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Fifty Years Ago
By Allen Meece
Fifty years ago in 1973, the US walked away from the useless Vietnam War. Nobody surrendered, nobody won and nobody apologized. But a lot of people died and hordes of people suffered permanent physical and mental trauma from directly or indirectly participating in the long, drawn-out atrocity of war.
The atrocities did not end because congress got wise after ten years of false pride and propaganda lies. It ended because dedicated educators taught The Great American Public Mind that the Vietnam War was an amoral fake war.
Dirty secrets had been drug out of the government's covert closet. Citizens learned that American destroyer spy patrols had been breaking international maritime law by operating within NVN's territorial waters near sensitive military bases. I was on one; the USS Edwards, DD950. We crew members weren't told where we were or that it was an illegal, classified patrol. Of course, we weren't respected enough to be asked if we wished to break the law and provoke a war.
Voters heard the CIA was provoking bloody combat by sponsoring secret paratrooper raids inside North Vietnam and even went so far as to buy a fake airline and named it Air America. It flew supplies to its clandestine raiders. The Department of Defense's "military conflict" in Vietnam, Republic of, was becoming seen as the CIA orgy of violence that it actually was.
Many Americans decided not to go there and were respected for making that illegal moral decision that would get them a five-year prison sentence inside the "Land of the Free" (in propaganda speak). It became OK to choose personal honor over patriotic stupidity.
In 1973 I emigrated to Canada after a landslide majority of my so-called "fellow American" voters had voted for the war-mongering Richard Milhous Nixon for president. I had married a Canadian girl and had a decent job as a Field Service Engineer for Bausch & Lomb, a big American Corporation. I had received excellent electronics training as a sonar technician in the Navy.
My life was good but I was getting drunk twice a week to cope with my subconscious dissatisfaction with the world situation. American capitalism was able to continue its monstrous bloodbath to get access to Indochinese material resources, despite millions of conscientious people marching in anti-war protests across the world. I had taken part in that dishonorable war. I became a practicing alcoholic for the next sixteen years. The deepest wounds of war are under the skin.
I'm writing this in a private room on the twelfth floor of the Miami Veterans Administration hospital where my four-year enlistment has earned the benefit of affordable, world-class medical care for my cardiac condition. I'm glad I served in the Navy, but it had a price; being forced into amoral mortal combat. Later I experienced addiction, divorce, and homelessness.
As a catharsis for my shame, I wrote a novel about my Tonkin Gulf experiences called Tin Can. It shows the crew of a destroyer conducting a successful mutiny against the politics of the US Navy which was killing people for wanting socialism to fix the poverty that colonial capitalism had installed there. It felt good to write a positive novel about my naval disservice.
I attended self-help group meetings for addiction and I got the beer to stop controlling my life. I moved to tropical Key West and married a wonderful woman. I am living a serenely enjoyable life at last.
Allen "Somerset" Meece, USN 1962-66, USS Edwards DD950, has published the novels "Tin Can" and "Brave New Mars" at Amazon.com