Think like a freak

think like a freakHow many options do soccer players have before a penalty kick?

Think like a Freak, out TODAY from Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner is really, really enjoyable. I would stop just about everything (In a perfect world) to read this cover to cover. More to come….

Dong Xoai and the required US shift in Vietnam

Moyar’s final chapter in Triumph Forsaken reveals his deep understanding of the 1965 Vietcong attack at Dong Xoai and the aftermath – yet another change in Saigon’s leadership. This closing chapter illustrates for Moyar the aggressive communist attacks taken throughout the central highlands as a synopsis for the war.

triumph forsakenWhat will surprise many unfamiliar with Vietnam’s countryside, the battle was just 100km (or 62 miles) from Saigon. One of the spoils of military victory is writing history. The NVA claims to have killed over 4,500 South Vietnamese and 77 Americans at the Dong Xoai battlefield. (via Google Maps)

Today this would shock Americans to think a massive Vietcong battle was fought less than a two hour drive to Saigon. As reference, the distance is shorter between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Cannot help but wonder about Moyar’s theme: South Vietnam was destined to collapse by 1965. Yes Johnson’s remark to historian Henry Graff “The worst mistake we ever made was getting rid of Diem” rings true. Regardless of Moyar’s short timeline American interests never groomed a worthy successor to Diem. Despite a series of aggressive communist attacks in the central highlands in early 1965 the role of the US military was still restricted by the White House at 72,000 Americans in country. At Dong Xoai a US Special Forces camp assigned only 20 Americans to support 400 local soldiers from two militia companies.

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Moyar on Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam

triumph forsakenMark Moyar really opens up on journalists Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam in Chapter 7: Attack July-December 1962.

Moyar is attempting to mislead with broad, inaccurate generalizations as if Sheehan and Halberstam fell off the turnip truck and landed on a Smith corona typewriter south of Saigon.

Both Sheehan and Halberstam won Pulitzer Prizes for their Vietnam war coverage. Moyar’s most outrageous statement is that Halberstam “did more harm to the interests of the United States than any other journalist in American history.

Really? Even more than Sheehan or Dan Ellsberg publishing the Pentagon Papers in the New York Times?

But Moyar’s attacking statements on all journalists regardless of political view really misses the mark:

Representing the United Press International was a twenty-five-year-old named Neil Sheehan, who arrived in Saigon in April. Having just entered the profession of journalism, he was the youngest and most inexperienced reporter in a country full of young and inexperienced reporters.

Upon graduation from Harvard where he was editor of the campus literary magazine Harvard Advocate Neal Sheehan joined the Army serving from 1959-1962 in Korea, and Japan editing a weekly Army newspaper called The Bayonet. During this timeframe in Japan Sheehan also moonlighted in Tokyo for UPI. Upon his discharge he landed in Vietnam as UPI’s Saigon bureau chief.  It fair to say Sheehan understood Asia and the US Military operating in Southeast Asia. But here Moyar over reaches:

David Halberstam, who like Sheehan hailed from the Northeast and was a recent Harvard graduate. Halberstam was twenty-eight when he came to Vietnam. Before he left, fifteen months later, he would do more harm to the interests of the United States than any other journalist in American history.

Moyar’s neocon gloves come right off with his last statement. His position that Halberstam was a recent graduate also misses the mark.  Halberstam was the managing editor for the Harvard Crimson. In 1955 he turned down offers from big newspapers to cover Civil Rights and race issues in Mississippi. He left after just ten months when his editor did not want him focusing on those topics in a small town paper. He continued to cover the civil rights movement at The Tennessean in Nashville beginning in 1956.

In 1960 Halberstam was hired by the New York Times. After covering the Kennedy inauguration for six months in Washington D.C. he was assigned to the Congo to cover the war against Belgian colonialism. Then he was assigned to Vietnam when Diem kicked out the standing New York Times reporter.  Halberstam well understood struggles with colonialism.

Triumph Forsaken

Academic debates regarding revisionist history continues to rage across university lecture halls. Yet traditional (orthodox in those academic circles) views on Vietnam were challenged by revisionists including Mark Moyar’s Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965.

triumph forsaken

America’s historical views of Vietnam are actually unique since the war’s bible The Pentagon Papers remained classified for just over forty years.

Moyar published Triumph Forsaken in 2006 and created academic controversy for over five years before the National Archives released the full 7,200 plus pages from the Department of Defense which also focus on Moyar’s timeframe.

Have just found my way last night into chapter three of Moyar’s book. Memories of actually reading the entire Pentagon Papers and the frustrations revealed has caused my eyebrows to be raised….just a bit. Moyar has been portrayed as attacking American journalists who were on the ground in Vietnam.

Moyar’s focus on Ho and Diem in this timeframe are core to his view on America’s early fatal flaws in the war. Time will tell as I continue to read, research and compare notes in the Pentagon Papers.  Moyar may be correct in his assumptions and points of view regarding these two leaders in Vietnam’s civil war.

Also on my bookshelf sits another revisionist view of Vietnam A Better War written by Lewis Sorley.  I will attempt to fully measure Moyar and Sorley against The Pentagon Papers and Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam which won the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2013.

Latest read: A Spartan Game

Merriam-Webster defines Spartan as a person of great courage and self-discipline and A Spartan Game The Life and Loss of Don Holleder is just about a perfect story of such a person.  Yet I find it somewhat difficult to share how immense Don’s life was today. Many heroes on the gridiron and battlefield have been lost to our collective memory simply because HDTV, the internet and social media did not exist in the 1940s.

a spartan gameSince the 9/11 attacks only a handful of professional athletes have chosen to serve our country over money. Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal defensive back turned down a multi-million dollar NFL contact extension to enlist in the Army only to be killed under questionable circumstances in Afghanistan. If you found Pat’s story compelling then A Spartan Game reveals how Don Holleder played and lived on a much higher stratosphere. Pat was killed two years after leaving the NFL. Don Holleder was killed 11 years after leaving West Point but within three months of arriving in Vietnam.

The early chapters of A Spartan Game reveals Don’s family history, his extended background and amazing success playing high school football and basketball in Rochester New York. His high school team actually traveled to my hometown of Toledo Ohio in the early 1950s to play Toledo Central Catholic in basketball. I was surprised to read so many Catholic schools in the 1940s and ’50s traveled extensively throughout the country. Don was an extraordinarily gifted athlete and he excelled in football.

Don was expecting to attend Notre Dame on a football scholarship but something changed his life. After his senior football season but before he graduated Don’s father died suddenly. His father never told Don he wished for his son to attend West Point. It was only after his father’s wishes were revealed by his mother that Don focused solely on attending West Point.
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