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Bernard Fall: Memories of a Soldier-Scholar

19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1597971553
ISBN-10: 1597971553
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Editorial Reviews


“Dorothy Fall’s charming, intensely personal portrait of her late husband as a man of vision, courage, and great humanitarian instincts adds to our understanding not only of him but also of an era that spans America’s thrusting optimism in the wake of World War II, its self-discovery in the civil rights revolution, and its disillusionment during Vietnam. Bernard Fall fought with the French underground, investigated Nazi war crimes, and became America’s leading scholar on Indochina as well as an outstanding author and journalist. His life was cut tragically short by his pursuit of truth, but he lived it to the brim.”—Jim Hoagland, associate editor, Washington Post
(Jim Hoagland)

“All students of the Vietnam wars know the works of the great historian Bernard Fall. This poignant and unblinking account reveals the life that propelled him to his monumental and ultimately tragic task.”—Don Oberdorfer, former Washington Post diplomatic correspondent and author of Tet! The Turning Point of the Vietnam War
(Don Oberdorfer)

“This is a tale of two love stories: one for a family, the other for a haunting ‘mistress’—Vietnam. As this memoir by his widow vividly illustrates, it remains appalling that Robert McNamara or any of the ‘best and brightest’ architects of the Vietnam War did not heed Bernard Fall’s brilliant accounts of how and why the French failed in Vietnam. It also reveals the riveting ‘made-for-the-movies’ secret risk-taking life of Fall, who saw his parents perish in the Holocaust, shot Germans as a teenage French resistance fighter, became a courageous and famed journalist, and lost his life in the pursuit of truth.”—Myra MacPherson, author of All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone and Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation
(Myra MacPherson)

“Bernard Fall knew the country, the enemy, and the nature of the war better than any person I met during my long involvement in the war in Southeast Asia. . . . His death was a great tragedy to our nation. He had the power, the knowledge, and the ability to influence the policy-makers and just at the time he died, he was on the ascent. His followers were virtually a quiet army, and I’m proud to say I was one of those soldiers.”—Col. David H. Hackworth, U.S. Army (Ret.), author of About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior
(Col. David H. Hackworth)

"Surely the Vietnamese people are not the only ones awaiting Dorothy Fall’s memoir written with her heart about the life of her husband, Bernard Fall. He was a great friend of the Vietnamese people, a fighter who sacrificed himself in the struggle for truth, freedom, and peace on our Earth, which so often is not peaceful.”—Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, commander of the People’s Army of Vietnam during the Vietnam War
(Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap)

"A captivating book that is equal parts historical primer, personal love story, and eerie reminder of the folly of of waging an unconventional war in an unfamiliar land. . . . It may seem a strange word to use, but this is a lovely book about an important man--important to his adopted country, important to his many friends and to his students . . . and most of all important to his wife and children. It is that last importance that makes this book so sad."—Washington Times
(Washington Times 2006-11-26)

From the Publisher

Fall was the scholar, historian, journalist, and humanitarian frequently cited as the person who very early on had the correct answers about Vietnam—but to whom the U.S. government would not listen

Based on thirty years of interviews by his widow and on recently released U.S. government documents --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books (December 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597971553
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597971553
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dorothy Fall is a professional artist. For her book, Bernard Fall: Memories of a Soldier-Scholar, she conducted interviews over 30 years in the United States, France, and Vietnam including with General Vo Nguyen Giap. She also drew from her husband's correspondence, autobiographical writings, and notes written in Vietnam.

In addition to being an author, Dorothy Fall is an artist whose career has included 17 one-person exhibits. Her work can be seen at She lives in Washington, DC.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By S. Annand on September 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was lucky in that I got to see the first book presentation by Dorothy Fall on the day this book came out, September 18.

I used a number of Fall's books in my thesis on Vietnam over 20 years ago. As Dorothy stated, there are many lessons to learn regarding the war in Iraq and modern issues from what happened to Bernard Fall.

I was surprised to read how Bernard's mother was deported to Auschwitz, where she died. They were Jewish and living in Austria, fleeing to initially to France. They were given up by the Jewish community leaders, something Bernard never forgot. He claims to have murdered the French Jews responsible as the worst kind of collaborators. His father was eventually caught and killed by the Gestapo, which was why Bernard joined the resistance at 16. He made some interesting observations, in that killing Germans resulted in 50 French being killed in retaliation. the resistance switched to killing traitors and collaborators, which was much more effective. Toward the end of the war, Bernard was in the regular French Army and fighting with the Moroccans.

I was surprised that Bernard then worked for the Nuremberg Trials as a researcher, specifically the Krupp trials. He seemed to have come up with a great idea of producing maps and diagrams like a statistician. He would later use this technique to prove VC domination in Vietnam. He made maps that showed areas where the villagers did not pay taxes and also where the most assassinations were taking place.

The chapter "Howard" was another revelation. He really planted the seed with black students at this prestigious black university. Even Stokely Carmichael wrote glowingly about Fall as an influence.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By GEORGE W. SHADOAN Pa on October 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is a taut, lucid, sometimes emotional, but never sentimental account of a fascinating life - that of Bernard Fall. Of course, I had heard of Bernard Fall. What literate adult during the Vietnam War had not? But, unlike many, I had not read his books and certainly did not know his story. In his widow's eyes, the author of this book, Bernard was a soldier-scholar who devoted his life to the unyielding pursuit of truth. He was a tough guy. From age sixteen until age nineteen he fought against the Nazis as a member of the French resistence and then served in the French army. At age twenty he worked as an investigator assisting the Nuernberg tribunal. But during the Vietnam War, while popular with the military, he was a misguided missile in the mind of FBI Director Hoover. His phones were tapped. FBI surveillance was openly conducted. Government officials who spoke with Fall were subjected to FBI interviews suggesting that care should be taken with their associations. A lesser man would have been intimidated. Not Fall. And, of course, then as now the efforts to silence political critics with labels of "aid and comfort" to the enemy were wrong to the point of lunacy. For example after describing the Vietminh death march of French prisoners following the fall of Dien Bien Phu - Ms. Fall quotes Bernard's outraged response, ". . . it turns my stomach over what the Commies have done to our men. And it is kept secret for fear it'd upset the delicate apple cart in certain situations. Like hell - I'm gonna get some of this out and politics be damned. " [p. 118]

This book reveals some unmistakable lessons of history. Now, as a result of reading this book, I have purchased Street Without Joy and Hell in a Very Small Place, which are venerated as Fall's masterpieces.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Uriah Piddle on April 6, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I took a break from coding, wandered over to the internet and googled 'Bernard Fall'. I ended up at a website that asked for reminiscenses from any people who might have known the great scholar-journalist-soldier. I had never met Bernard Fall but always felt a kinship so I sent an e-mail and the next day received a reply from Dorothy Fall, his widow. She told me about her book and now I have read it.

Mrs. Fall's account of Bernard's falling out with his professor brought home to me a truth that I have learned in life: once harsh words are spoken, something breaks inside that can never be repaired. Yes, you can reconcile but the trust -- the true friendship -- that was there is gone never to be regained. I have seen this too many times. Never humiliate or let your angry words cross the line that separates communication -- however heated -- and personal attack. If you do, your friend will become your acquaintance. If it is your spouse, your child, your mother or father, brother or sister, you will acquire a sadness and a regret that stays with you until you die.

Except for my father and elderly relatives, I have never lost a loved one and the prospect has always been my greatest fear. But Mrs. Fall lost her dear one in such an abrupt way and at such a young age. The greatness of the man never diminishes but his fame does diminish with time. I can't imagine what it is like to live with the memory of such a man after over 40 years. I am grateful that she wrote this book to help keep his memory alive and I hope that it will point some young people in the direction of his books and thus carry his legacy to future generations.

To the extent that Bernard Fall's major works can be described as scholarly in nature, they are of an extremely engaging and accessible type.
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