When you picture war and veterans memorials in the nation’s capital, you immediately think of the amazing Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall), which has sat at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial since 1982. The other memorials that come readily to mind are the huge World War II Memorial at the other end of the National Mall across from the Washington Monument, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial across the Reflecting Pond from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Few visitors to Washington know about or visit the war memorial dedicated in 1931 to honor veterans of World War I. Officially known as the District of Columbia War Memorial, the modest structure is located just off the Mall in a grove of trees not far from the World War II Memorial close to the Reflecting Pool.
The memorial is a classical circular dome supported by a dozen Doric columns, and is reminiscent of the nearby Jefferson Memorial. The names of the 499 residents of the District of Columbia who died in World War I are inscribed around its base.
That memorial is, sad to say, in extreme disrepair today. It is all but hidden away among overgrown trees and bushes, and is seldom marked on Park Service or other tourist maps or signs. A plan is afoot to restore the memorial, re-landscape it and rededicate it as a national memorial to honor the memory of all of the nation’s World War I veterans.
The effort is being spearheaded by the the WWI Memorial Foundation. To learn more about the foundation and its mission, go to www.WWIMEMORIAL.org There’s also a video on You Tube worth checking out.
Posted on January 28th 2009 in Memorials
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on January 28th 2009 in Comments
Jim Barker, who served as an adviser and linguist with MACV in II Corps in 1972, is putting together a book that will contain what he calls “comic and bizarre” in-country stories from Vietnam veterans. He’s calling the book Hotcakes and Fish Sauce, and will provide free copies to contributors upon its publication.
If you’re interested in contributing, email or write to Barker with your stories, along with your name, unit, MOS, area of operations, and time in country. You can reach him by email (email@example.com), by phone (408-401-7939) or by writing to 4941 Dickinson Drive, San Jose, CA 95111.
If you do, tell him you read about his book on this page.
Posted on January 27th 2009 in Artistic Queries
The peripatetic Oliver Stone made the the news the second week of January when the Associated Press reported on a visit he made to La Paz, Bolivia, where the most famous movie director who served in the U.S. military in the Vietnam War hung out with that nation’s President Evo Morales.
The AP ran an photo of Stone (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, et al.) kicking a soccer ball with his Bolivian hosts on the lawn of the president’s house. The wire service reported that Stone and Morales chewed coca leaves (a legal Bolivian activity) as Stone interviewed the leftist president for a documentary he is making on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Posted on January 21st 2009 in Documentaries
The famed New York Philharmonic Orchestra announced January 12 that it will visit Vietnam for the first time in October as part of its Asian tour. The visit, to the circa-1911 Hanoi Opera House, will mark the first time that the orchestra, which has been to 59 countries, will have played in Vietnam. The New York Philharmonic made a historic visit to North Korea last February, after which orchestra officials broached the idea of playing in Vietnam, which has not been a popular spot for western orchestras.
The trip to North Korea “was so extraordinary that classical music became the center of attention,” Zarin Mehta, the orchestra’s president, told The New York Times. “We sat back and said, ‘What can we do to follow this up?’”
Vietnam, Mehta said, “is a country that we felt as Americans we owed a visit to. We had a big war with them. The country was coming back, and we felt it was a good thing to reach out to the people there.”
Posted on January 21st 2009 in Music
Yusef Komunyakaa, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet who served in the U.S. Army in the Vietnam (and whose war-time service is a theme he often returns to in his work), had a terrific article in last Sunday’s (January 18) Washington Post Magazine. The article, “The Colors in My Dreams,” is a thoughtful reminiscence/essay in which the poet (who teaches creative writing at NYU) goes back to his childhood in Louisiana and to discuss matters of race, focusing on the personal politics of skin color. The long article is well-written, well-thought-out, and insightful.
Posted on January 19th 2009 in Magazines
The first and only museum dedicated to U.S. Army Infantrymen, aptly named the National Infantry Museum, is set to open in March on a 200-acre site adjacent to Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. The museum will immerse visitors into the life of infantrymen in all of the nation’s wars. It will feature several themed galleries filled with artifacts and interactive exhibits, along with a 300-seat IMAX Theater.
For more info, go to www.nationalinfantrymuseum.com
For a video preview, go to http://www.nationalinfantryfoundation.org/home.shtml
Posted on January 7th 2009 in Museums
Sam Bottoms, the actor best know for his role as Lance the Surfer in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, died on December 16 at his home in Los Angeles. The 53-year-old who got his start in movies at age 15 playing Billy, the slow-witted boy in the great 1971 film The Last Picture Show, suffered from brain cancer.
Bottoms was in his early twenties when he went to the Philippines to play surfer Lance Johnson in Apocalypse. Like the rest of the cast, he spent more than a year on the set of that notoriously over-budget and behind-schedule movie, which finally came out in 1979 to critical and popular acclaim.
Bottoms was at his wide-eyed best in the unforgettable scene with the insane Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvall) as Kilgore orders Lance to try out the wild surf during a napalm-fueled helicopter assault on a seaside village. That’s the one where Kilgore dresses down a young trooper who questions his order to Lance and other First Cav soldier/surfers to hit the waves in a VC-infested area.
“It’s pretty hairy in there,” the trooper says. “It’s Charlie’s point.”
To which Kilgore shouts: “Charlie don’t surf!”
Coppola had nothing but praise for Bottoms. “He was a handsome, tall young man and very sweet-natured and seemed to be right for that part,” Coppola told The Los Angeles Times. “He, Larry Fishburne and Fred Forrest were like a young family almost to me [during filming], and they went through thick and thin uncomplainingly. We all admired them. Sam was an especially likable, beautiful young man. He was quiet and undemanding and always anxious to help and had a nice smile.”
Bottoms went on to do scores of roles in TV shows and movie–including Coppola’s Vietnam War home front film Gardens of Stone (1987) in which he played an Army lieutenant.
Posted on January 5th 2009 in Feature Films
Richard M. Nixon and Henry A. Kissinger did their share of underhanded, deceitful things during their time in the White House. Does the term “Watergate cover-up” ring a bell? Or the “secret” war in Laos? We have know since the Watergate scandal that Nixon secretly taped all of his incoming and outgoing telephone calls, and we subsequently found out that Kissinger, his National Security Adviser and later Secretary of State, did as well.
Kissinger had all of his phone conversations taped and then had his secretary transcribe them. He had the tapes destroyed, but kept the transcripts when he left Washington with the end of the Ford Administration in January 1977. In 2001, the National Security Archive, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit research group, brought a successful lawsuit to force the government to recover the transcripts, and used the Freedom of Information Act to declassify most of them.
The group has been working on indexing and cataloging the transcripts for three years. On December 23, the National Security Archive published an online edition of transcripts of some 15,000 phone calls Kissinger made from 1969-77. They are a rich vein of primary source material for historians, researchers and anyone else interesting in how Nixon and Kissinger ran the Vietnam War. To see what’s on line, go to http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB263/index.htm
Posted on January 2nd 2009 in Archives