The Vietnam War began in good faith, by good people with good intentions. But a combination of American overconfidence, Cold War tensions and imperialist tendencies the Americans had previously fought so hard against, made the war in Vietnam one of America’s darkest pages in its short but dense history. By the end of the war, more than 58,000 Americans would die, as too would 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers. Over 1 million North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong guerillas would also perish as well as over 2 million civilians’ from both the north and the south, and thousands more from Laos and Cambodia.
The Vietnam War brought everything into question. The rationalization of destroying villages in order to save them. America’s morality in the face of My Lai. The meaning of free-fire zones, shooting anything that moved as soldiers placed a cheapness on the lives of civilians. The falsification of body counts to increase kill death ratios. The UN-importance of battle as men charged up hills because their generals told them too and after losing one platoon or two platoons they marched away to leave the hill for the enemy. Pride allowed the most unimportant battles to be blown into extravaganzas because America couldn’t lose, and she couldn’t retreat and because it didn’t matter how many lives were lost to prove that point.