The common reading for The Vietnam Experience course includes George Herring's brief reference to the Green Berets (America's Longest War, 87). The greatest attention to the Special Forces unit known as the Green Berets, however, is the fictional account by journalist Robin Moore.
The excerpted portion of The Green Berets in Stewart O'Nan's anthology presents what Moore calls his first-hand observations and "basic truth" concerning the men who fought in Vietnam as Green Berets.
In preparation for class discussion, read pages 19-40 in O'Nan (plus his introductory comments, pages 17-18.) Read also "The Ballad of the Green Berets" in O'Nan, page 285 or click here for words and music of this song. Students must write and submit these questions to her/his local instructor. The questions should be submitted by e-mail and should be suitable for generating class discussion.
Sample questions that would be suitable:
1. How can this account of our Special Forces be both fictional and "basic truth?"
2. How heterogeneous is the cultural mix Moore describes?
3. Why does Moore provide the reader with an extensive background of Steve (Sven) Kornie?
4. How does the character of Kornie differ from John Wayne's portrayal? (If you have seen the film.)
5. Who are the KKK? Describe these individuals.
6. How does the text characterize the Viet Cong?
7. Why was Kornie's "Cambodia Plan" so controversial? Describe the ramifications of this mission.
8. What traditional American cultural concerns appear in the text?
9. What is the overall message of the piece? Why would Stewart O'Nan, editor of The Vietnam Reader, include this particular chapter in the book?
Sample questions that would be less suitable:
1. Where were Special Forces trained?
2. How much would 25,000 piastres be in 1964 U.S. dollars?
3. What is DZ?