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Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy 1945-1975

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  5,328 ratings  ·  322 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, 755 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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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
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
Mikey B.
Page 282 1966 interview , my book

Pham Van Dong [North Vietnamese leader] inquired urbanely of Harrison Salisbury “And how long do you Americans want to fight Mr. Salisbury? One year? Two years? Three years? Five years? Ten Years? Twenty Years? We shall be glad to accommodate you.”

This book lives up to its title – it is indeed epic and a very sad tragedy. It is very well written as every paragraph delineates relevant details of this long war.

The author is very adept at moving from the high polit
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
MJ Nicholls
While not a triumph of style, for a book that attempts to précis the entire Vietnam conflict across 650 fact-packed pages, you would find Hastings’s monster tough to trounce. The writer’s pellucid approach is perfect when seeking to suck on a mere information pipe, though what is missing are the sphincter-tightening descriptions of the average Vietnamese villager’s experience living a life of collateral damage for decades, or the perspective of the black grunt facing constant racism from an inst ...more
British historian Max Hastings has written a book on the Vietnam War. A lengthy book (in my case: 33 hours of listening time), but nowhere does the book become boring. This was my first book on the Vietnam War, so a lot was new to me. He starts with Dien Bien Phu and ends with the fall of Saigon and its aftermath. By quoting from diaries and interviews, we get a good overview of both sides of the story. In this, we see the war as overwhelmingly through the eyes of the Vietnamese people, where bo ...more
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 credentials from the beginning by calling WWII allied coo
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still catching up on my Goodreads feed -- and what I've read. Max Hastings is among my very favorite historians. (His chronicle of the the last year of the Second World War in Europe, Armageddon, remains for me the definitive account of Germany in 1944/1945.) Vietnam is just as thorough, though it spans two decades, following the war from the mid-1950s through its end in the mid-1970s. If you enjoy history -- and military history -- this is a another great read for the quarantine.
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
Tariq Mahmood
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The north Vietnamese had two distinct advantages on the South, ideology and complete control of the press. They were able to use effective propaganda to galvanise their population against a far richer and better equipped south Vietnamese enemy. The french and American forces neither had any ultimate goal nor could control their own press, a press which pounced upon any infringement of their own army as opposed to the North who were able to control all their propaganda because they controlled the ...more
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can there ever be redemption from the terrors, on all sides, from this war? A disquieting account which serves to magnify all that went wrong from start to finish. Sadly, it was not a deterrent to the future violence in Afghanistan and Iraq. So much toxic shame.
A. L. Sowards
The subtitle says it all: An Epic Tragedy. I learned so much from this book, not only about what happened, but also about the how and the why. If you want the Vietnam War in one volume, this is a good choice. Educational, engaging, and narrated by a skilled reader (a must for a book almost 34 hours long). I liked how Hastings organized the book. He went roughly chronologically, but also thematically. Often chapters about the fighting on the ground were followed by something else—the air war, how ...more
Conor Ahern
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
Harry Rothmann
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Max Hastings, a noted British Journalist of military affairs who covered the Vietnam War during the LBJ years and is a New York Times best-selling Author, has written a new book on that war. True to its title, his history portrays Vietnam as a “tragedy.” Hastings narrative of over 700 pages further depicts this tragedy as truly ‘epic’ - mainly from the view of and its impact on the Vietnamese people. Indeed, from the start, it is clear that author’s intent is to convey “something of the enormity ...more
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
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
Thomas Ross
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big fan of Hastings, and was excited to pick up his comprehensive history on Vietnam. It runs about 750 pages or so and just about every page is compelling. He puts you in the rice paddies, in the delta, in the highlands, Hanoi, Saigon, Hue, Khe Sahn, Cambodia, Laos, Washington, China and Moscow. He examines the famous battles and the not so famous, while also educating the reader to what happened after the last U.S. troops left the country. I learned how hard the ARVN fought in many insta ...more
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very thorough history of the War and before and after.
Feel much better informed on it all for having read it.
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
530 pages, that was it. I just couldn't take it anymore. Doesn't mean it's a bad book, oh it's a very good book but it was a bit too much for me to digest.

Having spent the first 30 years of my life in the middle of a war waged by LTTE had left me with the miserable memories of smell of burning bodies, mass murders, bombings, fetus cut off from the wombs, pregnant women used as suicide bombers; all those bitter memories came flooding back.

War is never justified, Never. No matter what the reasons
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
That was a damn good history of the Vietnam conflicts 45-75. Unflinching and brutally honest. Told by one who was there for part of it and researched the rest. Highly recommend to those who want to better understand a deeply divisive topic.
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
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
Bryan Alkire
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good but tough to review. It’s the latest sweeping history of the Vietnam War, 50 years later so it’s a viewpoint of the war in the context of the 21st century. The writing drove me crazy at times. Parts of the book were exceptionally written, concise sections that made me want to read on as I learned the ins and outs of the war. Other sections were a morass of detail, numbers weapons tactics about small scale battles which didn’t seem to matter. Perhaps the best strategy would be to skim those ...more
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
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hastings cuts through all the bullshit and layers of misrepresentation to unravel the giant hairball of horrors that is the Vietnam War. In Hasting's retelling, there are no 'good guys,' but rather just a snowballing pile-on of bad decisions, insensitivity, infighting, corruption, miscommunication, misinformation, ulterior motives, lies, cruelty, good intentions gone horribly wrong, the horrific and at many point (darkly) surreal unravelling of an ancient culture and society, and countless insta ...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
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
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
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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

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In most historical romances, love and marriage go together like...well, a horse and carriage. But what if the girl part of the girl-meets-boy...
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“The main thing those Americans who really knew about Vietnam knew was how little they knew.” 4 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.” 1 likes
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