“Vietnam Remembered” by Chuck Searcy
This is a beautiful and moving article on Vietnam that I read and well remember few years ago.
Subject: [Vnbiz] “Vietnam Remembered” by Chuck Searcy
[ Vietnam Business Forum ]
Dear anh Chuck & CACC,
Now that Vietnam War has become again a focal point in the US election
politics, old materials resurface. Attached to share with everyone is anh
Chuck Searcy’s speech at University of Georgia on May 4, 1971, explaining
why he (and other Vietnam veterans like John Kerry) opposed the War.
This is a very moving speech. I post this here so you may know how
emotional and sincere the anti-war sentiment was in the US. I also post
this because it is from our VNBIZer Chuck Searcy.
Thanks, anh Chuck, for this moving piece.
Have a great day!
By Chuck Searcy
(A speech given at the University of Georgia on May 4, 1971, at the Memorial
Service for the Vietnam war dead)
Tonight, I would like to share some reminiscences with you, as my thoughts
go back to Vietnam: back to that tiny sliver of land in Southeast Asia
where rolling mountains melt into lush jungle forests, where meandering
rivers wind their way through fertile deltas and merge wih the sea; back to
the gentle sunshine and the sometimes oppressive hear; the cool evenings and
the muggy nights; the ubiquitous monsoons, or the days of cloudless blue
skies; back to the city, back to Saigon, the pearl of the orient, a city of
warmth and beauty and vibrance, a city reflecting the influence of the
French and the proud, refined culture of the Vietnamese, a city teeming with
people two million of them, crowded into marketplaces, shuffling along the
streets with baskets of fruit and vegetables, hidden in the dark shadows of
small woodworking shops beggars, soldiers, schoolchildren, mothers with
babies, wizened old men with tiny wisps of beards, people whose faces
reflect strength, and wisdom, and fear, and sometimes hope and sometimes
despair. My thoughts return to the wrinkled old women selling myna birds on
the strees, the little shoeshine boys skipping after foreigners, the
beautiful young women, charming and graceful with their flowing ao-dais and
I think of the long, tree-shaded boulevards, the flower stands along the
way, the fountains, the statues, the grassy mall along the river, the movie
theaters, the tiny cafes with plates of steaming rice and pungent nuoc mam.
And I think of the large villas surrounded by high walls, and the smooth
streets which lead across the river to bicycle shops and fishing boats, to
shacks and hovels made of cardboard and tin and scraps and bits of string,
where the refugees live; the houses built over the river.
I think of the outlying areas, the villages from which these people came,
those tiny communities linked to the city only by canals and pathways and a
few paved roads those tiny pockets of humanity which could not escape the
impact of a war which has scarred the countryside with blackened carters and
which has poisoned the vegetation in the forests. I see the bewilderment in
the peoples eyes as they try to make a new life in a city which is already
bursting with humanity. I see the overcrowded orphanages, the childrens
faces questioning, trusting, pleading; hungry for food, starving for
affection and I see the disease and the torment and the loneliness in
those places. And I see the desperate coldness in the eyes of a fragile
young girl who awaits her young brother and the Americans he brings, with
their money, to her room.
I see the Americans thousands of Americans, rushing through the streets in
jeeps and trucks, their rifles bristling, their eyes watchful; Americans in
the best hotels, eating the best food, enjoying the best entertainment. I
see air-conditioners protruding through hotel windows and Vietnamese maids
sweeping the balconies with straw brooms. I see Americans struggling to
carry refrigerators, tape recorders, stereos, television sets from the PX to
a waiting taxicab parked beside a Vietnamese amputee who holds out his
crushed camouflage cap for money. I see American trucks, giant diesels,
roaring through congested streets toward Ton San Nhat Airbase, where the
heat shimmers on acres of concerete and jets and helicopters are lined up as
far as the eye can see. And I see the MACV headquarters building nearby
Pentagon East air-conditioned, climate controlled, with Plexiglas windows
designed to withstand the percussive effects of rockets, with gleaming
corridors of polished tile floors where Vietnamese peasants work day after
day, scrubbing and shining; the snack bar buzzing with conversation, the
barber shop humming with the sound of electric slippers, the PX cash
register ringing up brisk sales.
And I recall the American automobiles, the black sedans with the blue
curtains cars chauffeured by Vietnamese who speed through the streets with
their important American passengers. I think of the civilians, the
Americans in white shirt and tie and wire-rimmed sunglasses who work for one
of the dozens of U.S. agencies or firms or for the embassy. The American
Embassy: a showplace of American determination in southeast Asia; the
modern, multi-million dollar structure where the ambassador carries out his
important functions behind imported teakwood doors, surrounded by lush
carpets and handsome paneling; the symbol of Americas wealth in an
Tonight, as I see the candles flickering here in the darkness, I think of
those nights on the edge of Saigon when I stood guard duty and watched
flares drift to earth from the belly of an airplane circling noiselessly
above. The flickering light from those flares cast eerie shadows along the
streets, silhoutted palm trees, illuminated tin rooftops, glistened in
puddles of water and drainage ditches. The only sounds were the incessant
hum of mosquititos and the reassuring chatter of crickets, or the distant
belch of artillery fire and the faraway drone of helicopter engines. I
remember the light dancing on the riples of the Saigon River, and then a
staccato burst of machinegun fire and a rapid series of splashes in the
water, and I would wonder if the guard on the bridge had shot another Viet
Cong trying to swim the river. Then there would be quiet.
And I think of that night in 1968 when fighting erupted in Saigon, when the
Viet Cong made a desperate attempt to drive the Americans from the cities,
when tanks rumbled through Saigon and gunfire split the air, when jets
swarmed into the sky and rained down fire and destruction on whole city
blocks, when helicopters circled overhead night after weary night, when the
crack of rockets shattered the darkness and one hiss followed another and
one explosion followed another and the ground trembld and flames reached
skyward, and machineguns opened up again and again, and then came more
rockets, and grenades, and cannons, and mini-guns, firing with deadly speed,
search out and destroying.
And I remember the streams of refugees pouring up the narrow streets,
burdened with all the belongings they could carry, some crying, some
running, stumbling, fleeing their burning homes as the jets circled for more
bomb runs. I recall the dogs barking, whining, cowering in ditches with
each bomb burst. I remember the people moving first in one direction, then
massing in another direction, with nowehre to go. I remember an American
soldier gritting his teeth in anguished and saying, Its madness sheer
madness. What in Gods name are we doing here? And I shook my head in
frustration ad bitterness and anger and I couldnt answer.
I remember the days when they would drag the bodies out to the roadside, and
I remember the wounded being brought in, their eyes dull, their bodies caked
with blood and dirt. And I remember the flames of burning houses, the smoke
billowing against that orange glow, block after block of charred rubble,
broken glass, chunks of concrete and twisted pieces of metal where children
once played and where old men once sat in doorways, smoking their pipes
tranquilly. And I remember the faces of the people, the hostility that
welled up in their eyes when they saw the indiscriminate destruction of
their city. Their faces said, You are to blame. The VC have not done
this. They have no helicopters, no jets, no tanks. Why have you done this
to us? And somewhere out of the past the voice of the American military
machine came through with the frightening rationale of our policy toward
Vietnam: We had to destroy it to save it.
I remember the voice of a South Vietnamese army veteran who told me:
Vietnamese can make peace; Vietnamese know how to talk to Vietnamese. But
Americans dont want peace.
And my mind would wander back to America, to friends and family, and I would
wonder what they might doing at the moment. Studying? Playing golf?
Dancing? Watching television? Had the war affected them in ay way? Did
Americans really want peace?
Tonight I think of the Vietnamese, the scores of friends who lost home and
family, the ones who were separated from their loved ones. I think of the
friend whose home was destroyed by American helicopters, who lost all his
possessions and almost lost his spirit the one who could not afford to
feed his children and so sent his baby to an orphanage, refusing, with tears
in his eyes, our offers of assistance.
I think of American buddies who were killed, and how it didnt seem real. I
never got used to walking by a friends bunk and finding someone else
And tonight I remmeber the bitter statement Ong Long made to me. His eyes
were moist and his lower lip trembled when he said to me: The American
people have done so much for Vietnam; now I wish you would do just one last
favor and drop an atomic bomb on Vietnam and kill everybody. Then we would
have no more problems.
Tonight, I dont know whether Long is dead or alive. My last three leters
have gone unanswered. I dont know about Co Hoa and Ba Ly and Ong Diep and
Ong Tri and all the others; I dont know whether they are dead or alive.
But I do know that 300,000 Vietnamese civilians are dead because of this
war. And I do know that 100,000 Americans have been wounded, disfigured,
maimed, scarred for life by this war. And I do know that some of my
friends, ad some of your friends, and 40,000 other young Americans are dead
because of this war; and they wont come back ever. And I ask myself
why? and theres no answer.
It is for these the ones who have died that we are gathered here
tonight. It is for those who have suffered the cruelty and brutality of war
that we join together in an expression of sorrow for the shameful role our
own country has played in this tragedy. And by our all-night vigil here on
the University of Georgia campus safe from rockets, safe from grenades,
safe from the gnawing fear that is Vietnam let us renew the bonds of
brotherhood between ourselves and the Ameicans and Vietnamese who tonight,
12,000 miles away, are subjected to the terrors and inhumanities of war. By
this action, let us rededicate ourselves to the task of ending this war, and
let us pledge tonight that our efforts will not cease until every American
soldier is returned home from Vietnam, and the Vietnamese people are freed
from our tragic interference and permitted to live in peace, and dignity,