Vietnam

Up in Arms about Flamethrowers? Take Aim at Handguns Instead.

Elon Musk has taken some heat over the past few months for selling flamethrowers through his firm, The Boring Company. The devices aren’t actual flamethrowers, though, hence their name: Not a Flamethrower. ­They’re more like hypertrophied blowtorches, perfect for caramelizing a crème brulee the size of a garbage can lid, perhaps, but thankfully unsuited for combat. Musk’s devices use propane and spout a three-to-four foot fixed flame. True military flamethrowers spew burning jellied gasoline up to 150 feet.

Back to the Land: Richard Sanford and the Tao of Pinot Noir

Richard Sanford graduated from Berkeley in 1965, served a combat tour in Vietnam, and by 1971 found himself working from a mossy old barn near Lompoc with no plumbing or electricity.

A geographer by training, the Navy veteran was engaged in an improbable quest—transforming the barn and adjoining bean fields into a classic, Burgundian-style vineyard.

From the Spring 2018 Edibles and Potables issue of California.

Vietnam Stories: Writing the “Disremembered” Histories of War

When telling a story, and it doesn’t matter if that story is long or short, fiction or nonfiction, the marginalized writer must be defiant.

So says writer Viet Thanh Nguyen.

Defiant is not the first descriptor that comes to mind for this particular writer, a Vietnamese refugee and UC Berkeley alumnus, who in fall 2016 wore a royal blue suit, purple tie, and orange socks at the Pulitzer awards banquet in Manhattan to accept the Fiction award for his debut novel, The Sympathizer (Grove Press, 2015). Flamboyant, maybe. Defiant, no.

From the Winter 2016 Reality Bites issue of California.

“Did You Kill Anybody?” I Just Didn’t Say Anything, Because People Didn’t Have a Clue

I enlisted in 1966, in the Navy, so that I wouldn’t be sent to Vietnam. But it didn’t work out that way. I was sent to work as an advisor to the Vietnamese Navy’s swift boat operations in Qui Nhon, north of Nha Trang; beautiful country, beautiful people.

We had about ten boats operating there, and about 20 U.S. personnel. The mission was to patrol the coast to make sure the North Vietnamese weren’t coming in with contraband. We also worked with Seal Team One insertions and did MEDCAPs, where we’d take corpsmen or doctors in to treat villagers without medical care.

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

All Quiet on the DMZ: The History of the Cold War Didn’t Always Make History

We all have a certain subset of memories burned deep in our forebrains: images so vivid, so invested with emotion that the decades serve to sharpen rather than diminish their resolution. It could be a few mental frames from childhood: a tableau of mother and puppy on a vast expanse of lawn. Or a traumatic event: the onrush of ruby brake lights just before a collision. Such memories seem fixed in amber, impervious to time; richly detailed images that can be examined again and again from all aspects.

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

Rising from Ashes Like a Phoenix, Burn Survivor Aims to Lift Others With Her

Kiki Vo and two of her four sisters scurried down the dirt road leading from their family’s hut in Hiep Thanh, Vietnam, a flickering kerosene lamp lighting the way past sleeping chickens. The sisters were on a mission to smuggle some late-night candy from their mother’s shop after a day of studying. They whispered about the possibility of rain the next day, imagining they could shed their clothes and run wild in the downpour.

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