Tim G said...
Tim G said...
Thanks for your incisive comments, Jim. Hastings's book is the first and only book I've read about the Vietnam War. Are there others you recommend?
I've read many of them. I'd take a pass on Frances Fitzgerald's "Fire in the Lake" which was in IMHO overrated in the 70s, in part because unlike Hastings' book it has more of a political tunnel vision and is also a pretty dull read. Now that I've got that off my chest...
I highly recommend "A Bright Shining Lie" by Neil Sheehan. It's about
the war in Vietnam but framed around the involvement of John Paul Vann who was a controversial lieutenant colonel, womanizer, insubordinate - not someone I'd want my sister to date. But he had his ear to the ground more than the brass in Saigon ever did and made it a point to be in the field. Even after he was eased out of the Army he returned to Vietnam as a civilian on the U.S. government payroll and ended up -- as a civilian -- doing the job of a major general. Interesting character and an interesting take on the war.
In the realm of thinly-disguised fiction written by guys who were boots on the ground, Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" and "If I Die in a Combat Zone" are must read, as is Bao Ninh's "The Sorrow of War" which tells a similar somewhat fictionalized version of the same war from the perspective of an NVA soldier. If you saw the Ken Burns Vietnam TV series Bao Ninh was one of the frequent talking head commentators.
There are others, but I especially recommend those.
I still had two years left in the Navy after 'Nam and then returned to college at UMass Boston in '71 just as the Pentagon Papers came out. So my last two years of college I was pretty deep in the weeds of the 4-volume complete edition of the papers and some more academic books --David Marr's "Vietnamese Anticolonialism"-- North Vietnamese propaganda pamphlets, etc. (which I don't recommend for light reading unless you have a term paper or a grade riding on it).
And if you have the stomach for a somewhat brutal read, I recommend Mark Bowden's "Hue 1968." That battle I mentioned in my previous post where I was safely down coast reading classified intelligence briefings from Saigon about
how our Marines were "mopping up" in Hue, when in fact they were nearly surrounded, severely outnumbered, and anyone else on scene who had a pulse -- sailor, cook, clerk --became a temporary Marine.