Bare Feet, Iron Will ~ Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields
Published by Fortis (an Adducent nonfiction imprint):
The Vietnam war left an indelible mark on America. Not since the American Civil War has a conflict so divided her people. And, a generation after the war in Vietnam ended; many Americans are still haunted by its memory.
In warfare, it is a universal tenet that both sides suffer. Neither the victor nor the vanquished emerges unscathed. Tragedy, hardship and suffering are universal to the warrior regardless of which side of the battlefield he stood; they are universal to the family awaiting his return; they are universal to the civilian population supporting the warrior’s cause. “Universality” is a simple principle–it recognizes the commonality of suffering so that, once the fighting ends, a fertile ground can be plowed in which the seeds of friendship are then sown. It is a principle of which I, in my own sense of loss, lost sight.
I think there are veterans, like me, who have had difficulty in accepting the suffering the Vietnam war brought on us. It was my return to Vietnam however, in which I was able to come to terms with the internal struggle of my own personal tragedy of the war, which inspired me to write this book.
While we may not agree with the political motivations to which those on the other side of the battlefield adhered, we must respect their commitment and belief to die for them. Perhaps this message was no more eloquently stated than by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in a Memorial Day speech he gave in 1884. A Union veteran of America’s Civil War, he noted that he and his fellow Union comrades had been driven during that conflict by a belief their cause was a just and noble one.
“We equally believed that those who stood against us held, just as sacred, convictions that were the opposite of ours–and we respected them as every man with a heart must respect those who give all for their belief…You could not stand up day after day in those indecisive contests where overwhelming victory was impossible…without getting at last something of the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of a magnet has for the south–each working in an opposite sense to the other, but each unable to get along without the other. As it was then, it is now. The soldiers of the war need no explanations; they can join in commemorating a soldier’s death with feelings not different in kind, whether he fell toward them or by his side.”
~ U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
America’s first ambassador to Vietnam after the war, Douglas “Pete” Peterson, undoubtedly would agree with Holmes’ statement. Having spent nearly seven years as a POW in Vietnam, Peterson is a man with a reason to be bitter towards his former enemies–yet he is not. On the 31st anniversary of the day he was shot down near the village of An Doai–on September 10, 1997 Ambassador Peterson returned to the site of that memorable event in his life. With two of the men involved in his capture at the time standing before him, the Ambassador said:
“I return here not to relive what was probably the most unhappy day of my life, but to signify to the entire world that reconciliation with a former enemy is not only possible but absolutely the right way to reach out.”
~ Douglas Peterson, former POW and America’s first post-war ambassador to Vietnam
Before researching this book, I must acknowledge my ignorance as to the suffering experienced by our Vietnamese counterparts during the war. The 19th century British statesman Benjamin Disraeli noted, ignorance is “a great step to knowledge.” My numerous return trips to Vietnam and discussions with the Vietnamese people about the war and what they endured during it have enabled me now to climb that step.
~ James G. Zumwalt
Praise for “Bare Feet, Iron Will ~ Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields”
Bare Feet, Iron Will is a recommended read, especially for anyone who fought in the jungles, the skies or on the waters of Vietnam and their families. It provides hindsight of the first order. Would that we learned the lessons.
– The Washington Times