How I Found Hope In God’s Word

2Lt Jimmie A Kepler at airborne school
Attending airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia (class 37-76), I served as class company commander.

Bible Verse

“I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.”

Psalm 130:5 KJV

My Story

Psalm 130:5 says, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Is the trusting or waiting the harder part? Trust is hard. Waiting is harder. That’s why we hope our deepest desires get granted … they get granted right now. 

I’ve learned life doesn’t happen my way, on my timetable. Some things require waiting. And they are worth the wait. 

The Lord promises a reward to those who put their trust in Him. He will not disappoint us. 

It’s a lesson that I’ve learned through life experience. Would I go to war when I was only eighteen? Would I choose to place myself in harm’s way? Could I be a coward and run away to Canada? Or were there other choices? 

I was a young man during the Vietnam War, and the military draft was in full effect. Many of my peers were being called up to serve soon after graduation from high school. Everett Maxwell, my classmate Gary’s older brother, died in combat (KIA) my freshman year. You can see his entry on the Vietnam Wall memorial by clicking HERE.

Honorer on panel, line 17 of the wall – Everett Lee Maxwell

It was only a matter of time before they would draft me. I didn’t want to go to war, but I also didn’t want to flee the country or dodge the draft. I love America and would not leave.

Growing up in a career military family, I felt a strong sense of duty to my country. I wanted to serve in a way that aligned with my values and timing. 

My father served during the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and World War II. His example and counsel played a key role in my life. 

One day, my father said I should join the US Army ROTC program when I went to freshman orientation and registration at my university. ROTC stood for the Reserve Officer Training Corps. It was a way to defer serving in the military while still pursuing higher education. I could legally elude the draft and still offer my nation a meaningful military service on my time-table. ROTC allowed me to receive more training, complete a university education, and defer by four-years my entry into military service.

I tossed and turned at night as I debated signing up for ROTC. Dark thoughts consumed me for a couple of weeks. The decision weighed heavily every moment of the day. One thing I admitted was I felt a strong sense of duty to the US. Our freedom required people serving in the military. 

I started felling a calling to join the ROTC program. It was a decision that would change the course of my life forever. Committing to avoiding the draft short-term and serving in the US Army upon graduation, I joined US Army ROTC.

The ROTC program strengthened my mind. It helped me develop self-discipline. It was challenging, but I found I enjoyed the discipline and structure of military life.

During my time in ROTC, I also discovered a deep sense of camaraderie with my fellow cadets. We were all there for the same purpose, and we formed a tight-knit community that supported each other through the challenges of training. And ROTC made sure I attended classes and progressed to graduate on-time.

For me, this was the right choice.

My faith played a big role in my experience. I would trust in His timing.

When I graduated from ROTC, a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army and selected for active duty awaited me. Serving my nation was an honor, and I felt ready to face any obstacles that came my way.

A variety of leadership and staff roles within the military awaited me. I deployed to various parts of the world, and I saw firsthand the sacrifices that soldiers make to protect our country. Through it all, I relied on my faith to give me strength and courage.

Looking back on my decision to join the ROTC program, God led me to this path. It was a challenging experience, but it was also one that shaped me into the person I am today. 

I learned to wait on the Lord and putting my hope in His word is crucial during times of uncertainty.

Psalm 130:5 has been a guiding principle in my life. It has taught me waiting on the Lord and putting my hope in His word is crucial. 

It has also shown me that during difficult circumstances, God has a plan for our lives. We just need to trust in Him and wait for His perfect timing. 

Joining the US Army ROTC program allowed me to serve my country while staying true to my values. It was a decision that I will always be proud of.

My late wife Benita and our oldest son are in this picture taken in January 1977 at Fort Lewis, Washington. I was serving as a Weapons (81 mm Mortars and T.O.W. Missiles) Platoon Leader in C Company, 2 Bn 47th Infantry, 3rd Brigade of the Ninth Infantry Division at this time.

Who wrote Psalm 130:5  and when was it written?

Psalm 130:5 is part of Psalm 130, which is one of the penitential psalms (Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143) in the Book of Psalms. We don’t know Psalm 130’s author. Authorship attributed to King David in Jewish and Christian traditions.

The exact date of Psalm 130’s writing is unknown, but many scholars believe it was composed during the post-exilic period (after the Babylonian exile), between the 6th and 4th centuries BC. The themes of repentance, forgiveness, and hope in Psalm 130 are consistent with the experiences of the Jewish people during the post-exilic period, as they sought to rebuild their lives and their relationship with God after their captivity.

If David wrote the Psalm, it dates between 1010 BC to 970 BC.

What is the context of Psalm 130:5?

Psalm 130:5 is part of a penitential psalm, also known as a psalm of confession or a psalm of repentance. Expressing his deep distress and sorrow over his sin, the psalmist is asking God for forgiveness and mercy.

Psalm 130:5 is the psalmist’s expression of hope and faith in God’s forgiveness and mercy. The psalmist is waiting for God to hear his prayer and forgive his sins, and he places his trust in God’s word and promises.

The preceding verses (Psalm 130:1-4) express the psalmist’s sense of guilt and his cry for mercy: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”

After expressing his hope in God’s word in verse 5, the psalmist continues to wait on the Lord, comparing his waiting to that of a watchman waiting for the morning (verse 6). He then urges the people of Israel to put their hope in the Lord, who is merciful and forgiving (verses 7-8).

Overall, the context of Psalm 130:5 is one of deep repentance and a strong faith in God’s mercy and forgiveness. The psalmist acknowledges his sinfulness and his need for forgiveness, but he places his trust in God’s word and waits patiently for the Lord to answer his prayer.

What is the meaning of Psalm 130:5?

This verse expresses a deep trust and confidence in God’s promises and His word. It acknowledges that sometimes we must wait for God’s timing, but even in that waiting, we can find hope and comfort in His promises.

The context of this psalm is one of repentance and seeking forgiveness from God. The psalmist cries out to God from the depths of despair, asking for mercy and forgiveness for their sins. In verse 5, the psalmist expresses a willingness to wait for God’s response and to trust in His word.

Psalm 130:5 is a reminder to put our hope in God and to trust in His promises, even in times of waiting and uncertainty.

What does “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait,” in Psalm 130:5 mean?

Psalm 130:5 expresses a deep sense of trust and dependence on God.

Waiting for the Lord refers to trusting in God’s timing and plan for our lives. It means that we acknowledge God is in control and that we wait for Him to act in His way and His time.

The phrase “my soul waits” emphasizes waiting not just on a physical or external level, but also on a spiritual and internal level. It shows a deep longing and desire for God and His presence, recognizing that our souls find true rest and peace in Him.

What does and in his word I put my hope in His word” Psalm 130:5 mean?

The phrase “in his word, I put my hope” emphasizes trusting in God’s promises and His written word. The Bible is a source of comfort and guidance for believers, and it reminds us of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love towards us. Therefore, as we wait for the Lord, we can place our hope in His promises, knowing that He will fulfill them in His perfect timing.The phrase “in his word” refers to God’s promises, and the teachings found in the Scriptures.

The psalmist is expressing his trust and confidence in God’s promises and instructions as a source of comfort and hope. By placing his hope in God’s word, he is affirming his belief that God’s word is true, and that God will fulfill his promises.

The psalmist is also acknowledging that waiting on the Lord can be difficult and requires patience, but he will wait and trust in God’s word, despite any challenges or hardships he may face. The psalmist’s ultimate hope is not in his own strength or ability, but in God’s faithfulness and the power to deliver him.

What is the difference in biblical translations of Psalm 130:5  (KJV, NIV & ESV)


Psalm 130:5 KJV biblical translation says:

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

Psalm 130:5 KJV


Psalm 130:5 NIV biblical translation says:

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.

Psalm 130:5 NIV


Psalm 130:5 ESV biblical translation says:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;

Psalm 130:5 ESV

How does Psalm 130:5 give encouragement?

  1. Patience and trust: The verse encourages us to wait for the Lord, showing that God’s timing may not always align with our own, but we can trust He will come through for us.
  2. Hope: By putting our hope in God’s word, we can find comfort and assurance that He will fulfill His promises and provide for us.
  3. Wholehearted devotion: The phrase “my whole being waits” suggests a level of complete devotion and surrender to God, which can empower and encourage in times of difficulty or uncertainty.

Overall, this verse reminds us we can find encouragement and strength in God’s promises and trust in His faithfulness, even when we face challenges or waiting for answers.

How can I apply Psalm 130:5 to my life?

Psalm 130:5 says, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.” This verse speaks about waiting on the Lord and putting our hope in His word. Here are a few ways you can apply this verse to your life:

  1. Cultivate a spirit of patience: Waiting on the Lord requires patience. Instead of rushing ahead with your plans and desires, take time to seek God’s will and wait for His timing. This may require a shift in your mindset and a willingness to trust that God’s plan is best.
  2. Spend time in God’s word: The psalmist puts his hope in God’s word. Make it a priority to read the Bible and allow God’s truth to shape your perspective and guide your decisions.
  3. Trust God’s faithfulness: When we wait on the Lord, we are confident in His faithfulness. He will not let us down, even when we face difficult circumstances. Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past can give us hope and courage for the future.
  4. Surrender your worries to God: Waiting can be difficult, especially during anxious times. Pray and surrender your worries to God. Trust that He is in control and that He will work things out for your good.

By applying these principles to your life, you can cultivate a deeper trust in God and experience the peace that comes from waiting for Him.

A model or example prayer using Psalm 130:5

Dear God,

I come before you today with a humble heart, seeking your grace and forgiveness. Your word in Psalm 130:5 reminds me I can put my hope in you because of your unfailing love, and I hold on to that promise today.

Lord, I confess I have fallen short of your glory. I ask for your forgiveness for the times when I have sinned against you and others. I pray for your mercy and your loving kindness to wash over me and renew me.

I also pray for the strength and courage to face the challenges ahead. Please give me the wisdom to make the right decisions and to follow your will in all things. Help me trust in your guidance and to walk in your ways.

Thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness, even during difficult circumstances. I trust in your goodness and your power to see me through whatever lies ahead.

In Jesus’ name I pray, 



Psalm 130:5 speaks about waiting on the Lord and putting our hope in His word. Waiting on the Lord requires patience. Instead of rushing ahead with your plans and desires, take time to seek God’s will and wait for His timing. This may require a shift in your mindset and a willingness to trust that God’s plan is best.

The psalmist puts his hope in God’s word. Make it a priority to read the Bible regularly and allow God’s truth to shape your perspective and guide your decisions.

When we wait on the Lord and be confident in His faithfulness. He will not let us down, even when we face difficult circumstances. Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past can give us hope and courage for the future.

Waiting can be difficult, especially when anxious about the outcome. Pray and surrender your worries to God. Trust that He is in control and that He will work things out for your good.

By applying these principles to your life, you can cultivate a deeper trust in God and experience the peace that comes from waiting for Him.

Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts: The Hopeless to Hardcore Transformation of the U.S. Army, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, Vietnam by David Hackworth

Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts: The Hopeless to Hardcore Transformation of the U.S. Army, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, Vietnam by Col. (Retired) David H. Hackworth and his wife Eilhys England. The book is about David Hackworth. It is memoir about his time in Viet-Nam in the spring of 1969. He embodies both the best and the worst of US Army officers. He is a hard-charging, mission-oriented, and motivational officer. He demands excellence from the men under his command. He suffers the hardships they do. He is also quite egotistical and hubris can describe his self-confidence that borders on attitude of self love.

The book is about the U.S. Army’s 9th Division (my old unit ), 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry (I was in 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry), Vietnam. This book is about Hackworth’s transformation of a what he viewed as a combat-ineffective battalion of draftees that he lead into a solid American fighting unit. The story is a good case study of leadership. The descriptions of combat operations contained in the book are some of the best I have read since “We Were Soldier Once … and Young”.

I highly recommend the book to those interested in military history or Vietnam War history. David Hackworth relates a narrative about himself. It is a good story of the men in the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry that deserves to be read. Read in November 2005.

“The Beleaguered City: The Vicksburg Campaign, December 1862-July 1863 by Shelby Foote

“The Beleaguered City: The Vicksburg Campaign, December 1862-July 1863” is an extended excerpt on the Vicksburg Campaign from Shelby Foote’s absolutely superb three volume narrative history of the Civil War. The Vicksburg Campaign is a gripping story in its own right, the central impressive thread of which is Union General U.S. Grant’s struggle to capture the grand Confederate fortress on the Mississippi.

Grant, stubborn and reticent, will try a variety of methods to close with and subdue the Confederate forces defending Vicksburg. His initial approaches fail. When Grant takes the great risk of cutting loose from his own supply lines to cross the Mississippi river and place his own army between two Confederate forces that he is finally able to place the city under siege. The Vicksburg campaign marks the coming of age of Grant as a mature senior leader, the kind of general who can plan, fight and win campaigns at the operational and strategic level. His success at Vicksburg will lead directly to his summons by Lincoln to lead all Union armies.

This book is highly readable. I recommended it to the student of the Civil War. I also recommend it to the casual reader looking for an absolutely page-turning account of the Civil War meant to be read as literature. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

US Army Infantryman in Vietnam 1965 – 73 by Kevin L. Lyles and Gordon L. Rottman

US Army Infantryman in Vietnam 1965 – 73 by Kevin L. Lyles and Gordon L. Rottman tells the compelling story of the average United States Army infantryman in Vietnam. Beginning with conscription, enlistment, Basic Training, and Advanced Individual Training at the Armed Forces Induction Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana (the infamous “Tigerland”), it goes on to explore the day-to-day realities of service in Vietnam, from routine tasks at the firebase to search-and-destroy missions, rocket attacks, and firefights in the field. Weaponry, clothing, and equipment are all described and shown in detailed color plates. A vivid picture of the unique culture and experiences of these soldiers emerges – from their vernacular to the prospect of returning to an indifferent, if not hostile, homeland. The contents include: chronology, conscription, training, appearance, equipment, barracks life, on campaign, experience in battle, belief and belonging, aftermath, museums and collections, glossary, and a good bibliography Read by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Viet-Nam 1968-1969: A Battalion Surgeon’s Journal by Byron E. Holley, M.D.

Viet-Nam 1968-1969: A Battalion Surgeon’s Journal by Byron E. Holley, M.D. is gritty, gutsy, and grueling. It is the true story of a surgeon’s experience on the bloody battlefields of Vietnam. Holley spent the longest years of his young life as an infantry surgeon, living like a swamp rat in the Mekong Delta. In a land torn by generations of bloodshed, he witnessed firsthand the heartbreaking courage of the men who fought and died in a terrible war. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Eight Stars to Victory: A History of the Veteran U.S. Ninth Infantry Division by Joseph B. Mittelman

Eight Stars to Victory: A History of the Veteran U.S. Ninth Infantry Division by Joseph B. Mittelman was written for and published by the Ninth Division Association in 1948. The book tells of how eight battle stars were won. It covers from the shores of North Africa, in 1942, to the banks of the Elbe, in 1945. Over 50,000 men served in the Ninth Infantry Division during World War II. The division had nearly 25,000 casualties including 4,747 killed in action. The copy of the book I read was found through the Dallas Public Library.

The book is 408 pages and begins by telling the story of the activation of the division and its participation in World War I.

Next the author goes into extensive detail about the division’s reactivation in 1940 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Stories are shared of living in tents and not having enough hot water.

We learn how in late 1942 the Ninth Infantry Division was split between the Eastern and Western Task Forces and of the division’s role in the invasion of North Africa. Part of the Ninth Infantry Division made a beach landing in French Morocco. The other part of the division landed in Algeria.

The division’s role in the Sicilian campaign is examined next. We learn of their involvement in the fighting in the mountainous heart of the island along the central route toward Messina. After Messina was taken and Sicily fell, the Ninth Infantry Division remained on Sicily. It did not move to the Italian mainland. The division’s next destination was England.

The author then informs of the Ninth Division’s time in England. He tells of the city of London, English pubs, and Constable Lane. He shares about training and planning for the invasion. We learn that although the division had heavy amphibious experience they entered the continent on D-Day + 4 at Utah Beach. The Old Reliables were involved in the campaign on the Cotentin peninsula and the assault on Cherbourg. They fought in the battles in the hedgerows. In early August the division assisted in the final breakout by American forces. They were involved in halting of the Mortain counter-offensive. They entered Belgium on September 2nd. They were involved in battle of the Huertgen Forest.

Next the Ninth Division went on to the Battle of the Bulge. They held the northern shoulder of the front. They captured Roer dams. The Ninth Infantry Division was among the first across the Rhine River and instrumental in the capturing of the Remagen bridgehead. From here we move to the final stages of the war with the battle of the Ruhr pocket and the division plunging eastward to the banks of the Elbe as the German army crumbled.

The book concludes with the Ninth Division’s role as Occupation forces and the deactivation of the division at the beginning of 1947.

The book has numerous maps, photos, and coverage of each campaign that earned the division its eight battle stars. The book falls between a divisional souvenir and a hard hitting historical research. It is what it is. It will disappoint the serious scholar. Reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Victory Road by Robert C. Baldridge

Victory Road by Robert C. Baldridge is a great World War II memoir. It is the gripping story of a determined young soldier in an artillery battalion of the famous 9th Infantry Division of the U.S. First Army. The Ninth Division invaded Normandy in June 1944 and fought on through five battle campaigns to victory over Germany in May 1945 at the Elbe River.

Robert C. Baldridge accurately and compellingly describes a soldier’s experiences in Army basic training. He describes what is like being shipped overseas to England in December 1943 on the ocean liner Queen Mary. He gives a clear picture of further training in England. We learn the story of crossing the English Channel to Utah Beach in Normandy on D-Day + 4. We experience fighting the German forces for almost a year while living in the field during all four seasons. This book is available online from Merriam Press. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Nudge Blue: A Ninth Infantryman’s Memoir of World War II by Donald E. Lavender

Donald E. Lavender was a member of Company I, 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, originally arriving as a replacement in early October 1944 in the Hürtgen Forest.

There are a lot of stories about the war. Some have been made into movies. If you are looking for sensationalism, you won’t find it here. If you have an interest in what war was like to a 20-year-old in the Infantry, Nudge Blue comes close to describing that experience.

The combat portion of this story was written directly from notes accumulated during the actual fighting. In the over 50 years since, facts about places and unit action have been verified to assure accuracy. It includes action in several places that are famous—the Hürtgen Forest, the Bulge, the Rhine River crossing at Remagen and contact with the Russians on the Elbe River.

Lavender’s experiences in combat make for fascinating, insightful reading, and an excellent companion to Bob Baldridge’s Victory Road, showing what it was like to be an infantryman in the 9th Division during World War II. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Shiloh by Shelby Foote

This is a short (225 pages) historical fiction novel written in 1952 by Shelby Foote. I read it in five days. The book is greatness. Foote uses a unique approach to tell the story of the American Civil War battle of Shiloh. He employs the use of first-person perspectives of one protagonists per chapter, Union and Confederate, except chapter six where he uses the twelve members of a squad to give a moment-by-moment commentary of the battle. The novel is divided into seven chapters. Each of the chapters is closely concerned with one of the characters again except for chapter six which gives the views of twelve squad members.

The first chapter takes place the day before the battle and is told by Lieutenant Palmer Metcalfe. He is a young aristocrat from New Orleans. We learn a year early he had been a student at the Louisiana State Seminary under William Tecumseh Sherman. He serves as a staff officer under Confederate commander General Albert Sidney Johnston. He watches as the Confederate army marches through the Tennessee countryside in preparation for a surprise attack upon the Union troops at Pittsburg Landing where their “horses will drink from the Tennessee River tomorrow”. His self-satisfaction is evident as he remembers the complicated attack plan he helped draft. He thinks back on the struggles Johnston went through in bringing his army together for this anticipated decisive blow. The Confederate troops are inexperienced and noisy, and some of Johnston’s generals believe the element of surprise has been lost. Johnston says they will fight despite the conditions.

Chapter Two is the story of Captain Walter Fountain, an Ohio regimental adjutant in the Union Army encamped at Pittsburg Landing. He is the Officer on Duty (OD) though he feels he should not have be an OD as he is the adjutant. He spends night writing a letter to his wife. Through his thoughts, we learn about the Union army’s deliberate advance through Tennessee under General Ulysses Grant. Fountain is homesick yet confident that the war will be over soon. As he writes his letter, he notices the birds and animals becoming noisier and more agitated. Suddenly the Confederate soldiers attack the Union troops. The chapter ends abruptly. I was left with the assumption that Fountain is killed in the initial attack.

Chapter Three comes from the viewpoint of Private Luther Dade. He is scared but determined to do his duty. When the fight does come, Dade is disturbed when he realizes the dead bodies of old friends mean no more to him than those of stranger or Yankees. He stresses of combat are too much for him. He does well in combat. He sustains a minor arm wound and is sent to wait for a doctor. Hours pass. He gets no medical attention. Dade’s arm begins to show signs of infection. He moves toward the sound of firing in search of a doctor. He finds himself in a clearing near Shiloh Church. At the church is Johnston’s staff, gathered around their wounded and dying commander. Dade is captivated by the drama of the scene. He begins to pass out from his wound as the chapter ends.

Chapter Four is narrated by Private Otto Flickner, a Minnesota artilleryman. It is now the first night of the battle. Flickner is trembling at the riverbank with hundreds of other deserters. He rationalizes his actions by quoting what a sergeant of his had said, “I’m not scared, I’m just what they call demoralized.” His search for justification leads him to remember the day’s events: the devastating surprise attack, one failed attempt after another to stand and fight, the endless concussions of incoming enemy artillery fire, and finally his running away because “so much is enough but a little bit more is too much.” He and the other deserters are taunted at and called cowards by some reinforcements that pass by. The taunting forces Flickner to realize that a coward is exactly what he has been. He leaves the riverbank roving through the woods searching for his unit. Somehow he comes upon them getting ready for one last stand. His sergeant who witnessed his simply walking away greets him as if nothing had happened. He returns to his old gun.

Chapter Five concerns Sergeant Jefferson Polly, a Texas cavalryman serving under Nathan Bedford Forrest. A former seminary student, sailor, and soldier of fortune, Polly joined the army because “I wasn’t any better at being a bad man than I was a good one.” His mature and contemptuous point of view tells him that the Confederate army, even though successful on day one, is fighting a inadequately planned and shoddily coordinated battle. That night, Forrest leads Polly and his squad on a reconnaissance mission to Pittsburg Landing. While there they see thousands of Union reinforcements disembarking from steamboats. Forrest and Polly try to alert the confederate generals without success. With the coming of the next day he resigns himself to a day of defeat beside Colonel Forrest.

Chapter Six focuses on an Indiana squad. It is under the command of General Lew Wallace. We hear from all twelve members in the squad. They tell of their efforts to reach the battlefield. We learn of the wrong turn that delayed them for a day. We see the contempt that was poured on them by other troops for their slowness. When the battle’s second day begins, the Indianans and the rest of Wallace’s division are at the forefront of the resurgent Union attack. At the end of the fight, two of the Indianans are dead. The ten survivors wonder why they lived and the others died.

Chapter Seven returns to Lieutenant Metcalfe as he staggers down the road to Corinth. We see him as one of the beaten Confederate army. He remembers the death of General Johnston. He recalls how events spun out of control in the aftermath of the general’s death. He reflects on how the disorganized and leaderless Confederate army fell victim to a surprise Yankee attack the next day, how Johnston’s old-fashioned gallantry had been no match for the reality they had encountered. In the disorder of the retreat he falls in with Forrest and Polly. He participates in their valiant rearguard action at Fallen Timbers. Metcalfe decides to join Forrest’s unit; even as an enlisted man if necessary. His viewpoint changes to believing that any hope the Confederacy has lies with men like Forrest rather than men like Johnston. The book ends with Metcalfe tending to a delirious amputee in a wagon. I assume it is Luther Dade.

Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam

The Best and the Brightest (1972) by David Halberstam is an account of the origins of the Vietnam War. The book provides great detail on how the decisions were made in the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson administrations that led to the war. The book focuses on the period from 1960 to 1965. It also covers earlier and later years up to the publication year of the book.

I am a fan of the late David Halberstam. I had the opportunity to hear him speak at the Tate Lecture Series held by Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas five years ago. I also had the pleasure of meeting him at a meet and greet held in concert with that event.

I first read this book in late 1972. I reread the book after hearing Halberstam speak at SMU.

When I reread The Best and the Brightest I found it as fresh as when I read it back in late 1972. Halberstam does an excellent job of showing how bad decisions, deceitfulness, a reluctance to face facts and complete rudimentary stupidity got America into a war that was lost from the start. The book makes known how so many smart, highly successful people, the best and the brightest of the American foreign policy and military were so unbelievably mistaken for so very long.

Halberstam examines diverse factors that contribute to America’s involvement. We learn that the Democratic Party was still haunted by claims that it had ‘lost China’ to Communists. They did not want to be said to have lost Vietnam also. During the McCarthy era the government lost or got rid of experts in Vietnam and surrounding Far-East countries. We learn that early studies called for close to a million US troops in order to fully defeat the Viet Cong. It would be impossible to persuade congress or the US public to deploy that many soldiers. We discover the fear that declarations of war, and excessive shows of force, including bombing too close to China or too many US troops might have triggered the entry of Chinese ground forces into the war, and greater Soviet involvement (and perhaps repair the growing Sino-Soviet rift).

Halberstam points out some war games showed that a slow escalation by the United States could be evenly matched by North Vietnam. He shares that every year 200,000 North Vietnamese came of drafting age. They could possibly be sent down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to replace any losses against the US. In essence the US would be fighting the North Vietnamese birthrate. Interestingly he makes us aware that both administrations believed any show of force by the US in the form of bombing or ground forces would signal the US interest in defending South Vietnam. This would therefore cause the US greater shame if they were to withdraw.

We see Lyndon Johnson’s concern and belief that too much attention given to the war effort would jeopardize his Great Society domestic programs. These programs were his personal priority. Additionally, the effects of strategic bombing policy were examined. Here we see the wrong belief that North Vietnam valued its industrial base so much it would not risk its annihilation by US air power. There was the false belief that the North Vietnamese would negotiate peace after experiencing some limited bombing, but others reflected back that even in World War II strategic bombing united the victim population against the attacker and did little to encumber manufacturing output.

Halberstam also mentions the simplistic Domino Theory rationales. Interestingly we learn the thought that after placing a few thousand Americans in harm’s way, it became politically easier to send hundreds of thousands to Vietnam with the promise that with sufficient numbers they could defend themselves, and that to abandon Vietnam now would mean the earlier investment in money and lives would be thrown away.

The book shows that the gradual escalation chosen allowed the LBJ Administration at the outset to avoid negative publicity and criticism from Congress. Gradual escalation also avoided a direct war against the Chinese, but at the same time removed the possibility of either victory or withdrawal. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.