Thank you for a highly inspirational insight into the career of Rocky Bleier ( Rocky Bleier's War, June 9). Your story not only tells of the indecencies of war, it shows the courage of a man whose life has been put before him. I only hope SI will give us more quality stories of this nature.
I thought the article on Rocky Bleier was one of your best. More people should know about him—not just what happened to him in Vietnam, but what happened when he came home, how he showed everybody that, despite his injuries, he could still play football. He proved it in the Super Bowl.
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Rocky Bleier's War moved me deeply. It brought out, better than any of the weighty tomes on Vietnam I have read, the ultimate irony of America trying to "save" a battered people. I don't know how aware of it Bleier is even now, but the inadvertent actions of ordinary, decent American soldiers (those of vicious ones need no comment) probably have made us more enemies among the ordinary South Vietnamese people than anything the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese can dream up. No Caucasian can fully sense this; one has to be a "colored" to know how it feels to be saved by uniformed, armed and unnaturally tall men running around one's countryside shooting up everything in sight. Thanks to Rocky Bleier and Terry O'Neil, your huge reading public might just get a glimpse of this truth while they are admiring Bleier's personal candor and courage. Thanks for a touching reading experience.
SAMUEL C. CHU
As a fellow Notre Dame graduate and Americal Division veteran, I read with particular interest Rocky Bleier's account of his experiences in Vietnam. I wholly concur with his notion of the "My Lai mentality," but even more telling was his description of how his company, still jumpy from the previous night's mortar attack, poured a needlessly large number of rounds of ammunition on a single hootch at the far end of a rice paddy. Undoubtedly, it was out of similar feelings of jumpiness and frustration that the tragedy at My Lai was born.
In a war where "strategic air strikes" and "free fire zones" were accepted military tactics, it is indeed ironic that the actions of the infantrymen should be judged so harshly. It was the infantrymen—the "grunts"—who learned most vividly one of the saddest truths about the war in Vietnam: the much-ballyhooed effort to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people was nothing but a euphemistic myth.
DONALD G. LEIS JR.
Rocky Bleier's unit in Vietnam apparently was made up of soldiers who were totally indifferent to the problems and lives of the Vietnamese, and it is unfortunate that his image of the American soldier in Vietnam is likely to be perpetuated by his book. He portrays most of his fellow countrymen as potential atrocities looking for a place to happen. I, too, served as an infantryman in Vietnam and can say with equal authority that, while there were occasional abuses, the behavior of the majority of our troops in that country was no cause for shame. I know of incidents in which U.S. soldiers risked their own lives to avoid injuring innocent Vietnamese who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. While Mr. Bleier is certainly entitled to report those incidents and experiences about which he has personal knowledge, I believe the opposite view deserves equal attention.
JAMES F. ROBINSON
In his tale, Rocky Bleier recalls the death of a close friend, Hawaii, one of more than 50,000 Americans who lost their lives in Vietnam. Bleier was awakened to the injustice of war by his friend's death, but he did not lay down his arms. Perhaps if Bleier and the rest of his comrades had displayed the subtle courage of those who refused to fight because of conscience, the tragedy of Vietnam might never have taken place.
It is my considered opinion that Rocky Bleier's adventures in Vietnam have no place in what is primarily a sports magazine.
CHARLES G. MANNIX
I wish that everyone in America would take the time to read Rocky Bleier's War. I spent almost a year in Vietnam, and this fine article brought back memories of pain, hurt and bewilderment. It also brought back memories of the best friendships I ever made. In reading the article maybe people will begin to understand just what the Vietnamese soldier had to contend with. Certainly Vietnam veterans deserve more recognition from the public. Hats off to Rocky Bleier, and God bless him for telling it like it was.
Thanks to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, and especially to Kenny Moore, for the superbly written article on the life and untimely death of Steve Prefontaine (A Final Drive to the Finish, June 9).