The Afghanistan and Iraq Wars and Death

The war in Afghanistan and Iraq followed the terrorist attack on 9/11, and the death of over 3,000 civilians ( Staff). In response, the U.S. engaged in conflict, and the total number of lives taken stands at 7,115 – 4,800 in Iraq and 2,315 in Afghanistan (Citizen Journalist, Statistic Brain). As low as these numbers are compared to wars of the past, the effects of the losses are just as immense, and families still grieve in much the same way. Moreover, because the conflict in Afghanistan has yet to cease, the numbers continue to climb, with updates of lives lost at least every month. The most recent update to the online databases was on April 15, 2014, recording the death of Spc. Kerry M. G. Danyluk (Citizen Journalist). Along with the currency of the information, the availability of the statistics about each soldier’s death is more open to the public than ever before. There are online databases and records, giving specifics about how the soldier died, as well as what rank and branch of the military the soldier served. To further increase the reality of these deaths, pictures of the fallen soldiers are posted with their information, giving a face to a name and recognition to a soldier.



Just as with the Vietnam War, the professional methods of notifying the family of the soldier’s death continued. The soldier was first identified, and then the commissioned officers notify the Remain Behind Party (RBE) at the soldier’s base location, within 8 hours of his death (Marine Parents). The RBE has contact information from the fallen soldier, retrieved from him before his deployment. The RBE then assigns a soldier of the same military branch to notify the family of the soldier, and he is identifiable by his uniform, as well as the vehicle that he arrives in (Marine Parents). Notification must be executed in person, within 24-36 hours of the loss. The soldier is accompanied by another soldier for support and aid, and together they deliver the news; the notification can only include information that has been confirmed and must follow a script, almost identical  to the script written up during the Vietnam War (Marine Parents). For soldiers WIA, a similar action must take place, but the family may be notified by telephone rather than in person. However, because of advances in technology and social media, accessibility of a soldier’s death may be complicated. Many families have reported complaints because they find the death of their loved one posted on Facebook or in the news before they are personally notified by the military (Gould, Joe). In response to this, the military has implicated regulations that the press can not be notified of the losses, or given any names, until after the families have been told. These rules are not always adhered to, and information may still leak.

The bodies of the fallen are returned home almost as quickly as the families are notified. Soldiers that have passed on are flown to Delaware, the location of the Dover Air Force Base (NFDA). There the identification of the bodies are confirmed once more, and they are embalmed, dressed, and placed in a casket (NFDA). From there they are either sent to their home town  or to a national cemetery to be buried, and in some cases, families prefer to retrieve the bodies from Delaware personally.The military accommodates for the family’s decisions, covering transportation costs and providing military escorts (NFDA). The military provides accommodations for transportation for the family, making arrangements with airports and ground transportation to ensure safe and timely arrival to Delaware (Bottorf, Yolanda).

Once the bodies have been taken to the desired location for burial, the ceremony takes place. The family can request military honors for burial, but that is not always the case. The ceremony is carried out adhering to a formal structure. The casket is draped with flag, with the blue corner at the head of the casket over the left shoulder (Drill and Ceremonies). Before lowering the casket, the flag is folded twelve times, then presented to the family (Drill and Ceremonies). Out of reverence, the flag is never to touch the ground. Along with the folding of the flag, a 21-gun salute is executed, and taps is played (Drill and Ceremonies). For some soldiers, there is a 3 rifle volley over the grave upon request.


One major improvement in handling the loss of a soldier during these conflicts is the increased support from the military. As aforementioned, transportation costs were covered, and notification was made as respectable as possible. For families that chose to go to Delaware, Dover Campus is open providing free lodging and food for the family, as well as chaplain services if desired (Battorf, Yolanda). Moreover, they have assistant programs at the campus, and programs that continue at home. The most well known assistant program is the Tragedy Assistant Program for Survivors (TAPS) that provides coping mechanisms,  group therapies, and and religious services for wives, mothers, and children of the fallen soldiers (Battorf, Yolanda). Specifically for children, they have Grief camps that provide pamphlets and mentors that teach them healthy ways to deal with the loss and fully understand what happened, as well as Memory boxes, put together by the military to provide emotional support for the children (Battorf, Yolanda).


Bottorf, Yolanda. “Families of the Fallen Support”. USO 2014.

šCitizen Journalist, 2014. “US War Casualties – Afghanistan (By date)”

ššDrill and Ceremonies. “Customs of Military Funerals” July 03.

šGould, Joe. “Social media complicate Army’s death notifications” Army Times. 2012.

š Staff “9/11 Attacks”. A&E Networks. 2010.

Marine Parents “Casualty Notification Procedures During Deployment” 2003-14.

National Funeral Directors Association. š”Military Repatriation and Funeral Protocol”. 2014.

“US War Death Statistic-Statistic Brain”. 2013 Statistic Brain Research Institute, publishing as Statistic Brain. April, 2014.



Civil War and Death

Like any other war, death was an inevitable occurrence during the Civil War. However, rather than just being unavoidable,  it had come to be expected. Not one family, soldier, or home went unaffected. In fact, death became such a universal happening that the state of living and geographical landmarks became personified by death. The South itself had been described as dead, and being “in a heap of ashes and bricks” (Nelson, p.232). Homes carried an impending aura of death, and not just people’s bodies, but their souls, were killed.

In sheer numbers, an estimated 750,000 soldiers were killed-some by combat according to Drew Faust, but twice as many died of disease. By count, the Union suffered a greater loss, with numbers around 400,000 while the Confederate mourned the deaths of about 300,000. However, proportionally the lives lost in the South exceeded those of the North, with the ratio being 3 Southerners dead for every Union soldier (Faust). The soldiers were not the only lives lost, with civilians numbering an estimated 50,000 deaths among women, children, and men at home. These deaths were caused by starvation, disease, and accidents in the workforce (Faust). There were over 30 explosions in factories that resulted in the death of many women and children (Nelson, 243).Image

The unfair image of death is one that brought distress to many families. Historian Amy Gagnon describes a “good death”, a death experienced with family by your side and a final religious cleansing with God. Because of a high infant mortality rate, the deaths of babies were better coped with, and because of age, the death of older citizens was expected. However, to sacrifice the life of a healthy, fit, nineteen year old boy was unjust and not a “good death”.

As far as notifying families of the deaths of their loved ones, there was no formal method or structure to follow. Normally a comrade of the soldier that had witnessed the death, or one that may have had personal friendship with the soldier, would write a letter to the family (Dunkleman). Typically they would address the letter with sympathy first, then delve into money matters and pensions, then describe how the soldier died. Otherwise, families relied on newspapers and obituaries to notify them if their soldier was dead or alive. For example, Connecticut published a newspaper that had “Rolls of the Missing Men” to identify dead or missing soldiers. Identification of soldiers was a problem that often hindered the notification to the family. Soldiers did not have military issued badges, and neither the Union nor the Confederacy had a grave registration (Faust).

Another issue posed was the consistent inability to return the bodies of soldiers home. Around this time, new methods of embalming were being experimented with, but many failed and soldiers whose bodies were returned were decomposed and rotten, as opposed to being preserved for a burial (Gagnon). Sometimes families were even horrified to discover that the bodies returned home to them were the wrong bodies. They had trains that were specifically run to transport the dead bodies, and to retrieve the bodies from the train station was an expensive endeavor, costing up to $2,000 in today’s currency, not including actual funeral and burial expenses. Some families were so distraught and desperate enough to go to the battlefields in search of the bodies in hops of filling a “dread void of uncertainty” (Faust).

Aforementioned, death came to be expected. Nelson quotes a white woman from Mississippi saying that it was a “shell expectant life,” (p. 264). And although death had come to be expected, when it hit home it was never easily coped with. Some families were lucky enough to have the bodies returned and be able to have a funeral service. The funeral and coffin industry increased during this time, with new styles of coffins and constant funerals to support the industry. In 1937, a new cemetery style emerged, but it wasn’t until the Civil War that this rural cemetery expanded significantly. Originally cemeteries were fenced off in church yards, very impersonal and not allowing grave visitations or the like. With this new emergence, cemeteries developed a park-like scene, with pathways and benches, and places for people to approach the graves and pay their respects (Gagnon).



As difficult as it was to deal with death during this time, the loss was amplified by the dehumanization of death. During battles of uncountable deaths, there was no way to effectively identify and bury every soldier. Bodies were heaped into trenches and left to rot with the horses and mules (Faust). Surviving troops stayed after battle to bury their comrades on the battlefield, often without proper burial tools and having to use their bare hands. One surgeon described a battlefield as “the dead being almost wholly unburied, and the stench arising from it was such as to breed a pestilence.” (Faust).

However, as the war went on people began to take note of the amplitude of lives lost and bodies destroyed. So in 1862 Congress allowed Lincoln to purchase protected land that he dedicated to the building of national cemeteries in Chattanooga, Stones River, Knoxville, Antietam, and Gettysburg (Faust). As the war began to subside, a reburial program began. These reburials were able to give proper funerals and identifications to 303,536 soldiers in national cemeteries (Faust). However, these national cemeteries were reserved only for Union soldiers, so Clara Barton establish an Office of Missing Men. She received 68,000 letters from families questioning the status of a missing family member, and she was able to retrieve information on 22,000 of those soldiers (Faust).

African Americans faced death in much the same way as whites, if not more violently and spitefully. They were captured, murdered, and beaten. However, the Union allowed the African Americans to serve as cooks, guards, and spies and 179,000 served, but over 75% of them were killed.

Death was a gruesome and vivid thing for every American during the Civil War. Not one house went untouched, and to this day it is the bloodiest war America has seen. Death was so astronomical that it became underrated and insignificant. However, the death of the soldiers has become honored and respected in memorials and statues, with the first memorial being erected in Connecticut in 1863 called the Berlin’s Soldier Monument (Gagnon).

Works Cited

Dunkelman, Mark H. “With a Trembling Hand and an Aching Heart” Letters of Notification of Death and Condolence 2013.

Faust, Drew Gilpin. Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served. Death and Dying 02/2013.

Gagnon, Amy. Death and Mourning in the Civil War Era 2013

Nelson, Scott Reynolds. People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America’s Civil War, 1854-1877. : Oxford University Press, USA, .p. 244-281

Vietnam Aftermath: PTSD, Familial Strains and Veteran’s benefits

During the course of their lives, everyone experiences trauma. Whether it is the loss of a grandparent, having a relationship with a significant other end, or having to put down a beloved family pet, traumatic experiences help shape one’s world view. One will usually find it difficult to put trauma into words, as it affects a person on a spiritual, physical, and emotional level. This is how many veterans of foreign wars feel after returning home. How can a veteran describe what it is like to be under fire day and night, to watch young men their own age die in front of them, and to be thousands of miles away from friends and family? It seems to be an impossible task. This phenomenon was particularly evident after the end of the Vietnam War, as studies of veterans returning with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) became more frequent. As awareness of PTSD increased in the years following the Vietnam War, it was observed that veterans suffering from PTSD experienced more strain on their familial relationships, even though more veterans of Vietnam utilized the G.I. Bill, and were offered better treatment for their psychological issues.


As mentioned in prior research papers, American society once had a stigma against seeking help for mental illnesses. Mental illness was viewed as something to be ashamed of, and it was considered a sign of weakness to seek help for psychological issues. This cultural norm may seem appalling to modern-day American citizens, and with just cause. Soldiers experiencing intense hallucinations, anxiety, or depression when returning home from battle were taught to keep it inside, and to tough it out by themselves. For the first time, however, after the conclusion of the Vietnam War, veterans began to be encouraged to seek help for their mental health problems. In fact, by 1980, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was officially recognized as a psychological disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. This was an extremely important stride in helping returning veterans that suffered from the effects of PTSD, because the first step to recovery from mental illness is diagnosis. PTSD was defined as “night-mares, loss of control over behavior, emotional numbing and withdrawal from the environment, hyper-alertness, and anxiety and depression” (Shehan 55). There were even reasons enumerated for why it was believed that battle field related PTSD occurred. These included constant fear of death, intense feelings of loss, persistent guilt, and daily disruption and destruction (Constance 55-56). Due to this increase in knowledge about the harsh realities of PTSD, social scientists and psychologists were able to study its effects on families, and observe ways to help these families survive the difficulties of the mental illness.

As one would expect, it was observed that families with a veteran that suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder experienced increased amounts of spousal tension and relational strains. There are many obvious reasons that there were increased relational strains, including the fact that it is simply difficult to be patient with a person that has a psychological illness. The biggest problem that couples faced with a soldier returned with PTSD is that it caused breakdowns in communication (Shehan 56). As discussed before, veterans that suffer from this disorder have a difficult time expressing themselves, and being able to articulate the trials that they faced on a daily basis. How can one describe to their wife that they can still actually smell the gunpowder or hear the shells exploding? It is impossible for a veteran to convey this to a civilian, and can cause immense amounts of tension. Wives and girlfriends would become increasingly frustrated, as their significant others suffered silently, and seemingly could not be helped. Another, much more destructive quality of many returning veterans was an explosive temper. This led to irrational, dangerous, and terrifying behavior from the suffering soldier, that could make daily life almost unbearable.

For those that have not been exposed to a person that is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it may be difficult to understand how difficult it is to deal with. First-hand accounts, however, can offer the unexposed civilian a glimpse into the lives of those affected by PTSD. The first account that offers insight into the lives of families with husbands suffering from the disorder is a wive’s observation of the  changes in her husband. She said “”Vietnam ruined our lives. I keep remembering the Alan of before. He was affectionate, considerate, kind. When he returned, he had a quick temper, no patience, could not concentrate … right now I do not like him.” (Shehan  57). This observation helps illuminate the earlier point that it is simply more difficult to live with a victim of PTSD. He returned from the war a completely changed man, and his wife’s satisfaction with the marriage decreased significantly. A second account reveals that irrational and paranoid behavior increased dissatisfaction as well. A different soldier’s wife recalls that one time upon returning from work, he “flew into a rage because someone had forgotten to set the fork and spoon at his place. He thought we did that on purpose, that we didn’t want him there! ” (Shehan 58). This helps further illuminate the fact that communication breakdown was a byproduct of PTSD. His irrational behavior would push away his wife and children, and create a rift between himself and the rest of his family. The final firsthand account, this time from a soldier himself, reveals how dangerous the anger from PTSD can be. This soldier recollects a particularly horrifying incident in which he returned home to find his wife and neighbor looking at a photo album. He remembers that “We started looking at the album and I just flipped out. I started throwing shit everywhere. I beat my wife over the head with a full quart bottle of beer. I had a handful of butcher knives in each hand and I was threatening to cut them (Shehan 56). Most people do not realize that PTSD is terrifying, for both the person that is suffering from it and those that are surrounding them. This helps explain a phenomena that plagued households with a veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress. This phenomenon is called communication apprehension. Communication apprehension is when the “emotional and psychological cost of communicating with spouse outweighs possible benefits of interacting” (Shehan 58). In other words, for fear of receiving verbal abuse, or at times much worse, prevented wives and children from even talking to their father at all, causing a rift that could be insurmountable. This is because the only thing worse for a relationship than negative communication behavior is no communication at all. It further alienated the suffering veteran, and may have caused symptoms to become worse. Even though PTSD is a very sad and disturbing disorder, the veterans of Vietnam had it better than the generations before them. As the years progressed after the finish of the war, many Veterans utilized government programs to help themselves, while therapists, other veterans, and wives learned how to help the suffering veterans assimilate back into society.


One of the most important keys to a successful assimilation back into society following the Vietnam War was forming healthy relationships with other veterans. This is because it is important to have someone to relate to the horrors that they experienced, and be able to sympathize with them instead of simply empathizing with them. Unlike with their spouses and children, it was therapeutic to have someone who understood what it was like being in battle, and decreased the amount of alienation that many veterans feel after the conclusion of a war. It allowed veterans to vent their problems without fear of judgment, and this was important in decreasing anxiety and stress. It was also beneficial that there were many new studies about PTSD that came out at this time, so that family members and psychologists were able to develop strategies to help the veterans recover. Wives were encouraged to listen empathetically to their husband’s stories, and to avoid negative reactions to any atrocities that they may have committed on the battlefield. This way they could feel that they could turn to their wives without being judged, and could improve their communication. While these support systems that veterans had were vastly important, the G.I. bill helped them to achieve educational goals and earn jobs, allowing them to be productive members of society again. While it seems to be common knowledge that Vietnam veterans struggled to get back on their feet after the war, the statistics seem to suggest otherwise. A whopping sixty percent of Vietnam veterans used to G.I. bill to continue their education, and a total of sixty-four percent of veterans used the G.I. Bill in some way. This was more than any of the prior wars, so the perception that Vietnam veterans struggled more than previous veterans seems to be more of a misconception. The most telling statistic that supports this argument, however, is that Vietnam veterans’ median salary was a full twenty-four dollars more than that of the average American civilian. These telling statistics, as well as the increase in awareness of PTSD and how to help treat it illuminate the fact that while returning from war is not easy, many Vietnam veterans took advantage of the opportunities given to them to improve their lives.

For some Vietnam veterans, the horrors of war did not cease when they left the front lines. Sometimes war followed them home, seeped into their veins, and flooded their consciousness with doubt, anger, and terror. It caused them to push away their families, misdirect their anger on those they love, and sometimes fly into a violent rage, hurting those closest to them. It caused communication breakdowns between the psychologically scarred soldier and their sheltered, civilian family. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very grave mental illness that many people underestimate. Some do not realize that it can lead to domestic violence and the destruction of the nuclear family. While many veterans did suffer immensely, a large portion of those that served were able to take advantage of the psychological and financial assistance that was offered to them. Though the Vietnam veterans are often considered something of a lost generation, many were able to overcome the challenges that faced them, and assimilate successfully back into the society that they had fought for.

•Constance L. Shehan. Family Relations, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Jan., 1987), pp. 55-60

•Eric T. Dean Jr. Journal of American Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Apr., 1992), pp. 59-74

•E. James Lieberman. Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 33, No. 4, Special Double Issue: Violence and the Family and Sexism in Family Studies, Part 2 (Nov., 1971), pp. 709-721

Religion, Peace, and Fire

Throughout much of history, religion has had a role to play in conflicts. It often has been used to legitimate violent acts, such as the brutal colonization of Latin America by the Spaniards, the Spanish Inquisition, or the Crusades, all done in the name of Catholicism. Religion also has often been the actual cause for conflict, as seen in the numerous wars in Europe following the Protestant Reformation. Many religious leaders and organizations, however, have protested vehemently against wars and all of the horrors associated with them, using a variety of different tactics. One case of this involves the Buddhists of Vietnam during the Vietnam War and self-immolation. Their goal was peace, and their method was fire.
Self-immolation is the voluntary destruction of one’s own body (in whole or in part) for religious reasons. Goossaert explains the reasons for doing this as being “mostly for transformation into a bodhisattva or Buddha, but also for more mundane aims, such as raising funds, thanking a patron, or conveying a political message.” The methods for destruction usually involve fire, such as burning a part of an arm or finger, but there have been cases of self-immolation by drowning or allowing wild animals to attack. Fire is the most common method, however, probably due to the spectacular nature of it (Goosaert).Self-immolation(Image retrieved from Daum and Curran)
The most famous case of self-immolation in Vietnam was also the first associated with the crisis that culminated in what is known as the Vietnam War. Thich (Venerable) Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, doused himself in gasoline and lit himself on fire in Saigon on June 11, 1963. He was surrounded by approximately 700 other monks and nuns, as well as media he had invited. This resulted in Malcolm Browne’s famous photograph and sparked worldwide indignation (Daum and Curran).
Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation was an act of protest against the suppression of Buddhist religious leaders and their followers by the minority Catholic government in South Vietnam, led by President Ngo Dihn Diem. In August, 1963, two months after Quang Duc’s self-immolation, President Ngo Dihn Diem declared martial law and began raiding Buddhist pagodas. Due in large part to Quang Duc’s act, international opinion had taken a turn for the worse in regard to the government in South Vietnam. Thus, when South Vietnamese security officials asked President John Kennedy what the U.S. response to a coup d’état would be, he decided there would be no repurcussions. President Ngo Dihn Diem regime fell and he was assassinated in November, 1963 (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum).
Self-immolation by Buddhists would continue as an act of protest throughout the Vietnam War. While Buddhist monks would discourage people, both publicly and privately, from using self-immolation to further the cause of peace, they held those who went through with it on a pedestal as martyrs who had sacrificed themselves for a worthy cause. Cases of self-immolation even spread to American protestors as the war progressed.
Many of those who sacrificed themselves left notes, allowing a glimpse into the reasoning behind such a drastic measure. Nhat Chi Mai, who burned herself alive in 1967, wrote an open letter to the government of the U.S.A. Part of the letter reads, ““I offer my body as a torch to dissipate the dark, to waken love among men, to give peace to Vietnam, the one who burns herself for peace. I am only an ordinary Vietnamese woman, without talent or ability. But I feel pain every time I look at the situation of my country. I want to say that the empty words you have been using, ‘to defend freedom and happiness for Vietnam’, have lost all their meaning…” Nguyen Tuong Tam, burning himself in 1963, wrote a letter that exemplified how desperate many of these Buddhists were. ““History alone will be my judge. The arrest and trial of all nationalist opponents of the regime is a crime which will force this nation into the hands of the communism. In protest against this, I take my life” (Park).
Self-immolation blends the concepts of religion, politics, and desperation together in one drastic, spectacular measure. Each individual did it for reasons of varying emphasis on each concept until finally making the decision to take their own life. This shows that protests against the war and U.S. involvement were not limited to college campuses in the United States. They were on the very streets soldiers were fighting to control, and they were often seen globally. Religion still had a role to play in that conflict, and it appears it will have a role for years to come.


Works Cited:

›Daum, P. S., & Curran, T. (2011). Thichquangduc. InEncyclopedia of the vietnam war: A political, social, and military history. Retrieved from

›Goossaert, V. (2009). Burning for buddha: Self-immolation in chinesebuddhism (review). Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies69(1), 221-225. Retrieved from

›Park, B. C. B. (2004). Sociopolitical contexts of self-immolations in vietnam and south korea. Archives of Suicide Research8(1), 81-97. doi: 10.1080/ 13811110490243796

›Vietnam, diem, the buddhist crisis. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Communication During the Vietnam War

There was a vast range of communication during the Vietnam War. It included: propaganda, letters, radio, aircraft, video and photojournalism, and protests.  Some of these ideas were new, while others were older and used in previous wars. Either way, they were all extremely important when it came to keeping America unified during the war.


Propaganda was an idea that was used in World War II especially but was still a form of communication during the Vietnam War. “Throughout the Vietnam War, the United States government, worked hard at sculpting effective propaganda in an effort to persuade the American public, as well as the rest of the world, that the war was a ‘just’ war and as such deserved public support. The goal was to create an atmosphere that enabled the U.S. to proceed in Vietnam as it saw necessary.” (Coppola) All the government was trying to do through propaganda was convince their people that getting involved in the war was okay. By doing this they hoped to gain a majority of the public’s support which would make it easier for the government to do whatever they saw necessary to win the war.

The United States also used propaganda on North Vietnam. They would drop leaflets on North Vietnam in order to produce a sort of psychological effect on the general public as well as the soldiers to convince them that what they were doing was good. One specific example of this was when the United States dropped safe-conduct passes on North Vietnam which allowed any Viet Cong solider to turn themselves in to any Vietnamese government agency or allied force.



Letters were still the most popular form of communication during the Vietnam War between the families and their soldiers. “I have all 80 letters that I wrote home while I was in Vietnam. I yearn for the day that I can see all 80 in print somewhere, regardless of whether I ever make a single penny off of them. I believe their value is beyond the dollar. I believe that the young misunderstand what it was like to be a kid (in Vietnam.)” (O’Connell) For a lot of these soldiers their day revolved around receiving and replying to these letters. This may have been because a lot of these soldiers were still kids therefore they were homesick and writing these letters was the only way for them to cope with their problem.


Radio was incredibly important when it came to communication between the soldiers. The radio allowed for different squads to talk between one another and it allowed generals to have almost immediate contact with each other on their army or their enemy. It was also the most effective form of communication between the ground and the air transportation.

Radio was also still used as a form of communication to the public. It was also used as a form of propaganda. This allowed for the current events of the war to be biased which the government hoped would help to gain support for the war.


Aircrafts during the Vietnam War were used for many different things. They included: delivery of supplies or letters, a way to drop off and pick up troops, and it served as a way to quickly rush injured troops to treatment. Helicopters were the most popular form of aircraft during the war. “During the Vietnam War, the United States relied on the helicopter as never before…thousands of missions were flown to resupply and reinforce troops on the ground, to evacuate American and South Vietnamese wounded, and to offer countless other services in pursuance of the war effort.” (Texas Tech) The reason helicopters were so popular was because they were much more maneuverable compared to other planes, and this was important because of the terrain Vietnam had.



Journalism in this war included pictures as well as videos. Video was a much newer technology especially when it came to broadcasting the actual war and fighting to the public. “By 1962, over 80% of American homes had television and in 1968 over 60% of Americans looked to television for news on the Vietnam War.” (Kennedy) Many squads of soldiers actually had cameramen come along with them while they were on patrol or even when they were in battle with the enemy hoping to catch footage which they believed would make them money. “Some photographers were full-time staffers with news agencies such as Associated Press and United Press International and news magazines such as Life, Time and Newsweek, but many more were freelancers who turned up in Vietnam hoping to have their work taken up by one of the major agencies or papers.” (Kennedy)



As the Vietnam War continued the overall support for the war declined, which then eventually led to people protesting. Many of these protests were led by college students who were members of the Students for a Democratic Society. However some of these protests turned violent when the military got involved. Kent State University and Jackson State University were the two biggest shootings that occurred because of protesting against the Vietnam War. There were also other protests which occurred at the capital at the Lincoln Memorial. For one of the protests 100,000 people gathered near the Lincoln Memorial protesting the war, followed by 30,000 of them marching on to the Pentagon. Another protest that happened at the Lincoln Memorial was when veterans of the Vietnam War threw their medals of honor on the ground to show their disapproval on the war.

07_-_vietnam_war_protests_1 protest

Communication was incredibly vital during the Vietnam War. Propaganda allowed for a biased opinion on the war. Letters helped to keep the soldiers and their families in touch. Radio served as a form of communication between soldiers as well as another form of propaganda. Aircrafts allowed for the delivery of mail, supplies, as well as soldiers. Journalism and photography helped to give a visual sense to the war, while protests tried to speed up ending the war and bringing troops home. Each one had their own specific purpose, which when combined allowed for America to remain united during the Vietnam War.

Works Cited: Staff. “Vietnam War Protests.” 2010.  A&E Networks.

Kennedy, Liam. “Photojournalism and the Vietnam War.” UCD Clinton Institute for American Studies: Photography and International Conflict. 2008.

O’Connell, Paul. “Letters Home.” 1998.

Page, Caroline. “U.S Official Propaganda During the Vietnam War, 1965-1973.” Apocalypse Now. New York: U of Leicester Press, 1996.

Shah, Anup. “Media, Propaganda and Vietnam.” Global Issues. October, 24, 2003.

Trueman, Chris. “Protests Against the Vietnam War.” History Learning Site. 2013.

Images Cited:

The Vietnam War and Man Made Death

James Lieberman described death of soldiers in the Vietnam War as “man-made death” with modern weaponry and tactics, and deaths by combat outweighing deaths by disease by twice as much. This strayed from the norm of past wars, as those were characterized primarily by deaths by illness and poor health.

The Vietnam War was much more professional in the handling of casualties of soldiers. By the time the war ended, there were official databases and registrations that kept exact count of soldiers killed, as well as the demographics and information of those soldiers. The losses were recorded by the Defense Casualty Analysis System (DCAS), which kept track of the date of death, and the Combat Area Casualties Current Files (CACCF) which updated the date of approximated death to the date declared dead (National Archives). Using these systems, the American military recorded 58,200 deaths of American soldiers, over 47,000 of those killed in hostile deaths (MRFA). 90% were between the ages of 18 and 26 (Lieberman, 710). 30% of the total deaths were draftees, 88.6% were Caucasian deaths, 12.5% were African Americans, and the remaining 1.1% were other races (MRFA). There were 766 POWs and 114 of them perished in captivity (MRFA).

Of the 58,200 military deaths, 8 of those were women (National Archives). All 8 women were nurses, most of which died while being transported to their stations. Carol Drazba and Elizabeth perished in a helicopter accident, and Eleanor Alexander and Hedwig Orlowski died in a plane crash. Sharon lane was stationed at a hospital that was attacked, and died by shrapnel. Annie Graham was a WWII and Korea vet, and at the age of 56 passed away from a stroke while on duty, and Pamela Donovan passed away from illness. Mary Klinker was a flight nurse, and the plane she was attending to crashed (MRFA).

As the registration of the casualties became an official process, the notification of the deaths to the families and the funeral ceremonies followed suit. The telegram was replaced by personal contact, carried out by a Vietnam Casualty Notification Officer (Johnson). To become a VCNO, there were official rules and regulations to follow, as well as classes to  attend, books to read, and videos to watch. This education allowed the VCNOs to approach the families in appropriate manners, and to prepare for the emotional toll it would take on the families, and the reactions they would display. The regulations stated that they arrive to the front door of the family between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., dressed in Class A uniform, identifying themselves by name and rank (Johnson). Following the introduction, they would proceed to inform the family, following one of four scripts: one for soldiers MIA, KIA, unidentified, or killed by friendly fire. Each individual script followed a universal statement that the soldier “[has] an important message to deliver from the secretary of the Army, and the Secretary asked [him] to express his deep regret…” (Johnson). The VCNO was always accompanied either by a Casualty Arrangement Officer, a chaplain, or both. The CAO sat down with the family to make funeral arrangements and discuss benefits and stipends. The chaplain was present to provide religious and emotional support. The VCNOs carried out an essential, but very traumatic job. The families often responded violently, and with anger towards the officers, sometimes blaming him for the loss.


Once the family was notified, there was a matter of burial. After the soldiers cause of death and identification were determined, the bodies were either shipped or flown home. To determine the COD, the bodies were put into body bags and lifted off the battlefield onto helicopter hueys (Freedman and Rhoads). Upon bringing the body bags to the hospital, the nurses would examine the body for battle wounds and the cause of death. Sometimes soldiers would accompany the nurses to identify who the body was. It was easier to identified COD in this war due to the advancements in medical technology (National Review). Also because combat wounds were primarily gunshot wounds, the body was mostly still intact, enabling fellow comrades to clearly identify the bodies. After the COD and identification were determined, the bodies were sent to registration to be recorded into the DCAS (Freedman and Rhoads). Funeral ceremonies involved military escorts, as well as American Flags being draped over the caskets. Taps was played on trumpets and prayers were said by ministers in gratitude for the soldier’s bravery and service to the country.


The technology of notifying and identification of deaths carried over into the action of killing as well. Lieberman’s description of death as “man-made” was far too accurate with this war, as the weapons were advancing and tactics were evolving. As far as American weaponry goes, we were highly dependent on air attack and infantry. In the Air, there were B-52 bombers that released over 8 millions tons of bombs on battlefields and towns alike ( Along with that was napalm, that was destructive due to the carbon monoxide that it released, causing deaths and future health impairments of survivors. They also sprayed over 19 million gallons of herbicide ( The infantry used was advanced and damaging as well, with M-60 and M-16 machine guns. The M-60s had a 2000 yard range, and shot 550 bullets a minute, and the M-16s had a shorter range but shot 700-900 rounds per minute on automatic  (


The Viet Cong challenged our weaponry with their own technology. American soldiers suffered wounds from missiles, machine guns, and booby traps. They used SA-7 Grail Missiles to oppose American air attacks. The AK-47 were their machine guns that shot 600 rounds per minute, but were much more accurate and explosive than American machine guns ( They also had more primitive methods of attack, such as using simple clothing and weapons to blend in with citizens, and take advantage of surprise attacks. On top of this they had booby traps, the most used being punji stakes – sharpened bamboo sticks placed on the bottom of pits hidden under leaves ( Finally they made use of American weapons, stealing them and taking them apart, manipulating the pieces into new weapons.

In conclusion, the Vietnam war was destructive, having the 4th highest number of deaths in the history of American wars. Over 58,000 lives were lost, 18,000 women widowed, and with “modern weapons of mass destruction making a mockery of grief” (Lieberman, 718).


Freedman, Dan and Jacqueline Rhoads, editors. Austin, Texas: Texas Monthly Press, Inc., 1987. pp. 12 – 17. Staff “Weapons of the Vietnam War” A&E Networks. April 2014.

Johnson, Alex. “Breaking the Bad News”.  MSNBC Interactive. 2003.

Lieberman, E. James. “American Families and the Vietnam War.” Journal of Marriage and Family 33.4, Special Double Issue: Violence and the Family and Sexism in Family Studies, Part 2 (1971): 709-21. JSTOR. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.

Mobile Riverine Force Association.  “Vietnam War Statistics”.  March 2014.

National Archives “Statistical Information about Fatal Casualties of the Vietnam War”.  August 2013.

National Review “The Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War” News Report, 1984.


Economic Effects of the Vietnam War

The decade leading up to the conflict in Vietnam was a prosperous one for the United States from an economic standpoint. Aside from two minor recessions, the economy grew steadily throughout the 50’s; Unemployment was low, with a high of 6.8% in 1958 and a low of 2.9% in 1953; GDP grew steadily from $300 billion to $520 billion; and overall growth of the economy totaled 37%. Because of this economic success, much of the population was accustomed to economic comfort and stability going into the Vietnam War.

Upon entering the war, President Lyndon B. Johnson and the United States government put in place a series of wartime government policies. These policies were not much different than the policies put in place during World War Two, aside from being decidedly less drastic. However, when implementing these policies, Johnson elected to undersell their importance, and the importance of civilians doing their part to help the war effort, and thus much of the population did not understand the reasons behind the new economic difficulties they were experiencing. This contributed to an increasing dissatisfaction with Johnson and the current government.

There are many differences between the average Vietnam soldier and average soldiers in the other wars we have studied. Most of these differences stem from the fact that the average Vietnam soldier was about 8 years younger than the average WWII soldier. Because of their youth, many Vietnam soldiers had no families of their own. Also stemming from their youth was their lack of financial responsibilities. Many Vietnam soldiers had not yet moved out of their parents houses, much less settled down in their own house with a wife and children. These men knew little about how to handle their finances and were irresponsible with their paychecks. Pay for a Private First Class was about $300 a month, including oversees pay, combat zone pay, and base salary. This $300 was tax free, as is most pay for soldiers stationed in a combat zone. Soldier’s savings also gained about 10% interest per year while they were in Vietnam. Because all necessities and most commodities were provided to soldiers by the military, a fiscally smart serviceman could leave Vietnam barely having spent any money, and about $25,000 richer. Unfortunately, most likely because of their youth and inexperience, most soldiers managed to spend almost all the money they made while in Vietnam, and returned home with almost nothing to show for their service.


For soldier’s with families, the government provided Dependency and Indemnity Compensation should the soldier be killed while serving in Vietnam. DIC consisted of between $167 and $426 a month, depending on the soldiers rank. While these seemed like a relatively simple and straightforward policy in theory, it was not very efficient in practice. Many times it was difficult for a widow to prove she qualified for DIC, and if she remarried she would no longer qualify. Because of the flaws in the DIC system, many families of soldiers who gave their lives in Vietnam ended up in poverty.

Overall, the United States economy was not significantly effected by the war in Vietnam. While the economy did slump slightly during the war, as with most wars, it was not to the same extent as many other wars.


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