and this Vietnam vet, it will always be Saigon!

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