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Lansdale at first found Ellsberg so eager to expound theories while they traveled dangerous roads that he had to warn him to watch for ambushes. Yet Lansdale was struck by Ellsberg's "sensitive perceptions" and "probing analysis," even amid Saigon's intrigues. He became an expert on Saigon's complex political rivalries. Despite his occasional displays of bravado, Ellsberg began to worry about needless killing. He was later to tell a U.S. Congressional conference about flying over a "free-fire zone" with a U.S. pilot who triggered his M-16 at almost anyone who moved on the ground. "This game goes on daily in almost every province of Viet Nam," Ellsberg complained. "I am sure the Viet Cong will come out of this war with great pride in the fact that they confronted American machines and survived. I came out of that plane with a strong sense of unease."
Ellsberg's feelings were also indicated by a combat photograph he took, which seemed to capsulize the individual GI's frustration and anger at the war's futility. A lieutenant had watched his battalion hit by unseen snipers in the Mekong Delta for ten days without killing a single enemy in retaliation. The unit came upon an empty house and radioed for permission to destroy it; the request was denied. Ellsberg's picture shows the officer senselessly bayoneting a canteen in sheer fury.
Hospitalized with hepatitis, Ellsberg began to read more books about the long history of warfare in Indochina. He recuperated back in California, where he rejoined Rand and turned to a livelier life: a succession of dazzling girls, a red sports car and a share in a ramshackle Malibu Beach house. He flooded the place with psychedelic lighting to the point where police raided what they thought was a noisy pot party, only to find a number of tipsy Rand analysts dancing to rock music. He lived with a Swedish secretary before marrying Patricia Marx, who had been regularly dating New York Theater Critic John Simon.
Fears of a Replay
Friends say Dan and Patricia dove happily into most everything California offers uninhibited couples, including group-encounter sessions, Yoga, Buddhist self-improvement sects and nudism. They backpacked into mountains, and Dan enjoyed climbing with his son Robert. Husband and wife so loved the sea that even when they were a continent apart Dan would hold the telephone outside his window so Patricia could hear the Malibu breakers. Dan, who neither smokes nor drinks, also underwent psychiatric analysis, later told friends it was a turning point of his life.
After the Communist Tet offensive of 1968, Ellsberg began to despair of U.S. success in the war and to review more introspectively his own involvement in the previous planning. He had by then spent about eight months on the Pentagon study ordered by McNamara and written a draft of one volume. That, too, seemed to disturb him deeply. A friend recalls first meeting Ellsberg at a Santa Monica restaurant and Ellsberg's terse answers to his conversational questions: "What do you do?" "I work." "What kind of work do you do?" "I think." "What do you think about?" "Viet Nam." "What do you think about Viet Nam?" "How in God's name are we going to get out of there?"