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History > Military History > Vietnam War

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Losing Vietnam Cover

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Losing Vietnam

How America Abandoned Southeast Asia

Major General Ira A. Hunt Jr., USA (Ret.)

In the early 1970s, as U.S. combat forces began to withdraw from Southeast Asia, South Vietnamese and Cambodian forces continued the fight against the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF), more commonly known as the Viet Cong. Despite the evacuation of its ground troops, the United States promised to materially support its allies' struggle against communist aggression. Over time, however, the American government drastically reduced its funding of the conflict, placing immense strain on the Cambodian and South Vietnamese armed forces, which were fighting well-supplied enemies. In Losing Vietnam, Major General Ira A. Hunt Jr. chronicles the efforts of U.S. military and State Department officials who argued that severe congressional budget reductions ultimately would lead to the defeat of both Cambodia and South Vietnam. Hunt details the catastrophic effects of reduced funding and of conducting "wars by budget." As deputy commander of the United States Support Activities Group Headquarters (USAAG) in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, Hunt received all Southeast Asia operational reports, reconnaissance information, and electronic intercepts, placing him at the forefront of military intelligence and analysis in the area. He also met frequently with senior military leaders of Cambodia and South Vietnam, contacts who shared their insights and gave him personal accounts of the ground wars raging in the region. This detailed and fascinating work highlights how analytical studies provided to commanders and staff agencies improved decision making in military operations. By assessing allied capabilities and the strength of enemy operations, Hunt effectively demonstrates that America's lack of financial support and resolve doomed Cambodia and South Vietnam to defeat.

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The Lotus Unleashed

The Buddhist Peace Movement in South Vietnam, 1964-1966

Robert Topmiller

During the Vietnam War, Vietnamese Buddhist peace activists made extraordinary sacrifices—including self-immolation—to try to end the fighting. They hoped to establish a neutralist government that would broker peace with the Communists and expel the Americans. Robert J. Topmiller explores South Vietnamese attitudes toward the war, the insurgency, and U.S. intervention, and lays bare the dissension within the U.S. military. The Lotus Unleashed is one of the few studies to illuminate the impact of internal Vietnamese politics on U.S. decision-making and to examine the power of a nonviolent movement to confront a violent superpower.

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Monument to Deceit

Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars

C. Michael Hiam

It was an enigma of the Vietnam War: American troops kept killing the Viet Cong--and being killed in the process--and yet their ranks continued to grow. When CIA analyst Sam Adams uncovered documents suggesting a Viet Cong army more than twice as large as previously reckoned, another war erupted, this time within the ranks of America's intelligence community. Although originally clandestine, this conflict involving the highest levels of the U.S. government burst into public view during the acrimonious lawsuit Westmoreland v. CBS. The central issue in the suit, as in the war itself, was the calamitous failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to ascertain the strength of the Viet Cong and get that information to troops in a timely fashion. The legacy of this failure--whether caused by institutional inertia, misguided politics, or individual hubris--haunts our nation. In the era of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden, Sam Adams' tireless crusade for "honest intelligence" resonates strongly today.

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The Myth of the Addicted Army

Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs

Jeremy Kuzmarov

The image of the drug-addicted American soldier—disheveled, glassy-eyed, his uniform adorned with slogans of antiwar dissent—has long been associated with the Vietnam War. More specifically, it has persisted as an explanation for the U.S. defeat, the symbol of a demoralized army incapable of carrying out its military mission. Yet as Jeremy Kuzmarov documents in this deeply researched book, popular assumptions about drug use in Vietnam are based more on myth than fact. Not only was alcohol the intoxicant of choice for most GIs, but the prevalence of other drugs varied enormously. Although marijuana use among troops increased over the course of the war, for the most part it remained confined to rear areas, and the use of highly addictive drugs like heroin was never as widespread as many imagined. Like other cultural myths that emerged from the war, the concept of an addicted army was first advanced by war hawks seeking a scapegoat for the failure of U.S. policies in Vietnam, in this case one that could be linked to “permissive” liberal social policies and the excesses of the counterculture. But conservatives were not alone. Ironically, Kuzmarov shows, elements of the antiwar movement also promoted the myth, largely because of a presumed alliance between Asian drug traffickers and the Central Intelligence Agency. While this claim was not without foundation, as new archival evidence confirms, the left exaggerated the scope of addiction for its own political purposes. Exploiting bipartisan concern over the perceived “drug crisis,” the Nixon administration in the early 1970s launched a bold new program of federal antidrug measures, especially in the international realm. Initially, the “War on Drugs” helped divert attention away from the failed quest for “peace with honor” in Southeast Asia. But once institutionalized, it continued to influence political discourse as well as U.S. drug policy in the decades that followed.

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Nationalist in the Viet Nam Wars

Memoirs of a Victim Turned Soldier

Nguyen Công Luan

This extraordinary memoir tells the story of one man's experience of the wars of Viet Nam from the time he was old enough to be aware of war in the 1940s until his departure for America 15 years after the collapse of South Viet Nam in 1975. Nguyen Cong Luan was born and raised in small villages near Ha Noi. He grew up knowing war at the hands of the Japanese, the French, and the Viet Minh. Living with wars of conquest, colonialism, and revolution led him finally to move south and take up the cause of the Republic of Viet Nam, exchanging a life of victimhood for one of a soldier. His stories of village life in the north are every bit as compelling as his stories of combat and the tragedies of war. This honest and impassioned account is filled with the everyday heroism of the common people of his generation.

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The Other Side of Grief

The Home Front and the Aftermath in American Narratives of the Vietnam War

Maureen Ryan

The lingering aftereffects of the Vietnam War resonate to this day throughout American society: in foreign policy, in attitudes about the military and war generally, and in the contemporary lives of members of the so-called baby boom generation who came of age during the 1960s and early 1970s. While the best-known personal accounts of the war tend to center on the experience of combat, Maureen Ryan’s The Other Side of Grief examines the often overlooked narratives—novels, short stories, memoirs, and films—that document the war’s impact on the home front. In analyzing the accounts of Vietnam veterans, women as well as men, Ryan focuses on the process of readjustment, on how the war continued to insinuate itself into their lives, their families, and their communities long after they returned home. She looks at the writings of women whose husbands, lovers, brothers, and sons served in Vietnam and whose own lives were transformed as a result. She also appraises the experiences of the POWs who came to be embraced as the war’s only heroes; the ordeal of Vietnamese refugees who fled their “American War” to new lives in the United States; and the influential movement created by those who committed themselves to protesting the war. The end result of Ryan’s investigations is a cogent synthesis of the vast narrative literature generated by the Vietnam War and its aftermath. Together those stories powerfully demonstrate how deeply the legacies of the war penetrated American culture and continue to reverberate still.

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The Quiet Professional

Major Richard J. Meadows of the U.S. Army Special Forces

Alan Hoe

Major Richard J. “Dick” Meadows is renowned in military circles as a key figure in the development of the U.S. Army Special Operations. A highly decorated war veteran of the engagements in Korea and Vietnam, Meadows was instrumental in the founding of the U.S. Delta Force and hostage rescue force. Although he officially retired in 1977, Meadows could never leave the army behind, and he went undercover in the clandestine operations to free American hostages from Iran in 1980. The Quiet Professional: Major Richard J. Meadows of the U.S. Army Special Forces is the only biography of this exemplary soldier’s life. Military historian Alan Hoe offers unique insight into Meadows, having served alongside him in 1960. The Quiet Professional is an insider’s account that gives a human face to U.S. military strategy during the cold war. Major Meadows often claimed that he never achieved anything significant; The Quiet Professional proves otherwise, showcasing one of the great military minds of twentieth-century America.

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A Raid Too Far

Operation Lam Son 719 and Vietnamization in Laos

James H. Willbanks

In February 1971, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) launched an incursion into Laos in an attempt to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail and destroy North Vietnamese Army (NVA) base areas along the border. This movement would be the first real test of Vietnamization, Pres. Richard Nixon’s program to turn the fighting over to South Vietnamese forces as US combat troops were withdrawn. US ground forces would support the operation from within South Vietnam and would pave the way to the border for ARVN troops, and US air support would cover the South Vietnamese forces once they entered Laos, but the South Vietnamese forces would attack on the ground alone.
The operation, dubbed Lam Son 719, went very well for the first few days, but as movement became bogged down the NVA rushed reinforcements to the battle and the ARVN forces found themselves under heavy attack. US airpower wreaked havoc on the North Vietnamese troops, but the South Vietnamese never regained momentum and ultimately began to withdraw back into their own country under heavy enemy pressure.
In this first in-depth study of this operation, military historian and Vietnam veteran James H. Willbanks traces the details of battle, analyzes what went wrong, and suggests insights into the difficulties currently being incurred with the training of indigenous forces.

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Rattler One-Seven

A Vietnam Helicopter Pilot's War Story

Chuck Gross

Rattler One-Seven puts you in the helicopter seat, to see the war in Vietnam through the eyes of an inexperienced pilot as he transforms himself into a seasoned combat veteran. When Chuck Gross left for Vietnam in 1970, he was a nineteen-year-old Army helicopter pilot fresh out of flight school. He spent his entire Vietnam tour with the 71st Assault Helicopter Company flying UH-1 Huey helicopters. Soon after the war he wrote down his adventures, while his memory was still fresh with the events. Rattler One-Seven (his call sign) is written as Gross experienced it, using these notes along with letters written home to accurately preserve the mindset he had while in Vietnam. During his tour Gross flew Special Operations for the MACV-SOG, inserting secret teams into Laos. He notes that Americans were left behind alive in Laos, when official policy at home stated that U.S. forces were never there. He also participated in Lam Son 719, a misbegotten attempt by the ARVN to assault and cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail with U.S. Army helicopter support. It was the largest airmobile campaign of the war and marked the first time that the helicopter was used in mid-intensity combat, with disastrous results. Pilots in their early twenties, with young gunners and a Huey full of ARVN soldiers, took on experienced North Vietnamese antiaircraft artillery gunners, with no meaningful intelligence briefings or a rational plan on how to cut the Trail. More than one hundred helicopters were lost and more than six hundred aircraft sustained combat damage. Gross himself was shot down and left in the field during one assault. Rattler One-Seven will appeal to those interested in the Vietnam War and to all armed forces, especially aviators, who have served for their country.

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Replacing France

The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam

Kathryn Statler

Using recently released archival materials from the United States and Europe, Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam explains how and why the United States came to assume control as the dominant western power in Vietnam during the 1950s. Acting on their conviction that American methods had a better chance of building a stable, noncommunist South Vietnamese nation, Eisenhower administration officials systematically ejected French military, economic, political, bureaucratic, and cultural institutions from Vietnam. Kathryn C. Statler examines diplomatic maneuvers in Paris, Washington, London, and Saigon to detail how Western alliance members sought to transform South Vietnam into a modern, westernized, and democratic ally but ultimately failed to counter the Communist threat. Abetted by South Vietnamese prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem, Americans in Washington, D.C., and Saigon undermined their French counterparts at every turn, resulting in the disappearance of a French presence by the time Kennedy assumed office. Although the United States ultimately replaced France in South Vietnam, efforts to build South Vietnam into a nation failed. Instead, it became a dependent client state that was unable to withstand increasing Communist aggression from the North. Replacing France is a fundamental reassessment of the origins of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that explains how Franco-American conflict led the United States to pursue a unilateral and ultimately imperialist policy in Vietnam.

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