Letters to the Editor

Letters: January/February 2024

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be emailed to yam@yale.edu or mailed to Letters Editor, PO Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905. Due to the volume of correspondence, we are unable to respond to or publish all mail received. Letters accepted for publication are subject to editing. Priority is given to letters of fewer than 300 words.

Another view on Ukraine

Self-described “peace activist” Marci Shore says she ditched her “ambivalence” towards guns to plead for weapons for Ukraine (“Eyeing the Future, Grappling with the Past,” November/December). Is she glad President Biden is now sending cluster bombs and depleted uranium, which will go on maiming and killing long after war ends? Fifty-five percent of Americans are fed up and say no more money for Ukraine. The bloody largesse of our president may actually ensure more “dark Trump years,” in Shore’s phrase.

Though US politicians and media blame Putin, American meddling did much to provoke war. In 2013, the State Department’s Victoria Nuland bragged that the US had spent $5 billion on Ukraine since 1991. In 2014, deputies in Kyiv’s new US-backed government repealed the status of Russian as an official language; in the east, neo-Nazis cut off electricity and set fires. After Moscow attacked in 2022, the US thwarted negotiation.

Consider Putin’s position: every major NATO power—France, the US, UK, Germany—had invaded Russia at some point. What would you do if that alliance, led by the world’s “greatest purveyor of violence” (per M. L. King), had you increasingly surrounded and was recruiting the largest country on your Western border?
Jay Lyon ’73
San Francisco, CA

Reading Ulysses

What an unexpected treat it was to read that over-the-top grand essay on the new edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses in my copy of the Yale Alumni Magazine! (“Deciphering,” November/December.) It was a perfect review. I could only wish my own reviews could grace whatever they are supposed to grace with such appropriate style. A rousing “Brava!” to the editor!
Mary Ann Caws ’56MA
New York, NY

Caws is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature, English, and French at the City University of New York.
What a lovely essay on Ulysses. So much insight! Remember Molly’s rapt look at the concert? Bloom thinks it’s because she has fallen in love with him. Hundreds of pages later we learn that it’s because her period has started. She’s “sitting in a swamp.” Appealing to her creator, she pleads in high comic fashion, “Oh, Jamesey, let me up out of this.”

Does Molly still love Bloom? “Oh, well, as much him as another,” she muses. In the final chapter, they lie next to each other, head to toe. “Yes yes I will yes,” she intones, remembering their early lovemaking. Romantic? Maybe. But her lover Blazes Boylan has just left the apartment.

Oh, well. Many men have had to settle for less. Bloom will get through it somehow. We’re rooting for him all the way.
Victor A. Altshul ’60MD
Hamden, CT

Remembering the fallen

I appreciate your article on Yale men who died in Vietnam (“The Stories Behind the Names,” November/December), especially remembering Stephen Henry Warner ’71LLB. We served together in the Public Information Office in Vietnam. I’d like to correct the description of our work at headquarters that Steve and colleagues were “bored with work . . . and began making forays into the field.” In fact, we were given regular assignments from our commanding officer, Col. Alfred Mock, and his staff to produce specific stories in the field. Typically a writer would be paired with a photographer, which was my job.

Steve had a reputation for taking on more dangerous assignments, and he quickly volunteered to cover Operation Lam Son 719, in which the Vietnamese Army (ARVN) went into Laos to break the Ho Chi Minh Trail. By this time, we had proven to be a reliable team, and I was asked to volunteer and go with him. A small persistent voice was saying, “Don’t go there.” I declined and tried to convince Steve not to go. He assured me that he could handle both writing and making photos. He departed carrying notebooks, camera, helmet, and a Colt 45. The operation didn’t go well. We heard a few days after the start that Steve had been killed.

I honored my beloved friend in a speech on Memorial Day this year in my hometown. I remembered him as “generous, inclusive, compassionate, and motivated by a strong sense of duty . . . a profound example that service is love in action.” Vietnam was characterized by some in the press as “the war without heroes.” But, of course, there were. Warner was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor for his gallantry in action and Bronze Star Medal for Merit for his sustained meritorious service.
Andrew de Lory
Orleans, MA

Thanks for your article, which included the stories of two of my classmates. Every one of us has a story of how we dealt with the war. The prospect of the draft hung over us during our college years, inescapable, smothering. Upon graduation, each one of us was faced with making the biggest moral decision of our lives, at age 21.
There were many options to choose: enlist (three years) in the Army, Navy, or Air Force, become an officer or just a private, ask to be drafted (only two years), wait to be drafted, join the Reserves or National Guard (six years part-time), get a letter (be it real or fake) from your doctor to keep you out, apply to be a conscientious objector, escape to Canada, actively resist the draft, go to jail.

I don’t recall much animosity among those making different choices. Nearly everyone opposed the war. I had friends enlisting to be Navy officers and others refusing to go at all. We each were just trying to find a solution we could live with. “Live” is the operative word. Nobody wanted to be, as John Kerry ’66 told Congress, “the last man to die for a mistake.”  

I ended up in the Army. I wrote a novel, or fictionalized memoir, called Elsewhere Than Vietnam: A Story of the Sixties. It was reviewed in the publications of Vietnam Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Best of all, some of my classmates really liked it.
David Schwartz ’69
Philadelphia, PA

A one-time member of the Class of 1968, I did not complete my studies at Yale, and I spent my would-be senior year in Vietnam. Despite a conviction that efforts to save the regime in South Vietnam were hopelessly doomed, I believed that the war would turn out to be a defining element for our generation, a belief that turned into a tour as a combat engineer.

The main thing that I brought back from my experience in Southeast Asia is a deep sense of loss for those who did not make it back. After reading your article, I found a list of the names inscribed on the memorial plaque in 1978. It seems to me that there is a name missing.

During our freshman and sophomore years, Stephen Perry and I talked about his experiences at the French lycée in Saigon. He had seen the riots that overthrew Diem firsthand, and he and I perceived little hope for efforts to support subsequent Saigon administrations. In June 1966, he joined his father in Laos with the idea of working for USAID or Air America. In November, he was killed when the helicopter he was in received ground fire.

There was a memorial ceremony, but it received little notice on campus, as did most of what was going on in Southeast Asia at that time. He may not have been in the military or Vietnam per se, but Steve’s death was also a part of that conflict. Whether we served in the military or not, and whether we came back from Vietnam or not, that conflict had a deep impact on our generation.
J. E. Aydelotte ’68  
Boise, ID

Ghost story

Regarding your interview with fantasy author Leigh Bardugo ’97, whose novel involves magic and ghosts in Sterling Memorial Library (“Just Read the Entrails,” September/October): I was originally in the class of ’71. In October 1969, a few of us, men and women, decided that we wanted to do something special for Halloween. In a deep recess of Sterling, I found a book on magic spells, published in the 1600s. Most intriguing was a complex formula for evoking the spirit of a deceased individual, preferably one who had been violently murdered.

We visited the Grove Street Cemetery and eventually found the perfect candidate—Benjamin English, bayoneted to death in his home by British soldiers in 1779. We first had to make a charcoal rendering of the tombstone. I copied the next instructions, and our little band convened shortly before midnight. Elaborate symbols were drawn with chalk, and then we stepped into the circle, shouting our incantations. The ceremony culminated with the burning of the rendering. We anxiously waited in the chill autumnal night, but, alas, Benjamin did not appear.

I returned to my room in Silliman and was still awake at 3:00 a.m. when the face of my clock detached itself and flew across the room. Unsettled, I fled my room and paced about in the quad. I returned around dawn for a couple of hours of sleep.

Emerging in the morning, intent upon conferring with a comrade about my experience, I found a large German shepherd I had never seen before, sitting on his haunches and staring at me. My friend joined me to revisit the site of the previous night’s activity. The dog walked ahead of us, never looking back; when we arrived at the grave, he was waiting. Sure of our attention, he lifted his leg and peed on the very center of our markings. With that he walked away, and I never saw him again.

I quickly returned to Sterling, and performed the necessary rites to undo the spell. Benjamin never bothered us again, but he certainly had a sense of humor. The above is true in the spirit of Lux et Veritas.
Phillip Swatek ’74
Makawao, HI


The byline for our Findings article “The Earliest Imperials” (September/October) was incorrect. It was written by Amanda Ruggeri ’07, not Aparna Nathan ’17.

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