November 30, 2022|Reports

“The Tragedy of War – Vietnam” – Jeremy Prescott

As part of our remembrance theme in November, we invited Jeremy Prescott back, but we chose a rather different topic.

The Vietnam war is one that most people in ‘the west’ now prefer to forget. World politics, and Vietnam, have changed so much over the last half century it is now very difficult to understand why Vietnam was seen as so important to the fight against communism that 58,000 US soldiers died and perhaps two million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. Now Vietnam welcomes western tourists and politically it and the USA both share common fears about the growing importance of China.

On 22nd November sixty four members of Wickham History Society shared a non-judgmental presentation from Jeremy remembering the appalling losses on both sides, and for the Vietnamese population as a whole. The damage continues with ‘agent orange’ chemical warfare devastating not only hundreds of miles of forest, but also leaving a lasting legacy in the health of both veterans and civilians. Another result was heightening social and racial division in the USA – in 1970 four students were shot at Kent University by the National Guard precipitating enormous protests, while the army disproportionately drafted black troops into Vietnam, causing lasting resentment.

Even erecting a memorial to the fallen in the US was initially contested by veterans, but that is now widely accepted and, as with the WW1 and WW2 memorials Jeremy usually talks about, is providing a place for remembrance for those who died. As one of the North Vietnamese leaders put it, no one wins in war.

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