Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom. The Vietnam Experience: A Concise
Encyclopedia of American Literature, Songs, and Films. (Westport: Greenwood
did not specify a name, but I wish to give credit to the site for confirming the
lyrics to this song.
8Cleveland, Les. Dark Laughter: War In
Song and Popular Culture. (Westport: Praeger Publishers, 1994) p.134. This
revival had its roots in the 1930's with acts like Woody Guthrie, who served as
Bob Dylan's greatest inspiration. One can find out more about this revival by
reading books like Woody Guthrie: A Life, by Joe Klein and Bob
Dylan, by Anthony Scaduto.
The popular music, however, was not the only contribution folk made to Vietnam
War music. The folk revival prompted the mass production of quality guitars by
Japanese and American industries. This increased production of guitars meant
that there were more GI's in Vietnam with the ability to play music and access
to the needed instruments (Cleveland, 134).
13In selecting the
title for this section, I used a play off of the popular 1960’s phrase, "The
personal is political." This phrase was used by certain segments of the women's
is possible that a song like "I'll Be Home for Christmas" could serve as an
inspirational song, encouraging soldiers to keep fighting hard so they could get
home for Christmas. However, I do not find this argument to be very compelling.
First, given the stalemated-nature of the Vietnam War, it is difficult to
believe that fighting hard was going to end the war and, thus, get anyone home
sooner. Second, while a song doesn't have to be uplifting to be motivating, the
lyrics of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" are particularly depressing. I fail to
see this song compelling anyone to fight harder given these circumstances. A
later anecdote from an AFVN Veteran will show that the US Military of the time
shared my point of view as it pertains to this particular song and, more than
likely, many similar to it.
noted, all quotes and facts in the AFVN section came from interviews conducted
with former members of the Armed Forces Radio Network. These interviews were
done over the World Wide Web via a news group maintained by these Veterans.
Questions were posted to the group and anyone who had any information regarding
an issue was free to respond via e-mail or via another posting to the
19DMZ is an abbreviation for the demilitarized
note, however, that the news broadcasts were censored in 1965-66. While one
would not necessarily be surprised by this, it does serve as an indication that
music censorship was not completely out of the realm of possibilities at that
27A trip to the Library of Congress may have helped to
supplement this section. However, monetary and time constraints prevented this
trip from taking place. Finding these items may prove useful and interesting for
future research on this topic.
28This statement supports an
assertion made in previous work on this topic in the Vietnam War
Encyclopedia, by Charles Fasanaro, who maintained that "We Gotta Get Out of
This Place" was not allowed on the airways. Fasanaro maintained that this was
done at the request of the South Vietnamese Government, who placed certain
restrictions on the music that could be played within their
34Erhart, W. D.
Vietnam- Perkasie: A Combat Marine Memoir. (London: McFarland, 1983)
36The thirty or so
years is not the only hindrance to such research. As may be expected, music was
not the most important thing on many soldiers' minds while in Vietnam. Staying
alive was the priority. In addition, many men and women do not wish to talk
about their experiences in Vietnam. Even talking about music can bring back
unpleasant memories that many veterans would rather not relive. A less common
reaction is that asking about music trivializes the greater political and moral
issues surrounding the Vietnam War. While this point-of-view is not necessarily
verbalized, it does eliminate any information such an individual would have from
the interview process.
37Stone also released a compact disc.
Part of this compact disc was a personal narrative about his musical experiences
in Vietnam. Unfortunately, this compact disc has been discontinued and a copy of
it could not be found for use in the writing of this
The term REMF is short for "Rear-echelon Mother Fucker." This was a term
front-line soldiers used to describe American GI's who spent their time in
Vietnam in the rear (well behind the front lines). This term serves to
illustrate some of the resentment many front-line Americans felt toward their
counterparts stationed in places like Saigon. A couple of GI's I spoke to noted
some measure of resentment of this term, noting that there was nowhere in
Vietnam that could be considered a safe zone.
40NCO is short
for Non-commissioned Officer.
41Helmer, John. Bringing the
War Home. (New York: The Free Press, 1974) 184.
noted, all quotes and information in this section were obtained from interviews
with Rochester, New York-Area Veterans of the Vietnam War.
approached VVA in order to find Veterans willing to interview with me. While
more responses would have made my conclusions stronger, I believe that those who
volunteered have provided valuable information in which patterns can be found. I
believe their membership in VVA has no impact on the information they have given
or the conclusions they have allowed me to reach. If anything, the fact that
these men were willing to speak with me may have had an impact. Many individuals
who had particularly bad experiences in Vietnam may not have been willing to
discuss them. In this way, the sample I have obtained may not be completely
representative. However, given the topic of this thesis does not deal directly
with combat, where most horrible experiences of war take place, it is reasonable
to assume that the information provided for this study still has some value,
regardless of whether or not it is a pure random sample.
of the ranks provided with names of soldiers who were interviews for this thesis
reflect the highest rank they achieved while in Vietnam during the
47Though he did not remember at first, Womack agreed
with the suggestion that this was a band that was trying to play American rock
'n' roll, like the Beatles. Apparently, they were unable to match the real
48Refer to page 14 for quote.
and r refers to "rest and relaxation." Soldiers had time off periodically
during their tours.
50NCO stands for Non-Commissioned Officer.
The men had roles such as platoon leaders. While these were not true officers,
many of them were lifers and had many things in common with
51Refer to page twenty-five for
52Kenyon told a story about his interactions with other
soldiers which illustrates how the role of music as divisive could be considered
more coincidental than at the heart of the problem. “There were a lot of young
guys like myself. So there was almost a little war going on with career people,
ya know. Lifers, we called 'em... I remember I had one boss and he insisted on
having shined shoes. "Not in a war zone, I told him... There was one huge mud
puddle right outside the gate of the compound I worked in and I used to make it
a point to walk right up the middle of it."
are supported by anecdotal evidence from Jason Mata, a college student who
subscribes to the AFVN mailing list through which many of the interviews I
conducted were done. Mata volunteered stories he has heard from Vietnam Veterans
he knows. "My old boss was in Marine Recon in Vietnam," Mata states, "and he
said music was especially important to the guys in the field. Another guy at my
work was a door gunner on a Marine SAR helicopter and he told me that they had
speakers on the helicopter and when they were flying around they would blast
In Country: Songs of Americans in the Vietnam War. (Buffalo:Vietnam
Veterans Oral History, 1992) 10-40.
61Refer to pages thirty-two and thirty-three for
62Refer to pages twenty-seven and thirteen,
respectively, for these quotes.