In the early 1960s, the Pentagon set up a top-secret research project in an old villa in downtown Saigon. The task? To interview captured North Vietnamese soldiers and guerrillas in order to measure their morale: Was the relentless U.S. bombing pushing them to the brink of capitulation?
Mai Elliott, working in the RAND villa on Rue Pasteur. The windows are taped to prevent the glass from shattering in case of an explosion from a mortar round. Saigon, 1965 is the story of three people who got caught up in that effort: a young Vietnamese woman, a refugee from Nazi Germany, and a brilliant Russian émigré. All saw the same things. All reached different conclusions. The Pentagon effort, run by the Rand Corporation, was one of the most ambitious studies of enemy combatants ever conducted—and no one could agree on what it meant.VIETNAMESE TRANSLATION COURTESY OF RONNY CHIENG"My father-in-law was a government scholar and later government official in South Vietnam during the Vietnam war. After listening to this compelling and well crafted episode of Revisionist History, I knew he too would find this perspective on the war fascinating. So I set about to produce a Vietnamese translation of the episode so he could fully understand all the nuances of the story in his native language. Thankfully I found the extremely capable professional translator Miss Died Ngoc Bui who not only created the written translation, but also went out of her way to create the audio translation below. I hope all Vietnamese speakers, including the elderly Vietnamese diaspora who lived through the events described in the story can listen to this episode and get as much out of it as I did."- Ronny Chieng
The American RAND staff and Vietnamese interviewers on the front porch of the villa on Rue Pasteur. Courtesy of Hanh Easterbrook. A disclosure, in the fall of 2015, I was named to the Board of Directors of the RAND Corporation—the subject of this episode. It’s not a paid position (RAND is a non-profit). And I did the bulk of my reporting for this episode before taking the position. But you should know, that when I say that Rand is a incredibly fascinating place, I’m biased. And if you were on the RAND board, I daresay you’d think the same thing.
Some really great history and analysis here. It reminds me I need to go back the Vietnam doc on PBS.