Dear America, Letters Home From Vietnam

June 1, 2012
By jcorreia17 SILVER, Rochester, Massachusetts
jcorreia17 SILVER, Rochester, Massachusetts
6 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"We need not be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" - Ray Bradbury

Growing pains amid the calamity of Vietnam are lifted from soldier’s letters home and channeled into the film Dear America, Letters Home From Vietnam. The film integrates news clips and real footage from the war with a soundtrack of heart-wrenching letters brought to life by some 33 actors and actresses.

With poignant testimonies about life among the jungles of Vietnam from the soldiers who were called for duty still well within their youth, Dear America gives a potent sense of life within the clutches of a war riddled with uncertainties and controversial outcomes. The footage itself is raw and only highlights the youth of the soldiers and the growing confusion among them. As the movie went on and the war got more and more involved, the footage got more grueling. The more soldiers that got poured into the small country, the more desperate the facial expressions of the soldiers became.

While the footage itself comes crashing down to the viewer much like the shells and bombs at the time, it is the reading of the letters and the strategically placed songs of the time that create the most impact for the viewer. They begin as letters from the beginning of the war, 18, 19 year olds with their youthful innocence still intact and the hope that comes with it. At this point, it is easier to get caught up in what actor is reading the letter than the actual content of the letter. That quickly changes.

As the soldiers are in the country longer, their letters begin to reflect the confusion, feelings of futility and hopelessness, homesickness: in these first couple years of the war, the soldiers’ innocence is waning with all that they are exposed to.

One soldier wrote of his company being hit while looking for Viet Cong. At the hospital, he was asked to identify a boy from his company who had been killed by the attack. He was unable to identify him due to the state of the body. Later the doctors found the dead boy’s dog tags: it was one of his good friends. “His was the first body I ever saw ad, being my friend, it was too much… I sat down and cried. I don’t think I ever cried so much in my life. I can still see his face now. I will never forget it.”

The stories get worse: as the letters progress through the war, the more they break your heart. One that particularly sticks out is the letter from Johnny-Boy, a young soldier in the midst of the most intense fighting. He writes home to a friend’s mother, supposed to be talking about her son but instead relays a very intimate, distinct picture of the state of soldiers during that time. “We’re all in desperate need of love. When we go to Saigon, we spend all our money on women and beer. Some nights I don’t sleep. I can’t stand being alone at night. The guns don’t bother me – I can’t hear them anymore. I want to hold my head between my hands and run screaming away from here.” The despair drips from every word in the letter, and, personally, I found myself in the recipient of the letter’s shoes and how much loathing for the war must have coursed through her body at the reading of the letter, for I cannot begin to fathom what it must’ve been like to be a soldier. He ends his letter with, “I’m hollow, Mrs. Perko. I’m a shell, and when I’m scared I rattle. I’m no one to tell you about your son. I can’t. I’m sorry.” By the end of that letter in the movie, you find yourself thinking “It cannot get any worse from here. Something has to give.”

Then you realize the letter was written in 1967, with years still left for war in Vietnam. The movie splices the footage and the letters with official number counts of troops in Vietnam, soldiers wounded in action and soldiers killed in action. By the end of the movie you are given not only an up-close and personal look at the war but you fathom more the psychology of the young soldiers during the those horrific times.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.

MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!