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Defend and Befriend Cover

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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.

A Different Face of War Cover

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A Different Face of War

Memories of a Medical Service Corps Officer in Vietnam

James G. Van Straten

A Different Face of War is a riveting account of a Medical Service Corps officer’s activities during the early years of the Vietnam War. Assigned as the senior medical advisor to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam in I Corps, an area close to the DMZ, James G. Van Straten traveled extensively and interacted with military officers and non-commissioned officers, peasant-class farmers, Buddhist bonzes, shopkeepers, scribes, physicians, nurses, the mentally ill, and even political operatives. He sent his wife daily letters from July 1966 through June 1967, describing in impressive detail his experiences, and those letters became the primary source for his memoir. The author describes with great clarity and poignancy the anguish among the survivors when an American cargo plane in bad weather lands short of the Da Nang Air Base runway on Christmas Eve and crashes into a Vietnamese coastal village, killing more than 100 people and destroying their village; the heart-wrenching pleadings of a teenage girl that her shrapnel-ravaged leg not be amputated; and the anger of an American helicopter pilot who made repeated trips into a hot landing zone to evacuate the wounded, only to have the Vietnamese insist that the dead be given a higher priority.

Donut Dolly Cover

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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.

Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic, 1760-1835 Cover

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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.

Failing Our Veterans Cover

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Failing Our Veterans

The G.I. Bill and the Vietnam Generation

Mark Boulton

The original 1944 G.I. Bill holds a special place in the American imagination. In popular mythology, it stands as the capstone of the Greatest Generation narrative of World War II, a fitting reward for the nation’s heroes. Given the almost universal acclaim afforded the bill, future generations of warriors might well have expected to receive similar remuneration for their sacrifice. But when soldiers of the Vietnam conflict shed their fatigues and returned home to civilian life, they found that their G.I. Bills fell well short of what many of them believed they had earned.

In this first legislative history of the G.I. Bill during the Vietnam Era, Mark Boulton takes the story of veterans’ politics beyond the 1944 G.I. Bill as he seeks to uncover the reasons why Vietnam veterans were less well compensated than their predecessors. In crafting their legislation, both conservative and liberal politicians of the Vietnam era wrestled with fundamental questions about the obligations of American citizenship. What does it mean to serve one’s country? What does society owe those civilians it puts in uniform? Repeatedly, in answering those questions, lawmakers from both ends of the political spectrum found reasons to curb the generosity of the benefits offered.

The G.I. Bills should play a central role in our understanding of the Vietnam veteran’s post-service lives, just as they do for World War II veterans. Taking the story of the G.I. Bills beyond the World War II generation allows for a more complete understanding of the veteran experience in America.

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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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Fire Across the Sea

The Vietnam War and Japan 1965-1975

Thomas R.H. Havens

Professor Havens analyzes the efforts of Japanese antiwar organizations to portray the war as much more than a fire across the sea" and to create new forms of activism in a country where individuals have traditionally left public issues to the authorities. This path-breaking study examines not only the methods of the protesters but the tightrope dance performed by Japanese officials forced to balance outspoken antiwar sentiment with treaty obligations to the U.S.

Originally published in 1987.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

Forever Vietnam Cover

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Forever Vietnam

How a Divisive War Changed American Public Memory

David Kieran

Four decades after its end, the American war in Vietnam still haunts the nation’s collective memory. Its lessons, real and imagined, continue to shape government policies and military strategies, while the divisions it spawned infect domestic politics and fuel the so-called culture wars. In Forever Vietnam, David Kieran shows how the contested memory of the Vietnam War has affected the commemoration of other events, and how those acts of remembrance have influenced postwar debates over the conduct and consequences of American foreign policy. Kieran focuses his analysis on the recent remembrance of six events, three of which occurred before the Vietnam War and three after it ended. The first group includes the siege of the Alamo in 1836, the incarceration of Union troops at Andersonville during the Civil War, and the experience of American combat troops during World War II. The second comprises the 1993 U.S. intervention in Somalia, the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In each case a range of actors—military veterans, policymakers, memorial planners, and the general public—used memorial practices associated with the Vietnam War to reinterpret the contemporary significance of past events. A PBS program about Andersonville sought to cultivate a sense of national responsibility for the My Lai massacre. A group of Vietnam veterans occupied the Alamo in 1985, seeing themselves as patriotic heirs to another lost cause. A World War II veteran published a memoir in 1980 that reads like a narrative of combat in Vietnam. Through these and other examples, Forever Vietnam reveals not only the persistence of the past in public memory but also its malleability in the service of the political present.

Gene Basset’s Vietnam Sketchbook Cover

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Gene Basset’s Vietnam Sketchbook

A Cartoonist’s Wartime Perspective

by Thom Rooke

In 1965, Gene Basset, a well-known political cartoonist, was sent to Vietnam by his newspaper publishing syndicate. His assignment: to sketch scenes of the increasingly controversial war in order to help the newspaper-reading public better understand the events occurring in Southeast Asia. In much the same way that M.A.S.H. gave viewers an irreverent, wry view of war and its devastating effects on citizens as well as soldiers, Basset’s sketches portray the everyday, often mundane, aspects of wartime with an intimate touch that eases access to the dark subject matter. In this affectionately curated collection, author, doctor, and longtime friend of the artist, Thom Rooke, deftly leads us through more than eighty of Basset’s cartoons, organizing his insights according to the well-known stages of grief, from denial to acceptance, and demonstrating how Basset’s images convey moments of trauma, coping, and healing. From scenes of American GIs haggling with Vietnamese street vendors to a medic dressing the wounds of a wide-eyed soldier, Basset’s endearing sketches and Rooke’s friendly prose humanize life during wartime. The seriocomic vignettes and analyses are delivered with wit, compassion, and subtle charm sure to please academic, artistic, and casual readers alike.

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