Magnificent Storyteller Soldier Reveals What He Saw In Vietnam


Well, when I got to Vietnam I literally expected to be welcomed with open arms
by the people of Vietnam. I had in my head the black and night
white newsreels I had seen on the Walter
Cronkite twentieth century show of the American troops rolling
through villages in France and being showered with wine
and flowers and kisses. And as we were driving down a guy from the battalion I was
assigned to, picked me up in a jeep at Danang and we had to drive the 20
miles to where my battalion was located. And I, I really was disappointed that there weren’t people
standing along the road waving to me and you know, offering
me flowers and things. I really expected to be greeted as with
open arms as a liberator and it was as, as though I was invisible,
as though I didn’t exist. And that was a
little perplexing. Moreover it was, it was they looked funny and they acted funny. I mean
just riding along in this jeep the first day I got there. They lived in little
straw huts, and they had animals in their, in
their backyards and they weren’t like us. They smelled bad, the whole
country smelled bad. You could smell it, it
would, it hurt the nose and that was disturbing. And then I was
there for about… On the third day I was there, this guy who had picked
me up in the jeep a corporal who I was
ultimately going to replace he and I were in the battalion
intelligence section. We were sent down to the tractor park the, in
fibbies tractor park to meet a bunch of detainees. It was our responsibility
to take care of prisoners and detainees were a
classification of civilians. They were not
combatants they were, they could be detained
for questioning. That’s how they were, why
they were called detainees. And Jimmy and I went down there to
track park and two tractors came in they had a whole bunch of Vietnamese up on top. High flat-topped vehicles
about eight or nine feet tall and as the tracks
wheeled into the park, the marines up on top
immediately began hurling these people off. They were bound hand and foot so that they had no way
of breaking their falls and they were old
men, women, children. No young men and I, I couldn’t believe these guys
were treating these people this way and I turned to Jimmy and said, I grabbed
him by the arm and said what are, what
are these guys doing? These aren’t, these are, we’re supposed to be
helping these people. And Jimmy turned to
me and he looked at my hands on his arm, I
sort of took them off and he said Erhard you
better keep your mouth shut until you know what’s
going on around here. And I think it was at that point
that I realized things were not quite what I was expecting. It went downhill from there and again I can’t even begin to explain in the
space of time that you have all of the things
that went into it, but I began to understand it became obvious that the enemy was the very people in
these villages around us. We were in a very heavily
populated area at that time. They were the enemy or at least the
enemy was out there somewhere and we couldn’t tell one from another and day after day our
patrols went out and we ran into snipers and
mines and snipers and mines and snipers and mines. I saw four armed enemy soldiers the first eight months
I was in Vietnam and yet our battalion during that
same period of time sustained 75 mining and sniping
incidents per month over half of them
resulting in casualties. This is for a unit of
about a thousand men, but there was no one
to fight back at and you begin to think these
people are the enemy. They’re all the enemy and then you go through villages and you know, you get sniped at and so, you call an air
strike in on the village and the whole village goes up or you go through a
place and you search it and you burn houses
and blow them up. You know the common perception, the notion I heard when I was in high school was it was
the Viet Cong terrorized the Vietnamese population forced them to fight against the
Americans on the pain of death. What I began to understand
in Vietnam was that they didn’t need to
do things like that. All they had to do was let a
marine patrol go through a village and whatever was left
at that village, they had all the recruits
that they needed. I began to understand
why the Vietnamese didn’t greet me with open arms. Why they in fact hated me, but of course that didn’t
change the fact that, that my friends were getting
killed and injured every day and the only place that you could
focus your own anger and fear was on those civilians
who were there. And so, it was a
self-perpetuating mechanism The longer that we
stayed in Vietnam the more Viet Cong there were because we created
them we produce them. None of that distilled
itself into the, the clear kind of expression
that I’m presenting now. What I began to understand
within days and which became patently clear within months
was that, what was going on here was not was
I had been told. What was going on here was nuts and I wanted to get out. I knew if I were still alive
on March the 5th 1968, they’d stick me on an airplane in Danang
we used to call it the freedom bird and I could fly away and
forget the whole thing. Turned out not to be quite
so easy to forget it, but that was the notion and, and certainly for my last eight nine months in Vietnam I ceased to think, I quite
literally ceased to think about why I was there or
what I was doing. The sole purpose for
my being in Vietnam at that point was to stay alive until I could get out. Then the reason
for that is that, you know, the kinds of questions that began to present themselves were just, the questions
themselves were ugly and I didn’t want to know the answers.
It’s, it’s like it’s like banging on a
door, you knock on a door and the door opens slightly
and behind that door it’s dark and there’s loud
noises coming like there’s like there’s wild animals
in there or something and you peer into the darkness
and you can’t see what’s there but you can hear all
these ugly stuff. You want to step into that room? No way, you just sort
of back out quietly pull the door shut behind
you and walk away from it and that’s what was going on. The questions themselves
were too ugly to even ask, let alone if I had to
deal with the answers. Now part of what was
going on as said I could not have made sense of what I was seeing and
doing in Vietnam because I did not have
a full deck of cards. I needed to have an understanding of the
political historical realities that brought us to
Vietnam before I could make sense of what I was seeing. I began to acquire the
other cards in the deck during the three years or so after I
got back from Vietnam, but while I was there
nothing made sense. Because I kept trying to you
know, play this game with 27 cards instead of 52 cards and
it kept not coming out right and I didn’t know why all I
knew was that it was nuts and it became, it became clear
within three or four months. That my reasons for being
in Vietnam were not clear. I mean this notion of
defending the people against these invaders
from North Vietnam the people hated me. The
Vietnamese people hated me. and it was perfectly,
that was perfectly clear. I mean the people didn’t say good
morning to you, people didn’t, I mean people hated me. I know that other
people’s experience some other people’s
experience was different, but in my own experience the Vietnamese people hated me and I
gave them every reason to hate me. I beat them, I sometimes kill
them, I destroy their houses, I destroy their crops, I destroy their
fields, I destroy their culture. Why in the hell should
those people like me? And I could see that
I was doing that, and I could see that nothing we
were doing was having any impact on the war itself. Now the funny thing about
Vietnam is that I, I was getting Time
magazine every week. It came in the mail I
could read about my war even as I sat in
the middle of it. And I would read about what
Lyndon Johnson would say and what McNamara would say
and what Russ would say and I could look around and see that aha, I don’t know what war
they’re talking about, but that’s not what’s
going on here. We actually had an incident happen
where one of our line companies stumbled upon a
fairly large cache of Viet Cong weapons and ammunition and I read in the
stars and stripes, the daily newspaper
that we received. This little action actually
made it into the papers and we read that we had
set the Viet Cong effort back by at least four
months in our area. Within a week of that article appearing
in the paper, within 10 days of the incident itself, the bridge a hundred
and fifty meters in front of our battalion
compound was dropped by Viet Cong sappers. An Amtrak coming in from the Horseshoe area from
one of the line companies hit a 50-pound box mine several men were killed a
bunch more were wounded. A patrol out of fook
track grid was ambushed, several people were killed, several
people were wounded. I mean nobody told the Viet Cong that
they’d been set back for four months and yet this is what you’re reading in
the newspapers. This is what you’re being told
back in the United States. I could see that the war went
on day after day after day interminably at the same
pace no matter what we did. I’m wasting your film. When I left Vietnam I was at the time, I was in the
midst of the battle for Hue city during 10th 1968 February 68 and I had been up in the city for
two and a half, three weeks. And I knew that my
day was coming, but I wasn’t sure when
and at that point we weren’t thinking
about things like that. And we are in the middle
of a low key fire fight we were exchanging fire with
some guys across the street from us along the Eastern, the North East
section of Hue city what was left of my
unit, the scouts about six of us. And a jeep comes
hauling up the street along the river and
whips into this little compound where we were and
says Erhard the orders are in let’s go. It’s a
lieutenant my boss and I stood, I didn’t
exactly stand up but I immediately began
to strip off my gear and distributed to the
other guys who were there and said so long see
you back in the world, got on the jeep. The last thing I
saw of those guys they were laying down
covering fire for us we burned our way
back down the street there was a chopper
sitting on the LZ. I got on the bird, I was up
3,000 feet above Hue city. 10 minutes after, I knew
I was on my way out and went through
some processing. I ended up… They yanked me out early
because one of my older brothers by this time had
arrived in Vietnam and they arranged for me to spend
a couple of days with him. And I got back when I got back in early March was… came in at night went through more processing place called Treasure
Island in San Francisco Bay and then I was free to go and I had, I was still
had time at the marines. I had a month’s leave basically before I had to
report to another duty station in North Carolina. And I got a taxi and there I was, my first view of
the United States and I was really, I could hardly wait and it was absolute impenetrable fog. We came across the
Oakland Bay Bridge, couldn’t see 10 feet,
couldn’t see anything, got to the airport there was… Part of what affected
my coming back, I was happy to be alive, I was excited, but at the
same time I was very ambivalent. I was
afraid partly because I had a girlfriend
when I went over there and in September eight
months after I was there I got a dear John letter
from her and I kept hoping that I’d be able to fix
this up once I got back and I did not know what kind…
and that, that woman, that girl had become the focus of
my life while I was in Vietnam. She had, she had ceased to be a real
person, she’d become this icon and then of course she had sort
of you know, she’d take a hike. And but you can’t just let go
off of a vision like that, of the thing that
has kept you going. So, I was scared about all that. I didn’t know what I was going
to find when I got back. Finally got back
to the East coast

100 thoughts on “Magnificent Storyteller Soldier Reveals What He Saw In Vietnam

  1. The same people going after dave chappelles Sticks &stones comedy special are the same people that would spit in this mans face after returning from nam.

  2. im a student and when this topics comes up it interests me a lot, my moms uncle went to the vietnam war at age 18 and to this day he tells me these stories about what he went trough. respect to the soldiers who we’re forced to go to vietnam.

  3. 7:37 im just blown away at this notion from a psychological perspective. its like the Jungian shadow-self, or as Nietzche once said "wrestle not with monsters lest yee become a monster" or "when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you". On some level maybe the scariest thought one can have, this man is quite introspective

  4. It's gross how he loss his girlfriend when she was the only reason he made it out alive. What a cunt.

  5. "They were the enemy,or at least the enemy was out there somewhere and we just couldn't tell one from another."… Wow,that's about as fucked up a spot as one could find themselves I'd imagine. That generation of soldiers is as brave as ANY before or sense. They took the shit from their country and because they did,kids that fought in the Middle East didn't suffer the same fate. Great generation.

  6. Lessons in propaganda. This is why we must honor our troops but never believe the government is acting altruistically.

  7. He is the epitome of "woke." He basically said… "they hated me. People had different experiences, but they hated me."

    No. People didn't have different experiences. If they think they did, they were just too oblivious to realize they were hated or they simply chose to ignore the fact they were hated. When you dehumanize someone who cares if they hate you? I think this is something that minorities 100% understand so kudos to this enlightened white man who took the time to mentally walk in someone else's shoes and not play the oblivious victim. As an African American with an outgoing bubbly personality, I sometimes wonder what would happen if certain white people had access to my true thoughts about them… Like when someone implies some shit like I'm not like other black people because I'm "well spoken"🤦🏾‍♀️

    My face: 😒
    My thoughts: 🤯🤬😠👿
    Them: I'm not racist and no one hates me

    If everyone thought like him….wow… I can't even begin to think about how many problems would go away.

  8. That's how asymmetrical warfare works…The communist insurgents make the defenders look like the bad guys.

  9. The beautiful thing about the Vietnam was that it wasn’t a war we could win, because they had nothing to lose, and no centralized leadership

  10. It pained me when he sighed and said "I'm wasting your film"

    On the contrary. I'm so happy to have seen this and glad that others have gotten a chance to watch your words.

    Thank you for your service and the hell you went through to recall your story.

  11. It was like a mud wrestling match with hot weapons as a distraction to the tungsten in the mountains till it was depleted

  12. Sorry but the difference here it’s huge. Hittler started the World War II. The Vietnam war was started by the US.

  13. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, Vietnam…. Tell us about that cigarette you're smoking there.

  14. Nice to know about war with canada right from a soldier's mouth. Vietcon wanted make Quebec an independent nation ,

  15. It is gentlemen like this fella , is the reason why there is hope for America , never hate a population , hate the politicians who create these wars , for nothing else but , to profit , from the sale of drugs

  16. Everyone that post a comment on here and thinks that they now understands war is wrong. You are listening to one mans experience. A war is one million men's experience's and each one is different. To make a comment with out experience means that you think you know what it is all about it. You might as well tell me what the great wall looks like with out ever having been to China.

  17. No wonder president Trump dodged the draft and went on to rape an underage girl 😂 Think im joking.. Look into it 😴

  18. This gentleman was my history teacher in highschool. Incredible teacher! It was an honor. Difficult class, not because of the grades, but because of the realities he made students contend with. More professors and teachers should be like him.

  19. Thank you for sharing your experiences in Vietnam. It really helped me to get a better perspective on the experiences my uncles went through, but could not/would not express. 🇺🇸🙏🏼🤟🏼

  20. Nothing is as refreshing as the truth. As a younger man I was a fan of Studs Terkel today I becoming a great admirer of David Hoffman. When will we ever learn, when will we learn?

  21. Okay, we are critical of US policy and all. What do we stand for? We accuse the course taken, but what do we advocate? You present this one person's view and experiences but not a word of any heroism of galant acts by American forces. (Were there none?) Please tell us, Mr. Hoffman, your thoughts on how this communist expansion into SE Asia really should have dealt with, if it should have been.
    Bobby Joe Ratliff
    Jim Ratliff
    Ray Messenger
    Three of my friends this war claimed.

  22. I would definitely like to hear more of what Mr. Earhart has to say. Sad the video ended so abruptly. For anyone curious, here's the Wikipedia link if you want to know more about him.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._D._Ehrhart?wprov=sfla1

  23. Absolutely wonderful.
    This should be made part of school history curriculum.
    There's no glory in war, never was, never will be.

  24. What americans could never understand is that Vietnamese culture have the opposite values than westerns, I explain:
    In Vietnamese culture they have a hierarchy first they have the Binhs, after they have the Congs and finally they have the intellectuals (don't remember their name).
    The Binhs represent the military, lowest rank of their society; they perceive this job as a dirty need, if you're vietnamise and works as a cleaner in a fast food restaurant, congrats, you're morally at a higher rank than a soldier. Other thing the V people despises, is the merchant. Then came the 'muricans, the first thing they did was to put a military regime in hope to create a capitalistic western society totally alien to the poor farmer that likes the folk wise man.

  25. damn so no one finna talk about his poor heartbreak at the end where had had no one to go to?😔

  26. the war is over, let relics like this remind us how horrible war is. May the fallen rest in peace .Peace forever.

    Come to Vietnam sometimes guys, we have great food here

  27. Replace the word Vietnam with Iraq and you'll get the same vision of what it was like for our troops in Iraq from 2003-2011.

  28. Wine and flowers kisses and open arms were not there when you arrived Sir but they sure well should have been when you got home & some..Thankyou Bill 🤝

  29. All I know is my service in Iraq and Afghanistan brought me closer to My Savior Jesus Christ.

  30. His story parallels a similar story to what soldiers who were in iraq and afghanistan are saying

  31. This guy made the mistake of believing politicians, he should have read a decent history book on the abuse inflicted on the Vietnamese by France then the USA

  32. And to this very day american soldiers still can't comprehend what they are doing that makes other people's "hate" them so much, but this man understands.

  33. There are a lot of people in the comments who are real war Vets. Then there are those who are stealing valor. Pretty sad.

  34. "It turned out not to be so easy to forget it " (as he smirks). I love how nonchalant this guy is about his PTSD.

  35. God bless you for your efforts and I'm sorry our government let you down so! it's always made me sick ever since I realized what was happening to our troops. I wasn't born until 1961 you guys who actually went over there are my heros! I'm very disappointed in the burners ( bra burners and draft card burners)

  36. Before my grandfather passed, he told me the nastiest stuff I have ever heard in my life. I never thought human beings could do such a thing with each other. He went through a lot and we need to take more care of our Vietnam Veterans.

  37. Damn what a amazing story. I’m a 22 year old Iraq combat vet but never had courage to talk about what happen out there.

  38. A honest interview from a fearless vet not afraid of speaking the truth about the ugliness of the world we live in…

  39. its too bad you got sucked into nam, you were just a pawn for GE, Raytheon, Bell, Grumman etc. you are bright, you should have talked to people that came back from nam instead of believing your fantasies of war, the stars and stripes is pure bullshit. thanks for your time, storyteller soldier!, Im glad you lived to articulate.

  40. I have often felt uncomfortable when someone approaches me and thanks me for my service. They do so as though thanking me for doing something for this country when, in reality, I was only doing what I was ordered to do by this country. Our military was sent to V.N. and told to fight, and that is what we did. Were we fighting for the U.S.? Were we fighting for the South Vietnamese? Or were we just fighting to stay alive and get back home in one piece, and in the process, fighting for those who fought along side of us so they could do the same.

  41. Everyone keeps commenting on how they could listen to this guy all day !!!! The reason why you could and a lot of this country is blind to it it’s simply because he is scared and can only speak the truth it’s genuine he lives it everyday and that the cold hard truth

  42. Thanks for the story it must be hard to mentally revisit that shit hole with all the stuff y'all had to endure…rip to all those lost. Will not be forgotten 🇺🇸🇺🇸

  43. Shit like this pisses me those people at the fucking VA you would expect have more compassion for returning and especially injured, life changing injuries, vietnam vets but no because they're desk jockies and have never fired or being fired on in anger. The biggest travesty in the u.s. in the 20th century was the treatment of returning Vietnam vets….which led many to and or homelessness , alcoholism, drug addiction, ptsd,.alienation and so many more fucked up situations. These vets didnt puss out and run to Canada or Mexico they did what was asked and somenever came back and none of them were ever the same. Vietnam vets to me are a special breed astonishing. I wish I could go out and interview as many surviving vietnam vets before there is no more vietnam vets alive. I certainly don't believe the notion that EVERYONE who has ever joined the military is a "hero" (my Lai massacre, and countless other in countless wars carried out by u.s. troops) because some never really did anything to keep us safe or create freedom. Total opposite they were agitators bringsrs of death for corporate interest. The true heroes are the vets who despite the reason they fought their integrity never faultered and compassion was never lost. To my remaining vietnam vets you're on a class above everyone else sorry for the mistreatment you received and you will be repaid in this life or the next.

  44. This guy’s hard man I honestly wish I had this dudes hairstyle,stash, and glasses the whole nine yards by the time I reach my late 30’s

  45. I am fascinated by the Vietnam war and recently watched the Ken Burns series about Vietnam which to me which was a definitive account. We see in this Kennedy knew the war could not be won at the very beginning. Also there was a misunderstanding in the American view of Vietnam. It was not a communist domino but the end of colonisation.

  46. My hats off to you guys. It was a fucked up war run by politicians , that would not let the Generals and Colonels on the ground make the right decisions. My Uncle served over there, two tours. Came home and got spit on. I’ve served from 1995 to 2017, people shake my hand, tell me thank you.
    People if you see a Vietnam Vet shake his hand,say thank you. If you spit on him when he came home apologize.
    To all you Vietnam vets out there. THANK YOU for your service.

  47. "What was going on here was not what I had been told." The American experience in a nutshell.

  48. My father spent 16 months there,and another 36 years not once talking about it.may he rest peacefully.

  49. I am listening to the book the Vietnam War: an intimate history and your story is most definitely a part of the book the chapter is called "I'm here to liberate you"

  50. Extremely interesting. Check out the flick 'winter soldier'.
    No, this is not Marvel Disney crap.

  51. JFK had committed the greatest war crimes. He wasn't sure about Indo China from the beginning. He lied to the American people and concealed his dramatic expansion of the Vietnam War from just few hundred 'advisors' to 16,000 of them. He could hv ended it, by letting the Vietnamese fight their war by themselves. Then Johnson came and escalated the war even worse. Nixon on the other hand, made the war…wait! Nixon should not have become President at alt

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