Viet Nam Generation Journal & Newsletter
Announcements, Notices, and Reports
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Expertly edited by the author of The Great War and Modern Memory and Wartime, this collection has much to offer the specialist in Vietnam war literature. As others have pointed out, the war cannot be adequately understood without reference to representations of other twentieth century conflicts in both literature and poetry.
The Vietnam section occurs in Part IV - The Wars in Asia , subtitled "Obscenity Without Victory." With the exception of two journalistic extracts about the Korean War by Marguerite Higgins and Jean Larteguy, the remainder of the material concerns Vietnam. It includes diverse voices such as Bryan Alec Floyd's satirical poem, "Lance Corporal
Purdue Grace, USMC" and key extracts from John Clark Pratt's Vietnam Voices, Seymour M. Hersh's My Lai 4 , Gloria Emerson's Winners and Losers, John Ketwig's And A Hard Rain Fell, Kovic's Born on the Fourth of July , O'Brien's If I Die in a Combat Zone, Herr's Dispatches, Keith Walker's A Piece of My Heart , Truong Nhu Trang's A Viet Cong Memoir, and two poems by Bruce Weigl ("Mines") and Hayden Carruth ("On Being Asked to Write a Poem Against the War in Vietnam.")
However, the collection is meant to be read in the context of other war representations. World War One ("Never Such Innocence Again") contains selections from diverse voices such as Rupert Brooke, Philip Larkin, Katharine Tynan, Siegfried Sassoon, David Jones, Robert Graves, Wilfred Owen, Vera Britain, Ezra Pound, as well as some ironic British foot soldier marching songs. Among the authors in the Spanish Civil War section ("Authors Take Sides") are Luis Buñuel, Dos Passos, Orwell, and Hemingway. Aptly subtitled "Almost Beyond Human Conception," World War Two contains extracts from James Jones, Norman Mailer, Randall Jarrell, Martha Gelhorn, Marguerite Duras, Heinrich Böll, and Herbert Reed. The extract from Commandant of Auschwitz by Rudolf Höss is unbelievable and appalling.
The whole work covers 821 pages. It is relevant to our continuing destructiveness and provides good context for Vietnam War literature.
Tony Williams, Cinema and Photography, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, ILL 62901
From USA Today 9/25/91, Wednesday, p. 1 sidebar: 'Billy Jack', Actor Tom Laughlin, star of 1970s films, announces that he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination: "I am the outsider . . . I sound like a lone, weird voice in the night." Article on p. 2A by Bill Nichols elaborates that Laughlin toured Iowa, "eyeing a film about a 'Schwarzkopf-like figure" who returns from Desert Storm to find the country in domestic shambles." Laughlin ran ads looking for citizen response, a lot of people came to the meetings, and he decided to run for President. His platform: term limitations, national health care, and letting taxpayers earmark 25% of their income taxes for specific programs. He quotes Robert Kennedy, Moby Dick, and Pretty Woman in his speeches. "I have no possibility of really succeeding," Laughlin says, "I have no money . . . It is ludicrous. Yet I feel very strongly . . . that the country now doesn't know what its course is."
The Seventeenth Annual Conference of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations held this year at George Washington University provided those interested in U.S.-Indochina relations, especially the U.S. war in Vietnam, with a full schedule. Three panels dealt specifically with the war"Domestic Issues and the Vietnam War," "The Vietnamese and the Vietnam War," "Military History and the Vietnam War," and two other panels examined the lessons of the Second and Third Indochina Wars.
Historians Melvin Small and David Anderson joined English and American Studies professor H. Bruce Franklin in a stimulating presentation of papers concerned with some of the major domestic developments during the Vietnam war. Professors Small and Franklin explored the network established by the Nixon White House to deal with the Administration's Vietnam critics and to manipulate the POW/MIA question. Small spoke of an intricate network of Administration insiders who had an incredible public relations, financial, and even "statist" arsenal at their disposal to deal with "the peaceniks and the liberal press." Franklin summarized the thesis of a soon-to-be-released book that suggests that H. Ross Perot and other Nixon supporters duped POW/MIA families into a public relations campaign designed to revise actual events and the history of the Vietnam war. According to Franklin, their success is measured by the tens of thousands of Americans who now think the Vietnam war was fought over the POW/MIA question. In other words, American troops were in Vietnam to free our "hostages." David Anderson proposed that figures used in the late 1960s and early 1970s to show disproportionate minority deaths in Vietnam are now under scrutiny. He asserted that racism was still a factor at home and in Vietnam. Anderson's analysis sliced up the numbers by the different phases of the war to show less across-the-board racism than has been previously reported.
Two young scholars, Mark Bradley and myself, Robert Brigham, utilized new approaches in the study of the War in their papers, "Perception and Policy" and "Cautious Allies," respectively. Bradley and I both utilized a multiarchival and binational approach highlighted by the use of Vietnam-language sources. Both of us presented the Vietnamese as active participants in policies during the 1940s instead of passive actors. Bradley explores relations between the U.S. and Vietnam in the late 1940s to conclude that the Viet Minh were much more pragmatic about the French and American presence in Vietnam than most scholars believe. I examined the role of the U.S. Office of Strategic Service (O.S.S.) in the Viet Minh's rise to power to finally discredit the notion that Ho's revolutionary league depended upon the O.S.S. for political legitimacy. We're both currently writing our dissertations with heavy reliance on Vietnamese -language sources. We were joined on the panel by David Broscious who used the Bao Dai solution as an example of multilateralism. In Broscious' view, the United States, given the interdependent nature of U.S. relations with other world powers in the 1950s, had to accept the Bao Dai solution which brought the former emperor to limited power Vietnam.
The third panel on the Vietnam War explored "big unit" warfare, theories of military escalation , and the effect of prisoners of war on military strategy. Edwin Moise of Clemson University outlined Herman Kahn's theory of escalation as it applied to U.S. military options in 1964. James Wirtz of the Naval Postgraduate School discussed the development, over time, of big unit warfare in Vietnam and this policy's shortcomings. Finally, Larry Cable of the University of North Carolina proposed that military strategy was altered greatly as American prisoners of war became part of the whole war scenario. These theories were revisited by a panel on the military lessons of the U.S. war in Vietnam and their relationship to the Gulf War.
Bob Brigham, History, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0027, will spend this June and July doing archival research in Hanoi, accompanied by his wife, the painter Monica Church.
Frank Burdick chaired a panel on literature from the U.S. war in Vietnam, at the Central New York MLA Conference, October 20-22, 1991 at SUNY Cortland. The panel included: "'Lift Your Heads and Lift 'Em High': David Rabe's The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel An Aristotelian Tragedy " by Joseph Dewey, University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown. "Victim, Animal, or Fool: David Rabe's Pavlo Hummel" by Eric Gadzinski, Temple University, and " Paco's Story and the Ethics of Violence" by Grant F. Scott, Muhlenberg. Contact Burdick at History, SUNY Cortland, or Denise D. Knight, Assistant Professor, English, PO Box 2000, Cortland, NY 13045, 607-753-4307.
The recent sealing of Biosphere 2 in Arizona brought some mention of communes into the media. John Allen, Director of Research and Development for Ed Bass' Space Biospheres Ventures, led a 1970s commune called Synergia. Sally Ann Stewart, in her USA Today article (Wednesday, 9/25/91, p. 1) quotes "retired history professor" Laurence Veysey as an expert on Synergia. A New York Times article, "Management Citadel Rocked by Unruliness" (Thursday, September 26, 1991, D1) by Alison Leigh Cowan, on troubles at the Harvard Business Review under the new management of Rosabeth Kanter, mentions that the leading organizational behavior consultant started her career in sociology at Brandeis with a study of communes and utopian societies.
Douglas R. Bergman, "A Writer/Director First. A Vietnam Combat Veteran Always!," of 47428 Francis Lewis Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361, 718-224-8246, sent out a notice dated August 14, 1991 about a play reading to be held Monday, 8-26-91 by the Artists' Perspective Inc. at the Master Theatre complex on 103rd St. at 310 Riverside Drive in Manhattan, of his play The Decision, which he summarizes as follows:
"Charles E. Shelton was captured in the Laotian jungle in 1965. In the spring of 1971, our government sent a secret rescue team to free him. The mission failed and he remains captive today. The Decision is a play that tells the story of his last few hours of freedom."
Bergman's press release explains that he staged the reading in response to the summertime POW/MIA photo flurry. "My play about Charles E. Shelton, our ONLY officially listed P.O.W., is now a highly emotional, credible and saleable commodity." The release was passed on to me by the literary manager of a Manhattan theater. When I worked in the literary office of the Circle Repertory Company in 1985-87, by the way, plays set in the war came over the transom every week.
"'We Will All Be Lost and Destroyed': Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Civil War" by Eric T. Dean Jr. in Civil War History: A Journal of the Middle Period, Volume 37, #2, June 1991, pp. 138-153 examines the ways that psychiatric stress was understood among medical personnel treating veterans of the Civil War in the U.S. Athoroughly researched and digested paper, extremely helpful for establishing the chain of spiritual damage from combat extending from 1860 to the present day, and a good place to start if you want to look at the impact of our war in Vietnam on the historiography of our Civil War.
In so many ways the most sophisticated and useful magazine I have ever seen. Factsheet Five is a periodical reference to newsletters, 'zines, bulletin boards, small press books, tapes and CDs and things you can look at or listen to that don't have any name yet. Superbly classified informative three-sentence reviews of hundreds of great publications, most of them way cool and real cheap. Much more: interviews, essays, tips on how to find something you'll enjoy having. If you haven't noticed, there isn't a single magazine in the U.S. that sells advertising for profit where the copy is worth reading. Factsheet Five is where you find the labors of love and the subscription-driven periodicals, the printed matter that actually carries information. The big publishers are businesses, the university reviews are prestige mills, if you want to read and write because you have something to say and like to learn stuff, start looking in Factsheet Five for your very own interpretive community. Editor Mike Gunderloy is now writing a regular column for Whole Earth Review, a sort of quarterly Best of Factsheet Five. WER is always worth having, but you need FF in the john. Many, many veteran-related 'zines reviewed. A whole set of back issues is available for just $100 and some nice archivist of the literature from the U.S. war in Vietnam should buy them. Factsheet Five is available from: "Mike Gunderloy and Cari Goldberg Janice, 6 Arizona Ave, Rensellaer, NY 12144-4502, 518-479-3707 (24-hour answering machine, so call anytime); 300/1200/2400 baud phone 518-479-3879 (call anytime you have a computer handy); RelayNet Sysop at ->ALBANY. Mike's Compuserve address is 72271,275; from InterNet, you can get there by addressing mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. On The WELL, Mike is ffmike; the Netmail address for this is email@example.com. Cari's WELL name is ffcari, also known as firstname.lastname@example.org. This is Pretzel Press publication #862 and is intended for direct Bulk Mailing to subscribers and good people across the country, around the world, and right into your face. Press run: 9500 copies. 43rd issue, June 1991. Factsheet Five is published eight times a year, appearing roughly at seven-week intervals." Subscription is $23/yr for bulk rate, $33/yr for first-class delivery, $50/yr for diskettes. Or send in your 'zine. If Mike and Cari like your work, they'll trade.
The Vietnam War and Postmodern Memory is Volume 21, Number 4, Winter 1988 of Genre, a "quarterly publication devoted to generic criticism" published by the University of Oklahoma, Department of English, Norman, OK, 73019. Ronald Schleifer, General Editor, Gordon O. Taylor, editor of this issue. About 584 pp., perfect bound, paper, black cover with painting repro. on cover of a human face of indeterminate sex and race, with a tropical treeline at the hairline. Contents: "Preface" by Gordon O. Taylor, essentially an editor's note; "Cacciato's Grassy Hill" by Gordon O. Taylor; "Dispatches from Ghost Country: The Vietnam Veteran in Recent American Fiction" by Thomas Myers; The Deuce, a Novel [excerpts] by Robert Olen Butler; "From Documentary to Docudrama: Vietnam on Television in the 1980's" by John Carlos Rowe; "Antiwar Film as Spectacle: Contradictions of the Combat Sequence" by Claudia Springer; "Masculinity as Excess in Vietnam Films: The Father/Son Dynamic" by Susan Jeffords; "Rebellious Sons in Vietnam Films: A Response by Claudia Springer" (sic); "The Good Women of Saigon: The Work of Cultural Revision in Gloria Emerson's Winners and Losers and Frances Fitzgerald's Fire in the Lake," by Philip D. Beidler; "Fragments and Mosaics: Vietnam War "Histories" and Postmodern Epistemology" by Kate Beaird Meyers; Was That Someplace You Were: Selected Poems 1968-1987 [excerpts] by R.S. Carlson; "Past as Prologue" by Gordon O. Taylor; Index. Bibliography with each article. No contributors' notes.
Smart and well-known critics covering fresh and interesting topics, plausible poetry and readable fiction. They don't come any smarter than Susan Jeffords, or more well-known than Philip Beidler. Definitely something to look through, and any library collecting criticism of books from that war should have it. I don't like the book, but I don't like opinion pieces that try to neutralize every objection in advance, that use the first person plural, or bring huge critical resources to bear on a few books, and I think that "post-modern" is vivid way to describe a Michael Graves building and not much else. Check out Taylor's hard work for yourself.
Gumshoe: Reflections in a Private Eye, by Josiah Thompson (Little Brown and Company. Boston, 1988). 312 pp., nice author head shot on dj cover, epigraph from the "down these mean streets a man must go" passage from Raymond Chandler's essay "The Simple Art of Murder." Author's previous books include: Kierkegaard (1976), The Lonely Labyrinth (1967), and Six Seconds in Dallas (1967).
The story of a philosopher who abandoned a tenured position to become a private investigator. Contains accounts of cases from the late 70s and the 80s, sound literary criticism of The Maltese Falcon, and numerous glancing references to the inside workings of 60s-related stuff: Stephen Bingham, George Jackson, terror and dirty tricks by antiwar groups after the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, intelligence personnel, Roshi Baker and the San Francisco Zen Center, Jonestown, Harvey Milk, more. Of particular interest here are pp. 72-76, set in the antiwar movement at Haverford College, providing some context for W.D. Ehrhart's book-length account of similar events in his Passing Time. Some sensible discussion of Heidegger's imagery with reference to the experience of war in 1914-18. The author is a Navy veteran, with experience in unspecified SEAL-like activities in the Caribbean and the Middle East in the fifties.
King Matt the First, by Janusz Korczak (Henryk Goldszmit), translated by Richard Lowrie, Intro. by Bruno Bettelheim (The Noonday Press/Michael Di Capua Books/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 1986, paper 1988). Originally published in Polish in 1923 as Krol Macius Pierwszy . This novel is a children's book, as well known in Eastern Europe as Barrie's Peter Pan is here. King Matt is a ten-year old who becomes king on the death of his father. He institutes a series of disastrous reforms and comes to a bad end. Hilarious, worldly, very sad. The Jewish author was the Dr. Spock of Poland in his time, writing such books as How to Love Your Child, and well-known for his radio call-in show. He was director of an orphanage where children governed the community. The Nazis relocated the orphanage to the Warsaw ghetto, then sent the children to Treblinka. The doctor refused opportunities to escape, offered by Jews and Poles and Germans. He got on the train with his friends, and of course they all died.
Of interest here: King Matt first gains credibility as something more than a ward of his ministers by escaping the court and fighting as an infantryman in a trench war. This section, pp. 40-87, gives a thorough description of the soldier's life, from what it's like to travel on a freight car to wh"+Xy you dig trenches. Korczak piles up miserable detail as relentlessly as Paul Fussell or Erich Remarque, but without passing on anger and despair as these authors do. He was a doctor in the Polish Army in WWI. Betty Jean Lifton, wife of Robert Jay Lifton, author of Home from the War: Vietnam Veterans, Neither Victims Nor Executioners (1973), wrote The King of Children: A Biography of Janusz Korczak (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1988).
"The Laws of War: Constraints on Warfare in the Western World" will be the topic of this fall's military history lecture series sponsored by the International Security Programs at Yale University. The program, now in its seventh year, is supported by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. The twelve speakers for the series "will each explore not only the formal constraints on the conduct of war throughout history, but also the unwritten conventions as to what was "done" and "not done,"" says George Andreopoulos, lecturer in history. The series: "The Laws of War: Introduction" by Michael Howard, Yale; "The Age of Chivalry and the Laws of War" by Robert Stacey, U. of Washington; "The Laws of War in Classical Times" by Josiah Ober of Princeton; "Law and War in Early Modern Europe," Geoffrey Parker, Illinois; "The Laws of War in Colonial America," Harold Selesky, Alabama; "The Laws of War in the Age of Napoleon," Gunther E. Rothemberg, Purdue; "Maritime Conflict and the Laws of War," John B. Hattendorf, Naval War College; "Land Warfare and the Laws of War, from Hague to Nuremberg," Adam Roberts, Oxford; "Air Power and the Laws of War," Tami Davis Biddle, Smithsonian; "Nuclear Planning and the Laws of War," Barton J. Bernstein, Stanford; "The Laws of War in the Age of National Liberation ", George Andreopoulos, Yale; "The Laws of War in Today's World: General Reflections," and Paul Kennedy wraps it up with "The Laws of War in Today's World: General Reflections." I've attended the first six lectures. Michael Howard gave a very illuminating review of the written law of war in the West, to lend background to subsequent speakers' discussion of informal norms of behavior. Howard is clearly an infantry veteran with an attitude, though the students probably think it's just his British accent. There were a number of U.S. WWII vets in the audience for his lecture, local Yale alumni retirees, who went silent when Howard pointed to the similarity of Lidice and My Lai. Bob Stacey was very informative, and so was Josiah Ober, though the classicist spoke at moments with the clueless assurance of a think-tank analyst, imagining the unimaginable with technospeak. He made a striking comparison of the military role of hoplites to their political role as voters. The series is a boys' club approach to war, but it isn't dumb. Geoffrey Parker spoke to the effect that norms and laws of war have changed little since early modern times. He has a brief to demonstrate continuity in these matters that might be a reaction to all the garbage we used to hear about the U.S. war in Vietnam being so unique and special. He is staggeringly well-informed, and moves around the ages with an assurance that's either brilliant or ahistorical. He's found a debate among the Spanish leadership, on the question of destroying Holla"?Des, that considers the same issues taken up several hundred years later by U.S. strategists deciding whether to target the Red River dikes in Rolling Thunder. Less exciting, he has a universal recipe for the military massacre of civilians, three necessary conditions, to wit: the ideological estrangement of the soldiers from the civilians, a strategic purpose from the commander's point of view, and low morale among the troops. Well, sure. This is a good thing to tell people who don't already know that killers are people like themselves acting for understandable reasons, but it doesn't tell the rest of us much. A little focus on discontinuity and change would have been welcome. He also justified the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by saying they hastened the end of war, and so saved people in the Nazi camps, which is an odd conclusion to draw, seeing that victory in Europe preceded those bombings. Parker was answering a question, so he might have just been confused, or maybe I was. Maybe he was thinking of strategic bombing in general, but still I've never heard anyone say that saving the Jews was an objective of SHAEF. Harold Selesky traced the use and avoidance of terror as military tactic from the Crown in Ireland, to the British colonists against the Indians, to the colonists against the French and Indians, to the Continental Army against the Crown. He said that scared amateurs descend to rawest brutality, while professional armies under sovereign control have an interest in showing restraint, to prove the legitimacy of their power, though such armies can also choose to use terror in a decisive stroke, or to encourage irregular outriders to commit mayhem.
Michael Howard introduced Gunther Rothemberg as a veteran of both the British and U.S. armies, a native German, and an expert on the Austrian and French militaries. Rothemberg gave the most impressive talk of the series so far. He introduced his theme, that there is great continuity in norms of warfare in that what restraints do exist usually favor combatants rather than civilians. He then regaled us with examples and counterexamples from the Napoleonic period. I'll have a report on the rest of the lectures from this outstanding series in the next issue.
Dennis Fritzinger at LZ Friendly has outdone himself with a Special Edition, August 1991, made as a souvenir for the VVA national convention this summer. It's an anthology of great articles from past issues, 23 pp long, as good a collection of writing by veterans as you're going to find. LZ Friendly is the newsletter of VVA Chapter 400, Bay Area, consistently publishing top quality essays alongside reports of chapter softball games and picnics. Fritzinger covered the Gulf War as an ecological disaster, bringing his own expertise to bear on wire service reports. I don't know what you have to do to subscribe or just to get this issue, but a good start would be a note to Delta Foxtrot, Editor, LZ Friendly, VVA Chapter 400, 200 Grand Avenue, Suite 50, Oakland, CA 94612.
In the mail from Skip Delano, an announcement for The Tenth MSU Presidential Forum on Turning Points in History: America's Vietnam War, November 19 and 20, 1991, University Theater, McComas Hall. It was very sporting of Skip to pass this on.
Schedule: Tuesday, November 19, 1991, 2:00pm. Documentary videotaped filmfest: extracts from Hearts and Minds, Vietnam: Unfinished Business, Vietnam: A Television History , and Berkeley in the Sixties will be shown. Between segments of the films a panel including MSU History Department faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students will discuss the footage.
Tuesday, November 19, 1991, 7:30pm. Keynote Address on "The Vietnam War, A Turning Point in the Cold War?" by Professor George Herring of the University of Kentucky.
Wednesday, November 20, 1991, 11:00am. Panel discussion of "The U.S. Conduct of the War." Professor John F. Guilmartin of Ohio State University will speak for twenty minutes on "U.S. Military Victory Was Possible" and Professor Joseph Caddell of Saint Mary's College, Raleigh, NC, will speak for twenty minutes on "Restraints in the Vietnam War: Their Logic and Consequences." The two speakers will then participate in a discussion with MSU faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students.
Wednesday, November 20, 1991, 2:00pm. Panel discussion on "The War in America," Professor Howard D. Embree of MSU will speak for twenty minutes on "Opposition to the War," and Mr. Peter Braestrup will speak for twenty minutes on "The Media and the War." The two speakers will then participate in a discussion with MSU faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students.
Wednesday, November 20, 1991, 7:00pm. The keynote speaker, the panelists listed above, and MSU students will participate in a scholarly debate on "The Meaning of Vietnam for America Today."
The Forum is open to the public. For information contact Lorenzo M. Crowell, History Department, Mississippi State University, PO Drawer H, Mississippi State, MI 39762; (601) 325-3604.
Outlook: National Lesbian and Gay Quarterly (ISSN 0089-7733), 2940 16th St., Suite 319, San Francisco, CA 94103-9755, 415-626-7929. In Volume 4, Number 1, Summer 1991, see Special Section including "Lesbians at War with the Military," p 14, a dossier edited by Allan Berube and Rebecca Isaacs (see list of12 books about gays and women in the military, p. 27), "Murder in the Women's Army Corps," p. 17, an interview with Pat Bond about "the nightmare of military witch-hunts," and "The Implications of Militarism," p 22, an interview with Cynthia Enloe, "can we fight war and exclusion?" Cynthia Enloe, chair of the Government Department at Clark University, is the author of Does Khaki Become You: The Militarization of Women's Lives (UK: Pandora Press, 1988), that important study of the influence of military experience of some upon people in general. The author's note reveals her as, sure enough, a Vietnam War Author: "CE's graduate work in Asian politics led her to Malaysia in the mid-1960s, where she studied the politics of ethnic minorities in the midst of the US military build-up in Southeast Asia."
An outstanding magazine, something a person can actually read. Some damp poetry and Latinate attitudinizing, but mostly intelligent opinions about life in the great world. The editors have their ears open to the fantastically fertile universe of amateur periodicals, the 'zines where smart people are writing for their friends these days, and of course they live in a world that nine-tenths of the population don't see. I hear they had a recent palace revolution about whether or not white women can report on women of color. A year's subscription, for four issues of about 90 pp each, is $18.
Updated Thursday, January 28, 1999