For some, it takes only six words to sum up what it was like to serve in Vietnam. “Those damn rockets at Khe Sanh” … “Didn’t want to know their names” … “The stifling humidity, heat and smells” … “At times palpable and overwhelming fear.” For others, the memories take more time to unravel, with passages full of exact dates and names and ranks and, mostly, unhappy endings.
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FROM THE ARCHIVES: Stars and Stripes reporting from 1965
“VIET VICTORY NEAR,” blared a headline across the top of Stars and Stripes’ front page.Farther down the page, a smaller article titled “3 Aides Seized in Vietnam Battle” told a far less celebratory tale. Three soldiers were feared to have been captured a few days earlier by the Viet Cong
The date of the edition was Nov. 1, 1963.
Day, night, asleep, awake; the dead are unrelenting. They are young, horrifically burned, maimed, bloated beyond recognition, others just in pieces.
Gary Redlinski says he can hear the Hueys, Chinooks and C-130s, all bearing dozens upon dozens of bodies in a never-ending procession. The putrid smell tickles his nose.
By Matthew M. Burke and Chiyomi Sumida
Stars and Stripes
In 1964, Keith Connolly was a young Air Force pilot and was among the first Americans to fly sorties in the F-100 Super Sabre fighter bomber targeting the North Vietnamese communist insurgency.
“The atmosphere was that we were going over there to provide the firepower necessary to bring the North Vietnamese to their knees,” said Connolly, who now lives in Arizona after retiring from 35 years in the Air Force.
Millions of Americans in the 1960s and early 1970s had to decide what they would do when called to serve in a conflict that had mushroomed into the most polarizing event in the nation’s history since the Civil War. Among them were three young men forced to make choices that would reverberate through the rest of their lives.
Among the many notable changes in weaponry and tactics for the U.S. military during the war, one of the most enduring was the reliance on helicopters as both a transport tool and an offensive weapon in a fight where the biggest challenge was often finding the enemy.
By Travis J. Tritten
Stars and Stripes
In 1959, “Leave It to Beaver” was in its second season on TV, the first Barbie dolls hit store shelves and Elvis Presley was on the music charts.
That same year, North Vietnamese communist forces began building the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Southeast Asia. As the conservative decade of the 1950s closed, the United States began its long slide into a bloody and protracted war in far-off Vietnam, a conflict that bitterly divided the nation.
By Nancy Montgomery
Stars and Stripes
Sammy Younge Jr. was legally entitled to use the restroom. It was January 1966, nearly two years after President Lyndon Johnson had signed into law the landmark Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination and racial segregation at facilities that served the public.
But when the African-American former Navy sailor attempted to use an Alabama gas station “whites only” restroom, the station attendant shot him dead.
As Stars and Stripes looks at the monumental moments, actions and people from the Vietnam War on its 50th anniversary, we struggle to do justice to the life-changing war. So we’re hoping our readers can make sense of it. In six words. It’s not a new concept. Two Army veterans launched the Six Word War project, a crowd-sourced memoir of Iraq and Afghanistan.
We want to do the same for Vietnam. We’re looking for descriptions in six words of your Vietnam War experiences, at home or on the front lines. Whether you served, protested or lived the war through someone in your family. We’ll publish the results as part of our Vietnam at 50 project. Please submit your six words through Twitter with the tag #Vietnam6Words, or on our Facebook page.