America's Lost War: Vietnam, 1945-1975

By Charles E. Neu | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
The Fall of South
Vietnam, 1973–1975

By 1973 the Vietnam War had taken a terrible toll, not just on American lives and resources, but also on the American spirit. Looking back on the conflict James Carroll—in the early 1970s a young Catholic priest—remembered that “the death-littered valleys of Vietnam changed the way I thought of my family, my nation, my faith, and myself.” The son of a high-ranking government official, Carroll had grown up with “a vivid and continuous sense of connection” with America. As a two-year-old he had been present at Franklin D. Roosevelt's last inauguration, and in the post–World War II years, as he attended one presidential inaugural after another, he realized that they were “like a sacrament of the streets to me, rituals of rebirth, the one true American gala, a quadrennial instance of Jefferson's 'peaceful revolution.'” But the Vietnam War had transformed Carroll and his sense of America, until on January 20, 1973, at Richard Nixon's second inauguration, Carroll shook his fist in the air and “cursed the president of the United States”—an act that measured the distance he had come from his “youthful worship of these men.”1

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