Best Defense
Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Gen. Bruce Clarke on the history of the Vietnam War: Still hasn’t been written

Gen. Bruce Clarke, one of the heroes of the Battle of the Bulge, also was historically minded. I was struck by this comment in his oral history. I think he was right when he said this in 1970, and still is: A good operational history of the Vietnam War, taking into account views of both ...

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Gen. Bruce Clarke, one of the heroes of the Battle of the Bulge, also was historically minded. I was struck by this comment in his oral history. I think he was right when he said this in 1970, and still is: A good operational history of the Vietnam War, taking into account views of both sides, still has not been written.

Gen. Bruce Clarke, one of the heroes of the Battle of the Bulge, also was historically minded. I was struck by this comment in his oral history. I think he was right when he said this in 1970, and still is: A good operational history of the Vietnam War, taking into account views of both sides, still has not been written.

I don’t think the history of the Vietnamese war will be written before the year 2000. . . . I think by the year 2000 we will see what the import of the Vietnamese war was in southeast Asia, but it will take that long to, I think, sift it out. I don’t think you could get the history of the Vietnamese war by studying any of our papers. I certainly wouldn’t want to take it out of the big papers. It’s my opinion that it has been the poorest reported war of the four that I’ve had something to do with.”

(Pp. 31-32)

The more I learn about the Vietnam war, the more I agree with him.

Btw, Gen. Frederick Franks mentions in the awkward, dull memoir he penned with Tom Clancy that in the waning days of the Vietnam War, Clarke was the only senior officer who visited the amputee ward in the old military hospital in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, when Franks was recuperating there from war wounds.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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