The best books about the Vietnam War from a Marine infantry officer who fought there

Who am I?

I enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps in 1966 and was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program. As a Marine officer, I served one 13-month combat tour in the Republic of Vietnam from November 1967 to December 1968. During my tour, I led Marines through some of the heaviest fighting in the war, including the historic Battle for Hue City during the Tet Offensive of 1968. I will never forget my Marines, who always, always rose and faced the enemy, risking their lives for their fellow Marines and the people of South Vietnam. I experienced first-hand the brutality of war and the loss of too many of my Marines, at the hands of our fierce enemy, the Viet Cong, and the NVA, and at the hands of our own leaders who valued historic real estate over the lives of the young Americans who served in “The ‘Nam.” I am extremely passionate about this topic and feel strongly that every American should study this war and learn the facts about what happened there – the good, the bad, and the ugly – to ensure we as a nation never again send our troops into harms’ way without our nation’s full support.

I wrote...

Phase Line Green: The Battle for Hue, 1968

By Nicholas Warr,

Book cover of Phase Line Green: The Battle for Hue, 1968

What is my book about?

The bloody monthlong battle for the ancient Citadel Fortress in Hue pitted U.S. Marines against an entrenched North Vietnamese Army force. By official accounts it was a tactical and moral victory for the Marines and the United States. But here survivor Nicholas Warr describes with urgency and outrage the Marines' savage house-to-house fighting--ordered without air, naval, or artillery support by officers with no experience in that type of combat.

The books I picked & why

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This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive

By James S Robbins,

Book cover of This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive

Why this book?

The Tet Offensive of 1968 was a massive failure by the NVA, but one American Journalist, Mr. Walter Cronkite, who was in South Vietnam during the early stages of this historic battle, and should have known better, declared to the American people that he did not know who won or who lost, and that our best hope for the outcome of this war would be stalemate. Most Americans, safe at home in their living rooms, believed what he said, which was easy considering the media’s video images of dead American soldiers coming home in body bags in unprecedented numbers. Thus, the terrible outcome of that war became inevitable. Through exhaustive research, historian James Robbins proves that Cronkite was dead wrong. This is my favorite book about the Vietnam War because I was there, on the “tip of the spear” leading U. S. Marines in the Battle for Hue City, the ancient Imperial Capital of Vietnam, and the primary target in the enemy’s onslaught. I was an eye-witness to the carnage that resulted in the deaths of too many of my Marines, and the terrible wounds many others sustained. Even though our chain of command and civilian leaders forced us to fight with our hands tied behind our backs in that battle for political reasons., we ultimately overcame tremendous adversity and soundly defeated our enemy.

Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam War Story of Honor and Triumph

By Richard Botkin,

Book cover of Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam War Story of Honor and Triumph

Why this book?

Author Richard Botkin was a U. S. Marine Captain, who served during a time of peace, but who, like many Marines, became fascinated with Marine Corps history during the Vietnam War. This book is about the U. S. Marine officers who served as military advisors to the Vietnamese Marine Corps, and who helped the Vietnamese Marines defend their country during the so-called Easter Offensive of 1972. The North Vietnamese launched this unprecedented offensive with the intent of conquering our ally, the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) or South Vietnam as we came to know them. This was an all-out, go-for broke offensive during which the NVA launched over 1,000 Soviet tanks and massive artillery bombardments, backed by tens of thousands of NVA infantry soldiers. The intent of this offensive was “total victory.” History and this book document the fact that this juggernaut was ultimately stopped cold by the ARVN and the Vietnamese Marine Corps, assisted by this small band of brothers who advised the Vietnamese Marine Corps leaders from within their midst.

Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam

By H R McMaster,

Book cover of Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam

Why this book?

This book started as a master’s Thesis by then Major McMaster, who was attending the U. S. Army War College, it became an extremely important history book that exposes the Johnson Administration’s early miscalculations and failures in this war. Specifically, it addresses “Johnson, McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. and the Lies that led to Vietnam”. Any American who has not studied the war will be shocked to realize what took place leading up to the combat phase of the war, and their actions and inactions that ensured the negative outcome of the war. Herbert Raymond McMaster (born July 24, 1962) is a retired United States Army Lieutenant General who served as the 26th United States National Security Advisor from 2017 to 2018. He is also known for his roles in the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Nightingale's Song

By Robert Timberg,

Book cover of The Nightingale's Song

Why this book?

Robert Timberg weaves together the lives of Annapolis graduates John McCain, James Webb, Oliver North, Robert McFarlane, and John Poindexter, all of whom are key players in the drama of the Vietnam War, to reveal how the War continues to haunt America. Casting all five men as metaphors for a legion of well-meaning if ill-starred warriors, Timberg probes the fault line between those who fought the war and those who used money, wit, and connections to avoid battle. A riveting tale that illuminates the flip side of the fabled Vietnam generation -- those who went.

Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History

By B.G. Burkett, Glenna Whitley,

Book cover of Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History

Why this book?

I believe this book is the most important book written about the aftermath of the war, and the impact it had on “those who went.” Author Burkett describes himself as a Vietnam Veteran, but one who served in an administrative capacity and seldom in harm’s way. Upon returning home in 1969, he witnessed, first-hand, the disrespect given to those who went to war by those who stayed home. In 1996, Burkett was enlisted by a group of citizens who were trying to build a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Monument in Fair Park near downtown Dallas to help them raise the necessary funds. He first went directly to business decision-makers and asked for their support, only to be soundly rejected because of the extremely negative reputation placed on returning veterans by the media and others. Knowing that that terrible reputation (murderers, rapists, baby-killers, etc.) was not earned by most, he set about doing the research with the assistance of author Whitley. What he found and documented was a much different story, so he took his research and revisited those decision-makers; the result was the funds needed to build the memorial were realized and the monument was built. The second half of this book was one I did not want to read. It exposes those who did not go to war but claimed to be combat veterans. This book is used by law enforcement to expose those frauds.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Vietnam War, international relations, and infantry?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Vietnam War, international relations, and infantry.

The Vietnam War Explore 128 books about the Vietnam War
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Infantry Explore 13 books about infantry

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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