A. J. Langguth
Professor Emeritus, School of Journalism, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California 90089-0281
Telephone: (323) 874-6998
A. B. (cum laude), Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass., 1955
Fellowships and Awards
--John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 1976-77
--Shaw Travelling Fellowship, 1955-56, from Harvard College, for a year of travel in Europe
--The Freedom Forum 2001 Award, honoring three of the nation's journalism educators
The New York Times:
--Southeast Asia correspondent in 1964; Saigon bureau chief, 1965. Returned to Vietnam in 1968 and 1970 on special assignment for The New York Times Magazine; reporter covering civil rights demonstrations in North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi, 1963; the aftermath of the assassination of President John Kennedy, including the trial of Jack Ruby in Dallas, 1963
Valley Times (Cowles Publications) San Fernando Valley, California:
--Political correspondent for Presidential election, 1960, and gubernatorial election, 1962.
--Washington D.C., correspondent for Cowles Publications business newsletter, 1959.
Draftee, U. S. Army, 1956-58
--A nonfiction study of the Reconstruction Era, to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2014.
--"Driven West: Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears to the Civil War." (Simon & Schuster, 2010).
--"Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence," a nonfiction narrative of the War of 1812 (Simon & Schuster, 2006).
--"Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975," a nonfiction study of the Vietnam War (Simon & Schuster, 2000), Touchstone Press (paper), 2002.
--"A Noise of War: Caesar, Pompey, Octavian and the Struggle for Rome," a nonfiction examination of the fall of the Roman Republic--political and military history from 81 B. C. to 30 B. C. (Simon & Schuster, 1994).
--"Norman Corwin's Letters," edited by A. J. Langguth (Barricade Books, 1994).
--"Jesus Christs," a reissue of the 1968 novel with new illustrations by E. J. Gold, published October, 1993, by Gateways Press.
--"Patriots, The Men Who Started the American Revolution" (nonfiction) (Simon & Schuster, 1988); Touchstone Press (paper), 1989, 2002.
--"Saki, A Life of Hector Hugh Munro" (biography) (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1981);(Hamish Hamilton, London, 1981); (Oxford University Press [paper],1982.) Figueroa Press (Los Angeles, 2003)[paper.]
--"Hidden Terrors," nonfiction account of U. S. intervention in Latin America (Pantheon Books, New York, 1978); Pantheon (paper), 1979; Portuguese language translation, 1979; Circulo do Livro, Brazilian book club edition, 1983; Russian language edition, Moscow, 1985.
--"Macumba, White and Black Magic in Brazil" (nonfiction) (Harper & Row, 1975).
--"Marksman" (fiction) (Harper & Row, 1974).
--"Wedlock" (fiction) (Alfred A. Knopf, 1972); Ballantine Books [paper], 1973.
--"Jesus Christs" (fiction) (Harper & Row, 1968); (Victor Gollancz, London, 1968); Ballantine Books [paper], 1969; Figueroa Press (Los Angeles, 2003)[paper].
The New York Times Magazine, Book Review, Op-Ed Page; the Washington Post Book World; the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Opinion Section; The Michigan Historical Review; The Nation; The National Interest; The New Republic; Newsweek; The Saturday Review; The Saturday Evening Post; Harper's; The Atlantic; West Magazine; The Journalist; The Journal of American History; The Times (London)
"OUR MAN IN VIETNAM"
by Rob Felton.
USC Trojan Family Magazine
"Three decades after being shot at while riding on U. S. Army helicopters, former New York Times war correspondent A. J. Langguth sat down to tea in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Beijing with communist leaders behind the Vietcong bullets. The reporter-turned-author was back on the story.
"Now a journalism professor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication, the meticulous Langguth devoted seven years to assembling his recently released narrative history Our Vietnam/Nuoc Viet Ta: The War 1954-1975, published in November by Simon&Schuster.
"He met with former U. S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, corresponded with Henry Kissinger and excitedly eavesdropped on President Lyndon B. Johnson's newly released telephone conversations. He repeatedly was evicted at closing time from libraries across the country. He drove his cleaning lady to despair with the hundreds of resource books that overwhelmed his study and spilled into a spare bedroom. A voracious reader, Langguth confined his literary intake for six years to books relating to Vietnam. Opting not to hire a research assistant, he read through stacks of top-secret documents and handwrote every sheet of his mammoth manuscript.
"The result is a compacting of 21 years of turmoil into 734 well-documented pages. His 2,300 footnotes alone fill 50 pages. Langguth estimates that as much as a third of the material will be new to historians--notably the revelation of North Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh's reduced leadership role and other information gathered from the previously unknown nationalist-comunist perspective.
"He presents the war in Southeast Asia as a story. 'I tried to write it as though the reader were looking through the far end of a telescope--as though a hundred years had passed and people were trying to make sense of it all, the way I had tried to make sense of the American Revolution (in an earlier book, 'Patriots'),' he says.
'Get the passions out of the way, and get the personalities into sharp focus--but not contrast too sharply the heroism and the villainy. Rather, show men and women making decisions, and the rest of us having to live with the results.'
"Despite his exhaustive research on Vietnam and two previously published historical narratives, Langguth does not claim to be a historian. He is a writer, a man fulfilling a lifelong dream. Ten books bear his name. But those who know Jack Langguth (he uses A. J. only for the 'pompous stuff') know he is more than a writer...
"He's one of the most beloved professors in the USC School of Journalism: his name is etched three times (in 1989, 1996 and 2000) on the Graduate Journalism Student Association's plaque citing winners of the Outstanding Faculty Award. He is intolerant of injustice, and enthusiastic about all things Brazilian...
"(In his summation of the Vietnam War for the New York Times Magazine in 1965), he expressed his uncertainty about whether American involvement was helping or hurting the people of South Vietnam.
"He would return twice on two-month freelance assignments for the New York Times Magazine, covering the outcome of the Tet offensive in 1968 and the U. S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970.
"Moving to Malibu, Calif., he began the first of three novels he would publish between 1968 and 1974...Brazil was to be the location of his fourth novel, a book about natives who believe their bodies are possessed by spirits during ritual ceremonies. As he researched, Langguth concluded the material was better suited for a nonfiction book.
"'I went up there and reported accurately and honestly what I saw as a nonbeliever, but not as a skeptic,' he says.
"Macumba, White and Black Magic in Brazil (1975) became the first of the wide-ranging mix of nonfiction books. His time researching Macumba made Langguth aware of the chilling practices of the CIA-the subject of his 1978 book, Hidden Terrors: The Truth About U. S. Police Operations in Latin America. He interviewed men who had been used as guinea pigs in Brazilian torture schools.
"'I would go back after talking to those people,' he recalls, 'and as I typed up my notes, I would find myself crying because it was inconceivable that people could do those things to each other.'
"For solace, at night he read short stories by Saki, a boyhood favorite. The 'crystalline wit' of the satirist of Edwardian manners charmed Langguth, who was determined that his next book would be completely different from the inhuman subject matter of 'Hidden Terrors.'
"He began the biography, Saki: A Life of Hector Hugh Munro, in 1978--the same year he began teaching full-time at USC (he had been hired as an adjunct professor two years earlier)...
"For years, kids at neighboring Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and Foshay Learning Center have been publishing their own newspapers, thanks to Langguth's outreach efforts. Langguth hooked up the two schools with USC journalism students who assist the youngsters with editing and layout.
"During the 1980s, Langguth spent four years researching and writing 'Patriots: The Men Who Started the American Revolution' (1988). It was named a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection, and the Washington Post praised it as "a grand, irresistible book" in which 'hallowed forefathers suddenly move and breathe.'...Langguth reached even farther back in history for his next historical narrative: 'A Noise of War: Caesar, Pompey, Octavian and the Struggle for Rome,' a dramatic retelling of how the Roman republic collapsed to be replaced by empire.
"But after years of focusing on emperors and revolutionaries, Vietnam still haunted him. Covering the war, Langguth says, left him and other reporters with a kind of survivor's guilt.
"'You have a sense if only you had written more effectively, if you had alerted the country more dramatically, somehow you should have been able to influence the war and end it,' he says. 'And of course, that's beyond our powers. But there's that nagging feeling of failure.'...
"While writing the book, Langguth struggled with his sympathies. 'The knottiest problem was the fact that I really admired the communist politicians and the Vietcong and, before that, the Vietminh soldiers,' he says. 'These are people who gave up their life to a cause of independence and unity for their country. It's hard to feel that same admiration for someone like (South Vietnamese leader) Nguyen Cao Ky, who sided with the French against the independence that Ho Chi Minh was fighting for. It would be like raising on a pedestal those Brits who fought against America in our revolution."
"The comparison was never far from Langguth's mind when he wrote about the American Revolution a dozen years earlier. 'The spectacle of the finest troops on earth being defeated by a raggedy little bunch compares to the Minutemen and Yorktown,' he says.
"Judging by the reviews, evenhandedness was just one of 'Our Vietnam's' many virtues. 'The most complete and compelling narrative on the war,' lauded The Economist. '(It) promises to become a standard history of the era, and it is superb in every respect,' commented the reviewer for Amazon.com...
"Now 67, Langguth says he plans to stop teaching in three more years...But he'll continue writing. 'I'm in exactly the business I've always wanted to be in. I'm doing what I always wanted to do."