Thursday, November 21, 2019

Review of "The Vietnam War: A Graphic History," by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and Wayne Vansant

Review of

The Vietnam War: A Graphic History, by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and Wayne Vansant ISBN 9780809094950

Five out of five stars

 This graphic novel is an excellent way to be introduced to the history of the American version of the Vietnam War. The battle for control of the country began in earnest when the Japanese surrendered to end World War II. There was a great deal of cooperation between the French in Indochina during World War II and there was Japanese assistance in the French regaining control after the Japanese surrender. For the Vietnamese, war never ended in 1945, their struggles just shifted to a new set of opponents.

 The American involvement in Indochina in general and Vietnam in particular was based on an anti-communist ideology and what was called the “Domino Theory,” where the fall of one country to communism would lead to a succession of other nations going the same way. It was largely nonsense, three countries, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos all became communist and the world changed very little. In fact, Vietnam invaded Cambodia to oust the Pol Pot regime over their internal genocidal policies. Former allies Vietnam and China also fought a significant border skirmish.

 The brutality of the war is generally captured, although there is little coverage of the massive civilian casualties. Most of the ink spent in covering that aspect deals with the communist killings in Hue and the American killings in My Lai. One point that is made and should have been emphasized more is that the North Vietnamese would never have quit. They understood that their tolerance for casualties was much higher than that of the American public.

 One very positive point is the coverage of the Tet Offensive in early 1968. While it was an unquestioned military defeat of the communist forces, it was an incredible public relations victory in American public opinion. After being told that an American and ARVN victory was within reach, the images of fighting on the streets of Saigon and Hue convinced many in America that victory was impossible.

 This is a great synopsis of a very complicated issue; the Vietnam War and the consequences still hold a great deal of power in American and international politics.

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