The Vietnam was a war like no other and the nature of the fighting in this war had great impacts on the soldiers. At this time, communism was seen as a great threat, especially by Western countries, and so extreme emphasis was placed on the domino theory that when one country falls to communism, others would follow and that forward defence would be the only solution to this issue.
Also during this time, Vietnam was artificially split into the communist South, led by Ho Chi Min who defeated and drove out the French, and the government led South, which was in the power of Diem who was clearly corrupt and had little supporters so the spread of communism was quite likely. In response, American and Australian troops were sent to fight for the South and stop this spread of communism but there were many difficulties. Firstly, the soldiers faced very inhumane and difficult fighting conditions. War itself is gruesome but in Vietnam, the conditions were different and in some ways, it was worse.
The terrain was difficult since it is made up of open rice paddies, dense jungles and steep ranges that were filled with small villages containing civilians who were had to avoid. Also, the guerilla warfare made it hard for soldiers to identify the enemy since attacks may come from anybody, including normal civilians such as young children or even the elderly. The issues involved weren’t straightforward and both sides were fighting to convince the people that they had their best interests at heart but the Americans and Australians were seen as invaders with a clumsy fighting style and were seen as supporting the corrupt regime of the South.
All these conditions impacted the soldiers negatively because they were disadvantaged; they had to fight in conditions that seemed to be unjust and against what they have been taught, causing many of the soldiers to question their role and also feeling lost and confused with the nature of the fighting and also because their actions aren’t even supported by the people they we fighting for and the people at home due to a social revolution. This caused soldiers to feel cheated but also feel as if they let the people down.
This impact on the soldiers is significant because it was through this that led to other long-term issues. Also from the fighting, soldiers were physically impacted. Like in any war, many soldiers would have their health impacted by a vast range of circumstances. Many had wounds of various degrees that were caused by numerous explosions from bombs, shelling and landmines as well as from gunshots or flying shrapnel that affected many parts of the body, handicapping soldiers. Also, the landmines used were very serious.
If they did not cause death, the injuries caused by these were extremely severe and terrible, as soldiers would lose a leg or even both legs due to this. Soldiers were also exposed to a strong chemical known as Agent Orange, whose original use was to kill jungle growth so that the enemy could be revealed, but there were many serious long term effects as a result of this which included nervous conditions, many forms of cancer, and genetic deformations which led to malformations of children conceived after the war, and continued on into future generations.
So as a result of the fighting in Vietnam, many soldiers were impacted physically. Furthermore, the soldiers experienced extreme psychological problems. Due to the brutal nature of the war, soldiers ended up and were forced to kill many seemingly innocent civilians. This is against what many of the soldiers valued and what they were taught; instead of killing the ferocious enemy armies like what their fathers experienced, young children, helpless mothers and the elderly became the victims, which seemed very wrong.
This has led to various mixed emotions, comprising mainly of guilt; guilt for killing the innocent and guilt for letting the South Vietnamese down after promising them so much and leaving them deserted in the end. In addition, soldiers would have lost many of their friends in battle but also returned to a home that has been changed by a social revolution (hippie movement) that resented war so instead of returning as heroes for fighting for their country, the soldiers were only quietly brought back and were isolated.
As a result of all this, the veterans faced many mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, nightmares that eventually led to high suicide rates and many other social problems. In conclusion, many of the soldiers who went and fought in the Vietnam war never really returned; they have been through and experienced so many horrors and physical, mental and social pain, that they never really blended in with their society at home anymore and never really regained what they had before the war again.
Courtney from Study Moose
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