Interview with History: The War in Vietnam



The Vietnam War (Vietnamese: Chiến tranh Việt Nam), also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America (Vietnamese: Kháng chiến chống Mỹ) or simply the American War, was a conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and the government of South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese army was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; the South Vietnamese army was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war is considered a Cold War-era proxy war by some US perspectives. The war would last approximately 19 years and would also form the Laotian Civil War as well as the Cambodian Civil War, which resulted in all 3 countries becoming communist states in 1975. [1]


This account of serving in Vietnam is provided by Mr. Gene Cavaliere, who served with the United States Army. He currently serves as one of the exceptional Chapter Service Officers at Disabled American Veterans (DAV) East Valley Chapter 8 in Mesa, AZ, helping fellow veterans with their VA claims, aid and assistance, housing, training, and more.


I joined the Army in 1966 at the age of 18 in upstate New York. My career started with Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, after which I attended AIT at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. After training, I was shipped off to Fort Lewis, outside Tacoma, Washington, as my first duty station.


After nearly a year at Fort Lewis, we received orders to Vietnam, sailing for Vietnam in May,

1967. It took us 18 days aboard a troop ship, USNS Upshur, 1,000 of us crammed onto the ship with four-tier bunk beds. We only had one port call along the way--in Subic Bay in the Philippines--before finally arriving at Vung Tau, Vietnam. Upon arrival, we were loaded onto landing craft to the shore and then flown into country to meet up with troop trucks. Upon loading up the trucks with our gear and ourselves, we were issued live ammunition and told to "Lock and load" and return fire at anyone or anything that fired at us...Welcome to the hell of war!


We traveled to the Ninth Infantry Base Camp Bear Cat and had lived there for about four or five months when orders came down to break up our battalion. we were relocated to the Ninth Infantry southern base at Dong Tam, where we prepared for the 1968 Tet Offensive. Upon our arrival, the war became intense and my MOS was abruptly changed to Radio Operator because they needed people to fill those positions.


As the Tet mounted, we got hammered by the NVA--no details needed. Tet changed my life forever--not a day passes that I do not relive some portion of it.


I came home in May of 1968 to Fort hood, Texas, where I finished by three-year enlistment.


Today, Agent Orange is taking its toll on me and so many others like me. We continue to live our lives--one day at a time.


Mr. Cavaliere is one of the superb Chapter Service Officers at Disabled American Veterans (DAV) East Valley Chapter 8 in Mesa, AZ. Stop by and say hello when you're in town!


East Valley Chapter 8 is open Monday - Friday from 0900-1400. Stop by and see us at 655 N. Gilbert Road, Mesa, AZ 85203, call us at 480.980.2424, or drop us and email at info@azdav08.org

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Editor's Note:

As a boy and then young man growing up in the 1960's and 70's, I never understood the immense negative public outcry against our troops. Vietnam was, in no uncertain terms, an unpopular conflict and--by the view of many Americans--an inappropriate use of our armed forces and, simply, wrong. This view was inflamed by the shootings at Kent State University and again when news broke of the massacre at My Lai.

I grew up with a strong military heritage. My grandfather served in World War I, my father and two uncles served in World War II, and a cousin served in Korea. My high school social studies teacher, 1LT Robert Pulver, served in the Army during Vietnam. It is, in this editor's opinion, a blasphemy that our soldiers were greeted by people spitting on them, swearing at them, and throwing things at them--it was a disgraceful display on the part of those Americans who disrespected our troops, many of whom did not have the choice to go because they were drafted. And then there was "Hanoi Jane" Fonda, who purposely put our POWs in danger by cooperating with their Viet Cong captors.

I had the honor of knowing well VADM James B. Stockdale, USN, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his exceptional leadership and unwillingness to allow himself--as senior POW--to be used by the Viet Cong for their propaganda, nearly killing himself when he defaced himself so that the enemy could not film or photograph him for their propaganda campaign. Read about his and his wife Sybil's tactics to get information and intelligence back and forth in their book, In Love and War.

May God Bless our Vietnam Veterans, and may God Bless these United States of America.


References:

[1] Multiple Authors. (2018). Vietnam War. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War.

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