The late Professor Walter Capps taught a pioneering—and legendary—course on the Vietnam War from 1978-1994 at the University of California’s scenic Santa Barbara campus. One of the innovative features of the class, called The Impact of the Vietnam War on American Religion and Culture, was Capps’ pioneering use of bringing Vietnam veterans in to talk to the students. Capps, a Professor of Religious Studies, gave up teaching after he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The course continued, however, and is now in its 29th year. It has been taught since 1995 by religious studies professor Richard Hecht, and has been expanded to include the experiences of America’s most recent veterans from the Iraq and Afghan wars. “When Capps began the course, it focused on welcoming the Vietnam veterans home and providing an environment for them to narrate their experiences,” Hecht says. “In recent years, the course has focused on what Hecht called “binding the generations together.”
The news from Santa Barbara is that former students will gather on April 26th for a reunion of his renowned class, the first in the country to examine the effects of the Vietnam War on American society. The celebratory reunion class will be held from 1:30 to 3:00, Professor Hecht will moderate the reunion class. The event is free and open to the public. For info, call 805-893-5289.
admin on April 26th 2008 in In the Classroom
In 1996, we reviewed the book The Faces Behind the Names, by Don Ward. That book, and its second volume which came out in 2000, honored Minnesotans and others who perished in the Vietnam War with family-submitted bios, photos, and pictures. Ward, who published the books, sent free copies to family members and sold the rest to try and cover the costs of self-printing. We recently heard from Ward who told us that he had sold all of his copies, “put the project to rest,” and moved to Thailand.
But Ward now tells us that he continues to get requests for the books, “but not enough to cover a re-print cost.” He would like to “honor these book requests,” he says, but cannot afford the costs of reprinting unless he sells several hundred copies of the books. If you’d like to learn more, go to his web site, www.mpress.addr.com or send him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
admin on April 18th 2008 in Artistic Queries
Were you spat upon when you returned to home from Vietnam? If so, and you have evidence to prove it, USAF veteran Steven Norris would like to hear from you for a book he’s writing on what he believes is the myth that no Vietnam veterans were spat upon by antiwar demonstrators.
“Much of this issue hinges on a purported lack of evidence in the form of police reports, arrest records and court records concerning these incidents,” Norris says. “What I really need is to find anyone that may have kept a record of one of these encounters or who could point me to a specific date/time when something happened and the police or airport personnel were involved. I would also like to make contact with any vet who was spit on or otherwise mistreated by antiwar types.”
His contact info: Steven Norris, 413 Chesham Drive, Kernersville, NC 27284; email: email@example.com
admin on April 18th 2008 in Artistic Queries
The exhibit, “A Thousand Words: Photographs by Vietnam Veterans,” which was put together in 2004 at the Sawtooth Center for Visual Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, will go on view May 16 at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. The exhibit consists of 60 black-and-white and color photographs taken by military personnel from the Triad Area of North Carolina during their service in Vietnam.
The exhibit opened to critical and popular raves four years ago at the Milton Rhodes Gallery in Winston-Salem. Then the show was the subject of a segment on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” For detailed info on the project, go to: http://www.sawtooth.org/vets.html
admin on April 15th 2008 in Photography
Footnote.com and the National Archives and Records Administration held a press conference at the Archives in Washington, D.C., on March 26 to announce the release of an online interactive photo of the Vietnam War Memorial and a new program that allows visitors to search The Wall, and to pay tribute to those who perished in the Vietnam War by adding photos, comments, and stories.
The on-line photo of The Wall, by National Geographic photographer Peter Krogh, is an amalgam of some 1,500 individual photos. The process took more than five months to complete. The resulting image is enormous, nearly five giga-pixels in size. But not to worry: Despite the immense size, just about anyone can view the image online at Footnote.com
Footnote.com, working with the National Archives, has linked service records and casualty reports to each name on The Wall. Footnote.com also plans to digitize National Archives photos from the Vietnam War.
To look at the Interactive Wall, go to: http://footnote.com/thewall and click on the prominent icon for the “Interactive Vietanam Wall.” You can search by name or highlight a name on the photo for individual information.
To view a video on the new go to:
admin on April 14th 2008 in Arts on the Web
The Welsh-born photographer Philip Jones Griffiths, who took some of the most evocative and provocative photos of the American war in Vietnam as a freelance photojournalist, died March 19 in London of cancer at age 72. Many of those photos were contained in his best-selling antiwar book, Vietnam, Inc, which was published in 1971, and which Time magazine called “the best work of photo-reportage ever published.”
Jones Griffiths “was known as the bishop and became quite pontifical in his antiwar speeches,” the renowned British photographer Tim Page told The Australian newspaper. “We’d check to see if he was wearing a ring and if we were to kiss it.” Jones Griffiths “set the standard forever,” Page, who made his mark as a free-lancer in Vietnam, said. “Vietnam, Inc was his major work, and his Agent Orange book of photographs should be in every school library. Philip, more than anyone, represented that in-country, antiwar movement that was so influential.”
Griffiths’ 2004 book, Agent Orange: “Collateral Damage” in Viet Nam (Trolley, 174 pp., $39.95), focuses on the effects of American defoliant spraying in Vietnam. The large-format book contains dozens of Griffiths’ trademark stark black and white images. A few were taken during the war, but most are photographs Griffiths took during the last two decades of human beings, many of them children, who suffer from deformities and other maladies caused by Agent Orange exposure.
For an appreciation of Jones Griffiths’ life and times in the British Journal of Photography, go to: http://www.bjp-online.com/public/showPage.html?page=746774
To see some of his work, click here:
admin on April 12th 2008 in Photography
In January 1998, 45 Americans and 20 Vietnamese made a 1,200-mile, sixteen-day bicycle trip from Hanoi to Saigon. Most of the Americans and some of the Vietnamese were veterans of the American war in Vietnam. Many were disabled, including three blind riders. Four VVA members—Pat Craney, Diane Evans, Bob Maras, and Jerry Stadtmiller—made the trip, which was put together by World T.E.A.M. Sports, a non-profit group that promotes sports opportunities for the disabled.
The heralded documentary filmmaker Peter Gilbert (Hoop Dreams) put together Vietnam, Long Time Coming, a two-hour documentary aired on NBC TV in December of ’98. And now Kartemquin Films has brought out the DVD.
The film’s admirable themes are reconciliation, healing, and overcoming physical disabilities. There are a ton of scenes of American veterans crying, hugging, and talking about their fears, suicide attempts, and other highly personal issues. Which is not a bad thing—when put in the proper perspective. But the movie is short on analyzing the big picture and long on capturing unrehearsed moments of emotional upheaval. Plus, there’s an unnecessary side trip to My Lai, which is an important place, but why put it in a movie that promotes reconciliation?
For more info, go to www.kartemquin.com/films/vietnam-long-time-coming
admin on April 8th 2008 in Documentaries
We had mixed reactions to the John Irvin Vietnam War shoot-em-up Hamburger Hill when we reviewed it in the September 1987 issue of The VVA Veteran. Coming out in the wake of Oliver Stone’s super-realistic, pioneering Platoon worked to H Hill’s disadvantage. The acting—with the exception of the work of Courtney Vance, the medic—didn’t come close to what Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger and company did in Stone’s movie. Nor did the dialogue, which we found clichéd and corny and filled with preachy monologues. And, contrary to the characters in Stone’s movie, the infantrymen in Irwin’s rarely rose above one dimensional.
What impressed us about Hamburger Hill, though, were the startlingly realistic action scenes, of which there were plenty. Everything felt very real, mainly because the filmmakers—including the screenwriter and co-producer Jim Carabatsos, who served in Vietnam—got the official blessing of the Pentagon and all the hardware was real. Among other things, this was the first Hollywood film in which the special effects crew used real phosphorus bombs. And they looked fearsome.
But don’t take my word for it. A new, re-mastered wide-screen 20th anniversary edition of the movie will be released May 20. The new DVD (Lionsgate, $19.98) includes bonus features, such as two mini documentaries, “Hamburger Hill: The Appearance of Reality” and “Medics in Vietnam,” audio commentary, and an interactive war timeline. Plus you get to see a group of actors who went on to bigger and better things in the movies and TV, including Vance (Law and Order, et al.) Don Cheadle (Boogie Nights, Hotel Rwanda), Steven Weber, and Dylan McDermott.
admin on April 7th 2008 in Feature Films
Dith Pran, the Cambodian journalist and human rights activist who gained international fame when his harrowing story was told in the movie The Killing Fields, died March 30 at age 65 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The film was based on the book of the same name about the Cambodian Holocaust by American journalist Sydney Schanberg of The New Times, with whom Dith Pran worked as a guide and interpreter in the 1970s. The late Dr. Haing Ngor won an Oscar (in his first film role) portraying Dith Pran’s quietly heroic work in the much-honored 1984 movie.
To read an excellent appreciation of Dith Pran by Janet Wu and Andrew Tarsy in The Boston Globe, go to: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/03/31/dith_pran_two_views_of_a_legend/
admin on April 6th 2008 in Journalism
On Thursday, April 4, a week before its official opening, Washington, D.C.’s newest museum, the Newseum, held a solemn ceremony honoring four journalists who were killed in a 1971 helicopter crash in Laos. The memorial service, which drew a large crowd of former Vietnam War journalists, commemorated the dedication of the final resting place in the museum of the remains of Larry Burrows, Henri Huet, Kent Potter, and Keisaburo Shimamoto. Their remains were found at the site in 1998.
The fragmentary remains are housed in a stainless-steel box that sits beneath a metal plaque set in the floor of the Newseum’s memorial gallery. Above it is a glass wall containing the names of 1,843 journalists who have died covering wars since 1837.
The Newseum is on 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue just off the National Mall, across the street from the National Gallery of Art.
To read the excellent article on the memorial service in The Washington Post, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/03/AR2008040302351.html?hpid=sec-metro
admin on April 6th 2008 in Museums