Archive for the 'In the Classroom' Category

A. J. Langguth, 1933-2014

A. J. “Jack”  Langguth, who covered the Vietnam War for The New York Times and who went on to have a long career as an author and journalism professor at the University of Southern California, died on September 1 in Los Angeles. The author of—among many other books—the award-winning Our Vietnam: The War, 1954-1975, was 81 years old.

“Unable to set Vietnam aside, Langguth spent seven years researching and writing Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975 (2000), which won acclaim for telling the Vietnamese side of the story as well as it did the American side, through solid analysis, mastery of detail and deft portraits of pivotal figures, including Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem,” his Los Angeles Times obituary noted.

“The book does not develop new arguments or explicitly address the many war issues that still divide Americans,” historian George C. Herring wrote in his 2000 review . “Its strengths, rather, are in its skillful retelling of a well-known story, and in the way it captures the many dimensions of the war.”

Here’s our review of the book, from the October/November 2000 issue of The VVA Veteran:

Making History Come Alive: Jack Langguth’s Readable Our Vietnam

There have been readable narrative histories of the American war in Vietnam. There have been exhaustively researched histories of that war, combining material from original interviews, archival sources, and the best secondary sources. Now comes A.J. “Jack” Langguth’s Our Vietnam: The War, 1954-1975 (Simon & Schuster, 794 pp., $35), a history of the Vietnam War that is both compulsively readable and thoroughly researched.

Langguth, the former New York Times correspondent who teaches journalism at the University of Southern California, focuses on American policy-making in Washington, particularly during the Johnson administration. But he also includes fascinating material on concurrent planning by our Vietnamese allies and by the Vietnamese communists.

Langguth tells his story chronologically; he offers no surprises. But Langguth does bring something new to the table: insights into some of the war’s most pivotal events gleaned from interviews with lesser known but consequential American and Vietnamese eyewitnesses. That group includes William Kohlmann of the CIA; Viet Cong Lt. Ta Minh Kham; Foreign Service Officer Paul Kattenburg; North Vietnamese Army Col. Ta Minh Kham; Nguyen Dinh Tu, a one-time South Vietnamese newspaper reporter; and Jack Smith, the veteran ABC-TV News reporter who fought with the U.S. First Cavalry Division at the 1965 Battle of the Ia Drang.

Langguth also interviewed well-known pivotal players and mined the best primary and secondary accounts. With an eye for the telling anecdote, Langguth uses dozens of individual stories to create this personality-driven saga. The result is a long, compelling narrative. The book is short on analysis, but sets out the politically charged policy-making story of the Vietnam War in a complete and seamless manner.

Posted on September 2nd 2014 in Book News, History, In the Classroom, Journalism, Obituaries

Student Query: Info on The Ho Chi Minh Trail

Mélanie Cabo, a French student at The University of Montpellier studying military history, is writing a paper on The Ho Chi Minh Trail. She would like to hear from Vietnam veterans who would be willing to share documents, photographs, letters, movies, official documents, or oral history interviews dealing with the Trail.

If you’d like to help, email

Or write to 9 rue Ciste Fresch, 34980 Combaillaux, FRANCE

If you do, please mention that your learned of her work on The VVA Veteran’s Arts of War on the web page.



Posted on February 18th 2014 in Artistic Queries, History, In the Classroom

Student Looking for Tet ’68 Vets to Interview

Pranav Ravikumar, a student at the Singapore American School, is making a documentary on the Tet Offensive for the annual National History Day contest.

“Every year,” Pranav tells us, “there is a specific theme set for students and this year’s theme is Turning Points in History. Therefore, within the Vietnam War, my main points are going to be focused on the Tet Offensive and how it changed the course of the war and how it turned U.S. perspectives and defense strategies in recent wars.”

For his documentary, the young student is looking to interview Vietnam veterans who served in the war during Tet ’68, especially those who were in intelligence.  “This would help enhance the documentary with many perspectives,” he says.

If you’re interested, send an email to and mention that you read about the project on The VVA Veteran magazine’s Arts of War on the web page.

Posted on December 6th 2012 in Artistic Queries, Documentaries, In the Classroom

The Newest Forgotten War?

Bill McCloud, a Vietnam veteran who teaches U.S. history at Rogers State University in Oklahoma, recently wrote an op ed in the Tulsa World on the extent of young people’s knowledge of the Vietnam War.

McCloud has a good feel for that subject. In 1987, when he was a junior high school teacher in Pryor, Oklahoma, the Army veteran conducted a survey to try to find out what his students knew about the war. (It wasn’t very much.)

That experience prompted McCloud to write letters to Vietnam veterans, former Vietnam War policymakers, historians, journalists, politicians, and others involved with the war asking them what they thought was the most important aspect of the war to teach young people.

He received a ton of replies from–among others–Presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, and from Vietnam War veteran writers Tim O’Brien, Larry Heinemann, John Clark Pratt, Philip Caputo, and The VVA Veteran‘s Arts Editor, Marc Leepson.

In 1989, McCloud put those responses in his book, What Should We Tell our Children About Vietnam? It makes for fascinating reading even today, twenty-five years after it was published by the University of Oklahoma Press.

Posted on November 9th 2012 in Book News, Essays, In the Classroom

Veterans Writing Project Free D.C. Seminar, Nov. 5-6

The Veterans Writing Project will hold two days of seminars November 5-6 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. This free series of seminars is open to all veterans, as well as to current active duty and reserve service members, along with military family members. The sessions include instruction on many elements of writing, such as setting, scene, dialogue, narrative structure, and point of view. The seminars are led by writers who have served in America’s wars.

You can register by sending an email to with the following information:

Service Connection (veteran, active service or reservist, family member) and period of service:
Writing form(s): (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, … or still figuring that out)
Previous writing experience and/or classes:

The George Washington University’s Veterans Services Office and the University Writing Program are sponsoring the seminars. For more information, go to the VWP’s website.

Posted on October 22nd 2011 in Conferences, In the Classroom

Richard Currey Veteran Writers Workshop

Richard Curry, the former Vietnam War Navy corpsman whose novel, Fatal Light, is among the best literary treatments of the war, will be taking part in a series of workshops called “Veterans Tell Their Stories” March 12-13 at Marshall University in Huntington in Currey’s home state of West Virginia

Currey, along with Iraq War veteran and short-story writer James Mathews, will read from his work, do a round table discussion, and conduct workshops. Although the target audience is veterans of all eras, the event is open to all, and is free.

For more information, or to register in advance for a workshop, call 304-696-6637 or email

Posted on March 4th 2010 in Book News, Conferences, In the Classroom

Boots to Books Goes Nationwide

Citrus College in Glendora, California, is now offering its entire Boots to Books curriculum, which is aimed at helping young, returning veteran college students, to any college or university for a moderate charge, which goes to help support the College’s veterans program and organization. For more information go to the Boots to Books website:

The Citrus College program is run by Bruce O. Solheim, an Army veteran and history professor who has taught the history of the war on the collegiate level for fourteen years. Solheim also serves as the College’s Volunteer Veterans Coordinator.

Posted on October 14th 2009 in In the Classroom

Ten Years of “Lessons of Vietnam”

The latest Bridges:The Lessons of Vietnam, the newsletter written and produced by Lindy Poling’s (above) Lessons of Vietnam history students at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, is a special 10th Anniversary Edition. The issue may be found on line on the course’s website, which also features a new podcast.

The featured article on the front page is “Vietghanistan?” in which student Andy Chenlo examines the similarities and differences between the Vietnam War and the current war in Afghanistan. There’s also an article by 2003 graduate Susan Woodson reflecting on the class’s big impact on her life.

Posted on June 10th 2009 in In the Classroom

Remembering the Vietnam War course at Chautauqua in July

VVA life member Ira Cooperman once again this year will be teaching the “Remembering the Vietnam War” course at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. Cooperman, who served as a USAF intelligence officer in Vietnam and Thailand in 1965-66, developed the course last year with Bob Hopper, a former Foreign Service Officer.

The course is part of Chautauqua’s Special Studies program of weekly classes, and will be held from July 27-31 from 9:00–10:15 a.m. Cooperman and Hopper will examine the history, impact and consequences of America’s involvement in Vietnam and Southeast Asia from 1955-75 through personal experiences, literature and films.

During once class last summer the instructors and students discussed Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. This summer they will be discussing one of Philip Caputo’s works. You can read the entire course description at the Special Studies page.

“If any VVA member is interested in registering for this summer’s course, I’d be pleased to help them through the process,” Cooperman told us. Email him at

Posted on May 6th 2009 in In the Classroom, Musicals, Photography

U. of Iowa Summer Class on Vets in Lit and Film

The University of Iowa’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, in conjunction with the University’s Veterans Center, is offering Identity and Social Issues: Wounded Warriors: Veterans in Literature and Film, a class this summer taught by creative nonfiction instructor Stephen A Kuusisto. The class runs from June 9 to July 31 and meets twice a week on the Iowa City campus.

“Disability has always been a difficult subject in literature and film,” the course description says. “Disabled characters often challenge cultural ideas of ‘normalcy’ while they also complicate the symbolism of the ‘heroic’ body. This course explores the contradictions in the representations of disability in literature and film by focusing on the experiences of veterans with disabilities.

Specifically we will analyze representations of veterans with disabilities in literature and film and seek to understand the wounded body in its political, social, and cultural contexts. Additionally we will explore how literature both reflects and distorts the experiences of returning veterans.”

The films and books the course cover will include several dealing with the Vietnam War, such as Ron Kovic’s primal scream of a memoir, Born on the Fourth of July and the accompanying film by Oliver Stone, and The Deer Hunter (above). It also includes the great post-WWII film the Best Years of our Lives, as well as selections from the writings of Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, Tim O’Brien, Studs Terkel, and Norman Mailer.

For info, email or, go to ohn D. Mikelson or call 319-384-2020.

Posted on March 30th 2009 in Feature Films, In the Classroom