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"Into the Fire" - Vietnam War

The song "Into the Fire" from Sabaton's 2005 album, "Primo Victoria", tells us of the use of Napalm during the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War and active U.S. involvement in the war began in 1954, though ongoing conflict in the region had stretched back several decades. After Ho’s communist forces took power in the north, armed conflict between northern and southern armies continued until northern Viet Minh’s decisive victory in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in May 1954. The French loss at the battle ended almost a century of French colonial rule in Indochina. The subsequent treaty signed in July 1954 at a Geneva conference split Vietnam along the latitude known as the 17th Parallel (17 degrees north latitude), with Ho in control in the North and Bao in the South. The treaty also called for nationwide elections for reunification to be held in 1956. In 1955, however, the strongly anti-communist politician Ngo Dinh Diem pushed Emperor Bao aside to become president of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam (GVN), often referred to during that era as South Vietnam. A team sent by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to report on conditions in South Vietnam advised a build-up of American military, economic and technical aid in order to help Diem confront the Viet Cong threat. Working under the “domino theory,” which held that if one Southeast Asian country fell to communism, many other countries would follow, Kennedy increased U.S. aid, though he stopped short of committing to a large-scale military intervention. By 1962, the U.S. military presence in South Vietnam had reached some 9,000 troops, compared with fewer than 800 during the 1950s. The song, however, is specifically abouth the use of Napalm during the war. The First World War introduced many new weapons to the world of warfare. The first global mechanized war saw the first use of tanks and combat airplanes, but it’s less well known that the first functional flamethrowers were also used in WWI. They lacked efficiency, though, since they only used ignited gasoline, which would burn out quickly, causing minimal damage. The weapon continued to develop. The US Chemical Warfare Service added rubber to the gasoline to produce a jelly mixture which would burn longer, would be harder to put out and would stick to the victim, causing fatal injuries. This seemed like a solution to the US military, but when they entered the war in the Pacific, natural rubber was in short supply, and the Army was forced to find a suitable replacement. This is how napalm was born. Having been pronounced as the winning weapon of the Korean War, napalm was part of the US arsenal from the very beginning of the conflict in Vietnam. In the decade from 1963 to 1973, 388,000 tons of napalm were dropped on Vietnam. That is ten times the amount of napalm used in Korea (32,357 tons) and almost twenty times more than was used in the Pacific (16,500 tons). First, it was used via flamethrowers by the US Army and their ARVN allies to clear out bunkers, foxholes, and trenches. Even if the flames could not penetrate into the bunker, the fire consumed enough oxygen to cause suffocation inside it. Reports exist which state that the flamethrowers were often used to clear out or destroy “enemy villages”, which implies that they may have been used against civilians as well. Napalm became a psychological weapon, as the enemy was terrified of the hell on earth caused by its use. Later on in the war, the US bombers began to drop napalm bombs, which proved to be far more destructive than the flamethrowers. A napalm bomb could leave an area of 2,500 square yards engulfed in unquenchable fire. Using napalm bombs dropped by a fast moving aircraft didn’t guarantee much accuracy. This resulted in many civilian casualties. Horrifying as napalm is, its effects at least are time-limited. That is not the case with the other major chemical weapon the US used against Vietnam -- Agent Orange. Agent Orange is a liquid mixture. The compound is toxic for only about a week before it breaks down, but unfortunately, one of its daughter products is the persistent toxin dioxin. Dioxin lingers in soil, water, and human bodies. During the Vietnam War, the US sprayed Agent Orange on the jungles and fields of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The Americans sought to defoliate the trees and bushes, so that enemy soldiers would be exposed. They also wanted to kill off the agricultural crops that fed the Viet Cong. The US spread 43 million liters (11.4 million gallons) of Agent Orange on Vietnam, covering 24 percent of South Vietnam with the poison. Over 3,000 villages were in the spray zone. In those areas, dioxin leached into people's bodies, their food, and worst of all, the groundwater. In an underground aquifer, the toxin can remain stable for at least 100 years. As a result, even decades later, the dioxin continues to cause health problems and birth defects for Vietnamese people in the sprayed area. The Vietnamese government estimates that about 400,000 people have died from Agent Orange poisoning, and about half a million children have been born with birth defects. US and allied veterans who were exposed during the period of heaviest usage and their children may have elevated rates of various cancers, including soft tissue sarcoma, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin disease, and lymphocytic leukemia. In January 1973, the United States and North Vietnam concluded a final peace agreement, ending open hostilities between the two nations. War between North and South Vietnam continued, however, until April 30, 1975, when DRV forces captured Saigon, renaming it Ho Chi Minh City (Ho himself died in 1969). Sources: https://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/vietnam-war-history#section_12 https://www.warhistoryonline.com/vietnam-war/history-napalm-vietnam-war.html https://www.thoughtco.com/napalm-and-agent-orange-in-vietnam-war-195797 #History

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