Fight Over Vietnam at Nixon Library
The selection of a new director for the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, has been snarled in a controversy over the library’s treatment of the Vietnam War, according to the library’s former director, Tim Naftali, who resigned in 2011 and is now director of the Tamiment Library at New York University. In 2012 the National Archives and Records Administration, which manages the library, picked Mark Lawrence, a historian at the University of Texas in Austin, to fill the role, but the library’s fundraising partner, the Nixon Foundation, did not approve of the choice, Naftali stated in an opinion piece in the Chicago Sun-Times. Foundation approval of presidential library directors is not required, but the National Archives prefers it.
Lawrence is the author of The Vietnam War: A Concise International History, and the Nixon Foundation does not like his take on the war, according to Naftali, who notes that a foundation leader told the Orange County Register that Lawrence’s perspective “was just different” and added, “I’m not going any further on that.” The foundation wants to revamp the museum and write the script for all the exhibits—including the one on Vietnam, according to Naftali, who clashed with the foundation over the Watergate exhibit. The foundation refused to meet with Lawrence, and he withdrew from consideration.
Scrapping the USS Saratoga
The venerable aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, launched in 1955 and now moored in Newport, Rhode Island, will meet its demise in a Brownsville, Texas, scrapyard. The Navy has contracted with a recycling company to remove and dismantle the behemoth for 1 cent, according to NavyTimes.com.
The company will get the proceeds from selling the recycled steel. Stretching as long as the Empire State building is tall, the vessel was deployed in the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam War and Gulf War. In 1972-73, Saratoga was stationed in the Gulf of Tonkin, carrying planes that flew more than 1,500 missions against targets in North Vietnam. In 1973, the carrier rescued a gunner who had ejected from a downed B-52.
The ship was decommissioned in 1994. Veterans groups affiliated with Saratoga tried to raise money to turn it into a floating museum, but those plans did not work out.
Tribute to a War Photographer
Photographer Art Greenspon became an honorary member of the 327th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division in a ceremony at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on May 19. Greenspon was recognized for his black-and-white photograph Help From Above, snapped during a five-day patrol with the unit in Vietnam’s A Shau Valley near Laos. Greenspon, who headed to Vietnam in late 1967 as a freelance photographer, recalled that he was “too naive to be scared,” reported the NCAdvertiser, a newspaper in New Canaan, Connecticut, where Greenspon now lives. His picture, taken in 1968, shows a man with upraised arms directing a helicopter that is ready to land. Greenspon sold it to The Associated Press for $15. He was badly wounded shortly afterward and returned to the States. His photograph became one of the war’s best known and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Rx or R.I.P. for Rhinos?
The Asian thirst for the supposed healing powers of ground rhino horn is driving the animals to the brink of extinction, and Vietnam is reputed to be the product’s biggest market. To preserve the species and counter medical myths, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health and the Traditional Medicine Association issued a statement saying no evidence supports the belief that rhino horn has the power to fight cancer. The announcement was made at a workshop in Hanoi sponsored by the World Wildlife Federation, South Africa.
Rhino poaching in South Africa surged from 13 in 2007 to more than 1,000 in 2013, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. The most endangered rhinoceros species is the Javan rhino, which once inhabited Vietnam and Indonesia. The last Javan rhino in Vietnam was poached in 2010, and only a few dozen survive in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia.
Adapt or Drown
As a nation where 70 percent of the people live along the coast, Vietnam is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels related to climate change. The country has already taken steps, in collaborative aid projects valued at nearly half a billion dollars, to build flood-resilient sea dikes, roads and houses. The efforts also include planting mangrove trees as a buffer against rising water and to help absorb runoff. In a recent projection, 10 percent of Ho Chi Minh City will be flooded from rising sea levels by 2050 and 20 percent will be under water by 2100. The director of the Water Management and Climate Change Research Center in Ho Chi Minh City has said that an improved sewer system is critical for dealing with the increase in flooding.
Dengue Fever on the Rise
The mosquito-borne Dengue virus, which produces high fevers and aching bones, is being spread by insecticide-resistant mosquitoes. Dengue fever cases in Vietnam are up 28 percent over last year. Four of the 8,000 infected patients have died. The disease is colloquially known in the United States as breakbone fever because of the excruciating pain that victims suffer.
DNA Results Challenge Identity Claim
He has claimed to be lost Army sergeant John Hartley Robertson, missing since his helicopter crashed over Laos in 1968, but a man living in Vietnam under the name of Dang Tan Ngoc is now confronted with DNA tests that don’t back up his story that he was taken prisoner, escaped and created a false identity. A forensics laboratory compared a DNA sample from Robertson’s nephew with one from a bloodstain obtained from Ngoc, according to a May 12 story in Stars and Stripes.
VVA Presents Awards for Excellence in Arts
Each year, the Vietnam Veterans of America presents awards honoring excellence in the arts. The 2014 recipients are actor Tucker Smallwood; musician and composer Kimo Williams (the subject of a Vietnam magazine profile in April 2014); musician and author Terrie Frankel; and writer Jim Northrup.
Smallwood, best known for his roles in Star Trek Enterprise and The X-Files, was drafted into the Army in 1967, volunteered for Officer Candidate School and went to Jump School and Special Warfare School before commanding a five-man Advisory Team in the Mekong Delta, where he was severely wounded. In 2006, after making a return trip to Vietnam, Smallwood published an anthology of essays, Return to Eden.
Williams, following his service with the 20th Combat Engineer Brigade in Lai Khe in 1970, pursued a career composing, performing and recording music. He co-founded the Lt. Dan Band, which performed for military personnel worldwide from 2004 to 2012.
In 1968, 18-year-old Terrie Frankel and her twin sister, Jennie—who had appeared as The Doublemint Twins—took their guitar-and-accordion act to Vietnam for the USO. Terrie became a producer, screenwriter and composer, as well as an author of several books, including the best-selling You’ll Never Make Love in This Town Again (1996), which she co-authored with her sister, who died in 2008.
Poet and novelist Northrup enlisted in the Marines in 1962 and served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1966. In his latest book, Dirty Copper, Northrup, who is a member of the Anishinaabe in northern Minnesota, writes about Vietnam vet Luke Warmwater, a Native American with post-traumatic stress disorder who becomes a deputy sheriff in Minnesota.
Originally published in the October 2014 issue of Vietnam. To subscribe, click here.