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A Miracle Delivered to Our Doorstep

As an Estonian-American (some would say a lapsed one), I am a small contributor to the Estonian American National Council, which represents the interests and heritage of Estonians and their offspring living in the United States. Its most recent mailing urging renewed contributions contained a spot announcing the availability of its recently published book, “Exiles in a Land of Promise: Estonians in America, 1945–1995. ($90 plus shipping.)

The book arrived yesterday—the miracle of the subject line. It is a professionally done masterwork, one that should interest—actually enthrall—those still-living emigres in that community of exiles and their descendants.  Indeed, the inside title page, with its image of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia,  taken from the harbor on September 22, 1944, set my heart a pounding. I immediately imagined my mother, with her two-month old son (me) in October 1944, taking in that same view as the ship on which we were embarked pulled away for its voyage to Germany—and away from a Soviet army soon to occupy all of Estonia.

Although written and published well before November 2016, the book’s first chapter speaks directly to today’s climate surrounding refugees and their immigration into the United States. “Who knew?” is the question that explodes from the book’s first chapter, “Arrival of the Viking Boats.” It recounts, based on solid research, the voyages and arrival in the late 1940s in the United States (all illegal) of Estonians and other Balts on sail boats that took weeks to cross the Atlantic. Rudimentary instruments and elementary maps and courageous pilots (and passengers) brought most across the wide Atlantic. Though the numbers researchers offer vary, one cited in the book says “46 boats left Sweden before 1949; seventeen landed in the US; and ten reached Canada. Six ended up in South Africa and five in Argentina. Three stopped in England, and one headed south to Brazil. Two others were lost without a trace. Perhaps 250 Estonians reached American shores after grueling, storm-lashed voyages.”  Images accompanying this chapter suggest that calling these vessels “Viking Boats” grossly overstates their size.

But never mind, the most salient points of this chapter are that the passengers of this little collection of boats became illegal aliens in the United States and their arrival sparked a mixed, though ultimately favorable, reception. Some saw an invasion of potential Marxist subversives. Others saw the Estonian displaced persons (DPs) as “Delayed Pilgrims,” the narrative that won the day and became a key factor, the book argues,  in opening the doors to legal immigration by an act of Congress that President Truman signed in 1948.  As a beneficiary in 1950 with my mother (and a year later my father) of that act, I find this story both eye-opening and breath-taking.

From that beginning, the book settles into a well thought-out rhythm (beautifully illustrated and laid out over more than 550 pages) that addresses the political context in which the emigre populations lived in their various communities around the United States and the political movements within which its hopes evolved and were pronounced and ultimately realized with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the restoration of independence.

As a New York City-centric Estonian-American who empty-headedly figured all Estonian Americans existed within sight of the Empire State Building and who met to eat and drink at the Estonian House on 34th Street, I now beg forgiveness  for my lack of awareness of communities of Estonians from Alaska to Cucamonga, California, to Fresno to Minnesota to Chicago and to Alabama and to Connecticut and places in between, which are described in this culmination of twenty years of work.

In addition, the book provides a wealth of material on Estonian-American organizations of all sorts, religious, musical, military, Scouts, and more. It contains reference material and extremely well done graphics displaying the distribution and number of Estonian-Americans and more.

Much more could be said, but let me end here with the most hearty congratulations to all involved in this work, including the leaders of the Council and the crew led by Editor Priit Vesilind.

And, most of all, a sincerely heartfelt Thank You!!

For information on the Council and the book, go to:




Reflections on Films during Years at University of Rochester, 1962–1966

So, as I was reminded today of the announcement of the Academy Awards, I got to thinking of the movies that were in contention and won during our time at the U of R (and one year before and one year after). I’ll list the material that appears in–first, the best pictures, and then a fuller list of the top five awards. I am no film scholar, but some reflections appear at the end of these lists. (copied from my-moderated University of Rochester Facebook site–open only to members of the class of 1966)

Short List
The best pictures (1962-1967) were Lawrence of Arabia (’62); Tom Jones (’63); My Fair Lady (’64); The Sound of Music (’65); A Man for All Seasons (’66); and In the Heat of the Night (’67).

Long List:
Lawrence of Arabia
GREGORY PECK for “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Burt Lancaster in “Birdman of Alcatraz”, Jack Lemmon in “Days of Wine and Roses”, Marcello Mastroianni in “Divorce – Italian Style”, Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia”
ANNE BANCROFT in “The Miracle Worker”, Bette Davis in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”, Katharine Hepburn in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, Geraldine Page in “Sweet Bird of Youth,” Lee Remick in “Days of Wine and Roses”
Supporting Actor:
ED BEGLEY in “Sweet Bird of Youth”, Victor Buono in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”, Telly Savalas in “Birdman of Alcatraz”, Omar Sharif in “Lawrence of Arabia”, Terence Stamp in “Billy Budd”
Supporting Actress:
PATTY DUKE in “The Miracle Worker”, Mary Badham in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Shirley Knight in “Sweet Bird of Youth”, Angela Lansbury in “The Manchurian Candidate”, Thelma Ritter in “Birdman of Alcatraz”
DAVID LEAN for “Lawrence of Arabia”, Pietro Germi for “Divorce – Italian Style”, Robert Mulligan for “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Arthur Penn for “The Miracle Worker”, Frank Perry for “David and Lisa”

Tom Jones
SIDNEY POITIER in “Lilies of the Field”, Albert Finney in “Tom Jones”, Richard Harris in “This Sporting Life”, Rex Harrison in “Cleopatra”, Paul Newman in “Hud”
PATRICIA NEAL in “Hud”, Leslie Caron in “The L-Shaped Room”, Shirley MacLaine in “Irma La Douce”, Rachel Roberts in “This Sporting Life”, Natalie Wood in “Love with the Proper Stranger”
Supporting Actor:
MELVYN DOUGLAS in “Hud”, Nick Adams in “Twilight of Honor”, Bobby Darin in “Captain Newman, M.D.”, Hugh Griffith in “Tom Jones”, John Huston in “The Cardinal”
Supporting Actress:
MARGARET RUTHERFORD in “The V.I.P.s”, Diane Cilento in “Tom Jones”, Edith Evans in “Tom Jones”, Joyce Redman in “Tom Jones”, Lilia Skala in “Lilies of the Field”
TONY RICHARDSON for “Tom Jones”, Federico Fellini for “8 1/2”, Elia Kazan for “America, America”, Otto Preminger for “The Cardinal”, Martin Ritt for “Hud”

My Fair Lady
REX HARRISON in “My Fair Lady”, Richard Burton in “Becket”, Peter O’Toole in “Becket”, Anthony Quinn in “Zorba the Greek”, Peter Sellers in “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying…”
JULIE ANDREWS in “Mary Poppins”, Anne Bancroft in “The Pumpkin Eater”, Sophia Loren in “Marriage Italian Style”, Debbie Reynolds in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, Kim Stanley in “Seance on a Wet Afternoon”
Supporting Actor:
PETER USTINOV in “Topkapi”, John Gielgud in “Becket”, Stanley Holloway in “My Fair Lady”, Edmond O’Brien in “Seven Days in May”, Lee Tracy in “The Best Man”
Supporting Actress:
LILA KEDROVA in “Zorba the Greek”, Gladys Cooper in “My Fair Lady”, Edith Evans in “The Chalk Garden”, Grayson Hall in “The Night of the Iguana”, Agnes Moorehead in “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”
GEORGE CUKOR for “My Fair Lady”, Michael Cacoyannis for “Zorba the Greek”, Peter Glenville for “Becket”, Stanley Kubrick for “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying…”, Robert Stevenson for “Mary Poppins”

The Sound of Music
LEE MARVIN in “Cat Ballou”, Richard Burton in “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold”, Laurence Olivier in “Othello”, Rod Steiger in “The Pawnbroker”, Oskar Werner in “Ship of Fools”
JULIE CHRISTIE in “Darling”, Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music”, Samantha Eggar in “The Collector”, Elizabeth Hartman in “A Patch of Blue”, Simone Signoret in “Ship of Fools”
Supporting Actor:
MARTIN BALSAM in “A Thousand Clowns”, Ian Bannen in “The Flight of the Phoenix”, Tom Courtenay in “Doctor Zhivago”, Michael Dunn in “Ship of Fools”, Frank Finlay in “Othello”
Supporting Actress:
SHELLEY WINTERS in “A Patch of Blue”, Ruth Gordon in “Inside Daisy Clover”, Joyce Redman in “Othello”, Maggie Smith in “Othello”, Peggy Wood in “The Sound of Music”
ROBERT WISE for “The Sound of Music”, David Lean for “Doctor Zhivago”, John Schlesinger for “Darling”, Hiroshi Teshigahara for “Woman in the Dunes”, William Wyler for “The Collector”

A Man for all Seasons
PAUL SCOFIELD in “A Man for All Seasons”, Alan Arkin in “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming”, Richard Burton in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Michael Caine in “Alfie”, Steve McQueen in “The Sand Pebbles”
ELIZABETH TAYLOR in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Anouk Aimee in “A Man and a Woman”, Ida Kaminska in “The Shop on Main Street”, Lynn Redgrave in “Georgy Girl”, Vanessa Redgrave in “Morgan!”
Supporting Actor:
WALTER MATTHAU in “The Fortune Cookie”, Mako in “The Sand Pebbles”, James Mason in “Georgy Girl”, George Segal in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Robert Shaw in “A Man for All Seasons”
Supporting Actress:
SANDY DENNIS in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Wendy Hiller in “A Man for All Seasons”, Jocelyn Lagarde in “Hawaii”, Vivien Merchant in “Alfie”, Geraldine Page in “You’re a Big Boy Now”
FRED ZINNEMANN for “A Man for All Seasons”, Michelangelo Antonioni for “Blow-up”, Richard Brooks for “The Professionals”, Claude Lelouch for “A Man and a Woman”, Mike Nichols for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

In the Heat of the Night
ROD STEIGER in “In the Heat of the Night”, Warren Beatty in “Bonnie And Clyde”, Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate”, Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke”, Spencer Tracy in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”
KATHARINE HEPBURN in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, Anne Bancroft in “The Graduate”, Faye Dunaway in “Bonnie And Clyde”, Edith Evans in “The Whisperers”, Audrey Hepburn in “Wait Until Dark”
Supporting Actor:
GEORGE KENNEDY in “Cool Hand Luke”, John Cassavetes in “The Dirty Dozen”, Gene Hackman in “Bonnie And Clyde”, Cecil Kellaway in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, Michael J. Pollard in “Bonnie And Clyde”
Supporting Actress:
ESTELLE PARSONS in “Bonnie And Clyde”, Carol Channing in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, Mildred Natwick in “Barefoot in the Park”, Beah Richards in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, Katharine Ross in “The Graduate”
MIKE NICHOLS for “The Graduate”, Richard Brooks for “In Cold Blood”, Norman Jewison for “In the Heat of the Night”, Stanley Kramer for “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, Arthur Penn for “Bonnie And Clyde”

Quick Reflections:

I do remember seeing many of these movies! But I don’t remember where I saw them or who I saw them with! Sorry!!!

I can’t help but think that, in a sense, these movies collectively capture a sense of a changing time–invoking a surfing image, a wave that we the members of the class of ’66 as a group gradually mounted and rode over the years that would follow!

Think of it: “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “In the Heat of the Night,” — two films that get at the state of race relations in our time (still unsettled, regrettably) (As a midshipman on the cruise, between our freshmen and sophomore years, this denizen of New York City discovered the ugly reality of Jim Crowe in Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi. I had made friends with a black sailor on the USS Beatty and suggested we run into town for dinner. He knew better. I had no clue.

“Seven Days in May,” which told of a plot to overthrow the president because he was supporting a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets–c.f. the comment of former CIA director Michael Hayden, who said military leaders would disobey orders from Trump to do some of the things he is saying he would order. Then there was, in a similar vein, “Dr. Strangelove.” “Bonnie and Clyde” and “In Cold Blood,” looks at violence in our society, without exactly glorifying it.

And who knew–until very, very recent years that the novel “Dr. Zhivago,” included in this collection of films, only existed because of CIA machinations to get it published. And in this group, “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” would define spycraft and its dark tensions, which I came to learn about in my career. People still see it as the ultimate definition of the business of espionage.

And at the same time, the cotton candy of ” The Sound of Music,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Tom Jones.”


Reflecting on Super Bowl I: January 15, 1967

All the hoohah surrounding yesterday’s playing of the 50th Super Bowl game led me to think a bit about the first Super Bowl on January 15, 1967.

First, I have no memory of that game. I was six months into service as a US Marine 2nd Lieutenant after graduation in June 1966 from the University of Rochester and on my way across the Pacific to join Marines in the Vietnam War. I had been a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship student at the U of R, en route to an AB  degree in English, fully paid for by Uncle Sam in exchange for four years of service as an officer in either the Navy or the Marine Corps. I choose the latter, as earlier posts on this blog explain.

Today, en route to 50th anniversary reunions of the U of R class of 1966 and the Marine Corps officer Basic School training class I attended with nearly 200 other newly commissioned Marine Corps officers during the second half of 1966–including three from the U of R–Dick Hulslander, Tom King, and Bob Rivers–I have come to think of those days relative to yesterday’s event.

First, and most strikingly different from that day in January 1967, is the place of the military in the opening ceremony. It featured a large mixed service chorus of uniformed military personnel singing “America the Beautiful.” That was followed by Lady Gaga (I held my breath to see what ludicrous thing she wore–not as ludicrous as my worst fears offered), with her rendering of the National Anthem. She has a magnificent voice, and any objection to her performance would be quibbling, in my view.  Striking, I’d say in contrast to 1967, was the tribute she offered to the military people surrounding the stage and the flag behind her–gesturing toward the chorus and other uniformed people and the flag around her stage as she closed with “home of the Brave.” No viewable video exists of the opening of Super Bowl I. Does any one remember who sang the National Anthem and who carried the flag and so forth?

So I turned to the New York TimesMachine (which reproduces issues of the paper from the past– ( to get a sense of the nation’s and the world’s doings the day after the game.  Prescient some items were, in retrospect of course. The front page carried only a photo of Vince Lombardi accepting the winner’s trophy.

Then, I turned to a characterization of the event in the sports section by Bernard Weintraub:

“Husbands Stare—and Wives Glare (City’s Males Spend Day at TV Sets at Home, in Bars)”

“New York was gripped by a giddy fever yesterday that began rising at 4 pm, reached a peak at dusk and began dropping at nightfall.

“Before the fever finally broke, a vague madness swept the city: little boys refused to go to the movies, big boys refused to speak, girls—little and big—stormed into kitchens, slammed the door and waited. And waited.

“It’s impossible,” cried Mrs. Lucrecia Amari of Brooklyn, while her husband, Dr. S. N. Amari, stared at the Super Bowl football game on television. “He’s obsessed with watching all those big lugs on the idiot box, and I’m obsessed in the exact opposite way. Blah.”

“If the women of the city shrieked “Blah,” the men simply sat hypnotically and watched the Green Bay Packers tangle with the Kansas City Chiefs. …”

Guess that was a pretty good portent of the game’s future.

The day’s news was more telling of the times:

-“Hanoi says it doesn’t want to annex the south.”

“Marines kill 61 VC after defector tip.” The article begins with a comparison of the cost of the war relative to the gains that were being touted at the time (body counts): It pointed out that it was costing $250 thousand dollars to kill one Viet Cong [based on budget figures for the conduct of the war], though the 61 killed in the action referred to in the article were made possible by a “turncoat” who had been paid $44 a month.

–462 on Yale faculty urge halt to bombing of North Vietnam.

–Perhaps most telling, in the Books of the Times: Arthur Schlesinger on Vietnam By Eliot Fremont-Smith, “The Bitter Heritage: Vietnam and American Democracy, 1941-1966.” By Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. 128 pages. Houghton Miflin, $3.95.  According to the reviewer, Schlesinger challenged the use of history to justify action in Vietnam. In particular, in Fremont-Smith’s words:

Mr. Schlesinger clearly believes that the historical analogies—principally that of Munich—invoked on behalf of our Vietnam policy are faulty and fraudulent rationalizations that have acquired a life of their own, grossly distorting our perception of the realities of our past and present involvement in Vietnam, and estranging us from our allies, from each other and, perhaps worst of all, from the future—the young, “who watch our course in Vietnam with perplexity, loathing and despair.” [emphasis added, AV]

  Signs of the last sentence existed in some abundance on our campus during 1966, and we all know how that played out in years to come. I know for many who served in Vietnam, there is bitterness. For me, on reflection, there is none, only the wish that anger had not been directed at people who were doing their duty as honorably as they could.

P.S. I did not see Super Bowl II either. Along with a few hundred thousand others, I was in-country at the time, with no access to television. And the Tet Offensive of 1968 was only two weeks away–the event that completely turned attitudes about the war.

Operations Pike and Cochise, 1–18 August 1967: Bit Parts in Grand Strategy


I own only three things I carried with me in Vietnam in 1967: a pair of well-worn, scuffed combat boots–today they are hard as cardboard; a precious poncho liner–a symbol of safety (and for emergency use) I keep in my car at all times; and two map sheets (taped together in 1967) I used during visits to a forbidding place, a place in which many–military men of both sides and civilians–died, were hurt, and suffered. The map will help with this two-part episode, as will Bud’s remembrance of it from his January 2015 visit.
(photo above courtesy of Ltc. Joe Gibbs, USMC-Ret)

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Part I: Introduction

Of the many books written about the Vietnam War—30,000 by one, probably iffy, estimate—and in particular of the books written about Marines in that war, I dare say the majority have dealt with the bloody, conventional war-like fights in the northern tier of I Corps, the combat zone abutting the “Demilitarized” Zone separating the two Vietnams.  First Platoon, Lima Company, would find itself there in December 1967.

Until then, as I’d noted before, Lima patrolled territory just below Danang, serving as part of the shield protecting our major facilities in Danang, which was located along the South China Sea about in the middle of I Corps.

The units then assigned to that part of Danang’s shield,  Lima and the other three companies of the 3rd Battalion, First Regiment of the First Marine Division, were regularly pulled out to participate in large regimental or even division-sized operations in areas thought or known to be occupied by major North Vietnamese units. For the First Marine Regiment, most of these operations took place well south and somewhat west of this patrol area. It was territory usually patrolled by the Fifth Regiment of the First Division. (Don’t ask about the numbering system—the explanation is historical.)

At least twice during Bud’s and my tours, Lima was brought into such operations. In each case the territory was in and around the Que Son Valley (also the name of a village in it), which, more or less, is thought of as the space between and above two communities almost worthy to be called cities, Hiep Duc and Tam Ky (see my combined two sheets, “Map 1,” below [give it time to load; it is a large file, and once opened it can be enlarged and scrolled around. And forgive the wrinkles of the folds; it hasn’t been opened in some decades before now.]).

Map 1: The Que Son Region. Hiep Duc on left; Que Son in upper left; Tam Ky right; South China Sea far right.
Map 1: The Que Son Region. Hiep Duc on left; Que Son in upper left; Tam Ky right; South China Sea far right.

Both the territory—mountains, foothills, and paddies—and the enemy were unfamiliar to us, putting us in something of a disadvantage on each visit—at least at a greater disadvantage than the 5th Marines, who had worked the region, painfully, for months.

We were also at a bit of a disadvantage because the full strategic picture wasn’t totally clear to us, at least it wasn’t in my memory of those days. Perhaps I knew better then, but for years I wondered many times about the larger meaning of our, Lima’s, relatively brief operational efforts in the Que Son region. These were efforts that felt different, very much more important than the toings and froings in the mortar and rocket belts around Danang.  We were really part of something much bigger. Still, even though we experienced a notable, even newsworthy, win, I have felt for years that in the case of Operation Cochise, we really missed a big opportunity to damage beyond repair one of the NVA’s best fighting units, its Second Division. And although Operation Pike is hardly worth talking about—only legal trouble would follow me from it months later—Cochise was memorable.

The more memorable to follow in the next installment (together with some references for further reading).

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