Keith Richards on Vietnam and the Sunset Strip in the 60’s

Taking “Street Fighting Man” to the extremes, or “Gimme Shelter.” But without a doubt it was a strange generation. The weird thing is that I grew up with it, but suddenly I’m an observer instead of a participant. I watched all these guys grow up; I watched a lot of them die. When I first got to the States, I met a lot of great guys, young guys, and I had their phone numbers, and then when I got back two or three years later, I’d call them up, and he’s in a body bag from Nam. A whole lot of them got feathered out, we all know. That’s when that shit hit home with me. Hey, that great little blondie, great guitar player, real fun, we had a real good time, and the next time, gone.

Sunset Strip in the ’60s, ’64, ’65—there was no traffic allowed through it. The whole strip was filled with people, and nobody’s going to move for a car. It was almost off-limits. You hung out in the street, you just joined the mob. I remember once Tommy James, from the Shondells—six gold records and blew it all. I was trying to get up to the Whisky a Go Go in a car, and Tommy James came by. “Hey, man.” “And who are you?” “Tommy James, man.” “Crimson and Clover” still hits me. He was trying to hand out things about the draft that day. Because obviously he thought he was about to be fucking drafted. This was Vietnam War time. A lot of the kids that came to see us the first time never got back. Still, they heard the Stones up the Mekong Delta.

Richards, Keith. Life (p. 238). Little, Brown and Company.

Welcome to Vietnam

That night we had an alert. I found out later it was just a probe on the perimeter, but I didn’t know this while it was going on and neither did anyone else. The airfield had already been hit by sappers. People had been killed, several planes and helicopters blown up. It could happen again. You know that an attack is “just a probe” only after it’s over. I stood outside with other fresh arrivals and watched bellowing, half-dressed men run by in different directions. Trucks raced past, some with spinning lights like police cruisers. Between the high, excited bursts of M-16 fire I could hear heavy machine guns pounding away, deep and methodical. Flares popped overhead. They covered everything in a cold, quivering light.

No one came to tell us what was going on. We hadn’t received our issue of combat gear, so we had no weapons or ammunition, no flak jackets, not even a steel helmet. We were helpless. And nobody knew or cared. They had forgotten about us—more to the point, forgotten about me. In this whole place not one person was thinking of me, thinking, Christ, I better take a run over there and see how Lieutenant Wolff is doing! No. I wasn’t on anybody’s mind. And I understood that this was true not only here but in every square inch of this country. Not one person out there cared whether I lived or died. Maybe some tender hearts cared in the abstract, but it was my fate to be a particular person, and about me as a particular person there was an undeniable, comprehensive lack of concern.

Wolff, Tobias. In Pharaoh’s Army

McNamara’s War

“Beyond loyalty, McNamara persuaded himself — as did other internal skeptics such as Undersecretary of State George Ball — that he could better influence policy by staying put. Moreover, he wasn’t absolutely sure in his bleak diagnosis. Maybe, just maybe, things would turn out well after all, or at least stabilize sufficiently to be handed off to the next administration, preserving not only Johnson’s historical credibility but also his own. As Leslie H. Gelb, himself a veteran of McNamara’s Pentagon (and later a member of The Times editorial board), has written, “It is almost superhuman to expect one responsible for waging war” to fundamentally rethink its merits and then to act on the basis of that rethinking. “And so doubts simply float in the air without being translated into policy.””

From the NY Times.