Bill Laurie: The following open letter printed in 17 April 1975 Saigon Post, an English language newspaper in Viet Nam. It was a very chaotic time and the Republic of Viet Nam only had 13 days to live as the battle for Xuan Loc raged, as NVA divisions, engorged with abundance of modern weapons and munitions, moved in on Saigon. The letter was written by an American who'd spent multiple tours in Viet Nam. He preferred to remain anonymous and his identity remains unknown. I kept the piece and to my knowledge no other copy of made it out of Viet Nam. Herewith is exact verbatim text of letter:
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"An Open Letter to the People of Viet Nam and America: I will never forget."
The month was August, the year of 1966. I was a young man of 20 years with a mind filled with American school book ideals and feelings of patriotism swelling my my heart as I walked down the ramp of the 707 that had brought me all the way from my safe and easy life in America to the sweltering hot tarmac of Tan Son Nhut airport, Viet Nam. Little did I know then that this small country and its people, in the year to come, would put a hold on my soul, and later would become a part of my heart, and also, a lot of my personal pain.
Since that day so many years ago I have many memories of Viet Nam and its people, some bring happiness and laughter, others bring tears and anguish and still others bring anger. But my most cherished memory is the memory of that Viet Nam of 1966, a Viet Nam of quiet, simple and polite people, the memory of a "Viet Namese" Viet Nam. There is the memory too of my pride at being an American who was helping the cause of "freedom and democracy" in this land.
My first year passed quickly and I returned to civilian life, returned to my safe easy life. But something was wrong. I didn't feel at home in my own country anymore. I longed for the shy quiet beauty and the warm perfumed nights of Viet Nam. For the first time in my life I felt homesickness. This is not right I told myself. How can you feel homesick for some place that is not your home? But the feeling would not go away.
So, I made the final decision. I re-enlisted in the Army and came back to Viet Nam, back to the country I knew I loved. When I returned to the Viet Nam I had left, only a few short months before, was no more. I knew then that I would never see that Viet Nam of 1966 again, and it saddened me deeply.
The American soldiers were coming in great numbers then and the misunderstanding and bad feelings between Americans and Viet Namese spread and intensified. I watched with sorrow as the Americans' money infected the simple and good people of Viet Nam with the disease called greed and as the greed spread so did corruption. I watched with bitterness and anguish as America tore down the "Viet Namese" Viet Nam and built the "American" Viet Nam. This "American Viet Nam" was a beautiful Viet Nam, beautiful for war profiteers. But for everyone else it was a disgrace. It was degrading to the people of Viet Nam to have everything taken over by the Americans. It took away their pride and made them feel inferior. Before long the whole nation and people of Viet Nam had a giant inferiority complex. Those who would not feel inferior, those who still had their pride, for those it generated hatred and scorn for many years. After America took away the
pride and self respect of the people of Viet Nam and replaced it with feelings of uselessness and dependence on Americans, the great leaders and politicians of my country announced that now we must "Viet Nam-ize" the war so that America can disentangle itself from the "quagmire" of Viet Nam.
The Paris Peace talks were started so that Viet Nam could obtain "Peace with Honor" with "Freedom and Democracy" for the people of the Republic of Viet Nam. Finally the big day came, the "Paris Peace Accords" were signed. The people of Viet Nam once again dared to hope that, after so many years of the tears, pain, horror, death and destruction that make up this thing called war might come to an end. But I did not believe it, not for one second did I believe it would stop. My school book ideals and belief in Americans and their goodness were shattered long before, shattered somewhere between the rape of a house girl and the My Lai tragedy. I knew "those papers" were meaningless, and "those phrases" offered by the prestigious diplomats were as hollow as a rotten tree as far as the country and people of Viet Nam were concerned. I knew in my own mind that it only meant an end to America's entanglement in the quagmire that they helped create.
I did have one hope, one dream left when the American and Allied Forces left Viet Nam. That dream and that hope was that America would supply Viet Nam with the needed weapons, ammunition, and equipment and that you, the people of Viet Nam, would reach deep within you and pull out your wounded pride and regain your self respect and fight on until victory over the barbarian aggressor. My dream and my hope was beginning to be fulfilled. You did mend your pride and you did regain your self respect and I rejoiced in my heart for you. Then it happened, the promises were broken, the supplies came no more. Still, you fought and died and lost your limbs for your homeland. You asked for help from those who uttered the "empty phrases" and signed the "meaningless papers" and they shunned you. Again you swallowed your pride and in desperation you pleaded. So the great humanitarian peoples of America sent a delegation from Congress to your home land.
They saw the sons of rich riding their motorbikes around with their long hair and Heroin dulled eyes, they saw the war profiteers driving their expensive foreign cars and visiting night clubs. They talked with your rulers and generals, then they were experts on Viet Nam, then they had a basis for which to judge you and ease their conscience for the breaking of the promises.
Now the "honorable"(?) Congressmen, being authorities on Viet Nam and it's people, made suggestions and recommendations. Some of these great lawmakers recommended no more aid to Viet Nam, some said they would only aid in the form of food and medicine. It will ease their conscience if you are killed with a full stomach instead of an empty one. One of the great humanitarian experts was quoted as saying that "Eventually the communists would prevail in Viet Nam because their aggressiveness, will and purpose presently exceeds the aggressiveness, will and and purpose of the people of South Viet Nam."
If this is true, I wonder who gave you a purpose and turned their back on you when the going got tough? Who pushed your "purpose" into the mud of the Mekong Delta? Who trampled your "aggressiveness" into the red dust of the highlands? Who drowned your "will" in the South China Sea off the coat of Da Nang? We know who did this don't we my friends? Yes, the U.S. delegation came and looked and talked but they didn't go to see you shivering in the cold rain, they didn't see your children with their eyes glazed in fear, they didn't hear the screams of your agony....they didn't go to see the blood coming from you open veins, they didn't see you in the last quivering spasms of your death. No tears stained their cheeks, no choking sobs wracked their bodies. They will never kneel in prayer with tears streaming from their eyes because of their sorrow for you. They went back to their safe, secure, affluent homes in America. Their families will never
know hunger. They will never have to sit alone in the middle of the night an decide if they should kill their own wife and children to save them from torture should the Communist barbarians get them. They will never have to worry about the searing hot shrapnel tearing their families and friends apart. My dear friends I am afraid your pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Ears closed by the callousness and indifference that is the product of the affluence. Do not envy Americas affluence my friends, because as you can see, they have sold their soul to purchase that affluence.
And so my dear friends for the past 9 years I have been with you. I have loved you and sometimes I have hated you. I have laughed with you and I have cried with you, and perhaps in the coming days I will die with you also, and if this be so be it.
America! Do you want to know what Viet Nam is today? What is this Viet Nam of 1975 that you have created? Listen!
A few days ago while riding to Bien Hoa in back of a small bus with my wife there were two very small children sitting all alone crying because their young mother had gone in search of her soldier husband who had fled from the Highlands, so they had to return home alone. Another woman was crying because her son had just been buried. A man crying because he lost his whole family in Hue. Another woman who showed us the picture of her husband and five children who were still trapped in Da Nang when it fell to the Communists, and as she talked the same tears and choking sobs started. I had to turn away. I could not look her in the face. All I could do was hang my head and stare at the floor in my shame. I felt her pain and sorrow choking me as I sat with tears running from my eyes and dripping to the floor.
This is the Viet Nam of today. All sorrow, all pain, all blood and bones and endless, endless tears. This is the Viet Nam that you, the great humanitarian people of America, have created. The Viet Nam that you now refuse to take responsibility for and traitorously turn your back on.
Every time I read the newspaper now the choking knot of sorrow comes in my throat, the tears flow from my eyes and the shame engulfs me like a dark cloud. It is not a shame I helped to create but it is a shame that I must bear because I am an American.
When you uttered those "empty phrases" and signed those "meaningless papers" your breath should have been bleeding Americans, bleeding like the children of Viet Nam are bleeding. Your heart is stinking Americans, stinking like corpses that litter the "trail of tears and blood" for a hundred miles from the Highlands to the sea. You have washed your hands of Viet Nam Americans, but you have washed your filthy hands in the tears and blood of my friends and the people I love.
Through your callousness, indifference, and inaction you gave your consent to the communist barbarians from the North, you gave your consent for the decimation of a nation and people you once called friends, allies, and compatriots. How bitter those words are in [my] mouth today.
So all of you great good American people and legislators go to your beautiful homes and eat your good nourishing food and sit in your comfortable chairs and sip you coffee and read the the evening newspaper of the horror and tragedy of Viet Nam today, and you say "that's too bad." You go to sleep in your warm comfortable beds with what you think is a clean conscience. But when you awake in the still of the night and you don't know why, you listen Americans, you listen very close, be still and listen and you may hear the poor wretched people of Viet Nam, somewhere between tracers and their pain, somewhere between shrapnel and their open vein, you will hear them call you by your "real" name.
Easter has just passed. Christ said when he was nailed to the cross "Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do." You have nailed Viet Nam to the cross Americans. I do not have the compassion of Christ and I will never ask any man's God that you be forgiven, because you do know what you do, and I will never, never forgive nor forget what you have done to Viet Nam. Never again will I feel pride in being an American. Never again can I hold my head high and feel the patriotism that I felt so many years ago.
Now I can only hang my head low in my shame. You have sickened me to the depths of my soul, damn you America. You have destroyed my beloved Viet Nam.
P.S. I must remain anonymous for reasons of personal safety. If you feel this is worthy please see that some Viet Namese daily gets it in. I would be pleased if the people of Viet Nam could know that some one understands, [and] why.
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