Published: November 18, 2021
Are you looking for some of the top Vietnam War books? Our list of 25 offer a wide variety of stories from individual solders to important events that shaped the war.
All will give you insight as to what happened on the ground and throughout the government on both sides as the war raged on for numerous years.
Written by: Harold G. Moore, Joseph L. Galloway
Published: October 20th 1992
First published in 1992, this book recounts the story of Moore's experiences as a lieutenant colonel during the Vietnam War, particularly his leadership of the 1st Battalion 7th Cavalry Regiment (1/7 Cav) at the Battle of la Drang in November 1965. It also includes Joseph Galloway, the only journalist allowed on the ground.
The battle was notable because it was both the first large-scale engagement between United States forces and North Vietnamese troops and one of only two significant air assaults undertaken by U.S. forces in that war. The authors interviewed hundreds of soldiers, including the North Vietnamese Army commanders, to give readers an in-depth perspective on this battle and the wary.
Written by: Neil Sheehan
Published: September 12th 1988
In 1961 John Paul Vann, a major general in the U.S. Army, was sent to South Vietnam as an advisor on counterinsurgency operations. His job would be to advise and train the South Vietnamese Army's officer corps and help develop new tactics for defeating the Viet Cong insurgency.
Neil Sheehan tells about his time spent there from that year until 1964. He left with a sense of disillusionment about how things were going in South Vietnam. This was primarily because the corporations and their superiors refused to listen to others about what was happening there. This book won a Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction.
Written by: Mark Bowden
Published: June 6th 2017
In 1968, the Vietnam War was at its height, and Huế, a small city in central Vietnam untouched by war for centuries, became ground zero. The Tet Offensive started on January 30 when Vietcong forces attacked South Vietnamese towns and cities all over the country with mortars and rockets. In response to this attack, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered US Marines to invade Huế on February 25.
With military leaders refusing to accept over 10,000 Vietnamese troops there, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered a 160-marine company to take it back. This is the story of what happened, using reports from both sides to explain how it affected the entire war.
Written by: Stanley Karnow
Published: October 4th 1983
Stanley Karnow's Vietnam: A History is a comprehensive and engaging account of the history of Vietnam. It introduces pre-colonial Vietnamese culture, then explores the French colonization from 1887 to 1954, divided into two parts. The book covers the rise of communism in North Vietnam and examines its impact on South Vietnam from 1955 to 1975. It goes deeply into the Vietnam War and the mistakes that occurred during it.
This book was later used as a basis for Ken Burns’s documentary, “The Vietnam War.”
Written by: Steve Sheinkin
Published: September 22nd 2015
Daniel Ellsberg is the most famous whistleblower in American history. Yet, few people know that he was a military analyst working for both the government and private sector. He realized that the general public didn't understand how invested the U.S. government was in stopping communism, no matter what happened.
In 1971, he decided to release thousands of top-secret documents about the Vietnam War to The New York Times and other newspapers. He believed it would shake Americans out of their apathy by making them confront the realities of our involvement in Vietnam.
Written by: Max Hastings
Published: October 16th 2018
Since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, many Americans have been left wondering how such a catastrophe could happen. Author Max Hastings has written an informative and well-researched book to answer this question. The Vietnam War was one of the costliest wars in American history; the U.S. lost more than 58,000 soldiers and spent $150 billion.
Drawing from his vast experience as a historian and journalist, Hastings vividly portrays what it was like for those who fought America's longest war: soldiers sent off to fight without understanding its high stakes or consequences; generals fighting with little knowledge of their enemy; politicians driven by ego rather than sense. With the insight gained through extensive research and interviews with participants on both sides.
Written by: Viet Thanh Nguyen
Published: April 11th 2016
Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen is a beautifully written memoir about how war can affect people for decades, if not their entire lives. Nguyen's parents were refugees from Vietnam who fled to America after the war ended. They came to America with nothing but hope for a better life, but they carried scars and memories that would last forever.
This book takes you through his family history and the more extensive history of the Vietnam War itself and its lasting effects on those involved in it, including Americans back home. He also hopes to help humanity that we must work to find peace with our foes and stop destroying each other.
Written by: Frances FitzGerald
Published: August 1972
The Vietnam War is one of the most important and controversial events in American history, and it was a war that divided America and still divides Americans today. The book Fire in the Lake by Frances FitzGerald assists readers to understand more about this time from both an American perspective and a Vietnamese perspective.
In her book, she goes through the history of Vietnam, as well as the war. She uses the view from the people of Vietnam to give this a very in-depth and essential book. As she writes about the war, she sheds light from numerous sides and shows why people had such strong opinions about this event that occurred within their own country's borders.
Written by: Robert S. McNamara
Published: March 19th 1996
Robert S. McNamara, a former United States Secretary, shares his own story about how he came to be a part of one of America's most failed military campaigns in history in this book. It has been over 50 years since this war took place, the lessons learned from the mistakes made by those involved have never been more relevant as they are today.
For those who want to learn about the mistakes made by one of the most influential people during this war, you will want to read this. It is not often you can find out so much information from one of the leading players in this war.
Written by: Denise Chong
Published: August 7th 2000
Anyone who has seen the photograph of the then nine-year-old Kim Phuc running down the street, naked with burns on her body, will never forget her. This story follows her journey from war-torn Vietnam to becoming a Canadian citizen and philanthropist who dedicates her life to helping children worldwide.
Denise Chong tells Kim's story through interviews with friends, family members, and even North Vietnamese soldiers who fought against Kim during the war. It is both informative and emotional as you get an inside view of how this photo changed everything for everyone involved. She is now a UNSECO ambassador and works to save others around the world.
Written by: Daniel Ellsberg
Published: October 14th 2002
In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press. This was a top-secret study of America's involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967 that showed how four Presidents had been misled into continuing an increasingly hopeless war. In this book, Ellsberg tells us what he did and why he did it--and reveals secrets about Watergate, Nixon's madman theory, Kissinger's secret trip to China, and more.
He explains precisely how President Johnson lied when he said we were not escalating in Vietnam. In fact, his Administration was planning a full-ground invasion of North Vietnam by November 1965, with 40 battalions coming from U.S. forces and many more from allied countries. The Pentagon Papers illustrated that our government leaders knew they could never win this war, yet they continued without regard for others.
Written by: Barbara Kautz
Published: May 17th 2018
In 1965, Barbara Kautz was a twenty-six-year-old nurse who joined the Army Nurse Corps. The memoir of her one year in Vietnam is an inspiring story about how she found ways to heal patients and herself. She shares stories from her time spent at Fort Sam Houston before being shipped off to Saigon with other nurses by plane.
In Saigon, they were taken to their living quarters, staying for six months until rotated out. The nurses worked onwards with over a hundred beds each and saw everything from gunshot wounds, postpartum hemorrhages, malaria, typhoid fever, and more. They also witnessed death every day as soldiers were injured or succumbed to their illnesses while fighting alongside them in battle after battle.
Written by: Carlyle S. Harris
Published: November 5th 2019
Tap Code is about Carlyle S. Harris, who flew over 200 missions in Vietnam and then became a POW for five years in captivity. During this time, he used tap code to communicate with his fellow soldiers. Using this ingenious system, he could relay messages from within his cell to other captives on their strategies to escape their captors.
It also goes into how Harris' wife and kids at home had to deal with their lives and stay strong for each other. And what Harris' life was like when he returned home and worked to return to everyday life.
Written by: Mark Garrison
Published: September 23rd 2015
Guts 'n Gunships is a book about the author's time in combat flying Huey gunships during the Vietnam war. Joining the Army’s helicopter flight school program, he graduated and started flying in Vietnam. He flew hundreds of missions and shares anecdotes about his experiences, ranging from the amazing to the terrifying.
The book provides an accurate portrayal of life in Vietnam for the men who fought there, both on the ground and in the air. It also tells some stories that you won't find in any history books, ones that make it clear why Mark Garrison calls himself "lucky."
Written by: David Maraniss
Published: September 23rd 2003
What does it mean for a generation of Americans to have been shaped by the Vietnam War? What about those who served and those who protested? What about those at home who were protesting the war? And what about the ones in government and their actions?
David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, looks at this journey through time as he traces how America reacted to the war. He tells his story from different perspectives: soldier, protester, President. This book is an in-depth look at one of our country's most controversial wars with insights into its people and culture.
Written by: Max Boot
Published: January 9th 2018
This is a historical account of how the United States got involved in one of its most challenging and controversial wars. However, it also depicts how Landsdale, a CIA operative, used "hearts and minds" instead of bombs and diplomacy to influence the Vietnamese government and people.
It discusses the decisions, planning, and relationships that led to the involvement from an insider perspective. The book does not shy away from discussing what went wrong with American policy for this war, which was initially supposed to be short-term but ended up lasting nearly 20 years at significant cost to America, and the Vietnamese, both economically and morally.
Written by: Wallace Terry
Published: August 12th 1984
Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans is unlike any other book you’ll read regarding Vietnam. It tells stories from black veterans who fought in the war, giving readers an understanding of what it was like to be African American during that time.
This book gives us insight into these men's lives and how they felt about their roles as soldiers. These brave men fought for their country and told about their struggles, triumphs, and sacrifices that allowed them to come back home alive. They also share how they were treated when they returned from war.
Written by: Monique Brinson Demery
Published: September 24th 2013
This is an in-depth look at the life of one of Vietnam's most controversial women. Brinson begins by exploring the then 18-year-old girl who married South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1954 and follows her journey as she became a powerful woman, helping to shape both politics and culture for over three decades.
From her beginnings as a socialite to becoming known as The Dragon Lady, this story explores how that title was earned through many years of shrewd political maneuvering. This includes surviving an assassination attempt by the U.S. government of her husband and brother.
Written by: David A. Yuzuki, Neil Yuzuk
Published: April 7th, 2020
Green Beret Captain Richard J. Flaherty was indeed a giant killer since he was only 4' 9" tall and 97 pounds when he joined the Army. However, he was determined to become a soldier and a great one and accomplished this feat through sheer willpower. He had two tours in Vietnam and won a Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars, and 2 Purple Hearts.
However, when the Reduction in Force started in 1971 and was decommissioned, he began to work as a mercenary. Realizing that Flaherty could be an asset, the CIA hired him to help the Contras in Nicaragua. He continued to work with the government for many years, sometimes doing legal, while more often doing illegal missions. His life takes on even more meaning as you read what he did, how he survived, and then how his life ended, living homeless on the streets of Aventura, Florida.
Written by: John Laurence
Published: January 3rd 2002
This is a story about John Laurance, a correspondent for CBS News, stationed in Vietnam during the war. He adopted a cat and named her Tu-Tok (which means "heaven"). She was with him throughout his time there, and they became close friends. John Laurence describes some very harrowing experiences that he had while serving in the military, but he also talks about how much of a blessing it was to have this little creature by his side through all of it.
This book also uses the relationship between Laurence and Tu-Tok to exemplify the political and wartime insanity that he and so many others were dealing with for years.
Written by: Kathryn J. Atwood
Published: May 1st 2018
The Vietnam War was the first war where women were allowed to serve as soldiers. Yet even though they were given opportunities that no woman had ever been given before, these brave women still faced an uphill battle fighting against sexism and blatant misogyny. These women are some of the most courageous people in history because they not only fought for their rights but also put themselves in harm's way to help others regardless of gender.
Their stories of being medics, journalists, war resisters, and fighters for freedom are told in 5 sections, over two decades relating to Vietnam, in this book by Kathryn Atwood.
Written by: Linda L.T. Baer
When Linda Baer was a small child living in Vietnam, the country had been at war for over two decades. At times, she and her family would be forced to flee their home as soldiers fought, and she started working at bars, nightclubs, and other places at age 13. She fell in love with a young American soldier, and they had a baby together. Sadly, he left, and yet she met a U.S. Air Force officer she married, and they moved to the U.S. together in 1971.
In Red Blood, Yellow Skin: A Young Girl's Survival in War-Torn Vietnam, Linda shares with readers how she learned to cope with these traumas and the lasting impact they have on those who experience them firsthand.
Written by: Truong Nhu Tang
Published: April 1st 1985
In A Vietcong Memoir, Truong Nhu Tang describes his experience as a soldier in the Vietnam War. His memoir offers an inside account of how Vietnamese soldiers fought and what life was like during wartime. This is not your typical war story; instead, Truong shares with us an intimate look at life on both sides of this conflict. You get to read what "the enemy" and his life were like from a different perspective.
The book provides personal accounts from other members of the military, such as his brother's recollections about their time spent fighting for each other and against each other. It also gives readers a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings that went through one man's mind when he fled to live in Paris and is now exiled there.
Written by: Alvin Townley
Published: February 4th 2014
It is a true story of the POWs who endured Vietnam's most infamous prison, which became nicknamed “Alcatraz” since it was on an island. The reader is brought into their world as they recount what it was like to be brutally tortured, to endure unimaginable anguish and deprivation, and how they survived against all odds.
The other important part of this book is that the 11 wives at home in the USA started a campaign that would later morph into the POW/MIA movement. The book finishes with what has become of each soldier after their return home.
Written by: Christian G. Appy
Published: May 26th 2003
Starting from the early 1940s and going forward until the fall of Saigon in 1975, this book discusses the American perspective of the Vietnam war. It uses stories from those against it and those who fought for their country on either side. It does these using personal narratives and interviews with veterans to provide insight into what happened during the war itself, why it started in the first place, and how America's involvement affected all sides involved.
This is an essential book because it gives different perspectives on one of America's most controversial wars. It provides information about what happened during combat so people can understand what soldiers experienced firsthand by their own words.