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  • Writer's pictureDan Feltham

When Big Blue Went to War

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

The true history of IBM’s mission in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and the and of the IBM bachelor computer technicians that worked alongside the US military in support of that war.

(Available for Ebook or Hard Copy)

Why would a unique group of IBM Corporation bachelors choose to leave good stateside jobs and risk their lives to live and work in a war zone? What are their stories and what happened to these civilians during and at the end of the war? When Big Blue Went To War describes a special military sponsored mission, gives some insight into the business side of war and relates the adventures of a cast of dedicated professionals. Learn about how data processing was used to monitor and manage the air and ground war.

This is the story of IBM’s role in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and of the men who laid their lives and careers on the line to support a war that was fought with the help of extensive on-site data processing. Approximately 250 IBM ‘wild ducks’ were handpicked for these overseas assignments. They worked with, lived with and played with the military while installing and servicing IBM equipment utilized by our Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines throughout South Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. Some of these IBMers remained overseas after the war, some brought Vietnamese brides home and some returned to traditional IBM careers. All felt a deep patriotic duty to the United States and its intended role in Southeast Asia. They all learned about wartime chaos, danger, life and death.

IBM’s mission escalated and de-escalated in parallel with that of the U.S. forces. By 1973 most US Nationals had withdrawn along with the military’s computing equipment. In 1975 the author took part in an interesting but failed effort to assist IBM Vietnamese employees escape the communists during the Fall of Saigon. The story of how our own US Embassy held these IBMers hostage in Saigon is told for the very first time.


What people are saying:

Intriguing and interesting. I was in the 7th fleet when this was going on and I had no idea IBM was helping to manage the war. If you want to know what went on behind the scenes and how computer technology aided us in the time before PC's this is a great book to read. Sometimes, data flows like bullets. If you are a Vietnam Vet or a student of history you don't want to miss this "untold" story.


Long overdue are stories of the contributions and sacrifices of the civilian components of our Military excursions overseas. I highly recommend this book for all that would like a first hand view of the civilian contractor in a war zone. The book covers all levels of experience from the Field Engineer, System engineer, in field action and management/sales at every level sharing the everyday experiences of living/working and coping with the challenges that this war presented. This experience of supporting just not the Military effort, but contractors, USAID, World Trade and the Vietnamese expanded our challenges manifold. I'd like to see more books about this subject on our present overseas challenges from this civilian viewpoint.


Well written, fast paced and informative memoir about one of the most under-studied aspects of the American military effort in Vietnam. It's essentially they only thing written on the subject of the contractors who actually ran the 'technowar' so it's a good thing it's so readable.


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