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Vietnam: An Epic History of a Divisive War 1945-1975

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  589 ratings  ·  111 reviews
From the best-selling author of All Hell Let Loose comes a masterful chronicle of one of the most devastating international conflicts of the 20th century and how its people were affected.

Vietnam became the Western world’s most divisive modern conflict, precipitating a battlefield humiliation for France in 1954, then a vastly greater one for the United States in 1975. Max H
Hardcover, 752 pages
Published September 20th 2018 by William Collins
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Harry Rothmann Bruce Katz,,,,yes I was an infantry unit leaders there 1969 to 1970. Please see my review of the book. I have also just written a book on the war and…moreBruce Katz,,,,yes I was an infantry unit leaders there 1969 to 1970. Please see my review of the book. I have also just written a book on the war and you can see it on my page or on Amazon or Apple. (less)
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4.44  · 
Rating details
 ·  589 ratings  ·  111 reviews

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Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam-war
“If a soldier wanted to stay safe, his best course was to remain absolutely still, preferably in a hole: every movement made him more vulnerable. Yet it was the duty of infantrymen to move. They spent much of their field time seeking out the enemy in platoon, company, or battalion strength. For fifty thousand Americans fulfilling that role at any one time, exotic Asian nature became the new normal: the brilliant green of rice paddies, darker green of palm groves, small boys leading out water buf ...more
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, vietnam, usa, nonfiction

Fifteen-year-old Viet Cong POW smoking a cigarette, 1967

When I watched Ken Burns' recent documentary on the war a few months ago, I remember, among other things, how he described the moral groundwork and the thought processes of both sides, as flawed as they were. Hastings' single-volume history of the Vietnam War does no such thing. He describes the war from the French period to the fall of Saigon with a tone of anger and moral indignation. See the repeated use of the words, in his own terms an
As an overview of the disaster that overtook Vietnam over the thirty year period after the end of the Second World War, Max Hastings has admirably succeeded in laying bare the reasons for failure, first of the French colonial forces and then of the U.S. backed South Vietnamese government.
Writing with an impartial eye, and helped by the testimonies of hundreds of the participants, the wars and political manoeuvring are described in sufficient detail to give an overview of events and the experienc
Lark Benobi
This is a beautifully written, riveting story, a book that enlightened me in so many ways. Max Hastings never forgets that history is about human happenings--not movements, not ideologies, not guns or germs or steel. I was fourteen when the Vietnam War ended. My childhood memories are punctuated by memories of this war, and of protests against this war. What a joy, a relief even, to fill in the blanks about events that shaped my world before I could really understand them. The aspect I appreciat ...more
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
Kudos to my friend Matt for reviewing this book on here and thus peaking my interest. I am not very well-read in history (or anything else) and have read maybe 3 or 4 books on the Vietnam War and own perhaps a dozen more. Most of these are books about different major or minor battles, memoirs, books about specific divisions, e.g., the tunnel rats, etc. I had no overview of the war setting aside an old version of Stanley Karnow's Vietnam, a book I could never get into.

The great aspect of Sir Max
Jan 29, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
At long last, we have a title for my favorite historian's next book, and it's about Vietnam :) . Looking forward to read this.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A careful, well-researched,and fast-paced overview of the war.

The narrative is balanced, straightforward, and very readable, and Hastings does a great job capturing the tragedy of the war and the North and South Vietnamese experiences; there weren’t a lot of “good guys” the way he tells it. He ably covers how American morale deteriorated over time and the kinds of successes and failures the Americans experienced, and Hastings does a particularly good job covering and humanizing the communist sid
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For someone who lived through this period, this book is incredibly illuminating. I went on to join the service after the war was over, I had been too young to go, and until I read this book still never understood the mystery of why we ever went to Vietnam. This book lays that out extremely well. It’s a detailed and well researched read. Interestingly, in the course of reading the book, you become familiar with the Vietnamese names used throughout, which are not necessarily memorable to a western ...more
This book was pretty explicitly written to capitalize on the mania around Ken Burns' "Vietnam" documentary, which I still haven't seen. I think I should probably check it out. What I wanted out of this book was an understanding of American chicanery and manipulation of public sentiment to prosecute this war that we never should have been involved with in the first place, and I'm not sure I got that. Not because it doesn't mention it--it does--but because it is weighed down by the myriad anecdote ...more
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book and likely the definitive one volume history of the Vietnam War. Max Hastings is perhaps the most accomplished historian of warfare working today and he has done fine work here.

There has been much good work on Vietnam recently, which is a little surprising given the attention given to WW1 and WW2 not to mention recent Iraq and Afghanistan books. That is OK with me. I remember when LBJ sent ground troops in and guys my age had to address the draft. I was finishing college
Aimee Dars
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam-war
hastings, max - vietnam

In Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945–1975, Max Hastings chronicles conflict in the country from the end of World War II until South Vietnam fell to the communists. He lays out how America viewed Vietnam as a military problem to be solved, when the concerns were primarily political and social, and that the United States acted with hubris by not involving the Vietnamese in decisions that affected their own country. Additionally, he believes that the communists have been unfairly seen as being in the
Collin Mickle
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An ambitious, thorough, and thus a little fast-paced survey of the (many and long) war years in Vietnam. Hastings keeps the focus tight -- there's relatively little on the American or (especially) French home fronts, very little geopolitics (Nixon-to-China gets part of a subchapter; the Sino-Soviet split less than that, and Hastings announces in advance that events in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia are beyond his scope) -- which makes sense, because even with that narrow focus this is a doorstoppe ...more
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book by one of my favorite history writers, Max Hastings, is a brilliant achievement. It is a clearly and accessibly written account of the causes, build-up, major battles and political dynamics of the Vietnam war. All while giving very personal accounts and perspectives from real people involved in both sides of the conflict. It holds no punches in it's indictment of both sides of the war and the reasons why this was one of the darkest and most tragic conflicts in modern history. I have re ...more
Bill Manzi
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A detailed look at the Vietnam tragedy by author Max Hastings. Hastings effort is not simply a rehash of the American war effort but an attempt to look at all of the forces that converged, like a perfect storm, on Vietnam, causing death and misery, for the Vietnamese people. He begins with Ho Chi Minh, and takes us through the post World War II French reassertion of colonial rights in Vietnam. The French colonial regime was a precursor to the American effort many years later, suffering the same ...more
William J.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The last line in this book really sums it up. Quoting Walt Boomer, Marine Corps General, Vietnam veteran as well as veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, about Vietnam, "What was it all about? It bothers me that we didn't learn a lot. If we had, we would not have invaded Iraq" (Hastings, p. 752). Max Hastings subtitles this book, An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975. In it he details why it was so tragic. This is the most objective book about the Vietnam conflict that I have read. The author points o ...more
David McGrogan
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4 1/2 stars. It's a fabulous book in the main (not that you would expect anything less from Max Hastings): even-handed, thrilling, impeccably researched, sympathetic, and moving. I have a few quibbles, the main one being that I thought it took a long time to get going; you can tell the author's real emotional involvement with the story only begins after Dienbienphu. I would also have liked a little more on the war's spillover into Laos and Cambodia, which Hastings deliberately and explicitly avo ...more
James Murphy
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this history very much. I've read other histories by Max Hastings and so expected this one to be comprehensive, analytical, full of insight, and wise. It is.

This is narrative history, the story or events. His style is to combine the historical record of events with close snapshots of personal experiences, both those directly involved and those responsible for the planning and circumstances. But aside from the narrative, Hasting's brilliance is that he, better than most, has the ability
Titus Hjelm
The only reason to read popular books about history for which there are plenty of academic studies around, is to learn something about how to tell an interesting story. Hastings is a well-known war writer and as expected, can spin a narrative that is mostly interesting and flows well. He gives fair warning about the focus being on military history, so at least I could expect the boring bits about battles.

The author flaunts his conservative credential from the beginning by calling WWII allied coo
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable history of the conflict that redefined America and still divides us. Hastings has a keen eye and he presents a comprehensive unbiased view of the Vietnam debacle through the eyes of hundreds of participants, both pro and anti war. The writing can get a bit busy, the author moves at breakneck speed, but anyone interested in understanding the Vietnam experience look no further than this book. This is history, as good as it gets.
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a massive Max Hastings fan (7 of his books read), but this one was a miss. instead of exciting battle descriptions, the history is far more concerned with what politicians (on both sides) did. if you are interested in military history, I recommend Hastings' WW2 tomes--superb, and tightly written.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“For this reason I was born and have come into the world,” said Jesus, “to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked.
John 18: 37-38

Max Hasting’s huge book (895 pages in length) is one of the finest examples of the journalist’s art that I have ever read. Time and time again, as I was immersed in its pages, did I find it reminding me of Thucydides epic Greek tragedy, The History of The Peloponnesian War.
As a person who was in his
Chris Wray
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Max Hastings has written another thoughtful and comprehensive piece of history, this time on the Vietnam war. He covers the period from France's re-entry to Indochina in 1945 until the final fall of South Vietnam in 1975, and rightly tries to shift the focus from America, seeing this primarily as a Vietnamese tragedy. Nevertheless, the US intervention in Vietnam is central to the narrative, and as he memorably concludes, "The 1975 fall of Saigon represented a humiliation for the planet's most po ...more
Peter Goodman
“Vietnam: an epic tragedy, 1945-75,” by Max Hastings (Harper, 2018). And tragedy it was. I have avoided reading about Vietnam partly because I lived through it at home, partly because it was such a disaster, partly because it was an American defeat. Hastings reinforces all of that, with his usual shrewd, often-biting assessments of the actors involved: Diem, Thieu, Westmoreland, Abrams, Ho, Giap, LBJ, Nixon, Kissinger, etc. His overall assessment is that there was almost nothing the Americans co ...more
Scott Sheriff
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're like me, you have enjoyed Hasting's previous histories and this one reflects his traditional strengths: even-handed analysis, concise overviews of the strategic & tactical realities, and plenty of personal anecdotes from all sides to give a flavor of what the conflict was really like. In 'Vietnam', I especially appreciated Hasting's clear-eyed assessment of the failure of leadership on all sides that led to such an epic tragedy.

If I have to offer a criticism, I'd say that Hasting'
Honest Analysis …

As a fan of Max Hasting’s previous books on World War II, I was eager to read VIETNAM: AN EPIC TRAGEDY. Considering the controversy, misunderstanding and emotion triggered by any honest discussion of the Vietnam War, I found Hastings’ approach to the issue quite balanced and thorough … he lays it out for all to see.

A year ago, Ken Burns released an epic documentary on the Vietnam War that I considered objective and fair, but my opinion was not universal. The war may have ended
Tommy Kiedis
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Simply spectacular.

It's going to take you some time to read, Max Hasting’s, Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy. Invest the time. Hastings' work is sweeping in its coverage — beginning with the war's French roots in 1945 and continuing until its end. His account is gripping. You will feel the war, it's realities and atrocities -- on both sides. I found the author fair in both his praise and criticism. His analysis is insightful. Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy is more than a history. It is an education, a cultur
Jeff Swystun
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a heck of an effort from Mr. Hastings. I have previously read Armageddon, Overlord, The Battle for the Falklands, All Hell Let Loose, The Secret War and Nemesis. He and Atkinson, Beevor and Evans have produced fantastic work on the military and war, specifically, World War Two.

The Vietnam War has always fascinated and will continue to do so. Ken Burns’ fantastic 10-part documentary has exposed a new generation to what Hastings calls, “an epic tragedy” where “peasant revolutionaries had p
David Foster
I was so frustrated and disappointed by this book.
The sleeve notes go on about how most books focus on the war from an American point of view and that this one concentrates on the tragedy from the Vietnamese side of things. Great idea, and after watching the excellent series of films by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick I was expecting that this would deepen my knowledge and understanding of the war. Except it doesn’t: the vast majority of the book is told from the American perspective…a small amount fr
Robert Walkley
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Muhammad Ali once said, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Congs.” He paid a price for telling the truth. A few others back then also told the truth about Viet Nam and paid a price. Updating the truth about the war is what Max Hastings seeks to do in Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975.

With his book weighing in at 752 pages of text, Hastings gives a thorough account of the Vietnam war. Sometimes, I thought the book--like the war--would never end. But there’s a good reason for that: there’s a
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I was familiar with the history of the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France and the gradually escalating series of blunders and disasters that eventually turned into the Vietnam War, this book painted such a vivid picture of it that it was often hard to read.

The most sobering part of the book, for me, was how Hastings captured the political calculus that went into decisions about the war. At every stage, political expedience for presidents (of both parties, over decades) won
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Goodreads Librari...: Combine Editions - "Vietnam" by Max Hastings 2 12 Dec 16, 2018 12:23PM  
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  • A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam
  • The Crouching Beast: A United States Army Lieutenant's Account of the Battle for Hamburger Hill, May 1969
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  • The War in the West: A New History Volume 2, . the Allies Fight Back 1941-43
  • The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam
  • The Women Who Flew for Hitler: The True Story of Hitler's Valkyries
  • To the Last Round: The Epic British Stand on the Imjin River, Korea 1951
Sir Max Hugh Macdonald Hastings, FRSL, FRHistS is a British journalist, editor, historian and author. His parents were Macdonald Hastings, a journalist and war correspondent, and Anne Scott-James, sometime editor of Harper's Bazaar.

Hastings was educated at Charterhouse School and University College, Oxford, which he left after a year.After leaving Oxford University, Max Hastings became a foreign c
“The main thing those Americans who really knew about Vietnam knew was how little they knew.” 2 likes
“On 1 November the old OSS man arrived by appointment at army headquarters, wearing uniform and carrying a .357 revolver together with $US40,000 in cash, which he deemed the appropriate fashion accessories for an afternoon’s work overthrowing a government.” 0 likes
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