“There are six of us. There were many more at the time, but now there are six of us who see one another regularly and talk about what we did and why. What changed us, what turned us from all-American boys into antiwar resisters and rebels?
We were junior officers in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War. We were Ivy Leaguers, graduates of the Naval Academy and respected colleges, from big cities and small towns all over the country. We manned the conn on giant ships, we flew fighter jets off aircraft carriers, we were handcuffed to secret war messages traveling up Vietnamese rivers, we trained pilots for war. And then, we didn’t — we wouldn’t.
Will Kirkland was the son of an Annapolis graduate. In June 1961 he stood with 1,300 others on the grounds of the Naval Academy, sweating, worrying as a deep amplified voice began, “Gentlemen, raise your right hands.” He already had misgivings. He had recently learned that American boys and girls had been taken from their homes; their parents from their work as farmers, store owners, teachers; and they were sent to barbed-wire camps during World War II. The jolt of that had stayed with him. He had lived in Japan for a year earlier in his life. He had played with Japanese kids, had a crush on one of them.
What was he swearing to do? To follow all orders? Would he be ordered to do something he thought was wrong?”
Archive for Vietnam-American War
“. . . Then there was the fallout for the person for whom viewers had the least sympathy: General Loan, the executioner, who would eventually move to the United States. In 1978, the government tried unsuccessfully to rescind his green card. He died 20 years later in Virginia, where he had run a restaurant.
Adams himself, before his death in 2004, expressed discomfort with the consequences of his photo. He noted that photographs, by nature, exclude context: in this case, that the prisoner had killed the family of one of General Loan’s deputies.
“Two people died in that photograph: the recipient of the bullet and Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan,” he wrote in Time magazine. “The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera.”
“Still photographs,” Adams wrote, “are the most powerful weapon in the world.” “
Edward Landsdale is on the left. NYT
“The Tet offensive, which began 50 years ago today and is remembered as the turning point of the Vietnam War, caught Americans by surprise. One of the few who saw what was coming was Edward Lansdale, the legendary covert operative and retired Air Force general who had helped to create the state of South Vietnam after the French withdrew. He had returned to Saigon in 1965 as an official at the American Embassy, trying to use his close ties to the South Vietnamese to salvage something from a failing war effort. . . “
It is unclear whether the more subtle approach argued by Lansdale would have made a big difference. In 1858, the French invaded Vietnam, and it took them a year to win that first great battle. It took them till 1913 to destroy the last group of resistance fighters. They proceeded to exploit and rape the country for roughly 100 years, until the Japanese invaded during WW II, and the French surrendered without a fight. What also mattered was during 1931-33, the French colonial government announced an amnesty. The non-communist nationalist resistance groups came forward, believing the French, and turned in their guns. They were rounded up and executed. The communist nationalist resistance group did not trust the French, and did not come forward. After the massacre, only the communist resistance group was left to continue the fight against the French. During WW II, only Ho Chi Minh and his communist fighters fought successfully against the Japanese. He was aided with guns, supplies and money by the US OSS. He was our man in Vietnam against the Japanese. By 1954, when these Viets defeated the French, they were national heros, three times over. It is hard to believed anyone could undermine their national popularity. They had earned the mandate of heaven.
More than 58,000 United States soldiers died in the Vietnam War, but in the world of letters, the death of a single American civilian came to represent the entire jungle quagmire. John Paul Vann went down in a helicopter crash on June 9, 1972. Four presidential administrations and a societal shift in recognizing Vietnam veterans later, Vann, a former lieutenant colonel and the first “civilian general” to lead American troops in combat, was memorialized in Neil Sheehan’s masterpiece, “A Bright Shining Lie.”
Thirty years on, Sheehan’s book hasn’t lost any of its astonishing power. At a September screening of the Burns-Novick documentary “The Vietnam War,” John Kerry told the audience he never understood the full extent of the anger against the war until he read “A Bright Shining Lie,” which showed him that all the way up the chain of command “people were just putting in gobbledygook information, and lives were being lost based on those lies and those distortions.”
What makes the book particularly compelling is that it is both a broad look at the folly of the war and an intimate portrait of a chillingly Shakespearean character. Sheehan spent five years researching Vann’s life, interviewing seemingly anyone who ever met him, and nine more writing.
By Robert D. Kaplan Jan. 5, 2018 4:34 p.m. ET 15 COMMENTS
“Edward Lansdale (1908-87) was one of America’s most important military thinkers and practitioners, and yet he is barely known to the wider world. In “The Road Not Taken,” Max Boot aptly calls him “the American T.E. Lawrence ”: eccentric, rebellious and charismatic, a man who had an uncanny way of bonding with Third World leaders and who believed that the art of war was, as Mr. Boot puts it, “to attract the support of the uncommitted.” He changed the. . .”
I guess Edward Lansdale was my kind of warrior. As I researched my historical novel of eighteenth century Vietnam, The Tay Son Rebellion, I realized late in the 17 year book effort that I had not read Sun Tzu, the great Chinese military historian, but one by Musashi, So I finally read The Art of War by Sun Tsu. Is is too bad our military hadn’t studied it before Vietnam, because you can be sure the Vietnames Generals all knew of these ancient tactics, and lived by them.
Know your enemy as well as yourself. Always use dipolomacy, or espionage. Military force shows your incompentance. Never fight unless you are sure you will win. If you are not sure you can win, retreat, and wait for odds to change while you set ambushes and traps. Never invade another country for any long period of time. Always get in, do your business, and get out. If you occupy a foreign country, your supply lines will be long, and your host country will slowly eat you alive. More at www.TheTaysonRebellion.com
When he was a young child in Vietnam, Tung Linh wanted a guitar, so his mother bought one for him. His father, Phan Van Pho, was a cook for French officials in Hanoi, and he wanted his children to become doctors or engineers, not musicians. When he found the guitar, he smashed it.
But his wife, Hoang Thi Nga, nurtured Tung Linh’s interest in American music, which he shared with two of his seven siblings: Bich Loan, a singer, and Tung Van on drums. When their father died in the late 1950s, Ms. Hoang went to work as a custodian on a Republic of Vietnam naval base. The family was poor, and those years were hard, but she wanted her children to be happy, so she nurtured their desire to perform American music.”
In late 1967, Giap concentrated some 40,000 soldiers in the hills of northwest South Vietnam and orchestrated a series of assaults on a string of American combat bases in the highlands, not far from a Marine base called Khe Sanh, which the North besieged in January 1968. Giap later called these attacks a “diversion” to trick the Americans into moving forces from the populated areas to defensive positions in the hinterland. Most American leaders fell for it; one of the few who didn’t, Adm. U. S. Grant Sharp,
Merrill McPeak ends with, “But when Saigon fell, it was not a swarm of ragtag Vietcong guerrillas who overran the city, but columns of Russian-made T-54 tanks, leading a modern field army complete with artillery and surface-to-air missiles, all delivered by those tough-guy truck drivers down that seemingly indestructible Ho Chi Minh Trail.”
I hope that Gen. McPeak reads of Vietnamese history, which I believe is the key to understanding the country, its people, and it extraordinary ability to wage war. The Chinese invaded in 101 BC, and tried to make Vietnam part of China, but almost a thousand years later, in AD 938, the Vietnamese rose up and threw the Chinese out in military conflict.
By the time Ho Hue, later called Nguyen Hue, the third son of the famous three brothers who led the Tay Son rebellion, defeated 200,000 Chinese army regulars in pitched battle, it was the seventh time, counting 938. The Viets defeated an army sent by Kublai Khan, and another army of 500,000 sent by his son Kublai Khan. Vietnamese military historians have reported that many of the booby traps used against US soldiers were part of an old technology perfected by the Vietnamese in the 13th century against one of the larger Chinese invasions. Over time, the Viets determined the southern border of China.
“. . . The 50th anniversary of the war’s escalation — and the premiere this week of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 18-hour documentary on PBS — is an appropriate time to honor the suffering and the sacrifice of all those who served, including the 58,000 American service members, the estimated 1.3 million North and South Vietnamese fighters and the two million civilians who were killed during the conflict. The effect of the war on those of us who were American children in the 1960s is negligible in comparison.
But the war touched us, too.”
“There is a broad consensus among professional historians that the Vietnam War was effectively unwinnable. Even the revisionists admit their minority status, though some claim that it’s because of a deep-seated liberal bias within the academic history profession. But doubts about the war’s winnability are hardly limited to the halls of academe. One can readily find them in the published works of official Army historians like Dr. Jeffrey J. Clarke, whose book “Advice and Support: The Final Years, 1965-1973” h