In a new book, the Vietnam veterinarian writes ‘historical fiction’ to share insights about the war, especially with those who are too young to remember

As a veteran himself, William Watson’s book – entitled “Souls Inverted” – takes readers back to the 1960s to tell the story of the Vietnam War, mostly through the eyes of two brothers, the one who responded to the military’s call to duty and the another who took criminal action in opposition.

On Veterans Day, November 11, Watson and others who have served in the U.S. military are likely to be aware that time is running out, and many today know little or nothing about the victims who have been made into conflicts through the history of the nation.

This book “is historical fiction,” said Watson, who is retired, “in the sense that all the events the characters experience are accurate depictions of actual events, most of which are documented in the footnotes.”

Watson weaves in his memories from the time and tells the story through the lens of a family’s experience. In the first chapter, the eldest son is killed while serving in Vietnam. The suffering that his family, especially his parents, endured is simply described – reminding the reader that this could be any family’s nightmare.

WDAY logo

Subscribe to newsletter for email alerts

The book is semi-autobiographical, Watson said. His experience as a police officer in Vietnam, who served in the Army’s 170th Assault Helicopter Company in Kontum, is partly told through the youngest brother, Davy, a carefree high school student in Southern California who loves to surf and who joins as an 18-year-old to the army and is eventually sent to Vietnam.

Watson’s goal was to write a novel that “would not only appeal to readers of Flying Magazine,” he said. “I would try to tell the story in a plain, direct way for those who were too young to understand it. I think most of the American people have no idea who Jim Morrison or The Doors are.”

Watson served 20 years in the Army and then attended Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. He served as Deputy Attorney General for the California Department of Justice before accepting a position to teach aeronautics at UND in 1998.

William and JoAnn (Geir) Watson.  JoAnn is originally from Milton, ND (photo submitted)

William and JoAnn (Geir) Watson. JoAnn is originally from Milton, ND (photo submitted)

‘Write what you know’

In preparing to write “Souls Inverted,” Watson followed an old saying in the publishing world.

“They say you have to write about what you know about and I knew about flying helicopters in Vietnam and I knew a lot of veterans,” he said. “I had to do a little homework on SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) because I was over in Vietnam when they were doing all this crazy stuff.”

He tried to balance the ideologies of those who resolutely supported the Vietnam War effort and those who just as firmly did not, he said. “There were mistakes and atrocities on both sides at the time. Both sides thought what they were doing was right.”

In the book, the father and eldest son were of the mindset that when your country calls, you answer, he said. The younger two brothers “were of the ’60s mindset of questioning everything, at least on Will’s part,” Watson said. “Davy, the youngest, was a little unconscious.”

William Watson, a 20-year-old from Torrance, California, was a police officer and pilot at the 170th Assault Helicopter Company in Kontum during the Vietnam War.  (Submitted image)

William Watson, a 20-year-old from Torrance, California, was a police officer and pilot at the 170th Assault Helicopter Company in Kontum during the Vietnam War. (Submitted image)

As a young man, he did not enter the service with a strong conviction to serve in Vietnam. Like Davy, “I was far from philosophical at the age of 19. I was more interested in surfing and trying to get someone to buy me beer that was over 21, you know – and persuade a girl to kiss me, he said with a laugh. .

In the book, Davy’s brother Will joins the University of California-Berkeley as a student of Weather Underground, a radical militant group responsible for bombings and killings of innocent people, in protest of the war.

β€œAt the time, I think both sides were thinking what they were doing, what was probably painful but necessary,” he said. In his book, “I tried to give both sides an equal appearance, but not to justify bad things, as both sides did.”

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, “there were a lot of Americans whose minds just switched to” hey, we’re being lied to by the military here, “Watson said.” And let’s either win. this game and go home, or redeem checks and go home – one or the other, either stop or win.And that was where the split came in, where one ended up with Americans demonstrating in support of the war or against the war. And finally, Nixon went further, in 1973, withdrawing American troops under a peace treaty that was soon violated by the North Vietnamese.

“But from that moment until now, I think the Americans have become more understanding that the young men and women who fought in that war did what they thought was their duty.

“For a long time the subject was avoided, I think even to the point today that the older vets who fought there are in a way honored, which is a good thing. I mean, they were not responsible.”

A view of the home base of the 170th Combat Assault Helicopter Company in Kontum, which was Watson's home during his mission in Vietnam.  (Submitted image)

A view of the home base of the 170th Combat Assault Helicopter Company in Kontum, which was Watson’s home during his mission in Vietnam. (Submitted image)

Grounds for war

Watson draws comparisons between Vietnam and Afghanistan.

“There was undoubtedly a good reason to go into Afghanistan – but it led to 20 years of American blood everywhere,” he said.

“The reason for entering Afghanistan initially after 9/11 was clear, as was getting into Pearl Harbor. There was no really good reason for us to enter Vietnam, nor to stay there for ten years, as we did while trampling water.

“And this is where we get into trouble with Afghanistan, we ended up doing the same kind of semi-military, limited military operations for 20 years in Afghanistan that we did for 10 years in Vietnam, and ignored (that) the causes. to be there were completely different – one correct and one blatantly erroneous. ”

The goal in Vietnam and Afghanistan should have been to win the war and get out, he said.

“Either you go to war to win the war, or you do not go to war. That’s why we had to kill Hitler – we did.”

“We had the same undoubtedly good reason as World War II to go into Afghanistan, and then we screwed up with 20 years of American blood all over it,” he said. “We should have gone in,” won the war, and went.

It did not happen in Vietnam either.

A view of the Forward Operating Base in Kontum, where Watson was stationed during the Vietnam War.  (Submitted image)

A view of the Forward Operating Base in Kontum, where Watson was stationed during the Vietnam War. (Submitted image)

Reflecting on the fact that some returning Vietnam veterans encountered disrespect and outright harassment, Watson said: “I think many of them almost felt like Not in the beginning, but certainly in the late 60s Many of them just kept their heads down and went back to avoiding the subject altogether. “

Over time, his own views on U.S. involvement in Vietnam have changed, he said, “because we went to war and lost it – and we’ve had a bad habit of doing that since Korea.

“I think Americans are too valuable to waste like you know,” he paused. “I mean, it’s hard for me to talk about.”

"Souls conversely," by William Watson of Grand Forks, dives into the Vietnam War.  (Pamela Knudson / Grand Forks Herald)

“Souls Inverted,” by William Watson of Grand Forks, plunges into the Vietnam War. (Pamela Knudson / Grand Forks Herald)

Leave a Comment

Advertise