Readers React

Want to go to war? Consider Vietnam first

To the editor: I served in Vietnam starting when I was 18; at 19 I was one of the war's youngest veterans. Your article cites all the social programs Lyndon Johnson championed along with his decision to send American boys to fight a war that he had previously said "Asian boys" should be fighting. I went to Vietnam in 1968; because of that experience, I lost my trust in all politicians. ("The era known as 'the Sixties' really began in 1965," Op-Ed, Dec. 17)

We often hear that more than 55,000 Americans died in Vietnam. I witnessed wooden caskets ascending a conveyor belt into the belly of a plane and young soldiers die right in front of me after screaming for help.

Rarely do we hear of the millions of Vietnamese who died from our adventure there, or of the kids we fed in the orphanage behind our base.

Before politicians advocate going to war, perhaps I can paint for them the vivid scenes I witnessed.

Louis Cimino, Santa Monica

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To the editor: James T. Patterson's insightful article omitted a 1965 U.S. Supreme Court case that changed America as much as any other event that year.

In Griswold vs. Connecticut, the high court struck down laws restricting availability of "the pill." With this ruling, the pill's use became widespread.

For women, that changed everything. They could postpone or avoid motherhood and concentrate on education and careers; rigid gender roles gave way to more egalitarian opportunities.

Thus, America's postwar population boom and accompanying economic growth soon ebbed. Ultimately, our birthrate fell a bit below replacement level; without immigration our population would be contracting.

With our capitalistic economy so dependent on a constantly expanding market, the pill's effect endures. Perhaps that helps explain why some conservatives decry what 1965 changed.

Devra Mindell, Santa Monica

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To the editor: Each time I visit my Marine brother's grave, I think about the quote from Johnson in your article: "We are not about to send American boys nine or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys should be doing for themselves."

I was drafted in 1966 and earned a commission as an Army lieutenant; my brother joined the Marine Corps. I was honored to escort him home after he and two buddies were killed in an artillery strike on the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone in August 1968. His casket was sealed.

Gary Washburn, Chatsworth

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