Essay Example on The Long Grey Line

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This book talks about the struggles of young men who pledged themselves to Honor Duty and Country but found that living up to West Point s iron standards was very difficult and in some cases impossible It tells us about the twenty five year adventure of the officers who fought in Vietnam Atkinson tells the story of West Point s Class of 1966 through the experiences of three classmates and the women they loved This story is told from their rowdy cadet years and youthful romances to the action in Vietnam where dozens of their classmates died and hundreds more grew discouraged The Long Grey Line teaches American men and women about innocence patriotism and the prices that we must pay in order for our dreams to become a reality The Hudson River in June of 1962 807 of America s finest entered the service of the United States as cadets at the United States Military Academy After four years of a demanding and rigorous program 579 men received commissions as lieutenants in the United States Army In another four years thirty were dead and another one third were civilians The highest resignation rate in the history of the Academy This work is anything but easy

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This book follows the life and career of nine members of the Class of 1966 and the women who loved them grieved for them and joined them in their commitment to the service of their nation This book is essential reading for those who wish to gain at least a minimal understanding of the effect of the war in Vietnam on those who survived its impact upon the US Army as an institution and the ideological infrastructure behind the contemporary reform movement The class of 1966 graduated with 579 men At least 550 of them served in Vietnam Thirty were killed in action there and more than 100 others were wounded Of those who did not serve in the war five were Allied cadets who could not serve in Vietnam 

Ten others died or were disabled before having an opportunity to serve there Of those from our class who could have served in Vietnam therefore 98 percent did so Also about nine million Americans served in the military during the Vietnam war s fewer than three million of them served in the war zone


 Lastly back to that assembly in the spring of 1966 when we were asked to select the locations for our first tours in the Army 98 members of the class were accepted that night for initial assignments to Vietnam That was the maximum number that could be accepted that night The Superintendent of the Academy stated in his annual report covering this period the graduating class of 579 desired Vietnam duty in such numbers that a limiting quota of 98 had to be established by the Department of the Army to insure that the class would be distributed properly throughout the Army Even these particular 98 graduates could not be sent immediately into the war zone before they received some additional training and at least some seasoning in the real Army would have foolishly escalated the risk to them and tragically escalated the risk to the men they would be assigned to lead In addition West Point graduates and other regular Army officers were required to complete ranger training before arrival for duty in Vietnam 



Three weeks of parachute training was also required of those going immediately to airborne units Three West Point classes had battle death rates of more than 10 percent during World War II The differences between these death rates and the death rates of the Vietnam era reflect the nature of the conflicts In part they resulted from the relative quality and rapid accessibility of medical attention The officials who deliberated on these issues in 1966 some of whom were members of those World War II classes were also convinced that graduates would be better prepared for leadership positions in Vietnam and less likely to get themselves and their men killed at such high rates if they got some pertinent training and at least a minimum of seasoning before being rushed into battle Apparently not aware that these quotas and policies had been established or not understanding why Mr Buckley claims that we were cowards because we were not willing to accept the risks involved in volunteering in larger numbers immediately especially when that would have been the sound career move given what he implies to have been the fleeting nature of the opportunity He says that although many people had already decided that the Vietnam War was stupid immoral or both few yet thought that it was unwinnable

The overcoming opinion was that once the military buildup had been completed victory would come quickly If such an opinion prevailed anywhere it certainly was not widely held in our class The Department of the Army took the longer and the more accurate view intern causing the war not to end quickly Beyond that initial group of 98 the remainder of the class carefully considered where and with which unit to serve before going into the war Some selected units that they believed might soon be deployed to Vietnam Others selected locations like the border area between North and South Korea Others chose units in Germany as their next training ground Only the top 5 percent of the class in academic standing was eligible to go directly on to graduate school before serving in units but a good number of them chose units instead In sum the discussions in that class at the assembly on and during the weeks leading up to it were not centered as the reviewer leads someone to believe not on how best to hide from the war rather on how best to prepare for the war

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