Ambush the Brutality of War

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Ethan Mahaffey
Mrs. Minton
LNG 332
9 February 2011
Ambush the Brutality of War
“I did not hate the young man; I did not see him as the enemy; I did not ponder issues of morality or politics or military duty. I was terrified. There were no thoughts about killing. The grenade was to make him go away.” (O’Brien). The Vietnam War was harsh, unforgiving, brutal, and quite controversial. Tim O’Brien’s “Ambush” vividly depicts why the Vietnam War was the most brutal and controversial war in U.S. History.

The war in Vietnam started off a small conflict but quickly spiraled out of control resulting in 58,000 lost American lives, 350,000 American casualties and between one to two million Vietnamese lost their lives.(Lau) The Vietnam War was not brutal just because of the high numbers of casualties but also because of the way the war was fought. The Viet Kong used spirit shattering guerrilla tactics. These tactics instilled fear and paranoia in U.S. soldiers. (Leonard). The Viet Kong were masters at the art of camouflage and disappearing in the jungle. American soldiers were under a constant threat of attack. The Viet Kong soldier in Tim O’Brien’s “Ambush”, seems to appear from out of the fog, like he is part of the fog itself. The Viet Kong’s ability to use the jungle to their advantage proved very effective against the U.S. soldiers; because of this the Americans were forced to keep constant guards on duty because the enemy could strike at anytime. “We were working in two-man teams – one man on guard while the other slept, switching off every two hours” (O’Brien). At any moment a brutal battle could erupt out of nowhere, “his right leg bent beneath him, his one eye shut, his other eye a huge star-shaped hole” (O’Brien). The carnage O’Brien depicts in his story was an everyday sight for almost every soldier in Vietnam. Soldiers watched while their brothers were killed right in front of their eyes.

Horrible living conditions made the war even...
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