The Vietnam War: An Intimate History

The Vietnam War: An Intimate History

by Geoffrey C. Ward, Ken Burns

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Overview

From the award-winning historian and filmmakers of The Civil War, Baseball, The War, The Roosevelts, and others: a vivid, uniquely powerful history of the conflict that tore America apart--the companion volume to the major, multipart PBS film to be aired in September 2017.

More than forty years after it ended, the Vietnam War continues to haunt our country. We still argue over why we were there, whether we could have won, and who was right and wrong in their response to the conflict. When the war divided the country, it created deep political fault lines that continue to divide us today. Now, continuing in the tradition of their critically acclaimed collaborations, the authors draw on dozens and dozens of interviews in America and Vietnam to give us the perspectives of people involved at all levels of the war: U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers and their families, high-level officials in America and Vietnam, antiwar protestors, POWs, and many more. The book plunges us into the chaos and intensity of combat, even as it explains the rationale that got us into Vietnam and kept us there for so many years. Rather than taking sides, the book seeks to understand why the war happened the way it did, and to clarify its complicated legacy. Beautifully written and richly illustrated, this is a tour de force that is certain to launch a new national conversation.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - David Greenberg

Perhaps the most worthwhile contribution of The Vietnam War is its compilation of hundreds of astonishing photographs. Ward and Burns reproduce now-famous images like Eddie Adams's picture of a Vietcong prisoner being shot in the head at close range and Nick Ut's shot of a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm raid. But they also include powerful and less familiar scenes of rubble-strewn streets, desperate villagers, bewildered squadrons, and Americans and Vietnamese alike who are wounded, maimed, dying or freshly killed…The Vietnam War [is]…a vivid and often captivating volume…

Publishers Weekly

08/21/2017
This lavishly illustrated large-format book from frequent collaborators Ward and Burns (The Roosevelts) serves as the companion volume to the eponymous 18-hour, 10-part PBS documentary from Burns and Lynn Novick. The work follows the usual Ward and Burns formula of mixing solid historical narrative with personal stories of both the famous (in this case, mainly politicians and military leaders from all sides of the conflict) and the ordinary (troops, war journalists, and anti-war activists). Well-written and deeply researched, this history covers virtually every aspect of the French and American wars in Vietnam from 1945 to 1975, focusing mainly on military, diplomatic, and political issues. Individual tales of Army infantrymen, Marine grunts, and other combatants are woven throughout the larger narrative. There is virtually no new history here, however, and a number of the personal stories included here can be readily found in memoirs and other books, including those of Vietnam War veteran writers Philip Caputo, Tobias Wolff, Karl Marlantes, W.D. Ehrhart, Tim O’Brien, Joan Furey, and John Musgrave, and the Vietnamese novelist Bo Ninh, as well as the work of the former war correspondents Neil Sheehan, John Laurence, and Joe Galloway. Nevertheless, anyone looking for an expansive overview of the Vietnam War will find much to admire here. Maps & photos. (Sept.)

From the Publisher

"The companion volume to Burns’ Vietnam War documentary series on PBS, the book stands alone as a powerful summary of the whole conflict. It tells the story of the war from every conceivable angle, including that of the young Vietnamese fighters. It’s extraordinarily well-reported and written, and filled with memorable photographs and illustrations—a reminder that the war was, perhaps for the first time, shaped as much by powerful images as written reports."
Lancaster Online, Mark Bowden's "Ten Favorite Books on the Vietnam War"

"A vivid and often captivating volume…a valuable resource."
—David Greenberg, The New York Times Book Review

"Once again Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns deliver the grand historical goods in this feast of a book. For those too young to remember the Vietnam War, this is the essential primer. For those old enough to have Vietnam flashbacks or battle scars, read it and weep. Highly recommended!!"
—Douglas Brinkley

"A sweeping, richly illustrated narrative of a conflict fast retreating in memory... As they have done in numerous collaborations, Ward and Burns take a vast topic and personalize it... Of particular value is the inclusion of Vietnamese voices on both sides of the conflict, most of whom agree more than four decades later that the question of who won or lost is less important than the fact that no one really prevailed... The text is accompanied by more than 500 photographs, some of them immediately recognizable...many others fresh... Accompanying the PBS series to be aired in September 2017, this is an outstanding, indispensable survey of the Vietnam War."
 Kirkus, (starred review)
 
"Lucid, flowing, and dramatic… Robustly detailed writing… Eye-opening… Powerful in its own right… In their new ‘intimate’ yet capacious history, the award-winning, audience-enthralling duo of historian and screenwriter Ward and documentarian extraordinaire Burns investigate the complex, divisive, and tragic Vietnam War from a unique plurality of perspectives… This is a vivid, affecting, definitive, and essential illustrated history."
—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

"Lavishly illustrated…. Well-written and deeply researched, this history covers virtually every aspect of the French and American wars in Vietnam from 1945-1975, focusing mainly on military, diplomatic, and political issues…. Anyone looking for an expansive overview of the Vietnam War will find much to admire here."
Publishers Weekly

Library Journal

★ 09/01/2017
In their latest collaboration (after The Civil War: An Illustrated History), Burns and Ward present the details of the Vietnam War (November 1, 1955-April 30, 1975). This companion volume to the ten-part film series airing on PBS this September will enlighten readers to the events that led up to the war, the combat itself, and its aftermath. The authors use archived material and interviews with soldiers and antiwar protestors to tell the story; brief essays by historians and Vietnamese fighters are also offered throughout. Further included are newly classified transcripts from American and Vietnamese politicians revealing the event from all sides, including perspectives of the North Vietnamese soldiers. The finest aspect of the volume may be the stunning yet devastating pictures of the time period. Unique details include artist Maya Lin's model for the Vietnam Memorial and the contact sheet of Eddie Adams's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the death of a North Vietnamese man. VERDICT A powerful work that adds value and insight to any collection. Fans of Burns and Ward will be awed by their mastery in creating an accurate, thorough historical narrative.—Jason L. Steagall, Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2017-07-17
A sweeping, richly illustrated narrative of a conflict fast retreating in memory, one that noted documentarian Burns calls a "lamentable chapter in history."As they have done in numerous collaborations (The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, 2014, etc.), Ward and Burns take a vast topic and personalize it. Regarding the Vietnam War, this involved tracking down veterans of the war and recounting their experiences to gain insight into how great events play out on the individual level—thus the "intimate" element of the subtitle. Of particular value is the inclusion of Vietnamese voices on both sides of the conflict, most of whom agree more than four decades later that the question of who won or lost is less important than the fact that no one really prevailed. Ward and Burns use several of these figures as returning characters in the narrative. One, for instance, is Vincent Okamoto, a Japanese-American soldier born in a relocation camp during World War II, who recalls a Southern soldier's advice for not being confused for one of the enemy: "Hey, no offense, partner; but if I was you I'd dye my hair blond and whistle ‘Dixie' when it gets dark." Other figures are relegated to revealing walk-on roles, such as a Vietnamese operative who, with the "pride of a revolutionary," coordinated the assassinations of hundreds of South Vietnamese and American soldiers and officials. The text is accompanied by more than 500 photographs, some of them immediately recognizable—the execution of a Viet Cong on the streets of Saigon, children running to greet a returning American prisoner of war—many others fresh. As ever, Ward and Burns aim for a middle-of-the-road, descriptive path, but the very nature of this enterprise courts controversy, as when they remind readers of Richard Nixon's secret negotiations with North Vietnam while he was a candidate for president, an act that Lyndon Johnson privately deemed treasonous. Accompanying the PBS series to be aired in September 2017, this is an outstanding, indispensable survey of the Vietnam War.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594871293
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/05/2017
Pages: 640
Sales rank: 91,348
Product dimensions: 9.40(w) x 10.90(h) x 1.70(d)

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Introduction
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Excerpted from "The Vietnam War"
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Copyright © 2017 Geoffrey C. Ward.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group.
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Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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