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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

August 10, 2005

Written by C.N.

Viet Nam War Reenactments

One of the regular participants on this site’s Discussion Forum, alias FEB, alerted me to a Washington Post article that describes the emergence of Viet Nam War reenactments in the U.S. Apparently, this strikes more than a few people as a little strange or even inappropriate, since unlike the War of American Independence, the Civil War, or World War II, the Viet Nam War was the only war that the U.S. lost.

On this weekend, about 20 people from North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia were doing “impressions” of Americans who fought in Vietnam. Several have military experience, including one Gulf War veteran. There are police officers, firefighters, a sheriff’s deputy and a district attorney. A pediatric therapist came to play medic along with his wife. One man, a chemist, cooked meals in an antique field kitchen.

This is a fledgling endeavor, with the first units starting about five years ago. Several hundred people reenact the Vietnam War, with about a dozen units listed on the Internet. Their events generally are private affairs, and some participants say they’re reluctant to tell too many outsiders for fear of stirring up the war’s raw emotions.

Even more strange are their efforts to recruit local Vietnamese to play the enemy (North Vietnamese or Viet Cong communist soldiers):

[Patrick] Hubble, an affable mortician and former Navy sailor from Lynchburg, Va., plays a North Vietnamese soldier because he figures somebody has to do it. . . . Hubble, who gave his age as “born in 1968, year of the Tet Offensive,” is always on the lookout for new recruits.

Several times, he visited a Vietnamese-owned grocery store to ask if he could borrow the family’s elder sons for a weekend. Hubble said the family always told him their sons were busy. This remark would be followed by laughter and chatter in Vietnamese. “They were probably thinking, ‘What a weirdo,’ ” Hubble said. “But I just wanted things to be more authentic.”

And of course, it would not be a “reenactment” without the requisite racial slurs against the Vietnamese, as described in the article: “The guys cursed and used racial slurs about the enemy, but a couple of them apologized later. Again, it’s a ‘period’ thing.”

It’s pretty ironic that many of these reenactors consider themselves to be “history buffs” because I wonder if it ever struck Hubble and his colleagues that perhaps one of the reasons why Vietnamese Americans don’t want to participate and play the role of communists is because they consider the communists their enemies too. It was the communists who drove us from their ancestral lands, who made us abandon our home country, and who devastated many of our lives.

I personally don’t care if some people want to reenact the Viet Nam War. But I would be greatly insulted if someone asked me to play the part of the enemy, especially if it also meant that I could expect to be on the receiving end of racial slurs such as “gook” and “chink,” whether it’s a “period thing” or whether it’s just the natural tendencies of many of these participants to be begin with.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Viet Nam War Reenactments" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/08/viet-nam-war-reenactments/> ().

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