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Dishonest reporting in Vietnam and PTSD

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2006 - Spring


As a combat surgeon in DaNang in 1968, I experienced the Tet Offensive firsthand and saw more carnage than most civilian surgeons see in a lifetime. Cathy Shufro’s “The Unseen Wounds of War” [Autumn 2005] brings back memories—and prompts a few questions.

Dishonest media coverage of Vietnam, specifically the reporting of the Tet Offensive as a defeat of our forces, was the reason our veterans returned to a hostile public.

Did any of Ms. Shufro’s vets mention that our forces never lost a significant battle in Vietnam? Did Ms. Shufro run across data showing that victorious combatants who return to be hailed as heroes suffer less post-traumatic stress disorder than do defeated forces? Could the confusion of returning to be spat upon and subjected to the disrespect and dishonor ordinarily reserved for the vanquished—after defeating the enemy decisively in every encounter—be a factor in the symptoms experienced by those in Ms. Shufro’s group?

Martin L Fackler, M.D. ’59
Retired Col., U.S. Army Medical Corps
Gainesville, Fla.

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