Latest read: Street without Joy

Bernard Fall‘s excellent and respected Street Without Joy provides deep insights to the French catastrophe in Vietnam culminating at Dien Bien Phu. Fall is recognized as a respected journalist who understood the failure of France. He was on the ground with French troops.

Street without Joy

Fall’s experience sharing French losses are shocking even 50 years later. And yet in war there are a number of truly heroic acts by French and American soldiers fighting a determined Viet Minh enemy.

Declassified in 2005 American pilots James McGovern and Wallace Buford where killed flying over Dien Bien Phu, just 24 hours before the French surrender.

Fall illustrates a perfect example of the French effort: in 1953 the army spent $20 million dollars to build a runway. It buckled when the first airplane landed and was abandoned.

France was complete decimated by World War II. The country literally did not have an air force until 1950. French planes supporting IndoChina included just 60 Spitfires — made from wood and canvas. Most planes were German Junkers 52s. The true irony, the French had to actually locate parts in Germany to repair Junkers damaged fighting the Viet Minh. For French pilots the demands were worse:

Nothing has thus far been said about the incredible strain of that operation on the air and ground crews of the French Far Eastern Air Force and Naval Aviation. At the height of the battle, in April 1954, many crews logged 150 flying hours. Dozens of pilots collapsed from exhaustion, but simply were doped up and returned to combat, for experienced pilots rapidly became even scarcer than aircraft. When, in the face of possible diplomatic complications, the American civilian air crews and their C-119’s were pulled out on April 24 from the Dien Bien Phu run—they were allowed to return to the run on May 1 – there remained only fifty French planes capable of flying the long and exhausting mission.
–page262

Embers of War reminds us that Parisians concerned about the welfare of the garrison, a majority of soldiers were not French. The colonial French Union permitted France under their empire to place soldiers from Laos, Cambodia, Tunisia, French Guinea and Morocco at Dien Bien Phu. As the battle inched closer a stunning 3,000 to 4,000 Moroccan troops deserted their posts and escaped into the jungle. The empire was over.

It would not be fair to say Fall ignored the horrors of war in this book. The tremendous loss of life, even French officers who lost sons fighting the Viet Minh. While tragically sobering it was not enough to change America’s focus off long term goals in Europe that played out in IndoChina ten years later. US Army Lt. General John O’Daniel toured Dien Bien Phu less than three months before the siege and found the garrison to be in a sound position.

Latest read: Why Viet Nam?

It took me four years to locate Why Viet Nam?: Prelude to America’s Albatross by Archimedes Patti. US Army Lieutenant Colonel Patti joined the OSS (CIA) and was assigned to Indo-China in January 1944 six months before D-Day. This is one of those rare books that layout the foundation of America’s role in Vietnam before the end of World War II.

Why Viet Nam?The strong Vietnamese opposition to French and British efforts to re-colonize IndoChina after World War II for natural resources. Sound familiar? Patti provides surprising details regarding the CIA’s established relationship with Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh.

This is simply a must read to understand how the CIA, US Army and US State Department established a foundation for IndoChina during World War II.

Yet for all of Ho’s efforts Patti reveals from D-Day to the dropping of the atomic bomb that old white European leaders alone determined the future of IndoChina with a second run of colonial exploitation of Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian peoples.

Patti was able to document the original developing political structures in Asia by the middle of World War II. Patti began meeting with Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap. He writes how both developed an independant and nationalist view of Vietnam’s future vs continued European and Chinese colonialism.

Make no mistake Dean Acheson established the “creation of an American world order” while Patti was the CIA officer on the ground. The CIA and State Department’s initial records on Ho Chi Minh were established in a cable written on December 31 1942 as the CIA was seeking French relations with Texaco in IndoChina.
Continue reading

Latest read: Death of a Generation How the Assassinations of Diem and JFK Prolonged the Vietnam War

Death of a Generation: How the Assassinations of Diem and JFK Prolonged the Vietnam War by Howard Jones is a compelling well written topic that focuses on the critical years of the Kennedy Administration and the coming war in Vietnam. Jones has painstakingly researched how Diem was a key part of the increase of Vietcong success in and around Saigon from 1960.
Death of a Generation: How the Assassinations of Diem and JFK Prolonged the Vietnam WarThe first half of the book details the repeated frustration all political and military leaders had with Diem only to see in 1961 the transfer of power to his brother Nhu.

Jones brings the opening eight chapters into focus on Diem’s inability to reform the political and social process in the south, locking his family into full control. The role of every early ambassador’s inability to move the Diem family.

At the same time the coming crisis is revealed with behind the scenes accounts of the multiple clashes within the Kennedy Administration. This contributed to Kennedy’s lack of trust with the Joint Chiefs of Staff following their Bay of Pigs fiasco.

Jones has done well to bring the European and Cuban conflicts into the scope of how the US was approaching Vietnam, and ultimately China and the Soviet Union.

The Battle of Ap Bac in 1963 proved to be a perfect sign of how bad the South would fight in their first major battle. John Paul Vann‘s role in Ap Bac is now legendary. Coupled with the June Buddhist crisis and the worldwide attention to the self-immolation of Quang Duc which forever turned the south against Diem and his family. It was the fallout of this event that the Kennedy administration began exploring how to engineer a coup de tat.
Continue reading

Latest Read: A Better War

Lewis Sorely’s effort in A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam is a good summary how General Creighton Abrams altered the American war effort as he replaced General William Westmoreland. Westmoreland executed a war plan based upon large battalion strategies built from World War II and Korea.
A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in VietnamClearly Vietnam proved to the French it was a new type of war. The NVA understood America’s superior firepower and technology could overwhelm their efforts. But for the Viet Cong and NVA this was a war of national liberation. To a greater extent it was also a war against the appointment of a French educated, Catholic leader to rule the agrarian, Buddhist society in the South.

Yet Abrams inherited the same political handcuffs Westmoreland wore when trying to pursue the enemy into Laos and Cambodia. Vietnam was a war that limited what America could accomplish. From Westmoreland’s assumption of command throughout Abrams full tenure politicians from both parties never permitted a ground attack above the 17th parallel.

It is disheartening to look back today and understand Abrams was not in complete control of all US military forces. The Air Force and Navy did not report under the chain of command at MACV.

Abrams largest recognition was understanding the new role of American forces. He shifted from large engagements with the NVA to establishing protected hamlets and securing the South against the Viet Cong. The CIA’s William Colby and US Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker worked with Abrams to develop a very effective approach to both the military and political infrastructure in South Vietnam. To a great extent this helped turn the tide of the war.
Continue reading

Reading Lewis Sorley’s A Better War

Lewis Sorley wrote A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam taking a position that the US won the war in Vietnam.
A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in VietnamIt has been reviewed as an attempt to portray America’s great success driven by Creighton Abrams against the Communist NVA and the Vietcong as a venue to say the US actually won the Vietnam war. It has proven controversial to say the least.

The early chapters lay out the shifting role between Westmoreland and Abrams, the role of LBJ and the emerging leadership of CIA’s William Colby and Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker.

To Sorley’s point by switching quarterbacks at the beginning of the fourth quarter the US was able to score a great number of touchdowns.

But the score after three quarters was already too deep to overcome. This will prove to be a very interesting read nevertheless.

 

Breda Books

Today Amazon delivered a book I purchased via Prime and fulfilled by Breda Books. Their Amazon Storefront webpage is here:www.amazon.com/shops/A2HBFLKX1UU8K9. Upon opening the Amazon box the book was swarming with ants that I quickly documented here with my iphone:
breda-books2

breda-books3

And before I could react the ants were swarming onto my hands and arms. Disgusting!!!

Beware Breda Books is not a reseller you should ever purchase a book from in the future.
Buyer beware.

Latest read: Learning with Big Data – The Future of Education

Big Data has changed education forever. Learning with Big Data reveals If your school has not fully embraced big data you should consider moving your child’s education elsewhere. In higher education its fully integrated across the institution from the admissions office all the way through the office of alumni relations.
Learning with Big Data – The Future of EducationThis short e-read builds upon the success of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think released in 2013. This book is not about MOOCs, but does dedicate pages to the background and success of Khan Academy.

Authors Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation from Oxford and Kenneth Cukier from The Economist introduce Learning with Big Data by way of the role of machine learning at Stanford. The course is taught by Andrew Ng, cofounder of Coursera.

Ng has brought to the globe the ability to teach a world class curriculum in machine learning from California to students in Tibet. In many ways this very idea is threatening to close minded administrators sitting in their siloed office.

The focus in this special book is how big data, which reveals to educators what works and what does not is reforming education. The ability today to interactively track the performance of each individual student in real time throughout the semester can make a big difference because the data drives how focused, dedicated administrators can more effectively budget extremely tight dollars in guiding a campus forward.
Continue reading

Microsoft Cybersecurity Briefing

Microsoft cybersecurity
Kudos to Microsoft’s Cybersecurity briefing team for providing a great three day briefing on Greenfield and Red Forest solutions. With 24 pages of hand written notes but no swag from Ignite, Microsoft has provided a solid foundation to continue moving Azure cloud services forward for small or large corporate IT infrastructure.

Page 1 of 9612345...102030...Last Post»