RESEARCH: The Guns of August
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  1. #1

    RESEARCH: The Guns of August

    I am a Cold War historian in the middle of a research project. I am looking for veterans of the American military, any service, any arena who served any time between 1962-64.
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    My question is a bit obscure. I was wondering if you might have a memory or a suggestion of which direction to sniff.


    During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Pres. Kennedy was enamored with a book, "Guns of August" (just published in '62), Barbara Tuchman's history of the first month leading up to World War I, won the Pulitzer that year. Like we think of the lessons of Vietnam or Kosovo or Iraq, Kennedy saw the lessons from WWI as a clue for how to confront the Soviets in Red Cuba.


    Historians write over and over of how Kennedy insisted that his aides and the officers around him read Tuchman's book (It sounds like he was a bit of a nag about it.)


    He went further: Kennedy wanted to "send a copy of that book to every Navy officer on every ship right now." He told the Secretary of the Army, Cyrus Vance, to ship Tuchman's best-seller to "every U.S. military base in the world." These stories are repeated time and again.


    Why?
    -- A new grand strategy for a New Frontier from a long time ago?
    -- Profiles in Courage writ large, supported by Tuchman's sweeping WWI account of heroes and prophets and bastards amidst the rabble?
    -- A message to the troops: Hey, guys, you're too young to remember the First World War but I thought you should know that a lot of you are going to die, well, most of you will, no really...?


    Unfortunately all the records seemed to have been destroyed, nothing kept on that level of detail (such as books distributed to troops) from back then.


    Long story, long: There is no evidence, one way or other, if the book orders were ever carried out, if soldiers and marines, coastguards, pilots and sailors, as they readied for Cuba (and Vietnam) were reading of the misery and heroism and more misery of World War I--although several publications including Newsweek keep reporting the unsubstantiated lore that the distribution definitely happened.


    SO, I was wondering, do you have any memories of receiving "Guns of August" during your tour? Have you heard of the book? Was there other book-of-the-month type lit passed around and read? discussed? Was there even time for that?


    Did the lessons and misdeeds of World War I figure into your thinking when you were on tour?


    [Fun fact: "Guns of August" also happens to be one of McCain's favorite books.]


    All my best,


    Zack
    Zachary Jonathan Jacobson, PhD
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Feel free to hit it me up:
    researchaofgpinc@gmail.com
    @zacharyjacobson
    the-watch.blog

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  2. #2
    One thread alone will be enough Professor, someone will perhaps answer.

    We do not allow spamming multiple threads with the same question, thus the other two were deleted.

    FO


  3. #3
    That's a bit snide, just trying to get my sea legs.


  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by zjacobson View Post
    That's a bit snide, just trying to get my sea legs.
    Then stop being a bit snide, we have our sea legs.


  5. #5
    Russ,

    Point taken. Lemme know anytime I'm sounding like a dick...

    Question: Were there any books you remember reading in Vietnam that really capturing you, the moment? Just a great escape? or were assigned reading? Anything lately you'd recommend?

    Thanks much


  6. #6
    I am thinking Russ was way, way too busy doing what was required in Nam to be reading a book. You can't be serious.


  7. #7
    wish I could help but the only thing that I was assigned to read, and this was in 1973 when I went in the Corps, was material for combat, my T.O. weapon, or to the country I was headed but mostly the combat related things I pick up for my self to learn, books about Patton, Puller, and some other people as well.


  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Old Marine View Post
    I am thinking Russ was way, way too busy doing what was required in Nam to be reading a book. You can't be serious.
    I agree the Nam vets were too busy making sure their weapon was ready and trying to stay a life to have any time to read anything.


  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by zjacobson View Post
    Russ,

    Point taken. Lemme know anytime I'm sounding like a dick...

    Question: Were there any books you remember reading in Vietnam that really capturing you, the moment? Just a great escape? or were assigned reading? Anything lately you'd recommend?

    Thanks much
    Zach

    I was Marine Corps Infantry, we spent most of our time out in the bush, hunting down the gooks and neutralizing them. We were not very pc, then or now, and we only carried exactly what we needed, or were forced to carry.

    There are books about the Arizona, Dodge City, Hue, but I don't need to read about what I lived. I wonder if they'll ever write a book about Meade River or the Hook. But once again I already know the ending. Just saying.

    By the way, if you come off like a dick again I'll let you know. Be nice to these people here, they're some of the best.


  10. #10
    Super Moderator Platinum Member Mongoose's Avatar
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    I didn't read anything in Nam.....didn't even get a letter from home. I did read a couple of maps though. Was in the bush 98% of the time.


  11. #11
    What was different about Meade River and the Hook that we plebes don't have a clue?


  12. #12
    Another thought, do you think that the living situation was much different over there in the early '60s than later?


  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by zjacobson View Post
    What was different about Meade River and the Hook that we plebes don't have a clue?
    The Hook at Operation Meade River was one of the worst gunfights I was in. Pinned down for days, finally Mongoose's outfit fought their way into us and together we overran about 250 reinforced concrete bunkers and we killed all the gooks. The battleship NJ was firing in support of us along with B52's, F4's and Marine artillery and mortars.

    Afterward my battalion was pulled out of the operation because of our high number of casualties, no longer and effective fighting force.

    Your 2nd question about living situations, I don't know about the early 60's but during 68 we were constantly in the field/bush living like animals, starving, 3-4+ weeks at a time. Rest time might be 2-3 days back at An Hoa then back out again. It was all about taking high body counts, lot's of killing. During my regiments time in the Nam we lost over 2700 KIA, I knew many of them.


  14. #14
    Super Moderator Platinum Member Mongoose's Avatar
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    Very true.....Russ's unit as well as mine, suffered 60 to 70 % casualties. After Meade River we were given a 10 day rest. Went afloat on the USS Valley Forge, while we received replacements.


  15. #15
    Horrific, speechless.


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