Professor Greg Beirich
June 11, 2013
The United States has a history of interfering with other countries’ affairs. Marching into a foreign country to “help” in the name of freedom and democracy has long been the American way. In the late 1950s, war begun in Vietnam between communists from the north and democrats from the south. Efforts to prevent communism from spreading across the globe forced our country to be involved. Whether or not America’s involvement was necessary is a topic under question and debate even till today. The novels The Quiet American, by Graham Greene, and Bloods, by Wallace Terry, disclose various ways the U.S. contributed to this prolonged war. Despite all the benign intentions, many people feel the Vietnam War was a costly mistake that should’ve been avoided.
While The Quiet American takes place in Vietnam during the French war years prior, Bloods tell firsthand experience of African-American soldiers who served in the Vietnam War. Pyle in The Quiet American resembles America as a whole, “(Pyle) was absorbed in the Dilemmas of Democracy and the responsibilities of the West; he was determined… to do good, not to any individual but to a country” (Greene, 18). He believed preventing the spread of communism would be beneficial for all. Based in the mysterious Asian country as a secret agent, his job was to import weapons and set up attacks throughout the country. One incident describes: “that day all over Saigon innocent bicycle pumps had proved to contain bombs which had gone off at the stroke of eleven…. It was better from their point of view to let people assume that the bombs were communist” (Greene, 18-135). To stir up anti-communism the U.S. military put the blame for civilian casualties on the rebellious Viet Cong, giving a compelling reason to the American people for why they must be stopped. Bloods states how the United States went to just about any extent “to prevent the Domino Theory… the Communists taking South Vietnam and then the Philippines and marching across to Hawaii and then on the shores of California” (Terry, 156). Consequently, government officials promoted fear with the Second Red Scare to incite their citizens to take a stand against the further spread of communism.
American troops were placed in Vietnam up until spring 1975. Between that time American troops were let loose in this foreign country. Not only was there a huge culture shock, but also language played as a barrier. Little efforts to understand the Vietnamese culture became an issue in the war. One of the soldiers said, “ this old man was running like back towards his crib… I think people said halt” but we didn’t know no Vietnamese words” and so they shot him (Terry, 7). Another case of miscommunication was when a soldier told a girl to di di mau and her lack of effort to clear the streets caused her to get shot. (Terry). There could have been many factors to why she remained on the road; she couldn’t get through traffic or could not understand his Vietnamese. America showed no mercy and was brutal to anything and anyone that stood in the way. With their endless supplies of artilleries “if something moved in front of you…. you fired at it” (Terry, 157). Lots of the poorly trained solders were blind in the jungles of Vietnam, especially at night, aimlessly shooting to any noise.
Americans treated the people of Vietnam poorly as well, women especially. Some of the captives were women and while being intergraded they were abused. One of the African American hospital corpsman from the Navy was explaining how he saw a Vietnamese woman get a lit flare shoved in her during questioning (Terry). Pyle never physically harassed a female, but saw Phuong (his Vietnamese lover) as an object. Disregarding her input, he was going to bring her to America as his wife (Greene). Poor interactions with the Vietnamese people, a negative ambiance was left behind by the...
Cited: Greene, Graham. The Quiet American. New York: Viking, 1956. Print.
Terry, Wallace. Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans. New York: Ballentine, 1992. Print.
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