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ANNALS OF VIETNAM

Welcome to the Annals of Vietnam, a collection of articles, reviews, and images dealing with America's misadventures south and north of the 17th parallel. I have a particular interest in the early years, because that's when I was there as a reporter for the left-liberal magazine, The Nation, which was so financially strapped that it would even publish reports even from a Republican like me.

tombstone The eighth name on this headstone in St. Louis is that of PFC Ronald Ridgeway, believed to have been killed on a combat patrol outside the beleaguered base at Khe Sahn on February 25, 1968. In fact, the 18-year-old Marine had been wounded and left behind with eighteen others, who had been killed or were soon to die. He lived through the night and was discovered by a North Vietnamese soldier trying to liberate his wristwatch. Days later, the bodies were recovered. Nine of the missing could not be identified, so were buried in September in this common grave. Ridgeway's mother went home from the service with a folded American flag to remember him by.

Unknown to her, Ridgeway had been marched through Cambodia and Laos to a prison camp in North Vietnam. Five years older and fifty pounds lighter, he was freed in 1973 after the Paris agreement that resulted in the withdrawal of American combat troops from South Vietnam. A neighbor who had seen the list of returning PWs knocked on Mrs. Ridgeway's door to tell her that her son was alive and coming home. He eventually married, went to college, and made a career for himself working for the department of Veterans Affairs. And the tombstone was replaced with one containing just eight names.

Ken Burns is still living off the success of his magnificent Civil War series. Unlike everyone else, I haven't been impressed by his more recent epics, but I will be watching this one: starting in September he turns his considerable talent to a ten-party docco about the Vietnam War. Of course it will be an elegy to a "lost war," though how one loses a war when one has no combat troops in the country is still a mystery to me. But I suppose the Good People were so invested in the notion that it was an evil war that they couldn't (and still can't) envision any other ending to it than the one they wanted, with the US clinging to the skids of a Huey helicopter as it pulls out of Saigon. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

For students:

'I need to know everything about Vietnam by Thursday!'
The Vietnam reading list (John Tegtmeier)

From life to fiction to film:

The Only War We've Got (a reporter's journal, 1964)
Incident at Muc Wa (the novel, 1967)
Burt Lancaster takes charge (filming, 1978)
Go Tell the Spartans (the movie, 1978)
The critics look at Go Tell the Spartans
A Vietnam slide show

Incident at Muc Wa

Early days in South Vietnam:

'They just fall apart in mid-air' (Vietnam dispatch, 1964)
How was the American soldier trained? (Fort Dix 1956)
Was America losing in Vietnam under JFK?
A Special Forces team under threat of attack
The Tonkin Gulf incidents, summer 1964
Philippe Drouin--aka Cowboy--interpreter and warlord
'Aggression from the North' (the State Dept. White Paper)
Did Japanese soldiers fight for the Vietminh?

Remembering the quagmire:

Spad Two goes missing in Laos
'The Collapse of the Armed Forces' (Col Robert Heinl)
Remembering the Phoenix Program (Larrry O'Daniel)
The Media and Vietnam (Erin McLaughlin)
The myth of the girl in the photo (Ronald Timberlake)
Joseph Ellis: the Vietnam vet wannabe
'My Heart's Content' (Pat Conroy)
To what extent is the US experience in Iraq comparable to their experience in Vietnam? (long essay, spring 2008)

Books and stuff

Ten best books about the Vietnam War (broadly defined
Nam-a-Rama: a wonderfully funny novel
Stolen Valor: Vietnam, lies, and the media (Burkett)
Clark Welch and the battle of Ông Thanh
The Village (Bing West)
The Vietnam War on video
When Thunder Rolled: F-105 over Vietnam (Rasimus)
Green Berets in the Vanguard, 1953-1963 (Archer)
Only War We've Got: Early Days in South Vietnam (Ford)
Incident at Muc Wa (Ford)
War Story (Morris)

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

The Only War We've Got

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Posted August 2017. Websites ©1997-2017 Daniel Ford. All rights reserved.