Fighting For Hearts and Minds

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

In 1975 the war for the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people came to an end. America’s self-induced nightmare had also come to an end. The American and South Vietnamese governments’ efforts and strategy had failed. The war was over.

FIGHTING FOR HEARTS AND MINDS

By Al Garcia

In 1975 the war for the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people came to an end.  America’s self-induced nightmare had also come to an end.  The American and South Vietnamese governments’ efforts and strategy had failed.  The war was over. 

Yet the reality of the war would remained ever present in the minds and hearts of many Americans.  There would be no end, no closure for them.  These were the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and relatives of the almost 60,000 young men and women who never had the chance for a last goodbye or a parting touch.

The war would never end for another 150,000 plus men and women wounded and maimed as a trophy of war, and for their families, forever altered by the remnants of what were once young, vibrant, promising men, now fragments of what once had been.  And this was but a small part of America’s human cost for its willing and blind intrusion into the chaos and turmoil thousands of miles from its shores.  Texas had the second largest number of reported American casualties, with New York taking first place, a distinction not prized by either state.

Not to forget the people of Vietnam.  The ultimate price paid by the Vietnamese (North and South) was well over 4 million civilian deaths (men, women and children), not including the almost 1.5 million military casualties suffered by both sides. 

But years before the end finally came, I found myself sitting in the pub at Eakin Compound enjoying a drink and talking casually to military men about their lives, hopes and aspirations.  The topic of war eventually would come up as it had to but usually only after several drinks.  Men tended to lower their guard and open up about themselves and what they had seen and done while on tour.  For some it was a new and exciting time and experience.  Others talked about “the real war” they had experienced in I Corps or II Corps in an earlier tour, where men were actually fighting for their lives, killing an enemy they didn’t understand, and dying in rice paddies and jungles.  In that area of the county, these men didn’t have the luxury of a company saloon where they could sit around, drink, joke and talk about a future that might never be. 

The Mekong Delta (IV Corp) where I was stationed, was worlds away from the heaviest fighting and conflict.  The fourth largest city in Vietnam, this area was known for its rivers (the Mekong River) and canals as well as its rice cultivation.  The enemy in this area was well entrenched in the villages and surrounding mountains and forests, with the largest infestation of Viet Cong believed to have been in the U Minh Forest in the lower part of the Mekong Delta.  A place I visited for one of my stories.  Don’t get me wrong, fighting was going on in the IV Corp, and Americans and the South Vietnamese were racking up body counts, but nowhere like in the Northern part of the country. 

With that said, it was striking to me that America back home was being told, and we were hearing in-county, that we (the American soldiers) were now tasked with winning the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese people.  I was confused.  It was news to me, and I’m sure to many of us serving in Vietnam.

It was ludicrous.  If that was in fact, America’s goal, someone forgot to tell the American men and men fighting and dying in Vietnam.  The reality of the war never changed.  It was always about intimidating, oppressing and suppressing.  Never about hearts and minds.


Submitted: June 14, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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