Vietnam war stories
June 3, 2006 9:52 PM   Subscribe

Where can I read some Vietnam tour of duty stories?

Online, I just finished the "epic" story of one Vietnam vet at (admittedly by a pay clerk in the rear area, but exceptionally well-written and very interesting in its own right). I've run across stories like this online, and there's gotta be more. Are there any history/war buffs that can recommend something? Doesn't matter where, who, or what branch. As long as it's someone's story (and, ideally, long and introspective).

Offline, there a couple of books I've read (one title something along the lines of Year In The Life and another from a Marine recon soldier), and I found these really interesting as well.

I'm not simply interested in "war action"... I'm just as interested in what the daily grind was like in the rear areas, too. I find that anything that's well-written, introspective, and covers anything on the scale of a small book pretty much puts me there and lets me see aspects of the war from a new perspective.
posted by rolypolyman to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Dispatches by Michael Herr
posted by bingo at 9:59 PM on June 3, 2006

Damn, just came here to post what bingo did. I have Dispatches sitting here on my desk.
posted by gaspode at 10:01 PM on June 3, 2006

Response by poster: Excellent, thanks! (online stories are welcome, too)
posted by rolypolyman at 10:12 PM on June 3, 2006

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is absolutely amazing. It's definitely introspective and spends quite a bit of time on the daily grind.
posted by tnoetz01 at 10:14 PM on June 3, 2006

Read Rogue Warrior by Richard "Demo Dick" Marcinko. AFAIK its the only non-fiction book he wrote but he talks about his 2 tours in Nam along with a bunch of other stuff. He is quite possible the baddest mofo on the planet still living. From his site:

After enlisting in the US Navy, Marcinko spent his early years in the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs). Marcinko worked his way up to the rank of captain during two tours in Vietnam serving as a Navy SEAL. He also served as a Naval Attache to Cambodia. He was the first commanding officer and founder of two of the military's premier counter-terrorist units: SEAL Team SIX and Red Cell. SEAL Team SIX engaged in highly classified missions all over the world. While serving 2 tours in Vietnam, Marcinko won the Silver Star, four bronze stars with combat V, two Navy Commendation Medals, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star. Marcinko's SEAL platoon became such an enemy killing force, that the Viet Cong posted a reward of 50,000 piasters for his death.
posted by ChazB at 10:14 PM on June 3, 2006

Sitting here on my desk is a book called "Stolen Valor".

Seems there is an abundance of FAKE viet Nam war stories and BOGUS MEDAL winners lieing their ways thru life.

(trivia): Pat Sajack (Wheel of Fortune Host) was in fact a real combat vet in VN.

Actor Brian Denehey was a fake bullshit artist who claimed for years to have been in combat in Viet Nam but was not.

Go to to read the true stories of heroism that will blow your mind.
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 10:16 PM on June 3, 2006

Second The Things They Carried (but be aware this is fiction, a novel disguised as a series of essays and short stories which has basis in O'Brien's war experience but is not autobiographical and is as much about the the nature of stories and storytelling as it is about Vietnam. Nevertheless, I think it would fill the bill you're asking for. It's been a long while since I read it but I believe O'Brien's If I Die in a Combat Zone is more of a straight memoir.

I'd also suggest 365 Days by Ronald Glassner

Googling -best books vietnam- nets some interesting links.
posted by nanojath at 11:11 PM on June 3, 2006

During my foray into the Vietnam non-fiction genre, I enjoyed Marine Sniper about Carlos Hathcock. His service, and particulary post-Vietnam recovery from wounds, was simply an amazing story.
posted by karmaville at 11:51 PM on June 3, 2006

No Hero's Welcome is am interesting look at the Vietnam War from a non-combatant's view. In the interest of full disclosure, I was stationed at the same post he describes in Chapter 4 a couple of years after he was. He captures it with pinpoint accuracy, from the point of view of someone else who was there. Chapter 5 describes what was to happen to us in the event of an enemy overrun.
posted by pjern at 12:21 AM on June 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Not in the same league as Dispatched and The Things They Carried, but Robert Mason's "Chickenhawk" is an interesting memoir by a chopper pilot.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:44 AM on June 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Herr's Dispatches is a great book.

The best book i've read about the conflict is Derailed in Uncle Ho's Victory Garden by Tim Page.

Another good one is Tim Bowden's One Crowded Hour: Neil Davis, Combat Cameraman.
posted by the cuban at 3:19 AM on June 4, 2006

There are lots and lots of Vietnam-memoir books. Nam by Mark Baker is a classic collection; there's a similar book about black VN vets called Brothers: Black Soldiers in the Nam by Stanley Goff. If you check the "similarly tagged" lists at those links you'll find more.
posted by languagehat at 6:49 AM on June 4, 2006

A few years back I was given about 5 hours of first person narrative delivered by a navy seal. Unbelievable. He said that they had a code of honor not to tell anything for 25 years, and that had just expired, which was why he could spill his guts for the first time.

So maybe more stories will come to light.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:23 AM on June 4, 2006

Seconding The Things They Carried
posted by Afroblanco at 7:25 AM on June 4, 2006

Maybe not quite what you're looking for, but Winter Soldier is a devastating document of the war.
posted by muckster at 8:31 AM on June 4, 2006

Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans, by Wallace Terry
posted by box at 8:49 AM on June 4, 2006

Another vote for Dispatches, and one for "A Bright Shining Lie" by John Paul Vann. Also, though not about tours of duty per se, I have to recommend "The Best and the Brightest" by David Halberstam for the best account of how we got into Vietnam from the political side.
posted by vito90 at 12:54 PM on June 4, 2006

Philip Caputo's A Rumor of War is his journal of his tour of duty. He was in the Marines landed with the first combat troops in 1965. He covered the end of the war as a war correspondent.

Another vote for The Things They Carried, A Bright Shining Lie, and Dispatches.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:12 PM on June 4, 2006

In Pharaoh's Army by Tobias Wolff.
posted by Rash at 9:01 AM on June 5, 2006

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