Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam

By Christian G. Appy | Go to book overview

4
Ominous Beginnings

SURREAL ARRIVALS

No one knew what to expect, but what they found was more bizarre and unnerving than anything they had ever imagined. From their first moments incountry, American soldiers were confronted with the war's most troubling questions: Where are we? What are we doing here? Where is the enemy? Whom can we trust? Where is it safe? What is our mission? The answers received provided little comfort or clarity. Instead, the green troops faced a series of confusing and incongruous experiencesominous portents of a yearlong tour of duty against enemies they could not identify, among allies who did not welcome their presence, and on behalf of a policy that was neither meaningful nor realizable.

It didn't take long to see that something was seriously wrong. There we were, flying into Nam on a fancy commercial jet, sipping drinks like a bunch of goddamn businessmen, and as far as we knew the VC were going to start shooting us up as soon as we touched down! And we didn't even have our weapons yet! I don't think there was a single rifle on the whole damn plane. It was crazy.

-- Luke Jensen

In the beginning they arrived by ship. The First and Third Marine divisions, the 173d Airborne Brigade, the First Cavalry Division, the First Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne Division, the Twentyfifth, Fourth, and Ninth Infantry divisions: most of the major American combat units made their initial arrival in Vietnam by sea, thousands of men carried on large troop transports. In August 1965, for example, 13,500 men of the First Cavalry Division left on seventeen ships from Charleston, Savannah,

-117-

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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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