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on December 29, 2013
Uwe Siemon-Netto’s newest book, a memoir, "Ðức: A reporter's love for the wounded people of Vietnam," is one that perhaps should have been written decades ago, but then it might not have had the warmth and seasoning that come through years of retrospect. Too long the South Vietnamese have been dismissed as having been unworthy of our efforts in the Vietnam War, inevitable to some degree, perhaps, because of the wide racial and cultural gap between our two peoples at that time. A reporter from Germany who as a child survived the horrors of Allied bombings, Siemon-Netto could see the Vietnam War through the eyes of the Vietnamese people, many of whom he got to know and love. From this perspective we get a look at what it must be like to be caught in the crossfire as your country is slowly destroyed. Siemon-Netto’s interesting mix of descriptions of personal activities with those of military and political goings on reminds me of William L. Shirer’s "Berlin Diary."

I was in Vietnam myself in 1969-70, a helicopter pilot in an air cavalry unit. We fought the NVA in the Ia Drang valley near Cambodia on an almost daily basis, as they infiltrated from the Ho Chi Minh trail. During my one-year tour we lost a few people and several aircraft, but the NVA were no match for us in the field. What they and their VC brothers were very good at, though, was terrorizing and murdering the unarmed South Vietnamese peasants who merely wanted to be left alone. Siemon-Netto paints a clear picture of this and wonders how these butchers could achieve hero status in the eyes of many western observers.

We all know how things turned out politically, but the human and cultural tragedy of the war is made real for us by Siemon-Netto. From Duc, the orphan boy in Saigon, to the ARVN in uniform, to the beautiful and sophisticated young women dressed in the "ao dai," Siemon-Netto knows them all. Through the years some of them, like Duc, disappear; many are displaced; others are killed. Among the many images presented by Siemon-Netto, none is more vivid than the sight of thousands of bodies of Tet revelers massacred by the Communists and littering the road near Hue. And there is the mass grave with still hundreds more innocent victims. Whatever one’s politics, one simply cannot dismiss these brutal and inhuman acts perpetrated on a happy and gentle people by a ruthless regime to the north wedded to a cold and cruel ideal. Siemon-Netto’s story brings this home again and again.

Like many of us Siemon-Netto is outraged by the American press’s deliberate decision not to report the truth from Vietnam. But then if Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara can consider the war lost before it’s even well started, why not the press? This is just one of many illustrations of what Siemon-Netto calls the “theater of the absurd.”

If you want to see the Vietnam War through the eyes of a reporter with no axe to grind, I highly recommend this book. I have just purchased a second copy of "Duc" to give to a former student of mine whose grandfather was a colonel in the ARVN. She is half Vietnamese and has heard mostly bad things about the people on that side of her family, and I know this book will make her proud to claim her Vietnamese heritage.
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on February 18, 2014
I've read a number of books about the Viet Nam War, but they have always been from the perspective of the soldier and his experiences as a warrior. This is the first book I have read from the perspective of a reporter who deeply loves the Vietnamese people and is able to fill in so much detail of the war and its effect not only on our soldiers, but the South Vietnamese people as well.

I was in Viet Nam in 1969, as a helicopter pilot with the Marine Corps, my time in country overlapping the last of Duc's tour after Tet. Duc's descriptions of I Corps brought me back to my days in Viet Nam. I flew out of Quang Tri, Hue Phu Bai, and Danang, and I've flown over what we called the Perfume River, and I've stood within the walls of the Citadel and the Imperial City of Hue. I flew along the Rue Sans Joie many times and into the mountains west of An Hoa and near the DMZ and Laos. Reading Ewe Simeon-Notte's superb book allowed me to reflect with much greater understanding on my own experiences in Viet Nam and to appreciate with clarity this byzantine war and its intracies.

As did Duc, I, too, fell in love with this beautiful and exotic country, and with the children, many of whom I visited in the villes and orphanges of Danang. I saw a pride and resilience of the South Vietnamese people, and I share DUC's comments on the incomparable Ao Dai, and the beauty and dignity of the women who wore them.

I've thought long and hard regarding our abandonment of South Viet Nam. It's execution was a disaster, and so many more innocent lives were lost. However, in contrast to Duc's implied sentiments, I do believe that we needed to leave, and I truly don't think this war was winnable, period. I feel exactly the same about Afghanistan. As hard as it is to accept, we can not militarily right the evil in this world, because, once we've won, then what? I still can't see an end-game to the Vietnamese War or to our presence in Afghanistan.

Our energies as a country must be directed to the principles of the Peace Corps, and I would hope that we also expend all opportunities to found a world order which supports a peace keeping body with both political and military clout, so needed in our world today. This ideal is more attainable than was a military and political victory in South Viet Nam, against the NVA and Giap, a foe Duc so well describes as a foe who would stop at nothing, perpetrate unthinkable and heinous crimes against humanity, and expend as many lives as it took to achieve victory. We should have paid more attention to the history of failure of French Colonialism and Bien Dien Phu.

My last comment regarding "DUC: A reporter's love for the wounded people of Viet Nam," rests with the author himself. Duc's stories reveal his own character as a man of principle, a man with a kind heart who is seduced by the beauty of South Viet Nam and its people, a man with a sense of humor and a history of adventure and romance, and a man who has the guts to enter the hinterlands to find the truth. His story is tragic, beautiful, and worth reading.

Edward Mowry, Author of "So Close to Dying"
[...]
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on September 12, 2013
I give five stars to few books. But this book on the Viet Nam War is a must read. Not only does the author relate his experiences with novel-like prose which is a delight to read (his love for the country and the people of South Viet Nam is the foundation of the book) he also makes the connection between that war and America's struggles in all limited wars. As I have said in numerous speeches and essays, America is surely the least likely winner of a limited war--defined as withholding our military strength and combat competence and trying to play the game at the opponents level--and due to our uncommon decency. This is a book well worth reading and rereading. And recommending to others. Viet Nam Vets--an absolute must read.
2 people found this helpful
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on February 17, 2014
A beautifully written insightful look at America’s involvement in Vietnam and the Vietnamese people from a perspective few Americans have had access to—a German journalist “without a dog in the fight.”

Not a dry historical account but a vividly narrated adventure—at times sad, at times funny—but always honest and interesting.

The author’s curiosity, compassion, and love for the Vietnamese people is clearly evident as is his respect for the field soldiers who endeavored to do their best despite their country’s political dysfunction and biased journalism.

A delightful read that elicits true emotion and highlights many historical misperceptions.
One person found this helpful
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on July 10, 2013
With relevance to American involvement today in Afghanistan, author and former journalist Uwe Siemon-Netto has produced an extremely personal narrative of his Vietnam War experiences. Spanning nearly the entire period of active American ground combat involvement, he arrived in Saigon in early 1965 and remained through 1969, returning again in 1972 to report on the ill-fated Nguyen-Hue Offensive; known in the West as the Easter Offensive.

Siemon-Netto's credentials, pedigree and background are impeccable, his personal observations priceless and uncanny. His witness to both the mundane and the extremes of war are ably displayed, as is his very obvious affection for the people of Vietnam and the warriors who fought to keep the communists at bay. Acknowledging the evil at My Lai, he likewise points out the too numerous to count episodes where both American and South Vietnamese fighting men risked life and limb to protect the innocents they were there to defend.

With a special empathy few could possibly have--Uwe was born just prior to the beginning of World War II in Germany and lived through the Allied bombings of his hometown which did not so accurately discriminate between civilian and military targets--he was on hand many times to chronicle the planned, systematic and utterly barbaric murders of entire families by both the Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) judged to be sympathetic to the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) government. He arrived in Hue in early 1968 only days after 3,000-5,000 civilians were slaughtered by the communists, an occurrence many on the Left today claim, like Holocaust deniers, never happened.

Siemon-Netto has the standing and moral authority to take on so many in the American media--which he does with acute perspicacity, most notably Walter Cronkite, whose dark pronouncements and obviously left-leaning bias changed the course of the war and cost the lives of untold thousands, and suffering of many millions.

This is a book to be read, reread, and then shared with those who crave the truth about the Vietnam War. It is one for the ages. ("Duc" is also available in the Vietnamese language; a brilliant strategy.)
4 people found this helpful
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on February 11, 2014
I appreciated the different perspective on the media, the combatants and the people of Vietnam. Uwe Siemon-Netto is unsparing in his critique of his media peers' acts of omission and commission. While the outcome of the war is catastrophic for the people of the region, the author is ultimately optimistic that every regime, including the Vietnamese communists, falls. He concludes that the Vietnamese people will one day have their chance to seek their own free government.
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on January 25, 2014
A German reporter who spent several years in Vietnam during the war shares his experiences of many aspects of the war. From the safe seclusion of Saigon to spending the night in a neutral International outpost on the border of North Vietnam. His experiences developed within him a compassion for the innocent victims in South Vietnam who were ultimately betrayed by their American defenders who didn't have the foresight to finish the job.
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on December 23, 2013
For me this book was therapeutic as well as interesting and authentic. It is not a sterile rendition of history. Uwe Siemon-Netto paints a picture of the true Vietnam and it's people, it's history and culture. He also exposes the the manipulation of public opinion by the media. For those of us who witnessed the Tet Offensive in Saigon and Hue it was refreshing to read a true and emotional account of those events. This is a must read for Vietnam Veterans as well as anyone who wants to learn the truth about one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th Century,
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on November 5, 2013
For those of us who were young--I graduated from high school in 1976--during the Vietnam years, learning about the conflict now can be instructive, painful, and cathartic. Siemon-Netto is a superb journalist who writes clear prose, reflecting clear-headedness about a tenebrous period of our nation's history.
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on October 26, 2013
A great subject that needed to be told. It was very objective without the political bias so prevalent at that time, and which still exists today. Lacked depth at times, and I expected more about the war itself instead of so much about the reporter's life in Vietnam. Exposing the VC and North Vietnamese for what they really were however, needs to be said again and again.
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