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Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and 1950s Southern Vietnam
In 1955, Ngo Dinh Diem organized an election to depose chief-of-state Bao Dai, after which he proclaimed himself the first president of the newly created Republic of Vietnam. The United States sanctioned the results of this election, which was widely condemned as fraudulent, and provided substantial economic aid and advice to the RVN. Because of this, Diem is often viewed as a mere puppet of the United States, in service of its Cold War geopolitical strategy. That narrative, Jessica M. Chapman contends in Cauldron of Resistance, grossly oversimplifies the complexity of South Vietnam's domestic politics and, indeed, Diem's own political savvy.
Based on extensive work in Vietnamese, French, and American archives, Chapman offers a detailed account of three crucial years, 1953-1956, during which a new Vietnamese political order was established in the south. It is, in large part, a history of Diem's political ascent as he managed to subdue the former Emperor Bao Dai, the armed Hoa Hao and Cao Dai religious organizations, and the Binh Xuyen crime organization. It is also an unparalleled account of these same outcast political powers, forces that would reemerge as destabilizing political and military actors in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Chapman shows Diem to be an engaged leader whose personalist ideology influenced his vision for the new South Vietnamese state, but also shaped the policies that would spell his demise. Washington's support for Diem because of his staunch anticommunism encouraged him to employ oppressive measures to suppress dissent, thereby contributing to the alienation of his constituency, and helped inspire the organized opposition to his government that would emerge by the late 1950s and eventually lead to the Vietnam War.
The Heroic Story of the First American Shot Down over North Vietnam
On August 5, 1964, while Lt. (jg) Everett Alvarez was flying a retaliatory air strike against naval targets in North Vietnam, antiaircraft fire crippled his A-4 fighter-bomber, forcing him to eject over water at low altitude. Alvarez relates the engrossing tale of his capture by fishermen, brutal treatment by the North Vietnamese, physical and mental endurance, and triumphant repatriation nearly nine years later in 1973.
Alvarez spent more time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam than any other flier. As Senator John McCain, a fellow POW, has written, “During his captivity, Ev exhibited a courage, compassion, and indomitable will that was an inspiration to us all.” Indeed, the book, which was written with Anthony S. Pitch, is remarkable for its lack of rancor. Alvarez directs his strongest words against the small number of POWs who broke ranks and collaborated with the enemy. As one reviewer wrote, Alvarez “relates the misery of his condition with a detachment that robs it of its shock value.” Chained Eagle also tells the story of the Alvarez family’s ordeal during his years of imprisonment: His sister became an anitwar activist, his wife divorced him, and relatives died. Yet throughout his time as a prisoner of war, Alvarez remained duty-bound and held steadfast to his religious faith and the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
A Marine Company's Vietnam War
The combat history of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines--or “One Five” (1/5)--is long and illustrious, but there are many periods of their combat operations during the Vietnam War about which there is little in print. This history is drawn from many years of research, from the author’s personal memories, and from careful study of the battalion’s Command Chronologies and Combat After-action Reports and other historical records. Most importantly it includes a collection of true stories told to the author by dozens of U.S. Marines who served in and fought with 1/5 during the Vietnam War, at all levels of the Chain of Command.This book hunkers down with the “Mud Marines” of Charlie One Five, a small but determined band of American fighting men, and their very human and often painful stories of combat cover a wide range of scenarios and situations. Follow the Marines of 1/5 as they are lulled by the exotic and beautiful countryside, trudge through swamps, jungles, mountains, and rice paddies for seemingly endless days, and struggle to stay alert during their cautious passage through the extreme terrain and weather conditions of this incredibly scenic but deceptive land, only to be shattered by sudden and deadly attacks from Viet Cong snipers, ambushes, and command-detonated bombs. Despite the overwhelming odds against them, the Marines of Charlie One Five always emerge victorious in every battle they fight.
The Hill of Angels
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.
Stories from a Cold War Correspondent
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.
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.
Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting
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.
The U.S. Marine Corps and Combined Action Platoons in Vietnam
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.
An American Red Cross Girl's War in Vietnam
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.
A Marine Legal/Infantry Officer in Vietnam