Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty


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.

Refighting the Vietnam War

Vietnam Veterans magazine The invaluable Steve Sherman and Radix Press have come out with an online magazine, which in its inaugural issue tackles the documentary from Ken Burns that aired last fall on PBS. It's possible that after all these years I am suffering a bit of Vietnam overload, but to me the Burns docco had the astonishing effect of boring me, it was so predictable and so insistent upon driving home everything that is wrong about war, wrong about America, and wrong about military service. "Burns claimed he wanted to inspire a dialogue on the Vietnam War," says the magazine in an introduction, "... but he has given us a monologue and he is deaf to any alternate voices." I think that's fair; it was certainly my reaction. (I'm not a Vietnam veteran. I was there for only a few months, and only as a reporter.)

There are other articles and reviews as well, all worth reading. The magazine is free to download from VVFHmag dot org, but be aware that if everyone takes it free, it won't last very long. There's a donation button on the website. The download comes as a password-protected PDF, so make a note of it for future reference.

Remembering Cowboy

The ebook of Cowboy: The Interpreter Who Became a Soldier, a Warlord, and One More Casualty of Our War in Vietnam will be released on May 1, and the print edition should available at about the same time. I met the man -- born Y Kdruin Mlo, grew up as Philippe Drouin, and changed the spelling to "Philip" when the Americans came along -- fifty-four years ago next month. When I was home that fall, I used him as a character in Incident at Muc Wa, in a role later reprised by Evan Kim for the movie version.

Recently I found myself wondering where Cowboy had come from and what had become of him. It turned out to be a fascinating story, and one that in many ways could stand as a parable of what we call the Vietnam War but Vietnamese know as "the American War." The book is a small one but is, I think, a great read: check it out at Amazon stores worldwide. For other options, and for more about the book, go to DanFordBooks dot com.

Telling war stories

Listen to Jim Morris talk about Special Forces and Vietnam on SOF Radio (the interesting stuff starts at about 22 minutes). Blue skies! — Dan Ford

Incident at Muc Wa

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

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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