Voices From the Rear

Voices From the Rear

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Voices from the Rear: Vietnam 1969-1970 This is one soldier's memoir. It is a story packed with anecdotes, incidents, and memorable characters that would be familiar and recognizable to many whom served in the Vietnam War. It is also a story about Vietnam, draftees, and my two years in the U.S. Army. In a larger context, the war tore at the ideological foundations of the silent majority. The U.S. counterculture became more adamant in its belief that the war was a terrible wrong. The Tet offensive in 1968 clearly showed that the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong could muster a full-scale attack at any time and any place within Vietnam. At a tremendous cost of lives, the Americans and their South Vietnamese allies eventually drove the Communists from their newly captured areas. However, the Tet offensive successfully dampened U.S. hopes for a swift end to the war. In addition, this battle made young American men and college graduates more reluctant to serve in the military. On a more personal level, this memoir speaks to the inequalities of the draft system and my experience with a local draft board. I describe the difficulties posed by the draft system, and the inconsistencies of the draft laws, which left to the discretion of the local draft boards the policy of deciding who served and who didn't. Moreover, as a doctoral student in history with an M.A. degree in hand and college teaching experience, I was an anomaly in basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I had worked in an adult world and had acquired a sense of self-discipline, and was suddenly thrust into the freedomless existence of an army that included seventeen-and-eighteen year olds. I was lost, but worse than that I was caught in a system, that was distinctly American but as alien as the country that I was supposed to unchain from the shackles of communism. On another level, this is a social history of the U.S. Army during two tumultuous years 1969 and 1970. Like most soldiers who were sent to Vietnam, I had anxieties about going. When I finally arrived, I had trepidations about a unit assignment. I introduce characters with whom I lived with for over a year and describe their backgrounds, their personalities, and many of our shared experiences. For a year, these men were my family. I relished their friendship. Most of them would not have been in Vietnam were it not for the draft. Although being drafted required two years of service, many soldiers were three-year draftees. They had signed up for a military occupational skill (MOS) of their choice to avoid the infantry. I was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division as rear echelon personnel specialist (clerk) in the Division's Administration Company. Like many rear echelon personnel, I experienced the fears and the apprehension of guard duty, and the horror of rocket attacks, as well as the many amusing times. The intrusive hand of the Army consistently reminded us that we were not free individuals. It was not only the infantry that fought the war and contended with Army. Indeed, the rear echelon, which comprised the majority of troops that served in Vietnam, expressed similar animosities towards the war and the Army. The rear troops often maneuvered ingenuously to cope with the institution that held them there. The book shows how these soldiers created a culture and shared comradeship, which helped them survive the war and endure the Army. At times the soldiers fought the Army as much as they did the enemy. As the year 1969 closed, my unit moved from Bien Hoa near Saigon to Phu Bai near Hue, to be closer to Division headquarters. By this time, our attitudes towards the war and the Army had become further strained. The sense of purpose or mission, if there ever was any, became focused on surviving and not being the last one sacrificed in an unjust war. The activity on the hoThe Protestant minister gave us the same similar rhetoric: the evils of communism can and must be stopped, and we were the forefront of that effort. I felt much better ... In a weeka#39;s time we were to become demolition experts. Rumor had it that ifanbsp;...

Title:Voices From the Rear
Author:George M. Watson Jr.
Publisher:Xlibris Corporation - 2001-11-09


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