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America's Military Role in Vietnam
" On April 30, 1975, Saigon and the government of South Vietnam fell to the communist regime of North Vietnam, ending -- for American military forces -- exactly twenty-five year of courageous but unavailing struggle. This is not the story of how America became embroiled in a conflict in a small country half-way around the globe, nor of why our armed forces remained there so long after the futility of our efforts became obvious to many. It is the story of what went wrong there militarily, and why. The author is a professional soldier who experienced the Vietnam war in the field and in the highest command echelons. General Palmer's insights into the key events and decisions that shaped American's military role in Vietnam are uncommonly perceptive. America's most serious error, he believes, was committing its armed forces to a war in which neither political nor military goals were ever fully articulated by our civilian leaders. Our armed forces, lacking clear objectives, failed to develop an appropriate strategy, instead relinquishing the offensive to Hanoi. Yet an achievable strategy could have been devised, Palmer believes. Moreover, our South Vietnamese allies could have been bolstered by appropriate aid but were instead overwhelmed by the massive American military presence. Compounding these errors were the flawed civilian and military chains of command. The result was defeat for America and disaster for South Vietnam. General Palmer presents here an insider's history of the war and an astute critique of America's military strengths and successes as well as its weaknesses and failures.
Unparalleled and Unequaled
Of all the military assignments in Vietnam, perhaps none was more challenging than the defense of the Mekong River Delta region. Operating deep within the Viet Cong–controlled Delta, the 9th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army was charged with protecting the area and its population against Communist insurgents and ensuring the success of the South Vietnamese government’s pacification program. Faced with unrelenting physical hardships, a tenacious enemy, and the region’s rugged terrain, the 9th Division established strategies and quantifiable goals for completing their mission, effectively writing a blueprint for combating guerilla warfare that influenced army tacticians for decades to come. In The 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam: Unparalleled and Unequaled, Ira A. Hunt Jr. details the innovative strategies of the 9th Division in their fight to overcome the Viet Cong. Based on Hunt’s experience as colonel and division chief of staff, the volume documents how the 9th Division’s combat effectiveness peaked in 1969. A wealth of illustrative material, including photos, maps, charts, and tables, deepens understanding of the region’s hazardous environment and clarifies the circumstances of the division’s failures and successes. A welcome addition to scholarship on the Vietnam War, The 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam will find an audience with enthusiasts and scholars of military history.
Belligerence, Protest, and Agony in Dixie
To fully comprehend the Vietnam War, it is essential to understand the central role that southerners played in the nation's commitment to the war, in the conflict's duration, and in the fighting itself. President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas and Secretary of State Dean Rusk of Georgia oversaw the dramatic escalation of U.S. military involvement from 1965 through 1968. General William Westmoreland, born and raised in South Carolina, commanded U.S. forces during most of the Johnson presidency. Widely supported by their constituents, southern legislators collectively provided the most dependable support for war funding and unwavering opposition to measures designed to hasten U.S. withdrawal from the conflict. In addition, southerners served, died, and were awarded the Medal of Honor in numbers significantly disproportionate to their states' populations.
In The American South and the Vietnam War, Joseph A. Fry demonstrates how Dixie's majority pro-war stance derived from a host of distinctly regional values, perspectives, and interests. He also considers the views of the dissenters, from student protesters to legislators such as J. William Fulbright, Albert Gore Sr., and John Sherman Cooper, who worked in the corridors of power to end the conflict, and civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, and Julian Bond, who were among the nation's most outspoken critics of the war. Fry's innovative and masterful study draws on policy analysis and polling data as well as oral histories, transcripts, and letters to illuminate not only the South's influence on foreign relations, but also the personal costs of war on the home front.
Transnational Remembrance and Representation
Christina Schwenkel's absorbing study explores how the "American War" is remembered and commemorated in Vietnam today -- in official and unofficial histories and in everyday life. Schwenkel analyzes visual representations found in monuments and martyrs' cemeteries, museums, photography and art exhibits, battlefield tours, and related sites of "trauma tourism." In these transnational spaces, American and Vietnamese memories of the war intersect in ways profoundly shaped by global economic liberalization and the return of American citizens as tourists, pilgrims, and philanthropists.
American Intellectuals and the Vietnam War, 1954-1975
Prior to the Vietnam war, American intellectual life rested comfortably on shared assumptions and often common ideals. Intellectuals largely supported the social and economic reforms of the 1930s, the war against Hitler's Germany, and U.S. conduct during the Cold War. By the early 1960s, a liberal intellectual consensus existed.
The war in Southeast Asia shattered this fragile coalition, which promptly dissolved into numerous camps, each of which questioned American institutions, values, and ideals. Robert R. Tomes sheds new light on the demise of Cold War liberalism and the development of the New Left, and the steady growth of a conservatism that used Vietnam, and anti-war sentiment, as a rallying point. Importantly, Tomes provides new evidence that neoconservatism retreated from internationalism due largely to Vietnam, only to regroup later with substantially diminished goals and expectations.
Covering vast archival terrain, Apocalypse Then stands as the definitive account of the impact of the Vietnam war on American intellectual life.
Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam War
Popular representations of the Vietnam War tend to emphasize violence, deprivation, and trauma. By contrast, in Armed with Abundance, Meredith Lair focuses on the noncombat experiences of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, redrawing the landscape of the war so that swimming pools, ice cream, visits from celebrities, and other "comforts" share the frame with combat.
To address a tenuous morale situation, military authorities, Lair reveals, wielded abundance to insulate soldiers--and, by extension, the American public--from boredom and deprivation, making the project of war perhaps easier and certainly more palatable. The result was dozens of overbuilt bases in South Vietnam that grew more elaborate as the war dragged on. Relying on memoirs, military documents, and G.I. newspapers, Lair finds that consumption and satiety, rather than privation and sacrifice, defined most soldiers' Vietnam deployments. Abundance quarantined the U.S. occupation force from the impoverished people it ostensibly had come to liberate, undermining efforts to win Vietnamese "hearts and minds" and burdening veterans with disappointment that their wartime service did not measure up to public expectations. With an epilogue that finds a similar paradigm at work in Iraq, Armed with Abundance offers a unique and provocative perspective on modern American warfare.
American Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961
In the decade preceding the first U.S. combat operations in Vietnam, the Eisenhower administration sought to defeat a communist-led insurgency in neighboring Laos. Although U.S. foreign policy in the 1950s focused primarily on threats posed by the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, the American engagement in Laos evolved from a small cold war skirmish into a superpower confrontation near the end of President Eisenhower's second term. Ultimately, the American experience in Laos foreshadowed many of the mistakes made by the United States in Vietnam in the 1960s.
In Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954--1961, William J. Rust delves into key policy decisions made in Washington and their implementation in Laos, which became first steps on the path to the wider war in Southeast Asia. Drawing on previously untapped archival sources, Before the Quagmire documents how ineffective and sometimes self-defeating assistance to Laotian anticommunist elites reflected fundamental misunderstandings about the country's politics, history, and culture. The American goal of preventing a communist takeover in Laos was further hindered by divisions among Western allies and U.S. officials themselves, who at one point provided aid to both the Royal Lao Government and to a Laotian general who plotted to overthrow it. Before the Quagmire is a vivid analysis of a critical period of cold war history, filling a gap in our understanding of U.S. policy toward Southeast Asia and America's entry into the Vietnam War.
Racial Unrest in the Fleet during the Vietnam War Era
It is hard to determine what dominated more newspaper headlines in America during the 1960s and early ‘70s: the Vietnam War or America’s turbulent racial climate. Oddly, however, these two pivotal moments are rarely examined in tandem.
John Darrell Sherwood has mined the archives of the U.S. Navy and conducted scores of interviews with Vietnam veterans — both black and white and other military personnel to reveal the full extent of racial unrest in the Navy during the Vietnam War era, as well as the Navy’s attempts to control it. During the second half of the Vietnam War, the Navy witnessed some of the worst incidents of racial strife ever experienced by the American military. Sherwood introduces us to fierce encounters on American warships and bases, ranging from sit-down strikes to major race riots.
The Navy’s journey from a state of racial polarization to one of relative harmony was not an easy one, and Black Sailor, White Navy focuses on the most turbulent point in this road: the Vietnam War era.
From the Journals of a U.S. Marine Intelligence Officer
As an intelligence officer during the Vietnam War, Fred L. Edwards, Jr., was instructed to visit every major ground unit in the country to search for intelligence sources—long range patrols, boats, electronic surveillance, and agent operations. “Edwards found time to keep a journal, an extremely well-written, sharply observed report of his adventures. Along with contemporary postscripts and a helpful historical chronology, that journal is a significant improvement on most Vietnam memoirs. It is the record of a Marine’s on-the-job education.”—Proceedings