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on December 21, 1998
Starting with the boys from Train street Dorchester - they never had a chance - Appy weaves his own brand of emotion with the facts to put us back in time- to see the unfairness of the "conflict" - the futility. Historians, former military and just plain folk will find this an entirely readable book of about 320 pages. It brings a unique focus beyond the nightly news version we remember. At the surface level it tells a story of the working class at war, like a history book, well documented with many facts. I was more facinated with the underbelly - the moral issues raised - the judgements exercised by leaders - the way the draft realy worked and how in the 60's the world became so small. I was touched, because; although my cousin is not mentioned, he came from Train Street Dorchester and he came back in a box. He didn't have to, now I know he never had a chance. Maybe we will learn from this historians story. Thanks Chris.
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on June 17, 2000
The main premise of this book by Christian Appy, AssociateProfessor of History at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is thatthe burden of fighting and dying during the Vietnam War fell disproportionately on young working-class and poor men. According to Appy, "2.5 million young American enlisted men" served in Vietnam, and "[r]oughly 80 percent came from working-class and poor backgrounds." It is Appy's view that "[c]lass, not geography, was the crucial factor in determining which Americans fought in Vietnam." Appy goes on to state: "Vietnam, more than any other American war in the twentieth century, perhaps in our history, was a working-class war." That is a provocative thesis.
In the introduction, which is centered on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the 58,191 names inscribed on the wall, Appy asks: "What sorts of people were they? How did they come to fight in Vietnam?" According to Appy: "[T]hose who fought and died in Vietnam were overwhelmingly drawn from the bottom half of the American social structure." Appy explains that "[p]oor and working-class soldiers, whether black or white, were more likely to be trained for combat than were soldiers economically and educationally more advantaged." In particular, Appy examines a white, working-class section of Boston, about which he writes that "boys who grew up in Dorchester were four times more likely to die in Vietnam than those raised in the fancy suburbs." Appy also identifies East Los Angeles and the South Side of Chicago as "major urban centers...[which] sent thousands of men to Vietnam,"as did Saginaw, Michigan; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Stockton, California; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Youngstown, Ohio; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; and Utica, New York. These facts are compelling. So is the poignance of the bitterness which resulted. For instance, Appy quotes a firefighter who lost a son in Vietnam: "I'm bitter. You bet your goddamn dollar I'm bitter. It's people like us who gave up our sons for the country." If Appy had proceeded to develop these points and to analyze their social consequences more fully, this would have been a marvelous book. However, only Chapter 1, entitled "Working-Class War," and Chapter 2, "Life Before the Nam," are devoted to information and insights about the role of the working class and poor in this conflict. According to Appy, most Vietnam-era draftees and volunteers "had no real or attractive alternative" to military service because "[p]oor and working-class youth - those most likely to be drafted - were least able to secure stable, well-paying jobs," in the mid-1960s, and "[c]ollege was not a realistic option for most working-class men." Appy also writes: "The draft determined the social character of the armed forces by whom it exempted from service as well as by whom it actually conscripted or induced to enlist....From 1964 to 1973, 2.2 million men were drafted, 8.7 million enlisted, and 16 million did not serve." According to Appy: "The student deferment was the most overtly class-biased feature of the Vietnam era draft system." For instance, according to Appy, "working-class men saw military service as a natural, essentially unavoidable part of life, one they believed would at least maintain their social and economic standing, whereas "men from wealthier families were likely to view the military as an agent of downward social mobility." Appy argues that "the fundamental factors moving people into the military were economic and institutional." According to Appy, many working-class men enlisted during the Vietnam War-era because, "[w]ith the prospect of a dead-end job, little if any chance for college, and the draft looming on the horizon," most "saw enlistment as a way of `getting over' the unavoidable." Appy proceeds to explain that "white, working-class men did not regard military service as an opportunity so much as a necessity (nothing else to do, draft pressure, duty, job security) so much as a necessity (nothing else to do, get away, leave school)." He adds: "For black volunteers, economic and social improvement often were decisive motivations." These facts and analysis are invaluable. Much of what follows, however, is familiar, and some of it is, frankly, tedious. Appy spends seven chapters answering these questions: "What was the nature of the war they waged? How did [the working-class and poor soldiers] respond?" For instance, Appy devotes several pages to the hazing and physical abuse which were typical of Vietnam-era Marine Corps basic training, but we're already familiar with this from a dozen books and movies. Similarly, virtually all readers, other than newcomers to the literature of the Vietnam War, know: "Attrition was the central American strategy; search and destroy was the principal tactic; and the enemy body count was the primary measure of progress." I do not mean to suggest that Appy's insights are inaccurate. He writes, for instance: "For soldiers, war is a directly confronted reality, not a theoretical abstraction," and "[s]oldiers in Vietnam were preoccupied with survival." But those observations lack the sharp focus on working-class and poor military men in Vietnam which I had expected. And, when Appy does focus on working-class and poor military men, much of this book is anecdotal, drawn from interviews the author conducted between 1981 and 1987 with approximately 100 Vietnam veterans. In my mind, there is a genuine issue as to whether this is a sufficiently large sample from which to draw conclusions.
The introduction and first two chapters of this book are superb, but I was disappointed by much of the rest of it. There is still plenty of room for research and analysis of the role and experiences of working-class and poor men in the Vietnam War.
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on September 24, 2011
Author extends interesting information with regard the extent the careerist will go to basically kiss the asses the wealthy pot-licking pukes in the US. And, how simply it would have been for me to avoid the draft and the arrogance of those who would have allowed it. (I failed Class Consciousness 101)And, the volunteer military increases the arrogance.
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Christian Appy seeks to present a picture of the social history of the American Vietnam veteran, to, as he puts it, reclaim and interpret the illegitimate knowledge that veterans voices can bring to bear on the war. The problem is, he doesn't. Using an extremely small sample, mostly based on a PTSD rap group in Dorchester MA, Appy uses faulty statitistical inferences and highly selective choices from the literature of memoirs and fiction to puff up what could have been a good small study into a biased and inflammatory picture of the Vietnam experience.
This book will no doubt please those who have a predetermined picture of what the "answers" and the "truth" are. And, indeed, there are some interesting insights that partially redeem the book. But one must ask how it is at all of Appy's voices are homogeneous in their basic viewpoint. Does this sound like recovering the voices of veterans, or merely using a segment to reenforce Appy's theories?
The invocation of Foucault's Power/Knowledge in the introduction is truly ironic, for it is Appy that attempts to use the power of academia to "interpret" the veteran and to make "illegitimate" any dissenting views. While Appy does present a wide variety of topics, there are better works out there in each, and readers with a limited background in the field would do well to avoid this work.
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on December 3, 2007
Excellent look at the Vietnam War from the eyes of them what really got screwed over. Guess who they were. C'mon. Yup. The working class.
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on March 25, 2009
Appy's work contains a fair amount of basic information about the war in Vietnam. He raises some important questions about the role of the working class. However, it is abundantly clear that he allowed his research to support his foregone conclusions. Caveat emptor.
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VINE VOICEon June 24, 2003
This book turned me off early when, in the Introduction, the author states: "No one knows how many veterans have committed suicide as a result of theeir wartime experiences, but most specialists who have worked closely with veterans believe the number of suicides far exceeds the number of men who died in the war itself." That seemed wrong to me, so I followed his supporting footnote which stated "As early as 1971 the National Council of Churches estimated that 49,000 veterans had died from various causes after returning home." Since 49,000 is less than the more than 58,000 who died in the war, and since there's no indication that a majority of the 49,000 committed suicide, I thought the author had already lost his credibility. I also had to wonder about his academic advisors who were supposed to be overlooking this doctoral thesis at Harvard. Based on this, I decided not to read the book line for line, but to simply skim it to find areas of interest.
And, I did find some. The chapters in the book that dealt with direct military experiences in basic training and in the war were pretty good. They are worth reading. But, once you drift into the author's interpretations, I'd recommend you skip or read with skepticism. I think the author has a clearly antiwar, liberal viewpoint and is willing to embellish to help express it.
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on September 20, 2009
good condition--as stated. timing was decent--within the time stated. i havent read the book in class yet.
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on May 14, 2010
It is important that all writer's addressing the Vietnam War ensure that their facts are accurate. Here are the facts:

In Uniform and In Country

*Vietnam Vets: 9.7% of their generation.
*9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam Era
(Aug. 5, 1964-May 7, 1975).
*8,744,000 GIs were on active duty during the war
(Aug 5, 1964 - March 28, 1973).
*3,403,100 (Including 514,300 offshore) personnel served in the Southeast Asia Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand, and sailors in adjacent South China Sea waters).
*2,594,000 personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam
(Jan. 1, 1965 - March 28, 1973)
*Another 50,000 men served in Vietnam between 1960 and 1964.
*Of the 2.6 million, between 1 - 1.6 million (40 - 60%) either fought in combat, provided close support or were at least fairly regularly exposed to enemy attack.
*7,484 women (6,250 or 83.5% were nurses) served in Vietnam.
*Peak troop strength in Vietnam: 543,482 (April 30, 1968)

*Hostile deaths: 47,378
*Non-hostile deaths: 10,800
*Total: 58,202 (Includes men formerly classified as MIA and Mayaguez casualties). Men who have subsequently died of wounds account for the changing total.
*8 nurses died -- 1 was KIA.
*Married men killed: 17,539
*61% of the men killed were 21 or younger.
*Highest state death rate: West Virginia - 84.1%
(national average 58.9% for every 100,000 males in 1970).
*Wounded: 303,704 -- 153,329 hospitalized + 150,375 injured requiring no hospital care.
*Severely disabled: 75,000 -- 23,214 - 100% disabled; 5,283 lost limbs; 1,081 sustained multiple amputations.
*Amputation or crippling wounds to the lower extremities were 300% higher than in WWII and 70% higher than Korea.
*Multiple amputations occurred at the rate of 18.4% compared to 5.7% in WWII.
*Missing in Action: 2,338
*POWs: 766 (114 died in captivity)
Draftees vs. Volunteers

*25% (648,500) of total forces in country were draftees. (66% of U.S. armed forces members were drafted during WWII.
*Draftees accounted for 30.4% (17,725) of combat deaths in Vietnam.
*Reservists killed: 5,977
*National Guard: 6,140 served: 101 died.
*Total draftees (1965 - 73): 1,728,344.
*Actually served in Vietnam: 38%
*Marine Corps Draft: 42,633.
*Last man drafted: June 30, 1973.
Race & Ethnic Background

*88.4% of the men who actually served in Vietnam were Caucasian; 10.6% (275,000) were black; 1% belonged to other races.
*86.3% of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasian (includes Hispanics); 12.5% (7,241) were black; 1.2% belonged to other races.
*170,000 Hispanics served in Vietnam; 3,070 (5.2% of total) died there.
*70% of enlisted men killed were of North-west European descent.
*86.8% of the men who were killed as a result of hostile action were Caucasian; 12.1% (5,711) were black; 1.1% belonged to other races.
*14.6% (1,530) of non-combat deaths were among blacks.
*34% of blacks who enlisted volunteered for the combat arms.
*Overall, blacks suffered 12.5% of the deaths in Vietnam at a time when the percentage of blacks of military age was 13.5% of the total population.
*Religion of Dead: Protestant -- 64.4%; Catholic -- 28.9%; other/none -- 6.7%
Socio-Economic Status

*76% of the men sent to Vietnam were from lower middle/working class backgrounds.
*Thee-fourths had family incomes above the poverty level; 50% were from middle income backgrounds.
*23% of Vietnam vets had fathers with professional, managerial or technical occupations.
*79% of the men who served in Vietnam had a high school education or better when they entered the military service. (63% of Korean War vets and only 45% of WWII vets had completed high school upon separation.)
*Deaths by region per 100,000 of population: South -- 31%, West -- 29.9%; Midwest -- 28.4%; Northeast -- 23.5%.
Winning & Losing

*82% of veterans who saw heavy combat strongly believe the war was lost because of lack of political will.
*Nearly 75% of the public agrees it was a failure of political will, not of arms.
Honorable Service

*97% of Vietnam-era veterans were honorably discharged.
*91% of actual Vietnam War veterans and 90% of those who saw heavy combat are proud to have served their country.
*66% of Vietnam vets say they would serve again if called upon.
*87% of the public now holds Vietnam veterans in high esteem!!!!!
Courtesy of the VFW Magazine and
the Public Information Office, HQ CP Forward Observer -1st Recon
April 12, 1997
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on March 7, 2004
Just a little info on the National Council of Churches. They are a communist appeasing left leaning organization. Don't let their name fool you. This is the organization that was used as a front by the Congressional Black Caucus and NAACP when they put a white female representative out in the public eye to recommend that Elian Gonzalez, who's escape was embarrasing the Castro Regime, be sent back to Cuba.
So when they "estimate" that 49,000 suicides occurred you can bet it has every intention of making this country look bad. The fact that Mr. Appy can't do subtraction is a whole other issue.
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