Introduction and Historical Background
The history of the origin of the Vietnamese people can be traced back to some more than 2000 years ago; however, it was not until 1858 when France whilst looking for new trade routes to China, discovered Indochina. Due to its strategic position France envied making it her own colony and within no time the country was made a French colony.
Vietnam became one of the most valued colonies for France in the early 20th century. As expected, the Vietnamese were not comfortable with this due to the harsh treatment they faced in the hands of French colonialists and thus it was within a short period of time that resistance movements rose.
The resistance against the French rule in the Vietnam brought about the rise of Viet Minh who during the 2nd world war gained a lot of military and political support from allies who supported his campaign in removing the Japanese and the French outside Vietnam.
While the Japanese relinquished their control over Vietnam, the French were not ready and after Minh declared the country’s independence in 1945, war began between the French and the Vietnamese. The first Vietnam War called the Indochina war lasted for a period of 8 years and ended in 1954 following the French defeat and the resulting signing of the Geneva Peace Accords (Brigham 2).
The Geneva Peace Accords was not a permanent solution as all it did was to recommend for the temporary dividing of the country (i.e. South Vietnam and North Vietnam) and then elections were to be held two years later, which would unify the country. Soon after the elections, Diem was elected the president.
However, from his entry into power as the president he faced oppositions from all walks of life from the various religious sects, the military, and the crime gangs. To him that was not a major concern and with time he became isolated from his subjects and relied upon his family for advice and as a result a new revolutionary movement came up in 1960 i.e. The National Liberation Front.
There were presidential elections that were held in 1955, which were marred with irregularities and in the year that followed, with the support of the US government, Diem as the president refused to hold elections as contained in the Geneva Peace Accords. Despite the United States of America efforts to support Diem, discontentment was growing within Vietnam and everybody even the US administration saw the impending disaster and in order to achieve its objectives the overthrowing of Diem government was inevitable (Brigham 6).
The US government promised that it could neither take part in the coup nor could it oppose any efforts by the people of Vietnam to overthrow the government. The overthrowing of the government by the military was successful but in contrast to the expectations of many, the military who overthrew the government became more incompetent than Diem had been thus trouble continued to roam in the country.
How the Vietnam War Began
The North Vietnamese attacked an American vessel in 1960 and in retaliation the Unites States of America president by the name of Johnson convinced the US congress to pass what came to be known as the “gulf of Tonkin Resolution”, which allowed the US to attack by bombings the North Vietnamese and the members of Viet Cong whose popularity had been rising in the South (Galloway 168).
Then in 1965, the US was at war with Vietnam, which was characterized by bombings. As days went by and the war persisted, the US president tried to initiate peace talks by promising economic aid to both countries and although this almost succeeded, the Americans continued to increase the soldiers in the country so as to contain the war (Efstathiou 1).
In 1968, the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong forces attacked all the major cities of South Vietnam and even the US embassy followed where the war could not stop but in the year 1973 the Paris Peace Agreement was signed and the American agreed to withdraw their army from the country as well as return of prisoners of war (Arduengo 17).
Many South Vietnamese were not happy with this as they claimed that the United States of America had abandoned them in their hour of need. The Vietnam War was the longest and the most unpopular that American is yet to participate in with nearly 60, 000 soldiers dead and hundreds of their remains not returned to the United States for burial. For most of the surviving war veterans “the wounds of Vietnam will never heal No one wants ever to see America so divided again” (Greenwood 10).
Vietnam Women Soldiers and How Their Lives Changed After the War
Men are known to be most involved in war and their achievements are well made known to everybody but rarely do we recognize and appreciate the efforts of women who get involved in war. The reason to their little recognition is mostly due to the fact that many people, women included, assume that the role they played in war was just helping and did not have any effect on ending or winning the war. The Vietnamese war was not any special and the role women played in this war is not very much appreciated. Existing figures shows that
“Between 1962 and 1973, according to Department of Defense statistics, approximately 7,500 women served on active military duty in Vietnam. The Veteran’s Administration puts the numbers even higher, at around 11,000. Independent surveys estimate that the number of women, both civilian and non-civilian, working in Vietnam during the war is between 33,000 and 55,000” (Carlson 1).
Despite the high figures as claimed by the different parties, the fact remain that although most of these women might have enjoyed their careers as soldiers fighting for the rights of their respective countries, once they came back from the war, they were not treated as their male counterparts were.
Despite their heroic acts during the war their role was seen like that of help mates sometimes being exposed to wanting situations and did not receive medical attention like their male counterparts. Most of the women who took part in the Vietnamese war were nurses who had been recruited and trained on how to use guns in the short run if the situation forced so. They were seen as assets since they could use their nursing skills in the battle fields if the soldiers got hurt.
Like many male soldiers, women grew more disillusioned as the war continued though many had come to this war in the effort of fighting communism and for own patriotism. The war was more than that; the war to them seemed insane and to contain the bad war memories from recurring, many of the women soldiers who served as nurses resulted in taking drugs, became heavy smokers, and alcoholics. Some of them even began having romantic experiences with fellow male soldiers in order to fight the stress during the war period.
Most of the times, the relationships were abruptly broken as men whom they had been dating could be brought to hospitals as causalities (Cook 629). It is as a result of this that most of the Vietnam War veterans have been suffering from a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These are stress reactions that people develop due to bad occasions they witnessed and these conditions sometimes get worse with time. Evidence shows that “About 30% of the men and women who served in Vietnam experience PTSD.
An additional 20% to 25% have had partial PTSD at some point in their lives. More than half of all male Vietnam veterans and almost half of all female Vietnam veterans have experienced “clinically serious stress reaction symptoms” (VA National Center for PTSD 3). In addition when these veteran soldiers suffer from PTSD, a number may turn into suicide as “Unconfirmed reports that 50,000 or more Vietnam veterans have committed suicide (Pollock, Rhodes, Boyle, Decoufle, & McGee 1).
These suicide reports have been reported by Wilson (5) “over the years more Vietnam veterans have died from suicide since returning from the war than the 58,000-plus who died in the war”. This is an alarming rate and the suicides are mainly related to the experiences they had in Vietnam.
These effects of war have been a hindrance to many toward their leading of normal life as most of these veteran soldiers become traumatic with time. Due to the hardship of readjusting to the civil life they were used to before entering into war, most women soldiers have been using drugs or alcohol to nub their feelings and to repress their nightmares and flashbacks of how life was in Vietnam.
The fact that most of the American citizens did not support the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War meant that once the soldiers were back in their country, they were always faced with challenges in confronting indifference in families and the society as a whole. For example, a case is given of a woman soldier whose army clothes were torn and burnt after the war by her husband in order to forget the war memories.
Another effect of the war to the women soldiers was that about a quarter of women soldiers in the Vietnam War were affected by war related disabilities and this has led to them leading a more hard life than they used before the war. The feeling that women were not real soldiers brought about the belief that they were not true war veterans, little attention was given to them and with time most of them began leading solitary lives away from their families and friends (Cook 629).
Though many of the stories we hear about the Vietnamese women soldiers are disheartening it is worthy to note that some of the war veterans after going to their countries got married, found jobs, and adapted well to the American life as they had before they joined the war.
Another impact has been that most women soldiers got exposed to Agent Orange which was an herbicide used to kill the thick vegetation where the guerillas were hiding for easier maneuver of American soldiers. The effects of exposure to the toxic liquid have been chronic illnesses including forms of skin cancer and blood cancer (Abrama 1 &5).
For example, the case of Lesli Moore who had just gone to Vietnam to cheer up the young soldiers yet the effects of the chemical had been diagnosed on her (Abramb 20 & 21). Among the women soldiers who were exposed to Agent Orange, there have been reports of defective births among both the male and female soldiers. Though conflicting evidence exist about the relationship between the exposure to Agent Orange and defective births, most of the veteran soldiers believe it could have a relationship.
In a different perspective there were those women who were women soldiers not from America but from Vietnam itself in their efforts to restore peace in the country they loved and claimed theirs, a number of women took active role in the movement with the promise of ending conflicts in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese women were highly successful as guerilla soldiers against the US soldiers but after the war their contributions were not recognized as most of the government posts were given to men who had served in the military (Ray, Balasingamchow & Stewart 55).
Any war results in loss of life, loss of property, and loss of families. It is thus an important factor to note that upholding of peace and finding amicable ways of solving conflicts is the only way we can avoid losses that come along when any country is involved in war with another.
From the study we can conclude that women soldiers as well as men soldiers play a critical role in ending of a battle and though most of the times men get recognized for their heroic acts, women are rarely appreciated. Its time women began feeling their role appreciated since they face the same risks as their male counterparts.
Among the effects women soldiers have gone through include stress disorders which are brought by the war memories. Some other women soldiers also left the war camps while injured and thus they have never been able to lead normal lives among other impacts. The study also concludes that as a result of exposure of soldiers, female soldiers included. Most have been had birth problems with some of them giving birth to defective babies while others experienced miscarriages.
Abrama, Susan. “Agent Orange A Toxic Killer.” Daily News Los Angeles, 2010. Web.3rd Dec 2010.
Arduengo, E. Sebastian. “Hail Mary: The Effect of the 1972 “Linebacker” Bombings on the Paris Peace Accords.” University of North Texas, 2007. Web. 3rd Dec 2010.
Brigham, Robert. “Battle field Vietnam: A brief History.” Vassar College, not Dated. Web. 3rd Dec 2010.
Carlson, M. “Women, the Unknown Soldiers: THE Vietnam Conflict.” An academic information portal for education and research, not Dated. Web.3rd Dec 2010.
Cook, Bernard. Women and War: A Historical Encyclopedia from Antiquity to the Present. New York: ABC-CLIO, 2006. Print.
Efstathiou, Richard. “Operation Rolling Thunder: The United States’ Unfulfilled Strategy to Win the Vietnam War.” Suite 101, 1968. Web. 3rd Dec 2010.
Galloway, John. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1970. Print.
Greenwood, Lee. “Proud to be an American.” The soldier, not Dated. Web. 3rd Dec 2010.
Pollock Daniel; Rhodes, Paul; Boyle C.A; Decoufle Phillipe., & McGee Daniel. Estimating the Number of Suicides among Vietnam Veterans. Am J Psychiatry 1990; 147:772-776
Ray, Nick, Balasingamchow, Yu-Mei., & Stewart, Ian. VIETNAM. New York: Lonely Planet. 2009. Print.
VA National Center for PTSD. “What is PTSD?” National Center PTSD, 2010. Web. 3rd Dec 2010.
Wilson, Brian. “Memorandum: Accelerated Mortality Rates of Vietnam Veterans.” Word press, July 1, 1999. Web. 6th Dec 2010.