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Thursday, 20 September 2007

Vietnam Memories

I have just been watching three hours of films on the Vietnam War. They were put together by Channel 3 of France Television. They were compiled from films taken by US Army cameramen during the period 1965 to 1973. They were largely unpublished and not originally for the general public. Looking at them one can see why. Nothing could have been more useful to the anti-war lobby. Very gruesome, they show scenes that could put one off war completely. I spent nearly ten years in Vietnam between 1965 and 1975. I originally went out under contract to the US Defence Department working for Decca Navigator Systems operating the hyperbolic navigational systems used by the army helicopters. In July 1969 the project was cancelled and I decided to stay on in the country mostly teaching and working part time as a journalist.

Watching the film brought back a lot of memories. Each man there must have had his proper story to tell. I wondered though if nearly ten years of war gives a true picture when it is compressed into three hours of film. Naturally the images portrayed some of the most horrifying aspects of war. I certainly saw enough although I was never subjected to wading through snake infested swamps. Perhaps 10% of the military had a really hard time of it for a one year tour. Life though went on and there were long periods of relative calm. One also became very immune to horror unless it touched one personally. I’ve just had a request from someone for some photos of the effects of Agent Orange on people. At the time I personally and I think most people were utterly unconscious of its devastating effects on the yet unborn. Horrible as it was in a war one is often very ignorant of certain aspects of it. It’s thirty to forty years ago now but it still remains the most important period of my life. At least it was the time that forever left its mark on me. I was perhaps lucky as I searched and found more beauty there than anywhere else. Of course when one lives close to death one has a tendency to appreciate life all that much more.

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