Stockdale Would Agree With Us
It is interesting to see in your info graphic (December 2014) that 84 percent of us agree that LBJ did purposely “mislead the nation” regarding the August 4 Gulf of Tonkin “repeated attacks.” Guess who else would agree? Admiral Jim Stockdale, who had the facts because he was there. Then a Navy squadron commander, Stockdale was in his F-8 Crusader above Maddox and Turner Joy on the night of Aug. 4, 1964.
When Stockdale was debriefed in the Ticonderoga ready room following the incident, he was asked if he’d seen any enemy boats. “Not a one,” he replied. “No boats, no boat wakes, no ricochets off boats, no boat gunfire, no torpedo wakes…nothing but black sea and American firepower.”
In his book In Love and War, Stockdalestates that when he was shot down and made a POW a year later, on Sept. 9, 1965,he was afraid the North Vietnamese knew he was the guy in the sky that night. He feared that they would make him refute “repeated attacks,” the official LBJ pronouncement and the justification to go to war. Stockdale believed he was in possession of treasonous information. The North Vietnamese never even asked him about the August 4 incident. They did not know who they had.
Redondo Beach, Calif.
Le Ha’s Ingenuity
“Our Woman in Saigon” (December2014), about Le Ha, who uncovered a Communist sabotage ring at Esso petroleum for the CIA, was quite a story. One of the most amazing parts was that after the fall of Saigon, she found a way to use the corruption of her new Communist masters to escape from Vietnam! How the Viet Cong terrorized Esso employees’ families to force them to work for the VC uncovers one of the unknown “fronts” of the war.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
While Marc Leepson tells us upfront that his “Top 30 Vietnam War Books” (December 2014) is “very subjective,” I still find the list flawed. He includes three titles by Tim O’Brien, yet leaves off one of the most important works by anyone at any time. I speak, of course, of Dispatches, by Michael Herr. Y’all keep up the good work.
Marc Leepson seriously missed the mark by not including 365 Days, by Ronald J.Glasser, one of the first books, maybe even the first, to expose the facts of the war.
If memory serves me right, Stolen Valor identifies two phonies as two of the men in Bloods, listed in “Top 30 Vietnam War Books.” Also my favorite book of nonfiction on Vietnam is Hill 488, by Ray Hildreth.
Charles City, Iowa
Marc Leepson’s nonfiction list omitted We Were Soldiers Once…and Young, by Lt. Gen.Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway. It remains one of the most powerful and memorable books on the war that I’ve read,and I’ve read many.
I was surprised at the omission of Frances FitzGerald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Fire in the Lake, published to wide acclaim in 1972. Another good book is Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War. Bao, a North Vietnamese Army veteran, penned a fictional memoir that is right up there with Matterhorn and The Things They Carried in its depiction of the life of a soldier in combat and the impact war has on human beings, regardless of which side one is fighting on or for.
Patrick Nolan , Adjunct professor of history,
Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
I served in the Marine Corps Reserve from1970 to 1977 and later had some regrets for not going to Vietnam. That was until I read Wandering Souls, by Wayne Karlin. It follows the journey of 1st Lt. Homer Steedly Jr., as a soldier who shot and killed a North Vietnamese medic in a kill-or-be killed encounter and then his redemption in 2008, when he returned to Vietnam to mourn with the victim’s family. If such a book could help one troubled veteran rebound, it’s well worth my recommendation.
Editor’s note: Vietnam featured an excerpt from Wandering Souls in December 2009.
VFW? No Thanks
I read the interview with John Hamilton on how great the VFW is (August 2014). Following my tour in 1968, I drove by our local VFW and asked about joining. One of the guys there told me they don’t take losers.I left and never went back. You know it was hard enough coming back to a country that hated us, but to be treated bad by my own kind was worse. I got on with my life with help from my family; please don’t tell me how wonderful the VFW is.
Originally published in the February 2015 issue of Vietnam. To subscribe, click here.