Magnificent Storyteller Soldier Reveals What He Saw In Vietnam

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πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 1 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/historymodbot πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Jun 13 2020 πŸ—«︎ replies

Bill Ehrhart came to speak at my university last year as part of a traveling exhibit on veterans who opposed the war. His frankness about his own mental state after his tour in Vietnam really struck me, and he must’ve stayed for about thirty minutes after the program ended to answer questions from students.

I asked him if there were any movies that adequately captured the experience of a soldier there. He told me no, that war is hell, and that real combat doesn’t have a soundtrack.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 1075 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/Mooka27 πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Jun 13 2020 πŸ—«︎ replies

Bill Erhart is in Ken Burns: Vietnam on Netflix. Probably not as detailed as he would be in this interview but still a good watch for his point of view and what his duties were.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 335 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/thu7178 πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Jun 13 2020 πŸ—«︎ replies


πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 293 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/[deleted] πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Jun 13 2020 πŸ—«︎ replies

"She had ceased to become a person, she had become an icon". This man does have an excellent way with words.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 103 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/IgnitionTime πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Jun 13 2020 πŸ—«︎ replies

What he's saying about the self-perpetuating nature of counter insurgency wars has been known for years, yet NATO still cheerfully rolled into Afghanistan, and the US and UK into Iraq. There has to be a rethink about how wars are fought, and more importantly why and to what goal, because history is full of examples of how simply doing the same thing as the time before over and over, each time with better and more expensive weaponry, is slow death.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 203 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/H0vis πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Jun 13 2020 πŸ—«︎ replies

As a follow up to this, I recommend reading 'Dispatches' by Michael Herr.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 38 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/ranger24 πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Jun 13 2020 πŸ—«︎ replies

Bill Ehrhart discusses his time in the Vietnam War and how his thoughts about the war changed over time. I find it interesting hearing about historic events from the people that experienced them since they often tell it in a way that differ from what we have been told. Ehrhart tells his story in a moving way that portraits the war how it was for a common solider and it gives me new insight in how it was for the men that was deployd and what kind om mental gymnastic they went through in order to survive.

(Since english isnt my first language I'm sorry if there is grammatic errors.)

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 111 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/HerrOber πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Jun 12 2020 πŸ—«︎ replies

I was in Viet Nam at some of the same time. My experience was so different. I was in the air force, worked on the flight line (crew chief) and had one of the best times of my life. I was in Cam Ranh Bay. I worked the midnight shift and spent every day either water skiing or snorkeling on beautiful coral reefs. I spent ten days in the Philippines for school, a week in Thailand for r and r, a week in Tokyo for...r and r. I traveled around the country, Saigon 3 times. Ben Hoa twice, Da Nang during Tet. Later I came home and learned what I had been part of. I worked on F-4's. They left with bombs or missiles or those mini bomblets in tubes or with big tanks of NAPALM, and they came back empty. They mostly came back since flying over South Viet Nam they were unchallenged. The United States would declare a temporary truce and just before it would start the planes would drop bombs with timers so during the truce they would just blow up. I went to college, marched in protest, became a thinking citizen but I cannot make amends. Afghanistan is much the same story.

πŸ‘οΈŽ︎ 123 πŸ‘€οΈŽ︎ u/Smirkly πŸ“…οΈŽ︎ Jun 13 2020 πŸ—«︎ replies
Well, when I got to Vietnam I literally expected to be welcomed with open arms by the people of Vietnam. I had in my head the black and night white newsreels I had seen on the Walter Cronkite twentieth century show of the American troops rolling through villages in France and being showered with wine and flowers and kisses. And as we were driving down a guy from the battalion I was assigned to, picked me up in a jeep at Danang and we had to drive the 20 miles to where my battalion was located. And I, I really was disappointed that there weren't people standing along the road waving to me and you know, offering me flowers and things. I really expected to be greeted as with open arms as a liberator and it was as, as though I was invisible, as though I didn't exist. And that was a little perplexing. Moreover it was, it was they looked funny and they acted funny. I mean just riding along in this jeep the first day I got there. They lived in little straw huts, and they had animals in their, in their backyards and they weren't like us. They smelled bad, the whole country smelled bad. You could smell it, it would, it hurt the nose and that was disturbing. And then I was there for about... On the third day I was there, this guy who had picked me up in the jeep a corporal who I was ultimately going to replace he and I were in the battalion intelligence section. We were sent down to the tractor park the, in fibbies tractor park to meet a bunch of detainees. It was our responsibility to take care of prisoners and detainees were a classification of civilians. They were not combatants they were, they could be detained for questioning. That's how they were, why they were called detainees. And Jimmy and I went down there to track park and two tractors came in they had a whole bunch of Vietnamese up on top. High flat-topped vehicles about eight or nine feet tall and as the tracks wheeled into the park, the marines up on top immediately began hurling these people off. They were bound hand and foot so that they had no way of breaking their falls and they were old men, women, children. No young men and I, I couldn't believe these guys were treating these people this way and I turned to Jimmy and said, I grabbed him by the arm and said what are, what are these guys doing? These aren't, these are, we're supposed to be helping these people. And Jimmy turned to me and he looked at my hands on his arm, I sort of took them off and he said Erhard you better keep your mouth shut until you know what's going on around here. And I think it was at that point that I realized things were not quite what I was expecting. It went downhill from there and again I can't even begin to explain in the space of time that you have all of the things that went into it, but I began to understand it became obvious that the enemy was the very people in these villages around us. We were in a very heavily populated area at that time. They were the enemy or at least the enemy was out there somewhere and we couldn't tell one from another and day after day our patrols went out and we ran into snipers and mines and snipers and mines and snipers and mines. I saw four armed enemy soldiers the first eight months I was in Vietnam and yet our battalion during that same period of time sustained 75 mining and sniping incidents per month over half of them resulting in casualties. This is for a unit of about a thousand men, but there was no one to fight back at and you begin to think these people are the enemy. They're all the enemy and then you go through villages and you know, you get sniped at and so, you call an air strike in on the village and the whole village goes up or you go through a place and you search it and you burn houses and blow them up. You know the common perception, the notion I heard when I was in high school was it was the Viet Cong terrorized the Vietnamese population forced them to fight against the Americans on the pain of death. What I began to understand in Vietnam was that they didn't need to do things like that. All they had to do was let a marine patrol go through a village and whatever was left at that village, they had all the recruits that they needed. I began to understand why the Vietnamese didn't greet me with open arms. Why they in fact hated me, but of course that didn't change the fact that, that my friends were getting killed and injured every day and the only place that you could focus your own anger and fear was on those civilians who were there. And so, it was a self-perpetuating mechanism The longer that we stayed in Vietnam the more Viet Cong there were because we created them we produce them. None of that distilled itself into the, the clear kind of expression that I'm presenting now. What I began to understand within days and which became patently clear within months was that, what was going on here was not was I had been told. What was going on here was nuts and I wanted to get out. I knew if I were still alive on March the 5th 1968, they'd stick me on an airplane in Danang we used to call it the freedom bird and I could fly away and forget the whole thing. Turned out not to be quite so easy to forget it, but that was the notion and, and certainly for my last eight nine months in Vietnam I ceased to think, I quite literally ceased to think about why I was there or what I was doing. The sole purpose for my being in Vietnam at that point was to stay alive until I could get out. Then the reason for that is that, you know, the kinds of questions that began to present themselves were just, the questions themselves were ugly and I didn't want to know the answers. It's, it's like it's like banging on a door, you knock on a door and the door opens slightly and behind that door it's dark and there's loud noises coming like there's like there's wild animals in there or something and you peer into the darkness and you can't see what's there but you can hear all these ugly stuff. You want to step into that room? No way, you just sort of back out quietly pull the door shut behind you and walk away from it and that's what was going on. The questions themselves were too ugly to even ask, let alone if I had to deal with the answers. Now part of what was going on as said I could not have made sense of what I was seeing and doing in Vietnam because I did not have a full deck of cards. I needed to have an understanding of the political historical realities that brought us to Vietnam before I could make sense of what I was seeing. I began to acquire the other cards in the deck during the three years or so after I got back from Vietnam, but while I was there nothing made sense. Because I kept trying to you know, play this game with 27 cards instead of 52 cards and it kept not coming out right and I didn't know why all I knew was that it was nuts and it became, it became clear within three or four months. That my reasons for being in Vietnam were not clear. I mean this notion of defending the people against these invaders from North Vietnam the people hated me. The Vietnamese people hated me. and it was perfectly, that was perfectly clear. I mean the people didn't say good morning to you, people didn't, I mean people hated me. I know that other people's experience some other people's experience was different, but in my own experience the Vietnamese people hated me and I gave them every reason to hate me. I beat them, I sometimes kill them, I destroy their houses, I destroy their crops, I destroy their fields, I destroy their culture. Why in the hell should those people like me? And I could see that I was doing that, and I could see that nothing we were doing was having any impact on the war itself. Now the funny thing about Vietnam is that I, I was getting Time magazine every week. It came in the mail I could read about my war even as I sat in the middle of it. And I would read about what Lyndon Johnson would say and what McNamara would say and what Russ would say and I could look around and see that aha, I don't know what war they're talking about, but that's not what's going on here. We actually had an incident happen where one of our line companies stumbled upon a fairly large cache of Viet Cong weapons and ammunition and I read in the stars and stripes, the daily newspaper that we received. This little action actually made it into the papers and we read that we had set the Viet Cong effort back by at least four months in our area. Within a week of that article appearing in the paper, within 10 days of the incident itself, the bridge a hundred and fifty meters in front of our battalion compound was dropped by Viet Cong sappers. An Amtrak coming in from the Horseshoe area from one of the line companies hit a 50-pound box mine several men were killed a bunch more were wounded. A patrol out of fook track grid was ambushed, several people were killed, several people were wounded. I mean nobody told the Viet Cong that they'd been set back for four months and yet this is what you're reading in the newspapers. This is what you're being told back in the United States. I could see that the war went on day after day after day interminably at the same pace no matter what we did. I'm wasting your film. When I left Vietnam I was at the time, I was in the midst of the battle for Hue city during 10th 1968 February 68 and I had been up in the city for two and a half, three weeks. And I knew that my day was coming, but I wasn't sure when and at that point we weren't thinking about things like that. And we are in the middle of a low key fire fight we were exchanging fire with some guys across the street from us along the Eastern, the North East section of Hue city what was left of my unit, the scouts about six of us. And a jeep comes hauling up the street along the river and whips into this little compound where we were and says Erhard the orders are in let's go. It's a lieutenant my boss and I stood, I didn't exactly stand up but I immediately began to strip off my gear and distributed to the other guys who were there and said so long see you back in the world, got on the jeep. The last thing I saw of those guys they were laying down covering fire for us we burned our way back down the street there was a chopper sitting on the LZ. I got on the bird, I was up 3,000 feet above Hue city. 10 minutes after, I knew I was on my way out and went through some processing. I ended up... They yanked me out early because one of my older brothers by this time had arrived in Vietnam and they arranged for me to spend a couple of days with him. And I got back when I got back in early March was... came in at night went through more processing place called Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay and then I was free to go and I had, I was still had time at the marines. I had a month's leave basically before I had to report to another duty station in North Carolina. And I got a taxi and there I was, my first view of the United States and I was really, I could hardly wait and it was absolute impenetrable fog. We came across the Oakland Bay Bridge, couldn't see 10 feet, couldn't see anything, got to the airport there was... Part of what affected my coming back, I was happy to be alive, I was excited, but at the same time I was very ambivalent. I was afraid partly because I had a girlfriend when I went over there and in September eight months after I was there I got a dear John letter from her and I kept hoping that I'd be able to fix this up once I got back and I did not know what kind... and that, that woman, that girl had become the focus of my life while I was in Vietnam. She had, she had ceased to be a real person, she'd become this icon and then of course she had sort of you know, she'd take a hike. And but you can't just let go off of a vision like that, of the thing that has kept you going. So, I was scared about all that. I didn't know what I was going to find when I got back. Finally got back to the East coast
Channel: David Hoffman
Views: 11,198,721
Rating: 4.9070091 out of 5
Keywords: Vietnam, Vietnam War, Hue, Vietnam vet, military veteran, PTSD, antiwar veteran, 1960s, 60s, American military history, Vietnam soldier, cnn 60s, sixties documentary, 60s documentary, 1967, 1968, making sense of the, rising storm 2 vietnam, maga, trump, northkorea, 2020, democrats, republicans, Politics, election cycle, Biden, greatest stories, storyteller, most viewed
Id: tixOyiR8B-8
Channel Id: undefined
Length: 15min 26sec (926 seconds)
Published: Thu Jul 19 2018
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