Vietnam: The Heartland Remembers

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In this oral history thirty-three Oklahomans speak for heartland Americans who fought the Vietnam War, and for those who waited, some of whom are still waiting, for their loved ones to come home, alive or in a body bag. No single political bent is stressed, and attempts to flavor the manuscript with dogma have been resisted. In the ranks are super patriots, reluctant warriors, gung ho marines, skeptics, embittered former patriots, and humanists-whites, blacks, Indians, and Hispanics-men and women, officers and grunts.

The veterans and their loved ones tell what made them enlist in this most unpopular war, what sort of preparation they had, how they handled combat and the rest of their tours in Southeast Asia, how they dealt with the mixed reception once back home and the grief and disgust that were Vietnam's reward for valor.

These men and women think of themselves not as heroes but as common folk. And they are right: they were ordinary people thrust by politics and fate into the uncommon circumstances of the war. As they bring to life their deadened memories, they try to tell us what it was really like, calling to our minds again names such as Khe Sanh, Highway I, the Tet Offensive, and Hamburger Hill, reminding us of what some of us chose to forget.

Readers who have not served in the armed forces may find some of these first-person accounts harsh or obscene, but combat veterans from all wars will understand immediately why they are the way they are. What all may find incredible is some of the veterans' sensitive appreciation of the beauty that surrounded them as they fought the war that nobody wanted.

Stanley W. Beesley, who was a Ranger team leader in Vietnam and twice was awarded the Bronze Star, teaches school in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Of the other contributors, whose accounts he compiled and edited, he says, "They opened up their souls and trusted me and let me carry their hearts around in my hands."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The 30-odd people represented here have two things in common: ``They went to Vietnam without a whimper and returned without whining,'' and they are all from Oklahoma. Intended as an oral history in the spirit of Al Santoli's Everything We Had and Mark Baker's Nam, this collection lacks the power of either, although the short reminiscences are not uninteresting. Doctor Jack Welch comments on the callousness of journalists. Infantry scout Wilber Brown recalls what it was like to become lost in the jungle and nearly captured. Ranger Billy Walkabout describes his initiation into his tribe's warrior society on his return home. David Price, former counterintelligence scout, relates his struggle to overcome the stigma of being an ex-POW and Vietnam vet. Kathryn Fanning, widow of a Marine pilot, describes her attempts to learn what happened to her husband's remains, accusing the Marine Corps of a cover-up. (September)
Library Journal
Beesley's oral history of 33 Oklahomans who foughtor who waited for those who didin the Vietnam War joins a growing number of personal accounts of that conflict, among them Philip Caputo's A Rumor of War (LJ 5/15/77), Al Santoli's Everything We Had (LJ 4/15/87) and To Bear Any Burden (LJ 5/1/85), Mark Baker's Nam (LJ 3/15/81), etc. Beesley's work makes its own distinctive contribution. He presents the stories of men, women, whites, minorities, grunts, nurses, etc., born in the ``heartland'' but fighting a war in a faraway land filled with natural beauty and unnatural death. All the nomenclature of the war is here (there is a glossary), along with the sense of this as both national episode and personal tragedy. Beesley provides an update on what these participants are doing today. Highly recommended. James L. Jablonowski, History Dept., Marquette Univ., Milwaukee
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806121628
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1988
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 214
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

Stanley W. Beesley, who was a Ranger team leader in Vietnam and twice was awarded the Bronze Star, teaches school in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Of the other contributors, whose accounts he compiled and edited, he says, "They opened up their souls and trusted me and let me carry their hearts around in my hands."

Read More Show Less

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