Article ID: CBB031001010

The Secret of Seeing Charlie in the Dark: The Starlight Scope, Techno-anxiety, and the Spectral Mediation of the Enemy in the Vietnam War (October 2017)


The introduction of night vision technology during the Vietnam War transformed how U.S. military men and their communist enemies fought at night. The starlight scope’s seemingly miraculous light-amplifying powers made hitherto unseen targets easier to see. And as sole possessor of this new technology, American soldiers had a profound tactical advantage operating at night. But they also paid a price for this new edge. Burdened by the scope’s weight, untested technology, and extreme secrecy, these servicemen suffered. They endured physical, psychological, and emotional stress unforeseen by the military leaders who pushed for the scope’s development during the Cold War. The new rifle-mounted scope figuratively transformed night into day, and, paradoxically, made it harder for many American soldiers to pull the trigger.

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Authors & Contributors
Angevine, Robert G.
Field, Alexander J.
Frandsen, Bert
Haworth, William B.
Hersch, Matthew Howard
Hoffman, Jon T.
The Bridge: Journal of the National Academy of Engineering
Technology and Culture
Air Power History
American Heritage of Invention and Technology
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Duke University
Center of Military History, United States Army
Columbia University Press
Harvard University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Oxford University Press
Military technology
Technological innovation
Vietnam War
Technology and war; technology and the military
Science and war; science and the military
Eisenhower, Dwight David
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, late
19th century
20th century, early
21st century
United States
Great Britain
United States. Army
United States Air Force (USAF)
Harvard University
Strategic Defense Initiative
United States Navy
Great Britain. Army

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