The body of literature associated with the Vietnam War ultimately goes beyond the story of military combat in Southeast Asia.  It also offers insight into the evolution of the storm and stress that gripped American society during the 1960s and 1970s.  The historiographies, memoirs, and short stories written during this era—like much of its music—share themes related to patriotism, protest, anger, alienation, as well as defiance.

This portion of THE “NAM” PROJECT is dedicated to sharing the search for meaning and finding explanations for the conflict’s conduct and outcome.  The authors whose books are referenced to on this site range from former service members, historians, and journalists as well as family members affected by the Vietnam War.  In many ways, these works are also attempts to come to terms with the anguish and guilt associated with the conduct of war—encompassing the periods leading up to it, during it, and after it ended.



The Quiet American (1955) by Graham Greene

41j4ah47mvl-_sx314_bo1204203200_This novel explores Vietnam’s transition from French colonial occupation to American “involvement” under the auspices of grandiose plans and honorable intentions.  It serves as a metaphor for American political and military operations in Southeast Asia for over two decades.  This is no simple tale, and though it might pass as such, it actually has many layers.  In its simplest form, this is a story about three main characters that are deeply developed, not only as individuals but also as national characters.  The British correspondent takes a caustic view of the world; the American is effusive and idealistic; and the Vietnamese woman is stoic.  This story is prophetic on many levels and helps illustrate the dark period that would envelope Vietnam and its people between 1955 and 1975.

By Permission:  Penguin Random House

Ho (1971, 1987, 2007) by David Halberstam

This effort examines one of the most influential leaders of the twentieth century, Ho Chi Minh who was founder of the Indochina Communist Party and its successor, the Viet-Minh, and was president from 1945 to 1969 of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). In exploring the life and career of Ho Chi Minh, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam provides a window into traditions and culture that influenced the American war in Vietnam, while highlighting the importance of nationalism in determining the war’s outcome. As depicted by Halberstam, Ho is first and foremost a nationalist and a patriot. He was also, according to the author, a pragmatist “who was able to turn the abstract into the practical and to embody the concept of revolution to his own people.” This edition includes a new preface by the author.

By Permission: Penguin Random House

The BEST and the BRIGHTEST (1972)  by David Halberstam


David Halberstam’s account examines the making of the Vietnam tragedy and gives us the inside story of how America entrapped itself in Southeast Asia (1954-1975).  Using portraits of America’s flawed policy makers, he illuminates the forces that drove them. The Best and the Brightest reckons magnificently with the most important abiding question of our country’s recent history:  Why did America become mired in Vietnam, and why did it lose?  All told, Halberstam’s effort gives a an absorbing, literate, and very detailed account of how the arrogant, insular, technocratically well educated, and affluent sons and daughters of the Power Elite in this country led us into the unholy miasma of Vietnam.  It is a must read by all accounts.

By Permission:  Penguin Random House

The Lionheads (1972) by Josiah Bunting

“The Lionheads” regularly appears on reading lists for armed forces officers deliberating the ethics of leadership. Anyone studying the Vietnam war may profitably compare this book, with its strong moral viewpoint, to the portrayals and judgments about the war in other fiction and non-fiction accounts of the war.   This novel recounts a few days of riverine operations by an infantry brigade of the “Lionheads” division in Vietnam — and the dilemmas confronting its leaders when they are ordered to execute an operation they apprehend will needlessly cost lives.  The author a former Rhodes Scholar would eventually serve as the superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute.  Critics praise this book’s narrative line and style as well as its closeness to the time unmatched by later Vietnam war novels.

By Permission:  George Braziller Press

Dog Soldiers (1974) by Robert Stone

The novel serves as a coming of age story of drug smugglers in the waning days of Vietnam.  This narrative ranges from the shadowy cafes of war-time Hanoi to the lawless valleys of the American southwest.  The author describes the varying landscapes of moral corruption with equal vividness and intelligence in America as well as questions to what our involvement in Southeast Asia was and the crippling results of that amoral action.  The New York Times credits Stone with writing a novel that is intelligent, imaginative and horrifying while making connections between the war, the counter-culture and heroin. The cast of characters’ range from a confused and traumatized hack journalist in Vietnam, a former anthropology professor at Berkeley, to a former-Marine Corps buddy who is a self-styled samurai, a Zen psychopath, a desperado.

By Permission:  Houghton Mifflin Company

Dispatches (1977) by Michael Herr

41v0ckz825l-_sx322_bo1204203200_Written on the front lines in Vietnam, Dispatches became an immediate classic of war reportage when it was published in 1977.  The author makes us see, in unforgettable and unflinching detail, the chaos and fervor of the war and the surreal insanity of life in that singular combat zone.  Michael Herr’s unsparing, unorthodox retellings of the day-to-day events in Vietnam take on the force of poetry, rendering clarity from one of the most incomprehensible and nightmarish events of our time.  This effort is chalk full of compelling stories of the front line experience, which served as fodder for both “Apocalypse Now” and “Full Metal Jacket.”   All told, Herr’s book does not try to make sense of the war, simply presenting it as the maelstrom it was.  It is as objective as they come with regards to the horrors of combat without looking through the eyes of rose-tainted patriotism.

By Permission: Penguin Random House

Going After Cacciato (1978) by Tim O’Brien

This is Tim O’Brien’s first novel regarding Vietnam.   The author paints an intimate picture of what the soldier must do in mind and body to get through another day. The daily confusions, the exhaustion, the mind games, daydreams, and nightmares are all recounted and in detail.  This effort is a blend of reality and fantasy. This novel also tells the story of a young soldier who one day lays down his rifle and sets off on a quixotic journey from the jungles of Indochina to the streets of Paris. In its memorable evocation of men both fleeing from and meeting the demands of battle, Going After Cacciato stands as much more than just a great war novel. Ultimately, it’s about the forces of fear and heroism that do battle in the hearts of us all.

By Permission: Penguin Random House

America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975 (1979) by George Herring

Since its original edition in the late 1970s, this book has remained the standard starting part for anyone wanting to the understand the complexities of what American policymakers thought and did in Vietnam.  It is greatly respected for its thorough research, comprehensive coverage, and clear, readable style, America’s Longest War explores the origins of the thirty-year war for Vietnam. It seeks to explain how the United States became involved and the consequences of its actions for the Vietnamese as well as Americans. It assesses the multiple legacies of the war and offers guidance for students on what Americans should learn from this national experience that continues to resonate today.  The author’s writing style makes the book one that can be read by students as well as scholars on the matters related to war.  The most recent edition of the book takes advantage of recently opened archives and current scholarly research in order to bring this offering up to date.

By Permission:   Temple University Press

Everything We Had (1982) by Al Santoli

This important work takes to task the popular culture of the 1970s and 1980s that wanted nothing more to dismiss the Vietnam War completely. This includes holding those men who fought there in contempt as losers or criminals.   This book is unique in that It allows individuals who fought in it to tell their stories of their experience first-hand, with little or no sugar-coating.  The stories are in chronological order, varied, covering special ops and grunt units to hospital units.   Everything We Had  foreshadows the pains and sufferings that many veterans returning from both Iraq and Afghanistan now face.  This effort serves to complement other well-done “oral histories.”  It is ranked in the top five by over 200 Vietnam vets (both men and women) who have participated in other oral history projects.

By Permission: Penguin Random House

Vietnam: A History (1983) by Stanley Karnow

This book is a comprehensive and fascinating look at the Vietnam war, from its underlying causes at the end of World War II, to the final takeover of South Vietnam by its Communist neighbor, North Vietnam, in April 1975.  Karnow delivers with crisp and precise prose an account of the Vietnam War which is both fair and objective. He analyzes the conflict from both the political and military standpoint, and is unsparing in his criticism of errors made by political and military leaders on all sides of the conflict. This genius of this book centers on three important areas: first, the author’s account of the conflict between the French and Viet Minh, and how the French were defeated at Dienbienphu in 1954; second, how the U.S. government formulated its Vietnam policy under the Kennedy administration, and how that policy ultimately failed; and third, how Richard Nixon, upon becoming President in 1969, changed America’s Vietnam policy and began the process of “Vietnamizing” the war. Ultimately, “Vietnam: A History” is an essential book for the reader interested in gaining a good understanding of the war and its causes.

By Permission:   Penguin Books Limited

A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and its Aftermath (1986) by Truong Nhu Tang

This candid, revealing autobiography details Truong Nhu Tang who fought in the Vietnamese jungle and emerged as one of the major figures in the “fight for liberation.”    Truong would later serve as Vietcong’s Minister of Justice, but at the end of the war he fled the country in disillusionment and despair. This disillusionment would lead him into exile in Paris.  He is the highest level official to have defected from Vietnam to the West.   The author’s involvement with the National Liberation Front efforts to unite Vietnam from the early 1950s until the end of the war center stage throughout.  Serious readers of the war will not be disappointed with this book.  Critics contend this effort is on par with Bernard Fall’s epic “Street Without Joy.”


By Permission:  Penguin Random House

A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam (1989) by Neil Sheehan

417640Neil Sheehan has written a comprehensive and engaging examination of the Vietnam War in A Bright and Shining Lie.  The subject of his book is John Paul Vann’s career in Vietnam which spanned a decade (from its beginning in 1962 with Vann as U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and advisor to the South Vietnamese to its end in 1972 with his death in a helicopter crash).  This effort goes to great pains to illuminate Vann’s growing frustrations and anger with the inept and corrupt performance of South Vietnamese forces and the frequent incompetence of American senior political and military leaders.  To this end, Vann repeatedly urged his superiors, through normal channels and in the press, that the U.S. government could not defeat the Communist forces in South Vietnam with its military might alone.  In his estimation, the war could only be won by the South Vietnamese with American assistance with great emphasis placed on social change and providing military equipment and advice. This book is blessed with comprehensive scholarship and an unmatched insider’s                                                                    perspective.

By Permission:  Penguin Random House

The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam (1990) by Bao Ninh

51hqzasd1zlSemi-autobiographical in nature, the protagonist of The Sorrow of War, Kien, is the lone survivor of his brigade and a ten year veteran of the war.  As the book opens, he is serving as part of an MIA body collection team.  It is through his memories that we slowly learn how the war has devastated his youth and the youth of his countrymen.  In an attempt to purge himself of the demons of war and the hopelessness of the present, Kien writes, merging his memories of the past with his images of the present.  For the main character, writing is the only way he can perform his last duty as a soldier, a duty he sees as being “to expose the realities of war and to tear aside conventional images.”  All told, this book is tragic tale of unnecessary loss and suffering and destruction.  For all the suffering and loss endured at every level of Vietnamese life–the loss of youth, family, life, tradition and love–is all in vain.  Critics argue that The Sorrow of War joins some of the best novels of war of all time, such as Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.  These novels deal with the makeup and morality of a culture or a society gone wrong as well as the harrowing personal struggles the protagonist endures in a type of public and private hell.  But, in the end, there is usually some level of redemption, even if that redemption results in death.

By Permission: Penguin Random House

In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War (1994) by Tobias Wolf

517h47nvjjl-_sx320_bo1204203200_This memoir is considered by many to be one of the most emotionally honest portrayals of combat in Vietnam.  The author readily admits that his career as an Army officer was mediocre at best.  The picture that Wolff gives of his Vietnam service as an SF adviser to the ARVN is every bit as true to life and honest as other war memoirs that are more action-packed.  The fact is, not every American busted through jungles in a U.S. combat unit.  And although Wolff did come under some rocket attacks in his one-year tour, that was about par for the course.   Contained within his self-analysis of his time in service, he includes experiences in pre-service, boot camp, specialist training, and on through to his arrival into Vietnam.  From that point, he shares what he observed while there and then returns his narrative to life after the military.  Wolff’s memoir ranges from humorous to serious, life-altering events, and everything in between.  Those who served in our military during any time of conflict will likely identify with what the author shares in this book.

Be Permission:   Penguin Random House

A Rumor of War (1996) by Philip Caputo


Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War is a brutal depiction of the war from Caputo’s own perspective as a Lieutenant in the U.S. MARINES while serving in Vietnam from 1965 to 1967.  This powerful and insightful book is broken into three parts:  the first details Caputo’s reasons for joining the Marines in the first place along with the training he received.  The second part focuses on the unfortunate desk job Caputo held recording casualties.  The third part is about Caputo’s reassignment to a rifle company.  In Caputo’s own words, he came to love and hate war–he loathed the horrific circumstances and discord that warfare created in the hearts of his comrades.  This memoir provides moving insight to war, and shares the actions of Caputo’s fellow service members.  Ultimately, A Rumor of War lends voice to the men who experienced the Vietnam War first-hand and provides a raw look into how it served as a life-changing event for those involved.  Some critics charge this book ranks alongside All Quiet on the Western Front and The Naked and the Dead.

By Permission: Philip Caputto/Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Lyndon Johnson’s War: America’s Cold War Crusade in Vietnam, 1945-1968 (1996) by Michael H. Hunt 

Michael H. Hunt’s work Lyndon Johnson’s War explores United States involvement in Southeast Asia from the end of World War II to the Tet offensive of 1968, leading to the fall of Saigon in 1975.  Hunt’s effort chronicles America’s descent into the Vietnam quagmire  from the late 1940s as France failed to hold on to its colonial empire in Indochina.  This study also details from Presidents Truman to Lyndon Johnson failure to take into account almost a hundred years of colonial misrule in the region, and engage in a struggle for the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people.  This compact book ultimately argues America’s involvement in Vietnam and its efforts there were hindered by ignorance, arrogance, and ethnocentrism.  The author blames U.S. leaders for not having a real grasp on issues related to preventing them from a real understanding of Vietnam before embarking on a series of ultimately tragic decisions.
As the title suggests, Hunt explores the major criticisms of Lyndon Johnson’s prosecution of the Vietnam War. He concludes that Johnson was not candid with the American public, and that he proceeded knowing full well the risks involved.

By Permission:  Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.

The Vietnam War: Its History, Literature, and Music (1999)


In March 1996, “A Public Symposium: The History, Literature and Music of the Vietnam War,” was held at the University of Texas at El Paso.  Nationally renowned experts on the Vietnam War offered lectures, poetry readings, and music related to this turbulent era in American history.  Although more than twenty years had passed (at that point in time) since America’s involvement in Vietnam, the participants in this symposium put forth deeply passionate and moving analyses of the topics they addressed.  The Vietnam War: Its History, Literature, and Music is a compilation of the papers presented at the Southwest symposium.  They cover a broad range of themes and ideas, but the overall thematic unity in all of these works is the trauma the war caused, both in Vietnam and the United States.  James Fallows opened the symposium with reflections on the impact the war had on major American Institutions.  William Duiker and Ngo Thanh Nhan addressed on the effects the war had on Vietnam itself.  Sandra Taylor explored the role of American and Vietnamese women who took part in the war.  Phillip Beidler and Ray Pratt, in their surveys on the literature and music of the war, also confronted the war’s impact on Americans.  W.D. Ehrhart and John Balaban, war veterans who are among the best writers the war produced, contributed deeply personal reflections on how the war affected them.

By Permission:  Southwestern Studies, Texas Western Press

If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home (1999) by Tim O’Brien


Before writing his award-winning Going After Cacciato, Tim O’Brien gave us this intensely personal account of his year as a foot soldier in Vietnam.  The author takes us with him to experience combat from behind an infantryman’s rifle, to walk the minefields of My Lai, to crawl into the ghostly tunnels, and to explore the ambiguities of manhood and morality in a war gone terribly wrong.  Nevertheless, it is compelling and simultaneously tragic and beautiful.  There is honesty about the numbness and ambivalence of most soldiers fighting an unwinnable war, one in which the enemy was rarely seen and blended in seamlessly with the civilian population.  Beautifully written and searingly heartfelt, If I Die in a Combat Zone is a masterwork of its genre.  Once again, O’Brien manages to capture the accuracy and wonder of war that can only be captured by someone who has experienced it firsthand.

By Permission:   Penguin Random House

The Real War: The Classic Reporting on The Vietnam War (2000) by Jonathan Schell

Jonathan Schell’s extraordinary on-the-scene writing about Vietnam has stood the test of time in our continuing attempt to understand how and why the United States went to war—and how and why it lost. In “The Village of Ben Suc” written “with skill that many a veteran reporter will envy” (New York Times), Schell recounts how American forces destroyed a village caught up in the largest American military operation of the war—he flies into Ben Suc in the attack helicopters, follows the assault on the village, and describes the fate of the villages after they have been taken to refugee camps. In “Military Half,” Schell describes the destruction of two entire provinces in South Vietnam by American bombing and ground operations—he flies in the air-control planes that guide the bombing and provides firsthand accounts of the runs and their results. In “Real War,” Schell offers a personal look back at the war he reported decades before.The Real War is without equal in re-creating the sights, the sounds, and the feel of Vietnam.

By Permission:  Da Capo Press

Field of Fire (2001) by James Webb

This book is a classic. It serves as a searing novel of the Vietnam War, laden with poetic power, razor-sharp observation, and agonizing human truths seen through the prism of nonstop combat.  Weaving together a cast of vivid characters, Fields of Fire captures the journey of unformed men through a man-made hell — until each man finds his fate.  The Washington Post places it in the same category as other great American war novels: Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, James Jones’ The Thin Red Line and James Heller’s Catch-22.    The Philadelphia Inquirer credits Webb for pulling redefining the meaning of the All-American hero as well as pulling all the scabs and looks directly, unflinchingly on the open wounds of the Sixties.


Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam (2002) by Bernard Edelman

Nearly forty years after the official end of the Vietnam War, Dear America allows us to witness the war firsthand through the eyes of the men and women who served in Vietnam.  This book consists of over 200 letters written by American soldiers during the Vietnam War which share first impressions of the rigors of life in the bush, their longing for home and family, their emotions over the conduct of the war, and their heart ache at the loss of a friend in battle.  Critics charge this book serves up a rare dose of honesty as well as ordinariness not to mention human stories about Vietnam.  Revealing the complex emotions and daily realities of fighting in the war, these close accounts offer a powerful, uniquely personal portrait of the many faces of Vietnam’s veterans.

By Permission:  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Vietnam: The Necessary War (2002) by Michael Lind

This effort casts new light on one of the most contentious episodes in American history in this controversial bestseller.  In this groundbreaking reinterpretation of America’s most disastrous and controversial war, Lind demolishes enduring myths and put the Vietnam War in its proper context — as part of the global conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. The author reveals the deep cultural divisions within the United States that made the Cold War consensus so fragile and explains how and why American public support for the war in Indochina declined. Even more stunning is his provocative argument that the United States failed in Vietnam because the military establishment did not adapt to the demands of what before 1968 had been largely a guerrilla war. In an era when the United States often finds itself embroiled in prolonged and difficult conflicts in places like Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Iraq, Lind offers a sobering cautionary tale to Americans of all political viewpoints.

By Permission:  Simon & Schuster

We Were Soldiers Once and Young:  la Drang – The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam (2004) by Hal Moore

This first-hand account details one of the most savage and significant battles of the Vietnam War.  West Point graduate and Army veteran Hal Moore recounts how the men of the Second First Battalion, 7th Cavalry persevered and sacrificed themselves in order to survive.  General Moore and Joseph Galloway, the only journalist on the ground throughout the fighting, have interviewed hundreds of men who fought there, including the North Vietnamese commanders. This devastating account rises above the specific ordeal it chronicles to present a picture of men facing the ultimate challenge, dealing with it in ways they would have found unimaginable only a few hours earlier. It reveals to us, as rarely before, man’s most heroic and horrendous endeavor.  This book was not written to glorify war but instead to demonstrate the courage and character of those who fought it.

By Permission:  Penguin Random House

Chickenhawk (2005) by Robert Mason

This straight-from-the-shoulder account tells the electrifying truth about the helicopter war in Vietnam. This is Robert Mason’s astounding personal story of men at war. A veteran of more than one thousand combat missions, Mason gives staggering descriptions that cut to the heart of the combat experience: the fear and belligerence, the quiet insights and raging madness, the lasting friendships and sudden death—the extreme emotions of a “chickenhawk” in constant danger. This is second edition of the original published in 1983.  A new afterward has been added along with additional photographs from the author tour in Vietnam (1965-1967).

By Permission:    Penguin Random House

The Things They Carried (2009) by Tim O’Brien

A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carried is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.  This effort contains haunting images of combat and the unflinchingly real human reactions to it, with absolutely no hero-worshiping, make for a powerful and poignant book.  O’Brien is credited as a skilled writer and masterfully aware of the limitations of human memory.  This is a lot more than just a war memoir – it looks at all aspects of how the war touched him and those around him.  Readers both young and old, not touched by this war will find many insights into Vietnam that go beyond what is taught in school.

By Permission:    Penguin Random House

The Lotus Eaters (2010) by Tatjana Soli

This author shows the unfolding story of three war photographers under the impossible umbrella of war.   This Vietnam era novel is not an anti-war book per se, although it shows the horrors of war in the final days of a falling Saigon. This effort is balanced, real, and authentic when it comes to experiences of those who lived through this quagmire. The book asks us to not only sympathize with the plight of the Vietnamese, but also empathize with the Americans who served patriotically as well as the war grinds on.  Who can forget among those who lived through those days the sight of the Communist flag flying from the American embassy at the fall of Saigon in April, 1975? The author has us live— or relive– that infamous day, and much more.  The book takes you to Viet Nam in the 60s and 70s in a very direct, accurate, and uncompromising matter.

By Permission:  St. Martin’s Press and Tatjana Soli

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (2010) by Karl Marlantes

Matterhorn is a visceral and spellbinding novel about what it is like to be a young man at war. It is an unforgettable novel that transforms the tragedy of Vietnam into a powerful and universal story of courage, camaraderie, and sacrifice: a parable not only of the war in Vietnam but of all war, and a testament to the redemptive power of literature.  Critics charge that Matterhorn is an epic war novel in the tradition of Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead and James Jones’s The Thin Red Line.  It is the timeless story of a young Marine lieutenant, Waino Mellas, and his comrades in Bravo Company, who are dropped into the mountain jungle of Vietnam as boys and forced to fight their way into manhood. Standing in their way are not merely the North Vietnamese but also monsoon rain and mud, leeches and tigers, disease and malnutrition. Almost as daunting, it turns out, are the obstacles they discover between each other: racial tension, competing ambitions, and duplicitous superior officers. But when the company finds itself surrounded and outnumbered by a massive enemy regiment, the Marines are thrust into the raw and all-consuming terror of combat. The experience will change them forever.

By Permission:  Atlantic Monthly Press

Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam (2014) by Fredrik Logevall

This book is an essential work for those seeking to understand the worst foreign-policy adventure in American history.   Embers of War is a landmark work that will forever change the reader’s understanding of how and why America went to war in Vietnam.  Tapping newly accessible diplomatic archives in several nations, Fredrik Logevall traces the path that led two Western nations to tragically lose their way in the jungles of Southeast Asia. He brings to life the bloodiest battles of France’s final years in Indochina—and shows how, from an early point, a succession of American leaders made disastrous policy choices that put America on its own collision course with history. An epic story of wasted opportunities and deadly miscalculations, Embers of War delves deep into the historical record to provide hard answers to the unanswered questions surrounding the demise of one Western power in Vietnam and the arrival of another. Critics herald Logevall’s book due to its painstaking efforts to illuminate the hidden history of the French and American experiences in Vietnam.

By Permission:    Penguin Random House

Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War: The End of the American Century (2014) by David F. Schmitz

Utilizing recently declassified documents and recordings from Nixon administration, historian David F. Schmitz provides a revealing analysis of the 37th President’s handling of the Vietnam War.  This author’s findings illustrate that victory was imperative for Nixon, who didn’t wish to become the only president to lose a war. With the objectives of containing communism, and preserving American credibility among the nations of the world, Nixon was willing to do anything to insure South Vietnam ended the war as an independent democracy, including carrying out covert missions and bombings, deceiving the American people, and even feigning insanity.  Schmitz concisely lays out Nixon’s war strategy while pinpointing the controversial twists in the foreign policy from the years 1971 to 1973, and draws finely tuned conclusions about the larger impact on years to come.

By Permission: Rowman and Littlefield

We Gotta Get Out of This Place (2015) by Doug Bradley and Craig Werner 


This effort places popular music at the heart of the American experience in Vietnam.  It explores why U.S. troops turned to music as a way of connecting to each other and the world they left behind, and to help them cope with the complexities of a conflict they had been sent to fight. The authors demonstrate that music was important for every group of Vietnam veterans—black and white, Latino and Native American, men and women, officers and “grunts.”  It is the personal reflections of these veterans that drive the book’s narrative.  Many of the voices are those of ordinary soldiers, airmen, seamen, and marines, but there are also “solo” pieces by veterans whose writings have shaped our understanding of the war—Karl Marlantes, Alfredo Vea, Yusef Komunyakaa, Bill Ehrhart, and Arthur Flowers.  And equally as important are the songwriters and performers whose music influenced soldiers’ lives, including Eric Burdon, James Brown, Bruce Springsteen, Country Joe McDonald, and John Fogerty.  Together their testimony taps into memories—individual and cultural—that capture a central if often overlooked component of the American war in Vietnam.

By Permission:  Doug Bradley and Craig Werne/University of Massachusetts Press

Hue 1968 (2017) by Mark Bowen

Mark Bowden latest effort is his most ambitious work yet.  Hue 1968 is the story of the centerpiece of the Tet Offensive and a turning point in the American War in Vietnam.
Bowen argues by January 1968, despite an influx of half a million American troops, the fighting in Vietnam seemed to be at a stalemate. Yet General William Westmoreland, commander of American forces, announced a new phase of the war in which “the end begins to come into view.” The North Vietnamese had different ideas. In mid-1967, the leadership in Hanoi had started planning an offensive intended to win the war in a single stroke. Part military action and part popular uprising, the Tet Offensive included attacks across South Vietnam, but the most dramatic and successful would be the capture of Hue, the country’s cultural capital. At 2:30 a.m. on January 31, 10,000 National Liberation Front troops descended from hidden camps and surged across the city of 140,000. By morning, all of Hue was in Front hands save for two small military outposts.  The commanders in country and politicians in Washington refused to believe the size and scope of the Front’s presence. Captain Chuck Meadows was ordered to lead his 160-marine Golf Company against thousands of enemy troops in the first attempt to re-enter Hue later that day. After several futile and deadly days, Lieutenant Colonel Ernie Cheatham would finally come up with a strategy to retake the city, block by block and building by building, in some of the most intense urban combat since World War II.  With unprecedented access to war archives in the U.S. and Vietnam and interviews with participants from both sides, Bowden narrates each stage of this crucial battle through multiple points of view. Played out over twenty-four days of terrible fighting and ultimately costing 10,000 combatant and civilian lives, the Battle of Hue was by far the bloodiest of the entire war. When it ended, the American debate was never again about winning, only about how to leave. In Hue 1968, Bowden masterfully reconstructs this pivotal moment in the American War in Vietnam.


The Road Not Taken (2018) by Max Boot

Best-selling author Max Boot recounts the heroic efforts by Edward Lansdale (1908– 1987) to shape American foreign policy in Southeast Asia through his pioneering “hearts and mind” diplomacy.   This effort was first used in the Philippines, then in Vietnam. It was a visionary policy that, as Boot reveals, was ultimately crushed by America’s giant military bureaucracy, steered by elitist generals and blue-blood diplomats who favored troop build-ups and napalm bombs over winning the trust of the people. Through dozens of interviews and access to never before-seen documents―including long-hidden love letters―Boot recasts this cautionary American story, tracing the bold rise and the crashing fall of the roguish “T. E. Lawrence of Asia” from the battle of Dien Bien Phu to the humiliating American evacuation in 1975.  Boot argues in his book that Vietnam could have been different had we only listened. With reverberations that continue to play out in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Road Not Taken is a biography of profound historical consequence.



To Be Added: 

Trip to Hanoi (1968) by Susan Sontag 

Four Vision’s on Vietnam (1972)  by Robin Morgan

Born on the Fourth of July (1976) by Ron Kovic 

The 10,000 Day War: Vietnam 1945-1975 (1980) by Michael MacLear

The 13th Valley (1982) by John Del Vecchio

In Country (1984) by Bobbie Ann Mason

Fallen Angels (1988) by Walter Dean Myers

Glimpses of a Vietnam Life (1989) by Denise Levertov

Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides (2003) by Christian G. Appy

Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam (2007) by Kathryn C. Statler

The Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point’s Class of 1966 (2009) by Rick Atkinson