Carie Uyen Nguyen : Whose War Was It? [Aug. 18, 2017]

[ndlr] Poursuite des publications du New York Times sur la guerre du Viêt-Nam dans la série Vietnam ’67 (Historians, veterans and journalists recall 1967 in Vietnam, a year that changed the war and changed America).

Perhaps no one came out of the Vietnam War with a reputation as tarnished as the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Since well before the war ended, ARVN soldiers were made an easy and ready scapegoat for America’s losses, a stereotype that found its way into academia and popular culture. We’re told they were incompetent cowards who often shirked their duties, leaving the hard work to the Americans.

As a Vietnamese student at an American university with an extensive archive of Vietnam-era oral histories, both written and tape-recorded, I’ve had a unique opportunity to dig deeper, to find all the ways that this story is flimsy and unfair. Unique because it’s not about showing that American soldiers were wrong — rather, I’ve come across account after account from American veterans talking about the courage and effectiveness of their allied brothers, the South Vietnamese soldiers.

Of course, I’ve come across many Americans with negative attitudes about ARVN. But a lot of them were rear-area personnel, people who never fought alongside ARVN and, I imagine, drew inaccurate conclusions from secondhand accounts they’d hear on base. Other negative accounts focused more on cultural differences than anything else. More than one talked about ARVN soldiers’ penchant for walking hand in hand as they headed out to battle. An American radio specialist who served in Binh Duong in 1967 could not understand it, even many years later: “That was kind of strange to us. I don’t think it was any more than they were just good friends, and that’s what they did over there, but it just seemed kind of strange.”

Other American veterans found it strange that the families of ARVN soldiers would often follow them to camp. As one G.I. contemplated: “So these troops were largely draftees. They went into the field with their wives and kids along with them in trail. When they set up the night defensive position, it was like the extended family was there. They did not want to go out and fight in many cases. They just wanted to survive and take care of their families.”

But in my research, the Americans’ critical assessments are easily matched, and then some, by sympathetic, positive accounts of ARVN. For example, many veterans actually liked having ARVN families nearby and praised the willingness of some wives to risk their lives to get fresh produce from nearby villages to cook hearty meals for their husbands and American soldiers. Others recognized that having family members nearby could be a solid source of moral support for ARVN soldiers, a reminder of what they were fighting for.

Lire la suite : New York Times

Carie Uyen Nguyen is a doctoral student in military history at Texas Tech University.

Image « à la une » : Marines of E Company, Second Battalion, with soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) during a break from patrolling near Da Nang in 1965. © U.S. Marine Corps, via Getty Images