A Vietnam War Reader: A Documentary History from American and Vietnamese Perspectives

A Vietnam War Reader: A Documentary History from American and Vietnamese Perspectives

A Vietnam War Reader: A Documentary History from American and Vietnamese Perspectives

A Vietnam War Reader: A Documentary History from American and Vietnamese Perspectives


An essential new resource for students and teachers of the Vietnam War, this concise collection of primary sources opens a valuable window on an extraordinarily complex conflict.

The materials gathered here, from both the American and Vietnamese sides, remind readers that the conflict touched the lives of many people in a wide range of social and political situations and spanned a good deal more time than the decade of direct U.S. combat. Indeed, the U.S. war was but one phase in a string of conflicts that varied significantly in character and geography. Michael Hunt brings together the views of the conflict's disparate players--from Communist leaders, Vietnamese peasants, Saigon loyalists, and North Vietnamese soldiers to U.S. policymakers, soldiers, and critics of the war. By allowing the participants to speak, this volume encourages readers to formulate their own historically grounded understanding of a still controversial struggle.


For most Americans today, the history of the Vietnam War is like a play that unfolds in ways quite different from the audience’s preconceptions. Ticket holders take their seats expecting a drama about American soldiers. But once the curtain goes up, there are some surprises — the Vietnamese characters dominate the stage at the outset, the American characters arrive late (soldiers among the last), the play proves far longer than anticipated, and the plotline takes some unfamiliar twists. This collection of documents — snippets from a real drama — should also shatter some expectations that readers carry in their heads. The materials gathered here suggest that the Vietnam War was not mainly about U.S. soldiers and that it spanned a good deal more than the decade of direct U.S. combat.


Many Americans feel instinctively that they know the Vietnam conflict in large measure because of popular myths and misconceptions incorporated and propagated, if not actually created, through the movies and other widely consumed U.S. media. Hollywood, with its trademark capacity for neat packaging and simple messages, tackled the war in the late 1970s, and in a steady output over the following decades, it became the single most important source for public memory. One movie critic commented wryly, “Since 1977, Hollywood has been succeeding where Washington consistently failed: namely, in selling Vietnam to the American public.” The Hollywood version of the war — perpetuated in dvds and television reruns — worked its magic above all by draining the war of much of the controversy that would have gotten in the way of entertainment. In often powerful, frequently reiterated images, Vietnam became a fantasy world where Americans tested their manliness, underwent youthful rites of passage, embarked on perilous rescues, suffered personal corruption, or replayed frontier dramas with the Vietnamese as the

1. Thomas Doherty, “Full Metal Genre: Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam Combat Movies,” in Perspectives on Stanley Kubrick, ed. Mario Falsetto (New York: Hall, 1996), 307.

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