Monday, July 18, 2005


I was in Viet Nam for 7 years off and on, from June, 1962 until August, 1970. William Westmoreland was there, commanding all the military, from 1964 through 1968, all under Lyndon Johnson. He died today at age 91.

I wasn’t in the military. I was an engineer with a construction company and later a design company.

I have two vivid memories of Westmoreland’s tour there. Early in 1965 we got contracts to build large morgues in the country. That was my first inkling that the big military build-up was coming. The memory of that still bothers me.

Then there was his farewell speech in 1968 broadcast on AFRS (Armed Forces Radio Service). In the speech he badly mispronounced the name of the President of the Republic of Viet Nam, Nguyen Cao Ky. This was something I had been straightened out on my second day in country. Nguyen, the most common family name, possessed by fully 10% of the population, was pronounced WIN. What could be simpler than that? Westmoreland tried to pronounce every syllable and consonant.

It had been advertised that the General and the President had been working closely together. Perhaps I make too much of it, but it troubled me that Westmoreland couldn’t pronounce Ky’s name. It troubles me still.


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