LMSaaS

Over breakfast this weekend at a popular farmhouse two high school teachers sat next to me to discuss how their respective LMS solutions made teaching difficult. Both were from wealthy suburbs outside Milwaukee. What really peaked my interest was hearing how one spent over 45 minutes trying to add polling for in-class feedback.
LMSaaSI helped lead the adoption of a Moodle LMS at a private Wisconsin college in 2007 that is still in use today and also had the pleasure of attending a conference at UW-Madison with Martin Dougiamas the founder of Moodle.

Yet over that breakfast I was intrigued by their difficulty with all things LMS for the upcoming school year. Frustration ranged from how one teacher received no LMS training (poll example above) while the second teacher spoke about her district migrating to a new LMS vendor over the summer.

Of course no technology discussion can avoid a teacher mentioning K12 servers going offline for hours during the school day making their teaching even more difficult. Seems like teachers have a lot to confront on a daily basis in delivering education to a classroom of twenty plus students. A local LMS run from an empty closet is no longer acceptable.
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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.
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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.

Most strikingly President Eisenhower established Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) IndoChina in 1950. US Army Lt. General John O’Daniel was appointed Chief of MAAG Indo-China. O’Daniel actually toured Dien Bien Phu less than 90 days before the siege. He reported the garrison to be in a sound position.

Latest read: Why Viet Nam? Prelude to America’s Albatross

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.

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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 evolving US 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 of the country’s wealth. The role of the US ambassadors were to move the Diem family towards democracy. We never succeeded.

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.
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Latest Read: A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam

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 Creighton Abrams altered the American war effort after succeeding William Westmoreland. Westmoreland executed a war plan from LBJ based upon large battalion strategies that were successful fighting World War II and Korea.
A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in VietnamThe Viet Minh proved to the French their war 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 enemy was another war in their long quest for national liberation.

To a larger extent the second indochina war was a war against Diem, the U.S. appointed, French-educated Catholic leader. America selected him to rule a highly corrupt, agrarian and Buddhist society.

Abrams inherited the same political handcuffs trying to pursue the enemy into Laos and Cambodia. LBJ’s Vietnam was a war that limited what American forces could accomplish. American politicians never permitted a ground attack above the 17th parallel. It is disheartening to understand Abrams was not in command control of all US military forces. The Air Force and Navy did not report under his chain of command at MACV.

Abrams clearly understood the role of American forces after Tet. He shifted from large engagements with the NVA to re-establishing protected hamlets and securing the South against Viet Cong guerrillas.

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 somewhat in America’s favor.
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