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A Vietnam War Reader

A Vietnam War Reader: A Documentary History from American and Vietnamese Perspectives

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    A Vietnam War Reader
    Book Description:

    An essential new resource for students and teachers of the Vietnam War, this concise collection of primary sources opens a valuable window on an extraordinarily complex conflict.The materials gathered here, from both the American and Vietnamese sides, remind readers that the conflict touched the lives of many people in a wide range of social and political situations and spanned a good deal more time than the decade of direct U.S. combat. Indeed, the U.S. war was but one phase in a string of conflicts that varied significantly in character and geography. Michael Hunt brings together the views of the conflict's disparate players--from Communist leaders, Vietnamese peasants, Saigon loyalists, and North Vietnamese soldiers to U.S. policymakers, soldiers, and critics of the war. By allowing the participants to speak, this volume encourages readers to formulate their own historically grounded understanding of a still controversial struggle.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0435-0
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Preface (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. Introduction. The Vietnam War: From Myth to History (pp. xvii-xxii)

    For most Americans today, the history of the Vietnam War is like a play that unfolds in ways quite different from the audience’s preconceptions. Ticket holders take their seats expecting a drama about American soldiers. But once the curtain goes up, there are some surprises — the Vietnamese characters dominate the stage at the outset, the American characters arrive late (soldiers among the last), the play proves far longer than anticipated, and the plotline takes some unfamiliar twists. This collection of documents — snippets from a real drama — should also shatter some expectations that readers carry in their heads. The materials gathered...

  5. Guide to Abbreviations (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  6. Chronology (pp. xxv-xxviii)
  7. Map of Vietnam (pp. xxix-xxxii)
  8. 1 The Setting: Colonialism and the Cold War (to 1954) (pp. 1-28)

    The Vietnam War story begins with patriotic ancestors who opened the drama decades before their country had even begun to penetrate American consciousness. Three generations of well-educated, politically engaged Vietnamese faced French colonial control as a force that was penetrating and upending their world. They made liberation from that control their prime concern in life.

    The French presence loomed ever larger and more ominous between the 1840s and the 1890s. Naval expeditions and diplomats extended a grip over Vietnam as well as Cambodia and Laos (collectively dubbed Indochina by the French). The rich Mekong Delta of southern Vietnam (known as...

  9. 2 Drawing the Lines of Conflict, 1954–1963 (pp. 29-56)

    In mid-1954 the future of South Vietnam began to emerge as a major bone of contention between

    U.S. cold warriors and Vietnam’s Communist leaders. The defining event was the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in the spring. A Viet Minh army, built up by former history teacher Vo Nguyen Giap with help from the newly installed Communist regime in China, won a decisive victory. French domestic support for the distant colonial struggle had evaporated and with it the last hopes of France’s holding on to Indochina. President Dwight Eisenhower had considered last-minute military measures to rescue the beleaguered French...

  10. 3 From Proxy War to Direct Conflict, 1963–1965 (pp. 57-84)

    As 1963 came to a close, the players in the battle for the South took stock and reached conclusions that would entrench them more deeply in their mutually irreconcilable positions. Saigon was in political turmoil following Diem’s death at the hands of U.S.-backed generals. The nlf seized the chance to expand its influence. Leaders in Hanoi, thinking victory was within their grasp, committed in December to increased support for the insurgency. Kennedy’s assassination just weeks after Diem’s put Lyndon Johnson in the hot seat. He immediately signaled that he would follow an unyielding policy.

    Johnson would gradually ratchet up U.S....

  11. 4 The Lords of War, 1965–1973 (pp. 85-122)

    Americans and Vietnamese began a brutal and prolonged exchange of blows in the latter part of 1965. In this slugging match, pavn and nlf forces had inferior resources but a clear strategy that had proven effective against the French and the Diem regime. As in the past, success depended on popular commitment, above all in villages, from which the nlf drew recruits, moral support, food, intelligence, and shelter. It also depended on the organizational strength of the Vietnamese Communist Party and the state it controlled and on the backing of Soviet and Chinese allies.

    On the American side, General William...

  12. 5 The View from the Ground, 1965–1971 (pp. 123-160)

    The Vietnam War swept up millions of people during its grim progress. The numbers on the American side are known with fair precision. Of the 26.8 million men eligible to serve between 1964 and 1973, 3.1 million actually entered the military and saw service in Vietnam. Casualties totaled 321,000, of whom some 58,000 died. African Americans accounted for one in ten U.S. servicemen in Vietnam and slightly more than a tenth of those who died. (Both percentages were just below the proportion in the total U.S. population.) Only a quarter of those in Vietnam were draftees (compared to two-thirds during...

  13. 6. The War Comes Home, 1965–1971 (pp. 161-184)

    All wars have profound effects on the societies fighting them, and the longer the wars last and the closer they come to home, the deeper their impact. The social ramifications of Vietnam’s long struggle are evident in the previous chapters. By the time the Americans arrived, Vietnamese had known warfare for several decades. But against the Americans the fighting would become all consuming, a total war. The North mobilized; the South was subject to massive bombing; dislocation, privation, and death were commonplace all over the country. The pervasive effects of war are abundantly clear in the words encountered earlier of...

  14. 7 Outcomes and Verdicts (pp. 185-208)

    The war ended in early 1973 for American soldiers — but not for Vietnamese. The program of reconciliation outlined in the Paris peace accords collapsed into renewed fighting between the forces of Hanoi and Saigon. In early 1975 the pavn launched a carefully prepared offensive in the Central Highlands. Caught off guard, then confused, and finally badly outmaneuvered, arvn units panicked and fled south. In April pavn tanks rolled into Saigon. As the long war came to an end, most Americans looked away, while Vietnamese who had fought for national unity exulted and many on the losing side fled the country....

  15. Sources of Documents (pp. 209-216)
  16. Index (pp. 217-223)