The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam by Martin Windrow is another stunning book regarding the French defeat in Indochina. He follows the same historical accuracy as Archimedes Patti’s Why Vietnam? Prelude to America’s Albatross and Bernard Fall’s Hell In A Very Small Place: The Siege Of Dien Bien Phu.
Windrow has written an amazing history of France’s approach to defeat the Viet Minh. His work complements a select number of authors who have brought to life an important battle long overlooked in the late 1950s by America that contributed heavily to our entry into Vietnam.
Similar to my review of Ted Morgan’s book Valley of Death The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War the siege is a stunning look by Windrow at a morally bankrupt 4th republic attempting to re-colonize Indochina beginning in 1946. World War II in Europe was over with rebuilding was underway. France attempted along with Britain to reclaim colonial territories after the surrender of Japan.
In great detail the opening chapters document French losses from 1948 to 1952. His attention to detail is amazing. These repeated failures as Windrow noted began to show weak points within the French Union. Clearly they had no ability to defeat the Viet Minh at the Laotian border.
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Once Upon a Distant War by William Prochnau is a completely fascinating look at journalism coverage of the Vietnam war in the early 1960s. Remember how Napster disrupted the music industry? A handful or journalists did the same.
In 1959 Malcolm Brown arrived in IndoChina having earned his war reporting in Korea for Stars and Stripes.
A number of young journalists stationed in Saigon from 1961-1963 had the same effect on the newspaper industry at a time when television was about to eclipse print in news reporting to middle America.
The focus of Prochnau is the role of Malcolm Brown, David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, Peter Arnett, Horst Faas and Stanley Karnow.
They even faced off with their editors who were Korean War reporters themselves but now lived and worked in Washington, New York and LA. The young turks were actually in the jungles with American advisors. They experienced first hand the early failures.
Critical reporting of the US war effort brought them into conflict with General Paul Harkins, commander of the US war effort in Saigon. Yet Prochnau identifies three events within the two year span that reset the war for America: Ap Bac, The Buddhist Crisis and the American coup against Diem. It was interesting to have understood how Halberstam was commanding the stories out of Siagon and establishing strong relationships with John Paul Vann leading into Ap Bac. All while being misled by US General Paul Harkins in Saigon who was commanding MACV.
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Joe Galloway and Hal Moore wrote We Were Soldiers Once And Young about their battle in the Ia Drang Valley. They reveal a deeper tragedy around the tipping point battle that would haunt America for a generation. As always the book is better than the movie.
The battle of the Ia Drang Valley casts a long shadow over America’s role in Vietnam. It carries implications today. The ambush and loss of 155 Americans from a single battle (LZ Albany) was the largest loss of life throughout the entire American war including the siege at Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive. Please recall Khe Sanh was a six month siege while the Ia Drang Valley was less than 48 hours.
America’s fast growing role in Vietnam was largely based upon the Ia Drang Valley. The White House would establish “body count” as the measured outcome. At the same time I somehow missed that Norman Schwarzkopf marched into Ia Drang at LZ X-Ray the day after the battle.
Galloway has written an excellent account of the Air Cav surviving LZ X-Ray and also the failures of command moving troops to LZ Albany on the ground. His attention to detail unique that every man in battle is identified by name and hometown…many times the following paragraph revealed that soldier’s death. Three cities where I have lived lost men in the Ia Drang Valley. One solider killed on the second day at LZ X-Ray lived 9 miles from our home in Milwaukee. Young men from greater Chicago and Northwest Ohio also died in battle.
As portrayed in the opening sequence of the movie based upon this book, NVA soldiers executed wounded Americans in the Ia Drang Valley. The history of war in Asian culture is much harsher than in Europe.
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FarmBot is an opensource and scalable automated precision farming machine and software package designed from the ground up with today’s technologies. The world’s population is growing and is projected to surpass 9 billion inhabitants by 2050. As a result farms must increase production by about 60 percent to meet demand which is stunning since many believe we have reached the limits of traditional farming.
In comparison to desktop digital 3D printers and CNC machines FarmBot extends the idea of X, Y, and Z directions and applies it to plows, seed injectors, water and sensors in order to accurately and efficiently grow plants and soil. I think that I would like to try this out in my own backyard.
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Makers: The New Industrial Revolution is the best book hi-lighting the impact Makers have established over the last five years. The Maker movement is growing due to the collision of powerful digital tools, the internet of things and cost effective manufacturing. As a child I always wished for these advanced tools to bring to life my ideas, inventions and the toys my childhood friends would talk about and dream about making.
My ideas for creating art was always apart of my Saturday art classes at the Toledo Museum of Art. The drawings I kept of my inventions have all but disappeared.
This is where Makers: The New Industrial Revolution comes into focus for parents and educators today a generation later. What is making this possible? The industrial global supply chain has driven the cost of affordable powerful IoT including the new $5 Raspberry Pi Zero that will drive new innovations at incredibly efficient price points.
We should be careful at home because the world is embracing these technologies. Remember Anderson shares his belief that inventors and creative types are actually makers. Now this is happening on a truly global scale.
If the buzz of 3D printers and filament reels make your eyes glaze please remember that YouTube is the best example of Makers sharing their passion. Look at any dedicated YouTube channel – say woodworking- and you will find Makers creating and uploading passionate lessons regarding their craft. Look no further than Esty for a commercial success as a reseller of Maker’s crafts now listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Simply unheard of just 5 years ago.
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Makers by Cory Doctorow is the fiction book about the Maker movement. Doctorow writes about two makers Perry and Lester who invent seashell robots that make toast or modified Elmo dolls that can drive a cars.
The companies of Kodak and Duracell closed and their product inventories are absorbed by venture capitalists with a noted blogger along side writing the story of their new company.
The story goes kinda weird when Perry and Lester begin building interactive rides in abandoned Walmarts in the New World world.
But as they find success they suddenly find themselves on the defensive as a Disney executive plans an aggressive attack on the interactive rides by convincing police that Perry and Lester are actually using 3D printers manufacture AK-47s assault rifles. Kinda went off the deep end for me.
As much as I generally dislike fiction this is a title that is focusing on the Maker movement and I really wanted to see a creative story about the promise and implementation of makers shifting the economy in small steps from their home garage or workshop. My interest regarding digital fabrication machines including CNC milling.
If you are looking for a better understanding of the Maker movement in general I would strongly suggest Chris Anderson’s book Maker The New Industrial Revolution as the best and most inspirational text to see how Makers are shaping the world around you.
Making Makers is a wonderful book for parents and educators who are interested about how to guide their children to become “makers” to improve their live and chase their dreams and childhood curiosity.
By reading stories of noted inventors and creators you learn how important it is for children to become makers as the world is changing rapidly with advanced, personal, affordable technologies and why it is crucial to encourage today’s youth to be makers.
Lifelong creativity is a learned skill. The role of online learning communities today including eduX and Coursera have helped develop and establish tools to foster interests in topics explored in childhood. I believe this is a book every parent of a child should be reading today regardless of their age.
The role Makers will play in the immediate future are already being established. Again this is an opportunity for parents and educators to give their children a step up in developing new skills not only for school but also for their interests and developing new talents with friends or groups.
Maybe the most important aspect of the book is really all about how a parent can identify and foster the Maker inside their child. For many parents who have also become part of the content mindset and may have lost their way to reviving their own Maker experiences from childhood this serves as a guide to help further their own personal growth and redevelopment of their interests.
Our Saturday in Milwaukee included trips across town to maker faire events in both Brookfield and Mayfair. My son enjoyed making littleBits at Brookfield. However no Milwaukee area store held a Raspberry Pi meetup.
I was pleased to see much more products were in place at Brookfield across four spaces on both their first and second floor. Mayfair’s workspaces were on their second floor. Greenfield is a ground floor facility.
Tonight was the Barnes and Noble Maker Faire kickoff. Three Milwaukee area stores are participating and we visited Greenfield. We are looking forward to Saturday’s Raspberry Pi meetup. My son did not hold back explaining littleBits to three adults.
This weekend Barnes and Noble is sponsoring nationwide an in-store Maker Faire. The greater Milwaukee area will see Mayfair, Greenfield, and Bayshore stores participating. The Maker Faire event actually starts on Friday. If your children are in school then prep them for all the events on Saturday and Sunday. There is a Raspberry Pi event on Saturday at 2:00pm.
Invite your children to meet their local leaders of the Maker movement. These are local people like your neighbors changing the way we learn, design, create and build the future. “Makers” are DIYers with a tech twist.
Get ready for a tech-educational expo, your children will see products like 3D printers, drones, robots and programming. YMMV. Barnes and Noble will provide the materials. Let your children dream up and create their own product. The only limit is their imagination.
The Valley of Death: The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War by Ted Morgan is a simply stunning read. This book proves to be a perfect follow up to the CIA’s Archimedes Patti revealing Why Vietnam? Prelude to America’s Albatross and Bernard Fall’s excellent Hell In A Very Small Place: The Siege Of Dien Bien Phu.
This review below includes a series of powerful quotes from the 700+ pages that should turn your stomach as French leaders permitted men to die just to save face for their failing empire. It is truly stunning across this book to see a morally bankrupt France fight to re-colonize Indochina.
Morgan set the post-World War II stage inside Indochina for any reader to learn how France was able to maintain a rule over Indochina during the occupation by the Japanese Imperial coup in Vietnam. Valley of Death reveals how the CIA approached Ho Chi Minh before D-Day to rescue downed US Air Force pilots from Japanese troops throughout Indochina. Ho urgently cooperated and was rewarded with munitions and a US Army Deer Team sent by the CIA to Ho Chi Minh. Their mission? To train and lead Viet Minh troops against the Japanese. This includes raids on Japanese positions in northern Vietnam after both atomic bombs were dropped.
Again Valley of Death clearly reveals US and Viet Minh relations were bonded against Japanese control of Indochina during World War II.
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Bernard Fall wrote a compelling yet sober book Hell In A Very Small Place: The Siege Of Dien Bien Phu. Fall was a respected journalist who predicted the failure of French efforts to re-colonize Indochina after World War II. He delivers a first hand account. He was on the ground with French troops beginning in 1953. He returned to Indochina multiple times before dying in a 1967 ambush with US troops in Operation Chinook II.
On more than one occasion in the opening chapters the French considered permanently passing on Dien Bien Phu as a location to confront the Viet Minh to stop their push into Laos. Google Satellite Map of the valley Dien Bien Phu.
At first glance this is a Greek Tragedy. Yet Fall reveals, to simply save face on the global stage France continued to send men to their deaths over the 56 day siege. In Paris and Hanoi the commitment was NOT to win the war but rather simply hold the garrison as means to strengthen negotiations at the Geneva Accords.
At the earliest stages of the French occupation General Henri Navarre and Lt. General Rene Cogny would spare over the definition of the Dien Bien Phu defensive parameter with tragic consequences.
Cogny defined Dien Bien Phu as a guerilla camp or ‘mooring point’ defense, Navarre interpreted a ‘heghog’ or airhead defense be established which had proven successful for France against the Viet Minh at the Battle of Na San. Regardless the French defensive positions were never implemented to withstand the Viet Minh onslaught that came in waves and deadly accurate cannon fire.
Hell In A Very Small Place reveals during this early confusion French intelligence intercepted multiple radio messages revealing strong evidence of the enemy’s shift of two established divisions heading towards Dien Bien Phu. Yet this intelligence was only debated between Navarre and Cogny. They never acted on this intelligence. This led to increased disagreements between the two at the cost of their men.
No French military leader could forecast a cease fire in the Korean War. This permitted Communist China to shift much needed weapons from Soviet Russia and material into Dien Bien Phu in mid 1953.
It is discouraging to read Fall’s account of the Allied losses around Dien Bien Phu beginning in November 1953, three months before the Viet Minh would launch their initial attack at Dien Bien Phu. The cold war shifted tides from Korea to Indochina.
Fall’s other recognized book Street without Joy reveals how 400 French Union troops were confronted by nearly 1,000 Viet Minh in hand to hand combat. They “simply fixed bayonet and walked into death.” Fall’s Hell In A Very Small Place extends this horrific sacrifice.
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