Fifty years ago today, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launched simultaneous attacks throughout southern Viet Nam on more than 40 cities, including the capital, Saigon, and the ancient imperial city, Hue.
I’ve chosen this date to launch my memories of that war: HOTEL CONSTELLATION: Notes from America’s Secret War.
Why? The book isn’t even about Tet, as that offensive became known to our generation.
For America, it was a turning point in a war that was dividing us in ways we have not experienced since our own Civil War. It pitted college communities against their surrounding towns, set older siblings apart from their younger counterparts, and turned World War II-era fathers against their draft-age sons.
Yet somewhere around 85% of America’s current population of 325 million were either not born or not old enough to be paying attention to what went on Jan. 30, 1968.
Those of us old enough may not recall the exact date, but we all understand the importance of the Tet offensive in Viet Nam.
I will not belabor the lies and deceit, ignorance and miscalculations that led our nation deeper and deeper into that war, then kept us there, siphoning the lifeblood of a generation.
Like every other young man of that generation, I had to decide how I would answer the call of my country’s political leaders.
Today, I have published an account of my response, a record of two years spent in war-time Southeast Asia. I call it Hotel Constellation, because the bar of that musty four-story edifice was the center of my life for most of that time. I gave it a subtitle to explain what I found there: Notes from America’s Secret War in Laos.
You see, Viet Nam was the big show; Cambodia the sideshow; Laos the secret show.
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick in their impressive Viet Nam War documentary did not cover the secret show. Of course, they mentioned some incursions in the south, raids against the Ho Chi Minh Trail and such, but they did not touch on the massive operation, run by the CIA at the behest of one presidential administration after another, that devastated not just southern Laos but more so, the north.
Here is my story.
I encourage you to own it. Read it. Rate it. Review it. Recommend it.
We must not forget.