When i first began looking for someone to interview, I wasn’t sure who I would interview, since I did not know any veterans. I found Professor Curley through the university. It was awkward at first because I was interviewing someone I did not know at all. I was not sure how sensitive he would be or how comfortable he would be talking about his war experiences. When I asked him questions, he answered thoroughly making sure I knew every part of his experience. It was so interesting. He was a lieutenant commander of a naval ship. He went to the Naval Academy and then when he graduated, he was stationed on a naval ship. They did not go directly to Vietnam but were mostly in the Pacific. He performed many duties such as officer of the deck, wehre he navigated the ship. He also was a helicopter landing officer. When he was stationed on a ship near Saigon, he was a market time analyst. For this job, Lieutenant Commander Curley was a part of an operation to stop infiltration of the Vietnamese from the sea, to stop patrols from the sea, to develop aircraft search patrols, and prevent infiltration of troops and supplies. While he was never directly involved in combat, there was one time where Curley and his fellow soldiers were attempting to disarm radar sitese and were shot at. He said that was teh “only scary moment” during his tour. At the end of the war, Curley remained in the navy, making it a career. He received numerous honors such as a Bronze Star and numerous service medals. Also, he attended graduated school with the help of his GI Bill and also received his 2nd masters and doctorate degrees. Curley never joined a veterans organization because he felt it was a waste of time to join a group that would “sit around and drink beer all day.” He said if a group did something worthwhile for current soldiers and veterans, he would join. Of course Professor Curley still thinks about the war, and says he becomes emotional when it is talked about. When he visits the Vietnam Wall, he becomes emotional. I thought it was interesting that Curley thought the war was needed. Most veterans would disagree, but he believed that someone must defend the country and our allies and sometimes war is inevitable. Interviewing Professor Curley was so enlightening and really helped me understand what veterans really went through.
I thought it was interesting how the public found the end of the Korean War to be a “relief.” The public had had their fill of war and were just waiting for the veterans to return to normal again. The quote at the beginning of chapter 7 was astonishing to me. The man from the 24th Infantry Division was called to headquarters and ended up being sent off to war for 11 months. I couldn’t believe it. During what seemed like a normal night, a man left his family for eleven months without any warning. Page 173 said that some soldiers were given “as little as 72 hours’ notice to report for duty.” These soldiers (and sometimes even veterans) were expected to drop everything they were doing when called to serve. I cannot imagine how hard it was not only for the soldiers but for their families as well. I mean, one minute, your husband is there and the next he is being called to duty in Korea. It is not an easy thing to just leave your regular life behind but these soldiers did. It just seems unfair. I was surprised at how unorganized the United States was, especialy in the area of mobilization. The army equipment, such as vehicles and even airplanes. Many pilots refused to fly because they believed their aircrafts were unsafe for them and their crews. (Page 177) I think that it was not only the soldiers who had begun to be comfortable, but the government also became too comfortable and was therefore unprepared for war. There is no excuse for the government to not have updated equipment or usable equipment for that matter. Also, the government should have been ready at a moment’s notice for war and it was definitely far from it.
Some might think that the fact the soldiers had become too comfortable was a bad thing. I think that the soldiers and even the American public were not expecting the Korean War to surface, so they had finally begun to settle into a regular routine, living their lives as normal as possible. When mobilization suddenly began, things became unorganized. The army was bringing in veterans, regular soldiers, sailors, pilots, reserve officers, and especially new soldiers. What was the rule for reserve officers? Was it that they could be called on at any time to serve? I was angered at all the corruption in the Veterans Administration. Page 185 said, “Fraud, corruption, and inefficiency were front page news items.” The Veterans Administration should have been one of the more respected administrations in Washington. The veterans deserved a better V.A., one that was able to provide for them without allowing politics to get in the way. I also was angry about how the veterans began to lose benefits towards health care and education. I was happy to read that President Truman pushed bills that increased veteran benefits. I found it interesting that after the Korean War, America was not as vocal about welcoming home the veterans as they were during previous wars. Maybe they were tired of all the wars, but my thought is that the American public was more focused on helping the veterans readjust to normal life once again. Although the public tried to help, Korea still holds the name “the forgotten war” and I am sure a lot of its veterans were considered “forgotten” as well.
Reading about the experiences of these female veterans was so interesting. Regina Schiffman was a member of the Army Nurse Corps during the Korean War. She enjoyed being in the Army and was an operating room nurse Listening to here account of the war was interesting because she referred to Korea as “camping.” She loved being a nurse there, although conditions were primitive, with things like a pot-bellied stove and work-horses used for beds. She said being stationed with a M.A.S.H Unit in Korea and the primitive living made her appreciate the simple things in life. Schiffman was never sent to Vietnam and had an overall good experience (as good as war experiences can get). When asked about what she thought about war she said that “war was hell” but sometimes it was inevitable. She was interesting to read about because she seemed so nonchalant about the war, as if she went in and did what she needed to and left again. She didn’t seem to be too emotional about the war but she also seemed to avoid talking about the types of patients they saw. It was interesting hearing about how she lived in a M.A.S.H Unit.
Rhana Marie Knox Prescott was a Captain of the Army Nurse Corp during Vietnam. She was recruited by the Army straight from nursing school. She decided to join the Army because she needed tuition money, and because she had family and friends who were in the military; it was somewhat of a family tradition to be in the army. She thought that she would do her part by joining. She chose the Army Nurse Corps specifically because they guaranteed her placement in Vietnam (which is where she wanted to be) and it would be the best place to use her skills. When she joined, i thought it was interesting how her training was similar to the training for the men. The women learned how to shoot guns and were tuaght how to deal with situation such as insurgents, etc. Instead of first being sent to Vietnam, she was sent to Korea, which she called “amazing.” She was continually trying to be transferred to Vietnam and her 3rd request was granted. On the way there, she was the only female on board. When she eventually went to Vietnam, it was an “eye-opening” experience for her. She recalls being shot at just as she was getting off the plane in Vietnam. Being in the operating room was even more of an experience. Prescott says she remembers patients who “didn’t even look human” with their faces and bodies deformed. I could not believe the conditions of the work environment. Even Prescott still sounded as if she was in disbelief about the hospitals. The hospitals were tents with no air conditioning. They never had enough supplies and the supplies were far from being sterile. I think it is amazing that even after seeing what she saw, she still remained and worked hard at doing her job and making a difference.
Darlene Iskra was one of the first female divers for the US Navy during the Persian Gulf War. Iskra joined the Navy at 27 after divorcing her husband. She said she wanted to try something new. She was also the first female commander of a ship, which I think is really impressive! She remembers that while she was training in dive school, her instructors were harsh on her because she was a female. I found that interesting because she said that she never encountered any problems with her fellow divers, who were mostly men. When she was first deployed, she was sent to the Suaze Canal to monitor for mines during war. For 9 months, she was the only woman on the ship. I think that is amazing because it must have been hard at first for Iskra, but she overcame. I found it interesting that she had no problems with her fellow sailors and subordinates. She had more problems with her superiors, who were mostly men. She said it felt like they were waiting for her to fail and every mistake she made was over analyzed, probably because she was a woman. Unfortunately this never really got better, but Iskra was able to command her ship just as well as any man could. I think she made a difference for women in the military by becoming the 1st female commander of a ship. She finds it funny the reactions she received about her being a female commander while in charge of the ship.
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I think it is interesting how the government was not willing to recognize Korea as a war It was a “police action,” which many would argue is a war nonetheless. I can’t help but think about how the veterans of the Korean War felt, knowing that their service in what they thought was a war, was considered nothing but a “police action.” I would imagine they must have felt used, wondering why they sacrificed for a nation that did not view the veterans service in as high regards. I think it was a good idea for the United States government to decide to bring back the bodies of dead soldiers. I never understood the point of burying the bodies overseas. I mean, the soldiers were Americans, why should they not be given a proper burial in the country they were fighting for? Also, I think by bringing the soldiers’ bodies back, their families could maybe have a bit more closure, or as much closure was possible.
I loved the idea of a War Museum, like Eisenhower proposed. I am not sure I understand why there was so much delay and controversy over the museum. Rockefeller put a lot of time and effort into planning the project, and came up with some really great ideas. Unfortunately, lack of leadership and arguments among agencies caused the project to fall apart. I think it was interesting how artistic ability began to flourish over the whole idea of creating a national war monument. It was also interesting how they used artistic ability to counter the culture of communism. Through encouraging artistic ability, people could express themselves and “could best serve their nation.” (Page 164)
I knew communism was a fear on every American’s mind during this time. During and after the Cold War people were on edge and once Vietnam occurred, the United States government did not want a communist regime to have any chance of gaining power anywhere. This caused a paranoia in America, with the US Government involving themselves in anything that may have dealt with communism. Vietnam was a direct result, with the government intervening to try and eliminate the Vietcong forces and diminish any possibility of the Vietcong gaining power in South Vietnam. While I think it was great the U.S. was on top of international affairs and had good interests in mind, I cannot help but think the communist paranoia was a bit extreme. (McCarthyism for example) It also may have been the cause of some rash decisions right before and during Vietnam.
I think it is interesting how this excerpt spoke of not only the Vietnam War sparking protests, but the Civil War as well. When I think about protests, my mind automatically reverts to Vietnam, not the Civil War. During the Civil War, many men protested strongly against being drafted. Also, this reading spoke about the Green Berets and how a movie was made after them. The movie, starring John Wayne, actually portrayed the soldiers as heroes. Many times, we have seen movies and television being used as anti-war propaganda, like the one video we watched in class on Tuesday. I think that after Vietnam and what people thought about it, the movie may have been a good thing, maybe increasing support for the veterans. Reading about the MIA soldiers was sad. I cannot imagine what those families of the MIA soldiers went through, not knowing whether or not their son, husband, or brother was alive or dead. I can imagine it was heart-breaking to say the least. It angered me to read about how North Vietnam would not help account for those soldiers missing; they left it up to the United States. Yes, it was our nation’s responsibility but North Vietnam could have been more cooperative.
I also think the federal government could have taken more initiative. They so easily came to the conclusion that there were no more living POWs. By saying that, the government admitted defeat. It should have been one of the government’s top priorities to find the POWs, whether they were alive or not. It was the government who sent these soldiers over to Vietnam and now it simply did not want to deal with them. Once again, we see the recurring theme of the government trying to take short cuts and shirk responsibility towards veterans, to whom they owe so much for the sacrifices they made. It just angers me that this happens every time but in this case especially because the government is not even willing to go and find their lost men.
It is so different reading Wages of War after reading Kovic’s book. Some situations were similar, but in this week’s reading, we saw the government’s perspective. First of all, I was shocked when I read about the U.S. Army Lieutenant Calley, who led the My Lai attack on an innocent village. While I understand the problems the soldiers had while in Vietnam, not knowing who the enemy was, I have trouble accepting that as an excuse. I think at some point Calley must have known that what he was doing was wrong. I mean I could understand if they had accidentally attacked the village and there were a few casualties, but the incident at My Lai was far from a few casualties. Even other soldiers who were above in helicopters were shocked by what they saw, unable to do anything about it. I think Calley’s sentence and how it was continually dwindled down was a joke. He first received life in prison but then slowly ended up on parole in a short amount of time. Also, he was pretty much the only one who was charged with murders. I think the other soldiers should have been held accountable for what they had done. Some may argue that they may have only been following orders, but I don’t think that is a valid excuse.
In the reading, it spoke of how the television networks found that broadcasting the war brought in more viewers. I think it was sad how the networks used the Vietnam War to increase business. It was especially sad to read that the network producers saw so much war footage that they no longer tried to understand it; they simply aired it, not taking the time to realize what was truly taking place. Again I noticed the recurring theme of the veterans turning to drugs after the war. The book said that “society would later criticize them.” This was not surprising to me, but it was disappointing to see, again, that the American society was so narrow-minded, unwilling to look at things from the veterans’ perspective.
The Agent Orange problem was one that really made me angry with the government. How could the government be so ignorant? The government acted dumb, as if they did not know what could be causing all this cancer and illnesses. The only reason the government did not jump up to help was because it wanted to save money and in the end veterans were ill-treated, which never fails to happen after a war. This time around, the veterans main problem was not receiving jobs or wanting bonuses; it was the fact that the government refused to recognize the veterans health complaints, pushing them aside trying to cover up the fact that using Agent Orange was hazardous to the soldiers. How many soldiers were denied health benefits? Im sure it is impossible to know, but reading about the different complaints and nothing being done about them was so aggravating. The other aggravating part was that the government so easily dismissed the soldiers sicknesses but was unwilling to research the cause of why so many veterans were suddenly deathly ill. The government was now both ignorant and lazy.
I enjoyed reading about Maude deVictor. I think she was an honorable person for choosing to take the extra time to help the veterans, while her employer, the government, was refusing to help. She was not just an ordinary Veterans counselor; she honestly cared about the plight of the veterans. Even though the government kept refusing her claims that Agent Orange was causing health problems, she continued to do her research and investigations. In the end, most of her investigations were deemed futile and inaccurate by the government, but the media got a hold of it and now more and more people were finding out about this large problem. You would think this would have made the government step up and take initiative and they began to, just in a very slow way. I also was happy at the initiative taken by men such as Frank McCarthy and Paul Reutershan. Even though Reutershan died, I found it so honorable that McCarthy followed through with fighting for the cause.
I think it was unfair that the veterans could not sue the the Defense Department over Agent Orange. They also could not sue the Veterans Administration so they were completely helpless in receiving money or even simply answers & closure. I thought it was wrong how the government tried to persuade the public that the Agent Orange problem was nothing. They even went so far as to tell the American public to not listen to what the veterans were saying. Overall, I truly believe the government was in the wrong for the way they treated veterans. I think this time the government really messed up, because not only were they denying the veterans help, but the government was causing harm to veterans by not looking out for their health. Veterans were dying but the government still remained indifferent.
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I have to say, I truly enjoyed reading this book. It put the life of a veteran into perspective. Kovic wrote this book for a reason, to show everyone the truth of what happened after Vietnam. He did not sugar-coat anything; sometimes people may wonder why Kovic wrote about a specific thing in his book but he was simply writing about his life and what it was like. I thought about why Kovic would periodically switch from first person to third person throughout the book. I think he did this because writing in first person, he is recalling everything but when he writes in third person, he can sit back and observe his life, being somewhat of a third/outside party to the story. Maybe he wrote in third person so he would not be so overwhelmed by the recollection of his experiences; writing in third person gave his emotions a break from remembering the awful and disheartening events in his life.
As I read, I tried to imagine what it must have been like for Kovic. He was paralyzed from his chest down. He was helpless. . . relying on other people for support. Kovic had no control over what happened to him and because of his injury, his entire future was affected. I could not even imagine the emotions Kovic felt, emotions such as helplessness and defeat and I am sure he wanted to just die some days, always referring to himself as a “half-dead corpse.” When Kovic went to Mexico to the Village, where other veterans would go to get away, it was sad how to see how much Kovic desired companionship. I think because of his injury, he felt useless and by finding companionship, maybe Kovic thought it would mask his injury, giving him a sense of worth and purpose in life. When I read about the parade and how Kovic and a fellow soldier were involved I was a bit surprised at the public’s reaction. The two officers who had gone to pick Kovic and the other soldier up had said that the town was so proud of the soldiers, deeming them heroes. The town’s reaction though did not seem so warm and welcoming. Kovic recalls there being silence as their car drove through the streets, with no one waving or clapping. . . just silence. Were the people just overcome with shock or surprise that they did not clap or wave?? Or was there another reason? I also wondered why Eddie Dugan and Ron Kovic were not given the opportunity to speak at the parade. This was yet another thing that made Kovic seem insignificant. He made the comment that “they had been talking like they knew everything, like he and Eddie didn’t know how to speak for themselves because there was something wrong now with both of them.” (Page 111) The officers and speakers at the parade probably had not seen anything like what Kovic saw and they were speaking as if they knew it all, as if they had experienced Vietnam firsthand but in reality, they knew nothing compared to what Kovic knew.
I thought it was great that Kovic decided to attend college. I think it may have been a good way for him to preoccupy his mind, even though he ended up not staying in school very long. When Kovic broke his leg, I was again shocked at the treatment in the VA hospital. I thought maybe the hospital would be better this time. (I’m not sure why I thought that. . . wishful thinking possibly??) The hospital treatment was awful. It was far from sanitary and no one seemed to care that these veterans endured this kind of treatment. Kovic asked for simple things, like receiving a bath or for someone for “the vomit to be wiped up.” (Page 131) How nasty is that. . . . to be unbathed in a hospital of all places with vomit around you?? And the thing that gets me is that it did not seem to bother any of the nurses or doctors. The way the veterans were treated by the nurses/orderlies was saddening. these men need to be built up and encouraged but are not even treated as human beings and probably not even viewed as human beings either. I couldn’t believe it when the orderly brought breakfast to Kovic and called him “Seventeen” making him just a number, not even acknowledging his name. Kovic’s hospital care was awful but during this hospital visit, I think we see why the veterans are treated the way they are. Kovic recalls the orderly “taunting” him when Kovic is screaming for someone while in the hospital and the orderly says in response to Kovic’s statement of how he is a Vietnam veteran, “Vietnam don’t mean nothing to me or any of these other people.” (Page 133) Clearly being a veteran meant nothing and although Kovic made a greater sacrifice than any of the hospital staff could imagine, it made no difference.
I was so incredibly angry when I read about Kovic’s anti-war protesting in Los Angeles. The way the officers treated him was abominable. Could they not tell that Kovic was paralyzed and unable to move?? He tried to tell them but they simply ignored him, too wrapped up in calling Kovic a “traitor” and cursing at him. Kovic did not put up a fight when they were trying to arrest him, yet the officers used such great force.
All I can say after reading this book is that I am shocked. I am shocked by the way the soldiers were treated in the hospital. I am shocked by the horrible scenes of war and in the hospital Kovic describes. I think this is the first author I have read who has been so incredibly honest about his war experience. Kovic wanted readers to know the truth, not sugar-coating anything. Some things Kovic described were things I could not even imagine. For example, the Korean man who had no legs and only one arm who was now “this slab of meat swinging one arm crazily in the air.” (Page 35) Another scene that really shocked me was the “young boy cupping his intestines with his hands” who was on the plane leaving Vietnam for the hospital. (Page 31)
The way the soldiers were treated in the hospital angered me. Doctors and nurses were discussing football while there were soldiers all around them bleeding, screaming in pain, and slowly dying. First of all, how could they possible think of football or anything but medicine at a time like that?? How could the doctors and nurses not be doing all they could to help the wounded men? The medical staff never seemed to be sympathetic to the soldiers’ situations. When men were screaming in pain, the only thing a nurse could manage to say was “shut up.” When the injured baby was screaming, the only thing anyone ever did was to tell the baby to be quiet. I mean, this is a baby, who does not know any better and is injured, and no one was willing to care for him?? It’s unbelievable to me.
Another thing that bothered me about the hospitals was how the soldiers were made to clean up every morning and had “reveille at six o’clock in the morning.” (Page 43) Then the soldiers had to clean up the ward every morning as well as make their beds among other chores. This is a hospital, so where are the orderlies or even nurses?? That is their job, not the patient’s job. Even men who had amputated limbs had to do chores. . . . . I have no words to describe my feelings towards that. Through studying previous wars, I had learned that hospital care was not the best for veterans, but the care that Kovic describes is not even care. The place he was at was the farthest thing from a hospital. The way Kovic was given a shower was awful. The orderly simply placed him in the shower and let him sit there for a while. Then other times he was “hosed down.” These soldiers were human beings, but were treated like useless objects.
Reading about Kovic’s emotional state was so depressing. He had no idea why he had to endure all this pain and suffering. He thought maybe it was a “punishment for killing the corporal and the children.” Kovic was in such a confused state, not knowing what he had done to deserve that injury. He was helpless after the war, with an injury that made him have to rely on others. He was 21 years old and had an injury that affected the rest of his life . . . he would never experience a normal life. He would never enjoy the things most people would, which was one of the most depressing parts. Kovic felt ashamed and embarrassed due to the fact he was paralyzed. He wanted to die, but knew he was lucky to be alive at the same time. He was used to being this strong, young, self-sufficient Marine, but had no idea what or who he was after his injury. It must have been embarrassing for him to have his family see him in a state like that. I also felt so bad for his family, that they had to deal with the heartache of seeing their son like that. That is something no family should have to experience.
It was interesting to read about women and minority veterans after World War 2. After reading about the women veterans, I was amazed at all that they had accomplished. Even though they still faced resistance because they were women, the female veterans were determined to rise above society and were willing to face obstacles to establish themselves in a society that did not think women could do things men could. The question I have is why was society so unwilling to recognize the sacrifice and skills of female veterans or even women for that matter? I think it was because women had never had to take on responsibilities like they had in World War 2 and this was a new concept for the American culture. These women veterans paved the way for women’s rights and established that women could do what men thought they could not.
After reading, I came to realize that minority veterans is not a subject that is talked about often. It still amazes me that African Americans, Latinos, and Japanese-Americans were willing to fight for our country knowing they may not be appreciated it the end. Most of these minorities wanted recognition, wanting to rise up in society and be seen as a true American; so they enlisted and fought in the war. African American veterans proved to America that they could fight and that they were equal to white men. I was surprised to read that Americans accepted African American soldiers (for the most part) and even the South recognized minority soldiers as patriotic. I believe Japanese-American soldiers suffered the most persecution. After Pearl Harbor any Japanese person was considered an enemy. The book talked about how after Pearl Harbor, Japanese-American men jumped at the chance to join the army, but they were considered possible dangerous. These men were willing to defend American against the country of their heritage. . .. why would they be seen as dangerous? I know it is because they were Japanese and there was always the possibility of sabotage, but really…. why would they jump so quickly at the chance to defend the United States? I felt bad for the Japanese-American veterans. Even though they sacrificed so much, they were not as welcomed by american citizens. People used derogatory terms, not even recognizing them as patriots or heroes.
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I enjoyed reading about the GI Bill. I think it is great how the veterans were given a chance to attend college and a way to find jobs, etc. The postwar experience of a World War II soldier was different from those of World War I and past wars for that matter. The government made sure the veterans had what they needed, giving so many opportunities and so much money to all the veterans who needed assistance. I think it was interesting how WW II had the most soldiers who survived after being wounded. It was a change from WW I, where soldiers would come home with diseases. It was interesting reading about the advancements in medicine and comparing them to what is used today.
I enjoyed reading about the veterans attending school. It was great to see the government taking the initiative to give the veterans an education. i think sometimes education is overlooked in our society today but after WW II, it was very important. I agree with the book in that by the veterans attending college, they were able to assimilate into civilian life more easily. I was actually amazed at the number of veterans that attended college. The book said, “When the 1947 school year started, there were 1.1 million veterans enrolled in college courses – 49 percent of all students.” (Page 69) Almost half of the college population consisted of veterans. The veterans who returned to college were not the same people who had attended college pre-war. The pre-war students found college to be a more social endeavor with a bit of academics intermixed. The veterans wanted college to be a more academic experience rather than social, the complete opposite. I was glad to read that the veterans were not only able to attend college but were able to find jobs. After past wars, finding jobs for veterans had been a struggle but after WW II, the veterans were jumping into civilian life quite quickly. The book talked about how some veterans chose not to assimilate into society. It was interesting to read how they sought out other veterans to cope with their problems. This is completely understandable because these veterans understood one another, better than anyone else could.
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I thought this part of the book was a little less interesting than the first part. I thought it was interesting to read about how Fussell adapted into civilian life. He said that the civilians believed the soldiers would adapt quickly to life, but in reality, the exact opposite happened. Fussell said for some soldiers, coming back to regular life was great, while for others it was a painful process. I thought it was sad how people thought Post-traumatic stress disorder was just a soldier’s drunkenness. I guess the people really could not understand what was going on in the mind’s of these soldiers, but how could they not expect some sort of reaction? They believed that since the soldiers had returned “victoriously” there would be no side effects of war. It was also sad to read about how Fussell reacted after the war, periodicially “lying under the furniture crying my eyes.” (Page 183)
I noticed how Fussell considered himself to be much more cynical after the war. I think he saw America in a new, different perspective, one that caused his being cynical. Much of his critical attitude seemed to come from military politics. The leadership, according to Fussell was awful and he not only noticed it, but so did the British field marshal. He believed maybe war could have been different if the leadership had been better. It was interesting that while Paul was at Harvard Graduate School, the other veterans there would all compare war stories, using it as a type of social status. It was interesting that he was the only one who had been in the infantry, while everyone else was from the Navy or the Air Force.