Voices from the Vietnam War: Stories from American, Asian, and Russian Veterans

Voices from the Vietnam War: Stories from American, Asian, and Russian Veterans

by Xiaobing Li, Robert McMahon
     
 

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For more than thirty years, the jungles of Vietnam were ravaged by war, resulting in nearly 1.5 million military casualties and over 4 million civilian casualties. From the French Indochina War (1946--1954) to the Communist takeover in 1975, the land and people were the victims of constant battle and were irrevocably altered by the effects of devastating violence.

Overview

For more than thirty years, the jungles of Vietnam were ravaged by war, resulting in nearly 1.5 million military casualties and over 4 million civilian casualties. From the French Indochina War (1946--1954) to the Communist takeover in 1975, the land and people were the victims of constant battle and were irrevocably altered by the effects of devastating violence. Voices from the Vietnam War: Stories from American, Asian, and Russian Veterans brings together the accounts of soldiers, spies, and medical workers who experienced firsthand the years of conflict in Vietnam.

Few oral histories of the Vietnam War allow civilians or Communist supporters to tell their stories, and the resulting scholarship is often one-sided. Xiaobing Li, a native of China and a former soldier of the People's Liberation Army, spent seven years gathering hundreds of accounts from survivors of the war, filling gaps in the narrative, and providing new insights into the events of the war. Voices from the Vietnam War offers the personal accounts of twenty-two individuals, spanning three continents and representing multiple political beliefs and perspectives -- American, Chinese, Russian, North and South Korean, Vietnamese, and Viet Cong.

Many of the narratives bear the lingering spirit and influence of the ideology imposed on the veterans by their respective governments. Some of the veterans still follow official accounts, glorifying the Communist victory in Vietnam or praising Western political involvement in the war. Among the stories are several Communist accounts that humanize and contextualize the war's events while shedding light on aspects of the war previously unknown to Western scholars. An interview with a former KGB spy reveals that Russia's support of North Vietnam was far greater than Western historians previously have speculated. Another account, by a captain in the Chinese army, details the experience of the Chinese troops who fought alongside the North Vietnamese.

While much of the scholarship on the Vietnam War focuses on battles, political maneuvering, and combat strategies, Xiaobing Li presents a collection of stories from people who witnessed the war firsthand. Voices from the Vietnam War focuses on personal combat experiences, offering a deeper historiography of America's longest war.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Li spent seven years collecting the oral histories of 90 Vietnam War veterans, from combat soldiers to doctors, nurses, and spies. The battlefield experiences of Americans are sobering, but accounts from South and North Vietnamese stand out for their assessments of why the U.S. lost the war and the challenges of guerrilla warfare, respectively. But Li’s achievement is most remarkable for the window he opens onto the lives of Chinese and Russian veterans; their rare accounts appear here for the first time in English. Although American policymakers feared that the Soviets and the Chinese were working in concert, both countries competed for the loyalty of the North Vietnamese, offering men and material from the beginning. American veterans had notoriously difficult re-entries back home, but returning Russians encountered a very bitter pill; Russia still denies any role in the war and has never recognized its veterans at all. “Nobody knew anything about our service,” a retired, pensionless Russian missile training instructor declares. “Thus, our sacrifices are not appreciated by the society or the Russian people.” Photos. (June)
From the Publisher
"Li successfully finds a fresh and intriguing niche for his collection of twenty-two individual Vietnam War stories. This should make a first-rate supplementary text."—Robert J. McMahon, author of The Limits of Empire: The United States and Southeast Asia since World War II" —

"This volume of interviews with Vietnam War veterans adds new and surprising dimensions to our understanding of the scope of the war.... Some of this book is heartrending; some of it is as gripping as a thriller; and all of it will add to our understanding of the war."— Booklist" —

"It is the first oral history of the war — and there has been a large shelf full of them in the genre — to include the first-person voices of Chinese and Russian veterans among those from this country and Vietnam. Another criterion of a good oral history is that it unveils the human side of war. That is done well in this book, as the veterans from all nationalities talk about their wartime jobs as well as their personal lives before, during and after their service in Vietnam."— HistoryNet" —

"Li's book offers, for the first time in English, the direct testimony of Russian and Chinese veterans of the Vietnam War, including a former KGB spy."— VVA Veteran" —

"It is fascinating to hear about the war from such different viewpoints, and the author does an exceptional job in balancing his presentation and allowing the facts to speak for themselves."—WTBF Radio" —

"A valuable oral history."— Journal of America's Mility Past" —

"An essential book for anyone writing non-revisionist history of our most propagandized war."— Cybertronian Reviews" —

" Voices from the Vietnam War is an excellent addition to the historiography and an important work that helps internationalize and personalize the war in Vietnam. — H-Net Reviews" — Martin Clemis, H-Net Reviews

"[...] Overall, Li's interviews add new dimensions to our understanding of the impact and scope of the war, and his book is a valuable contribution to the Vietnam War historiography.

[...] Li's book is a good read and a suitable assignment for courses on the Vietnam War." — Journal of Cold War Studies

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813125923
Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
Publication date:
05/07/2010
Pages:
296
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Xiaobing Li, professor and chair of the Department of History and Geography and director of the Western Pacific Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma, is the author of China at War (2011), Civil Liberties in China (2010), A History of the Modern Chinese Army (2007), and coauthor of Voices from the Korean War (2004) and Mao's General Remember Korea (2002). He served in the People's Liberation Army in China.

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