Cover image for The Columbia guide to the Vietnam War
The Columbia guide to the Vietnam War
Anderson, David L., 1946-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xiv, 308 pages : maps ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS557.5 .A54 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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More than a quarter of a century after the last Marine Corps Huey left the American embassy in Saigon, the lessons and legacies of the most divisive war in twentieth-century American history are as hotly debated as ever. Why did successive administrations choose little-known Vietnam as the "test case" of American commitment in the fight against communism? Why were the "best and brightest" apparently blind to the illegitimacy of the state of South Vietnam? Would Kennedy have pulled out had he lived? And what lessons regarding American foreign policy emerged from the war?

The Columbia Guide to the Vietnam War helps readers understand this tragic and complex conflict. The book contains both interpretive information and a wealth of facts in easy-to-find form. Part I provides a lucid narrative overview of contested issues and interpretations in Vietnam scholarship. Part II is a mini-encyclopedia with descriptions and analysis of individuals, events, groups, and military operations. Arranged alphabetically, this section enables readers to look up isolated facts and specialized terms. Part III is a chronology of key events. Part IV is an annotated guide to resources, including films, documentaries, CD-ROMs, and reliable Web sites. Part V contains excerpts from historical documents and statistical data.

Author Notes

David L. Anderson is professor of history and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Indianapolis.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

This volume follows the same type of format as other titles in the Columbia Guides to American History and Cultures series. The first part of the book contains a historical narrative. The rest consists of a "mini-encyclopedia" listing events, individuals, and military operations; a brief chronology; an annotated bibliography of books, feature films, documentaries, and electronic resources; a collection of mostly excerpted documents; and an appendix of pertinent statistics. Although it does not provide the depth of coverage found in the three-volume Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History (ABC-CLIO, 1998) or as many entries as Dictionary of the Vietnam War (Greenwood, 1988), this volume is nevertheless an outstanding ready-reference source. For students and researchers, it offers an excellent starting point to find information, including some surprisingly specific material, such as the precise date when the Domino theory was first articulated and the names of the individuals who first suggested the Vietnam War memorial in Washington, D.C. The editor, a scholar of the Vietnam War, should be commended for compiling such an informative, balanced, and unbiased reference source on the most contentious war in American history. Recommended for both public and academic libraries.

Publisher's Weekly Review

University of Indianapolis history professor David L. Anderson (Facing My Lai) combines three different formats in his concise Columbia Guide to the Vietnam War: a historical summary of the conflict from French occupation through North Vietnam's victory, organized around key controversial questions ("Was Johnson a War Hawk or a Reluctant Warrior?"); an A-Z mini-encyclopedia of all things Vietnam War; and an extensive list of resources and documents, plus a detailed chronology that runs from 207 B.C. ("Kingdom of Nam Viet founded") through Clinton's extension of diplomatic recognition to socialist Vietnam in 1995. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A highly regarded Vietnam War scholar, Anderson (Facing My Lai; Trapped by Success: The Eisenhower Administration and Vietnam, 1953-1961) offers a thorough overview that will benefit students and scholars seeking resources about all aspects of the war and Vietnamese history. The guide consists of five parts, most notably Anderson's summary of the war, in which he posits many questions but, to his credit, does not present his conclusions as definitive answers. He concludes that the war resulted from a misapplication of American containment policies, but he cautions the researcher to investigate all conservative, liberal, and revisionist interpretations of the war's origin and ending. The overview is followed by a detailed glossary. The final three sections are a chronology; an extensive, briefly annotated bibliography, which includes print and electronic resources; and a selection of primary documents that includes decrees from Vietnamese and American officials, concluding with President Clinton's 1995 speech that declared normalized relations with Vietnam. This guide is not as strong as its companion, The Columbia Guide to America in the 1960s, because it lacks a section of shorter essays by noted contributors. But it is a fine resource for understanding the war and all its complexities. Recommended for academic and most public libraries. Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Anderson's guide successfully compresses the copiously documented, labyrinthine history of the Vietnamese conflict into a single economical volume. In five parts, the guide's narrative and encyclopedia sections provide a fascinating survey of the war, while the remaining elements of the work link modern researchers to a host of richly documented resources. Appendixes contain statistical data and the texts of carefully selected and excerpted source documents. The "Resource Guide" section's expertly crafted and well-classified annotated references cite essential historical and cultural references in film, poetry, and prose. A skeletal chronology offers sobering perspective on the US's involvement in this ancient civilization beginning with the founding of the kingdom of Nam Viet, 207 BCE. "The Vietnam War from A-Z" is a brief encyclopedia, offering excellent short biographies and topical analyses. "Historical Narrative" is superb, providing brief essays and biographies about important issues, events, perspectives, and personages, linking them to the encyclopedic entries. The guide will become an important resource for those seeking a historical overview as well as direction for further research. Strongly recommended for all public and academic collections. B. Williams St. Thomas University

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Part I Historical Narrative
1 Studying the Vietnam War
2 Vietnam: Historical Background
Roots of the Vietnamese Culture and State
The Impact of French Colonialism
The Rise of Vietnamese Nationalism
The Origins of Vietnamese Communism
3 United States: Historical Background
Idealism and Realism in U.S. Foreign Relations
The United States and the Open Door in Asia
The World Wars: The Legacies of Wilson and Munich
The Origins of the Cold War
4 The French War in Vietnam
The August Revolution
Outbreak of the Franco-Vietminh War
U.S. Support of France
Dienbienphu and the Geneva Conference
5 The Diem Years: Eisenhower
The Decision to Back Ngo Dinh Diem
The Non-election of 1956
The Illusion of Nation Building
NLF: Rise of the Southern Insurgency
6 The Diem Years: Kennedy
Counterinsurgency Warfare
The Buddhist Crisis
The Diem Assassination
What if Kennedy Had Lived?
7 The American War in Vietnam: Escalation
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident
Rolling Thunder
Johnson Decides on a Land War in Asia
Theories of Causation
8 The American War in Vietnam: Strategy
The Draft
Attrition Strategy and Body Count
Humpin' It: The American Soldier
The Air War
The Resilient Enemy
9 The American War in Vietnam: The Limits of Power
The Tet offensive
The Antiwar Movement and the Media
Johnson's Decision to Stop Escalation
The Presidential Election of 1968
10 The American War in Vietnam: De-escalation
Vietnamization and More Bombing
Cambodia and Kent State
Negotiations and the Paris Peace Accords
DRV Victory in 1975
11 The War What Will Not Go Away
The Postwar Wars in Southeast Asia
American Vietnam Veterans
Films, Fiction, and Poetry
Part II The Vietnam War from A to Z
Part III Chronology
Part IV Resource Guide
1 General Works
2 History of Southeast Asia and U.S. Foreign Relations
3 The Diem Years
4 North Vietnam and the Vietcong
5 Escalation of the American War
6 The American Way of War
7 The Limits of American Power
8 The End of the American War
9 The Legacy of the Vietnam War
10 Films and Documentaries
11 Electronic Resources
Part V Appendices
Appendix 1 Documents
Appendix 2 Statistics