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History > Military History > Vietnam War

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The Scar That Binds Cover

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The Scar That Binds

American Culture and the Vietnam War

Keith Beattie

At the height of the Vietnam War, American society was so severely fragmented that it seemed that Americans may never again share common concerns. The media and other commentators represented the impact of the war through a variety of rhetorical devices, most notably the emotionally charged metaphor of "the wound that will not heal." References in various contexts to veterans' attempts to find a "voice," and to bring the war "home" were also common. Gradually, an assured and resilient American self-image and powerful impressions of cultural collectivity transformed the Vietnam war into a device for maintaining national unity. Today, the war is portrayed as a healed wound, the once "silenced" veteran has found a voice, and the American home has accommodated the effects of Vietnam. The scar has healed, binding Americans into a union that denies the divisions, diversities, and differences exposed by the war. In this way, America is now "over" Vietnam.

In The Scar That Binds, Keith Beattie examines the central metaphors of the Vietnam war and their manifestations in American culture and life. Blending history and cultural criticism in a lucid style, this provocative book discusses an ideology of unity that has emerged through widespread rhetorical and cultural references to the war. A critique of this ideology reveals three dominant themes structured in a range of texts: the "wound," "the voice" of the Vietnam veteran, and "home." The analysis of each theme draws on a range of sources, including film, memoir, poetry, written and oral history, journalism, and political speeches. In contrast to studies concerned with representations of the war as a combat experience, The Scar That Binds opens and examines an unexplored critical space through a focus on the effects of the Vietnam War on American culture. The result is a highly original and compelling interpretation of the development of an ideology of unity in our culture.

Selma to Saigon Cover

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Selma to Saigon

The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War

Daniel S. Lucks

The civil rights and anti--Vietnam War movements were the two greatest protests of twentieth-century America. The dramatic escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1965 took precedence over civil rights legislation, which had dominated White House and congressional attention during the first half of the decade. The two issues became intertwined on January 6, 1966, when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) became the first civil rights organization to formally oppose the war, protesting the injustice of drafting African Americans to fight for the freedom of the South Vietnamese people when they were still denied basic freedoms at home.

Selma to Saigon explores the impact of the Vietnam War on the national civil rights movement. Before the war gained widespread attention, the New Left, the SNCC, and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) worked together to create a biracial alliance with the potential to make significant political and social gains in Washington. Contention over the war, however, exacerbated preexisting generational and ideological tensions that undermined the coalition, and Lucks analyzes the causes and consequences of this disintegration.

This powerful narrative illuminates the effects of the Vietnam War on the lives of leaders such as Whitney Young Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Roy Wilkins, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other activists who faced the threat of the military draft along with race-related discrimination and violence. Providing new insights into the evolution of the civil rights movement, this book fills a significant gap in the literature about one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

Shadow and Stinger Cover

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Shadow and Stinger

Developing the AC-119G/K Gunships in the Vietnam War

By William Head

Nicknamed “the truck killer,” the AC-119K gunship and its counterpart, the AC-119G, were developed in the late 1960s in response to the needs of the U.S. military in Vietnam. This important book examines the evolution of these aircraft and their role within Vietnam, military policy, and geopolitical realities. Drawing on unpublished studies and a host of primary materials, William Head discusses the events that led to the birth of the AC-119, the planning and modification processes that followed, and its operational history. The G model, or “Shadow,” focused on air support and anti-personnel missions. “Stinger,” the K model, which could carry more cargo for longer distances, was suited for destruction of enemy vehicles. Though the AC-119 was only an interim asset, its descendants—the AC-130E, H, and U—have played an active role in the recent conflict in Iraq. A narrative of the crews and pilots who executed the missions and the engineers, designers, and the politicians responsible for the aircraft, Shadow and Stinger will be of interest to Vietnam veterans, historians, and scholars, as well as aviation enthusiasts.

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Sisterhood of War

Minnesota Women in Vietnam

by Kim Heikkila

In January 1966, navy nurse Lieutenant Kay Bauer stepped off a pan am airliner into the stifling heat of Saigon and was issued a camouflage uniform, boots, and a rifle. “What am I supposed to do with this?” she said of the weapon. “I’m a nurse.” Bauer was one of approximately six thousand military nurses who served in Vietnam. Historian Kim Heikkila here delves into the experiences of fifteen nurse veterans from Minnesota, exploring what drove them to enlist, what happened to them in-country, and how the war changed their lives. Like Bauer, these women saw themselves as nurses first and foremost: their job was to heal rather than to kill. after the war, however, the very professional selflessness that had made them such committed military nurses also made it more difficult for them to address their own needs as veterans. Reaching out to each other, they began healing from the wounds of war, and they turned their energies to a new purpose: this group of Minnesotans launched the campaign to build the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. In the process, a collection of individuals became a tight-knit group of veterans who share the bonds of a sisterhood forged in war.

Snake Pilot Cover

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Snake Pilot

Flying the Cobra Attack Helicopter in Vietnam

Zahn, Randy R.

Based on audiotapes he recorded during the war and sent home to his family, Randy ZahnÆs Snake Pilot recounts his experiences flying AH-1 Cobra helicopters during the Vietnam War. First deployed in Vietnam in 1967 and loaded with a formidable arsenal of weaponry, the Cobra was the first helicopter designed from inception as an attack aircraft. It dramatically changed the nature of the war in Vietnam by offering the Army, for the first time, its own powerful and highly accurate weapons platform for close-air-support missions.

Randy Zahn arrived in Vietnam shortly before the 1970 U.S. invasion of Cambodia, one of the most impressive demonstrations by the Cobra in the war. He describes his stunning transformation from a naive, middle-class teenager from southern California to a hardened killer during his tour in Vietnam. Unlike the pilots who flew the fast-moving strike jets, Zahn experienced the war ôup close and personal,ö witnessing the grisly effects of the CobraÆs firepower on enemy soldiers. The author does not glorify killing but rather explains in sharp relief the kaleidoscope of emotions associated with combat: fear, revenge, hate, remorse, pity, and even ecstasy. He captures many of the ironies and nuances inherent in Vietnam, especially during the final years of the conflict. Zahn displays a sensitivity rarely found in memoirs written by battle-hardened warriors. This human element, combined with the vast amount of archival research and interviews with members of his former unit, ensures that Snake Pilot will become the definitive account of the role helicopters played in Vietnam.

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Son Tay Raid

American POWs in Vietnam Were Not Forgotten, Revised Edition

John Gargus

In May 1970, aerial photographs revealed what U.S. military intelligence believed was a POW camp near the town of Son Tay, twenty-three miles west of North Vietnam’s capital city. When American officials decided the prisoners were attempting to send signals, they set in motion a daring plan to rescue the more than sixty airmen thought to be held captive. On November 20, a joint group of volunteers from U.S. Army Green Berets and U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces perfectly executed the raid, only to find the prisoners' quarters empty; the POWs had been moved to a different location. Initially, the Son Tay raid was a devastating disappointment to the men who risked their lives to carry it out. Many vocal critics labeled it as a spectacular failure of our nation’s intelligence network. However, subsequent events proved that the audacity of the rescue attempt stunned the North Vietnamese, who implemented immediate changes in the treatment of their captives. The operation also restored the prisoners’ faith that their nation had not forgotten them. John Gargus not only participated in the planning phase of the Son Tay rescue, but also flew as a lead navigator for the strike force. This revised edition incorporates the most recent information from raid participants and also includes recent translations of North Vietnamese perspectives. No previous account of this top-secret action has given such a full account or such insight into both the execution and the aftermath of Son Tay.  

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Team 19 in Vietnam

An Australian Soldier at War

David Millie. foreword by General Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (Ret.)

Historical accounts and memoirs of the Vietnam War often ignore the participation of nations other than Vietnam and the United States. As a result, few Americans realize that several members of the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO), including Australia, allied with South Vietnam during the conflict. By the late 1960s, more than eight thousand Australians were deployed in the region or providing support to the forces there.

In Team 19 in Vietnam, David Millie offers an insightful account of his twelve-month tour with the renowned Australian Army Training Team Vietnam in Quang Tri Province -- a crucial tactical site along the demilitarized zone that was North Vietnam's gateway to the south. Drawing from published and unpublished military documents, his personal diary, and the letters he wrote while deployed, Millie introduces readers to the daily routines, actions, and disappointments of a field staff officer. He discusses his interactions with province senior advisor Colonel Harley F. Mooney and Major John Shalikashvili, who would later become chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. This firsthand narrative vividly demonstrates the importance of the region and the substantial number of forces engaged there.

Few Australian accounts of the Vietnam War exist, and Millie offers a rare glimpse into the year after the Tet offensive, when Presidents Johnson and Nixon both made it clear that the U.S. would withdraw its troops. This important memoir reveals that responsibility for the catastrophe inflicted on Vietnamese civilians is shared by an international community that failed to act effectively in the face of a crisis., reviewing a previous edition or volume

The Third Sex Cover

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The Third Sex

Lawrence R. Schehr

Thirty-two years before Simone de Beauvoirs classic The Second Sex, popular French novelist Willy published The Third Sex, a vivid description of the world of European homosexuals in France, Italy, and Germany during the late 1920s. Stepping directly into the heart of gay mens culture, Willy follows homosexual nightlife into music halls, nightclubs, casinos, bars, and saunas. While he finds plenty of drug and alcohol abuse, he also discovers homosexual publishers, scientific societies, group rivalries, and opinions--both medical and political--about the nature of homosexuality itself. Lawrence R. Schehrs introduction provides context and translators notes for this first-ever English edition.

To the Limit Cover

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To the Limit

An Air Cav Huey Pilot in Vietnam

Johnson, Tom A.

Helicopter pilots in Vietnam kidded one another about being nothing but glorified bus drivers. But these “rotor heads” saved thousands of American lives while performing what the Army classified as the most dangerous job it had to offer. One in eighteen did not return home.

Tom A. Johnson flew the UH-1 “Iroquois” — better known as the “Huey” — in the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion of the First Air Cavalry Division. From June 1967 through June 1968, he accumulated an astonishing 1,600 flying hours (1,150 combat and 450 noncombat). His battalion was one of the most highly decorated units in the Vietnam War and, as part of the famous First Air Cavalry Division, helped redefine modern warfare. With tremendous flying skill, Johnson survived rescue missions and key battles that included those for Hue and Khe Sanh and operations in the A Shau and Song Re valleys, while many of his comrades did not. His heartfelt and riveting memoir will strike a chord with any soldier who ever flew in the ubiquitous Huey and any reader with an interest in how the Vietnam War was really fought.

Toxic War Cover

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Toxic War

The Story of Agent Orange

Peter Sills

The war in Vietnam, spanning more than twenty years, was one of the most divisive conflicts ever to envelop the United States, and its complexity and consequences did not end with the fall of Saigon in 1975. As Peter Sills demonstrates in Toxic War, veterans faced a new enemy beyond post-traumatic stress disorder or debilitating battle injuries. Many of them faced a new, more pernicious, slow-killing enemy: the cancerous effects of Agent Orange.



Originally introduced by Dow and other chemical companies as a herbicide in the United States and adopted by the military as a method of deforesting the war zone of Vietnam, in order to deny the enemy cover, Agent Orange also found its way into the systems of numerous active-duty soldiers. Sills argues that manufacturers understood the dangers of this compound and did nothing to protect American soldiers.



Toxic War takes the reader behind the scenes into the halls of political power and industry, where the debates about the use of Agent Orange and its potential side effects raged. In the end, the only way these veterans could seek justice was in the court of law and public opinion. Unprecedented in its access to legal, medical, and government documentation, as well as to the personal testimonies of veterans, Toxic War endeavors to explore all sides of this epic battle.

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