Vietnam Veterans

February 21, 1973

Report Outline
Vietnam GI as New Breed of Veteran
Sources of Readjustment Problems
Programs to Aid Return to Civilian Life
Special Focus

Vietnam GI as New Breed of Veteran

Emerging of ‘Vietvet’ fromm Year of Obscurity

With the cease-fire in Vietnam and the return of American prisoners of war, attention is focusing more and more on the new veteran and how he is adjusting to civilian life. Every war produces this kind of public concern, compounded partly of a sense of obligation to the warrior and partly of a fear that he will return brutalized or resentful or in some other condition that will threaten the peace and comfort of civilian society. Adding to concern today is a strong sense that this war is different from the others, the veteran is different, and his readjustment problems may be more complex than those of his predecessors after earlier wars. “There is something special about Vietnam veterans,” writes Robert Jay Lifton, the Yale psychiatrist. “Everyone who has contact with them seems to agree that they are different from veterans of other wars.”

Much has been learned from other wars of the 20th century about the psychology of the citizen-soldier, but what has been gleaned from the past may not be sufficient to explain the state of mind of many young men who served in Vietnam. “To do the job that must be done [to provide veterans with maximum assistance in readjusting to civilian life] it is important that the characteristics, needs and problems of the Vietnam veteran be thoroughly understood by all who might relate to him,” officials of the Veterans Administration's Department of Medicine and Surgery have said. “Especially it is important that he be seen in the perspective of the war in which he has fought and of the society to which he belongs.”

Until recently the Vietnam veteran could have been described as the forgotten man. In few wars had returning soldiers slipped back so unobtrusively into civilian life, with so little showing of uniforms or flashing of medals. The veteran's in visibility was particularly remarkable in view of his numbers. More than six million veterans served in the armed forces during the “Vietnam era,” which officially dates from Aug. 5, 1964. Approximately 2.4 million of them served in Southeast Asia. Because the draftee's term of service is two years, and tours of duty in Vietnam were normally one year, GIs have been returning to civilian life after war service for at least six years. For most of those years, their presence as a special segment of the population was scarcely felt in the nation at large.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Vietnam War
Feb. 18, 2000  Legacy of the Vietnam War
Dec. 03, 1993  U.S.-Vietnam Relations
Mar. 18, 1988  Vietnam: Unified, Independent and Poor
Jul. 06, 1984  Agent Orange: The Continuing Debate
Nov. 04, 1983  MIAs: Decade of Frustration
Mar. 11, 1983  Vietnam War Reconsidered
Oct. 21, 1977  Vietnam Veterans: Continuing Readjustment
Jan. 18, 1974  Vietnam Aftermath
Feb. 21, 1973  Vietnam Veterans
Jun. 09, 1971  Prospects for Democracy in South Vietnam
May 06, 1970  Cambodia and Laos: the Widening War
Jan. 07, 1970  War Atrocities and the Law
Jul. 02, 1969  Resolution of Conflicts
Apr. 17, 1968  Reconstruction in South Vietnam
Aug. 23, 1967  Political Evolution in South Viet Nam
Jan. 11, 1967  Rural Pacification in South Viet Nam
May 26, 1965  Political Instability in South Viet Nam
Mar. 25, 1964  Neutralization in Southeast Asia
Apr. 17, 1963  Task in South Viet Nam
Jun. 14, 1961  Guerrilla Warfare
May 17, 1961  Threatened Viet Nam
Sep. 23, 1959  Menaced Laos
Charities and Philanthropy
General Defense and National Security
Veterans' Services