No foreign photographer spent more time in Vietnam than Horst Faas, who oversaw photographers in Saigon for The Associated Press, who was based there from 1962 until late 1970 and then regularly returned until the withdrawal of American forces in 1973. Despite being heavily wounded just before the Tet offensive — which did not stop him from going to the office on crutches during the attacks on Saigon — he survived the war thanks to a cocktail of fearlessness, Germanic common sense, good luck and wry humo
Fifty years ago next week, Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota scored a near-upset in New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary, setting in motion Lyndon Johnson’s announcement, three weeks later, that he would “not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.” It was a jaw-dropping series of events, one that gave McCarthy a near-mythic status in American political history.
Just weeks earlier, the longtime campaign reporter Theodore White observed, it had been “unthinkable that a sitting president of the United States could be unhorsed within his own party either by primaries, conventions or riot in the streets.” But McCarthy galvanized popular opposition to Johnson’s foreign policy and, seemingly overnight, turned the election into a referendum on America’s continued involvement in the Vietnam War. At least that’s how it is popularly remembered.
In fact, commentators then and since have misinterpreted McCarthy’s upset performance in New Hampshire in a way that sharply misread public opinion and unfairly saddled Johnson with sole responsibility for a war that most Americans — and most American political leaders of both parties — still strongly supported on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. To understand how it happened, it’s helpful to wind the clock back to the fall of 1967.
This piece is full of new information for me, and shows that I might be better off with one blog instead of three.
“One of the enduring myths of the Vietnam War is that it was lost by hostile American press coverage.
Exhibit A in this narrative is Walter Cronkite, the CBS News anchor, billed as the nation’s most trustworthy voice, who on Feb. 27, 1968, told his audience of millions that the war could not be won. Commentary like this was remarkable back then because of both custom and the Fairness Doctrine, a federal policy requiring broadcasters to remain neutral about the great questions of the day.
The doctrine was rescinded in 1987, so now we have whole networks devoted to round-the-clock propaganda. But when Cronkite aired his bleak but decidedly middle-of-the-road assessment of the war 50 years ago, immediately after the Tet offensive, it was a significant departure. It struck like revelation. From the pinnacle of TV’s prime-time reach, he had descended to pronounce:
“To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that were are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.” “
In 1789, When Nguyen Hue defeated the Chinese invaders camped near Hanoi, it was the 7th time since AD 937, that the Vietnamese had defeated the Chinese in pitched battle. The Viets were at their very core, the people who threw foreign invaders out of their land. 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 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. About 1933, the French colonial government announced an amnesty. The non-communist nationalist resistance group turned in their guns. They were rounded up and executed. The communist 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. David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at The TaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com
“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?”
“. . . 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 http://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,