Archive for October, 2013

On the Passing of Vietnam’s Founding Generation

By Heather Marie Stur

Vo Nguyen GiapObserving the responses here in Vietnam to the death of General Vo Nguyen Giap, who passed away on October 4 at the age of 102, has offered a fascinating glimpse into Vietnamese culture and the meaning of the revolutionary generation to Vietnam’s national identity.  During the three days of national mourning, the normally crowded and chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh City were quieter.  In Hanoi, where Giap lived, lines of tearful citizens waited through the night to pay their respects in front of his house.  State-run television stations went dark, and entertainment events were cancelled.  These expressions illustrate that the general occupies a central place in Vietnamese identity and in the memory of the country’s struggle for independence.  Even though political infighting within the Politburo had gradually pushed Giap out of power beginning in the 1970s, he is being remembered as one of the most important figures in modern Vietnamese history.  To the Vietnamese I’ve talked with, what matters is what General Giap represents, not the more complicated political realities.

Continue reading ‘On the Passing of Vietnam’s Founding Generation’


“It will sound rather strange to you…”: A Phone Call, a Letter, and the Corporal

James Marten is professor and Chair of the history department at Marquette University.

2. Tanner 1862I first blogged about James “Corporal” Tanner about a year-and-a-half ago.  I was maybe half way through a book manuscript about his long and eventful life.  As an eighteen-year-old he had lost both feet at Second Manassas, but the native New Yorker recovered to become a nationally famous lecturer, Republican operative, and advocate for veterans’ pensions.  I’ve since finished the book, which will be published by the University of Georgia press next spring under the title, America’s Corporal: James Tanner in War and Peace.

That blog led to one of the more serendipitous phone calls I’ve ever received. Late this summer a very nice young woman named Sabrina Ramoth called my office.  She was from New Jersey and had found among her recently deceased grandmother’s effects a letter from Tanner to a man named James Jaycox, along with a typescript of a 1916 article about Tanner’s experiences in military hospitals written for the American Red Cross Magazine.  She had no idea why they were there; although she did have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War, there was no known connection between her family and Tanner.  A google search led to my blog about Tanner (it’s the fifth or sixth on the list when you enter “Corporal James Tanner”—who knew?), and she called in hopes that I could help solve this little mystery.  I couldn’t, unfortunately, but despite the baby I could hear fussing half-heartedly in the background, she talked to me for fifteen or twenty minutes.  Sabrina eventually sent me scans of the typed, two-page letter (see the excerpts below), and I added two paragraphs to the last chapter of the book just before the final version went to press. Continue reading ‘“It will sound rather strange to you…”: A Phone Call, a Letter, and the Corporal’

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