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Street Without Joy

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4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  706 ratings  ·  48 reviews
This classic account of the French War in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia is back in hardcover. Includes an introduction by George C. Herring.
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published March 1st 1994 by Stackpole Books (first published 1961)
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The Quiet American by Graham GreeneThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienAbsolutely Nothing by Mark A. CooperMatterhorn by Karl MarlantesA Rumor Of War by Philip Caputo
Cambodia and Vietnam
18th out of 125 books — 108 voters
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Best Books on Vietnam
55th out of 140 books — 81 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,545)
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David
Simply a great book. It deserves your undivided attention.

As far as I can tell, this book can be bought in old-fashioned paper form in the USA only from by Stackpole Books, based in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania and in business since 1930. In addition to the inherent virtue of supporting a publishing institution of long-standing dignity and of location far removed from the traditional centers of power, I also think that this book is best experienced this way, because of the great pictures and map
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Thomas
This book and "The True Believer," were required reading when I went through the Special Forces Officer's Course at Ft. Bragg. When I went to Vietnam, I saw much of what Dr. Fall was describing.

I just reread "Street Without Joy" and realize that he was not only a brilliant historian, he was prescient in his understanding of the nature of insurgencies in the modern world.

He spoke of the folly of the French when he said that they were trying to fight ideology with technology.

We, the Americans,
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James
Apr 24, 2009 James rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students of military and Vietnamese history
Bernard Fall's heartbreaking history of war in Vietnam - heartbreaking for at least three reasons: because of the failure of the French to honor the aspirations of the Vietnamese or to learn from their own mistakes; the failure of the U.S. government to learn from the experiences of the French; and the staggering amount of death, suffering and devastation visited on the Vietnamese people as a result.

One story can stand in for a lot of this book's message. An American unit was ambushed by the NVA
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Manray9
"Street Without Joy" is a must for the library of anyone interested in the 20th Century's Indo-China wars. Bernard Fall explored the French disaster brilliantly -- exposing the foolishness of the French military and political leaders while honoring the valor and dedication of the fighting men. Fall was a Frenchman who immigrated to America and accompanied French Union forces for graduate research at a U.S. university. His writing brought to light the hidebound French military leadership's failur ...more
Don
Many of this country's most respected political figures have noted Fall's absolute precision of the Vietnam War. In Colin Powell's 1995 Autobiography, My American Journey, he wrote: "I recently reread Bernard Fall's book on Vietnam, Street Without Joy. Fall makes painfully clear that we had almost no understanding of what we had gotten ourselves into. I cannot help thinking that if President Kennedy or President Johnson had spent a quiet weekend at Camp David reading that perceptive book, they w ...more
Chi Pham
Picking up the book knowing full well that I am going to counter military history at its best (the first Indochina War for you), I did not expect the level of historical analysis offered by the author. Having been raised in Vietnam and now reading the book from the enemy's perspective, I found the whole episode vindictive of my firm belief in the inevitable roles of the whole Vietnamese Communist movement in 1945, as well as educational about tragedies that textbooks always fail to mention. I al ...more
Godlarvae
Although the least little bit dated in terminology, it was an amazing primer about "revolutionary war" as defined in our time.
Fall puts the French Indochina/Dien Bien Phu thing into historical as well as current perspective. (I remember, as a young Woodcrafter at Culver Military Summer School, the celebration of the armistice arrived to during that summer.) His treatment of different techniques, methods, ideas of the French military gave me a whole new perspective for the French, especially his
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CD
This is the starting point for the reader wanting to begin to understand the Post WWII conflict in Viet-Nam.

Bernard Fall, a French journalist/scholar who would die during his continuing coverage of the Viet-Nam conflict writes a prophetic analysis of why the West would not ultimately be victorious in SE Asia. Along with his book, Hell in a very small place, The Siege of Dien Bien Phu, Fall introduced the West to the one of the rebellious remnants of the French Empire.

Written as much by a soldi
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Dorcey
Having served in Vietnam (1969-70 - as did my older brother, Jon L. Wingo)I would have to say that Dr. Fall's book is a "must read" by anyone who served in Vietnam or had thoughts of serving there. That is, if one can stomach reading details accounts (from both sides)about the waves of humanity laid to waste there: the Japanese, the French, the Americans, the Viet Cong, and the Viet Minh alike. A determined scholar, Dr. Fall paid the ultimate price over his Vietnam-at-war obsession,the subject o ...more
John Podlaski
I found "Street Without Joy" fascinating - a cross between the summation of after-action battle reports and a history book outlining the French debacle in Indochina. Readers clearly see that Laos and Vietnam were trying to free themselves from French colonial rule after World War II...the French, Chinese and Japanese were all defeated and kicked out during the war; the author maintains that if France would have granted both Laos and Vietnam their independence in 1945 - so many lives could have b ...more
Nick
I'm not sure if "enjoyed" is the right word to use with this book, given the sheer human misery it covers, but "entertained" sounds even worse, so let's say I enjoyed reading this.
From what I understand, this is a definitive work on, well, the French debacle in Indochina, and it's not hard to see why - Fall's clear, crisp writing and interspersal of his own diary from Indochina masterfully combines both a macro and micro view of the conflict, and really the only bad thing I can say about it is
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Matt Giddings
Quite simply one of the best books ever written about the Franco-Vietminh war. More than 50 years later, Fall's prose still retains and conveys the hopeless, desperate urgency of the doomed French struggle for empire in South East Asia.
Steve
It was very gut wrenching. Almost every lesson learned documented as to why the French military failed in Indochina is prophetic of what the American military experienced later in Vietnam.
Michael
Another Bernard Fall masterpiece
Jan
A classic from 1964 that provides poignant vignettes based on French experiences from the First Indochina War. The book deservedly became an unavoidable part of the curriculum for all students of this conflict - and the ensuing US engagement.

Adamant in its insistence that you don't win a political / revolutionary conflict with technology - reading it 50 years later on the eve on disengagement from Afghanistan - unavoidably provokes the thought whether real progress has been made in the ability
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Jim
I've been meaning to read this book for about the past twenty five years or so. It's been described as the definitive work on the involvement of the United States in Vietnam, The Pentagon Papers notwithstanding.

I don't think this book is as good as it's press. It had been described to me as "the definitive book about Vietnam". Perhaps that is because the author lost his life in Vietnam in 1967, under fire.

Although it is very descriptive of the French experience in that country, only the last t
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Steve Woods
Placed in context this is an amazing piece of work. It's two books in one really,a history, (and a primary source at that to some degree because he was there during much of what he describes)and a journal of some very touching vignettes from that experience. In a way I think the book would have been better if the vignettes had been separated out from the history and presented in another place or at the end of this volume, but that is just a matter of organisation that in no way detracts from the ...more
George
"The rule which was painted in large letters in the halls of the French guerrilla warfare school in North Viet-Nam and which appeared every month on the first page of its monthly magazine: 'Remember--the enemy is not fighting this war as per French Army regulations,' will have to be remembered a great deal oftener than it has thus far. The fact that the word 'French' will now have to be replaced by 'American' makes the lesson only the more urgent for the United States." (page 381)

Coloned Hackwor
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Aaron Crofut
Fall's book on the First Indochina War (France vs. the Viet Minh) is a must read, not only for those seeking to understand the conflicts in Southeast Asia but for understanding guerrilla and revolutionary war. Indeed, Fall's distinction between those two terms is extremely important. Technology cannot defeat ideology without going to extremes the Western World is unwilling to go to. Revolutionary wars must have popular support; mere acts of violence are not sufficient. If you cannot read the ent ...more
Jeff
My only real issue is that Fall was a definite creature o his times and completely ignores the power of the nationalism behind many of the Vietnamese leaders, instead firmly deciding that all they wanted was a communist state. I don't completely buy into that view and fell that there was a strong push for independence from foreign domination defined by the Vietnamese concept of "Doc Lap" that is all about nationalism and self determination. We had a chance following WWII to help a lot of former ...more
Bob
Sep 19, 2013 Bob rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Bob by: Jim Laurie
Although I have known of Bernard Fall's prescient books about the 1950s French war in Vietnam for many years, I hadn't gotten around to reading any of them until now. Street Without Joy is an inside look at how the French lost Vietnam, first published in 1961 and updated in 1964 with some very explicit warnings to the Americans about the nature of the war they were then entering. Would that Fall's book had been better disseminated and scrutinized by America's leadership in those years: his descr ...more
Gerry
This book is the most important book written on Vietnam prior to the direct involvement of the Americans in this theatre of operations. It was never truly employed on a wide scale by the American military and Dr. Fall was literally ignored by both the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations. There were of course several officers in the U.S. Army and U.S. Marines that did take note of the effects of this book on how they handled the sphere of war within Indochina; two of these officers were Lt.Col. H ...more
Bill Daniels
Bernard was killed in Vietnam covering the war. He was a consummate reporter and historian.
Les Pitt
The French debacle in Indochina preceded the American one. Pity they didn't take heed of this book.
Jan
What a pity the US didn't read this before sending thousands away.
Alistair
This is perhaps the definitive text book on how not to fight a guerilla war. As the French Indochina war is not well known today, this is a very eye opening account of how absolutely ruthless this war was. The Author a French citizen, a member of the French resistance during WWII spent the last 10 years of his life in Vietnam covering the first the French and then the Americans armies is able to offer a unique insight into where they went wrong. Fall himself was to die while covering the Marines ...more
Evan
Jan 22, 2013 Evan marked it as to-read
Shelves: quit
I've had to suspend reading this one. Firstly because it is a very detailed military history that has overwhelmed me at times and I'll save for when I have more solid blocks of time to read. Secondly, because the kindle version I bought is so poorly edited that it is very hard to read. It looks like it was typed on a worn out typewriter [letters actually appear smudged] and the justification makes the spaces between words vary so much it's hard to read. I tried adjusting the font size, but it ma ...more
Dave
This book cemented my growing doubts about the chimera of fuzzy-logic American Exceptionalism that has pervaded the post-Viet Nam thought process of US cultural and political thought. You everything that the French did wrong (with abundant US assistance) and can only shake your head at the very same mistakes made by the junior partner when it becomes their turn. Foolishness, I think was defined once as "repeating very same mistakes yet expecting different results".
Peter Buren
You probably should read the books the military suggests its intellectuals read, the mother texts of counterinsurgency. The best from Vietnam are by French journalist Bernard Fall, particularly Street without Joy. Fall was there to watch the French muck it up (see also Hell in a Very Small Space, about Dien Bein Phu), and stayed on trying to convince the Americans to do better before he was killed in the field accompanying American forces.
William Oneill
Street Without Joy foretold my future when I read it in 1964 in my freshman year off high school. Four years later I was a Marine in Vietnam repsonsible for security of the Street Without Joy, Route 1 the major highway that linked Vietnam together. Like the French, American, South Vietnamese and Korean troops fought to keep the road open as well as the railroad that ran parallel to the road.
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Bernard B. Fall was a prominent war correspondent, historian, political scientist, and expert on Indochina during the 1950s and 1960s. Born in Austria, he moved with his family to France as a child after Germany's annexation, where he started fighting with the French Resistance at age 16, and later the French Army during World War II.

In 1950 he first came to the United States for graduate studies
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More about Bernard B. Fall...
Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu Last Reflections on a War Vietnam Witness 1953-1966 The Two Viet-Nams: A Political and Military Analysis (Second Revised Edition) Anatomy of a Crisis: The Laotian Crisis of 1960-1961

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