The Vietnam War: Essential Accounts

There is no single story of the Vietnam War. In our second of four lists commemorating the premiere of Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s ten part documentary series on the Vietnam War, we feature twenty-five memoirs and personal accounts of the War and its aftermath, representing a wide array of experiences and voices. Here are some highlights.

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Patches of Fire: A Story of War and Redemption, by Albert French. In intense, vivid prose, African-American veteran French relates his horrific and surreal experiences as a young Marine entering Vietnam in 1965, watching his friends die, and almost dying himself. A blistering account of an unforgettable passage through the underworld.

When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, by Le Ly Hayslip. The author relates her ordeal as a child soldier, victim of rape and torture, and her dangerous odyssey to Saigon, Danang, and the United States, and finally her painful return to what was left of her home. A harrowing account of one woman’s suffering, resilience, and ultimate commitment to healing old wounds.

Dispatches, by Michael Herr. Published shortly after the fall of Saigon, this classic day-by-day account relates with searing immediacy the “psychotic vaudeville” of war as experienced by soldiers on the ground, in the air, and in the indelible memories of those who carried the war home with them in their memories, and nightmares.

The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars, by Andrew X. Pham. In this brilliant, heartfelt account Pham relates the life story of his father, and in so doing the tempestuous fate of Vietnam from French Colonialism through the Second World War, the Indochinese War, and the Vietnam War. A deeply personal window on decades of upheaval and destruction.

Walking Point: From the Ashes of the Vietnam War, by Perry Ulander. By the time 19-year-old Ulander arrived for his tour of duty in 1969, young soldiers in Vietnam were engaged in active resistance to a degree that would be surprising to the protestors back home, undermining their commanders, dulling their suffering with marijuana and becoming cynical old men and a very young age. Ulander takes us through a one year tour of duty that would change his life and views forever.

Visit our catalog to find our full list of 25 memoirs and oral histories about the Vietnam War from a wide array of viewpoints in Vietnam and back here at home.

     – Posted by David W.

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