Nationalist in the Viet Nam Wars: Memoirs of a Victim Turned Soldier

Nationalist in the Viet Nam Wars: Memoirs of a Victim Turned Soldier

Nationalist in the Viet Nam Wars: Memoirs of a Victim Turned Soldier

Nationalist in the Viet Nam Wars: Memoirs of a Victim Turned Soldier

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

As it was being fought, the Việt Nam War was the most thoroughly documented and recorded war in history. It is, therefore, especially ironic that more than thirtyfive years after the fall of Sài Gòn, Việt Nam remains one of the most misunderstood of all American wars, shrouded in a fog of misconceptions, bogus myths, and distorted facts. One of the most cherished of those many false beliefs centers on what was supposed to have been the complete operational ineptness and combat ineffectiveness of the Army of the Republic of Việt Nam—the ARVN. The seemingly stark difference between the ARVN of the South and the People’s Army of Việt Nam—the PAVN—of the North prompted many pundits at the time and since to ask why “our Vietnamese” couldn’t fight, but “theirs” obviously could.

Even the leaders of North Việt Nam believed the common wisdom about the ARVN being little more than a house of cards. One of North Việt Nam Defense Minister Võ Nguyên Giáp’s key assumptions when he launched the 1968 Tết Offensive was that the ARVN would collapse on first contact. But it didn’t collapse. It fought, and it fought well. The ARVN again put up a stiff and largely successful fight during North Việt Nam’s 1972 Easter Offensive. And when the North Vietnamese again attacked with overwhelming force in the spring of 1975, some ARVN units finally did collapse under the crushing onslaught, but many other South Vietnamese units went down fighting. Most of the ARVN soldiers who survived then paid the terrible price of years of brutal treatment in the forced “reeducation camps” established by the victors.

Most Americans who served in Việt Nam had some contact with the soldiers of the ARVN. Those who served in Special Forces units or as Military Assistance Command, Việt Nam (MACV) advisors had almost daily contact with the South Vietnamese military, and consequently they developed a more in-depth understanding of its particular structural and institutional problems, as well as the intricacies of the broader South Vietnamese culture from which the ARVN was drawn. For those GIs who served in the conventional U.S. units, the contact was more sporadic, and what understanding of their allies they did develop did not run very . . .

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