Monday, April 17, 2017

Evan Thomas at Fort Dix - February 1965

Evan Thomas –
The War at Home

“For a brief period the new military equipment, and especially the introduction of helicopters in large numbers, appeared to be stemming the Vietcong tied.” 

“Like everyone else who read newspapers, I was reminded periodically of Vietnam…(But) the war did not really force itself upon me until February 7, 1965, when LBJ ordered the second bombing raid on North Vietnam following a Vietcong attack on American military barracks at Pleiku.”

“Two days earlier I had been inducted into the Army for National Guard training and had been transported to the snowy, windy, flatland of Fort Dix, New Jersey.”

“The lights went out at ten o’clock that night, but we all remained awake in the dark, covered by green army blankets, staring in the dim lights at the ceiling of army barracks, listening to transistor radios report the raids and half-believing (since anything seems possible in the army) that we would be on an early plane to South Vietnam.”

“The army, of course, made maximum use of the heightened situation during our eight weeks of basic training.”

“’This is important,’ Sergeants snapped. ‘What are you going to do if your M-14 jams in Veet-Nam?’”

“Since they jammed only too frequently on the Fort Dix firing ranges, we took this more or less seriously. We lay on the cold ground, looking at devastated areas where every living thing had long since been shot to pieces. The trunks of trees razed even twenty and thirty feet above the ground, the very ground itself literally poisoned by millions of copper jacketed bullets. A sergeant in a wooden tower shouted over a loud speaker system: ‘Ready on the right. Ready on the left. Firers, lock and load one fourteen round magazine and commence firing.’”

“When the stiff olive green silhouettes popped up behind the sand dunes and next to shattered tree stumps, it was not too hard to believe this was leading towards the dark and steaming jungles we imagined in Southeast Asia.”

“I was ‘against’ the war in an abstract way, but its impact on me personally was more confusing, it seemed possible the National Guard might be called up and that I might go. I’m not all together certain if I feared this would happen, or I wanted it to happen.” 

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