Historian Mark Moyar speaks on campus

Rachel Milio, Staff Writer

Mark Moyar, historian and author of several books surrounding the Vietnam War, spoke to an audience of University faculty and students at Bucknell Hall on Nov. 27. His lecture, in which he answered questions posed by Professor of Management William Gruver and University alumnus Ian Ferguson, was part of the symposium series titled “The 60’s at 50: A Reflection on America a Half-Century Later.” Moyar was the third out of six speakers, all of which center on the socio-historical impact of the 1960s.

Moyar, who received a B.A. from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, is notable for his 2006 book “Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965,” which focused on his research surrounding the winnability of the Vietnam War. “He thinks the data has been misconstrued and that there’s a plethora of misinterpretations about the war,” attendee Isabella Carrega ’22 said.

One such misinterpretation that Moyar discussed was, as put by Ferguson, “that veterans who served in Vietnam became hardcore antiwar activists, struggled with PTSD and tended to be economically disadvantaged.”

Moyar explained how his book and research argued against such interpretations. “There’s great misinformation about Vietnam veterans,” Moyar said, adding that “statistically, Vietnam veterans fare pretty well compared to their peers in terms of employment.” He also stated that “the people sharing negative stories about the war were never in Vietnam.”

Besides discussing veterans, Moyar was also prompted to share his opinions on the Vietnam War documentary series made by filmmaker Ken Burns. “I’m a huge critic of the Ken Burns Vietnam documentary series,” Moyar said. “Burns gives an air of impartiality but there’s an overwhelming bias. It was skewed against the war.” Moyar pointed out the “intellectual dishonesty” of Burns’ series, attributing it to the omission of what Moyar considered important aspects.

Moyar’s works have not received exclusively positive reception. “There has been a lot of pushback from the academic community,” Moyar said, tying this negative reaction to the “lack of respect for differing opinions that exists nowadays.”

Moyar praised the University Symposium speaker series for its “ability to bring in different viewpoints.” He believes that the acceptance and representation of differing views is especially crucial as “one of the founding principles of our country is pluralism.”

When asked how to solve the aforementioned problem involving the refusal to respect differing opinions, Moyar claimed that “it would be valuable to have every American male go through military service. Service helps people understand and appreciate their country and builds a sense of common American culture.”

Carrega came to the lecture with minimal knowledge on the Vietnam War. “I didn’t know much about this; I just came to it because it was sponsored by a professor that I’m working under.” However, afterwards, she emphasized the importance of military history. “We don’t have military history classes here at campus, but I believe military history is such an integral thing for students to learn about.”

“As someone involved in and influenced by the Vietnam War, I’d like to thank you for bringing attention to it,” Gruver said. The next speaker in the Symposium Series will be Professor of government Charles Kesler from Claremont McKenna College on Jan. 31.

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