In the midst of the Ken Burns’ film The Vietnam War (so far, sensational), I am reminded of my own experience with the war, which, as an 18-year- old in 1972, left me, fortunately, untouched physically but engaged in other ways. My big brother was in the very first draft lottery, and the image of our family sitting around our TV set, anxiously awaiting the results of the lottery and the impact it could have on my brother and so many of his friends, is burned in my memory. (Miraculously, he drew #355!)
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area meant I had a front row seat during Cal’s Free Speech Movement, San Francisco State (where my brother attended and provided our family with daily reports about the turmoil there), Haight-Ashbury, Berkeley’s People’s Park, and ongoing events associated with the civil rights movement. It was a powder keg time with Vietnam at the centerpiece, and we all grew up pretty quickly.
Music, of course, was a key component of the Vietnam generation, and San Francisco was loaded with
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Last night, CNN aired an episode of the Spielberg/Hanks/Goetzman-produced documentary “The Sixties” that focused on the Vietnam War. Lots of historic and horrific footage — some I have never seen before — that will hopefully serve as a blunt reminder about the cost of involving ourselves in an unnecessary war. So many wonderful young men of my generation paid the ultimate price…
Two of the key commentators on the program are Karl Marlantes, author of the essential Vietnam war novel Matterhorn that focused on the aims of the war — which was not about gaining territory but solely on the mass killing of the Viet Cong — and David Maraniss, author of They Marched Into Sunlight, an account of the war on the battlefield, […] Continue reading »
For those living during the sixties, personal perspectives on the era’s tumultuous world routinely changed instantly. For some, images of civil rights and Vietnam war protestors being beaten brought new meaning to the idea of justice and provoked active participation, while for others a numbered ball picked out of a lottery barrel would alter an entire life’s journey. Morley Safer’s television reporting from the front lines of Vietnam and Walter Cronkite’s nightly reading of the body count stimulated hope and pride in some, fear and rage in others — and often a little of both in everyone.
In They Marched Into Sunlight, Washington Post reporter David Maraniss draws together in one interwoven story the disparate worlds of soldiers in Vietnam, student protesters in the United States, and government officials in Washington.
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