John Wayne and the Cult(ure) of Movies

Here is my response to a comment posted by Robyn Riley on the About page of my blog who asked, for reasons of “post graduate research”: Did your dad grow up watching John Wayne movies? Do you know if he thought Vietnam was going to be like what he had grown up seeing in the movies?

My reply:

The short answer to your question is that John Wayne had no impact on my dad.

Now here’s the long answer. We discussed the Vietnam War all the time and not once did John Wayne factor into the conversation. Growing up my dad liked the following television shows: Perry Mason; The Wild, Wild West; Rawhide; and the Andy Griffith Show, and he was a fan of Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson movies.

My dad was not a one-dimensional, fictional character come to life fighting the good fight in a staunchly anti-communist movie such as The Green Berets. He was well aware that war, no matter how it’s packaged, is still war. My dad was drafted, he didn’t volunteer and he most certainly did not want to go to war. His grades were poor and so believing that college wasn’t an option he got married in 1966 hoping that would help him avoid the war; six months prior he had received notice from Selective Service.

Admittedly, John Wayne was a beloved actor whose movie, The Green Berets, espoused the ideals of General MacArthur’s “Duty, Honor, Country” speech but the movie opened in theaters the same month my dad returned home from Vietnam. And besides my dad was an isolationist.

Coffee, Donuts, and White Mice

Well tomorrow morning we leave about 1AM to surround a village and try and catch some gooks. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. When it gets daylight the National Police come in and search it. We should be done about noon or a little after.

Excerpt from letter home dated 16 October 1967

Beige uniforms are Vietnamese National Police or “White Mice”.

Remember the night movements in the Bong Son where we would surround a village. The White Mice would be flown in after daylight and search/interrogate. We would eat donuts and drink coffee that was flown into us.

Description on back of above picture

Sleep soldier boy sleep on


 

We patrolled all day long. One day you’d be on ambush, one day on guard and one day on listening post. It kept rotating, seven days a week, never a day’s rest. Patrol all day long, then when you’re on ambush your squad or platoon was up all night then all the next day to patrol. Days without rest.

When you did sleep, it was three hours at a time, you’d wake up with leeches all over your body, pull them off your eyes, mouth, they were everywhere. Always tired, always pushing, no time to rest.

I climbed Tiger Mountain and when I got to the top, I was shaking so bad they had to lift me out by helicopter. I was hospitalized for 72 hours due to exhaustion. I didn’t wake up the whole time.

PTSD and genetics

Yalies find genetic link to PTSD

Excerpts:

Yale researchers have discovered a strong link between genes and the likelihood that someone will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Pingxing Xie GRD ’13 and Yale School of Medicine professor Joel Gelernter ’79 found that a particular form of a gene found on chromosome 17 made some people more likely to develop PTSD. They published their results in the November issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

“I’m interested in working out what the important genetic effects are for PTSD,” Gelernter said. “Our goal is to figure out what makes some people more vulnerable to PTSD than other people.”

Eight percent of Americans have been diagnosed with PTSD, while 40 to 70 percent of Americans have experienced a traumatic event. Gelernter and Xie found that Continue reading