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The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien: Historical Context

Events Leading to the Vietnam War

Vietnam has always tried to be fiercely independent but was coveted by other nations.  The Chinese ruled until the tenth century and introduced their culture, while the people of Vietnam retained their language.  In the seventeenth century, French missionaries adapted the language to the Roman alphabet. In 1857, unable to annex Vietnam by diplomatic measures, the French attacked, and by 1883, they controlled the country.  Japan ruled during World War II, from 1940 to 1945.  After the war, the Vietnamese hoped for independence, but the French returned to “reclaim [their] inheritance.” At the same time, China, by then a communist country, attempted to move in.  Through the fifties, US military aid and assistance to non-communist South Vietnam increased. 

  • Chinese rule 111BC - 939AD
  • Independence 939-1857
  • French rule 1883-1940
  • Japanese rule 1940-1945
  • Indochina War 1946-1954
  • Vietnam War 1957-1975
  • Normalization of US/Vietnam relations 1995 

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The Things They Carried

Spc4 carries a loaded pack and an M-60

M16A1 with a Starlight scope 14.5 lb.

Flak jacket 1970, 6.7 lb., photo from Dwight Burdette

Hand grenade 13.75 oz.

Mine detector 28 lb.

Tunnel entrance

Tunnel Rat

Tunnel diagram

Viet Cong soldier in tunnel

Water buffalo


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