Reading List: Vietnam

The epic story of one of the most consequential, divisive, and controversial events in American history, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s ten part, 18-hour documentary series The Vietnam War is visceral, immersive, and revelatory. Airing on PBS and available through desktop and mobile streaming apps, the series is engaging audiences and sparking important conversations about governments and wars, both past and present.

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Advisers to the program include Peter Maslowski and Don Winslow, authors of Looking for a Hero: Staff Sergeant Joe Ronnie Hooper and the Vietnam War (Nebraska, 2009). In the distortions, half-truths, and outright lies that mar Hooper’s medal of honor file, the authors find a painful reflection of the army’s inability to be honest with itself and the American public, with all the dire consequences that this dishonesty ultimately entailed. In the inextricably linked stories of Hooper and the Vietnam War, the nature of that deceit, and of America’s defeat, becomes clear.

Looking for a Hero is one of many books that explore the Vietnam War and its implications. Take a look through this list—you might find something you wish to read while you wait for the next installment of The Vietnam War.

 

 

 

 

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When We Walked Above the Clouds

A Memoir of Vietnam

H. Lee Barnes

“In the grand scheme of things, not much happened at Tra Bong; ‘the life of a trooper out here meant little, except to those who were out here.’ But with sharp and unsentimental prose, Barnes makes it matter a great deal. A war remembrance of beauty and unadorned brutality.”—Kirkus Reviews

 

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In the School of War

Roger J. Spiller

In the School of War is a superbly crafted, thought-provoking, and entertaining collection of essays that addresses the nature of warfare, illustrates the uses and applications of military history, and chronicles the author’s own intellectual journey as a military historian at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.”—MAJ Kevin D. Stringer, Military Review

 

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Death Zones & Darling Spies

Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting

Beverly Deepe Keever

“In this powerfully plainspoken account, one of the leading female journalists of the Vietnam War relays her personal experience of the bloody conflict that divided America and changed the global political landscape. . . . Whether reporting from the ditches of the siege of Khe Sanh, detailing the harried arrival of U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, or fondly recalling her friendship with Pham Xuan An (one of the eponymous “darling spies”), Keever provides a ground-level look—by turns shrewd, lucid, and humane—of the war in Vietnam.”—Publishers Weekly

 

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“War Stories”

False Atrocity Tales, Swift Boaters, and Winter Soldiers—What Really Happened in Vietnam

Gary Kulik

Kulik conducts an extremely thorough review of the Vietnam literature and interviews participants wherever possible, poking holes in the war myths of people throughout the political spectrum.

 

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Political Indoctrination in the U. S. Army

Christopher S. DeRosa

“I commend this study to those who wish to understand the Army’s efforts to produce not just efficient soldiers, but citizen soldiers who truly believed in what they were asked to do.”—John W. Mountcastle, Journal of Political and Military Sociology

 

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Desertion in the Time of Vietnam

A Memoir

Jack Todd

“This book deserves a high place in the literature of America’s war in Vietnam. Gracefully and eloquently and honestly, without falling into the traps of self-pity or misspent anger, Jack Todd has written a stunning account of his desertion from the U.S. Army in 1969. I doubt that Mr. Todd would call himself a hero—certainly most so-called ‘patriotic’ Americans would not—but having read this frank, beautiful memoir, I can think of no better term to describe a man of such incredible integrity and moral courage. In tight, powerful prose, Mr. Todd captures the terrors and doubts and humiliations that must necessarily accompany such acts of spiritual and political valor.”—Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried and Going After Cacciato