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The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Vietnam War

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    Book: Readable/ War: Hard to Understand

    I picked up this book when I was in the middle of The Best & the Brightest by David Halberstam. I have never been a political science whiz, and I was feeling confused and not getting the references. This book by Maga is easy to read in a short time, and it really helped fill in the blanks. I lived through Vietnam but never served, and the modern history of this area was nothing but a huge mess of politicians saving face, being loyal to their President, misunderstanding where it was going, and sending more troops to their slaughter. It explains how Americans, like the French, didn't bother to understand a people and a culture, how the McCarthy era colored the sixties in terms of politicians not being able to afford to be seen as soft on Communism, and how Americans overrated their strength after WW II, even after Korea happened, and even though we were going to fight the Vietcong who were a resilient guerrilla force who did not cave in when we started bombing. If you are embarrassed like me that you didn't follow the news at that time, or if you are curious about a modern epoch that your parents lived through, this is a great place to start. All the main events and players are here, Ho Chi Minh, Dienbienphu, Diem's government in Saigon, the Presidents who didn't want to lose on their watch, Tet, the fall of Saigon, & the aftermath including Hollywood's look back. It gave me all the historical context I needed without ever trying to hide how complicated and convoluted this involvement was. Highly recommended. My first "The Complete Idiot's Guide" includes marginal facts and vocabulary and interesting mini-bios of some of the soldiers and what they experienced.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2003

    This Confirms That Publish or Perish Lives In Academia

    I have read widely on the Vietnam War, and have also gathered some familiarity with the Dummies computer books. I was curious as to how the author would extract key data about the Vietnam War and display it in such a - user friendly - format. The answer was -- He didn't. The material that he placed in the book is general in nature, easily verifiable, and widely available. There is virtually nothing unique about his selections. At the same time, the presentation is pitifully inept at best. His attempts to format it similar to the Dummies books that most people have a familiarity with do not come off well. Additionally, his description of the soldiers, seamen, airmen, and Marines who fought there in the front of the book demonstrates that, in his case at least, he hasn't a clue about the key element of his subject material. Here in the west this type of subtle denigration of our military doesn't play well. That aside, this is a thoroughly useless book that appears to have been written just so he could have something in print.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2001

    The Title is Partly Right: It IS an 'Idiot's' Guide

    I bought this book because it appeared to have a number of 'Facts' in it and I am something of a collector of military trivia. The book does have a number of short factual vignettes in it that the author seems to believe serve to explain the complexities of the Vietnam War. Actually all they really do is serve to confirm that it doesn't take much to get into print anymore. Perhaps my problem was that he turned me off right at the front of the book with his characterization of the people who actually fought in the war. I, and many like me, am tired of the trite garbage that pseudo-intellectuals try to pass off as to what we were like and for me this gratuitous stereotyping at the front of the volume colored how I read the rest. Even having said that, however, the book really was pretty bad. The 'facts' that it contained were less than illuminating and about the best that can be said about it is that it didn't take a great deal of effort to read it. People looking for information should look elsewhere.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2000

    Who's the REAL Idiot here?

    I purchased my copy of 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Vietnam War' this week. Most of the content is verifiable and true, and can be obtained from numerous resources, like the online Vietnam War Declassification Project, released in April, 2000. My problem with this book is the 'Dear Reader' part of the inner cover, where the author, Timothy Maga, attempts to explain what the book is about. His opening paragraph begins with these questions: 'The United States lost the Vietnam War. So why read a book about a bunch of losers?' Excuse me? All of us sandbagging, dope heads, too soft to fight types? To quote a TRUE hero, Former Secretary of the Navy, James Webb, writes 'Dropped onto the enemey's terrain 12,000 miles away from home, America's citizen-soldiers performed with a tenacity and quality that may never be truly understood. Those who believe the war was fought incompently on a tactical level should consider Hanoi's recent admission that 1.4 million of its soldiers died on the battlefield, compared to 58,000 total US dead. Those who believe that it was a 'dirty little war' where the bombs did all the work might contemplate that it was the most costly war the US Marine Corps has ever fought--five times as many dead in WW1, three times as many dead as in Korea, and more total killed and wounded than in all of WW2.' Sorry, Dr. Maga. I'm NOT a loser. I chose to participate, not observe, in the most pivotable event in my generation, and I'm not talking about Woodstock or landing on the moon. My Dad is a WW2 veteran who fought in the Pacific. To this day he is my best friend and confidant, and he is MY hero. In closing, let the buyer beware. Of all the 'Idiot' books I've read, this one is at the bottom. If you need to write a paper about Vietnam, wait for the Cliff Notes. Otherwise, you can do better with the bi-monthly magazine VIETNAM, founded by the late Col. Harry G. Summers, Jr., or Frank Snepp's once banned-by-the-CIA book, DECENT INTERVAL.

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