Chestertown, MD, July 21, 2000 — In the space of 30 years, Vietnam went from being a word Americans barely knew to one that excites passionate feelings in several generations. Equally important, the Vietnam War remains a trauma from which American military and political strategists have yet to recover. The tumultuous conflict and the diplomatic and political climate preceding and following it will be among the topics examined in "The Vietnam War: A Turning Point in the 'American Century'," a history graduate course offered at Washington College this fall.
Visiting professor Ann Connell, Ph.D., who teaches the course, comes to Washington College from George Washington University where she has taught in the Honors Program on the subjects of the Vietnam War, the Peace Movement and the civil rights struggle in the United States. Connell, a graduate of the University of Maryland, holds a masters degree in American military history and a Ph.D. in American diplomatic history.
Like many Americans, Connell is passionate about the subject, having come to study the period before, during and after the Vietnam War with much personal experience behind her. In 1968, she and her husband adopted a Vietnamese orphan. The next year, Connell's 19-year old brother Joe, a Marine, was killed fighting a North Vietnamese regiment in Quang Nam Province near Danang. In 1999 the family visited the orphanage where the couple's daughter spent her first 10 months of life. They went on to find the site of Connell's brother's death. There, with help from a former Viet Cong soldier and local villagers, they placed a shrine honoring Joe's sacrifice and all the war dead.
"The war was a great tragedy for so many families on both sides," said Connell. She believes it is important to understand how American idealism, leadership and power could have led to what in retrospect seems to have been a predictable unraveling of United States policy in Indochina. "To begin a study of the Vietnam War in 1965 with the commitment of U.S. ground forces is like tuning into a show when it's half over," Connell said. "This course will examine not only the war in Vietnam from 1965 to 1975, but also the circumstances and decisions that led to that costly commitment in the contexts of the Cold War, the nationalist fervor in the Third World, the emergence of social activism in America and, the diplomatic and political exigencies which shaped the second half of the 'American Century'."
The class will be held Thursdays, from 7 to 9:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 7. For more information, call 1-800-422-1782.