A Newbie that needs help

Discussion in 'Vietnam War' started by Late Bloomer, Sep 26, 2014.

  1. Late Bloomer

    Late Bloomer New Member

    I truly am a Late Bloomer when I comes to history. In school I found it so boring, both because of the text books and the focus on dates.

    Now that I have awakened to the importance of history and have a strong desire to learn everything I can, I'm leery about 2 things. Misinformation, and boring books like I had in school.

    I am tackling the wars one at a time, and my latest quest is to learn all I can about this war. Most of my knowledge of the war is memories of a child who was too young to grasp the implications of the actions taken there. Gold stars in a neighbors window and the dog tags of a man I never knew who was over there, and movies which may or may not be realistic, and protests, is my starting point. I have a lot to learn.

    Can anyone point me in the right direction to find information on it? I want the truth, and in way that captures my attention. Websites, Books, etc. Any help would be appreciated.

    I am so looking forward to reading all the information shared on this forum, I am sure I will learn a lot.
  2. Kate

    Kate Active Member

    You are asking something here that may be impossible, @Late Bloomer . :( So why do I say that? Because bias is *everywhere.* Every author has a spin, every website, every book... yes, even every forum participant. It's great to find out varying opinions, but for true facts, research at many places is vital.

    I've had an issue with that over the years, too... people seem to speak with authority (because that's what they want you to believe) but then stick around long enough and someone else will come along with an equally compelling set of "facts." I HATE with a fiery passion when a question of mine is answered by someone appearing to be knowledgeable on the subject and I nod my head and think "wow, I finally know the answer" but then soon hear that that's just one opinion and many people have the opposite opinion.

    Not so much Vietnam because I've known veterans from that and worked with a POW/MIA organization where I had to form my own opinion. It turned out to be a wise move. :) One of those "don't believe everything you hear, and form your own opinions" issues when it comes to learning history.
  3. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Sorry, I do not have all the answers you seek. I am not an expert on the "experience called Vietnam". I am not even a veteran of that 'experience'. Now with the disclaimers out of the way (for legal purposes) let me get on with the topic.

    I know of no good definitive book in English on the topic. I have read several marginal books but no title springs to mind. I suspect the difinitive book has yet to be published, and may not be published for years for political reasons.lest

    But I have causally studied that 'experience' for some years now and I think I have syntesized a fairly cogent story-line as to what happened, but I am light on specifics and lack proof for many things I might write. And I am hesitant to put it down even in 'electronic ink' lest I be accused of being disloyal and anti-American.

    I am a veteran. My MOS was in PSYOPS. And one of the things I was taught to do was "try to think like the enemy and the civilians who are supporting him in an insurgency". With that in mind please understand I do not parrot the 'corporate line' often dispursed by our government and the main stream media. Rather I try to think for myself.

    But if you want my verson I am willing to write more.
  4. Late Bloomer

    Late Bloomer New Member

    I would be more than happy to read anything you have to say on the subject.

    I know that everything that man presents is going to be through that persons eyes, but some books are more factual, and have documents to back them up. I do prefer to read many books on the same subject, often re-reading and comparing them, doing some research, I just thought if anyone had some suggestions it might save me the hassle of reading some really bad or biased books.

    I'm just so interested in history, in what really happened, not through the filter of a political party or someone with an agenda.
    Kicking myself for not taking all the history books my father in law offered to me about 30 years ago- before I became so interested.
  5. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Books: Two titles come to mind, but neither are what I might call comprehensive. The first: Tunnels of Cu Chi deals with a small topic, the tunnels the Viet Cong had beneith a US military near Saigon. It is by two Austrialians who avoided the American jingoistic bias.

    The second is Protracted Victory. I forget who wrote it, but it offers a perspective of the 'experience' from a strategic paradym from the Vietnamese perspective. It postulates that the American slodiers (officers) analyzed the conflict from a Chess-based (move/counter-move) dynamic, with well-organized units backed by tremendous firepower maneuvered on a chessboard map to counter and destroy enemy units. The strategy of the NVA and Cong was based not on Chess but the game they knew: Wei-chi (or GO as it is commonly known in the US). The paradym is not as in Chess of killing units, but of capturing SPACE (territory, people, political will)

    The professional level Chess players I have known agree that GO is a much more elegent game and paradym. And it makes the two orientation to the 'experience' almost understandable. GO is a easy game to learn (easier than Chess) but much much harder to master.

    There is a problem reading most books available to American readers: they are written by American military writers and published by American publishers. While I normally like American books and publishers I fear there is a jingoism vis-a-via the 'vietnam experience' which filters out too much in the name of attempting to support the US Wehrmacht in S.E. Asia.
  6. gmckee1985

    gmckee1985 Member

    I'm also pretty new as far as getting interested in history. I'm not a big fan of structured learning. I pretty much prefer going out and learning new information on my own instead of being force fed certain information. Definitely going to check out some of the books listed here.
  7. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    When I served the big green machine I knew a first sergent who was a proud veteran of the 'Vietnam experience'. His conclusion was that the US Army did not lose the war and damn near won every fire-fight. He made me aware of the pride and, dare I say, hubris he had over his time 'in country'. I have come to learn that these soldiers were not thinking strategicly or objectively but with a mind-set which they were trained to adopt, train to assume for their own benefit. It allowed some of them to do things which would have appalled them as civilians, things which would have troubled them as individuals. And it was because of their memories of their own actions as soldiers some took to "recreation use of certain controlled substances."

    In past wars some soldiers self-medicated with alcohol. Some went crazy. Some became outlaws or psycopaths. Many died 'cleaning weapons they thought unloaded.'

    A few came back to the States and founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

    But not all vietnam veterans came back from their sojurn as warped individuals. The First Sergeant I mentioned earlier was probably one such example. In our discussions on the 'vietnam experience' he was a big fan of the US Army and all it did. As I already said, he said we won all the fights. But, as I pointed out, eventually our side lost the war.

    Our side lost the war because, as Clauswitz wrote, "war is politics taken to its most dramatic and violent conclusion."

    This is long enough for this time, thank you for reading my rambling thoughts.
    Late Bloomer likes this.
  8. preacherbob50

    preacherbob50 Active Member

    I might have a small bit of advice for you. I am a nam vet, and some of the other vets I have talked to and a couple of books I've read have all been good but always skewed.
    When you are researching any kind of military history do a "round house."
    Every country has its own take on things. Such as, I took American history in school. My younger brother took British history because we lived in pre-separation Grand Bahamas for a time. The take on the revolutionary war was dramatically different between the two. But you could still glean a lot from both sides and come up with a bipartisan history with little to argue about.
    When it comes to Vietnam, the Americans, British,Ausies,French,Turks, and South Koreans just to name most of the folks all had a hand in the matter and around 20 years of history to review. And don't be afraid to read the N.Vietnam versions. Everything is significant.
    History does not have to be boring. If you can make your research like a mental movie with you in it, it's easy to lose yourself and find out, "The Rest of the Story," as Mr. P. Harvey would have said. Recommending some of the written history I have read would just confuse you. I do my research based on events and specific years rather than total history. Part of me is still there and I figure when my questions, through my style of study, are answered I can come home.
    Late Bloomer likes this.
  9. Late Bloomer

    Late Bloomer New Member

    Yes, it will take reading many different books, since a group of people can watch the same thing unfold in front of their eyes, and when the retell it, it's hard to believe they watched the same thing!

    Thank you for the suggestion of reading things from different countries, that will be very helpful.

    What I would really like.. facts. The papers that show what actions were taken by whom, and when. And the diaries of those that were involved and the soldiers. Without all the agenda some writers have, but I know that isn't going to be easy so I guess I will just read as much as I can and know the truth lies somewhere in between all of it.

    I like the suggestion of studying certain events, too. I think I will go through a few books, and make a basic outline then from that look for information on the individual events. I have been reading books on entire wars, and it's missing the detail I crave.

    And thank you, Interrogator, for the information you gave me and the suggestions of reading material. I will be sure to look into them in my quest for the truth.
  10. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    I just rewatched a video which I think is poinient regarding the 'Vietnam experience.' While it does not explore why the US was involved, it does show how the leader, General Westmoreland, and his subordinants were functioning: they were deluding themselves and the American people. The policy of the Americans was flawed, and because of this the average GI was sacrificed.

  11. preacherbob50

    preacherbob50 Active Member

    At least the video calls it a war. There are a hundred or more documents, movies, and videos all touting to have the definitive answers to why the sudden pull out and the whys regarding our lack of usage of our military strength, etc.
    Gen. Westmoreland was replaced by Gen. Abrams for several reasons, but military leadership wasn't really one of them. He was involved in some officers and NCO clubs scam so he was ushered out and replaced. Under Westmoreland we could at least fight. Under his replacement we were given a different set of rules of engagement which tied my hands in the air as well as everyone else who fought.
    But, unless we can get the full story out os some still living politicians of that era and some dead ones (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon ) the facts will never be available. I will have to look the book up, by a NVA commanding colonel, but he said that he and other top North Vietnamese officials were already sitting down and preparing to surrender the day before we were ordered to stop bombing Hanoi. After that all hell broke loose. Pure politics and greed. We and other countries needed the rubber and sugar cane plantations. North Vietnam wanted them more. It wasn't about, " the red scourge of communism," or anything close to that. The communists were willing to help Ho Chi Minh invade the south and kick out the French and we weren't. But alas, I'm not a politician who was in the inner circle nor did I have a high level with Goodwhatever tire company. I was just a soldier who volunteered because my country said it needed me. If I had the knowledge then that I have now, I still would not have been a Bill Clinton and hid in Canada. I would have done what I did before. My country right or wrong is still my country.
  12. Rhoda DEttore

    Rhoda DEttore New Member

    Hi! First I would like to suggest a really good book that explains exactly what everyone is talking about--bias in all history, not just war. Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Lowen is a remarkable book that compares all of the high school history books and tries to sort the lies from the fiction. For example, one book might praise Woodrow Wilson for creating the League of Nations (a predecessor the United Nations), while another book points out his connection to the producer of the most racist movie ever made (Birth of a Nation). Wilson's actions may have reignited the KKK in America and made the number swell to maximum membership.

    But I digress. After this book teaches you why history seems so different from different angles, you will be more prepared to enter any historical period with an open mind. Then, check out "Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam". This is a poignant collection of real letters from US soldiers were there in the firefights. Men who crawled through the mud and watched their friends perish around them. I suggest this before "formal" reading only because by reading this, you can see the real people involved. Often we look at history as names, places and dates like you said. But to actually put personalities and thoughts to the men will help you to evaluate the overall picture.

    When you get onto further reading, you might want to go to the library and check out Time-Life's The Vietnam Experience. This is a collection of volumes, similar to (dare i say old) encyclopedias we used to use. The pictures are impressive with commentary. This will give you a visual perspective of the situations, as well as on overview of the causes, policies, and consequences.

    War is unimaginable for those who have never suffered through it. I work with many Vietnam Vets, and some of the stories are heartbreaking. One of my co-workers was in the water, lifting his dying friend into a helicopter while getting fired upon---then a shark bit his rib cage. Another jumped into a helicopter and the villagers were all trying to climb in. Someone threw a baby to him and he promise to take care of it. When he looked inside, the baby was wrapped in TNT. He had no choice but to throw the baby back into the crowd for the chopper to survive. That blast caused a piece of metal to fly at him and cut off three of his fingers.

    These are the real stories. When you read the boring stuff about the politicians banging their hands on the desks, or promising to send additional troops, remember these stories. Remember they were real. Too many books side step the humanity of war, and focus on policies and diplomacy.



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