The Vietnam War

By Mitchell K. Hall

Rating: 4 stars

Having been on a short course about the Vietnam war I found myself wanting to know more and the course tutor recommended this slim volume. It’s a short book (the main text is less than a hundred pages) but it clearly and concisely covers the major events and people of the war, with a timeline, dramatis personae and (very handy) list of acronyms.

The book is split into sensible chapters, starting with the roots of the war, which discuss the Vietnamese independence movement following the Second World War and American growing paranoia over Communism. Then it moves on to the growing American involvement in South Vietnam until it was fully committed. The third chapter discusses various turning points of the war, including the antiwar movement and the Tet offensive. Chapter four covers the beginning of the end, as America looks for a way to withdraw from the quagmire with some dignity and then we have the conclusion and legacy of the war.

For me, the major thing I got out of this book was the complete lack of understanding shown by America at all stages of their involvement in Indochina. Their obsession with the Cold War led them to frame the Vietnamese independence movement in those terms and their blinkers prevented them from any other interpretation. This also led them to prop up corrupt governments not just in South Vietnam, but also in Laos and Cambodia (including, later, supporting the Khmer Rouge guerillas following Vietnamese occupation). In the end, the ‘domino theory’ was proved incorrect but only after millions of lives had been lost and millions of tonnes of bombs had been dropped.

The book is supported by extracts from various relevant documents referenced to in the main text and there is a list of further reading at the end. This book is both a great way to get an overview of the war, and as a jumping off point for a more in-depth study of the war that redefined how America thought of itself.

Book details

ISBN: 9781405874342
Publisher: Routledge
Year of publication: 1999

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