Meyerson, Harvey 1937-
MEYERSON, Harvey 1937-
PERSONAL: Born June 1, 1937, in Chicago, IL; son of Solomon Bachrach and Ida Edith (Fischer) Meyerson; married Gladi Clara Smestad; stepchildren: D. Richard, Olaf, Dawn, Sara, Daniel. Education: Northwestern University, B.J. 1959; Brandeis University, M.A. (American history), 1970.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—c/o Author Mail, University Press of Kansas, 2501 West 15th Street, Lawrence KS 66049-3905.
CAREER: Journalist, author, and administrator. Honolulu Advertiser, Honolulu, HI, reporter, 1960; Chicago Sun Times, Chicago, IL, reporter, 1961-62; Chicago Daily News, Chicago, reporter, 1963-64, foreign correspondent, 1965-66, Look (magazine), foreign correspondent in Vietnam, 1967-68; University of Hawaii, Honolulu, assistant professor of American studies, 1970-72; freelance writer, New York, NY, and Honolulu, 1973-77; U.S. representative Cecil Heftel, Washington, DC, special assistant, 1978-80; U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga, Washington, DC, legislative counselor, 1980-86; U.S. International Space Year Association, Washington, DC, president, 1987; Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, Washington, DC, senior staff member.
MEMBER: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Society of Professional Journalists, Melville Society.
AWARDS, HONORS: Writing award, Chicago Newspaper Guild, 1962; Ford Foundation International Reporting fellow, Columbia University, 1964-65, Overseas Press Club award, 1971, for Vinh Long.
Vinh Long, illustrated with maps by Adam Nakamura, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1970.
Nature's Army: When Soldiers Fought for Yosemite, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 2001.
Author of articles for magazines and newspapers; author of two books on space exploration.
SIDELIGHTS: In the first part of his career, Harvey Meyerson was a journalist and freelance author. His book about Vietnam, Vinh Long, grew out of his work as a foreign correspondent in the 1960s during the Vietnam War. Later, Meyerson went to work in Washington, D.C. for a U.S. senator and a Congressional representative, eventually becoming a researcher at the Library of Congress. He has used his knowledge of government and research skills to write a history of the U.S. Army's largely unknown role as administrators in Yosemite and other national parks during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Vinh Long was published in 1970, nearly at the peak of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The book focuses primarily on the Mangthit Project, an effort to gain control of the Mangthit Canal so rice supplies could be delivered to the South Vietnam capital of Saigon via the Mekong and Bassac rivers. Although specifically about the Mangthit Project, the book also serves as one of the first comprehensive looks at America's failures in Vietnam. Meyerson delves into the complex military and civilian bureaucracies in Vietnam and follows the campaign that involved two battalions and several militia units. After two months, the South Vietnamese troops finally went to the canal only to be attacked by the North Vietnam's Viet Cong. Although the South Vietnamese eventually fought back the Viet Cong, Meyerson points out that the boasts of victory did not include accounts of the Viet Cong's fierce fighting and own coups, including the shooting down of three American helicopters. After the canal was controlled, the combined efforts of the United States and South Vietnam at maintaining the canal were fraught with attacks and causalities. By the end of the book, the canal is no longer in use.
Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Tom Buckley noted, "what we have not had until now . . . has been a book that describes such an undertaking in detail. For this reason, despite some indifferent writing and chaotic organization, Vinh Long is a valuable contribution to our understanding of what is taking place in Vietnam." A Booklist contributor called the book, "A depressing on-the-spot appraisal." The reviewer went on to note that "Meyerson's despair" over bureaucratic and other issues associated with the Vietnam War "is not unfamiliar yet comes across with particular immediacy in the microcosmic account." L. Edward Shuck, Jr., wrote in a review in Commonweal that Meyerson "draws together an honest analysis of how one province in the central southern Mekong Delta lives through both the RVN dishonesty and American fire-power." Shuck also said, "Every American should read this book the better to understand what his $3 billion per month is buying."
Thirty-two years after the publication of Vinh Long, Meyerson once again addressed matters of military interest with his book, Nature's Army: When Soldiers Fought for Yosemite. This time, however, Meyerson used his skills as a researcher at the Library of Congress and his access to many private and public documents to delve into a forgotten part of military history, namely the U.S. military's control and protection of Yosemite and other national parks before the National Park Service was formed. From 1890 until the National Park Service was established in 1916, U.S. Army soldiers served as wilderness managers, patrolling Yosemite for illegal sheep and cattle grazing, fighting forest fires, and protecting the park from unscrupulous civilians looking to exploit its natural resources through mining and other efforts. In his book, Meyerson points out that in many ways the army was the best steward the parks could have because of its experience in exploring and protecting America's frontiers and its longtime use of detailed reports to describe everything from weather and terrain to indigenous plants and animals. When the National Park Service was established, it retained many of the army's approaches to managing wilderness areas, to the point of establishing a common uniform to be worn by park rangers. In addition, army soldiers were recruited as the first park rangers, and some of the Sierra Club's early radical members included cavalrymen serving in Yosemite.
In his New York Times Book Review article, Alan Taylor called Nature's Army: When Soldiers Fought for Yosemite "an innovative but sometimes over-wrought book." Taylor saw Meyerson's praise of the U.S. Army as one-sided in its creation of an image that went counter to the modern view of the military's Indian-fighting efforts and the atrocities it had committed. "Determined to cast perfect heroes, Meyerson . . . depicts all of the park officers as paragons—men's men who fought and rode hard, and also stopped to smell the wildflowers." However, a Publishers Weekly reviewer said, "Although Meyerson sometimes loses the trail by seemingly reporting on every detail, he offers, on balance, a lively account of a little known chapter in American History." Patricia Ann Owens, writing in Library Journal commented, "This original social and environmental history will be a welcome addition to the civics and environmental studies sections of all libraries." Writing in Publishers Weekly, contributor Kat Mason had several caveats about the book, including the lack of an account of how "some superintendents' environmental management policies." However, Mason noted, "Meyerson provides an interesting examination of nineteenth-century Army culture and its influence on park management when Yosemite and the national park idea were most vulnerable."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1970, review of Vinh Long, p. 1190.
Choice, May, 2002, review of Nature's Army: WhenSoldiers Fought for Yosemite, p. 1648.
Commonweal, May 1, 1970, L. Edward Shuck, Jr., review of Vinh Long, p. 171.
History: Review of New Books, winter, 2002, Kat Mason, review of Nature's Army, p. 50.
Journal of Military History, April, 2002, review of Nature's Army, p. 582.
Library Journal, September 1, 2001, Patricia Ann Owens, review of Nature's Army, p. 203.
National Review, October 6, 1970, D. J. C. Brudnoy, review of Vinh Long, p. 1068.
New York Times Book Review, May 3, 1970, Tom Buckley, review of Vinh Long, pp. 14, 16, 18; June 9, 2002, Alan Taylor, review of Nature's Army, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, September 24, 2001, review of Nature's Army, p. 82.
Book Bytes,http://www.lodi.gov/library/ (October 21, 2002), review of Nature's Army: When Soldiers Fought for Yosemite.*