In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home


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Author's collection of war correspondence is lasting tribute to those who died in service

Catherine Leroy was 21 when she arrived in Vietnam in with only a hundred dollars, a Leica M2 and a limited professional portfolio. Over the next three years covering the war, she built an exceptional body of work: surviving and documenting a capture by the North Vietnamese Army, parachuting in combat operations with the rd Airborne, and being published on the covers of major magazines, including Life and Paris Match. She was also the only female photojournalist then working in Vietnam, after the death of Dickey Chapelle, who was killed by a grenade in Leroy wrote over letters home during her three years in Vietnam, one almost every 10 days, and they show how she was processing her experiences and navigating professional challenges.

They are candid and revealing, attesting to her resiliency, exposing insecurities, and showing her in moments of triumph, despair, optimism or courage. Despite her many strong images, Ms. Now a selection of those letters are featured on a new website , accompanied by some of her archive and details from her life. Most of the letters are to her mother, Denise, focusing at first on topics that read like holiday postcards — gifts she hoped to send home, people she met, her tan.

To her father, Jean, she wrote mostly about business — publications that bought her work, logistics and future plans. Her tone changed over time. In the early letters, she was unsure whether she should stay or go home, even as she felt less insecure about her technical skills. She spoke of the relationships she was forming with the military and about daily life.

On Sept. I celebrated my 22nd birthday at the Da Nang press office in the company of lots of Marines. On this occasion he opened a bottle of French champagne when we got back. Every individual serving in Vietnam knew before leaving the U. An individual's rotation lasted twelve to thirteen months.

Thus, for the individual American soldier, the main attribute affecting combat motivation in the war was the operation of the rotation system. The soldier's primary concern was focused on reaching his personal DEROS instead of preparing and fighting in battle. Upon arrival to his unit and the first weeks thereafter, the soldier was excited to be in the war zone and may even have looked forward to engaging with the enemy.

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As he began to approach the end of his tour, the soldier noticeably began to give up; he became reluctant to engage in offensive combat operations. From interviews and studies conducted on Vietnam veterans, the overall consensus is that American soldiers despised as well as feared the Vietnamese. Race was a critical factor affecting both the military and social experiences of American troops in Vietnam. Psychologists believe that there were two types of war.

The first was considered the "good" war which took place from The second was the "bad" war which occurred from The earlier war was very conventional and traditional in that it involved the usual confrontation between opposing armies. The G.

PART-1, Vietnam Audio Tape Letter from Vietnam War Soldiers, sent to friends at home, May 28th, 1972

The later war involved the confrontation between American troops and Vietnamese guerrillas as well as civilians who sometimes shielded the troops. The guerrilla warfare had booby traps and mines planted by an invisible enemy, or it seemed like to the Americans.

The Vietnam War: Dissent from All Sides

At this stage of the war, Americans began to view all Vietnamese soldiers and civilians as the enemy and as racially inferior. Since the initial contact in Vietnam occurred in customary warfare activity, American's race awareness was hidden, practically dormant. However, when the enemy went into civilian villages and countryside to fight a guerrilla war, consisting of ambushes, mines, and booby traps, this resulted in closer contact with the Vietnamese people blurring the distinction between soldier and civilian.

With the transformation of the war from "good" to "bad", American troops came to intensify their racial conceptions. In a "good" war, armies meet on a battlefield where there are set rules and boundaries. It is a very formal situation. On the other hand, in guerrilla warfare there is no formalities, rules, or boundaries; there is no way of telling who was friend or foe. This unpredictable environment posed to be dangerous to the Americans because they were not accustomed to this type of battle.

Vietnam: the First Television War – Pieces of History

So when contacts between the Americans and Vietnamese came closer and more common, the G. At the start of the war, it was the North Vietnamese army and the Vietcong who were considered 4 4 gooks". South Vietnamese and civilians were friends to the American troops, they were not viewed as "gooks". There were many instances where woman and children would confront a group of Americans and have a grenade planted on their body ready to blow up. They didn't seem to realize that the Americans were there to help them, thus they were not trusted and were considered more racially inferior than the Vietnamese troops.

All Vietnamese were initially viewed by Americans as members of a racially inferior group. However, the nature and conditions of their contact, that is as the war shifted from good to bad, changed how they viewed the Vietnamese.


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Drugs and alcohol played a major role in the lives of the American soldiers during the Vietnam war. In the beginning of the war, marijuana was the main drug of choice. However, news that American soldiers were using drugs came back to the U.

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After marijuana was banned, many soldiers turned to heroin in order to get their "high". Many soldiers enjoyed heroin better than marijuana because it sped up the perception of time, whereas marijuana slowed it down. Because marijuana, heroin, and alcohol were so abundant and inexpensive in Vietnam, veterans used them to ease the stress and sometimes to forget what they saw on the battlefield.

As they returned to the states, drugs were not as easy to obtain. Some of the veterans were too young to legally buy alcohol.


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Other veterans actually stopped using drugs and alcohol, because it was hurting their marriage or relationships with others. These were usually the men who had left a stable home and were a little older. However, those young men who came back between the age of 19 and 23 had a much harder time adjusting to society. One of the tragic effects of the Vietnam drug situation was that some men were refused employment because they had served in Vietnam and employers considered this evidence of drug addiction.

Since veterans had many problems adjusting to society, some continued to drink alcohol and do drugs not only to forget what they saw in Vietnam but to cope with the frustration and anguish of not being accepted into society. The media had an immense effect on many individuals during the war.

The public were informed about the war's progress through the media, television, and newspapers. Consequently, much of their opinions and beliefs about war and American soldiers were shaped by how the media viewed the war. Photographers were very influential in forming, changing, and molding public opinion.

Some photographers were interested in showing the suffering and anguish of the soldier, whereas others wanted to emphasize the dignity, strength, and fearlessness of the American soldier. Those at home had no experience of how the soldier lived or what he had to deal with during the war. The media built up a stereotype of the soldier's life. These stereotypes are formed, directed, and censored for military and political reasons, which were designed to build up morale at home or show that there was progression and production of the war.

When the soldier returned home, he was confused and annoyed to have seen that his family and friends did not understand what he had experienced and how he had changed. What the people at home had learned and discovered about the war, they had seen mostly through the media.

The Drugs That Built a Super Soldier

Thus, whatever the media portrayed was what the public believed, but this didn't necessarily agree with what the soldier actually experienced. Psychologists found that it was important not only to prepare the veteran for the necessary process of adjustment, but it was also important to prepare the people at home.

Many veterans were profoundly affected by the Vietnam war after they left. It changed their sense of identity and perspective of society. The various social, moral, and psychological conflicts that they encountered in battle changed their lives. Upon returning home, the veteran felt a sense of uncertainty and alienation from himself and society.

He found that he was questioning himself pertaining to his sense of identity and his existence. After many cases of PTSD had arisen, psychologists engaged themselves in extensive studies that analyzed the process of identity formation and integration. They concluded that identity formation begins at birth and progresses until death. This is the time when teens think they're responsible and they feel a sense of freedom and liberation from their parents. As the individual goes through this critical process of growing up, there must be some set of beliefs or values that will help them in forming a personal identity.

This allows them to feel a sense of integration and acceptance within society.

Typically, the Vietnam soldier was between the ages of years old. The fact that they were either drafted or volunteered for war had a big effect on their identity formation, depending on the kind and quality of their experiences in Vietnam.

In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home
In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home
In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home
In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home
In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home
In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home
In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home
In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home In The Field Vietnam and My Letters Home

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