This week marks the 48th anniversary of the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. Today, November 18th marks the end of the battle that cemented the concept of “body count” by the US military. 79 Americans and over 1,000 NVA troops were killed in this battle.
One of the most enduring photographs of this battle captures the US 3rd Brigade 1st Air Cavalry and helicopter pilot Bruce Crandall. He flew over 14 consecutive hours between landing zone Xray and US Army firebase Falcon delivering ammunition and evacuating the wounded. Crandall was awarded the medal of honor for his acts of intrepidity.
This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the US-backed assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of South Vietnam. He was America’s handpicked leader to the stillborn democracy in Saigon.
This anniversary marks the beginning of a long reflection over America’s involvement in the Vietnam war. The coup d’état and murder of Diem and his brother Nhu deepened America’s already long standing commitment to a war against the communist north.
Spearheading the upcoming anniversary will certainly be the Pentagon Papers from the US National Archives. Declassified and released for the first time in history these papers now allow permit further insight surrounding the US involvement in Southeast Asia following World War II.
Coupled with the slow release of books, classified documents and interviews with combatants from all sides we now understand our mistakes in Vietnam. Documents reveal a splinter within the Kennedy White House.
The direction for the coup was driven by Henry Cabot Lodge and McGeorge Bundy, not by President Kennedy. Lodge and Bundy made critical decisions without Kennedy’s knowledge or involvement. A military aid acting only on the orders of Lodge was in contact with the military leaders who drove Diem from Saigon. It is now known Lodge’s aid also gave $40,000 to the military as payment for the coup. Kennedy was assassinated just three weeks later.
Today marks the 46th anniversary of the Battle of Ong Thanh. I read about this tragedy in David Maraniss’ award winning book They Marched into Sunshine. The book traces a rather startling weekend in 1967 for Wisconsin and our nation.
On the campus of UW-Madison on Saturday October 17th, students clashed violently with City police protesting Dow Chemical recruiting events on campus. Dow produced napalm for the Army during the war.
On the other side of the world that same Saturday the ambush at Onh Thanh lasted just two hours. By the time it was over 64 American soldiers were killed including Lieutenant Colonel Terry Allen and every member of the Battalion Command Group. Allen Jr., the son of World War II Divisional Commander Terry Allen Sr. and led the same 1st Infantry Division as his father. Terry Allen Jr. led two rifle companies (~400 men) into a heavily wooded stream where two enemy battalions (~2,400 soldiers) waited for them. Two soldiers from Milwaukee were killed in this battle.
After reading the Pentagon Papers and a number of critically acclaimed books about the war I am somewhat haunted at this new book.
For the first time, The Associated Press reviewed its 25,000+ photos of the war and reprinted a select 250 in “Vietnam: The Real War”
This photograph takes me back to a college history class on the Vietnam war taught by Dr. Charles DeBenedetti. His style and passion for teaching is something that I have never forgotten. To this day I can still see him at the front of class on the fifth floor of University Hall lecturing us on this tragic war.
Madmen finished a rather interesting season. I only found interest in the season premier when Don sat at a bar in Hawaii and had a drink with a US Soldier on leave from the war. Many have written about Chevrolet was their “Vietnam” for the season.
Other segments throughout this season seemed tied into the cultural change the war took on American society. For example, the necklace of ears segment was rather interesting as the horror of war not only hit home but required the firm to change their advertising strategies.
Did you think their pot smoking scene or the death of a firm’s sibling (killed in Vietnam) reach the audience? Many didn’t seem to think so — maybe they were not looking deep enough?
Leonard Garment passed away this week. He was President Nixon’s special legal counsel as Watergate became more than just headlines. Garment and Nixon were close friends in the New York law firm of Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander. Nixon joined after serving as Eisenhower’s Vice President.
President Nixon appointed Garment to replace John Dean who was fired by Nixon the same day John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman resigned due to mounting evidence that crimes regarding Watergate were committed within the White House by members of CREEP.
With the amazing impact the White House taping system had on the Watergate investigation it was Garment who successfully urged Nixon not to destroy the recorded tapes. This was the critical issue regarding Congress’ power to investigate Nixon.
Garment would actually outlast all of Nixon’s advisors and stay to serve President Ford immediately following Nixon’s resignation. As a liberal Democrat he was really swimming upstream against Nixon’s conservative inner circle.
Garment eventually left but thrived as a Washington DC attorney more many years representing many future Republicans caught in legal cases – even as a close friend to fellow law partner Scooter Libby. He was also very influential in the New York jazz community.
Maybe most impressive was Garment’s music ability that led him to play in a jazz band with Alan Greenspan before entering law school. Yes, that Alan Greenspan. Small world back then in Brooklyn.