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on March 28, 2017
Arrived promptly and in good condition. Bernard Fall has few peers as this is an excellent book on Indochina. I wish he had gone into more of the situation before the Japanese invasion of the area, but few could bicker with his coverage of this period.
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on March 22, 2017
I have been meaning to read this book for a long time. I have not been disappointed. It is a must read for those trying to understand why western powers failed to understand why Hanoi was able to prevail, and why the end result was inevitable.
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on October 12, 2017
a lesson on why 1. you can't win a political war militarily and 2. how not to fight a war as did the French (and later, the US)
why didn't JFK and LBJ study this???
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on May 11, 2017
History is a revolving door. This book proves that we as a world do not learn from history. Time does not change human nature. Great book. Thank you!
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on December 18, 2012
The book is about the war in Indochina between France and the Vietminh. Moreover, to read this book could be a worth effort to learn lesson to fight insurgencies, lessons that never are enough learned by the west.

The book is a remarkably complete account of the war in Indochina. The author combined the investigation, the history and his own experiences along its fifteen chapters. So far, in my opinion the best chapters are the "End of a Task Force" wich describes the annihilation of the "Group Mobile 100" and Diem Bien Phu where the French troops were decisively defeated in a set piece battle that the French High Command had been looking for, and finally met but under General Giap conditions.

I think the book could teach us lessons at strategic and operational level.

Al strategic level we must understand that only "put steel on target" in this kind of conflict is a nonsense if the military and politicians don't work together to solve the social problems that cause the insurgency.

At operational level, the first thing to learn in the book is that the traditional military culture is the first enemy to defeat in order to fight insurgencies. The look for a battle with division corps, armies and so on is a waste of time; this was the same misunderstanding of soviets in Afghanistan. The second cultural issue to improve the counterinsurgency skills is to realize that this war is waged at platoon or company, and the main characters are sergeants and lieutenants.

In conclusion, the lessons of this book are very important and should never be discarded by thinking they are old-fashioned
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on August 2, 2013
I thought the book was very well written. The maps concerning the various conflicts between the French & the Viet Min forces allowed one to visualize where the fights were taking place with the text in the book giving a detailed account of the actions. I was amazed that there didn't seem to be any bias concerning either the French or the Communist military actions.

It was very clear to me that the French were completely unprepared for fighting a war without any clearly defined front. The human wave attacks with the seemingly unlimited amount of supplies from Russia & China lead to the downfall of the French in Viet Nam. This was vividly depicted through the book.

I enjoyed the book and the author's style made it hard to stop reading. I highly recommend this book for any military enthusiast who wants to know what happened to the French in Viet Nam.
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on February 9, 2015
Bernard Fall gives us a stimulating account of the 8 year disaster of the French attempting to re-establish colonialism in Vietnam and Laos. As the French politicians back home and the military command in Hanoi totally misunderstood the Vietnamese goals and their guerrilla warfare, an outcome of misery and failure was set in motion. Mr. Fall is an excellent storyteller and relates that history in an awe-inspiring manner. It is ironic that the author would suffer violent death in a military action in Vietnam upon the street without joy several years later.

"Street Without Joy" is a text that warns us again that before one goes to war: Know your enemy and know yourself.
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on April 7, 2015
This book was required reading for US military leaders assigned to Vietnam. It tells the story of the French debacle in Indochina. Were the North Vietnamese generals so much better than the French as Fall would have us believe? Dien Bien Phu, the final lost battle, was the result of a tactical error. Lack of effective air support had much to do with French defeats. The dubious strategy ,however, of the French fortresses and their spacing proved a decisive factor in Vietnamese planning. The value in this book is for its background use in further reading about US involvement in the conflict. For that reason alone it's a must read.
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on August 6, 2015
When America's media began proclaiming that the United States military would do "counter insurgency" in Iraq, Afghanistan, and wherever else in the 21st Century, it was not David Petraeus and his field manual to which I went, but Bernard Fall. "Stupid, again..." was the only way to describe what we -- the people of the USA -- were repeating based on the smug and mediagenic distortions of reality preached by the general and repeated in an echo chamber that stretched from the White House to Hollywood.

Instead of repeating the mistakes of a previous generation -- or, worse, denying that they were mistakes, based on some silly Rambo version of reality -- we should have learned from our own mistakes in Vietnam. And those of us who forced us into the morass of Vietnam should have listened early to Bernard Fall. Fall warned, in Street Without Joy, that white Westerners (or any colored Westerners fighting against the majority of the people of Vietnam) would ultimately lose, no matter how heroic they might have been. The correction to the nonsense we were being fed in 1964 and 1964 (and indeed until Tet 1968 blew up the last major illusions) would have simply admitted that we (the USA and our few "allies" in Vietnam) were fighting the "Second Indochina War" and were destined to lose it.

Street Without Joy came before Fall's masterpiece, Hell in a Very Small place, still the best history of the world historic battle of Dien Bien Phu. The edition I'm looking at as I write here is "Street Without Joy -- Insurgency in Indochine, 1946 - 1963 (Third Revised Edition)". The dedication says it all: "To those who died there." Not to those French soldiers who died there, but to "those." Fall's works make clear his respect for both "sides" in the Indochina wars, avoiding the racism of some of the worst propaganda that got us "waist deep in the big muddy..." (as Pete Seeger sung it).

In addition to some of the best reporting about various aspects of the First Indochina War, Fall's Street Without Joy includes four chapters he calls "Diary." Each them is an astonishing first hand look at the reality there. Take the following quotes from "Diary: The Men". "This is not a military war in the old sense," one of the Mobile Group commanders is quoted as saying. "It is not even a political war. What we're facing here is a social war, a class war. As long as we don't destroy the mandarin class, abolish excessive tenancy rates and do fail to give every farmer his own plot of land, the country'll go Communist as soon as we turn our backs... As long as we don't give the Vietnamese the only program they really could be expected to fight for, we're doomed to fight this war without any hopes for success and die here like mercenaries..."

The speaker in that part of the book later says that in order to keep junior officers fighting the French have to maintain the lie that they are fighting for the good of their Country -- France. Then, a most amazing quote: "If they knew they were dying uselessly here, it would be like shooting them in the belly and kicking them in the behind at the same time. And when my aide eventually fries in his tank, I want him to believe that he's frying for the good of his country..."

The trouble with trying to re-review Street Without Joy is that the reviewer could devote 30 or 40 pages of a review to quotes that powerful -- and more so. The books is both great war reporting, incisive history, and powerful policy discussion. But as the reader re-reading in in the 21st Century knows, the United States of America didn't learn from our previous mistakes. Too bad that our leaders didn't take seriously the "lessons" of Street Without Joy and Hell in a Very Small Place -- then or now. Everything ever written about how doomed are those of us who ignore history applies with today's wars as powerfully it applied when Bernard Fall was doing his reporting from Vietnam during those years...

....Before Fall himself was killed during one of his reporting tours during the "Second Indochina War."
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on August 29, 2017
Really interesting read knowledge of past and current guerilla war thinking. Very informative about the way the Vietnam Minh fought
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