The best books about the Vietnam War

Thomas R. Yarborough Author Of A Shau Valor: American Combat Operations in the Valley of Death, 1963-1971
By Thomas R. Yarborough

The Books I Picked & Why

Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina

By Bernard B. Fall

Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina

Why this book?

Bernard Fall's Street Without Joy is a classic account of the First Indochina War (1946-1954) and a key to understanding America’s future involvement. The author writes with first-hand knowledge and tells a compelling story of savagery, arrogance, and last-stand bravery at Dien Ben Phu. Street Without Joy highlights the mistakes a large high-tech army can make when fighting less sophisticated guerrilla forces. Bernard Fall told us what to expect in the jungles of Southeast Asia, but too few of our generals and politicians heeded the admonition.


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We Were Soldiers Once... and Young

By General Ha Moore, Joseph Galloway

We Were Soldiers Once... and Young

Why this book?

On November 14, 1965, troopers from a battalion of the First Cavalry Division air-assaulted via Huey helicopters into the Central Highlands, just a few miles east of the Cambodian border. There, Lt Col Hal Moore led his battalion into the first “big unit battle” against three regiments NVA regulars. In We were Soldiers Once, and Young, Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway recount their first-person minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour narrative of one of the most brutal battles of the Vietnam War. This is the best account of infantry combat I have ever read and a primer on leadership and valor under fire.


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The Best and the Brightest

By David Halberstam

The Best and the Brightest

Why this book?

The Best and the Brightest, by David Halberstam, is a magnificent 700-page study of how the US came to be mired in the disastrous war in Vietnam. I couldn’t put the book down. It has all the ingredients of a great novel: a tragic plot of almost Shakespearean proportions, a fascinating cast of characters, and some brilliant writing. It’s a frightening account of how some of the best and brightest men of the time—John F. Kennedy, Walt Whitman Rostow, the Bundy brothers, Robert McNamara, and Dean Rusk thought that simply by the application of force and intelligence they could make things happen on the ground in a counter-insurgency war halfway around the world. But they didn’t understand.


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P.O.W.: A Definitive History of the American Prisoner-Of-War Experience in Vietnam, 1964-1973

By John G Hubbell, Andrew Jones, Kenneth Y Tomlinson

P.O.W.: A Definitive History of the American Prisoner-Of-War Experience in Vietnam, 1964-1973

Why this book?

No person who had any feelings about the Vietnam War, pro or con, can in good conscience not read John Hubbell’s P.O.W., a powerful and intense account of American prisoners of war in Vietnam. Hubbell does a masterful job of detailing the incredible courage, heroism, and sacrifice in the face of terrifying torture, starvation, and incredible loneliness. For the POWs, mental and physical pain existed not for hours or days but for months and years; the pain was induced by inept and ignorant captors whose brutality was their government's policy. Above all, P.O.W. is a testament to these American heroes’ bedrock belief in God, self, comrade, and country.


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The Ravens: The True Story Of A Secret War In Laos, Vietnam

By Christopher Robbins

The Ravens: The True Story Of A Secret War In Laos, Vietnam

Why this book?

The Ravens were young Air Force pilots, all volunteers, who flew tiny Cessna O-1 Bird Dog spotter planes through heavy groundfire to identify targets and call in air-strikes during the top-secret war in northern Laos. Their mission was so secret that they wore no uniforms and carried no identification. Fed up with the bureaucracy of the war in Vietnam, these young FACs accepted the 50% casualty rates of what was known as the Steve Canyon Program in return for a life of unrestricted flying and fighting. Devoted to the CIA-sponsored hill tribesmen they supported, the Ravens did their job with extraordinary skill and raw courage. This is their story, brilliantly told in Christopher Robbins. Based on extensive interviews with the survivors, it is a tale of undeniable heroism, blending real-life romance, adventure, and tragedy.


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