The most recommended books on the Viet Cong

Who picked these books? Meet our 12 experts.

12 authors created a book list connected to the Viet Cong, and here are their favorite Viet Cong books.
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Soul Patrol

By Ed Emanuel,

Book cover of Soul Patrol: The Riveting True Story of the First African American LRRP Team in Vietnam

Doug Bradley Author Of We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War

From the list on the Vietnam War that strike a different note.

Who am I?

Until today’s multiple catastrophes, the Vietnam War was the most harrowing moment in the lives of my fellow baby boomers and me. Drafted into the U.S. Army in early 1970, I spent 365 days in Vietnam as a combat correspondent. That experience changed my life, because as the Argentinian writer Jose Narosky has pointed out, “in war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” I have spent the past five decades trying to heal those wounds, writing three books grounded in my Vietnam experience, and have devoted my life to listening to the voices of our veterans, distilling their memories (often music-based), and sharing their words. 

Doug's book list on the Vietnam War that strike a different note

Why did Doug love this book?

In 1968, Ed Emanuel was handpicked to be part of the first six-man African American special operations (LRRP) unit in Vietnam. Team 2/6 of Company F, 51st Infantry, was dubbed the “Soul Patrol,” a glib, albeit superficial, label that belied the true depth of their brutal war experience. “Silence was essential in the field,” he reminds us in his memoir, but when he and other members of the Soul Patrol rotated to the rear, “Otis Redding’s ‘Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,’” he writes, “could be heard streaming from the jukeboxes of nearby bars and clubs.” Music gave the Soul Patrol much-needed solace. 

By Ed Emanuel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Soul Patrol as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

LRRPs had to be the best.
Anything less meant certain death.

When Ed Emanuel was handpicked for the first African American special operations LRRP team in Vietnam, he knew his six-man team couldn’t have asked for a tougher proving ground than Cu Chi in the summer of 196868. Home to the largest Viet cong tunnel complex in Vietnam, Cu Chi was the deadly heart of the enemy’s stronghold in Tay Ninh Province.

Team 2/6 of Company F, 51st Infantry, was quickly dubbed the Soul Patrol, a gimmicky label that belied the true depth of their courage. Stark and compelling, Emanuel’s…

Tree of Smoke

By Denis Johnson,

Book cover of Tree of Smoke

Neil Baldwin Author Of Man Ray: American Artist

From the list on massive modern and contemporary novels.

Who am I?

I have been a biographer going on five decades now -- from William Carlos Williams to Man Ray to Thomas Edison to Henry Ford to Martha Graham. I am above all else a student of the human condition as well as a devotee of narrative at its most burnished - the kind of narrative that imposes its voice upon me at the end of a long day of quotidian interaction when all I want to do is get into bed and “pick up where I left off”. Biography is, indeed, storytelling - but it is restrained, or perhaps I should say tamed, by factual fidelity, a point of pride with me as a conscientious practitioner of the craft. 

Neil's book list on massive modern and contemporary novels

Why did Neil love this book?

Even if you did not “live” through the Vietnam War and its domino-effect cultural disasters, this book will penetrate your consciousness as “tragic and uncannily familiar” (Michiko Kakutani). William “Skip” Sands is ostensibly a CIA officer engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong. From the moment Skip lands “in country,” we are sucked into a vortex of violence, sardonic humor, camaraderie that’s six degrees from pathology, and paranoia -- all told through the lens of a singularly hallucinogenic yet gorgeous and poetic prose style that forced me from time to time to put the book down so I would avoid overdosing.  

By Denis Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tree of Smoke as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

`Once upon a time there was a war, and a young American who thought of himself as the Quiet American and the Ugly American, and who wished to be neither, who wanted instead to be the Wise American, or the Good American, but who eventually came to witness himself as the Real American and finally as simply the Fucking American. That's me.'

This is the story of Skip Sands, a CIA spy engaged in psychological operations against the Viet Cong, and the disasters that befall him. It is also the story of two brothers heading towards self-destruction, and a story…

13 Cent Killers

By John J. Culbertson,

Book cover of 13 Cent Killers: The 5th Marine Snipers in Vietnam

Michael Lee Lanning Author Of Inside the Crosshairs: Snipers in Vietnam

From the list on snipers in the Vietnam War.

Who am I?

I served as an infantry platoon leader, reconnaissance platoon leader, and rifle company commander in Vietnam and observed the direct results of snipers. I am the author of 30 non-fiction books on the military (six specifically about the Vietnam War), sports, and health that have sold more than 1.1 million copies in 15 countries and 12 languages.

Michael's book list on snipers in the Vietnam War

Why did Michael love this book?

Titled after the cost of a single sniper round, this book details the performance and accomplishment of scout snipers in the 5th Marine Regiment. Culberson and his fellow Marine snipers exhibited patience, stealth, marksmanship, and pure courage to make their sniper platoon the most decorated in the Corps. Uncommon valor was a common virtue among these one-shot killers.

By John J. Culbertson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 13 Cent Killers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“It’s not easy to stay alive with a $1,000 bounty on your head.”

In 1967, a bullet cost thirteen cents, and no one gave Uncle Sam a bigger bang for his buck than the 5th Marine Regiment Sniper Platoon. So feared were these lethal marksmen that the Viet Cong offered huge rewards for killing them. Now noted Vietnam author John J. Culbertson, a former 5th Marine sniper himself, presents the riveting true stories of young Americans who fought with bolt rifles and bounties on their heads during the fiercest combat of the war,from 1967 through the desperate Tet battle for…

The Rescue of Streetcar 304

By Kenny Wayne Fields,

Book cover of The Rescue of Streetcar 304

Richard E. Diller Author Of Firefly: A Skyraider's Story About America's Secret War Over Laos

From the list on or by pilots in Vietnam who experienced combat.

Who am I?

I am well qualified to speak of the Vietnam aviation experience because these things happened during my formative years as a pilot, and I was on the “front lines” of seeing and experiencing much of it. In addition, I keep up-to-date with it via reunions and reading stories told by other pilots, and I have met Kenny Fields, George Marrett, and Leo Thorsness.

Richard's book list on or by pilots in Vietnam who experienced combat

Why did Richard love this book?

This is an exciting book by Kenny Fields, a navy pilot who was shot down on his first mission. He came down near a North Vietnamese division in southern Laos and was on the ground for about 50 hours before he was rescued. The story is told from the perspective of the survivor. The NVA and Viet Cong troops had recently participated in the siege of Khe Sanh, and were back in the (for them) sanctuary of Laos.

By Kenny Wayne Fields,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rescue of Streetcar 304 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On 31 May 1968, Lt. Kenny Fields catapulted off USS America in his A-7 for his first combat mission. His target was in Laos, which at the time was `officially' off limits for US attacks. What the planners did not know was that Fields and his wingman were en route to a massive concentration of AAA gun sites amidst an entire North Vietnamese division.

Fields, who used the call sign`Streetcar 304', was the first to roll in, and he destroyed his target with a direct hit. Three AAA guns began to fire, but, following his wingman, he rolled in again.…

Book cover of All Day Long the Noise of Battle

Peter Stanley Author Of Bad Characters

From the list on Australian military history.

Who am I?

I am a Research Professor in history at UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy. I now mostly write on the military history of British India history but for 27 years I worked at the Australian War Memorial, Australia’s national military museum, where I became Principal Historian. Much of my career was devoted to Australian military history and more than half of my 40 or so books are in that field. That puts me in a good position to comment upon what I think are the five best books in the field of Australian military history (my own excepted, of course). 

Peter's book list on Australian military history

Why did Peter love this book?

The study of battles, and often individual actions by small groups of men, has been an important part of Australian military history, and the Australian military historical tradition has produced many fine practitioners of operational military history. One author who produced a fine example of the genre is Gerard Windsor, the author of fiction and memoir who, though without any previous experience of writing military history, produced All Day Long the Noise of Battle, a study of the attack made by one company of Australian infantry upon a Viet Cong bunker system in Phuoc Tuy province, South Vietnam, in 1968. Sparked by a chance encounter with a schoolmate, Windsor began investigating a hitherto unnamed battle, one of the most fierce the Australians fought in their ten-year war in Vietnam, and a superb example of how to write about men in battle. 

By Gerard Windsor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All Day Long the Noise of Battle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"In 1968 an Australian infantry company assaulted a Vietnamese bunker complex in a three-day battle. Yet it passed unacknowledged in Australia, and the men were insulted by command's failure to recognise their courage. Gerard Windsor's All Day Long the Noise of Battle looks at the men's strengths and weaknesses, their alliances and tensions, their morale, their reactions to combat, their stand-out characters and their leaders. And throughout, the book becomes an essay on the nature of men's memory of battle. Windsor brings a fiction writer's eye to this tragic episode. Full of memorable personalities Windsor's book is seminal and moving."

Through the Valley

By William Reeder Jr.,

Book cover of Through the Valley: My Captivity in Vietnam

Nishi Giefer Author Of The Captured

From the list on Twentieth Century POWs.

Who am I?

As a western mystery writer, rancher, veterinarian, wife, mother, farrier, horse trainer, gardener, seamstress, pilot, homeschooler, tractor jockey, and all-around hand, I conclude that every experience in life is grist for the mill leading to settings, scenery, plots, and character motivations.

Nishi's book list on Twentieth Century POWs

Why did Nishi love this book?

In a rescue-gone-wrong, Reeder’s chopper went down, landing on its side and leaving the pilot frantically attempting to disentangle himself from the safety harness to escape the burning craft. Years later, after relaying this story to a large audience, Reeder was told by a fellow veteran that he had witnessed the incident and had Reeder in his gunsight, intending to save him from burning to death. The would-be shooter had looked away an instant, and when ready to fire, found Reeder gone. Reeder managed to evade the enemy for a time but was eventually captured and subjected to unfathomable cruelty and deprivation.

By William Reeder Jr.,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Through the Valley as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Through the Valley is the captivating memoir of the last U.S. Army soldier taken prisoner during the Vietnam War. A narrative of courage, hope, and survival, Through the Valley is more than just a war story. It also portrays the thrill and horror of combat, the fear and anxiety of captivity, and the stories of friendships forged and friends lost In 1971 William Reeder was a senior captain on his second tour in Vietnam. He had flown armed, fixed-wing OV-1 Mohawks on secret missions deep into enemy territory in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam on his first tour. He returned…

Enduring Vietnam

By James Wright,

Book cover of Enduring Vietnam: An American Generation and Its War

Ernest Hebert Author Of Whirlybird Island

From the list on creating empathy and self-knowledge in readers.

Who am I?

For me, writing novels is an attempt in metaphor to clear the ledger of unfinished business in my crazy, contradictory, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always messy mind. All the books I've written have long and often intensely personal backstories. All of us live two lives, a life in the world of things, relationships, and time (needs), and a life in the world we create in our minds (wants). When needs and wants come into conflict we have the elements that make a novel. I see my job as a novelist to provide an exciting story and plot that carries a reader through the material world.

Ernest's book list on creating empathy and self-knowledge in readers

Why did Ernest love this book?

My book is a story about what often happens to some soldiers after a war, in today's lingo, PTSD. As one who is a veteran himself, I’ve always been conflicted about soldiering, war, the aftermath of war, and the American penchant for war. One book put it all into perspective for me, Enduring Vietnam by historian James Wright. Wright gives you the historical context that brought about the war; the politics that influenced the war; and the battles fought during the war. But he tells it all from the perspective of the soldiers who fought the war, from our fellow Americans and allies in South Vietnam, but also from the perspective of the enemy soldiers, the Vietcong and North Vietnamese.

By James Wright,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Enduring Vietnam as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Vietnam War is largely recalled as a mistake, either in the decision to engage there or in the nature of the engagement. Orboth. Veterans of the war remain largely anonymous figures, accomplices in the mistake. Critically recounting the steps that led to the war, this book does not excuse the mistakes, but it brings those who served out of the shadows. Enduring Vietnam recounts the experiences of the young Americans who fought in Vietnam and of families who grieved those who did not return. By 1969 nearly half of the junior enlisted men who died in Vietnam were draftees.…

The Village

By Bing West,

Book cover of The Village

Frances Kuffel Author Of Eating Ice Cream with My Dog: A True Story of Food, Friendship, and Losing Weight...Again

From Frances' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Passionate Witty Dreamer Depressive

Frances' 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Frances love this book?

I’m working on a novel which includes a couple of chapters of what it was like to be a Marine Corps CAP (Combined Action Program) member, and The Village chronicles the very first CAP unit and the enemy they faced.

It begins almost as a mystery novel but moves quickly into the friendly relations the CAPs had with the hamlet they were stationed in and the enemy that was omnipresent and personal in its hatred of the Americans.

I could not have written these chapters as well without this nonfiction account of how fifteen men established themselves in a village and how eight men walked out.

By Bing West,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Village as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The true story of seventeen months in the life of a Vietnamese village where a handful of American Marines and Vietnamese militia lived and died together attempting to defend it.

In Black Hawk Down, the fight went on for a day. In We Were Soldiers Once & Young, the fighting lasted three days. In The Village, one Marine squad fought for 495 days—half of them died.

Few American battles have been so extended, savage and personal. A handful of Americans volunteered to live among six thousand Vietnamese, training farmers to defend their village. Such “Combined Action Platoons” (CAPs) are now…

A Vietcong Memoir

By Truong Nhu Tang,

Book cover of A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath

Mark Scott Smith Author Of Night Fire Morning Snow: The Road to Chosin

From the list on understanding America and her enemies in wartime.

Who am I?

After retiring from academic medicine, I moved to the ocean and learned of WWII Japanese submarine and balloon bomb attacks on Oregon. With extensive research, consultation, and trips to Europe, Latin America, and Asia, I have now published three historical fiction novels on Amazon: Enemy in the Mirror: Love and Fury in the Pacific War, The Osprey and the Sea Wolf: The Battle of the Atlantic 1942, and Night Fire Morning Snow: The Road to Chosin. My website is intended to promote understanding of America and her enemies in wartime.

Mark's book list on understanding America and her enemies in wartime

Why did Mark love this book?

This fascinating book provides insight into the mind of a cultured, erudite Vietnamese man who grew up in French Indochina. Truong Nhu Tang, simultaneously a South Vietnamese government official and a clandestine Viet Cong urban organizer, has inspirational encounters with Ho Chi Minh in Paris and Viet Minh guerrillas in the jungle. Captured by South Vietnamese police in 1968, he was released to the North in a US-Viet Cong prisoner exchange. After the War, becoming disillusioned with political repression and economic mismanagement by the new communist government, he escapes from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and ends up living in exile in Paris.

By Truong Nhu Tang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Vietcong Memoir as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"An absorbing and moving autobiography...An important addition not only to the literature of Vietnam but to the larger human story of hope, violence and disillusion in the political life of our era."—Chicago Tribune

When he was a student in Paris, Truong Nhu Tang met Ho Chi Minh. Later he fought in the Vietnamese jungle and emerged as one of the major figures in the "fight for liberation"—and one of the most determined adversaries of the United States. He became the Vietcong's Minister of Justice, but at the end of the war he fled the country in disillusionment and despair. He…

A Rumor of War

By Philip Caputo,

Book cover of A Rumor of War: The Classic Vietnam Memoir

Wendell Affield Author Of Muddy Jungle Rivers: A river assault boat cox'n's memory journey of his war in Vietnam

From the list on the Vietnam war that explore waste and loss.

Who am I?

As I write this, I massage aching bits of shrapnel still embedded beneath silvered scars. I’ve read many Vietnam War stories—praising the war, glorifying combat, condemning the war. My stories are 1st person limited POV, voice of a twenty-year-old sailor. My title is a spin-off of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. By the time I wrote my memoir, I realized that our national goals in Vietnam had been Muddy from the beginning. I too, traveled Jungle Rivers. During my time on the riverboat, I witnessed Rivers of blood—rivers of life, trickle across our deck. And yes, Jungle is a fitting metaphor for our life at that time.

Wendell's book list on the Vietnam war that explore waste and loss

Why did Wendell love this book?

This is the first Vietnam War book I read. For almost ten years I remained silent about my military service—many coworkers did not know I had served, let alone two tours and wounded in action. Caputo’s voice and sense of loss and waste and rage touched so close to my feelings. His gift of words made me live again the countless hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror—for me, ambushes, mines, incoming artillery, and mortar rounds. Twenty years in the future, when I began writing my stories, I read Caputo’s book again because I hoped to emulate his sense of angst.

By Philip Caputo,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked A Rumor of War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 40th anniversary edition of the classic Vietnam memoir―featured in the PBS documentary series The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick―with a new foreword by Kevin Powers

In March of 1965, Lieutenant Philip J. Caputo landed at Danang with the first ground combat unit deployed to Vietnam. Sixteen months later, having served on the line in one of modern history’s ugliest wars, he returned home―physically whole but emotionally wasted, his youthful idealism forever gone.

A Rumor of War is far more than one soldier’s story. Upon its publication in 1977, it shattered America’s indifference to the fate of…