carefully observant or attentive
But inches away, he felt tense and
in a manner marked by keen caution and watchful prudence
He looked at us
warily, taking in our love beads, and John’s and Warren’s long hair.
required by rule
We were high-school seniors, and the clock was ticking: once out of high school all American males faced two years of
compulsory military service.
ring or echo with sound
The sound of machine-gun fire and exploding bombs
reverberated off our living-room walls.
act of putting off to a future time
He was given a medical
deferment for the braces he wore on his teeth, and told to report back in a year.
study of the technique for using language effectively
I started college at nearby UC Berkeley, where my life was a mixture of antiwar rallies and marches and beginning French and
in a manner that cannot be taken back
Our country had
irrevocably split in two: those for the war, and those against.
suppress or crush completely
National Guardsmen, called out by the governor to
quell demonstrations, surround a Vietnam War protester during the People's Park Riot in Berkeley, California, 1969.
causing or characterized by disagreement or disunity
Our complicated military involvement in the Middle East made me think once again about the dark,
divisive days of the Vietnam War.
someone injured or killed in a military engagement
The memorial emerged out of the grass, then as I walked alongside, it rose higher, and higher still, 57,939 American names were inscribed on it in 1982 when it was dedicated, arranged by
casualty date—the day the person was killed, or sustained wounds that led to death.
He thanked me, glad to have a picture for his grandmother, and
a member of an irregular army that fights a stronger force
His company is about to deploy to the Philippines for
guerrilla training before being sent on to Vietnam.
light exercises designed to promote general fitness
“Boot camp was pretty tough,” Horan said. “A lot of physical effort,
calisthenics, and endurance exercises. A lot of mental intimidation, a lot of inspections.”
a military unit that is a subdivision of a company
Sometimes new recruits were punished for something they didn’t do well enough, or someone in their
platoon didn’t do well enough: cleaning their boots, pitching a tent, performing in drill competitions.
a person authorized to act for another
The two countries struggled for supremacy using political maneuvering, stockpiling weapons, and fighting “
proxy” wars in other, smaller countries where they didn’t directly engage each other.
with strong emotion or zeal
fervently believed in the “domino theory”: if one country became Communist, the country next to it would fall to Communism, then the next, like a row of dominoes, rapidly knocking each other over.
characterized by oppressive heat and humidity
The air was
stifling hot and humid.
ripen and generate pus
festered and got infected at lightning speed in the damp heat.
conducted with or marked by hidden aims or methods
The VC operated as guerrilla fighters in
clandestine, deadly efficient groups.
the aggregate of leaves of one or more plants
Before the Marines even spotted anyone, shooting could suddenly erupt from the dense
foliage of the jungle.
rendered competent through trial and experience
Fortunately for the
unseasoned Marines, attacks were rare.
a settlement smaller than a town
In early 1963, Horan was selected to be part of a five-man American team working on the Strategic
Hamlet Program. Initiated in the United States, the program was intended to stop the Viet Cong who infiltrated farming villages at night and forced villagers to side with the Communists.
censure severely or angrily
The guerrillas would stand over him,
berating and humiliating him in Vietnamese.
producing no result or effect
futile to say he was just a low-ranking soldier following orders.
The man’s contorted face was inches from Horan’s, his breath
show submission or fear
He refused to give them the satisfaction of seeing him
exultantly proud and joyful; in high spirits
He was filthy, thirsty, hungry, and exhausted. But he’d never been so
elated in his life. He was alive. He was safe.
showing indifference or disregard
It felt typical of the
dismissive behavior some officers with college degrees had toward enlisted men like him.
a radical supporter of political or social revolution
“This is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin—war by guerrillas,
subversives, insurgents, assassins, war by ambush instead of by combat; by infiltration, instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him.”
a person who takes part in an armed insurrection
“This is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin—war by guerrillas, subversives,
insurgents, assassins, war by ambush instead of by combat; by infiltration, instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him.”
a sudden and decisive change of government by force
Two days earlier, the president of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu had been overthrown in a violent
coup by their own generals.
end, especially to reach a final or climactic stage
The coup “
culminated three months of conversation about a coup, conversation which divided the government here and in Saigon,” Kennedy said into the microphone.
restricting action, freedom, or expression
But Diem’s government had become increasingly corrupt and
stubbornly persistent in wrongdoing
“If, in spite of all your efforts,” the cable to the ambassador read, “Diem remains
obdurate and refuses, then we must face the possibility that Diem himself cannot be preserved.”
secret or hidden
The CIA operated
covertly in Vietnam, as it did in many countries, and let the Vietnamese generals know the Americans would turn a blind eye to their plans.
close in time; about to occur
By the end of October, word reached the White House that the coup appeared
shockingly repellent; inspiring horror
It was a
grisly murder. On November 2, President Diem and his brother Nhu were shot to death and Diem was repeatedly stabbed in a coup led by Vietnamese generals.
offensive to the mind
“The way he was killed made it particularly
abhorrent,” Kennedy admitted on his Dictaphone recording.
having momentous consequences; of decisive importance
The coup was a huge,
fateful step into the quicksand that Vietnam was rapidly becoming for the United States.
guilt as a confederate in a crime or offense
Though reporters had no idea of the president’s
complicity with the Vietnamese generals, they were eager to know how the coup would affect American involvement in Vietnam.