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Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina
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Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  1,155 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
Originally published in 1961, before the United States escalated its involvement in South Vietnam, Street without Joy offered a clear warning about what American forces would face in the jungles of Southeast Asia: a costly and protracted revolutionary war fought without fronts against a mobile enemy. In harrowing detail, Fall describes the brutality and frustrations of the ...more
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Published (first published 1961)
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Jan 16, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-history
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
Nov 25, 2012 Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Lisa Lieberman
Jan 16, 2016 Lisa Lieberman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research
I now see where many of the secondary sources I've been reading got their insights. What's neat, though, is how Fall weaves his personal observations through the analysis of what went wrong at Dien Bien Phu. Fascinating characters emerge, and stories like this one:
Perhaps one of the most touching cases of devotion was that of Madame S. White-haired and close to sixty years old, she belonged to one of the grand bourgeois families of France. When her son, a lieutenant in the infantry, was transfer
Feb 19, 2008 James rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Apr 16, 2012 Manray9 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jun 25, 2010 Don rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael Burnam-Fink
Street Without Joy is the definitively account of the first Indo-China War, as France attempted to hold on to it's East Asian colony. Bernard draws on first hand experience and documentary research in Paris to describe the slow defeat of France in the "vast empty spaces" of Vietnam's jungle and highlands to the light infantry of the Viet Minh.

Fall describes the complete failure of heavy mechanized units in guerrilla warfare. Tied to the scanty road network, the Groupes Mobile were juggernauts, b
Aaron Crofut
Apr 09, 2011 Aaron Crofut rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: must-read, vietnam, war
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
Michal Mironov
Dec 14, 2015 Michal Mironov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first third of the book was quite boring and old-fashioned - description of French army actions in Indochina with old diagrams reminded me of weird military dictionary. If I didnt happen to be patient reader, I would have probably closed the book after this part. Now I'm glad I did not. The middle part started to be finally interesting; I recommend especially all chapters entitled as "Diary". In this first-hand account, Fall proved to be a great and thoughtful observer. Many of his conclusio ...more
Chi Pham
Jul 02, 2012 Chi Pham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Mar 31, 2015 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, vietnam-war
If you have in interest in the Vietnam war, or in strategy, insurgencies and counter-insurgent techniques this book should be on your reading list. Fall tells a fascinating story of the post WW2 French in Indochina, their failures to understand or counter Vietnamese Communist forces and the eventual continuance of the same errors by the United States.

Essentially, Fall posits that French (and later US forces) failed to understand the nature of the Vietnamese Communist's revolutionary war, their s
Nov 10, 2009 Godlarvae rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 18, 2014 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Colin Powell commented that this book should have been read by American leadership before the escalation of American involvement in Vietnam. Without a doubt, he was right. The French war in Vietnam (Indochina) is not as well known, but no less important. While I don't recommend this book as a primer on the conflict, it would serve well as a read after one has done previous research on the conflict.. largely because the geopolitical aspect of the conflict is absent from this book. Nonetheless, it ...more
Mar 14, 2013 Dorcey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Matt Giddings
Jan 07, 2010 Matt Giddings rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 01, 2012 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 11, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another Bernard Fall masterpiece
This is not a book. It was an opportunity. A chance. A vision of the future that was missed. Who missed that vision? We did.

Street Without Joy was written about the French miseries fighting the Viet Minh. How they struggled. How they lost. It was also written real time. It was published in 1961. Many years before we fully committed ground troops to what was to become a quagmire. But they were French. Why should we pay attention to someone who lost? We are Americans. We don't pay attention to any
Rob Humphrey
Great writing on the conflict between the French and Vietminh in the early-mid 1950s. I would have liked a little more background on the events leading up to the opening of hostilities between the two forces. I also felt there was a lack of chronology in the military conflict, and the author didn't really explain how each of the tactical actions he narrates into the bigger picture. That said, the tactical narratives are vivid and interesting. It was a quick read with easy to digest writing.
Feb 04, 2017 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
great historical background and unfortunately, an unheeded prophecy.
Jan 02, 2017 Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly an excellent read. Bernard Fall's in-depth account of the French war in Indochina (Vietnam) is fascinating, perceptive, and moving.

"Street Without Joy" is not very organized. Events are told out of chronological order, and Fall intersperses his narrative with personal observations (some of which are very telling) and side-tracks about the then-ongoing American war in Vietnam and the French and American efforts in Laos. But the book does not overly suffer from the lack of structure, because
Steve Woods
Jul 08, 2010 Steve Woods rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
John Podlaski
Oct 11, 2014 John Podlaski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 02, 2011 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tariq Mahmood
Its astounding that even after 60 odd years after these events, politicians still believe that technology will be able to defeat ideology. Ideology can only be replaced with another ideology by using effective propaganda, which is clearly explained in one very revealing chapter of this very engaging book. Propaganda has been mastered by the communists as they rely on peers to snitch on each other no matter how insignificant the issue is. Once the comrades have enough dirt they will start the emo ...more
Jul 28, 2012 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
James Hatton
May 18, 2015 James Hatton rated it it was amazing
This is the harrowing story of the French debacle in the First Indochina War*, and a prescient warning to those who were pursuing the Second Indochina War** at the time this edition was published (1964). This is a very, very good book.

Several of the key battles of the First Indochina war are presented in brutal detail: sacrifice, heroism, utter futility. Insights into the Viet Minh perspective are profound, since the author had access to key Viet Minh leaders.

If you want to know why the French l
A great book that has survived the last fifty years with it's understanding of events, relevance, and lessons largely intact. That alone speaks to the quality of the writing. This book is written by a French journalist and World War 2 veteran who was eventually killed while covering the American Vietnam War as a correspondent not too many years after this book was written.

This is the story of the French Indochina War as it's called, which was quite literally their own Vietnam. Not many people, e
Sep 30, 2014 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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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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“But the Viet-Minh had had about ten months in which to establish their administration, train their forces with Japanese and American weapons (and Japanese and Chinese instructors), and kill or terrorize into submission the genuine Vietnamese nationalists who wanted a Viet-Nam independent from France but equally free of Communist rule. The first round of the war for Indochina already had been lost for the West before it had even begun.” 0 likes
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