Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam

By Christian G. Appy | Go to book overview

6
Drawing Fire and Laying Waste

In 1965, when the First Cavalry Division entered the war, the American mass media was dazzled by the prospect of helicopter warfare. It was as if the foot soldier had become a military anachronism. The First Cav arrived in Vietnam with an enormous fleet of fancy new helicopters and full of talk about "air mobility." They even added Airmobile to their name: First Cavalry Division, Airmobile. It was a cavalry not of horses but of flying "birds." Soldiers would mount the choppers and zip in and out of combat, apparently liberated from the ancient plight of the common soldier -- the miles of sweated marching. Time magazine celebrated the First Cavalry's new image with a purple encomium to the "First Team" and its vaunted mobility. "Freed by their choppers from the tyranny of terrain, the First Team can roam at will over blasted bridges, roadblocks, swollen rivers and jungle mountains to hit the V.C. from the northern tip of the nation to the delta." 1

The American fighting man in Vietnam is supported by the best that his country can offer. . . . He is swiftly moved into and out of combat. . . . He has a camera, transistor, hot meals and regular mail. If he is hit, he can be hospitalized in 20 minutes; if he gets nervous, there are chaplains and psychiatrists on call. It is little wonder that he fights so well, and quite comprehensible that his main concern in offduty hours is aiding Vietnamese civilians. - Time, 6 June 1967

The First Cav had the best new choppers. Unlike those huge, lumbering Choctaws the marines were stuck with, the latest birds were the light, fast, versatile Hueys (the nickname was derived from the formal nomenclature: UH-series helicopters). They were used as troop carriers and medical evacuation

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Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - Facing the Wall 1
  • 1 - Working-Class War 11
  • 2 - Life before the Nam 44
  • 3 - Basic Training 86
  • 4 - Ominous Beginnings 117
  • 5 - The Terms of Battle 145
  • 6 - Drawing Fire and Laying Waste 174
  • 7 - A War for Nothing 206
  • 8 - What Are We Becoming? 250
  • 9 - Am I Right or Wrong? 298
  • Notes 323
  • Bibliography 343
  • Index 355
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