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History > Military History > Vietnam War

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The 25-Year War Cover

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The 25-Year War

America's Military Role in Vietnam

General Bruce Palmer, Jr.

" 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.

The 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam Cover

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The 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam

Unparalleled and Unequaled

Ira Hunt Jr., USA (Ret.)

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.

The American War in Contemporary Vietnam Cover

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The American War in Contemporary Vietnam

Transnational Remembrance and Representation

Christina Schwenkel

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.

Apocalypse Then Cover

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Apocalypse Then

American Intellectuals and the Vietnam War, 1954-1975

Robert Tomes

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.

Before the Quagmire Cover

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Before the Quagmire

American Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961

William J. Rust

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.

Black Sailor, White Navy Cover

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Black Sailor, White Navy

Racial Unrest in the Fleet during the Vietnam War Era

John Sherwood

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.

The Bridges of Vietnam Cover

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The Bridges of Vietnam

From the Journals of a U.S. Marine Intelligence Officer

Fred L. Edwards, Jr.

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

Britain and the Neutralisation of Laos Cover

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Britain and the Neutralisation of Laos

Nicholas Tarling

The Geneva conference on Laos of 1961-1962, which Britain helped initiate and bring to a conclusion, throws light on Britain's policy in Southeast Asia during what in some sense may be seen as the last of the decades in which its influence was crucial. This book is the first to make full use of the British archives to explore the conference, but it also bears on the history of Laos, of Vietnam, and of Southeast Asia generally. The core of the Geneva settlement was the neutralisation of Laos, the United States to strengthen its commitment to Thailand and Vietnam. North Vietnam could accept this result only if it allowed continued use of the Ho Chi Minh trail, which sustained resistance in South Vietnam. Under these circumstances, the agreement on neutralisation, though elaborately negotiated, had little chance of success. In the longer term, however, the agreement played a part in developing the concept of a neutral Southeast Asia advanced by ASEAN. The book is important for scholars in the various fields it touches, including modern Southeast Asian history, the history of Laos, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and international relations. It will be of expecial interest to those studying British policy at a time when Britain was seeking to reduce its commitments while continuing to avert the escalation of the Cold War.

Cambodia, 1975-1978 Cover

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Cambodia, 1975-1978

Rendezvous with Death

Karl D. Jackson

One of the most devastating periods in twentieth-century history was the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge over Cambodia. From April 1975 to the beginning of the Vietnamese occupation in late December 1978, the country underwent perhaps the most violent and far-reaching of all modern revolutions. These six essays search for what can be explained in the ultimately inexplicable evils perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. Accompanying them is a photo essay that provides shocking visual evidence of the tragedy of Cambodia's autogenocide. "The most important examination of the subject so far.... Without in any way denying the horror and brutality of the Khmers Rouges, the essays adopt a principle of detached analysis which makes their conclusion far more significant and convincing than the superficial images emanating from the television or cinema screen." --Ralph Smith, The Times Literary Supplement "A book that belongs on the shelf of every scholar interested in Cambodia, revolution, or communism.... Answers to questions such as `What effect did Khmer society have on the reign of the Khmer Rouge?' focus on understanding, rather than merely describing." --Randall Scott Clemons, Perspectives on Political Science

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