Lost Soldiers from Lost War : a comparative study of the collective experience of soldiers of the Vietnam War and the Angolan/Namibian border war

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

I explore the Vietnam War and the Border War of South Africa through the analysis of the oral histories of the soldiers who fought in these wars. Considering the scarcity of oral histories about the Border War, I conducted several personal interviews with Border War soldiers to add to the oral histories representing that conflict. In this dissertation, I frame the accounts of South African conscripts and Vietnam soldiers within the appropriate historical, social and ideological contexts of both wars. This comparison further focuses on the soldiers' perspective with relation to the physical and psychological conditions endemic to fighting guerilla wars, issues of race, class, ethnicity or regional affiliation in combat, as well as the return home from lost wars of intervention. My evaluation discovers significant common ground between the physical demands of warfare, the social and political environment, and most importantly, similar expressions of mental and emotional strain both during guerilla warfare and upon returning home. In conclusion, this is an endeavor to contribute to the breaking of the silence that has pervaded and enclosed the Border War by using, as a comparative point of departure, the vast experiences of Vietnam veterans who were more readily allowed the space to voice their accounts.

Summary in English.|Incudes bibliographical references.