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Vietnamese woman with a gun to her head, Vietnam War, 1969 (Keystone / Hulton Images / Getty)

Vietnam and the Sixties

A Personal History

In early 1970, Vice President Spiro Agnew had this to say about the so-called ’60s Generation: “As for these deserters, malcontents, radicals, incendiaries, the civil and the uncivil disobedients among our youth, SDS, PLP, Weathermen I and Weathermen II, the revolutionary action movement, the Black United Front, Yippies, Hippies, Yahoos, Black Panthers, Lions, and Tigers alike—I would swap the whole damn zoo for a single platoon of the kind of young Americans I saw in Vietnam.” This is a fascinating statement for multiple reasons and on multiple levels. To begin with, a single platoon of the kind of young Americans he saw in Vietnam went into a village we remember as My Lai and murdered 407 unarmed men, women, and children. On the same day, in the nearby village of My Khe, another unit of the same division murdered an estimated 97 additional Vietnamese civilians. While I personally did not participate in or witness killing on that scale, I and my fellow Marines routinely killed, maimed, and abused Vietnamese on a near-daily basis, destroying homes, fields, crops, and livestock with every weapon available to us, from rifles and grenades to heavy artillery and napalm.… It is no wonder, it turns out, that Agnew should be so fond of “the kind of young Americans” he saw in Vietnam, since he himself turned out to be a criminal who was forced to resign from his office in public disgrace.… | more…

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