Viet Nam - How The Soldiers
Stopped The War

Traveling Soldier Online

The Vietnam war was not stopped by large, legal protests alone - it was stopped by the very GIs who were ordered to fight it.
The American military in Vietnam was mostly made up of working class conscripts and enlistees; their officers, on the other hand, tended to be from the middle and upper middle class. The officers - or "lifers" as they were called derisively - often put their men in deadly situations, in order to get promotions. This was not the only source of tension. GIs increasingly resented the fact that they had been lied to; they were not defending democracy in South Vietnam, they were defending a hated police-dictatorship.
In the U.S., some young workers were becoming radicalized by the ghetto uprisings and wildcat strikes, and came into contact with left-wing ideas through the student anti-war movement. Other young workers drafted in these years were radicalized after they went into the army - when they came into conflict with the "lifers" and were forced to defend a government that the Vietnamese didn't want to defend.
In 1968, in the wake of the Tet offensive, tensions within the army exploded. Drug use and AWOLs skyrocketed.
Mutinies erupted over the next two years and spread from individual units to whole companies. One Pentagon official admitted that, "mutiny became so common that the army was forced to disguise its frequency by talking instead of 'combat refusal'".
"Fragging" - the GI term for using violence against their officers for their behavior - was extremely widespread in Vietnam. The army still cannot account for how 1,400 officers and non-commissioned officers died. This number, combined with the official fragging statistics, suggests that 20 to 25 percent of all officers killed in the war were killed by their men, not "the enemy".
In addition to widespread individual and collective rebellion, rank-and-file GI papers sprang up on bases, ships, and in units in the field. The roughly 200 papers were enormously popular, because they told the stories of soldiers' struggle in the language of soldiers - and were produced by soldiers themselves. Vietnam GI, a national paper with a circulation of 10,000 - most of it in Vietnam itself - carried stories of technicians sabotaging bombs, exposed Nixon's peace initiatives as the fraud they were, and interviewed soldiers about their experiences in "the Nam".
As the war within the army grew more intense, many soldiers began to realize that their real enemies were the "lifers," politicians, Pentagon brass, and corporations, not the Vietnamese people. The slogan of the U.S.'s brutal war - "search and destroy" - became "search and avoid". Patrols into the field deliberately evaded contact with the National Liberation Front (NLF) and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), and night patrols would halt and take up positions a few yards beyond the base perimeter. Another tactic was for a patrol to secure a safe place in the jungle and camp there.
In this way, GIs declared their own cease-fire with the NLF. In fact, the NLF and the NVA were ordered not to fire on U.S. troops wearing red bandanas and peace signs, unless fired upon first. Two years into the tremendous soldiers' upsurge, GI combat deaths were down more than 70 percent from the 1968 high.
The war was ended from below - and because it coincided with urban uprisings, wildcat strikes, and mass protests in the U.S, the American ruling class decided it would rather keep Detroit and lose Vietnam, rather than lose Detroit over Vietnam. This is why Washington has been reluctant to use working class troops as cannon fodder for its economic and political domination of the globe ever since.
The soldiers' revolt in Vietnam showed that people in the military can become a major force in fighting against war and occupation.




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