Vietnam

Interviewing the Viet Cong

Cracked goes to Vietnam.

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I can't vouch for its accuracy, but Cracked's interview with a former Viet Cong guerrilla is a pretty amazing read. (Actually, "interview" isn't quite the right word; it's more of an as-told-to article, with an American writer translating the soldier's comments into the Cracked house voice.) Here's an excerpt:

Your movies tend to portray the Viet Cong as deadly jungle warriors, blending into the foliage and melting out of the wild to launch continuous surprise assaults on various Rambos. That's all a big load of crap: Many of us (including me) came from border towns and grew up in the hills or the mountains. We had no more mastery over the jungle than a kid from Oregon has over Death Valley.

So the jungle was alien to many of us, and unlike most of the American soldiers, we were stuck spending our entire war there. My uncle and I didn't trust the tunnel systems many of the other VC used. They were prone to collapse, and if that happened over a barracks or a mess hall it was likely to kill more people than an air raid.

Here's another:

In 1974, with the U.S. out and South Vietnam operations winding down, my VC group was allowed to go home. I took the trails up to my village. As I approached, I started noticing odd things. Signs were gone, no kids came begging, no travelers walked the paths to and from the town. It all seemed too quiet. I remember running up to my village to find nothing. It was literally all gone.

I found only traces of burned buildings under the dirt. When I went to the hill outside my village I saw a new indentation in the land. It wasn't a crater from a bomb; it was a mass grave. And despite knowing what I was going to find, I dug it up.

To this day I have no idea if the North Vietnamese, the Americans, or someone else was responsible. But the way everything was just covered by a bulldozer indicated the North Vietnamese. Everyone but my youngest brother was gone (and he would die during the Chinese War five years later). I'm not special. Ask any older Vietnamese person: They've all lost many, many loved ones. And not always due to America or its allies. I never expected to survive 10 years at the front. And, to be honest, I still don't really feel like I survived.

Read the rest here.

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  1. I was going to insert a Big Lebowski “the man in the black pajamas” joke here, but after reading ” I never expected to survive 10 years at the front. And, to be honest, I still don’t really feel like I survived.” I am going to pass on that opportunity, go get some coffee and sit in the break room and consider my own good fortune in war.

    1. Seconded… Really makes a man reflect on how hes here when so many others aren’t.

    2. Everything’s a fuckin’ travesty with you, man.

      1. *Narrows gaze

        1. Fuck it. Let’s go bowling.

        2. I don’t feel great about it, but he brought up The Big Lebowski and then didn’t quote it. That will not stand, man.

  2. I read this. It was pretty good. With respect to Vietnam and all the other pointless, horrific wars sense then all Americans should be deeply ashamed. Yeah, we’re not the government, but we (editorially speaking) let this crap happen. What is utterly astonishing to me is that “we” apparently learned nothing from Vietnam. But I am naive.

    1. Every lesson taught in Vietnam was taught by us to the British in 1775. They literally had to ship everything but water across the Atlantic, because foraging parties were so severely ravaged by the militia. They’d capture a capitol city and think they’d won the state; then when they moved on to the next state, that capitol city reverted to the rebels mighty quick. They stayed in Philadelphia for a couple of years, to no effect; Congress simply moved elsewhere. They occupied New York for almost the entire war, to no effect.

      1. Merely surviving long enough for your enemy to quit is a surprisingly successful tactic.

    2. “#8. We Weren’t All Communists; We Just Wanted Independence, or Revenge”

      “#3. Our Side’s War Crimes Were Often Glossed Over”

      There was more than enough stupidity and shame on all sides.

  3. That was a legitimately good article. Thanks for sharing Jesse.

    1. +1. Excellent article.

  4. Good piece. It would have been more effective if they didn’t translate it *entirely* into ‘Cracked voice’ (snarky millenial dudebro)

    referring to older WWII weaponry as the “Short Bus”-gear was one too many poops in the rice-paddy

    other than that, i think Cracked deserves kudos for doing interesting stuff more often than the prog-whinge-mills that are more typical of that generations’ written output

    1. other than that, i think Cracked deserves kudos for doing interesting stuff more often than the prog-whinge-mills that are more typical of that generations’ written output

      Maybe Cracked is attempting to turn this around, and if so, good on them, but they are deeply guilty of the “prog-whinge_mill” stuff in recent years, nearly as bad as Gawker.

      1. Maybe Cracked is attempting to turn this around, and if so, good on them, but they are deeply guilty of the “prog-whinge_mill” stuff in recent years, nearly as bad as Gawker.

        For me the problem with Cracked is that they often post ‘how the history you’re told is wrong and we’ve got the real answers’ articles where their own history and citation is just hilariously bad. The one that really sticks out in my mind is an article awhile back (found it) where they claimed that Native Americans were shipwrecked in Holland in 60 BCE based on a quote from Pliny the Elder. Not only is the citation they use to support it horribly bad, but if you actually research the content and background of the quote it’s far more likely that the ‘Indians’ referred to are actually subcontinent Indians or possibly a misspelling/mistranslation of other more local tribal groups. Nowhere does Cracked mention these possibilities, and it’s possibly a product of the ‘prog whinge mill’ attitude towards Amerindian cultures (take that America, natives found you first!). Of course, in the article about how a lot of the history Americans believe in is empty rhetoric to confirm their biases, they present empty rhetoric to confirm their biases as history.

        1. The article kind of hints at the reality of the VC. They were done as a fighting force after the Tet Offensive. They spent the rest of the war as an irregular / extra-expendable wing of the NVA.

      2. Yes. Some of it is equally retarded or more so than their peers.

        But then, *its cracked*, and has never pretended to be ‘serious journalism’,

        …while the asshats at Gawker will write pieces about Lady Gaga’s tampons then turn around and write scolding moralistic politically-charged articles and pretend we’re supposed to take them seriously.

        1. …write pieces about Lady Gaga’s tampons then turn around and write scolding moralistic politically-charged articles and pretend we’re supposed to take them seriously.

          Eh, there was a bunch of social justice pieces that kept popping up on Cracked awhile back. Yes, they maintained the ‘snarky millenial dudebro’ tone to some extent, but they’re attempts at being ‘funny’ while doing it were severely hampered by the lecturing. If you’re a comedy site, dropping the former for the latter means you’re failing.

          It’s like if Mad magazine started lecturing you on proper dental care or started running serious Pajama Boy ads.

          1. “It’s like if Mad magazine started lecturing you on proper dental care’

            Shrug.

            to my memory, MAD did actually take political postures every now and then, back in the 80s. tho most often it was to mock everyone. I do recall them shitting on Regan and Thatcher in particular.

            I do know what you’re talking about (the dippy ‘cracked’ stuff). Christ, I’m not nominating them for a pulitzer. I just think they – as a ‘comedy’ site – sometimes do more thoughtful pieces than Gawker or Verge or other sorts of ‘millenial light-reading’… despite the fact that they’re actually more low-brow, derptastic, and aren’t even trying to impress anyone along those lines.

            Call it a modern version of the “hey, the book reviews in Playboy are actually pretty good!”-compliment

          2. The best thing about Mad, Cracked, Crazy, Sick back in the day was no ads. Ads are the main pox on Reason; I’d subscribe if the ads were gone and the ads they do have are generally from like-minded organizations which don’t bother me at all. But it’s a bad precedent.

    2. Yeah, I found the “translation” jarring, especially since it’s totally not the voice of the old ex-VC, and you can detect some added editorial from the author. A real translation would’ve been much better. But it was still interesting.

  5. That’s some heavy reading. Well done, Cracked.

  6. Good read. Thanks for passing it along, Jesse.

  7. I had seen this article pop up in Google news, but ignored it. Thanks for bringing it back to my attention.

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  9. So, Charlie does, in fact, surf.

  10. Saw this posted in a gun forum and the bitter Vietnam vets shit themselves re-dehumanizing the enemy and calling all VC were subhuman fanatics. Come on, it’s been 40 years after you wasted your blood and time on a lost cause, at least try not to revel in your ignorance.

    1. If you wasted your blood and time on a lost cause, dehumanizing your opponents into the worst monsters you can is basically all you’ve got.

  11. With respect to Vietnam and all the other pointless, horrific wars sense then all Americans should be deeply ashamed. Yeah, we’re not the government, but we (editorially speaking) let this crap happen.

    I feel no sense of shame over what happened, because I’m not part of, nor do I endorse the actions of, the largest criminal gang in the world (aka the federal government).

    That would be like feeling a personal sense of shame because a mafia gang in my area was doing horrible thing.

  12. With respect to Vietnam and all the other pointless, horrific wars sense then all Americans should be deeply ashamed.

    I feel no sense of shame over what happened, because I’m not part of, nor do I endorse the actions of, the largest criminal gang in the world (aka the federal government).

    Sorry folks, can’t agree with this sort of assessment. Even the guy in the article acknowledges his side sucked pretty hardcore. And trying to talk about the Vietnam War outside the context oaf the Cold War is pretty ridiculous. We were in the middle of a decades-long fight with an adversary with even fewer moral compunctions than our own leaders.

    Our government isn’t worse than most others. And in some respects, it’s better than most.

    1. Who is “we,” kemosabe?

  13. I don’t believe the article. The sentiment is nice and all, but I don’t buy it.

    Here’s the first red flag:

    The Chinese would keep the Russian AKs and replace them with inferior knockoffs that they’d produced.

    Chinese AKs were/are pretty top notch. Even the weapons they made for export were excellent. Anybody who has owned one of the Chinese surplus SKSs knows what kind of quality the Chinese were capable of producing.

    Second red flag:

    After fights, there were always enemy M16s scattered about, but we didn’t touch those — they never worked right. In one of the few true close-in fights we had with the Americans, they were actually using AK-47s against us. The American rifles were that bad.

    Bullshit. The early M16s had problems, that is true, but American troops using AKs? Bullshit.

    I suppose you could make the argument that these were scuttlebutt fables common to any fighting force.

    Also, how would an old Vietnamese guy have any fucking clue about American hipster culture? The article just ticks off too many of the correct boxes to be believable. Maybe I’m put off by the dudebro translation, but assuming the interview even took place (which without some proof I’m not willing to stipulate), the fairly obvious degree with which the translator/interviewer inserted himself into the article makes it suspect.

    1. I believe the M16 part. A VC grunt knowing the complete supply chain behind his weapons seems far-fetched. The mortar story was funny.

      The VC were shoved aside by the NVA (who were better trained and equipped) after ’67. I can see them playing out the rest of the war as token dumbass locals.

      1. I believe the M16 part.

        I don’t.

        I’ve even seen footage of VC/NVA using captured M16s.

        And the “Americans used AKs” story is absolute horseshit.

        Again, could be one of those fables recruits are told in boot camp and the guy was merely repeating it. It’s not just those stories that put me off. The whole article is suspect.

        Where are the pictures of the interviewee? No travel backstory from the interviewer? No brief discussion of the interviewer’s impressions of their time in Vietnam? Who was the writer they sent?

    2. The AK thing is true. I recall reading about it in a book called The Vietnam Wars: 1945-1979 (I think?). There’s mention of how there was a problem with Americans using AKs because other troops thought they were NVA or VC attacking.

      The hipster stuff clearly just the Cracked writer inserting it for ‘snark’.

      1. That really wasn’t my main problem with the article. Like I said, scuttlebutt fable with some vague limited basis in reality that gets repeated until it becomes gospel is common to all armed forces.

        The article says they sent a writer to Vietnam to interview the guy. Who was the writer? Who was the translator? When did the interview take place and where? This is basic journalism shit that even not professional (or even amateur) guys like me know and expect to see in a piece.

      2. My issue – when it’s all translated into the tone of the ‘editor’ or translator, that raises major red flags on the accuracy. Literally none of that was what the interviewee actually said.

        If I was writing a story, and traveled to Vietnam to interview someone, I’d have pictures and include them in the story. I mean, ones I took myself and generic stock photos.

        Someone had a Vietnam relative, at best, and reported details of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was no interview at all and it’s not just the bullshit take of some young dumb writer. Regardless, it was seriously unprofessional. And if it was real? By adding in all of the nonsense they did, they just watered down the experiences they were trying to get across.

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