Patriots — The Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides, By Christian G. Appy

(Viking Books, 2003; 574 pp; $34.95 — ISBN 067003214X).

The author of this book provides the reader 135 vivid accounts of the Vietnam War from interviews with individuals from all sides; the famous, obscure, military, politicians, diplomats, civilians, military, protesters, POWs, journalists, photographers, exiles, survivors, parents, and a variety of ordinary people whose lives were affected by the war.

The structure of the book is chronological, from 1945 when the French were trying to reestablish their control after World War II to the withdrawal of American forces in 1973, and the final collapse of the South Vietnamese government in 1975. The narratives take the reader from jungle warfare in Vietnam to political debate in Washington, DC, from the five o’clock follies in Saigon to the peace talks in Paris.

Among those interviewed were General William C. Westmoreland (“I was aware that Vietnam was not necessarily a popular war because our national interest was not at stake”), General Vo Nguyen Giap (“We did not want to fight the United States, but you gave us no choice”), Phan Xuan Sinh (“What I didn’t realize was how deeply the Communist side hated us”), Tran Thi Gung (“I was in so many fights for so many years, I can’t possibly remember them all”), Tom Gitlin (“The most unpopular entity in America was the antiwar movement. That to me encapsulates the fundamental tragedy. We were hated”), John McCain (“It took a long time before America became united again. There was a lot of anger, a lot of hatred”).

Although most people agreed to be interviewed by the author there were notable exceptions. “Robert McNamara (secretary of defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson), Henry Kissinger (President Nixon’s national security adviser and Gerald Ford’s secretary of state), and Nguyen Van Thieu (president of South Vietnam from 1966 to 1975” declined to the author’s requests for an interview.

The author has compiled an interesting history of the war: why it was fought, how it was fought, how it was reported and believed at the time. He has provided some understanding to one of the most significant events in twentieth century American history.

— Sgt. Maj. Jack Jaunal USMC (Ret), Federal Way, WA