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Vietnam War

  • Originally published 03/27/2018

    What Was the Vietnam War About?

    Christian G. Appy

    How we name and define this most controversial of American wars is not a narrow scholarly exercise, but profoundly shapes public memory of its meaning and ongoing significance to American national identity and foreign policy.

  • Originally published 03/26/2018

    Why Lyndon Johnson Dropped Out

    Fredrik Logevall

    He had known for years that the Vietnam War would destroy him. In March 1968, it did.

  • Originally published 01/30/2018

    The Story of the Tet Offensive

    Robert Buzzanco

    Fifty years ago, the Tet Offensive exposed the US military and the global economic order it oversaw.

  • Originally published 12/06/2017

    Frances FitzGerald Reconsidered

    Gary Kulik

    She won all the prizes for her history of Vietnam, but scholars don’t think much of “Fire in the Lake.”

  • Originally published 09/21/2017

    Ken Burns’s War Stories

    Bob Buzzanco

    He’s more storyteller than historian and that weakens his series considerably.

  • Originally published 09/18/2017

    Give Peace a Chance

    Maurice Isserman

    A review of the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary.  Conclusion:  It's anti-revisionist (the war was wrongheaded). But it's also anti anti-war. 

  • Originally published 08/23/2017

    Why Vietnam Was Unwinnable

    Kevin Boylan

    Revisionist historians argue that America could have prevailed, but the media and politics got in the way. It’s not that easy.

  • Originally published 07/20/2017

    Summer of Love and Rage

    Todd Gitlin

    If you were in the ghettoes of Newark, Detroit or scores of other cities that summer, you were not wearing flowers in your hair. Forget about utopia: You were staking out, in action, fury and bitterness.

  • Originally published 12/06/2016

    New Ken Burns' 'Vietnam War' documentary tackles divisive era

    The series, called "The Vietnam War," features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses. It took six years to complete and includes archival footage and home movies as well as audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations.

  • Originally published 09/12/2016

    Another Obama Apology Tour?

    Max Boot

    It’s true that on Tuesday the president didn’t actually apologize in Laos for American actions in the 1960s, but he danced right up to the line.

  • Originally published 05/07/2015

    The Vietnam War: After Forty Years

    Lawrence S. Wittner

    A visit to Vietnam reinforces the conclusion that the war was an awful waste, but surprisingly now Vietnam and the US are friendly.

  • Originally published 03/26/2015

    The Scene of the Crime

    Seymour M. Hersh

    A reporter’s journey to My Lai and the secrets of the past.

  • Originally published 03/03/2015

    The Lethal Legacy of the Vietnam War

    Fifty years after the first US troops came ashore at Da Nang, the Vietnamese are still coping with unexploded bombs and Agent Orange.

  • Originally published 02/26/2015

    Haunted by Vietnam

    Staughton Lynd

    How the Vietnam War Shattered the American Identity

  • Originally published 02/18/2015

    Hey, Buddy, Wanna Buy A Used War?

    Lawrence Reichard

    One might not always like the way history turned out – who won and who lost – but it is important to be truthful to the historical record. We owe that to future generations.

  • Originally published 02/09/2015

    Vietnam’s Quiet Anniversary

    Jeff Shesol

    On this fiftieth anniversary, we owe the soldiers and ourselves an honest reckoning with the causes and costs of this war.

  • Originally published 01/04/2015

    Whose History of the Vietnam War Will Prevail?

    With a substantial appropriation from Congress, the Pentagon has launched a self-serving multi-year commemoration of the war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.  A movement is growing of those who were active against the war, as well as of friends who came after, to insure the Pentagon’s misleading version of Vietnam is effectively challenged. 

  • Originally published 12/01/2014

    Anti-war leader moved by discussions on Vietnam

    Bruce Dancis

    A two-day conference on “Vietnam – The War at Home” at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. was to observe the 50th anniversary of activism, anti-war and pro-war, at Cornell.

  • Originally published 11/27/2014

    Pentagon Newspeak

    Stanley Kutler

    The Pentagon has hijacked the history of the Vietnam War.

  • Originally published 11/11/2014

    ‘Re-enacting the Vietnam War’

    Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara

    Most remarkable perhaps is how this unusual hobby brings combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan together with civilians and veterans of Vietnam.

  • Originally published 03/26/2014

    Madman in the White House

    James Rosen and Luke Nichter

    This time, it's the Russians who are making use of Nixon's "madman theory."

  • Originally published 10/11/2013

    For America, Life Was Cheap in Vietnam

    Nick Turse

    Obits of General Giap have implied we lost in Vietnam because of North Vietnamese callousness to casualties. That's a half-truth at best.

  • Originally published 09/25/2013

    Searching for Madame Nhu

    Katie Baker

    Lyndon Johnson flirted with her. JFK hated her. Historians blamed her for South Vietnam's downfall.

  • Originally published 09/03/2013

    In Praise of Douglas Kinnard

    William J. Astore

    The general, who died on July 29, told the truth about the Vietnam War in his 1977 book "The War Managers."

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    Col. Bud Day, Heroic Pilot in Vietnam War, Dies at 88

    Col. Bud Day, an Air Force fighter pilot who was shot down in the Vietnam War, imprisoned with John McCain in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” and defiantly endured more than five years of brutality without divulging sensitive information to his captors, earning him the Medal of Honor, died on Saturday in Shalimar, Fla. He was 88.His death was announced by his wife, Doris.Colonel Day was among America’s most highly decorated servicemen, having received nearly 70 medals and awards, more than 50 for combat exploits. In addition to the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, he was awarded the Air Force Cross, the highest combat award specifically for airmen.In a post on Twitter on Sunday, Senator McCain called Colonel Day “my friend, my leader, my inspiration.”...

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Malcolm Gladwell: Could One Man Have Shortened the Vietnam War?

    Malcolm Gladwell is a journalist and authorListening well is a gift. The ability to hear what someone says and not filter it through your own biases is an instinctive ability similar to having a photographic memory.And I think we have a great deal of trouble with people who have this gift. There is something about all of us that likes the fact that what we hear is filtered through someone's biases.There are many examples of this phenomenon, but I want to focus on the story of Konrad Kellen, a truly great listener.During the Vietnam War, he heard something that should have changed the course of history. Only it didn't. And today no-one really knows who Kellen was - which is a shame because his statue should be in the middle of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC...

  • Originally published 06/25/2013

    Novelist Tim O'Brien winner of $100k Pritzker military history prize

    CHICAGO, June 25, 2013 - On behalf of the Pritzker Military Library, historian and journalist Sir Max Hastings announced Tim O’Brien as the winner of the 2013 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. Sponsored by the Tawani Foundation, the coveted $100,000 literature award will be presented at the Library’s annual gala on November 16, 2013. Since its inception in 2007, the Library’s Literature Award has become one of the most prestigious literary awards of its kind. Past recipients of the award, which includes a medallion, citation, and $100,000 honorarium, are Rick Atkinson, Carlo D’Este, Max Hastings, James McPherson, Allan Millett and Gerhard Weinberg. “I'm delighted and honored to receive this very special award, which in previous years has gone to such distinguished writers,” said O’Brien.  “To find myself in their company is both immensely satisfying and a little daunting.” 

  • Originally published 05/26/2013

    The Brutal War on Vietnamese Civilians: Interview with Nick Turse

    Robin Lindley

    U.S. commanders wasted ammunition like millionaires and hoarded American lives like misers, and often treated Vietnamese lives as if they were worth nothing at all.--Nick Turse, Kill Anything That MovesIn March 1968 U.S. infantry troops of the Army’s Americal Division massacred five hundredVietnamese civilians, mostly women and children, in the village of My Lai. The military described the massacre as an anomaly, an aberration, the result of a few bad apples in the ranks, and the mainstream media embraced that explanation.In 1971, decorated Navy veteran (now Secretary of State) John Kerry testified before the Senate that such atrocities in Vietnam were not “isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.” Kerry told of U.S. veterans who “relived the absolute horror” of what their country made them do.

  • Originally published 05/16/2013

    Penny Lewis: Hard Hats, Hippies, and the Real Antiwar Movement

    Penny Lewis is an assistant professor of labor studies at the Joseph P. Murphy Institute for Work Education and Labor Studies in the School of Professional Studies at the City University of New York. This essay is adapted from her new book Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory, published by Cornell University Press.Decades after its conclusion, the U.S. war in Vietnam remains an unsettled part of our collective memory. Members of the military, veterans, scholars, journalists, and artists continue to revisit and reinterpret the war, assessing its historical significance while seeking meaning for wars fought today. Despite the efforts of our political elites to put the ghosts of Vietnam to rest, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have prolonged these discussions. Books and articles with titles like "Is Afghanistan Another Vietnam?" abound. The economic and political imperatives that drive U.S. foreign policy, the appropriate use of force, the domestic costs of war, the treatment and trauma of veterans, whether today's wars are "winnable" or "worth it"—appropriate or not, those are some of the many points of comparison and concern.

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Frank Snepp: The Vietnam Syndrome

    Frank Snepp is a Peabody-award winning investigative journalist and the author of two CIA memoirs.Thirty-eight years ago last week, I was among the last CIA officers to be choppered off the U.S. Embassy roof in Saigon as the North Vietnamese took the country. Just two years before that chaotic rush for the exits, the Nixon administration had withdrawn the last American troops from the war zone and had declared indigenous forces strong enough, and the government reliable enough, to withstand whatever the enemy might throw into the fray after U.S. forces were gone.

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    Henry A. Prunier, 91, U.S. Soldier Who Trained Vietnamese Troops, Dies

    Henry A. Prunier taught Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese general who withstood the armies of France and the United States, how to throw a grenade.The lesson came in July 1945, after Mr. Prunier and six other Americans had parachuted into a village 75 miles northwest of Hanoi on a clandestine mission to teach an elite force of 200 Viet Minh guerrillas how to use modern American weapons at their jungle camp.The Americans, members of the Office of Strategic Services, the United States’ intelligence agency in World War II, wanted the guerrillas’ help in fighting the Japanese, who were occupying Indochina. The Viet Minh welcomed the American arms in their struggle for Vietnamese independence....

  • Originally published 04/18/2013

    Gary Kulik: Double Standards about Vietnam

    Gary Kulik, who served in Vietnam as a medic, is the author of War Stories: False Atrocity Tales, Swift Boaters, and Winter Soldiers.Nick Turse wants us to know that the killing of civilians during the war in Vietnam was “widespread, routine, and directly attributable to U.S. command policies,” that “gang rapes were a .  .  . common occurrence,” that the running-over of civilians by American vehicle drivers was “commonplace,” and that the American military visited upon South Vietnam an “endless slaughter .  .  . day after day, month after month .  .  . [that] was neither accidental nor unforeseeable.” It was “A Litany of Atrocities,” as one of his chapter headings has it—a litany recited by Turse with the fevered prosecutorial zeal of an ideologue....

  • Originally published 04/05/2013

    Jane Fonda's "unforgivable mistake"

    “I made one unforgivable mistake when I was in North Vietnam, and I will go to my grave with this,” Jane Fonda says on the Oprah Winfrey Network.The actress and activist made an infamous trip to North Vietnam in 1972 where she was photographed singing with members of the North Vietnamese military as she sat on an anti-aircraft gun.She was criticized then — and ever since — and says she understands the anger....

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    Robert W. Merry: The GOP Can Survive Its Iraq Wounds

    Robert W. Merry is editor of The National Interest and the author of books on American history and foreign policy. His most recent book is Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians.A passel of punditry has emerged recently questioning whether the Republican Party will soon recover from the foreign-policy incompetence of the George W. Bush presidency. Some pundits foresee a long period of eclipse before the party will recapture the full confidence of the American people, so seared have they been by the U.S. fiasco in Iraq and the ongoing muddle in Afghanistan. Thus, in this view, the GOP’s fate is set—a long winter of minority-party status.

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    The U.S. government's bizarre tourism campaign for South Vietnam

    Before Vietnam became synonymous to 1970s Americans with a seemingly endless war, it might have conjured images of French wines and big game hunting. In the early 1960s, the U.S. government tried to encourage tourism in Vietnam in elsewhere in Southeast Asia as a sort of travel diplomacy."Tourism's proper development, it was believed, could serve important U.S. geostrategic objectives," writes University of Minnesota history professor Scott Laderman in his 2009 book Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides, and Memory. Friendly American faces could soften the reputation of the U.S. overseas, it was thought, and their souvenir purchases might bolster emerging economies....[H]ere are some highlights from a 1961 travel brochure for the country, aptly titled "Visit Fascinating Vietnam," stored at archive.org and apparently housed at one point by the University of Texas....

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    James Joyner: Washington's Losing Streak

    James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.As we approach the tenth anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq on March 20, it's worth reflecting on the fact that it has been nearly seventy years since America's last successful major war.On August 15, 1945, known as Victory Over Japan Day or V-J Day, the Japanese unconditionally surrendered, marking the end of the Second World War and establishing the United States as a superpower. Since that day, the United States has lost three major wars—Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq—and is counting down the months until its loss in Afghanistan.To be sure, we won the Cold War, which was surely more important than those four combined. But that was fundamentally a contest of political systems and economies. We wouldn't have prevailed without a powerful military and a great military alliance with NATO. But it wasn't a war in a literal sense—and we lost the two major wars (Korea and Vietnam) waged as part of it....

  • Originally published 03/19/2013

    The Story of a Rape in Wartime

    Nick Turse

    Originally posted on TomDispatch.com On August 31, 1969, a rape was committed in Vietnam. Maybe numerous rapes were committed there that day, but this was a rare one involving American GIs that actually made its way into the military justice system. And that wasn’t the only thing that set it apart.War is obscene. I mean that in every sense of the word. Some veterans will tell you that you can’t know war if you haven’t served in one, if you haven’t seen combat. These are often the same guys who won’t tell you the truths that they know about war and who never think to blame themselves in any way for our collective ignorance. 

  • Originally published 03/16/2013

    LBJ: Nixon guilty of treason

    By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks - or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had "blood on his hands".The BBC's former Washington correspondent Charles Wheeler learned of this in 1994 and conducted a series of interviews with key Johnson staff, such as defence secretary Clark Clifford, and national security adviser Walt Rostow.But by the time the tapes were declassified in 2008 all the main protagonists had died, including Wheeler.Now, for the first time, the whole story can be told.It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign….

  • Originally published 03/10/2013

    When It Comes to Transparency, Obama's Channelling His Inner Nixon

    Mary L. Dudziak

    Cross-posted from Balkinization.The Boston Globe reported that the president withheld a widely sought white paper “fearing it would only intensify congressional criticism, government sources say.”*This story appeared on April 4, 1973, and it referred to a white paper laying out the legal basis for President Richard Nixon’s decision to bomb Cambodia after U.S. troops were removed from Vietnam. Barack Obama obviously isn’t Richard Nixon, but his reluctance to disclose the legal basis for targeted killings attempts to do something that Nixon also attempted: to cloak decisions about war in government secrecy, undermining political checks on the use of military force.

  • Originally published 02/24/2013

    War is a Dirty Business

    William J. Astore

    Wounded soldier – Autumn 1916, Bapaume by Otto Dix (1924).Originally posted on the Huffington Post.When's the last time our media covered war honestly? When's the last time you saw combat footage of American troops under fire, or of American troops killing others in the name of keeping us safe from enemies? When was the last time you saw an American soldier panicking, firing wildly, perhaps killing members of his own unit (fratricide) or innocent civilians caught in the crossfire of war? Maybe in the 1960s during coverage of the Vietnam War?War is not glorious. It may feature noble deeds and remarkable sacrifices, but it also features brutality and many other bloody realities. War breaks men (and women) down. It does so because war is unnatural. Yes, war is many things, but it most certainly is about killing. Occasionally, the killing is even necessary. (Just ask those enslaved by the Nazis or the Japanese whether they greeted Allied troops as liberators.)

  • Originally published 02/08/2013

    Confronting the Ugly Truth about America's Dirty War in Vietnam

    William J. Astore

    Victims of the My Lai massacre. Photo credit: Ronald L. Haeberle/U.S. Army.When I was on active duty in the Air Force, I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  I was moved to tears as I encountered the names of more than 58,000 of my fellow Americans etched in stone. "What a waste," I thought, "but at least they died for their country, and at least we didn’t forget their sacrifice."To be honest, I don’t recall thinking about the Vietnamese dead. The memorial, famously designed by Maya Lin, captures an American tragedy, not a Vietnamese one. But imagine, for a moment, if we could bridge the empathy gap that separates us from the Vietnamese and our war with them and against them. How might their suffering compare to ours?

  • Originally published 01/31/2013

    The Paris "Peace" Accords Were a Deadly Deception

    Ken Hughes

    Richard Nixon addressing troops in South Vietnam. Via The New Nixon."The Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam," signed January 27, 1973, never looked like it would live up to its name. Four decades later it stands exposed as a deliberate fraud.

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    Stanley Karnow, Historian and Journalist, Dies at 87

    Stanley Karnow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and journalist who produced acclaimed books and television documentaries about Vietnam and the Philippines in the throes of war and upheaval, died on Sunday at his home in Potomac, Md. He was 87.The cause was congestive heart failure, said Mr. Karnow’s son, Michael.For more than three decades Mr. Karnow was a correspondent in Southeast Asia, working for Time, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, The Washington Post, NBC News, The New Republic, King Features Syndicate and the Public Broadcasting Service. But he was best known for his books and documentaries....

  • Originally published 01/28/2013

    Nguyen Khanh, General Who Led Coup, Dies at 86

    Nguyen Khanh, a South Vietnamese general who briefly seized control of the government before being deposed and sent into exile, died on Jan. 11 in San Jose, Calif. He was 86.The cause was health problems related to diabetes, according to a statement from Chanh Nguyen Huu, who succeeded General Khanh as head of a self-described South Vietnamese government in exile in California.General Khanh’s rise to power in the 1960s, and his ultimate defeat, came during a period of deep political turmoil in South Vietnam, marked by several coup attempts in which he played a role....

  • Originally published 12/11/2004

    What Did Jane Fonda Really Do Over in Hanoi?

    Nathaniel Bates

    Jane Fonda was more than just an actress born to a wealthy and prominent Hollywood family. She was a symbol of a divided nation. Many Americans traveled to Vietnam on “peace delegations” to end the war, yet it was Jane Fonda who was captured as a timeless image when she was photographed looking through a Viet Cong anti-aircraft gun. She so symbolized the divided nation, hawks arrayed against her and doves siding with her, that she became a personal target, most recently with allegations about personal involvement in the mistreatment of POW’s.[1] According to a recent email that circulated to various Vietnam veterans, Fonda reportedly beat one POW, and betrayed the confidence of another, resulting in his death. These horrendous claims went around the nation on the Internet, resulting in a great deal of anger and consternation among veterans.

  • Originally published 02/19/2004

    JFK Wanted Out of Vietnam

    Howard Jones

    Like many of my generation, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news arrived from Dallas that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.

  • Originally published 11/16/2003

    The Vietnam War Crimes You Never Heard Of

    Nick Turse

    On October 19, 2003, the Ohio-based newspaper the Toledo Blade launched a four-day series of investigative reports exposing a string of atrocities by an elite, volunteer, 45-man "Tiger Force" unit of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division over the course of seven months in 1967. The Blade goes on to state that in 1971 the Army began a four and a half year investigation of the

  • Originally published 07/08/2015

    Bad Wars and Their Consequences

    Steve Hochstadt

    The political leaders who now demand that we commit more people and money to these mistaken incursions into other people’s lands are the same ones who say we don’t have enough resources to pay for schools or poverty programs or museums.

  • Originally published 05/10/2015

    William Pfaff: The Pundit Who Hated Militarism & War

    There's No There There

    "Nowhere in the elite establishment newspaper sphere could you find regular, sustained, and well-informed criticism of an aggressive and overly militarized American foreign policy."--Scott McConnell.

  • Originally published 03/17/2015

    Butting In and Screwing Up

    Steve Hochstadt

    The GOP Senate let a freshman with no foreign policy experience mess up foreign policy with Iran? 

  • Originally published 01/20/2015

    It's SUPER BOWL Time!!!!

    There's No There There

    The Super Bowl is designed to remind us that the USA, the NFL, and the 1% team owners are one and the same.

  • Originally published 09/18/2014

    Washington's War Fever

    There's No There There

    Will Obama be able to keep his promise not to send American ground troops to fight ISIS?

  • Originally published 06/29/2014

    Ed Lazear's WSJ op-ed on California's water problems

    Liberty and Power

    Ed Lazear had an outstanding op-ed, "Government Dries Up California's Water Supply," in the June 26 Wall Street Journal. It brings me back to 1982, when I first moved to California from Texas. Less Antman had the California Libertarian Party hire me as research director, and one of the biggest political issues at the time was water. The fight was over a ballot initiative authorizing construction of a Peripheral Canal around the San Joaquin-Sacramento River delta to divert more water to Central Valley farmers and southern California. It would have been an enormous, expensive boondoggle that united environmentalist and libertarians in opposition. I ended up not only writing but speaking before all sorts of audiences about the issue. My studies made me quite familiar with the socialist bureaucracy, much of unelected with taxing power, which manages California's feudalistic water system, severely mispricing and misallocating water.

  • Originally published 09/03/2013


    Revolutionary Moments

    Analogy is always tempting amid contemporary uncertainties. It can also be distracting or misleading.From the outlet of the Arab spring, drawing parallels with 1848 in Europe has offered potential insights. Here are two situations in which revolution spread quite rapidly across a region, though of course not uniformly, and in which claims about human rights and political representation loomed large.