Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hello Vietnam

      So far, we have discussed songs that implied patriotism and support for American government intervention in Vietnam.  There is, however, a song that explicitly supported American intervention in Vietnam released in 1965, and it was a popular hit in the Country genre.  The song "Hello Vietnam" reached Number One during its initial release and stayed there for three weeks.  It landed as Number 15 on the Country Chart for the year according to Billboard.  The song was written by Tom T. Hall and performed by Johnny Wright, with his famous wife Kitty Wells singing background.  Tom T. Hall was a veteran when he wrote the song, having enlisted in the Army in 1957 and serving in Germany where he performed at local NCO clubs on the Armed Forces Radio Network.  He was discharged after his four years of service, returning to the States in 1961, but his service obviously influenced his opinions about duty and honor.  Hall wrote:

Kiss, me goodbye and write me while I'm gone
Good, bye, my sweetheart, Hello Vietnam.
America has heard the bugle call;
And you know it involves us, one and all.
I don't suppose that war will ever end;
There's fighting that will break us up again.
Good bye, my darling, Hello Vietnam.
A hill to take, a battle to be won.
Kiss me goodbye and write me while I'm gone.
Good bye, my sweetheart, Hello Vietnam.
A ship is waiting for us at the dock.
America has trouble to be stopped.
We must stop Communism in that land
Or freedom will start slipping through our hands.
I hope and pray someday the world will learn
That fires we don't put out, will bigger burn.
We must save freedom now, at any cost
Or someday, our own freedom will be lost.
Kiss me goodbye and write me while I'm gone
 Good bye, my sweetheart, Hello Vietnam.

     Not only does the song address the domestic issues of leaving a loved one behind, but it is clearly supporting America's efforts to contain Communism, which was the initial rationalization given for the deployment of U.S. troops into Southeast Asia.  This song is clearly in support of the American government's foreign policy with respect to the Vietnam War.  Further, the song was popular among country listeners, proving support for the War was evident among Americans, especially in 1965 when the song was released.

     Interestingly, the song became popular again in 1987 when it was released as part of the soundtrack to Full Metal Jacket.  There was a resurgence of Vietnam-themed films and television series in the mid-1980s, allowing for re-purposing of many of the Vietnam-era songs, but more on that another time.  For our understanding regarding "Hello, Vietnam," it is important to see the connections of this pro-government foreign policy song to the county genre in general and the myth of the American West more specifically.  The song represents the values of the country/western mindset, and an understanding that the government had a duty to protect the precious democracy upon which America was built.

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