American involvement in the Vietnam War begins shortly after World War II:
President Truman sends military help to France when Communist and nationalist rebels fight French colonialism in Indo-China. In the early sixties the first American combat soldiers are sent to South Vietnam to fight North Vietnam which is Communist. America loses this war which ends in 1975.
In American literature about the War in Vietnam the soldiers are often confused because they don’t know if what they are doing is morally right. The question is often raised as to how different this war is from World Wars I and II. The American soldiers don’t understand the language or the local people themselves. They don’t even know why they are fighting a was in the first place. On top of that, there is hardly any support at the home-front, in America.
The best Vietnam War Poetry is to be found in Winning Hearts and Minds (1972), an anthology written by Vietnam veterans. The two best known poets are Michael Casey and Basil T. Paquet. technological, military and medical images are used to write about forms of combat, horrors on both sides, the violation of Vietnamese culture and other themes.
Some outstanding books have appeared as well. Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War (1977) is an autobiographical account of the early years, 1965-1966, in Vietnam. Many soldiers are under the naive impression they are the ‘good guys’ fighting the Communists whom they consider to be the ‘bad guys’. Michael Herr’s Dispatches (1977) is a journal. It shows the suffering and horrors of war but also the comradeship Herr enjoys as a journalist. He makes creative use of images and modern everyday language. Finally, there is Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato (1978) and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961), which – amongst others – we’ll be looking at more closely in this course.
You can do a bit of research into the novels about the War in Vietnam by reading some excerpts and/or you can listen to some War/Protest songs.
- So, now, it’s your choice. Go to the top of the page (The Vietnam War) to use the menu and click on what you would like to do next:
- Reading (5 points): Click on ‘Novels – Catch-22 (1961)’
- Listening (6 points): Click on ‘War Songs’