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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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The Gift of Barbed Wire

America’s Allies Abandoned in South Vietnam

By Robert S. McKelvey

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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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Ground Pounder

A Marine’s Journey through South Vietnam, 1968-1969

Gregory V. Short

In early February of 1968, at the beginning of the Tet Offensive, Private First Class Gregory V. Short arrived in Vietnam as an eighteen-year-old U.S. Marine. Amid all of the confusion and destruction, he began his tour of duty as an 81mm mortarman with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, which was stationed at Con Thien near the DMZ. While living in horrendous conditions reminiscent of the trenches in World War I, his unit was cut off and constantly being bombarded by the North Vietnamese heavy artillery, rockets, and mortars. Soon thereafter Short left his mortar crew and became an 81mm’s Forward Observer for Hotel Company. Working with the U.S. Army’s 1st Air Cavalry Division and other units, he helped relieve the siege at Khe Sanh by reopening Route 9. Short participated in several different operations close to the Laotian border, where contact with the enemy was often heavy and always chaotic. On May 19, Ho Chi Minh’s birthday, the NVA attempted to overrun the combat base in the early morning hours. Tragically, during a two-month period, one of the companies (Foxtrot Company) within his battalion would sustain more than 70 percent casualties. By September Short was transferred to the 1st Battalion 9th Marines (the Walking Dead). Assigned as an infantryman (grunt) with Bravo Company and operating along the DMZ and near the A Shau Valley, he would spend the next five months patrolling the mountainous terrain and enduring the harsh elements. At the end of his first tour, he re-upped for a second and was assigned to the 1st Marine Air Wing in Da Nang, where he had an opportunity to become familiar with the Vietnamese culture. Direct, honest, and brutal in his observations, Short holds nothing back in describing the hardships of modern warfare and our leaders’ illusions of success.

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Hanoi's War

An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam

Lien-Hang T. Nguyen

While most historians of the Vietnam War focus on the origins of U.S. involvement and the Americanization of the conflict, Lien-Hang T. Nguyen examines the international context in which North Vietnamese leaders pursued the war and American intervention ended. This riveting narrative takes the reader from the marshy swamps of the Mekong Delta to the bomb-saturated Red River Delta, from the corridors of power in Hanoi and Saigon to the Nixon White House, and from the peace negotiations in Paris to high-level meetings in Beijing and Moscow, all to reveal that peace never had a chance in Vietnam.
Hanoi's War renders transparent the internal workings of America's most elusive enemy during the Cold War and shows that the war fought during the peace negotiations was bloodier and much more wide ranging than it had been previously. Using never-before-seen archival materials from the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as materials from other archives around the world, Nguyen explores the politics of war-making and peace-making not only from the North Vietnamese perspective but also from that of South Vietnam, the Soviet Union, China, and the United States, presenting a uniquely international portrait.

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Haunting Legacy

Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama

Marvin Kalb and Deborah Kalb

The United States had never lost a war —that is, until 1975, when it was forced to flee Saigon in humiliation after losing to what Lyndon Johnson called a "raggedy-ass little fourth-rate country." The legacy of this first defeat has haunted every president since, especially on the decision of whether to put "boots on the ground" and commit troops to war.

In Haunting Legacy, the father-daughter journalist team of Marvin Kalb and Deborah Kalb presents a compelling, accessible, and hugely important history of presidential decisionmaking on one crucial issue: in light of the Vietnam debacle, under what circumstances should the United States go to war?

The sobering lesson of Vietnam is that the United States is not invincible —it can lose a war —and thus it must be more discriminating about the use of American power. Every president has faced the ghosts of Vietnam in his own way, though each has been wary of being sucked into another unpopular war. Ford (during the Mayaguez crisis) and both Bushes (Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan) deployed massive force, as if to say, "Vietnam, be damned." On the other hand, Carter, Clinton, and Reagan (to the surprise of many) acted with extreme caution, mindful of the Vietnam experience. Obama has also wrestled with the Vietnam legacy, using doses of American firepower in Libya while still engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The authors spent five years interviewing hundreds of officials from every post war administration and conducting extensive research in presidential libraries and archives, and they've produced insight and information never before published. Equal parts taut history, revealing biography, and cautionary tale, Haunting Legacy is must reading for anyone trying to understand the power of the past to influence war-and-peace decisions of the present, and of the future.

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Haunting Legacy

Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama

Marvin Kalb and Deborah Kalb

The United States had never lost a war —that is, until 1975, when it was forced to flee Saigon in humiliation after losing to what Lyndon Johnson called a "raggedy-ass little fourth-rate country." The legacy of this first defeat has haunted every president since, especially on the decision of whether to put "boots on the ground" and commit troops to war.

In Haunting Legacy, the father-daughter journalist team of Marvin Kalb and Deborah Kalb presents a compelling, accessible, and hugely important history of presidential decisionmaking on one crucial issue: in light of the Vietnam debacle, under what circumstances should the United States go to war?

The sobering lesson of Vietnam is that the United States is not invincible —it can lose a war —and thus it must be more discriminating about the use of American power. Every president has faced the ghosts of Vietnam in his own way, though each has been wary of being sucked into another unpopular war. Ford (during the Mayaguez crisis) and both Bushes (Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan) deployed massive force, as if to say, "Vietnam, be damned." On the other hand, Carter, Clinton, and Reagan (to the surprise of many) acted with extreme caution, mindful of the Vietnam experience. Obama has also wrestled with the Vietnam legacy, using doses of American firepower in Libya while still engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The authors spent five years interviewing hundreds of officials from every post war administration and conducting extensive research in presidential libraries and archives, and they've produced insight and information never before published. Equal parts taut history, revealing biography, and cautionary tale, Haunting Legacy is must reading for anyone trying to understand the power of the past to influence war-and-peace decisions of the present, and of the future.

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Hell in An Loc

The 1972 Easter Invasion and the Battle That Saved South Viet Nam

Lam Quang Thi

In 1972 a North Vietnamese offensive of more than 30,000 men and 100 tanks smashed into South Vietnam and raced to capture Saigon. All that stood in their way was a small band of 6,800 South Vietnamese (ARVN) soldiers and militiamen, and a handful of American advisors with U.S. air support, guarding An Loc, a town sixty miles north of Saigon and on the main highway to it. This depleted army, outnumbered and outgunned, stood its ground and fought to the end and succeeded. Against all expectations, the ARVN beat back furious assaults from three North Vietnamese divisions, supported by artillery and armored regiments, during three months of savage fighting. This victory was largely unreported in the U.S. media, which had effectively lost interest in the war after the disengagement of most U.S. forces. Thi believes that it is time to set the record straight. Without denying the tremendous contribution of the U.S. advisors and pilots, this book is written primarily to tell the South Vietnamese side of the story and, more importantly, to render justice to the South Vietnamese soldier.

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Hog’s Exit

Jerry Daniels, the Hmong, and the CIA

Gayle L. Morrison

It just didn’t sit right. Not with his friends, not with his coworkers, not with his hunting and fishing buddies, and certainly not with his family. The American Embassy in Bangkok had reported the accidental death of Jerry “Hog” Daniels by carbon monoxide poisoning. Three decades later, his family and most of his friends remain unconvinced that the U.S. government told them the truth about his death.
            As a former CIA case officer to legendary Hmong leader General Vang Pao during the “secret war” in Laos, Jerry Daniels was experienced, smart, and careful. Those who knew him well said he wasn’t the type to die as reported. Raising even more doubts, his casket was “Permanently Sealed” by the U.S. State Department before being shipped home to Missoula, Montana, where he was honored with a three-day funeral ceremony organized by his former comrades-in-arms, the Hmong hilltribe warriors from Laos.
            This book examines the unique personality and reported death of a man who was a pivotal agent in U.S./Hmong history. Friends and family share their memories of Daniels growing up in Montana, cheating death in Laos, and carousing in the bars and brothels of Thailand. First-person accounts from Americans and Hmong, ranchers and refugees, State Department officials and smokejumpers capture both human and historical stories about the life of this dedicated and irreverent individual and offer speculation on the unsettling circumstances of his death. Equally important, Hog’s Exit is the first complete account in English to document the drama and beauty of the Hmong funeral process.
            Hog’s Exit provides a fascinating view of a man and the two very different cultures in which he lived.

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In Buddha's Company

Thai Soldiers in the Vietnam War

Richard A. Ruth

In Buddha’s Company explores a previously neglected aspect of the Vietnam War: the experiences of the Thai troops who served there and the attitudes and beliefs that motivated them to volunteer. Thailand sent nearly 40,000 volunteer soldiers to South Vietnam to serve alongside the Free World Forces in the conflict, but unlike the other foreign participants, the Thais came armed with historical and cultural knowledge of the region. Blending the methodologies of cultural and military history, Richard Ruth examines the individual experiences of Thai volunteers in their wartime encounters with American allies, South Vietnamese civilians, and Viet Cong enemies. Ruth shows how the Thais were transformed by living amongst the modern goods and war machinery of the Americans and by traversing the jungles and plantations haunted by indigenous spirits. At the same time, Ruth argues, Thailand’s ruling institutions used the image of volunteers to advance their respective agendas, especially those related to anticommunist authoritarianism.

Drawing on numerous interviews with Thai veterans and archival material from Thailand and the United States, Ruth focuses on the cultural exchanges that occurred between Thai troops and their allies and enemies, presenting a Southeast Asian view of a conflict that has traditionally been studied as a Cold War event dominated by an American political agenda. The resulting study considers such diverse topics as comparative Buddhisms, alternative modernities, consumerism, celebrity, official memories vs. personal recollections, and the value of local knowledge in foreign wars. The war’s effects within Thailand itself are closely considered, demonstrating that the war against communism in Vietnam, as articulated by Thai leaders, was a popular cause among nearly all segments of the population. Furthermore, Ruth challenges previous assertions that Thailand’s forces were merely "America’s mercenaries" by presenting the multiple, overlapping motivations for volunteering offered by the soldiers themselves.

In Buddha’s Company makes clear that many Thais sought direct involvement in the Vietnam War and that their participation had profound and lasting effects on the country’s political and military institutions, royal affairs, popular culture, and international relations. As one of only a handful of academic histories of Thailand in the 1960s, it provides a crucial link between the keystone studies of the Phibun-Sarit years (1946–1963) and those examining the turbulent 1970s.

47 illus., 2 maps

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