Military History Indochina Wars, 1946-1975
by
Andrew Wiest
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 06 February 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0041

Introduction

The history of the Vietnam War is one of the most vibrant and hotly debated topics in modern academe. The field is vibrant in part because it is so broad and inclusive, attracting interest across a wide variety of disciplines, national groups, and historical schools of thought. The wide-ranging questions surrounding the conflict—Was it a Cold War moment or a postcolonial moment? How did the war interact with the powerful cultural movements of the decade? Was the conflict an “American war”? Was South Vietnam doomed from the outset?—attract an enormous array of scholars who utilize a broad range of methodologies to answer their varied questions. The field is hotly debated in part because so many basic questions concerning the war are still open to scrutiny, questions as basic as what the war actually was about and who really won. The struggle for the soul of the Vietnam War is ongoing, and, to many, the questions are not merely academic. The Vietnam generation, its soldiers and its protestors—its hawks and doves—are still alive and well, struggling over ownership of the past. Many of the documents vital to the study of the Vietnam War are newly opened, old historical wounds have yet to close, and young scholars redirect the nature of the developing debate almost daily. The historiography of the Vietnam War is an ever-changing thing: a historical minefield for the unwary.

General Overviews

Much of the history of the Vietnam War is broken down into two camps that are sometimes violently opposed: the “orthodox” camp, which includes the inheritors of the wartime doves who in an all-too-brief nutshell contend that the American war in Vietnam was misguided and doomed to failure, and the “revisionist” camp, which includes the inheritors of the wartime hawks who briefly contend that the war was necessary, winnable, and indeed almost won. Many of the more narrow works outlined in this bibliography fit into, or are labeled by others as members of, one of the two competing historiographical camps. However, the debate over the nature of the war comes to full flower in overviews, in which authors are able to give full range to their thinking. Fitzgerald 1972 and Karnow 1983, both readable and extremely popular, in many ways set the tone for the debate, depicting an America that seemed doomed to failure against such a stalwart foe. Kolko 1985 took the debate further, with America stumbling in an attempt to impose its order on the world. Lawrence 2008 and Bradley 2009 are much more international in nature and bring the debate into the historiographical present. Moyar 2006 made the clearest statement on the revisionist side, consciously attempting to turn the orthodox arguments on their historical heads. In a vast new overview, Prados 2009 makes the clearest rebuttals of Moyar’s claims, and the historical battle goes on. As a final note, The Pentagon Papers (US Department of Defense 1971) provide an indispensable documentary overview of American involvement in the conflict as well as an important piece of history in its own right.

  • Bradley, Mark Phillip. Vietnam at War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    A history of the wars in Vietnam that takes in the most recent scholarship from the vantage point of the Vietnamese themselves. Sets the wider global context of the wars fully into their place as part of an internal, and ongoing, Vietnamese struggle.

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    • Fitzgerald, Frances. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. New York: Random House, 1972.

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      Pulitzer Prize–winning bedrock work to understanding both the Vietnam War and its historiography. Though highly readable, this text is perhaps of most value today as a period piece depicting a clash of values between the Americans and the Vietnamese that led to America’s inevitable failure in the conflict.

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      • Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking, 1983.

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        Extremely readable and perhaps the best-known general history of the Vietnam War. This massive work attempts to be comprehensive but is only spotty in its coverage. Some events and people receive masterful coverage, while others (especially in the war after 1968) are scarcely mentioned.

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        • Kolko, Gabriel. Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical Experience. New York: Pantheon, 1985.

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          An exhaustive study that pays special attention to the internal politics and policies of Vietnam during the war. Perhaps the leading work on the war from the viewpoint of the political left, which sees the war as part of an effort by the United States to impose a new order on the world.

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          • Lawrence, Mark Atwood. The Vietnam War: A Concise International History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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            A brief overview of the conflict in Vietnam that delves far back into time and is international in scope. Breaks little new ground but is most valuable as a synthesis that introduces readers to the fundamental issues of the war.

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            • Moyar, Mark. Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954–1965. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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              Although the work covers only the period until 1965, Triumph is the most thorough statement of the “revisionist” viewpoint on the war, contending that Vietnam was winnable for the United States and that South Vietnam and its leaders were in fact winning the war.

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              • Prados, John. Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945–1975. Modern War Studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009.

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                A massive synthesis by one of the leading scholars in the field. The latest and arguably best summation, based both on a thorough understanding of the secondary source material and exhaustive new primary research, of the “orthodox” view of the war.

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                • US Department of Defense. The Pentagon Papers: The Defense Department History of United States Decisionmaking on Vietnam. 5 vols. Boston: Beacon, 1971.

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                  Available in several formats other than this original printing, including an abridged edition edited by George Herring (McGraw-Hill, 1993). Much of the text is also available at various online outlets. An extremely detailed Defense Department report on the conflict with many of the documents that the authors used as their source material.

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                  Textbooks

                  For a topic that is of intense and growing interest at all levels of education as students want to learn about what the graying baby-boom generation went through in the 1960s, textbooks of all varieties have become increasingly important. Explaining the multifaceted war and the era of which it was a part is a difficult task, first taken on in a meaningful way in Herring 1979, a text that framed the debate and remains one of the most readable in the field. Tucker 1999, which is best on the military prosecution of the war, and Olson and Roberts 2008, which is stronger on the diplomatic side of the equation, build on Herring’s success in an accessible way. Moss 1990 is perhaps the most traditional textbook, with valuable sections on further reading that introduce students to the historiography. Less typical is McMahon 1990, which is meant as more of a companion than a narrative text, containing essays on specific topics surrounding the war followed by a selection of relevant documents. Wiest, et al. 2009 is also not a typical text, instead containing a series of chapters written by experts in the field on topics surrounding the war as varied as the era’s music and the nature of posttraumatic stress disorder.

                  • Herring, George. America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950–1975. New York: Wiley, 1979.

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                    The earliest comprehensive historical text on the Vietnam War that in many ways touched off much of the continuing debate. Well written and often focusing on the diplomacy surrounding the conflict, this work in many ways remains the standard against which other texts are judged.

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                    • McMahon, Robert, ed. Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War: Documents and Essays. Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath, 1990.

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                      Short essays on many of the most important topics of the Vietnam War followed by collections of primary-source documents related to the topic. Contains a good mixture of valuable documents from both sides of the conflict.

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                      • Moss, George. Vietnam: An American Ordeal. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990.

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                        A strong basic text for classroom use. A good synthesis of diplomatic and military history with added emphasis on events on the American home front.

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                        • Olson, James Stuart, and Randy Roberts. Where the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam, 1945–1995. New York: Blackwell, 2008.

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                          A thorough text that focuses mainly on the first and second Indochina wars. Especially strong on the buildup to the American war in Vietnam and on US strategy.

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                          • Tucker, Spencer C. Vietnam. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999.

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                            A very readable text that focuses on the military history of Vietnam and especially the strategy and tactics of the American war. Strongly suggests that American military strategy was fatally flawed by centering too strongly on conventional warfare techniques instead of counterinsurgency.

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                            • Wiest, Andrew, Mary Kathryn Barbier, and Glenn Robins, eds. America and the Vietnam War: Re-examining the Culture and History of a Generation. New York: Routledge, 2009.

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                              Made up of a series of articles written by leading figures in their respective fields on issues surrounding the Vietnam War, ranging from the media and the war to the music and literature of the war to the legacy of the conflict and US military thought.

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                              Reference Works, Historiography, and Data Sources

                              There are several reference works, historiographies, and data sources that are critical to understanding the Vietnam War as well as to accessing resources concerning its study. Tucker 2000 is a valuable guide to the people, weapons, events, and battles of this multifaceted war. Stanton 1981 is an indispensable guide to the ever-changing American order of battle in Vietnam. In the war, Americans occupied camps, fire bases, and military posts all over the country of South Vietnam, places that would be devilishly difficult to track down without the aid of Kelley 2002. Relatively few works exist to guide students through the maze of Vietnam War historiography. Hess 2009 is a thorough and quite up-to-date account of Vietnam-era scholarship that ties its historiography to a narrative. Wiest and Doidge 2010 focuses a group of leading historians on the historiographical battle between orthodox and revision in response to Moyar 2006 (cited under General Overviews). Moïse’s online Vietnam War Bibliography is the up-to-the-minute central clearinghouse for all scholarship on the Vietnam War. In today’s age of digitization and the Internet, a vast array of source material is accessible from the computer. The Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia and the US Army War College and the Military History Institute are critical first steps in online research, often specializing in oral histories. The Vietnam Center and Archive at Texas Tech is a central repository for much of the documentation concerning all aspects of the Vietnam War, much of which is accessible online.

                              • Hess, Gary. Vietnam: Explaining America’s Lost War. Oxford: Blackwell, 2009.

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                                The most complete and exhaustive historiographical work on the Vietnam War. While the author often tries a bit too hard to make every catalogued work fit neatly into the “orthodox vs. revisionist” debate, the work is a perfect starting point to come to grips with the historiography of the conflict.

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                                • Kelley, Michael. Where We Were in Vietnam: A Comprehensive Guide to the Firebases, Military Installations and Naval Vessels of the Vietnam War, 1945–1975. Central Point, OR: Hellgate, 2002.

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                                  A heavily researched reference guide to where American troops were based during the war. Given the disparity of base-naming practices and the mobility of US troops, this guide is indispensable to researchers of the US military experience.

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                                  • Lyndon Johnson Oral History. Miller Center for Public Affairs.

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                                    Housed at the University of Virginia, this collection is one of the main repositories for interviews with political figures of the Vietnam era.

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                                    • Moïse, Edwin. Vietnam War Bibliography.

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                                      The indispensable source for all works relating to the Vietnam War. Moïse keeps the bibliography up-to-date and quite user friendly. It not only contains listings for very nearly everything ever published on the Vietnam War but also lists government documents, primary sources, and Internet links to much of the material.

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                                      • Stanton, Shelby L. Vietnam Order of Battle. Washington, DC: US News Books, 1981.

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                                        A vital reference work listing all US units that served in Vietnam and their dates and location of service.

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                                        • Tucker, Spencer, ed. Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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                                          An extremely valuable reference guide to the Vietnam wars. Alphabetized and with a short documents section.

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                                          • US Army Heritage Collections Online.

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                                            Houses an extensive collection of interviews with leading military figures of the Vietnam era.

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                                            • The Vietnam Center and Archive.

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                                              The Vietnam Center and its Virtual Archive at Texas Tech is a central repository for much of the documentary history of the Vietnam War. It is a necessary first stop for research, and scholars are often surprised by the amount of material they can access from the archive’s website.

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                                              • Wiest, Andrew, and Michael Doidge, eds. Triumph Revisited: Historians Battle for the Vietnam War. New York: Routledge, 2010.

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                                                Looks at the present historiography of the Vietnam War through the debate over Moyar’s Triumph Forsaken. Both orthodox and revisionist scholars have their say, with Moyar offering general responses to each.

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                                                Biographies and Autobiographies

                                                The Vietnam era was peopled by towering figures, buffeted by important events, and strewn with catastrophic mistakes, making the era a biographer’s dream. The vast differences of opinion regarding the era and its events also led to the release of a raft of autobiographical glimpses into the war’s inner workings. The autobiographies are many and include a broad range of players. Some of the most important and revealing include Westmoreland 1976, which allows insight into some of the most controversial military elements of the war. Bui 1995 gives a rare look at the inner workings of the North Vietnamese during the conflict. Laurence 2002 presents a revealing self-portrait of the controversial role of the media in Vietnam. Most controversial, though, is McNamara 1995, the mea culpa of the war’s American architect. Historians and journalists have also turned their hand toward humanizing some of the main figures of the conflict. Kinnard 1991 uses the fascinating character of Maxwell Taylor as a focus for a wider look at the war. Sorley 1992 investigates the life of Creighton Abrams and makes broad claims regarding his stewardship of the war. Sheehan 1988 chronicles the influential and war-spanning career of John Paul Vann. In his superb biography of Ho Chi Minh, Duiker 2002 paints the most reliable portrait yet of the mercurial Vietnamese leader who bested both the French and the Americans.

                                                • Bui Tin. Following Ho Chi Minh: The Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995.

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                                                  Written by a former colonel and leading party member in North Vietnam who left the country in 1990 for France, this text gives the patient reader a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of the Vietnamese Communist system during and after the war.

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                                                  • Duiker, William. Ho Chi Minh: A Life. New York: Hyperion, 2002.

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                                                    A superb biography by one of the acknowledged experts in the field. Duiker sorts through a mass of archival evidence to produce a very readable biography that results in a nuanced picture of Ho Chi Minh as neither demon nor savior but as a complex historical actor.

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                                                    • Kinnard, Douglas. The Certain Trumpet: Maxwell Taylor and the American Experience in Vietnam. Dulles, VA: Brassey’s, 1991.

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                                                      In some ways not a typical biography, Kinnard dissects the inner workings of the US decision-making apparatus through the experience of Maxwell Taylor, one of the most important insiders of both the Kennedy and the Johnson administrations.

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                                                      • Laurence, John. The Cat from Hué: A Vietnam War Story. New York: Public Affairs, 2002.

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                                                        The autobiography of a reporter who covered much of the Vietnam War for CBS. An extremely valuable account of how the American media functioned during the conflict.

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                                                        • McNamara, Robert. In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. New York: Random House, 1995.

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                                                          Memoir by the Secretary of Defense under both Kennedy and Johnson and the chief architect of the Vietnam War. Gives an indispensable look at the inner workings of US decision making of the time.

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                                                          • Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Random House, 1988.

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                                                            Pulitzer Prize–winning account of the fascinating life of John Paul Vann, whose career spanned much of the American war from his role as an advisor to the South Vietnamese beginning in 1962 to his death during the Easter Offensive of 1972.

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                                                            • Sorley, Lewis. Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Times. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

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                                                              A biography covering the commander of US forces after William Westmoreland and the shift of US policy away from its earlier fascination with Search and Destroy to Abram’s more nuanced “One War” strategy.

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                                                              • Westmoreland, William Childs. A Soldier Reports. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976.

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                                                                Memoirs of the commander of US forces in Vietnam for much of the war. Gives interesting insight into Westmoreland’s decision-making process and is revealingly critical of Washington policymaking.

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                                                                Journals

                                                                Seminal articles on the Vietnam War can be found in a wide variety of journals, from The Journal of Military History to The Journal of American History. As such, the history of the Vietnam War as written in articles is somewhat atomized. However, there are a few journals in which Vietnam and its wars are among the main topics of continued discussion. While Asian Survey is broad ranging and is often more concerned with contemporary events, its back issues from the time of the Vietnam War are full of interesting articles. The Journal of Vietnamese Studies is the modern-day clearinghouse for cutting-edge history on everything Vietnam, with much scholarship focused on the Indochina wars. For those more interested in the battlefield and the weaponry of the time, the heavily illustrated magazine Vietnam is the right place to start.

                                                                The First Indochina War

                                                                Stemming from the legacies of French colonialism, the persistence of Vietnamese nationalism, and the untidy conclusion of World War II in Southeast Asia, the First Indochina War was a multifaceted affair quite distinct from the later Vietnam War, which is often referred to as the Second Indochina War or sometimes as the American War. The First Indochina War was a fascinating mix of a postcolonial moment and a burgeoning Cold War moment: at once a European moment, a Vietnamese moment, a Chinese/Soviet moment, and an American moment. The drawn-out affair involved bitter fighting and had global impacts from Geneva to Moscow to Paris to Washington, D.C. Although all too often ignored in the West in favor of its younger sibling, the First Indochina War is the subject of a growing historiography and historical inquiry.

                                                                Overviews

                                                                Although with considerably less academic angst than their Vietnam War counterparts of the orthodox and revisionist schools, there exist a number of good and penetrating studies of the First Indochina War that deal with the war and its era in a holistic way. Fleury 1994 provides a solid account of the war in French, while Dalloz 1990 is one of the few reliable general histories that has been translated from French and is available in English. Dalloz also produced a French-language dictionary, which serves as a valuable reference tool (Dalloz 2006). Ruscio 2002 is also an important work, combining a bibliographic section alongside a discussion of films and a section of relevant documents. Fall 1961 is one of the most readable and compelling histories of the French war in Indochina, which stood as a warning to Americans as they considered moving into the troubled nation. Navarre 1956 is an enlightening account by the last French commander on the scene. Lawrence and Logevall 2007 stands as the best edited introduction to the topic of the First Indochina War and is of international scope with contributions from leading scholars in their respective fields.

                                                                • Dalloz, Jacques. The War in Indochina, 1945–54. Savage, MD: Barnes & Noble, 1990.

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                                                                  One of the only reliable and readable general histories of the French war in Indochina to be translated into English. A thorough work that pays close attention to how the war played politically in France. First published as La guerre d’Indochine: 1945-1954 (Paris: Seuil, 1987).

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                                                                  • Dalloz, Jaques. Dictionnaire de la guerre d’Indochine, 1945–1954. Paris: Armand Colin, 2006.

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                                                                    Often thematically based dictionary that specializes in the French war in Indochina. Also contains a short bibliography of French scholarship on the subject.

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                                                                    • Fall, Bernard. Street Without Joy. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1961.

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                                                                      One of the seminal works on the French war in Indochina. Written by a renowned journalist, Street often takes an idiosyncratic look at the French and their war and served as a warning to the Americans as they stood ready to move into Vietnam.

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                                                                      • Fleury, Georges. La guerre en Indochine, 1945–1954. Paris: Plon, 1994.

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                                                                        A very readable and dramatic account of the First Indochina War from a popular author, seemingly well researched but few footnotes.

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                                                                        • Lawrence, Mark Atwood, and Fredrik Logevall, eds. The First Vietnam War: Colonial Conflict and Cold War Crisis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

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                                                                          A very valuable edited collection by leading scholars in their respective fields covering a myriad of topics regarding the First Indochina War. Contains entries ranging from Roosevelt’s views on the conflict to those of contemporary Vietnamese historians.

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                                                                          • Navarre, Henri. Agonie de l’Indochine, 1953–1954. Paris: Plon, 1956.

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                                                                            A detailed memoir by the French commander assigned to Vietnam in 1953 and who oversaw the battle of Dien Bien Phu.

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                                                                            • Ruscio, Alain. La guerre “française” d’Indochine (1945–1954): Les sources de la connaissance—Bibliographie, filmographie, documents divers. Paris: Indes Savantes, 2002.

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                                                                              A massive compendium of French-language scholarship on the First Indochina War, which includes a review of French films on the subject as well as important documents from the era.

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                                                                              Origins and United States Involvement

                                                                              Much of the best recent scholarship on the First Indochina War centers around the origins of the conflict and on how European and American policies led to an increased US involvement in the war. Marr 1995 is one of the bedrock sources for understanding the First Indochina War, detailing the chaotic struggle for control of Vietnam in 1945. Tønnesson 1991 deals with the genesis of US involvement under Franklin Roosevelt, chronicling a period when US policy was in great flux. Gardner 1988 ably takes the argument through Truman to Eisenhower, mainly from the American side. Arnold 1991 also gives good background but is best in dealing with Eisenhower’s decision making after Dien Bien Phu. A very capable study that deals with the European side of the seismic diplomatic shift from France to the United States in Vietnam, Lawrence 2005 is central to a fuller understanding of US involvement in the war. Bradley 2000 blends cultural and political history in an attempt to understand how flawed Vietnamese and American visions helped lead to a deeper, and flawed, US involvement. Võ 1962 serves as a provocative look at the course and meaning of the conflict by the Viet Minh’s legendary commander. Foreign Relations of the United States is the massive starting point for any study into US foreign policy in Vietnam.

                                                                              • Arnold, James. The First Domino: Eisenhower, the Military, and America’s Intervention in Vietnam. New York: Morrow, 1991.

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                                                                                Traces the general history of growing American involvement in Vietnam from Truman through Eisenhower but focuses mainly on Eisenhower’s decisions after Dien Bien Phu and how those decisions, especially those related to the internal workings of South Vietnam, laid the groundwork for later decisions by both Kennedy and Johnson.

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                                                                                • Bradley, Mark Philip. Imagining Vietnam and America: The Making of Postcolonial Vietnam, 1919–1950. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

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                                                                                  An innovative work that sees much of the dynamic that drove US–Vietnamese relations to be based in each nation’s imperfect understanding of the other. Especially valuable in its use of Vietnamese sources, Imagining Vietnam is a compelling blend of cultural and political history.

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                                                                                  • Foreign Relations of the United States.

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                                                                                    Invaluable collections published by the US Department of State detailing US relations abroad, with several volumes focusing on Vietnam. The bedrock source for understanding US actions in Vietnam. Volumes dated before 1961 are also online.

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                                                                                    • Gardner, Lloyd. Approaching Vietnam: From World War II through Dienbienphu, 1941–1954. New York: Norton, 1988.

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                                                                                      Traces the shift from Roosevelt’s anticolonialism to Eisenhower’s inheritance of the Vietnam War as an American issue. Well researched and told mainly from the American side of diplomacy.

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                                                                                      • Lawrence, Mark Atwood. Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

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                                                                                        A nuanced and well-researched study that catalogues America’s growing involvement in the First Indochina War through investigation of US diplomatic relationships with the European governments of Britain and France in particular. Details how a colonial war became perceived in the United States as more of a Cold War conflict in part due to successful efforts, on the part of the French especially, to sell their efforts in Vietnam as such.

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                                                                                        • Marr, David. Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

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                                                                                          A very readable and quite detailed look at a critical year in the road to the First Indochina War as all sides scrambled to take or hold power after the fall of the Japanese. A work critical to understanding the coming of the war, impeccably researched and with a heavy focus on the Vietnamese.

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                                                                                          • Tønnesson, Stein. The Vietnamese Revolution of 1945: Roosevelt, Ho Chi Minh, and de Gaulle in a World at War. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE, 1991.

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                                                                                            An interesting account of the beginnings of the Vietnamese revolution, with special attention paid to the role of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who is portrayed as anticolonial and as perhaps even playing a role in starting the Vietnamese revolution.

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                                                                                            • Võ Nguyên Giáp. People’s War, People’s Army: The Viet Cong Insurrection Manual for Underdeveloped Countries. Praeger Publications in Russian History and World Communism 119. New York: Praeger, 1962.

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                                                                                              In many ways meant as a primer for revolutionaries around the globe at the time, People’s War also serves as a look back at what worked and what failed from the commander of Viet Minh forces in the First Indochina War.

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                                                                                              Dien Bien Phu and Geneva

                                                                                              The infamous battle that served as the historical punctuation point to French military involvement in Indochina and the conference that was designed to settle the problem of Vietnam once and for all has spawned an important subspecies of books. Fall 1966 is the classic history of the bitter struggle at Dien Bien Phu, while Windrow 2004 brings the history of the battle up to date in a very readable fashion. No study of Dien Bien Phu would be complete without Giáp 1976, a brief and a bit self-serving account of the fighting by its victor. Billings-Yun 1988 is an able look at why Eisenhower, though the United States had been inching toward involvement in Vietnam for years, chose not to aid the French in the fight. The Geneva Conference is the subject of Cable 1986, which tells the inner workings of the fabled meetings from the perspective of a British participant. Frankum 2007 investigates the US involvement in Operation Passage to Freedom in the wake of the Geneva Convention, the boat lift of civilians from North to South that heavily impacted the nature of the coming conflict.

                                                                                              • Billings-Yun, Melanie. Decision Against War. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

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                                                                                                Mainly about Eisenhower’s decision to avoid war at Dien Bien Phu. Takes a pro-Eisenhower view on how a proactive president deftly avoided conflict but leaves much room for further discussion.

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                                                                                                • Cable, James. The Geneva Conference of 1954 on Indochina. London: Macmillan, 1986.

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                                                                                                  An engrossing account of the deliberations at Geneva by a member of the British delegation to the conference. Especially good on Britain’s central role to the conference’s success.

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                                                                                                  • Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu. Great Battles of History. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966.

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                                                                                                    The classic history of the fighting at Dien Bien Phu by one of the great authors in the genre. Wonderful battle stories and gripping reading. A bedrock source of the field.

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                                                                                                    • Frankum, Ronald. Operation Passage to Freedom: The United States Navy in Vietnam, 1954–1955. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                      The best single account of the efforts, especially American, to ship fleeing Vietnamese civilians from North to South after the Geneva Accords. The author contends that Passage to Freedom gave the United States a moral connection to the people of South Vietnam that it could not ignore.

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                                                                                                      • Võ Nguyên Giáp. Dien Bien Phu. 2d ed. Hanoi, Vietnam: Su That, 1976.

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                                                                                                        A brief and popular account, seemingly always a best seller in Vietnam, of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu by the architect of Viet Minh victory. Sometimes self-serving, but also revealing.

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                                                                                                        • Windrow, Martin. The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2004.

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                                                                                                          A monumental account of Dien Bien Phu that places the battle into the wider reality of French tactical success and strategic need. Unlikely to be surpassed as regards details of the battle itself.

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                                                                                                          The Vietnam War

                                                                                                          Although intrinsically related to the First Indochina War, the Vietnam War has spawned its own discreet set of scholarship. At first much of the history in the West was heavily American centric and military orientated, but in recent years the field has broadened to include everything from other nationalities to cutting-edge methodologies. The result is a historiography that is so rich and varied that it is quite difficult to quantify or categorize. Many of the old orthodox versus revisionist arguments remain front and center, but there also exists a vast literature that is more tightly focused or difficult to label, from important battle histories to theories of counterinsurgency to views of secondary players in the war to gender studies. The field is so rich that it is hoped that the following listings serve as an invitation to investigate the historiography even further.

                                                                                                          Overviews

                                                                                                          Having dealt with the general histories of the conflict, this section deals with more focused histories that detail the history of many of the conflict’s most important subtopics in a comprehensive way. Halberstam 1972 is a necessary first step to understanding the players in Washington during the war and how those players interacted with the coming crisis. Berman 1989 and Vandiver 1997 take the understanding further and present two important and conflicting views of Lyndon Johnson’s preeminent role in the course of the Vietnam War. Hallin 1986 presents perhaps the best overview of the media’s disputed role in Vietnam and in the formation of American public opinion. The turbulent nature of the decade that encompassed Vietnam is the subject of Anderson 1995, and an understanding of the decade is vital to coming to grips with the eventual course of the war. Bergerud 1993 traces the brutal history of a combat division in Vietnam during the conflict, a topic that is given deeper meaning by combining with Edelman 1985, a moving portrayal of the lives of soldiers in Vietnam in their own words. Rochester and Kiley 1999 provides the best overview of one of the most sensitive topics of the war, that of the American POWs.

                                                                                                          • Anderson, Terry. The Movement and the Sixties. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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                                                                                                            A thorough account of the protest movements that so defined the 1960s and the Vietnam era. Sees the movement as a broad coalition that included civil rights and Vietnam protestors, among others, and as having achieved marked success.

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                                                                                                            • Bergerud, Eric. Red Thunder, Tropic Lightning: The World of a Combat Division in Vietnam. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1993.

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                                                                                                              Based mainly on oral history and uses interviews to reconstruct the combat world inhabited by the soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam. Extremely good in detailing the combat environment.

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                                                                                                              • Berman, Larry. Lyndon Johnson’s War: The Road to Stalemate in Vietnam. New York: Norton, 1989.

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                                                                                                                Along with Berman’s other works on Johnson and Vietnam, this text gives a revealing portrait of how Johnson dealt with the failure of his policies in Vietnam and perhaps even manipulated evidence to make the war seem more successful than it actually was.

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                                                                                                                • Edelman, Bernard, ed. Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. New York: Norton, 1985.

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                                                                                                                  A gripping collection that uses letters home to tell the story of the lives, loves, and losses of American soldiers in Vietnam. Critical to understanding the grunt’s war.

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                                                                                                                  • Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

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                                                                                                                    An imminently readable and fascinating study detailing the towering personalities that inhabited the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and how the great men interacted to lead the United States into war.

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                                                                                                                    • Hallin, Daniel. The “Uncensored War”: The Media and Vietnam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

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                                                                                                                      A very important study on the ever-controversial topic of the media’s role in Vietnam. Makes the revisionist claim that the media was not as negative in its coverage, nor was it as responsible for the collapse of US morale, as many contend.

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                                                                                                                      • Rochester, Stuart, and Frederick Kiley. Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961–1973. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                                        Based on interviews with more than one hundred Vietnam POWs, this study is the bedrock work for this important, and often controversial, topic.

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                                                                                                                        • Vandiver, Frank E. Shadows of Vietnam: Lyndon Johnson’s Wars. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997.

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                                                                                                                          A thorough recounting of Johnson’s war policies that tends to exonerate Johnson from most of the blame for his failed war. The most revisionist of the Johnson histories.

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                                                                                                                          Origins

                                                                                                                          As is the case with the First Indochina War, some of the most compelling work in the field of the Vietnam War concerns the way in which the United States entered the conflict. Was it a war that the United States stumbled into? Was it a war of Cold War necessity? Or was it something more sinister? Halberstam 1965 is a tremendously important period piece that set the stage for much of the later scholarship. Newman 1992 gives a pro-Kennedy look at the antecedents to the war, while Kaiser 2000 takes the reasoning a bit further to include how the worldviews of Eisenhower and Johnson differed from that of Kennedy. Of the works that deal with presidential decision making and Vietnam, Logevall 1999 is perhaps the most compelling, detailing the choices made by both Kennedy and Johnson in what the author terms “the long 1964” (p. xiii). Carter 2008 provides an important account of the shortcomings of the US–South Vietnamese alliance in terms of nation building and how failures in that important area impacted both the coming and prosecution of the war. McMaster 1997 provides a compelling and important description of how a broken national security apparatus helped lead the United States into a failed war.

                                                                                                                          • Carter, James. Inventing Vietnam: The United States and State Building, 1954–1968. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                            Examines the failures of the US–South Vietnamese efforts at nation building, especially before the outbreak of war, and how those systemic failures interacted with the war itself to make the American effort in Vietnam essentially unwinnable.

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                                                                                                                            • Halberstam, David. The Making of a Quagmire. New York: Random House, 1965.

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                                                                                                                              An important and vivid account of how the United States blundered into war during the Kennedy era, enlivened by numerous first-hand recollections by one of the most important young reporters on the scene.

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                                                                                                                              • Kaiser, David. American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                A well-researched and thorough study that traces US involvement in Vietnam back to the narrow geopolitical perceptions of the Eisenhower administration—perceptions that Kennedy seemingly nearly overcame but Johnson retained.

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                                                                                                                                • Logevall, Fredrik. Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                  Focuses most closely on events of 1964 and contends that both Kennedy and Johnson had ample opportunity to exit Vietnam with minimal collateral political and international damage.

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                                                                                                                                  • McMaster, H. R. Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                    An extremely important study that portrays the relationship between McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff as broken beyond repair, a shattered relationship that led to misunderstandings, mistrust, and even lies that were central to America’s flawed road to war.

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                                                                                                                                    • Newman, John. JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power. New York: Warner, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                      An important study that sees Kennedy as almost a prisoner of his national security advisors and contends that Kennedy was planning to withdraw from South Vietnam after the election of 1964.

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                                                                                                                                      South Vietnam

                                                                                                                                      For years South Vietnam remained almost ignored in Western scholarship of the conflict. Recently, though, several scholars have turned their attention to the South Vietnamese, producing formative work. Catton 2002 provides a nuanced study of the failure of the leadership of Ngo Dinh Diem, while Jacobs 2004 blends cultural and diplomatic history to unravel why the United States supported Diem in the first place. Topmiller 2002 is an important study of Diem’s South Vietnamese political adversaries, the Buddhist movement, which is best read in tandem with Catton. Concerning the South Vietnamese military, Wiest 2008 provides an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) as well as a needed tactical corrective concerning ARVN’s role in the war. Lâm 2001 provides an important look at the internal workings of ARVN from one of its leading commanders. Sorley 2010 is an indispensable edited collection of monographs written shortly after the war by many senior figures of the South Vietnamese military.

                                                                                                                                      • Catton, Philip. Diem’s Final Failure: Prelude to America’s War in Vietnam. Modern War Studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                        A rich and nuanced study of Ngo Dinh Diem’s career and failed modernization efforts in South Vietnam, especially the Strategic Hamlet Program. Critical to understanding the realities of the South Vietnamese government as more than American stooges who were predestined to failure.

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                                                                                                                                        • Jacobs, Seth. America’s Miracle Man in Vietnam: Ngo Dinh Diem, Religion, Race, and US Intervention in Southeast Asia, 1950–1957. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                          An innovative blend of cultural and diplomatic history that sees US support of Diem as due to a blend of racial and religious ideological beliefs.

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                                                                                                                                          • Lâm Quang Thi. The Twenty-Five Year Century: A South Vietnamese General Remembers the Indochina War to the Fall of Saigon. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                            An important memoir by a South Vietnamese officer who saw service under the French and eventually rose to corps level command by 1975.

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                                                                                                                                            • Sorley, Lewis. The Vietnam War: An Assessment by South Vietnam’s Generals. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                              An extremely valuable edited collection of the Indochina monographs, written by leading South Vietnamese generals after the war. The monographs themselves, virtually primary documents, offer valuable insight into a plethora of important topics from the role of the American advisory system to the effectiveness of South Vietnamese and American forces in battle.

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                                                                                                                                              • Topmiller, Robert. The Lotus Unleashed: The Buddhist Peace Movement in South Vietnam, 1964–1966. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                Details the controversial Buddhist movement in South Vietnam and the effects of that movement both on South Vietnam and on US policy before and during the Vietnam War. Sees the Buddhist movement as an independent political force in Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                • Wiest, Andrew. Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN. New York: New York University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                  A systematic look at the strengths and weaknesses of the South Vietnamese military using the careers of two of its brightest young stars as a focus. Does not portray the South Vietnamese military as fatally flawed but more as a victim of a failed alliance with the United States.

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                                                                                                                                                  North Vietnam and Viet Cong

                                                                                                                                                  Some of the most innovative scholarship in the West has been dedicated to the study of America’s worthy adversaries in the conflict. Military History Institute of Vietnam 2002 is the official history of the People’s Army of Vietnam and, though stilted in style and often visibly biased, is indispensable to the study of the course of the war. Bào 1993 is a gripping, semifictionalized corrective to the North’s vision of the war as simply great and glorious. Lockhart 1989 is a valuable study of the rise of the powerful force that became the People’s Army and is a fascinating introduction to the subject. Moïse 1983 investigates a critical aspect of the revolution in North Vietnam. The revolution in South Vietnam, and the success of the Viet Cong, is the subject of Elliott 2003 and Race 1972. Both books investigate the revolution on a local level in the populous Mekong Delta, and both are formative to the study of the war as a whole. Jamieson 1993 provides a systematic look at the influence that Vietnamese culture had on the conflict.

                                                                                                                                                  • Bào Ninh. The Sorrow of War: A Novel. Translated by Frank Palmos, Vo Bang Thanh, and Phan Thanh Hao. London: Secker & Warburg, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                    English translation of Than phan cua tinh yeu, published in 1991. A jarring fictionalized autobiography of a North Vietnamese soldier who was one of the few survivors from his unit. Compelling reading regarding both the wartime and postwar experience in North Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Elliott, David. The Vietnamese War: Revolution and Social Change in the Mekong Delta, 1930–1975. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                      A massive study of the course of the Indochina wars in Dinh Tuong province in the Mekong Delta. Reveals much regarding the rise and success of the revolution in rural Vietnam and is one of the most important books on the entire war.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Jamieson, Neil. Understanding Vietnam. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                        Seeks to explain the relationship between Vietnamese culture and the war efforts of all sides in the conflict. Based on important research utilizing Vietnamese cultural sources.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Lockhart, Greg. Nation in Arms: The Origins of the People’s Army of Vietnam. Sydney, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 1989.

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                                                                                                                                                          Valuable study with extensive research in both Vietnamese and French language sources outlining the military and ideological rise of the People’s Army of Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Military History Institute of Vietnam. Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People’s Army of Vietnam, 1954–1975. Translated by Merle L. Pribbenow. Modern War Studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                            English translation of the 1994 edition of the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) official history, often stilted in its language but critical to understanding the military effort of North Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Moïse, Edwin. Land Reform in China and North Vietnam: Consolidating the Revolution at the Village Level. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                              An important work that investigates the initial failures and eventual government cleanup of the land reform movement in North Vietnam from 1953 to 1956. The difficulties experienced were crucial to North Vietnam being able to pay only limited attention to the rise of South Vietnam after the Geneva Accords.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Race, Jeffrey. War Comes to Long An: A Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnam Province. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972.

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                                                                                                                                                                One of the most important books about the Vietnam War. Traces the rise of the Viet Cong in South Vietnam, but most importantly concentrates on the village and local level using Long An province in the Mekong Delta as its focus.

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                                                                                                                                                                Regional War

                                                                                                                                                                The Vietnam War was not simply a national struggle but instead was a regional conflict that spilled out into neighboring nations and involved the active military participation of several more far-flung regional powers. Conboy 1995 provides a very reliable history of the secret war fought by the CIA in Laos. Chandler 1991 and Clymer 2007 chronicle the tragic conflicts in Cambodia, with Chandler delving deeper into Cambodian history while Clymer centers his attention on Cambodia’s complicated relationship with the United States. Frankum 2001 and Grey and Doyle 1992 investigate Australia’s complicated role in the Vietnam War, with Frankum providing a solid overview of the US–Australian alliance while Grey and Doyle focus on the Australian experience more broadly. Ruth 2011 is the first major work to focus attention on Thailand, one of America’s lesser-known allies in the conflict. America’s adversarial relationship with the Soviet Union in Vietnam is the subject of Gatttduk 1996, while Zhai 2000 provides a bedrock work on China’s complex role in the war.

                                                                                                                                                                • Chandler, David. The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Politics, War and Revolution since 1945. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Meticulously researched account of Cambodian history from 1945 to 1979 by an ex-US foreign service officer in Phnom Penh.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Clymer, Kenton. Troubled Relations: The United States and Cambodia since 1870. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                    The definitive history of US relations with Cambodia before, during, and after the war in Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Conboy, Kenneth. Shadow War: The CIA’s Secret War in Laos. Boulder, CO: Paladin, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Based in part on extensive interviews with the war’s participants, this study is a comprehensive and valuable campaign account of the fighting during the American war in Laos.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Frankum, Ronald Bruce. The United States and Australia in Vietnam, 1954–1968: Silent Partners. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                        An important study that details the rise of the US–Australian relationship as Australia sought to redefine its place in the world order and how that developing relationship interacted with the Vietnam War.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Gatttduk, Ilya. The Soviet Union and the Vietnam War. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                          An engaging look at the policies of the Soviet Union during the Vietnam War, detailing a balancing act between support for North Vietnam and the rise of Chinese power in the area on one hand and the desire to cause trouble for the United States in the Cold War and the eventual push for détente on the other.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Grey, Jeffrey, and Jeffrey Doyle, eds. Vietnam: War, Myth, and Memory: Comparative Perspectives on Australia’s War in Vietnam. St. Leonards, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                            A collection of articles by Australian and US scholars on the war in Vietnam, with valuable contributions on Australian culture and memory as well as on New Zealand’s involvement in the conflict.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Ruth, Richard. In Buddha’s Company: Thai Soldiers in the Vietnam War. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Blending cultural and military history, this work examines the often ignored role of Thai soldiers in the Vietnam War and the role that the war played in their lives and in that of their homeland.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Zhai, Qiang. China and the Vietnam Wars, 1950–1975. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                The most important work on China’s critical role in the Vietnam War, detailing balancing the desire to fend off American influence in Southeast Asia against the rise in power of the Soviet Union.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Women and Gender

                                                                                                                                                                                As has been the broader trend in the field of history, the Vietnam War has been the subject of many interesting and important studies that seek to define the interaction between the conflict and issues of gender. Several works have sought to chronicle the role of American women in the conflict, including Marshall 1987, which focuses on oral histories, and Walker 1985, which looks in-depth at the lives of twenty-six American women in the war zone. Taylor 1999 and Turner 1999 are the bedrock works concerning the roles of Vietnamese women who fought for the revolution. Vuic 2010 provides a nuanced look at the history of the US Army Nurse Corps in Vietnam as related to the adaptation of gender roles. Jeffords 1989 is an intriguing cultural look at how the Vietnam War affected the idea of American manhood.

                                                                                                                                                                                • Jeffords, Susan. The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Analyzing films, television shows, and novels, Jeffords illustrates cultural efforts to rehabilitate images of American manhood in the wake of the Vietnam War.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Marshall, Kathryn. In the Combat Zone: An Oral History of American Women in Vietnam, 1966–1975. Boston: Little, Brown, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    A detailed oral history that includes interviews with American military nurses, Women’s Army Corps personnel, and American civilian women who served in Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Taylor, Sandra. Vietnamese Women at War: Fighting for Ho Chi Minh and the Revolution. Modern War Studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Provides a perceptive analysis of the experiences of women who fought for the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Turner, Karen. Even the Women Must Fight: Memories of War from North Vietnam. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Based in part on oral interviews conducted by the author, this book presents the story of the Vietnam War from the perspectives of North Vietnamese women.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Vuic, Kara Dixon. Officer, Nurse, Woman: The Army Nurse Corps in the Vietnam War. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Focusing on the Army Nurse Corps, Vuic illustrates how the Army both responded to the demands of the women’s movement and also maintained traditional gender roles as it recruited female nurses to fill its personnel needs for Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Walker, Keith. A Piece of My Heart: The Stories of Twenty-Six American Women Who Served in Vietnam. New York: Ballantine, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Walker’s collection of interviews was one of the earliest efforts to incorporate American women’s voices into the Vietnam War narrative.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Race

                                                                                                                                                                                            The Vietnam War took place during what was perhaps the most racially charged moment in recent US history. Much work has been done to chronicle the roles of varied American racial or ethnic groupings in the conflict, including Terry 1984, an oral history of black soldiers in the war; Trujillo 1990, an oral history of Hispanic soldiers in the conflict; and Whelchel 1999, an oral history collection of Japanese American soldiers. Formative work has also appeared that deals with the black experience in Vietnam in much greater historical depth. Westheider 1997 investigates the complex linkages between the black experience in Vietnam and on the home front, while Graham 2003 provides an important look at how the war in Vietnam interacted with the image of black masculinity.

                                                                                                                                                                                            • Graham, Herman, III. The Brothers’ Vietnam War: Black Power, Manhood, and the Military Experience. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Graham’s book demonstrates how the combined experiences of the Vietnam War and the Black Power movement contributed to the development of a distinct African American masculinity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Terry, Wallace. Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans. New York: Random House, 1984.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Now a classic work of Vietnam War studies, Terry’s book was one of the first to document the experiences of African American veterans of the conflict.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Trujillo, Charley. Soldados: Chicanos in Vietnam. San Jose, CA: Chusma House, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Soldados remains one of the only oral histories of Hispanic American veterans of the Vietnam War.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Westheider, James E. Fighting on Two Fronts: African Americans and the Vietnam War. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    Situating the Vietnam War in the context of racial struggles in the United States, Westheider examines the continued links among race, citizenship, and military service.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Whelchel, Toshio. From Pearl Harbor to Saigon: Japanese American Soldiers and the Vietnam War. London: Verso, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Welchel’s oral history collection provides a unique perspective on the war experience by giving voice to Japanese American veterans.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Air War

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The air war in Vietnam, often typified by Operation Rolling Thunder and the linebacker operations of 1972, was a pivotal part of the wider American and South Vietnamese war effort. Frankum 2005, as an overview of the entire war in the air, is a great starting point. Thompson 2000 and Nichols and Tillman 1987 focus more carefully on the air attacks on North Vietnam, with Nichols and Tillman arguing for the efficacy of airpower in the war. Reardon 2005 is a careful study of the lives and actions of the men of a single attack squadron. Mason 1983 provides a gripping account of the helicopter war, perhaps the emblematic feature of the Vietnam War in the public mindset.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Frankum, Ronald Bruce. Like Rolling Thunder: The Air War in Vietnam, 1964–1975. Vietnam–America in the War Years 3. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        A brief but valuable overview cataloguing the war in the air in Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Mason, Robert. Chickenhawk. New York: Viking, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          An extremely readable account of the brutal realities of the helicopter war in Vietnam by a veteran pilot.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Nichols, John B., and Barrett Tillman. On Yankee Station: The Naval Air War Over Vietnam. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            A detailed look at the use of naval air power from Yankee Station off of North Vietnam arguing that, if applied more thoughtfully, air power could have played a more decisive role in the war.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Reardon, Carol. Launch the Intruders: A Naval Attack Squadron in the Vietnam War, 1972. Modern War Studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              A careful study of the men of Attack Squadron 75 and their operations from the aircraft carrier Saratoga during the Linebacker raids. Very revealing regarding the air war for the men involved and their families.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Thompson, Wayne. To Hanoi and Back: The US Air Force and North Vietnam, 1966–1973. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                A solid overview of the US air war over North Vietnam, with special attention given to Operation Rolling Thunder and the Linebacker raids.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                Counterinsurgency and Special Operations

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Several important works have investigated the conflicts of counterinsurgency and pacification that lie beneath the search and destroy surface of the Vietnam War. Trullinger 1980 and Bergerud 1991 look at the experience of insurgency and counterinsurgency from the Vietnamese side of the ledger, exploring the life of a single village and that of a province at war, respectively. Hunt 1995 is the single most important study of American efforts at pacification, the so-called war for the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people. Andradé 1990 provides a solid account of the fabled Phoenix Program in South Vietnam, while Conboy and Andradé 2000 explores the failure of American and South Vietnamese covert missions in North Vietnam itself. Plaster 1997 is a very readable overview of the cloak-and-dagger doings of the super-secret US Studies and Observations Group. Nagl 2002 provides an interesting comparison between the American experience of counterinsurgency in Vietnam and the British experience in Malaya. Daddis 2011 is a fascinating new study on how US information management was a detriment to its overall efforts to achieve victory in Vietnam.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Andradé, Dale. Ashes to Ashes: The Phoenix Program and the Vietnam War. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A very important study detailing the Phoenix Program, designed to neutralize the communist infrastructure in South Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Bergerud, Eric M. The Dynamics of Defeat: The Vietnam War in Hau Nghia Province. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A solid study on the war in Hau Nghia province that shows the strength and resiliency of the Viet Cong as compared to the weaknesses of the South Vietnamese regime and the relative failures of the US military effort.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Conboy, Kenneth, and Dale Andradé. Spies and Commandos: How America Lost the Secret War in North Vietnam. Modern War Studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A detailed and well-written study covering allied covert operations against North Vietnam run by the CIA from 1954 onward as well as those run by the US Studies and Observations Group (SOG) from 1964 onward.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Daddis, Gregory A. No Sure Victory: Measuring US Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        An invaluable new study that details US fixation on data collection rather than data analysis in Vietnam, which left US forces awash in information but with little idea on how to achieve victory in an unconventional war.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Hunt, Richard. Pacification: The American Struggle for Vietnam’s Hearts and Minds. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Remains the best study on American military- and aid-related efforts to pacify and provide rural security in the South Vietnamese countryside. Critical reading to understand this underresearched aspect of the Vietnam War.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Nagl, John. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A compelling comparison of the American experience of counterinsurgency in Vietnam and that of the British in Malaya, written by the author of the present US doctrine on counterinsurgency.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Plaster, John. SOG: The Secret Wars of America’s Commandos in Vietnam. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              An engaging history of SOG and its activities by a veteran of three tours with the organization in Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Trullinger, James W. Village at War: An Account of Conflict in Vietnam. New York: Longman, 1980.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                An interesting study of the history of a single village in central Vietnam near Hue from the French period through the fall of South Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Naval and Marines

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Both the US Navy and the US Marines played significant roles in the Vietnam War that were often quite separate from and different than that of the US Army, resulting in an individualized historiography all their own. For the Navy, Schreadley 1992 serves as a thorough overview, while Cutler 1988 stands as a readable and important account of the Navy’s important role in riverine warfare, especially in the Mekong Delta. Murphy 1997 is an overview of the Marines’ role in Vietnam, but for the most thorough study of that subject see the multivolume official history, US Marines in Vietnam. Much has rightly been made of the Marines’ penchant for counterinsurgency and small-war techniques in Vietnam, with Hennessy 1997 standing as a perceptive account of the Marines’ efforts at rural security, while Peterson 1989 focuses on the Combined Action Platoons, one of the Marines’ most renowned efforts toward rural security.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Cutler, Thomas. Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal and Riverine Warfare in Vietnam. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A detailed account of the riverine war in Vietnam, especially in the Mekong Delta, that is at its best when dealing with combat.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Hennessy, Michael A. Strategy in Vietnam: The Marines and Revolutionary Warfare in I Corps, 1965–1972. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    An important study on the shifting balance between the Marines’ efforts at rural security in I Corps and the emphasis of the wider military on the “big unit war.” Although the Marines were on to something important in I Corps, they had to work with a wider effort to halt NVA regular forces to succeed.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Murphy, Edward. Semper Fi—Vietnam: From Da Nang to the DMZ, Marine Corps Campaigns, 1965–1975. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A detailed, and somewhat worshipful, campaign history of the US Marines in Vietnam. Gives vivid descriptions of combat.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Peterson, Michael E. The Combined Action Platoons: The US Marines’ Other War in Vietnam. New York: Praeger, 1989.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A thorough and readable study on the Combined Action Platoons by a Marine veteran of the era. To date the best book on the topic.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Schreadley, Richard L. From the Rivers to the Sea: The US Navy in Vietnam. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A good general history of naval involvement in the Vietnam War, paying equal attention to both strategic and tactical detail.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • US Marines in Vietnam. 9 vols. Washington, DC: History and Museums Division, US Marine Corps, 1977–1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Several volumes by various authors, the indispensable official history of the US Marines in Vietnam. Very detailed and reliable; the first place to look when seeking information on the Marines.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Military Operations 1965–1967

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The study of American military actions in Vietnam has proven to be one of the richest and mature fields of inquiry. Any study of the field must start with the multivolume official history, The U.S. Army in Vietnam. Stanton 1985 provides a solid overview of the US military in Vietnam, while Moore and Galloway 1992 offers an insider’s look at one of the critical battles of the war. Maraniss 2003 is a very readable and important history of a single unit in combat, while Caputo 1977 stands as a classic memoir of life and war. One of the most vibrant debates concerning the American military in Vietnam concerns whether the US military ignored fruitful avenues of counterinsurgency that might have proved war winners, or whether it was actually not conventional enough in its military mindset. Krepinevich 1986 is a groundbreaking study of the conventional nature of the US military in Vietnam, which stands at odds with Summers 1982 portrayal of US military strategy as not being conventional enough. Birtle 2008 is a thorough and revealing study of the military report most often used by historians as a cudgel with which to beat the military for not being sensitive enough to counterinsurgency.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Birtle, Andrew. “PROVN, Westmoreland, and the Historians: A Reappraisal.” Journal of Military History 72.4 (2008): 1213–1247.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1353/jmh.0.0128Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              An important reappraisal of the 1966 military report titled A Program for the Pacification and Long-Term Development of South Vietnam (Washington, DC: Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations). PROVN has often been used to bash Westmoreland or to praise Abrams, but Birtle argues persuasively that the report was less revolutionary than most historians have contended. Available online by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Caputo, Philip. A Rumor of War. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1977.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The compelling, classic memoir of a life of combat and war’s effect on the humanity of its participants by a Marine who served in Vietnam during 1965. Usually considered one of the finest in its genre.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Krepinevich, Andrew, Jr. The Army and Vietnam. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  An extremely important work that argues that the US Army was unwilling to shift from its reliance on conventional warfare to more of a counterinsurgency role, even when many people on the ground knew that such a shift was needed.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Maraniss, David. They Marched into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A massive yet readable text that juxtaposes events in the Battle of Ong Thanh in October 1967 against demonstrations on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison at the same time.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Moore, Harold, and Joseph Galloway. We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young: Ia Drang, the Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam. New York: Random House, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A very good book on the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in 1965 by the commander of the 1/7 Cavalry and a journalist who stood by his side. Very detailed strategic and tactical account of a battle that changed the way both sides fought in Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Stanton, Shelby. The Rise and Fall of an American Army: US Ground Forces in Vietnam, 1965–1973. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A detailed, battle-oriented history of the US military in Vietnam. Pays special attention to how events swirling around the war, from the draft to the one-year tour of duty, affected the military. Leans strongly toward the idea that the US military did everything it could in Vietnam but in service to a flawed and politicized war.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Summers, Harry. On Strategy: The Vietnam War in Context. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1982.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A foundational piece of the revisionist school that contends that the US military could have won in Vietnam if it would have only followed a more conventional path to victory or had been allowed by the politicians to follow such a path.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • The US Army in Vietnam. 11 vols. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1986-2010.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Several volumes by various authors; the indispensable official history of the US Army in Vietnam. Very detailed and readable; the first place to go when seeking information on the US Army in Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Tet Offensive

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Usually seen as the turning point of the American war in Vietnam, the Tet Offensive and its aftermath have received a great deal of individual historiographical attention. Allison 2008 is a good starting place, as a general history of the offensive, while Schmitz 2005 also presents an overview but is more concerned with the repercussions of the offensive on the US home front. Pribbenow 2008 provides key insight into the often-misunderstood North Vietnamese planning for Tet. Two of the best books on the fighting during Tet are Hammel 1991, which covers the urban battle for Hue, and Prados and Stubbe 1991, which provides an intimate account of the concurrent and bitter struggle for the US Marine base at Khe Sanh. Braestrup 1977 is one of the most important books about Tet, covering the controversial role of the US media during and after Tet in changing US public opinion toward the war.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Allison, William Thomas. The Tet Offensive: A Brief History with Documents. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A solid narrative outlining the events of the Tet Offensive and how those events affected the American home front, followed by a series of important documents from the time.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Braestrup, Peter. Big Story: How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1977.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A very detailed study, followed by documentation, on the American media’s portrayal of the Tet Offensive. Contends that the negative portrayal was out of sync with the positive military results of Tet and played a role in the shift in the American public’s support for the war.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Hammel, Eric. Fire in the Streets: The Battle for Hue, Tet 1968. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A very reliable study on the epic struggle for the imperial capital of Hue, the longest battle within the Tet Offensive, which involved bitter, urban fighting.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Prados, John, and Ray W. Stubbe. Valley of Decision: The Siege of Khe Sanh. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Perhaps the definitive history of the fighting in and around Khe Sanh by one of the top scholars in the field and a Marine chaplain who experienced the fighting.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Pribbenow, Merle, II. “General Võ Nguyên Giáp and the Mysterious Evolution of the Plan for the 1968 Tet Offensive.” Journal of Vietnamese Studies 3.2 (2008): 1–33.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1525/vs.2008.3.2.1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A detailed look at Giáp’s planning of the Tet Offensive by the leading authority in the United States on the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Schmitz, David F. The Tet Offensive: Politics, War, and Public Opinion. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Provides a concise history of the Tet Offensive that is better on national issues than military ones. Concludes that American policy changed in the wake of Tet because Johnson believed that the war had become a true stalemate and not because biased media coverage had turned the population against the war.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Military Operations, 1969–1975

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Most historians view the period after the Tet Offensive as separate and distinct to that which came before. Although major battles still took place, the post-Tet period was one of winding down and Vietnamization on the part of the Americans and involves an evolving debate on the nature of the American withdrawal. On the military/tactical front, Spector 1993 stands as the place to begin an inquiry into the nature of the fighting after Tet. Andradé 1995 and Willbanks 2005 provide detailed analyses of the Easter Offensive of 1972, with Andradé being a more general account while Willbanks focuses on the pivotal fighting at An Loc. At a broader level, Sorley 1999 is a very important study on Abrams’ period as US commander in Vietnam and is central to understanding the revisionist viewpoint regarding the war. Willbanks 2004 offers a very different viewpoint regarding the American withdrawal and is also central to the ongoing debate. Asselin 2002 and Berman 2001 provide nuanced versions of the negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement that concluded America’s involvement in the Vietnam War and are studies that are perhaps best read in tandem. Isaacs 1983 is a quite important and compelling account of the fate of South Vietnam and Cambodia in the wake of the signing of the Paris Agreement.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Andradé, Dale. Trial by Fire: The 1972 Easter Offensive, America’s Last Vietnam Battle. New York: Hippocrene, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The definitive account of the North Vietnamese invasion of 1972 and the eventually successful South Vietnamese and American counterstrokes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Asselin, Pierre. A Bitter Peace: Washington, Hanoi, and the Making of the Paris Agreement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Traces the byzantine diplomacy that led to the signing of the Paris Agreement, an agreement of expediency that was destined to fail quickly.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Berman, Larry. No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam. New York: Free Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The story of a peace agreement reached by duplicitous North Vietnamese, who were determined to violate the agreement at the first opportunity, and by the team of Kissinger and Nixon, who realized that the agreement was the death warrant for South Vietnam and did not seem to care.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Isaacs, Arnold. Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                An excellent study that begins with the signing of the Paris Agreement of 1973 and ends with the fall of Saigon. A scathing indictment at times both of flawed US policy and its makers and of the failings of the South Vietnamese.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Sorley, Lewis. A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A very important book central to the revisionist case. Contends that, under Abrams, the US military was getting things right and had arguably won the war by 1969. The collapse of morale on the home front and lack of courage by the US government, however, squandered that victory.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Spector, Ronald H. After Tet: The Bloodiest Year in Vietnam. New York: Free Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A very readable account of combat in the year after the Tet Offensive, a bloody period of desperate fighting that is all too often forgotten in many accounts of the war.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Willbanks, James. Abandoning Vietnam: How America Left and South Vietnam Lost Its War. Modern War Studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Perhaps the best military study on the final years of American involvement in South Vietnam, paying close attention to the failings of the US–South Vietnamese alliance and the impacts of the American withdrawals.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Willbanks, James H. The Battle of An Loc. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The most thorough study to date on the pivotal and bitter fighting at An Loc during the Easter Offensive. Very readable and well balanced, especially in dealing with the abilities of the South Vietnamese defenders, by an American veteran of the fighting.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Aftermath

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The defeat in Vietnam, in tandem with the culture wars of the 1960s, left an indelible impact on the United States, its people, and its veterans. The work on the war’s lasting influence in American culture is notably interdisciplinary and is central to understanding the transformation of the United States in the wake of war. Bilton and Sim 1992 provides a solid history of both the My Lai massacre and its immediate impacts, truly one of the war’s signature moments. Isaacs 1997 offers a broad and influential account of the impact of the Vietnam War across the spectrum of American society and culture and is a critical starting point to come to grips with the legacy of Vietnam on the home front. Schwenkel 2009 is representative of the solid scholarship now appearing that investigates the long road to historical recovery in Vietnam itself. The fate of American veterans of Vietnam has become the subject of several influential studies. Scott 1993 investigates a host of issues specific to veteran postwar readjustment to society. The controversial issue of posttraumatic stress is the focus of the eminently readable Shay 1994, while Grossman 1995 takes the issue even further and conjectures on the relationship between killing and societal change. Ryan 2008 provides a comprehensive look at the aftermath literature of the war, while Taylor 2003 investigates how filmmakers, historians, and writers have chosen to remember specific incidents from the conflict.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Bilton, Michael, and Kevin Sim. Four Hours in My Lai: A War Crime and Its Aftermath. New York: Viking, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Perhaps the best overall study of the My Lai massacre and its political and military aftermath in the United States.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Grossman, Dave. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A fascinating look at the psychological cost of killing, which contends in part that new US training methods led to soldiers in Vietnam killing at a higher rate than their World War II forbearers, with serious psychological consequences.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Isaacs, Arnold. Vietnam Shadows: The War, Its Ghosts, and Its Legacy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A wide-ranging and masterful study on the legacies of the Vietnam War ranging from veteran issues to the war’s impact on American foreign policy to the Vietnamese immigrant population.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Ryan, Maureen. The Other Side of Grief: The Home Front and the Aftermath in American Narratives of the Vietnam War. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                An important work that analyzes the aftermath of the conflict on the home front through the lens of a surprisingly wide array of narratives from the conflict’s military and civilian participants.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Schwenkel, Christina. The American War in Contemporary Vietnam: Transnational Remembrance and Representation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  An impressive study on how the Vietnamese have contextualized, memorialized, and reconciled their experience of conflict during the Vietnam War.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Scott, Wilbur. The Politics of Readjustment: Vietnam Veterans since the War. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A sociological study of veterans’ readjustment issues after the war focusing on the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, posttraumatic stress disorder, Agent Orange, and the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Shay, Jonathan. Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character. New York: Atheneum, 1994.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Part psychological study of posttraumatic stress disorder and part literary criticism of Homer’s The Iliad, this text compares the tale of Achilles’ psychological reaction to combat to that of soldiers in Vietnam.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Taylor, Mark. The Vietnam War in History, Literature and Film. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        After offering a brief history of five moments in the history of the Vietnam War, the book covers how those moments have been dealt with in film, history, and literature. A provocative, interdisciplinary look at how the United States remembers Vietnam.

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