The “Narrative”

I am presently working witha group of other vets to help bring the view of our war in Viet Nam to aconference being held later this year.  This has been a drawn out event,marked with a great deal of conflict in some parts, and enormous effort finallyto be able to bring to the conference both the people and the historicalliterature to set the record straight.

After so much talking withso many others in this project, I wrote the note below for all of them. But I think it worth sharing with my brothers in arms, so that some of you whohaven’t kept up on what has gone on in our universities and media newsroomswill understand that the truth of the conflict in which we served will beknown, rather than the false history the antiwar people have so successfullypublicized.

We are still fighting, allthese years later, when I thought I’d be settled back, retired, and hardlythinking of conflict and studying history.  But as I say below, there aregood reasons to put the boots on, pick up the pack and ammo, and march on intoa fight that needs to be won.

The “Narrative”

Iwas reflecting on all the events of the past ten years, since I first becameinvolved in studying and then contributing to the detailed history of the VietNam War. This has taken a tremendous amount of time for me but I have not beenalone in this work. There are many veterans who are historians, and somehistorians who have been very sympathetic to the views many vets have abouttheir service and the war in general.

But unfortunately, academia was invadedduring and right after the war by those who were against the war, and thecommonly publicized history of the war from the great majority of writing donefrom about 1965 through 1985 centered on what I will call The Narrative. Andthose antiwar professors trained others in their way of thinking, so academiais now heavily spotted with the second and even third generation historians whosupport The Narrative the way a preacher supports the Bible.

What is The Narrative? Well, it consists of abunch of “accepted” or “well known” talking points, whichgo like this.

the conflict in Viet Nam was between the trueliberators from the French and the corrupt southern part of the country, whichwas ruled by an unelected power elite who were resisting the unification of thenation out of various selfish motives

as a civil war, the USA had no business being there inthe first place, and the excuse that it was about stopping internationalCommunism was just propaganda

the involvement of the USA was based on blatant lies suchas the false reports of attacks on US warships and false theories like theDomino Theory

fighting against the many true nationalists ofthe South, who were then aided by the aroused and committed brother patriots ofthe North, while the ARVN were never really able to fight well, was animpossible military situation, so the war was unwinnable from the start

American meddling never did anything exceptworsen the situation for the Vietnamese people, and America’s gross overuse of weaponrydevastated much of the country irresponsibly, and caused deaths of hundreds ofthousands of innocents

American troops were disproportionatelyminorities, and the general bad attitudes of both the officers and men resultedin the routine occurrence of atrocities that were covered up

in the end, the brave Vietnamese patriots, anirregular group of guerrillas with old weapons and few resources, outfought theworld’s biggest and best equipped army

all of this could have been avoided if only theUSA had lived up to the commitment made in the Geneva Accords for the holdingof countrywide elections, which would have peacefully resolved the situationand unified the country under Ho Chi Minh

Every one of those points isfalse, and actually easily disproven by facts, records, and the personaltestimony of those who were there, not just Americans, but plenty of Vietnameseas well. Yet the great majority of Americans, and foreigners for that matter,generally believe some or most of those points. And the media have done a greatjob as well in supporting The Narrative.

Fighting against this are acomparative minority of historians and witnesses to history, like myself. Ispent all of ’68 running up and down I Corps, working with various grunt units,but also seeing things from the viewpoint of other units, like the HST teams,the pilots, the S-6 scouts, and others. I sure don’t know everything, but Isure know we were not raping and pillaging and murdering every day, and in factwe were doing medical aid visits to every little village we stopped at. (And Ihave the pictures to prove it.) And we were certainly not outfought by eitherthe VC or the NVA, although they were damn good fighters at times.

Since the war I have metmany other vets, and some of our POWs, and many Vietnamese who were in thefight and survived to come here to live. I’ve ready many good books on eventsof the war, and cross-checked them with other books and sometimes with thepeople who were there for the events described in the books. So I have become afairly decent amateur historian, and even wrote a booklet for students to helpthem avoid being led astray by The Narrative. (Whitewash/Blackwash: Myths ofthe Viet NamWar)

I do lectures at highschools and colleges, and sometimes meet in the audience some antiwar people,and then the discussion gets a bit warm. I don’t argue feelings, but stick tofacts and logic, usually facts the other side has never heard, or chooses todisbelieve, and they aren’t always too good with logic. And they invariably getangry at me, and things go downhill, and I get accused of being biased or lyingor just really stupid. Most of the people listening to all this tend to startlooking at me like I actually know something, and looking at the other guyswith rejection in their eyes. But it never slows down the antiwar people, theyare like committed disciples of Hanoi,and nothing makes a dent in how they see things. They just get more passionateas they argue, until they get really mad.

But if I really help educatesome people, change some minds, it seems like adding a drop of water to a dirtyocean. It takes up a lot of time, but more than that, gives me a lot offrustration and concern at a pretty high level.

And far, far too often, Iget the terrible feeling that all of us still working at the true history ofthe war are fated to be Don Quixote, tilting at the windmills of academia. Thatthe sheer momentum of that triple-damned Narrative cannot be overcome, or evendented seriously. It is a truly sickening thought.

But why do we go on, whymust we go on?

Two reasons: The second isthat it is a continuing part of our service to the nation, to try to get thereal history studied and understood, so that we can eventually reap thebenefits of really learning the lessons of that war. Or conversely, to help thenation avoid the disasters that will continue to accrue by accepting the falselessons of the war. This is no small matter.

But the first reason is allthose names on The Wall, and all the others who served, and suffered. I includein that our brothers in arms of the ARVN and the Montagnards,some of whom still suffer to this day.

Long, long ago I had tomemorize a WWI poem,InFlanders Fields. Still applicable, still poignant. And the last verses echotoday. “If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep.”

I cannot but think of allthose men, especially those I knew, whose faces are still bright in my all toodeclining memory, or those I saw die and held or carried, whose blood congealed,sticky, on my arms and hands. I cannot let their memories be trampled andsullied by these arrogant fools and enemies of the Republic.

So regardless of thediscouragement, the deep worries, the time my wife says I can’t afford, I’m inthis for the long haul. It will end only when they close the lid on me, and Iam back with those I knew in those awful times.

I want to say that I amproud and honored to be part of this group who are fighting to keep the truthalive. We are perhaps another band of brothers in another battle, one that isso terribly important. I salute them all on Memorial Day, and all the othervets still standing proud for their service; and perhaps we will yet knock overone of those cursed windmills.

Semper Fidelis                              

RJ Del Vecchio