In the ninth lecture of the Vietnam War Commemoration Lecture series conducted Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. in the Stove Factory Ballroom in downtown Leavenworth, Kansas, Dr, James H. Willbanks, General of the Army George C. Marshall Chair of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, discussed the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) program. CORDS was a unique hybrid civil-military structure that pulled together all the various U.S. military and civilian agencies involved in the pacification effort, including the State Department, USAID, the USIA and the CIA.
Several Vietnam veterans were in attendance at the presentation, a few with first hand knowledge of CORDS activities in those years. Others listened and asked questions, gleaning as much as they could from not only Dr. Willbanks, but also from some of those veterans who commented or asked questions, seemingly trying to put their own views into perspective some fifty years later.
“Dr. Willbanks gave clarity to a program that I had no involvement in and had only heard of parts of it,” said Lt. Col. (Ret.) John Wayne Raines, a Vietnam veteran in attendance. “His presentation made even those who served in CORDS missions aware of how they ‘fit’ into the program. – This was very well done.”
“I hope this is being captured somewhere,” said one veteran attendee after the presentation concluded. “We’re going to miss the history that’s wrapped up in all these guys.”
Dr. Willbanks is the General of the Army George C. Marshall Chair of Military History and former Director of the Department of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He has been on the faculty since 1992, when he retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel with 23 years service as an infantry officer in various assignments, to include a tour as an advisor with a South Vietnamese infantry regiment during the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter Offensive. Willbanks is an honor graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and a graduate of the inaugural class of the School of Advanced Military Studies. He holds a B.A. in History from Texas A&M University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Kansas. He is the author or editor of 14 books on the Vietnam War and other topics in military history. Dr. Willbanks also served as a consultant to Ken Burns in the preparation of a 10-part documentary on the Vietnam War to which began airing on PBS television in 2017. His military awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with “V” and Oak Leaf Cluster, two Purple Hearts, and Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with two Silver Stars.
At the conclusion of the presentation, Simons Center Program Director Col. (Ret.) Roderick M. Cox thanked the series presenters – CGSC’s Department of Military History, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leavenworth and the Henry Leavenworth Chapter of AUSA. He also thanked the sponsors – national headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Kansas City, Missouri, First Command Financial Services in Leavenworth, Kansas, and Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). Cox said the next lecture entitled “The 1968 Tet Offensive” was scheduled for Jan. 24, 2018, in the same location.
For more information on the content of lectures in the series contact Dr. Tom Hanson, CGSC’s director of the Department of Military History: email– firstname.lastname@example.org or phone– 913-684-2056. For other questions, contact Rod Cox, email– email@example.com, or Ann Soby, email– firstname.lastname@example.org, at the CGSC Foundation or phone 913-651-0624.
All lectures in the series are free and open to the public