Archives par mot-clé : Vietnam War

[Parution] Vatthana Pholsena & Oliver Tappe (eds), Interactions with a Violent Past. Reading Post-Conflict Landscapes in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam

InteractionsViolentPastThe Second and Third Indochina Wars are the subject of important ongoing scholarship, but there has been little research on the lasting impact of wartime violence on local societies and populations, in Vietnam as well as in Laos and Cambodia. Today’s Lao, Vietnamese and Cambodian landscapes bear the imprint of competing violent ideologies and their perilous material manifestations. From battlefields and massively bombed terrain to reeducation camps and resettled villages, the past lingers on in the physical environment.

The nine essays in this volume discuss post-conflict landscapes as contested spaces imbued with memory-work conveying differing interpretations of the recent past, expressed through material (even, monumental) objects, ritual performances, and oral narratives (or silences).

While Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese landscapes are filled with tenacious traces of a violent past, created an unsolicited and malevolent sense of place among their inhabitants, they can in turn be transformed by actions of resilient and resourceful local communities.

Réf. : Vatthana Pholsena and Oliver Tappe (eds), Interactions with a Violent Past. Reading Post-Conflict Landscapes in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, Singapore: NUS Press, 312 p.

  • Vatthana PHOLSENA is a Research Fellow at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Singapore representative for the Institute of Research on Contemporary Southeast Asia (IRASEC).
  • Oliver TAPPE is a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany.


Date de parution : 8 juillet 2013. [autre date annoncée : 31 octobre 2013]

Martin Clemis. Review of Li, Xiaobing, Voices from the Vietnam War: Stories from American, Asian, and Russian Veterans

LiXiaobing_VoicesOfTheVietnamWarXiaobing Li. Voices from the Vietnam War: Stories from American, Asian, and Russian Veterans. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2010. 296 pp. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8131-2592-3.

Reviewed by Martin Clemis (Temple University)
Published on H-War (May, 2013)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

Building on Christian Appy’s capacious work Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides (2004), Xiaobing Li’s Voices from the Vietnam War includes twenty-two oral histories that broaden our understanding of the complex and multifaceted nature of the war in Vietnam by focusing on the diverse experiences of individuals who lived it. Remembrances include a South Vietnamese naval lieutenant who conducted electronic surveillance and reconnaissance along the rivers and tributaries around Saigon; a young Soviet soldier from the Ukraine who worked as an instructor at a SAM-missile training center in North Vietnam; a People’s Liberation Army (China) officer in charge of a railroad engineering battalion stationed near Hanoi; and an American flight nurse who left the Air National Guard for the army after she was told that the US Air Force would not send female flight nurses to “in-country” billets in Vietnam. This eclectic mix of actors and circumstances is what gives this book its strength by underscoring both the diversity of individual experiences and the international dimension of the Second Indochina War. Additional recollections from a Russian KGB agent who worked in the embassy in Hanoi, a South Korean doctor who served in the Army of the Republic of Korea’s Ninth Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M.A.S.H), and a noncommissioned US Air Force officer whose squadron was stationed in Thailand also emphasize the multiplicity of experiences and situate the conflict within a wider context–one that illustrates the truly global reach of the war in Southeast Asia.

The one glaring omission in this area is the lack of testimony from Australian veterans. Much like the experiences of soldiers from South Korea, China, and the Soviet Union, the wartime contribution of troops sent from the commonwealth is grossly lacking within the scholarship. Given this fact, an entry from the Australian point of view would have been a welcomed addition. This sin of omission aside, Li provides a nice balance to the nations that sent their young men and women to take part in the conflict in Southeast Asia.

Voices from the Vietnam War is broken down into five thematic sections. Part 1 examines the war from a Vietnamese perspective with recollections provided by veterans from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) more commonly known as the North Vietnamese Army (NVA); part 2 includes oral histories from Chinese and Soviet military personnel who served in support units in North Vietnam; part 3 examines the experiences of American soldiers and US Marines both in and out of combat; part 4 includes recollections from doctors and nurses who served in the South Vietnamese, American, and South Korean militaries; and part 5 looks at logistic support from both sides of the conflict. These occupational perspectives provide a number of familiar and unfamiliar historical tropes. Some, such as cross-cultural estrangement between Americans and the Vietnamese, the suddenness and profound sense of loss from combat death, or feelings of powerlessness and awe in the face of aerial bombardment and the overwhelming application of American airpower, may seem familiar to students of the war. Others, including discord and strained relations between northern NVA soldiers and their southern brethren serving in local guerrilla forces in South Vietnam, or the immense struggle of those who fled Southeast Asia after the fall of Saigon, may not. Also, Li’s inclusion of stories that show the more mundane aspects of the war in Vietnam, including administration, logistics, supply, and training, underscores the fact that most individuals sent to Vietnam did not serve in combat arms or see action. In that sense, this book complements Meredith Lair’s recent work on American GI consumer culture in Vietnam, Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam War (2011). Like Lair, Li shows an often unseen side of the war, one that serves as a useful corrective to false assumptions concerning the nature of the war in Vietnam, particularly the belief that combat was the dominant experience of Vietnam War veterans.

Like other oral histories, Voices from the Vietnam War helps “humanize” the conflict in Vietnam by bringing to life the men and women who fought and supplied this immense international conflict. Personal anecdotes, such as the comfort given to one homesick Chinese soldier by the familiar landscape and geography of North Vietnam, or the pain and rejection felt by in-country American marines who received “Dear John” letters from estranged wives, girlfriends, and lovers back home, helps illustrate that the men and women who fought and served in Vietnam were flesh-and-blood human beings–a fact that is often lost within the scholarship despite its obviousness.

The single weakness of this work is one that plagues most oral histories regardless of subject matter: a loss of overall perspective and meaning due to an intense focus on the singular “lived” experience. Micro-histories that examine the minutia of historical experience from the perspective of the individual often lose sight of the bigger picture or the overall context that frames and gives meaning to human thought, feeling, and action. This was evident in the fact that a number of these oral histories were adequately descriptive of events but lacking in personal analysis and reflection on larger issues pertaining to the war. Although Li’s brief introduction at the beginning of each entry helps frame each experience within a situational context that provides greater understanding of a particular circumstance, readers come away wanting more discussion on exactly how some of these individuals viewed themselves and their actions within the political, military, social, and cultural mosaic of the Second Indochina War. That being said, Voices from the Vietnam War is an excellent addition to the historiography and an important work that helps internationalize and personalize the war in Vietnam.

Martin Clemins.

Citation: Martin Clemis. Review of Li, Xiaobing, Voices from the Vietnam War: Stories from American, Asian, and Russian Veterans. H-War, H-Net Reviews. May, 2013.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War – Questions…

[ndlr] Alors que le gouvernement Obama a entamé depuis mai 2012 un programme de 13 ans de commémoration de la guerre du Viêt-Nam, pour un montant de 65 millions de dollars, quelques voix s’élèvent pour rappeler le coût terrible de cette guerre sur bien des plans : humain, écologique, économique, psychologique, géopolitique. Nous signalons ci-dessous l’article de l’activiste new-yorkais Howard Machtinger posté sur le blog de Tom Hayden, suivi d’un article de Mark A. Ashwill, auteur américain de Vietnam Today: A Guide to a Nation at a Crossroads (avec Thai Ngoc Diep) qui vit actuellement à Hanoi. Les deux textes interpellent sans ménagement les Etats-Unis sur cet enjeu mémoriel, sa signification et sa légitimité. Ces deux textes sont précédés du discours officiel de Barak Obama inaugurant cette campagne mémorielle.

Vietnam War Memorial © unit8rafaelL11
Vietnam War Memorial © unit8rafaelL11

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Presidential Proclamation — Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War

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As we observe the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, we reflect with solemn reverence upon the valor of a generation that served with honor. We pay tribute to the more than 3 million servicemen and women who left their families to serve bravely, a world away from everything they knew and everyone they loved. From Ia Drang to Khe Sanh, from Hue to Saigon and countless villages in between, they pushed through jungles and rice paddies, heat and monsoon, fighting heroically to protect the ideals we hold dear as Americans. Through more than a decade of combat, over air, land, and sea, these proud Americans upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces.

As a grateful Nation, we honor more than 58,000 patriots –their names etched in black granite — who sacrificed all they had and all they would ever know. We draw inspiration from the heroes who suffered unspeakably as prisoners of war, yet who returned home with their heads held high. We pledge to keep faith with those who were wounded and still carry the scars of war, seen and unseen. With more than 1,600 of our service members still among the missing, we pledge as a Nation to do everything in our power to bring these patriots home. In the reflection of The Wall, we see the military family members and veterans who carry a pain that may never fade. May they find peace in knowing their loved ones endure, not only in medals and memories, but in the hearts of all Americans, who are forever grateful for their service, valor, and sacrifice.

In recognition of a chapter in our Nation’s history that must never be forgotten, let us renew our sacred commitment to those who answered our country’s call in Vietnam and those who awaited their safe return. Beginning on Memorial Day 2012, the Federal Government will partner with local governments, private organizations, and communities across America to participate in the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War — a 13-year program to honor and give thanks to a generation of proud Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging missions we have ever faced. While no words will ever be fully worthy of their service, nor any honor truly befitting their sacrifice, let us remember that it is never too late to pay tribute to the men and women who answered the call of duty with courage and valor. Let us renew our commitment to the fullest possible accounting for those who have not returned.

Throughout this Commemoration, let us strive to live up to their example by showing our Vietnam veterans, their families, and all who have served the fullest respect and support of a grateful Nation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 28, 2012, through November 11, 2025, as the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to honor our Vietnam veterans, our fallen, our wounded, those unaccounted for, our former prisoners of war, their families, and all who served with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.


Source : The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 25/05/2012.

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Commemorating the American War in Vietnam

Most peace advocates are unaware that our government has commenced a 13-year program of commemorating the Vietnam War at a cost of $65 million. The effort seems focused primarily on the sacrifices made by American troops in a battle for American ideals. There is nothing revealed about Vietnamese nationalism, sacrifice, casualties or ultimate success – not to mention the ongoing deprivation, Agent Orange poisonings, cluster bombs left behind as signs of inhumanity. Nor is there mention of the peace movement, the historic rallies, the unity across racial lines, the GI revolts inside the armed forces, the unconstitutional domestic spying and indictments, the McGovern campaign, or the Pentagon Papers.

Clearly the National Security State is attempting to win on the field of American memory what was lost on the battlefield. Since the struggle for memory shapes our future choices, it is important that peace activists engage in this debate wherever possible.

Below is recent speech by longtime New York progressive activist Howie Machtinger, “Commemorating the American War in Viet Nam.”

Read more / Lire la suite : Tom Hayden, The Peace & Justice Resource Center, 30/04/2013.

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The 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War: Revising the Past, Revisiting the Lies

In his proclamation that set the stage for this commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War President Obama noted that:

We pay tribute to the more than 3 million servicemen and women who left their families to serve bravely, a world away from everything they knew and everyone they loved. From Ia Drang to Khe Sanh, from Hue to Saigon and countless villages in between, they pushed through jungles and rice paddies, heat and monsoon, fighting heroically to protect the ideals we hold dear as Americans.

Instead of a historical whitewash, why not take this opportunity, perhaps one of the last in this overwrought national melodrama, to indulge in some long overdue soul-searching and ask the hard questions? Why not make an honest and concerted effort to deal with, learn from, but also overcome the past? Why not confront the monstrous reality that the Vietnam War, or the American War, as it’s logically known in Vietnam, was unjust, unnecessary, and immoral?

Read more / Lire la suite : Huffington P0st, 09/04/2013.

The Long Charade: Political Subversion in the Vietnam War [1968]

[ndlr] Dans cet ouvrage paru en 1968 après l’assassinat de Tran Van Van (07/12/1966), le journaliste américain exposait sa théorie du complot pour expliquer l’échec d’une véritable solution politique au Sud Viêt-Nam. Il accusait la “faction nordiste” du parti Dai Viet (dit “Dai Viêt mandarinal”) d’être à l’origine, selon son opinion, d’une dégradation de la situation politique au Sud Viêt-Nam faisant ainsi le jeu de Hanoi. Nous rappelons ci-après le texte de la jaquette de couverture suivi d’un rare CR de lecture disponible en ligne. Nous ajoutons à cette fiche la note qu’établit l’agence UPI à la sortie de l’ouvrage et un article intéressant de Peter Dale Scott paru dans The Nation en janvier 1967.

Nous reviendrons plus longuement dans un prochain billet sur les arguments développés par Richard Critchfield et le rôle des partis Dai Viet sur la scène politique sudiste entre 1955 et 1975.

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The story of American failure to understand the political nature of the war, a failure that allowed a small group of Northern-trained generals to deny democracy to the people of South Vietnam and to foster – by chance or design – policies that benefit Hanoi.

Richard Critfiled believes that true power has been effectively denied the people of South Vietnam through a series of political subversions that placed administrative control of the country in the hands of a ruthless, self-serving inner group of generals and politicians whose actions – by chance or design – often serve the interests of Hanoi.

In this provocative and challenging book, Critchfield, seasoned Asian correspondent for The Washington Star, who lived in South Vietnam for more than three years, has had the courage and the stamina to sort out appearances and realities in Saigon and Hanoi. Beginning with the hitherto unpublished accusation of an aristocratic and terrified millionaire just before he is murdered by unknown gunmen, Critchfield takes the reader on a fascinating personal and political odyssey through the hidden corridors of Asian political intrigue, pathways which are always deep and devious and often bloody.

We learn the identities of members of the secret Mandarin Dai Viet society, many of them high officials in the Thieu-Ky government, who have obstructed the war effort and subverted the democratic process. Critchfield shows how a small group of northern refugee generals seized power in South Vietnam in 1965, and how their policies acted against the best interests of the people. The involvement of the State Department, the CIA, various troubleshooters and ambassadors is discussed here in stunning detail.

Critchfield’s revelations are essentials to an adequate understanding of this frustrating and tragic conflict, no matter what the reader’s attitude is to the war. This book may well play a significant part in its resolution.

Review by Kirkus Review:

The dope; since 1965, with the aid of southerners [Nguyen] Khanh, [Nguyen Van] Thieu, et al., South Vietnam has been run by the Dai Viet, a “secret fascist brotherhood” of rich northerners including [Nguyen Cao] Ky, police chief Loan, and the sinister Dr. [Dang Van] Sung, sent south in 1954 by Le Duan, Hanoi’s political warfare strategist, and finally ousted this summer by middle-class southerners (and the U.S.?). This is the claim of Critchfield, who was Washington Star correspondent for over three years. His interview with Tran Van Van (later murdered) turned him on to the hypothesis that South Vietnam’s rulers have deliberately exacerbated its “internal contradictions” by sabotaging land reform, economic rationality, military prudence, while the police state destroyed any potential political base, and the NLF turned U.S. military power against itself like a judo throw. Critchfield justifies persecution of the Buddhists and ignores [Ngo Dinh] Diem’s terror, as well as eradication of local control in the villages, although he discusses counter-insurgency on the administrative level at length. (Also fascinating comments on regional differences and Saigon dirt.) In sum, there is a blatant equivocation between “manipulated by” and “collaborating with” Hanoi. Critchfield allows himself a further out by conceding that the Dai Viet may simply be “opportunistic power-seekers.” But one cannot dismiss the book as sheet fifth-column, stab-in-the-back, fantasy. Unlike Marguerite Higgins’ Our Vietnam Nightmare (1965) which prefigured a conspiracy theory, it will receive serious attention, though many critics will find it monumentally beside the point; as Douglas Pike told the author. “They don’t win by your hanky-panky plots in Saigon.”

More information on The Virtual Vietnam Archive (Vietnam Center and Archive):

On Tran Va Ba website:

Gina Marie Weaver : Ideologies of Forgetting – Rape in the Vietnam War

Gina Marie Weaver, Ideologies of Forgetting. Rape in the Vietnam War, New York, State University of New York Press, 2010, 198 p.

First book to study rape and sexual abuse of Vietnamese women by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War.

Rape has long been a part of war, and recent conflicts in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur demonstrate that it may be becoming an even more integral strategy of modern warfare. In contrast to the media attention to sexual violence against women in these recent conflicts, however, the incidence and consequences of rape in the Vietnam War have been largely overlooked. Using testimony, oral accounts, literature, and film, Ideologies of Forgetting focuses on the rape and sexual abuse of Vietnamese women by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War, and argues that the erasure and elision of these practices of sexual violence in the U.S. popular imagination perpetuate the violent masculinity central to contemporary U.S. military culture. Gina Marie Weaver claims that recognition of this violence is important not just for an accurate historical record, but also to truly understand the Vietnam veteran’s trauma, which often stems from his aggression rather than his victimization.

“This is exactly the moment to take a new hard hook at the incidents of rape in the U.S. war in Vietnam—and its extended consequences for both the victims and the perpetrators of those rapes.” — Cynthia Enloe, author of Globalization and Militarism: Feminists Make the Link

“At a time when the phrase ‘support our troops’ has become a national mantra, recognition of how that support was enabled and narrativized becomes even more important.” — Susan Jeffords, author of The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War

Gina Marie Weaver is Assistant Professor of English at Southern Nazarene University.

Aperçu sur Google Books

Vietnamese Women in the War: a review – by Ernest Bolt

Many Americans who are more or less familiar with our Vietnam Experience know less about American women in the war. Many think all American women who were in Vietnam were nurses. Later our class will focus more on American women, but the People’s War materials must certainly include Vietnamese women and the war. Yet this is probably the least known and the last-studied aspect of the Vietnam Wars.

This has begun to change, however, and our Duiker text, Sacred War, is a good example of such change. Even better indicators of scholarly interest in Vietnamese women in the war are two recently published works by historians.


Dr. Karen G. Turner is an East Asia scholar at Holy Cross College who published, with the assistance of Hanoi journalist-interpreter Thanh Hao Phan, Even the Women Must Fight: Memories of War from North Vietnam (1998).


From army reports, diaries, and oral interviews, Turner and Thanh offer the reader a sampling of stories told by North Vietnamese women who fought in the Vietnamese wars against both the French and the Americans. One interesting outcome of their work was production of a map showing places of significance to these women — places they fought and survived and places where others died. The map, on page xii, shows some already familiar places but also some less well known to other scholars of the war.

The Turner-Thanh study is also well-illustrated with photos of women veterans who were interviewed as well as many from the Vietnam Women’s Museum in Hanoi. This is a museum which honors the roles of women from both the north, from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and the south — from the Republic of Vietnam.

Students and other readers of Even the Women Must Fight will also become familiar with Vietnamese heroines. Among them is Madame Nguyen Thi Dinh, who is featured on this People’s War module.

Others, not as frequently noted by historians and political scientists, include Nguyen Thi Duc Hoan, actress-director and film maker in Hanoi. Several of her films deal with Hanoi youth and war-related service and/or women’s issues: “From a Jungle” (1978), “Love and Distance” (1980s), “Obsession” (1978), “Love Story by a River” (1991).

She left home as a young girl to participate in the anti-French resistance and was a guerrilla fighter by the time the Americans came in large numbers. Her daughter by then, in the 1960s, trained in the militia. Turner quotes from her interview of Duc Hoan: “At no other time in Vietnam’s history was the will of the people more necessary for national survival. When even the gentlest Vietnamese woman could be inspired to enter the male world of violence for her country and when she learned to do the job well, the war had become in reality a total people’s war.” (p. 47)

Another Vietnamese woman whom Turner profiles is Ngo Thi Tuyen. Her heroism relates to her key role, in April 1965, in the supplying of Vietnamese defense of Dragon’s Jaw Bridge, a key point on the Highway 1 north-south artery in Vietnam. Rebuilt and dedicated in 1964, American air attacks the next year failed to destroy it; it was not until 1972 that American bombing efforts accomplished that goal. Ngo Thi Tuyen had helped down some of the attacking American planes on April 3 and 4, 1965. Until the present day, she has been honored with badges and frequent celebrations of her heroism. Turner effectively mixes and compares Vietnamese accounts and American accounts of the April 4 U.S. efforts — reported as the dropping of over 300 bombs. She concludes that this was one of the frequent tests of wills.

Turner relates Ngo Thi Tuyen’s story, based on her 1997 interview with the former militia woman. The setting was the local “commemoration house,” a type of local museum which depicts the bridge and the role of Tuyen and others to defend it. She told of the recent visit of former American POW Jeremiah Denton, one of the pilots shot down and captured during the mission in which Tuyen had figured so prominently.

The Vietnamese today have many museums, and I have visited some of them. The ones in Thanh Hoa Province, however, are among those I still must visit. This was the province in which the Dragon bridge was located, a province with a thousand-year revolutionary history. Many young men and women in the province contributed to the war effort in the Volunteer Youth Corps, working on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, or in local militia forces.

Work on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, in fact, is the subject of three chapters, one-third of Even the Women Must Fight. Due to the importance of this trail and its significance in helping to determine the outcome of the Vietnam War with the U.S., this emphasis is justified. The author engages in thick description and uses many examples of women (and men) who worked on the trail. Teenagers with shovels and AK-47s kept the trail cleared and repaired following constant bombing attacks. They worked under severe hardships and relied on local support rather than significant government and army support. According to Turner, citing Vietnamese media attention recently, they have also not received the postwar services that they deserve. Turner’s examples of women she interviewed, road builders, members of the Youth Corps, and veterans of special groups (such as Troop C814), are numerous, and the testimony of most was similar. They performed war duties not to defend socialism or to win a global struggle; rather they defended their homeland as a “place to raise future generations.” As Turner puts it, they left home to “save home.” (p. 82)

One of the best features of this study is the use of several postwar paintings by Nguyen Ngoc Tuan, a militia woman during the war. It is also interesting to note evidence, once more, that the Vietnamese write and treasure poetry. Examples of Vietnamese writing furnished in this study also include womens’ memoir writings. Some writings of women warriors used by Turner are in the Combined Document Exploitation Center (CDEC) in Saigon. She utilized those records of life and service data to draw examples and to find meanings of women’s war experiences. Those materials, according to Turner, reflect greater evidence of discrimination against women than is often recalled from memory today. The CDEC records cover the 1966 to 1973 period and remain a little-used resource for examining individual war experiences.

When dealing with “Meanings,” Turner turns more and more to an analysis of the 1990s based upon her broader observations in Hanoi and northern Vietnam while engaged in her research and interviews. She relates, for example, her visit to Dien Bien Phu and the memorials in the Vietnamese cemetery there. One of the most interesting statues to her is that of two women standing and shielding a young soldier. There is also a stone mural commemorating the role of women porters. From selected examples in recent Vietnamese literature by men and women writers, she also draws meanings, including the postwar treatment of war mothers as martyrs and symbols of Vietnamese endurance and sacrifice. She also connects her sources and analysis to present women’s issues in Vietnam, concluding that “the (women) survivors who live poorly have become potent symbols of the costs of war.” (p. 179)


Dr. Sandra C. Taylor, Professor of History at the University of Utah, is the author of the most-recent book on Vietnamese women in the war. Vietnamese Women at War: Fighting for Ho Chi Minh and the Revolution (1999) is a brief but excellent study and is part of the Modern War Studies series of University Press of Kansas.


Taylor, as does Turner, uses many interviews chiefly to preserve and attempt to understand the stories of women at war. Her sample, she acknowledges, is not a “valid” one, but it is a broader one than that of Turner. Professor Taylor’s interviews are with more women warriors who were part of the southern insurgency and fewer of her subjects fought in the north. She regards her work, therefore, a “preliminary attempt to understand the women warriors,” (p. 7) as “the tip of an iceberg” (p. 165). Taylor’s book, however, is well-grounded in her knowledge of the Vietnam Wars, and she has engaged in field research in Vietnam for more than a dozen years. Among her sources is the large and quite rich Pike Collection, now housed in Texas Tech’s Vietnam Archives, where Douglas Pike is located. Some of her eighteen pages of photographs are also from that collection.

Because women played such an important role along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Taylor’s study also frequently provides a focus on that angle. Her most thoroughly treated women warriors, however, include Nguyen Thi Dinh, one of the original “long-haired warriors,” warrior-diplomat Nguyen Thi Binh, Cu Chi guerrilla Ho Thi Bi, and warrior-physician Duong Quynh Hoa.

Taylor’s major examples are among the “long-haired warriors” in the southern revolutionary movement and opposition to the Republic of Vietnam and the U.S. Students would profit from reading just chapter four on that group of women. This subject should be of interest to students especially because both Turner and Taylor recognize the importance of emphasizing the youthfulness of Vietnam’s warriors. Recommended, therefore, is Taylor’s chapter five, “Youth at War.”

Other excellent features of Taylor’s book include her comments on poetry and her discussion of memory theory in relation to use of oral history — both her own and previously-collected interviews by our military. Students should especially note her conclusions concerning the stories told to her (p. 18). As in the case of Turner, Taylor finds Vietnamese poetry “a living testimony to the will power of the insurgents” whom we fought. (p. 15)

Read together, these two recent books will inform the reader and yet still leave some unanswered questions. Perhaps the result for students in this course will be further reading or research on women’s roles in Vietnam’s wars.

Dr. Ernest Bolt, University of Richmond

Source : University of Richmond

John Prados : La guerre du Viêt Nam – CR de lecture par Pierre Brocheux

John Prados, La guerre du Viêt Nam, Paris, Perrin, 2011, 833 p., index,cartes, photos.

Aux États Unis, la Vietnam War est le sujet de milliers (probablement plus) d’ouvrages : livres, articles, films, BD, jeux vidéos. En France, les publications sont, pour ainsi dire, inexistantes, les éditions Perrin ont donc pris l’heureuse initiative de faire traduire et d’éditer ce livre récent (il est sorti en 2009 aux Presses universitaires du Kansas). Le récit–analyse de Prados se situe dans un champ historiographique où, depuis plusieurs décennies, s’affrontent les “orthodoxes” selon lesquels la guerre ne pouvait pas être gagnée, et les “révisionnistes” qui affirment le contraire et parfois plus : ainsi Walt Rostow, conseiller du président L-B Johnson, pour qui la guerre avait été gagnée parce qu’elle avait préservé les autre pays asiatiques de l’emprise du communisme.

L’auteur revient à  la guerre franco-vietnamienne d’Indochine – là où les États-Unis avaient mis le doigt dans l’engrenage – mais il ne conduit pas son exposé de façon classique et linéaire, c’est ainsi que son premier chapitre démarre en avril 1971 où il fait le récit de la manifestation des vétérans américains contre la guerre portée au sud du Laos par l’offensive sud vietnamienne. Pour ne pas réécrire une énième histoire de la guerre,  il poursuit en « scannant » des thèmes qui ont été déjà étudiés : les présidents américains qui se sont succédés après F-D Roosevelt face à la question indochinoise  et notamment L-B Johnson et sa décision « d’escalade » dans l’intervention américaine, le tournant de 1968 (l’offensive du nouvel an), la politique de Richard Nixon et son conseiller H. Kissinger, les contradictions internes de la République vietnamienne et de son armée (et nouveauté : les débats sur la tactique et la stratégie au sein de l’état-major nord vietnamien). L’auteur y ajoute un volet personnel en donnant une place non négligeable au mouvement anti-guerre aux États Unis, mais dans la nébuleuse de la mouvance anti-guerre, il s’attache plus spécifiquement à l’organisation Vietnam Veterans against the War / VVAW dont il fit lui même partie. Ses critiques n’ont pas manqué de relever l’insertion dans le récit de son expérience personnelle qu’ils taxent de subjectif et de partial tandis que l’auteur lui donne le statut et la justification de témoignage engagé.

John Prados cherche à démontrer que la guerre ne pouvait pas être gagnée par les Américains pour deux raisons principales : l’exagération de l’importance stratégique du Vietnam dans la guerre froide et en regard de ce fait, l’État sud vietnamien était très faible. En dépit des moyens financiers et militaires mis en œuvre pour le nation building, les gouvernants américains aveuglés par leur anticommunisme voulurent ignorer que les adversaires étaient porteurs reconnus de l’idéologie nationale unitaire. Ce qu’ils prenaient pour la nation building n’était qu’un State building sur des fondations fragiles pour ne pas dire inexistantes.

Pour ce retour à  une histoire globale de la guerre par une démarche originale et par des chemins de traverse, John Prados possédait un acquis de connaissances et de réflexions sur la guerre du Vietnam. Il s’y intéressa dès 1960 et en 1983, il publia son premier ouvrage sur  L’opération Vautour, intervention envisagée au moment du siège de Dien Bien Phu. Il poursuivit par de nombreux autres livres (par exemple les opérations clandestines de la CIA) et articles construits non seulement par le  dépouillement d’archives mais aussi par de nombreuses enquêtes .

Cependant, l’atout qui semble déterminant est l’accès aux archives du National Security Council dont il  eut la charge du classement et de la conservation. Le temps qui passa ouvrit les vannes d’une documentation de première main : le plein effet des évènements produits après-coup, la déclassification, la loi sur les libertés de la recherche documentaire, la rédaction des mémoires-justifications, la libération des voix des participant et  des témoins ont été un grand profit pour l’auteur. Sans compter ce que le présent suggère à l’historien, en l’occurrence l’intervention armée américaine en Irak.

C’est également après coup que l’insertion dans le récit de l’expérience anti-guerre de l’auteur apparait pertinente parce qu’elle rend compte de l’importance accordée par les gouvernants américains à l’opinion de leurs concitoyens : elle dévoile une véritable guerre (on est tenté de la qualifier de guerre civile ) à travers la multiplicité des moyens (parfois sans scrupules : infiltrations, usages de faux, mises en scène provocatrices, passages à tabac) mis en œuvre par le FBI et  la police des États, la magistrature, pour contrer voire supprimer la contestation. Toutefois les efforts déployés n’ont pu empêcher le scandale du Watergate.

En tant que démonstration selon laquelle les États Unis ne pouvait gagner la guerre  et en dépit de la masse documentaire très riche et bien brassée, le livre peut ne pas emporter la conviction des lecteurs, néanmoins il est un très bon livre, bien traduit, parfaitement lisible. J’ajoute que la Notice bibliographique de 21 pages (787-808) et les notes de références souvent explicites en font un bon guide de recherche pour qui veut aller plus loin dans la connaissance du sujet.

Pierre Brocheux