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The Vietnam War: An Intimate History

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From the award-winning historian and filmmakers of The Civil War, Baseball, The War, The Roosevelts, and others: a vivid, uniquely powerful history of the conflict that tore America apart--the companion volume to the major, multipart PBS film to be aired in September 2017. More than forty years after it ended, the Vietnam War continues to haunt our country. We still argue o From the award-winning historian and filmmakers of The Civil War, Baseball, The War, The Roosevelts, and others: a vivid, uniquely powerful history of the conflict that tore America apart--the companion volume to the major, multipart PBS film to be aired in September 2017. More than forty years after it ended, the Vietnam War continues to haunt our country. We still argue over why we were there, whether we could have won, and who was right and wrong in their response to the conflict. When the war divided the country, it created deep political fault lines that continue to divide us today. Now, continuing in the tradition of their critically acclaimed collaborations, the authors draw on dozens and dozens of interviews in America and Vietnam to give us the perspectives of people involved at all levels of the war: U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers and their families, high-level officials in America and Vietnam, antiwar protestors, POWs, and many more. The book plunges us into the chaos and intensity of combat, even as it explains the rationale that got us into Vietnam and kept us there for so many years. Rather than taking sides, the book seeks to understand why the war happened the way it did, and to clarify its complicated legacy. Beautifully written and richly illustrated, this is a tour de force that is certain to launch a new national conversation. Read by Brian Corrigan with Fred Sanders, and with an introduction read by Ken Burns


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From the award-winning historian and filmmakers of The Civil War, Baseball, The War, The Roosevelts, and others: a vivid, uniquely powerful history of the conflict that tore America apart--the companion volume to the major, multipart PBS film to be aired in September 2017. More than forty years after it ended, the Vietnam War continues to haunt our country. We still argue o From the award-winning historian and filmmakers of The Civil War, Baseball, The War, The Roosevelts, and others: a vivid, uniquely powerful history of the conflict that tore America apart--the companion volume to the major, multipart PBS film to be aired in September 2017. More than forty years after it ended, the Vietnam War continues to haunt our country. We still argue over why we were there, whether we could have won, and who was right and wrong in their response to the conflict. When the war divided the country, it created deep political fault lines that continue to divide us today. Now, continuing in the tradition of their critically acclaimed collaborations, the authors draw on dozens and dozens of interviews in America and Vietnam to give us the perspectives of people involved at all levels of the war: U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers and their families, high-level officials in America and Vietnam, antiwar protestors, POWs, and many more. The book plunges us into the chaos and intensity of combat, even as it explains the rationale that got us into Vietnam and kept us there for so many years. Rather than taking sides, the book seeks to understand why the war happened the way it did, and to clarify its complicated legacy. Beautifully written and richly illustrated, this is a tour de force that is certain to launch a new national conversation. Read by Brian Corrigan with Fred Sanders, and with an introduction read by Ken Burns

30 review for The Vietnam War: An Intimate History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This has been a profound and moving reading experience. I felt as if I was reliving major moments of my life as I read this documentary on the Vietnam War, the companion piece to Ken Burns' visual piece aired so recently on PBS. I have not yet seen any of that, saving it for my completion of this book. I was a teenager when John Kennedy was elected president and when he was assassinated, not really very aware yet of Vietnam or the place it would have in everyone's life so soon. By the time I grad This has been a profound and moving reading experience. I felt as if I was reliving major moments of my life as I read this documentary on the Vietnam War, the companion piece to Ken Burns' visual piece aired so recently on PBS. I have not yet seen any of that, saving it for my completion of this book. I was a teenager when John Kennedy was elected president and when he was assassinated, not really very aware yet of Vietnam or the place it would have in everyone's life so soon. By the time I graduated high school in 1966, the reality of the draft and being shipped to Vietnam to fight was all too real for every male I knew, and every male of draft age in the country. Some managed to find repeated deferments (!!) but as the war and years progressed, most deferments didn't last either. More and more men were needed to fill the expanding need for boots on the ground. One of the truly exciting aspects of this book is the fact that it provides input from all sides, and from many views on each side. There are memoir-like statements from men who served with the ARVN, the forces of South Vietnam - both supporters and despisers of the government. There are the same from the men and women of the army of the North, and from the communist forces in the South. There are multiple first-hand reports from American servicemen, reporters and some nurses--the only women who were near combat in this war. These first-hand stories are interspersed with historical sections throughout the book, timed to coincide with events on the ground. There are also photographs throughout the text, some that were, and still are, famous and were seen throughout the world and on American television in the 1960s and 70s, but many that are new. Some of war, some of anti-war demonstrations, some political, some personal. They still have power. There is much to be learned from reading this book. One of the major quotes I took from this is spoken by Haldeman, of all people, on the impact of the release of the Pentagon Papers: out of the gobbledygook comes a very clear thing, which is: you can't trust the government...can't believe what they say...can't rely on their judgment. And..the infallibility of presidents, which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the president wants..even when it's wrong. And the president can be wrong. This, sadly, is a lesson the the United States has learned in spades since. But Vietnam and various political and military leaders responses to it began a slide. I do strongly recommend this book to people of all generations. Even if you think you know all of the details, I think there are likely more than a few new ones that will make it worth your while. And along side the ignominious actions of some, there are many heroes, some who lived, some who did not. For younger readers, there is the old adage of those who do not learn from history being condemned to repeat it. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This is the companion volume to the monumental Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary series featured on PBS TV in 2017. If anything, it is more visceral, containing horrifying interviews of the war’s participants on both sides of the struggle. The pictures on each page stare back at you. This meaningless war, for many long years, gave so much anguish to this long, suffering country. But in the end, after thirty years, despite the French and then the Americans, unity was achieved The war became existen This is the companion volume to the monumental Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary series featured on PBS TV in 2017. If anything, it is more visceral, containing horrifying interviews of the war’s participants on both sides of the struggle. The pictures on each page stare back at you. This meaningless war, for many long years, gave so much anguish to this long, suffering country. But in the end, after thirty years, despite the French and then the Americans, unity was achieved The war became existential and violent. Page 431 Private Tim O’Brien, 1969 “There was no sense of mission. There was no sense of daily purpose. We didn’t know why we were in a village, what we were suppose to accomplish. So we’d kick around jugs of rice and search houses and frisk people, not knowing what we were looking for and rarely finding anything. And somebody might die, one of our guys, and somebody might not. Then we’d come back to the same village a week later or two weeks later and do it all over again.” Page 238 (my book) Karl Marlantes “One of the things that I learned in the war is that we’re not the top species on the planet because were nice.” Page 370 Herman Conley, 1969 A couple of guys threw someone down a well – an old guy. No reason for it – I knew he couldn’t get out of that well. We weren’t the best people when we went over there.” We are provided with the history of how the United States became ensnared in the Vietnamese quagmire. Page 58. December, 1961 One December afternoon, Stanley Karnow, a Time correspondent, was having coffee with an Army press officer … when an enormous American aircraft carrier came around the bend in the Saigon River and began steaming toward them, its deck crowded with forty-seven brand-new helicopters. Karnow was astonished. “Look at that carrier!” he said. “I don’t see nothing,” the Army man answered. There were so many warning signs from so many levels of government to refrain from intervening and committing to a South Vietnam that was not interested in democracy and was corrupt. Page 125 Under Secretary of State George Ball in 1965 “Before we commit an endless flow of forces to South Vietnam, we must have more evidence than we now have that our troops will not bog down in the jungles and rice paddies – while we slowly blow the country to pieces.” The draft in the United States was not egalitarian. If you had the money there were various ways to avoid it. The combat soldiers were largely made up of the poor and under-privileged. There was an interesting essay on whether President Kennedy would have escalated the war like Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy had a better grasp of the world outside the United States than Lyndon Johnson. However, he was shocked by the Diem assassination which his government had instigated. The Kennedy administration had tired of the nefarious Diem regime and gave the go-ahead for the coup, naively thinking that no violence would be set in motion. Kennedy would have felt a need to aid the new government – who knows how far this would have gone. I was enthralled by the essays of the Vietnamese (both North and South); it is a viewpoint we seldom hear of. There is not much on agent orange whose affects are still present in Vietnam. There is nothing on the thousands of children fathered by American soldiers – except to say that a few hundred were adopted. Nevertheless, this is a powerful book. The last chapter on the last days of the American presence in Vietnam in 1975 were apocalyptic. Page 191 Martin Luther King, 1967 “If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.” Page 463 Bao Ninh in North Vietnamese Army “My generation, the people who lived through the Vietnam war, learned a great deal from our miserable and tragic experience. I wonder whether the lessons we absorbed at such tremendous cost are being past onto future generations? If they are not understood, or if they are forgotten, are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes, commit the same crimes, repeat the same disasters, spread the same sorrows?” Page 551 Frank Snepp, April 28/1975 “But something happened to me in that moment. I realized I had done what Americans had often done in Vietnam. They had forgotten that they were dealing with human beings. My experience in Vietnam had often been like a B-52 strike from on high. I never had to confront the consequences of my action. I could just let the bomb doors open and still remain detached. This experience changed all that – I realized I was no longer better than many of the other Americans who had been in Vietnam.”

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    As a reader who loves history, I turned to this book by Geoffrey C. Ward about the Vietnam War, an indelible mark on the American psyche. Pulled from some of the notes on a massive television documentary, Ward explores the war in new and engaging ways. His primary thesis, that Americans still argue and fight over the facts the war, shows that the largest military embarrassment in US history to date is highly divisive and multi-faceted. Ward takes an extremely detailed look at the war through the As a reader who loves history, I turned to this book by Geoffrey C. Ward about the Vietnam War, an indelible mark on the American psyche. Pulled from some of the notes on a massive television documentary, Ward explores the war in new and engaging ways. His primary thesis, that Americans still argue and fight over the facts the war, shows that the largest military embarrassment in US history to date is highly divisive and multi-faceted. Ward takes an extremely detailed look at the war through the lenses of military campaigns, politics, and social reaction to provide the reader with something well worth the time invested. While I am no expert, I can say that I was enthralled with much of what Ward had to say, lapping it up and adding to my knowledge of events surrounding this time in American history. A superb piece that covers many of the bases for the history buff. Ward chooses to explore the Vietnam skirmish, not only from the time that American entered the war, but rather the kernel of the issue in the region. He explores the French presence in the area, as well as how the Southern Asian actors all played their own role in building up tension. Vietnam was a Japanese plaything by the Second World War and soon became a hotbed of Cold War tensions, pitting the Communist North against the democratic South. The Americans saw an opening to push back the Red Wave and began pouring weapons and soldiers into the area. As Ward explores, those supporting the North did so with their own weapons and military prowess, but kept troop numbers to a minimum. Using talk of military decisions throughout, Ward shows how the Americans sought to treat this as another Korea, seeking a quick strike to make an impact, which failed miserably. This was not to be another swift battle, but rather one in a part of the world soldiers were not used to fighting. This was a new and unique military approach, which could have gone south on many occasions. Exploring the Vietnam War through the political lens, it was a hot potato issue for the Americans that would simply not settle. As mentioned above, there was a significant push to make this another quick strike to quash Communist sentiments in Asia, a Cold War clash to flex political muscle. However, things were not as cut and dry, as Ward explores. The war served as a lodestone for many American politicians, especially presidents from Kennedy through to Ford, all of whom saw it as a thorn in their sides. Ward explores detailed decisions and sentiments made by those in the political arena, many of whom sought to distance themselves from the growing animosity the electorate had of the war. What might have been a ‘saving mission’ soon turned sour and there was no turning back, which only created more animosity. Ward effectively shows how things in Asia turned the tables repeatedly and left politicians to scramble to find the right side, which would connect them with the growing resentment of the public. Ward’s greatest exploration throughout the book would have to be the social fallout. What began as a ‘war on the other side of the world’ soon became a means of dividing the American populace. The deeper the America investment in the war, the more resentment rose by the American people, particularly the young, who were on the list to draft. While it is no shock that the country’s fabric was torn apart by the war, Ward really gets to the root of the matter with repeated discussion around the blowback by the people, through marches, protests, outright defiance, and violence. The social divide was not only found within US borders, but there was a larger reaction around the world, as Ward mentions throughout. As the world watches on, many shake their heads. While it is hard to synthesise such a subject in a short review, I would be remiss if I did not try to offer some sentiments that arose as a reader. Geoffrey Ward draws on so many sources to really make a difference as he explores the nuances and blunt reactions about the war. He offers sensational analysis and commentary, with first-hand accounts from those who were there or spoke as members of the media. The strains in the political realm became a constant theme of the book, showing just how troublesome things became, as politicians scrambled to cobble together support when their name appeared on a ballot. Impossible to compartmentalise, the Vietnam War would be a real blight for America and, it would seem by the details of the narrative, that it remains an issue four decades later. To write something like this, Geoffrey C. Ward surely had to open the floodgates to offer a well-rounded piece. His narrative is full of well-documented sentiments on both sides of the arguments, without offering up too much on any single point. The detail provides a guide for how to following the detailed history that led to strong divisions within the American psyche. Long, thorough chapters provide the impetus for the reader to see just how much there was to consider, without getting too tied down into minutiae. I needed this depth to give me a better sense of what was taking place and how American truly well into an abyss, both political and social, with trying to show that their military might had not been decimated. While I have read a few books on the subject matter, I was unable to pull myself away from this book, lapping up everything that Ward had to offer. I will have to see what else he’s penned, both on this subject and others, to see if I might feel the same sense of education and entertainment in equal measure. Kudos, Mr. Ward, for this stunning tome. I hope others take the time to educate themselves on such an important subject matter from the latter part of the 20th century. Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dee Arr

    My thanks to NetGalley, the authors, and the publisher for an advance copy of this book. During the Fulbright Hearings in early 1966, George Kennon, a respected writer on American policy concerning the Soviet Union, echoed John Quincy Adams advice that Americans should “…go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” These were followed up with a warning that while America could win the war in Viet Nam, he did not wish for the country to be responsible for the high degree of damage and loss of My thanks to NetGalley, the authors, and the publisher for an advance copy of this book. During the Fulbright Hearings in early 1966, George Kennon, a respected writer on American policy concerning the Soviet Union, echoed John Quincy Adams advice that Americans should “…go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” These were followed up with a warning that while America could win the war in Viet Nam, he did not wish for the country to be responsible for the high degree of damage and loss of civilian life it would require. At the same time, there were those who felt exactly opposite. Many were uncertain of the best course of action to follow. It was these myriad opinions that produced what is now the history of Vietnam and America, events that enveloped the lives of most people in both countries. “The Vietnam War,” co-authored by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, presented an account of everything leading up to the war, the war itself, and its aftermath. The authors dug deep, interviewing people who had been a part of the conflict in one way or another. What struck me at times was the mindless futility of it all, and how people who meant well got caught up in the moment and even with the facts hitting them right in the face, still continued to push for more involvement. One instance involved General Westmoreland in April of 1967 arguing that with another 200,000 troops, he might be able to end the war in two years. President Johnson’s answer was simplistic, yet neatly described the problem: “…when we add divisions, can’t the enemy add divisions? Where does it all end?” At the same time, there were voices of reason, such as Robert McNamara’s, whose private memo to Johnson pointed out the thousands of non-combatants being injured or dying every week, and the picture of a superpower “…trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one.” About a third of the way through the book, I began to notice a disturbing trend. More and more, the reasons for not being in the war were being trumpeted, even when the majority of people still favored America’s participation. For instance, after the Tet Offensive in 1968, a poll showed just less than half of the people said America should never have become ensnared in Vietnam. The following long paragraph was filled with negative opinions about American participation. It is true the country was divided at that time, but the book seems to slant the viewpoint as if this was the majority viewpoint that the Johnson Administration was ignoring. My comment is not an argument for the Vietnam War, but I had been hoping to see more of the reasons from both sides as to the split within America that caused violence in the streets. In other words, this is history. We have the ability to step back and look at it from all sides. Only looking from certain angles is a disservice to the reader. That said, even though there were more examples to sway a reader’s thoughts, these were still facts, presented in the form of quoted statements, letters, documents, pictures, and so on. More and more people did grow disenchanted with the war as it dragged on, there were race issues within the armed services as well as back home, and sometimes (as with all wars) there were simply some foolish decisions made that resulted in the deaths of soldiers. One cannot come away from this book without a new perspective, or at least a lot of fresh fodder to chew on. Most interesting was the ability to learn about the thinking of people from America, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam (including those in the Viet Cong). While it seemed that most eventually saw the futility of a continuing war, many in the different governments had their own agenda. Getting them all to agree was an impossibility. The question asked by many soldiers, “What are we doing here?” gains momentum when placed against that backdrop. This unquestionably contributed to the increasing number of American deserters. A diary found on the body of a North Vietnamese soldier asked “How many more lives will have to be sacrificed before this country will be liberated?” Apparently, soldiers on both sides had similar thoughts. This book is a great addition to anyone wishing to gain more understanding about the Vietnam War. I would suggest that one might experience greater enjoyment with a hardcover or paperback copy, as there are many sidebar stories that relate personal experiences connected with the historical text. Four-and-a-half stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Scott Hitchcock

    “The lesson of history is that no one learns.” ― Steven Erikson, Deadhouse Gates 4.5*'s. This was as compelling a documentary as I have read/watched/listened to in a long time. The first reason why is that the narration moves between micro and macro in an effective manner showing the high level decisions and actions of the participants and then takes that down to the trenches, streets, political conventions, embassies and college campuses to show how the affected parties reacted. The second reason “The lesson of history is that no one learns.” ― Steven Erikson, Deadhouse Gates 4.5*'s. This was as compelling a documentary as I have read/watched/listened to in a long time. The first reason why is that the narration moves between micro and macro in an effective manner showing the high level decisions and actions of the participants and then takes that down to the trenches, streets, political conventions, embassies and college campuses to show how the affected parties reacted. The second reason is there are no sacred cows. The French, North and South Vietnamese, other WWII participants who could have changed history if not for the greed of colonialism, the Russians, Chinese, Cambodians, the Lao and especially both the Democrats and Republicans are all called to task. In the US the different counter culture movements are also not held above reproach and neither are actors such as Jane Fonda and John Wayne. If you're going to tell this story you need to take on everybody. The next reason is that the story doesn't just start with Kennedy's involvement. It goes back and touches on the French colonialism and all the way back to Woodrow Wilson. If the different nations had just listened to his world order reforms this might have all be avoidable but the French after both wars insisted on maintaining their empire. Then we see the mistakes made by the likes of Truman, Ike, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford and all the other big players of that day like Mcnamara, Rusk and others. So many saw this war as unwinnable long before it was ever fought. The actions of the anti war movement hurting their own cause by being too militant and causing support to go back to the government by not embracing the middle class and then the government using scare tactics and if you don't agree with the country you're not a true American. The Vietnamese and their torture of prisoners and then exclusion through racial bigotry towards have Vietnamese half American born children is equally reprehensible. Their own colonialism in Cambodia not far removed from French and American actions. And the worst part? Mr Erikson's quote says it all. Nobody learned a damn thing. You still have the government lying to the public. You still have the agenda of the rich. You still have racial divide. You still have scare tactics and patriotism used as weapons of control. This war and era encapsulated everything in American history that keeps repeating itself. The social divide and extremism of both the left and the right is growing even worse today.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ana-Maria Bujor

    A monumental work - looks great, reads great, and it's written with care and compassion for everyone involved in a war that divides people to this day. It's highly readable - it reads like a novel in many ways. The main narrative is interspersed at times with snapshots including personal accounts, photos and lesser known facts. These snapshots make the book a lot more real and personal and not just a description of battles and political decisions. The photos are fantastic, the structure is very A monumental work - looks great, reads great, and it's written with care and compassion for everyone involved in a war that divides people to this day. It's highly readable - it reads like a novel in many ways. The main narrative is interspersed at times with snapshots including personal accounts, photos and lesser known facts. These snapshots make the book a lot more real and personal and not just a description of battles and political decisions. The photos are fantastic, the structure is very good and easy to follow. All an all I wish more books were like this one. As a Romanian living in 2022, with no connection whatsoever with this conflict I can say I am much more informed now. So big props to this book for putting it all together.

  7. 4 out of 5

    M.L. Rio

    This book is not perfect. But it is important. And if more people knew more about the Vietnam War and how it came about, we might be able to avoid making the same tragic mistakes over and over again.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    50th anniversary of the Pentagon Papers Somebody had to show some courage.... “Yes, everybody was lying but for different reasons and for different causes. In particular, a very large range of high-level doves thought we should get out and should not have got involved at all. They were lying to the public to give the impression that they were supporting the president when they did not believe in what the president was doing. “They did not agree with it but they would have spoken out at the cost of 50th anniversary of the Pentagon Papers Somebody had to show some courage.... “Yes, everybody was lying but for different reasons and for different causes. In particular, a very large range of high-level doves thought we should get out and should not have got involved at all. They were lying to the public to give the impression that they were supporting the president when they did not believe in what the president was doing. “They did not agree with it but they would have spoken out at the cost of their jobs and their future careers. None of them did that or took any risk of doing it and the price of the silence of the doves was several million Vietnamese, Indochinese, and 58,000 Americans.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/202... ======== Like Robert McNamara, Henry Kissinger concluded in 1965 that the Vietnam War was hopeless. But like McNamara before him, still asserted: “we have to escalate in order to prove we aren’t impotent, and the more impotent we prove to be, the more we have to escalate.” This article summarizes the huge price so many paid for that folly.... https://thebaffler.com/civilification... =================== “History doesn’t repeat itself, but human nature remains the same.” (Ken Burns) Great companion read to the documentary. The documentary itself is Burns' greatest work. A masterpiece.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    I feel the miniseries was much better in part because of the interviews with Tim O'Brien and the film of the horrors of war that just aren't captured in this book. This was one of the few books on Vietnam that delved into the history of the French colonialists. Some notes: The Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 cost the French and Vietnamese 10,000 lives. The French finally surrendered and Vietnam was partitioned at the 17th parallel. ARVN (Army Republic of Vietnam) troops were in the South and were a I feel the miniseries was much better in part because of the interviews with Tim O'Brien and the film of the horrors of war that just aren't captured in this book. This was one of the few books on Vietnam that delved into the history of the French colonialists. Some notes: The Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 cost the French and Vietnamese 10,000 lives. The French finally surrendered and Vietnam was partitioned at the 17th parallel. ARVN (Army Republic of Vietnam) troops were in the South and were allied with the Americans. They fought the Vietcong. 30,000 tons of napalm bombs were dropped on Vietnam during the war. Dr. Phan Quang Dan was a political rival of Diem and was thrown into a cell beneath the Saigon zoo for "treason" and then sent to Con Son Island prison, famous for its tiger cages. Diem was assassinated on November 2, 1963. Bombing of North Vietnam caused retaliation against American P.O.W.s. The bombing was also unpopular back in the United States. 42,000 Native Americans served in Vietnam, the highest rate of any ethnicity. Things fell apart in 1968. The Battle of Hue took place in the old colonial city which was completely destroyed. It was an ARVN victory but nearly 10,000 troops were killed and more than 5,000 civilians were executed by the North Vietnamese. In 1969 Life magazine published the photos and names of all those military members killed in a week. It had an enormous effect on the American public. 4 stars

  10. 5 out of 5

    Fred Klein

    This massive book is a monumental achievement, even without the documentary series that it accompanies. It provides a context for the American involvement, providing the history before and after. I was touched in so many ways by this book. I was ready to cry when reading about the parents learning that their child had been killed, and how a serviceman told his mother that he was probably not coming back. (His mother told him that he would not die because he was "special", and he responded that e This massive book is a monumental achievement, even without the documentary series that it accompanies. It provides a context for the American involvement, providing the history before and after. I was touched in so many ways by this book. I was ready to cry when reading about the parents learning that their child had been killed, and how a serviceman told his mother that he was probably not coming back. (His mother told him that he would not die because he was "special", and he responded that every mother thinks her child is "special", and he was putting "special" people in body bags.) I was angry when reading about how our leaders, like Johnson and Nixon, lied to us, and about how a celebrity like Jane Fonda betrayed us. This is a hard read, but an important, and, I think, necessary one. Invest your time in this one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This nonfiction book was well done.....and it was an education of sorts. I picked this one up for two reasons. One is because it had great ratings on GR and the other is because of the controversy that has plagued this particular war. I was very young when this took place and because it was so recent, it wasn't in our history books in school. This book laid it all out. The research was well organized. I liked the attention to detail. This contained a fair amount of tragedy and sadness, but I lov This nonfiction book was well done.....and it was an education of sorts. I picked this one up for two reasons. One is because it had great ratings on GR and the other is because of the controversy that has plagued this particular war. I was very young when this took place and because it was so recent, it wasn't in our history books in school. This book laid it all out. The research was well organized. I liked the attention to detail. This contained a fair amount of tragedy and sadness, but I loved how the author handled it. This book was long...the audio is over 30 hours, and not once did this feel long. I could only listen for a few hours each day, but definitely worth it. So 4 stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    Conscription is slavery. War is mass murder. - Murray N. Rothbard What an unnecessary catastrophe. The Vietnam War is among the most pointless of the United States' foreign escapades. Waged under the guise of an anti-communist crusade, the Vietnam conflict began with U.S. support of French imperialism and devolved into an political and martial quagmire that killed roughly a million people and ended the careers of two presidents. This multi-decade, fruitless conflict should have been a lesson aga Conscription is slavery. War is mass murder. - Murray N. Rothbard What an unnecessary catastrophe. The Vietnam War is among the most pointless of the United States' foreign escapades. Waged under the guise of an anti-communist crusade, the Vietnam conflict began with U.S. support of French imperialism and devolved into an political and martial quagmire that killed roughly a million people and ended the careers of two presidents. This multi-decade, fruitless conflict should have been a lesson against American adventurism abroad, but as modern escapades in the Middle East show, the U.S. government has unfortunately learned nothing. As for the book itself: Ward is an excellent writer, and he has crafted an outstanding narrative here. The intimate stories of soldiers and civilians (American and Vietnamese) involved in the conflict were incredibly moving. But it was also frustrating to read about the incompetence, corruption, and callous disregard for human life demonstrated by all governments involved. This is my first book on the Vietnam War, and I am glad I started here. Easy recommendation.

  13. 5 out of 5

    John Plowright

    ‘The Vietnam War’ is the companion volume to the 10-part, 18-hour Ken Burns PBS documentary series of that name but like other books co-authored by him and Geoffrey C. Ward, including ‘Jazz’, ‘The War’ and, most recently, ‘The Roosevelts’, it stands in its own right as a richly illustrated work which utilises evocative primary sources to the full within a strong narrative framework. There are ten chapters and an Epilogue, punctuated by five essays by other authors. The most controversial of these ‘The Vietnam War’ is the companion volume to the 10-part, 18-hour Ken Burns PBS documentary series of that name but like other books co-authored by him and Geoffrey C. Ward, including ‘Jazz’, ‘The War’ and, most recently, ‘The Roosevelts’, it stands in its own right as a richly illustrated work which utilises evocative primary sources to the full within a strong narrative framework. There are ten chapters and an Epilogue, punctuated by five essays by other authors. The most controversial of these is undoubtedly Frederk Logevall’s ‘Kennedy and what might have been’ pondering whether had he survived Dallas and won a second term, Kennedy’s scepticism regarding the wisdom of military action in Vietnam would have triumphed over the felt need to be seen to be tough on communism and prevent toppling dominoes. After judiciously reviewing the contradictory evidence Logevall comes down against the Oliver Stone school of thought that JFK had already sanctioned ‘incipient withdrawal’ before his death, arguing that the President was sensibly keeping his options open but that on balance “JFK most likely would not have have Americanized the war, but instead would have opted for some form of disengagement, presumably by way of a face-saving negotiated settlement.” In the event, of course, Johnson allowed himself to get progressively drawn into the war (although it is rightly pointed out that he enjoyed very limited room for manoeuvre) and it was left to Nixon to find a superficially honourable way out. America’s formal exit from south-east Asia was humiliating and Vietnam casts a very long shadow so that it is still capable of exciting extreme emotions (note, for example, Trump’s disgraceful characterization of former POW McCain as a “loser”). Personally I would have liked more on the war’s legacy but one cannot have everything and what one does have here is a superb one-volume history of the war which is much more substantial than the coffee-table book which it appears to be at first sight.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jesper Jorgensen

    Griping, moving, saddening. The book is a mix of ‘big pictures’ and personal accounts. From both sides, from many levels. The narration splendid, one of the best books I have yet read/listened to about the The Vietnam War

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lance

    This book is a very comprehensive look at the Vietnam War as it covers the military missions and policies, the political landscape and how it affected five US presidential administrations from Eisenhower to Ford, and the social scene back in the United States. Hearing the accounts of people involved, from a nurse in the field to former POWs to A young lady who lost her brother and took up the anti-war movement made the audio book a better experience than I believe I would have obtained from read This book is a very comprehensive look at the Vietnam War as it covers the military missions and policies, the political landscape and how it affected five US presidential administrations from Eisenhower to Ford, and the social scene back in the United States. Hearing the accounts of people involved, from a nurse in the field to former POWs to A young lady who lost her brother and took up the anti-war movement made the audio book a better experience than I believe I would have obtained from reading a print or e-book

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bill Yeadon

    Some may think it redundant to watch the Ken Burns mini-series on Vietnam and to read the book. Each complemented the other. Any project that Ken Burns is involved in has been superlative. In the early 90's when Burns did the Civil War Series I became hooked on history and have since read hundreds of books on all different periods of history. The Vietnam was even more personal because I was at the perfect age to have fought at the time of the Tet offensive. Fortunately, a failed physical kept me Some may think it redundant to watch the Ken Burns mini-series on Vietnam and to read the book. Each complemented the other. Any project that Ken Burns is involved in has been superlative. In the early 90's when Burns did the Civil War Series I became hooked on history and have since read hundreds of books on all different periods of history. The Vietnam was even more personal because I was at the perfect age to have fought at the time of the Tet offensive. Fortunately, a failed physical kept me out. Unfortunately, that means someone else went in my place. Regardless of your views on the war, we all agree that it was a horrible chapter in our history and one that accomplished little other than killing almost 60, 000 of our soldiers. And that doesn't count the many thousands that had their lives destroyed in other ways. In both the mini-series and the book the most emotional aspects came from the interviews of those who fought, those who protested, and those who fought against us. I am not sure if we will ever get peace from the memories of that time. But I do know this is Ken Burns has come the closest so far.

  17. 4 out of 5

    M(^-__-^)M_ken_M(^-__-^)M

    The Vietnam War: An Intimate History wow just wow, so much to digest the long and violent historical trauma that was Vietnam. All the sleazy politics the enraged political protests all the big wigs top brass stories. Just a complete and utter waste of human life, the sadness of families losses both sides American and Vietnamese. Cold war antics by over zealous politicians believing they were right and superior to all others, really now looking back they were all caught in a trap and dragged a lo The Vietnam War: An Intimate History wow just wow, so much to digest the long and violent historical trauma that was Vietnam. All the sleazy politics the enraged political protests all the big wigs top brass stories. Just a complete and utter waste of human life, the sadness of families losses both sides American and Vietnamese. Cold war antics by over zealous politicians believing they were right and superior to all others, really now looking back they were all caught in a trap and dragged a lot of inoccent lives down into their futile ambitions. We should never ever let ourselves get caught like that again, and really know who we vote for. This story just had so much information just mind boggling it covered the common ground soldier from both sides letters of bitterness sadness and hope, this just got my emotions going and I really felt moved by these stories, that's what was so great about this. Leaves a lot to contemplate and powerful emotions welling up inside me. Just a powerful and a must read. Be strong always, and hope for a time when we won't war against each other. Just hard out competition to do better.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    While I did not think this work gave sufficient or fair consideration to the Vietnamese side of the story, it did a good job chronicling the American turmoil, unfairness and attempt at nationwide reconciliation. From the Ken Burns docseries.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nabeel Hassan

    History.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dixie

    This book is full of the detailed history, photos, and human interest stories that fans of Ken Burns' previous "miniseries" have come to expect. This is history that happened during my childhood and that I have never really learned much about, so it was fascinating reading for my inner history nerd, but pretty horrific in many of the details. I needed to take it broken up into small chunks and the presentation style of this volume lends itself to exactly that. I think this would be much better t This book is full of the detailed history, photos, and human interest stories that fans of Ken Burns' previous "miniseries" have come to expect. This is history that happened during my childhood and that I have never really learned much about, so it was fascinating reading for my inner history nerd, but pretty horrific in many of the details. I needed to take it broken up into small chunks and the presentation style of this volume lends itself to exactly that. I think this would be much better to have in the print edition, as the Kindle edition wasn't laid out in the most easy to follow manner. I voluntarily read an advanced review copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley and offer my honest opinion in response.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    The Vietnam War divided the American public, it weakened the armed forces, consumed vast resources and lives and is still hotly debated. Was it worth it? What did it mean? What was it all for? Why I started this book: With Veteran's Day this weekend, I wanted to read something topical, something to remind me of why we have Monday off. Why I finished it: Powerful, and the audio contained the actual participants talking about their experiences. But the PBS mini-series was better. There is something The Vietnam War divided the American public, it weakened the armed forces, consumed vast resources and lives and is still hotly debated. Was it worth it? What did it mean? What was it all for? Why I started this book: With Veteran's Day this weekend, I wanted to read something topical, something to remind me of why we have Monday off. Why I finished it: Powerful, and the audio contained the actual participants talking about their experiences. But the PBS mini-series was better. There is something about seeing and hearing that is so powerful. After all it was the first war that was broadcast into peoples' homes on the nightly news. And Burns was careful to include the music of the decade, Vietnamese interviewees from North and South, peace protestors and veterans. Meticulously researched and heartrendingly inconclusive.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sebastien

    Nearly an identical parallel of the docu-series of the same name, "The Vietnam War: An Intimate History" goes into facets of the war that most histories don't. It showcases South Vietnamese frustrations that the United States considered it an "American war" in all of their media, goes deep into Nixon's bigotry and crookedness (also did you know that Nixon referred to Kissinger as his "Jew boy"?), and occasionally gives you a glimpse of the North Vietnamese power politics and corruption. It was so Nearly an identical parallel of the docu-series of the same name, "The Vietnam War: An Intimate History" goes into facets of the war that most histories don't. It showcases South Vietnamese frustrations that the United States considered it an "American war" in all of their media, goes deep into Nixon's bigotry and crookedness (also did you know that Nixon referred to Kissinger as his "Jew boy"?), and occasionally gives you a glimpse of the North Vietnamese power politics and corruption. It was so enjoyable, and it's a pity that it wasn't longer. I could consume history like this for life.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I was inspired to buy this (as an audiobook) as I really enjoyed the series on Netflix. When viewing the series, I thought its strength lay in the way it combined first hand accounts, official documents and newspaper reports to set a very broad diplomatic background to political and military events happening in both north and south Vietnam between the First World War and the withdrawal of the USA from Vietnam in 1975. Beginning with Ho Chi Minh's failed attempt in 1919 to petition Woodrow Wilson I was inspired to buy this (as an audiobook) as I really enjoyed the series on Netflix. When viewing the series, I thought its strength lay in the way it combined first hand accounts, official documents and newspaper reports to set a very broad diplomatic background to political and military events happening in both north and south Vietnam between the First World War and the withdrawal of the USA from Vietnam in 1975. Beginning with Ho Chi Minh's failed attempt in 1919 to petition Woodrow Wilson for support to acquire Vietnamese independence from France, the book tracks both the international relationships and domestic affairs that determined the US's policy in Vietnam as well as the North Vietnamese aspirations for a united, communist Vietnam independent of foreign interference. The book describes the slow creep of US involvement following France's withdrawal in 1954 and the increasingly heavy resistance to this by the Viet Cong. The US began cautiously by limiting its activity to loaning military advisers and by passively manipulating the South Vietnamese government but as the Vietcong became more assertive , so too did the US's resolve to halt the spread of communism. The first US marines arrived in 1965 followed over the years by many more till by 1968 there were over half a million troops in the country. Finally, the US broke a long-standing reluctance to extend the war by attacking Viet Cong bases in Laos and Cambodia. The authors made an admirable attempt to see the broad and narrow policies and events of the war from many sides - the Buddhist, the NFL, the Viet Cong, the South Vietnamese government, the US president's and the US military command (they did not always agree). To do this, an enormous number of witnesses were interviewed and their responses recorded. Also used, were diplomatic communications and news reports. By far the most weight, however, was given to the domestic affairs that impacted on the US's determination firstly to win the war and, when that seemed unlikely, to negotiate an honourable peace. Gaining votes in election years was critical - especially with Ford and Nixon, winning support in the house was vital but above all else were the failed attempts to gain universal public support for the war by discrediting the fast growing anti-war movements. Added to this were the race riots following the assassination of MLK Jr in 1968 and the resulting racial tension experienced by the troops in Vietnam. Also discussed at great length was the relationship between the US and the South Vietnamese government, with the widespread corruption in the latter being a bone of contention to the former. Some consideration in the book was given to the demise of Ho Chi Minh's influence in the Vietnamese national movement and the complexities of the support given to the movement by Russia and China whose interests were sometimes in conflict. Hanoi often had to perform a fine balancing act to appease both. Similarly, more weight is given to the experiences of the US soldiers than to those of the Viet Cong soldiers. Presumably this is on account of the easy availability of sources in the US compared with Vietnam. I would have liked to see more though - especially since what, in the light of later accounts by VietCong participants, seemed to be growing disillusion with the promises of glory and the conditions under which they fought. Desertion was widespread but not uncommon on the American side either. The book describes the disintegrating morale and discipline of the US soldiers, many of whom became heroin addicts. Particularly disturbing was the practice of fragging - or hurling a hand grenade at a particular officer whose actions were displeasing. This book records many instances of these. All in all, it was a well researched and structured account of an unforgettably futile war. Just as the series was professionally presented, the audiobook was excellently narrated and often almost impossible to put down. Highly recommended for anyone who still thinks there is glory in war.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Roula Marouda

    "I wonder whether the lessons we absorbed at such tremendous cost are being passed on to future generations? If they are not understood, or if they are forgotten, are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes, commit the same crimes, repeat the same disasters, spread the same sorrows?" - Bao Ninh A historical report mainly focusing on how the US lost the Vietnam War (although we could debate how one may lose or win a war that was not theirs to begin with). A riveting read, easy on the eyes and the bra "I wonder whether the lessons we absorbed at such tremendous cost are being passed on to future generations? If they are not understood, or if they are forgotten, are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes, commit the same crimes, repeat the same disasters, spread the same sorrows?" - Bao Ninh A historical report mainly focusing on how the US lost the Vietnam War (although we could debate how one may lose or win a war that was not theirs to begin with). A riveting read, easy on the eyes and the brain. By this I mean that the book does not provide an apathetic inventory of historical facts. It is written is such a way that as a reader you are simultaneously in the vietnamese jungle following a US marine, in a protest in Chicago and in Saigon watching smoke rise from the presidential palace. The inclusion of excerpts from interviews, individual experiences, the references to historical photographs make the reading of this book a personal experience. It is easy to imagine the events as they are taking place similarly to watching a motion picture. Providing insight to both the political and societal environment in the US and Vietnam, the events that take place are understood within a wider context. One thing I would have liked, would have been more information on events taking place in Hanoi. The book is predominantly focused on the American perspective of events not that book advertises itself as anything different. However there is only the occasional reference to matters in Hanoi. Whether that is due to the direction this book took or a general lack of insight and specific information on matters taking place within communist governments, I do not know. Other than this minor issue, I thoroughly enjoyed (in terms of gaining knowledge not the actual content; reading about a war can never be truly enjoyable obviously) this book which was my first educational experience relating to the famed Vietnamese War.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    I have read a lot of books about Vietnam but this one is different from most of them since it covers the time period from The French involvement until the victory of north Vietnam in 1975 and the reunification of the country. I experienced this book in the audible and Kindle editions. Since I had watch the Ken Burns television series on TBS I thought this book might be quite repetitious. But for whatever reason it was not at all. In the introduction to the book there is a suggestion that this boo I have read a lot of books about Vietnam but this one is different from most of them since it covers the time period from The French involvement until the victory of north Vietnam in 1975 and the reunification of the country. I experienced this book in the audible and Kindle editions. Since I had watch the Ken Burns television series on TBS I thought this book might be quite repetitious. But for whatever reason it was not at all. In the introduction to the book there is a suggestion that this book attempts to cover this controversial war in a balanced way. I’m not sure exactly what that would mean but it certainly does give first person recollections from people who participated in all sides in the war. In spite of the fact that I thought there was nothing new I could learn about the war I was surprised to learn for the first time that there were 500,000 South Korean soldiers who participated with the United States in the war. The recollections of a number of people in the book our familiar authors who have written their own works about the war. The Kindle book includes many photographs including all of the classic ones that you associate with the war coverage in the media. There is also a considerable bibliography and notes section at the end of the Kindle book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pat Rolston

    If you read one book about the Vietnam war and America’s role this is that book as it is unequaled documenting all participants and bringing stories to life from individuals to nations. This is history that must be understood to know why we are the nation we have become. We are defined by our cumulative history as people and a nation. Those who espouse any single label for America from positively exceptional to monstrously imperialistic fail to understand the arc of history. As Vietnam and our t If you read one book about the Vietnam war and America’s role this is that book as it is unequaled documenting all participants and bringing stories to life from individuals to nations. This is history that must be understood to know why we are the nation we have become. We are defined by our cumulative history as people and a nation. Those who espouse any single label for America from positively exceptional to monstrously imperialistic fail to understand the arc of history. As Vietnam and our the history of this undeclared war demonstrate we have become an amalgamation of that which can’t be captured by any one phrase or singular notion. The ultimate downfall of nations and individuals can be traced to allowing the darkness of ignorance to block out that light of truth as revealed by history. That light cleanses the hubris of self styled exceptionalism and saves us from becoming a monster of unspeakable acts. Unfortunately few of our leaders have the courage to apply the lessons of history and continue to perpetuate the myth of military power as America’s strength when in fact we hasten our downfall repeating the mistakes of the past. This is a book that forces deep unvarnished self examination in light of history written in the best of traditions. This book in the final analysis brilliantly documents the anti- war movement. It helps us recognize as citizens our fate does not need to be anchored by failed leadership that ignores the lessons of history. Those lessons include speaking and acting out truth to power that can save us from the hubris and greed of failed heads of state and government.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Donald Owens II

    This is not a fun book to read. I began this book with the idea that the Vietnam War was confusing, without clear reason, and of questionable constitutionality. 640 pages later I conclude that the Vietnam War was confusing, without clear reason, and of questionable constitutionality. If this book is accurate, even partially, it makes a strong case that no nation should ever trust their government.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Extraordinary Account of the Vietnam War I've read other books about the Vietnam War and watched Ken Burns ' series. This book is an accompanying guide for the show. I found the book very absorbing and moving. The photographs show up beautifully in the ebook and the writing was absorbing. I can't recommend this book enough. Extraordinary Account of the Vietnam War I've read other books about the Vietnam War and watched Ken Burns ' series. This book is an accompanying guide for the show. I found the book very absorbing and moving. The photographs show up beautifully in the ebook and the writing was absorbing. I can't recommend this book enough.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Reem Mohsen

    i watched the show, saw all that was in the book, very well covered, a very good historic book about the effects of America involvement in the Vietnam War.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Krishna Balasubramaniam

    A comprehensive, revealing account of what was beyond doubt the most controversial, polarizing issue in US history.

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