Flying Tigers

Ten Vietnam War books worth owning

[I began collecting Vietnam War books before the United States bugged out in 1973 (two years before the war ended, a fact always unmentioned by those who claim we were defeated there). These are my favorites. Two of them were written by me. Am I biased? You bet! But they're worth owning nevertheless. The cover image and title are linked in most cases to the book at I have not attempted to update the list -- Daniel Ford]

Vietnam: A History
(Stanley Karnow)

Though it originated as a companion piece to the PBS television series, this is IMHO the best all-around history of America's misadventures in Southeast Asia. At and elsewhere.

Street Without Joy

I bought this book in the spring of 1964, along with a round-trip ticket to Saigon. The author was a French-born American scholar who would die on a jungle trail before the war ended. He wrote about the French struggle in "Indochina" in terms that should have been heeded by the United States. At and elsewhere.

The Battle of Dienbienphu
(Jules Roy)

Translated from the French, it tells of the impossible gallantry of the "paras" and Legionnaires trapped in a valley of death. It haunted me for years, especially during the siege of Khe Sanh. At and elsewhere.

The Only War We've Got: Early Days in South Vietnam
(Daniel Ford)

My notes from three months in the field with Rangers, Armored Cavalry, Special Forces, and helicopter crews, as I typed them whenever I was reunited with my kit. At and elsewhere.

Incident at Muc Wa (Go Tell the Spartans): A Story of the Vietnam War
(Daniel Ford)

And this is the novel that came out of that experience. It was filmed, unforgettably, with a screenplay by Wendell Mayes and a starring role by Burt Lancaster. At and elsewhere.

When Thunder Rolled: An F-105 Pilot over North Vietnam
(Ed Rasimus)

When I reviewed this book, I called it "one of the finest combat memoirs I have ever read, from any air force in any war." It's also a story of incredible waste, of skilled Americans and their sophisticated machines put at risk against targets of little or no value. At and elsewhere.

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War
(Karl Marlantes)

A completely believable account of warfare in tough terrain, as told by a Marine who was there. Like much great fiction, it was written long after Lieutenant Marlantes mustered out and returned to his studies at Oxford. At and elsewhere.

The Things They Carried
(Tim O'Brien)

Though set in Vietnam, and describing American soldiers there, it's not really about that war, but about the burden of fear and memory and friendship carried by every soldier throughout history. A magnificent book. At and elsewhere.

The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam
(Bao Ninh)

Well, it's about a North Vietnamese soldier, but it's set in South Vietnam, in what the Vietnamese know as "the American War." However bad things were for the Americans and their allies, things were much worse for the men who fought them. At and elsewhere.

The Fall of Saigon: Scenes from the Sudden End of a Long War
(David Butler)

If my novel was a bookend for the beginning, this is the bookend for the final days of America's invovlement in South Vietnam. It's a superb account, tragically overlooked (but that means you can sometimes get the first edition hardcover for a dollar or two). At and elsewhere.

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Poland's Daughter

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