Strange Ground:
An Oral History of Americans in Vietnam 1945-1975

Henry Maurer

Avon Books 1989
A book review by Danny Yee © 1993
Strange Ground is a collection of sixty seven first-hand accounts of the Vietnam war by Americans who were involved. It starts with an OSS mission to aid Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese near the end of World War II and finishes with the frantic evacuation of Saigon in 1975. The range of people included is immense — from alienated grunts in the infantry to gung-ho generals, from anti-war activists visiting North Vietnam to the wives of State Department officials in Saigon. The result is a broad sweeping view of the United States' involvement with Vietnam over three decades, but at the same time one with the feeling of immediacy that only such personal accounts can give.

My only dissatisfaction with this book was that it could have been so much better. As it stands it is like an album of photos of a tree: close up and wide-angle, black and white and colour, in sunlight and in shadow — but all taken from the same direction. Some of the Americans labelled all Vietnamese gooks and hated them, others felt the allure of Vietnamese culture and fell in love with the country. Nowhere, however, do we get any real idea about how these mysterious Vietnamese felt about the Americans. If Strange Ground had covered all the participants in the war — Viet Cong and ARVN and uncommitted peasants and French and North Vietnamese and Cambodians and even Australians — then it would have been a truly great book instead of just a very good one.

Strange Ground will be compulsory reading for anyone interested in the American experience in Vietnam.

March 1993

External links:
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Related reviews:
- Vietnam: A Portrait of its People at War
- books about the United States + American history
- books about Vietnam + Vietnamese history
- more oral history
- books about war + military history
%T Strange Ground
%S An Oral History of Americans in Vietnam 1945-1975
%A Maurer, Henry
%I Avon Books
%D 1989
%O paperback, maps, index
%G ISBN 0380709317
%P x,634pp