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Books to read if you're planning a vacation in "vietnam", sorted by average review score:

Scream of Eagles: The Dramatic Account of the U.S. Navy's Top Gun Fighter Pilots: How They Took Back the Skies over Vietnam
Published in Paperback by Pocket Books (August, 1995)
Authors: Robert K. Wilcox and Paul McCarthy
Average review score:

Wilcox book is a Screaming success!
For everyone who thinks they know what it takes to be a top gun pilot based on the film, Top Gun, run, don't walk to the store and get Bob Wilcox's "Scream of Eagles." Here's the real story of the creation of Top Gun during the Vietnam war and it's a hell of a good story as told by Wilcox. He really puts you in the cockpit with the best of the best. They should make this into a movie!

This is gaining popularity on the Internet
This book is becoming a buzzword in flight simulator forums around the Internet. Anyone who's 'flown' a flight simultor on their home computers should read this book. It'll really change the way you view PC 'flying'. I also recommend Wilcox's other book, "Wings of Fury", which is a collection of tales from Navy and Air Force pilots from Viet Nam to Tripoli to Desert Storm. "Scream of Eagles" is a must-read for aviation enthusiasts and Viet Nam historians, and a very good read for everyone else.

I recommend this book to any military aviation enthusiast
SCREAM OF EAGLES is a book that tells about the Navy's air war in Vietnam- the terrible losses of expensive aircraft to a peasent's air force, and the triumphant victory after the creation of the Navy's Fighter Weapon School (Top Gun).

This book has accounts from such Navy pilots as Randy Cunningham and others, as well as detailed analysis of dogfights in Vietnam and in the Top Gun school. It's obvious that Robert Wilcox knows his stuff about Naval Aviation.

Song of the Cicadas (Juniper Prize)
Published in Paperback by Univ. of Massachusetts Press (01 May, 2001)
Authors: Mong-Lan and Mong LAN
Average review score:

Showing me faces of war, and much more¿
I can see war in these pages, but it's more than that. It's also about ordinary people and their lives, not just Vietnamese culture but something universal in all of us. Highly recommend!

A Beautiful Book
Read this beautiful collection of poems. They will move you with their grace, insight and strength. Notice the blank spaces between the words and lines-more is said at these broken places than mere words.

Wonderfully lyrical...
This is a very impressive book of poetry. Mong-Lan is a gifted writer who conveys the lyricism of language in the description of diverse experiences in Vietnam. Highly recommended.

The Stars, the Earth, the River: Short Fiction (Voices from Vietnam, No 1)
Published in Paperback by Curbstone Press (May, 1997)
Authors: Bac Hoai Tran, Dana Sachs, Wayne Karlin, Le Minh Khue, and Dana Sach
Average review score:

Revolution and Struggle
Le Minh Khue writes: "To understand my stories, you need to understand the history of revolution, war and struggle that my country has gone through and out of which those stories grew."

Khue definately helps her readers to understand.

Le Minh Khue is an extraordinary woman who uses her personal experiences to enrich her stories. When she was very young, she lost her parents in the Land Reforms of the early fifties and in 1965, at age 16 she lied about her age so that she could join the People's Army. We get a first hand account of how it was to grow up in Vietnam prior to, during, and after the war. Khue details the influences of Western culture on the youth of Vietnam and shatters the sterotypes that others may have of the Vietnamese way of life.

Most of Khue's stories are very dark. In "Tony D", a story about the grief that an American soldier's skeletal remains bring to an old man and his son, the son forces his father to cut off his finger to prove that he is not lying. In other stories, the characters are driven to suicide, some are obsessed with the material world and would do anything for the "Almighty Dollar", and a great deal of the male characters are unfaithful, have overly cynical views on life, or knife their brother's pregnant wife in the stomach.

As Wayne Karlin (editor) says, "Le Minh Khue the writer continues to perform the task of Le Minh Khue the sapper: searching out and identifying the bombs that lay buried along the Trail along which we must move, bringing them out of the earth and sometimes identifying them, and sometimes defusing them, and sometimes exploding them, and sometimes smoothing over the scars they leave in the earth. She never lets us forget what is buried and where; in doing so, she gently suggests the directions we must continue to travel."

I greatly enjoyed The Stars, The Earth, The River, and find Le Minh Khue to be a very compelling and enjoyable writer.

good personal stuff, friction free
This is a series of short stories of a girl's life in Vietnam during the 1970's. She was very involved in the war effort, at an age of about 20. For me this was pure communication and I could share her experiences easily. Short, easy sentences, on the point. With depth of feeling and honesty. Not political.

Simply wonderful
Curbstone Press, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing literature reflecting social issues (with strong emphasis on foreign cultures), has seen fit to translate a collection of stories that introduces to us another view of life in Vietnam, life as experienced from the nameless thousands who endured the war many of us knew only from nightly news reports.

The Stars, The Earth, The River is a compilation of fourteen stories written by Vietnamese journalist-turned-editor Le Minh Khue, and is a highly recommeded read for anyone interested in Oriental life and literature.

In these stories, Vietnam is a place where a woman turning forty is considered old and a person with only a thousand American dollars in his/her pocket is called a "millionaire." Khue's stories convey many themes with a touch of black humor: in "Scenes from an Alley," greed plays a major factor in the life of a married couple who learn of a woman receiving a grand payoff from an American when he accidentally kills the woman's daughter, then try to place their aging father in the American's path, hoping lightning will strike twice. "The Almighty Dollar" is a wonderfully satirical tale of a large dysfunctional family worthy of "The Ricki Lake Show." Competition for custody of a mentally disabled brother is triggered by love...of money.

"Tony D" mystifies as the alleged "ghost" of a dead American soldier comes to haunt the old man who intends to sell his bones for profit, and "A Small Tragedy" presents forbidden love at its most disturbing. The best story of the fourteen, however, would have to be Khue's first, "The Distant Stars," written when Khue was only nineteen. The stars in question are three young girls who comprise the Ground Reconnaissance Team. Their mission: to measure holes in the ground left by bombs and determine how much dirt is needed to replenish the earth. Amid exploding ammunition and the stench of death, these girls perform their tasks, all the while sharing their dreams of marrying rich and flirting carelessly with interested soldiers. You want to laugh at the antics of these girls, yet you cannot help but have pity. It is the most gripping of the stories in this book, and truly amazing that a mind so young could concoct such a tale.

The Stars, The Earth, The River is the first installment in Curbstone's Voices from Vietnam series of contemporary fiction edited by Le Minh Khue, Ho Anh Thai, and Wayne Karlin. If Khue's collection is any indication, this looks to be a very promising series of books.

Storm Flight
Published in Hardcover by Putnam Pub Group (01 October, 1993)
Author: Mark Berent
Average review score:

Heart stopping book that you wont want to put down!!
This was a great ending to a terrific series by Mark Berent. I found myself unable to put this book down. Wold Lochert, Court Bannister and Toby Parker were amazing characters and were so life like I was sad to see the series end. I definately recommend reading not only this book but this great series.

Fitting conclusion to a Fabulous series.
Following the exploits of Court Bannister, Wolf Lochert, Toby Parker and the gang showed me believable action; let me observe the transition of young hotshots into responsible adults through experiences with war and life; taught me history, the real thing I didn't get from the media in the 1960s; focused me on geography, with which I'm getting better. Not so very different from the young people I see at our USO where I volunteer each week. Most of all, it let me come to some resolution and peace in my own mind about VietNam. Those young men I knew in the 1960s who willingly went to serve were right in their intent, despite an Administration and press who failed to support them. Those who didn't come back did not die in vain, and are remembered fondly. My only regret is that it's the last of the series. I hope Mark Berent is not finished writing! More! More! Another series! Something!

One of the best Viet Nam novels.
Having finished the final volume in Mark Berent's exciting series of Viet Nam ficton based on fact books, I'm moved to write the following. Looking back on how politicians and peaceniks played into the hands of the communists, I think I know how America's fighting men felt when they where sent to a war by a country that didn't really want to win. Mark Berent gets you into the heads of his protaganists, and you're left shaking your head at the lies that were fed to us while our boys were fighting and dying. A great, exciting set of tales. My thanks to him for making me remember the sacrifice given by so many.

Strange Ground: An Oral History of Americans in Vietnam 1945-1975
Published in Paperback by Avon (October, 1990)
Author: Harry Maurer
Average review score:

Many Intriguing Interviews
I thought this was a well conceived selection of interviews with people who brought perspectives on Vietnam from lots of different angles. Other books I've read do a better and more thorough job of covering combat aspects, but this one excels by covering the experiences of other participants - particularly the agriculture/education/medical volunteers and the diplomatic/intelligence people.

If you don't read the whole book, at least read the interviews with John Ameroso (the International Voluntary Services agricultural advisor) and Alan Carter (the U.S. Information Service officer in the embassy). Ameroso's story is inspiring in terms of how much grass roots good could be done with a practical approach to aid. Carter's story is maddening in terms of how bad things were in the embassy.

I notice that another reviewer of this book takes the author to task for including an interview by a reported fraud. If that's true, the author deserves strong criticism. If you're only compiling interviews to construct a book, you owe it to the readers to at least do a little checking up on those you include. Still, there is enough excellent material in this book for me to give it highest marks.

Widely varying views of the conflict from ordinary people who lived through it. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Strange Ground
This book is a compilation of fascinating accounts of Vietnam from the people who experienced it. Maurer covers it all-from the grunt in the jungle to the men making policy, the civilians, families, medics, sailors, pilots, and government workers. The accounts of government workers and policy makers are a refreshing change from the usual RAMBO-type accounts that seem to fill the movie screens and popular fiction. Maurer doesn't interfere with their stories and admits upfront his role in Vietnam-- none whatsoever! This does not detract from the feeling of authenticity of this book. One feels pride for the Americans who fought, but also helplessness, sadness, and anger- the "strange ground" of the Vietnam conflict

A Tale of Three Wars: A Novel
Published in Hardcover by U S Army War College Foundation Pr (April, 1999)
Authors: Edward B. Atkeson and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf
Average review score:

Lucid, Sophisticated, Insightful
A Tale of Three Wars is simply a splendid book. Written by one of the military's leading thinkers, retired General Atkeson's book analyzes the complexities of the Vietnam War through the venue of historical fiction. He illustrates the fractured nature of the NLF (National Liberation Front) and Viet Cong, the often problematic relationship between the US and South Vietnamese intelligence and military authorities, and the troubled internal politics of South Vietnam itself. The result is a nuanced and sophisticated picture of the Vietnam War and the challenges faced by the US in dealing with the daunting problems of insurgency, corruption, and political infighting.

This book is particularly critical now during the War on Terrorism. Atkeson has shattered the notion that the NLF, VC, and North Vietnam represented a homogeneous, monolithic enemy. He has shown that beneath the thin skin of solidarity nationalist and ideological movements (and those purporting to be religious) are more often than not fractured alliances of necessity that hide competing ideas, agendas, and struggles for power. The most effective way to deal with them is to find the seams and the fractures and exploit them, as Atkeson's protagonist, Paul McCandless, did in the novel. A similar approach to the War on Terrorism is likely to be very successful. -- Christopher D. Kolenda, Editor and Co-Author of Leadership: The Warrior's Art.

An Explanation After 25 Years
For this civilian, MG Atkeson finally explains some of the roots and conflicts of the Vietnam war and how the participants in it -- on all sides, including the home front -- contributed to its resolution in frustration, disappointment, and loss of honor.

Although Vietnam, from Tet to Ia Drang to the last helicopter out, contains enough action for a library of novels, MG Atkeson explains the long battle of attrition by what is, essentially, a novel of character, in particular, the characters of a relatively fast-track young Intelligence officer, an American-trained South Vietnamese officer; and a cadre leader among the Viet Cong, trained like many rebels from Ho Chi Minh on in France.

All of them have been snatched from their "normal" lives, but those lives have written deeply on them and influence how they live -- and fight their war. Ultimately, they are brought together in a resolution as moving as it is, essentially, indeterminate.

A gulf has opened between those men and what they thought they were fighting for -- a gulf similar to that found today even inside the US.

I am grateful for this clarification of something I didn't understand when I was living through it.

The best novel to come out of the Viet Nam War.
Let there be no doubt about it--A Tale of Three Wars is one of the best novels ever written about the Viet Nam War. It certainly is the most authoritative, and the plot is a well-crafted, elaborate, Byzantine labyrinth. If you fought in the war or are interested in a unique view of the internal and external conflicts that characterized it, your simply must read MG "Ted" Atkeson's latest effort.

The novel follows the exploits of three main characters: "Paul" McCandless, Infantry officer turned Military Intelligence; MAJ Nguyen Van Do, Paul's counterpart, CGSC classmate and friend; and Patriot (Comrade) Van Ba, a Sorbonne-trained physician who commands the local Phu Loi Battalion. Thus, the three wars of the title, as each fights his enemies and organizational restrictions that tend to frustrate every endeavor. This is not, however, a "blood and guts" combat tale. There are a few battle scenes, some interesting cloak and dagger work, and a major operation launched during the novel, but the most significant conflicts are mental.

Van Ba is competent, efficient, and effective as a guerrilla commander--he manages to capture an entire platoon of tanks from a government compound--but is constantly being brought to task for ideological deviations by his political officer, Tran Hua, and his higher headquarters, the Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN).

MAJ Do is fond of American jazz, slang expressions and Parliament cigarettes and indispensable to his commanding general when American newsmen and Congressmen must be briefed. He is delighted when Paul is assigned as his counterpart, but circumstances interfere with their friendship, and he must remain loyal to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, even when he suspects that a respected superior officer may be controlled by the Viet Cong.

MAJ (later LTC) McCandless is equally delighted to see MAJ Do, but he soon must plant a "cover story" with his friend as part of the security measures for a major operation in the planning stages. Paul has his own difficulties with the "hell bent for leather" commanding general of the fictional 100th Division ("Big Hundred"), his boss, the Field Force G-2, and a wife with liberal political tendencies.

In addition to a number of logical but frustrating twists and turns in the plot line, there is a false climax when a group of officers who gather informally to gripe about the war effort are tasked by the Field Force commander to produce a valid plan for changing the way the war is fought. They come up with a workable plan based upon interdicting the Ho Chi Minh trail with troops, but politics on the home front as well as the politics of the Pentagon interfere. The resulting non-answer from higher evokes this frustrated comment from one of the officers, "Nobody with four stars has the guts to go to the mat for what he believes."

But no one--certainly not the reader--has time to wallow in self-pity. Atkeson turns up the heat on the plot line once again and produces even more heart-pounding action before the epiloque appears. Like the war and the Tet Offensive, the book ends with the frustration of men who do their jobs to the best of their ability yet still see defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. As the author suggests in his foreword, the lessons to be learned relate primarily to the dangers of the misapplication of good intentions.

From the foreword by GEN Schwarzkopf to the discouraging final exchange of dialogue among the three main characters, those unfamiliar with the Vietnam War can learn a great deal about those frustrating times--and some of the inherent ironies--in the pages of this novel. The amount of detailed, authentic knowledge displayed is impressive--everything about the book rings true. J.M. Olejniczak, Editor in Chief, ASSEMBLY Magazine, Special Forces-Vietnam

They Were Ours : Gloucester County's Loss in Vietnam
Published in Paperback by John Campbell (03 November, 2000)
Author: John Campbell
Average review score:

They Were Ours
This book about 43 Heros touches your soul . The author John Campbell did an oustanding job !......Julia Carpelli

They Were Ours

This is a beautifully written book about 43 soldiers killed in Vietnam .The book takes you into their lives , so you really get to know them and the people they left behind .Very heartwarming . It makes you laugh and cry .

Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War
Published in Hardcover by Univ of North Carolina Pr (November, 1996)
Author: Edwin E. Moise
Average review score:

Great Book
This is an excellent book and anyone with an interest in the Viet Nam War should read it. The events of July and August 1964 are thoroughly examined and analyzed step by step. There are interviews with many of the people who were involved in the incident on both sides. It has a good technical discussion of the military equipment(ships and radar/sonar systems) that greatly contributes to an understanding of what happened on those "dark and stormy nights". This is definitely the best book about the Tonkin Gulf incident. The author is a History Professor at Clemson University and I had the priviledge of taking his Vietnam War and Modern Military History courses back in 1993. He told our class that he was writing a book about the Tonkin Gulf incident so it was great to finally read it after all these years.

Am I Supposed to be Incredible, like our leaders?
Sometimes the details that matter aren't captured on videotape and broadcast around the world, like more recent events in the year 2001. What history doesn't have to show what was going on is a picture of how things were set up for this book. "Around noon on August 2, at the White House, President Johnson discussed the American response to the August 2 incident with Secretary Rusk, George Ball, Cyrus Vance, and Tom Hughes of the State Department; General Wheeler; Colonel Ralph Steakley of the Joint Staff; and Winston Cornelius of the CIA. At this meeting the president not only confirmed the decision that sent the Maddox back into the Gulf of Tonkin along with the Turner Joy, he authorized the continuation of OPLAN 34A raids (definitely the one scheduled for the night of August 3-4, and perhaps also those for the night of August 4-5; the procedure of waiting for the results of each raid to be evaluated, before approval of the next was initiated . . . would not have been practiced when there were to be raids on consecutive nights)." (pp. 103-4).

The amount of detail in this book could support a view that secret operations are those things which are not revealed in order to create the greatest spin in the direction of the psychological warfare advantage desired by whoever is keeping the secrets. To get a full appreciation of the kind of restraint which the American government displayed in this incident, the whole picture should be compared to how well the participants in World War II responded to the order given by the president in August, 1945 (a mere 19 years before the Tonkin incident) not to drop any more atomic bombs on people whose government exhibited any hostility toward military activities directed by the United States of America. President Truman's order was followed by massive conventional bombing, much as the history of American bombing in Vietnam shows how long a superpower can maintain a campaign of destruction against anyone who knows the truth about something which is supposed to be secret. This book shows great deference to the feelings of the anonymous secret operations experts who would never say anything that wasn't in the best interests of the powers that be. "Escalation" is an understatement for the overt actions taken against North Vietnam in August, 1964. Adopting a bombing routine as a conditioned response to false accusations in anticipation of making the bombing a regular routine, in the absence of any debate on why things happened as they did, was the real policy. Even now, most people who ought to know better are pretending that a lot of things revealed in this book are still secret. What people don't believe now is the preamble to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which stated that the United States was going to be maintaining peace there, where it had no territoreal, military, or political ambitions. My ambition was to get the Combat Infantryman's Badge without getting killed, so I could be the CIB who failed to agree with whoever thought this ought to be. Check the facts in this book for a truly tortured bit of not being able to see a forest because the treehouse doesn't have any windows, and the trap door in the floor is closed.

Another manufactured crisis.
This excellent book demonstrates that the Gulf of Tonkin "incident" was not really an incident at all. It explains in detail the events that lead up to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and the escaltion of the war that followed. My only complaint is that the author says that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was based on a "misunderstanding" and not "knowingly faked." Even if that is true, the fact remains that it was used as a convenient excuse to escelate war. In addition, the fact that there was no effort on the part of the government to determine the facts behind the Tonkin incident demonstrates that the government wanted war, and were just looking for the right excuse.

Valley of Decision: The Siege of Khe Sanh
Published in Hardcover by Houghton Mifflin Co (December, 1991)
Authors: John Prados and Ray W. Stubbe
Average review score:

Bait on the end of the hook
In Valley of Decision, The Siege of Khe Sanh, the authors chronicle the trials of both the Marines and the North Vietnamese who fought there. Both sides attempted to turn this remote outpost on the Laotian border into a decisive campaign that would ultimately determine the outcome of the war. Both sides failed in this attempt despite their best efforts.

After reading this book I find Khe Sanh to be the war in Vietnam in microcosm. The problems of differing perceptions held by Westmorland, Marine General Walt, the CIA, Special Forces, Marine Force Recon and the Bru tribesmen who occupied Khe Sanh illustrate the violations of the principles of war of objective and unity of command. Hovering above it all was the President of the United States exercising personal control of a battlefield from his office, 10,000 miles away.

In retrospect, Khe Sanh was a victory in a sense for the U.S. An isolated U.S. garrison that blew reville and raised a tattered American flag each day despite the inevitable mortar/artillery barrage it drew, told the Bru tribesmen and the North and South Vietnamese that he U.S. was still in control despite being outnumbered significantly. Almost unlimited American artillery and air support helped make the point.

Reading this book, one almost feels the fear, frustration, and misery the garrison endured there. Yet the reader senses the fierce pride that only combat soldiers doing a dirty, thankless job can feel. You can also imagine the rage felt when they were told simply that Khe Sanh was no longer important and to simply walk away.

Valley is essentially a foxhole level analysis of this campaign that shows how decisions emenating all the way from Washington and Saigon impacted the lives of the men on the ground. They were indeed the bait that lured thousands of North Vietnamese to their deaths. Like elsewhere in Vietnam, they were left with nothing to show for their heroic efforts.

The definitive volume on this subject to date.
As a Marine who was in the trenches at Khe Sahn, Mr. Prados and Ray Stubbe have done all of us an immeasurable service. Ray's recollection of places, people and events is phenomenal. As a "grunt" PFC then, I certainly lacked the macro-knowledge provided by Mr. Prados. They have succeeded in helping me,(and many others, I'm sure), construct a better picture of why we were there and what we did. There are a few defects, generally due to information not then available to the authors. However, until something better comes along, this book is, in my opinion, definitive.


Vietnam 1969-1970: A Company Commander's Journal
Published in Paperback by Ivy Books (October, 1990)
Author: Michael Lee Lanning
Average review score:

An Excellent Real World Vietnam Book
I missed the Vietnam War by a year or two. I served as an 11B from 72-78. I always wondered what it would have been like to have been there in a rifle company. Plenty of books about SF and LRRPs, but not very many written by a real platoon leader. I never had a tremensous desire to be an elite soldier in an elite unit (if I could have even made it). I only wanted to be a rifle squad leader. This book really made me feel what it would have been like. What I missed. It is a real world book. Not a battle every minute book filled with stories of great exploits. Just a real world grunt in Vietnam book. I recommend the companion book "The Only War We Had."

vietnam 1969-1970
this book is the best book ive ever read.This book started out in hawaii lee was a luitenant at the time but he wanted to upgrade his level in office so he was asked to become company commader his journey through the viet kong was very exiting it was full of action and outrage his tale was very inspireing he stood up for his men and became very popular as bravo company commander and became one of the best plotoon in vietnam his wife lived in sanfracico her name was linda when lee move out of the states his wife was pregnant with there girl rosallie.he was waiting to come home after 8 months in the war he was a month awayfrom coming home to the states when he got a rear job which he was waiting for and then took his long ride back home to sanfracisco.

The awesome sequal to THE ONLY WAR WE HAD
This book is the second in the set, the first being THE ONLY WAR WE HAD. This book, however, is different in that the author is no longer a naive Lieutenant being shipped off to Vietnam. This book begins with the same Lieutenant--now aged and matured--returning to Vietnam from leave in Hawaii. Like his first book, VIETNAM 1969-1970: A COMPANY COMMANDER'S JOURNAL is both detailed and exciting.

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