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Vietnam: A History 2nd Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 128 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140265477
ISBN-10: 0140265473
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We were Soldiers Once...And Young: Ia Drang--The Battle That Changed The War In Vietnam
We were Soldiers Once...And Young: Ia Drang--The Battle That Changed The War In Vietnam
We were Soldiers Once...And Young: Ia Drang--The Battle That Changed The War In Vietnam
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is history writing at its best." --Chicago Sun Times --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Stanley Karnow, born in New York City in 1925, served in the U.S. army in the China - Burma - India Theater during World War II, graduated from Harvard and attended the Sorbonne and the Ecole des Sciences Politques in Paris. He began his journalistic career in Paris in 1950 as a Time correspondent. He went to Asia for Time and Life in 1959 and subsequently reported from there for The Washington Post. He was a correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post, the London Observer and NBC News. While serving as an editor of the New Republic, he was also a columnist for Newsweek International King Features. Mr Karnow won the Pulitzer Prize in history for his book In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines. His other books include Mao and China: From Revolution Revolution. He served as chief correspondent for the series "Vietnam: A Television History," for which he won six Emmys and shared in the Dupont, Peabody and Polk Awards. He was also chief correspondent and narrator of "The U.S. and the Phillippines: In Our Image." A resident of Potomac, Maryland, Stanley Karnow is married, and has three children and two grandchildren.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 2nd edition (1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140265473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140265477
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mike Powers TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Vietnam: A History" is a masterfully written history of America's involvement in Vietnam - certainly one of the two best single-volume histories (along with "A Bright Shining Lie," by Neil Sheehan) of America's most regrettable war that I've read. Written by Stanley Karnow, a former Southeast Asian correspondent for "Time" and "Life" magazines, and "The Washington Post," this book is a comprehensive and fascinating look at the Vietnam war, from its underlying causes at the end of World War II, to the final takeover of South Vietnam by its Communist neighbor, North Vietnam, in April 1975.

Karnow delivers with crisp and precise prose an account of the Vietnam War which is both fair and objective. He analyzes the conflict from both the political and military standpoint, and is unsparing in his criticism of errors made by political and military leaders on all sides of the conflict. Three areas of this book were especially interesting to me: first, the author's account of the conflict between the French and Viet Minh, and how the French were defeated at Dienbienphu in 1954; second, how the U.S. government formulated its Vietnam policy under the Kennedy administration, and how that policy ultimately failed; and third, how Richard Nixon, upon becoming President in 1969, changed America's Vietnam policy and began the process of "Vietnamizing" the war. (Karnow's candid description of how the Kennedy administration initially supported South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, then tacitly approved of the 1963 coup d'etat which resulted in Diem's murder is fascinating.)

"Vietnam: A History" is an essential book for the reader interested in gaining a good understanding of the war and its causes. Highly recommendable reading!
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Format: Paperback
Should you buy this book???
It depends what you are looking for...Karnow was in 'Nam as a reporter for 25 years and is probably the most qualified writer alive to write about it. He met with all of the top officials in the south and north Vietnamese Govts and had informants in our own govt to help with details. So if you are looking for a Political history of the war, 'the why we were there and what kept us there' kind of topics, then this is a five star must read. But if you are looking for details on the fighting and on individual battles then look elsewhere because this book has little to none of that. You will find out why and when soldiers were first sent to nam but you will not find out what they did or felt once they were there.
Political history = 5 stars
Military history = 1 star
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Format: Paperback
This book has many merits: It is comprehensive, it attempts to explain Vietnamese history, and it is full of on the spot interviews and remembrances. This remains the basic history text of record on American involvement in Vietnam. There is a breadth of perspective here that is lacking in many accounts of this most up-close and personal of wars.

Despite these advantages, the book has some real limitations. The writing is pedestrian, the characterizations (if one can say that about history) tend to be thin, and Karnow fails to convey a sense of wholeness in many chapters. The book at times feels more like a collection of dispatches from a reporter in the field (which Karnow was in Vietnam) rather than the work of a historian who has integrated fact and theory based on deep understanding and research. As comprehensive as the book tries to be, Karow's reach may have exeeded his grasp with his project.

The book also suffers from a real bias against American involvement and the American establishment, Republican and Democratic. When "Uncle Ho" commits murders in the thousands the book makes one feel like this is a natural outpouring of exuburant nationalism rather than good old fashioned absolutism. But when the admittedly corrupt and inept Diem regime or confused ARVN or American soldiers commit atrocities, the condemnation is acid and biting. Communists are presented as "golden," or "tough," while Southerners or Amercians are usually charactured as "greedy," or "arrogant."

There is also an irony in the book's approach. Karnow should be complemented for attempting to fit American involvement in Vietnam into the wider context of Vietnam's history. However, Vietnam's history is presented mostly through lense of Western or Colonial contact.
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9 Comments 257 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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This book is an excellent factual overview of the American experience in Vietnam. Stanley Karnow was there, as a reporter, and this book has become a staple in the vast collection of American Vietnam War books.
This is an excellent primer for those looking for a basic chronological understanding of the events of the war. Unlike so many of the more recent volumes on the subject, this book contains almost no speculation. This book is well researched, well written, and pretty safe, in that you can rely on the factual veracity of its contents.
If you're looking for complex political theories, you'll need to dive deeper into the subject, such as Logevall's Choosing War, or Kaiser's American Tragedy.
This book also contains some excellent, if standard, photographs, a basic chronology, and a very brief `cast of characters' that are all of use to the beginner. If you are said beginner, you also want to tackle Sheehan's A Bright Shining Lie.
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