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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1957

Five years and 2,200 posts ago, in the young pages of this blog, I wrote a short bit on what might have been the most obscure and removed reference to the American involvement in the Vietnam War, here. It appeared in the 5 April 1954 issue of the Atomic Times, which was a newspaper of sorts produced by the U.S. Army and printed on a mimeographed, single-sheet page, and distributed at
the tip, or bottom, of a very skinny piece of nearly-circular land far out in
the Pacific Ocean at Eniwetok Atoll, 5 April
1954. The piece of news related to the hoped-for victory of the French Expeditionary Force in the doomed garrison of Dien Bien Phu: “French troops have been
parachuted into the Indo-Chinese fortress of Dien Bien Phu to join weary defenders in their battle with the Communists. French officials now have a high hope pf a
French victory, and they say the Communists cannot possibly continue their
assault unless they receive thousands of reinforcements”. Of course, this was not the case, and the French were badly defeated there, spelling out the beginning of their end in that country and about the earliest beginnings of American involvement in their place.

Then a remarkable thing happened. I was reading in a small cache of mimeographed newsletters called The Parry Island Breeze, which was also produced by the U.S. military (Army engineers?) on Parry Island, which was just down the end of the long arm of slender island from Eniwetok in the Marshal Islands group. This issue (volume 16, No. 5) was released on 6 April 1954, and it was–like the Atomic Times–a legal sheet printed on two sides. In the second column, for the day following the Atomic Times notice, we see the following:

Parry Island 2963
Again! There was no victory in sight for the French at Dien Bien Phu in April, and only misery and heroism and bitterness and death and division lay ahead in the coming month, and then too in the coming decades.

In the first week of April ,1954, the French garrison was just about conquered–there would be one more month of agony to endure before the Vietminh would claim full victory.


After an eight-week siege, the garrison was defeated. Badly. Brilliantly. The French were
overrun by the Viet Minh forces on 7 May 1954, effectively ending the First Indochina War and the French presence in Southeast Asia came to the end. And here, probably cranked out by hand in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on a narrow bit of land separating vast collections of ocean, on long narrow strips of earth from which many nuclear tests were conducted, news reached the soldiers and sailors stationed here about the coming French victory in Vietnam. Of course not even the French knew at the time that the Vietminh army was tunneling its way through the mountains surrounding the garrison, carrying up large cannons in small bits and pieces up through "impenetrable" jungle mountain slopes to install into those tunnels once they breached the other side of the mountain so that they could fire down onto the French. All of that was yet to come. In April, there was a certain bit of hope, but I think in reality it was on fire.

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1229

[JFK Election/Inauguration rarities may be purchased through our blog bookstore.]

0 blog jan 16 kenn inaug gown383 Some years ago I purchased a small archive of documents relating to the public appearances of Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of President John Kennedy. The material is all pre-inaugural, almost all 1960, and loaded with interesting unpublished nuggets. One such bit is this telegram sent by the Kennedy camp to Mrs. Kennedy's first (?) social/press secretary (who did not follow the Kennedys to the white House), Gladys Uhl, the content of which was to be reorganized and matured by Mrs. Uhl for public distribution. The subject here was Mrs. Kennedy's coming fashion sense, in general, and of her inaugural gown, in particular.

And what is interesting here is that "when Jacqueline Kennedy moves into the White House she will wear only American clothes and she is looking forward to it". A fine sentiment; a bolder one too for today if Mrs. Obama decides to follow suit. It will be much more difficult though for that to happen in 2009 than it would have been in 1961: this is an age when even some of the most classic "\American" brands of clothing have been moved offshore, made for the USA in China (or Indonesia, or Pakistan, or Vietnam, or wherever the work can be delivered cheaper. Mrs. Obama has said something about wearing simple clothing, as from a store (chain) like J. Crew–it would be nicer if she were to decide to go with another New York-based clothing store whose goods weren't made in China, though. I could cozy up to that. I could also cozy up to the "American Owned" supermarket that I bounce into every other day if that had more American-made products. I can understand off season veggies and such, but does good-old Motts Apple Juice really need to be made from apple concentrate imported from China (for crying out loud?)? I remember on 9/13/01 that the Giant Foods supermarket in my neighborhood in Cleveland Park, D.C., started selling American flags–all made in China. This was just so entirely wrong that a protest was waged, the flags were removed, and then replaced days later with flags made in the USA. But it is difficult to find American-made clothing in stores–even a so-called "iconic" Appalachian "general store" and landmark in Asheville, a store that wraps itself in folkiness and homespun regional taste, has, I would say, less than 5% American-made goods.

0 blog jan 16 kenn inaug gown note384But I digress. I really just wanted to talk about Jackie Kennedy and her inaugural gown and her interest in 'buying American". In another piece from this modest archive, Jackie sends back her response to Mrs. Uhl's questions, and one in particular about color. Seems as though Lyndon Johnson's wife, Lady Bird, was going to go shopping at Nieman Marcus for her inaugural gown and wanted to know what color Mrs. Kennedy was going to wear so that she could avoid buying that same color. Jackie responds at the bottom: "My Inaug gown will be White–so I'm sure that anything Mrs. Johnson picks will go with it".

There are other interesting items in this collection that I'll get to soon–several of which are Mrs. Kennedy's copies of some scripts for television commercials for her husbands campaign. They're actually pretty interesting, and a nice insight into the packing of the President in 1960.

0 blog jan 16 kenn inaug gown note det385