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Having been stationed in Da Nang as a U.S. Air Force doctor in 1964-65,
I was especially interested in the article by Professor Seth Jacobs
on Dr. Tom Dooley ("Fighting Words," Summer 2002).
Dooley's work was an inspiration to many, and although he was not
a saint, his story deserves to be remembered with respect. He was
one of a number of medical missionaries operating in Southeast Asia
at the time, and the heroic story of the others remains unknown
to most of the world. I had the pleasure of working and visiting
with some of these missionaries, and, in my opinion, they represented
the best in mankind and Christianity.
HENRY E. FOURCADE, M.D.
"Fighting Words" was a surprising addition to what has
been for me, up until now, a superb publication. Seth Jacobs does
a pretty fair job of character assassination on Dr. Dooley—not
the kind of thing a publication like BCM should do. After
all, we have those grimy magazines at the supermarket checkouts
that do that sort of thing quite nicely. Why does Jacobs tear into
a man dead now these many years?
VITO TAMBOLI '56
St. Louis, Missouri
Does Seth Jacobs think the North Vietnamese incapable of the atrocities
ascribed to them by Dooley? Does he discount the memories of Americans
incarcerated in the "Hanoi Hilton"? He suggests that analysis of
the war has "another, hitherto unexplored dimension: religion."
Does he think that all the refugees fleeing North Vietnam were Catholic?
Everyone he quotes shares his prejudices. What is the point of slandering
a man like Thomas Dooley?
MARVIN J. LAHOOD '54
Buffalo, New York
Professor Jacobs neglects to mention anywhere in his article James
T. Fisher's critically acclaimed book, Dr. America: The Lives
of Thomas A. Dooley 1927-61—a surprising omission in
an article on the Navy doctor.
Moreover, Jacobs's assertion that religion is a "vital, hitherto
unexplored dimension" of the Vietnam War is, to put it charitably,
untrue. Studies of the religious antiwar movement abound, including
Mitchell Hall's book on Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam
(CALCAV), Charles Meconis's investigation into the antiwar Catholic
Left, and my own Lift Up Your Voice Like a Trumpet: White Clergy
and the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements, 1954-73, which
was originally written as a doctoral dissertation in the very department
in which Professor Jacobs now teaches.
MICHAEL B. FRIEDLAND, PH.D '93
It was a corollary in the 1960s that the closer nations were to
North Vietnam geographically, the more the latter was feared and
detested. The reverse was also true: The more removed from the scene,
the more heroic North Vietnam seemed to the Left.
SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) does not appear anywhere
in Seth Jacobs's article. That agreement stated that if one signatory
were attacked, all would defend.
Extensively quoting Nicholas von Hoffman, of all people, reveals
more about Jacobs's agenda than anything else in his article. Avoiding
the obvious, the Left will grasp at anything as the main causes
of the war, even race or gender. So what else is new?
MARTIN F. TULLY
High Falls, New York
Professor Jacobs replies: I never intended my comments
about Dooley to apply to all medical missionaries. As for
the charge of character assassination: Leaving facts out because
they don't fit a heroic image is writing fiction, not history. Yes,
many of the "refugees fleeing North Vietnam" were not Catholic,
but over 90 percent of the "Passage to Freedom" refugees were.
When I called religion an "unexplored dimension" of the war, I was
referring to religion's role in drawing the United States into
Vietnam, not the subsequent efforts of religious figures to
get the United States out; I'd like to think that a Boston
College Ph.D. could grasp the distinction. I do agree with Dr. Friedland
about James Fisher's book, which is why I regularly assign it for
my classes. Finally, South Vietnam was not a signatory to SEATO;
it was, in fact, prohibited from joining by the Geneva
Regarding the excellent tributes by Brian Doyle and Fr. Joseph Appleyard,
SJ, to the late Francis Sweeney, SJ, in Summer 2002 ("Writer's
Guide" and "Voice Lessons," respectively): I was
Fr. Sweeney's assistant for the Humanities Series during my senior
year and found the man to be one of the kindest, most charitable
people I have ever had the pleasure to encounter. He was not only
a benevolent supervisor, but also a truly remarkable individual,
one who led a storied life, yet who always conducted himself with
humility and grace. In the seven months I worked for him—and
I use the word "work" loosely as I never viewed it as
a chore—I learned not only about the amazing history of the
Humanities Series but, more importantly, from Fr. Sweeney I learned,
by example, what it means to treat others with respect and dignity.
ROBERT G. DRAPEAU '93
One of the things you learned in Francis Sweeney's class "Writing
the Essay and the Article," was that plumbers made more money than
writers. I always appreciated the fact that he did not romanticize
the difficulties of trying to make a living as a writer.
Through Francis, you learned that writing was rewriting and that
to become a good writer you had to be a reader. And you'd better
have a sense of humor, as demonstrated by the following story he
told in class: When [the novelist] George Higgins's daughter was
asked at school what her father did for a living, she replied, "My
GENE ROMAN '82
New York, New York
Several months ago, Fr. Sweeney telephoned
me. Among other conversation we shared, he remarked, "I am not long
of this world."
Fr. Sweeney was and continues to be a great gift. Never having been
a student of his, I serendipitously became his friend because he
had a great talent for reaching out beyond his immediate and ready-made
circles. We shared a friendship of humor and deep spirituality.
One way he encouraged my faith was by considering some of the most
ordinary points of life. And when the first of my three children
was born, Fr. Sweeney sent a letter of congratulations. In the letter
he said, "I'd like to extend a warm welcome to the new manager
of your household." At the time, I thought, "What a weird
thing to say . . . but I'm sure I'll learn over the years just what
he means." Truly I have.
GINA LAIDLAW BERGER '80
Princeton, New Jersey