America's War in Vietnam:
A Short Narrative History

Larry H. Addington

Indiana University Press 2000
A book review by Danny Yee © 2004
As the title suggests, Addington's is an American view of the Vietnam War. Most of the chapters are named after the United States President at the time, with titles such as "Johnson's War, II: The Year of the Plunge, 1965". Addington's experience is in teaching college students, however, and he provides essential background information, finding room for an outline of Vietnamese geography, a brief history of Vietnam down to the Second World War, and a mini-biography of Ho Chi Minh.

American policy forms the central thread of America's War in Vietnam, but Addington covers other aspects of the war necessary to understand that. He provides accounts of some key battles as well as analysis of military issues and North Vietnamese strategy. He touches on Watergate, the anti-war movement, the MIA prisoner-of-war issue, and other aspects of US domestic politics — and compares US casualties in Vietnam with those in other wars. A brief summing up considers the effects of the war on the United States, Vietnam and other countries, and explores some "what ifs".

The presentation is reasonably balanced. Addington doesn't offer much for revisionists looking for arguments that American military involvement in Vietnam was a good idea or could have been successful if pursued with more vigour. But his criticisms of American policy avoid anachronism, taking into account the practical realities and constraints faced by decision-makers.

Those after a more substantial account will have to look elsewhere — America's War in Vietnam has just 175 pages of text — but Addington covers the basics and a readable narrative history of this length will be just right for many. Perhaps the only disappointment is the lack of further reading suggestions — the unannotated bibliography is not going to be of much use to the book's likely audience.

July 2004

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%T America's War in Vietnam
%S A Short Narrative History
%A Addington, Larry H.
%I Indiana University Press
%D 2000
%O paperback, bibliography, index
%G ISBN 0253213606
%P xii,191pp