The Viet Nam War MuseumTM

New Museum Acquisitions {Reviews by MJMR}

The museum is pleased to announce a new acquisition Major General Nguyen Van Hieu, ARVN which joins us here with our previous book reviews for: Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao, and History of the Vietnamese Marine Corps, Army of the Republic of Viet Nam by Colonel Pham Van Chung:

This text presents an illuminating perspective into the highest Vietnamese traditions, and is a fitting posthumous tribute to a ranking member of South Viêt Nam's highest military cadres.  Written as a sibling biography, it is richly peppered throughout with mild bias, something freely if not proudly acknowledged by the author, which nevertheless does not detract from the wealth of objective information, and data that are only enriched by a personal, if family-oriented point of view.  This book extolls the virtue of Vietnamese tradition with the highest esteem, as exemplified in this in-depth analysis of one man's contributions to his motherland, set against the backdrop of one of southeast Asia's most tragic and sad chapters in history.  Factual information is well presented, with adequate supporting documentation, and numerous pictures give this historical personage a very vivid and intimate familiarity.  The details of some of the information presented can be simultaneously revealing and startling.  This book is well-balanced in the extremes: One man's virtues and rapid progression through the military ranks being consistently contrasted with the insidious prevalence of corruption or corrupt practices by the government which he is sworn to protect and defend.  The admiration of the author for the Major General lies in stark contrast to the shameful behaviors of so many government officials at all levels, including the presidency, which must bear the brunt of the responsibility for the eventual downfall of the government of the Republic of Viêt Nam.

"I am only the instrument of my brother. General Hieu's biography is a self-expression ... General Hieu drew a clear-cut line between the two military and private life areas.  This explains why he was able to maintain his integrity and virtue while working with other corrupt and low-moral generals ... The majestic aura that soldiers perceived in General Hieu's personality came from his inner strength, not from an artificial majesty requiring the use of a general's baton, or a combat camouflaged outfit, or a cigar, or an imposing guard detail, etc... And thus they genuinely respected and loved him dearly ... "

General Hieu was assassinated in his office headquarters on 8 April 1975.  Except in the fact that he was shot to death, official reports and eyewitness testimony remain internally contradictory. 

Major Big time thank-you to the author for donating a copy of this book to the Museum. [reviewed by MJMR]

Major General Nguyen Van Hieu, ARVN (ISBN: 0-595-00696-5) is available from Writers Club Press, an imprint of iUniverse.com, Inc., 620 North 48th. Street, Suite 201, Lincoln, NE  68504-3467.

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2.  On 31 July 1997, Lan Cao captivated her audience with readings from her novel, Monkey Bridge, in Chicago at Women and Children First, 5233 North Clark Street, Chicago.  Lan Cao is a professor of international law at Brooklyn Law School, and had left Viet Nam just before the 30 April tragedy.  She weaves a fascinating tale, with masterful command of English to juxtapose contrasts between Vietnamese myth and American-Style realities, between a reverence for the past and traditions and the need to adapt to constant change, between East and West, between Karma and pragmatism in this story of the divided loyalties spun through generations that all refugees know so well first hand.  While Lan Cao begins her story as her main character leaves Viet Nam in February, 1975,  like an Orwellian time machine, she keeps flashing back to the haunting reality of the past in a simple writing style that lets loose upon the reader an avalanche of emotions like the advance of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Yet it is illuminating, and the American reader will begin to gain insight into the fundamental yet so fascinating underlying concepts of that rich Vietnamese culture.  

Two months after we left Saigon, although it had seemed like light years afterward, I saw my future unfold on television from the family room in Farmington.  All eyes across the world must also have seen on the television set that April of 1975.  We had all been transfixed by the sight of it ... we all ended up staring at it, as if we were passersby caught among the accumulated wreckage, the blunders and pileups by the roadside.  It was on TV, a luminous color origami cut from the dark of night, that I witnessed my own untranslatable world unfold to Americans half a globe away. ... I saw how Farmington, Connecticut, and just about every city in the United States had wanted the tragedy to end.  It was as if all of America were holding its breath, waiting for a diseased body, ravaged and fatigued, and now all too demanding, to let go.  Death must be nudged, hurried, if only it could be." [For me that passage may well be the most eloquent definition in human terms of the Kissinger/McNamara/Nixonian "Peace with Honor" - MJMR].

Monkey Bridge  (ISBN: 0-670-87367-5) is available from Viking Press, member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014 {http://www.penguin.com}.  It cost me $26.05, including elaborate taxes, at Women and Children First.

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3. On 5 August 1997, Dr. Xuan Dung Tran (Editor) introduced Chicago to his book History of the Vietnamese Marine Corps, Army of the Republic of Viet Nam by Colonel Pham Van Chung.  All too often, history is written by the victors, and future generations can no longer differentiate facts from fictitious propaganda.  Reading this book is like finding the Missing Link - that stark yet essential element of truth that allows children an understanding of their forefathers, devoid of the emotionally charged propaganda so prevalent during the War Era.  Written in both Vietnamese and English, it provides first-hand accounts of the battles fought by the Vietnamese soldiers from the rank and file to the highest staff officers from 1954 to beyond 1975.  The book flows like a compendium of diaries written in blood, providing vivid images of personal tragedies, joys and pride in the heroic accomplishments of these unsung heroes, written in a simplistically eloquent style. Photographs inexorably draw the reader, sometimes with painful remembrance, alongside these fighting men. For those who have not had to fight for freedom, this book will open a rich vista into a new world.  For the veterans it will be a reminiscence of the past - a statement of the obvious.  The book fulfills its mission far beyond expectations to remind the children that their fathers fought for Freedom and Democracy; that they fought so that their sons and daughters would never have to suffer the injustice and cruelty of the communist regime; that they struggled to repair their tattered lives in foreign lands for the same reason - So that future generations can flourish and excel without fear of persecution.  For the children of Viet Nam, the next generation, wherever they may be, this book gives them their rightfully proud heritage; for the communist invaders, this book may well provide the writing on the wall and be written in honey on the leaves of every free Vietnamese. [[reviewed by MJMR]

"...I could hear clearly over the radio, Major Nho saying: "O.K., Tango, continue your deployment.  I will call the L-19 reconnaissance plane for you"

A moment later, the L19 could be heard approaching.  It circled twice, and suddenly fired a smoke bomb.  Two fighters rushed to the site and bombarded furiously.  The 2nd Company's Commander's voice shouted joyfully over the radio:  "Great Eagle, that was fantastic!"

"Alright, I'll tell them to keep at it."

The fighters finished their job and flew back.  I then heard the sound of a helicopter.  It was circling over the site of the bombardments, probably to check if the targets had been hit.  Suddenly, I heard no more of it.  It was unclear whether it had landed or returned.  But then the Battalion Commander called the 2nd Company and said:

"The District of Ba Ria has reported that a helicopter has been shot down a kilometre north of us.  Send your troops to rescue it."  They obeyed.

History of the Vietnamese Marine Corps, Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ISBN: 0-646-31188-3) is available from Mr. Chung Van Pham, Westminster, CA 92683-5923, $40.00.

      


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