In 1964, at age 50, William C. Westmoreland possessed the look of a professional soldier. He stood ramrod straight at five feet ten inches tall, carried his frame with a confident, light gait, and weighed a healthy 180 pounds, which was only ten pounds more than what he weighed as a cadet at West Point thirty years earlier. He maintained a flat stomach at a time in life when most men his age had developed a paunch from decades of bad food and too much time behind a desk.
To stay fit, Westy, as his confidants knew him, did push-ups immediately after rising from bed in the morning. Even though he spent much of his day in an office in Saigon, or sitting in helicopters, jeeps, and airplanes, he still found time to swim and play tennis at the French Circle Sportif. He particularly enjoyed tennis. When Maxwell Taylor (who had been Westy’s mentor in the military) served as ambassador to South Vietnam, Westy and Max occasionally caught a game together. Westmoreland never displayed unpredictable or reckless behavior. He didn’t smoke, rarely drank alcohol, and did not curse. The most foul words in his vocabulary were apparently “darn” and “dang.” Continue Reading »
Tagged Attrition Strategy, Earle Wheeler, General Douglas MacArthur, Harry S Truman, Korean War, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Maxwell Taylor, Mini-Tet Offensive, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Tet Offensive, William Westmoreland
The Mekong Delta encompasses approximately 15,000 square miles. Its land area made up nearly a quarter of South Vietnam’s 67,108 square miles. The delta begins on the outskirts of Saigon and extends 193 miles as the crow flies to the southernmost tip of Vietnam, at the Ca Mau peninsula. In the 1950s and 1960s, the delta possessed the highest population density of any area within South Vietnam. And in 1970, U.S. intelligence estimated that the three delta provinces immediately surrounding Saigon, Long An, Hau Nghia, and Gia Dinh, each had districts that held populations in excess of 1,810 persons per square mile [“Indochina Precipitation and Monsoon Airflow Map,” 1970, Bergerud, Tropic Thunder, 136]. Even the rural areas of the central delta, which included the paddy country surrounding My Tho, Vinh Long, Can Tho and Long Xuyen, contained populations of between 520 and 1810 persons per square mile. The only other area within Vietnam that contained such a high population over such a large area was the Red River Delta of the North. The least populated, most remote, regions within the delta existed in the Ca Mau peninsula and U Minh Forest. Both of those areas held only 2.6 to 26 persons per square mile. Not coincidently, those two isolated patches of territory served as Viet Cong base areas during the First and Second Indochina wars. Continue Reading »
Tagged Bernard Fall, Ca Mau Peninsula, David Hackworth, David Halberstam, Dean Rusk, L.L. Lemnitzer, Mekong Delta, Mekong River, Pentagon Papers, President John F. Kennedy, Red River Delta, South Vietnam, U Minh Forest, Vietnam War
The South Kaibab Trail makes a steep descent from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim to the Colorado River. The difference in elevation between the top of the trail and its bottom is nearly a mile. On its way down to the interior of the canyon, the trail frequently cuts a thin, serrated line along the edge of the canyon’s steep walls. At a few places, the trail stands hundreds of feet above the canyon floor. A freak gust of wind, a misstep, or a tumble along those precarious segments of the trail could easily send a hiker over the precipice to his/her death on the rocks below. Continue Reading »
Bright Angel Creek runs clear and cold from the Grand Canyon’s North Rim to the Colorado River. It’s a fast, boulder-strewn stream. Along its lower reach, it makes a lot of noise as it passes over the smooth, round stones lining its banks and bed. Statuesque cottonwoods grow on the edges of the creek near its juncture with the Colorado. When spring and summer winds blow up the narrow, high-walled valley of Bright Angel Creek, the dangling cottonwood leaves make a gentle rustling sound. The flapping leaves, with their silvery undersides, resemble so many butterflies trying to alight from the branches. The lower canyon of Bright Angel Creek, which is known as ‘The Box,’ is an oasis in an otherwise inhospitable land. Vegetation grows in abundance here. That vegetation in-turn attracts wildlife. Nearly tame mule deer graze the grasses growing next to the trails, while more cautious ravens perch in the high trees, waiting patiently for a fatigued hiker to inadvertently drop a scrap of food.
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Tagged Bright Angel Creek, Bright Angel Trail, Colorado River, Garden Creek, Grand Canyon, John Wesley Powell, North Kaibab Trail, Phantom Ranch, Puebloan Indians, South Kaibab Trail, Tongue River, Yellowstone River