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The Vietnam War: An Intimate History PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: The Vietnam War: An Intimate History
Author: Geoffrey C. Ward
Publisher: Published September 5th 2017 by Books on Tape
ISBN: 9780307970848
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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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. 5 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. 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.

  3. 4 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    "Vietnam. That war cleaves us still. But, friends, that war began in earnest a quarter of a century ago, and surely the statute of limitation has been reached. This is a fact: The final lesson of Vietnam is that no great nation can long afford to be sundered by a memory. A new breeze is blowing." George Bush, Sr, inaugural address. This was basically the same argument the NYT was making when it was beating the war drum to invade Iraq. It ran a series of articles to remove "the Vietnam objection." "Vietnam. That war cleaves us still. But, friends, that war began in earnest a quarter of a century ago, and surely the statute of limitation has been reached. This is a fact: The final lesson of Vietnam is that no great nation can long afford to be sundered by a memory. A new breeze is blowing." George Bush, Sr, inaugural address. This was basically the same argument the NYT was making when it was beating the war drum to invade Iraq. It ran a series of articles to remove "the Vietnam objection." But unlike Vietnam, Rumsfeld wanted to block media coverage. In the wake of the insurgency and the rise of ISIS, someone caught up with Executive Editor, Bill Keller, and asked him about their full throated advocacy of the invasion and, with typical NYT hubris, he said: "we got it right." Meanwhile, they tried to avoid responsibility by scapegoating one reporter, Judith Miller. Too many bought this tactic. ======= "the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts." -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn I am watching again the Burns's documentary. I was in grade school and middle school when the Vietnam War was escalating. I had almost no awareness of it, as apparently very few in the U.S had at the time according to this book and the Burns' documentary. My parents were part of the so-called "Greatest Generation," having persevered through the Great Depression as adults and WW II, during which my father served as a medical officer in France. But there has been this mistake, apparently by Tom Brokaw, in bestowing this label, to pretend that the Vietnam war never happened. As Orwell said, we must have the courage to face unpleasant facts, unpalatable truths. As was portrayed by many of their generation in the documentary, my father was obsessed with the Red Scare. I look back and see how that obsession impaired the minds and emotions of many. And I can't agree with the "Greatest Generation" label as they were the architects and perpetrators of the nightmare that was the Vietnam War. And we learn through the history above that Defense Secretary Robert McNamara knew in 1965 that the war was unwinnable, but he favored continuing to "save face." America could never be wrong. The lives of so many were lost because of this heinous pride. ---------- As the botched evacuation of Saigon was underway in 1975, this was the last word. “This will be final message from Saigon station,” CIA Chief Thomas Polgar wrote in a clipped, telegraphic style. “It has been a long fight and we have lost. . . . Those who fail to learn from history are forced to repeat it. Let us hope that we will not have another Vietnam experience and that we have learned our lesson. Saigon signing off.” ------------------ I think Burns tried to wrap up the documentary a little too neatly, running "Let it Be" at the end of the final installment and credits. In this way, he is not too far from the Bush quote at the top. Too often we like to put a neat bow on something that doesn't allow it. There are allusions to PTSD here and there and very short tidbit about it later in the documentary, but this is a failure. As William Faulkner said: “The past is never dead. It's not even past; it's always part of the present.” My late brother in law served in Vietnam as a Marine for four years and was part of the garrison that was under siege at Khe Sanh for 77 days, running short of food and other supplies. He came home as part of the "War without Heroes" with a horrible case of PTSD. It took some time for family to understand what was going on. He didn't talk about the war and it was considered weak to get counseling, so he like most others with this condition, he drank and smoked heavily until he died of cancer. He had a hard life.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    Five Star Excellence! A massive undertaking. Ten blood bathed, civil unrest, political puppetry years compacted into 600 plus pages. Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns, I applaud you. At times harrowing, maddening, sorrowful . . . But well worth reading. . . . Full review to come. To those who answered the call, in spite of politics, thank you for your service. Welcome home!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kinksrock

    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.

  10. 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

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hai Quan

    ( Zero star) When one sees millions of people are not regcognise a truth that is as simple as one plus one equal two one become terrified of the possibility that one is insane , need to be admitted into a mental ward.. Such is the case of mine. Re : VIETNAM WAR During and especially after this conflict people wasted tons & mountains of paper and oceans of ink to discuss, argue, attack and counter-attack , uncover and whitewash , accuse and apology , express indignant, anger or sorrow and pain. ( Zero star) When one sees millions of people are not regcognise a truth that is as simple as one plus one equal two one become terrified of the possibility that one is insane , need to be admitted into a mental ward.. Such is the case of mine. Re : VIETNAM WAR During and especially after this conflict people wasted tons & mountains of paper and oceans of ink to discuss, argue, attack and counter-attack , uncover and whitewash , accuse and apology , express indignant, anger or sorrow and pain..... a People spent millions of hours of air time in broadcasting stations , television stations and movie set to disscuss, argue , doccument and present the "truth" as one saw ..... YET IT SEEMS NO ONE REALIZE THIS SIMPLE FACT This self evident fact comes RIGHT OUT of the Declaration Of Independence of the U S of A : ........" all men are created equal "....... Now does it say all white men.......? NO So it means just like that: ....all men...... It doesn ' t make a f.....ng diferent whether they are black,white,yellow,brown , purple ....ain't it? THEREFORE WHY COULDN'T THE WHITE GOVERNMENTS IN THE U S LEAVE US YELLOW PEOPLE ALONE IN MANAGING OUR internal AFFAIR AS WE SEE FIT ? If the South Vietnamese didn't like Communism , then they have to DO THE KICKING ASS BY THEMSELVES as any self-respecting man (With two swinging , functioning balls) would do in the circumstance When a man has to ask for somebody else to do the ass-kicking for him , it is tantamount to ask some one else to hump his wife in his stead ! HE MUST DO IT BY HIMSELF TO PROVE HE IS A MAN WITH BALLS EVEN IF HE GETS HURT OR BEING KILLED IN THIS MANLY ACT I will quote ( not verbatim) Moore in his "Downside This" : Mandela,The early American colonists and Gandhi ....never ran to.........and ask the foreigners there to do it for them.They did it by themselves,escaped death,spill their blood, went to jails, suffered grievously, but aint never beg aint no whitey ( or foreigners) to fight for them... (My interpretation might or might not faithfully reflect Moore 's posit) NOT LIKE THE FLORIDA'S Cuban. Not like the SOUTH VIETNAM 'S Tong Tong 's from Diem ,his brother Nhu, Thieu,Ky, Khanh......to Big Minh.( One wonder if any of them was man,with balls regardless of how many young un they fathered.... except Diem ) W/O BALL THEY ARE GIRLS Here is the simple truth that millions of dimwits, sleep walkers ,zombies failed to realize : Traitors are not men, with balls , not even women.They are insects In fact universally they will be metered out DEATH PENALTY by all laws of all countries They are universally despised by all people in the whole world Amigo , can you imagine the American people , from 10 year old up , would allow any foreign government to do the same outrageous things TO THE U S similar to their government DID TO MANY THIRD WORD COUNTRIES ?( killing millions of unarmed civilians ) And all the wicked war profiteers , 'em big ass politicians in Washington D C were feigned surprise , indignance., frustration when their puppies failed miserably to bite their master enemies but only - not even bark - whined and ran for cover toward their masters WHO WERE ALSO RUNNING FOR their LIVES !! This is the very reason for the failure of ALL PUPPETS , carton cut-outs with whiteys pulling the string behind the curtain.They have never could last long ! They only could last as long as their master propping them up with tons of greenbacks and hundreds of thousand well armed modern hairy Vikings supported by the most sophisticated weaponry imaginable including ice creams of many flavor dropping down from 'em 'copters ! ( Of course this last " weapon" were exclusively "military supply" for Vikings only.) What pity ! They should have just stayed in NY,NY licking said delicacy of their own choices instead have to swallow bucket full of only ONE flavor due to the pilots ' clumsy mistakes ! I say unto you amigo : Chuck all political science courses from all universities and colleges ( including and especially Brown and Yale ) together with all books ( with small exception) , including this book written in the subject of the Vietnam war and all commentaries in printed media about it...... into THE Garbage Can Of History End discussion ! Your Beloved FUHRER

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    I had put this audiobook aside several months ago for reasons I don't remember. Last night I returned it to Audible and put it in my DNF file. I was told and I believe that the government lied to us as they have continue to do with every war since then. We should never have invaded Iraq. Does anyone know why, after being there for 16 years, why we are still fighting in Afghanistan? I realized that I had heard enough and didn't want to listen to it anymore

  13. 4 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Scott

    This is the companion book to the Vietnam War documentary by Ken Burns. There is a certain commonality to read a book that's formatted the same way as The Civil War (also a companion book to the documentary). It brings the entire experience into a modern-day view incorporating not just the soldier's experience but those of the Viet Cong, South Vietnamese, and the refugees. It's is one of the few fully comprehensive books on the subject and can take a God's eye view on the subject. Some parts that This is the companion book to the Vietnam War documentary by Ken Burns. There is a certain commonality to read a book that's formatted the same way as The Civil War (also a companion book to the documentary). It brings the entire experience into a modern-day view incorporating not just the soldier's experience but those of the Viet Cong, South Vietnamese, and the refugees. It's is one of the few fully comprehensive books on the subject and can take a God's eye view on the subject. Some parts that stuck out to me was the extensive lying by Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and the Federal government as a whole. This takes center stage right now as movies like The POST gain popularity. It wasn't until the publishing of the Pentagon papers did the public really know the extent of what was going on in Vietnam. The publishing of those papers effectively ended the war and the Nixon presidency. It would shatter the people's faith in government. It's a holistic look at the entire Vietnam experience from colonial days to the Fall of Saigon and then we are fast-forwarded to the Vietnam War memorial. I think this context is important as we better understand how important independence was for the North Vietnamese. I felt the ending was a bit abrupt. I think it is important to see the impact of the war afterward. The documentary goes further than any other before it on telling every side, but the refugees, the resettlement in the United States and their stories seem incomplete. Once Saigon falls we get a brief section from the writer of The Sympathizer Viet Thanh Nguyen. However, it left me wanting for more information. I had read The Refugees but immediately needed to read The Sympathizer to get the full story. I have also read Thu Bui's Graphic Memoir The Best We Can Do which I would recommend to get more perspective. Both works focused on the impact of the Vietnam war on the Vietnamese and their escape and resettlement in the United States. These parts were important to me as I grew up in Orange County where there is a heavy Vietnamese population. It was important to me to know more about their backstory. Overall a comprehensive story with other supporting works to fill in the gaps.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Scott Lee

    Having been born five to six years after the war ended (depending on what one considers "the end") I can't speak to any of this for myself except for one portion of the text. The book opens with Ward and a number of the recurrent sources that he and Ken Burns used in this joint venture talking about how even after all this time Vietnam is still something we don't talk about. This I can speak to. My dad was at the Air Force Academy as a prep-school student and Air Force cadet in the last few year Having been born five to six years after the war ended (depending on what one considers "the end") I can't speak to any of this for myself except for one portion of the text. The book opens with Ward and a number of the recurrent sources that he and Ken Burns used in this joint venture talking about how even after all this time Vietnam is still something we don't talk about. This I can speak to. My dad was at the Air Force Academy as a prep-school student and Air Force cadet in the last few years of the war, and my Grandpa Lee (Dad's dad) served multiple tours but I never heard either of them talk about the period growing up. Dad eventually talked a bit about what it was like for him as the son of soldier serving in Vietnam and as an Air Force cadet during the last years of the war long after I'd grown up and moved out of the house. Grandpa spoke to our family just once about his service--he also served in Korea--in an evening when Grandpa and Grandma sat with us telling their story and letting us ask questions. I never encountered Vietnam in history in school--not in high school and not in college. So my only experience with/knowledge of the war has come indirectly or through media depictions, primarily the eighties television show Tour of Duty, and Karl Marlantes' novel Matterhorn which was powerfully tragic. This made the book a true revelation to me. I had no idea of nearly any of this history beyond generalities on the conservative side about how the politicians had tied the generals' hands and lost the war. I knew it was more complicated than that, but man what a horrid tragedy. Ward and Burns have been an effective team for years, and this is a powerful wonderful book.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 4 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    One of the best books I have read on the Vietnam War. Very well researched and detailed. It covers every period of the Vietnam War from the French involvement to the United States involvement. It also has side notes with individual stories as well.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brooklyn Park

    If you are a fan of Ken Burns’ style of history, you will love this book. Burns and Geoffrey C. Ward take us on a long and poignant journey through the Vietnam war, starting with events in the early 20th century and ending with modern, “capitalist” Vietnam. Along the way are any number of tragic tales, acts of bravery, desperation and savagery all in the name of a tiny country of little political or military significance. And yet it dominated the politics of at least three of the largest and mos If you are a fan of Ken Burns’ style of history, you will love this book. Burns and Geoffrey C. Ward take us on a long and poignant journey through the Vietnam war, starting with events in the early 20th century and ending with modern, “capitalist” Vietnam. Along the way are any number of tragic tales, acts of bravery, desperation and savagery all in the name of a tiny country of little political or military significance. And yet it dominated the politics of at least three of the largest and most powerful countries on the planet. Ward and Burns do a masterful job at probing many of the small stories that made up the big story. === The Good Stuff === * If a picture is worth a thousand words, Ward and Burns are the people to supply those words. The book is full of an incredible collection of photographs, some familiar, some not, and excellent commentary built around many of them. If you look at the serious expression in the eyes of a young Ho Chi Minh in Paris in 1918, you can’t help but wonder what would have happened had Woodrow Wilson ever read the petition he so badly wanted to deliver. How can you not shake your head at a 1941 photo of an American OSS officer training Viet Minh soldiers how to fire rifle grenade? * The text is quite easy to read and well written, but be prepared for a long book. The book covers a lot of ground, but it not what I would consider a detailed and complete history of the war. Rather it seeks to capture, in detail, small segments of the war, concentrating on individual characters and their motivations and actions. In various segments, the authors concentrate on US soldiers, US military leadership, Vietnamese military and civilian leaders, antiwar protestors, US politics, and any number of other viewpoints. In the end, the sum of all the parts gives a pretty complete look at what happened. * The authors mostly try to maintain a neutral viewpoint, but they find it harder and harder as the book progresses. I can’t speak for the authors, but I suspect their opinion would be along the lines of “How on earth did we ever get ourselves into that mess?” And while they may be officially neutral, they can not help but note that the “stakes” we were playing for in no way matched the costs. === The Not-So-Good Stuff === * I hate to disagree with historians of the stature of the authors, but I will anyway. I think that they are looking back at events in Vietnam with too much benefit of hindsight. Sure, from 2017, the whole domino theory and the importance given to a 100 mile wide strip of jungle seems absurd. But in 1966, you couldn’t get elected dog-catcher if you weren’t “tough on communism”. Likewise, blaming politicians for getting all caught up in the hysteria is also a bit unfair. Presidents and Congressmen aren’t going to take any viewpoints that the majority of their constituents don’t already support. * I realize it is not the author’s style to engage in this kind of analysis, but after reading a few hundred pages, it would have been nice to get a “professional opinion” on what we got for the trillion dollars and 60,000 casualties. === Summary === The book was long and sometimes the content was a bit tough to read- it didn’t always catch Americans at our best. But in the end it provided a look at the war from many different viewpoints, and examined the price paid by many of the participants. While the text is well written and quite informative, it was the pictures that really made the book for me. Probably the most powerful photos were a few near the end, where former enemies from the US and Vietnam are reunited, and you can’t but notice the look in their eyes of “Why?” I would recommend the book for anyone with an interest in this period of history, although some who have lived through it may find some of the viewpoints and content a bit upsetting.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    (Note: I was able to read an advanced electronic copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) Despite having having read numerous books already on the subject, including classics ranging from “The Things They Carried” to “A Rumor of War,” and having also taken an entire class devoted to American involvement in southeast Asia in undergrad, only now do I feel like I finally have a decent grasp of what happened in Vietnam, thanks to this deep and thorough work that was so masterfully built upon a founda (Note: I was able to read an advanced electronic copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) Despite having having read numerous books already on the subject, including classics ranging from “The Things They Carried” to “A Rumor of War,” and having also taken an entire class devoted to American involvement in southeast Asia in undergrad, only now do I feel like I finally have a decent grasp of what happened in Vietnam, thanks to this deep and thorough work that was so masterfully built upon a foundation of perspectives coming from nearly every possible side and aspect. Not only is this a marvelous history of the Vietnam War, but the timing of its publication probably could not have been more perfect. After all, like all those covered in the book, we too live in an era where among many other things, the US is engaged in a conflict that seems like an aimless quagmire with no end in sight, while the country is deeply cut up by sharpening political divides, plagued by ongoing racial strife and tension, and at times feels as if it’s coming apart at the seams. Besides the numerous similarities between present and past that one will spot, the message that history certainly can and will repeat itself actually gets spelled out quite clearly at one point in the book in part of an interview with former Vietnamese soldier-turned writer Bao Ninh, who says: “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 passed on to future generations? If they are not understood, or if they are forgotten, are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes, committ the same crimes, repeat the same disasters, spread the same sorrows?” While points like this from the book can admittedly be unsettling to no small degree, I feel like they also bring a bit of hope at the same time. After all, if people managed to struggle through this turbulent time, then what’s to say that we can’t also get through the turbulence of the present? There’s no doubt in my mind that different readers will draw different lessons and messages from this powerful work, and a wide array of different passages and parts will be taken to heart and resonate with their in a diversity of ways in light of ongoing current events. And why should they not? After all, as was directly stated before, this work is built upon numerous perspectives and eyewitness accounts, which leaves something for nearly everyone, this reader included. I for one felt personally drawn to a few lines from John Musgrave, an extensively interviewed Vietnam veteran: “...Being a citizen, I had certain responsibilities. And the largest of those responsibilities is standing up to your government and saying no when it’s doing something that you think is not in this nation’s best interest. That is the most important job that every citizen has.” I simply cannot remember the last time I was able to connect with a written history like this. Definitely do not hesitate to find a way to access and read this magnificent work.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Don

    Earlier in the year, I watched part of Ken Burns's fascinating documentary on the Vietnam War. At that time, I promised myself that I would read the book which accompanies the series. But when I saw just how long it was, I had second thoughts. Finally, I convinced myself that I would start reading with the definite understanding that if I got bogged down or became even the slightest bit bored, I would move on to other things. I needn't have worried; this book drew me in and kept me fascinated fro Earlier in the year, I watched part of Ken Burns's fascinating documentary on the Vietnam War. At that time, I promised myself that I would read the book which accompanies the series. But when I saw just how long it was, I had second thoughts. Finally, I convinced myself that I would start reading with the definite understanding that if I got bogged down or became even the slightest bit bored, I would move on to other things. I needn't have worried; this book drew me in and kept me fascinated from start to finish. I will admit that the early chapters which give the historical background to the war were a tad challenging. That's not in any way a problem with the writing; in fact, the authors did a great job of explaining the complex circumstances and issues which led to the war. I simply have a hard time focusing on such things and so I found that I had to do some rereading from time to time. Once the stage was set, I could not tear myself away from this engrossing read. Two factors make this worthy of special attention. One is the incredibly comprehensive coverage it provides. We see the war from many different perspectives: American soldiers, Vietnamese soldiers, their families, Vietnamese citizens, American citizens, politicians from America and Vietnam, people who supported the war, people who protested vehemently against it, and just about anyone else you can think of. The other factor is the amazing writing. Rarely have I read a book on world history which caused me to experience such strong emotional reactions. I laughed, I cried, I screamed out in anger. It was truly amazing. There is no question that Ken Burns is following in the footsteps of fine journalists like Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Ted Koppel. At a time when many reporters do little more than spout their own opinions and call it news, it is refreshing to see his exceptional work. Whether you know next to nothing about the Vietnam War or are an expert on the subject, you owe it to yourself to spend the time it takes to read this valuable and compelling offering.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jason Park

    I received this book as an eARC courtesy of NetGalley and Knopf Publishing, but my opinions are my own. What a terrific deep dive into the Vietnam War. I took a class in college at the University of Arkansas from professor (and J. William Fulbright biographer) Randall Woods called "The United States and Vietnam". That course was amazing, but this book taught me even more. Geoffrey Ward, Ken Burns, and the producers of "The Vietnam War" documentary series (coming to PBS September 17th, a date I ha I received this book as an eARC courtesy of NetGalley and Knopf Publishing, but my opinions are my own. What a terrific deep dive into the Vietnam War. I took a class in college at the University of Arkansas from professor (and J. William Fulbright biographer) Randall Woods called "The United States and Vietnam". That course was amazing, but this book taught me even more. Geoffrey Ward, Ken Burns, and the producers of "The Vietnam War" documentary series (coming to PBS September 17th, a date I have had chiseled into my memory since I heard about it this spring) employ every source imaginable to plumb the depths of the Vietnam War: US, North Vietnamese, and ARVN soldiers and officers, family of those involved in the war, refugees from South Vietnam... it's just amazing how many stories are told. Authors Tim O'Brien, Karl Marlantes, and Bao Ninh share their experiences. Recordings from the White House itself share priceless information. It's astounding. Given all of that, my favorite part might have been the essays at the end of each chapter, especially 1) an essay diving into the counterfactual "What if Kennedy hadn't been assassinated?" and 2) "Dust of Life, Dust of War", after the last chapter, on South Vietnamese refugees. Oh, and the pictures. I just can't get over the fantastic and overwhelming photos they obtained of the war, both in the US and abroad. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and I can't wait for the documentary series starting September 17th.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    THE VIETNAM WAR by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns is the book accompanying the new documentary film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick which premieres on September 17; here is the short official trailer. There is more information on the pbs site about schedules, making of the film and an opportunity to share more stories. The book is told in chronological order, ranging from 1858 and the French presence to April, 1975 and the US departure. Frankly, it is hard to believe that it has been more than 40 THE VIETNAM WAR by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns is the book accompanying the new documentary film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick which premieres on September 17; here is the short official trailer. There is more information on the pbs site about schedules, making of the film and an opportunity to share more stories. The book is told in chronological order, ranging from 1858 and the French presence to April, 1975 and the US departure. Frankly, it is hard to believe that it has been more than 40 years since the Vietnam War ended and 58,000 Americans died, but writing in their introduction Burns and Novick acknowledge that Vietnam was a war of many perspectives and they vow to "faithfully reflect those seemingly irreconcilable outlooks." The text which is filled with many photographs, offers perspectives from soldiers, the homefront, Washington, Saigon and Hanoi. THE VIETNAM WAR received starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus and we will have a copy in the library soon. Ken Burns is appearing in Chicago this week and some of those discussions will be aired on pbs' Chicago Tonight. Expanding beyond a solely American story, both the book and film are likely to receive awards while stirring memories and emotions from a divided time in our nation's history.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jacky

    How do you address a foreign policy quagmire that spanned the terms of five presidents, costed millions of lives, and ended in failure? Ken Burns and Geoffrey C. Ward attempt to answer that question with this book. They give a chronological overview of the war beginning with French colonialism and ending with the fall of South Vietnam. Interspersed within this narrative are interviews of people from both sides of the war: veterans, their families, journalists, and policymakers. The final result How do you address a foreign policy quagmire that spanned the terms of five presidents, costed millions of lives, and ended in failure? Ken Burns and Geoffrey C. Ward attempt to answer that question with this book. They give a chronological overview of the war beginning with French colonialism and ending with the fall of South Vietnam. Interspersed within this narrative are interviews of people from both sides of the war: veterans, their families, journalists, and policymakers. The final result is a cohesive and compelling summary of the war that feels comprehensive yet intimate. Some thoughts: I really liked the interviews. Even though the memories of the interviewees are biased by the past four decades, it's interesting to get an idea of how people lived and their opinions of the war. I also found it interesting how the war was so different for US troops in Vietnam depending on their assignments. Desk clerks and other auxiliary troops (termed REMFs) lived radically different lives compared to combat troops. Lastly, I think the book did a stellar job of capturing the emotions of the war: the frustration of US troops taking long walks in the sun, the determination of the Việt Cộng, the sorrow of families that lost loved ones, and the desperation on both sides to win, to persevere, to survive.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    This will be short since many others will add their voices to this book. Having been born in the mid 50's and being the sort who wants to know why the world, this country have grown in this particular way, I find Geoffrey Ward's history of the Vietnam war to be an outstanding example of historical writing. I remember watching the nightly news with fascination mixed with fear. My young mind couldn't quite grasp the death unfolding before me. This book has put what I saw into historical context. Vi This will be short since many others will add their voices to this book. Having been born in the mid 50's and being the sort who wants to know why the world, this country have grown in this particular way, I find Geoffrey Ward's history of the Vietnam war to be an outstanding example of historical writing. I remember watching the nightly news with fascination mixed with fear. My young mind couldn't quite grasp the death unfolding before me. This book has put what I saw into historical context. Vietnam was the first war that was broadcast into our homes. But we are an insulated country. We tend to view the world as us and the rest. The Vietnam War started before we became involved. Geoffrey Ward does a good job in explaining a country dominated by others. How Ho Chi Minh brought communism and thus the war to the shores of his home. The French, then the U.S. tried to prevent this growing area of communism. Needless to say we did not prevent an ever growing war. This combined with an ever growing discontent affects us even today. Any student of history, actually anyone with a desire to know, will be enthralled with the vivid writing, the excellent research, the analysis of a countries in the throes of transformation.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Barrett Lafortune

    This book was absolutely stunning. Individual stories are expertly woven through the macro events of the war in a way that makes sure the reader is always aware that it is individual human beings who are living and dying. The quantity of primary sourcing from interviews, letters, memos and recordings is staggering. Leadership, military, and civilian perspectives are well-represented from the Vietnamese and the American experiences. There were several stories that absolutely broke my heart. I cann This book was absolutely stunning. Individual stories are expertly woven through the macro events of the war in a way that makes sure the reader is always aware that it is individual human beings who are living and dying. The quantity of primary sourcing from interviews, letters, memos and recordings is staggering. Leadership, military, and civilian perspectives are well-represented from the Vietnamese and the American experiences. There were several stories that absolutely broke my heart. I cannot recommend this, and the documentary it is based on, enough. "We were the last generation of Americans who thought our government would never lie to us." "The war we fought was so horribly brutal I don't have words to describe it. I worry, how can we ever explain to the younger generation the price their parents and grandparents paid?" -North Vietnamese soldier "Nineteen, twenty-year-old high school dropouts that come from the lowest socioeconomic rung of American society...they weren't going to be rewarded for their service in Vietnam. And yet their infinite patience, their loyalty to each other, their courage under fire, was just phenomenal. And you would ask yourself: how does America produce young men like this?" -American marine

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