As the North Vietnamese Army captured Saigon, Ba Van Nguyen was one of the thousands of South Vietnamese desperately fleeing the country. Nguyen, a major in the South Vietnamese Air Force, would be executed and his family would be sent to concentration camps if he was caught. But Major Nguyen had a plan: he'd moved his family to his mother-in-law's house near a soccer field, and told his wife to listen for--and be ready when she heard--the distinctive whump-whump-whump-whump chopping sound made by the twin rotors of his CH-47 Chinook, the largest helicopter in the South Vietnamese Air Force. Early on the morning of April 29, 1975…
Marlene Sanders’ Feminist Legacy [Slate obit] - "She wrote of her accomplishments: 'As I look back on my career, the women's movement provided an exceptional point when time, place and position all came together to give me the power and focus to contribute to the country’s awareness of the status of women.'" [more inside]
Sơn Đoòng 360: A series of 360° panoramas allows anyone with an internet connection to experience Vietnam's Son Doong cave, one of the planet's biggest. [more inside]
As John Denver's US prominence waned into the 1980s, opposite the rise of new wave and harder rock, he kept touring internationally for some notable firsts. In 1979, Denver was one of the performers to welcome Chinese Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping to the US, and six years later, Denver was the first western artist to tour in the USSR, where he performed alongside Kermit the Frog. In 1992, he had another first for a western peformer, when Denver toured mainland China, to find that many of his audiences already knew his songs. Two years later, he was the first US act in Vietnam since the Vietnam War. [more inside]
"The Scene of the Crime: A reporter’s journey to My Lai and the secrets of the past" by Seymour M. Hersh
For a little perspective on the 50th anniversary, consider this: we’re now as distant from the 1960s as the young Bob Dylan was from Teddy Roosevelt. For today’s typical college students, the Age of Aquarius is ancient history. Most of their parents weren’t even alive in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson launched a massive escalation of the Vietnam War, initiating the daily bombing of the entire country, North and South, and an enormous buildup of more than half a million troops.
Robert Stone, Novelist of the Vietnam Era and Beyond, Dies at 77 [New York Times]
"Robert Stone, who wrote ambitious, award-winning novels about errant Americans in dangerous circumstances or on existential quests — or both — as commentary on an unruly, wayward nation in the Vietnam era and beyond, died on Saturday at his home in Key West, Fla. He was 77.[more inside]
Hang Én, a huge cave in central Vietnam, is filled with thousands of swallows, and has a beach campsite in its main cavern. It's been scouted by Warner Brothers as a location for 'Peter Pan' and is the gateway to Sơn Đoòng cave, said to be the world's largest.
Cousu Main (which starts here) is an adaptation of The Great British Sewing Bee, and the blog of one of the participants features significant spoilers for this season. Although it's in French, the show is not hard for an English speaker to follow, just as Project Runway Vietnam (2013: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8), Project Runway Korea (2009: 1 2 3 4 5 6 ...), and Projeto Fashion from Brazil--among others--make some sense to those familiar with the English-language series Project Runway Australia, Project Runway Canada, Project Runway Malaysia (2007 finale: 1-5 and 6), Project Runway Philippines (2008: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15), and Mission Catwalk from Jamaica.
As North Vietnamese forces marched towards Saigon in 1975, Citibank employee John Riordan (Warning: Autoplaying video) was ordered by Citibank to burn everything important and evacuate. In Hong Kong, he and his manager discussed the situation of their Vietnamese coworkers, who were in grave danger because they had worked for an American company. [more inside]
Rusty Compass is a travel website that focuses on Vietnam and Cambodia. It is the work of one man, Australian Mark Bowyer, who has lived in Vietnam since 1993. There are the usual reviews of hotels, restaurants and tourist sites, travel tips and advice, but what makes it really special are videos and blog posts about local people and events, fascinating stories told with charm. [more inside]
The Texas Tech Vietnam Center and Archive "collects and preserves the documentary record of the Vietnam War, and supports and encourages research and education regarding all aspects of the American Vietnam Experience." It includes vast sections of digitized material, including audio, video, maps, as well as all manner of documents. [more inside]
Waiting for your lottery number. James, Oklahoma, 1969, No. 365. I arrived at the dorm and went to my friend’s room where 12 of us were watching the lottery. I remember we had cases of beers to help us through. We knew this day could forever change our lives. When I came into the room I could feel the tension and see that the lottery had already started. It wasn't a big show on TV; it was just a series of numbers scrolling across the bottom of the screen while “I Love Lucy” played above. [more inside]
"At that point when you say who were the people who stayed to the last, at that point I still had with me in Saigon, a couple of pretty determined and brawny types with whom I was able to get on the Embassy fence and we physically were lifting these people across. And we had a couple of military officers in the crowd with whom we had a deal that if they pick out of the crowd the people that we want, then in the end we will lift them in and they can go too. Well we did that. We made deals like that with the police all through the day. We were able to move people through the city of Saigon by making deals with police officers and saying, "Put your families in among these people and when we safely put them on the plane or safely put them on the bus then we are going to take you too. That worked very well." -- On Monday, The Washington Post published the obituary of Tom Polgar, the last CIA head of station in Vietnam and linked to his memories of the years he spend in Vietnam and the final evacuation of Saigon, written in 2013 for the Pushing on blog, which is largely dedicated to the War on Vietnam and the fall of Saigon.
Begun at the edge of summer last year, Wanderrlust is the ongoing photography and travel blog of H.J. and Courtney Derr as they travel across the expanse of Southeast Asia. It began in Vietnam with the purchase of two cheap motorcycles and an eye to explore the country. So far they have experienced Ho Chi Minh City, drifted into the Mekong Delta, and to the City of a Thousand Pines. Don't miss the "warts and all" entry to discuss the things that haven't been so fun on their journey so far.
Don't fight it. It's the year of the oral history. If there hasn't yet been an oral history on your favorite pop culture phenomenon, it won't be long. In the meantime, for your reading pleasure, how about starting with an oral history of Captain Marvel: The Series? Or perhaps you'd rather read about The Telluride Bluegrass Festival? If your taste runs more toward technology, check out an oral history of Apple design. More reading inside! [more inside]
"Untold History of the United States challenges the basic narrative of the U.S. history that most Americans have been taught.... [Such history] is consoling; it is comforting. But it only tells a small part of the story." Instead of clips of modern people pondering the past, Oliver Stone's ten-part series relies heavily on archival footage and clips from old Hollywood films, with narration by Stone. Towards the end, he gets into the assassination of JFK, "but that should not detract from a series that sets out to be a counterweight to the patriotic cheerleading and myth-making." [more inside]
This is The Big Picture, an official television report of the United States Army, produced for the armed forces and the American people. Now to show you part of The Big Picture here is Master Sargent Stuart Queen
The series consists of ~822 documentaries produced by the United States Army Signal Corps Army Pictorial Service from 1951 to 1971 to educate both soldiers in uniform and the American public about military concerns as well as things like historical battles, world geography, famous soldiers, the latest weapons, space exploration, strategic objectives, peaceful initiatives, and the life of a soldier. Being a product of the Federal Government it belongs to the the American people, and is thus freely available to all to copy and distribute. Most can now be viewed on archive.org[more inside]
Far from Vietnam 1967 (Loin du Vietnam) Far from Vietnam (French: Loin du Vietnam) is a 1967 French documentary film directed by Joris Ivens. In seven different parts, Godard, Klein, Lelouch, Marker, Resnais and Varda show their sympathy for the North-Vietnamese army during the Vietnam-war. [more inside]
'Legendary Vietnam Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap dies.' 'Vo Nguyen Giap, the brilliant and ruthless self-taught general who drove the French out of Vietnam to free it from colonial rule and later forced the Americans to abandon their grueling effort to save the country from communism, has died. At age 102, he was the last of Vietnam's old-guard revolutionaries.' 'To military scholars around the world, he was one of the 20th century’s leading practitioners of modern revolutionary guerrilla warfare.' [more inside]
John Banvard, 95, Gerard Nadeau, 67, were married Thursday at a Chula Vista, CA Veterans' senior living facility. Mr. Banvard, a World War II vet, and Mr. Nadeau, a Vietnam vet, have been together for 20 years, and were married at the facility despite the opposition of some residents. In response to the opposition, Mr. Nadeau said, "Oh, that's their problem not mine, but you know what this will do, open the door for other people." [more inside]
Many years ago, I found a quarter inch audio reel in a rotting cardboard box, covered in dust, while helping my dear friend and mentor, Lighting Cameraman John B. Peters, clean up his garage. He told me it had been recorded in Vietnam during his coverage of that war. On the box, still legible, was handwritten: “Firefight, no name village, near Chu Lai, September 10, 1966, Nagra 3, 3,75 I.P.S.” John recalled that he was out with a patrol that day, and when the Vietcong ambushed them, they all had to duck for cover, but his soundman kept the audio recorder rolling throughout the duration of the fierce firefight that followed.
Former CBS Reporter Bruce Dunning, who reported the story of the last flight from Da Nang, has died at the age of 73. [more inside]
The history of the hamburger could be a relatively short story, or one spanning centuries and continents, depending on how far you disassemble the modern hamburger. If you look for the origins of ground meat between two pieces of bread, that's something American, but where and when exactly is the question. But how did we get the ground meat patty? You can thank the Mongols and Kublai Khan, who brought their ground meat to Russia. Oh, and don't forget the fish sauce! [more inside]
"But The Shining speaks to what makes Kubrick such an interesting and, for a lot of people, troublesome filmmaker, because he does not give you what you want. At all. He does not give you a Vietnam movie set in the jungle, and he does not give you a horror movie that is just like Stephen King’s The Shining. He doesn’t even give you scares for a long time, [just] ominous foreboding. And it takes people a while to figure out, “Oh, maybe I don’t know what I want. Maybe this is better.” - Mefi's Own Jon Hodgman talks about Full Metal Jacket with Scott Tobias for "The Last Great Movie I Saw."
Should viewer discretion be advised for pictures of children with congenital deformities? One Ontario woman doesn't think so: "I am 'deformed' and reading that viewer discretion warning ahead of the article (amounted) to telling me that every time I left the house I should wear a similar warning." [more inside]
Fascinating pics of Vietnam in the 1980s (Part 1) (Part 2). Photographs by Philip Jones Griffiths. Here's a 1993 interview.
In the Year of the Pig is a documentary on the Vietnam war, produced and originally released in 1968 as the war raged. It begins with some background on the end of the French colonial period, then moves on to the American involvement. It features gripping historical footage from the war itself and from leading political players of the time. At the time of its release, a New York Times review said "There are no frills and few ifs, ands or buts about the stinging, graphic and often frighteningly penetrating movie". It is highly recommended for anyone seeking to understand more of the history of the war. Viewable in its entirety here.
Kids In Vietnam Are Crazy Good At Programming - '11th graders in Vietnam are so good at programming that they could easily pass an interview at Google' (via)
Declassified tapes of President Lyndon Johnson's telephone calls provide a fresh insight into his world. Among the revelations - he planned a dramatic entry into the 1968 Democratic Convention to re-join the presidential race. And he caught Richard Nixon sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks... but said nothing.
The Things They Leave Behind. "When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened 30 years ago, something unexpected happened: People started leaving things at the wall. One veteran has spent decades cataloging the letters, mementos, and other artifacts of loss — all 400,000 of them." (Via.) [more inside]
On July 17, 1945, the OSS Deer Team, led by Major A. K. Thomas, was parachuted in the jungle 200 km north of Hanoi, to make contact with a mysterious group of resistance fighters willing to help the US against the Japanese. They were greeted cordially by the group leader, "Mr C. M. Hoo", a sick-looking older man, and his acolyte "Mr Van", a dapper man wearing a white linen suit and a black fedora (and he did like his fedora). From mid-July to the Japanese capitulation, the Deer Team trained Hoo's ragtag band, provided them with explosives and small arms and followed them during skirmishes. They also allegedly saved Ho(o)'s life. Major Thomas' full report on the Deer Mission (including the FPP title and the line Forget the Communist Bogy) is buried in the 1972 Hearings on the causes of the Vietnam war (see also the same events according to Henri Prunier, last surviving member of the Deer Team). [more inside]
LOI, Vietnam — They had no plan to break barriers or cause trouble. But 30 years ago in this bucolic village in northern Vietnam, the fierce determination of one group of women to become mothers upended centuries-old gender rules and may have helped open the door for a nation to redefine parenthood.
Vice details dining on dog in Hanoi. (Trigger warning; pics of roast dog, graphic text). Dog eating is not limited to South East Asia, there's a historical precedent almost everywhere in the world, and is still eaten in parts of Europe. [more inside]
Stanley Karnow, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and historian, has died at age 87. He won the prize in 1990 for his book In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines (discussed on Booknotes). He is best known, however for his work on Vietnam. His book Vietnam: A History was widely acclaimed and its companion series on PBS, Vietnam: A Television History won six Emmys and a Peabody award and was one of the most widely watched documentaries on PBS. He discussed the war in 2000 in this Salon interview. Needless to say, his reporting was not appreciated by everyone.
DNA analysis has confirmed the death, by poaching, of the last Javan rhino in Vietnam. This marks the official extinction of the Vietnamese subspecies of Javan rhinoceros. The entire species is now represented by just 35 individuals from the Indonesian subspecies, all of whom reside in Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia.
Western tourists (mostly female) visiting Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, and Bali) are ending up dead, likely poisoned. Local officials have blamed the use of the insecticide DEET as an exotic ingredient in so-called "Bucket Drinks", or the use of Chlorpyrifos in hotel rooms. But Deborah Blum, an author and poison expert, doesn't buy into the insecticide theories offered by local officials. She thinks this looks like targeted murders. Since writing about the poisonings, she says she's been contacted by people who claim poisoning foreigners is common in 5-star hotels, and the police and owners cover it up.. A Facebook group was formed not only so that world travelers could share safe travel tips, but also so that notice of the unexplained, and often uninvestigated, deaths could be made public.
A comic written by Julian Bond and published in 1967, after he was expelled from the Georgia House of Representatives for opposing the war in Viet Nam. [Warning: n-word is used once as an example of hate speech] [more inside]
The first thing we learned about war re-enactment is that it's fucking terrifying having guns fired at you, even ones loaded with blanks. The second thing we learned is a common re-enactor's dilemma called "The G.I. Effect", which is basically that people playing Americans don't like to die. So sometimes they just don't.It's Like Vietnam All Over Again, pt 1. Part 2
"Honey laundering is a complex exercise that involves several players in the honey chain from apiary to wholesaler to retailer. In the case against ALW, evidence was presented to show the use of fake country-of-origin documents for shipments, replacement of labels on Chinese containers with fraudulent ones, switching of honey containers in a third country, and even the blending of Chinese honey with glucose syrup or honey from another country."
On April 26th, 1988 ABC aired a made for tv movie as a backdoor pilot called China Beach. It went on to be a critically loved, audience deprived show that lasted four seasons from 1988 - 1991. [more inside]
Malcolm Browne, the war correspondent who took one of the most iconic and disturbing photographs of the Vietnam conflict, has died. He was 81. [more inside]
A tale from Van Phuc village is a short film by Tibetan filmmaker Tsering Tashi Gyalthang. Half-fiction/half-documentary, this short shows the singular craft of Nguyen Van Long, who spent several decades entertaining children in the Thu Le park in Hanoi, Vietnam by playing his hand-made flipbook cartoons or 5-min celluloid movies on a Soviet projector.
Three years ago, Phil Jablon (aka The Projectionist) started a concerted effort to start documenting the rapidly-vanishing stand-alone movie theaters and former theaters in Southeast Asia. Today his website, The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project is a historian and movie-theater lover's dream. Jablon has captured the faded, the lost, the torched, the almost lost, the repurposed, the reborn, and the unbounded. [more inside]
The photograph of 9 year old Phan Thi Kim Phuc (often referred to as the "napalm girl"), taken nearly 40 years ago on June 8th in 1972 by press photographer Nick Ut, won a Pulitzer Prize at the time and became one of the most important images from the Vietnam War era. [more inside]
The United States sees the world as Vietnam does: threatened by growing Chinese power. [more inside]