Vietnam: Who Lied? Who’s covering up?
The recent column “Vietnam: Who served? Who fought?” brought a very positive response from a number of readers who suspected the mainstream media’s negative portrayals of Vietnam veterans were more myth than fact.
But that column did not deal with how those myths came to be and why the mainstream media, even when confronted with the facts, continue to portray Vietnam veterans as unwilling draftees whose exposure to the horrors of war turned them into suicidal, alcoholic, drug-crazed, baby-killers and assassins.
Before dealing with these myths, let’s review the facts: 66 percent of those who went to Vietnam were volunteers, 73 percent of those who died were volunteers, 91 percent of those who were interviewed about their experience said they were glad they served, 74 percent said they enjoyed their time in the military and 66 percent said they would serve again, even knowing the outcome of the war.
Eighty-seven percent of Vietnam veterans were White and 13 percent were non-White. Moreover, officers and non-commissioned officers suffered disproportionally higher casualty rates than enlisted ranks. This was especially true with regard to Infantry and Engineer officers. Marine officers had an 85 percent chance of being killed or wounded.
But how did the negative Vietnam stereotypes and myths get started? They come from tales told to gullible reporters by imposters, some of whom never served in the military, much less Vietnam. Other liars served in the military, but did not serve in Vietnam. Some liars were in Vietnam but never experienced actual combat. In fact, only 15 percent of those who went to Vietnam experienced actual combat.
Any reporter worth his or her salt can disprove these bogus tales. A veteran’s military file is a highly detailed public record that anyone can obtain under the Freedom of Information Act from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO. Every single day of military service, every medal, every promotion, etc., is documented.
The reasons for these outrageous tales are sometimes financial and almost always psychological as well. A bona-fide Vietnam veteran who claims he or she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome can draw several thousand dollars per month. Others claim Vietnam combat is the reason for the emotional problems that led them to alcoholism, drug addiction and criminal behavior.
A typical story told to reporters is that the purported Vietnam combat veteran was trained by the military to be an assassin and sent behind enemy lines to kill North Vietnamese and Viet Cong political leaders and, as a result of his bravery, was awarded the highest decorations the nation can bestow. He will usually throw in the myth that more Vietnam veterans committed suicide after the war than died in combat. Total hogwash. If the reporter shows signs of making a records check, he or she may be told that the work was so secret that records were never kept, or were destroyed or are so secret that the reporter will run into a classified brick wall. More hogwash.
One reason these cockamamie stories are so readily accepted is because many reporters and editors want to believe them. In an excellent article in Brill’s Content Magazine entitled: “Lies and More lies,” writer Mark Bowden explains: “The typical middle-aged newspaper editor, reporter, and television producer today is more likely to have marched against the Vietnam War than to have fought in it.”
Trying to expose these lies and attempting to get the media to print retractions is the avocation of B.G. “Jug” Burkett and Glenna Whitley, the co-authors of Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of its Heroes and its History. Stolen Valor’s 700 highly-documented pages expose the Vietnam imposters and the publications that refuse to admit they were duped. For a copy, send $31.95 plus $4.95 postage and handling to: Verity Press, Inc. P.O. Box 50366, Dallas, TX 75250. For more details, see: www.stolenvalor.com. It’s worth your time.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist, spent two years in Vietnam with the 1st Air Cavalry Division.
©2000. William Hamilton
Column 975 and others can also be seen at: www.central-view.com