Saturday, August 25, 2012

over there

Part of a series begun in World War II for American GIs going abroad, A Pocket Guide to Vietnam was intended to introduce them to the customs, and, rather lightly, the dangers of the place where they were headed. First issued in 1962, it was revised in 1966 and has now been republished by Oxford’s Bodleian Library, with an introduction by Bruns Grayson, a veteran who arrived in Vietnam in 1968 and was given the booklet. Grayson describes the average soldier handed the Pocket Guide as “about twenty years old, not well-educated, not wily enough to avoid the draft in most cases, very often on his first trip away from the United States. I don’t know what the Vietnamese equivalent of ‘overpaid, oversexed, and over here’ was…such a phrase would have described almost all of us.”
But the young, uneducated soldiers described by Grayson also had to be told why they were going to Vietnam, from which, after all, they might not return. “It is interesting,” Grayson writes, “that the booklet accurately and briefly describes the history of the Vietnamese resisting outsiders—the Chinese and others—while assuming that we could never be cast in this light.” 

Jonathan Mirsky at NYRB blog, the rest here

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