Discussion at history center takes on Vietnam War that still divides nation

Arguments about the wisdom of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War will get a reassessment at the Atlanta History Center Saturday.

Three speakers with long resumes as soldiers, high-level government officials and academics will give their views of the war, moderated by a former Marine combat photographer who served there.

Those who take the “orthodox” view of the war believe it was an unwinnable disaster for the U.S., said R. J. Del Vecchio, who photographed and filmed Marines fighting. The “revisionists” say it was winnable but mismanaged by a politicized Washington, which soured on the war.

The speakers will discuss the second view.

“I think it’s fair to say that over many years the war was controversial for sure,” said Jim Dickson, the secretary of the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association, which is sponsoring the event along with the association’s foundation.

“Certainly, many vets around the country do not feel the correct story, a balanced story of the war, has been reported.”

The association, a nonprofit with about 300 members, has an active history of sponsoring regional memorial events for veterans, including the annual Veterans Day event at the history center. It also helped the center with the Veterans History Project, preserving the stories of more than 700 vets.

Georgia has one of the heaviest populations of veterans in the U.S., with an estimated 700,000. More than 222,000 served during the Vietnam era, according to the Georgia Department of Veterans Service.

Del Vecchio said the public has misperceptions about the war, such as the belief that mostly draftees did the fighting.

“In actuality two-thirds of those who served were volunteers, as was I,” he said.

Del Vecchio will lead talks with each of the three speakers, followed by time for questions from the audience.

Scheduled speakers include Michael Kort, a professor at Boston University specializing in Russian and Chinese history. In 2017, his book “The Vietnam War Reexamined” hit the shelves.

Mark Moyar’s books on the Vietnam War are “Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965,” and “Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism in Vietnam.” He has experience at the U.S. development agency USAID and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Robert F. Turner, a veteran with two Vietnam tours, is a Virginia lawyer who taught at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island and previously served in the Pentagon, White House and State Department in policy, intelligence and legislative affairs positions.

The discussion will take place Sat., Nov. 2, from 9 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. at the Atlanta History Center's Woodruff Auditorium, 130 West Paces Ferry Road NW. Registration is required at avvba-symposium.eventbrite.com. The event includes a free lunch.