Monthly Archives: December 2014


DURING THE WAR we all had a short-timer’s calendar, and we’d cross off the days one by one as our return to The World—home—drew closer. The plane that would take us there was known as a Freedom Bird. “How long you been in-country?” a GI would ask. “Eleven months, two weeks, three days,” would come the reply. “Oh, man, you’re ... Read More »


When Fidel Castro visited Hanoi a few years earlier, officials had to bus kids in from the countryside and give them Cuban flags to make a crowd. Russian President Vladimir Putin attracted nothing more than yawns and a score or so of curious onlookers outside his hotel when he visited in 2001. But for Clinton, the Vietnamese went nuts. They ... Read More »


The integration of the veterans into the community reflected Viet¬nam’s belief that the best rehabilitation was not to isolate war invalids. Most of the vets, if they didn’t need continuing medical attention, were reabsorbed into families and villages, where the local populace granted them a large measure of lifetime respect in recognition of their sacrifice. “Sometimes you see psychological scars ... Read More »


“If you’re going to catch up with the rest of Southeast Asia, you need high-speed Internet access,” one executive said. “My company can do that. We’ll wire Vietnam for broadband. The entire country. For free.” Government officials listened politely, thanked their guests, and said they’d consider the offer. And so it went with each offer. The business-men went home, mumbling ... Read More »


We may have entered Vietnam naively—but not without warnings. In the early 1960s, Undersecretary of State George Ball told President John F. Kennedy if he went ahead with plans to up the U.S. ante from a com¬mitment of “assistance” to South Vietnam to one of “limited partner¬ship,” it would mean “within five years, we’ll have 300,000 men in the paddies ... Read More »


THE HO CHI MINH TRAIL STOLE THE ADOLESCENCE of North Vietnam’s young, as surely as the war itself robbed Amer¬ica of its innocence. For Americans, the words “Vietnam War” came to refer to an era, not just a conflict. It was an era of distrust, divi¬siveness, disconcertion, of long hair, drugs, rock music, and free love. It changed the relationship ... Read More »


We went through several cartons of black-and-white photos. I was fix¬ated by the faces—the clear, steady eyes, the smooth, acne-free complex¬ions, the expressions that radiated determination and devotion but still held something back. I knew these same faces from the streets of Hanoi. I passed them a hundred times a day. And they were all so young. “Our happiest times ... Read More »


The Ho Chi Minh Trail was born on May 19, 1955, Ho Chi Minh’s sixty-fifth birthday, when, with the French colonial army defeated and gone for a year, Hanoi began laying plans to bring South Vietnam under its control. Major Vo Bam, a logistics specialist who had fought the French in the Central Highlands, was put in charge of forging ... Read More »


“No, we can make this work,” Ha Dinh Can, the project’s general di¬rector, told me. “The highway will have a big economic impact. There will be a huge boost to employment. Timber and coffee producers will have easier access to markets. Tourists will be able to get to remote areas that were unreachable before. A whole new section of the ... Read More »


I jumped at the touch of a hand on my shoulder. I turned and behind me was a young man in sandals and a thick sweater. Was he an apparition? There wasn’t anyone here a minute ago. Nguyen Van Tran had come up the road on foot at the sight of my car. He held out a small display case ... Read More »