Saigon, 1965

Episode 02 Saigon, 1965

In the early 1960s, the Pentagon set up a top-secret research project in an old villa in downtown Saigon. The task? To interview captured North Vietnamese soldiers and guerrillas in order to measure their morale: Was the relentless U.S. bombing pushing them to the brink of capitulation?

Photo of Mai Elliott working at RAND Office
Mai Elliott, working in the RAND villa on Rue Pasteur. The windows are taped to prevent the glass from shattering in case of an explosion from a mortar round.

Saigon, 1965 is the story of three people who got caught up in that effort: a young Vietnamese woman, a refugee from Nazi Germany, and a brilliant Russian émigré. All saw the same things. All reached different conclusions. The Pentagon effort, run by the Rand Corporation, was one of the most ambitious studies of enemy combatants ever conducted—and no one could agree on what it meant.

Studies of Motivation and Morale

Photo of staff outside RAND Office
The American RAND staff and Vietnamese interviewers on the front porch of the villa on Rue Pasteur. Courtesy of Hanh Easterbrook.

A disclosure, in the fall of 2015, I was named to the Board of Directors of the RAND Corporation—the subject of this episode. It’s not a paid position (RAND is a non-profit). And I did the bulk of my reporting for this episode before taking the position. But you should know, that when I say that Rand is a incredibly fascinating place, I’m biased. And if you were on the RAND board, I daresay you’d think the same thing.

Episode 01The Lady Vanishes

Episode 02Saigon, 1965

Episode 03The Big Man Can’t Shoot

Episode 04Carlos Doesn’t Remember

Episode 05Food Fight

Episode 06My Little Hundred Million

Episode 07Hallelujah

Episode 08Blame Game

Episode 09Generous Orthodoxy

Episode 10The Satire Paradox

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AboutMalcolm Gladwell

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