'Wrong, Colonel Kilgore, this war isn't going to end': The enduring power of the Vietnam War in American culture

Dixon, Christopher (2002) 'Wrong, Colonel Kilgore, this war isn't going to end': The enduring power of the Vietnam War in American culture. Inter-Cultural Studies, 2 2: 50-59.

Author Dixon, Christopher
Title 'Wrong, Colonel Kilgore, this war isn't going to end': The enduring power of the Vietnam War in American culture
Journal name Inter-Cultural Studies
ISSN 1445-1190
1444-8688
Publication date 2002-08
Sub-type Article (original research)
Volume 2
Issue 2
Start page 50
End page 59
Total pages 10
Place of publication Newcastle, N.S.W., Australia
Publisher University of Newcastle
Language eng
Abstract “Some day,” Colonel William Kilgore tells “young Captain” Willard in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 epic, Apocalypse Now, “this war’s gonna end.” Kilgore’s remark to Willard – delivered as a lament, rather than a hope – raises important questions concerning American memories of their flawed attempt to thwart Vietnamese independence. Over a quarter of a century after what Americans continue to describe as the ‘fall’ of Saigon, the United States has still not reconciled itself to the war’s inglorious end. Clearly, America’s Vietnam debacle has been a significant imperative in shaping the nation’s foreign policy since the 1960s: while the United States has not retreated into isolationism, it has been more careful in selecting where, and how, it seeks to shape international relations. Accepting that the foreign policy of any nation – but especially the United States which has always imagined itself as an exemplar for the rest of the world to emulate – is closely connected to domestic imperatives, it is my contention that Americans did not in fact ‘learn’ significant lessons from the Vietnam War. Those domestic imperatives have of course been expressed in political terms. But there is also a cultural aspect to this process. In particular, Americans’ understanding of their ‘Vietnam experience’ has been shaped by, and reflected in, the various movies that have been made ‘about’ the conflict. As this paper will explain, while these films have grappled in various ways with the legacies of America’s failure in Indochina, they have also reflected and perpetuated many of the same assumptions and values that led the nation into what has been depicted as the ‘quagmire’ of Vietnam (Halberstam, 1990).
Keyword Vietnam War
Foreign policy
Domestic policy
Legacies
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) - Collection
School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry
 
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Created: Wed, 04 Feb 2009, 10:42:59 EST by Ms Lynette Adams on behalf of School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry