Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bullets Turn into Dollars for Bitter Ex-Foe

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bullets Turn into Dollars for Bitter Ex-Foe

Article excerpt

Vietnam and the United States, bound forever by war, have come almost full circle with the end of a 19-year economic embargo.

Once bitter foes on the battlefield, they are now partners in trade, a first step toward healing the pain of war and a prelude to the restoration of diplomatic relations.

Vietnam wants to put the war behind it, and maybe the resumption of trade signals America's willingness to finally let go of such a divisive and destructive past.

Still to come is the final muster of America's 2,238 fallen who remain unaccounted for, awaiting that final journey home while their loved ones keep the faith and the vigil. Thousands of Vietnamese are missing as well.

Tom Davis of Livingston, Tenn., was the first American soldier to be killed in combat with the Viet Cong. It was three days before Christmas in 1961. He was 25.

Before the long ordeal was over, the families of almost 60,000 Americans would answer that dreaded knock on the door, just as the Davis family had.

America's intervention in Vietnam began in July 1950, with a small military assistance and advisory group that grew to more than half a million soldiers at the height of the war in 1968. It ended on Jan. 27, 1973, when the United States and North Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Agreement in the ballroom of the former Majestic Hotel in Paris. Two months later, the U.S. military was out of Vietnam, leaving the war to South Vietnamese forces, who failed to withstand new onslaughts.

The war machine did not leave a moment too soon. It was beset with racial, drug, leadership and morale problems. Between 1965 and 1970, the number of servicemen apprehended for drug use grew from fewer than 50 to 11,000. The U.S. Command believed that, for every soldier caught, five went undetected.

A polarization of military ranks and a breakdown of discipline manifested themselves in what came to be known as "fragging," taken from the "fragmentation" grenade. …

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