February 2001/March 2001
Arts of War
Historians At Gettysburg Explore Why The North Won The Vietnam War
By Marc Leepson
In 1958, a group of the nation's top Civil War scholars met at
Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Their topic: Why the North Won the
Civil War. A book by that title, consisting of a half-dozen essays based
on presentations by those historians at Gettysburg, came out a few years
later. Today it is considered must reading for anyone interested in the
factors behind the outcome of the nation's most bitter and controversial
On October 26-27, 2000, a group of top Vietnam War scholars met at
Gettysburg College. Their topic: Why the North Won the Vietnam War. What
the scholars said--their papers will be in a forthcoming book--provides
much food for thought for anyone interested in the factors that led to the
result of the nation's longest and most controversial overseas war.
The conference was sponsored by the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute,
in cooperation with the Reserve Officers Association, the Army War
College, and Gettysburg College. It was the brainchild of Earl H. Tilford,
Jr., the research director at the U.S. Army War College's Strategic
Studies Institute. Tilford, a U.S. Air Force Vietnam veteran, is a former
history professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the author of three
books on the air war in Vietnam.
Tilford called upon Marc Gilbert, a Vietnam War specialist and history
professor at North Georgia College and State University, to select the
Vietnam War historians for the symposium. Gilbert recruited a stellar
group to come to Gettysburg.
William Duiker, the Penn State University Liberal Arts Professor
Emeritus of East Asian Studies, is perhaps the nation's top expert on the
communist Vietnamese. George Herring, the Alumni Professor of History at
the University of Kentucky, is widely regarded as one of the foremost
Vietnam War scholars. Duiker and Herring presented papers on the
international factors leading to the outcome of the war. Duiker dealt with
of North Vietnam's allies, primarily the Soviet Union and China. Herring's
topic was American foreign relations, primarily with our European and
Marilyn Young, a New York University history professor, spoke on her
specialty: American domestic politics and its impact on the war. Andrew
Rotter, a Colgate University history professor, delivered a talk on the
impact of economic issues on the war's outcome. Robert Brigham, a Vassar
College history professor, gave a videotaped presentation on the ARVN and
the Viet Cong. Jeffrey Record, who teaches security studies at the U.S.
Air Force's Air War College, spoke on the American military's performance.
John Prados, an independent scholar who has written widely on virtually
every aspect of the war, spoke about intelligence and its role in the
war's outcome. Lloyd Gardner, a Rutgers University history professor for
37 years, presented a summation.
No grand conclusions were reached, Gardner said. However, he said, the
historians hit upon one major theme: while the North Vietnamese were
prepared for total war, the United States was not. "We perused a
limited war," Gardner said.
MEL TO PLAY HAL IN BIG FLICK
It looks like Gen. Hal Moore and Joe Galloway's We Were Soldiers
Once and Young--one of the best books of Vietnam War nonfiction--is
going to become one of the best Vietnam War movies. Hollywood heavy hitter
Mel Gibson will play Gen. Moore in the film version of the bloody and
courageous fight at LZ X-Ray in the pivotal 1965 Battle of the Ia Drang
Valley. Gibson's film company, Icon, is co-producing, along with Paramount
Pictures. Randall Wallace (Braveheart, et al.) is directing his own
Filming began March 1 at Fort Benning, Georgia, and is slated to
continue at Camp Roberts in California. The filmmakers expect to wrap up
by June. Post-production should take until the end of the year. Expect a
spring 2002 release.
"This is going to be the movie about the Vietnam War, if we
have anything to say about it," Galloway, the former war
correspondent who was on the ground with Moore's First Cav troopers at LZ
X-Ray, told us. Galloway and Moore, in fact, have had a great deal to say
about this production. They've worked closely with Wallace and have given
his screenplay a big thumbs up. "Hal and I read and critiqued and
corrected" the screenplay, Galloway said. "Randy Wallace has
captured the heart and soul of our book."
Wallace also has high hopes for the film. In an on-line interview,
Wallace called We Were Soldiers Once "probably the greatest
book on infantry combat ever written." It's a "story about
incredible leadership and the men who went and fought knowing that they
would probably never get out alive. Everyone of them went into battle
because their leader would never have left them and they wouldn't leave
ALSO ON THE HOLLYWOOD HORIZON
The long-awaited film version of Wallace Terry's pioneering Bloods
(the much-praised book of oral histories of African-Americans who served
in the Vietnam War) could be just around the corner. In October, Terry
agreed with Castle Rock Entertainment to adapt his book for the screen.
Helmer Antoine Fuqua (The Replacement Killers, Bait) will direct
and there is a good chance that a big-name actor will have a leading role
in the film.
VVA National Chaplain Father Phil Salois has a role in an independent
film dealing with Vietnam veterans' readjustment problems. The film, Elephant
Grass, will be made when its producers come up with the funds to get
the project in motion. Screenwriter, director, and producer David Cash has
spent three years honing the script, which is based on research he's done
at Vet Centers and VA hospitals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Father Phil "has been a great resource for me," Cash said.
"He has brought a unique perspective to the project. He is going to
be in the film playing himself. Father Phil has also read the script and
The latest thing in DVD is the boxed director set. Warner recently
released a ten-movie Oliver Stone set. The package includes Stone's
comments and a 52-minute documentary on the former 25th Infantry Division
trooper. The films in the set include Born on the Fourth of July,
Heaven and Earth, Nixon, and J.F.K., but not Platoon.
It seems like it was just a few weeks ago when I noted that the Arts
of War column marked its tenth anniversary in 1996. With this issue,
we've now run Arts of War for 15 years. In that time we've previewed and
reviewed thousands of books, movies, plays, TV shows, and other artistic
endeavors dealing with the Vietnam War and its veterans--something that no
other publication does.
Beginning in February 1994 we split off our book reviews from Arts of
War and started the Books in Review column. Both columns have had
steadfast support from four VVA presidential administrations, top-notch VVA
Veteran editors and art directors, and countless Board members and
national office staffers. We owe a special debt to the many supportive
readers who have turned us on to many artistic works we otherwise would
have missed. We thank everyone for the help and eagerly look forward to
continuing this labor of love.
ARTS IN BRIEF
Philip Caputo, the former Marine and author of the milestone Vietnam
War memoir, A Rumor of War, will be the guest of honor at the 2001
Ron Ridenhour Memorial Lecture at Tulane University in New Orleans. Caputo
will deliver his address on March 28. On Feb. 12, Tulane played host to
W.D. Ehrhart, the former Marine whose poetry and nonfiction deal mainly
with his Vietnam War experiences. Ehrhart read from his work and spoke
about "The Vietnam War and a Whole Lot More."
Bruce Solheim, the guitarist, songwriter, and leader of the L.A.-area
rock band Just Joe, is not your run-of-the-mill rock and roller. Solheim,
a post-Vietnam War Army veteran, is a history professor at Citrus College
in Glendora. His area of expertise: the Vietnam War. "I write music
that reflects the turbulent times of the 1960s and early seventies, my
formative years," Solheim told us. "My songs are a fresh take on
the roots of 1960s music."
Just Joe--Solheim, Carsten Dau, Tom Eiland, Mike Frasure, Bruce Bremer,
and Maria Perez--plays an infectious brand of music. You can give a listen
at their website, www.iuma.com/IUMA/Bands/Justjoe
, where you can download a free copy of their bouncy, appealing tune,
The honorees at the sixth annual American Veterans Awards--which was
held in Los Angeles in December and broadcast Feb. 11 on the History
Channel--were Chuck Norris, Veteran of the Year; Dan Rather, Ernie Pyle
Journalism Award; Richard Crenna, National Veteran Salute Award; and
Catherine Bell, Woman of Honor Award. If you missed the show, you can
catch it on line at www.avashow.com
The webcast will be available any time you log on throughout the year.
Rebels With a Cause (Zeitgeist Films, 110 minutes) is a documentary
written, produced, and directed by Helen Garvey that examines the history
of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the activist organization that
loudly fought racism, poverty, and the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Garvey, a
former SDSer, uses present-day interviews with her former cohorts to tell
Bibliographer query: Jon Ault, the reference archivist at the
Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Connecticut, is compiling an annotated
bibliography of Native Americans in the U.S. military. He is searching for
materials documenting Native American participation in the Vietnam War. If
you can help, write to: P.O. Box 3180, Mashantucket, CT 06339-3180;
860-396-6811 (phone); 860-396-7004 (fax); Jault@mptn.org
Curator query: David E. Hilkert of the Army Reserve Museum, which is
affiliated with the Army Center of Military History, is collecting
artifacts of the U.S. Army Reserve (the 63rd, 70th, and 75th through 108th
Divisions). He is interested in acquiring uniforms, equipment, photos,
journals, and letters for permanent preservation. Write to: Double Eagle
Heritage Collection, Dept. of the Army, HQ, U.S. Army Reserve Command,
1401 Deshler Street, SW, Fort McPherson, GA 30330-2000.
The Vietnam-America Theatre Exchange brought A Midsummer Night's
Dream to Hanoi, Saigon, and Haiphong last November. One of the
Exchange's founders, Marvin Browning, is a Vietnam veteran. The Forest
Grove, Oregon, group had brought the famed Vietnamese play, Truong Bai's
"Soul in the Butcher's Skin," to this country in 1998. The group
also mounted a production of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie
in Vietnam. A documentary film, tentatively titled A Dream in Hanoi,
was shot during the three-city Shakespeare run.
The exhibit, The Pulitzer Prize Photographs: Capture the Moment,
that is running through March 11 at the Newseum in Arlington, Virginia,
includes several memorable Vietnam War images. Two that stand out are
Eddie Adams's 1968 shot of ARVN Gen. Loan shooting a VC suspect during Tet
in Saigon and John Filo's 1970 photo of the Kent State tragedy. You can
take a virtual tour of the exhibit at www.newseum.org/pulitzer
The web site http://saturn.fhda.edu/instructor.swensson.ewrt2vn.html,
"The Vietnam Conflict," has been set up to help students with
research questions in the Vietnam War class taught by John Swensson at De
Anza College in California. The site features a "Veterans
Corner," where veterans can contribute their own stories, art, and
poetry. New additions are welcome.
In the last issue we made note of former infantryman Vincent Gabriel's
noteworthy Vietnam War-influenced rock CD, 11Bravo. Gabriel tells
us the CD is now available through his new website: 11Bravoproject.org