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I've no direct response to your request, however, there is a book and a
resource worth your investigating. I'm 760 pages into a book whose major
source for its account of the early days of the Vietnam war is the sort of
letters of which you speak. My message to many of my associates was to
acquire and read the book. I suggest you and your people do the same.
I'm going to paste on an early reaction to a book I've just begun that
illustrates this in passing with examples from Vietnam. Our early work with
the montagnards in Laos and Vietnam made me understand the long term value of
The December "First Friday" was a sober look at the Congress and how it is
likely to evolve. My oral offering was to discuss a combination of this book
of which I've only read 475 pages, my distress with the revival of the story
of the French using torture in Algeria, and the relocation of my old friend
Don Marshall to Washington. My immediate concern with torture is our new
focus on urban warfare, and how the urgency of getting enough tactical
intelligence from captured rebels to fight in cities forced the French on
this path. Could this happen to us? I'll send you more stuff on the book
shortly. In any case read it as a howling priority. Don will keep.
The book was a self printing with only 400 copies left. The address of the
author/publisher is below so you, those you influence, and your local library
can get copies of their own. I gave one of the copies I bought to Jonathan
Shay, the psychiatrist who works on PTSD for some psychically disabled
Vietnam veterans. My expectation is that Greg Pickell will do a review on it
for his world. I will as well.
The book is Vietnam Military Lore, Legends, Shadows, & Heroes by Master
Sergeant Ray Bows. Send him $39.95 plus $7.50 shipping and handling at: Bows
and Sons Publishing; 2055 Washington Street; Hanover, MA 02339. It will be
the best investment you have made ever for a modest (!) 1200 pages. People
who have served in Vietnam and earned a perspective on that sad affair will
profit even more than those who are reading of it for the first time. Joe
Galloway's moving endorsement is the way all of the work's readers will react.
My own immediate reaction is in the enclosed letter to the author.
Ray Bows, 1 Dec
I'm certain that many people have said this before, but its my turn. Reading
your first 475 pages brought me on board well before I got that far. Some
subject areas like Ap Bac touched me particularly, in large part because my
long term appreciation of John Paul Vann (since our time as company
commanders in Colonel Bruce Palmer's 16th Infantry Regiment in 1953). Your
concept of working the personalities of your witnesses, and their issues
chronologically has really paid off.
I have said often that our ignorance of "people's war" assured we would lose
the one in which we were involved without ever realizing what was happening.
The innocence you narrate in your first pages make this grim statement very
credible. We did what we knew how to do, not very much that was relevant.
The intellectual baggage we acquired with our focus on the Fulda Gap left
other military concerns out of our consciousness.
I want to offer you some people to consider interviewing as you write of the
years since 1966. Don Marshall was a WWII NCO who ended up doing a PHD at
Harvard in General Anthropology. Carleton Coon got the only other one they
authorized before they decided it was too broad a subject area for one man to
master. Marshall worked in the islands with Kinsey on his sexual analyses
before he went to the Army War College as a reservist. He met Abrams there
and so impressed him that he was invited back on active duty in 1963 to work
Vietnam. He was in country off and on for the next eight (?) years. Before
I knew him, my time in Laos had convinced me that our Special Force needed an
understanding of how to "cross cultures," and that listening to
anthropologists would pay off. General Yarborough shared this belief and
adopted this theme for all of us.
Don spent a lot of time with me in Hau Nghia working a supposition that if a
particular tactic would succeed there, it would apply anywhere. And of
course nothing we tried worked there.
Another of my superb advisory team members from Trang Bang district is also
in town. My intention-if you agree-is to alert these people and their
colleagues to what you've done already, suggest they read it and then go to
you with their perspectives on our special world, Hau Nghia province. A
young scholar at Berkeley, Eric Bergerud, did a stand-out job on this world
in his The Dynamics of Defeat.
I found only part of the after-action report that I wanted you to read. I
will work further on this and have added some other paper to compensate for
this shortage. You need to appreciate the attitudes and operations of
"user's" of the American unit's perspective. You probably do, but I'm not
yet far enough down into your first volume to know that.