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 mleepson@vva.org

Posted on January 28th 2009 in Comments

Don Oberdorfer, 1931-2015

 

Don Oberdorfer, a long-time diplomatic correspondent who covered the Vietnam War for The Washington Post and was the author of the well-regarded  look at the 1968 Tet Offensive, Tet! (1971), died July 23 in Washington, D.C. He was 84 and had Alzheimer’s disease.

Born in Atlanta,  Oberdorfer graduated from Princeton University in 1952 and served in the U.S. Army in Korea after the end of the war. He worked for The Charlotte Observer, The Saturday Evening Post and Knight Newspapers, then in 1968 was hired at The Washington Post. He retired from journalism in 1993, and was Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Adjunct Professor of International Relationsat John Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.

“By every standard and almost every account, the Tet Offensive was among the great events of the 1960s and possibly one of the great events of our times,” he wrote in The Post in 1978. “It is also among the most paradoxical and seemingly inexplicable. How . . . could Tet have been both a defeat for the attacker abroad and a defeat for the government at home?”

The Tet Offensive, he said, was “the first international Big Event, via television, remains one for historians to ponder.”

Posted on July 30th 2015 in Book News, History, Obituaries

Herbert Schandler, 1928-2015

Herbert Y. Schandler, a Special Forces Korean War and Vietnam War veteran who held a PhD from Harvard, died July 16. He was 87 years old and lived in McLean, Virginia.

A native of Asheville, North Carolina, Herb Schandler graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1952. He went on to serve in the Korean War as a platoon leader and company commander in 2nd Infantry Division’s 38th Infantry Regiment. He served two tours in Vietnam, with the 1st Infantry Division in 1965, and as a 101st Airborne Division battalion commander with the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry, along with a stint  in MACV’s Revolutionary Development Division. He retired from the Army in 1975.

After the Korean War, Col. Schandler was an assistant professor of social sciences at West Point from 1957-60. After the Vietnam War, he served—among other places—with the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service as a national defense specialist, and in the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s strategic plans and policy office.

The author of the highly acclaimed The Unmaking of a President: Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam (1977) and America in Vietnam: The War That Couldn’t be Won (2009), his military awards included two Combat Infantryman Badges, the Senior Parachutist Badge, four Legions of Merit, three Bronze Star Medals with V devices, and fourteen Air Medals.

 

Posted on July 30th 2015 in Book News, History, Obituaries

‘Occupied Territories': New Play Set in the Vietnam War

 

A new theater piece called “Occupied Territories” recently had a limited run at the Anacostia Playhouse in Washington, D.C. The play, written by Nancy Bannon and its director Mollye Maxner,  is set in Vietnam during the war with a surreal element dealing with life back sometime in the future.

Writing in The Washington Post reviewer Celia Wren said the play was “a flawed but often arresting new theater piece” in which “suburban America drifts into the Vietnamese jungle. The camouflage-clad bodies of GIs are lying in a space we understand to be the site of a skirmish in the Vietnam War.” Then, “a woman we know to be living in the suburbs decades later (according to the play’s two-ply story line) steps out among the GIs. She looks at the troops, unnerved. For a moment, two eras — and two countries — overlap.”

“Occupied Territories,” Wren said, “suffers from some narrative weakness: The suburban-U.S. story line is stunted and announces its meaning too baldly. But the Vietnam scenes are more plausible and moving, and the production adds emotional weight to the Asia-set story with bold, artful touches of movement, lighting and sound.”

Posted on July 15th 2015 in Drama, On Stage, Plays, Vietnam War

William Conrad Gibbons, 1926-2015

William Conrad Gibbons, one of the most respected historians of the Vietnam War, died July 4. He was 88 years old.

Bill Gibbons was the author of the monumental work, The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War, a four-volume, exhaustively researched and beautifully written book published by the Government Printing Office and Princeton University Press beginning in 1984. The GPO co-published the book because Gibbons wrote what would become his life’s work at the request of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1978 while he was working as a foreign policy expert at the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service.

The four volumes—covering some 2,000 pages—tell the inside story of Vietnam War policy making from 1945-68. The first volume covered the years 1945-60. The subsequent books dealt with 1961-64, 1965-66, and 1967-68. Gibbons, a World War II veteran who earned a PhD in politics from Princeton University, had been working on the fifth volume when he died following a stroke at his farm in Virginia.

Gibbons was a “first-rate scholar,” the Vietnam War military historian Lewis Sorley said. “Nowhere else has anyone assembled so much material from so many sources so authoritatively, accurately and of great utility to scholars.” Gibbons “demonstrated even-handedness, scholarly integrity  and diligence of the highest order. He was an archivist. He was a collector. He was an archaeologist of information on the Vietnam War.”

Posted on July 9th 2015 in Book News, History, Obituaries

Artistic Query: ‘The Draft’ Looking for Backers

The creators of a new play, “The Draft”, which is based on interviews from the 2011 book, Called to Serve: Stories of the Men and Women Confronted by the Vietnam War Draft  by Tom Weiner, are trying to raise the funds to mount a performance in September in Boston and western Massachusetts. The play includes the stories of men who were drafted and went on to serve in the Vietnam War, as well as those who got out of the draft with medical deferments and other methods, including fleeing to Canada.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this project, go to the play’s Indiegogo page.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on July 8th 2015 in Artistic Queries, Drama, On Stage, Vietnam War

Proposed Doc, ‘Renew Vietnam’

“Renew Vietnam,” is a proposed short documentary film that looks at the humanitarian organization, Project Review, which was co-founded in 2001 by Vietnam veteran Chuck Searcy  in Quang Tri Province to find and dismantle Vietnam War era bombs and mines.

“The organization works primarily on three fronts: educating children and adults on how to be safe and how to report findings of bombs immediately,” said Benjamin Welmond, the filmmaker, “responding immediately to those call-ins with Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams that safely remove or destroy the bombs; and providing assistance to accident victims already injured by bombs and mines.

 

If you’d like to learn more about the film go to its crowd-sourcing page.

 

Posted on June 29th 2015 in Artistic Queries, Documentaries

Documentary Query – ‘American Platoon’ Doc

All3Media, a production company that specializes in “unscripted and documentary style programming shedding positive light to our unsung heroes and the storytelling process,” is working on a new cable TV doc called American Platoon. Caren Sachs of the Casting Department would like to speak to  Vietnam War veterans for the show.

If you’d like to participate, call 434-732-6604 or email caren.sachs@brightroadprods.com

All3Media’s web site is www.all3a.com

Posted on June 29th 2015 in Artistic Queries, Documentaries, On TV

Jack Ely, 1943-2015

Jack Ely

Jack Ely, the guitar player and lead singer for the Kingsmen who sang the classic rock and roll song “Louie, Louie,” died April 27. He was 71 years old.

In 1966, three years after he and his band mates recorded the iconic song, Ely was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served for two years, but following his Army service the band never had another hit. Ely said that his famed garbled singing of the words to the song was the result of having recently been fitted for braces and the rudimentary microphone the band used to try to simulate a live concert recording.

Posted on May 27th 2015 in Music, Obituaries

‘Reporting Vietnam’ Exhibit to Open in D.C.’s Newseum

Reporting Vietnam,” a multimedia exhibit showcasing how journalists covered the Vietnam War, opens May 22 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The extensive exhibit, held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary commemorations of the 1965 entry of U.S. combat troops into the Vietnam War, will be on display through September 22.

The exhibit features photographs, news footage, music, and other artifacts related to the American news media’s coverage of the nation’s most controversial overseas war–in Vietnam and at home. “Reporting Vietnam” also  includes several documentaries on the war and the antiwar movement, as well as a series of public programs featuring journalists and others discussing the legacy of the nation’s first “televised war.”

 

 

Posted on May 20th 2015 in Documentaries, Journalism, Museums, Photography

Great Doc: Escape From Firebase Kate

Readers of The VVA Veteran first learned the remarkable story of VVA life member William Albracht and the amazing escape he led from the besieged Firebase Kate near Ban Me Thuot in late October of 1969 in a feature article in the March/April 2013 issue.  We then ran a review of the excellent book Albracht wrote on the subject with Marvin J. Wolf, Abandoned in Hell: The Fight for Vietnam’s Firebase Kate, in the January/February issue this year.

Now comes Escape From Firebase Kate (Storytellers International), a high-quality documentary written, directed, and edited by Paul Kakert. Narrated by J.V Martin, the doc also includes the voices former Army Special Forces Captain Albracht and others who served with him. In addition to the present-day interviews, Kakert makes good use of stock footage, stills taken at the time, and a life-like digital mock-up of the firebase and surrounding area, along with actual audio transmissions between Albracht on the ground and American pilots in the air.

Albracht, at twenty-one and the youngest Green Beret officer in Vietnam, faced a daunting task on his second day of command at Kate when between four and six thousand NVA poured out of Cambodia to try to overrun the little firebase. Albracht’s CIDG Montagnard fighters (about a hundred of them) tried to fend off the NVA with the help of his two dozen or so artillerymen.

Kate barely held on. Then Albracht led his remaining men on a harrowing, night-time E&E to link with two companies of Special Forces and Montagnards sent to rescue them.

His men have started a movement to have Bill Albracht (below, at Fire Base Kate) awarded the Medal of Honor. That would be in addition to his collection of awards that includes three Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, five Bronze Stars (three for valor), two Air Medals (one for valor), and an Army Commendation Medal (for valor).

This excellent, moving documentary should be used as evidence to make the case. For more info on the doc, go to escapefromfirebasekate.com

Posted on May 13th 2015 in Documentaries, Vietnam War