Monday, May 13, 2024

In Retrospect, McNamara Mismanaged The Vietnam War: A Look Back At The Vietnam War And Former Defense Secretary McNamara

I’m proud of my service in the Vietnam War, although I played but a minor role in the conflict.

I served as a teenage sailor on the USS Kitty Hawk as the aircraft carrier launched combat sorties from “Yankee Station” in the gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam in 1970-1971. The Kitty Hawk also operated off South Vietnam and made a port of call to Da Nang in South Vietnam. 

As I noted in a previous post, I’ve long been interested in the Vietnam War, and I’ve read nearly every book - history, memoir, and novel - about the war. I’ve also watched the films, although I’ve often been disappointed by them. 

And as a writer, I've interviewed many veterans of the war, including aircraft carrier pilots, Army helicopter pilots, Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Army and Marine infantry grunts, Defense Department officials, CIA officers and journalists who covered the war.

So, due to my keen interest in the war, I’ve been watching The Sympathizer on HBO’s MAX channel. The series is based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2015 novel, which is part spy thriller/part satire. The novel's narrator is a conflicted South Vietnamese Army captain, Communist sympathizer and Viet Cong spy. 

A young college student who was not yet born during the Vietnam War contacted me and said she was fascinated by Vietnam and was also watching HBO’s The Sympathizer. She wrote that she came upon my post on the series and my noting the similarities to a real-life spy in Vietnam.

The student has been doing a deep dive into the history of the conflict and she said she recently read former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. She asked what I thought of the book.

I replied that I thought McNamara’s book was a weepy apology about his gross mismanagement of the war. 

I wrote a piece about the awful book for the Philadelphia Daily News back in 1995.

You can read the piece below:

And you can read my post on The Sympathizer and the real-life Vietnamese spy Pham Xuan An (seen in the above photo) via the below link:   

Paul Davis On Crime: HBO's 'The Sympathizer' And The Real Vietnam Spy. 

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