What were the varying responses from the “Allied” troops subject to Vietnam?
The responses from the allied troops were mainly of hatred for the very harsh yet beautiful environment and an ambiguous response to the Vietnamese people. It is understandable the grudge troops held against a gruesome environment shrouded with innumerable killings in an alien culture, but the brutal racial discrimination perpetrated by Americans was still very prejudicial. There were, however, acts of kindness and charity to Vietnamese, yet at the same time, these glimpses of humanity were overshadowed by the greater bloody conflict. The varying responses of the allies were clearly evident through well-known films, stories and writers.
Vietnam’s ever changing tropical climate started to mount intense physical and mental pressure on to the soldiers as they endured the alien jungle environment. Tim O’Brien’s, “In the Field,” presents a character-rich tableau of the arduous, back-breaking and soul-destroying struggles of soldiers fighting another battle against the elements of nature. The rain is used as a constant recurring motif portraying the wet environment and that, “The rain was the war and you had to fight it.” The story comments how so filthy and ridiculous the environment is that the field was seen as a literal ‘shit field.’ The soldiers are driven insane by the ‘smell’ as they complain, “the stink was everywhere.” Troops, therefore, saw themselves as outsiders who were freed from normal social and moral constraints.
Hollywood’s response to Vietnam’s environment and the people was portrayed through, “Apocalypse Now,” directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Colonel Bill Kilgore comments that no matter what the ideal circumstances were Vietnam still wasn’t home. He is tired of the alien environment and wishes for his sanity he left behind at home. This stylistically surreal film (shot in the Philippines) depicts the beauty of Vietnam mixed with the madness of war. Coppola captures the relaxing white beaches with palm trees and rolling waves, just so he can jarringly contrast peaceful nature to the suffocating, death lurking everywhere. The scene of the GI's water skiing disrupting a passing peasant boat metaphorically shows that in fact the Americans are the out-of-control intruders. Claustrophobic alien jungle has become the hellish backdrop for the gruesome killing machinery of war as represented by the “insane” Colonel Walter E. Kurtz who constantly repeats the word, “horror,” as he has been blinded by the cruelty of war. In addition, this film is riddled with racial discrimination towards the Vietnamese with cruel comments such as, “We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig. Cow after cow. Village after village. Army after army.” Also the stereotypes to Vietnamese as “slopes,” “gooks,” or, “fucking savages,” portrays the overall dehumanizing attitudes of the Americans developed in Vietnam. The merciless scene where the ‘grunts’ literally rip...