James F. Broder Papers

 Collection
Identifier: MSS.1012

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

This collection contains 37 typed letters signed by James F. Broder to his wife, Margie, while serving in Vietnam from 1965-1966. Broder served with the U.S. Embassy as a Police Advisor in the Counter Insurgency Directorate of the Vietnamese National Police, having previously worked with the FBI. His mission was to assist in putting together police forces in outer villages.

He traveled throughout the country and the continent briefing locals and the military on new programs to be instituted. In one letter he tells Margie, "quit worrying about me when I travel. As an Advisor to a representative of the Director General, we always have an armed escort, usually two jeeps, and occasionally two jeeps, a truck load of police, combat police types, all armed to the teeth." He says of his Vietnamese counterpart, "I never take chances and neither does NGOC. He is a pretty sharp cookie, knows the enemy well, and doesn't trust anyone's judgement in these things, except his own. In all things Vietnamese, I yield to his superior knowledge." While discussing the new formations and branches they've created for the country Broder writes, "they will never be able to say that we didn't accomplish great things here honey." Later in October of 1965 he writes, "It is getting to be a Sunday ritual, and we discuss the ever depressing situation in Vietnam. Boy, you wouldn't ever recognize this place anymore with all the G.I. 's. Seems that everyone is fighting the war in Saigon ... You have no idea how this place has degenerated. I just hope I can maintain my sanity until I can get out of here." He discusses a friend joining the army saying, "this is a pretty rough life here for the GI. They live up country, mostly in tents, and are doing quite a bit of fighting in the jungles. As you know life out here under the best conditions is difficult." In another letter he writes, "At night, and especially early in the morning, the B-52's dropping bombs in Zone D rattle the windows and doors of the bedroom. The rattle gets so bad on occasion that the glass almost comes out of the panes." One letter discusses a recent bombing reads, "the VC are making a real determined effort to knock out places where Americans (mostly GI's) live and work."

Mentioned in a few of the letters is Jack Ryan, Broder's superior who was murdered in the summer of 1965 by his assistant. According to an American newspaper at the time, "Jack Ryan, the chief public safety officer of the United States aid program in Vietnam, was found shot to death last night in front of his house in Saigon." With Ryan was a Vietnamese woman who was also killed. Broder was close with Ryan and mourns the loss vocally in his letters. The assistant, Robert Kimball, was also a friend of Broder's and is mentioned in the letters when Broder discusses his upcoming trial with Margie and his visits to Kimball in jail. A letter written before the trial reads, "the investigation conducted independently by PSD, on the Q.T. has produced evidence that at least 90% of what Kimball said is true, and he told me that at his trial all he was going to do was tell the truth." Eventually Kimball is convicted of killing the woman but his self-defense plea held up against his charges in Ryan's death.

When he isn't discussing his mission, he tells Margie how much she misses him, often asks for photos, and tells her of his plans to resign or job offers in Washington he's considering. Broder is often buying goods and souvenirs to be shipped to Margie including traditional dresses. She sends him letters and gifts often, in one letter he tells her he received the "subscription to playboy." He often writes of feeling guilty he doesn't keep up with birthdays back home or write as often but his mission seems to have kept him busy most of the day, which he thanks in part for tiring him out so much he sometimes forgets to miss home. "One good thing about being busy (two things really). First of all it leaves you little time to be lonely, and second it makes the time pass quickly." He tells her of trouble with the VC (Viet Cong), curfews, trouble with other colleagues drinking, and meetings he attends including one where he briefed the International Press Corps on their operations. In a later letter he writes, "in truth tho, I do like Southeast Asia. I also like this job, there is so much that can be done, and must be done. But short of getting my own mission as a chief...I wouldn't even consider staying with this program." It appears that after his assignment was completed, he took a post with the Inspector General's Division of the Department of Agriculture.

Dates

  • 1965 - 1966

Conditions Governing Access

This collection may be viewed only in the reading room of Special Collections in the Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Collections should be requested 2-3 days prior to visiting in order to facilitate easier access. For questions or to request a collection, contact specialcollections@vanderbilt.edu.

Extent

.21 Linear Feet (1 Half-Hollinger box)

Language of Materials

English

Overview

This collection contains 37 typed letters signed by James F. Broder to his wife, Margie, while serving in Vietnam from 1965-1966. Broder served with the U.S. Embassy as a Police Advisor in the Counter Insurgency Directorate of the Vietnamese National Police, having previously worked with the FBI. His mission was to assist in putting together police forces in outer villages.

Physical Location

Special Collections & Archives
Title
Finding Aid for the James F. Broder Papers
Status
Partially Processed
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Jean and Alexander Heard Library
419 21st Avenue South
Nashville TN 37203 United States


 

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