John Paul Vann, Second From Right



For Week Four, Richmond students ONLY are expected to read "Ap Bac," an excerpt from Neil Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America In Vietnam, on library reserve. Think about the following questions {2} and be prepared to discuss in class the importance of Vann as a key adviser in Vietnam. This discussion will be on September 20, as part of the Richmond Local Course activities.



1.  Why did Americans, including Vann, continue to battle with conventional war tactics despite the fact that the Viet Cong      used  guerrilla warfare? Did Americans, including Vann, believe that the Viet Cong would abandon their present tactics?

2.  Discuss the feeling of Americans, including Vann, towards the Viet Cong.

3.  Why was the battle known as the Battle of Ap Bac?

4.  In the Battle of Ap Bac, the Viet Cong "stood and fought." Why? Why did they choose to change tactics?

5. Discuss the reasons behind the teaching of guerilla tactics to the Viet Cong. Why did the Viet Cong battalion commanders      believe so strongly in this type of warfare?

6. Why does Sheehan say that Ap Bac was a "historically fitting ground for a decisive battle"?

7.  Why does Sheehan describe the village of Ap Bac in such extensive detail?

8.  Why did the ARVN choose not to practice communications security? Speculate based on the reading.

9.  Discuss the state of command relationships among the Americans and its implications.

10. Why did ARVN noncoms welcome help? Just who were these ARVN noncoms?

11. Discuss the war concept of "lead" and its effectiveness/failure in the Battle of Ap Bac.

12. Why does Sheehan say that the "War was still an adventure -- an era that was ending on this day"?

13. How does the inclusion and story of the death of William Deal reinforce Sheehan's premise of "A Bright Shining Lie"?

14. Speculate as to why the Lieutenant would not allow Bowers to have the radio. Discuss the reaction of Bower.

15. Discuss the "confrontation" between Vann and Scanlon.

16. After reading the vivid description of the Battle of Ap Bac, one may conclude that miscommunication between American       forces played a vital factor in the negative consequences of the skirmish. Provide solid evidence to support this contention.

17. At one stage of the battle, American combat forces were attacking and destroying peasant homes and small livestock       shelters in Bac and Tan Thoi. Why? Did this strategy work?

18. Miscalculations appear to have hampered American efforts in the Battle of Ap Bac. Provide examples to support this       contention.

19. Discuss the morale of American troops during the confrontation. Did the mood change as the fighting progressed?

20. Discuss Vann's conversation with Cao, Dam and Tho. How were the Americans supposed "to redeem the day?" Did the       Americans redeem the day?

21. Why were the Viet Cong so successful? Why did they suffer so few causalities? Speculate based on the reading.

22. Discuss briefly Vann's Battle Strategy and why it ultimately failed .

23. What is the significance of the title A Bright Shining Lie? Does this chapter, in your opinion, reinforce or counter       Sheehan's  contention? Does Sheehan reveal any biases? If so, what?

24. After reading the entire selection, characterize John Paul Vann. Be able to provide concrete examples to illustrate your       depiction of the Lieutenant Colonel.



Richmond students should also consult the following links related to John Paul Vann.


Arlington National Cemetary, John Paul Vann, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army

This site features an extensive biographical sketch of John Paul Vann coupled with excerpts from Neil Sheehan's book, A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam.

Booknotes: Neil Sheehan

This site features a September 1988 interview of Neil Sheehan broadcast on C-SPAN. During this interview, Mr. Sheehan discussed his book, A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America In Vietnam. Reaction to this interview was such that C-SPAN created its renown series, Booknotes. To view the video clips, one needs to download and install the free Real Player from Progressive Networks.

Conversations with Neil Sheehan

This is a 1988 interview held by Sheehan with Dr. Harry Kreisler, Executive Director of Berkeley's Institute of International Studies. It is part of their Conversations with History Series. To view the video clips, one needs to download and install the free Real Player from Progressive Networks.

Essays on A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America In Vietnam

This site features essays by Dr. Peter Rollins and Dr. Daniel Ellsberg. They comment on HBO's film version of Neil Sheenan's book.





{1} Photo from: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.com/jpvann.htm

{2} Amanda Garrett, graduate history student at the University of Richmond, prepared these questions.