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

New Operation Babylift Play

Part of the upcoming 2015 commemorations of the 1975 Vietnam War Operation Babylift—the government plan to get orphans out of South Vietnam as the nation was about to fall to the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong—will include an original two-act play, the first ever about that humanitarian mission.

To find out more about the play, including booking arrangements, email or go to

The official Vietnam “Operation Babylift” 40th anniversary program will be held on April 25, 2015, at the New Jersey Vietnam Era Educational Center in Holmdel, N.J.

Posted on July 22nd 2014 in Plays

Homer Hickam’s Latest Sci Fi Novel

Homer Hickam, the author of acclaimed memoir Rocket Boys, and the recipient of VVA’s Excellence in the Arts Award, also has written many other books, including his “Helium-3″ a trilogy of science fiction novels: Crater, Crescent, and his latest, Crater Trueblood and the Lunar Rescue Company (Thomas Nelson, 322 pp., $9.99, paper), which was published last month.

As one reviewer put it: “Anybody who grew up reading golden-age science fiction authors like Robert Heinlein… will immediately feel at home in the world [these] novels…anybody who likes the kind of story where it is up to one determined hero and his pals to save the world from certain destruction will have no problem tearing through this tale, in which former miner Crater, now the head of a rescue firm, must once again come to the aid of his one true love.”

Homer Hickam’s website is

Homer Hickam in Vietnam in 1968

Posted on July 22nd 2014 in Book News

Author Query: DEROS Stories

John Brennan, who has put together two books on Vietnam War helicopter art, is working on a volume of Vietnam War DEROS stories. And he is looking for help from Vietnam veterans.

“Tell me about your return home from the Vietnam War,” Brennan says. “I’d appreciate reading your memories regarding the following four threads in any amount of words you’d care to share: Your last week in-country before DEROS;  how you got home starting in Vietnam; those initial thirty days back in the world; and What can our country learn from Vietnam veterans?”

If you’d like to contribute, send an email to or write to Brennan at 864 Wisconsin St., Chico, CA 95928

Posted on July 22nd 2014 in Artistic Queries, Book News

The New VVA Veteran–For July/August

The on-line edition of the new, July/August, issue of The VVA Veteran has just been posted. The cover story is an examination of the strange events leading up to the August 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident–which led to the congressional resolution that paved the way for the massive U.S. escalation of the Vietnam War.

Also in this issue: David Willson’s  ”The Aftermath: Vietnam Veteran Poets Confront the Peace,”  a feature article examining Vietnam veteran poets’ adjustment to peace—and to the war-generated demons that afflict them; and Mary Bruzzese’s look at the recent dedication of the Texas Vietnam Veterans Monument in Austin and the role that members of Vietnam Veterans of America played in turning their vision of the Texas state Vietnam veterans memorial into stone and bronze.

Plus much more.

Posted on July 19th 2014 in Essays, History, Magazines, Memorials, Poetry

‘Hey, Hey, LBJ” Theater Piece at the D.C. Fringe Festival

Kleinberg in Vietnam in 1968

David Kleinberg, who served with the Army’s the 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi in Vietnam from 1966 -67 as a combat correspondent has written a seventy-minute solo theater piece called “Hey, Hey, LBJ!”  It is based on his experiences in the war.

“This is a very powerful and riveting work,” Kleinberg says. “Even after all this time, I cried half the time I was writing this. If the piece shows anything, it clearly demonstrates how war taints just about everyone it touches.

“I suppose some people would call this an antiwar work. But I believe—as I’ve written at one point in the script–that there are just wars, but I don’t think this was one of them. And it’s very interesting that when I tell people of my generation the title of the piece, ‘Hey, Hey, LBJ,’ they smile in irony, knowing very well how the rest of the chant went.”

It is part of the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, D.C. The next performance is tonight, July 16, at 9:30 at the Goethe Institut, and the final show is on Friday, July 18. Kleinberg is donating the net proceeds from these performances to Vietnam Veterans of America.

Posted on July 16th 2014 in Drama, Plays

Author Query: Special Ops in Laos During the Vietnam War

Retired Army Special Forces Col. Joseph Celeski has started researching a book on special operations forces who worked in Laos with the U.S. ambassadors, the U.S. Embassy Project Evaluations Office, and the MAAG-Laos and Project 404 in Vientiane.

If you have information to share, send an email to or  or call 678-546-0507 or 678-591-3230.  If you do, please mention that you read about the project on The VVA Veteran’s Arts of War on the web page.

Posted on July 16th 2014 in Artistic Queries, Book News, History

New Head of NEH, William Adams, is a Vietnam Vet

The U.S. Senate voted yesterday to confirm William D. “Bro” Adams as the new chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The NEH is an independent federal agency that supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities.

Adams, who recently stepped down as the president of Colby College, holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Cruz History of Consciousness Program. He studied in France as a Fulbright Scholar. He also served for three years in the U.S. Army, including a year in the Vietnam War.

His military service, Adams said, paved the way for his life’s work in education. It “made me serious in a certain way,” he said. “As a 20-year-old combat infantry advisor, I came face to face, acutely, with questions that writers, artists, philosophers, and musicians examine in their work—starting with, ‘What does it mean to be human?’”

Posted on July 10th 2014 in Fiction, History

Do Not Buy the New DVD Edition of ‘Hearts and Minds’

Peter Davis’s 1974 documentary Hearts and Minds has recently been reissued on DVD in a new edition containing two hours of unused material. If you are a Vietnam veteran—or if you are not and care about Vietnam veterans’ issues—do not buy the DVD.

Here’s why–as we put it in the “Arts of War” column in the print edition of The VVA Veteran the last time a new version came out in 2004:

“A newly restored print of the 1975 Oscar-winning Vietnam War documentary, Peter Davis’s Hearts and Minds, appeared in movie theaters around the country this summer and fall. That was not a good thing, to my way of thinking. There’s some great stuff in this polemical, antiwar film, but Hearts and Minds gives a distorted portrayal of Vietnam  veterans. Davis’s point is that the United States had no business being in Vietnam and that everyone who took part in the war has blood on his or her hands.

“In putting forth this oversimplified—at best—message, Davis willfully ignores anything showing Americans and South Vietnamese in a positive light. And he portrays the NVA and VC as heroic freedom fighters. In Davis’s version of the war, American GIs raped and pillaged innocent villagers, while an unseen enemy went about heroically defending its homeland against the imperialist aggressor.

“Davis’s hero among American veterans is a deserter who tells his tale to a congressional committee. His villains are a series of military men who were up to no good on the ground in Vietnam and back home. Some veterans in the film, such as VVA founder Bobby Muller, don’t fit in either category. But the veterans Davis highlights make it appear as if we were all either racist killers or apologizing wimps.

“We all know that that’s not true and that the truth is much, much more complex.”

Posted on July 9th 2014 in Documentaries

Walter Dean Myers, 1937-2014

The noted, award-winning children’s book author Walter Dean Myers  died July 1 at age 76. Myers wrote more than a hundred books during his long career. Among the most notable was the YA title, Fallen Angels (1988), a brilliant in-country Vietnam War novel.

Myers joined the Army when he was seventeen years old and served for three years prior to the Vietnam War. He wrote Fallen Angels, in part, in tribute to his younger brother who was killed in Vietnam.

“I though the romantic presentations of war influenced my joining and my presentation of war to my younger siblings,” Myers said in a recent interview. “My younger brother’s death in Vietnam was both sobering and cause for reflection. In Fallen Angels I wanted to dispel the notion of war as either romantic or simplistically heroic.”

After the book came out, he said, the “response was, at first, mixed. The rawness of war depicted was looked at aghast, the references to the racial animosity of the sixties was frowned upon, as was the frequent use of casual profanity. Over the years the book was one of the most challenged in schools and frequently banned. It also achieved an enviable record of acceptance among Vietnam veterans and educators as an accurate and much needed account of a particular conflict and of war in general.”





Posted on July 9th 2014 in Book News, Fiction, Obituaries

The Wall: The ‘Greatest’ Modern American Memorial

The current issue of The New Yorker contains a long, informative article by Adam Gopnik on the new New York City 9/11 Memorial Museum. In it, Gopnik—the magazine’s noted art critic—goes over the history of American public memorialization. In doing so, he good things to say about Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which he calls “the greatest of modern American memorials.”

Lin’s design, he writes, “pursued the line [of "minimal geometric abstraction"] with a radical passion, taking the classical purity of the American tradition and of the Great War memorials, and further stripping them of any overt symbolism….”

The “astonishing success” of The Wall following initial criticism of its design, he writes, “was a marker in the triumph of American abstraction: no one could any longer argue that pure form was incapable of expressing profound emotion. The laconic eloquence of the minimal gesture, its potent lack of insincere rhetoric and overstatement, was apparent.”

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, he concludes, “remains the model memorial for our time, the polished wall a sound board for the individual lament.”


Posted on July 9th 2014 in Magazines, Memorials