Chronarchy (chronarchy) wrote,

Going back to an old lover. . .

I find it interesting that, according to everyone I've spoken to in the military, Bernard Fall's Street Without Joy is no longer read in either OCS or ROTC courses. It was required reading in my Vietnam War class, and I picked it up again because I just didn't have the time to really absorb it the first time through.

And all I can say is, "Wow."

I understand better now, my father's constant insistence that this Iraq war is nothing like Vietnam. He's completely right. Reading about the destruction of Groupement Mobile No. 100 (GM 100) alone shows the relief sharply. (Of course, this doesn't make Iraq right, but I expect that comparisons to Vietnam are going to bug me worse than Sept. 11th's comparisons to Pearl Harbor.) Road 19, Mang Yang Pass, and Chu-Dreh Pass are like nothing we have seen in Iraq.

When we became involved in engagement in Vietnam, after the French left, Street Without Joy was required reading. It described the French debacle perfectly, explaining why better armoured and armed troops were at a serious disadvantage to an army that walked everywhere, carried everything on its back, and had few outside sources of supply. "The picture he draws is not a pleasant one," the foreward to the book reads. "He presents for critical inspection two widely divergent military philosophies, one built on the mobility of the individual soldier, the other resting on the mobility of armies." And there was the central, pivotal point that Fall makes.

Had Fall not died in 1967, victim of a Vietcong explosive on the Street Without Joy, I wonder what he would have said about the fall of Saigon in 1975.

I know it would not have been kind, regarding our policies.

But I find myself happy to have picked this book up. I've been in religious studies, a love of mine that has come from my need and want to understand what I'm doing as a priest, too long. I needed to get back to my roots, my love of military history, a love long forgotten and gathering dust on the shelves.

It is, of course, just a past love, one that will return to the shelves soon in favour of more religious studies work. But for now, I needed it.

Now, the object is to finish the last 150 pages of this book before next Thursday, so I can take something lighter and easier to carry to Greece.
Tags: books, family, history, war

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