Books on the Vietnam War

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Books - Vietnam

Vietnam 1972: Quang Tri – The Easter Offensive Strikes the South, Charles D. Melson. Focuses on the role of the South Vietnamese Marine Corps in the battles for Quang Tri city and province in the northern of South Vietnam in the fighting that started with the Easter Offensive. Shows that they were a capable infantry force, well able to defeat their North Vietnamese opponents as long as they had US naval and air support, despite suffering an initial defeat in the face of the surprise Northern attack (Read Full Review)
F-8 Crusader Vietnam 1963-73, Peter E. Davies. Looks at the track record of the US Navy’s best dogfighter of the Vietnam War, covering its development, weapon systems, the rival MiG-17 and MiG-21, and the key combats in the most active period in the late 1960s, when most of the direct clashes between the rival fighters took place. There aren’t many of these clashes, but they are well described, and are unusual for the combination of classic dogfighting and guided missiles (Read Full Review)
The Phantom Vietnam War – An F-4 Pilot’s Combat over Laos, David R. ‘Buff’ Honodel. The Vietnam memoirs of David R ‘Buff’ Honodel, who served as an F-4 fighter-bomber pilot operating mainly over Laos from a US base in Thailand, often attacking the Ho Chi Minh Trail at its least vulnerable stage. Gives us a very atmospheric account of life as a front line pilot fighting a war that didn’t officially exist, the perils of front line service and the impact of the changing attitude to the war back in the US (Read Full Review)
A Shau Valor - American Combat Operations in the Valley of Death, 1963-1971, Thomas R. Yarborough. A detailed account of the repeated brutal battles in the A Shau valley in the north-west of South Vietnam, the location of the infamous ‘hamburger hill’, and the site of repeated American incursions, none of which achieved anything of significance. Very good on the brutal nature of the fighting in the A Shau, which the author witnessed from the air as a forward air controller, and takes a balanced view of the wider picture of the American side of the war, including the political background, the policies of the American commanders in Vietnam and the way the war was reported (Read Full Review)
First In, Last Out - An Unconventional British Officer in Indo-China, J.P. Cross. A fascinating account of the author’s time as military attaché in Laos, arriving in 1972 while the Americans were still propping up the Royal government and leaving in 1976 after the Communist takeover of the country, so an eyewitness to the country’s fall to communism, given extra value by his speaking nine Asian languages (including Lao) and his honesty, which gives us an unusual insight into these dramatic events (Read Full Review)
The Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club – Naval Aviation in the Vietnam War, Thomas McKelvey Cleaver. A look at the role of US naval aviation in the Vietnam War, starting with the Gulf of Tonkin incident which triggered direct US military involvement, through the slow escalation of the bombing campaign until it reached a scale above that of the Pacific War, and on to the final burst of bombing that stopped North Vietnam’s Easter Offensive. Combines chapters looking at the overall campaign with chapters focusing in more detail on air-to-air combat, looking at the aircraft and weapons on both sides, and the way in which the Navy focused on the skills of its pilots, creating the famous ‘Top Gun’ school (Read Full Review)
Ia Drang 1965 – the Struggle for Vietnam’s Pleiku Province, J.P. Harris & J. Kenneth Eward. Looks at a campaign that included two of the most famous small battles of the Vietnam War, at I Drang, looking at the original Vietnamese plan, the American response and the many flaws with that response that led to the famous battles. Benefits greatly from using sources from both sides, so we know what the Vietnamese were attempting to achieve as well as the Americans. Also acknowledges the many flaws with the US plan, which saw a small force dropped into the middle of an enemy held area, and then split in two! (Read Full Review)
Vietnam War Booby Traps, Gordon L. Rottman. Looks at the impressively wide range of booby traps used by both sides during the Vietnam War, although with a focus on their use by the North Vietnamese and VC, where they helped compensate for their general inferiority in direct confrontations. Also looks at where the booby traps were located, demonstrating that their use was always carefully thought through, and they weren’t scattered around the jungle. Written by a Vietnam veteran and historian, which gives it a level of authenticity that you rarely find(Read Full Review)
US Air Cavalry Trooper versus North Vietnamese Soldier – Vietnam 1965-68, Chris McNab. Largely focuses on the combat record of the US 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in 1966-7, looking at how it performed in three battles against the North Vietnamese. Good on the US side, a bit thin in the Vietnamese side, so better seen as a examination of the airmobile concept than a direct comparison of the two units covered (Read Full Review)
Vietnam War US & Allied Combat Equipments, Gordon L. Rottman. A detailed examination of the non-combat equipment carried by US and allied troops during the Vietnam War, looking both at the official kit and what was actually carried. Excludes the uniform itself and any actual weapons, but covers just about everything else, from the webbing used to carry most of the kit to the various types of first aid kits. The author actually served in Vietnam in 1969-70, so knows what he is talking about! (Read Full Review)
Company of Heroes, Eric Poole. Looks at the tragic story of Leslie Sabo, jr, conscripted to serve in Vietnam just after his marriage, and who was killed during Nixon’s futile incursion into Cambodia. Covers Sabo’s family’s earlier experiences, starting in Hungary, his life before the military, he and his company’s experiences in Vietnam, including the disastrous battle in which he was killed, the survivor’s experiences after the war, and finishes with the story of how Sabo was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor some four decades later(Read Full Review)
To War with the 4th, Martin King, Michael Collins and Jason Nulton. A history of the US 4th Infantry Division, focusing on the First and Second World Wars, where the division fought in some of the most important American battles in Europe, with material on the Vietnam War and War on Terror. A good split between a clear narrative of the fighting and eyewitness accounts that gives both a clear history of the division’s role in the fighting, and a good feel for the nature of the battles (Read Full Review)
M50 Ontos and M56 Scorpion 1956-70 - US Tank Destroyers of the Vietnam War, Kenneth W. Estes. Looks at two very light tank destroyers developed for the Cold War but that never saw action against enemy army, but instead saw limited use as infantry support weapons during the Vietnam War. Both were seen as expendable weapons, combining heavy firepower with a light and easy to produce vehicle, but neither was produced in very large numbers, both were made obsolete by anti-tank missiles (Read Full Review)
Bac Si: A Green Beret Medic's War in Vietnam, Jerry Krizan and Robert Dumont. An unusual perspective on the Vietnam War, written by a Special Forces Medic serving at Loc Ninh, one of the more active Green Beret bases during his year in the country. As well as fighting alongside a Vietnamese Army force, he also had more contact with the locals that you find in many of these accounts. Nicely organised, largely by topics, the result is a valuable memoir looking at a less familiar part of the war (Read Full Review)
The Typhoon Truce, 1970, Robert F. Curtis. Looks at the experiences of a Chinook helicopter unit during a rare example of a humanitarian truce during the Vietnam War, three days in which the unit focuses on rescuing Vietnamese villages cut off by floods caused by a massive typhoon. The events of the rescue mission are interesting, but the book is most valuable for its insights into the every day life of a transport unit operating over the war zone, but based in relative safety (Read Full Review)
The Frost Weeds, Vietnam: 1964-1965, James Oliveri. The memoirs of a conscripted radio operator who served in Vietnam just before the start of the main American intervention. The period and the nature of his work means that we thus get an account of the attempts to cooperate with the South Vietnamese, as well as tales of life in the isolated bases scattered across remote areas of the country. A useful memoir that covers a less familiar period of the war [read full review]
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Tours of Duty - Vietnam War Stories, ed. Michael Lee Lanning. A collection of a large number of Vietnam War stories, ranging in size from a small paragraph to several pages, and covering everything from a single incident to someone's entire service in country. Not presented in any particular order, so we get a kaleidoscopic view of the war, which perhaps reflects the way it seemed at the time to those taking part in it. [read full review]
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The Illustrated History of the Vietnam War, Andrew Wiest & Chris McNab. Somewhat lacking on coverage of the Vietnamese view of the war, but excellent on the American side of the war, explaining not only what the US did, but why, and why so much of it went wrong. Good coverage of the wider war in South East Asia, looking at how the conflict affected Laos and Cambodia as well as the US Home Front. A good selection of pictures, but again almost entirely from the US side [read full review]
The Siege of LZ Kate, Arthur G. Sharp . Looks at the short but fierce North Vietnamese siege of a US firebase close to the Cambodia border, and the dramatic night time escape that saw the besieged US and allied soldiers escape from this trap. The siege only really lasted four days, so is covered in some detail, especially of the invaluable air support that kept the base supplied, evacuated the wounded and provided fire power to defend the isolated post against much larger attacking force. [read full review]
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Storming the City - U.S. Military Performance in Urban Warfare from World War II to Vietnam, Alec Wahlman . Looks at four city battles - Aachen in 1944, Manila in 1945, Seoul in 1950 and Hue in 1968 to see how the US military coped - what plans it had in place for urban warfare, how effective they were, and how things changed over time. A useful volume that analyses a key aspect of military operations across four rather different battlefields. [read full review]
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Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam, Frederick Logevall . A brilliant study of the French war in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh and Giap's political and military campaigns for independence, and the slow increase in American involvement in the country, looking at how the United States got dragged into her own war in Indochina. [read full review]
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Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land, ed. Andrew Wiest. Excellent study of the Vietnam War looking at a far wider range of topics than in most books on this war, and with contributions from American, North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese authors and participants in the war. An impressive piece of work that gives a good overview of the Vietnam War and the wider issues that surrounded the conflict. [read full review]
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Vietnam - A View from the Front Lines, Andrew Wiest. An impressive collection of first hand accounts that trace the American soldier's journey during the Vietnam War, from their pre-war lives, through entering the army (or Marines), training, first experiences of Vietnam, the experience of battle, injury or loss, the return home, either at the end of a tour of duty or after being wounded, and life after Vietnam. [read full review]
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USAF and VNAF A-1 Skyraider Units of the Vietnam War, Byron E Hukee. Looks at the almost fifteen year long career of the A-1 Skyraider in the skies over Vietnam, where it served as a ground attack aircraft as well as supporting search and rescue aircraft. Written by a former USAF pilot who actually flew the Skyraider in Vietnam, and includes a large number of eyewitness accounts by his fellow pilots, both American and Vietnamese. [read full review]
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The Boys of '67: Charlie Company's War in Vietnam, Andrew Wiest. Inspired by a meeting with a veteran of the company, this followed Charlie Company from its formation in the US, through training and on to its original men's year-long tour of duty in Vietnam. A rather melancholy book, as the men we have followed begin to be killed or wounded without any sign that their efforts were having any impact in Vietnam, but a very valuable study of the impact of war. [read full review]
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Giap - The General who Defeated American in Vietnam, James A Warren. Biography of the most important Vietnamese general during the wars against France and the United States, a military leader who understood that political will was the key to the result of both wars and who was able to wear down the will of one of the world's great super powers. [read full review]
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F-100 Super Sabre Units of the Vietnam War, Peter E. Davies with David W Menard. A look at the varied roles performed by the F-100 Super Sabre in Vietnam, from its limited role as a fighter, to its long period providing close support for the ground troops and on to its final role in forward air control and search and rescue. [read full review]
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US MACV-SOG Reconnaissance Teams in Vietnam, Gordon L. Rottman. Focuses on an elite reconnaissance unit that carried out deep penetration missions into Laos and Cambodia to scout out the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Each team consisted of a mix of American soldiers and local troops, and their tasks were amongst the most dangerous of any combat missions during the Vietnamese War [read full review]
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Vietnam Gun Trucks, Gordon L. Rottman. A study of the armed trucks used to escort vulnerable supply convoys as they crossed South Vietnam, looking at their origins as an impromptu solution to an unexpected problem, the development of more powerfully armed versions of the trucks, the tactics used by the truck crews and the often flamboyant decorative paint schemes used on the truck names. [read full review]
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Army of the Republic of Vietnam 1954-75 , Gordon L. Rottman, This Osprey Men at Arms book covers the Republic of Vietnam's forces which fought alongside the US and Australian forces. They remain a much maligned and little understood force which undertook the bulk of the fighting during the conflict and have an extremely mixed reputation. The author was a US Special Forces veteran of the Vietnam war and this helps give the book authority but at times it feels like he goes out of his way to defend the subject. The book is well illustrated with colour plates of uniforms and equipment and plenty of photographs but is brief at 48 pages and at times doesn’t make organisation that clear as organisational charts would have been helpful. [read full review]
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North Vietnamese Army Soldier 1958-75, Gordon L. Rottman. Osprey Warrior 135. This entry in Osprey's Warrior series looks the North Vietnamese Army in South Vietnam, following the route a NVA soldier would take on his way from civilian life in the north to a combat mission in the south. Given that it was the NVA that carried out most attacks in the south, this 
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We Are Soldiers Still, Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph Halloway. A thought provoking account of a return visit to the Ia Drang Valley, the site of the first large scale clashes between American and North Vietnamese troops. Both of the authors were present at that battle, one as the commander of first American platoon to enter the area, the other as a war correspondent. Together with a number of their opponents in the Ia Drang Moore and Galloway return to the remote battlefields where they first clashed. The central theme of this book is one of conciliation between former enemies, who thirty years after the battles became unexpected friends.[see more]
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Vietnam Airmobile Warfare Tactics, Gordon L. Rottman. This is a very interesting Osprey and is well written by a former veteran of the conflict and illustrated to the usual high Osprey standard. It discusses the use of various types of helicopters and the rapid introduction of new types. Organisation and tactics are discussed but not in huge depth as this book covers a lot in its 64 pages. This book generally wets the appetite for more information and would go well with other Ospreys covering different aspects of the Vietnam War [see more].
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The Making of a Quagmire: American and Vietnam During the Kennedy Era. A Pulitzer Prize winning account of Vietnam with footnotes containing information about events and key people. The book focuses on the early part of the conflict and how the USA became entangled.
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Bright, Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam, The classic book on Vietnam and a must have, an epic and passionate account of the highs and lows of the war seen through the eyes of a young US officer. If you read just one account of the war then this is it.
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Viet-Nam Peace Negotiations, The: Saigon's Side of the Story, Nguyen, Phu Duc. An insight into the torturous Paris Peace talks written by a leading Vietnamese diplomat. A useful balance for the serious student.
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Lost Crusade: America's Secret Cambodian Mercenaries, Peter Scott. This gripping book written by a US military advisor looks at the later stages of the Vietnam war from the view point of those working with the Cambodia soldiers fighting the communists. Written by someone who was actually there this is well worth a read for those interested in that aspect of the war
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 A Soldier Reports (Paperback), William C. Westmoreland. The autobiography of the most important American general of the Vietnam War, written in 1975 only a few years after the end of his military career.
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