The United States will soon mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. A few images from the war’s last day — April 30, 1975 — remain embedded in American culture. They are largely representations of shame, waste, and defeat. A Huey helicopter perches on a Saigon rooftop while refugees line up below. At the deserted American embassy, North Vietnamese tanks burst through the front gates. On the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, sailors tip a scrapped chopper into the China Sea.The U.S. phase of the war lasted 20 years and cost the lives of 58,220 American service members. Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos suffered more than 3 million military and civilian deaths. Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), where the final helicopter fled from, is far away: 8,770 miles from Harvard Yard.But this fall, 14 students were undeterred by time or distance. They recently finished the final exam for HIST-LIT 90ak, a seminar on the Vietnam War in American culture. They read novels, poetry, and letters. They watched Hollywood movies, pondered grave documentaries, and pored over public documents.“The Vietnam War produced a remarkably wide array of representations,” said course instructor Steven Biel, executive director of the Mahindra Humanities Center and senior lecturer on history and literature. What drew him, in part, to teach the course, he said, was “the richness of the archive.”The seminar was in its third iteration, and the same offering next fall will likely be the last. Biel co-taught the course first in 2011 and then again in 2012 with then-lecturer Jeanne Follansbee, a specialist in 20th century American literature. Before that, the two had teamed up for a sophomore tutorial on methods in American history. A half-semester unit on Vietnam took off like a rocket.“The discussions were so terrific,” said Biel, that a full course was in order, creating an “inviting way for freshmen and sophomores to see what kind of interdisciplinary work we do” in history and literature. It helped that during and after the war a steady stream of poetry, fiction, films, and pop music about Vietnam continued to appear.The young look backIn the seminar, age was a force multiplier. On average, the seminar students this fall were 19 — the same age, Biel pointed out, as the average American enlisted man who served in Vietnam. That matched a theme of the course: that the experience of teenage soldiers at the tip of the spear was central.“We wanted to start with the grunts. These are people who were exactly their age,” said Biel, “who were thrust into a situation of extraordinary confusion, violence, and horror. It does give you a real entry point into the realm of affect. What did it feel like to fight?”“Affect” refers to experiencing an emotional state. It is felt rather than thought. The affective realm the course meant to stimulate was not just about the American experience of the war. Students also read and watched in order to feel the effects of the war on those who fought for South and North Vietnam and the Viet Cong. They took in the suffering of civilians in the war zone as well as those left at home to powerlessly worry, and sometimes to mourn.A North Korean villager surveys the damages after a U.S. air raid destroys his home, killing his family.In “Regret to Inform,” a 1998 documentary viewed late in the semester, a Vietnamese bar girl forced into prostitution told how the tides of war swept her helplessly along. “When people decide to go to war, they wouldn’t come and ask people like me,” she said. “We were so naïve. We expected the world to love and protect us.” In the same film, a woman imprisoned by the South Vietnamese said, “The cruelty we experienced is longer than a river.”There is power in every narrative, but Biel had a related lesson to impart, a sense that everything has to be subject to a critical eye. Of the course, he said, “We don’t look at anything as a transparent window into the war.”When the American phase ended, Biel himself was just 14 years old. But the echoes of Vietnam were felt then, and now. One student said, “This war seems more real to me than any other.” Both her parents had been war protesters.The power of analogies“I don’t think this war is particularly remote,” said Biel, especially since Vietnam is still so powerful as an analogy. “That’s what draws a lot of students to the course,” he added. “Analogies are constantly being made to the Vietnam War.”The students learn to see these descriptive parallels to present wars as both “inviting and problematic,” said Biel. “But when we talked about [Daniel] Ellsberg and ‘The Pentagon Papers,’ it was inevitable that [Edward] Snowden would come up — and the ethics of whistle-blowing.”Not a lot of time was spent on the policy-making legacies of the war, he said, but “there is inevitably a significant amount of attention in the course to issues of culpability and responsibility,” moral quandaries that litter any battlefield, like bodies. The course also invited “questions of imperialism and self-determination,” said Biel, “those big questions that clearly resonate with students and don’t seem distant.”A question that resonated with John Manzo ’15, an economics concentrator, was the idea of grand deceit at high levels of the government. “To read ‘The Pentagon Papers’ and to know the facts of what was being told the American people was like a punch in the gut,” he said. “I never though you could make lies on that grand a scale.”Manzo had grown up listening to an uncle talk about his years as a protester and about one legacy of the war, a mistrust of government. Offered Manzo, “This has really made me take a second look at what he said.”To start out, the course focused less on grand ideas and more on the experience of grunts. On the reading list was Michael Herr’s vivid and hallucinatory “Dispatches” (1977). So was Tim O’Brien’s classic view from inside a flak jacket, “The Things They Carried” (1990). “Platoon” (1986), a film written and directed by Vietnam veteran Oliver Stone, took the class inside the murk and mayhem of combat.Manzo absorbed a related lesson, one that makes him sound like many college students — and combat soldiers — 40 years ago. “People didn’t know who the enemy was,” he said, “so everybody was.”Presidents and policymakers and protesters were discussed, too. Students read selections from documents like “The Pentagon Papers,” from journalists like Frances FitzGerald, David Halberstam, Seymour Hersh, and Stewart Alsop, and from commentaries on the Weather Underground, about racial tensions in the military, the draft, POWs, war widows, the My Lai massacre, and the cultural function of memorials.The students even looked further back, to a time when Vietnam was a proxy American war and not a hot, high-numbers conflict. That view is reflected in “The Quiet American,” Graham Greene’s 1955 novel about Alden Pyle, a well-meaning American naïf whose idealism is pitted against the fatalism of Thomas Fowler, a British journalist covering the war.Students heard Greene’s story twice, the second time in the 1958 film version, whose script made Fowler not a font of rough wisdom but a dupe of the communists. Still, Greene’s unintentional prophecy about the fate of the war was preserved in both the book and film. Pyle is killed — the early embodiment of that helicopter tipped into the sea. Pyle had become, Fowler observed, a “very quiet” American.Meaning and memoryAny war is rich territory for a course meant to examine the complex machinery of cultural history, said Biel, since “conflicts over meaning and memory” live on well after the fighting.Some of those postwar conflicts got played out on the big screen. The students watched a string of Hollywood movies released barely after the war had ended: “Coming Home” (1978), “Apocalypse Now” (1979), and “The Deer Hunter” (1979). They were all anti-war films, though full of leavening sympathies for those who fought, and of moments of wishfully rewritten history. (In “The Deer Hunter,” Robert De Niro attempts to save villagers from a My Lai-style massacre, this one perpetrated by North Vietnamese.)By 1985, in “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” the history of the war is not rewritten, but it is revenged: A ripped Sylvester Stallone, complete with a disco hairdo and stylish knife, rescues forgotten POWs. Meanwhile, the enemy soldiers, in a nod to the Cold War of the Reagan years, have morphed into Soviet look-alikes.But let judgment wait, cautioned Biel. “For all their limitations, evasions, and problems, those films are attempting some kind of reconciliation to the war.”The course’s documentary offerings attempt to get closer to the truth but still fail to evoke a totality of experience. “Hearts and Minds” (1974), “Regret To Inform” (1998), and “The Fog of War” (2004) are single chapters in a big book about the war that is still being written.The course was only half over when Biel and Follansbee took in a late-October screening of “Hearts and Minds” at the Harvard Film Archive, in time for the documentary’s 40th anniversary. (It won an Oscar in 1975, a month before the war ended.) Among the panelists on hand was director Peter Davis, who was in Vietnam with a camera crew for seven weeks in 1972. They shot 200 hours of film that was whittled to under two hours.Before going, Davis did little but read and watch films on the war, most of them expository. He wanted to make a film that was impressionistic instead. “I wanted to show,” said Davis, “not tell.”His appearance, and the screening, co-sponsored by the Mahindra Center, was a gift to Biel’s course, which met once a week at the Barker Center. The panel largely ruminated on the power of the past, including Kenneth T. Young Professor of Sino-Vietnamese History Hue-Tam Ho Tai. She is the author of “The Country of Memory” (2001), about how the Vietnamese experienced the war, and she witnessed both a Vietnam at war and — as a graduate student at Harvard 40 years ago — a United States roiling with protest.“The documentary is very powerful, was very necessary,” she said of the Davis film. “But it was done 40 years ago.”“It’s true,” said filmmaker Robb Moss, professor of visual and environmental studies. “Documentaries always sit in time.” But the catharsis that “Hearts and Minds” created in 1974 is still possible. “The divisions were so profound,” he said. “We’re still living them today.”Memories of another war haunt the film, and Vietnam itself, said Joseph Pellegrino University Professor Peter Galison, also a filmmaker, whose class in high school was the last to get draft cards. “Vietnam seems very much a piece of World War II,” he said, including in patriotic platitudes and even in the “bearing of the officers.” Today, added Galison, unafraid of analogies, the war “seems very present.”That wasn’t always so, said Davis, who traveled to Vietnam after the war to find that Americans were well-liked and the conflict seemed distant. But then came 9/11 and the string of conflicts afterwards, which broke the spell of lessons learned. Once again, he said, “We flew to war on the wings of lies.”The film, the course, and the study of history and literature itself are about investigating the power of personalities and events that are materially gone but culturally remain. At the screening, Mahindra Humanities Center Director Homi Bhabha told Davis what he might have told Biel, too: “I want to thank you for helping us not forget the past.”
APG – The €475bn Dutch asset manager APG has appointed financial heavyweight Knut Kjær (pictured, left) as a member of its supervisory board (RvC). Kjær was the founding chief executive of Norges Bank Investment Management, responsible for Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and the management of most of the country’s foreign reserves.In recognition of his contributions to the management of the Government Pension Fund, he was knighted by King Harald of Norway in 2008. APG, Mercer, PMT, Bouwinvest, BNP Paribas Asset Management, Hoogovens, Loomis Sayles, BMO Global Asset Management, Fidante Partners, eVestment, IFM Investors Since 2011, Kjær has been chairman and partner at FSN Capital Partners, a Nordic private equity firm, chairing its asset management branch since 2017. He also holds advisory positions at China Investment Corporation and the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Between 2008 and 2016, Kjær was a member of the investment committee of the €409bn Dutch civil service scheme ABP, APG’s main client.APG’s RvC also includes Maes van Lanschot (chairman), Bart Le Blanc (vice chair).Mercer – The investment consulting giant has hired Jo Holden as UK chief investment officer. Based in Liverpool, she has also joined the firm’s UK defined benefit (DB) leadership team. She has worked at Mercer since 2002 and set up its Manchester office in 2010 as well as expanding the firm’s UK public sector consulting team.David Fogarty, head of Mercer’s UK DB business, said: “Jo has extensive knowledge of the investment consulting space, and great energy and enthusiasm for developing our proposition further to meet the needs of our clients.”Holden replaces Steven Blackie, who was announced as head of global product strategy at Aviva Investors last week.PMT – The €70bn Dutch sector scheme for metalworking and mechanical engineering has appointed Gerard Roest and Ron Follon as trustees. Roest will be tasked with socially responsible investment. He was nominated by trade union FNV and succeeds Albert Akkerman, who died last September.Currently, Roest is board member of the general pension fund of Unilever and is a policy adviser at the FNV. He was previously chairman of BPL, the industry-wide pension fund for agriculture, and has been trustee at the former sector schemes for the wholesale of flowers and plants (Bloemen en Planten) and the paint and printing ink industry (Verf en Drukinkt), as well as the FNV’s own pension fund.Follon was nominated by employer organisation FWT and will become a member of PMT’s pensions committee. He is general secretary at the FWT and the organisation’s lead negotiator for collective labour agreements in the sector. Follon succeeds Hep van Luunen, who has been a PMT trustee for 16 years.Janus Henderson Investors – Georgina Fogo has been appointed chief risk officer at the £274bn (€315bn) asset management group. She will join in July from BlackRock where she is global head of compliance, and succeeds David Kowalski who retired last year. She has worked for BlackRock since 2009, and previously built the compliance teams for Barclays Global Investors – now iShares –in Europe and the US.In a statement, Janus Henderson co-CEOs Dick Weil and Andrew Formica said: “With the regulatory landscape for asset managers and clients becoming increasingly complex, her experience will be invaluable in ensuring Janus Henderson remains at the forefront of the change agenda and risk management best practice.”Bouwinvest – The €8.5bn property investor for the large Dutch pension fund for the building industry (BpfBouw) has appointed Barbara Sleijffers and Frans van Burk to the acquisition team of its retail fund. It said the new team members would assist the fund increasing its assets from €900m to €1.1bn by 2020.Sleijffers joins from Sweco Capital Consultants, where she provided pension funds with strategic and tactical advice on property. Prior to this, she worked at engineering firm DHV Royal Haskoning and insurer ASR. Van Burk is to become commercial assistant for acquisitions and joins from CBRE Global Investors, where he was senior commercial analyst. He has also worked at ING REIM.BNP Paribas Asset Management – Julien Halfon has joined the firm as head of pension solutions within its multi-asset, quantitative and solutions investment group. (‘MAQS’). He is responsible for providing advice and designing bespoke strategies for pension funds and insurance companies. Halfon was previously a senior consultant at Mercer, and has also held senior positions at P-Solve, Lazard, Hewitt Bacon & Woodrow, and Goldman Sachs.Hoogovens – André van Vliet has joined the board of the €8.5bn pension fund Hoogovens, representing the scheme’s pensioners. Van Vliet will focus on institutional asset management and becomes a member of the pension fund’s balance and investment committee. Since 2016 he has been a board member at the €409bn civil service scheme ABP as well as Het Nederlandse Pensioenfonds, the general pension fund (APF) established by insurer ASR. Between 1998 and 2014 Van Vliet worked at Ortec Finance, latterly as managing director and partner.Loomis Sayles – The $267bn (€216bn) asset manager has appointed Kathleen Bochman as director of environmental, social and governance (ESG), a newly created role. She will lead the company’s existing ESG committee, providing strategic support to investment teams and the wider firm. Bochman has worked at Loomis Sayles since 2006, and previously held investment roles at Wellington Management and State Street Research & Management.BMO Global Asset Management – Zahra Sachak is BMO’s new director of relationship management in its UK institutional team, where she will oversee relationships with existing clients. She joins from Investec Asset Management where she worked in the North America institutional sales team. Sachak has also worked at Aviva Investors and Schroders.Fidante Partners – The investment manager has hired Hugh Ferrand to its institutional business development team. He joins from Invesco Perpetual, the UK arm of global asset management giant Invesco, where he oversaw its institutional business with pension schemes, charities, endowment funds and insurance firms. Prior to joining Invesco in 1999, Ferrand worked as an investment manager at Adam Bank and Blairlogie.eVestment – The data and analytics provider has named David Keogh as managing director for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Based in London, he will be responsible for growing eVestment’s client base in the EMEA region. He has worked in various management and business development positions at companies including Accenture, Barclays and Banco Santander.IFM Investors – The Australian fund manager has appointed former Industry Super Australia chief executive David Whiteley as global head of external relations. He will join in September to lead the firm’s public policy agenda. He will have global responsibility for the firm’s relationships with government, media, shareholders and industry groups.IFM Investors’ CEO, Brett Himbury, said: “Central to the role will be an emphasis on directing IFM Investors’ global responsible investment initiatives and its focus on enhancing returns, as well the societies in which we invest.”
When Homer Bailey pitched his second no-hitter earlier this month, he joined a pretty elite list of pitchers. I think this list is under 30 names in all the years we have had Major League baseball. He has a ways to go to catch fellow Texan, Nolan Ryan, however, who is credited with seven of them. Homer came to the big leagues as a thrower, but now is much more of a pitcher. Throwers think no one can hit their pitches because they throw so hard. Pitchers know every Major Leaguer can hit any pitch you throw if it is not in the right place. Just follow Aroldis Chapman on some nights. It is amazing how a matter of a couple inches is the difference between a swinging strike and a base hit. Homer has to be on top of his game even though he throws upward of 97mph. When he slips back to his throwing days, his ERA tops 7.0; but when he is a pitcher, his ERA is below 2.0. This is how finite pitcher has to be even if he has two no-hitters to his credit. Everybody in the big time can throw hard enough; only a select few can throw a pitch where they want to. These make it to the Hall of Fame. Homer is certainly on his way, because he is still a very young man.