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The Only War We've Got: Early Days in South Vietnam Paperback – October 2, 2012
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"Early war and spot on. One of the best to give a feel for the war from the beginnings." -- Phillip Jennings, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War
From the Author
When I was trekking through South Vietnam in the spring and summer of 1964, I would lodge a suitcase with some friendly American soldier. It contained a change of clothes, a portable typewriter, and 200 sheets of yellow "copy paper," as it was called by newspapermen of the day. Once a week, or more often if I could, I came out of the field and sat down with that typewriter and wrote about my travels. I mailed the typescript to a pal at home who promised to send a $20 bill to the return address on the envelope. (I then took the bill to the local money changer at the black market rate.) Less often, I wrote an article for Carey McWilliams at The Nation magazine, who in turn sent the $65 fee to that same pal. In this way I financed my months in Vietnam.
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He takes the reader all through South Vietnam and gives us a glimpse of military activities throughout the country at that early stage of US involvement there. He participates in a wide variety of exercises ranging from US Air Force to US Navy to US Army (conventional and Special Forces). In his time in southwest Asia, he managed to sample a wide variety of units. He also had quite a bit of interaction with the native peoples. His insight is truly fascinating. The characters he meets on his journey are too interesting to be fiction. People like this only come from real life. Meeting the advisors who were running the war prior to its escalation was a real treat to me.
As the author explains in his epilogue, his attitude and that of most of the advisors he met were very naive. That's part of the magic of this book. It's difficult to step back beyond hindsight and view things the way we did when we were young. Mr. Ford has managed to do it. This book is an important addition to Vietnam literature and military history in general. I enjoyed it a lot.
Ford's Vietnam isn't the one you generally read about. He loves the country and admires the Americans he meets in his travels. They in turn love their work, at least the men in the field do. But between the lines you can see that things will go terribly wrong with America's adventure in South Vietnam.
Belongs on the shelf of every student of the Vietnam War.
Like most thoughtful Americans, my opinions, feeling and prejudices about the Vietnam War have morphed a lot over the past 36 years. Presently, this book catches me right in the middle. The War provided much to be angry over but even more to be sad about. Truly, good intentions in the hands of fools (aren't we all) can be the cobblestones for the road to Hell. I hope this book will serve the folks who take George Santayanas famous comment to heart. However, I have seen in my lifetime the "best and the brightest" can be the biggest fools of all.
Very good job.