Arts of War By Marc Leepson

Welcome to “Arts of War,” Vietnam Veterans of America’s up-to-the-minute compendium of information, news and reviews about the arts—movies, television, stage plays, musicals, music, dance, popular and fine arts, and more—that deal with Vietnam veterans and the Vietnam War.

This web page replaces the “Arts of War” column that ran in Vietnam Veterans of America’s national magazine, The VVA Veteran, from 1986-2009. That popular column was written by The VVA Veteran’s arts editor, Marc Leepson, who continues that work on this web site.

We encourage feedback. Please email your comments, questions, and suggestions to

Posted on January 28th 2009 in Comments

Bobbie Ann Mason Receives Kentucky Literary Honor

Bobbie Ann Mason, the acclaimed novelist and short story writer, was inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame on January 28. Mason, who grew up in Mayfield, Kentucky, and still lives in the Bluegrass State, has been writing top-notch literary fiction since 1982, when her book, Shiloh and Other Stories, came out.

Other members of the Hall of Fame include Robert Penn Warren, Thomas Merton, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Hunter S. Thompson, and Guy Davenport.

Mason’s body of work includes the novel In Country (1985), which deals with the quest of a fifteen-year-old Kentucky girl to find out about the life of her father, who was killed in the Vietnam War. It’s one of the best literary examinations of the legacy of the Vietnam War. In County was made into a big 1989 Hollywood movie  starring Bruce Willis as an emotionally fragile but heroic Vietnam veteran.

Bobbie Ann Mason received the Vietnam Veterans of America President’s Award for Excellence in the Arts at our 1989 National Convention.

Bobbie Ann Mason

Posted on January 31st 2016 in Book News, Feature Films, Fiction, Honors and Prizes, Vietnam War

Creative Writing Contest: The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans


The Jeff Scharlet Memorial Award for Veterans is a creative writing contest for U.S. military veterans and active duty personnel. It’s run by The Iowa Review and sponsored by the family of Sharlet (in photo, above), a Vietnam veteran and antiwar activist who died in 1969. The Review— which is published by the faculty, students, and staff of the famed writing and literature programs at the University of Iowa—will be taking writing submissions in any genre and about any subject matter between May 1 and June 1. There is no entry fee. The judge this year is the award-winning writer and Iraq War veteran Phil Klay.

The first place winner will receive $1,000 and have his or her work published in the Spring 2017 issue of The Iowa Review. Second place receives $750; three runners-up, $500 each.

Here are the contest’s official rules:

  • Submit a manuscript in any genre (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction) of up to 20 pages. Prose submissions must be double-spaced. Work must be previously unpublished. Simultaneous submissions are fine, assuming you inform us of acceptance elsewhere.
  • The judge will select winners from a group of finalists chosen by Iowa Review editors. All manuscripts, whether selected as finalists or not, are considered for publication.
  • To submit online, please visit beginning May 1, 2016, and follow the instructions.
  • To submit via mail, please follow these guidelines:
    1. Manuscripts must include a cover page listing your name, address, e-mail address and/or telephone number, and the title of each work, but your name should not appear on the manuscript itself.
    2. If you would like a yearlong subscription to the magazine for the discounted rate of $10, please enclose a check or money order for $10. (Please note that while we appreciate all new subscribers, purchasing a subscription will not increase your chances of winning the contest.)
    3. Label your envelope as a contest entry and note its genre. For example: “Veterans’ Contest: Fiction.” One entry per envelope. (Note: multiple poems or prose pieces can comprise a single entry if the total number of pages does not exceed 20. For instance, you may submit two short stories of ten pages each in a single envelope, with a single entry fee.)
    4. Enclose a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) for final word on your work. Manuscripts will not be returned.
    5. Postmark submissions by June 1, 2016, and mail to the address below.

The Iowa Review
308 EPB
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242

More rules:

Current students, faculty, or staff of the University of Iowa are not eligible to enter the contest.

Work is ineligible to win our contest if it is slated for publication before April 2017, whether in another magazine or as part of a book, or if it has been named winner or runner-up in any other contest. Please withdraw work from our contest immediately if these conditions apply.

The judge has been instructed not to award the prize to entrants with whom he has had a personal or professional relationship. Despite reading the entries with author names removed, the judge may sometimes be able to guess the identity of the entrant. Even if he can’t tell during the judging process, he has the right to change his decision if it turns out that the entrant is someone with whom there is any appearance of conflict of interest. Therefore, we advise entrants not to enter the contest if the judge is someone they know personally or have worked with professionally.

‘Veterans in Politics’ radio

“Veterans in Politics,” the weekly radio show produced by Steve Sanson and hosted by Jim Jonas (above), will feature an interview on December 19 at 1:45 pm Pacific Time with award-winning screenplay writer David Bryant Perkins focusing on how writing a screenplay can can act as therapy for veterans. Also on the agenda: tips on how to sell a script.

For more info, including how to listen on line, go to the show’s website.

Posted on December 14th 2015 in Feature Films, Radio

The Photography of Muhammad Abdus-Sabur in NYC




“Fruit Harmony”


The current exhibition at the Agora Gallery in New York City is an impressive selection of photography by the painter and photographer by Muhammad Abdus-Sabur, who—among many other things—served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

The show, titled “Illumination: An Exhibition of Fine Art Photography, ” opened earlier this month and runs through November 24. The gallery is in Chelsea at  530 W. 25th Street. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Posted on November 14th 2015 in Art, Art Exhibits

New VN War Exhibit Opens at Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, Pa.



To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the start of U.S. combat operations in the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, will open a new exhibit today, November 6, called “Courage, Commitment, and Fear: The American Soldier in the Vietnam War.” The exhibit features the first-person stories of Army veterans of the Vietnam War. The curators of the exhibit say that its emphasis is on “honorable service and varied experiences of the American soldier in the Vietnam War.”

The exhibit includes realistic representations of a spider hole and several booby traps so that visitors can get a feeling for some of the things American troops faced on the ground in Vietnam. There’s also a film called  “Our Journey Through War,” which has interviews with Vietnam veterans and their families.

The exhibit will be on display for two years. The opening ceremony is free and open to the public. For more info, go to or call 717-245-3972.

Posted on November 6th 2015 in History, Museums, Vietnam War

New HBO Doc on Richard Holbrooke


Richard Holbrooke was an important voice in U.S. foreign policy from his first State Department assignment in 1963 as a civilian AID worker in South Vietnam until his death in 2010. Along the way, he served two stints as Assistant Secretary of State, and also was U.S. Ambassador to Germany and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Holbrooke served in Vietnam with AID and at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, and later as an important Vietnam War adviser to President Lyndon Johnson. He also helped write The Pentagon Papers—the secret official DOD history of the Vietnam War. He was part of the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace talks during the war and in 1977, as Assistant Secretary of State, started talks with Vietnamese officials to re-establish relations.

Holbrooke is the subject of a new documentary, The Diplomat, which was put together by his son David Holbrooke. It will be shown tonight for the first time on HBO at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

“David Holbrooke frames the film partly as a career retrospective and partly as his own rediscovery of his father, who was often absent while he was growing up,” Neil Genzlinger wrote in his New York Times review of the doc. “He puts just enough of himself and his extended family into ‘The Diplomat’ to give it some audience-friendly poignancy.

“Mr. Holbrooke’s early work in South Vietnam as a newbie in his early 20s made him a witness to history, and not history at its finest. ‘He can see McNamara asking the wrong questions, getting wishful answers,’ George Packer, Mr. Holbrooke’s biographer, says, referring to a visit to the country by Robert S. McNamara, then the secretary of defense.”

Posted on November 2nd 2015 in Documentaries, History, On TV, Vietnam War

Jefferson Starship Free Concert in D.C. Nov. 8



One of the highlights of Vietnam Veterans of America’s National Convention in July was the live appearance of Jefferson Starship at the Tuesday evening Welcome Home concert.

The Starship—still rocking in 2015, as those who saw them perform at the Convention will attest—will present a Salute to America Concert in honor of Vietnam veterans and their families on Sunday, November 8, at 2:00 p.m. at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The concert, also starring the Grass Roots, is free and open to the public. All seats are reserved, and are available only through Ticketmaster on-line for a processing fee of $2.

There is no limit on the number of tickets you can order, and you do not have to be a veteran to receive tickets. For more information, email

Posted on October 29th 2015 in Music

‘American Boys’ Wins Big Book Honor


Journalist Louise Esola‘s book, American Boys, which we reviewed on The VVA Veteran‘s Books in Review II page back in January, has been named the grand prize winner of the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards for 2015.

The book tells the story of the USS Frank E. Evans—a Navy destroyer cut in two by an Australian aircraft carrier in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam in 1969—and the ongoing quest to have the names of those who perished engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“I self-published American Boys after years of trying to get a publisher—by way of three literary agents—to take on a Vietnam War book,” Esola said. “This story is important to a lot of people.”

Escola’s article, “The Continuing Tragedy of the USS Frank E. Evans, appeared in the July/August print issue of The VVA Veteran.

Posted on October 15th 2015 in Book News, History, Honors and Prizes, Vietnam War

Eddie Adams’ Enduring Vietnam War Photos

Eddie Adams, who died in 2004, was one of the most accomplished photojournalists of the Vietnam War. Working for the Associated Press, Adams spent more than three years covering the war. He received the Pulitzer Prize for photography for takng one of the war’s most iconic photos: of South Vietnamese Gen. Loan shooting a Viet Cong lieutenant in the head in the streets of Saigon during Tet ’68.

Fifty of Adams’ rarely viewed photos, including the two black-and-white shots above, were on exhibit from May 25 through September 11 at the Dublin Arts Council in Ohio. A large collection of his work is for sale at the Monroe Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“Eddie’s genius is his talent for capturing tension in every photo, whether it be the still of a murder or the animation in the eyes of a movie star,” said former Parade magazine editor-in-chief Walter Anderson, a Vietnam veteran who received the VVA Excellence in the Arts Award at the 2015 National Convention. “He is eclectic, incomparable and cantankerous. He is unyielding in the pursuit of excellence.”

Adams in Vietnam during the war



Posted on October 10th 2015 in Art Exhibits, Photography, Vietnam War

‘Children of the April Rain’ Play in D.C. Nov. 10

Vietnam Babylift, the nonprofit dedicated to honoring Operation Babylift—the massive evacuation of children from South Vietnam in the waning days of the Vietnam War in April 1975— is sponsoring a staged reading of the play “Children of the April Rain” on November 10, at 6:00 p.m. at the Women in Military Service to America (WIMSA) Memorial Theater at Arlington National Cemetery.

This free event on the eve of Veterans Day in the Nation’s Capital is being produced by the actor/director Dan Franko and will include a cast of veteran actors. A reception will follow the reading.

For more info email Lana Noone, who for many years has run the website at

Posted on October 7th 2015 in Drama, Plays, Vietnam War