Reading: James Wright

James Wright

Enduring Vietnam: An American Generation and Its War


Monday, June 5 at 7:00pm
“After all of the conversations about origins and strategies and political consequences, wars are about combat, what in recent times is sometimes glibly called ‘boots on the ground.’ Most of the decision makers and debaters can only imagine that experience. And typically they describe it with numbers or reduce it to anecdotes, selective numbers and anecdotes that best support their intellectual or political position.”

The Vietnam War is largely recalled as a mistake, either in the decision to engage there or in the nature of the engagement. Or both. Veterans of the war remain largely anonymous figures, accomplices in the mistake. Critically recounting the steps that led to the war, this book does not excuse the mistakes, but it brings those who served out of the shadows.

Enduring Vietnam recounts the experiences of the young Americans who fought in Vietnam and of families who grieved those who did not return. By 1969 nearly half of the junior enlisted men who died in Vietnam were draftees. And their median age was 21―among the non-draftees it was only 20. The book describes the “baby boomers” growing up in the 1950s, why they went into the military, what they thought of the war, and what it was like to serve in “Nam.” And to come home. With a rich narrative of the Battle for “Hamburger Hill,” and through substantial interviews with those who served, the book depicts the cruelty of this war, and its quiet acts of courage.

James Wright's Enduring Vietnam provides an important dimension to the profile of an American generation―and a rich account of an American War.

James Wright’s Enduring Vietnam offers an intimate, moving, sometimes heartbreaking account of Americans who fought in Vietnam, focusing on 1969, a time when combat was still at a peak of intensity but when a majority of citizens—including many GIs—had turned against the war. Wright takes us from the harrowing bloodbath of Hamburger Hill to the troubled homecomings of veterans and never reduces the human complexity of his subject with sentimentality or broad brush polemics. —Christian Appy, author of Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides  

There's something utterly revealing about the Vietnam War, something that speaks directly to the divisions we experience today.  With Jim Wright's new book, we take a giant step closer to unlocking the mystery, and gain, at the same time, the intimate consequences of the conflict many of us would rather forget. —Ken Burns Filmmaker

James Wright is President Emeritus and Eleazar Wheelock Professor of History Emeritus at Dartmouth College and the author or editor of several books, including Those Who Have Borne the Battle. His efforts on behalf of veterans and education have been featured in the New York Times, Boston Globe, NPR, and more. He serves on the Boards of the Semper Fi Fund, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the Campaign Leadership Committee for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Education Center. He lives in Hanover, NH.
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