Reading on The Vietnam War
These books have been selected to give the reader some idea of what it was like to fight the War in Vietnam, as well as why living in the aftermath of that War is a difficult thing for many Vietnam Veterans.
Welcome to Vietnam, Macho Man
(Ernest Spencer, Bantam Books 1989)
Personal account of
Spencer's experience serving with Delta Co., 1st Bn, 26th Marines in 1967-68, including
the 1968 Siege of Khe Sanh. Gritty reading. Spencer does an excellent job of
conveying the mind-set developed by most in order to do their jobs. Graphic
descriptions of what experiences felt like, as in the following sample selection:
"You avert your eyes instinctively when shit goes off,
but you cannot hide from sound. The sound invades
your being. Jesus Christ, it's like someone blowing
sound up your ass and nose, through your ears, into
your eyes, and down your throat. During a heavy string
of incoming, when you're down in your bunker, the
sound of incoming is a shock wave that comes right
through the ground from all sides, including top and
(Michael Herr, Avon Books 1978)
Herr was a war correspondent in Vietnam for Esquire magazine in 1967. Selection of essays describing his experiences and impressions, including conversations with the fighting men. Very well-written overview of the combat experience. Herr may have invented the expression "thousand yard stare", which occurs in the following sample passage about the 1st Bn, 9th Marines at Khe Sanh:
"Four kilometers northwest of Khe Sanh was Hill 861...
All the odds seemed somehow sharply reduced, estimates
of your own survival were revised horribly downward. One
afternoon with the 1/9 on 861 was enough to bend your
nerves for days, because it took only a few minutes up there
to see the very worst of it: the stumbles, the simple motions
of a walk suddenly racked by spasms, mouths sand-dry
seconds after drinking, the dreamy smiles of total abdication.
Hill 861 was the home of the thousand yard stare, and I prayed
hard for a chopper to come and get me away from there, to fly
me over the ground fire and land me in the middle of a mortar
barrage on the Khe Sanh pad -- whatever! Anything was
better than this."
(Mark Baker, Berkley Books, 1983)
Baker, a college student during the Vietnam War, interviewed soldiers
and Marines who served there and wrote down what they had to say.
Decent collection of war stories.
These Good Men
(Michael Norman, Pocket Books, 1991)
Norman, who served in Vietnam with Golf Co., 2nd Bn, 9th Marines,
tells the story about a disastrous firefight that occurred in 1968 along the
Quang Tri River, in which half the company was killed, and about how he
sought out as many of the survivors as he could find after the War to find
out how they were handling their lives. Thoughtful book, illustrates the
kind of closeness that grew between men who faced combat together.
A Life in a Year, the American Infantryman in Vietnam
1965 - 1972
(James R. Ebert, Presidio Press 1993)
Focuses completely on the life of the "grunt" (infantry soldier) in Vietnam,
including descriptions and explanations of clothing worn, equipment
carried, matters of morale, and other in-depth coverage. Excellent overview.
Lonely Girls With Burning Eyes
(Marian Faye Novak, Little, Brown 1991)
Author's husband was a Marine and served in Vietnam, account tells of her experiences as a Marine wife before, during and after the War. The details of waiting on the homefront while a loved one was far away fighting, facing danger and possibly death, will be familiar to anyone whose loved one went to Vietnam.
Humidity Moon, Short Stories of the Vietnam War
(Michael W. Rodriguez, Pecan Grove Press 1998)
Author served in Vietnam with the 2nd Bn, 1st Marines. This is a collection
of sensitive, well-written stories that will put a reader right there.
Rodriguez has a unique gift for conveying the tension of being on a patrol
or spending the night outside the perimeter on a listening post.
The Things They Carried
(Tim O'Brien, Penguin Books 1990)
Author served in Vietnam as an infantryman with Americal Division, 1969-70.
This is not a collection of short stories as such, rather a collection of stories that relate events in the Vietnam experience of a young man and the effects of these events upon his life after the War. Well-written, evocative and intense.
Aftermath: What about Healing?
Out of the Night, the Spiritual Journey
of Vietnam Vets
(William P. Mahedy, Ballantine/Epiphany 1986)
Author is an Episcopal priest who served as a chaplain in Vietnam and later helped to design the Vietnam Vet Center Program. Book discusses the question Where Was God in Vietnam? and explores the moral questions that soldiers in Vietnam were made to confront, their journey into spiritual darkness and how the Church abandoned them. This is a profound work which describes the processes of war that separate men from their sense of humanity and estrange them from love. Mahedy lays out the steps which Vietnam Veterans and society together must take to find the way back to the light.
Recovering from The War
(Patience H.C. Mason, Viking 1990)
Author is the wife of a Vietnam Veteran and has written this guide primarily to assist women and families in coping with the PTSD problems of Vietnam Vet husbands or family members. Mason begins with a coverage of the types of war experiences that veterans may have had, and raises points for readers to consider so as to reach for some idea of the effect of such experiences upon the veteran. In that sense, it is a book that teaches. Without some degree of understanding of Vietnam Veterans' experiences, the things they do, or don't do, today can be incomprehensible. A 12-step recovery program for wives/families is outlined. Recommended in particular for any woman whose husband is a Vietnam Vet with PTSD.
(Aphrodite Matsakis, Ph.D., Woodbine House 1988)
Author has been counseling Vietnam Veterans and their families since 1972. This book is directed to how PTSD in the Vietnam Veteran affects the lives of his wife and children, predominantly. Chapter also on wives of Black and Hispanic Vietnam Veterans. A section on coping techniques is presented as well as a substantial listing of resources.