By Randy Mills
Like the Korean War before it, the Vietnam War lay trapped in the shadows of WWII. At first, the story of WWII was of dark days of great setbacks and fear, the story evolving into the dramatic process of the taking, losing, retaking, and holding of blood-soaked ground until glorious victory was achieved. Communities all over America exploded in joy on both V-E and V-J days.
Vietnam had a much different rhythm, starting out with the promise of a backward enemy easily subdued, a people saved. It offered the promise of a modern, effective mobile war, the sky filled with nimble darting helicopters, transporting troops quickly to the field to overwhelm a surprised enemy. Over time, Vietnam evolved into the bitter repeated story of the taking of a village, a hamlet, or a hill at a great loss of life, and then the giving up of the hard-won ground shortly thereafter. Frederick Downs, a 1967-1968 platoon leader in Vietnam, remembered how American troops “never owned anything except the ground they stood on. We were supposed to be winning the war, but we didn’t dare move outside our perimeters at night.”
Although the Vietnam War was starting to be questioned by 1965, families and communities were almost always stoic when one of their own left for the war. Young men who were drafted felt tremendous pressure to comply, to go quietly on the buses that took them to induction centers. They felt they could do no less than their fathers, many of whom bore physical scars from their own service to their country. In the end, the dusty World War II wool uniforms still hanging in the backs of closets all over the nation would eventually come to be like unwelcome ghosts, beckoning yet another generation to war. But Vietnam was not to be their fathers’ war.
Randy and Roxanne Mills are the authors of Summer Wind: A Soldier’s Road from Indiana to Vietnam, Blue River Press 2017
Randy Mills is a professor of the social sciences at Oakland City University. He is the co-author of Unexpected Journey: A Marine Corps Reserve Company in the Korean War, the well-received case study of the call-up of Marine Reservists during the Korean conflict. His articles have been featured in Connections: The Hoosier Genealogist, among other publications.
Roxanne Mills is an author and an Associate Professor of English at Oakland City University in Oakland City, Indiana. She is the co-author of Unexpected Journey: A Marine Corps Reserve Company in the Korean War. Her work has been featured in journals and magazines such as Traces of Indiana and Midwest History, and Indiana Magazine of History, among others.
Summer Wind is distributed by Cardinal Publishers Group. For more information about Blue River Press and the books we publish, you can contact us or give us a call at 317-352-8202. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.