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World Association of International Studies

Post I Tried to Enlist for Vietnam
Created by John Eipper on 09/29/16 1:03 PM

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I Tried to Enlist for Vietnam (Joe Listo, Brazil, 09/29/16 1:03 pm)

As JE mentioned, I did try to enlist for a tour in Vietnam when I turned eighteen, obviously against my parents' strong advice not to get involved. It didn't stop me. Already disgusted with the deaths of so many American troops, news from Salt Lake that a Mormon who became a friend during his missionary duties in Brazil (although I am not a Mormon myself) had been killed only a week into his tour was what triggered my decision.

After so many years, I still question the consulate's reason to turn me down based on nationality. With thousands of Americans refusing to serve and predicated on the fact that military training at the time was practically limited to 6 weeks--not only for grunts but also for Army helicopter pilots--why not take anyone who is really willing to fight, provided they are physically apt and able to speak the language?

In fact, I believe the US military should consider accepting foreigners to serve should other wars erupt given the apparent lack of appetite of the current American generation to wear a uniform and defend the country. All they would have to worry about was to make sure of the enlistees' true allegiance to country and train them. I would do it again, but now at 68 they would have a true reason to turn me down.

JE comments: Really happy to hear from Joe Listo--and I'm glad Michael Sullivan's post inspired him to write.

Nations have accepted foreigners in their ranks since ancient times. The idea of a "national" or "people's" army dates only from--I'm taking a guess here--Napoleon's day? Only a few decades earlier, the British had Hessian mercenaries in their ranks when they tried to keep the pesky Americans in line.  A lot of the Hessians never went back to Germany.

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  • Mercenaries and Foreign Volunteers (Timothy Brown, USA 10/01/16 5:42 AM)
    In response to John E's comments on Joe Listo's post of September 29th, in my experience, mercenaries and foreign volunteers are very different animals.

    While I was Consul General in the French Antilles/Guyanne) the 3rd French Foreign Legion was officered by French nationals, but the rank and file were from all over the place, including the US. (They wouldn't let me take pictures when I visited them.) Prior to its independence, the main security force in British Honduras was a Gurkha battalion.

    During my assignment in Vietnam, there was a Thai Division in the Delta, and I had the Korean White Horse Division and an Australian Special Forces training unit in my district.

    Earlier in Thailand I was interpreter for the CG of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. When it was withdrawn it was replaced by a Kiwi counter-insurgency unit.

    There were a few Americans, Costa Ricans, Guatemalans, Mexicans and Argentines in the ranks of the Sandinista Front during the 1970s and '80s.

    The FMLN Faribundo Martí Liberation Front of El Salvador had several American volunteers in its ranks, plus a few Cubans.

    During my four years as SLO to the Contras, there were even foreign fighters in the Contras ranks, including a couple of dual national Nicaraguan-American descendants of Marine stay-behinds after the 1920s campaign.

    Mike O'Callaghan (QEPD), a former US Marine that lost a leg in Korea, once Governor of Nevada that was both my mentor and mentor of Senator Harry Reid, was a reserve volunteer Sergeant in the Israeli IDF that went there to help repair tanks once a year. A devout Roman Catholic, he also went to Kurdistan at least once a year. (FYI: As of this week, my daughter Tamara that many of you met at the last WAIS conference, is also in Kurdistan.)

    I suspect other WAISers can readily add to this list.

    JE comments:  A hearty WAIS hello to colleague Tamara Zúñiga-Brown in Kurdistan.  Tamara:  is this a visit or a long-term assignment?

    Tim Brown devotes a section of Diplomarine to his service with the Korean White Horse Division in Vietnam.  It's a compelling story, with lots of surprises.  (If you still don't own a copy of Tim's book Diplomarine, shame on you...)

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