The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, November 11, 1986, Image 6
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Photo courtesy of Texas Aggie
On the cover:
Maj. Robert Norlan Daughtrey, Class of ’55,
was one of four former students held captive in
North Vietnam during the war. This photo
graph, taken by the North Vietnamese, was
widely circulated in the United States during the
war to demonstrate the plight of the prisoners
Letter from the Editors
After a number of interviews with veterans,
relatives of MIA’s and researchers, “Scarred Le
gacy” seemed the most apt name for this issue
on the Vietnam War and its aftereffects.
While the section focuses on veterans of the
Vietnam War, we remember on this Veterans
Day all those who have served in U.S. wars.
The idea for these articles was conceived by
Scott Sutherland, Summer 1986 city editor for
The Battalion. This section features:
• A story on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
in Dallas, which is having its groundbreaking
• A profile of four Aggies who were prison
ers of war and sketches of 12 Aggies who are
still missing in action.
• An article about post-traumatic stress dis
• A look at the lives of two A&M students
who were in Vietnam at the time of the conflict.
• A different look at the war, from an ad
ministrator’s point of view.
We would like to thank our sources, partic
ularly the relatives of those still missing in ac
tion, the former prisoners of war and the veter
ans. The interviews stirred up painful memories
for many of our sources. W'e can only hope that
our supplement serves to bring everyone closer
to an understanding of what war means, as we
know our sources would wish.
— Kirsten Dietz
Daniel A. La Bry
Daniel A. La Bry
Anthony S. Casper
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More lives were lost in the Vietnam con
flict than in all other American wars com
bined. America’s much-vaunted military
power was brought to its knees in the jungles
of Southeast Asia. But the greatest casualty
of all was the collapse of our sense of national
purpose. We had one of the greatest military
forces — some would say the greatest — in
the world, but the country’s collective heart
wasn't in the fight. Vietnam was too far away,
and despite the continued warnings of
staunch anti-communists, the domino
theory seemed too obscure to pose a real
threat to this country.
Yet while our hearts may not have been in
the fight, our troops and dollars were. Both
were lost in vain. For the United States, the
Vietnam “war” was a fatal foreign policy mis
take, at best a military and social embarrass
But while the nation tried to wash its
hands of the Vietnam War, the soldiers still
had their hands full fighting battles that paid
no attention to the unwritten rules of war
fare. It was a war of Agent Orange, the Tet
Offensive and napalm. It was a war where
the loss of sanity was as frequent as the loss of
life and where the enemy looked just like the
allies. It was a war perpetuated by promises
that just a few more bombing runs w f ould
wipe out the communists and democracy
Not only did soldiers in Vietnam face the
trauma of the battlefields, they also were
confronted with the trauma of a homecom
ing that offered little recognition and no
appreciation for what they had done.
Unlike World War II, in which soldiers
had long troopship rides home that eased
the battle tension, Vietnam veterans were
given no such decompression time. In what
was labeled foxhole-to-front-porch trans
port by some sociologists, soldiers often were
whisked home in less than 48 hours.
In one report, a veteran remembered that
on the day he got home, his mother told him
to wash up, and he found he still had dirt
from the Vietnam jungles under his finger
The United States the veterans left to
keep the dominoes from falling was not the
same one they returned to. By the late ’60s,
support for the war had become almost
nonexistent. Instead of getting a traditional
heroes’ welcome, thank you or even apology,
the Vietnam veterans were returned home
silently and dumped on their doorsteps, un
noticed by a country that had become disen
chanted with everything they stood for.
To those who opposed the war, the sol
diers were the point men of violence without
purpose — “baby killers” was the popular
term. To others, especially veterans of other
wars, they were failures who had caused
America to lose the first war in its history.
If no official recognition was granted to
• ^ Vietnam
! Gulf of
Graphic by Kirsten Dietz
the returning veterans, what was being done
for the soldiers labeled missing in action and
prisoners of war who were still over there?
The Paris agreement, Chapter 3, Article
8, states that “the parties involved would re
turn captured military personnel and fore
ign civilians, help each other to get informa
tion about those missing ... in action and
work to facilitate the exhumation and repat
riation of the remains (of the dead).”
Between Feb. 12 and April 1, 1973, the
Hanoi government returned 591 prisoners.
But today, more than 2,400 American sol
diers remain missing in Southeast Asia.
While these figures are lower than the
number of MIAs unaccounted for after
World War II (79,386) and Korea (5,717),
MIAs in Vietnam present a special problem.
Because the United States did not win the
war, American authorities have not had ac
cess to the areas where the missing were last
seen alive or were thought to have dis
appeared or been captured.
In 1973, the Nixon administration de
clared that all missing Americans in South
east Asia were presumed dead, ending
efforts to locate them. But in 1982, President
Reagan declared that the search for Amer
ican MIAs holds the highest national priority
and vowed to use all the government’s re
sources to locate the missing.
While some progress has been made,
negotiations have been slowed by the two
governments’ intense distrust of each other.
The Hanoi government denies any Amer
icans remain in Vietnam despite the more
than 100 reports of MIA sightings.
Texas A&M, proud of its rich military
heritage, made a sizable contribution to the
ranks of American forces deployed in Viet
nam — but not without a cost. The jungle
battlefields claimed 110 Aggies. Twelve are
still listed as missing in action, bringing the
hell of Vietnam a little closer to home.
What, then, is a police action? For Amer
ica the hell is over. For those still missing in
Vietnam, and their frustrated families in this
country, the police action has become a per
verse purgatory where they may never be
forgiven for their country’s sins.
— By Loren Steffy