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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for November 8th, 2009

Black Friday is already here in selected stores… Now you may not need to wait for the day after Thanksgiving for the big sales. Also, this will cut out waiting in line from midnight in the cold and risk bodily injury to get the good deals. I went out to some local stores last year to photograph the crowds for a Photo-Journalism assignment. The people at the beginning of the line were there before midnight. What a pain! But they got good deals.

This article points out that some stores are offering Black Friday deals as early as now through November 20th. Take a look and let me know what you think…

Black Friday Starts Now for Savvy Shoppers by PC World: Yahoo! Tech 


Black Friday bargains, but hate the idea of pre-dawn lines, surly shoppers, and the risk of bodily harm just to score a bargain Blu-ray player or Xbox console, major U.S. retailers have an alternative: Why not shop early? Some pre-Black Friday sales start Saturday, Nov. 7. Start brewing the coffee now.

The early sales from JCPenney, Sears, Target, and Wal-Mart are designed to drive traffic to brick-and-mortar stores and retail websites—and possibly entice consumers to start their holiday shopping a little early. Some big box retailers, including Best Buy and Wal-Mart, offered pre-Black Friday loss-leaders last year too.

If you’d rather not leave the house, Kmart’s "Better than Black Friday" online extravaganza kicked off today, and runs every Friday through Nov. 20. [MORE]

Well, the ‘Droid’ is here, but so what… There is predicatable preferences by all those iPhone users for their current devices over the new kid on the block. Even though AT&T service may leave something to be desired, it is not easy to switch, especially since Verizon’s network is incompatible with the AT&T one (as well as that of most other cellular carriers!)… We might have seen a more even battlefield if the Droid had not gone with Verizon, but such is life.

Read this article to get a feel for the reasoning with staying with the iPhone… Let me know what you think…

No Droid For Me, iPhone Is The PC Of Smartphones by PC World: Yahoo! Tech 

droid 2 pic

There is no piece of technological wizardry that I want so much as a Droid. Yet, I have decided to hold onto my iPhone. Why? Because the iPhone is the PC of smartphones.

I mean that in the good sense of what a PC represents, namely compatibility. Yes, Google’s Android operating system may someday–probably will–become the standard for comparison among smartphones.

That time, however, is not here and may not arrive for several years. In the meantime, if I want just one smartphone, it will be an iPhone. The iPhone today represents compatibility and standards.

This is the opposite of the situation that Apple finds itself in with computers. In computing, a Mac comes close but is not, in the end, a real PC. Why? Because a Mac may be able to do 90 percent of what a PC can do, but that other 10 percent can be critical. [MORE]

by Gerald Boerner


“Why not be silent?”
— William Eggleston

“I am at war with the obvious,”
— William Eggleston

“I like to photograph democratically.”
— William Eggleston

“I only take one shot, anything more confuses the issue.”
— William Eggleston

“…one of the most influential and original photographers alive today.”
— BBC TV’s “Imagine”

“…it’s just about impossible to follow up with words. They don’t have anything to do with each other.”
— William Eggleston

“We like the same things, women, booze, photography just gets us out of the house.”
— William Eggleston

“I only ever take one picture of one thing. Literally. Never two. So then that picture is taken and then the next one is waiting somewhere else.’ Let me get this straight, I say, astonished: each image he has produced is the result of one single shot? He nods. And what happens, I ask, if you don’t get the picture you want in that one shot? ‘Then I don’t get it,’ he answers simply. ‘I don’t really worry if it works out or not.”
— William Eggleston

“A picture is what it is and I’ve never noticed that it helps to talk about them, or answer specific questions about them, much less volunteer information in words. It wouldn’t make any sense to explain them. Kind of diminishes them. People always want to know when something was taken, where it was taken, and, God knows, why it was taken. It gets really ridiculous. I mean, they’re right there, whatever they are.”
— William Eggleston


William Eggleston (born: 1939)

Please Note: 
The image of William Eggleston that has appeared in the current post was from the Memphis Magazine, March 1994 article by Tim Sampson. The photo was taken by Alan Ulmer who has questioned it use in this posting. It has, therefore, been removed in respect to his copyright rights. His work may be viewed at

William Eggleston is an American photographer. He is widely credited with securing recognition for color photography as a legitimate artistic medium to display in art galleries.

William Eggleston was born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in Sumner, Mississippi. His father was an engineer who had failed as a cotton farmer, and his mother was the daughter of a prominent local judge. As a boy, Eggleston was introverted; he enjoyed playing the piano, drawing, and working with electronics. From an early age, he was also drawn to visual media, and reportedly enjoyed buying postcards and cutting out pictures from magazines. As a child, Eggleston was also interested in audio technology.

Eggleston_05_v At the age of fifteen, Eggleston was sent to the Webb School, a boarding establishment In Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Eggleston later recalled few fond memories of the school, telling a reporter, "It had a kind of Spartan routine to ‘build character’. I never knew what that was supposed to mean. It was so callous and dumb. It was the kind of place where it was considered effeminate to like music and painting." Eggleston was unusual among his peers in eschewing the traditional Southern male pursuits of hunting and sports, in favor of artistic pursuits and observation of the world around him. Nevertheless, Eggleston noted in retrospect that he never felt like an outsider. "I never had the feeling that I didn’t fit in," he told a reporter, "But probably I didn’t."

Eggleston attended Vanderbilt University for a year, Delta State College for a semester, and the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) for approximately five years, none of this experience resulting in a college degree. However, it was during these university years that his interest in photography took root: a friend at Vanderbilt gave Eggleston a Leica camera. Eggleston studied art at Ole Miss and was introduced to abstract expressionism by a visiting painter from New York named Tom Young.

Artistic development

Eggleston’s early photographic efforts were inspired by the work of Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank, and by French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s book, The Decisive Moment. Eggleston later recalled that the book was "the first serious book I found, from many awful books…I didn’t understand it a bit, and then it sank in, and I realized, my God, this is a great one.”

Eggleston_Untitled First photographing in black-and-white, Eggleston began experimenting with color in 1965 and 1966; color transparency film became his dominant medium in the later sixties. Eggleston’s development as a photographer seems to have taken place in relative isolation from other artists. In an interview, John Szarkowski of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) describes his first, 1969 encounter with the young Eggleston as being "absolutely out of the blue". After reviewing Eggleston’s work (which he recalled as a suitcase full of "drugstore" color prints) Szarkowski prevailed upon the Photography Committee of MOMA to buy one of Eggleston’s photographs.

In 1970, Eggleston’s friend William Christenberry introduced him to Walter Hopps, director of Washington, D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery. Hopps later reported being "stunned" by Eggleston’s work: "I had never seen anything like it."

Eggleston taught at Harvard in 1973 and 1974, and it was during these years that he discovered dye-transfer printing; he was examining the price list of a photographic lab in Chicago when he read about the process. As Eggleston later recalled:

"It advertised ‘from the cheapest to the ultimate print.’ The ultimate print was a dye-transfer. I went straight up there to look and everything I saw was commercial work like pictures of cigarette packs or perfume bottles but the colour saturation and the quality of the ink was overwhelming. I couldn’t wait to see what a plain Eggleston picture would look like with the same process. Every photograph I subsequently printed with the process seemed fantastic and each one seemed better than the previous one."

The dye-transfer process resulted in some of Eggleston’s most striking and famous work, such as his 1973 photograph entitled The Red Ceiling, of which Eggleston said,

"The Red Ceiling is so powerful, that in fact I’ve never seen it reproduced on the page to my satisfaction. When you look at the dye it is like red blood that’s wet on the wall…. A little red is usually enough, but to work with an entire red surface was a challenge."

Eggleston_Memphis At Harvard, Eggleston prepared his first portfolio, entitled 14 Pictures (1974), which consisted of fourteen dye-transfer prints. Eggleston’s work was featured in an exhibition at MOMA in 1976, which was accompanied by the volume William Eggleston’s Guide. The MOMA show is regarded as a watershed moment in the history of photography, by marking "the acceptance of colour photography by the highest validating institution" (in the words of Mark Holborn). Eggleston’s was the first one-person exhibition of colour photographs in the history of MOMA.

Eggleston_Memphis-4 Around the time of his 1976 MOMA exhibition, Eggleston was introduced to Viva, the Andy Warhol "superstar", with whom he began a long relationship. During this period Eggleston became familiar with Andy Warhol’s circle, a connection that may have helped foster Eggleston’s idea of the "democratic camera", Mark Holborn suggests.

Also in the seventies, Eggleston experimented with video, producing several hours of roughly edited footage Eggleston calls Stranded in Canton. Writer Richard Woodward, who has viewed the footage, likens it to a "demented home movie", mixing tender shots of his children at home with shots of drunken parties, public urination and a man biting off a chicken’s head before a cheering crowd in New Orleans. Woodward suggests that the film is reflective of Eggleston’s "fearless naturalism—a belief that by looking patiently at what others ignore or look away from, interesting things can be seen."

Eggleston’s aesthetic

Eggleston_06_v Eggleston’s mature work is characterized by its ordinary subject-matter. As Eudora Welty noted in her introduction to The Democratic Forest, an Eggleston photograph might include "old tyres, Dr Pepper machines, discarded air-conditioners, vending machines, empty and dirty Coca-Cola bottles, torn posters, power poles and power wires, street barricades, one-way signs, detour signs, No Parking signs, parking meters and palm trees crowding the same curb."

Eggleston has a unique ability to find beauty, and striking displays of color, in ordinary scenes. A dog trotting toward the camera; a Moose lodge; a woman standing by a rural road; a row of country mailboxes; a convenience store; the lobby of a Krystal fast-food restaurant — all of these ordinary scenes take on new significance in the rich colors of Eggleston’s photographs.

Eudora Welty suggests that Eggleston sees the complexity and beauty of the mundane world:

"The extraordinary, compelling, honest, beautiful and unsparing photographs all have to do with the quality of our lives in the ongoing world: they succeed in showing us the grain of the present, like the cross-section of a tree…. They focus on the mundane world. But no subject is fuller of implications than the mundane world!"

Mark Holborn, in his introduction to Ancient and Modern writes about the dark undercurrent of these mundane scenes as viewed through Eggleston’s lens:

"[Eggleston’s] subjects are, on the surface, the ordinary inhabitants and environs of suburban Memphis and Mississippi–friends, family, barbecues, back yards, a tricycle and the clutter of the mundane. The normality of these subjects is deceptive, for behind the images there is a sense of lurking danger."

American artist Edward Ruscha said of Eggleston’s work, "When you see a picture he’s taken, you’re stepping into some kind of jagged world that seems like Eggleston World.”

It may help to compare Eggleston’s work to the work of another illustrious Mississippian, William Faulkner, who also drew subject matter from the Mississippi Delta region that is the subject matter of much of Eggleston’s art. Both Eggleston and Faulkner drew upon insights of the European and American avant-gardes to help them explore their Southern environs in new and surprising ways. As the writer Willie Morris wrote:

Eggleston’s "depiction of the rural Southern countryside speaks eloquently of the fictional world of Faulkner and, not coincidentally, the shared experience of almost every Southerner. Often lurid, always lyrical, his stark realism resonates with the language and tone of Faulkner’s greatest mythic cosmos of Yoknapatawpha County …. The work of William Eggleston would have pleased Bill Faulkner … immensely."

Eggleston seemed to acknowledge the affinity between himself and Faulkner with the publication of his book, Faulkner’s Mississippi, in 1990.

According to Philip Gefter from Art & Auction,

"It is worth noting that Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, pioneers of color photography in the early 1970s, borrowed, consciously or not, from the photorealists. Their photographic interpretation of the American vernacular—gas stations, diners, parking lots—is foretold in photorealist paintings that preceded their pictures."

Notable publications

William Eggleston’s Guide was followed by other books and portfolios, including:

  • Los Alamos (actually completed in 1974, before the publication of the Guide);
  • Election Eve (1976; a portfolio of photographs taken around Plains, Georgia before that year’s presidential election);
  • The Morals of Vision (1978);
  • Flowers (1978);
  • Wedgwood Blue (1979);
  • Seven (1979);
  • Troubled Waters (1980);
  • The Louisiana Project (1980);
  • William Eggleston’s Graceland (1984);
  • The Democratic Forest (1989);
  • Faulkner’s Mississippi (1990), and
  • Ancient and Modern (1992).

Eggleson_Radio city coverEggleston also worked with filmmakers, photographing the set of John Huston’s film Annie (1982) and documenting the making of David Byrne’s film True Stories (1986). He is the subject of Michael Almereyda’s recent documentary portrait William Eggleston in the Real World (2005). In 2008, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York co-organized with Haus der Kunst in Munich, the retrospective exhibition William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008

Eggleston_Flies On Sherbert Album CoverThe earliest commercial use of Eggleston’s art was in the album covers for the Memphis group Big Star who used the famous Red Ceiling image on their album Radio City. Later records also had other Eggleston images, including the dolls on a Cadillac hood featured on the cover of the classic Alex Chilton album Like Flies on Sherbert. The Primal Scream album Give out But Don’t Give Up features a cropped photograph of a neon confederate flag and a palm tree by Eggleston.

In 1994, Eggleston allowed his long-time friend and fellow photographer Terry Manning to use two Eggleston photographs for the front and back covers of the CD release of Christopher Idylls, an album of ethereal acoustic guitar music produced by Manning and performed by another Eggleston friend, Gimmer Nicholson.


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

William Eggleston that can be found at…

by Gerald Boerner


“You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours, but even at those odds, you will lose and I will win.”
— Ho Chi Minh to the French, late 1940s

“If in order to avoid further Communist expansion in Asia and particularly in Indo-China, if in order to avoid it we must take the risk by putting American boys in, I believe that the executive branch of the government has to take the politically unpopular position of facing up to it and doing it, and I personally would support such a decision.”
— Richard M. Nixon, speech, April 16, 1954.

“You have a row of dominoes set up; you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is that it will go over very quickly.”
— Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954

“Should I become President…I will not risk American lives…by permitting any other nation to drag us into the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time through an unwise commitment that is unwise militarily, unnecessary to our security and unsupported by our allies.”
— John F. Kennedy, in a speech New York Times, October 13, 1960

“Now we have a problem in making our power credible, and Vietnam is the place.”
— John F. Kennedy, 1961

“Once upon a time our traditional goal in war and can anyone doubt that we are at war? – was victory. Once upon a time we were proud of our strength, our military power. Now we seem ashamed of it. Once upon a time the rest of the world looked to us for leadership. Now they look to us for a quick handout and a fence-straddling international posture.”
— Barry M. Goldwater, Why Not Victory?, 1962

“Tell the Vietnamese they’ve got to draw in their horns or we’re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age.”
— Gen. Curtis LeMay, May, 1964

“We still seek no wider war.”
— Lyndon B. Johnson, statement on the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, August 4, 1964

“We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it has been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.”
— Ronald Reagan, 1964

“This is not a jungle war, but a struggle for freedom on every front of human activity.”
— Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964

“It’s silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still be home for Christmas.”
— Ronald Reagan, interview, Sacramento Bee, October 10, 1965


Veterans Day: Remembering the Vietnam War

Bruce_Crandall's_UH-1D The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, was a Cold War military conflict that which may be said to have occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from September 26, 1959 to April 30, 1975. The war was fought between the communist North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of South Vietnam, supported by the United States and other anti-communist nations.

The Viet Cong, a lightly armed South Vietnamese communist-controlled common front, largely fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The North Vietnamese Army engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units into battle. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery and airstrikes.

Ho Chi Minh The United States entered the war to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider strategy of containment. Military advisors arrived beginning in 1950. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with U.S. troop levels tripling in 1961 and tripling again in 1962. U.S. combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Involvement peaked in 1968 at the time of the Tet Offensive. After this, U.S. ground forces were withdrawn as part of a policy called Vietnamization. Despite the Paris Peace Accords, signed by all parties in January 1973, fighting continued.

The Case-Church Amendment, passed by the U.S. Congress in response to the anti-war movement, prohibited direct U.S. military involvement after August 15, 1973. U.S. military and economic aid continued until 1975. The capture of Saigon by North Vietnamese army in April 1975 marked the end of Vietnam War. North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year.

The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities, including 3 to 4 million Vietnamese from both sides, 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians, and 58,159 U.S. soldiers.


Vietnam Map_452px Various names have been applied to the conflict. Vietnam War is the most commonly used name in English. It has also been called the Second Indochina War, and the Vietnam Conflict.

As there have been so many conflicts in Indochina, this conflict is known by the name of their chief opponent to distinguish it from the others. Thus, in Vietnamese, the war is known as Chiến tranh Việt Nam (The Vietnam War), or as Kháng chiến chống Mỹ (Resistance War Against America), loosely translated as the American War.

The main military organizations involved in the war were, on the side of the South, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the U.S. military, and, on the side of the North, the Vietnam People’s Army (VPA), or North Vietnamese Army (NVA), and the Vietcong, or National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF), a communist army based in the South.

Background to 1949

France began its conquest of Indochina in 1859. In spite of military resistance, by 1888 the area of the current-day nations of Cambodia and Vietnam was made into the colony of French Indochina (Laos was added later). Various Vietnamese opposition movements to the French rule existed during this period but none were ultimately as successful as the Viet Minh common front (openly controlled by the Communist Party of Vietnam) which was founded in 1941.

During World War II, the French were defeated by the Germans in 1940. For French Indochina, this meant that the colonial authorities became Vichy French, allies of the German-Italian Axis powers. In turn this meant that the French collaborated with the Japanese forces after their invasion of French Indochina during 1940. The French continued to run affairs in the colony, but ultimate power resided in the hands of the Japanese.

This situation continued until the German forces were expelled from France and the French Indochina colonial authorities started holding secret talks with the Free French. Fearing that they could no longer trust the French authorities the Japanese army interned them all on 9 March 1945 and assumed direct control themselves through their puppet state of the Empire of Vietnam under Bảo Đại.

Exit of the French, 1950–1954

Bao_Dai_1953In January 1950, the communist nations, led by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), recognized the Viet Minh’s Democratic Republic of Vietnam as the government of Vietnam. Non-Communist nations recognized the French-backed State of Vietnam in Saigon led by former Emperor Bao Dai the following month. The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 convinced many Washington policymakers that the war in Indochina was an example of communist expansionism directed by the Kremlin.

PRC military advisors began assisting the Viet Minh in July 1950. PRC weapons, expertise, and laborers transformed the Viet Minh from a guerrilla force into a regular army. In September, the U.S. created a Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) to screen French requests for aid, advise on strategy, and train Vietnamese soldiers. By 1954, the U.S. had supplied 300,000 small arms and spent US$1 billion in support of the French military effort and was shouldering 80 percent of the cost of the war.

There were also talks between the French and Americans in which the possible use of three tactical nuclear weapons was considered, though how seriously this was considered and by whom are even now vague and contradictory. One version of plan for the proposed Operation Vulture envisioned sending 60 B-29s from US bases in the region, supported by as many as 150 fighters launched from US Seventh Fleet carriers, to bomb Viet Minh commander Vo Nguyen Giap’s positions. The plan included an option to use up to three atomic weapons on the Viet Minh positions. Admiral Arthur W. Radford, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave this nuclear option his backing. US B-29s, B-36s, and B-47s could have executed a nuclear strike, as could carrier aircraft from the Seventh Fleet.

U.S. carriers sailed to the Tonkin gulf, and reconnaissance flights over Dien Bien Phu were conducted during the negotiations. According to Richard Nixon the plan involved the Joint Chiefs of Staff drawing up plans to use 3 small tactical nuclear weapons in support of the French. Vice president Richard Nixon, a so-called "hawk" on Vietnam, suggested that the U.S. might have to "put American boys in". President Eisenhower made American participation contingent on British support, but London was opposed. In the end, convinced that the political risks outweighed the possible benefits, Eisenhower decided against the intervention.

Diem era, 1955–1963

Ngo Dinh Diem The Geneva Accords, concluded between France and the Viet Minh in 1954, partitioned Vietnam pending national elections (under international supervision) to be held by 20 July 1956. Much as in Korea, the agreement stipulated that the two military zones were to be separated by a temporary demarcation line (known as the Demilitarized Zone or DMZ). In June 1955, Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem of the State of Vietnam (South Vietnam) announced that elections would not be held. South Vietnam had rejected the agreement from the beginning and was therefore not bound by it, he said. "How can we expect ‘free elections’ to be held in the Communist North?" Diem asked. President Dwight D. Eisenhower echoed senior U.S. experts when he wrote that, in 1954, "80 per cent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh" over Emperor Bao Dai.

Domino_theoryThe Domino Theory, which argued that if one country fell to communist forces, then all of the surrounding countries would follow, was first proposed as policy by the Eisenhower administration. It was, and is still, commonly hypothesized that it applied to Vietnam. John F. Kennedy, then a U.S. senator, said in a speech to the American Friends of Vietnam: "Burma, Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines and obviously Laos and Cambodia are among those whose security would be threatened if the Red Tide of Communism overflowed into Vietnam."

Mao_Krushchev The Sino-Soviet split led to a reduction in the influence of PRC, which had insisted in 1954 that the Viet Minh accept a division of the country. Trường Chinh, North Vietnam’s pro-PRC party first secretary, was demoted and Hanoi authorized communists in South Vietnam to begin a low level insurgency in December 1956. This insurgency in the south had begun in response to Diem’s Denunciation of Communists campaign, in which thousands of local Viet Minh cadres and supporters had been executed or sent to concentration camps, and was in violation of the Northern Communist party line which had enjoined them not to start an insurrection, but rather engage in a political campaign, agitating for a free all-Vietnam election in accordance with the Geneva accords.

Ho Chi Minh stated, "Do not engage in military operations; that will lead to defeat. Do not take land from a peasant. Emphasize nationalism rather than communism. Do not antagonize anyone if you can avoid it. Be selective in your violence. If an assassination is necessary, use a knife, not a rifle or grenade. It is too easy to kill innocent bystanders with guns and bombs, and accidental killing of the innocent bystanders will alienate peasants from the revolution. Once an assassination has taken place, make sure peasants know why the killing occurred." This strategy was referred to as "armed propaganda."

[Continued to Part 2]


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

The Vietnam War that can be found at…

by Gerald Boerner


[Continued from Part 1]


During John F. Kennedy’s administration, 1960–1963

JF_Kennedy_Photo-1 When John F. Kennedy won the 1960 U.S. presidential election, one major issue Kennedy raised was whether the Soviet space and missile programs had surpassed those of the U.S. As Kennedy took over, despite warnings from Eisenhower about Laos and Vietnam, Europe and Latin America "loomed larger than Asia on his sights." In his inaugural address, Kennedy made the ambitious pledge to "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty."

Nikita Khrushchev In June 1961, John F. Kennedy bitterly disagreed with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev when they met in Vienna over key U.S.-Soviet issues. The Legacy of the Korean War created the idea of a limited war.

Although Kennedy stressed long-range missile parity with the Soviets, he was also interested in using special forces for counterinsurgency warfare in Third World countries threatened by communist insurgencies. Although they were originally intended for use behind front lines after a conventional invasion of Europe, Kennedy believed that the guerrilla tactics employed by special forces such as the Green Berets would be effective in a "brush fire" war in Vietnam.

Lyndon B. Johnson expands the war, 1963–1969

Lyndon B. Johnson Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ), as he took over the presidency after the death of Kennedy, did not consider Vietnam a priority and was more concerned with his "Great Society" and progressive social programs. Presidential aide Jack Valenti recalls, "Vietnam at the time was no bigger than a man’s fist on the horizon. We hardly discussed it because it was not worth discussing."

On 24 November 1963, Johnson said, "the battle against communism… must be joined… with strength and determination." The pledge came at a time when Vietnam was deteriorating, especially in places like the Mekong Delta, because of the recent coup against Diem.

The military revolutionary council, meeting in lieu of a strong South Vietnamese leader, was made up of 12 members headed by General Minh—whom Stanley Karnow, a journalist on the ground, later recalled as "a model of lethargy." His regime was overthrown in January 1964 by General Nguyen Khanh. Lodge, frustrated by the end of the year, cabled home about Minh: "Will he be strong enough to get on top of things?"

clip_image001An alleged NLF activist, captured
during an attack on an American
outpost near the Cambodian
border, is interrogated.

On 2 August 1964, the USS Maddox, on an intelligence mission along North Vietnam’s coast, allegedly fired upon and damaged several torpedo boats that had been stalking it in the Gulf of Tonkin. A second attack was reported two days later on the USS Turner Joy and Maddox in the same area. The circumstances of the attack were murky. Lyndon Johnson commented to Undersecretary of State George Ball that "those sailors out there may have been shooting at flying fish."

The second attack led to retaliatory air strikes, prompted Congress to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and gave the president power to conduct military operations in Southeast Asia without declaring war. In the same month, Johnson pledged that he was not "… committing American boys to fighting a war that I think ought to be fought by the boys of Asia to help protect their own land."

Tet Offensive

Having lured General Westmoreland’s forces into the hinterland at Khe Sanh in Quang Tri Province, in January 1968, the PVA and NLF broke the truce that had traditionally accompanied the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday. They launched the surprise Tet Offensive in the hope of sparking a national uprising. Over 100 cities were attacked, with assaults on General Westmoreland’s headquarters and the U.S. embassy in Saigon.

clip_image002Although the U.S. and South Vietnamese were initially taken aback by the scale of the urban offensive, they responded quickly and effectively, decimating the ranks of the NLF. In the former capital city of Huế, the combined NLF and NVA troops captured the Imperial Citadel and much of the city, which led to the Battle of Hue. Throughout the offensive, the American forces employed massive firepower; in Hue where the battle was the fiercest, that firepower left 80% of the city in ruins. During the interim between the capture of the Citadel and end of the "Battle of Hue", the communist insurgent occupying forces massacred several thousand unarmed Hue civilians (estimates vary up to a high of 6000). After the war, North Vietnamese officials acknowledged that the Tet Offensive had, indeed, caused grave damage to NLF forces. But the offensive had another, unintended consequence.

General Westmoreland had become the public face of the war. He was featured on the cover of Time magazine three times and was named 1965’s Man of the Year. Time described him as "the sinewy personification of the American fighting man… (who) directed the historic buildup, drew up the battle plans, and infused the… men under him with his own idealistic view of U.S. aims and responsibilities."

Nixon Doctrine / Vietnamization

Richard M. Nixon Severe communist losses during the Tet Offensive allowed U.S. President Richard M. Nixon to begin troop withdrawals. His plan, called the Nixon Doctrine, was to build up the ARVN, so that they could take over the defense of South Vietnam. The policy became known as "Vietnamization". Vietnamization had much in common with the policies of the Kennedy administration. One important difference, however, remained. While Kennedy insisted that the South Vietnamese fight the war themselves, he attempted to limit the scope of the conflict.

Nixon said in an announcement, "I am tonight announcing plans for the withdrawal of an additional 150,000 American troops to be completed during the spring of next year. This will bring a total reduction of 265,500 men in our armed forces in Vietnam below the level that existed when we took office 15 months ago."

clip_image004Propaganda leaflets urging the
defection of NLF and North
Vietnamese to the side of the
Republic of Vietnam

Nixon also pursued negotiations. Theater commander Creighton Abrams shifted to smaller operations, aimed at communist logistics, with better use of firepower and more cooperation with the ARVN. Nixon also began to pursue détente with the Soviet Union and rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China. This policy helped to decrease global tensions. Détente led to nuclear arms reduction on the part of both superpowers. But Nixon was disappointed that the PRC and the Soviet Union continued to supply the North Vietnamese with aid. In September 1969, Ho Chi Minh died at age seventy-nine.

The anti-war movement was gaining strength in the United States. Nixon appealed to the "silent majority" of Americans to support the war. But revelations of the My Lai Massacre, in which a U.S. Army platoon went on a rampage and raped and killed civilians, and the 1969 "Green Beret Affair" where eight Special Forces soldiers, including the 5th Special Forces Group Commander were arrested for the murder of a suspected double agent provoked national and international outrage.

The civilian cost of the war was again questioned when the U.S. concluded operation Speedy Express with a claimed bodycount of 10,889 Communist guerillas with only 40 U.S. losses; Kevin Buckley writing in Newsweek estimated that perhaps 5,000 of the Vietnamese dead were civilians.

1972 election and Paris Peace Accords

The war was the central issue of the 1972 presidential election. Nixon’s opponent, George McGovern, campaigned on a platform of withdrawal from Vietnam. Nixon’s National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, continued secret negotiations with North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho. In October 1972, they reached an agreement.

clip_image005 U.S. soldiers searching a
village for NLF

However, South Vietnamese President Thieu demanded massive changes to the peace accord. When North Vietnam went public with the agreement’s details, the Nixon administration claimed that the North was attempting to embarrass the President. The negotiations became deadlocked. Hanoi demanded new changes.

To show his support for South Vietnam and force Hanoi back to the negotiating table, Nixon ordered Operation Linebacker II, a massive bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. The offensive destroyed much of the remaining economic and industrial capacity of North Vietnam. Simultaneously Nixon pressured Thieu to accept the terms of the agreement, threatening to conclude a bilateral peace deal and cut off American aid.

clip_image006Members of U.S. Navy SEAL Team
One move down the Bassac River
in a Seal team Assault Boat
(STAB) during operations along
the river south of Saigon,
November 1967.

On 15 January 1973, Nixon announced the suspension of offensive action against North Vietnam. The Paris Peace Accords on "Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam" were signed on 27 January 1973, officially ending direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. A cease-fire was declared across North and South Vietnam. U.S. POWs were released. The agreement guaranteed the territorial integrity of Vietnam and, like the Geneva Conference of 1954, called for national elections in the North and South. The Paris Peace Accords stipulated a sixty-day period for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces. "This article," noted Peter Church, "proved… to be the only one of the Paris Agreements which was fully carried out."

Exit of the Americans: 1973–1975

The U.S. began drastically reducing their troop support in South Vietnam during the final years of "Vietnamization". Many U.S. troops were removed from the region, and on 5 March 1971, the U.S. returned the 5th Special Forces Group, which was the first American unit deployed to South Vietnam, to its former base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

clip_image008U.S. helicopter spraying chemical
defoliants in the Mekong Delta,
South Vietnam

Under the Paris Peace Accord, between North Vietnamese Foreign Minister Lê Ðức Thọ and U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and reluctantly signed by South Vietnamese President Thiệu, U.S. military forces withdrew from South Vietnam and prisoners were exchanged. North Vietnam was allowed to continue supplying communist troops in the South, but only to the extent of replacing materials that were consumed. Later that year the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Kissinger and Thọ, but the Vietnamese negotiator declined it saying that a true peace did not yet exist.

The communist leaders had expected that the ceasefire terms would favor their side. But Saigon, bolstered by a surge of U.S. aid received just before the ceasefire went into effect, began to roll back the Vietcong. The communists responded with a new strategy hammered out in a series of meetings in Hanoi in March 1973, according to the memoirs of Trần Văn Trà.

Fall of Saigon

Chaos, unrest, and panic broke out as hysterical South Vietnamese officials and civilians scrambled to leave Saigon. Martial law was declared. American helicopters began evacuating South Vietnamese, U.S., and foreign nationals from various parts of the city and from the U.S. embassy compound. Operation Frequent Wind had been delayed until the last possible moment, because of U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin’s belief that Saigon could be held and that a political settlement could be reached.

clip_image009 Vietnam War memorial in
the new Chinatown in
Houston, Texas

Schlesinger announced early in the morning of 29 April 1975 the evacuation from Saigon by helicopter of the last U.S. diplomatic, military, and civilian personnel. Frequent Wind was arguably the largest helicopter evacuation in history. It began on 29 April, in an atmosphere of desperation, as hysterical crowds of Vietnamese vied for limited seats. Martin pleaded with Washington to dispatch $700 million in emergency aid to bolster the regime and help it mobilize fresh military reserves. But American public opinion had soured on this conflict halfway around the world.

In the U.S., South Vietnam was perceived as doomed. President Gerald Ford had given a televised speech on 23 April, declaring an end to the Vietnam War and all U.S. aid. Frequent Wind continued around the clock, as North Vietnamese tanks breached defenses on the outskirts of Saigon. The song "White Christmas" was broadcast as the final signal for withdrawal. In the early morning hours of 30 April, the last U.S. Marines evacuated the embassy by helicopter, as civilians swamped the perimeter and poured into the grounds. Many of them had been employed by the Americans and were left to their fate.

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

The Vietnam War that can be found at…

By Gerald Boerner


“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”
— Abraham Lincoln

“Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
— Abraham Lincoln

“If you can’t convince them, confuse them.”
— Harry S. Truman

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
— Abraham Lincoln

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”
— Andrew Jackson

“I am a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down…”
— Abraham Lincoln

“Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”
— Abraham Lincoln

“There are no easy answers’ but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.”
— Ronald Reagan

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
— John Quincy Adams

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
— Calvin Coolidge


The U.S. Presidency

US-GreatSeal-Obverse_600px The President of the United States is the head of state and head of government of the United States and is the highest political official in the United States by influence and recognition. The President leads the executive branch of the federal government and is one of only two nationally elected federal officers (the other being the Vice President of the United States).

Among other powers and responsibilities, Article II of the U.S. Constitution charges the President to "faithfully execute" federal law, makes the President commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces, allows the President to nominate executive and judicial officers with the advice and consent of the Senate, and allows the President to grant pardons and reprieves.

WhiteHouseSouthFacade_800px The President is indirectly elected by the people through the Electoral College to a four-year term. Since 1951, presidents have been limited to two terms by the Twenty-second Amendment. Forty-three individuals have been elected or succeeded to the office, serving a total of fifty-six four-year terms. On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama became the forty-fourth, and current, president.



The Flag of the President
of the United States

In 1783, the Treaty of Paris left the United States independent and at peace, but with an unsettled governmental structure. The Second Continental Congress had drawn up the Articles of Confederation in 1777, describing a permanent confederation, but granting to the Congress—the only federal institution—little power to finance itself or to ensure that its resolutions were enforced. In part, this reflected the anti-monarchy view of the Revolutionary period and the new American system was explicitly designed to prevent the rise of an American tyrant to replace the British King.

DoI_Signers_Med However, during the economic depression due to the collapse of the continental dollar following the American Revolution, the viability of the American government was threatened by political unrest in several states, efforts by debtors to use popular government to erase their debts, and the apparent inability of the Continental Congress to redeem the public obligations incurred during the war. The Congress also appeared unable to become a forum for productive cooperation among the States encouraging commerce and economic development. In response a Constitutional Convention was convened, ostensibly to reform the Articles of Confederation, but that subsequently began to draft a new system of government that would include greater executive power while retaining the checks and balances thought to be essential restraints on any imperial tendency in the office of the President.

Photo of the Constitution of the United States of America. A feather quill is included in the photo.The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America and is the oldest codified written national constitution still in force. It was completed on September 17, 1787. Individuals who presided over the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary period and under the Articles of Confederation had the title "President of the United States in Congress Assembled," often shortened to "President of the United States". The office had little distinct executive power. With the 1788 ratification of the Constitution, a separate executive branch was created, headed by the President of the United States.

Administrative powers

The President is the chief executive of the United States, putting him at the head of the executive branch of the government, whose responsibility is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." To carry out this duty, he is given control of the four million employees of the federal executive branch.

Juridical powers

The President also has the power to nominate federal judges, including members of the United States courts of appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States. However, these nominations do require Senate confirmation and this can provide a major stumbling block for presidents who wish to shape their federal judiciary in a particular ideological stance. The President must appoint judges for the United States district courts, but he will often defer to Senatorial courtesy in making these choices. He may also grant pardons and reprieves, as is often done just before the end of a presidential term.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
— Theodore Roosevelt

Legislative facilitator

State of Union at Joint Session President George W. Bush delivering
the 2007 State of the Union Address,
with Vice President Dick Cheney
and Speaker of the House Nancy
Pelosi behind him.

While the President cannot directly introduce legislation, he can play an important role in shaping it, especially if a president’s political party has a majority in one or both houses of the Congress. While members of the executive branch are prohibited from simultaneously holding seats in the Congress, they often write legislation and allow a Senator or Representative to introduce it for them. The President can further influence the legislative branch through the constitutionally mandated annual report to Congress, which may be either written or oral, but in modern times is the State of the Union address, which often outlines a president’s legislative proposals for the coming year.


FordNixonBushReaganCarter Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard
Nixon, George H. W. Bush,
Ronald Reagan and Jimmy
Carter dedicate the Ronald
Reagan Presidential Library
in 1991.

Beginning in 1959, all living former presidents were granted a pension, an office and a staff. The pension has increased numerous times with Congressional approval. Retired presidents now receive a pension based on the salary of the current administration’s cabinet secretaries, which is $191,300 as of 2008. Some former Presidents have also collected congressional pensions. The Former Presidents Act, as amended, also provides former presidents with travel funds and franking privileges.

Until 1997, all former presidents, and their families, were protected by the Secret Service until the president’s death. The last president to have lifetime Secret Service protection is Bill Clinton; George W. Bush and all subsequent Presidents will be protected by the Secret Service for a maximum of ten years after leaving office.


Other Events on this Day
  • In 1889…
    Montana becomes the forty-first state.

  • In 1892…
    Former president Grover Cleveland defeats incumbent Benjamin Harrison to become the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

  • In 1932…
    New York governor Franklin D. Roosevelt defeats incumbent Herbert Hoover to become the thirty-second U.S. president.

  • In 1942…
    U.S. and British forces land in French North Africa during World War II.

  • In 1960…
    Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy defeats Vice President Richard M. Nixon to become the thirty-fifth U.S. President.

  • In 2000…
    Florida begins a statewide recount of ballots to decide the winner of the presidential race between George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore.

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

U.S. Presidency that can be found at…