I saw the seventh installment of the Burns-Novick The Vietnam War yesterday. It focuses on 1969. The documentary matches my memories. It was the first full year that General Creighton Abrams commanded MACV, and I watched as he shifted the emphasis in the war to winning the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese population. I knew the North Vietnamese well from exploiting their communications, and I was sure Abrams was on the right track.
But that year, like so many years, I travelled back and forth between Vietnam and the U.S. and I saw the rising opposition to the war among Americans. When I came through the San Francisco airport with the troops, protestors spat on me and called me “baby killer” and “butcher.” I was sickened to my already damaged soul.
Watching the documentary, I learned all over again of the atrocities committed by both sides during the war. I’m beginning to agree with one of the veterans interviewed that war changes human behavior. It brings out the savagery inherent in us all.