My uncle fought in Vietnam. He flew F-105 Thundercheifs, or “Thuds.” He bombed the heck out of an area north of Hanoi called “Thud...

My uncle fought in Vietnam. He flew F-105 Thundercheifs, or “Thuds.” He bombed the heck out of an area north of Hanoi called “Thud Ridge.” He’d come home on leave and tell us that it was okay “over there” and not to worry. I didn’t because I was sure “we” would win and my uncle would come home a hero. Of course, neither of these things happened (though my uncle did come home). Since then, I’ve read many books about the war In an effort to try to figure out “what happened,” which is to say why it all went so horribly wrong. But I’d never read one quite like Mark P. Bradley’s Vietnam at War (Oxford University Press, 2009). Mark succeeds in doing something very unusual–and perhaps unique–in the American literature on the Vietnam conflict: he shows us the war from the Vietnamese point of view, and more particularly the North Vietnamese point of view. He’s mined Vietnamese archives, literature, and popular culture to see the war through Vietnamese eyes, and he’s done a marvelous job of it. My uncle’s war was very different from the one Mark presents. He fought the “Vietnam War”; they fought the “French War” and the “American War.” He saw it from a cockpit; they lived it on the ground, under the bombs. He was in their country; they were in their own country. He was sure he would leave; they were sure they would stay, and grasp victory once the invaders were gone.

Now that I think about it, there is something strangely familiar about this story.

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