I have begun to view a DVD, borrowed from the Toronto Public Library, entitled We Were Soldiers (2002).
I have previously discussed the DVD at a post entitled:
According to the Toronto Public Library, the DVD was produced in 2010; however, the DVD case notes it was produced in 2002.
“Self-defeating U.S. strategy”
An excerpt, at the Toronto Public Library website, from a Library Journal Review of the book on which the above-noted film is based, reads:
The authors convincingly present Ia Drang as an archetype of a self-defeating U.S. strategy that emphasized wearing down a determined and skillful enemy on the battlefield. The result was an unacceptably high level of American losses for the results achieved.
The book that I refer to is entitled: We Were Soldiers Once – and Young: Ia Drang: The Battle that Changed the War in Vietnam (2002).
Strategy interests many people
Strategy is a topic of enduring interest for many people.
In the course of my volunteer work and general observations of life, I have become acutely aware of the value of strategic thinking. I often think about tactics, strategy, and logistics, as many people do.
The above-noted excerpt from a book about the Vietnam War brings to mind a passage, at a previous post, regarding Napoleon’s favourite strategy, and how it was thwarted during his march on Moscow in 1812, which in turn set the stage for his final defeat at Waterloo in 1815.
That is to say, Napoleon was drawn a great distance into Russia; the result was the French army’s near-total disintegration.
As we know, the march did not go as Napoleon, who favoured big battles and quick victories, expected.
According to Napoleon: A Concise Biography (2015), some 655,000 soldiers, including 450,000 in the main army group, were assembled for the invasion of Moscow; some fifty thousand civilians, including many women, also accompanied them (p. 85).
Napoleon: A Concise Biography (2015) also notes (p. 88) that “of the original 655,000-strong force, scarcely 85,000 men made it back out of Russia. Some 370,000 had died; 200,000 more were prisoners or missing.”
We immerse ourselves in a story, letting down our guard, as the story unfolds
In my experience, watching a movie takes a lot of work. For many people, it’s not work at all. Watching a movie, however, is not something I have ever gotten used to doing.
My formative experiences did not include a lot of time watching television of movies. The habit never took firmly hold of me. Sitting still for 90 minutes to watch a movie does not particularly appeal to me. Maybe a few times in a year, I will sit still for that long. On the other hand, editing raw video that I’ve recorded myself – that’s another story, for sure.
The fact I can pause a DVD, on my laptop, means that it can take me many days to view a 90-minute DVD.
I may pause the movie after about five minutes, and think about what I’ve seen so far, and how the movie has been constructed, up to the point where I have put the DVD on pause.
I mention this to underline that each of us approaches things in her or his own unique way.
In this case, I’ve stopped the We Were Soldiers DVD so I can read a bit about the book on which the film is based.
With any movie or film clip, we are asked to immerse ourselves in a story that someone else has constructed, has contrived. In effect, we are being asked to momentarily suspend disbelief, and to enter in to a dream, a daydream, a vision, a concept that another person has originated.
Sometimes, I do immerse myself in a task; and at times I do immerse myself in a good story – especially one that I am following as a blogger, such as emerging trends in land-use decision-making in Ontario. Occasionally, I do immerse myself in a great story that someone else has created, but in general, I don’t.
In general, I like to be distracted, which fact brings to mind a June 7, 2018 BBC article, entitled: “Why getting distracted can be a very good thing.”
There is a time to be distracted, and a time to put distractions aside. When I have a deadline, I put aside distractions. Having a deadline is a wonderful way to ensure that things get done, on time. That is one of several key things that I remember from an introductory psychology class taught by Donald O. Hebb at McGill University in the late 1960s.
When I need to complete a task, I often get started by setting a stopwatch for 90 minutes, and then I proceed with the task at hand.
The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World (2017)
While I stopped to read a bit about the backstory related to the DVD, I also began to read The Water Will Come (2017), a study that I have discussed at a previous post entitled:
As is my standard practice, much of the time, I had begun reading The Water Will Come (2017) by going to the middle of the book. In this case, in the middle, I found a chapter about how Venice is dealing with the rising water associated with climate change.
When I paused my viewing of the We Were Soldiers (2002) DVD, I had a look at The Water Will Come (2017), but this time I began at the very beginning. The book begins with an imagined scenario of what we can possibly expect to see happening in Miami in 2037.
When I read the opening pages, I was reminded both of the beginning of the Vietnam War, and the beginning of Napoleon’s march on Moscow. In each case, the strategy at hand failed to carry the long-term project to the intended conclusion. In the case of Miami, the strategy at hand, to date, has entailed the pushing aside available evidence, regarding what the future holds.
What’s the link?
The theme, that connects the DVD and the two above-mentioned books, is concerned with a person’s capacity to work with evidence in the course of devising a strategy to address a given challenge, whatever the challenge happens to be.
Extreme Cities (2017)
A subsequent post is entitled:
Toll from opioid crisis compared to Vietnam War
We Were Soldiers (2002) is concerned with the Vietnam War.
Of interest, in that regard: A June 7, 2018 Toronto Star article, reposted from the Washington Post, is entitled: “Opioid epidemic deadlier than Vietnam War, study says.”
The opening paragraphs read:
Slightly less than 1 per cent of all Americans who died in 1968 lost their lives while serving in the Vietnam War. Yet even the toll of that conflict’s bloodiest year was less significant than that being caused by the opioid epidemic. According to new research, a staggering 1.5 per cent of all American deaths in 2016 were attributable to opioids.
Young adults are being particularly hard hit by opioids, which now account for 1 of every 5 deaths of Americans aged 25 to 34. Dr. Tara Gomes of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, who led the research, emphasized the “immense contribution of opioid deaths to overall mortality among young adults, and the burden that this will have on society today, and into the future.”
[End of excerpt]
Of related interest, with reference to the Vietnam War, a June 12, 2018 CBC article is entitled: “DND looking at a handful of possible contaminated sites in hunt for buried Agent Orange stocks: One location contains over 3,900 barrels of asbestos waste.”
Update regarding We Were Soldiers (2002)
I got to 22 minutes 48 seconds of the DVD of We Were Soldiers (2002); the DVD is overdue at the library and it’s time for me to return it. I look forward to borrowing the DVD again in future, so that I can see the rest of the video.
At this point, I can share a few notes.
The DVD in question offers a character-and-setting approach to the Vietnam War. Such a format – a focus on a series of characters, a series of particular settings, and a characteristic setting of each scene, accompanied by a steady, gradual build-up of dramatic intensity, of dramatic tension – is a standard feature of movie making. Such a format has power; such a format connects a film with an audience.
We can say, as many have noted, that the format or structure of a story is a key part of the story – in a sense, is the story. Marshall McLuhan, in an aphorism that with constant repetition over the years has now (at least in my view) become pretty stale, said it well: The medium, he said, is the message.
Such a story format (as is evident in the DVD under review) may, as well, resonate with wider themes as they relate to a given topic. Or, conversely, such a format may slide by the larger themes, and miss the larger story entirely.
What I know, from the DVD at hand, is that Robert Mueller, who fought in the Vietnam War, has been quoted as commenting that the movie in question is “pretty accurate.” His brief comment, in effect as a film reviewer, is what has prompted me to begin my project, of viewing this DVD.
When I see the DVD, I break the experience of viewing into manageable chunks – manageable, that is, from my own perspective as a film reviewer. By viewing it pretty much scene by scene, I follow the story on at least two levels. On one level, I follow the narrative arc as it unfolds. On another level, I picture the cinematic processes whereby each scene is set up, directed, and acted out.
As a next step, I will be reading the book, from the Toronto Public Library, entitled: We were Soldiers Once … And Young (1992). As I’ve noted elsewhere, the DVD in question is based upon this book.
The wider project, for me, is military history and the related topic of the management of organized violence. I’ve been reading about this topic intensively for about six years, ever since I developed an interest in the life and times of Colonel Samuel Smith, about whom I have written at length at this website.
Update regarding rising waters
A June 8, 2018 New Yorker article is entitled: “Tangier, the Sinking Island in the Chesapeake.”
An excerpt reads:
Without climate change, the island would have remained above water for perhaps another century; now the cutoff date is only a few decades away, if not sooner.
Another excerpt reads:
Indications like this — that residents’ faith in God outweighs anything that scientists report—are present all over the island. But the impacts of climate change are evident, too.
I recall reading a comment, about the Battle of Crysler’s Farm, in which an observer noted that both sides, in the above-noted battle, fought bravely. Thus it came to pass that bravery was not the decisive factor, that determined the outcome. Bravery is commendable, and warrants celebration – but sometimes, something more than bravery is required, in order to address the challenges that face us.