If you really want to understand the Vietnam War, you need to read books about it. This is a list of twenty books that we recommend you should read. This list was compiled by Dr. Lewis Sorley, who is a Vietnam vet, a history professor, and an author of books about the war. You might also peruse our books page to see many more books by our members. These are books without the academic liberal slant that is typical of books about Vietnam, most of which were written by professors who came out of the US antiwar movement.
Vietnam Books of Interest
Lewis Sorley’s Recommendations
Braestrup, Peter. “Big Story.” Novato: Presidio, 1994. Abridged and updated edition of the original two-volume work. Examines and documents how media coverage of the enemy's 1968 Tet Offensive conveyed an entirely wrong message to the American people and their government.
Bui Tin. “Following Ho Chi Minh: Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel.” Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995. An account by the officer who accepted the South Vietnamese surrender at Independence Palace on 30 April 1975 of his subsequent disillusionment with the communist regime and eventual defection to Paris.
Burkett, B.G. and Glenna Whitley. “Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History.” Dallas: Verity Press, 1998. A brilliant examination of bogus “veterans” and the damage they have done to the reputation of the real Vietnam veterans, along with a documented account of what Vietnam veterans are really like.
Colby, William. “Lost Victory: A Firsthand Account of America's Sixteen-Year Involvement in Vietnam.” Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1989. An authoritative account of how the war in the villages was won, then eventually lost, as told by the head of U.S. pacification support and later Director of Central Intelligence.
Cook, John L. “The Advisor.” New York: Bantam, 1973. An unvarnished account of the toughest job in Vietnam by an officer who served as an advisor to the South Vietnamese.
Hofmann, George F. and Donn A. Starry, ed. “Camp Colt to Desert Storm: The History of U. S. Armored Forces.” Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1999. See the chapter by Lewis Sorley entitled “Adaptation and Impact: Mounted Combat in Vietnam.”
Hunt, Ira A. Jr. “Losing Vietnam: How America Abandoned Southeast Asia.” Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2013. An authoritative account by a senior officer who was there at the end of the devastating effects on the South Vietnamese of the progressive withdrawal of American support. In a blurb I wrote: “This is the most detailed, insightful, documented, and authentic account of these matters we have had thus far and will constitute an important addition to the historical record of this complex conflict.”
Lartéguy, Jean. “The Centurions.” New York: Avon, 1961. A brilliant novel of French professional military officers in Indochina, metropolitan France, and then Algeria, with many insights on leadership, patriotism, and counter-guerrilla warfare.
Moore, Lt. Gen. Harold G. and Joseph L. Galloway. “We Were Soldiers Once...and Young.” New York: Random House, 1992. An account by a battalion commander in the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and an accompanying reporter of battles in the Ia Drang Valley in autumn 1965. Great combat accounts plus insights into the conclusions drawn from these encounters by General Westmoreland and others.
Moyar, Mark. “Phoenix and the Birds of Prey.” Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1997. The only soundly researched and non-ideological account of the campaign to rid South Vietnam's rural hamlets and villages of the Viet Cong infrastructure that, through terrorism and coercion, had kept the people under communist domination.
Moyar, Mark. “Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965.” New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. A fair-minded and brilliantly researched account of the early days of the war and the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem.
Oberdorfer, Don. “Tet!” Garden City: Doubleday, 1971. Still the definitive account of the enemy's 1968 Tet Offensive and allied reaction to it.
Pham, Quang. “A Sense of Duty.” New York: Ballantine Books, 2005. Beautifully written parallel accounts of how Quang Pham, his mother, and two sisters began a new life in America after the fall of Vietnam while Quang’s father struggled to survive long years of captivity in communist so-called “reeducation” camps.
Phillips, Rufus. “Why Vietnam Matters.” Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008. A powerful memoir by an early veteran of Vietnam service, first with the Saigon Military Mission, then later with CIA and USAID. In a blurb I wrote that he had given us “an authoritative, insightful, modest, and intensely interesting account of what was accomplished, and a saddening perspective on what might have been.”
Pike, Douglas. “PAVN: People’s Army of Vietnam.” Novato: Presidio, 1986. The late Douglas Pike, a Foreign Service Officer and scholar who served in Saigon for a number of years, provides excellent insights into enemy forces, methods and ideology. See also his “Viet Cong” (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1966).
Rochester, Stuart I. and Frederick Kiley. “Honor Bound.” Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1999. An authoritative (and exhaustive) account of Americans who became prisoners of the North Vietnamese.
Siemon-Netto, Uwe. “Duc: A Reporter’s Love for the Wounded People of Vietnam.” Amazon, 2013. A splendid account by a German reporter who spent five years in Vietnam during the war and writes candidly and compassionately about the South Vietnamese and their eventual abandonment by the Americans.
Sorley, Lewis. “A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam.” New York: Harcourt Brace, 1999. Demonstrates how the war during the latter years of American involvement, with General Abrams in command and working closely with Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker and William Colby, differed in almost every respect from the approach taken earlier when General Westmoreland commanded, and how the more availing approach produced a different outcome.
Sorley, Lewis. “Honorable Warrior: General Harold K. Johnson and the Ethics of Command.” Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998. See especially with regard to General Johnson's misgivings about how the war was being conducted under General Westmoreland, and then about the PROVN Study on how the war should be fought commissioned by General Johnson and subsequently implemented by General Creighton Abrams when he succeeded Westmoreland in command in Vietnam.
Sorley, Lewis, ed. “The Vietnam War: An Assessment by South Vietnam’s Generals.” Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2010. In a series of insightful and candid monographs senior officers make an important contribution to entering the neglected South Vietnamese outlook into the historical record.
Sorley, Lewis, ed. “Vietnam Chronicles: The Abrams Tapes, 1968-1972.” Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2004. Annotated excerpts of tape recordings made at MACV Headquarters during the years General Abrams was in command and featuring him, Ambassadors Bunker and Colby, and such visitors to Saigon as Melvin Laird, General Earle G. Wheeler, Admiral John McCain, and British counterinsurgency specialist Sir Robert Thompson. 900 pages.
Sorley, Lewis. “Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam.” Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. A comprehensive, sad and revealing account of Westmoreland’s rise to positions and responsibilities beyond his capacity and the consequences for the Army, the nation, and above all the South Vietnamese.
Starry, General Donn A. “Armored Combat in Vietnam.” New York: Arno Press, 1980. Excellent account by an officer who commanded the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in combat, was the close-hold redeployment planner for General Abrams, and rose to four-star rank himself during the Army's rebuilding years following Vietnam.
Todd, Olivier. “Cruel April: The Fall of Saigon.” (New York: Norton, 1990). An immensely sad, but beautifully poetic and sympathetic, account of the last month of the war, written by a French journalist who at first admired the enemy, then came to view them as “red fascists."
Veith, George J. “Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973-1975.” New York: Encounter Books, 2012. A brilliantly researched and gracefully written account of the courage and skill with which the South Vietnamese resisted the inevitable after being abandoned by the United States.
Webb, James. “Fields of Fire.” Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1978. A powerful novel of Marines at war by an author who as a young officer was one of them.
Some other books that should be required reading.
Jennings, Capt. Philip. "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War." Washington, D.C. Regnery Publishing, 2010. Shatters culturally-accepted myths and busts politically incorrect lies that liberal pundits and leftist professors have been telling you for years
Robbins, James S. "This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive." New York: Encounter Books, 2010. An antidote to the flawed Tet mythology that continues to shape the perceptions of American military conflicts against unconventional enemies.