Bruce Springsteen recorded what would become one of his most influential songs, “Born in the U.S.A.”, in 1981. The song was released in the summer of 1984 on his most popular album ever, also called “Born in the U.S.A.”. The Vietnam War had only ended six years earlier when Springsteen first recorded this ironic anti-war song. The irony of “Born in the U.S.A.” is in its reception. The chorus of “Born in the U.S.A.” makes it sound like a proud American song that’s bristling with patriotism. At least that’s how millions of Americans who heard the song interpreted it. When one examines the lyrics, it becomes clear that Springsteen was conveying a message that wasn’t very patriotic at all. The song was even misinterpreted by Ronald Reagan, who requested to use the song in his presidential campaign.
In “Born in the U.S.A.”, Springsteen draws attention to the fact that countless men who returned from Vietnam had difficulty returning to their normal life, couldn’t find a job, and received no help from the government that forced them to go to war. When the Vietnam War ended, thousands of veterans were faced with the challenge of reintegrating into society and coping with the trauma they endured while in combat. With so many jobless men returning to America from Vietnam, unemployment rates were high. No source of income, accompanied by PTSD, caused many veterans to end up in prison or dead. Springsteen discusses his “brother” being killed in action at the battle of Khe Sanh. He experienced the loss of a friend in Vietnam firsthand. The drummer from his first band, Bart Hanes, was killed in combat. The battle of Khe Sanh was one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War, yet there wasn’t really anything positive accomplished by it.
“Born in the U.S.A.” is a song that draws attention to the pointlessness of the Vietnam War and the poor decisions made by our government during this time. Bruce Springsteen once said, “Blind faith in your leaders or in anything will get you killed.” The chorus in which Springsteen repeatedly sings “Born in the U.S.A.” is not a proud statement of where he’s from, but a regretful acknowledgement of what it truly meant to be born in the United States during this time period.