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Thread: Vietnam War Collection: books plus

  1. #161
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Thin, but quality

    My Vietnam book collection is limited, but I do commend two books: 'Victory At Any Cost: The Genius of Viet Nam's General Vo Nguyen Giap' by Cecil Currey (Pub. in the UK 1997) and a much older 'America in Vietnam' by Guenter Lewy (Pub. in the USA 1978).
    davidbfpo

  2. #162
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Lewy is decent, but also relies heavily on a legalistic view of the war. He's also considered one of the "old" generation of commentators on the war, and thus thought suspect by newer authors.

    If you're looking for a battlefield view, Kieth Nolan is really hard to beat. He spends almost no attention on COIN considerations, though. Bergerud does, but his analysis gets thin when he tries to extend observations from one province to all of South Vietnam. Moyar and Prados are both quite political (although on opposite ends of the spectrum), and it's worth keeping that in mind when you look at their books.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  3. #163
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    Default A couple more titles

    on the "village wars": Bing West, The Village and Jeffrey Race, War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province.

    I'd echo Steve re: take all with a grain of salt - and check the foornotes and original sources.

    For another (slightly lower-in-grade) Palmer's view, Dave Richard Palmer, Summons of the Trumpet: U.S.-Vietnam in Perspective.

    Tim Lomperis, From People's War to People's Rule: Insurgency, Intervention, and the Lessons of Vietnam, interests me because of his ideas - again, not a "bible".

    Mark Moyar, Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism in Vietnam, gives a decent overview of CORDS-Phoenix and other aspects of Vietnamese Pacification.

    Make sure you take a look at Tran Dihn Tho, Pacification (freebie), for the South Vietnamese viewpoint.

    A wealth of RAND publications from the 1960 are freebies on line. Online and offline North Vietnames articles and books are in Ed Moise, Vietnam War Bibliography: Writings by and about Important Communist Leaders. His Vietnam War Bibliography is much larger - mucho original doc refs in one place.

    Cheers

    Mike

  4. #164
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    Default More from Ed Moise

    Large collections (many online links) in two areas that seem to fit your subject matter request:

    Vietnam War Bibliography: Theories of Limited War and Counterinsurgency

    Vietnam War Bibliography: In the Villages: Pacification

    Cheers

    Mike

  5. #165
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Default

    I'd recommend Why Viet Nam: Prelude to America's Albatross by Archimedes L.A. Patti. Patti headed the OSS operations in the area in the later stages of WW2 and was among the first Americans on the scene in the aftermath. Fascinating day-by-day account of a critical and largely overlooked period in the story.

    Much like the Americans on the scene in China who reported that Chiang was finished and Mao was going to win, Patti - whose opinion was that the French were toast and Ho Chi Minh was ultimately going to be the ascendant factor in the country - was widely reviled as anything from a pinko commie to a naive young man who fell under the spell of Ho. While the book was certainly written with some hindsight, it doesn't really make him sound like either.

  6. #166
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The First Vietnam War

    If we are going back to pre-US involvement, The First Vietnam War by Peter Dunn, is the best book I have read (Pub. 1985). That weird period after the Japanese surrender in and around Saigon, as the British Empire intervened before the French colonial rule returned.
    davidbfpo

  7. #167
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    Default A Better War

    What are opinions on Lewis Sorley's book? I liked it and his conclusions made sense, but I'm not an expert on Vietnam by any means.

  8. #168
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    Default Recommendation for Vietnam War study

    A good start for your study would be Bernard Fall's excellent books :

    Street Without Joy
    Hell In A Very Small Place

  9. #169
    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Our Own Worst Enemy by William J. Lederer was pretty good.

    Our Own Worst Enemy - Amazon link

    William Lederer - Wikipedia

  10. #170
    Council Member Sigaba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeterJensen View Post
    There is plenty of literature about the Vietnam War.
    Despite that, can any of you readers of SWJ recommend works (books, articles, etc) concerning the Vietnam War historiography with a specifically focus on COIN and how the American decision makers viewed and applied between COIN versus conventional warfare during the conflict?
    I am very interested in the different positions in the historiography.
    Thanks in advance.
    I recommend the following:

    Robert A. Divine, "Revisionism in Reverse," Reviews in American History, 7:3 (September, 1979): 433-438.

    Robert A. Divine, "Vietnam Reconsidered," Diplomatic History, 12:1 (January 1998): 79-93.

    Gary R. Hess, "The Unending Debate: Historians and the Vietnam War," Diplomatic History, 18:2 (April 1994): 239–264.
    It is a sad irony that we have more media coverage than ever, but less understanding or real debate.
    Alastair Campbell, ISBN-13 9780307268310, p. xv.
    There are times when it is hard to avoid the feeling that historians may unintentionally obstruct the view of history.
    Peter J. Parish, ISBN-10 0604301826, p. ix.
    Simple answers are not possible.
    Ian Kershaw, ISBN-10 0393046710, p. xxi.

  11. #171
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    Default Revisionist history on Westmoreland versus Abrams

    Andrew J. Birtle. "PROVN, Westmoreland, and the Historians: A Reappraisal." The Journal of Military History 72.4 (2008): 1213-1247.

    might be of use.

    It probably should be read in the context of Lewis Sorley's "A Better War," since IIRC it tends to quarrel with some its (Sorley's) claims.

    OC

  12. #172
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default

    The Birtle article was the subject of a Gian Gentile article and some SWJ posts here:

    http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/200...provn/#c005780

    Agreed that it was a thought-provoking article by an excellent scholar.

    Also, Phil Ridderhof contributed this to SWJ about DoD's critical assessment of III MAF Pacification efforts (the CAP program) in the same vein.
    Last edited by tequila; 11-04-2010 at 08:19 PM.

  13. #173
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    1) For the war between ARVN and PAVN after US disengagement, you might wish to see Col William Le Gro's Cease Fire to Capitulation..Col Le Gro ran intel at the Office of the Defense Attache, Saigon, 1973-5..The entire work is available on-line.

    2) Take a look at David "RAND" Elliiott's pentateuchal (in size, not sanctity) work on the war and social change in the Mekong Delta, exerpts of which appear on-line from time to time...It offers many useful insights (among which, the shocked realization of the study's veteran communist protagonist that by liberation --1975, the majority of the populace even in seminally revolutionary Dinh Tuong Province, had been successfully seduced by US-induced modernization and no longer supported the Revolution.....)

    3) Bergerud is important for a feel of the situation on the ground in one province, but I concur precisely in Blair's cautionary admonition. Also several of his conclusions are non-sequiters but the narrative is probably an essential read... Don't know what prior experience you bring, Mr. Jensen, but as you can see, if you are coming to the project with tabla rasa, it can be difficult to discriminate amongst the many opinions voiced.

    4) Re: Granite State on Sorely: I'd recommend this book because so few others cover the final years. The author sees near defeat of the enemy by 1970. I concur strongly, as would most of my old adviser colleagues, particularly those who experienced both the before and after phases. But ascribing the near win to a dramatic shift from enemy-centrism to territorial security overstates the case, IMO. (....since I have come to the conclusion that at least during my tenure (1971-5), the enemy center of gravity within RVN reposed in the PAVN units in the in-country base areas....Significantly, during the unilateral US withdrawal period ('71-Jan '73), remaining USARV units in MR-III were targeted against those units in those sanctuaries.)...This is not to denigrate the critical nature of territorial security--or the 100% male mobilization after Tet, which enabled effective raising of territorial forces and turned virtually every rural family into RVNAF dependents.

    5) Finally, if I had only one book to recommend, it would be a work of history--Government and Revolution in Viet Nam, by Dennis Duncanson, OBE. Oxford Univ. Press, 1968. The author served with his longtime colleague Sir Robert Thompson on BRIAM (British Advisory Mission to VN) through the early '60's; the perspective is that of a COIN practitioner...Thompson recognized Duncanson as the team's preeminent historian and VN expert. The depth of scholarship is impressive, as is his uncommon grasp of the nuances of Vietnamese society. The book's fault is it ends in 1967.

    Cheers,
    Mike.
    Last edited by Mike in Hilo; 11-06-2010 at 01:30 AM. Reason: typos

  14. #174
    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Default Tet '68

    The other day a thread touched upon the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968. On the Tom Ricks blog I stumbled upon this link to MACV's unclassified report of significant events in February 1968. It's interesting reading.

  15. #175
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    Default Vietnam Literature Cannon?

    So, is there one? And what should be on it?

    Not for the SAMS students (Althougth their input is welcome), but what should the recomended reading list for the average company grade officer and NCO contain? I'm sure this issue has been covered before, but evergreens are everpresent for a reason.

    Background: Twice recently I have witnessed people (OK, guys) asking about specific Vietnam Wars books at my local public library; They were both asking about widely distributed works of literary merit. Needless to say, my local public library does not own either one.... (OK, I have issues with them).

    So, what ten books (Fiction/Non Fiction) are most useful to understanding Vietnam in the context of American History? Let's go for a maximum of four Fiction and the rest non fiction.

    And ten books is optimistic; then you have to select five that will engage the average buck seargeant....

  16. #176
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    I would recommend Douglas Pike, Viet Cong: The Organization and Techniques of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press), 1966.

  17. #177
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    I have often wished for a literature cannon. Seems like it would have a much greater impact than simply telling someone that they need to read a book. (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

    I am very interested in seeing some recommendations here.

  18. #178
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Cannons are cool...

    I'll take a stab but with a two caveats. First, it's virtually impossible to find a book about Viet Nam that is not biased in one direction or another or about something -- however, a reasonably diligent reader can filter most of that out.

    Second, this is A list -- there are hundreds of others that are just a valid. I make no apology for this one and believe it's fair and as balanced as most and do not plan on entertaining futile arguments about it. It is not an Academic's or General Officer's list or one of which most would approve, it is the list of a a working Grunt. It's offered, accept or disregard as you wish.

    None of these are perfect or, IMO, error free, they all have omissions and biases but most are pretty good and reasonably well balanced. I start with The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War by Phillip Jennings. It is biased -- as stated it is politically incorrect -- but does a decent job of dispelling a number of myths (some of which appear often on this Board ). Some of its contentions are problematic but that's true with all books. In any event, it sets the stage for the other books, which are:

    Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall

    Why Vietnam by Archimides Patti

    The Vietnamese War by David Elliot

    How We Won the War by Vo Nguyen Giap

    The Twenty-Five Year War: America's Military Role in Vietnam. by Bruce Palmer Jr.

    The Killing Zone by Frederick Downs, Jr.

    The Irony of Vietnam; The System Worked by Leslie Gelb and Richard Betts

    Backfire by Loren Baritz

    Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War: Documents and Essays (Major Problems in American History) by Robert McMahon and Thomas Patterson {tedious but informative... / kw]

  19. #179
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    I don’t know enough about the topic to claim how any readings would rank in terms of a canon, but I have enjoyed everything I have read and seen by Pierre Schoendoerffer. I found the article below to be well written; it might be of particular interest to members of the Special Forces.

    Salemink, Oscar. “Mois and Maquis: the invention and appropriation of Vietnam’s Montagnards from Sabatier to the CIA.” In Colonial situations: essays on the contextualization of ethnographic knowledge, edited by George W. Stocking, 243–84. Vol. 7 in History of Anthropology. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.
    Last edited by ganulv; 06-18-2011 at 11:24 PM. Reason: added a link
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

  20. #180
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    Default Continuing ...

    The Vietnam Literature Cannon - JMM limited edition:





    Usually, for me, Vietnam sources = stuff re: the US civilian-military policy interface (e.g., "Pentagon Papers"); Pacification in SVN (e.g., "Military Struggle" and "Political Struggle"); and the PAVN view of conventional and unconventional warfare from 1944 to the end in 1975 (e.g., the unity of the "Military Struggle" and the "Political Struggle").

    The following references do not follow that pattern. They look much more to the personal side of that conflict - of which, each person had a unique and different vantage point.

    I don't define an "average company grade officer or NCO". The latter group (including buck sergeants) could include such people as William Manchester and Gene Sledge - both very articulate in painting word pictures of their war.

    Here are eight "Vietnam" books (links to Amazon pages, with reviews - check Amazon "used") written by folks who were company grade officers or NCOs in the Vietnam War:

    Brennan's War: Vietnam 1965-1969 (Matthew Brennan, 1985)

    Review by RC
    Matt explains what a lot of us went through. This book should be one used in schools to teach about the War in Vietnam. I was in the Blues of A Troop 9th Cavalry in 1966. Very well done, Matt.
    One Soldier (John H. Shook, 1986)

    Review by B
    What puzzled me about "One Soldier," John H. Shook's autobiographical account of his experiences in the Vietnam War, was that it wasn't as popular or widely praised as other famous war-autobiographies (such as Ron Kovic's "Born on the Fourth of July"). I found myself unable to put this book down. Shook begins telling his story from the very moment he receives a draft letter and takes us to boot camp, to Officer Candidate School, and then to the dense, hellish jungles of Vietnam, all without turning his story into one big cliche`. I felt like I was having an intriguing conversation with a veteran, hearing his story, being able to understand where he was coming from. A flawless accomplishment. It's disappointing that Shook's "One Soldier" isn't as highly praised and recognizable as other war stories.
    Once a Warrior King (David Donovan, 1985)

    Review by RB
    I was stationed in Duc Pho, Southern I Corp, and spent over 8 months living in a remote village with my platoon during 1969 and 1970. I saw so very much and understood so little. This book brought back the conflicts that haunted me for years and helped me come to grips with the most significant year of my life. Fear, anxiety, exhaustion, isolation, and confusion blended into an environment that this book describes like none that I have read.
    Platoon Leader: A Memoir of Command in Combat (James R. McDonough, 1985)

    Review by RJM
    Lt. McDonough writes of his experiences in Viet Nam in such straight forward language with little embellishment and an honest and humble attitude. This is one of the best written depictions of combat I've ever read. His experiences commanding a platoon in the heart of VC country surpass anything that has been portrayed by Hollywood in terms of the difficulty of the mission and the horror of day to day survival in a combat situation. This is one gritty and tough account of day to day life in the Viet Nam war that should be widely read. Ranks right up there with Philp Caputo, Michael Herr, Tim O'Brien and Tobias Wolff as a contribution to the definitive written record of grunt life in the war.
    Only War We Had: A Platoon Leader's Journal of Vietnam (Michael Lee Lanning, 1987)

    Review by AC
    The thing that sets this book apart from others like it is the fact that it is the author's personal journal from his tour as a platoon leader in Vietnam. It lacks the "story-telling" quality that most other personal accounts of the Vietnam War have. Often it is not well-written or completely coherent, but that only serves to help the reader understand the conditions under which the entries were made. The entries are sopplemented by the author's reflections upon preparing them for publication. The events in this book were recorded as they occured - not years later - and that's what makes its special.
    The 13th Valley (John M. Del Vecchio, 1982)

    Review by REW
    Although "The 13th Valley" is a novel, it is based on a very real operation conducted by the 2/502nd, 1st Brigade 101st Airborne Division, temporarily assigned to th 3rd Brigade near the end of the "Texas Star" operation. At that time, the U.S. was in gradual withdrawal from Vietnam. The 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st and 3rd Marine divisions had already left I Corp leaving the 101st to manage an area 4 times their previous area of responsibility. As a last push into the famed A Shau Valley area, the 3rd Brigade was heavily involved in a siege at Firebase Ripcord. Surrounded by an estimated 12,000 NVA regulars, this battle was longer and claimed more casualties on both sides than occurred at "Hamburger Hill". The Battle at Firebase Ripcord remained a secret for many years. Both armies not wanting to publicize the battle as we were disengaging from the war and the NVA took thousands of casualties. the 3rd Brigade defenders were lifted out without being captured. The 2/502nd "Strike Force" gained some level of revenge by attacking the 13th Valley and leaving the NVA Headquarters and camp in shambles. As a former member of the 2/502nd in Vietnam, I have reread this great book many times and can attest that, although a novel, most stories are based in fact on true events of the 2/502. I highly recommend this great book and encourage those interested to also read about "Firebase Ripcord".
    Vietnam-Perkasie: A Combat Marine Memoir (W. D. Ehrhart, 1983)

    Review by DK
    Bill Ehrhart's work for too long has been neglected. VIETNAM-PERKASIE is one of the most memorable first-hand accounts of the war which America loves to forget. This memoir is gritty, real, and vastly underrated. It should be made into a film.
    The Village (Bing West, 1972)

    Review by DF
    This is a wonderful book. It tells the story of 15 marines assigned to defend a hamlet, working with about the same number of Popular Force militiamen. Of that original band, 7 are killed in the first half of the book, most of them in a single firefight when their "fort" is over-run. (The PFs suffer losses at roughly the same rate.) But they love the work, get along fine with the villagers, and exact an even higher toll on the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese units sent against them.
    (cont. in part 2)

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