The Vietnam War caused great social and political upheaval in South East Asia in the 1960s and 1970s. But US participation in that conflict and the increasing opposition it generated domestically had, arguably, profound effects on US society and attitudes to US involvement in overseas conflicts – at least until the first Gulf War. We have a number of book recommendation interviews that offer insight into the causes and impact of the conflict, both in Vietnam and in the US
Karl Marlantes, Vietnam veteran and author of Matterhorn, a novel about his experiences during the war, chooses his best books on the Vietnam War. Other interviews on the subject put the war in its wider context. Martin Bell chooses his best books on reportage and war and includes The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam, who covered the war for The New York Times.
Stephen Glain also chooses Halberstam among his best five books on US militarism, and Lawrence Kaplan looks at US intervention, choosing books that illustrate the tension in the US between isolationism and intervention overseas. Photograhers Thom and Beth Atkinson talk about their best books on the “myths of war” and choose some books with a Vietnam focus.
In 1968 Karl Marlantes was a 22-year old Rhodes scholar and did not have to go to Vietnam. He nonetheless joined the US Marine Corps, ending up with multiple medals but also lifelong PTSD. In this interview, he recommends the best Vietnam War books, exploring its moral ambiguities, the warrior mentality and the humanity of ‘the enemy.’
American presidents may not want to send troops into battle or militarise foreign policy but, in the end, most of them do. The author and journalist explains how this happens, and why it’s not even the military that’s to blame. He picks the best books on American militarism.