Echoes of Combat: The Vietnam War in American Memory
Echoes of Combat: Trauma, Memory, and the Vietnam War
(second edition — note new subtitle)
“Do not mistake Echoes of Combat for yet another pedestrian survey of Vietnam images in popular culture. Whether the subject is crazed vets or the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Fred Turner writes splendidly about the disintegration of morality in the Vietnam War, about the return of the repressed, about America’s failure to ‘put the war behind us’ even while purporting to do just that. An important book on the war’s disowned legacy.”
— Todd Gitlin
According to Turner, these patterns are part of a natural process of recovery from traumatic events. At the same time, Turner contends that they threaten to give Americans a false sense of moral confidence and to blind them to the true nature of future conflicts. From Bosnia to both Gulf Wars, the Vietnam War has overshadowed every recent American intervention abroad – and it will continue to do so, Turner warns, until Americans can finally accept, rather than seek to expunge, their memories of the conflict. “Echoes of Combat is a fascinating examination of how the Vietnam War affected the American psyche. Using the literature and films on the war, as well as the memory of veterans themselves, Fred Turner reaches complex and sometimes surprising conclusions about healing the wounds left by an ugly episode in the nation’s history.”
— Howard Zinn
“Fred Turner aims to help America heal not by forgetting or evading the war’s reality but by confronting its psychological consequences for us as individuals and as a nation. Echoes of Combat thus turns out to be an exceptionally courageous and valuable exploration – and maybe even exorcism – of the cultural and psychological specters from the Vietnam War that still haunt America today.”
— H. Bruce Franklin
Between 1959 and 1975, a million and a half Americans saw combat in Vietnam, more than a third of whom developed post-traumatic stress disorder. When these traumatized veterans returned home, they tried to repress the war’s horrific violence, only to see it come alive again in their flashbacks and nightmares. Civilians, too, tried to put the war behind them, but no sooner did America’s leaders declare the Vietnam War a relic of the past than it returned to public consciousness in a long line of novels, memoirs, and films.
Using psychological trauma as its guiding metaphor, Echoes of Combat is the first book to explore the parallels between the healing of Vietnam veterans and Americans’ collective recovery from the war. Turner examines films and novels, political speeches, national monuments, and even the backwoods rituals of the men’s movement in light of the testimony of traumatized veterans. He argues that during the Vietnam War, both soldiers in combat and citizens on the home front witnessed the collapse of the myths on which they had been raised. As they have tried to rebuild those myths over the last twenty-five years, both traumatized veterans and Americans at large have slipped into complex cycles of denial and recollection.