Douglas Eugene Pike

Professor Douglas Eugene Pike July 27, 1924 - May 13, 2002
Douglas Eugene Pike
July 27, 1924 - May 13, 2002

Professor Pike was a renowned scholar who produced an extensive body of writings about Communist doctrine, strategies and tactics in Vietnam. A former Foreign Service Officer, he brought his imposing background to Texas Tech's Vietnam Center in 1997 following a stint as director of Indochina Studies at the University of California at Berkeley (1982-1996). While at Tech he continued publishing the Indochina Chronology, a quarterly which he began in 1982 and which was widely read by officials and others keeping abreast of developments in Southeast Asia.

Professor Pike was Associate Director of Research at The Vietnam Center, where he worked until suffering a stroke in November 2001. The illness ended an illustrious career which had included Foreign Service assignments in Saigon, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Taipei. Regarded a leading expert on Vietnam, he had written six books, contributed to 24 edited volumes, and authored many scholarly articles, monographs, and conference papers on Indochina and Southeast Asia.

When he came to Texas Tech, Professor Pike brought a vast collection of Vietnam-related materials: his own extensive writings plus several million pages of government documents, news clippings, Vietnamese Communist propaganda pamphlets, and more. The Pike Collection today constitutes a key facet of The Vietnam Archive.

The New York Times, in a lengthy obituary reporting his death, recalled how a monograph published by Professor Pike in 1970 provoked attacks from antiwar partisans "by publishing evidence, hotly disputed by some, that North Vietnamese troops massacred civilians at Hue during the Tet offensive in 1968." But, the newspaper said, he was "far from a cheerleader for the South Vietnamese, strongly criticizing their organizational weakness compared with that of their well-organized northern foes; he had made himself particularly expert on the structure of Vietnamese Communist forces and their order of battle."

Friends and associates have offered their own tributes and remembrances of Professor Pike.

From Jay Veith: "I had traveled to Berkeley on business in 1994, and having just started researching the war, I wanted to visit his office. The short, slightly disheveled figure with the oddly shaped beard that greeted me from behind a desk overflowing with documents looked me over once, and asked me what was my interest in Vietnam. I told him that I wanted to research the POW/MIA issue. He corrected me, saying it was more properly called 'the Resolution of Casualties' issue, and began telling me stories, in that soft voice with a still slightly discernible Midwest accent, about his days working with refugees while in the State Dept. After a few minutes, he pointed me in the direction of his files, told me if I needed anything to ask, and promptly went out to lunch, leaving me all alone in his vast archive. It was the beginning of a far too short friendship."

From Steven Denney, University of California at Berkeley: "Vietnam studies has passed on to a new generation of scholars, and the opportunities for understanding Vietnam are much different than when Douglas Pike began his research. But all with a serious interest in Vietnam owe him our gratitude for his pioneering studies on Vietnamese communism, for the collection he established, and for the guidance he has provided to many others over the years."

From Stephen M. Graw: "People look at Mr. Pike as the exemplary Cold Warrior, and his scholarly work depicted Vietnam as - and perhaps he coined the expression - 'The Prussia of the East.' But … at the conclusion of his presentation for the 1983 'Vietnam Reconsidered' conference in Los Angeles, Mr. Pike resolutely called for the normalization of US-Vietnamese relations. This bold move put him directly at odds with the Reagan and Carter administrations' hard line policy towards Hanoi."

From Col. Dan Yen (ret.), ARVN: "Douglas Pike is my hero. … I am sure that Professor Pike also got the highest respect from the four-star generals of both North and South Viet Nam."

From Col. Roger H.C. Donlon, USA (ret.), first Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War: "For those of us who knew and worked with Doug his commitment will remain an inspiration. For me personally, I am proud to have been a fellow U.S. Army Veteran. His memory will continue to be a source of strength."

From the Vietnamese People's Action Movement: "The Vietnamese People's Action Movement, receiving the horrific news of Dr. Pike's death, send our profound condolence."

From Peter C. Rollins, Regents Professor of English and American Film Studies: "Douglas Pike was an honest man, so honest that it was shocking, sometimes, to hear him speak. For two documentaries on Vietnam--Television's Vietnam: The Impact of Visual Images and Television's Vietnam: The Real Story--it was my role to interview Mr. Pike at length. His responses were so down-to-earth, so honest, and so authentic that it was refreshing to hear him speak. He seemed so rooted in his knowledge and seemed to be in touch with telluric truths. This honesty came forth in his newsletter as well--especially in the book review section. Not since the 19th century 'book reviews'" of Thomas Carlyle and Orestes Brownson have I seen such brutally honest evaluations of writings on a topic - in this case, Vietnam."

From Ann Mills Griffith, National League of POW/MIA Families: "(I)t seemed that he would always be with us, the rock of solidity and base of knowledge on Vietnam and most issues related thereto. … He touched many, many lives as a truly unforgettable person. He contributed!"

From Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt: "What a terrible loss. Douglas Pike was a gentleman, a scholar, and one of the most interesting men of the academic world of the Vietnam War."

From the family of the late Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, Jr.: "As a family that was personally impacted by the Vietnam War, we have come to admire those who have led the charge to ensure future generations never forget this conflict and what it was all about. Among those who have been in the forefront of this effort was Dr. Douglas Pike."

From Vice Adm. & Mrs. Emmett H. Tidd, USN (ret.): "There will not be another Doug Pike. We'll just have to find another Icon to fill the chair - but never the shoes."

From former South Vietnamese Minister of State Nguyen Xuan Phong: "…Douglas Pike was the exceptional 'non-Vietnamese' who showed deep understanding of the Vietnamese factions on both sides of the dreadful conflict… . He was fascinated by Vietnam and we, the Vietnamese, were also surprised by his mastery of the Vietnamese people and nation. …To many Vietnamese, who were on both sides of the Vietnam War and who knew him then more than 40 years ago, Douglas Pike of the USIS in Saigon will always be remembered for his profound sense of humanity in the midst of death and devastation …."