This book consists of fifteen chapters, organised by theme, and each written by a different author (or authors). Amongst the authors are American academics and soldiers, and North and South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. The chapters cover a wide range of topics, looking at the entire period of the conflict from the Japanese occupation, past the North Vietnamese conquest in 1975 and on to the post-war impact of the conflict in Vietnam and the United States. Geographically the book also covers the conflicts in Cambodia and Laos, while the themes include details of the fighting, the civilian experience of the war and the role of the media.
The most moving section comes in the chapter on the civilian experience of the war, and looks at the impact of the 'Strategic Hamlet' program in which people was expelled from their homes, which were demolished around them, and moved to new sterile villages - in this case in an unproductive area where everyone struggled. It is hard to imagine how anyone thought this tactic could possible held reduce support for the Communists, but its value as a recruiting aid for them is rather obvious.
The study of the impact of the US Media on the war is very revealing, showing that the idea that the media played a part in the American defeat is actually false. Instead the media's attitude to the war actually trailed rather behind events on the ground, with the press generally supportive for longer than public opinion, and only becoming more hostile as things started to go wrong in Vietnam. The idea that the war was unwinnable also comes under attack, in particular from the North Vietnamese military commentator who provides his own ideas for plans that he believes could have seen the Americans win the war (or at least prevent the North Vietnamese from winning).
This is a valuable contribution to the literature on the Vietnam War, providing an excellent overview of the conflict and its context, providing views from almost every angle and covering an impressive range of topics.
1 - Introduction: An American War?, Dr Andrew Wiest
2 - The French Indochina War: 1946-54, Martin Windrow
3 - Fight for the Long Haul: The War as Seen by a Soldier in the People's Army of Vietnam, Bui Tin
4 - The Road South: The Ho Chi Minh Trail, Dr John Prados
5 - The War Outside Vietnam: Cambodia and Laos, Professor Kenton Clymer
6 - A View from the Other Side of the Story: Reflections of a South Vietnamese Soldier, Lieutenant General Lam Quang Thi
7 - Caught in the Crossfire: The Civilian Experience, Le Ly Hayslip and Dien Pham
8 - Diggers and Kiwis: Australian and New Zealand Experience in Vietnam, Professor Jeffrey Grey
9 - The Conduct of the War: Strategy, Doctrine, Tactics and Policy
10 - On the Ground: The US Experience, Bernard Edelman
11 - 'Swatting Flies with a Sledgehammer': The Air War, Professor Ronald B. Frankum Jr.
12 - Battle for Mekong: The River War in Vietnam, Professor R. Blake Dunnavent
13 - Tactics in a Different War: Adapting US Doctrine, Gordon L. Rottman
14 - The 'Living-Room' War: Media and Public Opinion in a Limited War, Professor Daniel C. Hallin
15 - The Final Act - and After: The Legacy of War, Arnold R. Isaccs
Editor: Andrew Wiest