Coming to New Dominion Bookshop:
James G. Zumwalt will discuss
Wednesday, November 10 at 12:15 PM
The following from James G. Zumwalt:
The Vietnam war left an indelible mark on America. Not since the American Civil War has a conflict so divided her people. And, a generation after the war in Vietnam ended, many Americans are still haunted by its memory.
In warfare, it is a universal tenet that both sides suffer. Neither the victor nor the vanquished emerges unscathed. Tragedy, hardship and suffering are universal to the warrior regardless of which side of the battlefield he stood; they are universal to the family awaiting his return; they are universal to the civilian population supporting the warrior’s cause. “Universality” is a simple principle—it recognizes the commonality of suffering so that, once the fighting ends, a fertile ground can be plowed in which the seeds of friendship are then sown. It is a principle of which I, in my own sense of loss, lost sight.
I think there are veterans, like me, who have had difficulty in accepting the suffering the Vietnam war brought on us. It was my return to Vietnam however, in which I was able to come to terms with the internal struggle of my own personal tragedy of the war, which inspired me to write this book.
While we may not agree with the political motivations to which those on the other side of the battlefield adhered, we must respect their commitment and belief to die for them. Perhaps this message was no more eloquently stated than by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in a Memorial Day speech he gave in 1884. A Union veteran of America’s Civil War, he noted that he and his fellow Union comrades had been driven during that conflict by a belief their cause was a just and noble one.
“We equally believed that those who stood against us held, just as sacred, convictions that were the opposite of ours—and we respected them as every man with a heart must respect those who give all for their belief…You could not stand up day after day in those indecisive contests where overwhelming victory was impossible…without getting at last something of the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of a magnet has for the south—each working in an opposite sense to the other, but each unable to get along without the other. As it was then, it is now. The soldiers of the war need no explanations; they can join in commemorating a soldier’s death with feelings not different in kind, whether he fell toward them or by his side.” — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
America’s first ambassador to Vietnam after the war, Douglas “Pete” Peterson, undoubtedly would agree with Holmes’ statement. Having spent nearly seven years as a POW in Vietnam, Peterson is a man with a reason to be bitter towards his former enemies—yet he is not. On the 31st anniversary of the day he was shot down near the village of An Doai—on September 10, 1997 Ambassador Peterson returned to the site of that memorable event in his life. With two of the men involved in his capture at the time standing before him, the Ambassador said:
“I return here not to relive what was probably the most unhappy day of my life, but to signify to the entire world that reconciliation with a former enemy is not only possible but absolutely the right way to reach out.” —Douglas Peterson, former POW and America’s first post-war ambassador to Vietnam
Before researching this book, I must acknowledge my ignorance as to the suffering experienced by our Vietnamese counterparts during the war. The 19th century British statesman Benjamin Disraeli noted, ignorance is “a great step to knowledge.” My numerous return trips to Vietnam and discussions with the Vietnamese people about the war and what they endured during it have enabled me now to climb that step.
About James G. Zumwalt:
Lieutenant Colonel James Zumwalt is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the 1989 intervention into Panama and Desert Storm. An author, speaker and business executive, he also currently heads a security consulting firm named after his father—Admiral Zumwalt & Consultants, Inc.
He writes extensively on foreign policy and defense issues, having written hundreds of articles for various newspapers, magazines and professional journals.
His articles have covered issues of major importance, oftentimes providing readers with unique perspectives that have never appeared elsewhere. This has resulted, on several occasions, in his work being cited by members of Congress and entered into the US Congressional Record.
His thoughtful perspectives earned him an invitation to join the prestigious Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), of which the honorary co-chairmen are Senator Joe Lieberman, Senator Jon Kyl, former Secretary of State George P. Schultz and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey. The CPD is a non-partisan organization with one goal—to stiffen American resolve to confront the challenge presented by terrorism and the ideologies that drive it.
Colonel Zumwalt is featured as one of 56 US military professionals in LEADING THE WAY, a book by best-selling author Al Santoli, which documents the most critical moments of the interviewees’ combat experiences from Vietnam to Somalia.
He has also been cited in numerous other books and publications for unique insights based on his research on the Vietnam war, North Korea (a country he has visited ten times and about which he is able to share some very telling observations) and Desert Storm.
Colonel Zumwalt received a presidential appointment to be the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, in which capacity he served from 1991-1992.
Because of his expertise, he also was asked to participate in a very unique educational project conducted at a high school in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he voluntarily contributes time and resources to educating students on issues of international importance.