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Sgt. Christopher Gaynor: Re-thinking Our Role In Viet Nam

By Remy Benoit

In reference to Senator James H. Webb's thoughts on our role in Viet Nam, this response from former Sgt. Christopher Gaynor:

Thought provoking indeed. Senator Webb( Democrat form Virginia) has eloquently made the important arguments for a reassessment of our role in Vietnam and I am happy to have his voice speaking on 'our war'. I would, however, expand on a few points.

As a 20 year old University student in Los Angeles, CA I fall into a category of VN Veterans who had much in common with those who either chose not to serve in a passive way by exercising the college deferment exception or actively opposed the war and either left the country or defied the Government and went underground. That is, I came from an upper middle class family, had 2 years of university and had some shaky ideas about the legitimacy of the war and wasn't crazy about the idea of being drafted. We listened to the same music, read a lot of the same books and greeted the views our parents' generation with skepticism. But when I dropped out of school, suddenly I was faced with the reality of being called up. I decided that I could not in good conscience avoid serving while so many of my generation were fighting and dying 12,000 miles from home. I volunteered and soon found myself stepping forward to affirm my allegiance to the United States of America. I was in the Army.

I spent 13 months on combat operations with the 4Th and 25Th Inf Divisions throughout III Corps(near the Cambodian border and at the terminus of the Ho Chi Minh trail) between January, 1967 and February, 1968. My comrades represented a true cross section of America, coming from all regions, socio-economic backgrounds and being of all races and religious beliefs. Perhaps there were fewer volunteers than in the Marines, but we all put ourselves on the line every day(and night) to do our duty for our country and our brother soldiers without hesitation. The portrait of the crazed, drug addled baby killer that has become the popular image of those who served in Vietnam is complete BS. We had values and heart and we gave our all.

I believe Senator Webb is right when he states that tactically we did not lose the war. Nearly without exception every action we were engaged in resulted in heavy losses(many times those of the Allies) for the Viet Cong(VC) and North Vietnamese Regulars(NVA). The Tet Offensive of 1968(which I experienced first hand) should have been the death knell for Communist ambitions in the South. Gen. Giap made a major miscalculation and watched while his forces and equipment were almost completely destroyed. But, because of the perceived chaos in Saigon, particularly the breaching of security at the American Embassy(vividly portrayed in Amercan living rooms on The Evening News), Ho Chi Minh and Gen Giap won the war politically. Support from average Americans and then Legislators eventually died along with commitment to the Republic of Vietnam. It took another 7 years for the Communists to build up enough strength in the South to launch another major offensive, but by that time the US betrayal of our former ally was complete and the enemy met little resistance as America broke it's promise to help them in such a crises.

When I rotated out of Vietnam in February, 1968 I landed in Oakland, CA was outfitted with a new uniform, a DD214 and shown the gate. That was it. I traveled from Oakland to Newport Beach CA in uniform and was completely ignored. No one except my own father thanked me for my service or showed any interest in what I had experienced. Those of my generation were not critical or particularly negative. Where I would differ from Senator Webb on this is that in my experience it was my parents' generation who scorned us when they should have been our greatest supporters. It took another 35 years before I got anything resembling a welcome home.

It is my hope that our citizens who are serving and dying in Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas never have to go it on their own like we did. We owe them the respect and support that has been denied the 3 million men and women who served in Vietnam.

Fmr. Sgt. Christopher Gaynor

2nd Bn, 77th Field Artillery
Republic of Vietnam '67-'68

For a first hand look at the life of a soldier in Viet Nam Sgt. Michael Pectol: A Rifleman First.


Wow this is a great resource.. Iím enjoying it.. good article

Posted by: medical assistant, at 2010-08-20 23:35:14

This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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