Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (1995)
Using Homer's epic, the Illiad, Shay, a clinical psychiatrist specializing in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, compares the experience of the warriors in the Trojan War with the GIs who fought in Vietnam. He reveals that the causes of PTSD remain unchanged across the centuries, but that the conduct of the war in Vietnam aggravated the severity of the disorder in its combatants and hindered their re-integration back into normal society. This is an important and insightful book and should be read by all who have been touched by war.
A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam (1989)
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, A Bright Shining Lie offers an insightful look into a doomed strategy through the career of Lt. Col. John Paul Vann who participated in both the opening and closing phases of the war. Vann, a colorful and controversial maverick, was a constant thorn in the side of an intransigent bureaucracy that was more interested in promoting a politically palatable version of the war than learning lessons gained in the battlefield. This book is both an eye-opening indictment of American policy and a paean to a man who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Robert C. Mason
Mason's harrowing autobiography describing his career as an army helicopter pilot is one of the definitive accounts of combat in Vietnam. The author vividly depicts what it is actually like to land in a hot LZ with bullets ripping through the fuselage as troopers jump into battle. Told with both eloquence and a dry wit, Chickenhawk reveals the traumatizing nature of combat and how one individual managed to cope with it day after day. This book remains a modern day classic.
Chickenhawk : Back in the World: Life After Vietnam (1994)
Robert C. Mason
In his sequel to Chckenhawk, decorated vet Mason tells about perhaps an even more difficult fight he faced when he returned to the states - his attempt to readjust to normal life. Read about his descent as he battles with anxiety, joblessness and alcoholism until he is arrested for drug smuggling just days before his book is released to become a best seller. Mason's eventual salvation, largely through the steadfast loyalty of his wife, Prentice, is a testament of hope to others suffering from the effects of PTSD.
Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam
Bernard Edelman (Editor)
These poignant and revealing accounts by GIs writing to friends and loved ones tell simply and honestly what is was like to have served in Vietnam. Filled with both humor and heartbreaking pathos, the letters tell of daily life, camaraderie, personal fears, and the loss of close friends. Several contain the last written words by GI's before their untimely death. This book was made into a remarkably moving March '88 HBO Film.
Herr, a reporter for Esquire magazine, conducted on-the-ground interviews with troops in Vietnam, and put together a collection of dozens of brutal, dispassionate and sometimes horrifying first-hand accounts. Although the historical validity of the book is marred by the fictional nature of some of the material, Herr's compelling narrative was the first to capture the visceral nature of the hell that so many GI's endured in Vietnam.
Everything We Had: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Thirty-Three American Soldiers Who Fought It (1988)
Santoli has put together an excellent and varied collection of oral reminiscences of the war by veterans, told in a direct, matter-of-fact way. These accounts are not only vivid depictions of combat but give good descriptions of daily life off the battlefield by those who served support troops. For those who have not served, this book is an eye opener; and for those who have, it is a rich source of memories and reveals the common bond that all vets share.
Nam: The Vietnam War in the Words of the Men and Women Who Fought There
Baker has compiled a compelling oral history of the war that has been very favorably received by Vietnam veterans. Nam reveals how diverse the experience was for each of the vets interviewed depending on the branch of service, their job (MOS), the area they served in and the year. Although the book is now out of print, it is a valuable addition to any library dealing with the war.
The Only War We Had: A Platoon Leader's Journal of Vietnam (1987)
Michael Lee Lanning
This book should be required reading for any infantry officers-in-training. Lanning, a 1st Lieutenant serving with the199th Light Infantry Brigade in the Delta, offers a unique perspective of what it is like to command a platoon in combat, including operations in close support of South Vietnamese irregulars. His detailed account, taken from his official log, is supplemented with astute observations of the land and its people and often reads like an adventure novel.
A Rumor of War
A young gung-ho Marine lieutenant, Caputo won a Pulitzer Prize for this engrossing and emotionally charged first-hand account of action in Vietnam. A gifted writer, Caputo takes us on the journey with him as he is thrown into the chaotic violence of Vietnam and descends from patriotic idealism to pathos. This book was one of the first and is still one of the best personal narratives to come out of the Vietnam War.
The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam
And now for a word from the other side --
Based in part on the author's own experiences, this tale of an infantryman has to be one of the most searing and horrific portrayals of war in print. Covering both the field of battle and the home front, The Sorrow of War is a poetic tale of sacrifice, loss and ultimate disillusionment. This is a surprisingly candid work to come from a Communist country and offers an absorbing glimpse into the heart and mind of America's enemy.
Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History (1998)
B. G. Burkett
Winner of the Colby Award, Stolen Valor is the result of ten years of research in the National Archive. Burkett debunks many of the negative stereotypes associated with Vietnam vets through distortion by the media and imposters. His personal crusade to expose fake vets, from convicted criminals to prominent members of society claiming to be Medal of Honor winners, has done much to restore the honor due to genuine heroes. This is a revealing expose that pulls no punches in its quest for the truth.
The 13th Valley
John M. Del Vecchio
Perhaps the best novel to come out of the Vietnam war, Del Vecchio draws off of his own combat experience to give a vivid portrayal of an infantry squad operating in the notorious Ashau valley. Del Vecchio excels in detailed descriptions of day to day humping in the boonies under a triple-canopy jungle seeking out a dangerous and elusive enemy. This is a hard book to put down as the reader increasingly becomes drawn into the lives and fates of young soldiers in a distant and often mystical land.
Unknown Warriors: Canadians in Vietnam (1990)
Gaffen, chief historian at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, provides dozens of oral accounts by Canadians who served with the US armed forces in Vietnam. Thousands crossed the border to enlist and fought in disproportionately large numbers in the Army combat infantry and US Marines units. Unknown Warriors illuminates this little-known chapter in the history of the war and honors their memory with stories of dedication and courage.For more information see Canadians in Vietnam.
Vietnam: A History
This Pulitzer Prize winning book is considered by many scholars to be the definitive history the Indo China war. Karnow has meticulously researched his information and personally interviewed key players on both sides of the conflict - from ordinary soldiers to high government officials. This dispassionate and objective study, well documented with photos and maps, has recently been revised with findings from secret documents as part of a PBS documentary special.