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History > Military History > Vietnam War

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Con Thien Cover

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Con Thien

The Hill of Angels

Written by James P. Coan

A memoir/history of a much-beleaguered Marine outpost of the DMZ.

Throughout much of 1967, a remote United States Marine firebase only two miles from the demilitarized zone (DMZ) captured the attention of the world’s media. That artillery-scarred outpost was the linchpin of the so-called McNamara Line intended to deter incursions into South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army. As such, the fighting along this territory was particularly intense and bloody, and the body count rose daily.

Con Thien combines James P. Coan’s personal experiences with information taken from archives, interviews with battle participants, and official documents to construct a powerful story of the daily life and combat on the red clay bulls-eye known as "The Hill of Angels." As a tank platoon leader in Alpha Company, 3d Tank Battalion, 3d Marine Division, Coan was stationed at Con Thien for eight months during his 1967-68 service in Vietnam and witnessed much of the carnage.

Con Thien was heavily bombarded by enemy artillery with impunity because it was located in politically sensitive territory and the U.S. government would not permit direct armed response from Marine tanks. Coan, like many other soldiers, began to feel as though the government was as much the enemy as the NVA, yet he continued to fight for his country with all that he had. In his
riveting memoir, Coan depicts the hardships of life in the DMZ and the ineffectiveness of much of the U.S. military effort in Vietnam.

The Dalai Lama’s Secret and Other Reporting Adventures Cover

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The Dalai Lama’s Secret and Other Reporting Adventures

Stories from a Cold War Correspondent

Henry S. Bradsher

For over a quarter of a century, award-winning journalist Henry Bradsher reported stories from around the world. In this lively and engaging account, Bradsher recounts episodes from a distinguished career that took him to the Himalayas, the jungles of Bhutan, Kremlin caviar receptions, China’s Forbidden City, and the battlefields of Vietnam. Throughout, Bradsher emphasizes the unpredictability of a correspondent’s life and the strains, perils, and privileges of standing witness to momentous world events. In South Asia, Bradsher reported the Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet in 1959 and the last five years that Jawaharlal Nehru led India—with a side trip to hunt tigers in Nepal with Queen Elizabeth. In Moscow he covered the downfall of Nikita Khrushchev, and he later suffered the KGB bombing of his car in response to his tenacious reporting. His incisive coverage from Hong Kong led Chinese officials to label Bradsher as “the most despicable” journalist. But after a power shift, they welcomed him as the first American journalist allowed to work in China in over a year. Bradsher predicted and reported Bangladesh’s independence struggle, and he worked in the Middle East, covering Egyptian-Israeli peace arrangements. Access to the events that shaped the Cold War also led to Bradsher’s meeting many world leaders, including Nehru, Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Zhou Enlai, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Anwar Sadat, and Menachem Begin. Although Bradsher’s reporting riled officials in Moscow, Beijing, and even the United States—prompting Henry Kissinger’s attempts to thwart the publication of his reports—history has proven its accuracy. Bradsher’s relentlessness in his own work accompanied a profound respect for fellow journalists worldwide who endanger themselves to keep the public informed.

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Dartmouth Veterans

Vietnam Perspectives

Phillip C. Schaefer

These are tales of what it was like for young men to go from the bucolic hills of New Hampshire to a land wracked by war and violence. The result is a collection of more than fifty accounts, showing the variety of experiences and reactions to this dramatic period in American history. Some soldiers were drafted, some volunteered; some supported the war, but many turned against it. Common to all the stories is the way in which war changes men, for good and ill, and the way in which the Vietnam experience colored so much of the rest of these writers' lives.

Death Zones and Darling Spies Cover

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Death Zones and Darling Spies

Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting

Beverly Deepe Keever

In 1961, equipped with a master’s degree from famed Columbia Journalism School and letters of introduction to Associated Press bureau chiefs in Asia, twenty-six-year-old Beverly Deepe set off on a trip around the world. Allotting just two weeks to South Vietnam, she was still there seven years later, having then earned the distinction of being the longest-serving American correspondent covering the Vietnam War and garnering a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

In Death Zones and Darling Spies, Beverly Deepe Keever describes what it was like for a farm girl from Nebraska to find herself halfway around the world, trying to make sense of one of the nation’s bloodiest and bitterest wars. She arrived in Saigon as Vietnam’s war entered a new phase and American helicopter units and provincial advisers were unpacking. She tells of traveling from her Saigon apartment to jungles where Wild West–styled forts first dotted Vietnam’s borders and where, seven years later, they fell like dominoes from communist-led attacks. In 1965 she braved elephant grass with American combat units armed with unparalleled technology to observe their valor—and their inability to distinguish friendly farmers from hide-and-seek guerrillas.

Keever’s trove of tissue-thin memos to editors, along with published and unpublished dispatches for New York and London media, provide the reader with you-are-there descriptions of Buddhist demonstrations and turning-point coups as well as phony ones. Two Vietnamese interpreters, self-described as “darling spies,” helped her decode Vietnam’s shadow world and subterranean war. These memoirs, at once personal and panoramic, chronicle the horrors of war and a rise and decline of American power and prestige.

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Defend and Befriend

The U.S. Marine Corps and Combined Action Platoons in Vietnam

John Southard

After relatively successful military interventions in Iraq in 1992 and Yugoslavia in 1998, many American strategists believed that airpower and remote technology were the future of U.S. military action. But America's most recent wars in the Middle East have reinforced the importance of counterinsurgency, with its imperative to "win hearts and minds" on the ground in foreign lands. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has studied and experimented with the combined action platoon (CAP) concept used from 1965 to 1971 by the Marine Corps in Vietnam.

Consisting of twelve Marines, a medic, and dozens of inexperienced local militiamen, the American contingent of CAPs lived in South Vietnamese villages where they provided twenty-four-hour security and daily medical support for civilians, and fostered social interaction through civic action projects, such as building schools, offices, and wells. Defend and Befriend is the first comprehensive study of the evolution of these platoons, emphasizing how and why the U.S. Marine Corps attempted to overcome the inherent military, social, and cultural obstacles on the ground in Vietnam. Basing his analysis on Marine records and numerous interviews with CAP veterans, author John Southard illustrates how thousands of soldiers tasked with counterinsurgency duties came to perceive the Vietnamese people and their mission.

This unique study counters prevailing stereotypes and provides a new perspective on the American infantryman in the Vietnam War. Illuminating the fear felt by many Americans as they served among groups of understandably suspicious civilians, Defend and Befriend offers important insights into the future development of counterinsurgency doctrine.

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Donut Dolly

An American Red Cross Girl's War in Vietnam

Joann Puffer Kotcher

Donut Dolly puts you in the Vietnam War face down in the dirt under a sniper attack, inside a helicopter being struck by lightning, at dinner next to a commanding general, and slogging through the mud along a line of foxholes. You see the war through the eyes of one of the first women officially allowed in the combat zone. When Joann Puffer Kotcher left for Vietnam in 1966, she was fresh out of the University of Michigan with a year of teaching, and a year as an American Red Cross Donut Dolly in Korea. All she wanted was to go someplace exciting. In Vietnam, she visited troops from the Central Highlands to the Mekong Delta, from the South China Sea to the Cambodian border. At four duty stations, she set up recreation centers and made mobile visits wherever commanders requested. That included Special Forces Teams in remote combat zone jungles. She brought reminders of home, thoughts of a sister or the girl next door. Officers asked her to take risks because they believed her visits to the front lines were important to the men. Every Vietnam veteran who meets her thinks of her as a brother-at-arms. Donut Dolly is Kotcher’s personal view of the war, recorded in a journal kept during her tour, day by day as she experienced it. It is a faithful representation of the twists and turns of the turbulent, controversial time. While in Vietnam, Kotcher was once abducted; dodged an ambush in the Delta; talked with a true war hero in a hospital who had charged a machine gun; and had a conversation with a prostitute. A rare account of an American Red Cross volunteer in Vietnam, Donut Dolly will appeal to those interested in the Vietnam War, to those who have interest in the military, and to women aspiring to go beyond the ordinary.

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Eagle Days

A Marine Legal/Infantry Officer in Vietnam

Written by Donald W. Griffis

Much has been written about America’s war in Vietnam, and an enduring and troubling subtext is the composition of the body of soldiers that made up the U.S. troop deployment: from the initially well-trained and disciplined group of largely elite units that served in the mid-sixties to what has been termed an “armed mob” by the end of that decade and into the early 1970s. Drug use, insubordination, racial antagonism that often became violent, theft and black market dealing, and even “fragging” (murder of officers and senior noncoms by disgruntled troops) marred the record of the U.S. military presence. Don Griffis served in the twin roles of legal officer charged at various times with the task of both defending and prosecuting servicemen, while at the same time leading combat patrols in “search and destroy” missions against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese enemy. Eagle Days is a remarkable account of Griffis’ personal record of experiencing what the military should do best—meet, engage, and defeat the enemy—and what it becomes when esprit de corps, discipline, and a sense of purpose decay.

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Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic, 1760-1835

Cedrick May

This study focuses on the role of early African American Christianity in the formation of American egalitarian religion and politics. It also provides a new context for understanding how black Christianity and evangelism developed, spread, and interacted with transatlantic religious cultures of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Cedrick May looks at the work of a group of pivotal African American writers who helped set the stage for the popularization of African American evangelical texts and the introduction of black intellectualism into American political culture: Jupiter Hammon, Phillis Wheatley, John Marrant, Prince Hall, Richard Allen, and Maria Stewart.

Religion gave these writers agency and credibility, says May, and they appropriated the language of Christianity to establish a common ground on which to speak about social and political rights. In the process, these writers spread the principles that enabled slaves and free blacks to form communities, a fundamental step in resisting oppression. Moreover, says May, this institution building was overtly political, leading to a liberal shift in mainstream Christianity and secular politics as black churches and the organizations they launched became central to local communities and increasingly influenced public welfare and policy.

This important new study restores a sense of the complex challenges faced by early black intellectuals as they sought a path to freedom through Christianity.

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Felon for Peace

The Memoir of a Vietnam-Era Draft Resister

Jerry Elmer

When Jerry Elmer turned eighteen at the height of the Vietnam War, he publicly refused to register for the draft, a felony then and now. Later he burglarized the offices of fourteen draft boards in three cities, destroying the files of men eligible to be drafted. After working almost twenty years in the peace movement, he attended law school, where he was the only convicted felon in Harvard’s class of 1990. This book is a blend of personal memoir, contemporary history, and astute political analysis. Elmer draws on a variety of sources, including never-before-released FBI files, and argues passionately for the practice of nonviolence. He describes the range of actions he took—from draft card burning to organizing draft board raids with Father Phil Berrigan; from vigils on the Capitol steps inside “tiger cages” used to torture Vietnamese political prisoners to jail time for protesting nuclear power plants; from a tour of the killing fields of Cambodia to meetings with Corazon Aquino in the Philippines. A Vietnamese-language edition of FELON FOR PEACE will be published later this year.

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The Great Silent Majority

Nixon's 1969 Speech on Vietnamization

Karlyn Kohrs Campbell

In his televised and widely watched speech to the nation on November 3, 1969, Pres. Richard M. Nixon introduced a phrase—“silent majority”—and a policy—Vietnamization of the war effort—that echo down to the present day. Nixon’s appearance on this night framed the terms in which much of the subsequent civil conflict and military strategy would be understood.

Rhetorical scholar Karlyn Kohrs Campbell analyzes this critically important speech in light of the historical context and its centrality to three other speeches–two earlier and one the following spring, when the announcement of the US invasion of Cambodia brought a far different response. She also sheds light on a discourse that generated much heat in a nation already seriously divided in its support of the war in Vietnam.

The first single volume dedicated to this speech, this addition to the distinguished Library of Presidential Rhetoric provides the speech text, a summary of its context, its rhetorical elements, and the disciplinary analyses that have developed.

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