The Sage of Black Rock

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite underwent a dramatic change of heart during the Vietnam War—and in doing so, changed the face of broadcast journalism

On February 6, 1965, Vietcong guerrillas attacked the U.S. base at Pleiku, killing eight American soldiers and wounding 126. The Johnson administration quickly retaliated, commencing another vicious cycle of lightning reprisals and military escalations. Suddenly U.S. “advisers” in Vietnam were recognized as combat troops; 23,000 U.S. personnel grew to 181,000 by the year’s end. On March 8 CBS Reports broadcast an hour-long debate between pro-war Sen. Gale McGee (D-WY) and antiwar Sen. George McGovern (D-SD).Read more »

Remembering David Halberstam

The late David Halberstam was a journalist, heart and soul, with a distinctive way of writing history

DAVID HALBERSTAM had put the finishing touches on his final book, The Coldest Winter, in the spring of 2007, just five days before his tragic death in a car accident in California. He had essentially finished the book months earlier, but with a book there is finishing, and then a little more finishing, and then a final finishing, and after months of revising, checking and rechecking, slashing, inserting, and wrestling with endless pages of manuscript and printed proofs, he stopped by his publisher’s office on an April Wednesday and dropped off his final corrections.Read more »

First Blood In Vietnam

A magazine reporter covered the first American deaths in Vietnam, unaware that the soon-to-explode war would mark America’s awakening to maturity

On the evening of July 8, 1959, six of the eight American advisers stationed at a camp serving as the headquarters of a South Vietnamese army division 20 miles northeast of Saigon had settled down after supper in their mess to watch a movie, The Tattered Dress, starring Jeanne Crain. One of them had switched on the lights to change a reel when it happened. Guerrillas poked their weapons through the windows and raked the room with automatic fire—killing Maj. Dale R. Buis, M. Sgt. Chester M.Read more »

From Saigon To Desert Storm

How the U. S. military reinvented itself after Vietnam

It’s hard to remember now, but the outcome of the 1991 Persian Gulf War stunned the world. Few people even at the Pentagon expected it to be as one-sided as it was. Before Operation Desert Storm, Iraq’s armed forces were widely seen as a formidable adversary, hardened by years of war against Iran and supplied with the best equipment Saddam Hussein’s oil riches could buy. Iraq had 900,000 soldiers—more than the U.S. Army—and they had had months to entrench themselves in Kuwait and southern Iraq.

Soldiers learn desert warfare at the Army’s National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, in 1982.
 
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1964 The Year At A Glance

January 11 Surgeon General Luther L. Terry releases his report on cigarette smoking.

January 16 Hello, Dolly! opens at the St. James Theater in New York City.

January 23 The Twenty-fourth Amendment, abolishing the poll tax, becomes part of the U.S. Constitution.

February 7 The Beatles arrive at JFK Airport. Read more »

1964 - The Year The Sixties Began

Viewing a transformation that still affects all of us—through the prism of a single year

It has been called the “burned-over decade,” a “dream and a nightmare,” the “definitive end of the Dark Ages, and the beginning of a more hopeful and democratic period” in American history. It’s been celebrated in movies like Forrest Gump and memorialized by television shows like “The Wonder Years,” “American Dreams,” and “China Beach.” Read more »

Army Math

A Home Grown Terrorist Bombing

On Monday, August 24, 1970, I was a graduate student in organic chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. My research laboratory was in the chemistry building, and that morning I rode over on my bicycle to find broken glass everywhere. More than a thousand windows in 26 campus buildings had been shattered. One of them was mine. Read more »

MIA

A search begun in a Washington, D.C., boardinghouse 140 years ago continues today as a $100-million-a-year effort to reunite the U.S. military and American families with their missing soldiers

Atop a half-mile-high mountain deep in the heart of the A Shau Valley in central Vietnam, a poisonous worm snake winds itself onto the edge of a spade. After a fleeting glance, the U.S. sergeant holding the spade, Tammi Reeder, 34, flicks her wrist and flings the vermilion serpent into the double-canopy jungle surrounding this mountaintop enclave. It is the fourth such snake in an hour and about the millionth over the past several weeks, so this group of 10 U.S.Read more »

Modern Times From 1974

This is a journalist’s list. My reading (and knowledge) is greatly influenced by the events of the day, the time, the era. My reading and my work are often one and the same. That is one of the best things about being a writer, but it may not be ideal for list making. This list is, I emphasize, not of the best books of the past 30 years, though many of these volumes might be considered for such a list. Some of these works were selected because of their immediate impact.Read more »