James H. Smith

WHY I WENT TO VIETNAM
(A Response)

Woody,

Well said, I think you said much about many. I’m sure there are as many reasons for going to any war as there are people going – each to their own.

I know several career military people who went to Vietnam so they could gain rank. I’ve been told many times by career military, “We are soldiers, war is where we belong.” But then most all of the people I was around were Infantry.

Rambo soldiers and John Wayne wars; how nice it would be if they were true. The truth is mud, blood, and death.

I went to Vietnam because I was drafted like so many. In my Infantry Company we had E-3’s who could just read and write and E-3’s who held master’s degrees. I asked the guy with the master’s, “Why are you here?” His answer, “I finished school, got drafted, and didn’t want the commitment of being an Officer, so I’m in the Infantry”.

There is an addictive part for some; they love the adrenalin rush (I did) of putting it all on the line. If I had not gotten married, I would have likely gone back for a second tour for this reason. There is nothing like the rush one gets standing on the landing skids of a Huey coming into a Hot LZ. And to think I now get dizzy on a tall step ladder. ☺

Some had a feeling this is where I belong, the reasons for the war mattered not. Combat was reason enough (adrenalin?). Some went the paid soldier way later for these reasons. I was offered, thank God I said no. Believe me once you are a member of the combat club for some it’s hard to say no. I think this is why so many went back time after time. I have a friend, I think he was there six tours as a seal, the only reason he didn’t go back was he got too shot up on his last mission.

I also had good friends among the Vietnamese people and I do wish I could have done more for them. But I came to the understanding that as a whole we did not understand their culture. They did not want us pushing our culture off on them.

I have an arthritis doctor who goes back to Tay Ninh once or twice a year. He told me looking at the country you could never tell there was ever a war there. His name is Emori if it rings a bell. He is now semi-retired from doctoring.

My Uncle with whom I was very close was career Army, was a POW in Germany, and went to Japan with the occupation troops. He married a Japanese woman whose father had been a doctor in the Japanese imperial palace.

She had helped nurse people after we dropped the atomic bomb and had taken care of wounded soldiers. I was at their house watching an old movie on TV one night, an old war movie (I think John Wayne).

My Japanese Aunt was very upset with the movie and I will never forget what she said: “People in war don’t die pretty like they do in your movies”

Well I got to find that out for myself.

I’m rambling so I’ll quit

Jim

This response was prompted by the article, “Why I Went to Vietnam” ~ ©Copyright April 26, 2007 by Thurman P. Woodfork