Why Was I in Vietnam? | Letters | Chicago Reader

Why Was I in Vietnam? 

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To the editors:

During military operations by the United States 5th Marines against enemy forces in the vicinity of An Hoa, Quang Nam, it once occurred that several men raped and murdered a peasant woman. As I remember the incident, I was completely in favor of the guilty party being executed by rifle fire as called for by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It turned out they had appeals; I had a severe wound. This was 1969, in March.

I had to forget about the incident because I wound up in a number of U.S. Naval hospitals in the Pacific and sort of forget about things. I remembered later and I remember it now.

I'm still in favor of the general execution of all men who committed war crimes.

I mention all this because obviously Mr. Jonathan Rosenbaum, your movie reviewer (excuse me: film critic), seems to think Show Trials are in order ["Micromorality," September 1].

Let's begin: in his review Mr. Rosenbaum seems to be extremely worried about whether or not the Michael J. Fox character was drafted or he enlisted. Wow!

Why is this issue important and to whom is it important? Brian De Palma, for better or worse, chose to examine a small issue of the type that occurs among infantrymen in all wars. There was no Tolstoyan panorama intended. It was the issue of a rape and murder. The fact that there were no camera angles worthy of Eisenstein is neither here nor there. But since Mr. Rosenbaum is so concerned about it, then let's deal with it.

Some guys were drafted. Most guys, in fact. I myself was not drafted. I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy, in October, 1967.

On my dream sheet I wrote down very specifically that I wanted either infantry or tanks, nothing else. What about it, so far, Mr. Rosenbaum?

I did all this because where I grew up there were some serious cement-faced Marxist-Leninists and they came right out and told me that if they ever came to power they would execute me for no other reason than the fact that I happened to be an american. I understand perfectly that our involvement in Indochina is a long and very sordid story but I also refuse to question my original motives. These were as follows: fight as hard as you can to prevent a sea of angry Marxists from flowing down into Indochina and establishing smug regimes bent on nothing less than colossal murder. Are you still with me, Mr. Rosenbaum?

Because if you're still reading, sir, then you must understand that you're extremely guilty of revisionist history.

In any event, come the revolution and you're looking for me, I'll probably be around. My military service number is 2321530 and my name is

Erik Peter Jorgensen

N. Sheridan

Jonathan Rosenbaum replies:

I plead "extremely guilty," but I don't think you have to be a Marxist or a Marxist-Leninist, cement-faced or otherwise, in order to have moral objections to what this country did to Vietnam, and continues to do elsewhere in the world. I don't, incidentally, believe in executing people who disagree with me, and assume that Mr. Jorgensen feels that same way.

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